Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Why moral courage is essential for personal development

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

Learning to see the truth

Learning to see the truth is seldom easy and never without cost, but a sharp vision of the world and a clear mind bring man unlimited rewards. Conformity is a bank from which you can borrow short-term convenience after you have secured repayment by means of a mortgage on your soul.

By willingly ignoring facts, we often place ourselves in a fog of ignorance, increasing our likelihood of making expensive mistakes and creating dangerous inconsistencies in our actions. Consider these five examples:

  • Unhealthy food: Despite being aware of long-term negative effects of some foods, we keep on consuming them in the illusion that, somehow, we alone will be immune to the consequences.
  • A decaying work environment: We close our eyes to signs of decline in the company we work for, often for years, in order to avoid the nuisance of searching alternative employment or the risk of starting our own business.
  • Wrong relationships: We ignore major character flaws and attribute non-existent virtues to someone we find sexually attractive in order to justify an unsustainable choice.
  • Unreliable friends: We avoid confronting breach of trust to avoid rocking the boat, preferring to hang around people who do not deserve our friendship instead of making the effort to seek further.
  • Unsound investments: We trust prodigious assurances of reckless money-managers and place our savings at great risk without giving it another thought.
Everybody makes mistakes and, when it comes to learning, there is no substitute for experience. However, if we wish to minimize errors, few habits are as effective as standing still from time to time, questioning aspects that look too good to be true, and checking the consistency of our logic.
Rationality is the way to happiness
A sharp vision of reality

"Only an unclouded vision of reality allows man to perceive truth," observed Schopenhauer. "Decisions based on facts render individuals self-supporting, which is the key to happiness." History shows that prejudice and conformity block progress more frequently than ignorance.

All too often, we forget to which extent the acquisition of knowledge is dependent on moral courage. Let us restate at every opportunity our right to discard facts that don't match. Only by allowing reason to thrive will we keep civilization alive.

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


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Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

How to overcome pessimism and discouragement

The Philosophy of Builders
by John Vespasian 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Philosophy of Builders
by John Vespasian

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Beware of the foolishness of change for the sake of change

Change is great. We all love to see people try to improve things. Where would we be without adventurers and risk-takers? If you are in search of glory or wish to make a fortune, it obviously pays to be first. Nevertheless, during an economic depression, it can happen that early birds just get eaten first.

Prudence is crucially important

That does not mean that we should be sceptical about innovation, but only that, when money is tight, it is advisable to be extra careful. If you are running a business these days, you are probably watching your cash-flow like a hawk. Well done. My guess is that, right now, you need to make a major mistake like you need a hole in your head.

Managing a company in recession mode demands more of the ant than of the grasshopper in our souls. When the market recovers, there will be plenty of time for taking bold risks. In the meantime, a miser's frame of mind might be what you need to ensure business survival. In my view, in difficult times, one should keep in mind the following three principles:

Rationality is the way to happiness  
Go for the easy catch

If you are running a specialist service company in Minnesota, forget about the Chinese market for the moment. Chances are that you'll be able to detect better opportunities if you concentrate your attention on people next door. Transportation costs money and communication takes time. In times of deep economic trouble, I believe in focusing all efforts on the easiest markets and putting aside, temporarily, risky expansion ideas.
Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief
Deliver high-quality work

If you are delivering services, such as painting houses, what level of quality should you try to achieve? How often do you give grounds of complaint to your customers? If your answer is never, you are doing great. If not, that might be good news as well. Quality improvements, as perceived by customers, often involve negligible costs for business. Delivering impeccable quality saves you money. For this reason, during an economic recession, I wouldn't recommend launching new products with potential quality problems that might take you down beyond hope of recovery.
The 10 Principles of Rational Living
Spend money wisely

An economic recession blurs the line between fixed and variable costs, production and overhead. When money is tight, you need to take immediate decisions about where your cash is going. Evaluating every expenditure as an investment is a technique that brings about outstanding results. Is your inventory going to make you a profit within the next two months? Which steps of your process could be eliminated without negative impact for customers? In periods of crisis, one should eliminate investments in new technologies with long payback periods, since they might eat up the cash that you need to survive right now.

When you look around and see people going bankrupt, it is not unwise to become risk-shy. Before you explore new countries, take a walk down the street. Before you invest in new technology, make sure that you can afford it. Before you take additional cargo, stabilize your ship. One day, hopefully soon, the storm will be over and we will be able to go back to plain sailing, bold innovation, and massive expansion.

