Of all American pastimes, perhaps the most popular is musing about what the Founding Fathers would have thought about this or that issue. But on one issue in particular, there's no guesswork necessary: the Founding Fathers spoke and wrote volumes about what it means to lead a successful life.
And although a lot of things have changed since they were around, the Founding Fathers' advice has aged remarkably well, and continues to inform our idea of what it means to live a good life.
Here's what eight of the Founding Fathers have said about what success really means.
The first US president, George Washington, believed that a good life had to be an ethical one. "Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected," he once asserted.
Washington frequently spoke about the importance of putting all of one's focus on following a higher purpose. “Make sure you are doing what God wants you to do--then do it with all your strength," Washington said.
For John Adams, the ethical life was the successful life: “To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do," he said. Adams also explained that his years of living taught him that success is more about simple, everyday acts of kindness and faith than money or big accomplishments.
“The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know," Adams said. "Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly [with your God]. This is enough.”
According to Thomas Jefferson, the secret to success is all in your head.
"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal," said Jefferson. "Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."
Benjamin Franklin, who was part of the original Committee of Five who drafted the Declaration of Independence, has come to be remembered as an early guru of productivity and self-improvement. In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, he wrote of the importance of virtues like patience, moderation and humility.
“He that can have patience can have what he will," said Franklin.
James Madison is considered to be the "Father of the Constitution." For Madison, there could be no success in governments, communities and families without trust.
“The circulation of confidence is better than the circulation of money," said Madison.
James Monroe spoke of honor as the highest value and determinant of success, both for the individual and for the country.
"National honor is the national property of the highest value," Monroe said.
Revolutionary Samuel Adams not only helped organize the Boston Tea Party and founded the Sons of Liberty, but he also helped write the Articles of Confederation and the Massachusetts Constitution before becoming governor of Massachusetts. Adams valued freedom above all else.
“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace," Adams said. "We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
American patriot and Virginia delegate George Mason, sometimes called the "Father of the United States Bill of Rights," advised keeping failure and negative life events in perspective.
"A few years' experience will convince us that those things which at the time they happened we regarded as our greatest misfortunes have proved our greatest blessings," said Mason.
Also on HuffPost:
Called <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2012/11/7/3613664/clear-for-mac-review" target="_blank">"The iPhone's most beautiful to-do list app"</a> by The Verge, <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/clear/id493136154?mt=8" target="_blank">Clear</a> ($9.99 for Mac) is a productivity app for those who care about aesthetics just as much -- if not more -- than functionality. But it's also incredibly user-friendly: Just swipe to check an item off the list, and simply shake your phone for the option to email your list. The user can also create separate lists for work, shopping, personal goals and more. <a href="http://gizmodo.com/5885307/clear-app-cross-chores-off-your-to+do-list-with-a-swipe" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a> deems it "perfect for busy people."
Formerly known as Read It Later, the free app <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pocket-formerly-read-it-later/id309601447?mt=8" target="_blank">Pocket</a> can be used to save articles, videos and web pages that you don't have time to read but want to return to later. Like Evernote, the app syncs across platforms for easy access and streamlined link-saving. CNET gave the app a five-star review, <a href="http://reviews.cnet.com/software/pocket-android/4505-3513_7-35473909.html" target="_blank">writing</a>: "If you're looking for a bookmarking tool that syncs across devices, then look no further. Better than Instapaper and other competitors, Pocket is the app to beat in the category."
Sync all your notes, clippings, to-do lists and reminders across devices with Evernote, the highly-rated productivity app that makes it to the top of many reviewers' lists. The <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/evernote/id281796108?mt=8" target="_blank">free app</a> conserves time and energy by saving all your files, photos, reminders, to-do lists, tweets and more in one app accessible from all your platforms. Email notes to yourself or others, and search within notes for easy access to any information. "Evernote is the last notebook you'll ever need," <a href="http://socialmediatoday.com/node/1524231" target="_blank">Social Media Today</a> wrote.
Before you dismiss the idea of mind-mapping as something out of The Matrix, try the brainstorming tool <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mindnode/id312220102?mt=8" target="_blank">MindNode</a> ($9.99). The iPhone and iPad app could lead you to some of your best ideas in less time by allowing you to organize projects and concepts in a vibrant graphic. "The theory is that these large, pictorial networks mirror the way our brains work, making it easier to spot connections and insert new ideas," <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/02/08/5-best-apps-for-getting-and-staying-organized/2/" target="_blank">a Forbes article explains</a>.
If just looking at your overflowing Gmail inbox makes your pulse quicken, the free iPhone app <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mailbox/id576502633?mt=8" target="_blank">Mailbox</a> is your new best friend. The app helps you tackle that mounting inbox -- with the goal of getting down to the elusive "inbox zero" -- with convenient labels for all your unread emails and a feature that allows you to instantly swipe messages to archive or trash. "Mailbox largely fixes a problem most of us have with email: quickly getting rid of the junk we don't want, and saving the stuff we do for later," <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/mailbox-iphone-app-review-2013-2#ixzz2YUY5c7Yq" target="_blank">writes Business Insider</a>. "You'll want to give it a try."
<a href="http://mashable.com/2013/04/26/5-apps-boost-work-productivity/" target="_blank">Recommended by Mashable</a> for boosting work productivity, CloudOn (<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cloudon/id474025452?mt=8" target="_blank">free in the App Store</a>) allows you to use Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint to create documents on the go using your iPhone, iPad or Droid. Users can sync with Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive accounts, and also email files to contacts directly from mobile devices, so you don't have to wait until you get to a computer to add that attachment. "If you find yourself in a pinch needing to work with Microsoft Office files, the free CloudOn app might be just what you’re looking for," <a href="http://techland.time.com/2013/04/15/50-must-have-ipad-apps/slide/cloudon/#ixzz2YUZao2Ru" target="_blank">writes TIME TechLand</a>.
You've written on at least five to-do lists that you need to pick up your dry cleaning, but can never seem to remember at the moment you're actually walking past the dry cleaner. Of course, there's an app for that. Try <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/checkmark/id524873453?mt=8" target="_blank">Checkmark</a>, which can set up reminders based on time and location. For $4.99, users can create repeat notifications, or snooze reminders to save for next time. "While Apple's built-in Reminders app does location-based tasks pretty well, Checkmark makes it dead simple," <a href="http://lifehacker.com/5963231/checkmark-is-still-the-best-location+based-reminders-app-around-is-99-today" target="_blank">LifeHacker raves</a>.