Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Luck is the result of previous actions. The three factors that contribute to extend human life beyond the 85th birthday. How to turn those factors in your favour

Few would dispute that living to become 100 years old is a particularly appealing sort of good fortune. Many would be ready to pay a fortune for such privilege, but contemporary medicine still has major difficulties to extend human life beyond the eighty-fifth birthday. In the course of the last three decades, scientific studies on longevity have outgrown the status of fringe curiosities.
"Luck is the result of previous actions," wrote Aristotle in his essay Physics in the year 329 B.C. "In this respect, one can also say that happiness and good fortune are the result of previous good actions." 

Today, trying to figure out how human beings could live longer occupies a central place in medical research. When researching longevity, the approach taken by the great majority of scientists has been based on the following five steps:
  1. Seek out very old people in different countries.
  2. Talk to them and to their families.
  3. Organize the information in four areas, namely, genetic characteristics, environment, lifestyle, and food.
  4. Compare the details in each area.
  5. Identify patterns that explain why those people live much longer than average.

In the late seventies, a population survey in Okinawa, a group of islands located between Japan and Taiwan, discovered an unusually large population segment that had reached an age beyond ninety years old. The scientific investigation conducted with Okinawan men and women led to the same results as studies carried out in other areas of the world.

"Time is a measure of motion and change," observed Aristotle. "Growing old shows the effect of time on living entities." 

No one can modify the genetic characteristics of human beings after their birth, at least for the moment, but researchers agree that we are able to influence the other three factors that determine longevity. These are some of the ways of turning those factors in our favour:

  • ENVIRONMENT: If possible, move to live in an unpolluted area, free of smoke, industrial fallout, and with abundant green areas for relaxation.
  • LIFESTYLE: Try to spend a good part of the day outside, cycling, gardening, or simply walking. Live close to friends and see them often. Pursue long-term interests in fields that require continuous learning, skill development, and intellectual concentration. Follow your passions.
  • FOOD: Eat moderately and seek to maintain a stable weight. Food affects people in various ways and there is no universal formula for youth. In general, it seems that legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish tend to further essential biochemical processes at cellular level. Find out which precise diet works best for you by observing how your metabolism reacts to different foods.
"Virtues are actions that move us in the direction of happiness," defined Aristotle. "In order to find out the right direction to follow, a man should think of the likely effects of his actions." Let us learn how to live properly by learning from reality. The more we learn, the longer and happier our life will be. 

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living


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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

How to think long term in a short-term world. Do not constrain your thinking to the immediate. There is a better way. Great achievements come from sustained consistency of purpose

Undoubtedly, we live in a short-term world. If you work for a company that is listed in the stock market, you will feel the pressure to reach monthly targets. Financial results have to be reported every quarter to shareholders and rightly so. There is no escape.

How to think long term in a short-term world

If you are a movie distributor, you watch the weekly box-office receipts like a hawk. You want to know which kind of movies are doing well these days. Historical romance? Vampire stories? Is there a trend that you can follow? When a film goes into theatrical release, the first weekend is decisive. There is no choice.

Are you opening a retail outlet? You need a powerful campaign in order to make sure that shoppers come to your store on day one. Cash-flow targets must be reached on a weekly basis. If results fall short of expectations, the location might be reconsidered. If the store does not become profitable quickly, it might be shut down. There is no option.

Many jobs are short-term. Products are conceived for maximum attractiveness and minimum durability. Relationships are superficial. Companies sell their brands overnight to total strangers. Clothes lose their colours after a few washings. Books that don't sell within 18 months are shredded. Is there no alternative?

Yes, luckily, there is a better way. It is called long-term thinking and it wins hands-down in every field

Look at your own life and your own preferences. Chances are that you have been wearing the same brand of shoes for a long time. Most people's choices are remarkable stable when it comes to their family doctor, their favourite place to shop for clothes, or to buy groceries.

Do not constrain your thinking to the immediate

If you list your greatest achievements in life, those you are most proud of, you will detect in every case the thread of long-term plans. Learning to speak a foreign language or to play piano are remarkable accomplishments that require years of effort. Acquiring professional qualifications and establishing a business on solid ground can demand a decade of your life.

Although we cannot change the short-term orientation of the world we live in, we do not need to constrain our thinking in the same way. Each person is free to make his own decisions. Causes can bring about effects that shape a man's life for years. Refusing to see beyond immediacy leads to spiritual impoverishment.

Effort devoted to connect current events to future consequences will be compensated down the line. Great achievements come from consistency of purpose sustained through decades. Make your own plans and carry them through with serenity. Days can only be lived to the fullest if we think and act with the perspective of a lifetime.

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living


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Monday, 21 April 2014

A mistake Aristotle made that you don't need to repeat. What entrepreneurs really do: shifting time and resources. A flow of money is, fundamentally, a flow of time

Aristotle was a great philosopher, but the one thing that he never managed to understand was entrepreneurship. In the Nicomachean Ethics, his essay on justice and morality, he saw society as a market where human desires are stable and each product possesses a fair price.

A mistake Aristotle made that you don't need to repeat

One does not need to look long at the world to realize that Aristotle's view of work and commerce was highly unrealistic. The truth is that prices vary incessantly and new products appear daily on the market. Jobs are created by growing ventures and lost by dying industries. Things change, markets move, and money circulates.

Start-up entrepreneurs are deeply conscious of the fact that the driving factor of business success is not money, but time. Any financial advisor will tell you that, for a solid undertaking, money can always be raised or borrowed. Bankers rarely refuse a loan to a company that produces positive cash-flow.

What entrepreneurs do, essentially, is to shift resources through time. They borrow from the slow at 6% interest in order to invest with the fast at a 10% rate. If you learn how to do that repeatedly, with growing sums of money, chances are that you will become very wealthy.

What entrepreneurs really do: shifting time and resources

Since Aristotle never grasped the impact of time on resources, he was never able to explain why people pay interest when they borrow money. The different personal needs are what, already a thousand years ago, prompted farmers to exchange cheese for meat and wool for wheat.

Entrepreneurs trade present resources, which are used slowly or not at all, for future results, which are to be produced as fast and efficiently as possible. A company should encounter few obstacles to issue bonds at 7% interest if it can achieve a 20% profit margin in its operations.

A flow of money is, fundamentally, a flow of time

The essence of business activity is to shift resources from slowness to velocity. At school or during their apprenticeship, entrepreneurial minds can be spotted by their extreme impatience and disdain for slow motion. Speed is seen as a synonym of efficiency, progress as a continuous forward movement.

How can one acquire entrepreneurial reflexes? Is it wise to let our irritation run free when we face slowness? Does annoyance automatically make us more alert to opportunity? Here is some practical advice:

  1. THE WORLD IS ASYMMETRIC. Commit to seeing the world as a playing ground of time and resources that can be shifted by personal initiative.
  2. TARGETS MOVE. Realize that opportunities are continuously created and destroyed by markets.
  3. PERSPECTIVE CHANGES PERCEPTION. Your decision to enter a market or profession will immediately affect your attitude towards that field.
  4. ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS WIDER THAN BUSINESS. As soon as you start to shift time and resources, you have already become an entrepreneur. In this sense, a medical student is one. The same goes for someone who takes up a modest job in order to learn a trade that will allow him later to set up his own company.
The ability to link present slowness to future speed can be cultivated like any other skill. Taking notes and asking questions are excellent methods to focus your thoughts on what can be done, changed, or contested. At some point, when your impatience begins to drive your imagination, you will be on your way

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living


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Sunday, 20 April 2014

The three elements of unshakable self-confidence. The three essential ingredients of personal development. The three pillars of personal growth

Newspapers and other media often paint a dark picture of contemporary education. Studies that compare the knowledge of mathematics of children in different countries add little to the discussion, since many question if teaching algebra to seven-year-old kids makes any sense at all.

The three elements of unshakable self-confidence

The modern school curriculum contains a wide range of subjects and attempts to develop children's talents in all directions. From music to History, from drawing to sports, everything is there to fascinate and entertain the minds of the young.

Since the variety of subjects that are addressed in today's classrooms is mind-boggling, how does one explain that many youths experience boredom at school? Does the number of subjects correspond to a real learning need or is it rather a fashion? Do we really want such complexity? What are the essential elements of a good education?

History gives perspective and, in this particular case, it teaches us a precious lesson. You might be surprised to learn that, for almost two thousand years, since the times of Aristotle until the Renaissance, a good education consisted only of three subjects.

In ancient times and during the Middle Ages, there was no radio, no television, and no internet. Books were expensive and difficult to reproduce. The thoughts of the past were carefully compiled and copied by hand. Education represented a considerable investment and was held in high regard.

The three essential ingredients of personal development

Pupils traveled hundreds of kilometres in order to enroll in schools that featured famous speakers. The subjects that students were taught equipped them with the most crucial skills that a man needs in life, whatever his later choice of profession. If you mastered those three subjects, chances were that you would do well in life:

1.- LEARN TO THINK LOGICALLY. Even during periods of intense religiosity, such as medieval times, the study of Aristotle's essays on logic was considered indispensable. The mark of an educated man was his ability to think consistently, find patterns, and draw conclusions from events. Even though this subject has disappeared from the school curriculum in many countries, anyone can afford to buy a copy of Aristotle's works. When it comes to learning logic, the only barriers to acquiring knowledge are self-inflicted.

2.- DEVELOP YOUR LANGUAGE SKILLS. Communicating your thoughts orally and in writing is the basis of most commercial activities. Without proper syntax, men cannot make themselves understood. Language allows individuals to formulate complex connections between facts. Creativity without grammar frequently turns out to be meaningless. The simple practice of reading good authors will boost your ability to communicate in any field. Access to public libraries is free in most countries. Are you using that possibility to your full advantage?

3.- MAINTAIN HIGH ETHICAL STANDARDS. The science of human choices played a central role in education since the times of the Ancient Greeks. Aristotle himself recognized the importance of learning moral values as milestones in the path to individual happiness. Another benefit of studying ethics is learning from other people's mistakes. Making your own errors will teach you unforgettable lessons, but learning from publications and good speakers is less expensive. In our days, books are cheap and internet access is widespread. If you want to learn, you will find many doors open.

The three pillars of personal growth

Do not pay attention to those who criticize schools and teachers. Complaining is not going to solve any problem. Realize that you are responsible for your own education, self-confidence, and personal development. Identify which knowledge you are missing and go for it. The world is full of opportunities for those who want to learn. Make sure that you have the three basic ingredients well covered, move on, and pursue your growth.

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living


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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Long-term thinking requires sustained effort. The most scarce resource is invisible. A strong sense of direction wins over random noise. Steady progress, even if slow, is a major achievement in itself

You cannot drive a car without traffic signs, a map, or at the very least, knowing where you want to go. A sense of direction allows man to make decisions, assess costs, and trade off alternatives. Most people are aware of the importance of setting goals in life, but in order to avoid losing motivation, it is crucial to keep your objectives visible to yourself. There are four reasons for that:

Long-term thinking requires sustained effort

Without reflection and concentration, human life tends to decay into a succession of events without order nor enjoyment. Using your days wisely and making the best of your life is impossible without long-term thinking. Keeping your major objectives in front of your eyes enables you to steer out of time-wasters.

The most scarce resource is invisible

Time continues to flow whether we have a great life or not. In the end, our days will be gone anyway. The question is how to live them in the best possible way. Happiness is never automatic. It requires thinking, goals, action, and progress. Keeping your dreams visible makes you aware of the passage of time and prompts you to move in your chosen direction.

A strong sense of direction wins over random noise

Daily events are meaningless without perspective. In addition, the random noise of nihilism and nonsense tends to discourage clear thinking. Maintaining a list of your goals in a visible place helps you ignore the noise of the world. Knowing where you are going is a fundamental element of self-confidence. It allows you to discard what cannot work and persist in what will. Only by ignoring noise can we put our energies to good use.

Steady progress, even if slow, is a major achievement in itself

The term success is frequently attributed only to spectacular victories. On the other hand, one should never forget that, behind every major achievement, there are years of preparation and relentless action. Place your long-term goals where you can see them everyday. That is the best manner to remind yourself that something needs to be done right now in order to keep advancing towards your objectives.

You cannot reach your destination without a plan, a list of actions, and the will to correct mistakes as they happen. Long-term goals allow man to evaluate alternatives, discard wasteful undertakings, and learn from experience. Setting goals in life is essential, but without constant action, little will be achieved. Keeping objectives present in our mind is what enables us to align present reality with future achievement.

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living


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