Saturday, 7 July 2018

What should I do with my life? That's a question young people ask themselves all the time

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What should I do with my life? That's a question young people ask themselves all the time, especially when they have to choose a career. Adults will also ask themselves a similar question when they are considering embarking on a new career, starting their own business, or moving to a new city or country.

If you adopt a rational philosophy, the answer is straightforward. It does not matter much where you start your new career, business, friendships or relationships. What matters is the overall sense of direction, the overall motivation and drive. Let those define the details, so that you only have to worry about the great lines.

By all means, do not be afraid of selecting a demanding career as long as you stay away from narrow, negligible markets. What you want is a career, business, and social relationships that lead you to crowded markets, to places where there are plenty of new potential customers, investors, business partners, and friends.

As long as you avoid minuscule markets, you will do well if you operate rationally, that is, with steady persistence and motivation. This is why, before embarking on a long-term venture, you should make a pause, and assess how your project relates to the eight fundamental human needs. Here is a check list you can use. If you stay centrally or marginally within these eight markets, chances are that you will do very well.

1. Food: The objectives of new food technologies are to increase productivity, quantity, quality, and speed of delivery. Can you build your new career or business in this area? Population growth, in particular in developing countries, is requiring higher agricultural outputs at lower costs. In addition, consumers in industrialised countries are demanding higher quality. Research and development efforts in the food industry are focused not only on production, but also on distribution. Improved packaging and logistics are as important as improved agricultural techniques. Still today, large amounts of food are ruined during transportation and storage. If you can find a way to earn a living in any of those market segments, you can develop a successful career decade after decade.

2. Health services: In addition to the development of new patentable drugs, massive efforts are being devoted to improving hospital management. Pilot projects carried out in the last decade have shown that a better organisation of resources can slash patients' waiting time and hospitals' operational costs. Even if you are not a physician or scientists, there are plenty of opportunity to earn a living in health-related industries. Human beings will always be willing to pay good money to live longer and stay healthier. If you choose to develop a career in this area, you can also profit from low-cost training opportunities on-line.

3. Housing: The last decade has led to overbuilding in some countries. At the time of this writing, you can still acquire houses for a low price in some areas of Greece and Uruguay, just to name two examples. Thus new construction should concentrate on the most profitable segments of the market. Pre-manufactured housing is still underdeveloped in many countries, and can be expected to grow in our century. Without having to be an architect or engineer, there are plenty of opportunities to make a living in the housing market. I know personally some people who are earning high incomes as real estate agents just because they have chosen to work in hot housing markets. Will you consider relocation, so that you can also profit from high-growth career opportunities?

4. Clothing: The internet has changed how the fashion industry operates. The separation of design and production is bound to accelerate during the next decades with an emphasis on increased speed. It is conceivable that, very soon, the time that elapses from design to consumer purchase is reduced to a few days. If you feel affinity for fashion, colours, and human relationships, you may feel at home in the rag trade. Fortunes continue to be made by opening chain shops that appeal to a particular segment of the market. As the population grows wealthier, individuals are willing to pay more for clothes that fit their individual style and size, and clothes that incorporate the reliability of high-quality brands. Either in design, production o sales, opportunities are virtually limitless.

5. Communication and transportation: Ubiquitous internet access will continue to affect how we work, drive, and communicate. The capabilities of mobile phones are already surpassing those of laptop computers, improving our productivity and quality of life. Whether you want to design apps for mobile phones, or earn a living in anything related to transportation, hotels, holidays or event organisation, you will need persistence and imagination. Theme hotels are becoming hot because people are willing to pay more for unique experiences. The same goes for special theme holidays. If you like travelling or communications, you can find a niche in this huge market, even if you are not a engineer or software developer.

6. Culture and entertainment: Better digital audio and video technology will continue to increase the world's cultural output. Our century is already multiplying the world's choice in films, songs, books, and podcasts. What we have seen during the last decade is just the beginning. If you have any kind of creative urge, this might be the perfect market for you. You no longer need a large company behind you (such as a large record company) to launch your career as musician or entertainer. The market grows every year, and will continue to grow exponentially. Once people have covered their basic needs, they are more than willing to devote a good part of their income to entertainment. Will you take advantage of this major trend?

7. Financial services: The gap between professional and personal money management continues to diminish year after year. The quality and speed of financial information should increase further in the next years. Improved trading platforms on the internet are opening additional market segments to individual investors, leading to more transparency, and reducing their investment risk. If you have been investing for years for your private needs, will you consider doing that professionally. Money-management has become a global business. Once you have acquired the necessary skills, it does not really matter where you live in London, Paris, Frankfurt, New York, Shanghai, or anywhere else. If you have a quiet, analytic personality, money-management might be the perfect business for you, the perfect environment in which to build your career.

8. Legal and protection services: Pre-paid legal plans and litigation insurance, which have become successful in some countries, will continue to expand in the next decades. Conflict-resolution services should also experience growth in our century, since more companies are discovering the effectiveness of mediation and arbitration in commercial disputes. Protection and security markets are also growing exponentially, not only in terms of services, but also in terms of products, often composed of hardware and software. Even if you are not a lawyer, this market offers limitless opportunities to develop products and services, also with the advantage that those can be easily (with minor adaptations) rolled out in different countries and languages.

Irrespective of your choice of business or profession, those eight markets will determine your future. In fact, there is very little else in terms of large markets outside those eight areas. Our desires will always revolve around those eight domains because they meet the principal needs of what it means to be human. Those eight markets can be improved and enhanced, but they cannot be ignored. If you are about to choose a new career or business, make sure that you stay within those eight crowded markets.


Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2018.

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter

Here is the link to an audio interview just published:

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Five widespread ideas that are at odds with reality

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You have to let go of prejudices that prevent you from developing your potential. You have to discard traditions that are not in line with current opportunities. We live in an era of abundant resources and unlimited possibilities that, all too often, we fail to exploit.

By throwing away ideas that do not work, you will open the door to realistic plans, workable solutions, and satisfactory results. Let me review briefly five widespread convictions that are at odds with reality.

1. The idea that the purpose of life is to serve other people

The problem with this belief is that it is semi-true. Interacting with other human beings and providing good service to them is highly rewarding. All of us draw deep satisfaction from the gratitude of customers, friends or family members.

A different story is the desire to help strangers for the sake of achieving ethical perfection. If you pursue this desire too far, it can literally destroy your life.

Cost-effective service to customers can only be sustained permanently when it is provided commercially, that is, on a profit-making basis. Service rendered on the basis of personal sacrifice can be viable in some circumstances, but it will face major difficulties in remaining operational in the long-term.

2. The idea that you need someone else's approval before you can take initiative

Gregariousness is an essential component of human psychology. We all love to be appreciated by friends and colleagues. On many occasions, honours and distinctions are as important as monetary rewards. Nevertheless, this should not lead you to believe that you cannot determine your destiny unless your have obtained universal social approval.

In industrialised societies, personal initiative plays a determinant role in individual happiness. Innovation and change inevitably disrupt social structures. Anyone who deviates from standard behaviour will inevitably be criticised.

Innovators will frequently find these psychological obstacles harder to overcome than lack of access to capital. Yet, you should not let criticism paralyse your initiatives.

3. The idea that you have to content yourself with your current situation

Physical resources are indeed limited, but this fact should not prevent you from establishing ambitious goals for yourself. Keep in mind that you can borrow money and other assets if you demonstrate that you can use them productively.

The global economy is a scenario where resources are continuously shifted from low- to high-productivity areas. Purpose and initiative play a crucial role in exploiting assets to the maximum.

Individuals with visionary business models are discovering new applications for old technologies, and additional customers for existing products. Even if material resources are limited, the main driver of your personal growth is your creativity.

4. The idea that you are too young or too old to improve your life

Such limitations never hold true overall, although they may apply to specific goals. For instance, learning to play the piano at an advanced age can be a lot of fun, but a person in his seventies will find it very difficult to pursue a career as a pop artist.

Restrictions can often be lifted or circumvented by changing the context. Goals can be slightly modified in order to seek better market opportunities. Personal limitations can inspire us to figure out more effective approaches to make or sell our products. Careers can be redefined. Professions can be combined with ancillary tasks in order to serve clients in surprising, more fulfilling ways.

