Thursday, 20 October 2016

The short-term advantages of irrationality and foolishness

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If you ever thought that the benefits of acting rationally in life are self-evident, you are wrong. In fact, nothing can be further from daily experience. Irrationality and short-term thinking are preached constantly by the media and, to a great extent, by the ethical ideas that dominate our society.

The charm of foolishness

There are many drawbacks to being rational, as there are many negative consequences of being good. Contrary to what you might believe, people who behave foolishly or wickedly are not stupid. They may be uninformed or short-sighted, evil or self-destructive, but not stupid.

There are great personal advantages to be drawn from behaving appallingly. Nobody told us at school and, around us, most will deny it, but I believe that it is better to face the truth. Consuming refined sugar and saturated fat might lead to health problems in the long run, but it can be a great treat right now.

Short-term advantages of irrationality

If you are enlightened enough to think otherwise, this will bring about positive results for you and for the world. My point is that you should not assume that others will automatically recognize your good choices as valid. Rational thinking must involve the realization that most people will not understand it. What are the reasons behind this phenomenon?

* IMMEDIATE PLEASURE. Short-term thinking often entails immediate pleasure or enjoyment of some kind. Children prefer chocolate chips to vegetables because they taste better. In terms of eating pleasure, you cannot argue otherwise. Without developed mental skills, childish and primitive behaviour is all you get.

* NO EFFORTS REQUIRED. Many negative consequences of irrational actions are difficult to figure out. Human beings took hundreds of years to understand basic facts about nutrition and how it affects biochemical processes. In our days, discussions are still ongoing about why we have strong cravings for low-quality food. Good nutrition is all but self-evident.

* IT LOOKS INEXPENSIVE. The crucial contribution of economics to human thinking is that, when it comes to complex problems, no conclusion should be drawn without studying the complete picture. The acquisition price of an item can be judged cheap or expensive only if we consider its lifetime benefits. In the short run, you can save effort if you don´t brush your teeth. This is the sort of cheap omission that may bring you considerable long-term harm.

Even nowadays, when internet access has become commonplace for educated individuals, irrational thinking remains widespread in our world. It is undeniable that, on many occasions, foolish choices are encouraged by our social environment, but for a wise man, this should be no excuse.

Why should you be rational?

Rational living brings about enormous benefits to society, but we cannot expect that, for every decision, individuals consider all possible consequences for third parties around the world. The great news is that advantages to society are automatic.

Luckily, the main beneficiary of rational thinking is the individual who makes correct decisions, frequently in opposition to his immediate social environment. Acquiring wisdom takes substantial effort and difficult short-term choices, but constitutes the only solid foundation of personal happiness.


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

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Monday, 10 October 2016

Extraordinary determination leads to extraordinary results

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The work of the British writer Enid Blyton (1897-1968) is one of the great literary achievements of the 20th century. She wrote mainly for children and produced an average of 2 books per month during four decades.

Her writings have been translated all around the world. Irrespective of your cultural background, chances are that you have read one of her Famous Five stories, which recount the adventures of 4 children and a dog.

Massive output

Despite the fact that some literary commentators show little appreciation for Blyton's work, her overwhelming popularity leaves little room for debate. Her readers, children in dozens of countries, adore her books. In our days, sales of her work continue to reach enormous figures, even though her stories play in a world without mobile phones and internet.

Most of Blyton's tales are set in an environment of rigid social classes and traditions, where people have pudding for lunch and tea in the afternoon. Her own life was relatively quiet, far from the ways and fashions of modern media celebrities.

The only unusual event, considering the times, is that she divorced her first husband whom she had married when she was 27 years old. At 46, she entered a second marriage that turned out to be very happy. She continued her massive literary output during the next decades, played tennis and golf regularly, and died at 71, shortly after her second husband.

Adamant determination

What is remarkable of Enid Blyton's life is, of course, her adamant determination to produce volume after volume at a very high speed. All her books were written at a time when word processors did not yet exist. The average novel for adults has about 90.000 words; in comparison, children novels tend to be short, less than 40.000 words. Nonetheless, Blyton's ability to produce hundreds of finished manuscripts during her lifetime is truly extraordinary.

While tradition and routine filled a good part of Enid Blyton's life, her children books embody the virtues of independence and entrepreneurship to an extent that few writers have equalled. In her stories, kids explore the world on their own and girls face danger with incredible courage.

Blyton's under-age heroes make plans to achieve their goals, learn to deal effectively with adverse circumstances, overcome difficulties, and finally triumph. Even if some of her plots are slow, most of her main characters show relentless determination.

Young readers around the world may feel little admiration for the traditional English society that she depicts, but this aspect is immaterial to the success of her books. Blyton's skill consists of placing wonderful protagonists in constrained settings. She is a master at portraying boys' and girls' entrepreneurship against colourless backgrounds.

Independent thinking

In her stories, Blyton uses culture, not as a summation of uncontested expectations, but as the ultimate literary ploy. Tradition is the giant to be fooled, the ancient clock that ticks aimlessly forward, the spider web that fills an uninhabited cave.

Meaningless routines do not make a world that children want to inhabit, nor any discerning adult for that matter. Enid Blyton's message to every young reader is that he should not base his decisions on questionable traditions; that he should think for himself and check things twice; that he should do what is right, which is not necessarily what people expect him to do.

Is it then a surprise that her books continue to delight millions of boys and girls around the world? As soon as a kid reads a volume of the Famous Five, he is hooked and won't stop until he gets hold of the complete series. Blyton's work originates the same fascination in young girls, who constitute 50% of the protagonists of her novels.

Inspiration and courage

The conclusion is unmistakable: readers, especially children, love stories whose main characters show purpose and resourcefulness, independence and entrepreneurship. Let me also underline that Enid Blyton's books are remarkably non-violent. Physical aggression rarely plays a role in her stories, which focus more on the development of courage and self-reliance.

Will you follow the same principles the next time that you have to make an important decision? Let yourself be inspired by Blyton's stories and learn from her characters how to face life courageously. This is what draws children to her books, teenagers to video games, and adults to philosophy.

In fiction, we seek inspiration; in ethical ideals, validation. Blyton's stories awake moral reasoning in children, who understand the meaning without realizing the abstraction. As children turn into adults, independent thinking and entrepreneurship are qualities to be cultivated further.

Blyton's tales have happy ends, where virtue triumphs over nastiness and deceit. Her characters, in particular the Famous Five, have helped millions of boys and girls around the world internalize ethical values. Children stories, however, are insufficient to provide guidance to run our lives effectively. That task belongs to philosophy, from which the best is still to come.


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

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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A clear perception of the world can deliver unlimited rewards

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Lies, sweet lies. How much we love them and what ridiculous price we are willing to pay for them! "Men should avoid the distractions of pretence and delusion," wrote German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in the year 1842. "Expectations disconnected from reality always result in disappointment and sorrow."

Learning to see the truth

A clear perception of the world can deliver unlimited rewards, but learning to see the truth is seldom easy and never without cost. Only by developing an ambitious and realistic vision of the future can man escape the trap of paralysis. Without sharply-defined objectives, we tend to fall into conformity, a bank from which we can borrow short-term convenience in exchange for a mortgage on our soul.

Take the time to reflect about what you want to achieve in life and try to condense your dreams in one sentence. Without self-starting motivation, man is easily blinded by a fog of contradictions that lead to expensive mistakes.

The long-term effects

Only a self-image of health can permanently prevent individuals from consuming unhealthy food. People who have not established self-preservation as a goal, keep on consuming damaging substances despite being aware of their long-term negative effects, in the illusion that, somehow, they alone will be immune to the consequences.

The same principle applies to decaying work environments. Men and women who have not determined ambitious long-term objectives for themselves, tend to close their eyes to signs of decline in the company they work for in order to avoid the nuisance of searching alternative employment.

How to minimize errors

Write down your own vision of the future and keep it where you can see it. Defining your destination will help you avoid wrong relationships and avert people who drag you down. Men who lack firm ethical values tend to ignore character flaws in people they meet and often go as far as attributing non-existent virtues to whomever they find sexually attractive, even if that person is manifestly keeping them away from the path of achievement.

Defining your goals in life will not render you immune to errors, but will help you minimize them. When it comes to choosing the right alternative, few habits are as effective as standing still, questioning what looks too good to be true, and checking its consistency with your established objectives.

An unclouded vision of reality

"Only an unclouded vision of reality allows man to perceive truth," observed Schopenhauer. "Decisions based on facts render individuals self-supporting, which is the key of happiness." History shows that lack of rational values, more than ignorance, constitutes the main block to progress. A man should never forget that his advancement towards success and happiness depends on his loyalty to his own rational objectives.

Write down your fundamental goals and summarize them in one sentence. Restate your vision of the future at every opportunity and discard options that don't match it. Only by our achieving philosophical clarity can our actions be consistent and effective. Moving continuously in the direction of your goals will maximize your chances of success and happiness.


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Sunday, 18 September 2016

Have you condensed your strategy into a simple formula?

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Consistency is the key to clear thinking. Aristotle described the principles of logical reasoning already in the year 345 B.C. Twenty four centuries later, his conclusions remain applicable. Entities should be defined on the basis of their essential characteristics. Actions lead to consequences. Today's events are the result of previous occurrences. Those few principles govern reality.

The need for clarity

When a man formulates his long-term objectives, he should strive to write them clearly and break them down into simple steps. A comprehensive philosophy that cannot be summarized into a few sentences is of little practical use.

Ambitious goals require sustained effort, often over a period of decades. Reducing complex strategies to simple formulas motivates us to attain intermediate targets. Happiness is the result of preceding actions that generate slow incremental progress. Sharp thinkers look, at the same time, far into the future and close into the present.

There is no way of escaping the requirement of clarity. Talking about forthcoming achievements becomes irrelevant if we are unable to define what we need to do today. The feasibility of long-term ambitions depends on man's ability to reduce them to sequential steps.

Mistakes arise from the temptation to move too fast towards our objectives. Disorganized ventures fall prey to their own chaos. Without a well-designed plan, self-reliance turns into doubt and convictions into prejudice. Without a method to filter out irrelevancies, man gets lost in secondary roads that lead him away from his goals.

Consistent expectations

Lack of thoughtfulness leads to exaggerate problems and blow inconveniences out of proportion. Unclear expectations undermine reason. Confusion renders tasks heavier than they have to be. Contradictory values bring about unbridled emotions. Inconsistent criteria waste energy in endless discussions and destroys the ability to perform well.

In the kitchen, only detailed recipes give consistent results. Eating well is the overall objective, but actual cooking relies on specific ingredients, temperature, seasoning, and a formula that combines them. Failing to identify concrete elements of action makes impossible to implement plans and deprives man of confidence on his own abilities.

Imprecise plans and performance criteria blind our eyes. Today's random actions destroy yesterday's creations. Self-inflicted contradictions lead to failure, anger, and anxiety. A company whose employees render erratic, unpredictable services is doomed. Never trust individuals who are long on philosophical talk and short on implementation details.

Constant improvement

Quality controls are useless if people don't know what they are doing. Quality requires clear objectives, purposeful thinking, and continuous action. If you want to be taken seriously, break down your twenty-year goals into monthly steps. The workable approach to happiness is a rational connection between our present actions and our life objectives.

Manufacturers follow a production formula to ensure that they are using the right materials. Check-lists permit managers to assess if a worker is sufficiently trained to do his job. A company's compensation plan aligns the interests of employees with the corporate goals.

Nobody can figure out all right answers all the time, but if you condense your strategy into a formula, mistakes will be self-correcting. Chaos leads to more chaos, but a recipe can be improved from experience. Breaking down long-term goals into detailed steps is of critical importance in business and private life.


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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The myth of having no options: Find better alternatives and don't look back

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People become discouraged and despondent in relationships because, at a certain moment, they believe that they have no options. This is not true, unless you suffer from terminal illness and you have no time left. Wherever you live, whatever your occupation, alternatives exist to bad relationships.

An active mind

An active mind is a precious treasure that is given to every human. If you doubt this, look at children. Their curiosity and excitement are irrepressible. An entrepreneurial spirit is not something you have to acquire, but your natural due. If later in life, you find that missing, you just need to reclaim it.

There are plenty of unexplored possibilities when it comes to meeting new friends and lovers. In each case, you might need to exert effort, look around, and experience some rejection. That's part of the price you pay for growing as a human being.

Once we are equipped with an entrepreneurial attitude, we should actually love it when someone calls our dreams unrealistic. In particular, when that person adds some trite remark, such as "in life, we cannot always get what we want." That's a sign for us to take action.

New alternatives

If your parts supplier expects you to make your purchases at exorbitant prices, find a new supplier. If your internet provider acts as though you have no choice, change providers. If your computer repair shop informs you that they are the only experts in that brand of computer, throw away the old computer and purchase another brand.

If your bank announces that you have no other place to save, open accounts in three other banks. If your plumber tells you that your have to pay too much, learn how to replace the water tabs yourself. If a painter tells you that you can do things only his way, hire someone else to paint your house.

The examples above apply equally to a bad relationship or marriage. The time to step out of them is now, even if you cannot immediately figure out where to go next. You should make your priority number one to escape a situation that makes you feel unappreciated and belittles your best qualities.

What about geographical constraints? Moving to another region or country to build a new life seems so complicated that most people don't give it much thought. Nevertheless, every year, millions of men and women go and live in another country in search of better conditions or to break completely with miserable past relationships.

Better choices

Look hard at your situation and question why, when and how. Once you decide to replace a failed relationship with a better future, your eyes will begin to detect opportunities that you had never seen before.

When people express the view that you should be content with what you have, don't get upset and refrain from giving a snappy reply. Useless discussions are not going to save the day. More often than not, you will be better off if you just nod, smile, and move on.

The world is full of possibilities to connect with wonderful people and build great relationships. Don't waste a minute with those that believe that there is only one path to walk. You have better things to do.


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