Rule 13. When you cannot be useful with your hands attend to the cultivation of your mind.

When Stephen Allen died on the ship, The Henry Clay,  they found a piece of paper in his pocket listing several maxims, this is one of my favorites.

Our time is finite, and we should make the best use of it. Those spare moments in life are the ones that are best for self-improvement.


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The quality of self improvement is a hallmark of the American Dream. One need not look far to see examples of it. Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Carnegie are only a few great names that spring to mind. They understood at an early age that if they wanted to succeed they would need to work for it. In their spare moments such men read in the spare moments.


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Cultivation: Study, care and practice directed to improvement, correction, enlargement or increase; the application of the means of improvement.

– Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

It is reading the right books, putting the right seeds into the soil of your fertile mind. Moreover, you cannot simply read good books, you must apply your knowledge to the situations in life. Without application the knowledge is useless.

Application Points

Keep a thought on the back burner – Save a few good ideas to consider when you have extra time. If you’re bored it’s the best time to mull over a thought that keeps nagging you.


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Keep a book around – You never know when you might have a chance to read a good book. Opportunities arise but we need to be ready to seize them.

Application – Keep your eyes open for ways to use your acquired knowledge, by frequent use it becomes better understood.


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