Wednesday, 8 August 2018

How to face a painful loss without giving up hope for the future

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No matter how hard you work or how motivated you are, bad luck is going to hit you sooner or later. Maybe someone acting negligently or mistakenly will cause your misfortune. Maybe you will become a victim of a shift in the economy, or of some random accident. Adversity just happens.

It is not easy to recover your peace of mind when life has turned dramatically for the worse. Difficult periods will test the validity of your philosophy, and rightly so. Can your convictions help you regain serenity? Are you able to face a painful loss without giving up hope for the future?

Some psychologists recommend groundless optimism as an emotional defence against adversity. If you try out their recommendation, you will see that it doesn't work for long. In fact, you will only be wasting your time.

The human mind, for as long as it remains healthy, cannot sustain beliefs that are not anchored in reality. Self-manipulation, instead of creating joy, will only lead to bitterness, errors and confusion. Stay way from fabricated emotions.

The first step

What is the first step to improve your mood when the world seems to be falling apart? My recommendation is that you should focus on reality, and on reality only. Forget about empty positivity and gratuitous cheers because they won't do you any good.

What you need to do is to look hard at your problems, analyse and measure them. In order to recover, you first need to assess the damage, and take inventory of what you have left. An analysis of your situation should allow you to identify the real trouble, the real cause behind the adversity that has hit you. The problem might be as easily to identify as some common sickness, or the loss of a job. Or it could be an exploitative relationship or a wrong career, factors that are not so easy to detect.

Whatever the affliction, it is essential that you separate the actual problem from your emotional reaction. You worrying about bankruptcy is not the same as bankruptcy itself. Make an effort to distinguish the facts from the folklore around the facts. Unless you are in jail still for a long time, or suffering from terminal illness, you can turn around most situations. Yet, you first have to size up the problem in its real proportions.

You have to stay real, reasonable, objective. Human beings possess an innate inclination to exaggerate misfortunes. Such exaggerations will frequently grow to a ridiculous extent. Our emotions, if left unchecked, will automatically magnify our problems.

The rational response

The rational response to adversity begins with reducing difficulties to their actual size. Do not be overwhelmed by seemingly unavoidable catastrophes that might occur in the future. If you can predict a problem, chances are you can do something to solve it, or at least minimize it. Force yourself to drop exaggerated concerns, so that you can concentrate exclusively on the issues at hand.

Severe sickness is destructive and unpleasant, but you might still have many years left to enjoy life. A loss of employment or reputation will reduce your current income, but nothing prevents you from giving your career a new direction. There are countless options you can explore to rebuild your finances, reputation, and social life.

To recover your peace of mind, you don't need to become artificially optimistic. What you need to do is gain true perspective. Rationality is the path to serenity, recovery, and happiness. Can you appraise your concerns realistically, look at the next decades, and muster enough strength to shrug your shoulders? Try to say "so what?" and mean it. Chances are that you still have plenty of time to do great things in life, enjoy your days, and thrive in your chosen career. Once you get rid of exaggerated emotions, you are on your way.


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

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

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Here are the links to five audio interviews recently published:

Monday, 23 July 2018

A cure for pessimism -- Why you should practise Aristotle's advice every day

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More often than not, the desire to achieve ambitious goals immediately and easily is going to prove unrealistic. Important things, such as building your career, investments and personal relationships, demand substantial time and effort.

If you are feeling stressed because of your slow progress, remind yourself that it makes no sense to put pressure on the wrong places. Some things in life take as long as they take. The process of reaching ambitious goals is to be enjoyed day by day, not viewed as a waste of time.

Substantial skills, like learning a foreign language, require months or years of effort. Yet, the investment in effort, time and energy to pursue long-term goals is worth it. In life, you have plenty of time to find your own way. If you think that this is not the case, you may want to check your priorities.

"Some talents are innate, but others can only be acquired through practise," wrote Aristotle in twenty-five centuries ago. "The movement of animals is governed by the law of cause and effect, but the essential characteristic of human beings, rationality, can only be developed by choice." Are you aware of your choices and priorities? Are those rational and well-aligned with each other?

Slow progress

Rationality and alignment, personal or societal, should not be taken for granted. 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 only improved in the thirteenth 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 created a market for artists.
In the time of the great Renaissance artists, such as Botticelli and Michelangelo, upward social mobility became possible for an important segment of the population.

Problems and obstacles

In our days, despite problems and obstacles, our opportunities for personal development have multiplied to the extent that they are practically endless, making it easier for all of us to explore our fields of interest, grow in knowledge and skills, and find our own path.

Millions of men and women are now enjoying levels of prosperity that would have been unthinkable for the wealthiest prince in the Middle Ages. The Internet and global markets are opening new opportunities to entrepreneurship. We are living in a period of economic growth that offers countless opportunities for each person to build a better future for himself.

Ours is the century of the empowered individual. We inhabit a world where businesses can be started with negligible upfront investment, where innumerable doors are open to personal initiative, giving us plenty of opportunities to find our own way to success and happiness.

A cure for pessimism 

If you feel short-changed in any way, make a pause and look at things with perspective. If you are lucky enough to live in an industrialised country, you will not lack chances for personal development.

In moments of pessimism, remind yourself that digital media are decreasing our educational costs, that thousands of job openings are available on line, that inexpensive software apps are making our lives easier, and that the cost of starting a business 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 staying in motion in the direction of our choice. Let us transform the assets and skills we have into something more valuable. Let us seize the opportunities, and turn ourselves into a motor of change.


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:

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: