Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Children for Mathematics

When I heard the doorbell, I walked to the front door and looked outside through the peep-hole. I could see no trace of a visitor, but the doorbell rang again all the same. Intrigued, I opened the door and faced a kid, who saluted me cheerfully.

The boy must have been ten or eleven years old. No wonder that I had not seen him through the peep-hole, since he was barely tall enough to reach the doorbell. As I said good morning to him, I realized that he was wearing a blue cap with white letters. Children for Mathematics, it read.

¨Throw me a challenge,¨ said the kid defiantly. I had read in the newspapers about Children for Mathematics, but I had no idea that they were active in my area.

All I knew is that a retired physics professor had started Children for Mathematics six months ago in order to prepare today´s youth for living in the global economy. I decided to test the kid to see if what I had read in the newspapers was true.

¨If your currency loses 8% of its value per year and you invest half of your savings in foreign bonds at 4% interest and the other half in gold, what is your rate of return after one year?¨ I asked the boy.

The kid answered without blinking an eye. ¨The rate of return is 6% minus transaction costs.¨ Then he shook his head, as though lamenting that I had not been able to formulate a more complex question. ¨That was an easy one,¨ he commented.

I asked a second question, throwing some foreing shares into the equation, but the kid was also able to give me an instant reply. So what I had read in the newspapers about Children for Mathematics was true. They were awakening children´s curiousity for figures all around the place.

The little experiment had more than proved the point and I was happy to give the kid a generous donation for Children for Mathematics.

I felt uplifted that someone had taken the initiative to start such an organization. I think that we could use more of this, especially if this story was based on facts instead of being fiction.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Children for Mathematics

When I heard the doorbell, I walked to the front door and looked outside through the peep-hole. I could see no trace of a visitor, but the doorbell rang again all the same. Intrigued, I opened the door and faced a kid, who saluted me cheerfully.

The boy must have been ten or eleven years old. No wonder that I had not seen him through the peep-hole, since he was barely tall enough to reach the doorbell. As I said good morning to him, I realized that he was wearing a blue cap with white letters. Children for Mathematics, it read.

¨Throw me a challenge,¨ said the kid defiantly. I had read in the newspapers about Children for Mathematics, but I had no idea that they were active in my area.

All I knew is that a retired physics professor had started Children for Mathematics six months ago in order to prepare today´s youth for living in the global economy. I decided to test the kid to see if what I had read in the newspapers was true.

¨If your currency loses 8% of its value per year and you invest half of your savings in foreign bonds at 4% interest and the other half in gold, what is your rate of return after one year?¨ I asked the boy.

The kid answered without blinking an eye. ¨The rate of return is 6% minus transaction costs.¨ Then he shook his head, as though lamenting that I had not been able to formulate a more complex question. ¨That was an easy one,¨ he commented.

I asked a second question, throwing some foreing shares into the equation, but the kid was also able to give me an instant reply. So what I had read in the newspapers about Children for Mathematics was true. They were awakening children´s curiousity for figures all around the place.

The little experiment had more than proved the point and I was happy to give the kid a generous donation for Children for Mathematics.

I felt uplifted that someone had taken the initiative to start such an organization. I think that we could use more of this, especially if this story was based on facts instead of being fiction.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Monday, 29 December 2008

Life is a numbers game

Despite some mistakes and a few disappointments, the past twelve months have been great. The highlights are too many to mention, but they all lead to the same conclusion: Life is a numbers game.

The more you try, the farther you go. You might need to change your tactics, but only to reaffirm your strategy. Crying and wailing about mistakes is a waste of time. Energy is better used in finding alternative ways to solve problems.

Success is never guaranteed. Continuous learning and quick implementation is the closest you get to a guarantee. Most likely, you have many years ahead of you to move in your chosen direction. Let each day be a relentless search for truth and happiness.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Life is a numbers game

Despite some mistakes and a few disappointments, the past twelve months have been great. The highlights are too many to mention, but they all lead to the same conclusion: Life is a numbers game.

The more you try, the farther you go. You might need to change your tactics, but only to reaffirm your strategy. Crying and wailing about mistakes is a waste of time. Energy is better used in finding alternative ways to solve problems.

Success is never guaranteed. Continuous learning and quick implementation is the closest you get to a guarantee. Most likely, you have many years ahead of you to move in your chosen direction. Let each day be a relentless search for truth and happiness.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Speed is the ultimate frontier

His name was Michi Taiki. "It means path in the sunshine," he explained to me when I picked him up at the airport.

I found that a very poetic name for an efficiency expert, but I kept my opinion to myself.

While we drove towards the city centre in a taxi, Taiki complained about the long check-in lines at the airport. On arrival, he had also been obliged to wait interminably for his luggage.

"Speed is the ultimate frontier of progress," argued Taiki as the taxi slowed down. I could not have agreed more, since our taxi was caught in a gigantic traffic jam. "Do you know what's the key to achieving speed?" he went on.

I shook my head, Taiki smiled, and whispered the answer in my ear. "Simplicity! That's the key! Have you ever seen the beauty of a Japanese garden, the clarity of its lines, the peacefulness of its colours?"

The taxi began to move again and, an hour later, we arrived at the studio. I introduced Taiki to our producer, who welcomed him warmly. The three of us took seat in the producer's office.

The schedule of our movie was in shambles, the budget out of control, and the production insurer was about to fire our director. Was there anything that Taiki could do to improve the situation? begged the producer.

Taiki listened attentively to the details and asked us a few questions. He was surprised that, with thirty-six people, we had not been able to finish shooting a movie in five weeks.

"Nowadays," indicated Michi Taiki, "it takes only 36 hours of labour to manufacture a luxury car." During the next two days, Taiki observed our work closely, but did not make any suggestions.

On the morning of the third day, Taiki went to see the producer in his office and told him that it would be much more efficient if we changed the script in order to make sure that all scenes in the movie looked the same and had the same dialogue.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Speed is the ultimate frontier

His name was Michi Taiki. "It means path in the sunshine," he explained to me when I picked him up at the airport.

I found that a very poetic name for an efficiency expert, but I kept my opinion to myself.

While we drove towards the city centre in a taxi, Taiki complained about the long check-in lines at the airport. On arrival, he had also been obliged to wait interminably for his luggage.

"Speed is the ultimate frontier of progress," argued Taiki as the taxi slowed down. I could not have agreed more, since our taxi was caught in a gigantic traffic jam. "Do you know what's the key to achieving speed?" he went on.

I shook my head, Taiki smiled, and whispered the answer in my ear. "Simplicity! That's the key! Have you ever seen the beauty of a Japanese garden, the clarity of its lines, the peacefulness of its colours?"

The taxi began to move again and, an hour later, we arrived at the studio. I introduced Taiki to our producer, who welcomed him warmly. The three of us took seat in the producer's office.

The schedule of our movie was in shambles, the budget out of control, and the production insurer was about to fire our director. Was there anything that Taiki could do to improve the situation? begged the producer.

Taiki listened attentively to the details and asked us a few questions. He was surprised that, with thirty-six people, we had not been able to finish shooting a movie in five weeks.

"Nowadays," indicated Michi Taiki, "it takes only 36 hours of labour to manufacture a luxury car." During the next two days, Taiki observed our work closely, but did not make any suggestions.

