Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Why I am very optimistic about 2023

Most of the predictions I read for 2023 are extremely pessimistic. It is not without reason that people have gloom views of the future, but I am of a different opinion. My expectations for 2023 are highly optimistic. Let me explain why. 

Widespread pessimism about the news is creating a distortion, a gap between perception and reality. People are expecting extremely negative events in 2023. Almost all commentators are talking about global catastrophes, massive poverty, power shutdowns, and all kind of disasters that would turn the world into a complete mess.

How likely are those disasters to materialize? I am convinced that they are extremely unlikely. We can only get a fair appraisal of today's situation by taking a historical perspective. We cannot assess today's situation without context. The right way to assess the present is to look at history and see how similar situations have actually evolved.

A rational assessment

We know of similar times in recent and ancient history. It has happened often that people have made equally gloomy predictions. In the face of a deep crisis, many men and women have thought that it was the end of the world.

It is not such a long time ago that the world has experienced large wars, famines, pestilence, wide-reaching supply problems, bankruptcies, and high inflation.

Those events caused a lot of suffering, but did not last long. Even the worst cases, the World Wars, lasted four to six years. They eventually subsided and were followed by periods of prosperity.

If compared with the World Wars and other crises in history, today's situation is much more favorable. Our financial systems are more robust that at any previous time in history. We have inflation in many countries, but with few exceptions, we are a long way from hyperinflation. Even the disruptions in supply chains are not unprecedented. In most cases, they are not preventing people from leading a normal life.

I could go on forever, taking apart every argument in the doom-and-gloom predictions and comparing them to history. In every case, I would be able to show that the current problems, in general terms, are far from catastrophic and that they are unlikely to last for long.

Reasons for optimnism

What makes my view of 2023 highly optimistic is that, sooner or later, the gap between perception and reality will close. After a while, people will start to regard the current crisis as just another problem to solve.

When the gap between perception and reality closes, people will overcome the current pessimism. They will redouble their efforts to solve the problems they are facing, and as a result, they will make their own lives and society better.

My conviction is that it will not take long before worthless projects will stop. People will face their mistakes and pull the plug. They will extricate themselves from losing propositions, and allow sanity and prosperity to be restored.

Unfortunately, there are ongoing wars and those are killing large numbers of people, but I think that those wars will exhaust themselves and that some kind of peace will be concluded. I do not think that the current conflicts will continue for long if only because they are massively expensive and disruptive.

My optimism is based on a historical perspective. The world has often gone through similar problems and solutions have been found.

Great opportunities

If you keep a cool head during trying periods, you can actually profit from outstanding opportunities. It is precisely during a crisis, during periods when everybody believes that the world is coming to an end, that you can find astounding bargains in many markets.

If you are running a business or looking for a new job, or trying to get a promotion, or preparing to launch a new product, this may be the perfect time, the perfect opportunity.

Competition has become weaker than a couple of years ago because so many people have grown discouraged. In many markets, the obstacles to success have diminished. It pays to remind yourself that there's no reason for you to stay in any particular market or country, if it is blocking your entrepreneurial or career initiatives.

In particular, international brokerage accounts have become inexpensive and can be managed from any place. Many of those services did not exist a couple of years ago. You can invest anywhere in the world for low fees. This is a novelty in history, but relatively few people are taking advantage of this opportunity.

If you assess current events and look for opportunities, you will find them. Despite the reigning pessimism, we are living in a world that offers extraordinary chances of improving one's life.

Do not allow yourself to be discouraged by the widespread pessimism. Instead, adopt a balanced historical perspective, like the one presented in my books. Learn the lessons from history, so that you can make better decisions today and take a decisive step forward.

I wish my readers a very happy 2023 and commend them to put the lesson from history into practice. Take advantage of the opportunities created by the current crisis. Seize the chances that are emerging. They might help you advance more than you have done in the prior decade.

Stay alert because 2023 will be full of asymmetries. The chances may prove extraordinary and similar ones might not arise in a long time. Stay away from gloom-and-doom forecasters and, instead, devote your efforts to looking for great opportunities. Happy New Year.

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

[Image: Photo taken by John Vespasian, 2020]

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter


Monday, 26 September 2022

"Against all odds" -- twelfth book by John Vespasian

In life, everybody has to face obstacles. Will you panic and fall apart, or take the necessary steps? By using real-life examples, this book will teach you:

  • How Teresa of Avila, a dirt-poor nun, raised funds to start thirty-two monasteries.

  • What enabled Cabeza de Vaca to survive and thrive after being shipwrecked.

  • How Franz Josef I kept an empire running smoothly for 65 years despite constant problems.

  • Xenophon's method for dealing successfully with life-or-death problems.

  • What enabled Cagliostro to rise to fame and fortune after 19 years of dismal failure.

This book provides practical advice for solving difficult problems and remaining effective in good and bad times.


Table of Contents




Chapter 1 - Prerequisites of high effectiveness

Get better results by applying this perennial recipe

The fountain of enduring strength rediscovered

If you want a robust performance, here is how

A foolish habit that is harming your interests

You can remove this fundamental problem right away


Chapter 2 - The key to remarkable results

Deal better with adversity by using this metaphor

Stay away from this unworkable approach

Pointless crusades for the abolition of foolishness

This powerful technique prevents defeatism

A controversial strategy for getting things done


Chapter 3 -How to overcome discouragement

Getting unstuck in unpromising situations

The best way to escape boredom and despair

Can you turn seemingly worthless assets into gold?

Do this right now in order to stop sinking

A false theory that is causing widespread mayhem


Chapter 4 -Growing a little stronger each day

Double your opportunities by adopting winning routines

If you are being rejected, here is the solution

What you need to know about finding new chances

The fastest path to remarkable improvement

Get rid of losing propositions definitively


Chapter 5 -Sentimentality is a curse, not a virtue

Why human beings often misperceive reality

The key to a resilient personality in every season

Don't let overblown emotions prevent you from winning

Embrace strategies that work and let go of the rest

Unscathed by lies and propaganda


Chapter 6 -What you can do to become unsinkable

Facing dozens of problems but still highly effective

Do not let clever acting deceive you

Beware of the downside of extreme measures

There is no excuse for taking inordinate risks

Decisions made without margin are likely to bite you back


Chapter 7 -An inspiring example taken from real life

Still victorious despite being cheated and betrayed

The key to staying safe in perilous situations

Use protective routines to prevent disaster

Learn to love imperfect solutions

Concealment can bring you large advantages


Chapter 8 -Advice for thriving during hard times

Twenty-four years trying to get a break

How to make good decisions with little information

A controversial method to enhance your effectiveness

Resourcefulness in the absence of support systems

Survive and thrive against all expectations



Recommended  reading

Sunday, 10 July 2022

In times of trouble, problems spread like wildfire --- use good principles to multiply your effectiveness

There is no deeper disappointment in life than seeing your thoughtful, well-prepared plans overturned by unexpected events. When disruption turns your projects upside down, disorientation will inevitably ensue for a short while. In those situations, problems can spread like wildfire across your whole life, leading you to wonder whether you can still achieve your goals.

How is it possible that your projects are falling apart? Have you perhaps overestimated your capabilities? Are disruptions forcing you to give up your ambitions, values, and accumulated assets? To whom can you turn for orientation, or at least, for reasurance?

Nowadays, millions of individuals are asking those questions. The last two years have been particularly challengeing for hard-working people with large ambitions, people who had placed their trust on their own enthusiasm, persistence, and resilience. The issue is whether those virtues have lost their sense and purpose.

Adversity prompts you to question your principles

Adversity and misfortune prompt you to question your principles. The spectacle of large financial losses incurred by hard-working, competent people is not motivating. In this context, it is perfectly fair to doubt your abilities to achieve your goals. In a world that seems to reward chance rather than constancy, should you remain faithful to your principles?

Indeed, you should. Take heart and do not give up. The current disruptions are only giving you an incomplete picture of the story. Doom-and-gloom, defeatist views are not going to help you surmount the obstacles on your path. If you give it enough time, the disruptions will wane and balance will be restored. Rationality and constancy will lead to victorty, as they have always done.

Learn to view short-term obstacles for what they are. Do not blow them out of proportion. Temporary disruptions do not invalidate the law of cause and effect, but make it harder for you to connect the dots. Alone the principle of causality governs reality, even if short-term challenges can create lots of noise.

None of us can escape reality, ignore it, or dream it away, but in times of trouble, it is hard to distingish fact from fiction. This is why it's so important to remain loyal to good principles and keep trudging forward in the direction of your goals.

Good principles always work, even if disruptions may lead you to think otherwise in the short term. The whole point of ethics is to provide guidelines to help you find the way, especially during difficult periods, so that you can keep discouragement at bay.

Take heart and do not give up

The law of causality always works, but this does not mean that connections between effort and rewards are linear and automatic. Epecially in times of trouble, disruptions can be wide-ranging and overwhelming. Sometimes, the rewards for your efforts will only materialize several years dow the road, but so what? The pace of history is not designed to fit human impatience, for instance:

(a) An employee who has worked competently and loyally for decades may lose his job during an economic recession and find himself on the street. Was he wrong in devoting so much effort to his work? Instead of performing excellently
in his job, should he have done as little as possible?

(b) A middle-aged professional who has been saving laboriously all his life, is now suffering the consequences of a stock market crash. He is watching in disbelief half of his assets evaporate in smoke. Was he mistaken in saving for decades in order to secure his retirement? Rather than investing, should he have spent his income on frivolities?

(c) A loving wife who has dedicated her best years to care for her family is suddenly confronted with her husband's infidelity. Has she been too naïve in trusting him? Should she grow sceptical of all human relationships in the future?

(d) A couple who has lived frugally for decades in order to pay off their mortgage, now see their home burned down by vandals. They feel devastated and paralyzed. Instead of saving money every month, should they have spent everything they earn? What was the point of sacrifycing themselves if disruptions can now take everything away from them?

No wonder that people are feelingoverwhelmed

In the face of severe adversity, it is no wonder that people will feel overwhelmed and begin to doubt themselves. If you lose your job, savings, home, possessions, social and family connections, it is natural to go through a period of disorientation.

In the face of catastrophic disruptions, the best strategy is to extend your range of vision. If you stay loyal to your good habits, the law of cause and effect will always work in your favour, even if it takes longer than you wish. 


In times of trouble, it pays to remind yourself daily that great victories are always won at the margin, that is, by applying good principles one more hour, one more day, one more week, and so on. When short-term events turn against you, do not abandon your good principles. Instead of throwing them away, use them as a source of reassurance and hope.

History shows that no individual destiny is exempt from a fair share of troubles. This is why you should not lose your hope and give up your dreams. Remind yourself that, given enough time, sensible principles will lead you to recovery and victory. 

If your investments have suffered a setback, their value may be restored when the economic conditions return to normality. If you have lost your job during the recession, keep sharpening your skills each day, while you keep looking for a suitable opening. Despite the distruptions you are encountering now, you were right in performing your best every day because excellence is the best way to live.

Keep practising good habits during bad times

Do not stop practising your good habits during bad times. Remain calm in the face of adversity and remind yourself of your long-term goals. It does not pay to be overly pessimistic because recovery might be around the corner. Instead of discarding your dreams, learn to look beyond the present disruptions and keep looking for ways to regain the lost ground.

Remenber that, during a crisis, a steady mindset becomes even more valuable. Keep practising your honesty, frugality, and productivity. They will enable you to seize the next opportunity and get back on your feet. Instead of growing discouraged,
stay alert. In history, great victories have always been won precisely at the moment when everything seemed lost.

Great victories are always won at the margin

Linear thinking, so natural to the human mind, is insufficient for surmounting large obstacles. In fact, linearity will prevent you from grasping the fact that circumstances do not change at a steady pace. A turnaround will seldom arrive at the moment you expect, but if you keep practising good values, it will arrive all the same. Success is the outcome of relentless, focused action carried out day after day.

In times of trouble, you can still win if you keep pushing at the margin by hanging on a little longer, making an extra sale, and saving an extra dollar. Virtues such as productivity and frugality will multiply your effectiveness and help you overcome disruptions, obstacles and setbacks.

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

[Image: Photo of classical painting; photo taken by John Vespasian, 2018]

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter

Sunday, 6 March 2022

There is not such a thing as overpreparedness --- it's a mantra worth repeating ten times a day


"Men should avoid the distractions of pretence and delusion," wrote the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in the year 1842. "Impossible expectations, desires disconnected from reality, will always result in disappointment and sorrow." 

Indeed, impossible expectations can sink any ship. They can sink even ships that look solidly supported by their captain's personnal connections, social tradition and public reassurance. They can bring down large institutions that nobody would have suspected to be frail, empty and unreactive.

A strong belief in historical continuity constitues the ultimate delusion, the archetype of impossible expectations. I mean continuity in the widest sense. Continuity of one's profession or employment. Continuity of one's good health and lucky star. Continuity of the prior year's income level and revenue sources. Continuity of all friendships that one has cultivated over the years.

The events of the last two years should have cured us from our belief in continuity. They should have enlightened us about the true nature of reality, society and history. They should have reminded us that human nature never changes. That some people will keep looking the other way because they cannot stand the truth. That others will rather endanger their life than face social discomfort, negative criticism or outright ostracism.

Learning to see the truth

Learning to see the truth is seldom easy and free of charge, but so what? Even in the worst of times, you can grow better, sharper, stronger. You can learn to solve problems faster and more effectively. You can develop an accurate perception of the world, a tightly integrated philosophy, and a waterproof self-reliance. If you learn to face trouble with a clear mind, you can earn unlimited rewards down the road. 

Conformity is a bank from which you can borrow short-term conveniences, but only after you have taken a mortgage on your soul. It is not a good deal. Not a deal that you should take, irrespective of the level of pressure you are facing. Many people are realizing now that the spiritual mortgage they have taken in the last years is going to prove horribly expensive to repay.

Sometimes, you are going to have to push yourself to face reality, acknowledge the threats, and adopt defensive measures, even if everybody else keeps pretending that no action is necessary. Problems are often unexpected and inevitable, but preparedness is hundred per cent under your control. If you prepare yourself financially, professionally, socially and philosophically, you will do well in the long term, even if you occasinally go through a rough patch.

It is unfortunate that most people do not prepare for the worst. By willingly ignoring threats, they have placed themselves in a fog of ignorance, increasing the likelihood of making dire mistakes. They have practically guaranteed that they will be wiped out by the next storm because of their lack of alternatives, margins and effective routines.

Doing much better than average

Consider these five examples of unpreparedness, five examples of the delusion of continuity that is currently wiping out large numbers of people. The radio and television are giving us daily stories of how incredibly unprepared people are. Their expectation of historical continuity keeps them trapped in a bubble that is likely to become their coffin.

First, unhealthy food: Despite being aware of the long-term negative effects of some foods, people keep consuming them in the expectation that, somehow, they alone will be immune to the consequences. They expect magic, miracles, statistical exceptions. You can do much better than average if you improve your diet today and preserve your health for the next decade.

Second, a decaying work environment: People close their eyes to signs of decline in the company that employs them. They choose to ignore clear signs of danger, often for years, because they do not want to make the effort to search alternative employment or start their own business. You can do much better than average if you keep your eyes open and change jobs (or careers) before the situation becomes unsustainable.

Third, wrong relationships: Individuals will choose to ignore major character flaws in someone they find sexually attractive because they do not want to question their choice. They
will not hesitate to attribute non-existent virtues to their beloved because they do not want to assess him or her realistically. You can do much better than average if you remain honest with yourself at all times. Call a spade a spade, and avoid delusions like the pest.

Fourth, unreliable friends: People prefer to avoid confronting dishonesty because confrontation is too uncomfortable. They choose to ignore obvious disloyalty because they do not want to rock the boat. Those are terrible choices. You can do much better than average if you hang around only with people who deserve your friendship, and if you do not have enough of those, then keep seeking until you find them.

Fifth, unsound investments: People often choose to trust prodigious promises made by reckless money managers. In doing so, they are placing their savings at risk, sometimes their whole life's savings. That's not the right way to prepare for the future. You can do much better than average if you learn about investing and make prudent choices. Those will increase your peace of mind and help you enjoy life more.


A sharp perception of reality

We all make mistakes, but that's not a valid excuse for remaining unprepared. When it comes to learning, there is no substitute for experience. I know today many things that I did not know two years ago. I also know that I am going to keep learning each day, preparing myself for whatever challenges may arise. Every experience, positive or negative, is helping me develop a sharper perception of reality.

Preparedness is about developing good habits and staying alert. If you wish to increase your effectiveness, you need to force yourself to stand still from time to time, and question everything that looks too good to be true. You need to recheck the strength of the pillars that sustain your existence, reinforce those pillars, and ensure that they will withstand the next storm.

"Only an unclouded perception of reality enables man to learn the truth," observed Schopenhauer. "If you make decisions based on facts, you will grow more self-reliant, which is the key to happiness." Every bit of effort that you make today to increase your preparedness, will be generously repaid in the next crisis.

History shows that prejudice, conformity and ignorance are the main reasons why people choose to remain unprepared. They choose the easy way in the short term, only to pay a horrendous price down the road. Do not fall into that trap. Preparedness depends on the  courage to face reality and on the constant acquisition of knowledge. Make those your daily habits and restate at every opportunity your right to a better future.

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

[Image: Photo of classical painting; photo taken by John Vespasian, 2018]

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter


Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Exaggerated prudence is a bad advisor

Exaggerated prudence is a bad advisor, hardly better than ignorance. We all love to hear words of reassurance, but a rational risk assessment would serve us much better. If we face reality with courage, we can spare ourselves the high costs of immobility. 

Temerity has the capability of short-circuiting logic. Beliefs that project excessive modesty should be examined with suspicion. Never accept at face value the idea that you cannot overcome your deficiencies, since it might contain more conformity than substance.

Never let prejudice render you blind to opportunity. 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. Never let overblown deficiencies bring you to a standstill. More often than not, you can find a way to remedy those problems and attain success.

In the year 1820, Bertel Thorvaldsen, an acclaimed romantic sculptor, travelled back from Rome to his native Denmark. Thorvaldsen was then fifty 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.

He walked up to the boy, shook his arm gently, and whispered to him: "It's 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 be 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."

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 roaming 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.

Thorvaldsen devoted a few minutes to reading the text and was appalled to see that it contained dozens of 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 to tell the boy 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.

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 different. Thorvaldsen took 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."

My best wishes to readers for the year 2022.

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

[Image: Photo of antique sculpture; photo taken by John Vespasian, 2018]

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter