Saturday, 31 October 2009

Do not engage in pointless debates (Part 1 of 2)


It doesn't pay to engage in verbal fights with irrational people. They will dismiss your well-thought arguments. They will ignore facts and figures. They will wear you down and, in extreme cases, they might make you doubt your senses. Most of us would be already millionaires if we had been paid for all the hours that we have wasted in useless discussions.

Nevertheless, no matter what business you are in, you probably make part of your money through your dealings with irrational customers, colleagues, or employees. The world being what it is, there are few ways to make a living without having to deal with some overbearing individuals. Your efficiency and happiness will depend to a great extent on your ability to deal with this kind of persons.

Avoiding nonsense altogether is hardly a feasible approach, since no one can remake the world according to his personal preferences. Getting angry doesn't work either, since you would only create stress for yourself without improving anything.

A workable system to put an end to a pointless debate consists of admitting that you don't know. Saying words such “maybe" or “possibly” in a polite tone has the same effect. This approach is not a compromise with irrationality, but a necessary method of self-protection. Let me show you a few examples of what happens when you use this strategy against everyday nonsense.

[1] When someone tells you that the world is coming to an end and that you should be anxious and depressed, you can admit that possibility and indicate that you will start worrying when you actually see civilization fall apart.

[2] Should you get to hear that saving is useless and that you would be better off by living in the moment, thank that person for the advice and reply that you will stop saving when you have tangible guarantees that your financial future is properly taken care of.

[3] A similar approach can be used against someone exhorting you to read the newspaper every day, warning you that, without constant new information, you will soon lose your competitive edge. Remain serene and refrain from giving a snappy reply. Say that you take note of the remark but that you are satisfied with the effectiveness of your limited-information approach.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Do not engage in pointless debates
(Part 1 of 2)


It doesn't pay to engage in verbal fights with irrational people. They will dismiss your well-thought arguments. They will ignore facts and figures. They will wear you down and, in extreme cases, they might make you doubt your senses. Most of us would be already millionaires if we had been paid for all the hours that we have wasted in useless discussions.

Nevertheless, no matter what business you are in, you probably make part of your money through your dealings with irrational customers, colleagues, or employees. The world being what it is, there are few ways to make a living without having to deal with some overbearing individuals. Your efficiency and happiness will depend to a great extent on your ability to deal with this kind of persons.

Avoiding nonsense altogether is hardly a feasible approach, since no one can remake the world according to his personal preferences. Getting angry doesn't work either, since you would only create stress for yourself without improving anything.

A workable system to put an end to a pointless debate consists of admitting that you don't know. Saying words such “maybe" or “possibly” in a polite tone has the same effect. This approach is not a compromise with irrationality, but a necessary method of self-protection. Let me show you a few examples of what happens when you use this strategy against everyday nonsense.

[1] When someone tells you that the world is coming to an end and that you should be anxious and depressed, you can admit that possibility and indicate that you will start worrying when you actually see civilization fall apart.

[2] Should you get to hear that saving is useless and that you would be better off by living in the moment, thank that person for the advice and reply that you will stop saving when you have tangible guarantees that your financial future is properly taken care of.

[3] A similar approach can be used against someone exhorting you to read the newspaper every day, warning you that, without constant new information, you will soon lose your competitive edge. Remain serene and refrain from giving a snappy reply. Say that you take note of the remark but that you are satisfied with the effectiveness of your limited-information approach.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Friday, 30 October 2009

You have more options than you think (Part 2 of 2)


Although the rabbi uttered his threat in a soft voice, he painted clearly the consequences of non-compliance. Expulsion from the synagogue was tantamount to lifelong ostracism. If Spinoza refused to conform to social conventions, all doors would be closed to him.

“We expect your answer on the last Sabbath of the month,” concluded the rabbi, already anticipating his victory. In his view, no one would be foolish enough to throw away a bright professional future in an established community for the sake of some nonsense about truth.

On July 27th, Spinoza returned to the synagogue. The rabbi and the elders were awaiting him. “What have you decided?” they asked. “Are you with us or are you on your own?”

“A man must be guided by reason, if he is to remain fully a man,” answered Spinoza. “Without the urge to understand and the freedom to search for answers, neither truth nor happiness are possible.”

After leaving Amsterdam, Spinoza moved thirty kilometres south and created a new community from scratch: a group of free-thinking intellectuals who would spread around the world his ideas about tolerance.

If Spinoza had believed that he had no options, he would have remained in his traditional community and led an obscure life of conformity. As he wrote in his Ethics, “the essence of human thinking is the ability to identify true ideas.”

When somebody tells you that you have only one way to go, give yourself a break. Don't get upset and don't give a snappy reply. Don't bother. Instead, nod, smile, and move on. You have more options than you think.

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

[Image by Perrimoon 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
(Part 2 of 2)


Although the rabbi uttered his threat in a soft voice, he painted clearly the consequences of non-compliance. Expulsion from the synagogue was tantamount to lifelong ostracism. If Spinoza refused to conform to social conventions, all doors would be closed to him.

“We expect your answer on the last Sabbath of the month,” concluded the rabbi, already anticipating his victory. In his view, no one would be foolish enough to throw away a bright professional future in an established community for the sake of some nonsense about truth.

On July 27th, Spinoza returned to the synagogue. The rabbi and the elders were awaiting him. “What have you decided?” they asked. “Are you with us or are you on your own?”

“A man must be guided by reason, if he is to remain fully a man,” answered Spinoza. “Without the urge to understand and the freedom to search for answers, neither truth nor happiness are possible.”

After leaving Amsterdam, Spinoza moved thirty kilometres south and created a new community from scratch: a group of free-thinking intellectuals who would spread around the world his ideas about tolerance.

If Spinoza had believed that he had no options, he would have remained in his traditional community and led an obscure life of conformity. As he wrote in his Ethics, “the essence of human thinking is the ability to identify true ideas.”

When somebody tells you that you have only one way to go, give yourself a break. Don't get upset and don't give a snappy reply. Don't bother. Instead, nod, smile, and move on. You have more options than you think.

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

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

Thursday, 29 October 2009

You have more options than you think (Part 1 of 2)


You should never believe anyone who tells you that you only have one option, in particular when that person tries to justify his view by quoting some trite anti-philosophical remark. Never pay attention to people who tell you that, in life, you cannot get what you want. The ability to find alternative paths is critical to get out of losing situations.

If your parts supplier tells you that you have no choice, find a new supplier. If your internet provider acts as though you have no alternative, change providers. If an expensive computer repair shop tells you that they are the only experts in your type of machine, throw away the old computer and purchase another brand.

Should your bank tell you that you have no other possibility, go and open accounts in three other banks. If your plumber tells you that your have no alternative, learn how to replace the kitchen tabs yourself. When a painter tells you that he is the only choice in town, hire someone else to paint your house.

The life of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) provides one of the best examples of how a man can create alternatives where none seem to exist. In his essay Ethics he wrote that “the human mind is designed for exercising memory and imagination.” Few men in History have shown such extraordinary courage as Spinoza, whose dismissal of conformity estranged him from his family and made him a social and financial pariah.

Born into a wealthy family of Jewish merchants and destined to a life of economic comfort, Spinoza's free spirit already began to outgrow the narrow traditions of his community when he was a young man in Amsterdam.

