Tuesday, 12 January 2021

The relentless pursuit of long-term goals will render short-term annoyances insignificant

No writer was ever such a failure in life as Henry Miller before his mid-forties, and seldom has any successful contemporary author ever received such limited financial compensation for his books during his lifetime. Nevertheless, his rise as a literary power in the second half of the 20th century was as unstoppable as a tidal wave.

The first contact with Miller's novels leads most readers to an overwhelming silence, the nervous quietness that comes over the savannah after an antelope has just been taken down by a lion. 


Why is Miller's work so different from anything that had been published until that time? How come that it generates such deep feelings of admiration?


The answer does not lie in the storylines of Miller's books, since, to the extent that his novels have a plot, it is usually a messy one. His narrations remain far away from the classical three-act structure of beginning, middle and end, because Miller's purpose was to explore every bifurcation of the road before e
stablishing a definite direction.

The growing popular appreciation for Miller's work reflects the awakening of modern culture to the concerns of the individual, namely, his self-fulfilment and philosophical integrity. Miller did not describe each character's motivation, but provided the necessary details to enable readers to gain important insights.

Miller composed his books using a portable, mechanical typing machine. The manuscripts, which are now deposited at public libraries in the United States of America, show some corrections made by hand here and there, but all in all, relatively few. Unless the original text contained grammar mistakes, Miller tried to keep it, as dictated by his inspiration.

Whether you are attracted to his books or not, there are important lessons to be drawn from Miller's work methods. Those teachings will prove of interest, not only to writers, but to anyone pursuing a demanding long-term goal. 


Like old-time travelling salesmen, Miller never hesitated to propose his work to any potential customer he could find, in his case, book and magazine publishers. More often than not, he received quick rejections accompanied by unfavourable comments. 

Decade after decade, Miller shrugged his shoulders at negative reactions and kept searching for  readers that would appreciate his work.

Despite difficulties, he maintained a constant purpose throughout his life. Have you ever been evicted from your home? Or close to starvation because you could not afford a meal? Have you had your books prohibited from publication in your own country?

Tragic as these events may be, experience shows that people will react differently. A few individuals are going to suffer a nervous breakdown from which they will never recover. Many men and women are going to be psychologically paralysed for months. Yet, others will immediately get back on their feet, and start rebuilding their lost fortunes.

In the case of Miller, he experienced poverty for decades, and had his novels rejected countless times before publication. In addition, he had his best-selling novel "Tropic of Cancer" forbidden in some countries for years for reasons of public morality. 


Without the ability to maintain a lifetime perspective, Miller would have given up his ambitions a thousand times along the way.


How much your dreams mean to you is a question that no one can answer without knowing the reasons underlying your motivation. In any case, if there is one thing that you should learn from Miller, is that it pays to choose a passion that allows you to exert your talents every day, during good and bad times.

Miller worked relentlessly, especially in times of adversity. When he was not working on a new book, he would devote his energies to painting. His watercolours did not earn him millions, but he sold many of them, and created a second source of income.

How persistent are you in pursuing your interests? What are you doing today in order to improve your skills? I have read that passion and dedication will often help people reach old age in good health, and live for many years. Henry Miller was the living proof of this principle. He lived to become 89 years old.

Whether medical advances will one day extend the human lifespan to 120 years is a matter of speculation. In the meantime, chances are that you will live longer than your ancestors. Keep your long-term goals in mind, and make each day count. Happy New Year.

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

[Image: Photograph of classical tiles. 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

 https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00IP34FJQ

Here are the links to four audio interviews just published:
  1. John Vespasian interviewed by Casey Bell on "CSB Television" about writing techniques.
  2. John Vespasian interviewed by Shelley Johnson on TCN Radio Live about stress reduction.
  3. John Vespasian interviewed by Michael Edelstein and Thomas Bateman on "REBT Advocates" about using history for philosophical guidance guide.
  4. John Vespasian interviewed by Skyler Collins on "Everything Voluntary" about the principles of rational living.

 

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

The high value of alertness in difficult times

"Inquiring about prices is sinful," wrote Hugh of St Victor in the year 1130 CE, "since it only serves to aid the vice of avarice." Medieval scholars like Hugh of St Victor saw the world as immobile. For them, human beings were just passive spectators. Life was something that happened to them. No wonder that they regarded silent acceptance as a virtue.