5. The idea that you should give up because you really have no chance

Although newspapers are reporting daily extraordinary achievements in all areas of human activity, few people possess the strength of character to defy colleagues, friends and family members to pursue challenging goals.

Psychologically, most people find less menacing to watch the performance of top athletes on television than seeing a friend start a business. Most men will rather praise the latest film of their favourite actress rather than support their wife's dream to become an actress herself. We do not mind being surpassed by those we have never met, but we dread the idea that someone close to us might grow faster than ourselves.

Do not let any of those prejudices slow you down. Each day, you can find new possibilities to pursue your dreams. Do not be discouraged by your age, lack of resources, or lack of connections. As soon as let go of counter-productive beliefs, your alertness and effectiveness are bound to increase. Use them to figure out which steps you need to take.


Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2016.

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter

Thursday, 24 May 2018

A proven self-development method everybody can use

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If you are well prepared, good things will happen to you. Closed doors will open, opportunities will materialize, and jobs will become available. Preparedness brings not only material benefits, but also psychological ones, in particular self-reliance, which is a highly desirable trait in all walks of life.

Through education, apprehensive kids can become stars. Through training, people fearful of every shadow can thrive in new challenges. Through preparation, men suspicious of every innovation can turn themselves into self-confident achievers.

We should all welcome any means and ideas that help us face life courageously. While dejection leads you to disaffected railway tunnels, self-reliance will motivate you to seek out the shortest way to attain your objectives.

Looking ahead

Training and education, reading and learning, enable man to see farther down the road. Preparedness builds the conviction that achievement is within your reach. Looking ahead with confidence raises individuals above the average. While people without goals are so afraid to slip and fall that they will keep their eyes focused on the ground, those with a vision can use preparedness to reinforce their self-confidence.

How long does it take for a person to develop the ability to turn temporary defeat into a step to victory? In the eyes of worrisome men, achievement is a receding point in the horizon, but in the mind of rational individuals, objectives are to be pursued relentlessly, day after day. Rational people know that attaining ambitious goals is going to involve overcoming difficult obstacles.

In our age, if you talk to men in their nineties, you will hear the story of how they returned from  World War II without any savings or prospects, how they had to rebuild their lives from scratch. Their trust in the opportunities provided by their environment was motivating them to achieve new goals, start families, build houses, accumulate wealth, and lead happy lives.

The only way they knew was to move forward. Each step was preparing them for the next. What they learned one evening, they would put in practice the next morning. Training was done on the job. Evening education was often the only path to whatever knowledge they were missing to get ahead. Their self-confidence was the result of their willingness to absorb new information.


Preparedness allows individuals to overcome shyness. In addition, when you learn to perform new tasks, you will develop mental resilience. A man who acquires new specific skills is, at the same time, training himself overall to deal with any sort of obstacle. Acquiring new information will enhance your general capacity to solve problems, and face life's challenges successfully.

Developing an active mind enables man to overcome adversity. Self-reliance allows us to identify risks, and discard fears that lack basis in reality. Preparedness and education, either formal or self-acquired, reinforce creativity. Imagination and innovation are characteristics of active minds. Those faculties are unknown to people living in fear.

When things go wrong, fearful men blame the world, but self-confident individuals will simply assess their options, choose the most promising, and redouble their efforts. Training and education help us accept the fact that making mistakes is part of our learning process. Only ignorant, unprepared people will see all adversities as final, all obstacles as insurmountable.

Trees planted on fertile ground will always grow to cover any hurts from their past. Learning and education in all forms constitute the fruitful land where your self-confidence can take roots. The conviction that knowledge can be acquired and mastered will motivate you to further achievement.


Self-reliance renders man willing to try new approaches, it help him grow adventorous and bold. His capacity for innovation constitutes an essential element of his long-term success. By the time a cautious conservative begins to move, a fearless innovator will already have gone through the process of failure, reflection, and self-improvement.

In all fields, learning inevitably involves errors, plenty of them, until you have acquired the skills and expertise necessary to achieve your objectives. Self-confidence will allow you not to pay too much attention to your failures. Resilience will preclude your temporary doubts from turning into permanent paralysis.

