A great deal has been written regarding leadership development and growth. Benjamin Franklin is an inspirational leader coming from humble roots and the following article links his leadership and lifelong commitment to learning in a way we can all can embrace.


This is a post from Michael Simmons, co-founder of Empact as published on 20 June 2016

Inc.com – Why Constant Learners All Embrace the 5-Hour Rule 

“At the age of 10, Benjamin Franklin left formal schooling to become an apprentice to his father. As a teenager, he showed no particular talent or aptitude aside from his love of books.

When he died a little over half a century later, he was America’s most respected statesman, its most famous inventor, a prolific author, and a successful entrepreneur.

What happened between these two points to cause such a meteoric rise?

Underlying the answer to this question is a success strategy for life that we can all use, and increasingly must use.

The five-hour rule

Throughout Ben Franklin’s adult life, he consistently invested roughly an hour a day in deliberate learning. I call this Franklin’s five-hour rule: one hour a day on every weekday.

Franklin’s learning time consisted of:

  • Waking up early to read and write
  • Setting personal-growth goals (i.e., virtues list) and tracking the results
  • Creating a club for “like-minded aspiring artisans and tradesmen who hoped to improve themselves while they improved their community”
  • Turning his ideas into experiments
  • Having morning and evening reflection questions

Every time that Franklin took time out of his busy day to follow his five-hour rule and spend at least an hour learning, he accomplished less on that day. However, in the long run, it was arguably the best investment of his time he could have made.

Franklin’s five-hour rule reflects the very simple idea that, over time, the smartest and most successful people are the ones who are constant and deliberate learners.  

So what would it look like to make the five-hour rule part of our lifestyle? 


The core concept of the five-hour rule: empty space
To find out, we need look no further than chess grandmaster and world-champion martial artist Josh Waitzkin. Instead of squeezing his days for the maximum productivity, he’s actually done the opposite. Waitzkin, who also authored The Art of Learning, purposely creates slack in his day so he has “empty space” for learning, creativity, and doing things at a higher quality. Here’s his explanation of this approach from a recent Tim Ferriss podcast episode:

“I have built a life around having empty space for the development of my ideas for the creative process. And for the cultivation of a physiological state which is receptive enough to tune in very, very deeply to people I work with … In the creative process, it’s so easy to drive for efficiency and take for granted the really subtle internal work that it takes to play on that razor’s edge.”

Adding slack to our day allows us to:

1. Plan out the learning

2. Deliberately practice

3. Ruminate 

4. Set aside time just for learning

5. Solve problems as they arise

6. Do small experiments with big potential payoffs


The difference the five-hour rule makes
For many people, their professional day is measured by how much they get done. As a result, they speed through the day and slow down their improvement rate.

The five-hour rule flips the equation by focusing on learning first. So, are you ready to embrace the five-hour rule?”

This article has been edited from the original. To read the full article click Why Constant Learners All Embrace the 5-Hour Rule 

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The 3P Exchange Leadership Symposium is focused on creating  the opportunity and space to learn, reflect and connect. Visit www.3pexchange.com to find out more about speakers and events at the 3P Exchange Leadership Symposium including information on registering and booking your accommodations at the Pillar and Post Inn, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON. October 25 & 26, 2016. I hope to see you there!