In July 1656, when Spinoza was 24 years old, the rabbi of the synagogue, after having consulted the elders, gave him an ultimatum. He was to stop asking questions during lectures. He was to stop talking to other young men about tolerance and individual freedom. In a word, he was to stop thinking differently than everybody else in the community.

To be continued in Part 2

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

[Image by Ashleigh Thomson 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
(Part 1 of 2)


You should never believe anyone who tells you that you only have one option, in particular when that person tries to justify his view by quoting some trite anti-philosophical remark. Never pay attention to people who tell you that, in life, you cannot get what you want. The ability to find alternative paths is critical to get out of losing situations.

If your parts supplier tells you that you have no choice, find a new supplier. If your internet provider acts as though you have no alternative, change providers. If an expensive computer repair shop tells you that they are the only experts in your type of machine, throw away the old computer and purchase another brand.

Should your bank tell you that you have no other possibility, go and open accounts in three other banks. If your plumber tells you that your have no alternative, learn how to replace the kitchen tabs yourself. When a painter tells you that he is the only choice in town, hire someone else to paint your house.

The life of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) provides one of the best examples of how a man can create alternatives where none seem to exist. In his essay Ethics he wrote that “the human mind is designed for exercising memory and imagination.” Few men in History have shown such extraordinary courage as Spinoza, whose dismissal of conformity estranged him from his family and made him a social and financial pariah.

Born into a wealthy family of Jewish merchants and destined to a life of economic comfort, Spinoza's free spirit already began to outgrow the narrow traditions of his community when he was a young man in Amsterdam.

In July 1656, when Spinoza was 24 years old, the rabbi of the synagogue, after having consulted the elders, gave him an ultimatum. He was to stop asking questions during lectures. He was to stop talking to other young men about tolerance and individual freedom. In a word, he was to stop thinking differently than everybody else in the community.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

There is a garden beyond the desert


"When I was a kid, I also lived myself in the desert," I begin my story. "We had hardly enough to eat. Sometimes, a week went by without having eaten much beyond cheese and some dates."

The children, with wide-open eyes, are sitting on the ground, staring at me incredulously. For them, the whole world is a desert. They have never seen anything else. Their parents have never gone anywhere else. In their minds, life itself is a desert.

"I wanted to escape, to go somewhere else, to move to a better place," I continued my story. "Every morning, I walked around the tents looking at the horizon, hoping to find a path in the sand. Every evening, I prayed to see a far away light after the sun went down."

At that point, I always walk around the children, theatrically looking around in all directions, as though trying to find a city beyond the desert. They boys and girls turn their heads and follow me with their eyes. Nevertheless, they don't bother to look at the desert. They know that there is nothing to be found in the sand.

"Years passed and, one morning, when I was about to give up, a stranger arrived," I tell the children. "Nobody knew where he was coming from nor how he had found the way through the desert. I just woke up one day and the stranger was there."

The oldest kid in the group shakes his head. I doubt that he has heard my story before, but he is sceptical. I see him hesitate before asking me a question. "Who was that man? What did he come here for?"

"These are the same questions that I asked him myself," I reply, nodding to the kid. "The man was wearing garments in colours I had never seen and his eyes were unusually bright." The children, who are all wearing white tunics made of rough cotton, examine my new red-green shirt, my blue jeans, and my brown sport shoes.

I take a piece of old-yellow paper out of my pocket and show it to the children. "When the stranger told me that he was coming from a garden beyond the desert, I asked him the way and wrote his directions on this piece of paper."

A little girl stands up in the middle of the group. She must be nine or ten years old. She points at the paper in my hand and calls me a liar. The other kids tell her to shut up. Even if my story is not true, they want to hear the end. The girl repeats that I am a liar and sits down again.

I lift up the piece of paper and pretend to decipher some old unreadable lines. Of course, I do it all for effect, since I know the text by heart. "The advice from the stranger was very simple," I go on. "He told me to leave behind all that is useless, to take any direction I wanted, and to walk straight ahead until I found the garden."

The children are now silent, trying to make sense of my words. The oldest kid is the first to react. He asks me the same question that every kid had asked me before. The same question that every kid will always ask me until the end of time.

"Did you follow the stranger's advice?" the kid wants to know. "Did you find the garden?" Before I give a positive answer, I stretch my arms in order to let them admire my shirt, my blue jeans, and my sport shoes. Those are the proof that the garden exists.

The little girl stands up again and looks at me straight in the eye. Is she going to call me a liar once more? No, instead, she opts for drawing the other children's attention to the obvious contradiction in my story.

"If you found the garden, what are you doing here?" she shouts at me angrily. "Why did you come back to the desert?"

I never reply immediately to that last question. A long silence is the best way to underline my point. "I came back to the desert," I answer, "in order to tell you this story."

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

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

There is a garden beyond the desert


"When I was a kid, I also lived myself in the desert," I begin my story. "We had hardly enough to eat. Sometimes, a week went by without having eaten much beyond cheese and some dates."

The children, with wide-open eyes, are sitting on the ground, staring at me incredulously. For them, the whole world is a desert. They have never seen anything else. Their parents have never gone anywhere else. In their minds, life itself is a desert.

"I wanted to escape, to go somewhere else, to move to a better place," I continued my story. "Every morning, I walked around the tents looking at the horizon, hoping to find a path in the sand. Every evening, I prayed to see a far away light after the sun went down."

At that point, I always walk around the children, theatrically looking around in all directions, as though trying to find a city beyond the desert. They boys and girls turn their heads and follow me with their eyes. Nevertheless, they don't bother to look at the desert. They know that there is nothing to be found in the sand.

"Years passed and, one morning, when I was about to give up, a stranger arrived," I tell the children. "Nobody knew where he was coming from nor how he had found the way through the desert. I just woke up one day and the stranger was there."

The oldest kid in the group shakes his head. I doubt that he has heard my story before, but he is sceptical. I see him hesitate before asking me a question. "Who was that man? What did he come here for?"

"These are the same questions that I asked him myself," I reply, nodding to the kid. "The man was wearing garments in colours I had never seen and his eyes were unusually bright." The children, who are all wearing white tunics made of rough cotton, examine my new red-green shirt, my blue jeans, and my brown sport shoes.

I take a piece of old-yellow paper out of my pocket and show it to the children. "When the stranger told me that he was coming from a garden beyond the desert, I asked him the way and wrote his directions on this piece of paper."

A little girl stands up in the middle of the group. She must be nine or ten years old. She points at the paper in my hand and calls me a liar. The other kids tell her to shut up. Even if my story is not true, they want to hear the end. The girl repeats that I am a liar and sits down again.

I lift up the piece of paper and pretend to decipher some old unreadable lines. Of course, I do it all for effect, since I know the text by heart. "The advice from the stranger was very simple," I go on. "He told me to leave behind all that is useless, to take any direction I wanted, and to walk straight ahead until I found the garden."

The children are now silent, trying to make sense of my words. The oldest kid is the first to react. He asks me the same question that every kid had asked me before. The same question that every kid will always ask me until the end of time.

"Did you follow the stranger's advice?" the kid wants to know. "Did you find the garden?" Before I give a positive answer, I stretch my arms in order to let them admire my shirt, my blue jeans, and my sport shoes. Those are the proof that the garden exists.

The little girl stands up again and looks at me straight in the eye. Is she going to call me a liar once more? No, instead, she opts for drawing the other children's attention to the obvious contradiction in my story.

"If you found the garden, what are you doing here?" she shouts at me angrily. "Why did you come back to the desert?"

