Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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(Dover Thrift Edition)


They had got an English Bible, and to conceal and secure it, it was fastened open with tapes under and within the cover of a joint-stool. (p. 5)

Benjamin Franklin's family did not agree with the religious doctrine of the time in England. Even though this stance is framed in the space of religion, it is an example that people deviated more from the status quo than what history books tend to highlight. This begs the question of what controversial/progressive ideas inspire people today?

to construct little machines for my experiments, while the intention of making the experiment was fresh and warm in my mind. (p. 9)

A good reminder to strike while the iron is hot.

The breaking into this money of Vernon's was one of the first great errata of my life; and this affair showed that my father was not much out in his judgement when he suppos'd me too young to manage bt much out in his judgement when he suppos'd me too young to manage business of importance. (p. 26)

In the first 45 pages, he mentions a few errors that he made. He clarifies from the start that he would do it all again, though like anyone he would like to not have made the mistakes. None of them seemed so serious, but he felt the need to call them out, maybe as a lesson for future readers. Regret is a common emotion that transfers well through the ages.

So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do. (p. 27)

Here he says that it's good to be flexible so one doesn't get one's way. The tricky thing when one is so darn reasonable is to be able to say no.

He began his paper, however, and, after carrying it on three quarters of a year, with at most only ninety subscribers, he offer'd it to me for a trifle; and I having been ready some time to go on with it, took it in hand directly; and it prov'd in a few years extremely profitable to me. (p. 47)
Franklin here shows the benefit of focus and having the patience to find a deal.

If it encourages more writings of the same kind with your own, and induces more men to spend lives fit to be written, it will be worth all Plutarch's Lives put together. (p. 58)

This comes from a letter from Mr. Benjamin Vaughan. What I liked most was the focus on having men live "lives fit to be written," or in a sense, doing things in your life that impact others.

I had some years before composed a little Liturgy, or form of prayer, for my own private use (viz., in 1728) entitled, Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion. (p. 63)

Franklin didn't shun the form of prayer but chose the content for himself. Independent of one's belief in a higher power a daily/weekly reminder of ideas can be helpful.

I not only subscribe'd to it myself, but engag'd heartily in the design of procuring subscriptions from others. (p. 96)

Franklin seemed ready to help many people if they were engaged in good ideas. He would write for them and publish articles to their aid bring to bear his powers of distribution from printing and newspaper business.

Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day. (p. 101)

Ben Franklin has a way of explaining complicated things simply. In this case, he's talking about keeping the streets clean and how thousands of inhabitants being annoyed by flying dust can be worse than some greater problem that happens to only a few. Some would call this "clearing away the rubbish."