Since Hugh of St Victor, nine centuries have passed. The universe has not changed, but humanity has accumulated a great deal of wisdom and knowledge. We have gained insights on areas that were totally unknown to medieval scholars. We are also able to solve problems much faster and less expensively that our ancestors.
 
In our century, people devote a good share of their time to looking up prices, comparing alternatives, and reading product reviews. We cut off coupons from newspapers, and compare the discounts and extra features offered by car dealers. We listen to commercials on the radio and participate in auction sales on the internet.

Indeed, most individuals will exercise due diligence before taking major decisions such as purchasing a home, enrolling in university, or getting married. It pays off to consider the pros and cons of various options, the advantages and disadvantages arising from today's decisions. Cost, energy and time will always play a role in well-reasoned choices.
 
 
 
In contrast, children and fools tend to ignore costs when they make decisions. Their mentality remains anchored in the Middle Ages. They are too lazy or inexperienced to seek price information. They are too emotional, impulsive and naive. Occasionally, thoughtlessness works in their favour, but more often than not, it will lead to disaster.

Infants and children never care about price because their priority is to get what they want right now, irrespective of the consequences. A good education should instil in them sound economic judgement, so that they learn to perceive the connection between effort and reward. They also should learn to value their talents, skills and potentialities fairly, especially when confronted with opposition.
 
Unfortunately, many adults will routinely behave like children. They give up projects too easily, sell themselves short, and discard assets they could have exploited. In fact, they convince themselves, falsely, that they have no opportunities or that they cannot build a better future. They pursue short-term advantages or enjoyment at the expense of horrendous long-term consequences.
 
I am afraid that I must count smokers and heavy drinkers in the latter category. How many of them are unaware of the health risks of smoking and alcoholism? How many of them have never heard of the suffering generated by lung cancer and liver failure, and the high costs of medical treatments? Hardly anyone. Yet, millions of people will continue to smoke and drink heavily.
 
The refusal to take costs into consideration will also manifest itself in other ways. At the time of this writing, we can all witness the consequences of decisions for which costs have not been properly assessed in advance. When faced with dire losses, alert people will admit their mistakes and correct their course. It is part of human nature to commit errors, but there is no excuse for adults to persist in failed strategies.
 

Even in periods of adversity, it is in your interest to remain conscious of prices and opportunities. If you have lost twenty per cent, do not throw the rest down the toilet. If you have lost one year, do not waste the rest of your life. Stay alert, keep your eyes open. Markets go up and down. What looks like a short-term catastrophe might open the door to great improvements.
 
Depressed prices or exaggerated valuations should not prompt rational individuals to lamentations, but to cautious action. Take your losses if that's the right way to proceed, but do not lose heart. You still have God knows how many years ahead of you. There is no reason why you should render yourself blind to opportunities.

Acquiring consciousness of prices and fair valuations is part of the process of growing up. When we become adults, we learn to think long term, and take advantage of market vagaries. During difficult periods, irrational men and women will grow despondent and sell their assets at reduced prices. Fear has undermined their self-confidence, and led them to underestimate their potential.

Before selling yourself short, it pays off to dispute your stress and anxiety. It pays off to compare your negative beliefs with reality. If other people are thriving in the face of adversity, should you not question your pessimism? If other people are finding opportunities, should you not check out what they are doing differently?

When knowledge about prices and opportunities is available practically for free, or at a relatively low cost, there are no valid excuses for selling yourself short. Do not give up your dreams in the face of setbacks. Defeatism has never solved any problem. Wisdom begins with growing conscious of your own value and potential. Look for fresh opportunities in the market and compare prices, so that you can exploit your assets fully. It is up to you to get the best compensation for your efforts. 


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

 https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00IP34FJQ

Here is the link to an audio interview just published:

Saturday, 14 November 2020

The link between fearlessness and happiness: Why you should ignore gloomy predictions

  

I find amazing the amount of time that some people will devote to convincing themselves that the world is coming to an end; that the future brings nothing good; that there is nothing they can do to improve their situation.
 
Even individuals conscious of the disadvantages of immobility will sometimes fall prey to stress, anxiety and depression. Without any sound justification, they will accept restrictions that they could easily remove if they wanted.


Why is defeatism so ingrained in culture? What makes people believe, against all evidence, that they have no chance? How is it possible that millions of individuals are victims of self-imposed blindness and paralysis?

There are three phenomena that explain why human beings are too willing to give up their initiative, and lead a life far below their possibilities.

Social convenience is the first, since it feels so good to belong to the majority. Short-term financial benefit is the second, since people fear that, if they ask uncomfortable questions and push forward, they might endanger their current income. The third motive, fear of rejection, is perhaps the strongest.

Each of those phenomena exerts a strong influence on its own. All three combined are almost irresistible. Nevertheless, experience proves that, in the long run, you will do much better if you avert emotional paralysis. If you let stress, anxiety and depression take over, they can destroy your life.

The antidote to negative emotions

Here is the antidote to those harmful phenomena: You just need to remind yourself that your personal growth is far more important than any short-term convenience, financial profit or the embarrassment of rejection.

Do not let the search for convenience repress your best initiatives. The habit of seeking other people's approval can undermine your emotional strength; it can weaken the self-reliance you need to pursue your dreams; it can wipe out the motivation you need to stake your claims. 

Remind yourself daily that the benefits you can draw from excessive conformity, although sweet, will be short-lived. Do not sell your ambitions short. If you do so, you will receive tainted money, worthless currency polluted with stress, anxiety and depression.  

Are you worried about rejection? Are you fearful that people won't like you? Do you feel anxious because you might be ostracized if you don't make the effort to fit? My guest is that you may be exaggerating the downside.

Instead of conformity and passivity

If you are surrounded by people who fail to appreciate your qualities, move on. Find better people. Find a better environment. Search for a better place to live and work. If your ideas are not appreciated by customers or neighbours, global markets are allowing you to find a better job, better customers and better friends in other cities or countries.

I won't deny that it's difficult to think for yourself in the face of opposition. Conformity and passivity always seem the best choices at first sight, but in the long term, they will make you vulnerable and unhappy. The short-term benefits of conformity and passivity are dwarfed by their lifetime cost.  

The path to success begins with the determination to take initiative every day. Commit yourself as well to ignoring gloomy predictions from the media, friends and family. The world is not coming to an end, and most dreary statements are not true anyway. Do not listen to people wallowing in imagined misery. Never give up your dreams because of defeatist forecasts. Instead of wasting time with gloomy predictions, assess your alternatives, pick up the best, and begin to walk in the right direction.

Stress, anxiety and depression will arise when people feel overwhelmed by problems and threats, or when they are facing obstacles that seem insurmountable. What is the easiest way to become fearless? Logic. Evidence. Reason. Knowledge. Wisdom. Only they can provide the means to eliminate from our mind the fallacies that are feeding negative emotions.

Rationality is what allows you to make accurate calculations, and take measured actions to improve your life. For instance, if you want to avoid stress, anxiety and depression, you should not take it personally when stupid people do stupid things. It's part of the cost of living. From time to time, other people's errors are going to harm your interests. That's life. It's not a valid reason for exaggerated anger or discouragement.

The escape from gloomy predictions

Instead of letting disruptions get the better of you, stand up and redouble your efforts to attain success. Get back on your feet and avoid passivity. Fear produces nothing and leads to nothing of value. Choose self-reliance instead. Stay cool and do not blow problems out of proportion.  

What today looks as a universal malignancy will often turn to be just a benign problem, a minor issue that you will quickly forget. What today seems a serious challenge will often have little long-term significance. If you refuse to fall prey to negative emotions, you will see that disruptions frequently contain the seed of profitable opportunities.

Whenever you hear people make gloomy predictions, that's the best time to take swift action. Push yourself to face every crisis, personal or otherwise, by taking relentless initiative. You are the one who decides which game to play and when a game is over. Change your strategy as necessary, but keep playing until you win.

Fear is the worst enemy of achievement and happiness. Immobility is always a losing proposition. Learn to view bad days as opportunities to build your creativity and strengthen your character. If you stay alert and proactive, you will soon find fresh opportunities to move forward.


Image: Photograph of classical Russian print. 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

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00IP34FJQ

 

Saturday, 10 October 2020

The peace of mind of the philosopher

 

Three thousand years ago, life in Ancient Egypt was strictly hierarchical. Each person's origin was determining which trade or profession he was to take up, his choice of spouse, food, and ideas. No dissidence was possible. There was no opposition and no escape. Progress and innovation were forbidden. Society was closed and, for hundreds of years, it remained immobile. 

When Alexander the Great arrived in Egypt in the year 332 B.C., it didn't take him long to crush the Egyptian army. The fast, entrepreneurial Greeks destroyed the bureaucratic Egyptian forces in less than two weeks. The Pharaoh was deposed and Ptolemy, a Greek general, undertook to transform Egypt into a trading emporium and a marketplace for new ideas.

Five generations later, during the years of the Roman Republic, the world had changed beyond recognition. The idea of hierarchy had disappeared from the mind of Roman citizens, irrespective of their place of residence. Despite major differences in wealth and ability, a Roman citizen did not feel inferior to anyone when it came to purchase any products or services.

Under Roman law, if merchant Croesus hired architect Vitruvius to build a house, both men were free to agree the price, terms and conditions of their contract. Although Vitruvius was working for Croesus, he did not consider his customer "his superior." A Roman citizen would have found the idea of hierarchy a laughable idea in the context of a commercial relation.

No reason for discouragement
 

Regrettably, many people today are still adhering to the old Egyptian ideas about hierarchy. How often do you hear individuals complain (or even grow depressed) because their name has been displaced in some organizational chart, or because they had failed to get some job, been fired, or gone bankrupt?

While it is indisputable that organizations need a structure to function effectively, we should not forget that what keeps individuals working together is voluntary cooperation in the form of contracts. Let me underline the word "voluntary." People work together because they freely decided to do. Because they find the exchange of work for money mutually advantageous. Hierarchies do not exist in reality, although modern intellectuals will go a long way towards obscuring this fact.

If you hire someone to clean your flat, you are exchanging your cash for a service. If you look at yourself in the mirror and feel "superior" to the person cleaning your living-room, you are at odds with reality. Similarly, if you work as an employee in a company, you are in no way "inferior" to whoever is paying you money in exchange for your services. It is just a business transaction. There is no "superior" or "inferior." Both parties are benefiting from the exchange. Otherwise, they will refrain from exchanging money for services, or services for money.


Civilized society is based on contractual agreements. It consists of a myriad of formal and informal contracts between citizens. It is unfortunate that, in today's world, intellectuals are spreading mythical theories about "leadership" and "stewardship" that do not make any sense. Those false theories are harmful because they create the illusion that human hierarchies do exist in the marketplace. Such false theories are bringing unnecessary anxiety, fear, and envy upon people who are naive enough to believe them.

The right mentality

Work and happiness are individual endeavours unrelated to "superiority" or "inferiority." Which profession you practice, which employment you take, what tasks you perform, and how much money you make, are the result of contracts that you have entered because you considered them to your advantage. You are free to prolong those contracts, or you can decide to quit and do something else.

If you ever catch yourself thinking in terms of hierarchies, stop whatever you are doing and take a minute to sharpen your vision. Take a minute to adopt a rational view of the world. It is high time to discard the ideas of "superior" and "inferior." Instead, learn to view human beings simply as buyers and sellers in the marketplace. Adopting a rational perspective of the world will bring you the peace of mind of the philosopher, and the determination of an entrepreneur who has just rediscovered his freedom to trade.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of ancient Egyptian 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


https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00IP34FJQ
Here are the links to three audio interviews just published:
  1. John Vespasian interviewed by David Pamah on "The David Pamah Show" about rational living.
  2. John Vespasian interviewed by Gina Bengston on "The Fox Den" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  3. John Vespasian interviewed by Wes Malik on "Lifelong Wellness" about Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief.

 

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

There is no need to be fearful. The key to self-reliance in times of turmoil

 

Imagine for a moment that you would be able to go after your goals without having to fear criticism from friends and family. Would you devote more efforts to pursuing your ambitions if you did not have to worry about ridicule in case of failure? How far would you invest yourself if you never had to deal with discouragement and doubts? 

There are good reasons why people fear failure more than they crave success. If you formulate the proposition in purely material terms, the discomfort suffered from not having a car is far superior to the advantages derived from having two cars. Similarly, the terror of losing all your savings in a stock market crash is stronger than the perspective of doubling your assets within five years if stock prices rise.

Worry and anxiety are powerful inhibitors of achievement. Fear can make you discard viable initiatives. Apprehension may consume your energies and prevent you from moving forward. Exaggerated concerns can block reasonable attempts to improve your situation.


You are guaranteed to stay behind if you allow your mind to blow risks out of proportion. You will give up too soon if you underestimate your capacity to adopt preventive measures. If you allow panic to control your thoughts, you will end up walking downtrodden paths for fear of lions that you have never seen. Do not follow into the trap of sticking to unproductive routines because you want to avoid the discomfort associated with change.

