Friday, July 31, 2009

Ben Franklin: first American life coach

I noticed the other day in my blog's list of "Blogs I enjoy" that it had been four weeks since Maira Kalman's last blog, which quickened my pulse and my delight-meter since that meant there would be another one soon! But then I forgot (something about being in an aircast with a stress fracture has distracted me).

So this morning, doing my quick check of the New York Times in my email, there it was! And my heart leapt! I'm not exaggerating.

This month's installment in her series "And the Pursuit of Happiness" is called, "Can Do." And it does not disappoint.

It starts and spends lots of intriguing time with Ben Franklin, then hops into the wider world of inventiveness--Thomas Edison, Daguerre, and then to a jello-mold competition! How Maira Kalman gets around! And thinks to combine so many things in one episode.

One of the things that really struck me, in addition to all the delightful and playful surprises, was the description of Ben Franklin's outlook and daily practice, which, in addition to his "Poor Richard's Almanac" with its sage wisdom and advice, leads me to name him the first American life coach, a couple of centuries before the term ever existed.

Kalman writes: "He believed in doing good. Every day. He made charts and had daily goals."

Check out the printed chart (no doubt set and printed by him or at least by his printing company) of his daily practice. It includes: "The morning question: What good shall I do this day?"

And the morning schedule, beginning at 5 a.m.: "Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness."

Stop right there! Did you catch that? "Address Powerful Goodness." Does that sound rather new age-y, or what? Franklin, one of our founding father non-theists (I do believe he was not alone), each morning addressed Powerful Goodness.

And his morning practice goes on from there: "contrive day's business and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study [whatever that means! I'd love to know what he studied in the mornings, before breakfast]; and breakfast."

Or in today's coaching lingo--he set his intention for the day and clarified his goals and priorities.

And then there's the end of the day. "Put things in their places, supper, music, or diversion, or conversation; examination of the day." Sounds quite lovely. No TV. Music, or conversation, or...diversion!

And the evening question: "What good have I done today?"

And then, at 10 p. m., sleep.

Enjoy her blog. I know you will. I've barely scratched the surface. And of course, I've said nothing about her delightful illustrations, so you get to enjoy those on your own.