Friday, 31 July 2009

The most important factor in happiness


There is too much noise in the world and too many offers compete for our attention. Each new song provides us a pleasant melody for a day, each new fashion entertains our spirits for a week. Time seems to be always insufficient for those who are busy chasing the latest novelty. We all want to experience the fresh before it becomes stale an hour later.

We lie ourselves pretending that it has always been like this. We take pride in being the first to adopt the latest change. Faster, quicker, we push forward in unison. If only we could get ourselves to forget the essential questions that superficiality will never address. Acceleration is sugar-coated sedation that can never still our hunger for happiness, but what is the alternative?

In the year 24 B.C., Titus Livius turned 35 years old. He looked back at his life and saw that he had not accomplished much. Like many Romans of good family, he had enjoyed a solid education, read widely, done some travelling and also a little writing. In other words, he had tried his hand intermittently at everything and achieved pretty much nothing.

His life lacked purpose and ambition, but that was not something which bothered any of his friends. Stoicism and hedonism, the prevalent philosophies in Ancient Rome, led most men to live for the pleasures of the day and to regard strenuous effort as a burden to be carried only by servants and slaves.

We do not know what made Titus Livius change his ways, but we do know the results. Instead of continuing to pursue random interests, he conceived a project so difficult and wide-ranging that he knew that it would take him decades to accomplish.

A few months later, he had already formulated in detail how he was going to spend the rest of his life. He would write a History of Rome as it had never been told before. He would speak not only of facts, but also about individuals. He would recount not only past events, but also the values that had inspired them.

The plan designed by Titus Livius comprised researching hundreds of documents and the actual writing of 150 books, an enterprise that nowadays would occupy several university departments. Titus Livius did most of the work himself and it took him four decades.

Apparently, he was very happy devoting his time to such demanding undertaking, even if that entailed doing away with other distractions. Such devotion to a single long-term purpose is an essential element of happiness. When Titus Livius died, he was 77 years old. His only regret must have been that he had not started his project before, since he only managed to complete 142 books.

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

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

The most important factor in happiness


There is too much noise in the world and too many offers compete for our attention. Each new song provides us a pleasant melody for a day, each new fashion entertains our spirits for a week. Time seems to be always insufficient for those who are busy chasing the latest novelty. We all want to experience the fresh before it becomes stale an hour later.

We lie ourselves pretending that it has always been like this. We take pride in being the first to adopt the latest change. Faster, quicker, we push forward in unison. If only we could get ourselves to forget the essential questions that superficiality will never address. Acceleration is sugar-coated sedation that can never still our hunger for happiness, but what is the alternative?

In the year 24 B.C., Titus Livius turned 35 years old. He looked back at his life and saw that he had not accomplished much. Like many Romans of good family, he had enjoyed a solid education, read widely, done some travelling and also a little writing. In other words, he had tried his hand intermittently at everything and achieved pretty much nothing.

His life lacked purpose and ambition, but that was not something which bothered any of his friends. Stoicism and hedonism, the prevalent philosophies in Ancient Rome, led most men to live for the pleasures of the day and to regard strenuous effort as a burden to be carried only by servants and slaves.

We do not know what made Titus Livius change his ways, but we do know the results. Instead of continuing to pursue random interests, he conceived a project so difficult and wide-ranging that he knew that it would take him decades to accomplish.

A few months later, he had already formulated in detail how he was going to spend the rest of his life. He would write a History of Rome as it had never been told before. He would speak not only of facts, but also about individuals. He would recount not only past events, but also the values that had inspired them.

The plan designed by Titus Livius comprised researching hundreds of documents and the actual writing of 150 books, an enterprise that nowadays would occupy several university departments. Titus Livius did most of the work himself and it took him four decades.

Apparently, he was very happy devoting his time to such demanding undertaking, even if that entailed doing away with other distractions. Such devotion to a single long-term purpose is an essential element of happiness. When Titus Livius died, he was 77 years old. His only regret must have been that he had not started his project before, since he only managed to complete 142 books.

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

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

Thursday, 30 July 2009

All you need to know about economics


Thick books full of equations deter most people from learning economics. The suspicion that there might be something wrong with the whole science is not unfounded. Otherwise, if economists are so knowledgeable, how do you explain that most of them are not wealthy?

Every course on economics begins with the law of supply and demand, which is considered the baseline of the science. This principle teaches that consumers buy fewer units when prices are high, but that on the other hand, when prices are low, for the same amount of money, you can get much more.

Since people have been acting in this way since the beginning of time, one might wonder if such wisdom justifies the cost of taking an economics course. My answer is rotundly positive. No matter how simple principles look, their applications demand subtlety and can lead to many blind alleys.

When it comes to applied economics, the most important paradigm is not mathematical. Understanding it can help you make better decisions and, above all, avoid many traps in your private and business life. If you choose to study only one thing about economics, let me suggest that you learn to tell the difference between consumption and investment, in particular:
  1. Investments are not characterized by a high acquisition cost. A large house on the beach that you buy to spend your summer holidays every year can be expensive, but is not an investment, since it does not produce you any income. In comparison, a small low-cost apartment that you rent out to tenants does constitute an asset.
  2. Investments are not defined by their long durability. A refrigerator that you purchase for your kitchen may last 10 years, but does not generate you any income. Such acquisition is not an investment. In contrast, a set of liquor glasses that may last 3 years is an investment if you buy them for use in your restaurant.
The lesson is that the aspect that creates the distinction between consumption and investment is psychological. Classifying buildings automatically as investments without considering their purpose may lead to wrong decisions and expensive errors.

The fundamental economic difference between assets and expenditure lies in the use that we give to items, not in the accounting rules regarding depreciation and tax deductions. A laptop computer to play video games is a consumption item, unless you get paid for playing those, for instance, because you write reviews for a video-games magazine.

The consequences of this principle are wide-ranging and encompass all fields of our lives. Being conscious of the difference can help you, for instance, to buy your clothes more efficiently, to discard worthless investment proposals quickly, and to reduce the cost of starting your own company.

Misunderstanding what truly constitutes an investment results in the waste of enormous sums of money every year. Do not fall into that trap. Not every big-ticket item is an asset and not all inexpensive purchases are consumer goods. When you make decisions, you will be much better off if you weigh each element according to its veritable nature.


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

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

All you need to know about economics


Thick books full of equations deter most people from learning economics. The suspicion that there might be something wrong with the whole science is not unfounded. Otherwise, if economists are so knowledgeable, how do you explain that most of them are not wealthy?

Every course on economics begins with the law of supply and demand, which is considered the baseline of the science. This principle teaches that consumers buy fewer units when prices are high, but that on the other hand, when prices are low, for the same amount of money, you can get much more.

Since people have been acting in this way since the beginning of time, one might wonder if such wisdom justifies the cost of taking an economics course. My answer is rotundly positive. No matter how simple principles look, their applications demand subtlety and can lead to many blind alleys.

When it comes to applied economics, the most important paradigm is not mathematical. Understanding it can help you make better decisions and, above all, avoid many traps in your private and business life. If you choose to study only one thing about economics, let me suggest that you learn to tell the difference between consumption and investment, in particular:
  1. Investments are not characterized by a high acquisition cost. A large house on the beach that you buy to spend your summer holidays every year can be expensive, but is not an investment, since it does not produce you any income. In comparison, a small low-cost apartment that you rent out to tenants does constitute an asset.
  2. Investments are not defined by their long durability. A refrigerator that you purchase for your kitchen may last 10 years, but does not generate you any income. Such acquisition is not an investment. In contrast, a set of liquor glasses that may last 3 years is an investment if you buy them for use in your restaurant.
The lesson is that the aspect that creates the distinction between consumption and investment is psychological. Classifying buildings automatically as investments without considering their purpose may lead to wrong decisions and expensive errors.

The fundamental economic difference between assets and expenditure lies in the use that we give to items, not in the accounting rules regarding depreciation and tax deductions. A laptop computer to play video games is a consumption item, unless you get paid for playing those, for instance, because you write reviews for a video-games magazine.

The consequences of this principle are wide-ranging and encompass all fields of our lives. Being conscious of the difference can help you, for instance, to buy your clothes more efficiently, to discard worthless investment proposals quickly, and to reduce the cost of starting your own company.

Misunderstanding what truly constitutes an investment results in the waste of enormous sums of money every year. Do not fall into that trap. Not every big-ticket item is an asset and not all inexpensive purchases are consumer goods. When you make decisions, you will be much better off if you weigh each element according to its veritable nature.


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

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

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Learning from comic-book characters and romantic movies


You might be surprised to learn that, for a substantial part, comic-book readers are neither children nor teenagers. Enthusiastic collectors know every Spiderman adventure by heart and, nowadays, internet sites allow people to trade old editions of Superman adventures. We cannot tell exactly how many adults are still burning with that flame, but the number goes into the thousands.

Romantic movies and pocket books are steadfastly consumed by many women from the cradle to the grave. The details portrayed in sentimental tales have become more explicit in the last decades, but the old feelings are still there. The size of the market, if we include romantic TV serials, amounts to billions of US dollars per year.

The demand for stories continues to grow worldwide, 24 hours a day, never taking a single day of vacation. Since Ancient Greece, the three acts are still played out relentlessly, as though the world had never changed. The discovery of a kindred spirit, the abandonment to passion, and the victory over difficulties fill our television screens, movie theatres, bookshops, and popular magazines.

What lesson can be learned from this flood of adventure, action, and everlasting hope? If you think that this is a meaningless phenomenon, please pause and make a list of the people you know who never watch such films, buy such books, or follow such stories on TV. Chances are that your list will be short. Here is why:
  1. An important segment of the population draws their ethical convictions from popular fiction, whether in the form of novels, films, or television episodes. Intellectual approaches to morality, philosophy, and happiness are as rare as purely rational investors.
  2. There are good reason why human beings prefer to take their ethical cues from fiction rather than from professional philosophers. If only because movies, TV films, and comic-books are more fun, cheaper, and more readily accessible than sophisticated moral discourse.
  3. Amongst a wide variety of abstract ideas, it is difficult to tell which one is true. On the other hand, fiction can be quickly judged as entertaining or boring, satisfying or disconcerting. Well-constructed stories present self-contained value assessments that can be instantly apprehended.
The conclusion is not that you should discard organized thinking and research as tools for establishing the truth. By all means, push your intellectual and business pursuits forward, but do not underestimate the difficulty of communicating complex chains of thoughts to unfamiliar audiences.

My point is that stories offer a short-cut for presenting ideas. A dry exposition will always lose against a sequence of dramatic images held together by clear motivation. Making your argumentation easily accessible is frequently as important as ensuring that you are building your thoughts on consistent premises.

When it comes to the ability to show what is right and wrong, comic-book characters and romantic heroines form the most effective group of teachers to learn from. Let us acknowledge the power of sharp story-telling, extract the best it has to offer, and use it to our advantage.

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

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

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

How to decide when to quit and when to persist


Nowadays, in these times of financial crisis, you will rarely find a business book that does not recommend you to use stop-loss orders. The idea seems to have taken over also the field of psychology, where you will be encouraged to quickly drop anything that does not make you feel good.

The justification behind this advice is that one should not devote resources to enterprises that have little chance of success. Tribal marketing, the latest trend in business thinking, has taken this principle to new heights, emphasizing that one should only embark in ventures that aim at groups that can be defined, identified, and reached.

Don't swim upstream, you will be told. Go with the flow, they preach. If it doesn't float, let it sink, you will be urged at every step. Read the writing on the wall. Follow what everybody knows. The trend is your friend. Nobody ever got anywhere by stepping out of line. There is only one truth, which is the majority view.

Luckily, this overwhelming consensus does not mean that you should quit worthwhile endeavours that are not producing positive results in the short term. Paying attention to market signals is a sign of wisdom, but more often than not, giving up is the wrong lesson to draw. Here is why:
  1. Innovative projects frequently create their own markets. This process is slow, but extremely rewarding, both in private and business terms. Hundreds of currently popular products were initially ridiculed and misunderstood.
  2. Entrepreneurs love to draw their own targets. Their efforts are not aimed at satisfying yesterday's fashions. New products and services are frequently conceived to meet consumers' desires in ways or formats that had never been tried before.
  3. The perception of problems and solutions depends strongly on the personal characteristics of the observer. Statistics can only aggregate elements of reality according to established points of view. In contrast, entrepreneurs add value by questioning assumptions, disputing traditions, and reformulating options.
Stop-loss orders are meaningless without a proper assessment of context and perspective. Saying that you will quit such and such if you do not score a certain number of points within three months is usually a foolish approach. Projects of great magnitude are frequently completed only after overcoming dozens of opposing forces.

For major life decisions, do pay attention to the market, but learn to decipher its signals to your advantage. Do not sell yourself short by quitting too soon.

In times of great uncertainty, stock market valuations are extremely volatile. The price of commodities can shoot twenty per cent upwards and then crash a week later. If your horizon for attaining happiness and success is longer than a week, reason will usually lead you to persist rather than quit.

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

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

Monday, 27 July 2009

Making your job work for you

Good jobs were scarce in the 15th century. Most people could not read and were obliged to labour from sunrise to sunset all year long. Social mobility was a rare phenomenon and few had hopes of becoming rich. When the summertime was over, the overriding preoccupation was whether sufficient food was available to make it through the winter.

This does not mean that people at that time did not attempt to seek a better life. In the 15th century, the same as today, the most entrepreneurial tried to make their jobs work for them. Instead of seeing their employment as immutable and everlasting, they tried to use it as a steppingstone to move to a higher post or to start their own business.

The life of Desiderius Erasmus is one of the best examples on how to transform an unpleasant occupation into a successful independent profession. He was born in the year 1469 and, when his parents died, he decided that entering a monastery was the best option to secure his livelihood and gain some education.

Although Erasmus deeply disliked the life in the monastery, the truth was that, in the short-term, he had very little choice. If he had left and tried to find a post of apprentice without having family connections, chances are that he would have starved. He followed the routines that were expected of him in the monastery and, at the same time, he reflected about how to improve his situation.

It did not take long for Erasmus to figure out what the best strategy to get ahead was. Acquiring more knowledge constituted the passport to a better life, since jobs outside the monastery were available to those who could write good Latin, the language that was used at that time in written communications across Europe.

Erasmus' hard work paid off and, by the time he was 24, he found employment outside the monastery and never looked back. His first job, as secretary of a bishop, opened him new learning opportunities and professional contacts, but too little freedom to determine how to use his days. For Erasmus, at that point, the question did no longer revolve around getting a better job. What he wanted was to become independent.

Like any potential entrepreneur, he prudently assessed the market for his skills and identified two outlets: teaching in college and working for a nobleman as tutor of his children. By the turn of the century, the market for private tutors in Europe was growing by leaps and bounds, but it was an unsafe occupation, since it required searching a new post every few years.

The genius of Erasmus consisted of finding the way to place himself in such high demand that he would never lack work either as college or private teacher. When he was 36 year old, he conceived the idea of writing a book using his experiences in the monastery, something that no one had ever done before.

Three years later, Erasmus published his essay titled Praise of Folly, which became one of the best-sellers of the 16th century. Although he barely made any money from the book itself, Erasmus' reputation spread across Europe and he became a much sought-after lecturer and teacher, which allowed him to lead a life similar to the management consultants of our days.

Erasmus' achievement of personal independence is particularly impressive when we consider his low starting point in life and the difficult historical context. His example shows how, with creativity and persistence, you can make your job work for you and move to a better life. Once you get yourself on the way, you will be surprised to see how many opportunities exist.

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

[Image by alex_smith1 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Making your job work for you

Good jobs were scarce in the 15th century. Most people could not read and were obliged to labour from sunrise to sunset all year long. Social mobility was a rare phenomenon and few had hopes of becoming rich. When the summertime was over, the overriding preoccupation was whether sufficient food was available to make it through the winter.

This does not mean that people at that time did not attempt to seek a better life. In the 15th century, the same as today, the most entrepreneurial tried to make their jobs work for them. Instead of seeing their employment as immutable and everlasting, they tried to use it as a steppingstone to move to a higher post or to start their own business.

The life of Desiderius Erasmus is one of the best examples on how to transform an unpleasant occupation into a successful independent profession. He was born in the year 1469 and, when his parents died, he decided that entering a monastery was the best option to secure his livelihood and gain some education.

Although Erasmus deeply disliked the life in the monastery, the truth was that, in the short-term, he had very little choice. If he had left and tried to find a post of apprentice without having family connections, chances are that he would have starved. He followed the routines that were expected of him in the monastery and, at the same time, he reflected about how to improve his situation.

It did not take long for Erasmus to figure out what the best strategy to get ahead was. Acquiring more knowledge constituted the passport to a better life, since jobs outside the monastery were available to those who could write good Latin, the language that was used at that time in written communications across Europe.

Erasmus' hard work paid off and, by the time he was 24, he found employment outside the monastery and never looked back. His first job, as secretary of a bishop, opened him new learning opportunities and professional contacts, but too little freedom to determine how to use his days. For Erasmus, at that point, the question did no longer revolve around getting a better job. What he wanted was to become independent.

Like any potential entrepreneur, he prudently assessed the market for his skills and identified two outlets: teaching in college and working for a nobleman as tutor of his children. By the turn of the century, the market for private tutors in Europe was growing by leaps and bounds, but it was an unsafe occupation, since it required searching a new post every few years.

The genius of Erasmus consisted of finding the way to place himself in such high demand that he would never lack work either as college or private teacher. When he was 36 year old, he conceived the idea of writing a book using his experiences in the monastery, something that no one had ever done before.

Three years later, Erasmus published his essay titled Praise of Folly, which became one of the best-sellers of the 16th century. Although he barely made any money from the book itself, Erasmus' reputation spread across Europe and he became a much sought-after lecturer and teacher, which allowed him to lead a life similar to the management consultants of our days.

Erasmus' achievement of personal independence is particularly impressive when we consider his low starting point in life and the difficult historical context. His example shows how, with creativity and persistence, you can make your job work for you and move to a better life. Once you get yourself on the way, you will be surprised to see how many opportunities exist.

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

[Image by alex_smith1 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Sunday, 26 July 2009

How to become a poet

An acquaintance asks me for advice about how to become a poet. No problem, I can give you some clues, but please do take your heart medication before you read this through, since it contains some strong truths.

First, you have to realize that nobody cares about what you want to be, so don't go around complaining that you are misunderstood. Artistic sensitivity is fine, but please keep it to yourself, since there is already too much noise in the world.

Second, you should just start writing your poetry and do not ask anyone for permission. If you do happen to ask someone for permission, you most likely won't even get a response. Again, it's not that most people won't understand you, it's simply that they are too busy with their own lives.

Third, you have to develop a thick skin. This is a quintessential requirement for any artist, as it is for salesmen and lawyers. People will criticize your work for no reason, editors will correct the unique syntax that you have worked so hard to create, and bookshops will place your poetry books in the cooking section.

Fourth, you have to push your work around and try to find the small percentage of people who might like your poetry. No matter how good a poet you are, that percentage will always remain small, but remember that there are 6.7 billion people in the world. Even if only one person in a thousand likes your poetry, that still makes 6.7 million people.

I know that you are going to ask me when you will know for sure that you are a poet. This is an easy question for me to answer. You will know one day in the evening, after many years of taking daily steps towards your goal.

By that time, you might be already discouraged and ready to quit poetry altogether, but take heart. On that evening, you will be invited to a party by someone you barely know. You will attend in the hope, after so many years, of meeting a publisher who will really appreciate your work.

Ten minutes after you arrive at the party, your hope will vanish. Nobody will pay any attention to you and you will wonder if you have received the invitation by error. You will retire to a corner to sip your green tea in loneliness, but then, you will realize that two young women are staring at you from the opposite side of the room.

The two will cross the room and stand still a meter away from you. "Can we ask you a question?" one of them will say. "Sure," you will reply, wondering if they are mistaking you for someone else.

"We want to become a writers," they will continue. "Could you give us some advice about how to write a book?" At that point, you will frantically try to figure out a brilliant answer, something that will identify you as a successful poet.

You will look around the room, a little desperate, realizing that you have no good advice to offer. You will wish that someone would join the conversation and give you the answer, but of course, no one will.

As you mumble your piece of advice, you will feel embarrassed by your lack of ideas and imagination. "Writing a book is easy," you will say, "you just start at the beginning and finish at the end." Then you will blush, ashamed of having spoken out such triviality.

The two women will stare at you in silence for a long time and then exchange a satisfied look. "I told you he was a poet," one of them will comment in awe. "You were right," the other will concur. And at that moment, at that very moment, you will know yourself for sure.

[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]

How to become a poet

An acquaintance asks me for advice about how to become a poet. No problem, I can give you some clues, but please do take your heart medication before you read this through, since it contains some strong truths.

First, you have to realize that nobody cares about what you want to be, so don't go around complaining that you are misunderstood. Artistic sensitivity is fine, but please keep it to yourself, since there is already too much noise in the world.

Second, you should just start writing your poetry and do not ask anyone for permission. If you do happen to ask someone for permission, you most likely won't even get a response. Again, it's not that most people won't understand you, it's simply that they are too busy with their own lives.

Third, you have to develop a thick skin. This is a quintessential requirement for any artist, as it is for salesmen and lawyers. People will criticize your work for no reason, editors will correct the unique syntax that you have worked so hard to create, and bookshops will place your poetry books in the cooking section.

Fourth, you have to push your work around and try to find the small percentage of people who might like your poetry. No matter how good a poet you are, that percentage will always remain small, but remember that there are 6.7 billion people in the world. Even if only one person in a thousand likes your poetry, that still makes 6.7 million people.

I know that you are going to ask me when you will know for sure that you are a poet. This is an easy question for me to answer. You will know one day in the evening, after many years of taking daily steps towards your goal.

By that time, you might be already discouraged and ready to quit poetry altogether, but take heart. On that evening, you will be invited to a party by someone you barely know. You will attend in the hope, after so many years, of meeting a publisher who will really appreciate your work.

Ten minutes after you arrive at the party, your hope will vanish. Nobody will pay any attention to you and you will wonder if you have received the invitation by error. You will retire to a corner to sip your green tea in loneliness, but then, you will realize that two young women are staring at you from the opposite side of the room.

The two will cross the room and stand still a meter away from you. "Can we ask you a question?" one of them will say. "Sure," you will reply, wondering if they are mistaking you for someone else.

"We want to become a writers," they will continue. "Could you give us some advice about how to write a book?" At that point, you will frantically try to figure out a brilliant answer, something that will identify you as a successful poet.

You will look around the room, a little desperate, realizing that you have no good advice to offer. You will wish that someone would join the conversation and give you the answer, but of course, no one will.

As you mumble your piece of advice, you will feel embarrassed by your lack of ideas and imagination. "Writing a book is easy," you will say, "you just start at the beginning and finish at the end." Then you will blush, ashamed of having spoken out such triviality.

The two women will stare at you in silence for a long time and then exchange a satisfied look. "I told you he was a poet," one of them will comment in awe. "You were right," the other will concur. And at that moment, at that very moment, you will know yourself for sure.

[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]

The key to unbreakable self-confidence

Self-confidence is the most admired character trait that actors play in movies. For most people, it dwarfs any other psychological or physical attribute in terms of desirability. What is the key to attaining self-assurance? Does it come from internal sources or from external validation?

Most advice given on the subject consists of isolated prescriptions without logic or context. Telling people to repeat in their head that they are capable and positive does not help much. Focusing on external aspects, such as clothing, might lead individuals to think that they lack fundamental value.

For two thousand years, the writings of philosophers have linked personal happiness to a feeling of certainty. The serenity that comes from trusting the future cannot be replaced by artificial beliefs.
Self-reliance is the consequence of following the essential principles of reality, namely:
  1. What happens in the world is determined by the law of cause and effect.
  2. Human beings possess the unique characteristic of being able to set their own goals.
  3. Consistent purposeful action is the decisive factor that shapes the future of an individual.
  4. Ambitious long-term goals can be achieved by means of relentless activity in the chosen field.
  5. Progress is a natural process driven by persistence, mistakes, learning, and refocusing.
Despite the impression that one might gain from watching films, self-assurance is not a supernatural quality that chance bestows on certain people. It is not an innate talent or physical capacity that only a few inherit, but the result of continuous personal growth. It takes substantial effort to develop and maintain self-reliance.

Lack of trust in the future is originated by the conviction that nothing can be done to improve one's situation. The size of problems and obstacles is exaggerated. Opportunities are overlooked. Alternatives are not explored. The impact of external forces is magnified beyond measurement.

The opposite process takes place when we acquire a healthy, rational view of the world. We become conscious of the fact that, primarily, our actions will define how our life turns out. We learn to deal with the undesirable aspects of reality by taking appropriate steps. We focus on steadfast activity rather than on elements that we cannot control.

Uninterrupted focus on one area allows accelerated learning. Incessant alertness permits to discover opportunities that remain invisible to most. Self-reliance is the result of implementing rational thinking through long-term undertakings. If you pursue worthy goals through consistent action, self-confidence is your natural due. Claim it.

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

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

Saturday, 25 July 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]

Friday, 24 July 2009

The five pillars of an excellent health

For the individual, no other asset is as valuable as his health. Money, friendships, and business connections won't help much if your body exceeds the limits of what it can reasonably withstand. Medical services can be purchased, often at a great expense, but they cannot always help.

Maintaining an optimal level of vitality should be one of the main priorities in life, but unfortunately, for many people, it is not. Too much is taken for granted and, after irreversible damage has occurred, little can be done beyond reducing the pain. Prevention is better than cure, in particular, low-cost prevention.

The principles of staying in good shape have been known for centuries, although in the last decades, details have been worked out in many areas. Barring inherited illness and extreme bad luck, the way to an excellent health depends on five factors, namely:
  1. Avoid situations of serious physical danger.
  2. Sleep long enough for your needs.
  3. Do not eat or drink harmful substances.
  4. Choose a sound diet that you can easily follow.
  5. Make sure that you do a minimum of exercise everyday.
The first aspect is frequently overlooked by wellness experts, but it plays a crucial role in allowing individuals to reach an advanced age in good condition. Combat sports and exotic vacations draw crowds in search of excitement, but they entail risks that cannot be easily averted.

Insomnia, when it happens, should be counteracted with natural means. On many occasions, the underlying cause of sleep difficulties are psychological. Peaceful nights frequently return after measures have been adopted to reduce stress, overcommitment, and relationship problems.

We should remind ourselves from time to time that people suffer illness equally for their actions as for their omissions. It is as important to identify what we should eat as what we should refrain from eating. There are countless books on the market about the elements of good nutrition and, if you have not done so already, I encourage you to read a few of them.

For the purpose of enhancing our well-being, exercise does not need to be complicated or costly. Do visit a sauna or swimming pool if that is your choice, but inexpensive habits, such as cycling and walking, are also effective means to keep in shape. If you make the effort to acquire healthy routines, maintaining a good condition will become automatic and you will spare yourself plenty of trouble down the road.

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

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

The five pillars of an excellent health

For the individual, no other asset is as valuable as his health. Money, friendships, and business connections won't help much if your body exceeds the limits of what it can reasonably withstand. Medical services can be purchased, often at a great expense, but they cannot always help.

Maintaining an optimal level of vitality should be one of the main priorities in life, but unfortunately, for many people, it is not. Too much is taken for granted and, after irreversible damage has occurred, little can be done beyond reducing the pain. Prevention is better than cure, in particular, low-cost prevention.

The principles of staying in good shape have been known for centuries, although in the last decades, details have been worked out in many areas. Barring inherited illness and extreme bad luck, the way to an excellent health depends on five factors, namely:
  1. Avoid situations of serious physical danger.
  2. Sleep long enough for your needs.
  3. Do not eat or drink harmful substances.
  4. Choose a sound diet that you can easily follow.
  5. Make sure that you do a minimum of exercise everyday.
The first aspect is frequently overlooked by wellness experts, but it plays a crucial role in allowing individuals to reach an advanced age in good condition. Combat sports and exotic vacations draw crowds in search of excitement, but they entail risks that cannot be easily averted.

Insomnia, when it happens, should be counteracted with natural means. On many occasions, the underlying cause of sleep difficulties are psychological. Peaceful nights frequently return after measures have been adopted to reduce stress, overcommitment, and relationship problems.

We should remind ourselves from time to time that people suffer illness equally for their actions as for their omissions. It is as important to identify what we should eat as what we should refrain from eating. There are countless books on the market about the elements of good nutrition and, if you have not done so already, I encourage you to read a few of them.

For the purpose of enhancing our well-being, exercise does not need to be complicated or costly. Do visit a sauna or swimming pool if that is your choice, but inexpensive habits, such as cycling and walking, are also effective means to keep in shape. If you make the effort to acquire healthy routines, maintaining a good condition will become automatic and you will spare yourself plenty of trouble down the road.

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

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

Thursday, 23 July 2009

You have more options than you think

The main reason while people become discouraged and despondent is because, at a certain moment, they believe that they have no options. This is not true, unless you suffer from terminal illness and you have no time left. Wherever you live, whatever your occupation, alternatives exist.

An active mind is a precious treasure that is given to every human. If you doubt this, look at children. Their curiosity and excitement are irrepressible. An entrepreneurial spirit is not something you have to acquire, but your natural due. If later in life, you find that missing, you just need to reclaim it.

There are plenty of unexplored possibilities when it comes to jobs, professions, investments, training courses, houses, medical treatments, friends and lovers. In each case, you might need to exert effort, look around, and experience some rejection. That's part of the price you pay for growing as a human being.

Once we are equipped with an entrepreneurial attitude, we should actually love it when someone calls our dreams unrealistic. In particular, when that person adds some trite remark, such as "in life, we cannot always get what we want." That's a sign for us to take action.

If your parts supplier demands you to make all your purchases there, find a new supplier. If your internet provider acts as though you have no choice, change providers. If your computer repair shop informs you that they are the only experts in that brand of computer, throw away the old computer and purchase another brand.

If your bank announces that you have no other place to save, open accounts in three other banks. If your plumber tells you that your have to pay too much, learn how to replace the water tabs yourself. If a painter tells you that you can do things only his way, hire someone else to paint your house.

What about geographical ties? Moving to another region or country seems so complicated that most people don't give it much thought. Nevertheless, every year, millions of men and women go and live in another country in search of a better life. In most cases, they find it.

When someone says that you have no choice, give yourself a break. Look hard at situations and question their why, when and how. Once you decide to replace problems with solutions, your eyes will begin to detect opportunities that you had never seen before.

When people express the view that no further progress is possible, don't get upset and refrain from giving a snappy reply. Useless discussions are not going to save the day. More often than not, you will be better off if you just nod, smile, and move on. Life is full of possibilities. Don't waste a minute with those that believe that there is only one path to walk. You have better things to do.

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

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

You have more options than you think

The main reason while people become discouraged and despondent is because, at a certain moment, they believe that they have no options. This is not true, unless you suffer from terminal illness and you have no time left. Wherever you live, whatever your occupation, alternatives exist.

An active mind is a precious treasure that is given to every human. If you doubt this, look at children. Their curiosity and excitement are irrepressible. An entrepreneurial spirit is not something you have to acquire, but your natural due. If later in life, you find that missing, you just need to reclaim it.

There are plenty of unexplored possibilities when it comes to jobs, professions, investments, training courses, houses, medical treatments, friends and lovers. In each case, you might need to exert effort, look around, and experience some rejection. That's part of the price you pay for growing as a human being.

Once we are equipped with an entrepreneurial attitude, we should actually love it when someone calls our dreams unrealistic. In particular, when that person adds some trite remark, such as "in life, we cannot always get what we want." That's a sign for us to take action.

If your parts supplier demands you to make all your purchases there, find a new supplier. If your internet provider acts as though you have no choice, change providers. If your computer repair shop informs you that they are the only experts in that brand of computer, throw away the old computer and purchase another brand.

If your bank announces that you have no other place to save, open accounts in three other banks. If your plumber tells you that your have to pay too much, learn how to replace the water tabs yourself. If a painter tells you that you can do things only his way, hire someone else to paint your house.

What about geographical ties? Moving to another region or country seems so complicated that most people don't give it much thought. Nevertheless, every year, millions of men and women go and live in another country in search of a better life. In most cases, they find it.

When someone says that you have no choice, give yourself a break. Look hard at situations and question their why, when and how. Once you decide to replace problems with solutions, your eyes will begin to detect opportunities that you had never seen before.

When people express the view that no further progress is possible, don't get upset and refrain from giving a snappy reply. Useless discussions are not going to save the day. More often than not, you will be better off if you just nod, smile, and move on. Life is full of possibilities. Don't waste a minute with those that believe that there is only one path to walk. You have better things to do.

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

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

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The simple way to select investment ideas

During the last sixty years, a myriad of investment books have explored different approaches to maximizing the return on your savings. Most of those theories have proved inadequate and, a decade after publication, few financial authors want to be reminded of the predictions they made.

Simplicity is another characteristic that is missing in most investment advice. Ideas that are too complicated to implement are as good as worthless. In the field of personal finance, what we need are prudent recommendations that anyone could follow as long as he is ready to exert a minimum of effort.

Rational investors should have a well-defined long-term goal. That objective should be, quite openly, to reach a point when they are able to live from the income produced by their savings. Such goal has motivated generations to put aside part of their earnings month after month.

The great majority of the population cannot afford devoting hours on end to following the markets. What many of us want is to achieve reasonably good results with a minimum of involvement, but without relinquishing control of our assets. No one should trust other people's recommendations blindly.

My suggested method combines four elements that are available to most individuals: a monthly income from their jobs or professions, the possibility to open a brokerage account, internet access, and the willingness to devote a few hours per month to follow their finances.
  • Nobody can make for you the commitment to set aside regularly part of your revenue in order to secure your future. This first step is the hardest to take, since frequently, man sees old age too far away. As a general rule, the sooner a person decides to take responsibility for his finances, the better his economic prospects.
  • After that, you need to establish the infrastructure to manage your savings. Opening a brokerage account is a straightforward process in most countries, although it seldom takes less than a week. Many brokers accept orders by phone, but you are going to need internet access for the purposes of research.
  • The final steps of my suggestion require that you establish an effective system to select your investments and devote a few hours per month to implementing it. An easy method of researching shares consists of identifying some reliable mutual funds that invest in dividend-paying equities and using the internet to look up their portfolios.
You will find the names of well-known mutual funds in any financial newspaper. More often than not, the web pages of those firms indicate which shares they have been holding in their portfolios during the last quarter. If you look up the web pages of a dozen different firms, you can get plenty of ideas about shares that might be worth considering for your personal portfolio.

With those ideas in hand, the last step is checking if they make any sense right now. This is something that you can do by typing their symbol in the web sites of free on-line financial discussion boards and publications, from which there are dozens. Reading several opinions and sources will show you how attractive those companies look as potential investments.

You will need several hours when you go through this process for the first time, but once you bookmark the web sites on your internet browser, your effort will be drastically reduced the following months. No investment system is foolproof, but you might wish to explore this approach, which offers a good balance between effort and simplicity.

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

[Image by yomi955 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The simple way to select investment ideas

During the last sixty years, a myriad of investment books have explored different approaches to maximizing the return on your savings. Most of those theories have proved inadequate and, a decade after publication, few financial authors want to be reminded of the predictions they made.

Simplicity is another characteristic that is missing in most investment advice. Ideas that are too complicated to implement are as good as worthless. In the field of personal finance, what we need are prudent recommendations that anyone could follow as long as he is ready to exert a minimum of effort.

Rational investors should have a well-defined long-term goal. That objective should be, quite openly, to reach a point when they are able to live from the income produced by their savings. Such goal has motivated generations to put aside part of their earnings month after month.

The great majority of the population cannot afford devoting hours on end to following the markets. What many of us want is to achieve reasonably good results with a minimum of involvement, but without relinquishing control of our assets. No one should trust other people's recommendations blindly.

My suggested method combines four elements that are available to most individuals: a monthly income from their jobs or professions, the possibility to open a brokerage account, internet access, and the willingness to devote a few hours per month to follow their finances.
  • Nobody can make for you the commitment to set aside regularly part of your revenue in order to secure your future. This first step is the hardest to take, since frequently, man sees old age too far away. As a general rule, the sooner a person decides to take responsibility for his finances, the better his economic prospects.
  • After that, you need to establish the infrastructure to manage your savings. Opening a brokerage account is a straightforward process in most countries, although it seldom takes less than a week. Many brokers accept orders by phone, but you are going to need internet access for the purposes of research.
  • The final steps of my suggestion require that you establish an effective system to select your investments and devote a few hours per month to implementing it. An easy method of researching shares consists of identifying some reliable mutual funds that invest in dividend-paying equities and using the internet to look up their portfolios.
You will find the names of well-known mutual funds in any financial newspaper. More often than not, the web pages of those firms indicate which shares they have been holding in their portfolios during the last quarter. If you look up the web pages of a dozen different firms, you can get plenty of ideas about shares that might be worth considering for your personal portfolio.

With those ideas in hand, the last step is checking if they make any sense right now. This is something that you can do by typing their symbol in the web sites of free on-line financial discussion boards and publications, from which there are dozens. Reading several opinions and sources will show you how attractive those companies look as potential investments.

You will need several hours when you go through this process for the first time, but once you bookmark the web sites on your internet browser, your effort will be drastically reduced the following months. No investment system is foolproof, but you might wish to explore this approach, which offers a good balance between effort and simplicity.

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

[Image by yomi955 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

How to make the best use of your resources

Unless you love to do things for no reason and work for free, you belong to those who expect to receive adequate compensation for their efforts. It does not have to be money, since humans do a million things to help each other without payment, but fair enough, we all want to see concrete results and a minimum of gratitude.

Groups of all sorts welcome those who want to give a hand. Since there are conflicting views about which direction is best, lots of efforts are devoted to discussing where to go and who does what. To the thousand organizations that call for your support, a new one is added every day.

When it comes to pursuing abstract objectives, it is up to you to decide how much time and resources you wish to invest. If you possess a generous heart, you will never lack opportunities to share what you have. Problems are everywhere and seem to multiply by the hour.

Strange enough, despite massive efforts and dedication, little is achieved when we pursue general goals. You might argue about percentages of improvement, but still, the alleged solutions remain mostly invisible. Trouble persists and alternatives stall, to the extent that one could doubt if anything is being done at all.

Checking propositions thoroughly should never be seen as a sign of disrespect. If we ask for proof of what has been achieved so far, we might be regarded as cold-hearted, but when things are not clear, raising questions about methods and means is perfectly appropriate.

On the other hand, when we focus on our business or profession, things seem to get better at an amazing speed. Products are made, services rendered, invoices sent, and customers content. Companies grow or, at the very least, become more efficient. On many occasions, we don't need to advertise to gain credibility, since this is something that we earn through out daily work.

Before contributing to this or that new initiative, is it not fair to ask if our support is going to make any difference in the result? Is it not rational to remain sceptical when facts are inconclusive? A man cannot be expected to believe any story that he is told. Most of us expect paths to have clear destinations.

My point is that devoting time to grand theories and hopeless causes is never a good use of our energies. Experience shows that the best way to move someone to our views is to let our actions speak.

The most effective use of our resources seldom comes from following other people's agendas. To accomplish our chosen work and goals, that's what we are in this world for. As Confucius put it so well, “teachings are worthless without personal example.”

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

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

How to make the best use of your resources

Unless you love to do things for no reason and work for free, you belong to those who expect to receive adequate compensation for their efforts. It does not have to be money, since humans do a million things to help each other without payment, but fair enough, we all want to see concrete results and a minimum of gratitude.

Groups of all sorts welcome those who want to give a hand. Since there are conflicting views about which direction is best, lots of efforts are devoted to discussing where to go and who does what. To the thousand organizations that call for your support, a new one is added every day.

When it comes to pursuing abstract objectives, it is up to you to decide how much time and resources you wish to invest. If you possess a generous heart, you will never lack opportunities to share what you have. Problems are everywhere and seem to multiply by the hour.

Strange enough, despite massive efforts and dedication, little is achieved when we pursue general goals. You might argue about percentages of improvement, but still, the alleged solutions remain mostly invisible. Trouble persists and alternatives stall, to the extent that one could doubt if anything is being done at all.

Checking propositions thoroughly should never be seen as a sign of disrespect. If we ask for proof of what has been achieved so far, we might be regarded as cold-hearted, but when things are not clear, raising questions about methods and means is perfectly appropriate.

On the other hand, when we focus on our business or profession, things seem to get better at an amazing speed. Products are made, services rendered, invoices sent, and customers content. Companies grow or, at the very least, become more efficient. On many occasions, we don't need to advertise to gain credibility, since this is something that we earn through out daily work.

Before contributing to this or that new initiative, is it not fair to ask if our support is going to make any difference in the result? Is it not rational to remain sceptical when facts are inconclusive? A man cannot be expected to believe any story that he is told. Most of us expect paths to have clear destinations.

My point is that devoting time to grand theories and hopeless causes is never a good use of our energies. Experience shows that the best way to move someone to our views is to let our actions speak.

The most effective use of our resources seldom comes from following other people's agendas. To accomplish our chosen work and goals, that's what we are in this world for. As Confucius put it so well, “teachings are worthless without personal example.”

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

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

Monday, 20 July 2009

How to start everyday in a good mood

Wind erodes mountains into hills. Water excavates rocks into caverns. Stimuli of all kind affect our state of mind, sometimes positively, frequently to make it worse. Even if you lived in a desert island, you would not be immune to this phenomenon, since floods or drought might shift your focus all the same.

The results of such influences can last minutes or weeks. Sustaining your motivation is crucial when you are involved in long-term projects, such as obtaining a college degree or starting up a business. How can you prevent that negative events consume your energies and ruin your temper?

Most popular recommendations in this respect do not work. For instance, repeating encouraging messages to yourself will seldom eradicate deep-rooted feelings of anxiety. Beliefs in supernatural forces might soothe fear for a while, but sooner or later, reality will return harder than ever. Telling yourself that everything is for the better, when it is not, is demeaning and psychologically destructive.

Rational thinking is the best approach to ensure that you start each day in a good mood. When used consistently, it leads to serenity, enhances productivity, and reinforces personal effectiveness. What you need to stay optimistic is not fantasy, but objectivity. If you maintain a balanced view of the world, pessimism cannot take over your feelings.

My suggestion is simple and it is based on the observation that all of us tend to exaggerate problems. Our closeness to current unpleasant events, such as failure or rejection, deprives us of perspective. What you need to do is to write down a list of your assets and place it where you can see it every morning.

Make a thorough inventory of everything you have in your favour. Do not overlook any of your qualities and possessions, since other people may lack those. If you have an excellent health, you might be taking that for granted, but don't forget that, in any country, a percentage of the population suffers from serious disease.

Add up your skills, what you own and whom you know, your half-done projects and your latest initiatives. The point is not to make you look good in the face of other people's misery, but to remind you of the extent of your resources. As counterpoint to the latest annoyance, we can all use a fresh view of our own capabilities.

Neither problems should be magnified beyond reason nor opportunities forgotten. Whatever challenges you are facing, it is good to keep in mind all factors that play in your favour. Make the list of your personal assets and let it shed a reassuring light on your plans for the future. With time and perspective, most of today's adversities might be remembered, if at all, as minor inconveniences.

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

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

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Why essential truths need to be continuously restated

Contrary to trains, cars can change direction at the driver's will. Along the highway, billboards invite us to stop by and visit all sorts of tourist attractions. On the car radio, advertisers present us their wares, some useful and convenient, others pricey and counter-productive.

Distractions are many and increase by the hour. The longer the trip, the harder it becomes to keep the vehicle on the right track. If you carry passengers in your car, they will express their views about what you are trying to do. “Turn around and return,” you will be told, “stop and let it go.”

Our environment offers us support at the same time that it places obstacles in our path. Physical barriers are visible and material problems can be directly faced. If you experience hunger or extreme discomfort, your attention will seldom be deviated from the issue at hand. Pressing needs demand immediate action.

Stonewalls will seldom prevent your progress, since they can circumvented. Nor the price of gasoline, food, and lodging. Your delays will be caused more often by doubts than by certainties. Your lack of progress will be more frequently due to shifting convictions than to insufficient means.

Thinking is not automatic. Observing reality and reaching correct conclusions requires effort. Focusing your mind on what is relevant involves selecting and discarding. Establishing goals and taking consistent action demands concentration. No one but yourself is going to ensure that your current concerns are aligned with your long-term interests.

Unless you remind yourself daily of your priorities, chances are that you will spend your time dealing with the latest emergency, only to discover later, that the problem was inconsequential. Noise distorts music in the same way that fashion distorts principles. Not by contesting them, but by making them inaudible and invisible.

The reason why men read old philosophers is not to learn about the latest scandal, but to reaffirm essential truths. The news of the hour may entertain your attention and satisfy your curiosity. Novelties might provide you subjects for small talk with strangers, but superficiality leads to anxiety.

Foolishness arises not so much out of ignorance, but out of the willingness to obliterate what we already know to be true. Balance and motivation require sharpness of intent. Unless you find a way to restate your goals and ways every day, nonsense will contaminate reason and your determination will wane.

Personal objectives are meaningless if plans are not implemented. Relentless activity ensues from self-confidence, not from self-effacement. You need to find the manner to keep your purpose in view and your understanding fresh. Restate truth at every turn the road and ignore signs that tell you to stall.

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

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

Why essential truths need to be continuously restated

Contrary to trains, cars can change direction at the driver's will. Along the highway, billboards invite us to stop by and visit all sorts of tourist attractions. On the car radio, advertisers present us their wares, some useful and convenient, others pricey and counter-productive.

Distractions are many and increase by the hour. The longer the trip, the harder it becomes to keep the vehicle on the right track. If you carry passengers in your car, they will express their views about what you are trying to do. “Turn around and return,” you will be told, “stop and let it go.”

Our environment offers us support at the same time that it places obstacles in our path. Physical barriers are visible and material problems can be directly faced. If you experience hunger or extreme discomfort, your attention will seldom be deviated from the issue at hand. Pressing needs demand immediate action.

Stonewalls will seldom prevent your progress, since they can circumvented. Nor the price of gasoline, food, and lodging. Your delays will be caused more often by doubts than by certainties. Your lack of progress will be more frequently due to shifting convictions than to insufficient means.

Thinking is not automatic. Observing reality and reaching correct conclusions requires effort. Focusing your mind on what is relevant involves selecting and discarding. Establishing goals and taking consistent action demands concentration. No one but yourself is going to ensure that your current concerns are aligned with your long-term interests.

Unless you remind yourself daily of your priorities, chances are that you will spend your time dealing with the latest emergency, only to discover later, that the problem was inconsequential. Noise distorts music in the same way that fashion distorts principles. Not by contesting them, but by making them inaudible and invisible.

The reason why men read old philosophers is not to learn about the latest scandal, but to reaffirm essential truths. The news of the hour may entertain your attention and satisfy your curiosity. Novelties might provide you subjects for small talk with strangers, but superficiality leads to anxiety.

Foolishness arises not so much out of ignorance, but out of the willingness to obliterate what we already know to be true. Balance and motivation require sharpness of intent. Unless you find a way to restate your goals and ways every day, nonsense will contaminate reason and your determination will wane.

Personal objectives are meaningless if plans are not implemented. Relentless activity ensues from self-confidence, not from self-effacement. You need to find the manner to keep your purpose in view and your understanding fresh. Restate truth at every turn the road and ignore signs that tell you to stall.

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

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

Saturday, 18 July 2009

How to sustain long-term motivation: a call for realism

Most business books revolve around a single idea that is presented from different angles. The same goes for many scientific essays, which tend to be longer, but contain few new ideas. Occasionally, hundreds of pages will be devoted to justifying points which readers might find self-evident.

Darwin's volume on the origin of species was the result of ten years of study and reflection. He actually wrote several outlines before he got down to drafting the book itself. The text, which you will need hours to read, contains dozens of elaborate descriptions and examples. Nonetheless, the message of the book can be summarized on a single page.

My message is not a call for brevity, but for realism. There is a reason why apparently simple ideas require a long exposition. Authors of those books are, for the most part, neither foolish nor focused on selling overblown banalities. Certainly, that was not the case of Charles Darwin.

A high dose of realism is the rationale for the extensive treatment of subjects. On the same grounds, engineers take safety margins when they design a new bridge, a ship, or an aeroplane. The truth known by every conscientious professional is that failure lurks around every corner. For sculptors, poets, and performers of all sorts, failure is called rejection.

Romantic movies paint situations where chance aligns all factors for success. A happy end ensues as protagonists collect their dues without effort and against all odds. Fiction of the worst kind renders credibility to fantasy, leading readers to feel dejected by reality and disappointed by life. This is something that you want to avoid.

You will much better off if you face obstacles using reason and experience as your allies. This is what skilled entrepreneurs do. Whether you take up playing golf or acting, you'd better prepare yourself for strenuous practice and open criticism.

In difficult undertakings, your efforts might remain only moderately effective for an extended period of time and rightly so. Lengthy expositions acknowledge the fact that even simple ideas will be misunderstood by many people. TV advertisers address their commercials to millions, knowing that the great majority won't buy their products.

The rule of the world is that most things won't work and that most attempts won't result in success. Rejection and miscommunication are not exceptions, but everyday events. Face negative results and use wisdom to deal with them. Great ambitions were never easily accomplished. Achieving them requires effort and patience. Those two are the elements you need. Take both and move on.

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

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

How to sustain long-term motivation: a call for realism

Most business books revolve around a single idea that is presented from different angles. The same goes for many scientific essays, which tend to be longer, but contain few new ideas. Occasionally, hundreds of pages will be devoted to justifying points which readers might find self-evident.

Darwin's volume on the origin of species was the result of ten years of study and reflection. He actually wrote several outlines before he got down to drafting the book itself. The text, which you will need hours to read, contains dozens of elaborate descriptions and examples. Nonetheless, the message of the book can be summarized on a single page.

My message is not a call for brevity, but for realism. There is a reason why apparently simple ideas require a long exposition. Authors of those books are, for the most part, neither foolish nor focused on selling overblown banalities. Certainly, that was not the case of Charles Darwin.

A high dose of realism is the rationale for the extensive treatment of subjects. On the same grounds, engineers take safety margins when they design a new bridge, a ship, or an aeroplane. The truth known by every conscientious professional is that failure lurks around every corner. For sculptors, poets, and performers of all sorts, failure is called rejection.

Romantic movies paint situations where chance aligns all factors for success. A happy end ensues as protagonists collect their dues without effort and against all odds. Fiction of the worst kind renders credibility to fantasy, leading readers to feel dejected by reality and disappointed by life. This is something that you want to avoid.

You will much better off if you face obstacles using reason and experience as your allies. This is what skilled entrepreneurs do. Whether you take up playing golf or acting, you'd better prepare yourself for strenuous practice and open criticism.

In difficult undertakings, your efforts might remain only moderately effective for an extended period of time and rightly so. Lengthy expositions acknowledge the fact that even simple ideas will be misunderstood by many people. TV advertisers address their commercials to millions, knowing that the great majority won't buy their products.

The rule of the world is that most things won't work and that most attempts won't result in success. Rejection and miscommunication are not exceptions, but everyday events. Face negative results and use wisdom to deal with them. Great ambitions were never easily accomplished. Achieving them requires effort and patience. Those two are the elements you need. Take both and move on.

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

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

Friday, 17 July 2009

Why conformity and non-conformity are equally irrelevant for happiness

Culture and fashion are calls for conformity. Relinquishing individual thinking and embracing a standard lifestyle bring enormous advantages. They save you time when it comes to taking decisions. They spare you embarrassment when it comes to disguising the truth.

The opposite side is filled by non-conformity, which is just a different sort of style. Holidays are not spent on the beach, but practising dangerous sports. Hobbies do not include watching movies, but wandering in the tropical forest. Clothes, instead of well-fitting and colourful, are torn and monochrome.

You can choose either way to fill your years, not with happiness, but with souvenirs. Imitating someone else's pictures is not the way to create great paintings. Adopting values that make no sense will not move you forward nor render your feelings more intense. Downtrodden tracks lead to dejected spirits. For sure, that is not a path you want to take.

There is an alternative, the same that has always worked. You don't need to spend your days wondering which fashion leads to less dismay. Wisdom does not entail rejecting principles that are preached, but comparing them with reason, and selecting those that work.

Individuality can only draw meaning from private reflection. Sound choices are the result of man's logical evaluation of the world. Before we start to compose our own song, we must allow our mind to filter out random noise. These are my three suggestions about how to move from inherited values to consistency with reality:

First, stop believing in myths: Neither specific clothes, nor gadgets, nor locations lead to happiness. The majority might bestow moral credibility to arbitrary standards, but you are not obliged to buy in. The idea that things have to be done in one specific way is, more often than not, false. Shun rigidity and look around for original answers.

Second, abandon contradictory goals: Irrationality is synonymous with inconsistency. False ideas conflict with facts and with each other. Anxiety is the mark of those who move at random, without destination. Animals do not need perspective, but humans do. Drop ideas that do not make sense and rebuild your thinking structure.

Third, determine your direction: Universal principles can be distilled from observation, but each has a myriad of different applications. The law of cause and effect drives all existence, but your context is unique. No one can tell you how to lead your life best. Let your reason establish your ambitions and priorities.

Realize that the short-term contentment of imitation adds little worth to your experience and much expense to you detriment. Shrug your shoulders at unrealistic advice and ignore insincere invitations. Happiness calls for stable purpose and continuous action. Choose the way of reason.

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

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