Sunday, 1 March 2015

Are your ideas helping you improve your life?

Sooner or later, human beings come to realize that some ideas that they hold in high regard do not work. The most common reaction in those cases is denial. Few individuals like the uncertainty of change; even fewer are willing to admit mistakes and take openly the blame.

Thinking without distortions

Ideas engage people and people move the world. Our convictions contribute to our effectiveness more than our material resources. If we hold the right ideas, we will progress; if we believe in falsehoods and inconsistencies, we will fail. There is no escape from this principle.

Are your beliefs promoting fear or prompting you to take effective action? Have you acquired a clear view of the world? Can you see reality without the distortions of wishful thinking? Can you face life without envy and discouragement? Are your convictions hindering or supporting your motivation?

Discard unworkable concepts

We can define ideas that work as those that allow us to identify problems, analyse their causes, and figure out workable solutions. Worthless opinions are those that render us insensitive to danger, lead us to react irrationally to difficulties, and contaminate our emotions with anger or anxiety. Counter-productive views are those that sabotage our initiatives and waste our potential.

The first step to improve your life is to throw away all ideas that do not work; you have to let go of unproven theories before you embrace feasible solutions; you cannot become efficient until you discard all excuses for rigidity and inertia. In order to move forward, we must stop pushing backwards; in order to look at the horizon, we must lift our eyes from the ground.

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Saturday, 28 February 2015

The recurring theme in Horatio Alger's stories

Chances are that you have never heard of Horatio Alger. In his time, that is, during the last two decades of the 19th century, he was one the best-selling writers in the United States of America. Alger was the author of dozens of novels aimed at young readers, telling for the most part rags-to-riches stories.

"Ragged Dick" was his most famous book. Its protagonist, a quintessential Alger character, tries out his hand at different professions until he finally achieves the life of prosperity that he pursues. "He went into business," wrote Alger in that novel, "starting in a small way, and worked his way up by degrees."

The spirit of his time

If you read Alger's novels nowadays, you might find their plot too simple. His characters were, to a certain extent, stereotypes. Did Alger's stories take place in exotic, exciting settings? No, that was mostly not the case. Was Alger an author known for his ability to write impressive dialogue? Hardly. His prose was fine, but not spectacular.

Literary critics who have studied Alger's work often conclude that his extraordinary popularity was based on the fact that "his stories responded well to the spirit of his time," a period of adventurous entrepreneurs and rapid economic progress.

This conclusion might be true, but in my view, it still leaves an important aspect out of the picture. If you read Horatio Alger's stories, you will find that they address important life issues. His novels revolved around fundamental values such as ambition, independence, and integrity.

Depicting a better future

The recurring theme in Alger's books is that you, the reader, have the same right to succeed as anybody else, irrespective of your origin, family, or personal history. If you don't give up and keep on pushing, you might just make it.

"Keep up a little longer and we will save you," wrote Horatio Alger in the final chapter of his best-selling book. "Dick heard the shout and it put fresh strength into him. He battled manfully with the treacherous sea, his eyes fixed longingly on the approaching boat. Hold on tight, little boy, there's a boat coming."

No wonder that those who read Alger's novels in the late 19th century liked them so much. At that time, when the world was still untouched by radio, films, and television, Alger's popular fiction was a bright sign pointing to a better future, telling each of his readers that he had been selected to make his dreams come true. Today, a century later, this message of hope is something that we don't get to hear often enough. 

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Friday, 27 February 2015

Worrying is essentially a waste of time

Economic problems are similar to the influenza virus that marks the arrival of winter every year. Exaggerated concern seldom improves anything. Instead, individuals should identify the path that minimizes trouble and, if possible, find ways to profit from it.

Incomplete information 

Whenever you hear that inflation or deflation are coming, ask yourself how you can structure your finances in order to benefit from the situation. Can you link your income to a product whose price is likely to increase or decrease at the same pace as the overall economy? Can you reduce the amount of cash that you require to live and invest the remainder in assets that will profit from upcoming economic changes?

