How Ben Franklin Listed Pros and Cons to Make Decisions

Benjamin Franklin made lists of Pros and Cons in order to clearly analyze difficult situations, resulting in many of his successful endeavors. I learned this from reading his personal letters[1] that were published by Leonard W. Labaree (editor) in 1956.

I'll explain how he did it and I'll include some interesting facts about his life.


How Ben Franklin Used Lists of Pros and Cons

Benjamin Franklin was born on Jan 17, 1706. He was a fascinating man and writer of many  insightful books.
Benjamin Franklin was born on Jan 17, 1706. He was a fascinating man and writer of many insightful books.

Ben Franklin had a lot of great ideas. But what I find most fascinating is how his ideas are still very useful today. Especially how he used Pros and Cons to help make decisions.


It works like this:

Make a list in two columns. One column contains all the pros and the other contains all the cons. This strategy has two advantages. The most striking thing is that you can visually see that one column ends up longer than the other. So it becomes obvious that either the pros win over the cons or the other way around.

But even if the two columns are pretty much the same length, the list helps one become more familiar with the good and then bad among the options that are available. Clarity is so important in order to decide how you want to handle things or which path in life you wish to follow.

This helps avoid procrastination, which usually is due to a failure to understand the outcome of various options. When one does not know what to expect, they tend to do nothing. They are stuck with making any decision at all.

The visual clarity helps tremendously with decision-making. But there is another benefit to making this list. When you make the effort to write down all the pros and cons, you are actually forcing your brain to realize all the positive and negative aspects of the decision you are having difficulty with. That gives you the power to move forward and take action in the right direction!

Using this method of analyzing pros and cons may also help with commitment problems. It’s hard to make a commitment to something or to someone when you don’t have a good idea of the pros and cons of the endeavor or the relationship.


Franklin's Commitment Phobia


Did Ben Franklin have commitment issues with getting married? He never officially married, but he had a common-law marriage with Deborah Read and had two children with her. She also had a child from a prior marriage.

The first of the two children they had together, Francis Folger Franklin, died of smallpox. The second, Sarah Franklin, took care of her father in his old age. It was good he had her there. She was a dedicated daughter.

I would not say Ben had a commitment problem. He probably analyzed the pros and cons of leaving the marriage as a common-law marriage.

To him it obviously made no difference. He had a close family and was a decent man with the way he handled all the trials and tribulations of his life, such as with the loss of his first child.

Franklin had a very interesting life, although a difficult one. I can see how he came up with the idea of applying pros and cons to his thought process to make decisions. I'm sure that he found it to be an easy way to analyze the options available in one's life.

I can also relate to his desire to share his ideas and solutions in his writing. I tend to do the same thing. I hope you can put some of his ideas to good use. I found his books help better than some present-day self-help books. He was a genius.


Franklin Wrote a Lot of Books About His Thoughts and Ideas

Source


Franklin wrote a lot about his life and about how he tried to solve his problems. I didn’t realize how much he wrote about his thoughts and ideas until I did the research for this article.

Ben was one of several philosophers from the rationalism period. With his inspiration he published many books that can help us all today with many aspects of life. Here are just a few…

  • Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack
  • Wit and Wisdom from Poor Richard's Almanack
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • The Way to Wealth
  • Franklin: Writings


Richard Saunders
was Franklin's pseudonym. He wrote under that name for his Poor Richard's Almanack.

In case you're wondering, Almanac was spelled ending with a “k” in those days. That’s not a typo. English spelling is a very dynamic thing. We run into trouble with so many things. For example, I could have said “Almanac was spelt with a 'k'.”

To say “spelt” is the proper way to say “spelled” in British English.


His Unfinished Guide to Living

Benjamin Franklin's the Art of Virtue


He also wrote many notes for a planned guide to living. But he never completed it.

The notes were compiled and later published and authored by editor George L. Rogers using Ben Franklin’s various writings. Rogers named it "Benjamin Franklin's the Art of Virtue: His Formula for Successful Living."

It was clear that he was focusing on writing about solutions to life. He even created a short book about attaining wealth by reapplying his written content from prior books of his.

For example, Ben took his preface from “Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack” and made it into a short 30-page pocket-sized book he called “The Way to Wealth.”

Why would any author take a small part of one book and use it to publish another tiny reference book? Oh, but of course! Ben must have considered the Pros and Cons of such an odd endeavor in order to feel comfortable with that decision.


Did you find this article interesting? See "More by this Author" below.


Reference:


[1]
Benjamin Franklin, Mr. Franklin: A Selection from His Personal Letters, Editor: Leonard W. Labaree, (Yale University Press, 1956)

© 2010 Glenn Stok

More by this Author


Reader Comments 19 comments

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Good hub. The pro and con list is a good idea. I have used that at times in my life when struggling to make an informed decision. I don't think Ben was interested in committee. He was brilliant, but like to chase the woman and enjoyed the drink.


someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 6 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

In Puritan times, to be born on a Sunday was interpreted as a sign of great sin. Puritans believed that children born on the Sabbath Day were conceived on this sacred day. Sexual intercourse on Sundays was a sacrilege in this austere society. As a result, Benjamin Franklin's birth on Sunday, January 6, 1706, had the potential to cause the young Franklin ignominious shame for life. To remove suspicion and eschew the scandal of having a "child of the Devil", Josiah, Benjamin's father, had Franklin quickly baptized on the same day of his birth.

Benjamin attributed his love of independence to the many years he spent as an apprentice to his autocratic brother James. Franklin wrote that his brother's "harsh and tyrannical treatment of me might be a means of impressing me with that aversion to arbitrary power that has stuck to me through my whole life."

During the American Revolution, Benjamin's own illegitimate son, William, refused to join the patriotic rebellion against royal authority. The elder Franklin

had in fact used his influence to make his son royal governor of New Jersey in 1767. However, William was unwilling to repay his father's generosity. "Nothing ever affected me with such keen sensations," Benjamin later wrote


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Pamela99, you are right. He liked to chase women, but he did settle down with Deborah Read even if he didn't make it legal. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your input.

someonewhoknows, Thank you or your additional comments, which I believe are all accurate and I appreciate your help in adding to the story. My focus, however, was on the good qualities of Ben Franklin. He had a falling out with William because William was against anything that had to do with the plans for independence from the British loyalists. Ben Franklin was involved with the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence. Read it and you will be surprised how well they anticipated what is happening right now. The text can be found in wikipedia.


someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 6 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

Just wanted to bring some interesting facts from his troubled backround into the mix,for the sake of clarity.

Some people might not agree that Franklin was for Independance considering he was originally against the idea of revolution.He seemed perfectly fine with keeping the American colonials under British rule.Although ,he was a practical man,and he knew that it was inevitable.


thejcrevelator2 profile image

thejcrevelator2 6 years ago

Great Hub. We actively used Ben Franklin Lists - list of pros and cons on one sheet - to make business decisions when I was a manager about 1000 years ago.

Great writing too.


Carol the Writer profile image

Carol the Writer 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

I read your title and I thought you were saying the Ben Franklin Cons were going to be things against Ben Franklin. This was very detailed and not your typical, "he made bifocals".


bearclawmedia profile image

bearclawmedia 6 years ago from Mining Planet Earth

Bloody good one mate! This Ben Franklin is remembered in a vacume like so many other historical characters


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Thanks everyone for stopping by. Your comments are always appreciated.


Neil Sperling profile image

Neil Sperling 6 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

Good Hub. The Ben Franklin sales close is used in sales all the time. Pros and cons.... Practical and effective. I was using it one time on another sales person LOL - he said "I use that close too." He said that trying to stop the sale. --- I replied "great you have met Ben then. I like this close because not only does it work, but it makes sense too doesn't it?" ... with that he bought. LOL

There is also a great many who believe that the writings of Shakespeare were actually Ben and he used this Shakespeare chap to hide behind... but that's another story.

Good hub.


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Neil, thanks for your comments. Interesting additional info.


chefsref profile image

chefsref 5 years ago from Citra Florida

Great hub, Franklin is my favorite founding father and if he were alive now he would be a major figure on the world stage. This country may have failed at the start if not for BF


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

chefsref, I agree with you 100%. Thanks for your comment and thanks for following.


sean kinn profile image

sean kinn 5 years ago from Key West and Budapest

Great Hub. Didn't know Pro/Con decision making went that far back. I'm linking from my Hubs to yours now. :-) SK


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Sean, Glad you liked it. Thanks for the link.


Marisaupa profile image

Marisaupa 4 years ago

As you stated, Ben Franklin was a very interesting and wonderful man. It is no wonder why of all the Founding Fathers he is often the most recognized by people outside of the United States.


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Marisaupa, Thanks for adding that bit of information. I didn't know that he is most recognized outside of the US.


lemmyC profile image

lemmyC 4 years ago from UK

Thank you Glenn for the wonderful and well scripted article on Benjamin Franklin. Did you know he's the "father of time management?". The ideas on time management has been attributed to him. He's a great mind and an inspiration to us all.


Karmallama profile image

Karmallama 3 years ago from minneapolis, minnesota

Very good subject matter. It is hard to choose a more interesting man to talk about. Good hub!


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Karmallama - Oh, but there are many people throughout history who are interesting, each one with something unique to offer. Thanks for stopping by.

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