Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Learning to exploit your weakest point to your advantage


In the last six decades, management thinkers have reflected and debated on how to increase the effectiveness of organisations. Different theories have been put forward, argued, and often withdrawn. Even nowadays, only a couple of management precepts enjoy universal acceptance. The bottleneck principle is one of those few.

This principle predicts that you will achieve the strongest short-term benefits if you focus your efforts on removing a bottleneck that is slowing you down. For instance, when the production of furniture is being slowed down by assembly difficulties, such bottleneck can be removed by using simpler fastening procedures.

Although this formula has been applied successfully thousands of times to speed up manufacturing and service operations, its application has been rare in the fields of marketing and sales, let alone in the field of personal development. In general, entrepreneurs find it easier to create new products than convincing customers to purchase them. Similarly, people find it easier to complain about life in general than looking for specific steps to improve their situation.

Specific steps

Selling water to thirsty tourists in the desert would place you in the ideal marketing and sales position. In that context, you would be able to charge a high price and hardly hear complaints from customers. Everybody would be willing to buy what you are selling. You would not even need to advertise or make sales presentations. However, most businesses today find themselves in the opposite situation. They are encountering large number of competitors in their market, and have difficulties attracting new customers. They have difficulties identifying the precise steps to take.

In the area of personal development, you will see exactly the same problem that entrepreneurs are facing. People want to achieve higher goals. They want to make more money, live longer, have more friends, enjoy their work more, have more fun, visit more places, and do more of everything with the minimum of effort. Their ambitions are wide, but they are encountering obstacles and opposition across the board. Like entrepreneurs, those who want to improve themselves, have to deal with so many problems simultaneously that they have difficulties defining their priorities.

Whether you are trying to improve your marketing and sales, develop your career, make more friends, ameliorate your health and relationships, or pursuing any other goal, the answer is always the same. You will do better and attain faster results if you just focus on solving the critical problem. It's all about finding the bottleneck that is slowing you down. It's all about finding the rusty tab that is not letting the water through, so that you can repair it or replace it.

Invisible opposition

If you try to apply the bottleneck principle to sales, you are going to face, first of all, the question of identifying the critical problem. In the example of slow furniture manufacturing, you would be able to perceive the assembly difficulties right away. Problems you can see tend to be easier to solve. You can see a rusty tab that is not letting the water through, but can you see the element that is slowing down your sales?

When it comes to marketing, the primary obstacle will frequently remain invisible, but when you assess the situation in detail, you will see that, on many occasions, the hidden bottleneck consists of any of these three factors. First, you lack credibility in the marketplace. Solution: find a simple, fast way to increase your credibility. Second, potential customers are unaware that a solution exists to their problem. Solution: find people who are really hurting due to the problem for which you are offering a solution. Third, there is a high perceived risk of purchasing your product. Solution: figure out how to give free samples or make free demonstrations, so that potential customers can perceive the benefits and surmount their reticence to make a purchase.

In each case, the solution will appear blatantly easy once you have identified the bottleneck. It is not different in the area of personal development. Are you complaining that your are facing so many issues that you don't know where to start? Solution: write down all the issues, and study the list until you have identified which one is hurting you most, which problem you absolutely need to fix in the short term. Second typical difficulty: people tend to remain passive because they are sceptical about their ability to surmount obstacles. Solution: identify just one problem, even if it's a small one, a problem you can solve by taking short-term action. Do what it takes to get the problem fixed, and then you will see your confidence increase. Then turn your attention to the next problem.

The great advantage of the bottleneck principle is that it always works. It can deliver amazing results in manufacturing, marketing and sales. It can literally turn your life around if you apply it in the area of personal development. Once you start employing the bottleneck principle, you will change your mentality. You will acquire a new view of life's problems. Success breeds success, even if you start with small steps. Confidence breeds confidence, well-being and happiness. Learn the lesson from entrepreneurs and marketeers. Identify the most promising, the most urgent, or the easiest problem to solve. Then go for it enthusiastically. The results will benefit you in the short term, and motivate you to move forward day after day.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical building. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2018.

For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books


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Thursday, 4 April 2019

The essence of all progress and happiness

Individual courage to deviate from the norm when it makes sense is crucially important for progress and happiness. Opportunities are distributed without apparent order in the market and each of us possesses more knowledge than we are aware of, but knowledge and opportunities won't do much good if you are not willing to do what's needed.

In many cases, you are going to be first unable to name the reasons behind your intuitions, but after some reflection, you will come up with the real reason that is driving you to try something new, something outside the norm. Your experience, skills and alertness can detect subconsciously many chances that you will only succeed in verbalising after extensive reflection. That's perfectly normal. That's the key to improving your station in life and raising your level of happiness.

If you are used to thinking creatively, you are bound to be puzzled when you encounter people who are psychologically immobilised, unable to attempt anything new, incapable of learning, used to silencing their curiosity and suppressing their ambition.

Psychologically immobilised

Many of those people will feel unable to take risks because they have suffered losses in the past. "Why don't they take their losses and move on?" you may ask yourself. Are they not clever enough to see that immobility inevitably leads to failure and unhappiness?

The determining factor in pursuing progress and happiness steadily and courageously is not intelligence, education or age. If you look around, you will observe self-defeating behaviour in large segments of the population. Paralysing conformity is affecting both ignorant and educated people, both experienced and young individuals.

The key ingredient in the answer is that, before you can move forward, you have be willing to get unstuck, which is something that requires effort, dedication and patience. Before you can focus your vision on a better future, you have to be willing to open your eyes and recognise that the present is less than desirable. Before you can use your resources productively, you have to set your energies free. You have to set yourself free from what is keeping you stuck. Free from what? 
  • From tasks, chores, and activities that you don't like, and that you are doing out of an irrational respect for tradition, custom or conformity.
  • From people who don't appreciate you, ignore you, or waste your time, people with whom you are putting up out of excessive benevolence.
  • From challenges, goals and interests that are not really your own, that you have picked up somewhere along the way but that are now preventing you from doing what you know you should be doing, from what you know you need to do in order to move forward.
A crucial choice

A day will come in your life when you must choose between giving up your dreams and staying put, or dropping all dead weight so that you can move forward. When that time comes, you really need to make the right decision.

Make it easier for you to get out of the rut. Pick up a sheet of paper and make a list of people to ditch, things to dump, and races that you are no longer willing to run. Start discarding today everything that doesn't work, and you will soon be amazed at how resourceful you have become in pursuing the few things that count.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2016.

For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books


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Here are the links to three audio interviews just published:

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

How to turn a desperate situation into a resounding victory in five simple steps



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"We will all be dead soon," predicted centurion Millius, looking over the ramparts at the barbarian hordes surrounding Rome in the year 536 C.E. He had good reasons to feel discouraged, since Romans were outnumbered 30 to 1 by the attackers.

General Belisarius shook his head. "If we use our forces effectively, we will prevail," he replied. History proved Belisarius right: He succeeded in defending Rome with 5.000 veteran Roman legionnaires against an attack by 150.000 barbarians.

The heavy losses inflicted by Belisarius on the attackers made them give up their siege of Rome three weeks later. 90.000 barbarians lost their life during their failed attempt to conquer Rome. When they retreated, Belisarius pursued them across Italy, and finished them off. A crushing victory.

How did Belisarius manage to turn a desperate situation into a resounding victory? His strategy has been profusely studied by historians. The five steps taken by the Romans in 536 C.E. can be recommended to anyone facing a major crisis. Here is a summary of those five steps.

First

The first step consists of stabilising the problems you are facing. Belisarius took immediate measures to stabilise the situation. When he heard that attackers were approaching Rome, Belisarius had his troops work day and night at reinforcing the city battlements, and digging deep ditches to protect the ramparts base. In addition, Belisarius had a thick chain drawn across the river in order to prevent enemy ships from entering the city from the riverbanks.

Second

The second step consists of dealing with the essential necessities. Belisarius then allocated minimum resources to cover the essential defensive necessities. To each crucial area of the ramparts, he assigned a lieutenant and a small group of legionnaires, giving the instruction that no man should ever leave his post under any circumstances. Belisarius knew that he had to maintain his outer line of defence intact. Otherwise, Rome would fall into the attackers' hands.