Economists speculate all the time about next year's rates of unemployment, inflation or deflation. For your personal investment decisions, you don't need to wait until the exact figure is known. On most occasions, knowing the general trend is enough to make rational investment choices.

If newspapers are discussing whether next year's inflation is going to be 6% or 7%, that tells you as much as you need to know. Take swift action and reflect about how to structure your finances to deal with such price increases. Worrying is essentially a waste of time. Although you cannot reshape the world according to your taste, nothing prevents you from taking measures to minimize trouble. 

Risk diversification

Discard stress, anxiety, and depression, learn to face problems in the best possible way, and become a rational investor. Your financial and philosophical sharpness will grow together. Your personal effectiveness will increase and you will become more tolerant and self-reliant.

Stop worrying, take action, and start making money. Never place all your savings on a single investment. If you acquire the habit of diversifying your investments amongst different types of assets, chances are that you will be much less troubled. If you purchase shares of solid companies around the world, your portfolio will tend to be less affected by problems in specific countries.

Learning to deal with the world's problems is a better approach than being paralysed by them. Wisdom is the process of learning what a man can achieve and what he should rather let go of. Becoming a rational investor will make you a better human being and help you overcome whatever financial fears the day may bring.  

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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Acquiring the ultimate advantage for personal growth

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.

Actions that lead to happiness

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 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.

A sense of purpose

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.

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Overcoming the psychological resistance to action

The world is plagued by problems of all sorts. During your lifetime, chances are that you will go through periods of inflation, deflation, unemployment, rising share prices and stock market crashes. Newspapers report these problems with regularity and it seems that some of them will remain unresolved in the foreseeable future.

Protect yourself

At the time of this writing, most economists agree that increased consumer prices are coming, although nobody can tell precisely when this will happen. If you live on a fixed income, as it is the case of most pensioners, you should view inflation as a cause of a serious concern.

When the media mention that a loss of purchasing power might take place within months, danger is already looming in the horizon. If you do nothing, inflation will catch you unprepared. If you take appropriate measures, that will not be the end of the story either. As soon as inflation is under control, the next problem will come to haunt us, possibly another stock market crash.

Even if you occupy a position of influence, your possibilities of changing society remain minuscule for the simple reason that millions of people out there don't care about what you think and never will. Major changes in History ultimately result from ideas held in high regard, rightly or wrongly, by significant segments of the population. Those beliefs evolve through generations and change very slowly, even in the era of the internet and the global economy.

An effective strategy

As an investor, you will be much better off if you realize your impotence to bring fundamental changes to society and stop worrying about it. An effective strategy to help other people, which is by all means a laudable intent, is to focus your efforts on a restricted field where your contribution can really make a difference.

Adopting a rational investment philosophy involves giving up unrealistic expectations and concentrating on what is feasible. You cannot prevent inflation or deflation from taking place, but if you play your cards well, you can make money from them. Instead of worrying about the disadvantages of rising or falling prices, why don't you figure out how to use each financial phenomenon for your personal profit?

Achieving a positive result in your bank account will allow you to devote your gains to helping others, if that is your wish. For each disruptive event, there is an investment strategy that can help you make a profit. Rising share prices represent the easiest situation to deal with because most people can figure out that there is plenty of money to be made if you borrow at 6% interest and invest at 12% return.

Practical action

What makes rational investment difficult is our psychological resistance to letting go of worry, recognizing past mistakes, and taking practical action. In addition, a wise man must accept that an investment method that proves successful in one environment frequently becomes unsuitable when the context changes.

Real estate and gold coins may be great investments during inflationary periods, but tend to be lousy places to keep your money when the curve turns and prices begin to fall. You certainly don't want to be caught with a huge mortgage at a high rate when the price of residential properties begins to fall.

It is up to you in each case to take sensible measures to profit from the situation or, at least, to minimize its negative consequences. As individuals, our best strategy consists of letting go of anxiety and viewing inflation, deflation, unemployment, or any other economic challenge just as another problem to be handled. 

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