The Thought for the Day – Walter Isaacson

To succeed, they had to be awed by the magnitude of the task and be humbled…Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Walter Issacson is an American writer, one of this nation’s foremost biographers, and today’s quote comes from his very good biography of Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin and his fellow Founding Fathers were in Philadelphia for a convention designed to replace the Articles of Confederation with a new national governing document. It was a contentious time and even casual readers of this period knows not every delegate was filled with awe and humility.

Franklin was then in his 80’s and nearing the end of his rather useful life. Experience had taught Franklin that patience and humility were key elements in getting anything done and while Franklin was at the stage of his life where he tended to ramble, he still commanded an immense amount of respect. While most of his proposals weren’t adopted, the esteem for Franklin was such that his guiding hand was instrumental in getting delegates for more or less sovereign states to cooperate. It was a time when America desperately needed such cooperation.

Humility is a useful trait. Humility allows us to see our shortcomings. It shows that no matter how advanced or accomplished we might become we do not know and cannot do everything. Some equate this with weakness, however this is far from the truth. Humility is the gateway to strength, allowing us to confront our own shortcomings and showing a path to overcoming, though perhaps not eliminating, them.

To succeed, they had to be humbled

Humility also allows us to accept our strengths with grace, showing us that if there ever comes a time when we do look around and are unable to find anyone else on the mountaintop, to be grateful for the gift of the skill that got us there and to appreciate the work we put in to get there.


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