Monday, 25 April 2016

Do not let anyone push you into high-risk situations

Delusion is a bad advisor, hardly better than ignorance or convenience. We all love to hear words of praise and encouragement, although the truth would serve us much better. If we face reality with courage, we can spare ourselves countless trouble in the present and costs in the future. A wise man does not place his trust on agreeable lies.

Look before you jump


Wishful thinking has the capability of short-circuiting logic; beliefs that appeal to vanity should be examined with suspicion. Never accept at face value any idea pleasing to the ear, since it might contain more sugar than substance. Such is the case of the exaggerated qualities that many people attribute to enthusiasm.

Never allow self-reliance to render you blind to facts. When we start a new venture, ambition motivates us to move forward and overcome obstacles. Experienced entrepreneurs know how important it is to pursue opportunities with conviction, but they are also aware of the dangers of ignoring market signals.

Growing consumer demand is a key element of success in any commercial undertaking. If your products or services aim at willing buyers, your business should do well. In contrast, if your efforts are met with indifference, you should consider the possibility that your strategy is mistaken.

Feeling enthusiastic about your venture may help you close some sales, but cannot sustain a company in the long-term. If the demand for your products or services does not exist, your activities will be short-lived.

Practicality and utility


Markets are constructed in a such a way that practicality and utility weigh heavier than exuberance. In the end, people buy only what they like. No amount of cheerful advertisements can change the fundamental views of consumers.

Every time that a company has tried to sell what people dislike, it has resulted in financial losses. Enthusiastic projects that are not aimed at the public are dead-end propositions. Before you make commitments to an appealing cause, take a moment to examine if it is sustainable.

The life of musician Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) provides a forceful illustration of this principle. When Antonio was a child, his father, Giovanni Vivaldi, taught him to play the violin and took him around to perform in parties and ceremonies in Venice. 


Those early contacts with the commercial market for music encouraged Antonio Vivaldi to develop his skills further. By the time he was 20 years old, he had become proficient at several string and wind instruments; from all of them, it was the violin that he played best.

Shortly after his 25th birthday, he obtained an appointment as music teacher at a municipal orphanage in Venice. The job involved teaching children to play the violin, training them to sing in the orphanage choir, and writing compositions for religious ceremonies.

Like most employees, Vivaldi soon realized that his position was not going to make him rich. Nevertheless, it provided him a stable income, a growing reputation as composer and performer, and contacts in the commercial music market that could prove profitable down the road.

Vivaldi's career exemplifies the dark side of exuberant optimism. While other musicians aimed at prologuing their appointments, he took disproportionate risks. His wrong assessment of the market led him to mistakes that wasted the assets that he had accumulated.

When Vivaldi was in his thirties, the orphanage promoted him to musical director in recognition of his excellent performance as teacher and composer. The new position brought him a higher salary and the possibility to devote more energies to commercial music ventures.


Patience wins over recklessness


Without neglecting his job at the orphanage, Vivaldi branched out in the field of opera, which at that time constituted the most remunerative genre for composers. Venice possessed several theatres which competed with each other for audience and novelty.

Opera was a commercial market in which each new production could lead to large profits or financial losses. Vivaldi composed several dozen operas with varying success. A few of his pieces earned him substantial profits, while others quickly fell into oblivion. In parallel, his position at the orphanage continued to generate him a regular income.

If Vivaldi had maintained his strategy, he would have become wealthy with limited risk. His double role of musical director and opera entrepreneur enabled him to get the best of both worlds. By devoting his days to sacred music and his evenings to the theatre, he benefited from two complementary incomes and enhanced his reputation. 


Unfortunately, he became overenthusiastic and abandoned his well-structured life. Instead of maintaining a balance between his two occupations, he began to devote more efforts to the commercial market and seek commissions outside Venice.

