7 Lessons from Ben Franklin on Entrepreneurship

7 Lessons from Ben Franklin on Entrepreneurship.


Tealfeed Guest Blog

3 years ago | 6 min read

I have to get this out of the way.

Yes, I am the same guy who wrote this and said that entrepreneur was my least favorite word. I stand much of the spirit of what I wrote, but as I get older, I’m mellowing and I’ve done a bit of a 180 on this.

Writers are, out of necessity, entrepreneurs — new writers are startups of one.

The only way to succeed is to embrace it and that’s exactly what I’m here to do.

Now, on to ole’ Benny Boy…

What can we learn from one of America’s great polymaths about entrepreneurship?

Quite a bit, obviously.

Benjamin Franklin was, of course, many things. A politician, an inventor, a philosopher, a postmaster, a businessman— just to name a few.

He was also a printer and a prolific writer.

Poor Richard’s Almanack was a pamphlet published yearly, from 1732 to 1758, by Franklin that was very popular in the thirteen colonies. [1]

He viewed the almanac and its publication as a valuable resource for common people who would have trouble affording books, “a literature for the masses.” The pamphlet included a wide range of information like calendars, poems, weather predictions, recipes, and trivia.

But it was most popular and best remembered for its, “advice, aphorisms, and proverbs about industry and frugality,” deployed using clever wordplay, cutting wit, and dry cynicism.

We should never underestimate the power of a good quote or a clever turn of phrase to express a universal truth or a pearl of age-old wisdom. Those that do, resonate with our being have the incredible power to both move and inspire us.

1. “Glass, china, and reputation are easily cracked and never well mended.”

Whether positive, neutral, or negative, as an entrepreneur, you will have a reputation to manage.

It could be the most important factor in determining how successful you eventually become.

And it might be your most valuable asset in the long term.

Consider this: according to one report, corporate reputations, “account for one-third of stock market valuation.”[2]

How to apply it:

Begin all things with this in mind. Let it be your guiding light.

Understand that a positive reputation is built one decision at a time over many years and it can all come crashing down with one mistake. And you might never be able to recover.

So before you cut corners, compromise your ethics or morals, or step over others to achieve an end, remember this: your reputation is all that you really own. Without a good one, you are worthless.

As Warren Buffet famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Start with your reputation in mind. Protect it like the valuable but fragile asset that it is at all costs.

2. “Little strokes fell great Oaks.”

Simple yet powerful. This is ancient wisdom repackaged in a cute little rhyme. But it remains as true as ever.

The thousand-mile journey begins with one step.

You eat an elephant one bite at a time.

These are all ways of saying that extraordinary results are generated by simple, ordinary actions taken on a consistent basis.

How to apply it:

Focus on The ONE Thing. It’s simple and efficient. If you want to write a book you have to write. If you want to generate income you have to sell.

The one thing is the action that if you get it done but don’t get anything else done on a given day, you can still consider it a success.

Focus your energy and prioritize that one important thing that you need to do each day to accomplish your ultimate goal.

That is how you achieve extraordinary results.

3. “Plough deep while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep.”

Hard work pays dividends.

If you are willing to work when others are not, you gain a valuable edge over your competition in the long run.

How to apply it:

There are many ways to “get ahead.” But the one you have the most control over is how hard you work.

Outwork your competition.

Wake up earlier. Get a jump on both the day and your competitors by being the first one in the office.

Stay up late and keep working long after everyone else has called it a night.

Some people may scoff at this advice and advise against it. Burnout is a real thing, but plenty of self-made millionaires agree on one thing: you need to put in a crap ton of hours. [3]

How many hours can and will vary from person to person and industry to industry, but if you want to reap the massive rewards that come from being a successful entrepreneur, you need to work hard and you need to work a lot.

4. “Hide not your talents, they for use were made: what’s a sun-dial in the shade?”

Don’t waste your talent. Apply, develop, and showcase your gifts.

Truly great entrepreneurs understand, without being arrogant, that they have something special to offer the world and they have no problem letting people see it.

How to apply it:

Whether its hard skills like coding, engineering, and design or soft skills like innovation, leadership, and compassion, all great entrepreneurs must deploy the talent they have at their disposal to bring their visions to life.

As Antonin-Dalmace Sertillanges wrote in The Intellectual Life, “Men of genius themselves were great only by bringing all their power to bear on the point which they had decided to show their full measure.”

So don’t be shy or bashful or modest. Have the confidence to show and use your talents to create the best product or business that you possibly can. In the end, you and your talent are what will make what you’re selling unique and powerful.

Show your full measure and bring all of your power to bear on your ideas.

5. “Wise men learn from others’ harms; Fools by their own.”

You can learn a lot by screwing up.

But you can learn just as much and save yourself the heartache, pain, embarrassment, and financial costs of screwing up if you instead learn from others.

How to apply it:

Study. Study. Study.

Read far and wide. Ask yourself and others intelligent questions.

Look for other entrepreneurs and businesses in your market that have failed. What did they do wrong? What did they miss?

Learn from other people’s mistakes.

Self-made billionaire, Alibaba founder and CEO, Jack Ma, advises just that. At the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Ma had this to say when addressing a group of young leaders:

If you want to be successful, learn from the other people’s mistakes, don’t learn from the successful stories.[4]

Sometimes knowing what not to do is infinitely more valuable than knowing what to do. And if you can learn it before you make the mistake yourself, you’ll save yourself and your business a lot of hardship.

6. “Promises may get thee friends, but non-performance will turn them into enemies.”

At the end of the day, you have to deliver. You have to follow through. You have to demonstrate that you are reliable and trustworthy.

You do this by performing well and meeting the expectations you set for yourself and your business.

Promises and presentations may drive traffic, generate buzz, or get you investors but that won’t last long if you don’t come through with the goods.

How to apply it:

This is simple.

Under-promise and over-deliver — within reason.

Internally, you can shoot for the moon. You can have outrageous goals and lofty expectations for yourself and your business.

But externally, you should be more reserved. Don’t set expectations so high that you can’t meet them. Never make a promise you can’t keep.

The main take away is this: don’t let other people down.

You don’t want a reputation for being someone who constantly over-promises and under-delivers.

7. “The most exquisite folly is made by wisdom spun too fine.”

Pride comes before the fall.

Successful entrepreneurs are smart, but not too smart for their own good. They admit they don’t know what they don’t know. No matter how successful they become.

They don’t allow themselves to become blinded by their own triumphs. They don’t become full of themselves. They don’t get so arrogant that they let a great strength become a glaring weakness.

How to apply it:

Don’t surround yourself with people who aren’t willing to question you and push you to be better.

Commit to questioning everything and cultivating an open mind.

Successful people are open-minded and they do everything in their power to remain that way. [5]

They not only see the value in it, but they also see the pitfalls and dangers that come with being too sure of yourself. [6]

This article was originally published by Tom belskie on medium.


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