Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Join the commemoration of the sheep of Panurge


“Old people have long forgotten and the young have no time to learn,” deplored writer François Rabelais five centuries ago. What was he complaining about? The subject of his lamentations was neither social injustice nor bad manners. What bothered Rabelais was that his contemporaries ignored the lessons of History.

That problem constitutes a plague that no society has been able to eradicate. Things are changing for the better, nonetheless. In France, I am busy promoting the creation of a Society for the Remembrance of the Sheep of Panurge. My initiative aims at commemorating François Rabelais' death every year on April 9th.

The Sheep of Panurge is one of Rabelais' best known stories. The dispute between Panurge, a malicious drunkard, and Dindenault, a merchant, is recounted in the fourth book of Rabelais' series “Gargantua and Pantagruel.” The scene takes place on board of a ship that transports not only passengers, but also forty sheep “of delicate and savoury flesh,” which Dindenault is taking to the market to be sold.

Panurge requests to purchase one of Dindenault's sheep, but the merchant demands an exorbitant price. After a heated negotiation, Panurge agrees to meet Dindenault's terms, but with the secret goal of taking revenge for being overcharged. Before the merchant can figure out what's going on, Panurge throws his sheep overboard into the sea, “bleating and making a sad noise.”

When the other sheep see this, they immediately begin to run after the first one “all crying and bleating in the same tone.” One after the other, the animals leap into the sea before the astonished eyes of merchant Dindenault, who in desperation, tries to prevent his last sheep from jumping off the ship, with the only result of being carried overboard himself and drowning.

My plan for the Society for the Remembrance of the Sheep of Panurge foresees the creation of a web page with links to sister societies around the world. “It is in the nature of sheep to follow any of their kind in any random direction it may go,” explained Rabelais. “This is what makes them the most silly and foolish animals in the world.”

Since this is our first year, our celebration will be modest. In the morning of April 9th, we will gather at a restaurant in Chinon, the French town where Rabelais was born. After a hearty lunch, we will walk to a nearby farm in order to pick up the sheep that we have hired for the occasion.

It goes without saying that we are not going to drown any animals during our commemoration. It's all symbolic, of course. Instead of the ocean, we will be using a rubber pool, so that sheep can jump happily inside, one after the other, splashing water all over the place.

When all sheep are in the rubber pool, one of us, the honour falls on me this year, will read out some lines of Rabelais and lament that lessons from History are never learned.

As I said, this is the first time we do it, so the ceremony might be a bit messy. Anyway, if you want to join us for the event, you are most welcome. Remembering the Sheep of Panurge might never become a popular fashion, but it has the potential to change your life.

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

[Image by David Masters under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Join the commemoration of the sheep of Panurge


“Old people have long forgotten and the young have no time to learn,” deplored writer François Rabelais five centuries ago. What was he complaining about? The subject of his lamentations was neither social injustice nor bad manners. What bothered Rabelais was that his contemporaries ignored the lessons of History.

That problem constitutes a plague that no society has been able to eradicate. Things are changing for the better, nonetheless. In France, I am busy promoting the creation of a Society for the Remembrance of the Sheep of Panurge. My initiative aims at commemorating François Rabelais' death every year on April 9th.

The Sheep of Panurge is one of Rabelais' best known stories. The dispute between Panurge, a malicious drunkard, and Dindenault, a merchant, is recounted in the fourth book of Rabelais' series “Gargantua and Pantagruel.” The scene takes place on board of a ship that transports not only passengers, but also forty sheep “of delicate and savoury flesh,” which Dindenault is taking to the market to be sold.

Panurge requests to purchase one of Dindenault's sheep, but the merchant demands an exorbitant price. After a heated negotiation, Panurge agrees to meet Dindenault's terms, but with the secret goal of taking revenge for being overcharged. Before the merchant can figure out what's going on, Panurge throws his sheep overboard into the sea, “bleating and making a sad noise.”

When the other sheep see this, they immediately begin to run after the first one “all crying and bleating in the same tone.” One after the other, the animals leap into the sea before the astonished eyes of merchant Dindenault, who in desperation, tries to prevent his last sheep from jumping off the ship, with the only result of being carried overboard himself and drowning.

My plan for the Society for the Remembrance of the Sheep of Panurge foresees the creation of a web page with links to sister societies around the world. “It is in the nature of sheep to follow any of their kind in any random direction it may go,” explained Rabelais. “This is what makes them the most silly and foolish animals in the world.”

Since this is our first year, our celebration will be modest. In the morning of April 9th, we will gather at a restaurant in Chinon, the French town where Rabelais was born. After a hearty lunch, we will walk to a nearby farm in order to pick up the sheep that we have hired for the occasion.

It goes without saying that we are not going to drown any animals during our commemoration. It's all symbolic, of course. Instead of the ocean, we will be using a rubber pool, so that sheep can jump happily inside, one after the other, splashing water all over the place.

When all sheep are in the rubber pool, one of us, the honour falls on me this year, will read out some lines of Rabelais and lament that lessons from History are never learned.

As I said, this is the first time we do it, so the ceremony might be a bit messy. Anyway, if you want to join us for the event, you are most welcome. Remembering the Sheep of Panurge might never become a popular fashion, but it has the potential to change your life.

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

[Image by David Masters under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Sunday, 29 March 2009

The paranoia of the Swiss cheese-maker


"I will never reveal my formula to anyone," announced Ludovico Egli to the venture capitalists. At that point, it was obvious that the negotiation was over.

After spending three days in Brussels, trying to obtain funding to keep his farm afloat, Ludovico Egli had decided to reject the financiers' final offer.

Ludovico's father had passed to him the secret recipe for making Emmenthal cheese with mountain herbs. One day, it might be Ludovico's turn to pass the recipe to his son. No, he would never let strangers into a secret that had belonged to his family since the times of Wilhelm Tell.

Ludovico drove back from Brussels to Bern in his old Volkswagen, wondering what he was going to do next. He had placed all his hopes in obtaining funding from the Brussels venture capitalists.

After the failure of the negotiations, Ludovico Egli had no idea where to turn next. He was already two months late with his mortgage payments and he feared that his local bank might foreclose his farm, the land of his father and his ancestors.

When Ludovico arrived at his farm in Muri, a village near Bern, he went to bed and fell into an agitated sleep. The following morning, he got up early, as he usually did, milked the cows, took his leather bag, and walked up the mountain to pick up wild herbs to make cheese.

Ludovico knew exactly where to go. On Ludovico's seventh birthday, his father had revealed the place to him and sworn him to secrecy. "I will do whatever it takes to protect the recipe, I will protect the secret with my life," Ludovico had sworn to his father. A quarter of an hour later, he arrived at a cliff, stood still, and looked around to make sure that he was alone.

The secret herbs grew next to that cliff and nowhere else, as though they could not grow without the constant challenge of the wind. Ludovico bent down and began to pick up herbs, putting them in his leather bag.

"On Monday, I saw you drive by," said a female voice behind Ludovico's back. He froze and the herbs in his hands felt as warm as a cow's
breath in January. Ludovico turned around slowly and faced Marguerite Stutsi, who lived in an isolated house near Ludovico's farm.

"I saw you drive by the petrol station," she explained with a smile. Of course, realized Ludovico, as he remembered that Marguerite worked in the restaurant next to the petrol station. He had known Marguerite all his life. With the years, her natural beauty had become less conspicuous and more profound.

"I was just going for a walk," Ludovico replied, as though to justify his presence by the cliff. I could have not given a more stupid answer, he told himself. She must think that I am retarded, or even worse, a liar. Besides, how could she help seeing my leather bag and the herbs in my hands?

