If there was a rule I made it my mission to break it. I always saw rules as confining, oppressive, as things that were trying to hold me back from having fun. In my youth I was fighting fights simply to fight fights, never stopping to think if my battles were good or destructive.
After reading about Ben Franklin’s 13 virtues, rules he created while on an 80-day voyage from London back to Philadelphia in 1726, I decided to make my own. Franklin, at the age of 20, developed a guide that would regulate his future conduct and help him become the man he wanted to be by helping him stay in line with the values he held. Without a guide we are lost, and his virtues were his guide.
While my inspiration came from Franklin, his inspiration came from the Good Book, namely this verse: Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
Where our society continually blurs the lines between good and bad, where taking a stand makes you wrong or hateful, and political correctness clouds our values, things like virtues, rules, laws that lay out precisely where we stand will set us apart from those wandering in life’s grey area, never taking a stand nor standing for good or excellence.
We rationalize the misdeeds of others and our own. We see laziness, sloth, envy, greed, vanity, all as being “natural”, and therefore somehow “good”. We see ease as our right. The rationality is that if it comes easy it must be natural and therefore good, and if it is difficult it must be out of line with how we should live our lives, who we should be, and who we should aspire to become.
The masses follow this logic, and the masses are lost, unhappy, and always searching for that single “trick” that will make them better, richer, and happier. Any man or woman who has done anything of value, lived a life worth living, given back to humanity rather than wallowing in a selfish, self-pitying hole of despair, has come to the understanding that what is good is difficult, what is good requires effort and discipline, and that yes, there is good, and by God there is evil. Temptations exist to separate the weak from the strong, to test our mettle and pull us from our own unique path of righteousness. Your path isn’t mine and mine isn’t yours, though we will benefit from similar values.
A good marriage isn’t easy, it takes work and persistence and a heck of a lot of patience. Happiness doesn’t happen, it is earned and won, often through tribulation and hard work and facing fears. Success isn’t given, it cannot be bestowed upon you as it must be earned often through much failure.
Nothing sustainably good in life can simply occur, they each must be earned and won and without rules guiding us, rules and commandments that enable us to be true to who we can be, to stand erect and proud and in line with our values, we will likely stray, get lost, succumb to one of the many traps life throws at us on a seemingly daily basis.
And thus, without rules, firm and set-in-stone laws, I found myself falling into the many traps that pulled me away from who I can become and from the path I want to walk. If I didn’t wake up at the same time everyday, I’d wake up early 4 out of 7 days. Not good enough…
…If I didn’t have it down as a rule that I wouldn’t check stats, emails, and social nonsense before 11 a.m., I’d get lost in a sea of uselessness and with me, my work would be lost as well.
If I didn’t have it as a rule that humility would lead me daily, I’d ignore the fact that every human on this planet knows more than me in some area, and therefore can be my teacher. I’d lose opportunity to arrogance, an inquisitive mind to a closed sense of false pride.
I need these commandments. I am weak, and I need these things to help me become strong, to guide me, to aid me in my quest to improve.
These, however, are my rules. They’re largely based on Franklin’s virtues (which I have below), and Craig Ballantyne’s 12 Rules for Life. I’ve taken what better people than I have created, and made them mine. If these rules somehow help you, take them and make them your own.
The important thing is that your rules or commandments help you stand tall and proud, but also keep you humble and help guide you through life in a way that keeps you close to your values and close to the man you can potentially become.
13 Rules for Living a Flourishing Life
1. I go to bed and get up at the same time 7 days a week (8:30 p.m. and 3:30 to 4:30 a.m.).
2. I start my day with a book and exercise, and then work for at least 90 minutes, distraction-free.
3. I do not check email or stats or my phone before 10 a.m.
4. I review every day, writing 3 things I’m grateful for within the previous 24 hours, and then I plan the next day’s tasks.
5. I do not engage in petty confrontations with anyone, in-person or online. This is a waste of time and energy. I will not be a critic.
6. I can choose how I react to everything, and I will always choose to use good and bad events as opportunities, I will find the opportunity in everything.
7. I will not be the person I don’t want to be. I will not gossip or envy. I will not be lazy or ignorant. I will not be cynical. I will be positive and happy and I will control my thoughts and I will always take pride in my work.
8. I will not speak for the sake of speaking. I listen first and I will choose my words with care.
9. I am frugal. I do not waste money on frivolous things. (Read this: How to Create a Budget)
10. I will lose no time. I will always be employed in something useful. I will cut off all unnecessary actions.
11. I remain humble knowing that to be successful or of value that I need to work harder than everyone else, smarter than everyone else, learn more than anyone else if I am to fully honor the sacrifices others before me have made so that I can live a flourishing life, so that I can live to honor my God.
12. I always act with courage. If I am afraid of something, I face it head on and conquer the fear. I move toward my fears rather than running away from them.
13. I am a man of action. I seek adventure. I won’t dare set small goals, nor waste my time aiming for average feats. I will dare greatly, and then have the courage and the persistence to see said intentions become my reality.
Ben Franklin’s Virtues
- Temperance: Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.
- Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
- Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.
- Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.
- Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
- Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
What are your rules?
Read this next: 32 Rules For The Game of Life