What does that mean?
The saying is pretty straight forward. If you want to get a good return on yourself, your time, your effort and your money, invest in yourself, specifically, in your knowledge. Remember, Ben was big on self-education. He considered it to be so important that he wrote books full of witty sayings and established folklore, to help spread knowledge as far and wide as he possibly could (for a nominal fee, of course). He formed the first public lending library in the United States, and was an avid reader, experimenter and all around curious person. To me, this is just stating a good portion of his life’s work.
Why is knowledge important?
I don’t know. But seriously, Ben is talking about practical knowledge in most cases. His inventive side probably invested in some fairly abstract knowledge, but for the most part, he seemed to be, first and foremost, about the practical. When to plow, when to plant, when to harvest, when to get up and go to bed. The things you needed to know.
Without knowledge, what do you know? Facts are the basis of what we use to make judgements and decisions. If you wanted to buy something, you could just buy it on impulse, and then regret it later (anyone with kids knows this one all too well). Or you could do your research and find out that others bought it and rated it on the net as a waste of money, perhaps recommending a better product. Armed with this knowledge, you can make a more knowledgeable decision, resulting on a better return on your investment.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Let’s look at a couple of different places we can use this. First, do you know what you want to do with your life? If you already know, then you’re half way there. If not, you might want to brainstorm some ideas, then write down some of them. If you’re having problems doing this, see these posts on exceptionalism and passion for help finding things you might want to do with your life).
What hobbies would you like to pursue? Brainstorm some ideas and write them down. Any skills you would like to learn or improve? Time for more brainstorming. How about some games you would like to learn? Languages? Places of interest you’d like to know more about (perhaps part of planning a vacation visit)? Anything you are interested in, but lack familiarity with, could be on this list. Subatomic particle physics (the Large Hadron Collider had been making news off and on for the last few years)? Kind of quirky, but still a valid topic to become more familiar with. The plan is to get some background on yourself, some ideas on what you want to know more about, so that we can proceed in the quest of knowledge. Now that we have some targets, let’s move on to the investment in knowledge.
Because you are reading this, I am going to presume you have some access to the wild and wacky World Wide Web. Even if you’re on a phone, you can still use search engines and tap into sites like wikipedia.org, as well as other subject matter sites. This kind of research is fairly straight forward, plug in your words and click on “search” and become buried in possibilities. Similar results can be achieved at most public libraries. Some of the smaller libraries might not have the book you want in stock, but it is likely that they can get it through an inter-library loan. That just means it’ll take a couple of days for the book to get there, and the fines will be stiffer if you keep it too long. This might also happen if the topic is a bit out of the main stream of public library fare. Also, most libraries have internet access, so if you’re having trouble finding stuff, the library is likely to have someone there to help you out both on searching the library and searching the web.
Where else can I get knowledge, I mean, it’s hard to learn how to play tennis online or from a book! Great point. Many communities have, either through the Parks and Recreation or through the local Community Colleges, athletic programs for beginners wishing to learn a sport. Some even have classes for those returning to a sport, who need to brush up or are looking to move their game to the next level.
Some people like to build things. If this is what you wish to do as a profession, you will need to look into the local trades and their schools (carpenters, masons, etc). They will fill you with a world of knowledge. If it’s just as a hobby, perhaps a mentor, community group, or an evening or weekend class at a trade school or the local Community College will suffice. I learned carpentry from a Master (grandpa), and welding from some car club buddies. Quite a lot can be done with some simple skills.
Perhaps you want to know more about crafts. The same sources apply. Friends, community groups, books, internet, library or classes. Same with self improvement, such as exercising, yoga, pilates, eating, cooking, gardening, arts (performing and otherwise)… The list is practically endless!
If you are having problems with which you need assistance, there are community groups dedicated to helping people with any number of difficulties. From addictions to parent’s night out groups, and everything in-between, there are people out there with knowledge that they are willing to share, to help make your life better. They are investing in you by teaching, you are investing in yourself by learning. Everyone wins, which to me is the best kind of transaction!
