Quote - Poor Richard - Benjamin Franklin - What Good may I do

What Good may I do is a noble question

posted in: Motivation, Quotes 0

The noblest question in the world is What Good may I do in it?

~Poor Richard's Almanack, 1737

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) printed these wonderful words of wisdom in the 1737 edition of his Poor Richard's Almanack.

These were more than words to Franklin. They were etched as questions into a little book he created for self-examination and to improve the goodness in himself. The question he would ask himself every morning was "What good shall I do this day?"  Every evening he would conclude with "What good have I done today?"

You will read more about Benjamin Franklin in future posts because he is a poster child of LRN LAF LUV LIV for LYF.  Examples abound of how he improved, enjoyed, valued, and realized the goodness in himself, and how he empowered, uplifted, nurtured, and inspired goodness in the generations during his time as well as those that have come since.

Some may consider Franklin an exceptional example too aspirational to consider as a role model. After all, he was a successful printer (he became very wealthy from his printing business), a successful statesman (a Founding Father of the United States of America with a hand in both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution), a successful inventor (he invented the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, and bifocals, among other items), and a successful civic activist (even starting a library, a fire department, and a college).

But Franklin is quite approachable. He came from a very modest background (the fifteenth of seventeen children from his father, who was a candle and soap maker), had less than two years formal schooling, and ran away from home at age 17 with little money to start a new life in a new city. His very real "rags to riches" story is based on improving the goodness of his character, learning from mistakes, and acting with goodness toward himself and others.  It is something we all can do.

You will find this spirit of goodness throughout the Philosophy of LYF. Goodness is its foundation. It is goodness as a way of life that leads to goodness of character. Goodness of character leads to goodness of actions, which leads to goodness of purpose, which leads to the goodness of life. Everything is easier, more meaningful, and better with the simplicity of goodness as your foundation.


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So start now. Make goodness your way of life. Everyday find what good you may do. And go do goodness in this world.

As additional motivation, Franklin included two other related and relevant sayings immediately below "What Good may I do" on that same page of the Almanack.

Nec sibi, sed toto, genitum se credere mundo.

Nothing so popular as Goodness.

The Latin quote comes from Lucan of Cato, a Roman epic poet who lived 39-65 AD. An English translation is:

To believe that one is born not for himself, but for the whole world.

~Lucan, Civil War, ii, 383.

In 1833, the publishers of The Treasury of Knowledge, and Library of Reference elaborated on Lucan's words:

To serve and do good to all mankind. This sentiment is worthy of an enlarged, liberal, enlightened, and philosophic mind.

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