A little dose of Ben Franklin’s wisdom on learning and communication

Source: peakprosperity.com
Source: peakprosperity.com

Benjamin Franklin’s love of learning and self-improvement is inspirational. In his autobiography, he talks about a self-improvement club that he formed with like-minded people. The club, which they called JUNTO, met Friday evenings. The agenda?

The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one of more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased.

Taking the time to think about and discuss some of the things that really matter, instead of being consumed by the minutae of daily existence is something as relevant today as it was all those years ago.

To make the most of these meetings, JUNTO followed certain principles that enabled the pursuit of truth.

Our debates were to be made under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute, or desire of victory; and to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary peculiarities.

These principles remain timeless, and the wise try to follow all these commandments. But forceful communication and surety seem to be encouraged, or tolerated, more often today. “Positiveness of opinion” can mistakenly attributed to confidence.

And yet, modern research echoes Franklin’s timeless wisdom that “power-less” communication, characterized by “asking questions than offering answers, talking tentatively than talking boldly, admitting their weaknesses than displaying their strengths, and seeking advice than imposing their views on others” is a more sustainable path to building prestige and influence, instead of forceful “there are no gaps in my thinking,” style of communication.

Do you know anyone who is feeling the pressure to be more “power-ful” in their communication? Do share this post with them! Also, if this post resonated with you, you may also like:

Bright spots, they shine, go look!

As an ardent, passionate, and devoted fan of Gretchen Rubin, I religiously follow what she says. This wonderful quote landed in my inbox last week as part of her Moment of Happiness email.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

– Fred “Mr.” Rogers

On most days, we grapple with our challenges and hurts and scraped knees and broken hearts, not disasters, and yet these can be enough to dim our light. A wonderful reminder above that in times of dimness, and darkness, we need to look for the light. Sometimes these helpers are our family and friends, other times counselors and caregivers. Sometimes these helpers are the dazzling sun, a gust of wind, a pop of marvelous colour, or a little baby’s hug.

Whenever you need it, look for the bright spots. They may be hiding, but they’re there.

IMG_20150329_102738 IMG_20150329_102909

Writing advice from the wise and witty Brenda Ueland

I love, love, love Brenda Ueland’s “If You Want to Write A Book about Art, If You Want to WriteIndependence and Spirit,” a MUST read for those looking to rediscover their lost creativity. Here are some of my favorite learnings  from the book.

Our innate creativity is often destroyed by the time we reach adulthood.

It (our creativity) is very tender and sensitive, and it is usually drummed out of people early in life by criticism (so-called “helpful criticism” is often the worst kind), by teasing, jeering, rules, prissy teachers, critics, and all those unloving people who forget that the letter killeth and the spirit giveth life. Sometimes I think of life as a process where everybody is discouraging and taking everybody else a peg or two.

Brenda urges us to keep this spark alive, because:

..it is life itself. It is the Spirit. In fact it is the only important thing about us. The rest of us is legs and stomach, materialistic cravings and fears.

So, how do we keep it alive?

By using it, by letting it out, by giving some time to it. But if we are women we think it is more important to wipe noses and carry doilies than to write or to play the piano. And men spend their lives adding and subtracting and dictating letters when they secretly long to write sonnets and play the violin and burst into tears at the sunset.

But what urges us to write, to paint, to create?

One of the intrinsic rewards for writing the sonnet was that then the nobleman knew and understood his own feelings better, and he knew more about what love was, what part of his feelings were bogus (literary) and what real, and what a beautiful thing the English or the Italian language was…

And one of the most important intrinsic rewards is the stretched understanding, the illumination…you will never know what your  husband looks like unless you try to draw him, and you will never understand him unless you try and write his story.

So, how can we release the poet hidden in us, or bring to the surface the tune that is caught in our throat? Brenda talks about the right way to work:

I learned from them that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it a kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly, and quietly, and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness. I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten–happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead after another.

In our creative endeavors, Brenda urges us to:

Be careless, reckless! Be a lion! Be a pirate! When You Write

And yet, fear often keeps us from being a lion.

It is because of the critics, the doubters (in the outer world and within ourselves) that we have such hesitance when we write…

As I write this I many times have had the chilling feeling come around my heart because of the thought: “What if it may not be true? People will say I am crazy. Where is my logic? I haven’t a Ph.D. in philosophy or psychology.”

She shares how she moved past this fear herself:

A few years ago I would not have dared say anything in this book without looking up long, corroborating passages in big books: “William James says,” etc., etc.

I believe now in speaking from myself, as I want you to do when you write. Don’t keep marshaling thoughts like “I must prove it.”

You don’t have to prove it by citing specific examples, by comparing and all. If it is true to you, it is true. Another truth may take place later. What comes truly from me is true, whether anybody believes it or not. It is my truth.

If there are so many difficulties involved in reclaiming our creativity and then moving past our fears to express ourselves, the question arises: why do we do it?

Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold, and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money. Because the best way to know the Truth or Beauty is to try to express it. And what is the purpose of existence Here or Yonder but to discover truth and beauty and express it, i.e., share it with others.

“If you want to write” will inspire you, will support you, will nurture you as you look inside yourself and try to find the fanciful little girl who lived in you, who thought that a orange tree would grow out from her mouth if she swallowed some seeds. Or maybe the little boy who thought that once he dropped the letter in the post box it traveled through winding tunnels and it would fly out the other end, just where his grandma lived. That little boy or little girl still lives somewhere deep inside of us: they’re calling out for us to find them.

You May Also Like

“Our Inner Artist is a Child”- A Lesson by Julia Cameron

About to Criticize? Praise Instead….