Wisdom: A Column of Benjamin Franklin’s Ageless Maxims and Aphorisms

He invented the “Franklin” open stove. He discovered that lightning is an electrical discharge by experimenting with a kite during a thunderstorm. He founded the Philadelphia Library, the University of Pennsylvania, and the American Philosophical Society. An accomplished linguist, he helped his nation better its relations with the European powers when those relations were critical to its survival. He established the US Post Office on a profitable basis. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence. Rising from meager origins, Benjamin Franklin became one of the nation’s wealthiest businessmen, owning its most successful printing and publishing firms. “Poor Richard’s Almanac”, which he published for some 25 years under the pseudonym of Richard Saunders was one of the nation’s most popular publications in its time.

Poor Richard’s Almanac is the source of these observations:

1. Genius without education is like silver in the mine.
2. He that won’t be counseled can’t be helped.
3. Learn of the skilful: He that teaches himself hath a fool for his master.
4. Fools need advice most, but wise men only are the better for it.
5. The learned Fool writes his nonsense in better language than the unlearned; but still ’tis nonsense.
6. Hear reason, or she’ll make you feel her.
7. He that hath a trade, hath an estate.
8. Great estates may venture more; little boats must keep near shore.
9. If your riches are yours, why don’t you take them with you to the other world?
10. He that can have patience, can have what he will.
11. Great talkers, little doers.
12. Half wits talk much but say little.
13. If passion drives, let reason hold the reins.
14. ‘Tis easy to see, hard to foresee.
15. He that waits upon fortune is never sure of dinner.
16. A change of fortune hurts a wise man no more than a change of the moon.
17. Diligence is the mother of good luck.
18. There are lazy minds as well as lazy bodies.
19. No gains without pains.
20. Industry, perseverance, and frugality, make fortune yield.
21. All things are easy to industry, all things difficult to sloth
22. Nothing humbler than ambition, when it is about to climb.
23. Industry pays debts, despair increases them.
24. Well done is better than well said.
25. Great good-nature without prudence is a great misfortune.
26. Keep thy shop, and thy shop will keep thee.
27. Necessity never made a good bargain.
28. Be slow in choosing a friend, slower in changing.
29. Who is rich? He that rejoices in his portion.
30. Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it.
31. He that buys by the penny, maintains not only himself, but other people.
32. Drive thy business; let not that drive thee.
33. The most exquisite folly is made of wisdom spun too fine.
34. As pride increases, fortune declines.
35. Tricks and trechery are the practice of fools, that have not wit enough to be honest
36. Who is strong? He that can conquer his bad habits.
37. Promises may get thee friends, but non-performance will turn them into enemies.
38. Content makes poor men rich; Discontent makes rich men poor.
39. You can bear your own faults, and why not a fault in your wife?
40. The same man cannot be both Friend and Flatterer.
41. Those who are fear’d, are hated.
42. A true friend is the best possession.
43. Hear no ill of a friend, nor speak any of an enemy.
44. Pay what you owe, and you’ll know what’s your own.
45. At 20 years of age, the will reigns; at 30 the wit; at 40 the judgment.
46. If you would keep your secret from an enemy, tell it not to a friend.
47. They who have nothing to be troubled at, will be troubled at nothing
48. An undutiful daughter, will prove an unmanageable wife.
49. Eat to live; live not to eat.
50. To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.
51. A good wife lost, is God’s gift lost.
52. There is no little enemy.

Benjamin Franklin – American politician, writer and scientist (1706-1790), from “Poor Richard’s Almanack” (1733-1758)