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 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
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
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.
 Benjamin Franklin, Mr. Franklin: A Selection from His Personal Letters, Editor: Leonard W. Labaree, (Yale University Press, 1956)
© 2010 Glenn Stok
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