Books and lectures that recommend you to take risks will remain unconvincing if they are unsupported by reason. Only after adopting a thoughtful stance, your common sense will start weighing heavier than emotional speeches. Change is disruptive, but so what. You should not assume that, in times of turmoil, you stand to gain less than you risk losing. Yet, in order to increase your self-reliance, you need to stay calm and alert. Do not be misled by doubtful promises. Only realism can prompt you to overcome fear. Only rationality can lead you to take calculated, entrepreneurial risks that will enable to profit from the turmoil.


In any case, thinking must take place before action if your actions are to be productive. Planning must take place before implementation if success is to be attained. Your self-confidence needs to be built before you can exercise it. Your skills must be acquired before you can employ them. How can you overcome exaggerated fears? How can you take well-calculated steps? In which way can you increase your chances of success?

Reason is the most powerful tool for dismantling exaggerated fear, which will be invariably based on falsehoods. Once you grow convinced that you stand a good chance of accomplishing your goals, you will become less worried and more adventurous. Logic is your cardinal ally for contesting overblown concerns. The best way to face fear is to demonstrate its irrationality. Here is what you can do.
 
 
First, you should compare the perceived risks with their actual likelihood. The intensity of a potential catastrophe is unconnected to the likelihood of its occurrence. Salesmen will promote their insurance policies by painting vivid pictures of potential misfortunes, but their sales presentations seldom mention the actual statistical probability of such misfortunes taking place. If you want to increase your self-reliance and reduce your fear, you should figure out what is the actual likelihood of problems, and take measures accordingly. Reasonable measures, not driven by panic.

Second, you should assess potential threats objectively, not emotionally. Your perception of risk may be heavily influenced by cultural stereotypes. This explains why saving rates will differ from country to country, according to how citizens see their future. Or why the willingness to change jobs and move to a distant city is higher in the USA than in Europe. Or why the proportion of the population that invests in the stock market will vary from country to country. Do not let your cultural stereotypes drive your decisions. Look at problems coldly, objectively, using universal logic, reason, and prudence. 

Third, you should quantify the potential damage. Potential dangers need to be quantified in order to be properly assessed. If you let your emotions take control, you will exaggerate the negative consequences of risks, and grow exceedingly fearful. On many occasions, the material damages that you might actually suffer are minor compared to the accompanying psychological discomfort. In order to improve your effectiveness in times of turmoil, you should grow conscious of the gap between imagined damages and real potential damages. Forget about the former, and take reasonable measures to avert the latter.

Fourth, make sure that you eliminate distortions from your perceptions. It is time to realize that many of your fear are arising from stories written by marketeers. Why do California residents will protect themselves more often against earthquakes than against divorce? Because salesmen have promoted earthquake insurance very effectively although devastating earthquakes  are less likely to happen than divorce. Distortions in perception explain why few couples will sign a pre-nuptial agreement to protect themselves against an acrimonious divorce.

Taking the time to assess risks objectively is essential to your making good decisions. If you are considering a challenging professional move, forget about irrational fears and ask yourself the right questions: if your new job proves to be a disappointment, what is the actual likelihood of your becoming unemployed? If your new job proves a failure, how long would it reasonably take you to find another one?

Are you worrying about risks that have been exaggerated by marketeers trying to promote their products or services? Those who sell pension plans will paint grim pictures of retired people living in poverty, but is it a risk that really affects you? It is up to you to appraise risks according to their true severity, and take reasonable steps to protect yourself.


Unbreakable self-confidence

The next time that you hesitate between taking action or staying put, do not make a decision until you have assessed the relevant facts rationally. Make an effort to discard exaggerated emotions if those are polluting your perceptions. Stay calm, and quantify the positive and negative aspects before you choose your course of action. Weigh off the severity of risks with the likelihood of their occurrence before you determine what to do.

By employing logic, you can minimize risks and unveil opportunities. By adopting thoughtfulness, you can replace overblown concerns by prudence. You can substitute excessive worry by caution. On many occasions, a rational assessment of advantages and disadvantages will lead you to take bold initiatives, and become an entrepreneur in your everyday life.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical building. Photo taken by John Vespasian, 2021.

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter


https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00IP34FJQ
Here are the links to three audio interviews just published:
  1. John Vespasian interviewed by Mark Wagner on "The Mike Wagner Show" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  2. John Vespasian interviewed by Darren Marlow on "The Senior Bulletin" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  3. John Vespasian interviewed by Dr Michael McGee on "How to |Love" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.