Benjamin Franklin, a Founding Father, and Success-Minded Leader

Benjamin Franklin - Ken Burns

By any standard of measure, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) is considered highly successful. Franklin was writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, and political philosopher.

Franklin exemplifies our research-based 9 Success Mindsets: Vision, Passion, Perseverance, Creativity, Compassion, Risk-Taking, Self-Motivation, Seizing Opportunities, and Positive Thinking.

Let’s focus on what we call our Big Three: Vision, Passion and Perseverance.

How did Benjamin Franklin demonstrate Vision?

As early as 1754, Franklin had proposed a plan to unite the American colonies.  On May 9th, 1754, Franklin’s newspaper The Pennsylvania Gazette, published the earliest known political cartoon proposing colonial union. “Join, or Die.” appeared with Franklin’s editorial calling for the colonies to unite in defense against France in the French and Indian War.

Join, or Die

Later that summer, as a delegate to the Albany Congress, Franklin proposed The Albany Plan of Union. The plan called for a general government to be administered by a President-General, congressional apportionment, treaty-making powers, raising of army and naval forces and the right of the government to tax citizens. The plan was rejected by the Albany Congress; however, it later became the foundation for the Articles of Confederation, which was the first written constitution of the United States.

In May 1775 shortly after the Revolutionary War began with Britain, Franklin was selected as a delegate to the Second Continental Conference, where he was appointed to the Committee of Five to draft the Declaration of Independence. Although the primary author of the document was Thomas Jefferson, Franklin became its primary editor. The final document was passed on July 2, 1776 and ratified on July 4, 1776, thereby creating the United States of America. At the signing, Franklin said, “Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Recognizing that America’s military victory over the British depended on French intervention, Congress dispatched Franklin to Paris to strengthen diplomatic ties. Franklin’s vision and his expertise in diplomacy secured French military and financial aid to ensure the British were defeated and the fledgling independence survived.

Key point about Vision: Developing a Vision mindset helps one use their imagination to create possibilities that inspire and energize. How would you rate your Vision mindset?


How did Benjamin Franklin demonstrate Passion?

Of the many passions of Benjamin Franklin, perhaps none were as prominent as his passion for science and invention.

In 1717, at age 11, Franklin’s passion for swimming lead to his invention of the first swim fins, albeit for the hands. After discovering that the fins for his hands caused wrist fatigue, he began tinkering with fins he could affix to his feet.

In 1742, Franklin finished his first design of a stove that could produce more heat and less smoke. The stove contained a hollow baffle where air entered the stove from the bottom, was heated by the fire and then rose inside the baffle and exited through holes in the baffle’s sides. Smoke from the fire passed through a U-shaped duct in the floor and out the chimney. The design became known as the Franklin Stove.

In the late 1750’s, Benjamin Franklin began wearing eyeglasses that he had constructed with heavily convex lenses at the bottom of the frame and less convex lenses at the top of the frame. These “bifocals” allowed users to view things more closely through the bottom of the frame.

In 1752, after many years of experiments with electrical current, Franklin set out to prove that lightening and electricity were the same thing. He tied a key to a kite and sent it into the air to capture the electrical charge from lightening in a capacitor called a Leyden Jar. The experiment proved that lightning is a much more powerful version of the electricity he observed in his laboratory. Franklin went on to invent the lightening rod, a conductor intended to protect a structure from a direct lightening strike and lightening-initiated fire.

In 1761, Franklin created a musical instrument he called an Armonica (based on the Italian word for harmony) that used a series of glass bowls or goblets graduated in size to produce musical tones by means of friction. The instrument produced tones like those you might see with someone “playing” wine goblets.

In 1786, Franklin invented the Long Arm, an 8-foot-long device with a claw on the end which allowed the user to reach something off a shelf far above them.

“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Key to passion: People who develop a passion mindset have a powerful purpose that excites and energizes them. Their passion can be extremely contagious. How would you rate your passion mindset?


How did Benjamin Franklin demonstrate Perseverance?

Benjamin Franklin’s desire to be successful showed up at an early age. At eight years old, Franklin’s father enrolled him in grammar school with an eye toward giving Ben a life in the ministry. Ben was a quick learner and a did exceptionally well at his studies.

When his father could no longer pay for the school fees, he put Ben to work in his candle and soap shop. Ben continued his own education, gathering essays, newspapers and borrowing books to feed his voracious love of reading.

At the age of twelve and showing little passion for the work, his father sent him to apprentice for Ben’s older brother James at his print shop. James became abusive to Ben, often berating and beating him.

Franklin continued to educate himself, reading borrowed books and teaching himself to become a skilled writer. He began writing letters and essays on colonial life and the issues of the day. Hoping to have them published, Ben submitted them to a newspaper printed by his brother James, who roundly rejected the writings.

At age 16, and determined to have his writing published, Franklin took to composing under the pseudonym of a middle-aged widow, secretly sliding them under the door of the printshop. His brother began publishing these letters and they gained widespread popularity. When James discovered the true authorship of the letters, he was irate and brutally beat Ben. Sure of his skills and wanting a better life, Ben left his apprenticeship and moved to Philadelphia to begin anew.

Benjamin Franklin Printing

Franklin went on to start his own print shops, publish his own newspapers, write scores of essays and articles, he wrote and published Poor Richard’s Almanack, became the Postmaster of Philadelphia, the first Postmaster of the United States and he helped draft the Declaration of Independence.

Key point about perseverance: Those who develop a Perseverance mindset are more adept in pursuing their vision and are relentless in overcoming obstacles and adversity. How would you rate your perseverance mindset?


At Success-Minded Leader, our focus is to help leaders build and strengthen their success mindsets. Call us at 425.835.2124 or schedule an exploratory call to discuss your needs, schedule a Miller Success Factor Assessment (MSFA) or learn more about our Business Coaching and Success-Minded Leader Training/Coaching programs that focus on development of the 9 Success Mindsets.

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