Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The only thing you need to know about career development


Career planning is a delusion created by wishful thinking. The idea that an individual can precisely steer his way from job to job in a rapidly changing society is unrealistic. Instead, a man should have long-term goals and let his career develop according to market opportunities.

If you keep your eyes fixed on a point in the horizon, chances are that you will overlook possibilities that arise in your immediate environment. Rationality demands having a long-term vision, but implementation details should be modified to fit current opportunities.

Have you ever wondered why indifference is the usual reaction to innovation? Is it not amazing that potential customers, who would be so well served by a new service, are not even willing to listen to a sales pitch? The world is barren land for dreamers, but an endless source of opportunities for problem-solvers. Conventional wisdom preaches that where there is a will, is a way. Possibly, but who wants to walk a path leading to constant disappointment?

If you are about to start a new venture, please remind yourself of the fact that there are 70% chances that you won't survive beyond the fifth year. Some markets show even higher failure rates for new products or services, as it is the case of packaged foods, soda drinks, and restaurants.

Statistics tell us how hard it is to attain business success. The same level of difficulty applies to career planning. Is there a way to predict if a new service is destined to be buried by consumer indifference? How can we ensure that we only launch products that have a reasonable good chance? What strategy maximizes our probability of having a satisfactory career?

The answer is to discard the myth of perfect planning at the same time that we avoid random moves. Never put all your business resources into making new stuff and throwing it blindly into the market. Never concentrate all your career expectations on one single path. In those cases, hoping for the best is bound to reveal itself as an expensive delusion.

History has repeatedly proven that new undertakings enjoy the best prospects of success when they are aligned with strong demand in the market. Such demand is frequently shown through factors such as annoyance, dissatisfaction, and misery.

The ideal business or career situation consists of serving customers who are deeply annoyed by a problem. Take away your eyes from rigid career objectives and look at the world as an entrepreneur. Ask yourself who is dissatisfied with existing solutions and see if you can propose something better. Find a distribution system that is miserably under-utilized and figure out how to improve it.

Hitting trouble spots doesn't guarantee commercial or career success, but it is as close as you can get. Instead of making unrealistic plans, seek out fields of activity where annoyance has become apparent. The angrier the potential customers, the more receptive they will be to new solutions. Do you remember the irritation at airport check-in lines before the adoption of electronic ticketing?

When you detect dissatisfaction in the market, take good note. The more inefficient the current solution, the higher the value that you can add. Commercial and career success are all about adding value. Do you remember that, not so long ago, it was impossible to deliver packages overnight?

Remember that inefficient distribution systems may also offer extraordinary opportunity. The less profitable the current method, the more avidly it will embrace innovation. Thousands of retail locations have seen their value doubled thanks to fast-food franchises. Discard the myth of career planning and, instead, see if you can see solve a burning problem. Those who prove able to alleviate long-standing pain can attract enthusiastic customers.

Accepting reality can be a difficult undertaking. Maybe for that reason, Nature has endowed us with two eyes and two ears to perceive the world and only one mouth to contradict ourselves. Stick to your strategy, but shun rigid plans that might prevent you from taking swift action when unexpected possibilities arise.

Your long-term goals should be broad enough to allow you to move forward in good or bad markets. Abandon the myth of strict planning and the expectation that you should reach a specific career goal before you reach a particular age. You are a unique human being and so is your situation. From time to time, luck may offer you the chance of rapid advancement. When such opportunity comes up, seize it.

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

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

The only thing you need to know about career development


Career planning is a delusion created by wishful thinking. The idea that an individual can precisely steer his way from job to job in a rapidly changing society is unrealistic. Instead, a man should have long-term goals and let his career develop according to market opportunities.

If you keep your eyes fixed on a point in the horizon, chances are that you will overlook possibilities that arise in your immediate environment. Rationality demands having a long-term vision, but implementation details should be modified to fit current opportunities.

Have you ever wondered why indifference is the usual reaction to innovation? Is it not amazing that potential customers, who would be so well served by a new service, are not even willing to listen to a sales pitch? The world is barren land for dreamers, but an endless source of opportunities for problem-solvers. Conventional wisdom preaches that where there is a will, is a way. Possibly, but who wants to walk a path leading to constant disappointment?

If you are about to start a new venture, please remind yourself of the fact that there are 70% chances that you won't survive beyond the fifth year. Some markets show even higher failure rates for new products or services, as it is the case of packaged foods, soda drinks, and restaurants.

Statistics tell us how hard it is to attain business success. The same level of difficulty applies to career planning. Is there a way to predict if a new service is destined to be buried by consumer indifference? How can we ensure that we only launch products that have a reasonable good chance? What strategy maximizes our probability of having a satisfactory career?

The answer is to discard the myth of perfect planning at the same time that we avoid random moves. Never put all your business resources into making new stuff and throwing it blindly into the market. Never concentrate all your career expectations on one single path. In those cases, hoping for the best is bound to reveal itself as an expensive delusion.

History has repeatedly proven that new undertakings enjoy the best prospects of success when they are aligned with strong demand in the market. Such demand is frequently shown through factors such as annoyance, dissatisfaction, and misery.

The ideal business or career situation consists of serving customers who are deeply annoyed by a problem. Take away your eyes from rigid career objectives and look at the world as an entrepreneur. Ask yourself who is dissatisfied with existing solutions and see if you can propose something better. Find a distribution system that is miserably under-utilized and figure out how to improve it.

Hitting trouble spots doesn't guarantee commercial or career success, but it is as close as you can get. Instead of making unrealistic plans, seek out fields of activity where annoyance has become apparent. The angrier the potential customers, the more receptive they will be to new solutions. Do you remember the irritation at airport check-in lines before the adoption of electronic ticketing?

When you detect dissatisfaction in the market, take good note. The more inefficient the current solution, the higher the value that you can add. Commercial and career success are all about adding value. Do you remember that, not so long ago, it was impossible to deliver packages overnight?

Remember that inefficient distribution systems may also offer extraordinary opportunity. The less profitable the current method, the more avidly it will embrace innovation. Thousands of retail locations have seen their value doubled thanks to fast-food franchises. Discard the myth of career planning and, instead, see if you can see solve a burning problem. Those who prove able to alleviate long-standing pain can attract enthusiastic customers.

Accepting reality can be a difficult undertaking. Maybe for that reason, Nature has endowed us with two eyes and two ears to perceive the world and only one mouth to contradict ourselves. Stick to your strategy, but shun rigid plans that might prevent you from taking swift action when unexpected possibilities arise.

Your long-term goals should be broad enough to allow you to move forward in good or bad markets. Abandon the myth of strict planning and the expectation that you should reach a specific career goal before you reach a particular age. You are a unique human being and so is your situation. From time to time, luck may offer you the chance of rapid advancement. When such opportunity comes up, seize it.

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

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

How to deal with extreme situations - Story of Socrates (Part 4 of 4)


Even though we'll never know which version of the story corresponds to the facts, there is a crucial lesson to be drawn. What would you have done? Would you have accepted Crito's offer to escape jail? Would you have fled your city and gone away?

Irrespective of the soundness of the charges against Socrates, the tale of his trial might denote a negative aspect of the great philosopher's character: vanity. Did Socrates' desire to demonstrate his innocence and prove his point prevent him from running for safety?

Plato's account shows that Socrates must have been aware that he could not expect a fair trial. How can we understand Socrates' unhealthy reaction to such an emergency? If given the possibility, any rational man would have fled, stabilize his situation, and later tried to erase his accusations.

Taking swift protective action is the proven system for dealing with emergencies. Once you are safe, the next step is to achieve stability and come up with a recovery plan. We cannot ascertain if vanity did Socrates in, but the principle is valid all the same: when an emergency breaks out, put your pride aside and take the necessary action.

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

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

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

How to deal with extreme situations - Story of Socrates (Part 3 of 4)


Crito, an Athenian businessman, was one of Socrates' friends who stood by him at all times during the trial. When Crito proposed a plan to escape jail, Socrates did not consent. When Crito volunteered to bribe the prison guards, Socrates did not accept.

Twenty-four centuries later, Socrates' decision seems as incomprehensible as it must have been in Ancient Greece. If you ask anyone in the street about what to do in case of fire, he will tell you to run. When human beings face emergencies, survival instincts often prove more reliable than a hundred essays on ancient philosophy.

Although Plato wrote extensively to explain why Socrates did not flee, the truth is that we have no idea. Xenophon (430-354 BC), an Ancient Greek historian, argues that Socrates was too old and had lost the will to live. How accurate is this theory?

Defeatism, which might apply to those who are terminally ill, seems difficult to conciliate with Socrates' energetic defence during the trial. If he had given up on life altogether, why did he bother to refute the accusations? Why did he try to convince his opponents of his innocence?

To be continued in Part 4

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

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

How to deal with extreme situations - Story of Socrates (Part 3 of 4)


Crito, an Athenian businessman, was one of Socrates' friends who stood by him at all times during the trial. When Crito proposed a plan to escape jail, Socrates did not consent. When Crito volunteered to bribe the prison guards, Socrates did not accept.

Twenty-four centuries later, Socrates' decision seems as incomprehensible as it must have been in Ancient Greece. If you ask anyone in the street about what to do in case of fire, he will tell you to run. When human beings face emergencies, survival instincts often prove more reliable than a hundred essays on ancient philosophy.

Although Plato wrote extensively to explain why Socrates did not flee, the truth is that we have no idea. Xenophon (430-354 BC), an Ancient Greek historian, argues that Socrates was too old and had lost the will to live. How accurate is this theory?

Defeatism, which might apply to those who are terminally ill, seems difficult to conciliate with Socrates' energetic defence during the trial. If he had given up on life altogether, why did he bother to refute the accusations? Why did he try to convince his opponents of his innocence?

To be continued in Part 4

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

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

Monday, 26 April 2010

How to deal with extreme situations - Story of Socrates (Part 2 of 4)


Although the accusations against Socrates did not make much sense, the important point is that such trial could lead to a death sentence. If we trust Plato's recollections, the charges must have not taken Socrates by surprise. He had spent most of his life in Athens and was well acquainted with its customs and procedures. He knew what he risked if he was convicted.

The fact of being indicted causes great distress to any human being even if the complaints against him are false. One can hardly imagine an emergency most pressing than having to face a jury invested with the power to weigh your every word and put an end to your life in this world.

Plato's account of the trial describes Socrates' eloquent and passionate defence. The old philosopher countered the charges against him with facts, logic, and courage. He argued for his innocence and invoked his previous services to Athens. He pleaded with arguments that appealed to reason and emotion, expecting to be acquitted or, at worst, mildly reprimanded.

Even so, despite all his strenuous efforts, Socrates was condemned to death. The sentence was executed by making Socrates drink a mixture of hemlock, a Mediterranean plant whose poisonous effects are similar to those of curare: the muscles of the victim become progressively paralysed until he can no longer breathe.

What makes the story fascinating is that Socrates had the possibility to flee but refused to do it. This aspect is so intriguing that Plato devoted one of his works to explain why Socrates agreed to face his accusers at the peril of his life.

To be continued in Part 3

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

[Image by conner395 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

How to deal with extreme situations - Story of Socrates (Part 2 of 4)


Although the accusations against Socrates did not make much sense, the important point is that such trial could lead to a death sentence. If we trust Plato's recollections, the charges must have not taken Socrates by surprise. He had spent most of his life in Athens and was well acquainted with its customs and procedures. He knew what he risked if he was convicted.

The fact of being indicted causes great distress to any human being even if the complaints against him are false. One can hardly imagine an emergency most pressing than having to face a jury invested with the power to weigh your every word and put an end to your life in this world.

Plato's account of the trial describes Socrates' eloquent and passionate defence. The old philosopher countered the charges against him with facts, logic, and courage. He argued for his innocence and invoked his previous services to Athens. He pleaded with arguments that appealed to reason and emotion, expecting to be acquitted or, at worst, mildly reprimanded.

Even so, despite all his strenuous efforts, Socrates was condemned to death. The sentence was executed by making Socrates drink a mixture of hemlock, a Mediterranean plant whose poisonous effects are similar to those of curare: the muscles of the victim become progressively paralysed until he can no longer breathe.

What makes the story fascinating is that Socrates had the possibility to flee but refused to do it. This aspect is so intriguing that Plato devoted one of his works to explain why Socrates agreed to face his accusers at the peril of his life.

To be continued in Part 3

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

[Image by conner395 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Sunday, 25 April 2010

How to deal with extreme situations - Story of Socrates (Part 1 of 4)


How long will it take until you have to face an emergency? Earthquakes are unusual in most parts of the world, but few men are exempted from the risk of fire at home or at work. How would you react if you were attacked by a tiger? What would you do in case of a flood?

Misfortune tends to hit at the most inconvenient moments. When bad luck runs wild, it may cut its path across our lives and destroy the work of decades. Do you have a system to deal with emergencies? Have you prepared a back-up plan for cases of catastrophic failure?

Most people who study Socrates (469-399 BC) as a philosopher retain few teachings of substance. This Ancient Greek philosopher is reputed for his skill at asking long series of questions aimed at revealing contradictions, discarding fallacies, and establishing truth. However, the most interesting lesson from his life is seldom pointed out.

According to Plato (428-347 BC), Socrates loved to question what everybody else considered self-evident. He would engage debates with prominent Athenian citizens and use his sharp mind to demonstrate the immorality of some comforts, the inconsistency of certain principles, and the difficulty of many truths.