I never reply immediately to that last question. A long silence is the best way to underline my point. "I came back to the desert," I answer, "in order to tell you this story."

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

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

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Immobility is the enemy of achievement (Part 3 of 3)


Stand up and resume your efforts to attain success. Get back on your feet and avoid the temptation of passivity, since it produces nothing and leads to nothing. Motivational paralysis only serves to waste your life.

Make a point also to ignore gloomy predictions from the media, friends, or family. Most depressing statements are not true anyway and the world is not coming to an end. Do not join people wallowing in their misery. Never fall into immobility out of fear of things that, most likely, will never happen. Asses your alternatives, pick up the best, and begin to move in the right direction.

What looks today as universal malignancy often turns to be just another benign local problem that is quickly forgotten. What today seems a serious challenge has often little long-term significance. For those who refuse to be paralysed, catastrophes frequently contain the seed of profitable opportunities.

When people embrace passivity, that's the best time to take swift action. A crisis, personal or otherwise, should be faced through relentless initiative, not with immobility. Nobody but you can decide when a game is over.

Psychological paralysis is the worst enemy of achievement and happiness. Immobility is always a losing proposition. What you learn on bad days builds your creativity and strength of character. For those who remain alert and active, opportunities are created every minute.

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

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

Immobility is the enemy of achievement
(Part 3 of 3)


Stand up and resume your efforts to attain success. Get back on your feet and avoid the temptation of passivity, since it produces nothing and leads to nothing. Motivational paralysis only serves to waste your life.

Make a point also to ignore gloomy predictions from the media, friends, or family. Most depressing statements are not true anyway and the world is not coming to an end. Do not join people wallowing in their misery. Never fall into immobility out of fear of things that, most likely, will never happen. Asses your alternatives, pick up the best, and begin to move in the right direction.

What looks today as universal malignancy often turns to be just another benign local problem that is quickly forgotten. What today seems a serious challenge has often little long-term significance. For those who refuse to be paralysed, catastrophes frequently contain the seed of profitable opportunities.

When people embrace passivity, that's the best time to take swift action. A crisis, personal or otherwise, should be faced through relentless initiative, not with immobility. Nobody but you can decide when a game is over.

Psychological paralysis is the worst enemy of achievement and happiness. Immobility is always a losing proposition. What you learn on bad days builds your creativity and strength of character. For those who remain alert and active, opportunities are created every minute.

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

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

Monday, 26 October 2009

Immobility is the enemy of achievement (Part 2 of 3)


In industrial societies, the negative consequences of rejection tend to be exaggerated by the media. Nowadays, global markets allow innovators to find their customers anywhere in the world even if their ideas are not appreciated by friends and neighbours.

Thinking for yourself is difficult in the face of opposition. The golden advantages of social convenience always seem, at first sight, the obvious choice, but conformity and passivity make man's happiness impossible. Becoming aware of long-term consequences of immobility and taking rational initiative mark the path to success.

Inaction and conformity have so many advantages that, for some people, they become the choice by default. Few are told that those short-term benefits are dwarfed by their lifetime costs. Seldom is the fact mentioned that long-term passivity wipes out man's capacity for attaining success and happiness.

Psychological immobility arises when people are overwhelmed by problems, threats, or obstacles that look insurmountable. Logic and evidence provide the means to dispute and eliminate from our mind the fallacies that feed mental passivity. Rationality is what allows a person to make reasonable calculations and take action to improve his life.

For instance, if you want to avoid psychological exhaustion, you should never take it personally when people do stupid things. Never allow yourself to be paralysed by the fact that other persons have made a large mistake.

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Immobility is the enemy of achievement
(Part 2 of 3)


In industrial societies, the negative consequences of rejection tend to be exaggerated by the media. Nowadays, global markets allow innovators to find their customers anywhere in the world even if their ideas are not appreciated by friends and neighbours.

Thinking for yourself is difficult in the face of opposition. The golden advantages of social convenience always seem, at first sight, the obvious choice, but conformity and passivity make man's happiness impossible. Becoming aware of long-term consequences of immobility and taking rational initiative mark the path to success.

Inaction and conformity have so many advantages that, for some people, they become the choice by default. Few are told that those short-term benefits are dwarfed by their lifetime costs. Seldom is the fact mentioned that long-term passivity wipes out man's capacity for attaining success and happiness.

Psychological immobility arises when people are overwhelmed by problems, threats, or obstacles that look insurmountable. Logic and evidence provide the means to dispute and eliminate from our mind the fallacies that feed mental passivity. Rationality is what allows a person to make reasonable calculations and take action to improve his life.

For instance, if you want to avoid psychological exhaustion, you should never take it personally when people do stupid things. Never allow yourself to be paralysed by the fact that other persons have made a large mistake.

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Immobility is the enemy of achievement (Part 1 of 3)


Why would anyone devote efforts to convince himself that he cannot improve his own situation? Although many individuals are conscious of the disadvantages of psychological immobility, such paralysis is frequently endorsed. Millions of men and women fall prey to self-imposed restrictions that they could remove if they wished.

Why are restraining beliefs so ingrained in society? What makes human beings support fantasies in word and deed? How is it possible that some people devote their energies to pretending that paralysis is an acceptable approach to living?

Three reasons explain why human beings are often deeply invested in immobility. Social convenience is the first, since it feels good to belong to the majority. Financial benefit is the second, since many doors are closed to those who ask uncomfortable questions. The third motive, fear of rejection, is perhaps the strongest.

Each of those justifications possesses extraordinary appeal on its own. All three combined are almost irresistible. Nevertheless, experience proves that, in the long run, doubt and psychological paralysis will destroy a man's life.

Social convenience can lead people to repress their best initiatives. The habit of seeking conformity deprives men of the force to pursue their dreams and stake their claims. However, the financial benefits of immobility, although sweet, tend to be short-lived.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Immobility is the enemy of achievement
(Part 1 of 3)


Why would anyone devote efforts to convince himself that he cannot improve his own situation? Although many individuals are conscious of the disadvantages of psychological immobility, such paralysis is frequently endorsed. Millions of men and women fall prey to self-imposed restrictions that they could remove if they wished.

Why are restraining beliefs so ingrained in society? What makes human beings support fantasies in word and deed? How is it possible that some people devote their energies to pretending that paralysis is an acceptable approach to living?

Three reasons explain why human beings are often deeply invested in immobility. Social convenience is the first, since it feels good to belong to the majority. Financial benefit is the second, since many doors are closed to those who ask uncomfortable questions. The third motive, fear of rejection, is perhaps the strongest.

Each of those justifications possesses extraordinary appeal on its own. All three combined are almost irresistible. Nevertheless, experience proves that, in the long run, doubt and psychological paralysis will destroy a man's life.

Social convenience can lead people to repress their best initiatives. The habit of seeking conformity deprives men of the force to pursue their dreams and stake their claims. However, the financial benefits of immobility, although sweet, tend to be short-lived.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Saturday, 24 October 2009

How Casanova became great at dating


"In matters of love, as well as in all others, time is a great teacher," wrote Giacomo Casanova in his Memories when he was 62 years old. Since his youth in Venice, he had gone a long way, making and losing several fortunes until he had finally found a modest librarian position in the castle of a Czech baron.

From what we know, Casanova was neither particularly handsome, nor wealthy, nor privileged by family connections. Nevertheless, the 6.000 pages of his Memories recount a long string of amorous victories that have made Casanova the archetype of a successful seducer.

Casanova's Memories were published only in 1831, that is, 33 years after his death. Many of the adventures that he presented in his work are no doubt literary fabrications, but even so, his writings offer deep insights into human nature and love relations.

A contemporary publisher might have titled Casanova's work as "Proven principles of success in dating." The autobiographical nature of Casanova's writings enhances their value as teaching material without making their content less entertaining.

Casanova invites the reader to draw lessons from the misfortunes and mistakes of his literary hero. His advice includes being properly groomed, using flattery, frequenting parties and social events, learning to speak well, ignoring petty offences when courting a prospective lover, being witty, and choosing the right moment to speak out your heart.

Since these are the sort of recommendations that one finds nowadays in any self-help book on the subject, why are Casanova's Memories so special? What particular characteristic makes Casanova's writings so compelling? Why does his personal example remain so vivid through the years?

My answer to this key question is simple: The hero that walks and stumbles through the 6.000 pages of Casanova's Memories is a relentless, driven individual. This is, in my view, the ultimate reason for the hero's success, what allows him to learn from experience and progressively sharpen his skills to perfection.

In dating, like in anything else, you have to play the game if you want to become a master. Forget any fears you might have and get down to action. Relentless practice will maximise your chances of success. As Casanova put it so well in his work "Timidity is often another word for stupidity."

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

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

How Casanova became great at dating


"In matters of love, as well as in all others, time is a great teacher," wrote Giacomo Casanova in his Memories when he was 62 years old. Since his youth in Venice, he had gone a long way, making and losing several fortunes until he had finally found a modest librarian position in the castle of a Czech baron.

From what we know, Casanova was neither particularly handsome, nor wealthy, nor privileged by family connections. Nevertheless, the 6.000 pages of his Memories recount a long string of amorous victories that have made Casanova the archetype of a successful seducer.

Casanova's Memories were published only in 1831, that is, 33 years after his death. Many of the adventures that he presented in his work are no doubt literary fabrications, but even so, his writings offer deep insights into human nature and love relations.

A contemporary publisher might have titled Casanova's work as "Proven principles of success in dating." The autobiographical nature of Casanova's writings enhances their value as teaching material without making their content less entertaining.

Casanova invites the reader to draw lessons from the misfortunes and mistakes of his literary hero. His advice includes being properly groomed, using flattery, frequenting parties and social events, learning to speak well, ignoring petty offences when courting a prospective lover, being witty, and choosing the right moment to speak out your heart.

Since these are the sort of recommendations that one finds nowadays in any self-help book on the subject, why are Casanova's Memories so special? What particular characteristic makes Casanova's writings so compelling? Why does his personal example remain so vivid through the years?

My answer to this key question is simple: The hero that walks and stumbles through the 6.000 pages of Casanova's Memories is a relentless, driven individual. This is, in my view, the ultimate reason for the hero's success, what allows him to learn from experience and progressively sharpen his skills to perfection.

In dating, like in anything else, you have to play the game if you want to become a master. Forget any fears you might have and get down to action. Relentless practice will maximise your chances of success. As Casanova put it so well in his work "Timidity is often another word for stupidity."

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

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

Friday, 23 October 2009

Reduce strategy to a simple formula (Part 2 of 2)


In the kitchen, only detailed recipes give consistent results. Eating well is the overall objective, but actual cooking relies on specific ingredients, temperature, seasoning, and a formula that combines them. Failing to identify concrete elements of action makes impossible to implement plans and deprives man of confidence on his own abilities.

Imprecise plans and performance criteria blind our eyes. Today's random actions destroy yesterday's creations. Self-inflicted contradictions lead to failure, anger, and anxiety. A company whose employees render erratic, unpredictable services is doomed. Never trust individuals who are long on philosophical talk and short on implementation details.

Quality controls are useless if people don't know what they are doing. Quality requires clear objectives, purposeful thinking, and continuous action. If you want to be taken seriously, break down your twenty-year goals into monthly steps. The workable approach to happiness is a rational connection between our present actions and our life objectives.

Manufacturers follow a production formula to ensure that they are using the right materials. Check-lists permit managers to assess if a worker is sufficiently trained to do his job. A company's compensation plan aligns the interests of employees with the corporate goals.

Nobody can figure out all right answers all the time, but if you condense your strategy into a formula, mistakes will be self-correcting. Chaos leads to more chaos, but a recipe can be improved from experience. Breaking down long-term goals into detailed steps is of critical importance in business and private life.

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

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

Reduce strategy to a simple formula
(Part 2 of 2)


In the kitchen, only detailed recipes give consistent results. Eating well is the overall objective, but actual cooking relies on specific ingredients, temperature, seasoning, and a formula that combines them. Failing to identify concrete elements of action makes impossible to implement plans and deprives man of confidence on his own abilities.

Imprecise plans and performance criteria blind our eyes. Today's random actions destroy yesterday's creations. Self-inflicted contradictions lead to failure, anger, and anxiety. A company whose employees render erratic, unpredictable services is doomed. Never trust individuals who are long on philosophical talk and short on implementation details.

Quality controls are useless if people don't know what they are doing. Quality requires clear objectives, purposeful thinking, and continuous action. If you want to be taken seriously, break down your twenty-year goals into monthly steps. The workable approach to happiness is a rational connection between our present actions and our life objectives.

Manufacturers follow a production formula to ensure that they are using the right materials. Check-lists permit managers to assess if a worker is sufficiently trained to do his job. A company's compensation plan aligns the interests of employees with the corporate goals.

Nobody can figure out all right answers all the time, but if you condense your strategy into a formula, mistakes will be self-correcting. Chaos leads to more chaos, but a recipe can be improved from experience. Breaking down long-term goals into detailed steps is of critical importance in business and private life.

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

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

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Reduce strategy to a simple formula (Part 1 of 2)


Consistency is the key to clear thinking. Aristotle described the principles of logical reasoning already in the year 345 B.C. Twenty four centuries later, his conclusions remain applicable. Entities should be defined on the basis of their essential characteristics. Actions lead to consequences. Today's events are the result of previous occurrences. Those few principles govern reality.

When a man formulates his long-term objectives, he should strive to write them clearly and break them down into simple steps. A comprehensive philosophy that cannot be summarized into a few sentences is of little practical use.

Ambitious goals require sustained effort, often over a period of decades. Reducing complex strategies to simple formulas motivates us to attain intermediate targets. Happiness is the result of preceding actions that generate slow incremental progress. Sharp thinkers look, at the same time, far into the future and close into the present.

There is no way of escaping the requirement of clarity. Talking about forthcoming achievements becomes irrelevant if we are unable to define what we need to do today. The feasibility of long-term ambitions depends on man's ability to reduce them to sequential steps.

Mistakes arise from the temptation to move too fast towards our objectives. Disorganized ventures fall prey to their own chaos. Without a well-designed plan, self-reliance turns into doubt and convictions into prejudice. Without a method to filter out irrelevancies, man gets lost in secondary roads that lead him away from his goals.

Lack of thoughtfulness leads to exaggerate problems and blow inconveniences out of proportion. Unclear expectations undermine reason. Confusion renders tasks heavier than they have to be. Contradictory values bring about unbridled emotions. Inconsistent criteria waste energy in endless discussions and destroys the ability to perform well.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Reduce strategy to a simple formula
(Part 1 of 2)


Consistency is the key to clear thinking. Aristotle described the principles of logical reasoning already in the year 345 B.C. Twenty four centuries later, his conclusions remain applicable. Entities should be defined on the basis of their essential characteristics. Actions lead to consequences. Today's events are the result of previous occurrences. Those few principles govern reality.

When a man formulates his long-term objectives, he should strive to write them clearly and break them down into simple steps. A comprehensive philosophy that cannot be summarized into a few sentences is of little practical use.

Ambitious goals require sustained effort, often over a period of decades. Reducing complex strategies to simple formulas motivates us to attain intermediate targets. Happiness is the result of preceding actions that generate slow incremental progress. Sharp thinkers look, at the same time, far into the future and close into the present.

There is no way of escaping the requirement of clarity. Talking about forthcoming achievements becomes irrelevant if we are unable to define what we need to do today. The feasibility of long-term ambitions depends on man's ability to reduce them to sequential steps.

Mistakes arise from the temptation to move too fast towards our objectives. Disorganized ventures fall prey to their own chaos. Without a well-designed plan, self-reliance turns into doubt and convictions into prejudice. Without a method to filter out irrelevancies, man gets lost in secondary roads that lead him away from his goals.

Lack of thoughtfulness leads to exaggerate problems and blow inconveniences out of proportion. Unclear expectations undermine reason. Confusion renders tasks heavier than they have to be. Contradictory values bring about unbridled emotions. Inconsistent criteria waste energy in endless discussions and destroys the ability to perform well.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Pursue compatible goals (Part 2 of 2)


Few persons establish a definite direction for their life, but those who do, can reap enormous benefits. Motivational consistency brings, amongst others, the following advantages:

1. Financial resources can be used with a minimum of waste by avoiding random decisions and useless purchases

2. A clear vision of the future feeds the motivation to develop specialized skills and accumulate intellectual capital.

3. Consistent objectives build perseverance and credibility. On the other hand, random behaviour tends to damage a man's reputation and destroy his assets.

4. Rational goals lead men to entertainment that reinforces values and involves aspects of learning.

5. Compatible, long-term objectives provide the energy needed to undertake ambitious projects that make a difference in one's living conditions.

6. Logic and ambition supply the resilience needed to undertake boring maintenance tasks that bring substantial long-term benefits.

7. A stable vision and a lifetime perspective lead man to avert excessive risks, lotteries and other forms of gambling.

8. Consistent objectives render man's mind active and willing to explore innovative options. In contrast, contradictory goals lead to mistakes, waste, and paralysis.

9. Long-term ambitions enable man to accept mistakes as part of a learning process. The opposite phenomenon, intolerance, frequently arises out of pursuing contradictory targets. Individuals torn apart by diverging goals find difficult to explain their own actions.

10. Convictions in line with reality allow man to connect deeply with other human beings. Irrational objectives prevent individuals from communicating clearly, leading to irritation, confusion, misunderstandings, and errors.

Human beings can guide their lives properly only by reason. Dogs and cats perceive a narrow part of reality, but man is aware of hundreds of interconnected details, past and present, that are relevant in each situation. Our mind calls for logic and consistency. Happiness becomes impossible if we ignore our rational nature.

Workable, compatible, long-term goals render man truly human. Leading an effective life requires individuals to select rational objectives that comprise their whole lifetime. A consistent 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 andre.tomasi under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Pursue compatible goals
(Part 2 of 2)


Few persons establish a definite direction for their life, but those who do, can reap enormous benefits. Motivational consistency brings, amongst others, the following advantages:

1. Financial resources can be used with a minimum of waste by avoiding random decisions and useless purchases

2. A clear vision of the future feeds the motivation to develop specialized skills and accumulate intellectual capital.

3. Consistent objectives build perseverance and credibility. On the other hand, random behaviour tends to damage a man's reputation and destroy his assets.

4. Rational goals lead men to entertainment that reinforces values and involves aspects of learning.

5. Compatible, long-term objectives provide the energy needed to undertake ambitious projects that make a difference in one's living conditions.

6. Logic and ambition supply the resilience needed to undertake boring maintenance tasks that bring substantial long-term benefits.

7. A stable vision and a lifetime perspective lead man to avert excessive risks, lotteries and other forms of gambling.

8. Consistent objectives render man's mind active and willing to explore innovative options. In contrast, contradictory goals lead to mistakes, waste, and paralysis.

9. Long-term ambitions enable man to accept mistakes as part of a learning process. The opposite phenomenon, intolerance, frequently arises out of pursuing contradictory targets. Individuals torn apart by diverging goals find difficult to explain their own actions.

10. Convictions in line with reality allow man to connect deeply with other human beings. Irrational objectives prevent individuals from communicating clearly, leading to irritation, confusion, misunderstandings, and errors.

Human beings can guide their lives properly only by reason. Dogs and cats perceive a narrow part of reality, but man is aware of hundreds of interconnected details, past and present, that are relevant in each situation. Our mind calls for logic and consistency. Happiness becomes impossible if we ignore our rational nature.

Workable, compatible, long-term goals render man truly human. Leading an effective life requires individuals to select rational objectives that comprise their whole lifetime. A consistent 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 andre.tomasi under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Pursue compatible goals (Part 1 of 2)


Ideas are precious and constitute the basis of civilization. Without the concepts of free trade, freedom of speech, and human rights, our standard of living would rapidly fall to medieval levels. Personal goals shape a sustained vision that transforms our talents into valuable products of services.

Closed doors reflect fear of change. Rational objectives will take you forward, but it is essential that those are compatible. Inconsistent principles rob each other's force and deplete each other's resources. Keep you door open to new concepts and ideas, but make sure that those are logically integrated.

When you discover that some of your goals are wrong, you should discard them. On the other hand, if your ambitions are annoying but consistent, keep them, since they might lead you to a breakthrough improvement.

Integrated goals will take you places, but inconsistent ambitions will wear you down. Pursuing compatible goals increases personal effectiveness and enhances creativity. Consistent ideals also improve man's reasoning capacity. Modern life requires instantaneous choices. Individuals who possess well-integrated goals can deal with complexity in the most effective manner.

Rational men ensure the consistency of their actions by defining clear objectives for the remaining decades of their life. Effective living requires that our choices, minor or fundamental, are aligned with our overriding goals. Individuals who follow this principle tend to become an outstanding success.

People who lack consistent goals often sabotage their own efforts. Pursuing integrated objectives requires sustained focus and can bring spectacularly positive results.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Pursue compatible goals
(Part 1 of 2)


Ideas are precious and constitute the basis of civilization. Without the concepts of free trade, freedom of speech, and human rights, our standard of living would rapidly fall to medieval levels. Personal goals shape a sustained vision that transforms our talents into valuable products of services.

Closed doors reflect fear of change. Rational objectives will take you forward, but it is essential that those are compatible. Inconsistent principles rob each other's force and deplete each other's resources. Keep you door open to new concepts and ideas, but make sure that those are logically integrated.

When you discover that some of your goals are wrong, you should discard them. On the other hand, if your ambitions are annoying but consistent, keep them, since they might lead you to a breakthrough improvement.

Integrated goals will take you places, but inconsistent ambitions will wear you down. Pursuing compatible goals increases personal effectiveness and enhances creativity. Consistent ideals also improve man's reasoning capacity. Modern life requires instantaneous choices. Individuals who possess well-integrated goals can deal with complexity in the most effective manner.

Rational men ensure the consistency of their actions by defining clear objectives for the remaining decades of their life. Effective living requires that our choices, minor or fundamental, are aligned with our overriding goals. Individuals who follow this principle tend to become an outstanding success.

People who lack consistent goals often sabotage their own efforts. Pursuing integrated objectives requires sustained focus and can bring spectacularly positive results.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Monday, 19 October 2009

Abdicate what you cannot demonstrate


"I am leaving behind everything that is artificial," announced Paul Gaugin to his friends when he was 43 years old. "I have decided to go back to nature and devote the rest of my life to painting."

Gauguin left Europe for Central America and later moved to an island in the South Pacific where he produced a series of paintings to which no one paid much attention.

Destitute and ignored by the public, Gaugin died in 1903, when he was only 55 years old. Long after his death, critics recognized him as a genius. Nowadays, each of his paintings is worth millions.

Paul Gaugin's biography is the quintessential story of the unrecognised artist living in miserable conditions. Disillusioned by his lack of success, he became an alcoholic, an aspect that must have contributed to shortening his life.

I do like Paul Gaugin's paintings, although they don't belong to my favourites. I will leave to art critics the job of praising Gaugin's work, since for me, this is not the lesson to be drawn from the story.

My point is that Paul Gaugin made a mistake.

His was the kind of huge error that is often portrayed as heroic sacrifice. The fact is that nobody needs to ruin his life in order to become a great painter, inventor, musician, or entrepreneur.

Do you think that Gaugin would have lived longer if he had stayed in Europe and worked further at his job? Certainly, since he was a stockbroker. Would he had produced such great paintings if he had devoted just his evenings and weekends to art? In my view, that's most likely.

"Paul, your idea of leaving everything behind is pure nonsense," I would have told Gaugin if I had been one of his friends. "There are better ways to do things." I guess that he might have been curious to hear my advice, so here it is.

1. For succeeding in art, like in any other field, persistence plays a much bigger role than talent. A little every day amounts to a lot in the long term.

2. Extraordinary skill and expertise are the result of learning from a long series of failures. Take your time to make mistakes.

3. Giving up something in exchange of nothing is counter-productive. Advance slowly and make each step worthwhile.

4. Innovation in art, business, or philosophy needs a long time to catch the public's attention. You need to be both relentless and realistic.

5. Instead of wasting time complaining, devote your efforts to promoting your work. Flawless marketing comes no easier that perfect art.

Be patient. Build your pyramid stone by stone. One day, your monument will be so high that no one will be able to ignore it. Forget questionable ideas that lead to uncertain results.

Go for the gold. Persistence and patience work in most cases. Giving up everything and throwing yourself to the wolves is not a good approach. When you are faced with unproven ideas, follow my formula: abdicate what you cannot demonstrate.

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

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

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Describe your future in one sentence


Lies, sweet lies. How much we love them and what ridiculous price we are willing to pay for them! “Men should avoid the distractions of pretence and delusion,” wrote German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in the year 1842. “Expectations disconnected from reality always result in disappointment and sorrow.”

A clear perception of the world brings man unlimited rewards, but learning to see the truth is seldom easy and never without cost. Only by developing an ambitious and realistic vision of the future can man escape the trap of paralysis. Without sharply-defined objectives, we tend to fall into conformity, a bank from which we can borrow short-term convenience in exchange for a mortgage on our soul.

Take the time to reflect about what you want to achieve in life and try to condense your dreams in one sentence. Without self-starting motivation, man is easily blinded by a fog of contradictions that lead to expensive mistakes.

Only a self-image of health can permanently prevent individuals from consuming unhealthy food. People who have not established self-preservation as a goal, keep on consuming damaging substances despite being aware of their long-term negative effects, in the illusion that, somehow, they alone will be immune to the consequences.

The same principle applies to decaying work environments. Men and women who have not determined ambitious long-term objectives for themselves, tend to close their eyes to signs of decline in the company they work for in order to avoid the nuisance of searching alternative employment.

Write down your own vision of the future and keep it where you can see it. Defining your destination will help you avoid wrong relationships and avert people who drag you down. Men who lack firm ethical values tend to ignore character flaws in people they meet and often go as far as attributing non-existent virtues to whomever they find sexually attractive, even if that person is manifestly keeping them away from the path of achievement.

Defining your goals in life will not render you immune to errors, but will help you minimize them. When it comes to choosing the right alternative, few habits are as effective as standing still, questioning what looks too good to be true, and checking its consistency with your established objectives.

“Only an unclouded vision of reality allows man to perceive truth,” observed Schopenhauer. “Decisions based on facts render individuals self-supporting, which is the key of happiness.” History shows that lack of rational values, more than ignorance, constitutes the main block to progress. A man should never forget that his advancement towards success and happiness depends on his loyalty to his own rational objectives.

Write down your fundamental goals and summarize them in one sentence. Restate your vision of the future at every opportunity and discard options that don't match it. Only by our achieving philosophical clarity can our actions be consistent and effective. Moving continuously in the direction of your goals will maximize your chances of success and happiness.

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

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

Saturday, 17 October 2009

The advantage of having limited resources


"Their ships are too small and too frail," maintained King Harold in 1065. "England is perfectly safe. There is absolutely no risk of a Viking invasion." Since the king had himself extensive experience as sailor, the barons and dukes of England assumed that he knew what he was talking about. Was King Harold's conclusion based on facts?

Viking or Norman ships are called cogs due to their simple construction technique, whereby pieces of wood are cut so as to fit together without need of nails. Since cogs were equipped with just one mast and one sail, they were easy to handle.

Cogs were ideal to navigate rivers upstream in order to infiltrate foreign territories behind the lines of defence. In those cases, the sail was removed, the crew picked up long oars, and propelled the small ship by rowing.

Horses and other animals travelled on the open deck next to the crew, sharing the little space available. When it rained, there was no cover. On the other hand, the small size of cogs allowed the crew to pull them out easily when they got stranded.

In 1066, King Harald was told that Vikings were about to attack England using a flotilla of cogs, but he dismissed it as a rumour. Those ships were too small to transport horses and weapons. Those ships were too frail to sail away from the coast.

As soon as the Vikings arrived in England, they disembarked their horses, regrouped near the beach, and began to march quickly towards York. Two weeks later, the invaders crushed the English army in Hastings.

King Harold was captured in battle, mutilated, and dismembered. His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule in England. The Vikings, or Normans, as they came to be called, had taken over the country by means of their small cogs.

Which lessons can we draw from the story? Does it contain wisdom that is still applicable in our electronic times? Yes, it does. Internet blogs are the digital equivalent of Viking cogs.

Like England in 1066, we tend to perceive our culture as a stable constellation of well-established media. TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines resemble King Harold's barons and dukes. Internet blogs, like Viking cogs, seem too small to carry any cultural weight. If you are a writer with an internet blog, how could you best apply the Viking strategy in order to increase your audience? This is my advice.

1. LIMITED SPACE: Vikings did not have a lot of space on their cogs. Internet readers do not have a lot of time to read. Keep your blog to what's important.

2. EASY TO OPERATE: Cogs were easy to operate. Make your blog easy to update by using a simple format. Do not complicate your life.

3. CONSISTENT HIGH QUALITY: Small ships sailing away from the coast do not allow for navigation mistakes. Make sure to publish only texts of the highest quality in your blog.

4. NO DEAD WEIGHT: Invaders coming from the sea could not afford to carry any dead weight. Reduce your blog to the essential. Few people have time for the rest.

