Google “Ben Franklin’s five hour rule” and you’ll receive page after page of business magazine articles gushing about how you too can transform your career and life using old Ben’s technique. They spin it to current times saying Bill Gates and Elon Musk follow this rule too! Just click and read on… and you get pretty much the same paragraph from every one of them:
“The five-hour rule is a process first implemented by Benjamin Franklin for constant and deliberate learning. It involves spending one hour a day or five hours a week learning, reflecting and experimenting.”
I could link to one of those articles, but which one? They all use the same two vanilla sentences. No deep dive into actual Ben Franklin quotes. I’m at a point in my life where this just doesn’t hold up for me anymore. Life is deeper than a Twitter-sized rule for living.
You know who’s not breathlessly scanning those business articles for that one key rule used by Ben Franklin? Bill Gates or Elon Musk. Because they’ve long since passed that level of reading and shallow thinking in their own lives through consistent, dedicated learning, applied personal growth habits and occasionally taking audacious risks measured against that acquired knowledge.
And that last bit is the key. Knowing when to take the leap into the unknown isn’t just instinct, it’s detecting patterns and opportunity gleaned from multiple sources of informed learning. Put down the mobile phone and pick up a book, find a quiet corner of your hectic life, and read. Learn something new that brings you to something else new. And as you acquire that wisdom do something with it. Gates and Musk, like Franklin before them, are just people like you and me who take things to a level the rest of us aren’t prepared or willing to go to… but could.
For the last several years I’ve read every day, sought meaningful encounters wherever I am, stretched my reading to sometimes uncomfortable places, learned a bit of another language every day and firmly established the habit of writing about it right here in this blog. I’m living that Franklin rule without calling it that. I’ve learned that life is more complicated than two sentence rules for living. But the occasional spark of applied audacity has its place too.