Beginner's mistakes are part of the learning curve in any endeavour, whether it is private or professional. Detailed, valuable knowledge can only be acquired by playing on the field. The experience of trial and error will build your alertness and self-confidence. Start your preparation for future challenges today, so that you can get the clock to tick in your favour.


Image: Photograph of classical fountain. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2017.

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter

Here is the link to an audio interview just published:

Saturday, 5 May 2018

The philosophical impact of setting longevity as a top personal priority

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If human beings were happy all the time, there would be little need for philosophy. If transactions never went wrong, there would be no need of lawyers and arbitration services. If individuals never became sick to the extent that they fear for their lives, few persons would choose to become physicians. If unhappiness and conflict justify the existence of philosophy and law, we can regard death as the ultimate justification for medicine, and its prevention, as the most crucial subject of study.

Statistics tell us why people die, but there is much more to death than what the eye can perceive. Road accidents, heart failure, stroke, and cancer occupy prominent positions in every country's causes of decease. Contemporary data also record the growing death toll taken by Parkinson and Alzheimer.

Statistics show the immediate causes of decease, but do not address the fundamental question of why we have to die in the first place. This issue should not to be dismissed as trivial. Unless we get a clear idea of why we must die, statistical data become irrelevant. After all, one could argue, if we are doomed to die at eighty-two (statistically speaking), what does it matter whether we die of cancer or diabetes?

The way to longevity

Since all living creatures expire at a certain point, we take for granted that nature has assigned a fixed lifespan to each species, but is this really true? Can science extend man's life and push death away, decade after decade, allowing the average person to become a hundred years old before his or her final demise?

History gives us many examples of men and women who have lived longer than a century. What is preventing us today from transforming longevity into a general rule applicable to all citizens? If we could eliminate accidents as a cause of death, can we also get rid of cancer and cardiovascular disease? Will those conditions ever be eradicated?

Scientists have put forward different theories to explain why living creatures die. Nonetheless, most hypotheses have been abandoned during the last sixty years due to insufficient evidence. The two remaining theories (the waste theory and the exhaustion theory) are still considered as work in progress, but they seem to be pointing in the right direction.

First, the waste theory regards death as the ultimate consequence of biochemical decay. From the moment an animal begins to breath, its cells will act as miniature biological converters that turn oxygen and other substances into chemical products that are consumed in order to keep the organism alive.

The conversion process is going to generate a certain amount of biological waste, which will slowly accumulate in the body. When the amount of chemical waste surpasses the body's ability to withstand decay, the living creature will die.

Second, the exhaustion hypothesis regards death as the natural depletion of the body's capacity to replace its own cells. While an animal is alive, its cells are continuously dying and being replaced by new cells, which are almost identical to the ones that have died.

According to this theory, cells can only reproduce themselves a limited number of times without losing important genetic information. This limitation is what determines the maximum lifespan of each species, which in the case of human beings. it is estimated to be 120 years.

When you hear about these two theories, you realize how little sense death statistics make. Indeed, if these hypotheses prove to be true, there might be a common reason for widespread causes of death such as cancer, Alzheimer, and cardiovascular disease.

A mentality change

What if those conditions are nothing but symptoms of a general process of biochemical waste-accumulation and cellular exhaustion? If that is the case, the practical consequences are earth-shattering. It is the equivalent of waking up one day, and realize that your vision of the world has been, until that moment, completely wrong.

If the latest scientific theories about death are correct, this means that the way most people make decisions is massively unrealistic. The misunderstanding has its roots in our perception of sickness and death as the result of the following steps:
  • We are born into a certain family and social environment.
  • We live, eat, and work according to what is generally considered acceptable.
  • One day, cancer, cardiovascular disease, or other major sickness hits us out of the blue.
  • We follow a medical treatment in order to combat that particular illness.
  • Even if the treatment is successful, sooner or later, another disease will hit us.
  • Finally, when medical treatments fail, we die.
However, if the theories of waste-accumulation and cellular exhaustion are true, we need to revise our concept of what it means to live, eat, and work. Sickness and death take a different significance when they are viewed as part of a natural process which each of us can influence to a larger extent than it is currently assumed.

