The Power of Determination (And Ben Franklin's New Suit)

determination history storytelling success Jul 04, 2024

In January of 1774, Benjamin Franklin (Yes, THAT Benjamin Franklin) had a humiliating day he would never forget. He was in London trying to use his writing and persuasive abilities to make compromise between the British Crown and the 13 Colonies. Despite his efforts, he was called to appear on January 29th before a council of the British Government to account for the radical stirrings across the Atlantic.

In preparation for the day, he had bought a new suit. Made of Manchester velvet, and a deep burgundy color, he wore it to look his very best before the most powerful men of the British Empire. Dressed in his finest, Franklin walked into the meeting still hoping for a path of reconciliation.

However, it was clear the Privy Council wasn’t there to seek compromise… they had an axe to grind against Franklin and the Colonies he represented. For over an hour Franklin stood at the center of the chamber, and took a stream of abuse from Alexander Wedderburn, the solicitor general.

Have you ever walked into a situation that turned out completely different than you thought?

Franklin in front of the Privy Council, Courtesy of the Huntington Library

Wedderburn left no stone unturned. Insulting his role as post master, as well as mocking his fame as a scientist, Wedderburn castigated Franklin in front of his powerful peers. Franklin stood in silence and took it all in. He didn’t utter a single word! How he resisted to speak out against Wedderburn left many in attendance in awe of Franklin’s resolve. Franklin was stripped of his post master status in the Colonies, and left infuriated that all his work for compromise had been dismissed.

Franklin returned to his home in London, and promptly packed away his new suit… thinking he would never wear it again. Seeing the clothing was just too painful of a reminder for him of his horrible ordeal.

But what Wedderburn… nor anyone else in the room… could have imagined is that they had just turned the formidable mind of Ben Franklin from being a loyal British subject into a Revolutionary. Up until that point, Franklin considered himself a British citizen and worked to maintain relations between London and the New World. But after that humiliation? Franklin would never see himself as British again.

He would forever proudly be an American.

Instead of being defeated, he returned to North America and began a determined and persistent effort to prove Wedderburn, and all those who were in that room… wrong.

After becoming a delegate of Pennsylvania to the Second Continental Congress, Franklin was asked to join John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

No doubt he had Wedderburn and the Privy council on his mind when he signed his name with 5 ornate flourishes (more than any other signer).

However, what about his suit? It turns out he did get to wear it again. He brought it with him during his time as the US Ambassador to France, and wore it to the court of Versailles in 1778 when he signed a treaty with Louis XVI recognizing the independence of the United States. This was a significant moment as the US now had a European ally, and access to funds and valuable ships to continue their revolutionary fight.

But the story of Ben Franklin’s suit doesn’t end there.

In a day of triumph, he wore it again in Paris in 1783 when after the Revolutionary War had been won, and on behalf of the United States Government, he signed the treaty where George III and Great Britain formally recognized the United States as an independent country. After 9 years, Franklin’s persistent effort paved the way for the American Experiment to begin.

When asked about his curious suit, Franklin replied, “This suit has seen my worst day. It deserves to see my best.”

What does this have to do with influence?

If you’re like most people, then you’ve had some rough days where everything fell completely apart. All your efforts may have been thrown out the window or dismissed. But if Ben Franklin (and his suit) has anything to teach us, its that perseverance and determination will help you overcome whatever you are facing. Even more important, being persistent and determined will lead to your best days.

What obstacle are you trying to overcome? What mountain are you trying to climb? More importantly, how can you make simple yet determined progress today? What is something small that you can do, right now, to move forward? How can you build upon it tomorrow?

Since that fateful meeting in London, Ben Franklin spent the rest of his life crossing the Atlantic, negotiating with the heads of countries, and ultimately left a legacy of innovation, ingenuity, and determination that inspires us today. Pretty remarkable for the son of a soap maker.

Success is rarely some big and daring isolated event. Rather it’s the steady and determined accumulation of consistent behaviors that change circumstances in your favor. And it’s the person with the greatest clarity and determination that will shape the lives of others.

Your best days have yet to come. Just ask Benjamin Franklin (and his new suit).


CHRISTIAN HANSEN has gone behind the scenes in some of the biggest organizations in the world to find out the reasons why some people get chosen and why others don’t. As the #1 bestselling and LinkedIn Top Ten ranked author of “The Influence Mindset: The Art & Science of Getting People to Choose You” Christian helps teams and organizations who want increase their earning potential by standing out from the crowd and influencing people to choose them. With degrees from Brigham Young University and The London School of Economics, he’s helped thousands of individuals position and sell themselves. A fan of international communication, history, and choral music, he currently lives in Utah with his wife. Reach him at:

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