Most of what we know about Socrates concerns his death. By the time he turned 70 years old, he had accumulated many friends but also a substantial number of enemies. While a minority of citizens appreciated Socrates' passion for philosophical conversation, he was detested by the subjects of his constant criticism. At one point, his opponents raised charges against him and demanded that he was put on trial.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

How to deal with extreme situations - Story of Socrates (Part 1 of 4)


How long will it take until you have to face an emergency? Earthquakes are unusual in most parts of the world, but few men are exempted from the risk of fire at home or at work. How would you react if you were attacked by a tiger? What would you do in case of a flood?

Misfortune tends to hit at the most inconvenient moments. When bad luck runs wild, it may cut its path across our lives and destroy the work of decades. Do you have a system to deal with emergencies? Have you prepared a back-up plan for cases of catastrophic failure?

Most people who study Socrates (469-399 BC) as a philosopher retain few teachings of substance. This Ancient Greek philosopher is reputed for his skill at asking long series of questions aimed at revealing contradictions, discarding fallacies, and establishing truth. However, the most interesting lesson from his life is seldom pointed out.

According to Plato (428-347 BC), Socrates loved to question what everybody else considered self-evident. He would engage debates with prominent Athenian citizens and use his sharp mind to demonstrate the immorality of some comforts, the inconsistency of certain principles, and the difficulty of many truths.

Most of what we know about Socrates concerns his death. By the time he turned 70 years old, he had accumulated many friends but also a substantial number of enemies. While a minority of citizens appreciated Socrates' passion for philosophical conversation, he was detested by the subjects of his constant criticism. At one point, his opponents raised charges against him and demanded that he was put on trial.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Saturday, 24 April 2010

There are many alternative paths - Story of Baruch Spinoza


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.

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

There are many alternative paths - Story of Baruch Spinoza


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.

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

Friday, 23 April 2010

A lesson on the value of extraordinary persistence


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

The first contact with Miller's novels leads most readers to an overwhelming silence, the nervous quietness that takes over the savannah after the last cry of an antelope that has just been put down by a hungry lion. Why is Miller's work so different from anything that had been published until that time? How come that it generates such deep feelings of admiration?

The answer does not lie in the story-lines of Miller's books, since, to the extent that they have a plot, it is usually a messy one. His novels remain far away from the classical three-act structure of beginning, middle, and end, since the purpose of Miller's work is not to establish a direction, but to explore every bifurcation of the road.

The ascent of Miller's work in popular appreciation reflects the awakening of contemporary culture to the concerns of the individual, namely, self-fulfilment and philosophical integrity. His texts don't describe each character's motivation, but paint all necessary details to allow readers to come up with their own fresh perspective.

Miller composed his books using a portable, mechanical typing machine. The manuscripts, which are now deposited at public libraries in the United States of America, show corrections made by hand here and there, but not that many.

Whether you are attracted to Miller's books or not, there are important lessons to be drawn from his work methods. Those teachings might be of interest, not only to writers, but to anyone pursuing demanding long-term ambitions. The following three principles present essential lessons from Miller's life:

1.- BECOME INDIFFERENT TO CRITICISM. Like an old-time travelling salesman, Miller never hesitated to propose his work to any potential buyer that he could find, in his case, book and magazine publishers. More often than not, rejection was quick to come, frequently accompanied by unfavourable comments. Day after day, decade after decade, Miller shrugged his shoulders at negative reactions and moved on in his search for publishers who would appreciate his work.

2.- MAINTAIN A CONSTANT LIFETIME PURPOSE DESPITE DIFFICULTIES. Have you ever had your possessions stolen or your house burnt down to the ground? Have you gone through bankruptcy? Have you had your assets sold at a public auction to pay your creditors?

Tragic as these events may be, experience shows us that victims react differently: A few suffer a nervous breakdown from which they never recover. Many are psychologically paralysed for months. Others immediately get back on their feet and start to rebuild their lost fortune.

In the case of Miller, problems did not take the shape of bankruptcy or material loss, but he did have his novels rejected many times before publication. In addition, distribution of his best-selling novel "Tropic of Cancer" was forbidden in some countries for years for reasons of public morality. Without the ability to maintain a lifetime perspective, Henry Miller would have given up his literary ambitions one thousand times along the way.

3.- RELENTLESS DAILY WORK. How much your dreams mean to you is a question that no one can answer without examining every aspect of your motivation. In any case, if there is one thing that you can learn from Miller, is that it pays to choose a passion that allows you to exert your talents everyday, during good and bad times.

This principle was so ingrained in Miller's mind that, when he was not working on a new book, he would spend his time painting. His watercolour canvasses did not earn him millions, but he sold many of them, creating in this way a secondary source of income for himself.

How persistent are you in pursuing your crucial interests? What do you do in order to improve your skills constantly? Recent medical studies seem to indicate that passion and dedication contribute positively towards helping human beings reach old age in good health. I am not sure if this is true, but the fact is that Henry Miller lived to become 89 years old.

Whether medical advances will one day extend human lifespan to 120 years is a matter of speculation. In the meantime, chances are that you will live to become 80 years old. May each of your birthdays serve to commemorate the achievement of a higher step in your rise towards your ambitions.

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

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

A lesson on the value of extraordinary persistence


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

The first contact with Miller's novels leads most readers to an overwhelming silence, the nervous quietness that takes over the savannah after the last cry of an antelope that has just been put down by a hungry lion. Why is Miller's work so different from anything that had been published until that time? How come that it generates such deep feelings of admiration?

The answer does not lie in the story-lines of Miller's books, since, to the extent that they have a plot, it is usually a messy one. His novels remain far away from the classical three-act structure of beginning, middle, and end, since the purpose of Miller's work is not to establish a direction, but to explore every bifurcation of the road.

The ascent of Miller's work in popular appreciation reflects the awakening of contemporary culture to the concerns of the individual, namely, self-fulfilment and philosophical integrity. His texts don't describe each character's motivation, but paint all necessary details to allow readers to come up with their own fresh perspective.

Miller composed his books using a portable, mechanical typing machine. The manuscripts, which are now deposited at public libraries in the United States of America, show corrections made by hand here and there, but not that many.

Whether you are attracted to Miller's books or not, there are important lessons to be drawn from his work methods. Those teachings might be of interest, not only to writers, but to anyone pursuing demanding long-term ambitions. The following three principles present essential lessons from Miller's life:

1.- BECOME INDIFFERENT TO CRITICISM. Like an old-time travelling salesman, Miller never hesitated to propose his work to any potential buyer that he could find, in his case, book and magazine publishers. More often than not, rejection was quick to come, frequently accompanied by unfavourable comments. Day after day, decade after decade, Miller shrugged his shoulders at negative reactions and moved on in his search for publishers who would appreciate his work.

2.- MAINTAIN A CONSTANT LIFETIME PURPOSE DESPITE DIFFICULTIES. Have you ever had your possessions stolen or your house burnt down to the ground? Have you gone through bankruptcy? Have you had your assets sold at a public auction to pay your creditors?

Tragic as these events may be, experience shows us that victims react differently: A few suffer a nervous breakdown from which they never recover. Many are psychologically paralysed for months. Others immediately get back on their feet and start to rebuild their lost fortune.

In the case of Miller, problems did not take the shape of bankruptcy or material loss, but he did have his novels rejected many times before publication. In addition, distribution of his best-selling novel "Tropic of Cancer" was forbidden in some countries for years for reasons of public morality. Without the ability to maintain a lifetime perspective, Henry Miller would have given up his literary ambitions one thousand times along the way.

3.- RELENTLESS DAILY WORK. How much your dreams mean to you is a question that no one can answer without examining every aspect of your motivation. In any case, if there is one thing that you can learn from Miller, is that it pays to choose a passion that allows you to exert your talents everyday, during good and bad times.

This principle was so ingrained in Miller's mind that, when he was not working on a new book, he would spend his time painting. His watercolour canvasses did not earn him millions, but he sold many of them, creating in this way a secondary source of income for himself.

How persistent are you in pursuing your crucial interests? What do you do in order to improve your skills constantly? Recent medical studies seem to indicate that passion and dedication contribute positively towards helping human beings reach old age in good health. I am not sure if this is true, but the fact is that Henry Miller lived to become 89 years old.

Whether medical advances will one day extend human lifespan to 120 years is a matter of speculation. In the meantime, chances are that you will live to become 80 years old. May each of your birthdays serve to commemorate the achievement of a higher step in your rise towards your ambitions.

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

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

Thursday, 22 April 2010

How to move from doubt to self-reliance - Story of Carneades (Part 4 of 4)


Such philosophies clash with reality at every turn, since they render plans unworkable and consequences unpredictable. Sceptics, who argue that they cannot trust their senses, have difficulties to make simple decisions. Subjectivists, who preach that facts cannot be verified, show remarkable accuracy when counting their money.

The day comes for every man when he must abandon doubt and move to self-reliance. Even if a person has wasted years with wrong ideas, it is never too late to improve. While contradictions undermine serenity, consistency leads to peace of mind.

Each of us must wake up to the fact that scepticism and subjectivism don't work. Doubts paralyse initiative and prevent improvement. In contrast, independent thinking and self-reliance lead to entrepreneurship. That's the place where you want to be.

It would have been interesting to know Carneades' opinions about human relationships, health, work, and investments. Did he ever attempt to develop scepticism into a full-blown philosophical system? We simply don't know. If he ever wrote anything down, History shows not traces. Maybe, true to his philosophy, Carneades thought better to depart without leaving anything behind.

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

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

How to move from doubt to self-reliance - Story of Carneades (Part 4 of 4)


Such philosophies clash with reality at every turn, since they render plans unworkable and consequences unpredictable. Sceptics, who argue that they cannot trust their senses, have difficulties to make simple decisions. Subjectivists, who preach that facts cannot be verified, show remarkable accuracy when counting their money.

The day comes for every man when he must abandon doubt and move to self-reliance. Even if a person has wasted years with wrong ideas, it is never too late to improve. While contradictions undermine serenity, consistency leads to peace of mind.

Each of us must wake up to the fact that scepticism and subjectivism don't work. Doubts paralyse initiative and prevent improvement. In contrast, independent thinking and self-reliance lead to entrepreneurship. That's the place where you want to be.

It would have been interesting to know Carneades' opinions about human relationships, health, work, and investments. Did he ever attempt to develop scepticism into a full-blown philosophical system? We simply don't know. If he ever wrote anything down, History shows not traces. Maybe, true to his philosophy, Carneades thought better to depart without leaving anything behind.

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

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

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

How to move from doubt to self-reliance - Story of Carneades (Part 3 of 4)


In our days, the philosophy of eternal doubt has adopted the disguise of sophistication. Instead of attacking science, modern sceptics come up with contradictory measurements and point out that no conclusion can be drawn. Instead of denying facts, data is grouped in arbitrary categories that render logical discourse impossible.

A man becomes self-reliant when he leaves fundamental doubts behind. Learning to think independently requires ignoring noise, not making more of it. The key to overcoming scepticism is realism, not pointless debates. Moving from hesitation to self-confidence involves growing indifferent to nonsense.

Three centuries after Carneades' death, the Roman philosopher Sextus Empiricus (160-210 AD) wrote extensively about scepticism, which he mainly presented as subjectivism. This variant of thought denies objective conclusions and replaces them by individual truths, as many as persons are involved in a discussion.

Subjectivists believe that all points of view are equally valid. The only precept of their philosophy is that principles do not exist. Their cardinal rule is that no conclusion can be reached from a discussion. They view the human mind as a container to be filled with random ideas and opinions, from which all possess the same worth.

To be continued in Part 4

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

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

How to move from doubt to self-reliance - Story of Carneades (Part 3 of 4)


In our days, the philosophy of eternal doubt has adopted the disguise of sophistication. Instead of attacking science, modern sceptics come up with contradictory measurements and point out that no conclusion can be drawn. Instead of denying facts, data is grouped in arbitrary categories that render logical discourse impossible.

A man becomes self-reliant when he leaves fundamental doubts behind. Learning to think independently requires ignoring noise, not making more of it. The key to overcoming scepticism is realism, not pointless debates. Moving from hesitation to self-confidence involves growing indifferent to nonsense.

Three centuries after Carneades' death, the Roman philosopher Sextus Empiricus (160-210 AD) wrote extensively about scepticism, which he mainly presented as subjectivism. This variant of thought denies objective conclusions and replaces them by individual truths, as many as persons are involved in a discussion.

Subjectivists believe that all points of view are equally valid. The only precept of their philosophy is that principles do not exist. Their cardinal rule is that no conclusion can be reached from a discussion. They view the human mind as a container to be filled with random ideas and opinions, from which all possess the same worth.

To be continued in Part 4

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

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

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

How to move from doubt to self-reliance - Story of Carneades (Part 2 of 4)


Since sceptics lack rational criteria to judge people, they tend to make a mess of relationships. For them, each individual possesses virtues and vices more or less to the same extent. They are as reluctant to admire a hero as to condemn a traitor. In their eyes, you can never be sure of a man's qualities.

If you are planning to invest your savings, do not expect sensible advice from sceptics. They will question your motivation to achieve financial independence and point out that nobody can predict the future with certainty. They will warn you about risks, raise doubts about opportunities, and remind you of past mistakes.

When it comes to health matters, sceptics will flood you with contradictory statistics. For them, every medical theory has two sides, the doubtful and the uncertain. They are the sort of persons who try out conflicting diets and obtain changing results. If they are sick, they follow opposing treatments, just in case, since nobody can be sure.

Carneades' philosophy produces catastrophic outcomes in every area. Scepticism places nonsense on equal footing with truth, depriving virtue of meaning and incentive. Incessant doubts undermine certainty, invalidate knowledge, and destroy self-reliance. Scepticism and relativism are dead-end projects to which you should say no and firmly stand your ground.

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

How to move from doubt to self-reliance - Story of Carneades (Part 2 of 4)


Since sceptics lack rational criteria to judge people, they tend to make a mess of relationships. For them, each individual possesses virtues and vices more or less to the same extent. They are as reluctant to admire a hero as to condemn a traitor. In their eyes, you can never be sure of a man's qualities.

If you are planning to invest your savings, do not expect sensible advice from sceptics. They will question your motivation to achieve financial independence and point out that nobody can predict the future with certainty. They will warn you about risks, raise doubts about opportunities, and remind you of past mistakes.

When it comes to health matters, sceptics will flood you with contradictory statistics. For them, every medical theory has two sides, the doubtful and the uncertain. They are the sort of persons who try out conflicting diets and obtain changing results. If they are sick, they follow opposing treatments, just in case, since nobody can be sure.

Carneades' philosophy produces catastrophic outcomes in every area. Scepticism places nonsense on equal footing with truth, depriving virtue of meaning and incentive. Incessant doubts undermine certainty, invalidate knowledge, and destroy self-reliance. Scepticism and relativism are dead-end projects to which you should say no and firmly stand your ground.

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Monday, 19 April 2010

How to move from doubt to self-reliance - Story of Carneades (Part 1 of 4)


From all dead-end situations, intellectual paralysis is by far the worst. Mistaken ideas can block your initiatives and make you doubt your senses. An erroneous philosophy can deprive you of the capacity to perceive the facts of reality, extract conclusions, and take appropriate action.

The Greek philosopher Carneades (214-129 BC) used to preach that knowledge and certainty are impossible, since our senses are unreliable and too many factors are involved in each case. To prove his point, Carneades used to take pleasure in making double speeches. One day, he would defend a certain principle and, on the next day, the opposite.

Carneades' practice baffled his audiences, but managed to attract him disciples who spread his ideas through Ancient Greece and Rome. His doctrine of perpetual doubt, scepticism, grew to play a minor role in ancient times, but by the end of the 18th century, it had waned to insignificance.

Strange enough, Carneades' ideas seem to be returning now to public discourse. While technology continues to advance, philosophy is being driven back to ancient times. While achievement and wealth accumulate, some individuals question their justification and purpose.

In the field of work, you probably know more sceptics that you care to count. Those are the sort of people who constantly ask themselves if they are on the right track, if they have chosen the right career, if they are working for the right company, or if their contribution makes any difference.

To be continued in Part 2

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

[Image by brainware3000 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

How to move from doubt to self-reliance - Story of Carneades (Part 1 of 4)


From all dead-end situations, intellectual paralysis is by far the worst. Mistaken ideas can block your initiatives and make you doubt your senses. An erroneous philosophy can deprive you of the capacity to perceive the facts of reality, extract conclusions, and take appropriate action.

The Greek philosopher Carneades (214-129 BC) used to preach that knowledge and certainty are impossible, since our senses are unreliable and too many factors are involved in each case. To prove his point, Carneades used to take pleasure in making double speeches. One day, he would defend a certain principle and, on the next day, the opposite.

Carneades' practice baffled his audiences, but managed to attract him disciples who spread his ideas through Ancient Greece and Rome. His doctrine of perpetual doubt, scepticism, grew to play a minor role in ancient times, but by the end of the 18th century, it had waned to insignificance.

Strange enough, Carneades' ideas seem to be returning now to public discourse. While technology continues to advance, philosophy is being driven back to ancient times. While achievement and wealth accumulate, some individuals question their justification and purpose.

In the field of work, you probably know more sceptics that you care to count. Those are the sort of people who constantly ask themselves if they are on the right track, if they have chosen the right career, if they are working for the right company, or if their contribution makes any difference.

To be continued in Part 2

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

[Image by brainware3000 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Sunday, 18 April 2010

A message from the 19th century


Chances are that you have never heard of Horatio Alger. In his time, that is, during the last two decades of the 19th century, he was one the best-selling writers in the United States of America. Alger was the author of dozens of novels aimed at young readers, telling for the most part rags-to-riches stories.

"Ragged Dick" was his most famous book. Its protagonist, a quintessential Alger character, tries out his hand at different professions until he finally achieves the life of prosperity that he pursues. "He went into business," wrote Alger in that novel, "starting in a small way, and worked his way up by degrees."

If you read Alger's novels nowadays, you might find their plot too simple. His characters were, to a certain extent, stereotypes. Did Alger's stories take place in exotic, exciting settings? No, that was mostly not the case. Was Alger an author known for his ability to write impressive dialogue? Hardly. His prose was fine, but not spectacular.

Literary critics who have studied Alger's work often conclude that his extraordinary popularity was based on the fact that "his stories responded well to the spirit of his time," a period of adventurous entrepreneurs and rapid economic progress.

This conclusion might be true, but in my view, it still leaves an important aspect out of the picture. If you read Horatio Alger's stories, you will find that they address important life issues. His novels revolved around fundamental values such as ambition, independence, and integrity.

The recurring message in Alger's books is that you, the reader, has the same right to succeed as anybody else, irrespective of your origin, family, or personal history. If you don't give up and keep on pushing, you might just make it.

"Keep up a little longer and we will save you," wrote Horatio Alger in the final chapter of his best-selling book. "Dick heard the shout and it put fresh strength into him. He battled manfully with the treacherous sea, his eyes fixed longingly on the approaching boat. Hold on tight, little boy, there's a boat coming."

No wonder that those who read Alger's novels in the late 19th century liked them so much. At that time, when the world was still untouched by radio, movies, and television, Alger's popular fiction was a bright sign pointing to a better future, telling each of his readers that he had been selected to make his dreams come true. Today, a century later, this message of hope is something that we don't get to hear often enough.

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

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

A message from the 19th century


Chances are that you have never heard of Horatio Alger. In his time, that is, during the last two decades of the 19th century, he was one the best-selling writers in the United States of America. Alger was the author of dozens of novels aimed at young readers, telling for the most part rags-to-riches stories.

"Ragged Dick" was his most famous book. Its protagonist, a quintessential Alger character, tries out his hand at different professions until he finally achieves the life of prosperity that he pursues. "He went into business," wrote Alger in that novel, "starting in a small way, and worked his way up by degrees."

If you read Alger's novels nowadays, you might find their plot too simple. His characters were, to a certain extent, stereotypes. Did Alger's stories take place in exotic, exciting settings? No, that was mostly not the case. Was Alger an author known for his ability to write impressive dialogue? Hardly. His prose was fine, but not spectacular.

Literary critics who have studied Alger's work often conclude that his extraordinary popularity was based on the fact that "his stories responded well to the spirit of his time," a period of adventurous entrepreneurs and rapid economic progress.

This conclusion might be true, but in my view, it still leaves an important aspect out of the picture. If you read Horatio Alger's stories, you will find that they address important life issues. His novels revolved around fundamental values such as ambition, independence, and integrity.

The recurring message in Alger's books is that you, the reader, has the same right to succeed as anybody else, irrespective of your origin, family, or personal history. If you don't give up and keep on pushing, you might just make it.

"Keep up a little longer and we will save you," wrote Horatio Alger in the final chapter of his best-selling book. "Dick heard the shout and it put fresh strength into him. He battled manfully with the treacherous sea, his eyes fixed longingly on the approaching boat. Hold on tight, little boy, there's a boat coming."

No wonder that those who read Alger's novels in the late 19th century liked them so much. At that time, when the world was still untouched by radio, movies, and television, Alger's popular fiction was a bright sign pointing to a better future, telling each of his readers that he had been selected to make his dreams come true. Today, a century later, this message of hope is something that we don't get to hear often enough.

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

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

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The universal ethics of entrepreneurship

There is a Portuguese riddle that asks you to guess which being grows rapidly during its youth, takes 18 years to reach adulthood, usually lives to celebrate its 70th birthday, is able to survive adverse conditions, and produces sufficient wealth to feed a family.

In Portugal, a school kid who already knows the answer will smile at you and point his finger at a poster of an oak tree on the wall of his classroom. On the other hand, if you ask the same question during an evening course at a business school in Lisbon, students are likely to give you a different response. "What you mean is an entrepreneur," they will tell you.

Inherited behaviour models are crumbling in our midst. Old morality is taking the blame for current problems, although often through spurious argumentation. Never mind. Ethical decay has reached such an extent that many parents have given up all attempts to provide moral guidelines to their offspring.

Where are we headed? Should we just continue to chant the old incantations of our culture even after it has become clear that the melody is broken? I don't think so. I submit that an ethical model for the 21st century is brewing in old pots and casseroles: the sovereign entrepreneur.

Like the oak tree in the Portuguese riddle, the new species will reproduce and spread worldwide. It will survive a thousand years and open the door to a new era of tolerance and prosperity. What are the characteristics of this ethical standard?

1.- TALENT AND SKILLS TO WITHSTAND ADVERSE WEATHER. Through the ages, oak trees have taken root in most areas of the world, from California to Italy, from Argentina to South Africa. Even in unfavourable environments, these plants have grown stronger with each generation.

2.- QUICK LEARNING AND RAPID IMPLEMENTATION. The internet is compressing more and more the time needed to acquire professional or business training. Forget about dragging along six-years at an expensive University. Instead, turn on your mp3 player and listen to lectures in your field of interest. How long will it take for sovereign entrepreneurs to learn their trade? Possibly, less than two years, which, by the way, is the average lifespan of oak tree leaves.

3.- LOYALTY TO UNIVERSAL ETHICAL PRINCIPLES. Virtues such as flexibility, openness, tolerance, and honesty will render entrepreneurs sovereign of their fate and unconstrained in their business approach. In many cases, adherence to universal values will be preferred to identification with a specific country or culture. Oak trees have spread around the world on the basis of the essential characteristics of their species, irrespective of local accidents and fashions.

Despite massive efforts to foretell the future, nobody can predict accurately what is to come during the next years. Will we witness currencies collapse? Will major shifts in world economic flows take place?

No matter how difficult the situation becomes, sovereign entrepreneurs constitute the species best fit to survive. When everything is said and done, wherever you live, you will always need to call up an expert to fix your toilet when it breaks down. That expert, you see, that's the person you want to be.

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

[Image by grtaylor2 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The universal ethics of entrepreneurship

There is a Portuguese riddle that asks you to guess which being grows rapidly during its youth, takes 18 years to reach adulthood, usually lives to celebrate its 70th birthday, is able to survive adverse conditions, and produces sufficient wealth to feed a family.

In Portugal, a school kid who already knows the answer will smile at you and point his finger at a poster of an oak tree on the wall of his classroom. On the other hand, if you ask the same question during an evening course at a business school in Lisbon, students are likely to give you a different response. "What you mean is an entrepreneur," they will tell you.

Inherited behaviour models are crumbling in our midst. Old morality is taking the blame for current problems, although often through spurious argumentation. Never mind. Ethical decay has reached such an extent that many parents have given up all attempts to provide moral guidelines to their offspring.

Where are we headed? Should we just continue to chant the old incantations of our culture even after it has become clear that the melody is broken? I don't think so. I submit that an ethical model for the 21st century is brewing in old pots and casseroles: the sovereign entrepreneur.

Like the oak tree in the Portuguese riddle, the new species will reproduce and spread worldwide. It will survive a thousand years and open the door to a new era of tolerance and prosperity. What are the characteristics of this ethical standard?

1.- TALENT AND SKILLS TO WITHSTAND ADVERSE WEATHER. Through the ages, oak trees have taken root in most areas of the world, from California to Italy, from Argentina to South Africa. Even in unfavourable environments, these plants have grown stronger with each generation.

2.- QUICK LEARNING AND RAPID IMPLEMENTATION. The internet is compressing more and more the time needed to acquire professional or business training. Forget about dragging along six-years at an expensive University. Instead, turn on your mp3 player and listen to lectures in your field of interest. How long will it take for sovereign entrepreneurs to learn their trade? Possibly, less than two years, which, by the way, is the average lifespan of oak tree leaves.

3.- LOYALTY TO UNIVERSAL ETHICAL PRINCIPLES. Virtues such as flexibility, openness, tolerance, and honesty will render entrepreneurs sovereign of their fate and unconstrained in their business approach. In many cases, adherence to universal values will be preferred to identification with a specific country or culture. Oak trees have spread around the world on the basis of the essential characteristics of their species, irrespective of local accidents and fashions.

Despite massive efforts to foretell the future, nobody can predict accurately what is to come during the next years. Will we witness currencies collapse? Will major shifts in world economic flows take place?

No matter how difficult the situation becomes, sovereign entrepreneurs constitute the species best fit to survive. When everything is said and done, wherever you live, you will always need to call up an expert to fix your toilet when it breaks down. That expert, you see, that's the person you want to be.

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

[Image by grtaylor2 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Friday, 16 April 2010

Are you aiming at 15% per year?


Venture capital firms invest only in the most profitable segments of any market. If there are not plenty of customers who are thirsty for your product or service, you can forget about any kind of leveraged start-up.

During the last thirty years, merchant bankers have drafted and polished to perfection the requirements for investing successfully in high-growth private companies. Lo and behold, those principles happen to be the same as the elements of tribal marketing. How come?

Like in any business riddle, the answer is already contained in the question: both venture capital firms and tribal entrepreneurs aim at a rapid multiplication of invested capital. What are the characteristics that identify the potential of a business to grow at a compound rate of 15% per year and beyond?

  • PEOPLE IN PAIN. It is not difficult to sell dental services to someone suffering from a horrible toothache. You are bound to do well if your new product or service addresses an urgent unsatisfied need, but there are not that many of those. Failing real pain, a strong emotional desire will do. Satisfying entrenched passions is the card played by tribal marketing, which is equivalent to the old venture capital dictum of seeking customers with maximum pain.
  • PEOPLE IN TARGET. You won't hit targets that you can't see or reach in a relatively efficient way. Before investing in a private venture, merchant bankers check if the customers of that business are, to a good extent, a homogeneous group. Is your product or service aimed at a group that you can easily reach, such as trial lawyers, paediatricians, or school teachers? Starting your own parade is an expensive marketing method. The most successful tribal marketers find an ongoing demonstration, approach protesters, and sell them T-shirts favouring their cause.
  • PEOPLE IN TOUCH. The best markets are those where customers sell themselves. If your product or service delights ophthalmologists, they will tell their colleagues during their next conference. If you use such strategy, customers will find you on the web without your having to spend much on advertising. Investment bankers always search for this factor of "spontaneous marketing" when considering funding a new product or service. Tribal marketers often go beyond this level and they actually provide themselves an internet forum for customers to talk to each other.
  • PEOPLE IN GROWTH. "How are you going to grow your company year after year?" is one of the toughest questions that a businessman must face when trying to obtain funding from a merchant bank. If your venture is destined to become a one-trick pony, your growth prospects will be too limited to justify a substantial commitment from professional investors. Tribal marketers use the clever approach of searching for items that can please their existing customers, instead of developing random new products which would require massive marketing efforts.

In essence, the answer is in the method. It is a matter of throwing away what doesn't work and focusing on the little cream that floats on skim milk. The highest barrier to success in venture capital investment is caring too much for a product, to the point of becoming blind to the market.

The most difficult aspect of tribal marketing is forgetting about what you want and making the effort to understand other people. Mental flexibility is as profitable as it is demanding. Alternatives might look sweet and comfortable in the short-term, but ultimately, death ensues through marketing asphyxia.

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

[Image by conner395 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The best solution is to avoid problems


There are worse things than low-quality products and services. Invalidity and death, for instance. On the other hand, if you think about it, one thing often leads to the other. A deficient electrical installation in the bathroom might electrocute you and do you in. Long-term consumption of poor-quality food is likely to cause serious damage to your body.

A world of perfect quality does not exist, not even in an industrial environment. This does not mean that we should just give up, specially in our private life. During the last thirty years, engineers have developed techniques to render mistakes impossible in factories.

These systems are known as "poka-yokes." The Japanese term "poka-yoke," which means "fail-safe," has been taken over in other languages to identify these principles, since many of them have been created by companies in Japan.

In our days, techniques for preventing human mistakes are spreading to all kind of manufacturing operations around the world. What is amazing is that, outside the industrial environment, those ideas are almost never used: How do you make sure that don't forget to take your car to the garage for the annual maintenance? Do you ever run out of milk at home?

Sixty years ago, it was relatively common that, when you bought a new car, you expected the dealer to have it fine-tuned for you before delivery. Vehicle assembly at factories in those days was fraught with random mistakes.

How did engineers solve this problem? By designing each mechanical part to be unique in size or form, they made sure that each element could be mounted only one way: correctly. By making non-matching parts impossible to fit together, engineers excluded the possibility of human error.

"Poka-yoke" techniques are one of the reasons behind the relatively high quality of contemporary cars and washing machines. Is it possible to apply fail-safe techniques to make also our private life better? Yes, I do believe so. Let me put forward two examples:

[1] Write a reminder for yourself on a sheet of paper and use it to wrap up your car keys before you go to bed. When you pick up your car keys the following morning, there is no way that you are going to ignore the reminder you wrote for yourself.

[2] Keep at home some extra units of essential products, such as shampoo or tooth brushes. When your stock becomes too low, lay an empty box of the product on the corridor floor, next to the front door of your house. There is hardly a better way to make sure that you'll remember to replenish your stock.

Once you get used to thinking in terms of zero-mistakes, you will find many ways to apply fail-safe principles in your daily life. Just imagine how much time you could save if you never made the same mistake twice.

Developing systems to ensure perfect quality in factories keeps engineers busy and customers happy. It is not high time to start applying similar principles in our private life? The result will be, if not quality, at least peace of mind.

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

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

The best solution is to avoid problems


There are worse things than low-quality products and services. Invalidity and death, for instance. On the other hand, if you think about it, one thing often leads to the other. A deficient electrical installation in the bathroom might electrocute you and do you in. Long-term consumption of poor-quality food is likely to cause serious damage to your body.

A world of perfect quality does not exist, not even in an industrial environment. This does not mean that we should just give up, specially in our private life. During the last thirty years, engineers have developed techniques to render mistakes impossible in factories.

These systems are known as "poka-yokes." The Japanese term "poka-yoke," which means "fail-safe," has been taken over in other languages to identify these principles, since many of them have been created by companies in Japan.

In our days, techniques for preventing human mistakes are spreading to all kind of manufacturing operations around the world. What is amazing is that, outside the industrial environment, those ideas are almost never used: How do you make sure that don't forget to take your car to the garage for the annual maintenance? Do you ever run out of milk at home?

Sixty years ago, it was relatively common that, when you bought a new car, you expected the dealer to have it fine-tuned for you before delivery. Vehicle assembly at factories in those days was fraught with random mistakes.

How did engineers solve this problem? By designing each mechanical part to be unique in size or form, they made sure that each element could be mounted only one way: correctly. By making non-matching parts impossible to fit together, engineers excluded the possibility of human error.

"Poka-yoke" techniques are one of the reasons behind the relatively high quality of contemporary cars and washing machines. Is it possible to apply fail-safe techniques to make also our private life better? Yes, I do believe so. Let me put forward two examples:

[1] Write a reminder for yourself on a sheet of paper and use it to wrap up your car keys before you go to bed. When you pick up your car keys the following morning, there is no way that you are going to ignore the reminder you wrote for yourself.

[2] Keep at home some extra units of essential products, such as shampoo or tooth brushes. When your stock becomes too low, lay an empty box of the product on the corridor floor, next to the front door of your house. There is hardly a better way to make sure that you'll remember to replenish your stock.