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


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Rational living, rational working

How you succeed at one thing is how you succeed at everything

"Love goes towards love, as schoolboys from their books," wrote Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. Since the 17th century, times have changed to remain essentially the same. Is it not a force akin to love that moves customers in the direction of their favourite product? Or spectators to watch every game of their preferred team?
Rationality is the way to happiness 
The two primary success factors

Luckily for us, modern men and women, hundred of years of accumulated science have identified the keys to success in romantic and business undertakings. Is it not high time to proclaim that marketing wisdom has rendered Shakespeare's plays obsolete for didactic purposes?

Theatre might continue to exist as harmless entertainment for summer nights, but when it comes to learning dating and salesmanship, you are much better served by the teachings of hard science. Won't you agree with me that only fools would refuse to adopt a proven formula that knows no contrary views? Here is my condensed version of modern marketing truth:

When everything  fails, try this
1. A clear idea of what you want

An entrepreneur promoting a new product or service would be ill advised to walk around blindly trying to convince everybody he meets to make a purchase. Most likely, in that way, he would just waste his resources and make no sales at all.

Like in dating, efficient salesmen establish minimum requirements for their prospects. If you identify your prerequisites in advance, you will be able to discard quickly anybody who doesn't hit the mark. Draw a sharp picture of your target and focus your marketing energy like a laser.

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
2. Thoughtful persistence

Investors know that the best kind of assets are those who produce long-term compound growth with little risk. What you want to avoid is a situation where you must continuously shift your money from place to place. Even if you manage to make a decent return on your investment, the need to reinvent the wheel every day will leave you too exhausted to enjoy life.

Effective start-up marketing is about acquiring a few enthusiastic customers who tell their friends about the unique experience that you can provide. In the case of dating, it is even more important that uniqueness in the being goes along with consistency in the telling. From this perspective, dating is a one-number game and marketing is the same.

Anyway, should the scientific formula fail, you can always go back to classical theatre for inspiration. Marketing is, in a way, distilled philosophy, an almost exact discipline as you know, or as Shakespeare wrote in his most famous play: "Hang up philosophy, unless philosophy can make a Juliet!"

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


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Rational living, rational working

Friday, 24 October 2014

When it comes to personal development, rational ideas constitute the best tool

Opportunities are created every minute that news report a further deterioration of the economy. All sort of assets can now be bought at discounted prices.

Shares of excellent companies are on sale and pay a high dividend. Rental properties are on sale and it is still possible to get a mortgage at a reasonable rate. A two-week holiday to Greece has not been cheaper for a long time. Hundreds of small businesses are now also for sale.

Looking for a job? It is the ideal time to accept a package of shares (or other incentives) instead of a cash salary. Want to buy something and do not have money? Try bartering other items or services. There are plenty of opportunities around. Don't be afraid of the economic crisis. Relentless initiative, good sense, and a thick skin against pessimism will get you through bad times with flying colours.

Rational living, rational working
Passion requires resilience

Starting a new business? The passion to turn a product or service into a commercial success is the essential factor that determines the future of a new enterprise. Mistakes are inevitable, no matter how old and experienced the entrepreneur. This is why passion requires flexibility and resilience.

Is the selling price too high or too low? Are the distribution channels adequate for the product? Should the packaging be improved? What happens if we run out of money? To all these and other questions, the relentless passion of the entrepreneur is already weighing alternative answers.

Ideas are precious and constitute the basis of civilization. Without the concepts of free trade, freedom of speech, and human rights, our standard of living would rapidly collapse to medieval levels. Product development, production, distribution, and marketing are based on ideas. Entrepreneurship is nothing but a sustained vision driving the transformation of existing resources into more valuable products of services.

Rationality is the way to happiness
Lack of capital won't stop the dream

It is only new ideas that will take you forward, personally or professionally. Closed doors reflect fear of change. Keep you door open to new concepts and ideas. Some of them will be wrong and others will be annoying, but a few will bring about breakthrough improvements.

Lack of capital won't stop the dream, nor lack of contacts, nor massive ridicule. History shows the same story again and again. Scepticism does not need to turn to discouragement. Resistance and difficulties do not need to hit the ship under the waterline. Determination is the essential factor. Let it carry the day.

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


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

The 10 Principles of Rational Living