How to Make Good Decision, From Ben Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was a writer, inventor, political theorist, diplomat and philosopher. He also invented several devices that drastically changed the course of history including bifocals and the lightning rod.
Despite being one of America’s most important founding fathers it is believed he did not have children with his wife Deborah Read who died in 1777 so he never had to worry about an heir which opened up opportunities for other people to take credit for what he worked on.

Ben Franklin said that it is important to make a good decision, because “example of pros and cons in decision making” can be beneficial for your life.

Illustration of Ben Franklin writing on a paper.

“I split half a page of paper into two columns by a line, writing over one Pro and over the other Con.” Then, over the course of three or four days of deliberation, I jotted down under various headings brief suggestions of various causes for or against the legislation that occurred to me at various times. When I have them all in one view, I try to estimate their relative weights, and if I discover two that seem to be equal on either side, I strike them both out. If I deem two reasons con equivalent to three reasons pro, I scratch out five; and so going, I determine where the balance falls; and if nothing new that is of significance arises on either side after a day or two of additional thought, I make a decision accordingly.” Benjamin Franklin is credited with coining the phrase “Benjamin Franklin is credited with coin

We discussed the significance of being determined last week, as well as some fundamental guidelines for making effective judgments. The pro and con chart was described as a useful tool in the decision-making process. Ben Franklin was a lover of the pro and con chart, as seen by the above quotation, and added his own spin by assigning different weights to his numerous causes.

But what if you use the pro and con chart and still can’t make a decision? You’ve done everything you can to learn as much as you can about your options; you’ve kept a record of your ideas; and you’ve sought advice from friends and family. However, you’re still torn between two or more options that seem to be equally appealing. What are your options for breaking the impasse?

Today, we’ll go through a decision-making hack that builds on and improves on the method used by old Ben. It may assist you in determining which option is really the greatest when you’re torn between two options.

How to Choose Between Two or More Appealing Options

Every option has its benefits and drawbacks. The problem is determining which option will provide you with more of the former and less of the latter. A standard pro and con chart might be overly ambiguous. This is when a “balance sheet” for decision-making comes into play. It’s referred to as a “multi-attribute optimization chart” by philosophers who research decision making (yes, there is such a thing). Get a piece of paper ready, gentlemen, for you’re about to become The Decider.

Make your columns first. Two columns are required. The first column should be labeled “Element,” and the second column should be labeled “Importance Factor.” Create as many columns as you have options in addition to those two. Fill in the blanks with the names of your options. “Job in Seattle” and “Job in Phoenix,” for example.

2. Make a list of the most crucial aspects of your selection. List all of the significant factors that impact your selection in the “Element” section. If you’re deciding between two employment, you could consider factors such as location, compensation, perks, job stability, work hours, and satisfaction.


3. Make a list of each element’s significance factor. Assign a value from 1 to 10 to each element in your “Importance Factor” column, based on how significant that aspect is to you. Give that factor a 9 if, for example, the time your employment will enable you to spend with your family is really essential to you. Give it a 4 if being near to your family isn’t as essential to you as it is to others. Don’t overthink it; just write down the first number that comes to mind.

4. Give each option a grade based on how well it relates to the other elements. You’ll now give a number from 1 to 10 to each option based on how it compares to the things you’ve mentioned. For example, you might award a 9 to a job in Seattle that has a good health insurance plan. If your employment in Phoenix required you to work 60-hour weeks on sometimes, you would give it a 5 for “work hours.” Again, don’t overthink it; just write down the first number that comes to mind. These figures will appear on the left side of your selection columns. Make sure there’s space for another number on the right side of the column.

5. Multiply the significance factor by each choice’s grade. For example, if you assigned an 8 to the significance of the pay factor and a 7 to the Job in Seattle’s prospective compensation, you would multiply 8 by 7 to get 56. This number should appear to the right of your selection column.

6. Add the totals together. Add all of the numbers together to obtain a total after you’ve multiplied all of your important variables by your preferred grades. Which of the options has the most points? That is most likely the best option for you.

These instructions may make things seem more difficult than it is. Once you see an example of a chart, it’s really fairly straightforward. Here’s an example of a chart that shows how to choose between two distinct occupations. Let’s imagine you’re torn between the two occupations and want to know which is the greatest fit for you and your lifestyle. Here’s how you may decide which job to apply for:

Illustration of balance sheet for jobs.

After multiplying the priority factor by our option grades and combining the totals, we arrive at a score of 428 for the Seattle job and 468 for the Phoenix job. It seems that you’ll be relocating to Phoenix. Of course, there’s a chance you’ll come up with some false positives as a result of this exercise. Even if you strive not to be prejudiced, you have a propensity to give greater ratings to the option you truly desire, even if it doesn’t deserve them. Despite this little flaw, multi-attribute choice optimization performs a decent job at assisting you in making a decision (after all, if you’re inflating the scores of one of your options, you presumably already know which one you want!). It causes you to consider all of the elements that go into your choice. Kate and I have used it numerous times to help us make important decisions, and it has always been beneficial. Try it out using the example card provided below. Remember that you may get a PDF containing a few of these worksheets ready to use. Enjoy!


Illustration of empty balance sheet.The 1963 Doubleday Personal Success Program inspired this post.

Listen to our podcast about making better choices using mental models:




Ben Franklin is famous for his quote “Take time every day to do something that will make you happy. It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” Reference: ben franklin t.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Ben Franklin approach?

A: A Ben Franklin approach is a strategy that consists of investing in low-risk, high-yield securities. The idea behind this approach is that the risk is relatively minimal and you are assured to make more money than you put into it over time.

Why is Franklins T chart structure important?

A: The Franklin T chart is important because it gives us a visual representation of the companys revenue and costs structure.

Did Benjamin Franklin invent the pros and cons list?

A: Benjamin Franklin did not invent the Pros and Cons list, but he is believed to be behind it. A Japanese author compiled a book of pros in 1750. Around this time, Benjamin Franklin was planning on writing his autobiography which would have included many positive traits about himself

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