There’s a lot more to George Washington than just being the first president of the U.S. and a Founding Father: He’s an acute businessman, a dog-lover, and one of the most prolific letter-writers in history. In a podcast from The Living Hour, we look at one of Washington’s earliest works, “110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation,” which he wrote when he was only 16 years old.
These days, the words that Washington had written may seem out of touch to some people – with some saying that it was written for a time and place that did not exist anymore. However, most of the rules that were enshrined reveal a focus that people these days have lost. In particular, the rules call for a sacrifice of our own narrow self-interests for the good of other people. The rules indicate that as we respect others, and they too will give us self-respect and heighten our self-esteem.
Here are some of the things in our current lives that Washington’s rules would still apply.
- On bragging. The rules say, “play not the peacock.” Don’t make too much of a fuss with what you’re wearing.
- Talking with others. Washington emphasized the need for conversations to be “without malice or envy,” at all times. If tensions flare, be cool and reasonable despite it. When a person is talking with friends, he added to keep it short and don’t stuff it with too much discourse.
- Giving advice. It’s easy to give advice, but the Founding Father says to consider the timing and the manner it should be given to. “Above all be gentle,” he adds.
- On being corrected. A person should always be grateful when he is corrected, no matter the time and place. If he feels that this correction is undue, he can correct it later.
- Speaking. “When you speak, be concise,” he adds. In business, all communication must be short but comprehensive. In addressing people, give them their due title, in accordance with the time and place.
- Explaining ideas. Level yourself according to who you’re talking. Don’t play dumb in front of wise men, and don’t ask difficult questions to those who don’t know better.
- Joking and having fun. Even in jest, Washington emphasized that it should not make fun of others. If you feel that your joke is funny, keep it to yourself.
- Visiting the sick. You should only visit the sick, not play the physician.
- Dealing with the boss. Don’t argue with your superiors, and submit your ideas with humility, according to Washington.
- Keeping secrets. Don’t encourage your friends to pry into someone’s secret, he adds. “Some things are better left unsaid.”
- Dealing with failure. If a person fails despite their best efforts, “do not criticize them.” He goes as far as not to blame them for even trying.
The original language may look silly for some, but everyone could use some of 16-year old Washington’s writings just about now.
Other things you may not know about George Washington
Most people have a limited knowledge of who George Washington was, despite his contributions. Here are some things that not many people know about the nation’s first president.
- He learned to be a surveyor at 16 years old. Aside from writing, Washington was an adventurer. He joined George William Fairfax as a surveyor into the Virginia frontier in 1747, and he was appointed as a county surveyor in Culpeper the next year.
- George Washington can dance. Blessed with an athletic build, many accounts have stated his love for dancing with many female guests.
- He ran one of the largest distilleries in his time. In his later years, Washington founded a rye and corn distillery on Dogue Run. At the time of this death in 1799, the distillery produced 10,942 gallons of whiskey, the biggest in America.
- He wrote a lot of letters. Estimates say it’s between 18,000 to 20,000. At the time of his death, however, Martha Washington burned all of his letters to protect the privacy of her relationship with the Founding Father.
He is also known to have cultivated hemp in his farmland.
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