Listen now on
#115 Ben Franklin: An American Life
March 16th, 2020 | E115

What I learned from reading Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.


Come see a live show with me and Patrick O'Shaughnessy from Invest Like The Best on October 19th in New York City. 

Get your tickets here


Subscribe to listen to Founders Premium — Subscribers can listen to Ask Me Anything (AMA) episodes and every bonus episode. 


He was, during his 84 year long life, America’s best scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, and business strategist. [0:01]

On Founders #62 I covered Ben Franklin’s autobiography [4:10]

The family produced dissenters and nonconformists who were willing to defy authority, although not to the point of becoming zealots. They were clever craftsman and inventive blacksmiths with a love of learning. Avid readers and writers, they had deep convictions, but knew how to wear them lightly. [5:00]

The industrialist Thomas Mellon, who erected a statue of Franklin in his banks headquarters, declared that Franklin had inspired him to leave his family's farm and go into business. "I regard the reading of Franklin's Autobiography as the turning point of my life. Here was Franklin, poorer than myself, who by industry, thrift, and frugality, had become learned and wise, and elevated to wealth and fame. The maxims of poor Richard exactly suited my sentiments. I read the book again and again, and wondered if I might not do something in the same line by similar means." [13:10]

Franklin is learning how to deal with people and to change his behavior to get the outcome he desires: Being argumentative, he concluded, was a very bad habit because contradicting people produced disgusts and perhaps enemies. Later in his life he would wryly say of disputing: "Persons of good sense, I have since observed, seldom fall into it.”[17:50]

Ben Franklin understood marketing [22:10]

Ben Franklin would tell you to keep reading and learning so you are more interesting to talk to. This produces positive externalities. [23:50]

Franklin’s plan for his business and how to overcome an entrenched competitor [30:00]

Franklin would tell you it is foolish to avoid all criticism [33:28]

The Ben Franklin method for making difficult decisions [34:15]

As Franklin is building his business he is focused on self improvement: A list of 12 virtues he thought desirable [35:56]

Most of Poor Richard's saying were not totally original as Franklin freely admitted. "They contained the wisdom of many ages and nations. Not a tenth part of the wisdom was my own." / Picasso had a saying good artists copy; great artists steal. we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas --Steve Jobs [38:25]

Franklin telling you how to turn adversaries into allies. [41:38]

Halfway through his life, Franklin realizes he has enough: "Lost time is never found again." [43:25]

I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested so my poor wallet suffers. ” — Gareth

Be like Gareth. Buy a book: All the books featured on Founders Podcast