During his forties and fifties, Vivaldi travelled frequently in pursuit of better appointments. He performed in Mantua, Milan, Rome, Trieste, Prague, and Vienna. His life became exciting and exhausting, leaving him little time for teaching. Although the commissions were quite lucrative, the money seemed to hardly cover expenditures. 


Travelling was uncomfortable and expensive. The continuous effort of chasing appointments in distant cities must have made Vivaldi regret his orderly life in Venice. While he was in Vienna trying to secure a new commission, he died in 1741, when he was 64 years old.

Rational personal development


Vivaldi's excessive enthusiasm made him overrate the size and possibilities of the commercial music market. If he had been more realistic, he would have stayed in Venice and built on his assets. With less work and risk, he could have led a comfortable life.

A wise man does his best to avoid the delusion of exuberance. Appealing ventures in restricted markets frequently end in disaster. Never entrust fundamental decisions to your emotions. Growing consumer demand provides an open door to success, while projects sustained only by enthusiasm tend to have a dead-end.


Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image by Javier Volcan under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us


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


Saturday, 16 April 2016

Let your good health be the basis of your personal development

Studies in different areas of the world have tried to identify the common causes of extraordinary longevity. In Europe and Asia, certain villages, valleys, and islands are home to a large proportion of healthy octogenarians and nonagenarians. This is the case of Sardinia in Italy and Okinawa in Japan.

The ingredients of optimal health


Medical research has identified the elements in local diet that help residents maintain an excellent health at an advanced age. Some factors, such as landscape and climate, are linked to specific areas; other determinants, those of a more general nature, can contribute positively to human vitality irrespective of geography.

It stands to reason that the driving factors of extraordinary longevity must correspond to those of excellent health. The issue is to identify elements that we can take up in our daily life without incurring disproportionate effort and expense.

Even if we possessed evidence that some exotic herb is the key to excellent health, such knowledge would be of little help to people who cannot afford to purchase that plant on a regular basis. What we need are ideas that are, at the same time, beneficial and workable.

The island of Sardinia, located in the Mediterranean Sea, is a favourite vacation destination for many Europeans. Its weather and landscape, however beautiful and pleasant, are not much different from other locations around the world. This factor alone renders the study of longevity in Sardinia particularly interesting.

Lessons drawn from the diet in Sardinia can be applied in other regions of the globe. This aspect is crucially important, since studies conducted in other areas of the world often link the enviable physical condition of youthful nonagenarians to herbs and plants that are unavailable to the populations of other countries.

A remarkably simple approach


Another remarkable outcome of the research carried out in Sardinia lies in the apparent simplicity of the formula. In contrast, if you have read any modern book on nutrition, you will have noted the extreme complexity of the advice it presents. Page after page are filled with long lists of recommendations and tables showing the specific dosage of each ingredient. Who can remember all that?

Like in business, success in health matters tends to depend on just a few factors. Minute instructions telling salesmen how to close a deal are useless in a commercial environment. Life is too fast for knowledge that cannot be summarized in a small number of consistent principles. The human mind is constructed to reduce knowledge to the essential and forget cumbersome details.

What are the few factors behind the excellent health of the elderly living in Sardinia? The conclusions of the research can be presented in five rules that are logical and easy to remember. These recommendations can be practised inexpensively by individuals in most countries of the world.

Fresh produce is best


First, eat fresh food, above all vegetables and fruit: This truth may seem deceptively self-evident. In reality, few people make the effort to select fresh ingredients for their meals. The great majority of packaged food, whether intended for breakfast or dinner, does not contain fresh vegetables or fruit.

If you eat out frequently, you might go a long time without tasting fresh ingredients, except for the occasional salad. Can you figure out alternatives so that you consume more vegetables and fruit? What can you do to reduce your dependence on packaged food?

The reason why few people consume fresh food has to do more with inconvenience than expense. Eating fresh fruit and produce requires frequent visits to the supermarket, to the detriment of more pleasurable activities. Are you willing to make the necessary effort to protect your health?

Second, use olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is consumed widely in Mediterranean countries. Italian, Greek, and Spanish cooking include olive oil as necessary ingredient in many dishes, as well in salads, marinades, and sauces. The use of butter and margarine for cooking is considered an inferior choice for your health.

The retail price of olive oil has diminished in the last decade due to changes in packaging. The traditional dark green glass bottle has been replaced by a hard plastic bottle of the same colour, which seems to preserve the characteristics of olive oil equally well.

If you don't live in a region where olive oil is in abundant supply, you might have to pay a few additional dollars per bottle. All in all, the decision to incorporate extra virgin olive oil in your diet might increase your food budget by a couple of hundred dollars per year, which is a modest investment if you consider the advantages for your health.

Third, consume lemons and oranges: Citrus fruits contain high doses of vitamin C, which reinforces our immune system and helps combat cardiovascular disease. Vitamin C is also known to protect human cells against the accumulation of noxious substances.

Fresh oranges and lemons are available in most regions of the world at reasonable price, depending on the season. Grapefruit, papaya, strawberries, and mango are good substitutes for oranges and lemons.

Amongst the vegetables, vitamin C is also abundant in spinach and broccoli. Irrespective of your place of residence, eating citrus or similar fruits is an affordable habit that you should acquire.

Straightforward principles


Fourth, eat fish often, and lean meat occasionally: The reason behind this recommendation lies in the beneficial type of fat that is present in fish. Fish, in particular oily fish such as mackerel and sardines, is rich in a type of fat known as "omega-3." This element has proven to reduce dangerous cholesterol in human beings.

Fresh fish is a major component of the traditional Greek, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese diets. Unfortunately, this dietary habit has declined in the last decades, leading to an overall deterioration of the health level of the population.

Wild salmon, whose consumption is known to be particularly beneficial, is neither part of the traditional diet of Sardinia nor widely available across the world. Luckily, in most countries, you can find at least one or two types of fish that are affordable. Eating fish is a habit that you can easily take up and which can bring substantial advantages to your health.

Fifth, don't drink alcohol, or if you do, drink a glass of red wine: The red wine produced in Sardinia, in particular the type known as "vino nero" due to its dark colour, contains high doses of poly-phenol. This element, which comes from grape skins, has been proven to have a positive effect on the human cardiovascular system.

The consumption of red wine might explain why extraordinary longevity in Sardinia is mostly a male characteristic. Octogenarian and nonagenarian women are also present in the island, but their number does not reach the unusual proportion of healthy elderly men.

Red wines produced in other countries may contain less poly-phenol, but a moderate consumption should also produce a beneficial outcome for your health unless there are specific reasons that advise against your consuming any alcohol at all. Quality red wine is available around the world at reasonable price and most people love its taste.

If you want to improve your overall health, forget about complicated rules. In the field of business, successful entrepreneurs know that the best results are obtained by concentrating energies on essential areas. Similarly, when it comes to enhancing our vitality, we will be better off if we acquire a few effective and pleasurable habits.


Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: photograph of a late medieval painting taken by John Vespasian in 2015.

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

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The rational approach to overcoming obstacles and setbacks

Since nobody likes to hear negative answers, the word "no" has almost disappeared from polite conversations. Instead of rejecting requests straight away, people often make vague promises or simply reply that they don't know. Even when refusals are uttered, they are usually phrased as "possibly, but not at this moment."

Doubt and paralysis

At least, outright rejections can push you to correct your approach. In contrast, indefinite answers only lead to doubt and paralysis. When someone tells you that he is not interested at this moment, he is implying that he might change his mind in the future. Is he inviting you to try again next month? How much time should you devote to pursuing undefined opportunities?

There is hardly a bigger waste of time than waiting for future events that never come. Vague promises of attention, advice, jobs, funding, or friendship should not be taken seriously. You have to face the fact that, instead of substance, you are being served worthless hope. Do not expect much from such assurances. Instead, move on and search for better opportunities.

In those cases, you should not only write off the promise but also the person who made it. Speculating about the seriousness of empty words is unproductive. You will be much better off if you devote your energies to seeking alternative solutions. Take action and do not waste a minute. You will be able to achieve much more on your own.

The same principle applies to the cardinal purpose of philosophy, that is, the search of happiness. Although many ideas, groups, and individuals promise well-being and prosperity, few deliver anything worthwhile. Excuses and apologies are the likely output of unrealistic assurances.
 

Realistic expectations

The story will play out in an all-too-predictable way. If you ask to receive your due, you will hear that the time is not ripe. You will be asked to be patient and wait a little longer. Your rational demands will be played down as immature. Your claims will be ignored and your plan of action, postponed.

In that context, you need to ask yourself how long you are willing to wait for happiness. Will you delay your dreams until all pieces of the puzzle fall into place? Are you ready to make further investments in projects that fail to generate profits? How many chances are you willing to give people who repeatedly let you down?

Although hope is universally presented as virtue, this should not always be the case. When hope is not based on facts and logic, it can destroy your life. Irrational expectations can make you waste your days waiting. Inconsistent wishes can pull your forces in opposite directions. Exaggerated expectations may submerge you into conflicts that cannot be resolved.

Amongst all false philosophies, the worst ones preach that you cannot be happy until the whole world changes. Putting your life on hold until the world becomes better is the ultimate folly. Unfortunately, millions of people fall passionately for this idea, which seems to feed on every sort of misery and pain.

Luck cannot be trusted


In past centuries and nowadays, many individuals show willingness to spend their lives waiting for tidal changes. Such persons talk persuasively and paint pictures of a better world. They make speeches in favour of present sacrifice in exchange for indeterminate future compensation.

A life spent waiting will be devoured by emptiness and diluted by nothingness. Happiness cannot be attained through irrational hopes and exaggerated expectations. Problems rarely get solved on their own. Irrational hopes, instead of elevating your soul, will bury it in a deep black hole.

Difficulties can be turned into prosperity only if you make workable plans, take swift action, stabilize the situation, and pursue feasible improvements. Passive waiting never leads to happiness. Chance will seldom reduce inconveniences in your environment. Luck cannot be trusted to remove obstacles from your path.

Look at yourself in the mirror and ask how long you are willing to wait for happiness. The higher your self-confidence, the more determined you will be to advance your cause. Never trust promises that cannot be fulfilled. Instead of putting your plans on hold, redouble your efforts to attain your goals.

The faster you recognize unworkable theories, you better off you'll be. When people request you to wait indefinitely to receive your fair share, discard their assurances and search for alternatives. Life is too short to be wasted in pointless waiting. Do not let vain words interfere with your plans. Make sure that you pursue your objectives with relentless passion.

If someone promises you a job at an indeterminate date, keep on searching for a suitable position. If people tell you to be patient, thank them politely for their advice and look for a short-cut to your goals. If your environment favours passivity, figure out how to motivate yourself to work harder in order to accomplish more.


Brief and determined


Write down your answer to the question of how long you are willing to wait for happiness. Are you going to stop chasing your dreams until the world becomes a perfect place? Are you going to devote your best years to pointless discussions? Would you accept just to grow older without ever improving your situation?

To those who preach endless waiting, let your reply be brief and determined. Shrug your shoulders and tell them the truth. Life is too short for trusting uncertain predictions. It is up to each individual to face problems courageously, stabilize his situation, and transform it into opportunity. Your willingness to wait for happiness should not go beyond what circumstances dictate as absolutely necessary.


Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image by jans canon under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us



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

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The importance of preventing excessive mental and physical strain

The Ancient Greek physician Galen (circa 130 - 200 AD) recorded many interesting ideas on the subject of health, and those ideas were later expanded by other medics in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Although many centuries have passed, many discoveries of antiquity are still adhered to by modern medicine.

Straightforward methods

Galen spent his youth learning about sickness and treatments before he moved to Rome in the year 162. He has gone down into History as much for his medical discoveries as for his tremendous output as a writer. Even though a great part of Galen's work has been lost, what remains fills more than 20 volumes.

His aphorisms, which condense medical truths in short sentences, reflect fundamental aspects of physical and mental health. One of the threads that runs through his writings is the search of simplicity. His advocacy of straightforward methods to improve man's well-being contrasted with the semi-magical medicine that was still being practised by most of his contemporaries.

Galen maintained that health and lifestyle are closely connected. As a consequence, a man who wishes to maintain his vitality will do well to act prudently and respect the principles of a sound lifestyle. Galen's prescriptions for preserving health do not demand large financial resources and can be followed by most individuals.
 

At the time of Galen's writings, the biochemical properties of vitamins and minerals had not yet been discovered. Nevertheless, what he had learned from other physicians and his own observations led him to recommend vegetables, fruits, and herbs on many occasions. Nowadays, those are items that most people can afford to purchase without making extraordinary efforts.

The right elements


Ancient medicine believed that each element in the universe had a purpose. This conviction led Galen to experiment with different dietary treatments in response to sickness. His goal was to find the right combination of elements that fulfilled the purpose of health recovery. A balanced, prudent diet was also advocated in the Middle Ages by Maimonides, a famous physician who was familiar with Galen's work.

While modern times favour body building and other forms of muscle training, Galen was an advocate of moderation. In his own life, he gave example of this precept by avoiding strenuous assignments. When he was offered a post of physician in the Roman army marching against the barbarians in Northern Europe, he declined and stayed in Rome.

Excessive strain


One of Galen's aphorisms says that sickness caused by excessive strain should be cured by rest. In this sense, the inordinate professional stress that many people endure in our age should not be exacerbated by further tensions in their private life.

Spending time with friends, cultivating hobbies, and enjoying art will do more to re-establish balance in your life than watching television or practising demanding sports. Galen also recommended walking as a beneficial form of exercise.

Even though bacteria and viruses had not yet been discovered in antiquity, Galen's books show that he was conscious of the major role that external influences play in human health. The purpose of medicine, he wrote, was to re-establish the patient's health in relation to his environment, taking also the seasons into account.

Galen's early training as physician took place in Greece, which at that time comprised part of the Middle East. Ancient Greeks considered thermal baths salutary and those attracted far-away visitors seeking to cure physical or mental illness.

In those days, a journey to a renowned thermal location involved disproportionately high costs that few individuals could afford. Luckily, modern plumbing, shampoo, and tooth brushes now allow practically everybody to enjoy excellent levels of hygiene inexpensively.


Preventive measures


The need to preserve the natural limits of life is a theme that permeates Galen's books. The best way to maintain our health, he wrote, is to adopt preventive measures to counterbalance excesses.

He warned against lack of moderation and advocated measures against exaggerated eating as well as against insufficient food intake. Similarly, he advised to avoid excessive immobility and immoderate exercise. The purpose of prevention should be to maintain the natural balance in all areas of our lives.

Galen's principles emphasize the importance of preserving health at the same time as the need to do it in a simple and straightforward manner. By all means, do elevate health to your first priority, but make it a cheap and workable one. Your goal should be to develop effective habits that maintain your vitality with minimum effort and expense.


Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image by dannysullivan under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us. 


For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books
 When everything fails, try this

Monday, 28 March 2016

Why you should discard losing propositions quickly

Although hundreds of individuals teach Latin for a living, few of them spend time explaining why it became a dead language. If you read about its history, facts are presented as self-evident and no general lessons are drawn.

An intriguing question

The official version of the story is that, when the Roman Empire was conquered in the 5th century, barbarian words polluted the purity of ancient speech. Foreign influences changed the manner of writing Latin, did away with its grammar, and distorted its pronunciation.

During the Middle Ages, clerics and lawyers tried to maintain the old language alive, overall with little success. The quality of written Latin deteriorated at the same speed as it was taught to younger generations. The spoken word, undisturbed by grammatical constraints, became approximative and vague.

By the end of the 16th century, the great language of antiquity was clinically death, although a few volumes were still written and published in Latin in the 17th century. Those relics symbolize man's reluctance to acknowledge tidal changes that disrupt established patterns of thought.

The expulsion of Latin to the realm of the dead becomes an intriguing question when we compare it with other achievements of the time, such as the laws of Ancient Rome. In contrast to language, the principles of Roman law have survived the passage of time and can be found today in the civil code of numerous European and South American countries.

While Latin was dead and buried centuries ago, ancient Roman law still permeates our culture and institutions. The logic of modern contracts replicates the arguments of ancient jurisprudence; our court procedures follow the steps conceived by Roman magistrates; our conception of marriage and inheritance is derived from ancient family law.

The cause of the demise


Causality is the weak point in the official story of the disappearance of Latin. If ancient language was polluted by barbarian influences, so was Roman law. If grammar and pronunciation lost their original purity, so did Roman law. Nevertheless, legal principles survived and Latin is no longer alive.

A closer look at the facts reveals that Latin did not actually die, but was displaced. It was not destroyed or dismantled, but abandoned. Nobody took active steps to eliminate it from the minds of citizens. People just stopped using it, like a car that is too old to be worth repairing.

Financiers know that there is a world of difference between a company that is taken over and one that goes bankrupt. The official story is that Latin was merged or transformed into medieval languages. While this aspect is indisputable, it misses an important part of the picture.

The truth must include the acknowledgement that Latin, like an enterprise that loses customers, went bankrupt. The decline of the ancient language must have begun before the barbarian invasions. Most likely, Latin would have decayed even if the Roman Empire had lasted another century.

Insolvent companies that blame their difficulties on the market show blindness to the real cause of their financial demise. If competitors have stayed in business and thrived, why did a specific company go bankrupt? Why did Latin wane into oblivion despite all efforts to keep it alive?

Lovers of ancient languages will seldom give you the answer to that question: Latin was highly inefficient. Left to its own devices, it was unable to maintain itself. Its grammar was calling for simplification. It was too difficult to learn and brought little value to the table.

An overcomplicated structure


Four major languages of our age, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, are derived from Latin. All four have shed the overcomplicated structure that made Latin so inefficient. The cost of maintenance became to heavy and the old construction fell apart. Like a bankrupt company, Latin collapsed under the weight of its liabilities.

The ancient language built sentences by adding affixes to adjective and names depending on their grammatical role, gender, and number. In order to create a correct sentence, each name and adjective had to be combined with the right affix. Latin had many different affixes, which varied from name to name and case to case. In contrast, modern Spanish just adds "s" for most plurals.

Speaking correct Latin required extensive training that few could afford in the Middle Ages. Even with our most advanced learning methods, languages that continue to use numerous affixes for names and adjectives demand great efforts of foreigners who wish to learn them.

Be quick to quit worthless projects


Trying to maintain Latin alive was the quintessential dead-end project. Relatively few people were willing to devote resources to the undertaking; its cost far exceeded the capital available. The project was doomed from the start; those who believed that it could succeed were massively unrealistic.

The ancient language did not die the glorious death of a heroic medieval knight; it perished from starvation and neglect. Its structural inefficiency rendered it unable to compete. History broke it down and scattered the remnants. The clock stopped at a time when it could not be repaired.

Has the lesson been learned? Have we grown capable of recognizing and avoiding dead-end projects? Anyone willing to recognize mistakes can acquire the necessary knowledge and perspective. Latin is a dead language and rightly so. The next time that someone asks you to participate in a project, make sure that is has a future.


Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image by Koshyk under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us



For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books
Rationality is the Way to Happiness