Chad Warner's Reviews > Ben Franklin: America's Original Entrepreneur, Franklin's Autobiography Adapted for Modern Times

Ben Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
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's review
Dec 30, 2011

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bookshelves: non-fiction, self-help
Recommended for: entrepreneurs, business owners
Read in January, 2010 , read count: 1

I was amazed by the story of Franklin's life; and this book only records his life until age 51, when he was mainly focused on business! Although he was somewhat involved in politics in the years covered, the book doesn't cover his involvement in the American Revolution and founding of the United States. However, there is a timeline at the end that outlines some of his major accomplishments for the rest of his life.

Reading this made me feel like I haven't achieved enough by this point in my life. Franklin's descriptions also give a feel for what life was like in colonial America; work, leisure, religion, and politics. Franklin learned from his mistakes and lived with few regrets. He was always seeking to improve his health, his business, public policy, and the quality of life (through various inventions).

Franklin was incredibly creative, not only in his inventions, but also in his committee work and relationships, often finding ways to solve problems or diffuse hazardous situations. He also showcased the benefits of networking with his involvement in clubs and committees, many of which he founded. These led to great opportunities to advance himself personally and in business. There are many examples of Franklin using his printing business to his advantage, such as printing pamphlets and newspaper articles to influence public opinion and rally support for his pet projects.

I had intended to read Franklin's original autobiography, but saw this on the shelf next to it. It claimed to be more accessible than the autobiography because it was broken into chapters, had updated language, and was slightly modified to fit the tastes of someone interested in Franklin's business story. I opened the original biography and saw that it had no chapters or other obvious breaking points; it was just page after page of paragraphs! As I skimmed I noticed that it seemed to contain many stories that may not be particularly interesting. I decided to start with this modern adaptation, then try the original if I liked it.

I can't yet compare this version to the original, but I did like this one. It's published by Entrepreneur Press (publishers of Entrepreneur Magazine), so it's written to appeal to entrepreneurs and businesspeople. There's a short introduction at the beginning of each of the 82 chapters, noting the business principles to watch for in the chapter. Some of these principles are entrepreneurship, business ownership, leadership, management, integrity, and innovation. Every few pages there's a small box with some related anecdote about other entrepreneurs. Each chapter also contains a wise and witty saying from Poor Richard's Almanac.

After reading this adaptation, I think I'll put the original on my to-read list.


Franklin's father came to America from England to escape religious persecution.
Before discussing his business success, he thanks God and his family.
Use the Socratic method of questioning to lead people to contradict themselves or see your point of view. This is more effective than arguing.
Learn and discuss people's interests to form genuine relationships. Don't just use people. Franklin formed many friendships that lasted years or decades.
It's important to maintain a good reputation.
Industriousness is a great asset.
Franklin had many business successes in his teens and 20s!
He was very focused on business; reading was his only amusement while his co-workers drank, gambled, and partied.
Wise people allow themselves to have faults so they're tolerable company.
In arguments and debates, don't express your opinions too strongly, or correct others outright. Be humble and gentle, and people will more eagerly side with you.
Franklin researched and worked with electricity before his famous kite experiment. The experiment was to prove that lightning was electricity.

Franklin's views on religion

Franklin was raised Presbyterian, but didn't understand election, reprobation, and God's eternal decrees, so he stopped going to church.
At 15, Franklin rejected Christianity and converted to Deism.
He continued to believe that God created and sustained the universe, and that there was an afterlife. He also continued to pray.
He believed that God wanted people to do good to each other, and he created his own moral code based on this. He deliberately designed this code to be non-religion-specific.
Franklin respected all religions, but didn't attend church because he said it failed to inspire morality. The only preachers he enjoyed hearing were those that stressed good works and being a good person instead of doctrine.
Franklin once set out to achieve moral perfection. He didn't attain it, but he said that the pursuit of it made him a better person. See Franklin's Thirteen Virtues.

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