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Benjamin Franklin, a Founding Father of the United States, is a widely known public figure. In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, he accounts his early life and depicts how he, a self-made man, became what he became. He addresses the work to his son, but in general, it is for a variety of people. He writes in a way to help his general audience so that they can learn through his experiences.
In the autobiography, Franklin stresses that there are different social classes. Due to the difference in cultures, there is an importance of being realistic by perceiving and being aware of this, to present oneself accordingly to get further ahead in life. In the world, there are different types of communities and cultures. Everyone comes from a different background or culture, in turn, creating different values in each and every person. It cannot be expected that two people from two different communities will see things the same way, of course, they will be different.
In order to succeed in this world, Franklin implies that this has to be recognized in order to be sensible. The foundation of being realistic is knowing that cultures will be different and will operate differently. If someone did not make note of that, then they would not be able to get very far in life. In being realistic, there is a subcategory of adaptability. By being reasonable, you will not act the same with every single person but act correspondingly to how you see they will, in turn, react with a good manner. You need to adapt because a reasonable person understands that people are different. If a person was not realistic, they would just learn how to behave in a certain manner and just behave that way. Although, with all the variety in life there is no way that person would successfully connect with someone diverse from them. On the contrary, if that person were practical, they would be prepared for things to be different and for any changes that might come.
As a result of things changing, a realistic person would be aware that this change could have occurred at any time and be ready to adapt to the change. For that reason, they would be successful in life. Given this variety in life, is where you need to be adaptable. In touching on the subject of being realistic by accepting and recognizing the assortment of people in the world, Franklin teaches the reader very important lessons. One of them is that when you enter a new community you should adapt your behavior to meet the expectations and culture of that group. When Franklin is in London, for the remainder of his stay there he works at Watts, a printing house (p.34). When he first begins to work there, he notices that the other men working there drank a great amount of beer, while he just stuck to drinking his water. He was even referred to as the “Water-American” (p.34) by the others.
After a while of working there, the compositors demanded of him “a new bien venu or sum for drink, being five shillings” (p.35). In rejecting to contribute to the pay for the beer, Franklin is set apart from the others. They begin to play little tricks on him, like mixing his sorts, transposing his pages and so on (p.35). As a result, he states “I found myself oblig’d to comply and pay the money, convinc’d of the folly of being on ill terms with those one is to live with continually” (p.35). Thus him complying to their demand, he gains friendliness and goes as far to gain some influence with the other men.
In talking about this experience, Benjamin Franklin not only wants the reader to learn from his mistake and not commit it themselves, but to also recognize that in order for no conflict to arise they must be aware of the community and from the very beginning adapt to it. By adapting to the environment of the community straight off the bat, the problem of clashing with the members of that community is avoided. In his case, he did not pay the beer fund which led to him getting hazed and being excluded from the other guys. He shows the benefits of adapting when he influences the others because he is now part of their group so they are more inclined to listen to him. In altering his decision of not paying, he is able to make a real change in the community by gaining acceptance into the community and respect.
However, adapting yourself to the community has a positive influence and it is just not about avoiding trouble. It is less about not having conflict and more about just having respect from the people around you. This notion is shown in a business perspective. For example in the autobiography, Franklin states that “in order to secure my credit and character as a tradesman, I took care not only to be in reality industrious and frugal, but to avoid all appearances to the contrary” (p.50). He goes on further to explain that in a wheelbarrow he would bring papers that he bought that day to his house, in order to show the people that he was not above his business (p.50). He does this so that the people in the printing community see that he has the aspects that they value.
The things they see are what he is putting out for them to see, to make sure they see only the good in his character. What he shows, is not what he likes the best about himself, but what he thinks other will react better to. He makes sure that they see he has the attributes that they value and want to demonstrate. By embodying these attributes, he not only avoids criticism but also gains their respect and praise. In order to do this, you need to be aware of your community. Be that as that may, there is another dimension for Franklin. The other dimension is as you go through life adapting to the circumstances you are in it is important to be self-aware enough to maintain your own integrity.
Self-awareness is knowing the values you hold dearly and the morals you hold that will never waver. In being self-aware, you add a limit on adaptability. To succeed one should adapt the behaviors of those one wants to impress, but should not go as far to violate one’s integrity. It is vital that you do not falsify yourself. In the beer incident example, Franklin does give in and pay the beer fund, but he does not become a drinker. In the business aspect, you also do not falsify who you are but package yourself to appeal with what is valued in a community to gain recognition in their eyes.
The awareness of the different communities and being able to adapt to each creates a realistic human being that will be able to succeed, such as Benjamin Franklin did. Benjamin Franklin is known for various things he did while he was alive. In his career, this notion of being aware of others and their expectation was very important. Especially in his political work, being a French ambassador. Being a political figure, he would have to communicate with many people to work towards a mutual understanding. By being able to notice this difference, he could adapt and be able to get stuff done.
Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Dover Publications, 2005.
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