Once you get used to thinking in terms of zero-mistakes, you will find many ways to apply fail-safe principles in your daily life. Just imagine how much time you could save if you never made the same mistake twice.

Developing systems to ensure perfect quality in factories keeps engineers busy and customers happy. It is not high time to start applying similar principles in our private life? The result will be, if not quality, at least peace of mind.

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

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

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Naming a problem is the first step towards a solution - Story of Johannes Gutenberg (Part 4 of 4)


Are you also able to transform problems into opportunities? When a product or service seems overpriced, do you try to identify the reason? Do you make the effort to analyse disruptions? When you experience irritation, can you name the critical elements involved?

Johannes Gutenberg's career offers us a vivid example of an essential entrepreneurial trait: the ability to isolate difficulties and reduce them to manageable size. Once Gutenberg named a problem, he devised a solution, achieved stability in that area, and moved to the next challenge.

Individuals who try to accomplish too much at the same time frequently feel overwhelmed. Unless you achieve success in some area, you will grow dispirited and might even decide to quit your endeavours altogether. Instead, acquire the good habit of making a list of pressing difficulties.

Name your problems, assess their relative importance, and establish priorities. Deal only with the most critical issues until you have achieved a tolerable level of stability. Once you have improved a specific aspect, move to the next and build it from there.

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

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

Naming a problem is the first step towards a solution - Story of Johannes Gutenberg
(Part 4 of 4)


Are you also able to transform problems into opportunities? When a product or service seems overpriced, do you try to identify the reason? Do you make the effort to analyse disruptions? When you experience irritation, can you name the critical elements involved?

Johannes Gutenberg's career offers us a vivid example of an essential entrepreneurial trait: the ability to isolate difficulties and reduce them to manageable size. Once Gutenberg named a problem, he devised a solution, achieved stability in that area, and moved to the next challenge.

Individuals who try to accomplish too much at the same time frequently feel overwhelmed. Unless you achieve success in some area, you will grow dispirited and might even decide to quit your endeavours altogether. Instead, acquire the good habit of making a list of pressing difficulties.

Name your problems, assess their relative importance, and establish priorities. Deal only with the most critical issues until you have achieved a tolerable level of stability. Once you have improved a specific aspect, move to the next and build it from there.

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

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

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Naming a problem is the first step towards a solution - Story of Johannes Gutenberg (Part 3 of 4)


His initial experiments quickly revealed the difficulties of the enterprise. What alloy should he use to produce the types? How was he going to melt the thousands of individual letters that are needed to produce each page of a book? How could he increase ink density in order to produce clean prints?

It took Gutenberg many years to master the process. By the time he had overcome one obstacle, another one would appear. His venture led him to incur massive debts, which he could hardly reimburse. Finally, his attempts proved successful and a first run of books came out of his atelier.

In 1455, Gutenberg undertook to print the Bible. By then, he was already 57 years old and fully conscious of the immensity of the task that he had set up for himself. Unabated, he hired help to compose text with movable types, purchased materials, and began to print pages. Several dozen Gutenberg Bibles have survived the passage of time and can be admired today in museums around the world.

Gutenberg's ability to acknowledge individual problems enabled him to create a book production system that changed the course of History. He combined existing technologies into a creative solution to a problem that few people had perceived as acute. The printing press drove down book prices and spread literacy to a larger segment of the population.

To be continued in Part 4

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

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

Naming a problem is the first step towards a solution - Story of Johannes Gutenberg
(Part 3 of 4)


His initial experiments quickly revealed the difficulties of the enterprise. What alloy should he use to produce the types? How was he going to melt the thousands of individual letters that are needed to produce each page of a book? How could he increase ink density in order to produce clean prints?

It took Gutenberg many years to master the process. By the time he had overcome one obstacle, another one would appear. His venture led him to incur massive debts, which he could hardly reimburse. Finally, his attempts proved successful and a first run of books came out of his atelier.

In 1455, Gutenberg undertook to print the Bible. By then, he was already 57 years old and fully conscious of the immensity of the task that he had set up for himself. Unabated, he hired help to compose text with movable types, purchased materials, and began to print pages. Several dozen Gutenberg Bibles have survived the passage of time and can be admired today in museums around the world.

Gutenberg's ability to acknowledge individual problems enabled him to create a book production system that changed the course of History. He combined existing technologies into a creative solution to a problem that few people had perceived as acute. The printing press drove down book prices and spread literacy to a larger segment of the population.

To be continued in Part 4

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

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

Monday, 12 April 2010

Naming a problem is the first step towards a solution - Story of Johannes Gutenberg (Part 2 of 4)


At the turn of the 15th century, reading material was expensive and the choice of titles severely limited. The price of a volume of three hundred pages would exceed one hundred times what it costs today. Less than one per cent of the population was able to read; as a result, only the clergy and aristocracy had access to written information.

Since ancient times, the cost of producing books had been proportional to the effort it took to copy them by hand. A monk labouring at a monastery would need two years to copy and illustrate a Bible by hand. In addition, pages of medieval books were made of parchment, that is, prepared animal skins, which also increased the overall cost of production.

Despite the high price of books, it was obvious that there was a growing market for them. The interesting question is why none of the thousands of people in Europe involved in the production of hand-written volumes had perceived the slowness of the process as a problem. Apparently, before Johannes Gutenberg, the established mode of operation was taken for granted.

For thousands of years, goldsmiths had been using gold to make delicate jewellery, as well as religious and ornamental figures. Gutenberg did not conceive the idea of casting figures with molten metal, but he was the first to realize the massive economies that could be made by casting movable types and using them for book production.

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Naming a problem is the first step towards a solution - Story of Johannes Gutenberg
(Part 2 of 4)


At the turn of the 15th century, reading material was expensive and the choice of titles severely limited. The price of a volume of three hundred pages would exceed one hundred times what it costs today. Less than one per cent of the population was able to read; as a result, only the clergy and aristocracy had access to written information.

Since ancient times, the cost of producing books had been proportional to the effort it took to copy them by hand. A monk labouring at a monastery would need two years to copy and illustrate a Bible by hand. In addition, pages of medieval books were made of parchment, that is, prepared animal skins, which also increased the overall cost of production.

Despite the high price of books, it was obvious that there was a growing market for them. The interesting question is why none of the thousands of people in Europe involved in the production of hand-written volumes had perceived the slowness of the process as a problem. Apparently, before Johannes Gutenberg, the established mode of operation was taken for granted.

For thousands of years, goldsmiths had been using gold to make delicate jewellery, as well as religious and ornamental figures. Gutenberg did not conceive the idea of casting figures with molten metal, but he was the first to realize the massive economies that could be made by casting movable types and using them for book production.

To be continued in Part 3

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

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