Tuesday, 21 October 2014

How to increase your self-confidence by increasing your self-protection

A child must be able to stand on his feet before he can walk. A student must learn grammar before he is able to build complex sentences in a foreign language. In house construction, steady progress presupposes structural stability. Vehicles can ride only when their essential systems function properly.

Are you doing enough to protect yourself?

Manufacturers know that catastrophic failure will make their machines stand still and this is why they carry out preventive maintenance at regular intervals. For the same reason, individuals adopt measures against hazards that could seriously disrupt their lives.

Personal risk-prevention is a subject that is, unfortunately, rarely addressed at school. Pick up a newspaper any day and count the reports on men and women who have seen their future destroyed by factors that can be easily avoided. The following steps can help reduce three essential personal risks:

Keep your personal details private

Bad experience have taught many of us to think twice before giving our credit card details to unfamiliar merchants. In this digital age, we should actually take the same precautions before disclosing any sensitive details that might enable identity theft. It is also recommended to avoid using, for your internet accounts, obvious passwords such as your birth date.

Stay away from dangerous places

Never place yourself in a situation of physical danger by walking into a high-risk area. If you keep your eyes open, you will find more than enough signals of danger as you approach unsafe streets. In those cases, choose the best option: turn around and get away as fast as you can. The same principle applies to your choice of business associates or employees. Learn to detect violence-prone individuals in advance and avoid them like the pest. Chances are that you will live healthier and longer.

Spread your risks

In addition to diversifying between, for instance, real estate and stocks, you should aim at holding shares of companies in different industries. Have you considered investing in precious metals and multi-currency mutual funds? Whatever your taste, make sure that you get plenty of spices from various countries around the world. Farmers know that growing complementary crops is less risky that planting a single type of seed.

You can take similar actions to protect all key areas of your life from catastrophic failure. How do you reduce your risk of becoming unemployed? By constantly increasing your knowledge and skills. In which way can you reduce health hazards? Learn about nutrition and make good choices when it comes to food.

Avoid paralysis in any situation

The greatest risk in life is, however, the most difficult to see: immobility. Human well-being goes along with growth, which is a direct consequence of purposeful action. Ideas dissociated from reality are as useless as engaging in random action.

Make a vow to avoid paralysis in any situation. The most effective way to reduce risks in any area is taking your future in your own hands, which is, by the way, a definition of entrepreneurship.

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

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

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

Monday, 20 October 2014

Achievement motivation drawn from rational living

Here is a summary of some additional questions that I have answered this week:

Focused and constructive action

QUESTION: Due to my personal and cultural background, I have had to endure substantial discrimination through the years. As a result, I have become demotivated and discouraged, reluctant to undertake any new initiatives. 

ANSWER: Some people grow discouraged because, due to their personal and cultural characteristics, they feel unappreciated, or in any case, insufficiently appreciated in their current social environment. In some cases, it is true that those individuals can become very discouraged because they don't know how to overcome the problems they are facing. The solution to discouragement is to take focused and constructive action. I am talking only about undertaking the type of action that can really improve your situation on practical terms. Do not waste your time debating with people who don't appreciate you, and who never will. It is much more productive if you invest your energies in finding a better environment where you can deploy your talents, and get to know the kind of persons who will know how to value and appreciate you for what you are. Taking focused, constructive action is one of the principles of rational living.

Rational living, rational working  
Making consistent decisions

QUESTION: I have to take an important decision whether to accept a job in the Middle East or not, but I cannot make up my mind. On the one hand, the job offers a high salary and attractive benefits, but on the other hand, I pretty certain that I am not going to feel at ease in that relatively closed environment. Which should my driving criterion to make such a decision? 

ANSWER: It is indeed surprising to see that people will often make critical decisions in a rather frivolous and critical manner. Years later, when the damage is already visible and mostly irreparable, these people are going to complain that they could not have known the consequences of their choices. Yet, this statement is seldom true. The primary reason why individuals make momentous mistakes is because they fail to apply rational principles in their thinking, not because they could not foresee the outcome of their actions, which is rarely the case. The best way to make decisions with self-assurance and accuracy is to weigh the advantages and disadvantages on the basis of rational values. For instance, if you are offered a job in a foreign country for a very high salary, but you are not enthusiastic about the prospect, you should probably drop the idea altogether and look for something better. The need to take consistent decisions, and make choices that take your long-term goals into account, is one of the main tenets of rational living.
Rationality is the way to happiness 

The right path for long-term happiness

QUESTION: In our school, conformity is praised as a fundamental virtue, and pressure is exerted on the students to conform to the school traditions, both formally and materially. Since I have never been very good at dissimulating my opinions, my scepticism about such conformity is sometimes bringing me into trouble. How important is conformity for success and happiness? 

ANSWER: While each individual is responsible for his own life, it is clear that some environments exert pressure on people to follow a certain career path, or to make some particular personal choices. This should not be regarded negatively in itself, since it is perfectly logical that parents want the best for their children, and try to steer them into a direction that, as far as the parents can see, offers good possibilities of success. The same can be said of choices in other areas of life. However, the essential question is not whether someone should or not follow the well-intended advice from his parents, or  conform to someone else's benevolent directions. When it comes to determining whether you have taken the right path for long-term success and happiness, the essential question is whether that path is rational, consistent, and sustainable. The need to get those critical decisions right is one of the pillars of rational living.
The Philosophy of Builders
Prudence and determination

QUESTION: Since a long time ago, I have adopted the habit of avoiding conflicts, opting as much as possible for doing my own thing without making a big fuss if someone disagrees with me, and systematically ignoring those who criticize me negatively. Am I doing the right thing? Should I instead show more assertiveness and engage in confrontation when my views are not respected? 

ANSWER: Conflict, in particular of the psychological type, possibly generates more stress in the world than all financial and health problems combined. People who fight verbally with their neighbours, co-workers, and family members will frequently experience sleep difficulties, and other disturbances related to stress. Conversely, individuals who opt for doing their own thing, and pretty much ignore those who dislike them, tend to do very well in the long term. Psychological conflict is a bad business altogether, since it produces anxiety and stress that are difficult to heal. As the ancient Roman author Cicero put it so well: "Incerti sunt exitus belli," which means that, once you start a conflict, you can never be sure of how it will end. Irrespective of the correctness of your views, overheated emotions can undermined your health and peace of mind. As a general rule, the inexpensive approach to serenity is the most effective. Go after your dreams quietly but relentlessly. Pursue your long-term goals prudently but determinedly. The avoidance of unnecessary conflicts is one of the principles of rational living.

Reduce your worry, reduce your stress
QUESTION: Due to bad experiences in the past, I have become an overly preoccupied individual. Day and night, I tend to worry about my problems, which are numerous, and can never find the peace of mind that I would like to have. How can I minimize my fears and become more confident about the future? 

ANSWER: You might not know this, but 33% of the population view themselves as overly stressed. They consider themselves psychologically vulnerable, and spend hours every week passing review to their problems, without ever finding good solutions. Indeed, these people would love to be able to look at the future with confidence, but their desire will only be fulfilled if they adopt a rational philosophy. The ancient Roman philosopher Seneca used to say that "nulla dies maerore caret," which means that, in human life, there is never a day without trouble. The key to maintaining your serenity and surmounting the obstacles on your way is to embrace rational living, adopt rational values, and establish your lifetime goals accordingly. If you want to regain your peace of mind and look at the future with confidence, you have to start by discarding all false ideas that promote nervousness and confusion. The adoption of consistent goals and values is one of the principles of rational living.

When everything  fails, try this

Are you wasting your resources?

QUESTION: I have difficulty concentrating myself on my long-term goals, and this is not a new problem for me. I am the type of person who massively enjoys socializing, participating in events, and doing sports, but I feel that I am not making the best of my life. How can you strike the right balance between productiveness and enjoyment? 

ANSWER: When you observe high-achievers in any area of human endeavour, you are going to see people who do one thing exceedingly well. Those are individuals who have decided at a certain point to focus their energies on one particular area, and develop one particular skill to a level of perfection. In contrast, such levels of achievement are rare amongst people whose goal in life is simply to enjoy themselves. If you employ your time in random socializing, attending pleasant but unexciting social events, and doing sports for fun, chances are that you will lead an enjoyable life, but will not make the best of your talents. Yet, it is likely that one day you will utter the same lamentation as the ancient Roman author Plautus: "oleum et operam perdidi," which means that he considered that he had wasted his resources (his oil) and efforts without getting much in return. More often than not, people who pursue difficult long-term goals with passion tend to be happier than those who spread their time amongst many unconnected activities. Consistency of action is one of the principles of rational living.
Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief

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

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

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

The 10 Principles of Rational Living

Sunday, 19 October 2014

How to overcome the nervousness caused by hesitation and failure

Here is a summary of the questions that I have answered this week:

Too many problems

QUESTION: Someone feels paralysed by the fact that he has too many problems, and he doesn't know where to start in order to improve his life. 

ANSWER: It often happens that people feel paralysed by the fact that they have too many problems, and they don't know where to start in order to improve their lives. More often than not, the best way to proceed is to stop working on anything that does not require immediate attention, to drop all activities that are not conductive to immediate dramatic improvements. The most difficult problems can be easily identified by elimination. Those problems are usually the ones that can wipe you out if you don't take immediate action to avert the danger. The second step is to identify the correct course of action, the solution to solve those problems. This can be easily accomplished by applying the principles of rational living. Once you have completed those two steps, you will see your hesitations vanish all by themselves, and being replaced by a strong motivation.

Choosing the right path

QUESTION: How can I know if I am choosing the right path at the right time?

ANSWER: For those who want to turn around their lives, those who want to make radical improvements in their daily experience, it is critical to make correct strategies choices. If you fail to look beyond the horizon, if you fail to ask yourself where you want to be in twenty years from now, chances are that all your time will be taken up by mindless routines. Without a strong sense of purpose, human beings cannot maintain a course of action to achieve long-term goals. Without a clear vision of the future, you will easily will be swayed, distracted, and delayed. The only way to make sure that you make the right choices is to adopt a rational philosophy, rational values, and rational goals.

Rational living, rational working  
When no solution is in sight

QUESTION: What is the best approach for dealing with severe problems when you cannot easily find a solution, or when you suspect that no good solution can be found? 

ANSWER: Sooner or later, everybody has to face severe problems that cannot be easily solved, or that seem impossible to solve at a reasonable cost. Take heart. Millions of people in history have overcome life-threatening sickness, bankruptcy, poverty, unfairness, unemployment, and a myriad of other problems. First, take a deep breath and assess what the real chances are of those problems being lethal. Can they wipe you out definitively? Can they destroy your life completely and irreversibly? If the answer is negative, as it will typically be the case, you are already on your way to finding a solution. Rational thinking is the most effective method for improving your life, the most effective method to surmount obstacles and circumvent problems, should they prove unsolvable.

How to overcome failure

QUESTION: My life is a mess and I feel that I have failed at everything. When I compare myself to other people, I feel that I have not achieved anything important. 

ANSWER: A good percentage of the population describe their lives as a mess, and experience strong feelings of having failed at everything. The negative emotions are reinforced when those people compare themselves to individuals who have achieved important goals. Yet, those negative emotions are the result of a dangerous logical fallacy. For starters, it does not make any sense to judge your own value by comparing yourself with someone else. What should you compare the results attained by individuals whose circumstances, background, and opportunities are totally different? If you want to achieve more in your life, which is a perfectly healthy ambition to have, you should first reject the temptation of judging yourself subjectively. Then your next task should be to acquire a rational philosophy, embrace objective values, and establish rational goals.

Dealing with stress and worry

QUESTION: I have tried everything to reduce my levels of stress, but nothing works. My stress situation has become so bad that I often experience concentration difficulties and make a lot of mistakes as a result. 

ANSWER: If you have tried everything to reduce your levels of stress, and come the conclusion that nothing works, I must tell you that you are wrong. Even if your stress prevents you from concentrating your mind on your work, the problem can be addressed and the situation improved. The number one obstacle that prevents people from finding peace of mind is that they are looking for a short cut, a magical solution to their problems. Let me tell you that this approach is unlikely to work. More often than not, stress can be substantially reduced, and people can learn better patterns of thought, but such a transformation is going to take some time and effort. An effective approach for reducing stress is to embrace a rational philosophy, and practise its tenets every day.
Rationality is the way to happiness 

Regain your peace of mind

QUESTION: How can I regain my peace of mind? In the last two years, there have been many changes in my life, some of them for the worse, and I feel that I have lost my serenity forever. 

ANSWER: The idea that people lose their peace of mind because of some recent event has happened, or because they have been going through a tough period during the last two years, is difficult to believe. Similarly, I have difficulties to give credence to people who claim that they have lost their serenity due to the problems they are facing. Self-confidence and peace of mind constitute fundamental character traits that a person might take years to shape, but that offer the advantage of protecting that person from discouragement in the next decades. Let us not delude themselves by focusing on irrelevant details, by assuming that problems are more complex than they are. Serenity is typically the result of embracing a rational philosophy. Peace of mind is the natural companion of rational living.

Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief

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

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by TeeF86 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The 10 Principles of Rational Living

Saturday, 18 October 2014

How to gain self-confidence by avoiding small ponds

Everybody is able to make money when the Gross National Product is growing fast, but the real challenge is to keep customers when money is tight. During the last twenty years, marketing thinking seems to be focused on the fringes of the mass market. This selective approach has received different names, such as "niche marketing" or "speciality marketing."

Small ponds tend to dry out fast

Focusing your marketing efforts on your most profitable or most accessible customers is a clever sales strategy, but I doubt that it can be elevated to the category of "business model." Small thinking usually remains small until in shrinks into oblivion.

Rationality is the way to happiness
The theory behind niche marketing is that it is better to be a big fish in a small pond, that just another player in the huge ocean. Interesting point, but is it really true? Let me put forward some strong objections to the prevailing ideas:

  1. During economic downturns, small ponds tend to dry out fast.
  2. Providing solutions to a restricted number of customers makes you highly vulnerable to criticism, whether fair or not.
  3. How solid is the future of a business that supplies nice-to-have products instead of products that meet essential needs?
  4. Do you want to peg your professional future to the success of a specific fashion? If you follow this strategy, you will be seriously jeopardizing your self-esteem.
  5. Would you invest your savings in funding an enterprise that provides solutions to non-pressing problems?
Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief
Forget about niche markets and focus on fundamental problems

In these difficult economic times, we are watching niche companies and speciality retailers go bankrupt one after the other. On the other hand, enterprises that cater to essential human needs are staying afloat due to their ability to generate repeated business from a stable pool of clients.

What conclusion can be drawn for someone who wants to start a business, or increase his self-confidence in developing his career? Forget about niche markets and focus on fundamental problems. Look for a problem that annoys and irritates people. If you can solve that problem for a fair price, you have found yourself a solid business model.

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

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

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

Rational living, rational working

Friday, 17 October 2014

How to find happiness by making unorthodox choices

Studies have identified many factors that contribute to career success, but so far, nobody has been able to build a convincing model to predict an individual's future or how much happiness a certain profession will bring him. In case of doubt, people will opt for the safe choice and this is why you seldom hear career counsellors recommend risky artistic professions that may lead to unemployment.

What is your ultimate goal?

This sort of routine advice aims at achieving social insertion. Risk is identified as a problem, safety as the solution. However, a career recommendation based on conventional truth is never going to inspire a daring adventurer. In times when the market requires creativity at all levels, a fearful approach might prove fundamentally wrong, or perhaps, it is wrong in all circumstances.

In the year 1820, Bertel Thorvaldsen, an acclaimed romantic sculptor, travelled back from Rome to his native Denmark. Thorvaldsen was then 50 years old and at the pinnacle of his fame. During his stay in Copenhagen, he talked to many aspiring artists, giving them generous advice and encouragement.

One night, when Thorvaldsen returned to his hotel after a reception in his honour, he was told that a boy had been waiting for him all day. Intrigued, Thorvaldsen looked around the hotel hall and found a poorly dressed kid asleep on a chair.

Rational living, rational working
I have been waiting for you all day

He walked up to the boy, shook his arm gently, and whispered to him: "It is late, kid, go home." Startled, the boy opened his eyes and jumped to his feet. "I was waiting for you, Herr Thorvaldsen. I have been waiting for you all day."

That must true, thought Thorvaldsen, since the boy looked so exhausted and hungry that he was pitiful to see. "I wanted to ask you for advice on my career," the kid went on. "I cannot decide whether I should become a novelist or a poet."

Rationality is the way to happiness
A heartbreaking tale

Out of compassion, Thorvaldsen ordered a glass of warm milk for the boy and listened to his story. It was a heartbreaking tale. With adolescence, the kid had lost the striking voice that had gained him praise and a small income in his home town, and had joined the thousands of unemployed youth that roamed the streets of Copenhagen.

"This is why I have thought of becoming a writer," the boy explained shyly, taking three ruffled pages out of his pocket and handing them over to Thorvaldsen. Strangely enough, the idea of asking a sculptor for literary advice seemed to fit the kid's pathetic situation.

The Philosophy of Builders
It was obvious that he had no chance 

Thorvaldsen devoted a few minutes to reading the text and was appalled to see that it contained innumerable grammar and spelling mistakes. It was obvious that the boy had no chance of becoming a writer. Even if it was cruel, it was better that he learned the truth right away, so that he could at least learn a trade.

"What is your name?" asked Thorvaldsen, returning the pages. "Hans-Christian," replied the boy full of hope. "Hans-Christian Andersen." A silence ensued, as Thorvaldsen searched for the least hurtful way to express his judgement.

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
I don't know how to tell you this

He stared at Hans-Christian Andersen for a long while as he remembered his own artistic ambitions as a young man, many years ago, but of course, his own situation had been completely different. Thorvaldsen took in a deep breath and shook his head. "Look, Hans-Christian," he began, "I don't know how to tell you this."

At that moment, Andersen nodded and gave the sculptor a crazy smile. That was what he had been waiting for. He was about to hear the words of encouragement that he needed so badly. He was sure that an artist of the calibre of Thorvaldsen would be immediately able to recognize his literary talent and point him in the right direction.

"What do you think, Herr Thorvaldsen, should I become a novelist or a poet?" he asked again, this time full of confidence. Fascinated, Thorvaldsen looked at the kid's bright eyes and realized how foolish he had been. "I have no doubt, Hans-Christian," he answered softly, "that you can become both."

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

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

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

The 10 Principles of Rational Living