Sunday, 30 August 2009

Help has arrived


Samuel Beckett's play "Waiting for Godot" (1953) presents the story of two men endlessly discussing about someone called Godot, who is supposedly coming to help them. The two characters in the play place their hopes in Godot's coming and speculate about what their lives will look like after help has arrived.

What makes Beckett's play so compelling is that it is so realistic. How much time do we all spend hoping for someone to come and fix this or that problem? Who doesn't love to fantasize about easy solutions that will be put in place when help finally arrives?

More than fifty years have gone by since the première of Beckett's play and Godot has not arrived. Newspapers, TV, and radio have not given up, since they are still announcing daily that someone is coming to fix our problems, whether financial, professional, or personal.

I have seen Beckett's play again recently and the two men are still waiting for Godot, still discussing their hopes.
To tell you the truth, I don't know if Godot will be finally coming to save the day.

In the meantime, I have adopted another strategy that does not require so much waiting. A friend told me a few years ago that, if you know where to look, you will realize that help has already arrived and that it is readily available. "Where?" I asked surprised. My friend shrugged his shoulders and smiled. "In the mirror," he replied.

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

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

Help has arrived


Samuel Beckett's play "Waiting for Godot" (1953) presents the story of two men endlessly discussing about someone called Godot, who is supposedly coming to help them. The two characters in the play place their hopes in Godot's coming and speculate about what their lives will look like after help has arrived.

What makes Beckett's play so compelling is that it is so realistic. How much time do we all spend hoping for someone to come and fix this or that problem? Who doesn't love to fantasize about easy solutions that will be put in place when help finally arrives?

More than fifty years have gone by since the première of Beckett's play and Godot has not arrived. Newspapers, TV, and radio have not given up, since they are still announcing daily that someone is coming to fix our problems, whether financial, professional, or personal.

I have seen Beckett's play again recently and the two men are still waiting for Godot, still discussing their hopes.
To tell you the truth, I don't know if Godot will be finally coming to save the day.

In the meantime, I have adopted another strategy that does not require so much waiting. A friend told me a few years ago that, if you know where to look, you will realize that help has already arrived and that it is readily available. "Where?" I asked surprised. My friend shrugged his shoulders and smiled. "In the mirror," he replied.

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

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

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Where value is to be found


"I need time to think," said Martin Sonner. "I'm going away for a week." Martin's boss looked at his best salesman with understanding.

"If you are going to take a holiday, this is the best time." That was true, since no customer had set foot in the car dealership during the last ten days.

It was as though the desire to buy a new car had been suddenly erased from the memory of millions of people. Due to the economic crisis, car sales had dropped 30%.

If the situation did not improve during the next months, Martin's boss might be forced to shut down the business. The car dealership was not generating enough cash even to pay the rent.

Martin told his wife that he had to travel to a sales conference, packed a small suitcase, went to the airport, and took the first flight to Cairo. The plane landed in Egypt eight hours later. Martin took a room in a hotel near the pyramids.

The next day, he walked around the pyramids, climbed to the top, descended, and climbed again. On his second day, he went inside the Great Pyramid, where he found only empty rooms and rarefied air. He woke up in the middle of the second night and was unable to fall asleep again.

It was too warm in his hotel room and, besides, a question was bothering him. He got dressed, went out of the hotel, and walked towards the pyramids. Then he left the road, took off his shoes, and walked on the desert sand.

Even at night, the sand was still warm from the previous day's sunshine. Martin stood still in front of the Great Pyramid and took in a deep breath. The problems of the car dealership were now far away from his mind.

A different subject was troubling Martin. What was the point of building pyramids? Why had ancient Egyptians not put their efforts in more useful things? Indeed, it had taken five thousand years for the pyramids to bring tourists to Egypt in substantial numbers.

Martin stared at the stone blocks for several hours, as the night came to an end. The first light of dawn made him close his eyes. There has never been any good reason to build pyramids, he concluded. Pyramids are useless. Maybe that's why people like them: pyramids are a reminder that you should not spend your life piling stone blocks for no useful purpose.

When Martin returned to the car dealership at the end of the week, his boss welcomed him warmly. He was glad to have his best salesman back. "Did you come up with a brilliant sales strategy while you were in Egypt?" Martin's boss asked, half-jokingly, half-desperately. "Did you get any idea about how to turn around the situation?"

Martin nodded and handed in his resignation. "As a matter of fact, I did," he replied. "I have learned that you can wait a long time for pyramids to pay off. Too long." A few days later, Martin found a sales job in a growing field. It was a company that sold turn-key factories in the Middle-East. A booming business.


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

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

Friday, 28 August 2009

Times of maximum despondency



My brief advice about how to filter or ignore depressing reports in newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and on-line media.
  1. Don't take it personally if people do stupid things
  2. Ignore gloomy predictions: the world is not going to end
  3. What looks malignant and universal is usually benign and local
  4. Many horror news contain the seed of immensely profitable investments
  5. When people give up, that's the time to acquire assets dirt cheap
  6. A crisis, personal or otherwise, is better faced through relentless initiative
  7. What looks like a lot of money today has often little long-term significance
  8. Opportunities are created every minute, at least for those who are looking
  9. Nobody but you can decide when a game is over
  10. Creativity and strength of character are built from what you learn on bad days
If you want to gain perspective, there is nothing like reading history. Learn from the past to establish your best strategy for the future. Today, as it has always been the case, times of maximum despondency are times of maximum opportunity.

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

Times of maximum despondency



My brief advice about how to filter or ignore depressing reports in newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and on-line media.
  1. Don't take it personally if people do stupid things
  2. Ignore gloomy predictions: the world is not going to end
  3. What looks malignant and universal is usually benign and local
  4. Many horror news contain the seed of immensely profitable investments
  5. When people give up, that's the time to acquire assets dirt cheap
  6. A crisis, personal or otherwise, is better faced through relentless initiative
  7. What looks like a lot of money today has often little long-term significance
  8. Opportunities are created every minute, at least for those who are looking
  9. Nobody but you can decide when a game is over
  10. Creativity and strength of character are built from what you learn on bad days
If you want to gain perspective, there is nothing like reading history. Learn from the past to establish your best strategy for the future. Today, as it has always been the case, times of maximum despondency are times of maximum opportunity.

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

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Slow is good


For important things, there is always sufficient time. Slowness is an essential attribute of many great things, like cooking or relationships. It makes no sense to put pressure on the wrong places. Some things take as long as they take. Such slowness is to be enjoyed, not frivolously discarded as a waste of time.

Babies take nine months. Lentils take twenty minutes in the pressure cooker. You'd better bake potatoes slowly if you don't want to burn them. Substantial skills, like learning a foreign language, need months or years. There is plenty of time for important things. If you think that's not the case, check your priorities and simplify your life.