The new paradigm would reshape our vision of life into a sequence of events in which we play a much more significant role:
  • We are born into a certain family and society, which do not always know what is good for us.
  • We will be much better off if we live, eat, and work using reason as a standard, irrespective of what other people may think of us.
  • We need to learn how to live in ways that slow down the accumulation of biochemical waste in our organism because our own behaviour is the number-one factor that contributes to keeping us healthy.
Take action today

Thus, when it comes to health matters, prevention should be our primary concern. If we trust the waste-accumulation theory, the right behaviour should help us postpone fatal illness to a later stage in life, enabling us to live longer and more healthily.

We need to learn to live in ways that minimize cell exhaustion, and help us extend our lifespan towards the ideal 120 years, which seems to be the limit for the human species. What kills most people is a direct consequence of their wrong way of living. By improving our decisions and actions, we can lead a healthier existence, and extend our lifespan.

Imagine the advantages of living a decade longer without being afflicted by debilitating illness. The inspiring aspect of the latest theories about death is that they are reinforcing the idea that each of us, as rational individuals, are in control of our own future.

Although we are still far away from understanding all implications of the new paradigm, it is clear that state-of-the-art scientific theories are strongly favouring the fundamental tenets of rational living: thoughtfulness, prudence, and self-reliance.


Image: photograph of classical painting -- photo taken by John Vespasian, 2016.

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter

Here are the links to four audio interviews just published:

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Turning what you have into something more valuable

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Centuries of decay followed the fall of the Roman Empire. For generations, fear replaced rational discourse as the primary means of human interaction. In many fields, knowledge remained inaccessible to the great majority of the population. As a result, life expectancy dramatically decreased.

Conditions improved in the 13th century. The transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance opened a wide range of opportunities for talented individuals. Towns attracted tradesmen and merchants, who manufactured utensils, made clothes, and built houses.

In Italian cities, like Florence and Venice, the wealth created by entrepreneurs brought into existence a market for artists. Upward social mobility became possible to an important segment of the population in the time of great Renaissance artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo.

Developed by choice

In that period, people rediscovered the teachings of Aristotle: "Some talents are innate and others are acquired through practice," wrote Aristotle in the year 328 B.C. "While the movement of animals is governed by the law of cause and effect, the essential characteristic of human beings, rationality, can only be developed by choice."

In our days, despite problems and difficulties, opportunities for personal development have multiplied in many countries to the extent that they are practically endless, making easier for every individual to explore fields in which he is interested, and find his own path.

Millions of men and women are enjoying today levels of prosperity that would have been unthinkable for the wealthiest prince in the Middle Ages. The advent of the internet and the global economy are tearing down barriers to entrepreneurship. We are living in times of economic growth that offer countless opportunities for each person to determine his own future.

The 21st century is the age of the empowered individual. We inhabit an environment where many businesses can be started with negligible upfront investment. Innumerable doors are open to personal initiative and skills, giving each person almost infinite opportunities to find his way to happiness and success.

Business has become international, but the low-cost of internet communication is giving us instant access to all corners of the earth. If you feel short-changed in any way, make a pause and look at things in perspective. If you are lucky enough to live in an industrialised country, you will not lack chances for personal development.

Important accomplishments

The perception that achievement should be immediate (and that otherwise should be regarded as impossible) is fundamentally wrong. Important accomplishments will frequently demand substantial time, as it is the case of building new relationships. It makes no sense to put pressure on the wrong places. Some achievements will take as long as they take. The whole process of reaching complex goals is to be enjoyed, not regarded as a waste of time.

Substantial skills, like learning a foreign language, may require years of effort, but such strech of time remains modest if compared with the human lifespan. Each individual has many years to pursue ambitions goals. If you think that this is not the case, you may want to check your priorities, and reorient your activities.

In moments of pessimism, remind yourself that the digital media are decreasing educational costs for everyone, that information about job openings is available on line, that inexpensive software applications are readily available, and that the cost of incorporating a company remains low in many jurisdictions. Chances are that you have more opportunities than you think.

"Materials and substances are not enough to produce change," observed Aristotle. "The fact that something can be transformed, does not mean that it will. Without activity, there is no motion." Let us devote our days to turning what we have into something more valuable. Let your alertness to  opportunities become your motor of change.


Image: photograph of classical painting -- photo taken by John Vespasian, 2016.

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter