Wednesday, 23 July 2014

One major virtue that you won't learn from penguins. Squandering your days is not a satisfactory option. Human happiness requires a long-term purpose

Penguins don't care how long it takes them to catch their daily fish quota. Year after year, they go through the same routine, hardly improving anything. Their survival is entirely based on the expectation of zero change. 

One major virtue that you won't learn from penguins
From the 32 million estimated living penguins, none gives a damn about productiveness. They don't save for the future and often remain unaware of the existence of predators until it is too late to do anything about it.

Contrary to what is portrayed in cartoons and children books, penguins are neither creative nor funny. This is proven by the fact that tourists going to the Stewart Islands in New Zealand rarely devote more than a couple of hours to watch penguins. 

"I had never realized that penguins were so passive," Japanese tourists frequently comment. "They just stand there for hours and do nothing."
Practically without exception, tourists return home with the conviction that being a penguin is not really that much fun. Luckily, most humans come to a similar conclusion by the time we grow up. 

Squandering your days is not a satisfactory option

Hanging around, squandering our days, is not a viable option for those who aspire to happiness. Only purposeful action and continued achievement fulfil our psychological need to feel in control of our future.

Irrespective of the field involved, personal initiative is a major element of happiness. It matters little whether you choose to devote yourself to growing your company, writing music, searching for an effective treatment of cancer, or raising your kids to become great human beings. 

Human happiness requires a long-term purpose 

Our rational nature takes pleasure in every achievement. No matter how small our victories, we all love to tell our friends about them.

  • AT WORK: when you figure out a way to complete a task quicker than anyone expected.
  • AT HOME: when you manage to fix an old appliance that was considered beyond repair.
  • IN SPORTS: when you succeed at running faster and score additional points.
  • AT INVESTING: when you see the value of your assets go up and feel your strategy vindicated.
  • IN YOUR LIFESTYLE: when you achieve simplicity and eliminate waste.
  • IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS: when you focus on honesty and creativity
  • IN YOUR PHILOSOPHY: when you view life as a flow of actions that can be continuously improved.

Consider that there is a good reason behind the passivity of penguins: although they know how to catch fish, they don't realize that, one day, they are going to die. However, none of us can hide behind that sort of ignorance. Understanding the link between personal initiative and happiness represents a major step towards a brighter life.

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


[Image by Glen Bowman under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Give yourself a break. Build on existing strengths. Embrace a philosophy that leads to happiness. Increase your resilience against adversity. Let go of linear expectations

The Philosophy of Builders
by John Vespasian 

The factors that lead to prosperity and happiness have changed little through the ages. From the lives of accomplished men and women, we can extract the three principles that they have used to build a better future: self-reliance, tolerance and entrepreneurship. 

This book presents how individuals can use these principles to overcome adversity and improve their lives. Through the analysis of situations in the areas of relationships, career, health and investments, it shows how to overcome pessimism and discouragement, walk the path of least resistance, simplify your life and reduce costs, and focus on real opportunities. 

The ideas are illustrated with examples from the lives of Paracelsus, Jane Austen, Thomas of Aquinas, Gutenberg, Jules Verne and many other historical figures, showing how they overcame obstacles and built a better future for themselves.


1. Achieve basic stability
Never underestimate what one man alone can do
Establish the foundation of long-term achievement
Attack problems one by one
Do not allow vanity to paralyse you
Pay attention to danger signals
Build on existing strengths
Learn to view problems in perspective
Wait only the strictly necessary

2. Overcome pessimism and discouragement
Assess risks rationally, not emotionally
Quantify what you can expect
Passive acceptance is not the way to go
Dispute negative thinking patterns
Embrace a philosophy that leads to happiness
Avoid inconsistent decisions
Read inspiring authors

3. Walk the path of least resistance
Discard unworkable plans
Use realism to avoid waste
Look at what people are actually buying
Adopt a lifestyle that suits your temperament
Use long-term goals to determine your direction
Stay out of hopeless ventures
Avoid relativism and scepticism
Find an outlet for your talents

4. Take measures to prevent problems
Be prepared to face misfortune
Concentrate on crucial factors
Pay attention only to quality information
Identify potential threats
Look for simple prescriptions
Protect yourself effectively
Increase your resilience against adversity

5. Simplify your life and reduce your costs
Don't fall in the trap of short-term thinking
Enjoy the benefits of the immigrant mentality
When should you be willing to overpay?
Choose inexpensive alternatives
You can learn the basics quickly
Being healthier by consuming less
The solution to stress: simplification

6. Start new projects with minimum resources
Gather support as you go
The danger of getting stuck in abstractions
Avoid inaccessible markets
Do not be intimidated by other people's achievements
Most barriers are psychological
Small but regular steps often lead to success

7. Focus on real opportunities
Select a low-risk approach
You can profit from troubled times
How to identify promising ideas
Should you worry about the state of the economy?
Use low-cost marketing techniques
Redefine what is essential
Value creation begins with observation

8. Adopt productivity as a way of life
Do not assign excessive weight to mistakes
In case of doubt, opt for a logical explanation
Steady work is preferable to occasional jobs
Choose stories that promote achievement
A change of speed might be all you need
Work only on one major project at a time
Let go of linear expectations
Never entrust your future to chance
Keep flexible and alert

9. Take relentless action
Fill your days with worthy activities
Experiment to find out what works
Adopt effective routines
In crucial matters, do not leave anything untried
Continuous action breeds opportunities
Rewrite your personal history
Can you turn adversity into an asset?
Action is the best way to overcome obstacles

The Philosophy of Builders
by John Vespasian

Monday, 21 July 2014

Many causal connexions are far from self-evident. Philosophy has been slow in adopting a scientific approach. Small steps taken regularly can go a long way

Irregular verbs and plurals are the most difficult part to memorize when you study foreign languages. For children learning their mother tongue, atypical cases are also the most complicated. Asymmetrical constructions are slowly assimilated by the human mind, which, at any stage of development, automatically tries to find patterns in reality.

Many causal connexions are far from self-evident

We have created numbers, which are a sequential representation of quantities. We love to understand complex phenomena and find solutions to problems. Our brains seek to identify consequences through observation and logic. Weather prediction comes from generalizing past experience. Looking for order in chaos is natural to humans. It is our way to grasp the world and make sense of it.

Nevertheless, as soon as we begin to gather knowledge in any field, we realize that many causal connexions are far from self-evident. The earth looks flat and it is no wonder that it took hundreds of years to develop and spread the understanding of planetary orbits. Science rests on the recognition that causal connexions need to be, not only theorized, but proven.

Philosophy has been slow in adopting a scientific approach

From all disciplines, philosophy and economics have been the slowest to adopt a scientific approach. Even nowadays, professionals in those fields disagree on basic questions of methodology. Discussing what is true makes little sense if we cannot even concur on the criteria to assess the validity of a proposition.

As a result, defining success and happiness has turned into a haphazard endeavour for most of History. Determinism, which attributes those to chance, remains a wide-spread philosophical error in many segments of the population. A superficial examination of the human condition can lead to see life as a series of misfortunes intertwined with lucky encounters. This perception is as false as the belief that the earth is flat.

Scientists know that observing reality with our eyes and drawing immediate conclusions frequently leads to mistakes. A more accurate view of the world is the result of understanding that a large number of effects can only be perceived long-term. The impact of events is not necessarily local. Actions without consequences to those who performed them can have a devastating outcome for third parties.

Small steps taken regularly can go a long way

Reality is more complex than the eye can perceive and rational explanations more uncomfortable than make-belief. This is why confusion reigns about the roots of happiness and success. Determinism exaggerates the role played by misfortunes and luck in human life. Believing that your destiny is controlled by random events only leads to paralysis and nihilism.

Ambition and purpose, relentlessly implemented on good and bad days, constitute the bedrock of individual progress. Small steps taken regularly can go a long way. Advancing a little every day in your chosen direction is what makes great achievements possible. Big breaks, at first sight, seem to have happened overnight, but the truth is that a river takes years to build a gorge. The results are breathtakingly beautiful.

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


[Image by McPig under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Only 3% of the population read books, so what? Three factors that make books irreplaceable. Presentation of well-argued minority views. Access to complex ideas

It happens every spring, but this year, the questioning has been particularly intense. Every month of April, on occasion of the London Book Fair, newspapers publish articles speculating if it still makes sense to publish books.

Only 3% of the population read books, so what?

At the turn of the 21st century, one thousand book titles were published for every feature-length film made. Today, the ratio is one to six hundred. The number of films produced every year has increased and, at the same time, the number of published books has diminished.

"We live in a visual world," sociologists argue. "In many areas, the written word is becoming a relic of previous centuries." Media analysts blame the trend on video-games and portable DVD players. Others simply say that reading requires too much effort after our long work schedules.

Three factors that make books irreplaceable

In my view, those commentators are missing the point completely. Despite the abundance of cheap visual entertainment, readers' motivation remains strong. The reason why people read books has nothing to do with the demands of society and everything to do with individual psychology.

1. Presentation of well-argued minority views

Visual media, due to its structure and economics, is unable to express minority views in a consistent, intellectual manner. In this respect, all has been tried and all has failed. Complex ideas cannot be transmitted without the written word. No photograph and no film can replace a chain of reasoning built in clear sentences.

2. Access to diverse, complex ideas

Films, television, and radio, despite the growing number of channels, can only thrive when they aim at large audiences. They can offer multiplicity in the multitude, but no original ideas. Digital video has reduced the budget necessary to make a film, but not the distribution costs. Actors, good lighting, and a decent soundtrack are still expensive. Books, on the other hand, can still be published and distributed cheaply.

3. Direct contact with innovative reasoning

In a film, special effects cannot cure the problems of a weak scenario. Even great acting is unable to sustain a filmed story that doesn't make any sense. How long ago is it since you saw a really thought-provoking film? How often do you gain deep insights from watching television? The written word remains the ideal means to transmit innovative ideas.

The good news about reading is that three per cent of the population still remain avid readers. One out of thirty-three is not a bad proportion at all. A strong audience for writers is still there and it is not going to become smaller in the foreseeable future.

Do people read internet blogs for the same reason that they love books? Is it because they want to read original ideas? Do they do it in order to enjoy some fresh writing? I suspect that, for most, the main drivers are the joy of discovering something new and a steadfast refusal to join the other thirty-two.

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


[Image by jucanils under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The true believer is the one who preaches by example. Adopt a realistic and practical approach. Conflicting values lead to contradictory behaviour. Personal effectiveness depends on patterns

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
by John Vespasian 

In order to improve your life, you don't need to place your hopes on a lottery ticket or wait for the world to grant you the perfect opportunity. There is a better way and it is condensed in the principles of rational living, principles such as “think like an entrepreneur, not like a crusader,” “ignore the noise and focus on results,” “stay away from high-risk situations,” “find people who share your values,” and “develop strong long-term passions.” 

This book presents the principles of rational living in great detail, with numerous examples of people who have applied them successfully. The principles of rational living are sound ideas that can dramatically improve your life. Learn all about them and start applying them today.


1. Think like an entrepreneur, not like a crusader
A recipe for getting ahead in good and bad times
Debating and arguing are a waste of time
The true believer is the one who preaches by example
Entrepreneurs thrive on trouble and inconvenience
Unlike resources, opportunities are infinite

2. Ignore the noise and focus on results
If one road is blocked, take another
How to keep calm when you are surrounded by nonsense
The effective way to handle work overload
Learning from people who never feel discouraged
A proven strategy against career stagnation

3. Live inexpensively and invest for future income
Why the stock market offers the best opportunities
Common traits of great businessmen and investors
What kind of companies should you invest in?
A simple strategy is all you need
Adopt a realistic and practical approach

4. Choose a simple and healthy lifestyle
Don't just eat well, eat wonderfully
What is healthy, tasty, and easy to cook?
How to reduce everyday risks to your health
Eating healthily when you are travelling
Is it possible to slow down ageing?
Why it is so difficult to lead a simple life

5. Find people who share your values
Why you should ignore most of what you hear
The ugly duckling story repeats itself every day
Overcoming the resistance to changing jobs and relocating
Don't be original, be unique
Proven strategies for building great relationships
Would you recognize yourself in the crowd?

6. Listen to your emotions, but check the facts
Beware of exaggerated romantic tales
In dating and cooking, choose natural ingredients
How far are you willing to go for happiness?
Conflicting values lead to contradictory behaviour
The short distance between infatuation and obfuscation
Do not waste your best years pursuing unworkable ideals

7. Accept the inevitable hassles of life
Putting an end to exaggerated fears
Extreme reactions are foolish and wasteful
In praise of caution and circumspection
Can you remain self-confident in times of trouble?
How impatient people become stoic philosophers
Never grant problems more weight than they deserve

8. Stay away from high-risk situations
Death statistics make great bedtime reading
Tranquillity seldom comes cheap
Do not make an obsession of the perfect profession
Three situations that you should avoid like the pest
Every archer needs more than one arrow
The jungle never sleeps

9. Acquire effective habits
An hour has sixty minutes, a day twenty-four hours
In praise of staying behind
How a proactive attitude helps you overcome difficulties
Let go of the dead weight of prejudice
Smooth operators get more out of life
Personal effectiveness depends on patterns

10. Develop strong long-term passions
Comparing yourself with other people makes no sense
Don't drink the poison of contradiction
What heroes are made of
The myths of the single skill and the unique opportunity
Become tolerant of mistakes, since you will make so many
The link between integrity and passion

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
by John Vespasian