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

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

Slow is good


For important things, there is always sufficient time. Slowness is an essential attribute of many great things, like cooking or relationships. It makes no sense to put pressure on the wrong places. Some things take as long as they take. Such slowness is to be enjoyed, not frivolously discarded as a waste of time.

Babies take nine months. Lentils take twenty minutes in the pressure cooker. You'd better bake potatoes slowly if you don't want to burn them. Substantial skills, like learning a foreign language, need months or years. There is plenty of time for important things. If you think that's not the case, check your priorities and simplify your life.


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

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

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Starting something new


The readiness to try new things or new approaches is essential for long-term success. The fearless innovator has gone through the experience of failure on several occasions by the time the cautious conservative starts to consider the possibility of change.

In all fields, learning requires making mistakes, usually lots of them, until you acquire the skills, contacts, or expertise necessary to achieve your objectives. Paying too much attention to initial failures is bound to slow down your progress.

Beginner's mistakes are part of the natural learning curve in any endeavour, professional or otherwise. Detailed, valuable knowledge can only be acquired by actual playing on the field. So make sure to get in there as soon as you can. Then the clock starts to tick in your favour.

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

[Image by sup3r under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Starting something new


The readiness to try new things or new approaches is essential for long-term success. The fearless innovator has gone through the experience of failure on several occasions by the time the cautious conservative starts to consider the possibility of change.

In all fields, learning requires making mistakes, usually lots of them, until you acquire the skills, contacts, or expertise necessary to achieve your objectives. Paying too much attention to initial failures is bound to slow down your progress.

Beginner's mistakes are part of the natural learning curve in any endeavour, professional or otherwise. Detailed, valuable knowledge can only be acquired by actual playing on the field. So make sure to get in there as soon as you can. Then the clock starts to tick in your favour.

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

[Image by sup3r under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

What I learned from a great salesman


Eugene is the best salesman I've ever met. He is of Russian origin and totally unassuming. He is not an all-enthusiastic type full of fluffy slogans that wear you down. He never annoys customers with too much talk, he prefers to listen.

My attempts to have Eugene reveal his secret to me have always met with a look of incomprehension from his side. "I have no secret," he told me over and over. "I just listen to people and give them what they want."

It took me years to understand the wisdom behind Eugene's simple formula. Good, solid salesmanship is not about manipulation, it's about integrity. The point is not imposing your view on others, but making sure that you meet their needs. If you get that right, you've got it made.

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

[Image by stage88 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

What I learned from a great salesman


Eugene is the best salesman I've ever met. He is of Russian origin and totally unassuming. He is not an all-enthusiastic type full of fluffy slogans that wear you down. He never annoys customers with too much talk, he prefers to listen.

My attempts to have Eugene reveal his secret to me have always met with a look of incomprehension from his side. "I have no secret," he told me over and over. "I just listen to people and give them what they want."

It took me years to understand the wisdom behind Eugene's simple formula. Good, solid salesmanship is not about manipulation, it's about integrity. The point is not imposing your view on others, but making sure that you meet their needs. If you get that right, you've got it made.

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

[Image by stage88 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Monday, 24 August 2009

The essential factor


The passion to turn a product or service into a commercial success is the essential factor that determines the future of a new enterprise. Mistakes are inevitable, no matter how old and experienced the entrepreneur. This is why passion entails flexibility and resiliency.

Is the selling price too high or too low? Are the distribution channels adequate for the product? Should the packaging be improved? What happens if we run out of money? To all these and other questions, the relentless passion of the entrepreneur is already weighing alternative answers.

Lack of capital won't stop the dream, nor lack of contacts, nor massive ridicule. History shows the same story again and again. Scepticism does not need to turn to discouragement. Resistance and difficulties do not need to hit the ship under the waterline. Determination is the essential factor. Let it carry the day.

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

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

The essential factor


The passion to turn a product or service into a commercial success is the essential factor that determines the future of a new enterprise. Mistakes are inevitable, no matter how old and experienced the entrepreneur. This is why passion entails flexibility and resiliency.

Is the selling price too high or too low? Are the distribution channels adequate for the product? Should the packaging be improved? What happens if we run out of money? To all these and other questions, the relentless passion of the entrepreneur is already weighing alternative answers.

Lack of capital won't stop the dream, nor lack of contacts, nor massive ridicule. History shows the same story again and again. Scepticism does not need to turn to discouragement. Resistance and difficulties do not need to hit the ship under the waterline. Determination is the essential factor. Let it carry the day.

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

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

Sunday, 23 August 2009

You have better things to do


You have better things to do than:
  • expecting free help to come from nowhere
  • letting other people determine your values and priorities
  • being rushed into making important commitments
  • surrendering your rights in exchange of nothing
You know better than:
  • imitating others instead of doing what you want to do
  • taking what is immediately available without bothering to look further
  • being overwhelmed by other people's opinion or lack of it
  • wasting your time trying to establish paradise on earth
So do not hesitate to:
  • discard old things that do not work and try new things instead
  • preserve your own time as something to be used as you wish
  • walk away from situations where people tell you that you have no choice
  • do what is right and true even if it is unpopular
[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

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

You have better things to do


You have better things to do than:
  • expecting free help to come from nowhere
  • letting other people determine your values and priorities
  • being rushed into making important commitments
  • surrendering your rights in exchange of nothing
You know better than:
  • imitating others instead of doing what you want to do
  • taking what is immediately available without bothering to look further
  • being overwhelmed by other people's opinion or lack of it
  • wasting your time trying to establish paradise on earth
So do not hesitate to:
  • discard old things that do not work and try new things instead
  • preserve your own time as something to be used as you wish
  • walk away from situations where people tell you that you have no choice
  • do what is right and true even if it is unpopular
[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

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

Saturday, 22 August 2009

The only principle you need to run your life effectively


The great advantage of Aristotelian philosophy is its universality. Nevertheless, for everyday decisions, who has the time to check the validity of long chains of reasoning? The fact is that modern life requires instantaneous choices, professional and private. If we do not possess an effective way to deal with complexity, we run the risk of letting random events determine our priorities.

Is there a way to simplify the thinking process without making it lose its accuracy? Can we summarize philosophy in a brief practical guideline that can be applied in all cases? Whatever your personal situation and constraints, I believe that, in life, one can achieve excellent results by means of a simple rule.

The principle can be stated in just one sentence: what you need to do is to develop a clear objective for the remaining decades of your life and then make all choices, substantial or minor, in accordance with that goal. If you manage to get that right, chances are that your years will become an outstanding success.

The formula is difficult to apply, but its results can be spectacular. Few people make the effort to establish a definite direction for their life. As a result, they lack the capacity to move consistently towards a specific goal. In the short term, randomness can be pleasurable, but very soon, problems begin to appear:
  1. Money is wasted in useless purchases.
  2. The motivation to develop specialized skills is missing.
  3. Entertainment becomes an end it itself and turns quickly into boredom.
  4. Projects that require long-term efforts are abandoned or not undertaken at all.
  5. Erratic behaviour leads to loss of credibility.
  6. Maintenance tasks are neglected or ignored.
  7. In the absence of a proper perspective, excessive risks are taken.
  8. Contradictory desires lead to paralysis.
  9. Past decisions cannot be explained or justified.
  10. In the absence of strong convictions, one cannot connect deeply with other human beings.
In contrast to animals, human beings cannot let their instincts guide their actions. While dogs and cats perceive a narrow part of reality, our brains are aware of hundreds of interconnected details, past or present, that are relevant in each situation. We do not have the choice of ignoring our rational nature.

The refusal to think long-term is man's attempt to become less than human. Leading an effective life begins with the selection of rational goals that comprise the whole lifetime of an individual. A vision that reaches into the next decades is the most reliable tool for making optimal choices in the present.

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

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

The only principle you need to run your life effectively


The great advantage of Aristotelian philosophy is its universality. Nevertheless, for everyday decisions, who has the time to check the validity of long chains of reasoning? The fact is that modern life requires instantaneous choices, professional and private. If we do not possess an effective way to deal with complexity, we run the risk of letting random events determine our priorities.

Is there a way to simplify the thinking process without making it lose its accuracy? Can we summarize philosophy in a brief practical guideline that can be applied in all cases? Whatever your personal situation and constraints, I believe that, in life, one can achieve excellent results by means of a simple rule.

The principle can be stated in just one sentence: what you need to do is to develop a clear objective for the remaining decades of your life and then make all choices, substantial or minor, in accordance with that goal. If you manage to get that right, chances are that your years will become an outstanding success.

The formula is difficult to apply, but its results can be spectacular. Few people make the effort to establish a definite direction for their life. As a result, they lack the capacity to move consistently towards a specific goal. In the short term, randomness can be pleasurable, but very soon, problems begin to appear:
  1. Money is wasted in useless purchases.
  2. The motivation to develop specialized skills is missing.
  3. Entertainment becomes an end it itself and turns quickly into boredom.
  4. Projects that require long-term efforts are abandoned or not undertaken at all.
  5. Erratic behaviour leads to loss of credibility.
  6. Maintenance tasks are neglected or ignored.
  7. In the absence of a proper perspective, excessive risks are taken.
  8. Contradictory desires lead to paralysis.
  9. Past decisions cannot be explained or justified.
  10. In the absence of strong convictions, one cannot connect deeply with other human beings.
In contrast to animals, human beings cannot let their instincts guide their actions. While dogs and cats perceive a narrow part of reality, our brains are aware of hundreds of interconnected details, past or present, that are relevant in each situation. We do not have the choice of ignoring our rational nature.

The refusal to think long-term is man's attempt to become less than human. Leading an effective life begins with the selection of rational goals that comprise the whole lifetime of an individual. A vision that reaches into the next decades is the most reliable tool for making optimal choices in the present.

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

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

Friday, 21 August 2009

How Noah came to build his ark and why you should build yours too


“We have sown and we have harvested, but without rainfall in the spring, there was not much to reap this year,” lamented Noah as he sat down in front of the fire. Sarah stared at her husband, but did not say anything. It was not the best moment to tell Noah that she was expecting a baby, their first.

“Come and sit down by me, Sarah,” went on Noah in a grave voice. “There is something I want to tell you.” Sarah did what her husband asked from her and looked at him, trying not to show her alarm. During their years together, they had often gone through difficult times, but she had never heard Noah sound so desperate, so defeated.

Noah reflected for a long moment and then he shook his head. His words came out slowly, reluctantly. “I've had a vision, Sarah. God has talked to me.” Sarah bit her lip and waited, since she knew what was coming. She did not believe in God herself, but she had always respected Noah's strong religiosity.

“Friends and neighbours are already going hungry,” continued Noah, “and after paying taxes, we will have nothing left ourselves. If we just wait and hope, we might not make it through the winter.” Sarah turned her eyes to the fire, searching her mind for words of encouragement to say to her husband, but she found none.

Suddenly, Noah's voice changed and his tone became determined, pressing. “God has told me that we must move. I am to sell our farm for whatever price I can get and use the money to build a boat, a large one.” He was interrupted by Sarah's surprised reaction. “A boat? What do you want to do with a boat? You know nothing about fishing.”

“There are wide fertile fields down the river, Sarah, I have seen them in my dream. God has told me that we can start a new farm there, a new life. I am to purchase a pair of goats, a pair of chicken, and a pair of sheep, male and female, and take them with us in the boat.”

From all the nonsensical projects that Sarah had heard from her husband night after night, year after year, this was by far the most daring and, at the same time, the most insane. From their first encounter, Sarah had loved Noah because he was an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, as it had turned out, a crazy one.

A pair of goats on a boat, what lunacy, thought Sarah, taking in a deep breath. Once again, it was up to her to put some sense into Noah's mind. “Only a pair of each is too risky,” she objected firmly, “we should take a least two pairs of each sort, male and female.”

It was the first time that Sarah had expressed support for any of Noah's high-risk ideas and he was so taken aback, that it took him a while to reply. “What if I am wrong, Sarah? What if we lose everything we have?”

Sarah contemplated the reflection of the flames in Noah's eyes. The project was too risky and she could not afford any doubts. She had to ask the question. She had to be certain that Noah was not lying to her. “Did you really have a vision, Noah? Did God tell you what to do?”

Her heart ached when she saw the pain in Noah's eyes, when she saw him lower his head. “I am not sure if it was God, Sarah,” his voice was barely audible now, “but I know that my vision is true.” There was a silence, but it was short, just long enough for Sarah to lay her hands on Noah's. “Then, we'll build the boat,” she said.

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

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

How Noah came to build his ark and why you should build yours too


“We have sown and we have harvested, but without rainfall in the spring, there was not much to reap this year,” lamented Noah as he sat down in front of the fire. Sarah stared at her husband, but did not say anything. It was not the best moment to tell Noah that she was expecting a baby, their first.

“Come and sit down by me, Sarah,” went on Noah in a grave voice. “There is something I want to tell you.” Sarah did what her husband asked from her and looked at him, trying not to show her alarm. During their years together, they had often gone through difficult times, but she had never heard Noah sound so desperate, so defeated.

Noah reflected for a long moment and then he shook his head. His words came out slowly, reluctantly. “I've had a vision, Sarah. God has talked to me.” Sarah bit her lip and waited, since she knew what was coming. She did not believe in God herself, but she had always respected Noah's strong religiosity.

“Friends and neighbours are already going hungry,” continued Noah, “and after paying taxes, we will have nothing left ourselves. If we just wait and hope, we might not make it through the winter.” Sarah turned her eyes to the fire, searching her mind for words of encouragement to say to her husband, but she found none.

Suddenly, Noah's voice changed and his tone became determined, pressing. “God has told me that we must move. I am to sell our farm for whatever price I can get and use the money to build a boat, a large one.” He was interrupted by Sarah's surprised reaction. “A boat? What do you want to do with a boat? You know nothing about fishing.”

“There are wide fertile fields down the river, Sarah, I have seen them in my dream. God has told me that we can start a new farm there, a new life. I am to purchase a pair of goats, a pair of chicken, and a pair of sheep, male and female, and take them with us in the boat.”

From all the nonsensical projects that Sarah had heard from her husband night after night, year after year, this was by far the most daring and, at the same time, the most insane. From their first encounter, Sarah had loved Noah because he was an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, as it had turned out, a crazy one.

A pair of goats on a boat, what lunacy, thought Sarah, taking in a deep breath. Once again, it was up to her to put some sense into Noah's mind. “Only a pair of each is too risky,” she objected firmly, “we should take a least two pairs of each sort, male and female.”

It was the first time that Sarah had expressed support for any of Noah's high-risk ideas and he was so taken aback, that it took him a while to reply. “What if I am wrong, Sarah? What if we lose everything we have?”

Sarah contemplated the reflection of the flames in Noah's eyes. The project was too risky and she could not afford any doubts. She had to ask the question. She had to be certain that Noah was not lying to her. “Did you really have a vision, Noah? Did God tell you what to do?”

Her heart ached when she saw the pain in Noah's eyes, when she saw him lower his head. “I am not sure if it was God, Sarah,” his voice was barely audible now, “but I know that my vision is true.” There was a silence, but it was short, just long enough for Sarah to lay her hands on Noah's. “Then, we'll build the boat,” she said.

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

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

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The only strategy that gets things done, sold, and delivered


When someone is looking look for a job, he sends his resume around, replies to advertisements, and finally, he gets invited to interviews. Being the employment market what it is, candidates are rejected in nine out of ten cases. A week after the interview, they receive a phone call informing them that another applicant has been chosen to fill the open position.

Sometimes, there is a good reason why another person has been selected for that post, but a certain element of randomness influences a large proportion of hiring processes. On many occasions, the choice cannot be rationally justified and one should not waste time trying to figure out mysterious reasons that do not exist.

An element of arbitrariness is not foreign to those cases, as it happens in countless human activities. Why did you buy this make of car and not that one? Would you repeat that purchase today? How did you come to choose your family doctor? Do you remember how you met each of your best friends?

What is surprising is people's reaction to failure and rejection. Chances are that the candidate who has not been selected for a particular job will get to hear from his family and friends that he should improve his attitude, manners, clothing, hairdo, and who knows how many other aspects.

Salesmen who go through a difficult period also get served a menu of motivational speeches and meetings to discuss their attitude. In other professions, such as sports, acting, or management, the story runs a parallel course. The problem, you will be told, is in how you see the world.

Well, luckily, this is not true. Motivation and attitude play a certain role in performance, but their importance should not be overemphasized. If you pause to think for a second, you will realize that the professionals whom you most trust don't seem to be excessively driven or motivated.

What you expect primarily from your doctor, lawyer, plumber, or car mechanic is not that they are greatly inspiring, but that they do a good job and deliver competent service. Action is what we want to see. Service is what we want to receive. Predictable, rational action is one million times more valuable than attitude and motivation.

Action is the essential factor that gets things done, sold, and delivered. The candidate who has not been selected for the job should not spend too much time wallowing in self-recrimination about what he could have done better. If he can draw some useful lesson for the future, so much the better, but in most cases, a failed interview was just a sale that didn't close.

Don't devote your worthy hours to speculate about undefined psychological factors, arbitrary theories, and nonsensical advice. Professional salesmen know that, given enough time and effort, they will find more customers. Watching, hoping, and talking seldom help. Only relentless effort can bring you closer to success.

Athletes are motivated when they compete, but in the end, it is their past training what usually determines who will win the race. Instead of speculative advice, choose the wisdom of rational action. Let others wonder if the world should be this or that way. Move on, redouble your attempts to reach the place you want to be, and let your actions speak for themselves.

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

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

The only strategy that gets things done, sold, and delivered


When someone is looking look for a job, he sends his resume around, replies to advertisements, and finally, he gets invited to interviews. Being the employment market what it is, candidates are rejected in nine out of ten cases. A week after the interview, they receive a phone call informing them that another applicant has been chosen to fill the open position.

Sometimes, there is a good reason why another person has been selected for that post, but a certain element of randomness influences a large proportion of hiring processes. On many occasions, the choice cannot be rationally justified and one should not waste time trying to figure out mysterious reasons that do not exist.

An element of arbitrariness is not foreign to those cases, as it happens in countless human activities. Why did you buy this make of car and not that one? Would you repeat that purchase today? How did you come to choose your family doctor? Do you remember how you met each of your best friends?

What is surprising is people's reaction to failure and rejection. Chances are that the candidate who has not been selected for a particular job will get to hear from his family and friends that he should improve his attitude, manners, clothing, hairdo, and who knows how many other aspects.

Salesmen who go through a difficult period also get served a menu of motivational speeches and meetings to discuss their attitude. In other professions, such as sports, acting, or management, the story runs a parallel course. The problem, you will be told, is in how you see the world.

Well, luckily, this is not true. Motivation and attitude play a certain role in performance, but their importance should not be overemphasized. If you pause to think for a second, you will realize that the professionals whom you most trust don't seem to be excessively driven or motivated.

What you expect primarily from your doctor, lawyer, plumber, or car mechanic is not that they are greatly inspiring, but that they do a good job and deliver competent service. Action is what we want to see. Service is what we want to receive. Predictable, rational action is one million times more valuable than attitude and motivation.

Action is the essential factor that gets things done, sold, and delivered. The candidate who has not been selected for the job should not spend too much time wallowing in self-recrimination about what he could have done better. If he can draw some useful lesson for the future, so much the better, but in most cases, a failed interview was just a sale that didn't close.

Don't devote your worthy hours to speculate about undefined psychological factors, arbitrary theories, and nonsensical advice. Professional salesmen know that, given enough time and effort, they will find more customers. Watching, hoping, and talking seldom help. Only relentless effort can bring you closer to success.

Athletes are motivated when they compete, but in the end, it is their past training what usually determines who will win the race. Instead of speculative advice, choose the wisdom of rational action. Let others wonder if the world should be this or that way. Move on, redouble your attempts to reach the place you want to be, and let your actions speak for themselves.

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

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

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Making friends: what works and what doesn't (Part 2 of 2)


Exhortations to avoid personal conflict may be meant to protect your career, but they possess a fatal weakness. Their effectiveness in hiding your true opinions becomes, at the same time, the poison that prevents you from developing any kind of deep, satisfying, involved personal relation.

Rational people do not choose their friends amongst those who avoid firm commitments, appear self-effacing, and sugar-coat their remarks. Playing down your personal views in order to please strangers will certainly minimize the amount of conflict in your life, but it will also render you invisible to potential friends, that is, those who share your values and convictions.

Being yourself is the first step to build satisfactory relationships. If you choose to dissimulate your interests and beliefs for the sake of conformity, you might be accepted by a certain community, but only as an empty human shell. Is it worth it to give up your personality in order to enter a space where you essentially don't belong?

From time to time, when a situation so requires, it may be advisable for you to refrain speaking out your mind. Those cases tend to be exceptional in modern society. As a general rule, a man is better off by letting his philosophy inspire his words and gestures so that others can see him the way he is. In practical terms, this is what an open attitude entails:
  • Reserve your acts of kindness for people you like.
  • Do discuss about ideas, principles, and ethics.
  • If you believe that you are objectively right, take a clear position.
  • Remain open to examine evidence that contradicts your views.
  • When you make a mistake, apologize, and learn for the future.
  • Be polite, but if someone tries to force something upon you, just say no.
  • By pointing out contradictions to people who are willing to listen, you might prevent a catastrophe from occurring.
  • Seek truth and steer clear of insincere people. Liars are the sort of persons that you don't want to have in your life.
  • Choose deep, involved conversations over nonsensical, time-wasting trite.
A realistic theory of friendship begins with a commonality of interests and values. A life filled with empty social engagements is tantamount to an endless nightmare from which you never wake up. Seek out people who appreciate profound discussions and share your rational beliefs.

Offer consistency between form and substance and fly high the flag of your convictions. Be yourself and you will not fail to attract your perfect social match. True friendship is what binds those who share the same road and move forward in the same direction.

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

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

Making friends: what works and what doesn't (Part 2 of 2)


Exhortations to avoid personal conflict may be meant to protect your career, but they possess a fatal weakness. Their effectiveness in hiding your true opinions becomes, at the same time, the poison that prevents you from developing any kind of deep, satisfying, involved personal relation.

Rational people do not choose their friends amongst those who avoid firm commitments, appear self-effacing, and sugar-coat their remarks. Playing down your personal views in order to please strangers will certainly minimize the amount of conflict in your life, but it will also render you invisible to potential friends, that is, those who share your values and convictions.

Being yourself is the first step to build satisfactory relationships. If you choose to dissimulate your interests and beliefs for the sake of conformity, you might be accepted by a certain community, but only as an empty human shell. Is it worth it to give up your personality in order to enter a space where you essentially don't belong?

From time to time, when a situation so requires, it may be advisable for you to refrain speaking out your mind. Those cases tend to be exceptional in modern society. As a general rule, a man is better off by letting his philosophy inspire his words and gestures so that others can see him the way he is. In practical terms, this is what an open attitude entails:
  • Reserve your acts of kindness for people you like.
  • Do discuss about ideas, principles, and ethics.
  • If you believe that you are objectively right, take a clear position.
  • Remain open to examine evidence that contradicts your views.
  • When you make a mistake, apologize, and learn for the future.
  • Be polite, but if someone tries to force something upon you, just say no.
  • By pointing out contradictions to people who are willing to listen, you might prevent a catastrophe from occurring.
  • Seek truth and steer clear of insincere people. Liars are the sort of persons that you don't want to have in your life.
  • Choose deep, involved conversations over nonsensical, time-wasting trite.
A realistic theory of friendship begins with a commonality of interests and values. A life filled with empty social engagements is tantamount to an endless nightmare from which you never wake up. Seek out people who appreciate profound discussions and share your rational beliefs.

Offer consistency between form and substance and fly high the flag of your convictions. Be yourself and you will not fail to attract your perfect social match. True friendship is what binds those who share the same road and move forward in the same direction.

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

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

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Making friends: what works and what doesn't (Part 1 of 2)


Every few years, investigative reporters uncover scandals of some religious or social movement which, under the pretence of improving the world, serves only to enrich its leaders. This sort of exploitative phenomena are not new. Abundant examples of similar cases can be found in sources from previous centuries.

Why do these abusive situations repeat themselves so frequently? What allows those harmful schemes to attract thousands of victims in different countries and historical periods? The response lies before our eyes: individuals feel alone and want to belong to a closely-knit group, even if that entails paying the highest price.

Men and women wish to be part of a community. We all desire to feel needed and appreciated. In a harsh city environment, a polite sentence or gesture may constitute a shocking act of generosity. Even self-serving, abject flattery can work once in a while in situations that have become so dehumanized that people are starving to hear a few nice words.

Isolation creates psychological vulnerability, which, on many occasions, turns into long-term dependence and subservience. Sociologists have come up with sophisticated theories to explain why people fall prey to heartless manipulators, but do we need a long chain of reasoning when direct observation can provide the answer?

The fundamental cause of such pernicious relationships is a false theory of friendship. It is a fact that, from infancy to retirement, men get together, talk, and cooperate. Although we see friendships begin everyday and fail every hour, in advantageous or disruptive conditions, we seldom take the time to reflect how the process works.

When it comes to making friends, commonplace advice has become integrated in the dominant culture to such an extent that it reigns uncontested. Traditional guidelines have been recycled and rehashed without much regard to veracity or scientific proof. Here are some bromides that are often served as entrée, main course, and dessert:
  1. Smile to random strangers.
  2. Do not express unpopular ideas.
  3. Avoid making controversial statements.
  4. Listen to others and never contest their views openly.
  5. Do not attract undue attention.
  6. Show interest in whatever stories people choose to tell you.
  7. Be flexible and avoid making clear-cut statements.
  8. Do not antagonize others by bringing up sensitive subjects.
  9. Cultivate small talk and avoid criticizing people.
  10. Do not embarrass others by pointing out obvious contradictions.
The list could be extended to comprise a hundred commandments. The issue is to determine whether those recommendations lead to friendship or to something else. What are the results of following such advice?

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Making friends: what works and what doesn't (Part 1 of 2)


Every few years, investigative reporters uncover scandals of some religious or social movement which, under the pretence of improving the world, serves only to enrich its leaders. This sort of exploitative phenomena are not new. Abundant examples of similar cases can be found in sources from previous centuries.

Why do these abusive situations repeat themselves so frequently? What allows those harmful schemes to attract thousands of victims in different countries and historical periods? The response lies before our eyes: individuals feel alone and want to belong to a closely-knit group, even if that entails paying the highest price.

Men and women wish to be part of a community. We all desire to feel needed and appreciated. In a harsh city environment, a polite sentence or gesture may constitute a shocking act of generosity. Even self-serving, abject flattery can work once in a while in situations that have become so dehumanized that people are starving to hear a few nice words.

Isolation creates psychological vulnerability, which, on many occasions, turns into long-term dependence and subservience. Sociologists have come up with sophisticated theories to explain why people fall prey to heartless manipulators, but do we need a long chain of reasoning when direct observation can provide the answer?

The fundamental cause of such pernicious relationships is a false theory of friendship. It is a fact that, from infancy to retirement, men get together, talk, and cooperate. Although we see friendships begin everyday and fail every hour, in advantageous or disruptive conditions, we seldom take the time to reflect how the process works.

When it comes to making friends, commonplace advice has become integrated in the dominant culture to such an extent that it reigns uncontested. Traditional guidelines have been recycled and rehashed without much regard to veracity or scientific proof. Here are some bromides that are often served as entrée, main course, and dessert:
  1. Smile to random strangers.
  2. Do not express unpopular ideas.
  3. Avoid making controversial statements.
  4. Listen to others and never contest their views openly.
  5. Do not attract undue attention.
  6. Show interest in whatever stories people choose to tell you.
  7. Be flexible and avoid making clear-cut statements.
  8. Do not antagonize others by bringing up sensitive subjects.
  9. Cultivate small talk and avoid criticizing people.
  10. Do not embarrass others by pointing out obvious contradictions.
The list could be extended to comprise a hundred commandments. The issue is to determine whether those recommendations lead to friendship or to something else. What are the results of following such advice?

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Monday, 17 August 2009

The key to emotional stability


In traditional education, lying is universally abhorred. Children are taught that one should tell the truth under any circumstances. Such paradigm is usually reinforced with morality tales of liars who suffer terrible punishments. However, when children grow up and become adolescents, they realize that some details do not match in the story they've been told.

The extreme emotionality of teenagers is linked to their moral awakening. At thirteen, they complain that people don't follow the principles they preach. At fourteen, they point out inconsistencies between ideals and facts. At fifteen, they long to see alignment between purpose and means, but where should they find it?

In this context of straight virtues and twisted reality, becoming an adult frequently leads to disillusionment, cynicism, or sectarian self-delusion. As a result, truth is reduced to the realm of talk, actions become unpredictable, and promises unreliable. What an ethical mess, what an intellectual nightmare.

The moral confusion of our age is the natural consequence of contradictory premises in our thinking. You cannot expect people to tell the truth while you overwhelm them with equivocations and misrepresentations. There is no excuse for eluding the issue. There is no answer to this dilemma except for that provided by logic and evidence:

  1. The ethical requirement to tell the truth under any circumstances does not hold water and there is no evidence that it has ever worked. Such requirement lacks solid grounds, since it fails to acknowledge the difference between good and evil.
  2. When dealing directly with nature, it is in our own interest to remain faithful to acquired data and confirmed observations. Machines and chemical processes operate according to the laws of identity and causality. In those cases, if you lie, you will simply get different results or none at all.
  3. When dealing with other men, truth is morally due to those who are themselves authentic and reliable. The proportion of genuine and benevolent individuals in your life might include, depending on the context, a few or most people. Indisputably, you should be loyal and faithful to those who are honest.
What about the rest of your social contacts? How should one face individuals who are evil or misinformed, in numbers large or small? For those cases, we need to define clear guidelines for ourselves and our children. For instance, when we have a duty to provide accurate information, what we should do in case of doubt, and so on.

No morality should demand individuals to tell the truth to those who are trying to do them harm. Equally, no ethical system should require people to disclose private details to random strangers. Contradictory ideals lead to random reactions. The key to emotional stability is ethical consistency.

We have seen too often what prejudice has to offer. We have experienced too frequently how chaos arises from contradictions and waste from inconsistencies. Let us place our principles under reason and our actions under logic, for no other approach can ever meet the demands of reality.

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

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

The key to emotional stability


In traditional education, lying is universally abhorred. Children are taught that one should tell the truth under any circumstances. Such paradigm is usually reinforced with morality tales of liars who suffer terrible punishments. However, when children grow up and become adolescents, they realize that some details do not match in the story they've been told.

The extreme emotionality of teenagers is linked to their moral awakening. At thirteen, they complain that people don't follow the principles they preach. At fourteen, they point out inconsistencies between ideals and facts. At fifteen, they long to see alignment between purpose and means, but where should they find it?

In this context of straight virtues and twisted reality, becoming an adult frequently leads to disillusionment, cynicism, or sectarian self-delusion. As a result, truth is reduced to the realm of talk, actions become unpredictable, and promises unreliable. What an ethical mess, what an intellectual nightmare.

The moral confusion of our age is the natural consequence of contradictory premises in our thinking. You cannot expect people to tell the truth while you overwhelm them with equivocations and misrepresentations. There is no excuse for eluding the issue. There is no answer to this dilemma except for that provided by logic and evidence:

  1. The ethical requirement to tell the truth under any circumstances does not hold water and there is no evidence that it has ever worked. Such requirement lacks solid grounds, since it fails to acknowledge the difference between good and evil.
  2. When dealing directly with nature, it is in our own interest to remain faithful to acquired data and confirmed observations. Machines and chemical processes operate according to the laws of identity and causality. In those cases, if you lie, you will simply get different results or none at all.
  3. When dealing with other men, truth is morally due to those who are themselves authentic and reliable. The proportion of genuine and benevolent individuals in your life might include, depending on the context, a few or most people. Indisputably, you should be loyal and faithful to those who are honest.
What about the rest of your social contacts? How should one face individuals who are evil or misinformed, in numbers large or small? For those cases, we need to define clear guidelines for ourselves and our children. For instance, when we have a duty to provide accurate information, what we should do in case of doubt, and so on.

No morality should demand individuals to tell the truth to those who are trying to do them harm. Equally, no ethical system should require people to disclose private details to random strangers. Contradictory ideals lead to random reactions. The key to emotional stability is ethical consistency.

We have seen too often what prejudice has to offer. We have experienced too frequently how chaos arises from contradictions and waste from inconsistencies. Let us place our principles under reason and our actions under logic, for no other approach can ever meet the demands of reality.

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

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

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Living in accordance with Nature


The 16th century was a period of extraordinary conflict and violence. Disputes about religious and territorial matters divided the population in factions engaged in continuous wars, persecutions, and torture. Luckily, not everybody fell prey to the dominant ideas of the time and a few men taught us lessons that we should strive to keep always present in our mind.

The French writer Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) is one of the most interesting personalities of that time. We would probably never have heard of him if he had been more successful in his profession and businesses, or one should rather say, if he had attempted to become more successful.

After learning Latin, the most widespread language at that time in Europe, and receiving some basic training in jurisprudence, Montaigne spent more than a decade as secretary of different legislative councils and courts of justice in the south of France.

Later on, he resided for a while in Paris, but he was clever enough to realize that his natural aversion to lies, flattery, and pretence made him unsuitable for a lifelong career as civil servant. When he turned 38 years of age, in the middle of one of the worst periods of religious conflict in France, he decided to abandon his career and retire to a farm in the south of France.

What followed during the next 15 years was a memorable attempt at living life according to Nature and common sense. Everyday, Montaigne would devote the necessary effort to his farming activities, but not with the purpose of expanding his wealth, but simply to ensure his subsistence and that of his family.

For the rest, Montaigne set himself the goal of reflecting about the good life and writing down his thoughts as he went along. Surrounded by the books that he had accumulated in the previous decades of his life, he wrote continuously during his forties and early fifties.

While his neighbours in the south of France took sides passionately in favour of some ideological faction or other, Montaigne always called for moderation, pleaded for peace, and recommended tolerance as the best policy to ensure prosperity and maintain human dignity.

Montaigne's essays were published in successive compilations, which he corrected and edited further, until he was happy with the result. The principles of common sense, prudence, tolerance, moderation, and learning from experience, permeate his whole writings, from beginning to end.

Since the 16th century, other thinkers have tried to establish the principles of the good life, but few have equalled Montaigne's erudition and literary skills. For those who, in our age, seek to learn how to live in accordance with Nature, Montaigne's essays are, more than four centuries after his death, still a delight to read.

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

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

Saturday, 15 August 2009

What we can learn from people who go bankrupt


The Latin expression “carpe diem,” which can be translated as “enjoy the day,” has been elevated to a main component of our culture. The most popular interpretation goes as far as recommending people to “live for the day.” This advice comes often accompanied by sneering remarks about those who save for the future.

The sad story of artists and athletes who make a fortune and end up bankrupt a few years later is told by newspapers with monotonous frequency. The message seems to be that there is no other way or, even worse, that human beings are unable to learn from someone else's disgrace.

Nevertheless, an objective assessment of the problem shows that the great majority of middle-class citizens in any country never go bankrupt. This is not a coincidence, but the proof that self-discipline and common sense are widespread in society.

The horrid reports about financial irresponsibility that one sees on television represent conspicuous exceptions to the prudent mentality of millions of working men and women. This is not a new phenomenon and, without much effort, we can find traces of similar events in previous centuries.

The liquidity crisis that took place in London in the year 1826, almost two hundred years ago, was very similar to what we have experienced in the initial decade of the 21st century. Thousands of investors lost their fortune, including many famous personalities, such as the Scottish novelist Walter Scott.

You might know Walter Scott from his historical novels, such as “Ivanhoe” and “Rob Roy,” which belonged to the the best-selling books of his time. If Scott had adopted the discipline of living within his income, which was considerable, he might have enjoyed longer and certainly healthier years.

Unfortunately, he overextended himself by investing in ruinous printing and publishing ventures, as well as by purchasing a large extension of land and building a majestic residence. When the businesses in which he had invested went bankrupt in 1826, he still had to face massive personal debts, that he was unable to reimburse.

During the next years, he worked frantically, trying to write more books to pay off his debts. His health deteriorated rapidly and, finally, he died in 1832, physically and financially exhausted, when he was only 61 years old. Was it worth it that he had incurred huge personal debts in order to build a mansion? These are some lessons to draw from such stories:
  1. Live below your means.
  2. Save some money every month, even if it is a small sum.
  3. Take insurance to cover critical risks, such as major surgery or invalidity.
  4. Conduct your business or profession in a prudent manner.
  5. Choose slow but safe growth over wild and risky expansion.
  6. Diversify your investments amongst many different assets.
  7. Stay away from profligate individuals or businesses. Their tales seldom have a happy end.
The virtues of foresight and saving constitute the backbone of civilized society. Despite the negative stories presented by the media, millions of working men and women possess the habit of planning for the future. In fact, their prudent conduct and the ensuing peace of mind are what render them uniquely able to “enjoy the day.”

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

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

What we can learn from people who go bankrupt


The Latin expression “carpe diem,” which can be translated as “enjoy the day,” has been elevated to a main component of our culture. The most popular interpretation goes as far as recommending people to “live for the day.” This advice comes often accompanied by sneering remarks about those who save for the future.

The sad story of artists and athletes who make a fortune and end up bankrupt a few years later is told by newspapers with monotonous frequency. The message seems to be that there is no other way or, even worse, that human beings are unable to learn from someone else's disgrace.

Nevertheless, an objective assessment of the problem shows that the great majority of middle-class citizens in any country never go bankrupt. This is not a coincidence, but the proof that self-discipline and common sense are widespread in society.

The horrid reports about financial irresponsibility that one sees on television represent conspicuous exceptions to the prudent mentality of millions of working men and women. This is not a new phenomenon and, without much effort, we can find traces of similar events in previous centuries.

The liquidity crisis that took place in London in the year 1826, almost two hundred years ago, was very similar to what we have experienced in the initial decade of the 21st century. Thousands of investors lost their fortune, including many famous personalities, such as the Scottish novelist Walter Scott.

You might know Walter Scott from his historical novels, such as “Ivanhoe” and “Rob Roy,” which belonged to the the best-selling books of his time. If Scott had adopted the discipline of living within his income, which was considerable, he might have enjoyed longer and certainly healthier years.

Unfortunately, he overextended himself by investing in ruinous printing and publishing ventures, as well as by purchasing a large extension of land and building a majestic residence. When the businesses in which he had invested went bankrupt in 1826, he still had to face massive personal debts, that he was unable to reimburse.

During the next years, he worked frantically, trying to write more books to pay off his debts. His health deteriorated rapidly and, finally, he died in 1832, physically and financially exhausted, when he was only 61 years old. Was it worth it that he had incurred huge personal debts in order to build a mansion? These are some lessons to draw from such stories:
  1. Live below your means.
  2. Save some money every month, even if it is a small sum.
  3. Take insurance to cover critical risks, such as major surgery or invalidity.
  4. Conduct your business or profession in a prudent manner.
  5. Choose slow but safe growth over wild and risky expansion.
  6. Diversify your investments amongst many different assets.
  7. Stay away from profligate individuals or businesses. Their tales seldom have a happy end.
The virtues of foresight and saving constitute the backbone of civilized society. Despite the negative stories presented by the media, millions of working men and women possess the habit of planning for the future. In fact, their prudent conduct and the ensuing peace of mind are what render them uniquely able to “enjoy the day.”

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

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

Friday, 14 August 2009

Principles of accelerated learning (Part 2 of 2)


As of 1165 C.E., during his thirties and forties, Maimonides practised medicine in Alexandria, the main port in the north of Egypt. His success was so astounding that, although Maimonides was a Jew, Sultan Saladin appointed him physician to the court. That entailed regular obligations and, every morning, Maimonides went to the royal palace to give medical consultations to the royal family and court officials.

In addition, every afternoon, he ran his private medical consultation at home, both for the Jewish and Islamic community. As though this was not enough work, every evening, he tried to devote some time to read philosophy and to continue writing.

By the time he was 50 years old, Maimonides had completed his second major work, the “Guide for the Perplexed,” an extraordinary intellectual attempt to reconcile religion with Aristotelian logic. The book had a major impact in later Western thinkers and, nowadays, in the 21st century, it is still in print.

This was just the end of the second period of his writings, since later on, he began to produce texts about medicine, including a commentary on the aphorisms of the Greek physician Hippocrates. How did Moses Maimonides managed to accumulate such an extensive knowledge in different areas? Here is the explanation that I can put forward:
  1. Enormous curiosity to learn things that he considered interesting.
  2. Getting hold of a few good books in the areas of knowledge that he liked.
  3. Reading those books many times, year after year, making his own notes.
  4. Taking every opportunity to learn from experts and ask questions, driven by his curiosity.
  5. Concentrating on different fields of knowledge one after the other. In the case of Maimonides, he focused his research and writings, sequentially, on the areas of law, for about twelve years, then on philosophy, for about another twelve years, and finally, on medicine.
  6. Learning from mistakes and making corrections as he went along.
You may argue that such rules of learning were good for someone living nine centuries ago, but that they have become obsolete in our time. Modern schools and universities, such as those in the fields of law and medicine, impose strict requirements on which subjects are to be covered by students.

Although the environment and demands have changed, I submit that the principles of accelerated learning have remained the same. Curiosity, personal motivation, and a few good books is all it takes to get started. For those who possess the knowledge, passing formal exams has never been a problem. Other elements, such as working experience, can be picked up as you go along.

The ultimate proof of the learning method was provided by Maimonides himself. He got married when he was 50 years old and, soon after, he had a son, whom he named Abraham. The kid read at home the same books that Maimonides had read and, already as an infant, he began to assist his father during his medical consultations.

When Maimonides died in 1204, he was 69 years old. By that time, his son Abraham, who had just turned 19, had already acquired such a reputation as physician that he was also appointed to a position in the royal court. Apparently, the system of learning had worked its wonders once again, but the story does not stop here.

During the following decades, Maimonides' grandson and the son thereof also learned the same profession at a young age and, later on, practised medicine very successfully. During the 13th and 14th centuries, they belonged to the most famous physicians of Egypt.

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

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

Principles of accelerated learning (Part 2 of 2)


As of 1165 C.E., during his thirties and forties, Maimonides practised medicine in Alexandria, the main port in the north of Egypt. His success was so astounding that, although Maimonides was a Jew, Sultan Saladin appointed him physician to the court. That entailed regular obligations and, every morning, Maimonides went to the royal palace to give medical consultations to the royal family and court officials.

In addition, every afternoon, he ran his private medical consultation at home, both for the Jewish and Islamic community. As though this was not enough work, every evening, he tried to devote some time to read philosophy and to continue writing.

By the time he was 50 years old, Maimonides had completed his second major work, the “Guide for the Perplexed,” an extraordinary intellectual attempt to reconcile religion with Aristotelian logic. The book had a major impact in later Western thinkers and, nowadays, in the 21st century, it is still in print.

This was just the end of the second period of his writings, since later on, he began to produce texts about medicine, including a commentary on the aphorisms of the Greek physician Hippocrates. How did Moses Maimonides managed to accumulate such an extensive knowledge in different areas? Here is the explanation that I can put forward:
  1. Enormous curiosity to learn things that he considered interesting.
  2. Getting hold of a few good books in the areas of knowledge that he liked.
  3. Reading those books many times, year after year, making his own notes.
  4. Taking every opportunity to learn from experts and ask questions, driven by his curiosity.
  5. Concentrating on different fields of knowledge one after the other. In the case of Maimonides, he focused his research and writings, sequentially, on the areas of law, for about twelve years, then on philosophy, for about another twelve years, and finally, on medicine.
  6. Learning from mistakes and making corrections as he went along.
You may argue that such rules of learning were good for someone living nine centuries ago, but that they have become obsolete in our time. Modern schools and universities, such as those in the fields of law and medicine, impose strict requirements on which subjects are to be covered by students.

Although the environment and demands have changed, I submit that the principles of accelerated learning have remained the same. Curiosity, personal motivation, and a few good books is all it takes to get started. For those who possess the knowledge, passing formal exams has never been a problem. Other elements, such as working experience, can be picked up as you go along.

The ultimate proof of the learning method was provided by Maimonides himself. He got married when he was 50 years old and, soon after, he had a son, whom he named Abraham. The kid read at home the same books that Maimonides had read and, already as an infant, he began to assist his father during his medical consultations.

When Maimonides died in 1204, he was 69 years old. By that time, his son Abraham, who had just turned 19, had already acquired such a reputation as physician that he was also appointed to a position in the royal court. Apparently, the system of learning had worked its wonders once again, but the story does not stop here.

During the following decades, Maimonides' grandson and the son thereof also learned the same profession at a young age and, later on, practised medicine very successfully. During the 13th and 14th centuries, they belonged to the most famous physicians of Egypt.

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

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

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Principles of accelerated learning (Part 1 of 2)


Many universities and colleges offer courses to improve your learning effectiveness. In those sessions, usually spread across several weeks, you will be taught to define your goals, to get organized, to be disciplined in your studies, to take notes, underline the main ideas, and review constantly what you have learned.

Judging by the results, one might wonder if those courses work that well. The number of drop-outs from colleges and universities is still substantial. Wasted resources and wasted time. What a pity, people lament, but can the situation be improved? If we take a look at adult vocational training, the situation is somewhat better, but still far from ideal.

Indeed, there is plenty of room for improvement, but this is the kind of problem that cannot be solved by preaching. If conditions are going to ameliorate, this will happen only as a result of personal example. With good reason, people tend to believe more what they experience themselves than what they are told.

Let me tell you a story that illustrates how effective learning can take place at minimum cost. Moses Maimonides was born in the year 1135 C.E in Cordoba, in the south of Spain. His father was a rabbi and possessed at home a few dozen books about Jewish law, medicine, and Greek philosophy.

During his infancy, Moses Maimonides, together with his older brother David, received many hours of instruction from his father, although that cannot be compared to the thousands of lessons that contemporary children receive at school. What is amazing is that, with very limited resources, Maimonides absorbed knowledge like a sponge.

His brother David began a jewellery business and Maimonides also took some part in it, at the same time that he devoted a share of his time to writing a General Commentary on Jewish law. His writings were based on the books that he had read, to which he added his own reflections.

The jewellery business had its ups and downs, but Maimonides continued researching and writing during his twenties and early thirties until he finished his commentary, which today, nine hundred years later, is still considered one of the major scholarly works on Jewish law.

The family moved to Egypt in search of a better life, but a catastrophe was soon to wipe out their resources. Maimonides' brother, David, died in a shipwreck, taking down with him all the family fortune. Stranded in Egypt with no money, Maimonides opted for trying to make a living as a physician, using the medical knowledge that he had acquired in Spain.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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