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Ben Franklin on Vanity

I just started reading Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. This paragraph surprised me:

And lastly (I may as well confess it, since my denial of it will be believed by nobody), perhaps I shall a good deal gratify my own vanity [by writing this]. Indeed, I scarce ever heard or saw the introductory words, "Without vanity I may say," but some vain thing immediately followed. Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves; but I give it fair quarter wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of good to the possessor, and to others that are within his sphere of action; and therefore, in many cases, it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity among the other comforts of his life.

Fascinating! Thank God for vanity? Wow...

But you know, it makes some sense. It seems to me that modesty is good when it helps you achieve what you set out to achieve, and modesty is bad when it stops you from achieving what you set out to achieve. Whether modesty is effective or not depends on the situation. Some situations call for it. Some don't.

It seems to me that there's a certain kind of pragmatic humility that'd always be good to have. Knowing what you don't know, knowing that there's a lot of skills you don't have, understanding that even your best reasoned judgment of a situation might be overlooking some details...

Ben Franklin's Time Tracking

Reader Daniella just sent this to me, which is quite cool -

I read the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin a bit back, and I was very impressed with it. This was my second attempt at reading it - the first time, I didn't think it was worth reading since the language was hard to get through and the book was mostly anecdotes that I wasn't getting much from.

What I didn't realize was, the book was written at two very different time periods in Franklin's life. He wrote the first half as kind of a rough set of notes just for his family. Then about 10 years later, he finished it.

The second half of the book is where the gold is. Well, there's a number of interesting points in the first half, but I found the second much more practical and enlightening. Also, he cuts down on the slang and the English modernizes a bit for he second half. I'd recommend it.

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