Ben Franklin’s 4 rules of conduct

After being burned a few times early in life by “rogues of dubious character,” Benjamin Franklin started finding himself more attracted to practical, reliable folk.

Aiming to become one of these solid individuals himself—to live, in his words, “like a rational creature”—Franklin wrote out a “plan for future conduct.” The first of many credos in which he laid down ground rules for his own success as a leader, it launched the self-improvement industry in America.

Here are Franklin’s four rules, updated and boiled down:

1. “I must be extremely frugal until I’m out of debt.”

2. “I will tell the truth, avoid creating unrealistic expectations and try to be sincere in every word and action.”

3. “I’ll work hard in whatever business I find myself and not be diverted by get-rich-quick schemes, because hard work and patience are the surest paths to success.”

4. “I will never speak ill of anybody.”

Franklin’s attempts to correct his own flaws remain relevant to this day, especially in light of his future leadership in business, science and public service.