Ben Franklin’s Secret Weapon

Panorama of Philadelphia skyline, Ben Franklin Bridge and Penn's
Panorama of Philadelphia skyline, Ben Franklin Bridge and Penn's

As a teenager, Ben Franklin was locked into a long apprenticeship at his brother’s print shop in Boston. This was not where young, ambitious Ben wanted to be. So he fled. Traveling by boat, and made his way first to New York City, where he found no work, and eventually to Philadelphia – a city that was just entering it’s formative years in the 1720’s. He knew no one, but immediately went about establishing his reputation as a hard worker and dependable businessman.

An oft-cited schedule from his autobiography showed Franklin was up at 5:00 AM to start the day’s business. He spent the first couple of hours in reflection (asking himself, “What good shall I do today?”) before working from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Supper was at 6:00 PM followed by reflection on the question, “What good have I done today?”

It makes for a nice sound bite. “Early to Bed, Early to Rise, Makes a Man Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise.” But the truth is Franklin’s life was never so orderly or simple.

“The earliest risers found Franklin at work before dawn,” wrote H.W. Brand in his biography of Franklin, The First American. They would often find him there burning the midnight oil, too. Franklin suffered from insomnia, and almost always worked later than 5:00 PM because of the incredible number of side projects he had on the go at almost any time.

His ambition outmatched the hours in the day, but that didn’t stop him from establishing the first libraries and fire departments in Philadelphia, and encouraging other cities to add them as well. He also started a Mastermind.

In 1726, despite working from early morning to late at night in his print shop, Ben Franklin organized a meeting group called The Junto. The group met every Friday evening to review books, share essays they had written, and discuss local success stories. Franklin’s associations from the group led to contracts and insider business deals that allowed him to grow his great wealth. The group also made him smarter. The Mastermind group was truly one of his secret weapons.

Two questions Franklin asked the group each week were, “Who is thriving & why?” and “How might they be emulated?” These are two excellent questions for us to ask about our peers and competitors. Look at what is working in your industry. Ask yourself why it is working. Then figure out how you might emulate this success in your own business. It might mean reformulating your products, adding new elements to your books and information products, or studying video sales letter transcripts to make your sales messages more compelling. The answers to what we seek are often freely available to us. Franklin’s questions serve as an excellent guide for finding golden opportunities.

You can build your own Junto and recruit your own Mastermind. Perhaps, like Napolean Hill wrote in Think and Grow Rich, you might create a Mastermind in your mind made of great figures from history. Or more practically, you might find 6-10 likeminded individuals in your city or industry that agree to come together on a regular basis to share best practices and what’s working in your businesses.

I’ve been a part of Mastermind groups, as both a paying member and paid leader, for over eight years. These groups have not only led to the biggest business breakthroughs in my career, including the direct contribution of being able to acquire Early to Rise from Mark Ford, but these groups have also led to creating the best and deepest friendships I have ever had in my life.

This is all because I have surrounded myself with people smarter than me and people who share the same values as me (hard work, persistence, a ‘Go-Giver’ mentality, and a focus on helping as many people as possible). Yes, I have to travel outside of my comfort zone and many thousands of miles to attend my Mastermind meetings, but today it is also possible to befriend likeminded individuals easier than ever before – thanks to Internet forums and membership sites.

Regardless of where you live, there are no excuses for remaining isolated from other great minds and good people. There is no justification for feeling isolated like an island in the ocean. You can gain mentorship through books or through mental imagery (using Hill’s imaginary Mastermind method or you can apply the What Would ___ Do question using your preferred business icon in place of Jesus). You can grow a Mastermind through online forums, establishing an exclusive group of likeminded peers who will push you outside of your comfort zone to take bigger action steps than ever before. Each of these are good, but nothing beats the in-person power of a high-end Mastermind group. When you invest in yourself and put a little skin in the game, you’ll take the most action and get the greatest results.

Hill defined a Mastermind as a “Coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose,” and added, “No individual may have great power without availing himself of the Master Mind.”

He first learned about this concept from Andrew Carnegie, twenty-five years before Think and Grow Rich was published. “Mr. Carnegie’s Master Mind group consisted of a staff of approximately fifty men, with whom he surrounded himself, for the DEFINITE PURPOSE of manufacturing and marketing steel. He attributed his entire fortune to the POWER he accumulated through this Master Mind.” Hill added, “Economic advantages may be created by any person who surrounds himself with the advice, counsel, and personal cooperation of a group of men who are willing to lend him wholehearted aid, in a spirit of PERFECT HARMONY. This form of cooperative alliance has been the basis of nearly every great fortune. Your understanding of this great truth may definitely determine your financial status.”

There’s no denying the power of the Mastermind. There is only the question of how far will you go to benefit from this power? If you choose to sit at home and whine about how there are “no good people in your area,” then you are a lost cause. No one can help you. You’ve made up your mind and even if a Mastermind group showed up at your door, it would do you no good. But I know that’s not you. You will find a way to tap into the power of the Mastermind.

Ask the big question of yourself today. “What do you really want to achieve in life?” Then think, are the people I’m spending time with helping me achieve this?

“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best,” said Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher.

You must become the person you need to be to achieve what you want to achieve. Most people want you to remain in your comfort zone. They resist change. They believe they are stuck and want you to remain stuck with them. You must not harbor any bitterness or resentment against those who try to hold you back. They know not what they do.

Stay strong and never give up on what is important to you…even if it means taking a big step out of your comfort zone to meet your Mastermind group. You will not regret it. The Mastermind worked for Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Napolean Hill, and Ben Franklin, and has worked for every successful entrepreneur I’ve ever met. Don’t miss out on yours. Get out there and start one today.

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  • ds1958

    Craig, I try to read your news letter every day, it is almost always inspiring and motivating. However I must take exception with today’s article / story about Ben Franklin’s secret weapon. This article is absolutely stellar. I especially like the term that you used “Go-Giver” I have never heard or seen that term before, and I fully relate to and try to emulate its meaning in my everyday life. Great term. Thank you for all your efforts in “Early to Rise” I for one appreciate it.
    Don Schaefer, Wesley Chapel, Florida

    • Thank you so much, Don. Make sure to check out the book, Go-Giver by Bob Burg. You’ll love it.