Marguerite Stutsi contemplated Ludovico in silence for a long moment, wondering why he had never asked her out. All single men in Muri had asked Marguerite out. All except Ludovico. They walked together down the mountain slope, exchanging few words.

She has seen me pick up the secret herbs, lamented Ludovico in his heart. Now she knows the secret, the recipe of my father and my ancestors. What if she tells anybody? The mere thought that his formula could fall in the hands of strangers was making Ludovico sick.

They stopped walking when they reached the crossroad and stared at each other. For a second, all crazy ideas came to Ludovico's mind. Killing Marguerite and throwing her body down the cliff. Kidnapping Marguerite and keeping her prisoner in his farm.

But then he would have to take care of her all day, and who would milk the cows? Who would make the cheese? Damn woman, what was she doing all on her own in the mountain? Why didn't she have a husband and children to take care of? No, he could not let her take away the secret.

"Marguerite," he said in an irritated tone, "will you marry me?" The question did not seem to take Marguerite Stutsi by surprise. She shrugged her shoulders and replied simply. "Why?"

Ludovico's answer showed his long practice in cheese-making. "It's better to mix the herbs w
hile the milk is still fresh. Besides, I have been planning to talk to you already since five years ago." Ludovico saw Marguerite hesitate and he added a further argument. "I want you to know that I don't mind that you work in a restaurant."

She looked at him in the eyes and nodded. It was only after the wedding that Ludovico learned that Marguerite actually owned the restaurant near the petrol station. Their daughter, Lisette, was born a year letter. One day, Ludovico will walk with his daughter up the mountain. One day, Ludovico will pass the secret recipe to her.


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

[Image by Maurice under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The paranoia of the Swiss cheese-maker


"I will never reveal my formula to anyone," announced Ludovico Egli to the venture capitalists. At that point, it was obvious that the negotiation was over.

After spending three days in Brussels, trying to obtain funding to keep his farm afloat, Ludovico Egli had decided to reject the financiers' final offer.

Ludovico's father had passed to him the secret recipe for making Emmenthal cheese with mountain herbs. One day, it might be Ludovico's turn to pass the recipe to his son. No, he would never let strangers into a secret that had belonged to his family since the times of Wilhelm Tell.

Ludovico drove back from Brussels to Bern in his old Volkswagen, wondering what he was going to do next. He had placed all his hopes in obtaining funding from the Brussels venture capitalists.

After the failure of the negotiations, Ludovico Egli had no idea where to turn next. He was already two months late with his mortgage payments and he feared that his local bank might foreclose his farm, the land of his father and his ancestors.

When Ludovico arrived at his farm in Muri, a village near Bern, he went to bed and fell into an agitated sleep. The following morning, he got up early, as he usually did, milked the cows, took his leather bag, and walked up the mountain to pick up wild herbs to make cheese.

Ludovico knew exactly where to go. On Ludovico's seventh birthday, his father had revealed the place to him and sworn him to secrecy. "I will do whatever it takes to protect the recipe, I will protect the secret with my life," Ludovico had sworn to his father. A quarter of an hour later, he arrived at a cliff, stood still, and looked around to make sure that he was alone.

The secret herbs grew next to that cliff and nowhere else, as though they could not grow without the constant challenge of the wind. Ludovico bent down and began to pick up herbs, putting them in his leather bag.

"On Monday, I saw you drive by," said a female voice behind Ludovico's back. He froze and the herbs in his hands felt as warm as a cow's
breath in January. Ludovico turned around slowly and faced Marguerite Stutsi, who lived in an isolated house near Ludovico's farm.

"I saw you drive by the petrol station," she explained with a smile. Of course, realized Ludovico, as he remembered that Marguerite worked in the restaurant next to the petrol station. He had known Marguerite all his life. With the years, her natural beauty had become less conspicuous and more profound.

"I was just going for a walk," Ludovico replied, as though to justify his presence by the cliff. I could have not given a more stupid answer, he told himself. She must think that I am retarded, or even worse, a liar. Besides, how could she help seeing my leather bag and the herbs in my hands?

Marguerite Stutsi contemplated Ludovico in silence for a long moment, wondering why he had never asked her out. All single men in Muri had asked Marguerite out. All except Ludovico. They walked together down the mountain slope, exchanging few words.

She has seen me pick up the secret herbs, lamented Ludovico in his heart. Now she knows the secret, the recipe of my father and my ancestors. What if she tells anybody? The mere thought that his formula could fall in the hands of strangers was making Ludovico sick.

They stopped walking when they reached the crossroad and stared at each other. For a second, all crazy ideas came to Ludovico's mind. Killing Marguerite and throwing her body down the cliff. Kidnapping Marguerite and keeping her prisoner in his farm.

But then he would have to take care of her all day, and who would milk the cows? Who would make the cheese? Damn woman, what was she doing all on her own in the mountain? Why didn't she have a husband and children to take care of? No, he could not let her take away the secret.

"Marguerite," he said in an irritated tone, "will you marry me?" The question did not seem to take Marguerite Stutsi by surprise. She shrugged her shoulders and replied simply. "Why?"

Ludovico's answer showed his long practice in cheese-making. "It's better to mix the herbs w
hile the milk is still fresh. Besides, I have been planning to talk to you already since five years ago." Ludovico saw Marguerite hesitate and he added a further argument. "I want you to know that I don't mind that you work in a restaurant."

She looked at him in the eyes and nodded. It was only after the wedding that Ludovico learned that Marguerite actually owned the restaurant near the petrol station. Their daughter, Lisette, was born a year letter. One day, Ludovico will walk with his daughter up the mountain. One day, Ludovico will pass the secret recipe to her.


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

[Image by Maurice under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Dissecting quick and sharp writing


When it comes to writing, quantity is not quality, but it sure helps a lot. Would Agatha Christie have made a fortune as an author if she had not written 80 books at great speed? The same goes for novelist George Simenon, who in his prime years was able to produce a complete book in two weeks.

Both Agatha Christie and George Simenon were known for their quick and sharp prose. If you are a writer in the 21st century, chances are that you post daily on your blog. Is there a way to increase your flow of ideas and to speed up your production? The following six principles can be, in my own experience, mightily helpful.

1.- FIX YOURSELF A DAILY PRODUCTION QUOTA. No formula can be made universally applicable, since we all have different schedules. Nevertheless, whatever your personal constraints, I am convinced of the positive effects of establishing a daily production objective. Even if you do a lot of travelling, you can take your laptop with you and write on the plane. A little done consistently every day will amount to a lot in just a few months.

2.- IMPROVE CONSTANTLY BY READING WIDELY. Some writers read web pages, others prefer books, newspapers, or magazines. Which one is best? It doesn't really matter as long as you do it regularly. The more varied the materials you read, the farther your mind will expand with fresh knowledge.

3.- HAVE PATIENCE, BUT NOT TOO MUCH. Doing research for an article or a novel is fine, but keep it within reason. There are sensible limits to everything and perfection rarely pays. When you really need to check some facts, do take the necessary time. Gather information with patience, but don't overdo it.

4.- WRITE QUICKLY AND EDIT EXTENSIVELY. There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to write almost as fast as you can think. Of course, the quickest you can type, the better. Some writers are fond of dictating their work into a recorder. Get your first draft done fast. Then take ample time for editing and polishing.

5.- DEFINE YOUR THEMES CLEARLY. Before you sit down to write, you should know where you want to lead your reader. Determine your theme and let it permeate every aspect of the piece you are working on. Knowing your destination will prevent you from losing your thread. Move towards your objective and do not ramble.

6.- USE SHORT WORDS, SENTENCES, AND PARAGRAPHS. There is much to read in the world and audiences have become very demanding. Text should be not only well written, but also pleasing to the eye. Keep it brief, be concise, and get to the point fast. One idea per paragraph should do. Using simple words is the best way to communicate complex ideas.

How can you prevent your improvement from stalling? There is a straightforward method to sustain your motivation to do better:
  • Set reasonable goals for yourself
  • Establish a system to measure your results
  • Use that feedback to check on your progress.
Do your running every day and soon you'll be one of fastest kids on the blog.

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

[Image by fdecomite under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Dissecting quick and sharp writing


When it comes to writing, quantity is not quality, but it sure helps a lot. Would Agatha Christie have made a fortune as an author if she had not written 80 books at great speed? The same goes for novelist George Simenon, who in his prime years was able to produce a complete book in two weeks.

Both Agatha Christie and George Simenon were known for their quick and sharp prose. If you are a writer in the 21st century, chances are that you post daily on your blog. Is there a way to increase your flow of ideas and to speed up your production? The following six principles can be, in my own experience, mightily helpful.

1.- FIX YOURSELF A DAILY PRODUCTION QUOTA. No formula can be made universally applicable, since we all have different schedules. Nevertheless, whatever your personal constraints, I am convinced of the positive effects of establishing a daily production objective. Even if you do a lot of travelling, you can take your laptop with you and write on the plane. A little done consistently every day will amount to a lot in just a few months.

2.- IMPROVE CONSTANTLY BY READING WIDELY. Some writers read web pages, others prefer books, newspapers, or magazines. Which one is best? It doesn't really matter as long as you do it regularly. The more varied the materials you read, the farther your mind will expand with fresh knowledge.

3.- HAVE PATIENCE, BUT NOT TOO MUCH. Doing research for an article or a novel is fine, but keep it within reason. There are sensible limits to everything and perfection rarely pays. When you really need to check some facts, do take the necessary time. Gather information with patience, but don't overdo it.

4.- WRITE QUICKLY AND EDIT EXTENSIVELY. There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to write almost as fast as you can think. Of course, the quickest you can type, the better. Some writers are fond of dictating their work into a recorder. Get your first draft done fast. Then take ample time for editing and polishing.

5.- DEFINE YOUR THEMES CLEARLY. Before you sit down to write, you should know where you want to lead your reader. Determine your theme and let it permeate every aspect of the piece you are working on. Knowing your destination will prevent you from losing your thread. Move towards your objective and do not ramble.

6.- USE SHORT WORDS, SENTENCES, AND PARAGRAPHS. There is much to read in the world and audiences have become very demanding. Text should be not only well written, but also pleasing to the eye. Keep it brief, be concise, and get to the point fast. One idea per paragraph should do. Using simple words is the best way to communicate complex ideas.

How can you prevent your improvement from stalling? There is a straightforward method to sustain your motivation to do better:
  • Set reasonable goals for yourself
  • Establish a system to measure your results
  • Use that feedback to check on your progress.
Do your running every day and soon you'll be one of fastest kids on the blog.

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

[Image by fdecomite under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Saturday, 28 March 2009

A wrong solution to every problem


“May prosperity, whose end is woe, never be mine,” wrote Euripides in the year 435 B.C. “I do not wish such wealth that would sting my heart.” These words from Euripides' play “Medea” express an all too common attitude towards wealth and success.

The idea is that one should refrain from desiring anything too strongly in order to prevent the pain of losing it. The fear of emotions permeates the works of Euripides. In his dramas, the warnings to his characters are always vicious, their responses harsh, and the consequences inhumane.

Euripides wrote his plays many centuries ago, but the attitudes that he portrays in his scenes have influenced writers generation after generation. Soap operas, movies, novels, and pop songs spread the belief that emotions rightly dominate our lives.

Since that idea is false, it is barely a surprise to see most of those stories end the same way as “Medea,” that is, in a bloodbath.

Wild, unrestrained emotions provide the wrong solution to every problem. “You evil villain, after all I have done for you, you have betrayed me,” cries Medea in Euripides' play when her lover Jason abandons her to marry another woman. “Wait, and I will pay you back as you deserve, my friend.”

In the Ancient Greek play, revenge goes far beyond the level one is accustomed to see in contemporary films. Medea, after assassinating the other woman, ends up also murdering her own children. Why on earth does she put them to death? To make her ex-lover Jason suffer!

Euripides' play is tainted with understanding for the poor Medea, who doesn't know any better than to kill everyone who hurts her feelings. The notion that bruised pride gives you the right to take savage revenge is profoundly unethical and reprehensible. That fallacy underlies most cases of domestic violence.

  • The hardest the tragedy, the greater your need of a firm temper.
  • The deeper the disappointment, the more urgently you should search for perspective.
In difficult situations, never let your feelings take control of your life. Self-inflicted moral blindness is the worst kind of mental impairment.

When in trouble, stand still and think. Consider your options, assess calmly which is the best way to go, and then start rebuilding your life. Irrationality and hatred only make situations worse. “Harsh temper is an unruly pest,” wrote Euripides in “Medea.”

It is high time to discard abrasive behaviour and brand it as uncivilized. It is high time to reject savage responses and mark them as criminally unacceptable. The day has come for human beings to start building their ethical ideals on nothing but reason.

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

[Image by freeparking under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

A wrong solution to every problem


“May prosperity, whose end is woe, never be mine,” wrote Euripides in the year 435 B.C. “I do not wish such wealth that would sting my heart.” These words from Euripides' play “Medea” express an all too common attitude towards wealth and success.

The idea is that one should refrain from desiring anything too strongly in order to prevent the pain of losing it. The fear of emotions permeates the works of Euripides. In his dramas, the warnings to his characters are always vicious, their responses harsh, and the consequences inhumane.

Euripides wrote his plays many centuries ago, but the attitudes that he portrays in his scenes have influenced writers generation after generation. Soap operas, movies, novels, and pop songs spread the belief that emotions rightly dominate our lives.

Since that idea is false, it is barely a surprise to see most of those stories end the same way as “Medea,” that is, in a bloodbath.

Wild, unrestrained emotions provide the wrong solution to every problem. “You evil villain, after all I have done for you, you have betrayed me,” cries Medea in Euripides' play when her lover Jason abandons her to marry another woman. “Wait, and I will pay you back as you deserve, my friend.”

In the Ancient Greek play, revenge goes far beyond the level one is accustomed to see in contemporary films. Medea, after assassinating the other woman, ends up also murdering her own children. Why on earth does she put them to death? To make her ex-lover Jason suffer!

Euripides' play is tainted with understanding for the poor Medea, who doesn't know any better than to kill everyone who hurts her feelings. The notion that bruised pride gives you the right to take savage revenge is profoundly unethical and reprehensible. That fallacy underlies most cases of domestic violence.

  • The hardest the tragedy, the greater your need of a firm temper.
  • The deeper the disappointment, the more urgently you should search for perspective.
In difficult situations, never let your feelings take control of your life. Self-inflicted moral blindness is the worst kind of mental impairment.

When in trouble, stand still and think. Consider your options, assess calmly which is the best way to go, and then start rebuilding your life. Irrationality and hatred only make situations worse. “Harsh temper is an unruly pest,” wrote Euripides in “Medea.”