5. ALL THAT IS NECESSARY: Vikings carried with them everything they needed. Horses, weapons, warm clothes, and water. Make sure that your blog possesses everything that is absolutely necessary, such as your biographical details.

6. KEEP IT SIMPLE: Cogs could be built quickly due to their simple construction technique. How long does it take you to update your blog? Could you figure out a way to do it faster?

I am convinced that internet blogs are a growing cultural force. Will they ever replace traditional media? That's difficult to tell, but the fact is that the audience of TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines is progressively shrinking.

Let me state for the record that King Harold of England was probably right when he estimated that cogs were too small. His seafaring experience proved to him that cogs were too frail to invade a country and to take over a culture. Unfortunately for him, he forgot to tell the Vikings.

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

[Image by Richard0 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The advantage of having limited resources


"Their ships are too small and too frail," maintained King Harold in 1065. "England is perfectly safe. There is absolutely no risk of a Viking invasion." Since the king had himself extensive experience as sailor, the barons and dukes of England assumed that he knew what he was talking about. Was King Harold's conclusion based on facts?

Viking or Norman ships are called cogs due to their simple construction technique, whereby pieces of wood are cut so as to fit together without need of nails. Since cogs were equipped with just one mast and one sail, they were easy to handle.

Cogs were ideal to navigate rivers upstream in order to infiltrate foreign territories behind the lines of defence. In those cases, the sail was removed, the crew picked up long oars, and propelled the small ship by rowing.

Horses and other animals travelled on the open deck next to the crew, sharing the little space available. When it rained, there was no cover. On the other hand, the small size of cogs allowed the crew to pull them out easily when they got stranded.

In 1066, King Harald was told that Vikings were about to attack England using a flotilla of cogs, but he dismissed it as a rumour. Those ships were too small to transport horses and weapons. Those ships were too frail to sail away from the coast.

As soon as the Vikings arrived in England, they disembarked their horses, regrouped near the beach, and began to march quickly towards York. Two weeks later, the invaders crushed the English army in Hastings.

King Harold was captured in battle, mutilated, and dismembered. His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule in England. The Vikings, or Normans, as they came to be called, had taken over the country by means of their small cogs.

Which lessons can we draw from the story? Does it contain wisdom that is still applicable in our electronic times? Yes, it does. Internet blogs are the digital equivalent of Viking cogs.

Like England in 1066, we tend to perceive our culture as a stable constellation of well-established media. TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines resemble King Harold's barons and dukes. Internet blogs, like Viking cogs, seem too small to carry any cultural weight. If you are a writer with an internet blog, how could you best apply the Viking strategy in order to increase your audience? This is my advice.

1. LIMITED SPACE: Vikings did not have a lot of space on their cogs. Internet readers do not have a lot of time to read. Keep your blog to what's important.

2. EASY TO OPERATE: Cogs were easy to operate. Make your blog easy to update by using a simple format. Do not complicate your life.

3. CONSISTENT HIGH QUALITY: Small ships sailing away from the coast do not allow for navigation mistakes. Make sure to publish only texts of the highest quality in your blog.

4. NO DEAD WEIGHT: Invaders coming from the sea could not afford to carry any dead weight. Reduce your blog to the essential. Few people have time for the rest.

5. ALL THAT IS NECESSARY: Vikings carried with them everything they needed. Horses, weapons, warm clothes, and water. Make sure that your blog possesses everything that is absolutely necessary, such as your biographical details.

6. KEEP IT SIMPLE: Cogs could be built quickly due to their simple construction technique. How long does it take you to update your blog? Could you figure out a way to do it faster?

I am convinced that internet blogs are a growing cultural force. Will they ever replace traditional media? That's difficult to tell, but the fact is that the audience of TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines is progressively shrinking.

Let me state for the record that King Harold of England was probably right when he estimated that cogs were too small. His seafaring experience proved to him that cogs were too frail to invade a country and to take over a culture. Unfortunately for him, he forgot to tell the Vikings.

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

[Image by Richard0 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Friday, 16 October 2009

Avoid waste and embrace frugality (Part 2 of 2)


Suffering a major loss has few benefits other than rekindling personal ambition and making people realistic about how the world works. Whatever your level of income, frugality constitutes a significant virtue. Even if contemporary society rarely promotes temperance and thrift, individual prosperity is the consequence of savings and investment.

The law of cause and effect governs the world. Nothing escapes its reach, no one can circumvent its application. What you do today determines the level of tomorrow's pay. In addition to economic advantages, frugality also brings psychological benefits. Stress, anxiety, discouragement, and fear will not haunt the house of the austere.

Discarding waste and embracing frugality lead to peace of mind. Worries won't keep awake at night those who live with measure. Leading a rational life spares man the effort of following the latest fashion. When we dismiss artificial alternatives, we are left with the fundamental. Serenity is the result of simplification.

Choosing frugality instead of waste will allow you to make fast and consistent decisions. When you trust your own judgement more than external opinion, you learn from mistakes and develop your skills. Frugality, which is based on stable values, leads to decisiveness. A man who possesses clear priorities can reject inconsistency without need of long discussions.

A prudent conduct brings the added benefit of risk reduction. A judicious man protects himself when at risk and tries to avert threats whenever possible. The tension of complex choices can wear out even the most balanced mind. On the other hand, a straightforward and consistent approach reduces errors of oversight. Shunning unnecessary cost keeps risk exposure low.

Resisting the allure of short-sighted decisions leads to more enjoyment of life. Ignoring the noise of false opinions liberates resources. Frugality enables man to breathe free of encumbrances and focus his efforts on what really counts. Happiness is not the result of cumulating tasks, but of a few essential activities that make a difference.

Discarding waste brings man wealth and peace of mind. The material advantages of frugality go hand in hand with its psychological benefits. Disregard the unnecessary and pay attention to the crucial elements of a good life. Realizing that most things possess little relevance is what enables man to make wise choices.

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

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

Avoid waste and embrace frugality
(Part 2 of 2)


Suffering a major loss has few benefits other than rekindling personal ambition and making people realistic about how the world works. Whatever your level of income, frugality constitutes a significant virtue. Even if contemporary society rarely promotes temperance and thrift, individual prosperity is the consequence of savings and investment.

The law of cause and effect governs the world. Nothing escapes its reach, no one can circumvent its application. What you do today determines the level of tomorrow's pay. In addition to economic advantages, frugality also brings psychological benefits. Stress, anxiety, discouragement, and fear will not haunt the house of the austere.

Discarding waste and embracing frugality lead to peace of mind. Worries won't keep awake at night those who live with measure. Leading a rational life spares man the effort of following the latest fashion. When we dismiss artificial alternatives, we are left with the fundamental. Serenity is the result of simplification.

Choosing frugality instead of waste will allow you to make fast and consistent decisions. When you trust your own judgement more than external opinion, you learn from mistakes and develop your skills. Frugality, which is based on stable values, leads to decisiveness. A man who possesses clear priorities can reject inconsistency without need of long discussions.

A prudent conduct brings the added benefit of risk reduction. A judicious man protects himself when at risk and tries to avert threats whenever possible. The tension of complex choices can wear out even the most balanced mind. On the other hand, a straightforward and consistent approach reduces errors of oversight. Shunning unnecessary cost keeps risk exposure low.

