Some of Ben Franklin's best ideas came from these 9 questions. Maybe yours can, too.

Ben Franklin: He was a Founding Father, he loved to party, and he's on the $100 bill. But you might be surprised what else he's left behind.

Image via Ervins Strauhmanis/Flickr.


Most people have no idea he created the civic triumphs that formed the foundation of American culture.

He and his friends created the first volunteer fire department, the first post office, and the first lending library.

Images 1 and 2 via Library of Congress/Flickr. Image 3 via Mennonite Church/Wikimedia Commons.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

How'd he do it? He had the right attitude and a great group of friends.

Image (modified) by Howard Chandler Christy/Wikimedia Commons.

And I'm not even talking about his Founding Father friends. This is a totally different squad.

At age 21, Franklin got his friends together to form the Junto.

The Junto was a weekly meet-up or "mutual-improvement club" where he and his friends talked about how they could make both themselves and the world cooler.

There were certain questions Franklin asked his friends at these meetings. High jinks and civic innovations ensued.

The folks at 92nd Street Y, Stanford's Hoover Institution, and Citizen University are set on proving that Franklin's approach can be brought into the modern day. Out of the questions Franklin posed, the folks behind a new form of the Junto, called Ben Franklin Circles, have chosen the most effective — just nine simple prompts:

1. Is there something you need help with?

2. Is anyone here starting a new project and is there a way we can help?

3. Anyone who’s doing innovative work?

4. Is there anyone whose friendship we want?

5. How can we use our networks to help each other?

6. Is there anyone we can mentor and encourage?

7. Can we give one another any personal/professional advice?

8. Can we improve anything about the circle itself?

9. Are there ways the circle should be connecting with and contributing to nearby communities?

As you can see, there are a lot of hive-mind, lifting-each-other-up vibes. Honestly, I feel kinda good just reading these questions.

But what's really interesting is what Franklin did more than 20 years after starting this improvement club.

At age 42, Franklin took the Junto to the next level. Believing he already had enough money to last the rest of his life, he retired from work and dedicated himself 100% to his community.

As a profile of Franklin's uniquely non-monetary definition of success in The Atlantic states, "rather than cultivate the fine arts of indolence, retirement, [Franklin] said, was 'time for doing something useful.'"

Useful like a volunteer fireman creator. Image (modified) via Charles Washington Wright/Wikimedia Commons.

Not a bad way to spend retirement. Or life. One way to create that energy in your life is now available to everyone in the form of the Ben Franklin Circle.

Ben Franklin Circles are starting to pop up, and they're creating an amazing difference in people's lives.

Asha Curran, who's on the staff at the 92nd Street Y, says that her Ben Franklin Circle was one of the most profound parts of her past year.

"It is so rare to have an opportunity to be in a room of smart, thoughtful people where the focus of conversation is solely on our ethical selves. ... I was challenged to face things about my own habits that were painful but constructive, and I came out absolutely the better for it both personally and professionally."

Creating a sense of belonging can affect more than just happiness and well-being — it can even improve health as well. Sometimes for years!

Social psychologist and Stanford professor Greg Walton created a "belonging intervention" — basically an exercise that gives participants a sense that they’re not alone in their struggles —and found that it "increased subjects' happiness, improved their health and reduced cognitive activation of negative stereotypes for several years after the initial intervention." The Ben Franklin Circles have the potential to create similar results in the lives of its participants.

We humans have immense potential inside of us, and through helping each other, we can do so much — more than Franklin ever imagined.

You can get more info below or by looking at the #BenFranklinCircles hashtag or heading to BenFranklinCircles.org.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less