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Long before the advent of Dale Carnegie, Brian Tracey, and Tony Robbins, Americans eagerly followed the self-improvement advice of a 17th-century inventor, statesman, and philosopher. His Advocate, published annually between 1732 and 1758 as Poor Richard’s Almanac, remains in print more than two centuries later as a testament to the author’s wit and wisdom.
Benjamin Franklin was “the youngest son of the youngest son for five generations back,” a distinct disadvantage when the eldest son was the beneficiary of a father’s status, wealth, and reputation. Franklin had little formal education and was apprenticed to his brother’s printer at the age of twelve. Despite his beginnings, Franklin became one of America’s most distinguished citizens with unparalleled achievements in industry, literature, and diplomacy. One of the drafters and signers of the United States Declaration of Independence, his accomplishments in multiple and diverse endeavors have yet to be equalled.
A journey, not a destination
Like those who came after him, Franklin recognized this life is an experience of constant change. He realized that “change is the only constant in life. One’s ability to adapt to those changes will determine your success in life. . . . When you’re done changing, you’re done.”
Tony Robbins reminds us that our past does not equal our future. Every day, we decide who we will become and the actions we will take to reach this future. “Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the incredible ability to take any experience in their lives and create a meaning that either hinders them or one that can literally save their lives,” he wrote. Robbins.
Obstacles, mistakes and regrets
Franklin quipped, “Nothing can be said to be certain in this world, except death and taxes.” Robbins updated the sentiment with, “The only people without problems are in cemeteries.”
No one can choose their parents or place of birth. Some are lucky, born into loving families with advantages and opportunities. Others enter a world of need, cruelty and disadvantage. In each case, the life that awaits them is a matter of personal values, future decisions and persistent effort.
Successes and failures repeat themselves throughout life, the duration and impact of each depending on the actions of those affected. Franklin noted that the practice of living in the moment is essential, avoiding the lethargy of regret and the worries of tomorrow. “There are real evils enough in life, and it is folly to afflict us with imaginary ones; it is time for the real ones to come.” Robbins agrees, saying that “Everyone has a past. The past doesn’t equal the future unless you live in it.”
Related: What Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues Taught Me About Running a Business and 6 Tips Every Business Owner Should Practice
The lessons of failure
Most children are wrongly taught that failure is terrible and associated with guilt. Parents often blame low grades on the child’s laziness or indifference, never considering that the instruction may be confusing or incomplete. Admitting failure and taking blame is akin to asking for punishment and should be avoided whenever possible.
Successful people learn this failure is a fundamental part of learning. Without failure, there is no progress. Franklin advised, “Don’t be afraid of mistakes. You will know failure. Keep approaching.”
Robbins says, “I’ve come to believe that all of my past failures and frustrations were actually laying the foundations for understanding that have created the new standard of living that I now enjoy.”
Instead of running away from a mistake, embrace it, examine it, and use it to change direction toward a new path and solution. Take advantage of learn from mistakes, setbacks and disappointments. To get a different result, you have to believe that you can change your life to be exactly what you want. Two centuries ago, Franklin wrote, “I never knew a man who was as good at making excuses as he was at anything else.” Don’t make any excuses. learn
Related: How Tony Robbins Overcame His 5 Biggest Setbacks
Learning from others
Successful people recognize that success comes from prior hard work. Isaac Newton said that his success was built “on the shoulders of giants,” applying the knowledge he gained from others to make discoveries and insights.
When Tony Robbins suggests, “If you want to be successful, find someone who has gotten the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll get the same results,” he echoes Franklin’s recommendation that “those who won’t.” counseling can’t help.”
People often confuse the meanings of intelligence—the inherited ability to learn, reason, and understand—and knowledge. The latter is the awareness of acquired facts, truths or principles through personal experience or the experience of others. Franklin’s belief in the importance of knowledge and contempt for those who do not seek it is evident in his comments that “we are all born ignorant, but it takes hard work to remain stupid.”
Franklin and Robbins are apostles of continuous education, especially the active self-education that results from doing, questioning, and listening. Robbins teaches that success comes from asking better questions and getting better answers. Franklin stated that “an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” He admitted that he continued to benefit from better information in his older years and often changed his mind, even on important issues.
Related: Don’t Stop Learning: How Self-Education Is the Key to Entrepreneurial Success
According to Robbins, most people drift through life, consumed by the superficial and temporary. They are unsuccessful because they never focus directly on what they really want. In his opinion, “it’s the moments of decision that shape your destiny… Where the focus goes, the energy flows… It’s not enough to know, you have to act.”
Franklin was a self-made man of action who became one of the most revered men among early Americans. He hated the lack of effort, knowing the precious value of time. His advice to others seeking to build a business was simple: “Idleness makes everything difficult, but industry is easy; and he who rises late must jog all day and will scarcely reach his business at night ; while laziness travels so slowly, that poverty soon overtakes it.”
For thousands of years, philosophers and successful people have taught that success in any endeavor begins with self-confidence. This belief, along with persistence and action, is the path that leads to happiness and pride of accomplishment.