In each of the cases above, you have invested in yourself, and invested in knowledge. Some of it may have made you smarter, others may have made you better at a skill, still others have brought pleasure, pride or comfort or perhaps more than one of the above. The payout depends on what you were looking to gain, but if you followed the plan, and learned something, you have made a good investment.
Now go through the lists you made earlier in this post and select a few things you wish to know more about, and put together a quick plan – where are you going to get the knowledge from? Who, How, When, Where (you should already know What and Why). I would suggest you write them in pencil, as this will be a dynamic process. As you find out more, you may change direction or find something else even more fascinating. Welcome to the world of a Life Long Learner.
And the interest? It’s the payout when you’re done. What did you get out of it? Knowledge, is more difficult to lose than a monetary investment. And unlike most monetary investments, knowledge will continue to pay interest for the rest of your life. Yeah, piano lessons as a kid were not much fun, and I never played in a rock band, but it’s nice to relax with a piano and just noodle around, or play a lullaby to a cranky baby.
Knowledge plays a part in everything we do. It can help you make more money, make better decisions, be better at sports, take better care of your health and much more.
Yet, too many people think that after high school or college, their education is over. They breathe a sigh of relief and think they made it. Now, it’s time to just get a career and go with flow until retirement.
But, this is the wrong outlook to have. Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” He knew the value of constantly becoming more knowledgeable.
In fact, just about every successful person in the world has one thing in common: they are constantly reading and educating themselves on a daily basis.
Jim Rohn, the great self development speaker, said, “Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.” He says schooling is only a small part of your lifetime education.
Albert Einstein, the genius, said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”Joe Paterno, the very successful football coach, said, “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”
Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest presidents in US history, said, “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”
All of these quotes from extremely successful and wise individuals, say the same thing. You have to keep improving yourself on a daily basis. You have to keep acquiring knowledge and improving your skills.
The Meaning of Ben Franklin’s Quote
You should always be educating yourself through books, biographies, articles, audios, experience, etc. Your education should be a work in progress until the day you die.
The investment you make in yourself will always pay off in the end. The wiser you are, the better decisions you’ll make. The smarter you are, the more things you can be successful at.
Make it a point to always keep improving yourself each day by learning new things.
Read daily for at least 30 minutes (audiobooks, books, ebooks, etc.).
Study other successful people you look up to.
Listen to podcasts, interviews and watch biographies to learn as much as you can about how to get better at what you’re doing.
The Beginning Is The Most Important Part Of The Work
Knowledge is what can separate you from the pack. It can take you as high as you want to go if you put it into action.
When Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” he didn’t just mean you should hoard it and do nothing with it. You have to use it. Otherwise what good is it?
Get smarter everyday. Expand your knowledge and wisdom everyday. Don’t forget to use the new things you learn though. A perfect plan is no good if no one executes it.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.” – Marcel Proust“I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” – Abraham Lincoln
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” –Mark Twain
Assuming the public school system hasn’t crushed your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.
But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.
Here are some tips for installing the habit of lifelong learning:
1) Always have a book.
It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time. Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year. 2) Keep a “To-Learn” List
We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study. Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down. 3) Get More Intellectual Friends
Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart. But people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you. Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you. 4) Guided Thinking
Albert Einstein once said, “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned. 5) Put it Into Practice
Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush. If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice. 6) Teach Others
You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning. Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend. 7) Clean Your Input
Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance. I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming. Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts. 8 ) Learn in Groups
Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills. Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience. 9) Unlearn Assumptions
You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas. Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview. 10) Find Jobs that Encourage Learning
Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does. Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you. 11) Start a Project
Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging. If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting. 12) Follow Your Intuition
Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind. Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out. 13) The Morning Fifteen
Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education. If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way. 14) Reap the Rewards
Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride. 15) Make it a Priority
Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.