Third

The third steps calls for focusing your resources on the most urgent issues. Hour after hour, Belisarius concentrated his forces on fighting the most urgent danger at each time. On each occasion, he used his soldiers to inflict maximum damage on attackers with the minimum possible risk. Once and again, he climbed the ramparts, picked up an arch himself, drew an arrow, and ordered the Romans to aim at the closest attackers. The rain of arrows decimated the barbarians, making them retreat and allowing Belisarius to focus on the next problem. He simply walked from one critical area to the next.

Fourth

The fourth step consists of staying calm, no matter what. Belisarius maintained his serenity, shifting his resources from one pressing emergency to the next. He kept his presence of mind in the middle of dead and wounded soldiers, identifying the most urgent problem to be addressed at each moment. His mind was concentrated on the problem at hand. Belisarius had no time to grow stressed, anxious or depressed. He simply did what he had to do, hour after hour. By moving his forces quickly from one critical point to the next, he multiplied their effectiveness, and achieved a remarkable victory.

Fifth

The fifth step calls for taking initiative. As soon as he perceived an opportunity, Belisarius took the initiative. Each time that Roman archers repelled an attack making their enemies flee, Belisarius ordered to open the gates, and had his cavalry pursue the barbarians, causing heavy losses amongst them. When your are facing a crisis, you will do much better if you move from a reactive mode to a proactive one.

For fifteen centuries, Belisarius' strategy has proven effective on innumerable occasions. Stabilising your situation, addressing your most pressing problems, keeping calm, shifting your resources as needed, and taking initiative are the key steps you need to take in order to turn around difficult situations. Belisarius' wisdom contains lessons that we all can apply in our own lives today in the twenty-first century.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical building. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2016.

For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books


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Here is the link to an audio interview just published:

Monday, 4 February 2019

Undisrupted: How highly-effective people deal with disruptions

Is your life running smoothly, always filled with success and happiness? Or do you sometimes face disruptions and periods of chaos? If this is the case, you need the lessons contained in this book:
  • How industrialist Savva Mamontov could have prevented disruption from destroying his life.
  • Why Albert Schweitzer only grew happy and famous after turning his life upside down.
  • The disruptive strategy that enabled Joseph Paxton, a simple gardener, to become wealthy.
  • How it is possible that the all-powerful Knights Templar were wiped out overnight.
  • The method conceived by Abbot Suger in the twelfth century for running projects smoothly.
  • Which variation of positive thinking Emile Coue invented for overcoming disruptions.
This book presents real-life lessons that can massively increase your ability to succeed in the face of disruptions.
TABLE  OF  CONTENTS
 Introduction
An example taken from real life
The type of disruptions you should embrace wholeheartedly
A powerful insight emerges: Kovalevsky's discovery
Do this, and you will avert catastrophic consequences
An unchangeable principle, although so often ignored
A habit that you absolutely need to acquire
Why I am in favour of risk reduction
The zero-risk approach: a model to imitate
Progress will be smoother if you don't force the machine
Disruptions that create opportunities for advancement
The perfect antidote against feelings of dissatisfaction
Surprising decisions will stir up opposition, so what?
When your best option is to turn your life upside down
A resilient lifestyle and its favourable consequences
Negative criticism that has proven unjustified
Countryside quietness can be deceptive and harmful
How people develop unsustainable views
Confusion and disorientation are not heroic
An unstable personality is a recipe for disaster
The delusion of a peaceful, undisturbed life in nature
Beware that not all knowledge is created equal
Listen only to those who offer you a workable approach
Attain general victories by overcoming specific disruptions
Give me real solutions, not statistical data
Why millions of people keep suffering from anxiety
Two talented men, two heavily contrasting results
A relentless focus on existing opportunities
Productiveness as a way of life: the underlying philosophy
Low-cost innovation can make you dramatically stronger
Solid structures and solid routines keep disruptions away
Can you find a way forward despite severe setbacks?
Effective strategies after encountering extreme disruptions
Thriving against all odds in hostile environments
Fell from a flying aeroplane, survived and recovered well
Questionable certainties in the face of disruption
Less vulnerability, fewer disruptions: an illustration
Victory over vulnerability in four simple steps
The art of rendering yourself more resistant to disruptions
Segmentation: a solid strategy you can implement today
How to structure your day, so that it's remarkably strong
A dangerous fallacy that is leading many people stray
The Knights Templar: fierce warriors, easily overturned
Beware of false narratives of prosperity and strength
Overnight demise is a fairy tale for the unwary
Individuals who undermine their own defences
Here is a formula that always works to your advantage
The light touch of the master: no fear, no overreaction
Making good choices in the face of overwhelming pressure
When you are given only ten seconds to save the day
The right way to repair structural damage
A universal method for handling destabilizing factors
This mental trick from the Middle Ages is still working
Kilograms, meters, hours – what do they have in common?
A crash course on error prevention
You don't need to employ more than six elements
How a desperately ill woman turned her life around
The resistance to acknowledging past errors
A decisive step towards a new life
Taking a close look at faith healing
Here is a variation of positive thinking that really works
Learning to look beyond bits and pieces of information
Ingredients of a lifestyle that keeps disruptions at bay
How to perceive signals well in advance
Accepting the drawbacks of simplicity and speed
Eight preventive measures against disruption
Discard ideas that are keeping you weak and vulnerable
Conclusion
Recommended reading
Index

Thursday, 17 January 2019

How to optimise your chances in the face of deficiencies, errors and failures

 
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Past mistakes have taught me many lessons. The most essential has been to realise the crucial value of ideas. Amongst the obstacles you'll find on your way to a better life, wrong ideas constitute the largest hurdle to overcome. Poverty and lack of opportunity can keep you down for a while, but wrong ideas can literally destroy your life.

Sound philosophical convictions play a determinant role in success and happiness because they enable you to focus on goals and pursue them consistently. In contrast, wrong ethical values are rendering people blind and leading them stray.

Individuals who have embraced irrational ideas are unable to perceive opportunities and move forward. Nonsensical convictions are rendering them passive and vulnerable. In particular, the following two ideas represent enormous obstacles to success:

First, the idea that you should feel ashamed by your deficiencies, errors and failures. In fact, there are no limits to the motives you can use for feeling ashamed. You can make yourself ashamed of being too quick or too slow, too small or too big, too young or too old, and so forth. It doesn't matter what motive you are using because they are all worthless. You should not let them discourage you from working steadily at improving your lot.

If people criticise you, listen carefully and see if they have a point. Then try to improve the situation, assuming that it is something under your control. Do your part, display good efforts, and move on. Life is short. You have no time to waste. Use you energies for pursuing worthy goals, not for lamenting your weaknesses.

Whatever you do and no matter how well you do it, lots of people are going to dislike you out of envy, ignorance or fear. Learn from their remarks if those make sense, but then shrug your shoulders at the rest, and continue to advance on your chosen path.

Second, the belief that life is unfair and that you have no real chances to improve your lot. This false idea is widespread in society because there will always exist people who possess everything you want, and who seem to have attained it without much effort. Maybe this is true, but so what?

I am not denying that some individuals owe their success to inheritance, luck or family connections, but this does not mean that you should be paralysed by envy. The fact that other people are ahead of the game, for whatever reason, does not mean that you should give up your hopes of success. Not at all. Other people's good luck is irrelevant to your personal achievement. Just keep doing what has to be done, and you will optimise your chances.

Imagine, for instance, that a competitor has fantastic connections and that you have none. If such connections are required to succeed in a certain field, you'd better acknowledge reality, but that doesn't mean that you have no chance to move forward. Take notice of the situation, and focus your efforts on areas where you have better prospects.

Even if you choose to devote your life to improving society, you should not fall prey to the delusion that you need to change the whole world before you can become prosperous and happy. It is simply not true. It helps to remind yourself daily that, on the road to achievement, wrong ideas will always constitute your largest obstacle. Discard them today before they can do any damage. 
 
Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2018.

For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books   

 
Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter