Wednesday, May 13, 2009

MUST READ BOOK: The Autobiography of Ben Franklin

I have been studying the life of Judge Thomas Mellon recently. He was the founder of the massive Mellon fortune and a hugely successful real estate investor.

In his autobiography he discusses the powerful influence the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin had on him as a child. The impact of this book on Thomas Mellon was so profound that for nearly one hundred years there was a full scale statute of Franklin at the entrance to the Mellon bank in Pittsburgh.

So I read Franklin's book and other of his Poor Richard writings. I was curious to see what the fuss was all about.

I was floored. What genius! We all know Benjamin Franklin was a founding father of the United States, a diplomat, scientist, inventor, and all the rest but who knew what a successful motivational speaker and personal finance writer he must have been in the day.

His autobiography, written in 1771, is simply fascinating to read.

His essay, "The Way to Wealth" written between 1757 and 1758 is a magnificent account on how to build a personal fortune. The language is almost Biblical like prose, filled with his usual assortment of rhymes and other folksy type advice.

Many of his suggestions in this essay are already part of our culture, for example:

"Early to Bed, Early to Rise, Makes a Man Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise."

But this text is so dense with such axioms it is impossible to read a paragraph without stumbling over ten of them with each giving you pause to think.

Some examples:

"He who lives upon hope will die fasting."

"Drive thy business, let not that drive thee."

"The sleeping Fox catches no poultry and there will be sleeping enough in the grave."

"A Ploughmen on his Legs is higher than a Gentlemen on his knees."

"The Borrower is a Slave to the Lender, and the Debtor to the Creditor."

I cannot recommend this book enough. Read it! Or as Franklin would say:

"If you will not hear Reason, she'll surely rap your knuckles."

Robert J. Abalos, Esq.