It is high time to discard abrasive behaviour and brand it as uncivilized. It is high time to reject savage responses and mark them as criminally unacceptable. The day has come for human beings to start building their ethical ideals on nothing but reason.

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

[Image by freeparking under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Friday, 27 March 2009

Those who can sell are always received well


Salesmanship is the mark of civilization. It demands the capacity to communicate with others, empathy to understand their needs, and flexibility to recognize what works and what doesn't. When you look at a society of great merchants, you will be see freedom, prosperity, and generosity.

On the other hand, if commercial abilities are so essential, how come that only a small percentage of the population make the effort to acquire them? Companies often complain about how difficult it is to find good salesmen. Is this phenomenon a temporary problem or only the tip of the iceberg?

Societies that produce decreasing numbers of salesmen are moving backwards in time. To which extent are we headed towards more primitive levels of psychological development? Are you sceptical about the seriousness of the problem? The scenario might be even worse than you think.

  • What are the reasons behind the chronic scarcity of good marketers?
  • Why is salesmanship excluded from the primary school curriculum?
  • How come that some people view commerce as an activity placed only one step away from evil?
The answer can be only this one: good marketing is at the same time a highly valuable and an extremely difficult process. In fact, there are few things in life as challenging as finding customers for a new product.

How can we expand the commercial skills of every employee? Is there an easy way to allow each person to develop his hidden sales potential? The following unconventional idea might help turn the tide: It is high time to put everybody into sales.

In a sizeable company, which employees are most likely to lose touch with reality? Those whose tasks are removed from the process of selling to customers! Let me emphasize that “contact with customers” does not necessarily involve sales.

Take service jobs for instance. How often have you seen movies where a bus driver's job is portrayed as the ultimate non-commercial experience?

In that occupation, the trip destination, the time table, and the ticket price are fixed in advance. Does that leave no room for salesmanship at all? How would you improve the situation is you happened to own a bus company?

Change your perspective for a moment and imagine now that you are the driver and that you own the bus yourself. You know that your livelihood depends on your regular customers. How would that affect your performance?
  • Would you smile to passengers?
  • Would you pour them a free cup of coffee from time to time?
  • Would you try to sell them newspapers and chocolate?
  • How clean would you keep your bus?
My point is that it doesn't matter if you are the driver or the company owner. In all cases, salesmanship will enhance your income and render you more tolerant. You will find yourself striving to understand other people's point of view in any discussion and your vision of the world will become progressively sharper.

I could give you twenty reasons in favour of your exerting yourself to become a good marketer, but if I was pushed to choose one single argument, this is the one I'd select: acquiring a salesman's wisdom will simply turn you into a better human being.

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

[Image by Wolfgang Staudt under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Thursday, 26 March 2009

If you want cheap oranges, go to Morocco


Are you looking for a guaranteed way to waste the rest of your life? Here it is: spend your time searching for things where there aren't.

I have also a second formula for squandering your days: spend your time chasing people that are unavailable. The same goes for attempting to travel to places that are not accessible.

We all engage in this kind of pursuits occasionally and that's fine, since no one has perfect knowledge. What is terrifying is when someone persists in trying to pull through an impossible trick. Children do that and so do mice trapped in a maze, but why on earth don't adults know better than that?

The reasons for this type of counter-productive behaviour is unpleasantly ordinary: intellectual laziness. Our desire for comfort and ease often makes us blind to obvious truths.

If you want cheap oranges, go to Morocco and not to the airport deli. This straightforward principle, if applied consistently, can bring major improvements to your life. Let us consider three examples:

1.- DO NOT LOOK FOR A JOB IN THE DESERT. You might get lucky and find the only opening available, but chances are that you won't. If you labour at the only factory in a small town and the factory closes, don't waste your time hanging around waiting for a miracle. Pack your things, get into your car, and drive to a place where businesses are hiring.

2.- DO NOT TRY TO SELL PRODUCTS WHERE THERE ARE NO BUYERS. You would be amazed to see the number of empty houses, apartments, and malls in areas where not that many people live. Real estate developers have wasted fortunes putting up buildings on locations where few people are interested in buying or renting.

Why did they not conduct a thorough market research before investing millions? Who knows, maybe they didn't know any better, but the lesson to be drawn is clear. You should focus your sales efforts on places where there are customers.

3.- DO NOT GO TO SIBERIA SEEKING WARM WEATHER. Some people choose to live in places where there is a lousy weather most of the year. There are usually good reasons for doing that, such as cheap housing, low criminality, and abundant job opportunities.

This is not a philosophical issue and you should choose whatever location you like best. My point is that, if you live in a cold area and you happen to love warm weather, your complaining is not going to change anything.

Is a pleasant temperature outside home one of your priorities? If your answer is positive, there are plenty of warm areas on earth to where you can relocate at a reasonable cost.

In conclusion:
  • Every minute employed in pursuing the impossible is gone forever, without profit nor joy.
  • The world is complicated and problematic enough as it is. Attempting to carry out what is obviously unfeasible is pointless and does not even make a good hobby.
How can this lesson contribute to our well-being? The formula can be summarized in a few words: Stay away from barren earth and focus your efforts on fruitful fields.

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

[Image by Milica Sekulic under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

If you want cheap oranges, go to Morocco


Are you looking for a guaranteed way to waste the rest of your life? Here it is: spend your time searching for things where there aren't.

I have also a second formula for squandering your days: spend your time chasing people that are unavailable. The same goes for attempting to travel to places that are not accessible.

We all engage in this kind of pursuits occasionally and that's fine, since no one has perfect knowledge. What is terrifying is when someone persists in trying to pull through an impossible trick. Children do that and so do mice trapped in a maze, but why on earth don't adults know better than that?

The reasons for this type of counter-productive behaviour is unpleasantly ordinary: intellectual laziness. Our desire for comfort and ease often makes us blind to obvious truths.

If you want cheap oranges, go to Morocco and not to the airport deli. This straightforward principle, if applied consistently, can bring major improvements to your life. Let us consider three examples:

1.- DO NOT LOOK FOR A JOB IN THE DESERT. You might get lucky and find the only opening available, but chances are that you won't. If you labour at the only factory in a small town and the factory closes, don't waste your time hanging around waiting for a miracle. Pack your things, get into your car, and drive to a place where businesses are hiring.

2.- DO NOT TRY TO SELL PRODUCTS WHERE THERE ARE NO BUYERS. You would be amazed to see the number of empty houses, apartments, and malls in areas where not that many people live. Real estate developers have wasted fortunes putting up buildings on locations where few people are interested in buying or renting.

Why did they not conduct a thorough market research before investing millions? Who knows, maybe they didn't know any better, but the lesson to be drawn is clear. You should focus your sales efforts on places where there are customers.

3.- DO NOT GO TO SIBERIA SEEKING WARM WEATHER. Some people choose to live in places where there is a lousy weather most of the year. There are usually good reasons for doing that, such as cheap housing, low criminality, and abundant job opportunities.

This is not a philosophical issue and you should choose whatever location you like best. My point is that, if you live in a cold area and you happen to love warm weather, your complaining is not going to change anything.

Is a pleasant temperature outside home one of your priorities? If your answer is positive, there are plenty of warm areas on earth to where you can relocate at a reasonable cost.

In conclusion:
  • Every minute employed in pursuing the impossible is gone forever, without profit nor joy.
  • The world is complicated and problematic enough as it is. Attempting to carry out what is obviously unfeasible is pointless and does not even make a good hobby.
How can this lesson contribute to our well-being? The formula can be summarized in a few words: Stay away from barren earth and focus your efforts on fruitful fields.

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

[Image by Milica Sekulic under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

How to remove the main obstacle to self-reliance


Given infinite time, everybody would be able to attain his goals in life.
  • Years spent moving around without direction would not matter much, since you would be able to try your luck countless times at any game.
  • Even making the same mistake repeatedly wouldn't bring anyone down, since errors lose relevance when compared with the possibility of endless improvement.
A boundless availability of time would render people fearless, but such infinity does not exist for any individual. By the time we reach our tenth year of age, we have all already acquired a solid grasp of the meaning of time.

Internalizing the fact that the human lifespan is limited pushes many into a chronic state of fear. The years available to a person for developing his relationships and career are not countless.

Time constraints magnify the consequences of mistakes. Excessive concern for the future is often the by-product of this realization.

A solid level of self-reliance is the perfect antidote to irrational apprehensions. No matter how lucky you are in any field, life will present you with a never-ending series of problems.

How can you increase your capacity to respond rationally and effectively to challenges? Which technique could you use to build self-confidence and peace of mind?

I have myself employed different methods with various levels of success. The approach that has
by far proven to be the most effective is removing the fantasy that constitutes the main obstacle to self-reliance. That fantasy is called perfection.

When we take delivery of a new car, we all know that, sooner or later, it is going to be scratched. If we cling to the belief that our vehicle must remain forever intact under any circumstances, what will be the likely consequences?

  • On the one side, we will become extremely upset the first time that the car suffers a minor scratch.
  • In addition, to reduce the possibility of damaging the car, some would tend to drive at such ridiculously slow speed that they might even cause themselves a traffic accident.

What can you do about it? My answer is simple. Make attempts at doing reasonably well in whatever you are up to, but forget about trying to achieve perfection. Seeking permanent bliss in life is like trying to learn a new game without ever making any mistakes.

Unrealistic expectations only lead to wasted effort. They will create extremely high levels of stress, shame, inhibition, and psychological paralysis.

Giving up the search for perfection and adopting a more realistic approach to life will naturally enhance your self-reliance. Let that be the engine that carries you forward on the road to a better life.

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

[Image by Klearchos Kapoutsis under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

How to remove the main obstacle to self-reliance


Given infinite time, everybody would be able to attain his goals in life.
  • Years spent moving around without direction would not matter much, since you would be able to try your luck countless times at any game.
  • Even making the same mistake repeatedly wouldn't bring anyone down, since errors lose relevance when compared with the possibility of endless improvement.
A boundless availability of time would render people fearless, but such infinity does not exist for any individual. By the time we reach our tenth year of age, we have all already acquired a solid grasp of the meaning of time.

Internalizing the fact that the human lifespan is limited pushes many into a chronic state of fear. The years available to a person for developing his relationships and career are not countless.

Time constraints magnify the consequences of mistakes. Excessive concern for the future is often the by-product of this realization.

A solid level of self-reliance is the perfect antidote to irrational apprehensions. No matter how lucky you are in any field, life will present you with a never-ending series of problems.

How can you increase your capacity to respond rationally and effectively to challenges? Which technique could you use to build self-confidence and peace of mind?

I have myself employed different methods with various levels of success. The approach that has
by far proven to be the most effective is removing the fantasy that constitutes the main obstacle to self-reliance. That fantasy is called perfection.

When we take delivery of a new car, we all know that, sooner or later, it is going to be scratched. If we cling to the belief that our vehicle must remain forever intact under any circumstances, what will be the likely consequences?

  • On the one side, we will become extremely upset the first time that the car suffers a minor scratch.
  • In addition, to reduce the possibility of damaging the car, some would tend to drive at such ridiculously slow speed that they might even cause themselves a traffic accident.

What can you do about it? My answer is simple. Make attempts at doing reasonably well in whatever you are up to, but forget about trying to achieve perfection. Seeking permanent bliss in life is like trying to learn a new game without ever making any mistakes.

Unrealistic expectations only lead to wasted effort. They will create extremely high levels of stress, shame, inhibition, and psychological paralysis.

Giving up the search for perfection and adopting a more realistic approach to life will naturally enhance your self-reliance. Let that be the engine that carries you forward on the road to a better life.

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

[Image by Klearchos Kapoutsis under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

If happiness is a long shot, it pays to aim close

How would you rate your current level of happiness from 1 to 10? If you are already experiencing the highest levels of personal satisfaction, congratulations. Most people aren't.

My next questions is even more sensitive. If you were to assume for yourself a life expectancy of 80 years, at what levels of happiness are you aiming for the rest of your life?

Men and women who are already enjoying a great life worry about how they are going to maintain it year after year. Those living in less than perfect conditions are usually full of hope for a better future. The crucial question is, of course, how we get there.

If happiness is a long shot, it pays to aim as close as possible. How can we make sure that we are moving in the right direction? These three principles have often helped me sharpen my focus:

1.- ONLY PRECISE DEFINITIONS MAKE PERSONAL SATISFACTION POSSIBLE. People have different ideas of what it means to be happy, but this does not mean that random events possess the capacity to improve your life.

Happiness is composed of specific experiences that we long to have. Well-being is a positive event, something that we crave, a place where we want to be. Make an effort to draw a detailed picture of your ambitions so that it serves you as compass while you are walking through the desert.

2.- HAPPINESS INVOLVES AVOIDANCE. At a very minimum, it demands the postponement of death. What negative elements do you need to keep away in order to be happy? Make the list as long as you need. Pain and sickness should be amongst the things to avert. The same goes, for most people, for poverty and discomfort.

Your compilation of negatives won't be finished before you add names of certain persons, or perhaps types of persons, that you deeply dislike. The purpose of this exercise is to make you conscious of which negative aspects you consider incompatible with happiness.

3.- PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING REQUIRES A SENSE OF DIRECTION. This crucial aspect is often overlooked. Lacking a sense of direction is equivalent to trusting luck for raising your personal level of satisfaction. Clarity of purpose gives an individual a target to achieve and a path to follow.

Steps taken with the the right destination in mind are likely to improve the quality of your experiences, at least in the long term. Your life should flow towards your objectives. Steer your way to pursue your specific goals, while at the same time, try to keep off those negative aspects that you wish to avoid.

Whatever your present situation, achieving a better future is going to involve substantial work. Most people are able to motivate themselves for a short while, but they are quick to give up when they meet the first difficulties.

Draw a sharp picture of your future and that vision will provide you with a clear sense of direction. Only consistent, rational ambitions sustain the long-term motivation that allows individuals to reach the highest levels of happiness.

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

[Image by chefranden under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

If happiness is a long shot, it pays to aim close

How would you rate your current level of happiness from 1 to 10? If you are already experiencing the highest levels of personal satisfaction, congratulations. Most people aren't.

My next questions is even more sensitive. If you were to assume for yourself a life expectancy of 80 years, at what levels of happiness are you aiming for the rest of your life?

Men and women who are already enjoying a great life worry about how they are going to maintain it year after year. Those living in less than perfect conditions are usually full of hope for a better future. The crucial question is, of course, how we get there.

If happiness is a long shot, it pays to aim as close as possible. How can we make sure that we are moving in the right direction? These three principles have often helped me sharpen my focus:

1.- ONLY PRECISE DEFINITIONS MAKE PERSONAL SATISFACTION POSSIBLE. People have different ideas of what it means to be happy, but this does not mean that random events possess the capacity to improve your life.

Happiness is composed of specific experiences that we long to have. Well-being is a positive event, something that we crave, a place where we want to be. Make an effort to draw a detailed picture of your ambitions so that it serves you as compass while you are walking through the desert.

2.- HAPPINESS INVOLVES AVOIDANCE. At a very minimum, it demands the postponement of death. What negative elements do you need to keep away in order to be happy? Make the list as long as you need. Pain and sickness should be amongst the things to avert. The same goes, for most people, for poverty and discomfort.

Your compilation of negatives won't be finished before you add names of certain persons, or perhaps types of persons, that you deeply dislike. The purpose of this exercise is to make you conscious of which negative aspects you consider incompatible with happiness.

3.- PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING REQUIRES A SENSE OF DIRECTION. This crucial aspect is often overlooked. Lacking a sense of direction is equivalent to trusting luck for raising your personal level of satisfaction. Clarity of purpose gives an individual a target to achieve and a path to follow.

Steps taken with the the right destination in mind are likely to improve the quality of your experiences, at least in the long term. Your life should flow towards your objectives. Steer your way to pursue your specific goals, while at the same time, try to keep off those negative aspects that you wish to avoid.

Whatever your present situation, achieving a better future is going to involve substantial work. Most people are able to motivate themselves for a short while, but they are quick to give up when they meet the first difficulties.

Draw a sharp picture of your future and that vision will provide you with a clear sense of direction. Only consistent, rational ambitions sustain the long-term motivation that allows individuals to reach the highest levels of happiness.

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

[Image by chefranden under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Sunday, 22 March 2009

How to slow down for the big run


“You are a strange man, Ludovico,” complained Alessandra Benucci. “You say that you love me, but you care as little for me as you do for your career.” Ludovico Ariosto looked out of the window and did not reply immediately.

His new job as governor of Lucca was difficult and his salary meagre, but the beauty of Tuscany never ceased to astonish him whenever he looked outside. “Sometimes, you have to slow down to prepare yourself for a long run,” answered Ludovico, shrugging his shoulders. “Anyway, at this moment, this was the only job I could get.”

“But you promised that we would get married soon,” went on Alessandra, walking up to him and setting her hand on his shoulder. It was June of 1516 and, in three months, Ludovico would be 42 years old. He turned around to face Alessandra and saw his promises reflected in her eyes.

“I am just asking you to have a little patience, my love,” he said, taking in a deep breath. “We will be married as soon as I have saved enough money to lead a proper life.” How often had he tried to explain that to her? A hundred or a thousand times, it didn't matter.

Ludovico had changed jobs often, always moving forward, working endless days only to be able to devote his nights to his passion. After years of efforts, he had just completed his poem “Orlando Furioso,” although he was still planning to make some revisions.

“You should just let it go as it is now, Ludovico,” exhorted Alessandra. “Your poem is more than good, it is even more than wonderful! It is high time for you to forget about it and work on something else. Why don't you write a Venetian comedy to please the Bishop? Or a song dedicated to the Duke?”

During the following eight years, Ludovico saved as much money as he could from his small salary. Shortly after his 50th birthday, he fulfilled his promise and married Alessandra. The couple purchased a small farm near Ferrara and retired to live there.

When Ludovico Ariosto's poem “Orlando Furioso” was published, only eighty six copies were printed. During his retirement in the farm, his revisions of the poem never ceased. It is believed that he rewrote parts of it at least two hundred times.

Little by little, the reputation of “Orlando Furioso” began to grow. By the time Ludovico was 57 years old, his poem had been already reprinted many times and was already considered the work of a genius. Ludovico, nevertheless, continued to make new revisions one after the other. After his death, Alessandra Benucci published the final version. It was absolutely perfect.

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

[Image by Jule_Berlin under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

How to slow down for the big run


“You are a strange man, Ludovico,” complained Alessandra Benucci. “You say that you love me, but you care as little for me as you do for your career.” Ludovico Ariosto looked out of the window and did not reply immediately.

His new job as governor of Lucca was difficult and his salary meagre, but the beauty of Tuscany never ceased to astonish him whenever he looked outside. “Sometimes, you have to slow down to prepare yourself for a long run,” answered Ludovico, shrugging his shoulders. “Anyway, at this moment, this was the only job I could get.”

“But you promised that we would get married soon,” went on Alessandra, walking up to him and setting her hand on his shoulder. It was June of 1516 and, in three months, Ludovico would be 42 years old. He turned around to face Alessandra and saw his promises reflected in her eyes.

“I am just asking you to have a little patience, my love,” he said, taking in a deep breath. “We will be married as soon as I have saved enough money to lead a proper life.” How often had he tried to explain that to her? A hundred or a thousand times, it didn't matter.

Ludovico had changed jobs often, always moving forward, working endless days only to be able to devote his nights to his passion. After years of efforts, he had just completed his poem “Orlando Furioso,” although he was still planning to make some revisions.

“You should just let it go as it is now, Ludovico,” exhorted Alessandra. “Your poem is more than good, it is even more than wonderful! It is high time for you to forget about it and work on something else. Why don't you write a Venetian comedy to please the Bishop? Or a song dedicated to the Duke?”

During the following eight years, Ludovico saved as much money as he could from his small salary. Shortly after his 50th birthday, he fulfilled his promise and married Alessandra. The couple purchased a small farm near Ferrara and retired to live there.

When Ludovico Ariosto's poem “Orlando Furioso” was published, only eighty six copies were printed. During his retirement in the farm, his revisions of the poem never ceased. It is believed that he rewrote parts of it at least two hundred times.

Little by little, the reputation of “Orlando Furioso” began to grow. By the time Ludovico was 57 years old, his poem had been already reprinted many times and was already considered the work of a genius. Ludovico, nevertheless, continued to make new revisions one after the other. After his death, Alessandra Benucci published the final version. It was absolutely perfect.

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

[Image by Jule_Berlin under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

My five defensive investments against the upcoming inflation

All signs tell us that inflation is around the corner. Today March 21, 2009, nobody knows exactly how steep price increases are going to be. Should we expect a rise between 5% and 15% per year during the next thirty six months? To which extent should we fear a much higher inflation?

Whatever the answer to this question, I am already adopting for my own investment portfolio a defensive strategy against inflation. Since I am too much of a dividend lover and I know little about precious metals, I am not going to purchase gold.

In my view, there are two alternatives that should lead to results that are roughly similar to purchasing gold:
  • Investing in oil companies, since sooner or later, inflation will propel oil prices to a higher plateau.
  • Buying shares of companies that operate in countries with short-term prospects of economic growth.
At this moment, I am considering the following five companies for possible purchases for my own investment portfolio:

1.- MARATHON OIL (NYSE:MRO). The current low price of oil has driven down these shares more than 40% during the last year. Their price/earning ratio today is about 5 and they are yielding around 3.5%. The profits of this company should rise if oil prices go back to the level of a few months ago.

2.- CHEVRON (NYSE: CVX). The low price of oil these days has pushed these shares more than 20% downwards during the last year. The current price/earning ratio is about 5.5 and the yield around 3.8%. This is another company that should benefit from a rebound of oil prices.

3.- CHINA MOBILE (NYSE: CHL). Their number of cell phone subscribers continues to increase and their profits should go up or, at least, remain stable. If the Chinese currency gains value, this will result in extra profits for international investors holding these shares. The current yield lies around 3.5% and the price/earnings ratio is about 10.

4.- TELKOM INDONESIA (NYSE:TLK). With a current yield about 8% and a price/earning ratio of 11, these shares allow an easy way to invest in the Indonesian economy. The company provides fixed line and cellular communications and serves more than 63 million customers.

5.- AMERICA MOVIL (NYSE:AMX). The price/earnings ratio is about 11 and the yield is around 1.5%. This company operates cellular phone networks in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and other South American countries. They provide services to around 150 million customers.

These five large companies should offer no great operational surprises. I am risk-shy and this is the kind of investments I favour in my own portfolio. Can anyone guarantee a rise in the shares of oil companies and international telephone providers? No, nobody can offer such guarantee.

For my own investments, I try to rely on reasonable assumptions and these five companies seem reasonably well positioned to maintain their value in case of high inflation. What do you think?

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

[Image by twoblueday under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

My five defensive investments against the upcoming inflation

All signs tell us that inflation is around the corner. Today March 21, 2009, nobody knows exactly how steep price increases are going to be. Should we expect a rise between 5% and 15% per year during the next thirty six months? To which extent should we fear a much higher inflation?

Whatever the answer to this question, I am already adopting for my own investment portfolio a defensive strategy against inflation. Since I am too much of a dividend lover and I know little about precious metals, I am not going to purchase gold.

In my view, there are two alternatives that should lead to results that are roughly similar to purchasing gold:
  • Investing in oil companies, since sooner or later, inflation will propel oil prices to a higher plateau.
  • Buying shares of companies that operate in countries with short-term prospects of economic growth.
At this moment, I am considering the following five companies for possible purchases for my own investment portfolio:

1.- MARATHON OIL (NYSE:MRO). The current low price of oil has driven down these shares more than 40% during the last year. Their price/earning ratio today is about 5 and they are yielding around 3.5%. The profits of this company should rise if oil prices go back to the level of a few months ago.

2.- CHEVRON (NYSE: CVX). The low price of oil these days has pushed these shares more than 20% downwards during the last year. The current price/earning ratio is about 5.5 and the yield around 3.8%. This is another company that should benefit from a rebound of oil prices.

3.- CHINA MOBILE (NYSE: CHL). Their number of cell phone subscribers continues to increase and their profits should go up or, at least, remain stable. If the Chinese currency gains value, this will result in extra profits for international investors holding these shares. The current yield lies around 3.5% and the price/earnings ratio is about 10.

4.- TELKOM INDONESIA (NYSE:TLK). With a current yield about 8% and a price/earning ratio of 11, these shares allow an easy way to invest in the Indonesian economy. The company provides fixed line and cellular communications and serves more than 63 million customers.

5.- AMERICA MOVIL (NYSE:AMX). The price/earnings ratio is about 11 and the yield is around 1.5%. This company operates cellular phone networks in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and other South American countries. They provide services to around 150 million customers.

These five large companies should offer no great operational surprises. I am risk-shy and this is the kind of investments I favour in my own portfolio. Can anyone guarantee a rise in the shares of oil companies and international telephone providers? No, nobody can offer such guarantee.

For my own investments, I try to rely on reasonable assumptions and these five companies seem reasonably well positioned to maintain their value in case of high inflation. What do you think?

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

[Image by twoblueday under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Saturday, 21 March 2009

The biggest hurdles on your road to success and how to overcome them


Past mistakes have taught me many lessons. The most essential has been to make me realize the crucial value of ideas. You will find many obstacles on your way to a better life, but wrong ideas often constitute the largest hurdle to be overcome. Ignorance can keep you down for a while, but having wrong ideas can literally destroy your life.


Philosophical convictions play such a determinant role because they focus your mind on a goal and allow you to advance relentlessly in that direction. On the other hand, having wrong values is equivalent to putting blinders on your eyes. If you have a mistaken philosophy, you won't be able to perceive opportunities.


You cannot move forward until you stop leaning backwards. You cannot take effective action until you stop chasing counter-productive targets. The following two poisonous ideas build enormous obstacles to success.


1. FEELING ASHAMED. You can make yourself ashamed of being too quick or too slow, too small or too fat, too ignorant or too old, or for who knows what. Whether your particular reason is one or the other, it doesn't matter. You should not allow any of them to discourage you from moving forward.


If people criticize you, listen carefully, see if they have a point, try to improve whatever it is, assuming that it is something under your control, and move on.


Whatever you do and no matter how well you do it, lots of people will dislike you. Learn from their remarks if those make sense, shrug your shoulders at the rest, and continue to advance on your chosen path.


2. BELIEVING THAT YOU HAVE NO CHANCE IN LIFE. There will always exist people who possess everything you want and who got it without much effort. I am not denying that some owe their success to inheritance, luck, or family connections.


Does that mean that you should be paralysed by envy? Is that a sign telling you to give up your hopes of success? Not at all. For your personal achievement, other people's good luck is irrelevant in the long term.


Imagine, for instance, that a competitor has great political connections and that you have none. If such connections are required to succeed in a certain field, you'd do better to acknowledge that reality.


It doesn't mean that you have no chance in life. Take it instead as a message for you to move on and get down to work in an field where you have better prospects.


Crying about the unfairness of the world is mostly a waste of time. By all means, if you have decided to devote your life to promote justice, nothing speaks against your concentrating your energies on improving society.


Nevertheless, do not delude yourself that you need to change the whole world before you become successful in your own life. My guess is that, on your road to achievement, your largest obstacles will be wrong ideas. Throw them away today.


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

[Image by ahisgett under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The biggest hurdles on your road to success and how to overcome them


Past mistakes have taught me many lessons. The most essential has been to make me realize the crucial value of ideas. You will find many obstacles on your way to a better life, but wrong ideas often constitute the largest hurdle to be overcome. Ignorance can keep you down for a while, but having wrong ideas can literally destroy your life.


Philosophical convictions play such a determinant role because they focus your mind on a goal and allow you to advance relentlessly in that direction. On the other hand, having wrong values is equivalent to putting blinders on your eyes. If you have a mistaken philosophy, you won't be able to perceive opportunities.


You cannot move forward until you stop leaning backwards. You cannot take effective action until you stop chasing counter-productive targets. The following two poisonous ideas build enormous obstacles to success.


1. FEELING ASHAMED. You can make yourself ashamed of being too quick or too slow, too small or too fat, too ignorant or too old, or for who knows what. Whether your particular reason is one or the other, it doesn't matter. You should not allow any of them to discourage you from moving forward.


If people criticize you, listen carefully, see if they have a point, try to improve whatever it is, assuming that it is something under your control, and move on.


Whatever you do and no matter how well you do it, lots of people will dislike you. Learn from their remarks if those make sense, shrug your shoulders at the rest, and continue to advance on your chosen path.


2. BELIEVING THAT YOU HAVE NO CHANCE IN LIFE. There will always exist people who possess everything you want and who got it without much effort. I am not denying that some owe their success to inheritance, luck, or family connections.


Does that mean that you should be paralysed by envy? Is that a sign telling you to give up your hopes of success? Not at all. For your personal achievement, other people's good luck is irrelevant in the long term.


Imagine, for instance, that a competitor has great political connections and that you have none. If such connections are required to succeed in a certain field, you'd do better to acknowledge that reality.


It doesn't mean that you have no chance in life. Take it instead as a message for you to move on and get down to work in an field where you have better prospects.


Crying about the unfairness of the world is mostly a waste of time. By all means, if you have decided to devote your life to promote justice, nothing speaks against your concentrating your energies on improving society.


Nevertheless, do not delude yourself that you need to change the whole world before you become successful in your own life. My guess is that, on your road to achievement, your largest obstacles will be wrong ideas. Throw them away today.


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

[Image by ahisgett under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Friday, 20 March 2009

Accused of writing fairy tales


“If you want to change, listen to my refrain. If you want to improve, let go of your past and move.” Hans-Christian Andersen read the poem that he had just composed and bit his lip. As an apprentice to tailor Abramovich, his present days were bleak. His future as a poet was a dream about which he dared not speak.


“I am much better at writing stories,” he concluded with a smile, remembering the tale he had written the day before about a swan's egg that accidentally rolled into a duck's nest. When the baby-bird breaks out of the shell, it looks so different from the ducks, that it is mistreated and ostracised until it eventually grows up to become a beautiful swan and flies away to its true home. As a title for his story, Hans-Christian had chosen “The Ugly Duckling.”


Suddenly, the front door opened and Abramovich himself entered the tailor's shop. Hans-Christian pushed his poem under the cloth lying on the counter, picked up the scissors, and pretended to be cutting material for making a pair of trousers for a customer.


“What on earth is this?” shouted Abramovich, standing still in front of the counter and waving in his hand a sheet of paper. Hans-Christian looked at the paper, recognized his own hand-writing, and turned pale. It was his story about the ugly duckling!


“I am not paying you a salary to waste the day writing fairy tales!” accused Abramovich, scrutinizing the face of his apprentice. Hans-Christian felt invaded by panic, realizing that he must have forgotten the sheet of paper on the stone bench outside the tailor's shop. If he lost his job, chances were that he would starve. In the year 1822, thousands of unemployed walked hungry the streets of Copenhagen.


“Fairy tales?” retorted Hans-Christian. “The author cannot be me! Do you think that I possess enough imagination to write fairy tales?” The question made Abramovich reflect briefly before replying. “No, of course no, Hans-Christian. Never in a thousand years! How foolish of me to suspect you, since I know that you have no talent.”


Soon after, Hans-Christian moved to another job, began to publish his fairy tales, and eventually became the most famous Scandinavian author. Twenty years later, when Hans-Christian was walking past the tailor's shop, the door opened, and Abramovich came outside, now an old man. The tailor recognized his former apprentice and pointed a finger at him.


“So it was you!” accused Abramovich. “It was you who wrote the fairy tale about the ugly duckling!” Hans-Christian turned his head towards the tailor's shop and his mind recalled every dark hour of his youth. It took him almost a minute to gather sufficient strength to look at the tailor straight in the eye and shake his head decisively. “That was not me,” he said. “That must have been the man I was before.”


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

[Image by njscott-H under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Accused of writing fairy tales


“If you want to change, listen to my refrain. If you want to improve, let go of your past and move.” Hans-Christian Andersen read the poem that he had just composed and bit his lip. As an apprentice to tailor Abramovich, his present days were bleak. His future as a poet was a dream about which he dared not speak.


“I am much better at writing stories,” he concluded with a smile, remembering the tale he had written the day before about a swan's egg that accidentally rolled into a duck's nest. When the baby-bird breaks out of the shell, it looks so different from the ducks, that it is mistreated and ostracised until it eventually grows up to become a beautiful swan and flies away to its true home. As a title for his story, Hans-Christian had chosen “The Ugly Duckling.”


Suddenly, the front door opened and Abramovich himself entered the tailor's shop. Hans-Christian pushed his poem under the cloth lying on the counter, picked up the scissors, and pretended to be cutting material for making a pair of trousers for a customer.


“What on earth is this?” shouted Abramovich, standing still in front of the counter and waving in his hand a sheet of paper. Hans-Christian looked at the paper, recognized his own hand-writing, and turned pale. It was his story about the ugly duckling!


“I am not paying you a salary to waste the day writing fairy tales!” accused Abramovich, scrutinizing the face of his apprentice. Hans-Christian felt invaded by panic, realizing that he must have forgotten the sheet of paper on the stone bench outside the tailor's shop. If he lost his job, chances were that he would starve. In the year 1822, thousands of unemployed walked hungry the streets of Copenhagen.


“Fairy tales?” retorted Hans-Christian. “The author cannot be me! Do you think that I possess enough imagination to write fairy tales?” The question made Abramovich reflect briefly before replying. “No, of course no, Hans-Christian. Never in a thousand years! How foolish of me to suspect you, since I know that you have no talent.”


Soon after, Hans-Christian moved to another job, began to publish his fairy tales, and eventually became the most famous Scandinavian author. Twenty years later, when Hans-Christian was walking past the tailor's shop, the door opened, and Abramovich came outside, now an old man. The tailor recognized his former apprentice and pointed a finger at him.


“So it was you!” accused Abramovich. “It was you who wrote the fairy tale about the ugly duckling!” Hans-Christian turned his head towards the tailor's shop and his mind recalled every dark hour of his youth. It took him almost a minute to gather sufficient strength to look at the tailor straight in the eye and shake his head decisively. “That was not me,” he said. “That must have been the man I was before.”


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

[Image by njscott-H under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Thursday, 19 March 2009

How to use Ancient Mongol tactics to find a job

Achievement is not about having resources or connections. It's rather about what you do despite your limited resources and your lack of connections. In our times of economic recession, thousands of people lose their jobs everyday. If you are looking for a new position these days, using Mongol tactics might help you achieve your goal faster.


During the whole XIII century, Mongols dominated the world. They did not succeed thanks to their meagre resources. Neither were they able to resort to their political connections, since they didn't have any. From being a tribe of shepherds, Mongols managed to grow to rulers of the world exclusively by their own efforts.


How did Mongols win battles against ten-times bigger armies? Even more remarkable is the fact that, physically, Mongols were relatively small in size. Nevertheless, they crushed the Persian, Russian, and Bulgarian armies one after the other, each in its home territory.


If Mongols conquered the world starting with nothing, applying their tactics might give you a decisive advantage in your job search. The three principles that I am presenting here can benefit anyone seeking employment.


First, become single-minded about your purpose. Mongols knew that their life was at stake in every battle and they never hesitated which way to go. It was always forward. Finding a job is certainly much easier than building a world empire, but in any case, determination will dramatically increase the speed of your success.


Since talking yourself into becoming single-minded is unlikely to work, how can you acquire the necessary determination? My answer will surprise you. All you have to do is to be realistic and use basic economic common sense. The truth is that you can always find a job, no matter how bad the economy situation is, because the demand for work, for services, is infinite.


  • If you are willing to accept the salary that someone is willing to pay, you will find a job.

  • You might need to move to another town to get that job, but you can be sure that there is always someone somewhere who needs to get something done.

  • If you are flexible about salary and conditions, there are always people out there willing to hire additional help for their business or private needs. All you have to do is find them.


Second, increase your knowledge daily. Mongols possessed pitiful technology when they started to build their empire, but they learned from everyone they met. From the Chinese, they picked up metal-working techniques, from the Persians, they learned how to use smoke screens in battle.


Compared to Mongols living in the XIII century, the Internet allows you countless possibilities to learn at low cost. You can find vacancies in data bases. You can use electronic templates to prepare your curriculum vitae. You can listen to podcasts and watch videos on interviewing techniques. The more knowledge you accumulate, the quickest you'll find employment.


The third principle is the most important. You must move as fast as you can. When Mongols fixed themselves an objective, they gathered information quickly, sharpened their swords, and off they were. Riding horses for hours on end was their daily routine, day and night if necessary, until they reached their target.


You don't need to become obsessive about your job search, but taking relentless action is a proven approach for maximizing your achievements. Take the first step in your chosen direction and follow up with a thousand steps more. Let your learning grow rapidly and it will show you the path to success.



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

[Image by orvalrochefort under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]