On the morning of the third day, Taiki went to see the producer in his office and told him that it would be much more efficient if we changed the script in order to make sure that all scenes in the movie looked the same and had the same dialogue.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

A Swiss journalist once asked writer Edward Gibbon how he could write so quickly during the time he lived close to the woods of Lausanne. For a period of ten years, Gibbon produced volume after volume of THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.

His writing speed astonished most readers, who hardly had time to finish Gibbon's latest volume before the next one was published. The story goes that Gibbon changed subject and tried to avoid answering the question, but the journalist insisted.

What was Gibbon's secret? Did he dictate his work to a secretary? Was he employing several assistants to research the books for him? After a long silence, Edward Gibbon shook his head and explained his secret to the journalist.

The key to his high productivity was relaxation, taking it easy on Sundays. From Monday to Saturday, he usually wrote twelve pages per day. On Sundays, only six.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

A Swiss journalist once asked writer Edward Gibbon how he could write so quickly during the time he lived close to the woods of Lausanne. For a period of ten years, Gibbon produced volume after volume of THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.

His writing speed astonished most readers, who hardly had time to finish Gibbon's latest volume before the next one was published. The story goes that Gibbon changed subject and tried to avoid answering the question, but the journalist insisted.

What was Gibbon's secret? Did he dictate his work to a secretary? Was he employing several assistants to research the books for him? After a long silence, Edward Gibbon shook his head and explained his secret to the journalist.

The key to his high productivity was relaxation, taking it easy on Sundays. From Monday to Saturday, he usually wrote twelve pages per day. On Sundays, only six.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Monday, 22 December 2008

The truth cannot be delayed

Invisible, we are all invisible. Whoever comes to this village has no name and no past, or at least, none which he cares to remember. We have arrived here, coming from all directions. Each of us has a reason to escape or to hide. We all trade food, but many brew their own beer. Not out of mistrust, but to keep a remainder of their pride.

We are all aware that this respite won't last. If pursuers don't catch us, sickness will. If hunger doesn't put en end to our run, winter will. How many days have we got left? Every morning, the sky turns a little darker and the wind a little colder. Our days are numbered.

Two rabbits have been caught in the traps I set up yesterday. I will eat one myself and trade the other for dry food. "Cheese puts you through the winter," my mother used to say. "Cheese and walnuts."

I see the group as soon as I enter the village, with two women in their midst. I stand still and contemplate them with suspicion. Who has allowed women to come here? Women bring trouble and, as it is now, we have more than enough.

With a rabbit in each hand, I w
alk up to the group and inspect the newcomers. The two women have long blond hair. One of them is just a girl. "We don't want women here," I tell them bluntly. "You have to leave."

"They have horses, Joshua," replies the shoemaker. The other men in the group nod in agreement. Horses are a strong argument. Horses are valuable. I walk past the women and examine the two horses.

The animals look starved and exhausted. Their hair is falling and their eyes are half-closed. "These two don't have long to live," I comment. The shoemaker shrugs his shoulders. "Neither do we," he counters.

I shake my head, turn around, and walk to my place. Idiots, I tell myself as I light up my fire. Those horses will die and the women will stay. I skin one rabbit and set it to roast over the fire. Then I must have fallen sleep.

When I open my eyes, I see the girl standing in front of me. "Your rabbit was going to burn," she says, pointing at the fire. She has laid down the rabbit on a flat stone. The roasted meat smells good and I am hungry. The girl stares at me, but I don't say thank you.

"Will you take us with you, my mother and me?" she asks, as she watches me pick up the rabbit. I turn to her again, wondering what she is talking about. I don't want to share my meal with her. My reply comes automatically. "I am not going anywhere."

"The other men say that you are going to leave soon," she goes on resolutely. "
They say that you are the only one who knows the way out." I know she is talking nonsense, but I am puzzled all the same. "Out of what?" I react.

The girl looks at the roasted rabbit and then at the fire. "Out of the winter," she explains. I hesitate long, but finally, I give her a leg of the rabbit. She thanks me and goes away to share it with her mother. I know I have been stupid. Later, the girl's words hunt my dreams all night.

The next day, the shoemaker walks to me. He is carrying a new pair of shoes. "I made these for you, Joshua," he says. The shoes are beautiful, of the kind I could not afford in a million years. "I know that you are leaving soon, Joshua," goes on the shoemaker. "When you leave, I want to go with you."

I refuse the shoes, but that doesn't help. Later, I must refuse cheese from another man. Then, a knife. They all say that they want to follow me out of the winter. I decide to put an end to this nonsense. In the evening, I walk to the two newcomers.

"Thanks for the rabbit yesterday," begins the older woman, when I stand still by their fire. Her long blond hair
reflects the flames. "My daughter told me that you are planning to leave tomorrow." I look around angrily. In the shadows, I see the girl smile.

I catch two more rabbits the following morning. When I return to the village, I see that nobody has listened to me. They are all standing up together, with their possessions at their feet. Even the two squalid horses seem to have been awaiting me.

"We are ready," announces the shoemaker. I look at the two women and the men. Hunger and cold have made them lose their mind. My eyes cross those of the girl. She is smiling again. I have to tell them that we are not leaving. I have to tell them that I wouldn't know where to take them.

The shoemaker advances two steps and sets his right hand on my shoulder. "We are ready to follow you, Joshua" he adds. "Without you, we would have all stayed here and died." I open my mouth to tell them that we are all going to die here anyway, but I am unable to speak.

All ears are awaiting my words.
All eyes are focused on me. I see hope in those eyes and also tears. The wind sends a shiver through my spine and the two rabbits feel heavy in my hands. These people need a real leader, I tell myself. They need someone who knows what to do and where to go. Someone who can show them the way.

Before I have a chance to speak, the girl mounts one of the horses. Her mother and the men pick up their bundles from the ground. The shoemaker thanks me again and asks me which way we are going. I see the girl on the horse look at the sky and then South.

I must speak now and shatter their dream.
The truth cannot be delayed. I look at the shoemaker in the eyes and I see that he begins to doubt. The shoemaker's trust in me is not based on solid ground, I realize. I take note for the future. "South," I tell them. "We are going South."

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

The truth cannot be delayed

Invisible, we are all invisible. Whoever comes to this village has no name and no past, or at least, none which he cares to remember. We have arrived here, coming from all directions. Each of us has a reason to escape or to hide. We all trade food, but many brew their own beer. Not out of mistrust, but to keep a remainder of their pride.

We are all aware that this respite won't last. If pursuers don't catch us, sickness will. If hunger doesn't put en end to our run, winter will. How many days have we got left? Every morning, the sky turns a little darker and the wind a little colder. Our days are numbered.

Two rabbits have been caught in the traps I set up yesterday. I will eat one myself and trade the other for dry food. "Cheese puts you through the winter," my mother used to say. "Cheese and walnuts."

I see the group as soon as I enter the village, with two women in their midst. I stand still and contemplate them with suspicion. Who has allowed women to come here? Women bring trouble and, as it is now, we have more than enough.

With a rabbit in each hand, I w
alk up to the group and inspect the newcomers. The two women have long blond hair. One of them is just a girl. "We don't want women here," I tell them bluntly. "You have to leave."

"They have horses, Joshua," replies the shoemaker. The other men in the group nod in agreement. Horses are a strong argument. Horses are valuable. I walk past the women and examine the two horses.

The animals look starved and exhausted. Their hair is falling and their eyes are half-closed. "These two don't have long to live," I comment. The shoemaker shrugs his shoulders. "Neither do we," he counters.

I shake my head, turn around, and walk to my place. Idiots, I tell myself as I light up my fire. Those horses will die and the women will stay. I skin one rabbit and set it to roast over the fire. Then I must have fallen sleep.

When I open my eyes, I see the girl standing in front of me. "Your rabbit was going to burn," she says, pointing at the fire. She has laid down the rabbit on a flat stone. The roasted meat smells good and I am hungry. The girl stares at me, but I don't say thank you.

"Will you take us with you, my mother and me?" she asks, as she watches me pick up the rabbit. I turn to her again, wondering what she is talking about. I don't want to share my meal with her. My reply comes automatically. "I am not going anywhere."

"The other men say that you are going to leave soon," she goes on resolutely. "
They say that you are the only one who knows the way out." I know she is talking nonsense, but I am puzzled all the same. "Out of what?" I react.

The girl looks at the roasted rabbit and then at the fire. "Out of the winter," she explains. I hesitate long, but finally, I give her a leg of the rabbit. She thanks me and goes away to share it with her mother. I know I have been stupid. Later, the girl's words hunt my dreams all night.

The next day, the shoemaker walks to me. He is carrying a new pair of shoes. "I made these for you, Joshua," he says. The shoes are beautiful, of the kind I could not afford in a million years. "I know that you are leaving soon, Joshua," goes on the shoemaker. "When you leave, I want to go with you."

I refuse the shoes, but that doesn't help. Later, I must refuse cheese from another man. Then, a knife. They all say that they want to follow me out of the winter. I decide to put an end to this nonsense. In the evening, I walk to the two newcomers.

"Thanks for the rabbit yesterday," begins the older woman, when I stand still by their fire. Her long blond hair
reflects the flames. "My daughter told me that you are planning to leave tomorrow." I look around angrily. In the shadows, I see the girl smile.

I catch two more rabbits the following morning. When I return to the village, I see that nobody has listened to me. They are all standing up together, with their possessions at their feet. Even the two squalid horses seem to have been awaiting me.

"We are ready," announces the shoemaker. I look at the two women and the men. Hunger and cold have made them lose their mind. My eyes cross those of the girl. She is smiling again. I have to tell them that we are not leaving. I have to tell them that I wouldn't know where to take them.

The shoemaker advances two steps and sets his right hand on my shoulder. "We are ready to follow you, Joshua" he adds. "Without you, we would have all stayed here and died." I open my mouth to tell them that we are all going to die here anyway, but I am unable to speak.

All ears are awaiting my words.
All eyes are focused on me. I see hope in those eyes and also tears. The wind sends a shiver through my spine and the two rabbits feel heavy in my hands. These people need a real leader, I tell myself. They need someone who knows what to do and where to go. Someone who can show them the way.

Before I have a chance to speak, the girl mounts one of the horses. Her mother and the men pick up their bundles from the ground. The shoemaker thanks me again and asks me which way we are going. I see the girl on the horse look at the sky and then South.

I must speak now and shatter their dream.
The truth cannot be delayed. I look at the shoemaker in the eyes and I see that he begins to doubt. The shoemaker's trust in me is not based on solid ground, I realize. I take note for the future. "South," I tell them. "We are going South."

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Saturday, 20 December 2008

An engine that needs no steam

What's the point of complaining that others may have better luck or personal connections than you have? Complaining is not going to change anything. If you look at the world realistically, you will see plenty of success stories of people who have achieved their dreams despite major difficulties or epochal mistakes.

Neither good luck nor being in the right place at the right time play a major role in personal long-term success. Luck is not the steam that moves the engine. The key to being able to slide over life's difficulties is your personal psychology.

The main issue is to identify which essential psychological trait is, given enough time, the principal driver in an individual's success. From many years of observation and personal experience, I put forward that this key psychological element is the willingness to take continual action.

This is easier said than done, since the principle itself opens many other questions. In which direction should you take action? How do you know if you are following the proper course? Which technique should you use to define the steps that you need to take?

Let me condense my advice in a few words. If you know what you want, look around, ask around, or stumble around, and then start taking immediate action in the direction that seems the most promising. If a door closes, then try the next one. If you are not sure about what you want, then try out several things that you find interesting until you discover what attracts you the most.

In any case, put discouragement out of your mind and accept mistakes as part of the game. Moving continuously in your chosen direction does of course not guarantee success, but it will inevitably result in increasing levels of achievement. When you are focused on being yourself at your best level, your results are bound to exceed your expectations. Before you realize, you will have built your own skyscraper.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

An engine that needs no steam

What's the point of complaining that others may have better luck or personal connections than you have? Complaining is not going to change anything. If you look at the world realistically, you will see plenty of success stories of people who have achieved their dreams despite major difficulties or epochal mistakes.

Neither good luck nor being in the right place at the right time play a major role in personal long-term success. Luck is not the steam that moves the engine. The key to being able to slide over life's difficulties is your personal psychology.

The main issue is to identify which essential psychological trait is, given enough time, the principal driver in an individual's success. From many years of observation and personal experience, I put forward that this key psychological element is the willingness to take continual action.

This is easier said than done, since the principle itself opens many other questions. In which direction should you take action? How do you know if you are following the proper course? Which technique should you use to define the steps that you need to take?

Let me condense my advice in a few words. If you know what you want, look around, ask around, or stumble around, and then start taking immediate action in the direction that seems the most promising. If a door closes, then try the next one. If you are not sure about what you want, then try out several things that you find interesting until you discover what attracts you the most.

In any case, put discouragement out of your mind and accept mistakes as part of the game. Moving continuously in your chosen direction does of course not guarantee success, but it will inevitably result in increasing levels of achievement. When you are focused on being yourself at your best level, your results are bound to exceed your expectations. Before you realize, you will have built your own skyscraper.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Thursday, 18 December 2008

I welcome the approaching storm

"I would never take any risks at this time," recommended Nadia Mainz, my banker. I looked at her, half-sceptical, half-puzzled. "Share prices are going through 10 % daily fluctuations," she added. "Markets are very unstable."

That was the understatement of the century, considering that Nadia works for a bank that has lost USD 543 million in the last quarter. I kept silent while she read out to me some dire predictions from her bank's investment research department.

"All that is irrelevant," I commented softly. Nadia Mainz stopped reading and looked at me. I saw in her eyes that my previous account manager at the bank must had warned her that I was quite a character. A staunch individualist. Someone who does not listen to good advice from his banker.

"This is the consensus opinion," she retorted self-assured. She laid the bank's investment report on her desk and stared at me defiantly. Since I know better than wasting my time arguing about the future, I picked up my chequebook, stood up, and nodded goodbye to her.

"So you don't think that a storm is coming?" Nadia insisted in a provoking tone.
I could see that she was a fighter. She stood up herself and pointed at another folder on her desk. "All major investment reports are predicting enormous volatility in the financial markets during the next months," she reasoned.

"I love storms," I answered as I picked up my coat from the hanger next to the door. "
When a storm approaches, all house prices go down dramatically." Unconvinced by my arguments, Nadia shrugged her shoulders. "So what?"

"All you have to do is to walk around and listen to people who want to sell their house," I continued. "When someone offers you a cheap wooden building, you pass. On the other hand, when someone offers you a cheap stone house, you buy it. Then you wait until the storm is over and re-sell the stone house for twice the price. That's all there is to it."

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

I welcome the approaching storm

"I would never take any risks at this time," recommended Nadia Mainz, my banker. I looked at her, half-sceptical, half-puzzled. "Share prices are going through 10 % daily fluctuations," she added. "Markets are very unstable."

That was the understatement of the century, considering that Nadia works for a bank that has lost USD 543 million in the last quarter. I kept silent while she read out to me some dire predictions from her bank's investment research department.

"All that is irrelevant," I commented softly. Nadia Mainz stopped reading and looked at me. I saw in her eyes that my previous account manager at the bank must had warned her that I was quite a character. A staunch individualist. Someone who does not listen to good advice from his banker.

"This is the consensus opinion," she retorted self-assured. She laid the bank's investment report on her desk and stared at me defiantly. Since I know better than wasting my time arguing about the future, I picked up my chequebook, stood up, and nodded goodbye to her.

"So you don't think that a storm is coming?" Nadia insisted in a provoking tone.
I could see that she was a fighter. She stood up herself and pointed at another folder on her desk. "All major investment reports are predicting enormous volatility in the financial markets during the next months," she reasoned.

"I love storms," I answered as I picked up my coat from the hanger next to the door. "
When a storm approaches, all house prices go down dramatically." Unconvinced by my arguments, Nadia shrugged her shoulders. "So what?"

"All you have to do is to walk around and listen to people who want to sell their house," I continued. "When someone offers you a cheap wooden building, you pass. On the other hand, when someone offers you a cheap stone house, you buy it. Then you wait until the storm is over and re-sell the stone house for twice the price. That's all there is to it."

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Things to do when you are not in Paris

"Do you think that we should tell them the truth?" whispered Marie-Louise in my ear. I looked around the room and took in a deep breath. The sharp eyes of the pensioners felt like a laser beam on my forehead.

There were about a hundred of them in the room, waiting for us to break the news. How come these old people are in such a good shape, I wondered. Until that morning, I had never set foot in a retirement home and I was still recovering from my surprise.

What I had expected to be little more than a stopover before the cemetery happened to be a place full of lively, healthy, and self-confident men and women. Many of them did not look a day older than forty-five. Now we just had to tell them that our firm had lost their life's savings in the stock market.

"These are old people and might have a heart attack," I whispered back to my colleague Marie-Louise. "We have to be diplomatic." She nodded and looked at me with her big French blue eyes. "I am going to pick up the laptop from the car," she proposed. "Just in case we need to show them our presentation."

Before I could answer, Marie-Louise had already turned around and scurried out of the room, leaving me alone to face the pensioners. The latest amongst them to arrive took a seat. A hundred chairs, a hundred men and women. People who were going to tear me apart as soon as they heard the news.

One of them coughed a little
and silence took over the room. It was the stillness of a battlefield at dawn, just before the first charges are shot. "Good morning," I said. "My name is Terence Nile. I work for Grandeur Investments." In my mind, I was damning the day that I had taken that job. Who wants to end his days stoned to death by a bunch of angry pensioners?

"Do you come from Paris?" asked a voice from the back of the room. What a silly question, I told myself. Of course I came from Paris. All French investment banks are in Paris. Marie-Louise and I had left the city at 7 a.m. that morning to drive to that retirement home in Fontainebleau. Suddenly, I had an inspiration. Maybe there was a way for me to get out of there alive.

"As you can hear by my accent, I am American," I replied, looking in the direction where the question had come from. "I am a specialist in investment turnarounds." I saw the pensioners exchange worried looks, wondering what on earth an investment turnaround specialist was. Besides, why was a French investment bank employing a foreigner?

"Your bank has sent me to tell you that the news are better than they look," I went on. As I spoke, I saw the pensioners' faces become tense and their eyes light up with anger. I quickly told them the figures and then I raised my voice. "This is why the current situation offers such extraordinary possibilities! I don't think any of us will ever experience such a great investment opportunity in our lifetime."

After I finished talking, the hundred men and women
sat motionless on their chairs and stared at me in silence for almost a minute. They are in a state of shock, I realized. Was their shock due to the depressing results of their investments or to my upbeat conclusion?

A few questions followed. In every answer, I gave them my line of reasoning. Now it was a great time to invest. Assets were dirt cheap. This is the opportunity of the century. Any money invested now had the potential to multiply in a couple of years.

Blond Marie-Louise was waiting for me in the car, nervously eyeing the front door of the retirement home. She was obviously surprised to see me walk out of the building on my own, all in one piece. I opened the car door, sat at her side, and closed the door.

"I was waiting for the laptop battery to recharge," she explained half-heartedly. I shrugged my shoulders, showing that I understood. "What happened?" she asked full of curiosity. "How did they take it?"

In life, you have to take opportunities as they come. There are things you just can't do in Paris, in the offices of an investment bank. There are things you can do only when you are away from Paris. I turned to Marie-Louise and took her hand in mine. "You are not going to believe this," I began, "but these are times of great opportunity."

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Things to do when you are not in Paris

"Do you think that we should tell them the truth?" whispered Marie-Louise in my ear. I looked around the room and took in a deep breath. The sharp eyes of the pensioners felt like a laser beam on my forehead.

There were about a hundred of them in the room, waiting for us to break the news. How come these old people are in such a good shape, I wondered. Until that morning, I had never set foot in a retirement home and I was still recovering from my surprise.

What I had expected to be little more than a stopover before the cemetery happened to be a place full of lively, healthy, and self-confident men and women. Many of them did not look a day older than forty-five. Now we just had to tell them that our firm had lost their life's savings in the stock market.

"These are old people and might have a heart attack," I whispered back to my colleague Marie-Louise. "We have to be diplomatic." She nodded and looked at me with her big French blue eyes. "I am going to pick up the laptop from the car," she proposed. "Just in case we need to show them our presentation."

Before I could answer, Marie-Louise had already turned around and scurried out of the room, leaving me alone to face the pensioners. The latest amongst them to arrive took a seat. A hundred chairs, a hundred men and women. People who were going to tear me apart as soon as they heard the news.

One of them coughed a little
and silence took over the room. It was the stillness of a battlefield at dawn, just before the first charges are shot. "Good morning," I said. "My name is Terence Nile. I work for Grandeur Investments." In my mind, I was damning the day that I had taken that job. Who wants to end his days stoned to death by a bunch of angry pensioners?

"Do you come from Paris?" asked a voice from the back of the room. What a silly question, I told myself. Of course I came from Paris. All French investment banks are in Paris. Marie-Louise and I had left the city at 7 a.m. that morning to drive to that retirement home in Fontainebleau. Suddenly, I had an inspiration. Maybe there was a way for me to get out of there alive.

"As you can hear by my accent, I am American," I replied, looking in the direction where the question had come from. "I am a specialist in investment turnarounds." I saw the pensioners exchange worried looks, wondering what on earth an investment turnaround specialist was. Besides, why was a French investment bank employing a foreigner?

"Your bank has sent me to tell you that the news are better than they look," I went on. As I spoke, I saw the pensioners' faces become tense and their eyes light up with anger. I quickly told them the figures and then I raised my voice. "This is why the current situation offers such extraordinary possibilities! I don't think any of us will ever experience such a great investment opportunity in our lifetime."

After I finished talking, the hundred men and women
sat motionless on their chairs and stared at me in silence for almost a minute. They are in a state of shock, I realized. Was their shock due to the depressing results of their investments or to my upbeat conclusion?

A few questions followed. In every answer, I gave them my line of reasoning. Now it was a great time to invest. Assets were dirt cheap. This is the opportunity of the century. Any money invested now had the potential to multiply in a couple of years.

Blond Marie-Louise was waiting for me in the car, nervously eyeing the front door of the retirement home. She was obviously surprised to see me walk out of the building on my own, all in one piece. I opened the car door, sat at her side, and closed the door.

"I was waiting for the laptop battery to recharge," she explained half-heartedly. I shrugged my shoulders, showing that I understood. "What happened?" she asked full of curiosity. "How did they take it?"

In life, you have to take opportunities as they come. There are things you just can't do in Paris, in the offices of an investment bank. There are things you can do only when you are away from Paris. I turned to Marie-Louise and took her hand in mine. "You are not going to believe this," I began, "but these are times of great opportunity."

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A visit to the zoo always gives me ideas for improving things. It's a delight to observe animals for a while and realize how easy life can be. It makes me question aspects of my life that I consider essential. Some of those aspects are so entrenched that I need a chimpanzee's fresh view to help me gain perspective.

While I was watching chimpanzees play, I
realized that I had forgotten my agenda in the car. Even when I turned my attention again to the monkeys, my mind kept thinking of the agenda. My eyes were looking straight ahead, but I was no longer seeing the animals in front of me.

I was trying to remember which meetings I had scheduled for the following day, but did that make any sense? If those meetings were so essential, why wasn't I able to remember them right away? The answer was, of course, that those appointments were far from being important.

It took me a few minutes to reconnect with the reality at the zoo. In the meantime,
lunch time had arrived for the chimpanzees, which looked all happy and relaxed. The animals picked up the fruits just delivered by the zoo caretaker and sat down peacefully to enjoy their meal in the sun.

Did the chimpanzees go through the same routine everyday? Most likely, I speculated. For sure, they don't need an agenda to remember something they do everyday at pretty much the same time. Even if they had an agenda, they probably would not use it at all, since only their routines are really important.

Interesting idea. Only what you do on a regular basis, week after week, year in, year out, is going to help you develop deep expertise in a given field. Marathon runners train for months, usually daily, always at the same hour, following the same path. Great doctors follow their proven routine in order to arrive at a correct diagnostic. Day after day, they become even a little better at it.

Agendas and lists of tasks are tools that we often use for anticipating disruptions. On the other side, are successful factory managers not primarily focused on eliminating disruptions? The purpose of preventive maintenance is to reduce to zero any time wasted putting out fires or fixing broken machines.

The chimpanzees' happy routines remind me that I should be concentrating on performing my own favourite routines instead of making lists of upcoming disruptions. Would it be so bad if I threw my agenda away altogether? What would be the consequences of my forgetting inconsequential deviations and focusing only on the essentials?

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

A visit to the zoo always gives me ideas for improving things. It's a delight to observe animals for a while and realize how easy life can be. It makes me question aspects of my life that I consider essential. Some of those aspects are so entrenched that I need a chimpanzee's fresh view to help me gain perspective.

While I was watching chimpanzees play, I
realized that I had forgotten my agenda in the car. Even when I turned my attention again to the monkeys, my mind kept thinking of the agenda. My eyes were looking straight ahead, but I was no longer seeing the animals in front of me.

I was trying to remember which meetings I had scheduled for the following day, but did that make any sense? If those meetings were so essential, why wasn't I able to remember them right away? The answer was, of course, that those appointments were far from being important.

It took me a few minutes to reconnect with the reality at the zoo. In the meantime,
lunch time had arrived for the chimpanzees, which looked all happy and relaxed. The animals picked up the fruits just delivered by the zoo caretaker and sat down peacefully to enjoy their meal in the sun.

Did the chimpanzees go through the same routine everyday? Most likely, I speculated. For sure, they don't need an agenda to remember something they do everyday at pretty much the same time. Even if they had an agenda, they probably would not use it at all, since only their routines are really important.

Interesting idea. Only what you do on a regular basis, week after week, year in, year out, is going to help you develop deep expertise in a given field. Marathon runners train for months, usually daily, always at the same hour, following the same path. Great doctors follow their proven routine in order to arrive at a correct diagnostic. Day after day, they become even a little better at it.

Agendas and lists of tasks are tools that we often use for anticipating disruptions. On the other side, are successful factory managers not primarily focused on eliminating disruptions? The purpose of preventive maintenance is to reduce to zero any time wasted putting out fires or fixing broken machines.

The chimpanzees' happy routines remind me that I should be concentrating on performing my own favourite routines instead of making lists of upcoming disruptions. Would it be so bad if I threw my agenda away altogether? What would be the consequences of my forgetting inconsequential deviations and focusing only on the essentials?

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Monday, 15 December 2008

Things of the past won't last

There is nothing I love so much as when someone tells me that I have no option. I like it in particular when the person then adds some trite philosophical remark, such as "in life, we cannot always get what we want."

My previous spare parts supplier told me that I had no option, so I found a new supplier. My internet provider acted as though I had no option, so I changed providers. My computer repair shop told me that they were the only option for that brand of computer, so I threw away the old computer and purchased another brand.

My old bank told me that I had no option, so I opened accounts in three other banks.
My old plumber told me that I had no option, so I learned how to replace tabs myself. The painter told me that I had no option, so I hired someone else to paint the house. My old country told me that I no option, so I changed countries.

When someone tells you that you have no option, give yourself a break. Don't get upset, don't give a snappy reply. Don't bother. Nod, smile, and move on.
Things of the past won't last.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Things of the past won't last

There is nothing I love so much as when someone tells me that I have no option. I like it in particular when the person then adds some trite philosophical remark, such as "in life, we cannot always get what we want."

My previous spare parts supplier told me that I had no option, so I found a new supplier. My internet provider acted as though I had no option, so I changed providers. My computer repair shop told me that they were the only option for that brand of computer, so I threw away the old computer and purchased another brand.

My old bank told me that I had no option, so I opened accounts in three other banks.
My old plumber told me that I had no option, so I learned how to replace tabs myself. The painter told me that I had no option, so I hired someone else to paint the house. My old country told me that I no option, so I changed countries.

When someone tells you that you have no option, give yourself a break. Don't get upset, don't give a snappy reply. Don't bother. Nod, smile, and move on.
Things of the past won't last.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Saturday, 13 December 2008

The inconsistency of the squirrel

"Five hours should be enough," estimated Louis Theron. "I have trained much worse animals than this."

nodded to Theron. "If you need more squirrels, just let me know," he replied.

Theron shook his head, considering the matter settled. He had promised to train the squirrel in five hours and he was going to do it, no matter what.

The advertising executive went away, leaving Louis Theron alone with the squirrel. Theron consulted his watch and put on his thick leather gloves.

He opened the lid of the carton box lying on the floor and carefully took the squirrel out of the box. "You'll see, my little beast. We are going to become good friends," Theron told the squirrel. He caressed softly the squirrel's fur, while he explained in simple words what he was expecting from the animal.

"You are going to be the star in a TV commercial about pizza. All you have to do is walk to the pizza, sniff at it contentedly, turn to the camera, and smile." The squirrel, absolutely indifferent to Theron's words, looked around the room with curiosity.

Theron opened the pizza box that was lying on the table and set the squirrel next to the pizza. "Remember. Walk to the pizza, sniff, turn around, and smile to the camera."

Five hours later, the advertising executive returned to the room and asked Theron how he was doing. "It's done," replied Theron. "The squirrel is ready to perform. You can tell the cameraman to come in."

With incredulous eyes, the advertising executive contemplated the squirrel. The animal walked on the table, stood still beside the pizza, sniffed at it, turned around, and smiled. "How on earth did you get the squirrel to do that?" he wanted to know.

Theron caressed the squirrel's back before answering. "The problem with squirrels is their inconsistency. Besides, they are incredibly stubborn. This is why I needed five hours. Ten minutes for the actual training and the rest of the time for convincing the squirrel."

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

The inconsistency of the squirrel

"Five hours should be enough," estimated Louis Theron. "I have trained much worse animals than this."

nodded to Theron. "If you need more squirrels, just let me know," he replied.

Theron shook his head, considering the matter settled. He had promised to train the squirrel in five hours and he was going to do it, no matter what.

The advertising executive went away, leaving Louis Theron alone with the squirrel. Theron consulted his watch and put on his thick leather gloves.

He opened the lid of the carton box lying on the floor and carefully took the squirrel out of the box. "You'll see, my little beast. We are going to become good friends," Theron told the squirrel. He caressed softly the squirrel's fur, while he explained in simple words what he was expecting from the animal.

"You are going to be the star in a TV commercial about pizza. All you have to do is walk to the pizza, sniff at it contentedly, turn to the camera, and smile." The squirrel, absolutely indifferent to Theron's words, looked around the room with curiosity.

Theron opened the pizza box that was lying on the table and set the squirrel next to the pizza. "Remember. Walk to the pizza, sniff, turn around, and smile to the camera."

Five hours later, the advertising executive returned to the room and asked Theron how he was doing. "It's done," replied Theron. "The squirrel is ready to perform. You can tell the cameraman to come in."

With incredulous eyes, the advertising executive contemplated the squirrel. The animal walked on the table, stood still beside the pizza, sniffed at it, turned around, and smiled. "How on earth did you get the squirrel to do that?" he wanted to know.

Theron caressed the squirrel's back before answering. "The problem with squirrels is their inconsistency. Besides, they are incredibly stubborn. This is why I needed five hours. Ten minutes for the actual training and the rest of the time for convincing the squirrel."

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Friday, 12 December 2008

A lion's list of complaints

It's not in my nature to complain, or at least, to complain too often, but things have gone too far. There is no respect for old age or wisdom any more, no regard for traditions. Ten years ago, I would have never believed that I would live to see what a lion has to put up with nowadays.

Mind you, I am not speaking just for myself, since I am not the kind of lion who makes a fuss about problems. There are many like me, who endure their daily grievances with philosophy and understanding, but I cannot let things go unsaid any longer. Some lion has to speak up, some lion has to tell the truth.

1. Animals run too fast these days. Middle-aged lions have to eat, too. It used to take me a couple of hours to hunt down a gazelle, but now I can consider myself lucky if I can catch one that's already injured. Who on earth has authorised gazelles to speed up beyond the agreed limits? Is there no respect for tradition any more?

2. There are too many new things. If you ask me, lions don't know what they want these days. In my village, we all used to get the same haircut. It was cheap, fast, and convenient. Does a lion need camomile shampoo? Even cubs are asking for mobile phones as soon as they can roar. Does a lion need to surround himself with all those things?

3. There is no sense of togetherness any longer. Each lion is busy doing his own thing. Lion doesn't care for lion any more. Nowadays, you ask five lions what are the most important things in life and you get five different answers. I still remember the times when all lions used to want the same things. Does every lion need to have his own ideas?

4. Personal convictions are displacing discipline. Would you believe me if I tell you that lions used to follow their leader without asking questions? We lions used to be willing to put our personal interests aside. We used to be content with getting what every other lion was getting. With going where every other lion was headed to. Nowadays, even cubs need to be first convinced of anything they do. Otherwise, they don't move a paw.

5. Territory has lost its meaning. We lions used to be so proud of our corner of the savannah. My father never roamed farther than fifty miles from this hill, even during the rain season. What's the point of having your cubs learn foreign languages? Even worse, what sense does it make to send young lions to study abroad?

6. Lions have become friendly to strangers. This is something that I find really worrying. It was not long ago that a well-mannered lion was expected to kill and eat up strangers. These days, lions are too happy to welcome all kind of animals to the savannah. Cubs are getting so used to seeing strangers around, that they never get a chance to learn a lion's true nature.

7. Lions talk too much. Telling stories used to be reserved to Friday nights. A lion was expected to keep a serious demeanour in his daily business. Otherwise, no animal in the savannah would respect him. What you see today is unbelievable. Lions talk and talk, they have opinions on all subjects, they want to change everything. Is this the end of civilization?

8. Education has lost much of its meaning. My parents were not rich, but I went eight years to cub school. I memorized my lessons, learned my geography, and improved my roaring skills. Could you believe that cubs nowadays only want to learn those things that they find interesting? That young lions don't even care if they graduate or not?

9. Business has become unpredictable. Take for instance gazelles. There used to be only one sort of gazelle. A lion would know the weight of a gazelle at first sight. He would know for what other things he would be able to trade the gazelle. These days, business is changing so quickly that no lion can predict what tomorrow will bring. Does a lion need twenty different types of meat sauces?

10. Cubs have become too ambitious. Of all things, this is for me the worst. Even my own cubs are already talking about the businesses that they are going to start when the rain season is over. Should they not rather learn first how to roar properly? Or how to hunt down a gazelle when you are running against the wind?

Innovation is changing the savannah too fast. We have to find the way to stop all these changes before lions are no lions any more. I don't know the solution to this, but I am not discouraged. I have made a list of my complaints. I will talk to the other lions. We will have meetings about this. We will figure out the answer in order to make sure that everything remains exactly the same as it was in the past.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

A lion's list of complaints

It's not in my nature to complain, or at least, to complain too often, but things have gone too far. There is no respect for old age or wisdom any more, no regard for traditions. Ten years ago, I would have never believed that I would live to see what a lion has to put up with nowadays.

Mind you, I am not speaking just for myself, since I am not the kind of lion who makes a fuss about problems. There are many like me, who endure their daily grievances with philosophy and understanding, but I cannot let things go unsaid any longer. Some lion has to speak up, some lion has to tell the truth.

1. Animals run too fast these days. Middle-aged lions have to eat, too. It used to take me a couple of hours to hunt down a gazelle, but now I can consider myself lucky if I can catch one that's already injured. Who on earth has authorised gazelles to speed up beyond the agreed limits? Is there no respect for tradition any more?

2. There are too many new things. If you ask me, lions don't know what they want these days. In my village, we all used to get the same haircut. It was cheap, fast, and convenient. Does a lion need camomile shampoo? Even cubs are asking for mobile phones as soon as they can roar. Does a lion need to surround himself with all those things?

3. There is no sense of togetherness any longer. Each lion is busy doing his own thing. Lion doesn't care for lion any more. Nowadays, you ask five lions what are the most important things in life and you get five different answers. I still remember the times when all lions used to want the same things. Does every lion need to have his own ideas?

4. Personal convictions are displacing discipline. Would you believe me if I tell you that lions used to follow their leader without asking questions? We lions used to be willing to put our personal interests aside. We used to be content with getting what every other lion was getting. With going where every other lion was headed to. Nowadays, even cubs need to be first convinced of anything they do. Otherwise, they don't move a paw.

5. Territory has lost its meaning. We lions used to be so proud of our corner of the savannah. My father never roamed farther than fifty miles from this hill, even during the rain season. What's the point of having your cubs learn foreign languages? Even worse, what sense does it make to send young lions to study abroad?

6. Lions have become friendly to strangers. This is something that I find really worrying. It was not long ago that a well-mannered lion was expected to kill and eat up strangers. These days, lions are too happy to welcome all kind of animals to the savannah. Cubs are getting so used to seeing strangers around, that they never get a chance to learn a lion's true nature.

7. Lions talk too much. Telling stories used to be reserved to Friday nights. A lion was expected to keep a serious demeanour in his daily business. Otherwise, no animal in the savannah would respect him. What you see today is unbelievable. Lions talk and talk, they have opinions on all subjects, they want to change everything. Is this the end of civilization?

8. Education has lost much of its meaning. My parents were not rich, but I went eight years to cub school. I memorized my lessons, learned my geography, and improved my roaring skills. Could you believe that cubs nowadays only want to learn those things that they find interesting? That young lions don't even care if they graduate or not?

9. Business has become unpredictable. Take for instance gazelles. There used to be only one sort of gazelle. A lion would know the weight of a gazelle at first sight. He would know for what other things he would be able to trade the gazelle. These days, business is changing so quickly that no lion can predict what tomorrow will bring. Does a lion need twenty different types of meat sauces?

10. Cubs have become too ambitious. Of all things, this is for me the worst. Even my own cubs are already talking about the businesses that they are going to start when the rain season is over. Should they not rather learn first how to roar properly? Or how to hunt down a gazelle when you are running against the wind?

Innovation is changing the savannah too fast. We have to find the way to stop all these changes before lions are no lions any more. I don't know the solution to this, but I am not discouraged. I have made a list of my complaints. I will talk to the other lions. We will have meetings about this. We will figure out the answer in order to make sure that everything remains exactly the same as it was in the past.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Ideas will take you farther than cars

Have you ever wondered why human beings cannot perceive opportunities in their immediate surroundings? For years, I have been taking the same route to work. I was absolutely convinced that it was the most efficient way to get to the office. I was even proud that the drive took me only 40 minutes every morning.

Two weeks ago, local authorities happened to decide to begin works simultaneously on two roads in my area. Those two roads were precisely my main route and my back-up route to get to the office. The road works created a gigantic traffic jam, which most drivers took more or less philosophically.

On the first day, I got out of the main road and tried to circumvent the works by driving through a village whose existence I had barely noticed until that time. I got lost a few times, but I got to the office in about 50 minutes. Not bad, considering the circumstances.

The following morning, I explored the possibility of driving through another village, which allowed me to reduce my travel time by another 10 minutes. Amazing. Even with the road works, I had managed to keep to my usual driving time of 40 minutes.

By Friday that week, I had explored more and more of the area, managing to reduce my travel time further. Now I am at 31 minutes, which is a whopping reduction of my driving time. Compared to my old routine, the new route is saving me one and a half hours driving time per week.

The possibility of radically reducing my driving time had not even crossed my mind until road works disrupted my daily pattern. For years, I had been driving my car like an automaton, more constrained by the rigidity of my ideas than by physical limitations.

I am not going to stop here. I have decided that this improvement is just the beginning. Forget about driving time, there are so many other things that I want to do better.

It is the interior that makes a house into a home, I tell myself every morning. It is ideas that transform random events into stepping stones. Next time you hear me talking about my car, please remind me that I should rather be focusing on my destination.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Ideas will take you farther than cars

Have you ever wondered why human beings cannot perceive opportunities in their immediate surroundings? For years, I have been taking the same route to work. I was absolutely convinced that it was the most efficient way to get to the office. I was even proud that the drive took me only 40 minutes every morning.

Two weeks ago, local authorities happened to decide to begin works simultaneously on two roads in my area. Those two roads were precisely my main route and my back-up route to get to the office. The road works created a gigantic traffic jam, which most drivers took more or less philosophically.

On the first day, I got out of the main road and tried to circumvent the works by driving through a village whose existence I had barely noticed until that time. I got lost a few times, but I got to the office in about 50 minutes. Not bad, considering the circumstances.

The following morning, I explored the possibility of driving through another village, which allowed me to reduce my travel time by another 10 minutes. Amazing. Even with the road works, I had managed to keep to my usual driving time of 40 minutes.

By Friday that week, I had explored more and more of the area, managing to reduce my travel time further. Now I am at 31 minutes, which is a whopping reduction of my driving time. Compared to my old routine, the new route is saving me one and a half hours driving time per week.

The possibility of radically reducing my driving time had not even crossed my mind until road works disrupted my daily pattern. For years, I had been driving my car like an automaton, more constrained by the rigidity of my ideas than by physical limitations.

I am not going to stop here. I have decided that this improvement is just the beginning. Forget about driving time, there are so many other things that I want to do better.

It is the interior that makes a house into a home, I tell myself every morning. It is ideas that transform random events into stepping stones. Next time you hear me talking about my car, please remind me that I should rather be focusing on my destination.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The day I saw the truth

I parked my car in the village and took the path along the stream. It was not difficult to find the house.

Just as they had told me, it was a ten minute's walk. I stood still in front of the door and looked around.

The sunshine on the grass was bringing out a dozen shades of green, the air was chill, and I was too tired.

During my drive from Marseilles to Brig, I had remained oblivious to the Swiss landscape. My mind had been too busy rehearsing what I was going to tell Elise, the precise words, the exact intonation.

How long had I known Elise, her husband, her parents, and her friends? Ten? Fifteen years? Elise's sudden departure had taken all of them by surprise, but not me. I had been sort of awaiting it. I had long sensed her hunger, her wish for change.

Elise opened the door before I had gathered the courage to knock. In the Swiss mountains, her smile had grown warmer, wider. She listened to me patiently, like a friend who knows you too well. I gave her twenty reasons to return home, to her husband, to her former life.

We drank coffee, as Elise told me about her new life. She told me about the shop she had started in Brig and about her expansion projects. She had also met someone, she added, but it was still too soon to say.

I finished my coffee in silence. I knew that further arguments would be no use, but I was unsure about the reasons for my defeat. She kissed me softly and waved me goodbye from the doorway
.

Why had she left? For what had she exchanged her former life? The answer dawned on me as I was half-way to the village. I turned around, stood still, and listened. I heard a bird's cry above. Elise's reason was not the mountains, I realized. It was the freedom.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

The day I saw the truth

I parked my car in the village and took the path along the stream. It was not difficult to find the house.

Just as they had told me, it was a ten minute's walk. I stood still in front of the door and looked around.

The sunshine on the grass was bringing out a dozen shades of green, the air was chill, and I was too tired.

During my drive from Marseilles to Brig, I had remained oblivious to the Swiss landscape. My mind had been too busy rehearsing what I was going to tell Elise, the precise words, the exact intonation.

How long had I known Elise, her husband, her parents, and her friends? Ten? Fifteen years? Elise's sudden departure had taken all of them by surprise, but not me. I had been sort of awaiting it. I had long sensed her hunger, her wish for change.

Elise opened the door before I had gathered the courage to knock. In the Swiss mountains, her smile had grown warmer, wider. She listened to me patiently, like a friend who knows you too well. I gave her twenty reasons to return home, to her husband, to her former life.

We drank coffee, as Elise told me about her new life. She told me about the shop she had started in Brig and about her expansion projects. She had also met someone, she added, but it was still too soon to say.

I finished my coffee in silence. I knew that further arguments would be no use, but I was unsure about the reasons for my defeat. She kissed me softly and waved me goodbye from the doorway
.

Why had she left? For what had she exchanged her former life? The answer dawned on me as I was half-way to the village. I turned around, stood still, and listened. I heard a bird's cry above. Elise's reason was not the mountains, I realized. It was the freedom.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Why 2009 is going to be a great year

Please turn off the radio and TV for a short while and let me give you some realistic opinion. The year 2009 is going to be a great year for those who are willing to make it so for themselves.

This is not empty talk. I am going to give you ten reasons why 2009 will be a year of unequalled opportunity to make your mark in the world.

1. ECONOMIC RESTRUCTURING IS GOING TO CREATE ENORMOUS WEALTH. As a result of the current financial crisis, some companies might go bankrupt. That's great news since those companies will be taken over by a different management, people with a new vision and new ambitions. Those companies will stop producing what nobody wants to buy. Instead, they will focus their efforts on other markets and opportunities. The restructuring process will create massive amounts of wealth and a myriad of new jobs.

2. BARRIERS FOR MOVING HAVE BEEN GREATLY REDUCED. It used to be costly to move to another city or country in order to take a new job. I have good news. The cost of housing, whether buying or renting, has been greatly reduced in many areas of the world. If you want to change jobs, if you want to explore new opportunities, there has never been a better time. Even if you decide to move only for a short while, you can now rent a furnished apartment cheaply in many cities. T
he cost of moving to a new place will not be stopping you from pursuing your dreams.

3. VIOLENCE IS DECREASING AROUND THE WORLD. Despite grim news in the media, the truth is that violence is decreasing around the world. No doubt, there are still many unsolved problems and many dangerous places, but overall, the situation is clearly improving. I would say that the reason for this, very often, is purely practical. Violence is bad for business. Production and commerce get people together. Selling things to each other and trying out each other's food can go a long a way in preventing conflict.

4. MANY ASSETS WILL APPRECIATE SHARPLY. While some businesses and currencies might lose substantial value, other assets will appreciate sharply. Instability creates opportunity. To a certain extent, instability is uncomfortable and risky, but remember, only dead matter remains stable. Unlike stones and plastic, human beings can thrive in change. Look for the businesses and currencies that will be appreciating. Invest your savings wisely and you will be rewarded. Life flows in the direction of opportunity.

5. TOLERANCE AND GOODWILL ARE INCREASING. When I see hateful speeches and characters portrayed in the media, I wonder how hard journalists had to work in order to find them. I look around the people I know and I see hateful persons becoming fewer and fewer. There are many different opinions around the world. Some views are foolish and unrealistic, but they hardly justify a heated debate. Live and let live, most people say. Tolerance will carry the day amongst thinking individuals. Goodwill increases as people travel and get to see the world.

6. FLEXIBILITY WILL ALLOW YOU NEW EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES. It is always painful to lose your job if your industry is facing a shrinking market for its products. Look at it from a different perspective. An economic crisis consists of a massive shifting of resources from low-profit areas to high-profit opportunities. That is not bad. On the contrary, that is what shows the health of an economy. There is no progress without change. Use your creativity to adapt to the new situation. Be flexible and open your eyes to new opportunities.

7. PROFIT/REVENUE PARTICIPATION WILL RETURN FOR MANY EMPLOYEES. During the last years, when the economy was working on a high gear, it was difficult for mid-level employees to negotiate anything. Money was plentiful and no company cared too much about any particular employee. This is going to change in many industries. When cash is less plentiful, creativity will play a larger role. You will see established companies acting like start-ups. The liquidity to offer large cash salaries might no longer be around. That's great news. This means that companies will be offering profit/revenue participation or share-options to many more employees that it used to be the rule.

8. YOU WILL BE ABLE TO BENEFIT FROM ENORMOUS BARGAINS. In many aspects of your life, real prices might decrease for major purchases. In other words, prices might remain the same despite growing inflation. This is something that you could profit from. In particular, if you invest your savings into rapidly appreciating assets. The ongoing economic reshuffling will have a sunny side. Many things that are currently unaffordable will become cheaper for millions of people around the world. The consequences of market changes will be different in each country, but there will opportunities everywhere. Open your eyes and ask yourself what you can do in order to profit from the situation.

9. IMMIGRATION WILL CREATE JOBS FOR MANY. From North to South, from East to West, and then all the way back. Millions of people move every year in search of a better life. Frontiers are becoming more open in many countries. Good for them. Immigration will create jobs and opportunities for many. A better life and a better future in a new environment. Immigrants bring ambition, knowledge, and open attitudes into societies. Overall, immigration creates massive wealth for open countries. Its positive effect will be felt in many areas around the world.

10. LOW-COST COMMUNICATIONS WILL CONTINUE TO REDUCE ABUSES EVERYWHERE. With television cameras and internet access everywhere, it has become increasingly difficult to be evil. Abuses are immediately reported worldwide, people are outraged, and take action to improve things. You seldom meet anyone who speaks openly against good causes. This is great news. When levels of morality increase, people become more tolerant. When excuses for abuse vanish, the world becomes a better place.

CONCLUSION. IT IS IN YOUR OWN HANDS TO ENSURE THAT 2009 IS GOING TO BE A GREAT YEAR. Stop complaining right now, assess your situation, and decide what you are going to do to make your own life better. Some countries will be in bad shape in 2009, other countries will be great. Some currencies will lose value, others will appreciate sharply. Upwards or downwards, opportunities will be created everywhere. The message for the new year has not changed since Roman philosopher Epictetus recommended two thousand years ago to "Focus on things that you can control." It's up to you to keep your eyes open and seize opportunities. It's up to you to ensure that 2009 is going to be a great year.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image: "Pompeii couple," Roman fresco from the 1st century A.D. The original fresco is now located at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy]