Monday, 5 December 2016

A little philosophy can carry you a long way: About the importance of adopting a rational perspectice


A wrong perspective can block more of your initiatives than any external obstacle. If your vision is short-sighted, you will not perceive anything beyond the immediate. If your vision is blurred, you will get lost in speculative discussions. If you look too far away into the future, you will lose touch with your environment.

At the turn of the 10th century, thousands of peasants in Europe believed that the world was coming to an end. Their incentive to work diminished sharply and, as a result, agricultural output decreased. High food prices led to the fulfilment of their prophecy, since many families starved during the winter that inaugurated the second millennium of our era. A wrong perspective annihilated part of the population.

Drug addicts and compulsive gamblers embody an extreme type of short-term mentality. Their world is restricted to what will happen in the next hours or minutes. Their minds do not register the physical and financial consequences of their actions. Their numbed sensitivity ignores danger signals. Their grasp of reality has shrunk to the minimum. Warnings cannot reach their ears.

Are the above examples valid? Do you consider self-evident that man needs a proper perspective of life? If everybody agrees with this conclusion, is the whole discussion pointless? Frankly, I don't think so.

Lack of perspective

If you really believe that the issue is settled, you might be making a fundamental mistake. The truth is that, every year, millions of individuals destroy their lives by embracing losing propositions.

People quit hard-earned positions and abandon established professions in pursuit of unworkable projects. Sometimes, individuals risk their health or physical survival by getting involved in losing ventures. Occasionally, such delusions affect a large segment of the population.

These tragedies happen so often that we have grown desensitized to them. This phenomenon is so apparent that we have lost the capacity to see it. Lack of perspective wrecks innumerable human lives. The seriousness of the problem is deeper than we are willing to admit; its size, bigger than statistics can register.
 

Discard what doesn't work

Leading a prosperous and happy life requires that we discard ideas that don't work. Trying to accomplish the unworkable serves to fuel vanity, not well-being. Nobody will be helped if you attempt to accelerate change beyond what the environment can take. In contrast, many people will complain if you try to impose what nobody else wants.

The advent of the internet and low-cost mobile communications show the scope of change that we can expect to see within a generation. Repetitive tasks can now be carried out in a faster and cheaper manner. Some business sectors have been favourably affected; others have become obsolete. In addition, the web has extraordinarily facilitated the spread of knowledge.

A wise man establishes his goals according to reason. High ambitions are commendable, but grandiosity should be avoided. Persistence is necessary, but it should not turn into obsession. Attempts at improving the world will remain fruitless if they are not accompanied by a sound dose of realism.

Choose your goals wisely


What are the consequences of this principle? How can we prevent our goals from becoming destructive? How can we avoid devoting efforts to seemingly important causes that later turn out to be worthless? Here are some practical ideas that you can use:

Quantify the time: Goals that lack a temporal frame have less chances of success. Saying that you want to become a writer is meaningless if you do not come up with a plan. How many years are you going to devote to writing? How many books do you intend to produce? On which subjects? How long will you need to complete your first manuscript?

Define the space: Objectives that are not circumscribed to a specific territory tend to be less attainable. Saying that you want to end hunger in the world denotes a good heart, but lacks a detailed plan. If you want to do development work to help poor people, are you going to focus on Latin America or Africa? On which part of Africa? English- or French-speaking? What specific project do you want to implement?

Assess the resources: For instance, if your goal is to make a living trading the financial markets, you should make a list of the necessary steps and how much each one is going to cost you. How long a training will you need? What is the price of the courses? Are you willing to work as an apprentice in order to learn the business? How much capital do you need to make a living trading stocks or commodities?

A workable plan

The world is going to change during your lifetime, but you should not entrust your future to random events. When you make plans, adopt a prudent perspective. Quantify the time, define the space, and assess the resources.

Leave vanity to the foolish and focus on what you intend to accomplish. A workable plan is worth a million discussions. If you wish to waste your life, devote yourself to debating what people will be eating two centuries from now and what type of cars they will be driving. On the other hand, if you want to attain a specific goal, walk fast but keep your steps small. A little philosophy can carry you a long way by helping you adopt the right perspective.

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

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

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

Monday, 28 November 2016

Rationality provides the ultimate advantage

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Human action produces the greatest benefits when it is focused on providing rational solutions to critical problems. A wise man uses logic to determine which difficulties are to be addressed with priority. He applies his energies to overcome major obstacles and ignores small inconveniences. 

Positive results

Given sufficient time, logic and consistency produce positive results. A rational approach to living gives you the ultimate advantage in the fields of investment, health, career, or relationships. Barring extreme bad luck or misfortune, ethical actions lead to happiness.

The easiest way to accelerate your personal growth is to concentrate your efforts on the area of your life where problems are most pressing. Successful managers apply this strategy to their businesses. For instance, when assembly difficulties slow down production in a furniture factory, the solution might call for simpler designs.

You only have one life to enjoy and it is up to you to decide which path to follow. Assess your situation objectively, placing facts above prejudice. Ignore empty promises and select your best alternative on solid grounds. 


Do not waste time

Do not waste time trying to impress people who do not care for you. Discard nonsense and embrace logic. Design your strategy according to reality. See what works well in the world and identify the keys to prosperity.

Complaining and wishful thinking are ineffectual. Ambitious goals can only be achieved through thoughtful plans and consistent implementation. Psychological balance can only be maintained through rational values and a sense of purpose.

Sound principles are as beneficial as they are demanding. Irrationality may seem comfortable in the short-term, but contradictions ultimately result in failure. Individuals determine their own future by their passion to turn dreams into reality and their logic in the choice of means. 


Resilience and persistence

No matter how experienced you are, mistakes are inevitable. Reason brings resilience to passion and persistence to ambition. A wise man is not intimidated by difficulties. He sets goals and plans how to accomplish them. If barriers are too high, he will try to circumvent them. If the price is too expensive, he might look for alternatives.

Entrepreneurship epitomizes the rational approach to living. Innovative spirits do not ask if they can attain their objectives, only how. Creative minds are always looking for better options. Originality is an essential element of success. Productiveness is a fundamental ingredient of happiness. 


The key to self-reliance

Rationality enables self-reliance and logic sustains motivation. Do not allow lack of capital to stop your dreams, nor lack of contacts, nor massive ridicule. Seek out thoughtful, benevolent human beings who appreciate what you have to offer. Build your future around them and happiness will ensue.

History recounts the same tale again and again. When difficulties arise, scepticism turns into discouragement and irrationality into fear. Pragmatism leads to counter-productive actions and confusing results. Without a long-term perspective, problems soon strike the ship under the waterline. 


A fully human life is impossible without thoughtfulness. This principle is universal. It knows no exceptions. No one can escape it. Learn from experience, abandon wishful thinking, and embrace a philosophy that works. Rationality, determination, and consistency are the essential factors of happiness and prosperity. Let them carry the day.

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

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


For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books 
 
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Monday, 21 November 2016

Eighth book by John Vespasian published today: Thriving in difficult times - Twelve lessons from Ancient Greece to improve your life today

Thriving in difficult times - Twelve lessons from Ancient Greece to improve your life today

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction


Chapter 1 - The deadly mirage of continuity
Biological systems are non-linear
An important lesson from Teophrastus
How the riddle of the sphinx was solved
Lost techniques recovered after fifteen centuries
The wisdom of Greek merchants in Alexandria

Chapter 2 - Prejudice is harder than stone
Did Aesculapius speak out the truth?
A place to avoid at all costs
How to avoid repeating Cassandra's mistake
A strong warning from Ajax and Niobe
Why one man was killed, but another one was spared

Chapter 3 - The charms of biological imprecision
Probabilities are good enough as a guidance
Oedipus was unusually unlucky, but chances are you won't
Archimedes' pointless search for precision
How Antisthenes justified the importance of virtue
A good ending for Antigone: the philosophical lesson

Chapter 4 - Disruption is the big destroyer
Why Plato wrote about Atlantis: a point you shouldn't miss
The correct conclusion from Prometheus' story
Why there were few slave revolts in Ancient Greece
Demosthenes saw it coming: a crucial teaching
The phalanx strategy worked fine, but only for a while

Chapter 5 - The high cost of low alertness

The danger of getting used to bad situations
What Socrates was aiming at in his philosophy
Are you expecting Pleidippides to fetch some help?
The mistake that did Polyphemus in
Homer's heroes provide a compelling answer

Chapter 6 - Use your resources wisely
How a bunch of Greeks destroyed the mighty Persian fleet
Why the Spartans cultivated their most precious skill
The Amazons invented resource cannibalisation
Hector was pushing his luck to the limit
There is only one Adonis, but many potential brides

Chapter 7 - The soft way to produce strong results

Why harsh, rigid solutions are dangerous
Aristophanes' educational humour
For Draco, everything was black or white
Neither Lysander nor Alexander saw the end of the path
Penelope's cleverness delivers good results

Chapter 8 - How to forget about your problems
Zeno's simple formula for happiness: do and let go
Warning: stay away from Ares and Eris
Epicurus and the mindset of atarxia
Diogenes tells you to be self-sufficient
The hoplites' equipment was to a large extent defensive

Chapter 9 - Every system needs balance

Anaximander figured out that things come in pairs
Why the Parthenon's columns are not perfectly cylindrical
Posidonius' views on human irrationality
The dangerous imbalance created by Pericles
How Orestes got away with murder: ethical considerations

Chapter 10 - Principles are more reliable than beliefs
The correct diagnosis calls for the correct treatment
The universe is predictable, says Plato in Timaeus
Euripides' warning: stay away from violence
The persistent value of Greek coins: a justification
How much Cleobis and Biton got paid for their efforts
Achilles repents of his heroism: a major lesson

Chapter 11 - The dangers of unbridled optimism
Don't let Circe's tricks turn you into a pig
Are you planning to take refuge in a sanctuary?
Beware of prying into Aeolus' leather-bag
Only Amalthea was blessed with the cornucopia
Dedalus, the archetype of the practical man

Chapter 12 - The solution is called pronoia, not paranoia
The power of Hippocrates' soup and Dioscorides' herbs
Thucydides warns you against wild emotionality
Aristotle provided the tools, but will you use them?
Why Strato had no qualms about contradicting Aristotle
Philoctetes and the crucial ingredient

Conclusions

Recommended reading



Thriving in difficult times - Twelve lessons from Ancient Greece to improve your life today


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

A realistic view of human nature can spare you endless troubles

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Few skills will add as much value to your life as the ability to avoid aggressive individuals. In any population group, irrespective of geography and cultural background, you will find at least 1% of persons that can constitute a serious threat.

Disorderly minds defy logic

The reasons for their aggressiveness might be of transitory nature, such as a mild depression caused by financial difficulties, or might be deeply ingrained in their personality. If you possess a generous spirit and feel inclined to comfort those men and women, please make a pause and think twice. Your actions, however well-intended, risk making things worse.

Your willingness to help is commendable, but effective aid is only possible if your actions can improve the situation. If your assistance cannot bring about positive change, it will only cause irritation.

A realistic view of human nature calls for utmost circumspection when dealing with aggressive individuals. Disorderly minds defy logic. Without specialized expertise, it is difficult to determine the severity of someone's troubles.

Approaching those persons and intervening is seldom advisable. The risk of committing an error is too high, since they might interpret your friendly words as threatening and increase their hostility. Take heed of my advice and keep away from dangerous people.

An effective strategy

An effective strategy for dealing with aggressive individuals comprises two elements, namely, detecting and averting them. When you walk into an unknown territory and find yourself surrounded by a crowd, how can you recognize signs of potential trouble?

No matter where you work, you should never trust available security measures blindly. There is simply no guaranteed way to exclude the troublesome 1% from a large group of people. It is up to you to stay alert and ensure your own safety.


Early warning signs

How will you be able to tell who constitutes a threat? The following four signals are clues that you can use to detect dangerous individuals. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you should be able to remark these behaviours when they occur:
* Threatening movements
* Repeated involvement in fights
* Irrational rigidity of attitudes or views
* Use of offensive or hurtful words
None of these factors is determinant by itself and each of them might denote other problems. Your goal, however, is not to pass judgement on strangers, but to protect yourself from danger. Aristotle considered prudence of crucial importance because this virtue ensures that you will be able to continue to play the game of life.

How should you react once you have identified a potential source of trouble? Trust your senses when it comes to detecting danger, but let your brains determine your course of action. Use your initiative and creativity to avert difficulties.

Ideally, you want to adopt cautious, discreet measures that spare you unnecessary conflict. Instead of confrontation, avoidance should be your preferred approach. Here are some practical examples:

Unusual movements


You are waiting at a queue to buy a cinema ticket and you see a man approach. He is walking exceedingly fast, bumping into passers-by, and he does not even stop to apologize. His face shows a stern expression, his eyes are focused on the sidewalk, and he is talking to himself, oblivious of his surroundings.

He is headed to collide with people waiting in the cinema queue. For a moment, you think of calling his attention, but your prudence takes over. You take a step backwards and let him go through.

Unexplained conflicts


You hire a new recruit for your sales team, a young man who made an excellent impression during the interview. He possesses considerable drive and ambition, together with first-class verbal skills.

The young man seems to be the right kind of person to represent your company. During the interview, he gave good answers to your questions and you feel confident that you have made a great choice.

However, on his second week on the job, you perceive details that no longer match the first picture. On Tuesday morning, he comes to work unshaven, wearing yesterday's ruffled shirt, with a ketchup stain on his tie and a bruise on his forehead.

Gently, you draw his attention to how important it is for a salesman to give a professional image, but he tells you that he has been involved in a bar fight. Two weeks later, a similar episode takes place.

You hesitate for a short while, wondering if he is going through temporary difficulties. That might well be the case, but you know that you shouldn't take the risk of having any kind of aggression against co-workers. You summon the young man to your office and, regretfully, you fire him.
 

Irrational rigidity

In the factory where you work, the Head of Finance assigns you to take part in a project with several persons from other departments. During the first meeting of the team, a participant defends an untenable approach and opposes all sensible suggestions from colleagues.

That person, whom you have never met before, makes an overall impression of obstinacy and does not even allow other team members to finish their sentences. His stubbornness surpasses all tolerable levels and goes as far as threatening anyone who disagrees with him. Should you face him head-on and engage in a verbal confrontation?

Your best option is to try to have all important decisions postponed and, as soon as the meeting is over, discuss the problem discreetly with a few team members that you trust. Then, together, you go to see the Head of Finance, tell him about the incident, and have the troublesome individual removed from the project.

Abusive words


You meet a very attractive woman and begin to date her regularly. Her charms make her irresistible. You feel that you have met the woman of your life and start thinking of marrying her.

The only aspect that troubles you is that, from time to time, she gets disproportionately upset about problems or inconveniences. One evening, when you arrive late for dinner due to a traffic jam, she becomes enraged and attacks you verbally. You put the incident down to her having a bad day and forget about it.

However, after spending a weekend together, you inadvertently wash her blue dress with the white linen and she reacts furiously, shouting insults at you. As a result, you decide to stop seeing her and call yourself lucky for having detected the problem early enough.


A better alternative

Are these recommendations exaggerated? Should you always be on the watch for potential dangers? No, but you need to remain alert to a reasonable extent. Wise men know how to separate their desire to live in a perfect world from the reality of human experience.

When you detect an aggressive person, avoid automatic reactions and behave as prudently as you do in your everyday business dealings. Do not waste time trying to fix the problems of strangers. Instead, move on and seek out the company of benevolent, kind individuals, since those are the type of people that are going to make a positive difference in your life.


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

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


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

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

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

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

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