Resisting the allure of short-sighted decisions leads to more enjoyment of life. Ignoring the noise of false opinions liberates resources. Frugality enables man to breathe free of encumbrances and focus his efforts on what really counts. Happiness is not the result of cumulating tasks, but of a few essential activities that make a difference.

Discarding waste brings man wealth and peace of mind. The material advantages of frugality go hand in hand with its psychological benefits. Disregard the unnecessary and pay attention to the crucial elements of a good life. Realizing that most things possess little relevance is what enables man to make wise choices.

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

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

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Avoid waste and embrace frugality (Part 1 of 2)


Publishers love biographies because they usually sell well for many years. People enjoy reading about the shattering mistakes made by illustrious individuals, such as a great actor who accepts a role in a trash film that ruins his career, a successful investment manager who makes a bad decision and suffers enormous losses, or a millionaire who marries the wrong woman and ends up in devastating divorce.

Biographies provide details about how eminent persons waste opportunities and turn themselves into fools. On some occasions, errors are made out of insufficient knowledge, but frequently, vanity and greed play a major role in self-destruction. What readers of biographies seek to learn above all is how to overcome feelings of sadness and guilt after having made a gigantic blunder.

As soon as we realize the full extent of a major mistake, emotional misery arises from comparing our present to a parallel universe that would have existed if we had not wasted our opportunities. Such negative reactions overlook that errors and waste are the result of the knowledge available to a person at a certain moment. In essence, what an individual knows and feels are the only relevant factors in his decisions.

A man should strive to discard waste as matter of principle, but after making a dreadful mistake and suffering major losses, he should avoid comparing himself with someone else. It makes little sense to lament how well you could be doing if you had made wiser choices. The only thing you can do is to learn from the situation so that you can perform better next time.

Each human being is born in different circumstances, each life is unique. Individuals grow at their own pace and learn their own lessons. Errors and waste provide us with painful but irreplaceable experience.

Do not linger on illogical comparisons that bring nothing but misery. Stand up and look ahead. Your next achievement will bring you farther. Mistakes will make you a better human being and show you the way to happiness if you acquire rational habits. When it comes to avoiding waste, no other habit is as powerful as frugality.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Avoid waste and embrace frugality
(Part 1 of 2)


Publishers love biographies because they usually sell well for many years. People enjoy reading about the shattering mistakes made by illustrious individuals, such as a great actor who accepts a role in a trash film that ruins his career, a successful investment manager who makes a bad decision and suffers enormous losses, or a millionaire who marries the wrong woman and ends up in devastating divorce.

Biographies provide details about how eminent persons waste opportunities and turn themselves into fools. On some occasions, errors are made out of insufficient knowledge, but frequently, vanity and greed play a major role in self-destruction. What readers of biographies seek to learn above all is how to overcome feelings of sadness and guilt after having made a gigantic blunder.

As soon as we realize the full extent of a major mistake, emotional misery arises from comparing our present to a parallel universe that would have existed if we had not wasted our opportunities. Such negative reactions overlook that errors and waste are the result of the knowledge available to a person at a certain moment. In essence, what an individual knows and feels are the only relevant factors in his decisions.

A man should strive to discard waste as matter of principle, but after making a dreadful mistake and suffering major losses, he should avoid comparing himself with someone else. It makes little sense to lament how well you could be doing if you had made wiser choices. The only thing you can do is to learn from the situation so that you can perform better next time.

Each human being is born in different circumstances, each life is unique. Individuals grow at their own pace and learn their own lessons. Errors and waste provide us with painful but irreplaceable experience.

Do not linger on illogical comparisons that bring nothing but misery. Stand up and look ahead. Your next achievement will bring you farther. Mistakes will make you a better human being and show you the way to happiness if you acquire rational habits. When it comes to avoiding waste, no other habit is as powerful as frugality.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Become an entrepreneur in your everyday life


Entrepreneurship is a special talent, but it is not specific to the world of business. In fact, innovation drives the efforts of few corporations. Men and women of every age tend to be ardent defenders of current conditions with little interest in change.

Creative visualisation is the essential characteristic of the entrepreneur. Few possess the ability and willingness to perceive better options for the future, in particular when those alternatives are uncomfortable, difficult, or controversial.

What enables a person to figure out improvements that remain invisible to others? Do you possess enough self-confidence to challenge realities that everybody else is taking as self-evident?

"Personal dissatisfaction often points out that something should be changed," used to say Robert Fulton, who built a fortune as a steamboat impresario. "Discontent fuels the engine of change."

Ambition goes hand in hand with technical, industrial, and marketing innovations. The desire to improve one's station in life plays a key role in overcoming the substantial hardships involved in the search for novelty.

"My scientific and technical training was non-existent," loved to declare Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph. "I just knew that I didn't want to remain a painter for the rest of my life. As soon as I saw an opportunity, I did not hesitate."

It was sufficient for Morse to hear a colleague mention in 1834 some recent discoveries in electromagnetism. At that time, the same information was available to thousands of people. What was the difference? Only Morse was willing to work night and day during the next five years to develop a commercial application.

Becoming an entrepreneur in your everyday life will enhance your ability to succeed in the business and investment world. The following list contains my ten practical suggestions about how to cultivate the seeds of change.

1. REUSE: Before you throw any item away, ask yourself if you could find an alternative use. Could it be refurbished or repaired? Does it contain valuable components? Is it worth it to take it apart?

2. EXPLORE IDEAS: Next time you go to a bookshop, take a look at sections where you usually never set foot. Is there anything that catches your attention? Go to the public library and take a random walk amongst the bookshelves. Do you see interesting subjects worth exploring?

3. TRY OUT NEW A TASTE: Buy a couple of cookbooks about subjects unknown to you. Take a look at the pictures of exotic dishes and choose a couple of recipes. Experiment with new cooking techniques. If you are Italian, you might wish to taste Greek cooking. If you are American, try out French cuisine.

4. QUESTION YOUR ROUTINES: Why not exercise an hour later? Could you skip TV news in the evening and, instead, take up learning a foreign language? Why do you always take the same road to drive to work? Could you find a better alternative?

5. MOVE THINGS AROUND: Imagine that you are a stranger who comes to your house for the first time. Would you place your furniture on the same place that it now occupies? Could you save time every morning if you rearrange the clothes in your closet?

6. DROP TASKS: Do you really need to do repetitive tasks that bring you little benefit? Could you hire someone to do chores at home? Do you need to clean so often rooms that you never use? Is it worth it to maintain household appliances that are too old?

7. REPLACE PEOPLE: Do you spend your leisure hours with people whose company you really enjoy? Have you ever accepted to take part in activities that you find boring? Why are you not rather making efforts to meet new people?

8. TAKE CONTROL: Would you be better off if you did yourself a few things that you have so far entrusted to other people? Could you learn to cut your own hair? Is it really so difficult to change a tab or to do some basic plumbing work?

9. REDUCE YOUR COSTS: Are you spending money on things that add little value to your life? Is it worth it to keep an expensive car with high maintenance costs? Could you get cheaper insurance? What about your food purchases?

10. OPEN NEW ACCOUNTS: Is your bank or stock broker giving you good service? Why not explore some alternatives? Go open an account with another financial services company. Try out new investment ideas that entail little risk.

Personal growth begins with questioning the way we live. The ten aspects that I have presented above only scratch the surface of what is possible. The world is full of better alternatives for those willing to change their routines. Become an entrepreneur in your everyday life.

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

[Image by jimbowen0306 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses
/by/3.0/us]