Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Why most expensive items should not be called investments (Part 1 of 3)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Why most expensive items should not be called investments (Part 1 of 3)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Monday, 29 November 2010

Why happiness takes so much effort (Part 6 of 6)


Apparently, he was very happy devoting his time to such a demanding undertaking. Such devotion to a single long-term purpose is essential to improve a man's personal effectiveness and psychological well-being.

When Titus Livius died, he was 77 years old. His only regret must have been that he had not started his project earlier, since he only managed to complete 142 books out of the 150 that he had initially planned.

Do you have similar objectives and plans in your life? Have you established long-term goals for yourself? Do you have a strategy that consistently favours your personal growth? Are you becoming more effective at what you do day after day?

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

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

Why happiness takes so much effort (Part 6 of 6)


Apparently, he was very happy devoting his time to such a demanding undertaking. Such devotion to a single long-term purpose is essential to improve a man's personal effectiveness and psychological well-being.

When Titus Livius died, he was 77 years old. His only regret must have been that he had not started his project earlier, since he only managed to complete 142 books out of the 150 that he had initially planned.

Do you have similar objectives and plans in your life? Have you established long-term goals for yourself? Do you have a strategy that consistently favours your personal growth? Are you becoming more effective at what you do day after day?

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

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

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Why happiness takes so much effort (Part 5 of 6)


We do not know what made Titus Livius change his ways, but we do know the results. Instead of continuing to pursue random interests, he conceived a wide-ranging project that would take him decades to accomplish. Instead of wasting time in abstract speculation, he fixed himself an ambitious goal and figured out how to accomplish it.

By the time he turned thirty-six, he had already formulated how he was going to spend the rest of his life. He would write a History of Rome unlike anything ever written before. He would speak not only of facts, but also of heroes. He would recount not only events, but also the values that had inspired them.

Titus Livius' plan comprised researching hundreds of documents and writing 150 books, an enterprise that nowadays would keep busy a complete university department. He did most of the work himself and it took him four decades.

To be continued in Part 6

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

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

Why happiness takes so much effort (Part 5 of 6)


We do not know what made Titus Livius change his ways, but we do know the results. Instead of continuing to pursue random interests, he conceived a wide-ranging project that would take him decades to accomplish. Instead of wasting time in abstract speculation, he fixed himself an ambitious goal and figured out how to accomplish it.

By the time he turned thirty-six, he had already formulated how he was going to spend the rest of his life. He would write a History of Rome unlike anything ever written before. He would speak not only of facts, but also of heroes. He would recount not only events, but also the values that had inspired them.

Titus Livius' plan comprised researching hundreds of documents and writing 150 books, an enterprise that nowadays would keep busy a complete university department. He did most of the work himself and it took him four decades.

To be continued in Part 6

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

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

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Why happiness takes so much effort (Part 4 of 6)


The life of the Ancient Roman writer Titus Livius (59 BC-17 AD) provides a good illustration of this point. When Titus Livius turned thirty-five, he looked back at his life and realized that he had not accomplished much. Like many Romans of good family, he had enjoyed a solid education, read widely, done some travelling, and also a little writing.

He had tried his hand intermittently at everything and achieved pretty much nothing. Since his life lacked purpose and ambition, Titus Livius felt ineffective and unhappy. He asked himself if he should continue living in the same way. Was there something that he could do to give meaning to his days?

The prevalent philosophies in Ancient Rome, stoicism and hedonism, did not provide an answer to his questions. Hedonism encourages man to live for the pleasures of the day and ignore long-term consequences. Stoicism seldom provides other contentment than the quiet acceptance of misfortune.

To be continued in Part 5

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

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

Why happiness takes so much effort (Part 4 of 6)


The life of the Ancient Roman writer Titus Livius (59 BC-17 AD) provides a good illustration of this point. When Titus Livius turned thirty-five, he looked back at his life and realized that he had not accomplished much. Like many Romans of good family, he had enjoyed a solid education, read widely, done some travelling, and also a little writing.

He had tried his hand intermittently at everything and achieved pretty much nothing. Since his life lacked purpose and ambition, Titus Livius felt ineffective and unhappy. He asked himself if he should continue living in the same way. Was there something that he could do to give meaning to his days?

The prevalent philosophies in Ancient Rome, stoicism and hedonism, did not provide an answer to his questions. Hedonism encourages man to live for the pleasures of the day and ignore long-term consequences. Stoicism seldom provides other contentment than the quiet acceptance of misfortune.

To be continued in Part 5

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

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

Friday, 26 November 2010

Why happiness takes so much effort (Part 3 of 6)


New fashions that entertain your spirit for a while will distract you from important matters. We all want to experience the fresh before it becomes stale, but do you want to waste your days chasing the latest novelty? Leading a chaotic life is self-destructing. Without focus and personal effectiveness, there can be no real happiness.

Overcharging our agendas and accelerating our life is the equivalent of a sugar-coated sedation. The pursuit of faster results makes no sense if those are irrelevant to our long-term goals. Actions that contradict our plans and ambitions rarely produce beneficial consequences.

Empty pursuits cannot still human hunger for happiness. Leading a meaningful life requires consistent ethical values, long-term plans, and effective implementation. The link between personal effectiveness and happiness cannot be denied.

To be continued in Part 4

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

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

Why happiness takes so much effort (Part 3 of 6)


New fashions that entertain your spirit for a while will distract you from important matters. We all want to experience the fresh before it becomes stale, but do you want to waste your days chasing the latest novelty? Leading a chaotic life is self-destructing. Without focus and personal effectiveness, there can be no real happiness.

Overcharging our agendas and accelerating our life is the equivalent of a sugar-coated sedation. The pursuit of faster results makes no sense if those are irrelevant to our long-term goals. Actions that contradict our plans and ambitions rarely produce beneficial consequences.

Empty pursuits cannot still human hunger for happiness. Leading a meaningful life requires consistent ethical values, long-term plans, and effective implementation. The link between personal effectiveness and happiness cannot be denied.

To be continued in Part 4

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

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

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Why happiness takes so much effort (Part 2 of 6)


Logic and consistency are the keys to quick learning and rapid implementation. A well-organized mind absorbs information more effectively than a mind affected by anxiety. Ethical certainty nourishes psychological stability and personal productivity.

Sustained personal growth relies on universal ethical principles. Virtues such as openness, tolerance, and honesty render individuals efficient and self-confident. Prosperity and happiness result from consistent action in pursuit of sensible goals. Nobody can predict the future accurately, but no matter how difficult the situation becomes, rational individuals will do better than average.

There is too much noise in the world and too many offers compete for our attention. We cannot accept every proposal that promises to improve our condition. Focusing our efforts on becoming more effective is a simple way to increase our chances of leading a more satisfying life.

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Why happiness takes so much effort (Part 2 of 6)


Logic and consistency are the keys to quick learning and rapid implementation. A well-organized mind absorbs information more effectively than a mind affected by anxiety. Ethical certainty nourishes psychological stability and personal productivity.

Sustained personal growth relies on universal ethical principles. Virtues such as openness, tolerance, and honesty render individuals efficient and self-confident. Prosperity and happiness result from consistent action in pursuit of sensible goals. Nobody can predict the future accurately, but no matter how difficult the situation becomes, rational individuals will do better than average.

There is too much noise in the world and too many offers compete for our attention. We cannot accept every proposal that promises to improve our condition. Focusing our efforts on becoming more effective is a simple way to increase our chances of leading a more satisfying life.

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Why happiness takes so much effort (Part 1 of 6)


Traditional 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 conclude that principles are relative? That happiness is unattainable through individual action? That success is more dependent on luck than on personal effort? To answer these questions, we must point out the connection between personal effectiveness and happiness.

Rationality establishes the basis for making productive decisions and developing valuable skills. Even in an unfavourable environment, individuals who possess strong values and motivation grow more effective with each passing day. Principles are not luxuries, but practical tools that enable progress and achievement.

To be continued in Part 2

[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]

Why happiness takes so much effort (Part 1 of 6)


Traditional 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 conclude that principles are relative? That happiness is unattainable through individual action? That success is more dependent on luck than on personal effort? To answer these questions, we must point out the connection between personal effectiveness and happiness.

Rationality establishes the basis for making productive decisions and developing valuable skills. Even in an unfavourable environment, individuals who possess strong values and motivation grow more effective with each passing day. Principles are not luxuries, but practical tools that enable progress and achievement.

To be continued in Part 2

[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, 23 November 2010

Why you should remind yourself every day of your fundamental goals (Part 3 of 3)


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

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

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

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

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

Why you should remind yourself every day of your fundamental goals (Part 3 of 3)


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 22 November 2010

Why you should remind yourself every day of your fundamental goals (Part 2 of 3)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Why you should remind yourself every day of your fundamental goals (Part 2 of 3)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Why you should remind yourself every day of your fundamental goals (Part 1 of 3)


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

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

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

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]

Why you should remind yourself every day of your fundamental goals (Part 1 of 3)


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

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

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

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, 20 November 2010

What a job, to be a prophet


I used to complain, what a job to be a prophet
it doesn't pay well, it has nothing to offer
why did I ever apply, I ask myself now
was it for the freedom that fools are allowed?

In the very beginning, I was given a warning
it is just an occupation for a rainy morning
but nobody told me about the long nights
trying to bring men to their proper heights

You don't know what you're doing, I heard
from every contented sheep in the herd
there cannot be any better world that this
where each human knows nothing but bliss

But is it perhaps my spirit of contradiction
that dares doubt truth presented as fiction?
Why was I unwilling to let things remain
stay on the course of a derailed train?

My motive has nothing to do with the food,
for all I've been able to reflect and conclude
My purpose is closer to an aimless drinker
who fears the day he might become a thinker

I was the last to graduate from prophet school
it took me a decade to learn the only rule
My rhetoric lessons have been mostly wasted
I tend to use words too sweet to be tasted

From the modest jobs available to prophets
I chose every time the carrying of buckets
upwards or downwards and the need may be
I missed no opportunity to speak out my plea

In times of discouragement, why did I not quit?
What burning message have I to transmit?
Has it not been proven nothing can change,
that nobody cares for views that are strange?

Will you believe that by the time I figured out
that harvest is pointless amidst eternal drought
my first disciple appeared, bringing red wine
I turned him away, but came another nine

What is the point of trying to walk straight
instead of following orders to carry extra weight?
This business can feed no disciples, I said,
forget joining a prophet, live quietly instead

Along they came, by the hundreds every week
young, old, married, single, none of them meek
Go back, there is no future in this calling
I cried, but their step was firm beyond stalling

I used to complain, what a job to be a prophet
it doesn't pay well, it has nothing to offer
until I discovered that in old age or youth
nothing can replace the sunrise of truth

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

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

What a job, to be a prophet


I used to complain, what a job to be a prophet
it doesn't pay well, it has nothing to offer
why did I ever apply, I ask myself now
was it for the freedom that fools are allowed?

In the very beginning, I was given a warning
it is just an occupation for a rainy morning
but nobody told me about the long nights
trying to bring men to their proper heights

You don't know what you're doing, I heard
from every contented sheep in the herd
there cannot be any better world that this
where each human knows nothing but bliss

But is it perhaps my spirit of contradiction
that dares doubt truth presented as fiction?
Why was I unwilling to let things remain
stay on the course of a derailed train?

My motive has nothing to do with the food,
for all I've been able to reflect and conclude
My purpose is closer to an aimless drinker
who fears the day he might become a thinker

I was the last to graduate from prophet school
it took me a decade to learn the only rule
My rhetoric lessons have been mostly wasted
I tend to use words too sweet to be tasted

From the modest jobs available to prophets
I chose every time the carrying of buckets
upwards or downwards and the need may be
I missed no opportunity to speak out my plea

In times of discouragement, why did I not quit?
What burning message have I to transmit?
Has it not been proven nothing can change,
that nobody cares for views that are strange?

Will you believe that by the time I figured out
that harvest is pointless amidst eternal drought
my first disciple appeared, bringing red wine
I turned him away, but came another nine

What is the point of trying to walk straight
instead of following orders to carry extra weight?
This business can feed no disciples, I said,
forget joining a prophet, live quietly instead

Along they came, by the hundreds every week
young, old, married, single, none of them meek
Go back, there is no future in this calling
I cried, but their step was firm beyond stalling

I used to complain, what a job to be a prophet
it doesn't pay well, it has nothing to offer
until I discovered that in old age or youth
nothing can replace the sunrise of truth

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

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

Friday, 19 November 2010

Failure is scary, so what? (Part 5 of 5)


What is even more amazing is that Darwin was only prompted to publish his theory out of the fear of seeing another scientist come out first with a book on the subject. Only when Darwin received a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858 did he realize that, for him, it was going to be now or never.

Wallace had come up with the same theory while doing research in the Malay Archipelago and, in his letter, he had presented a summary to Darwin. After fourteen years of paralysing doubts, Darwin swiftly made up his mind, prepared his notes for publication, and took the decisive step. All his fame and success come from that critical step, for which it took him fourteen years to gather enough courage.

Darwin's story made me wonder if failure and hesitation, instead of being the inhibitors of human success, should not be rather viewed as the harbingers, almost the prerequisites of any substantial achievement. Maybe, I thought, although failure is disruptive and scary, we can only appreciate its meaning when we place it in a long-term context.

Failure changes our way of thinking and our future actions, often turning us into wiser and more successful human beings. Indeed, failure is frightening, but only to a certain point. That's the point at which each of us is given one more chance to turn our lives around.

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

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

Failure is scary, so what? (Part 5 of 5)


What is even more amazing is that Darwin was only prompted to publish his theory out of the fear of seeing another scientist come out first with a book on the subject. Only when Darwin received a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858 did he realize that, for him, it was going to be now or never.

Wallace had come up with the same theory while doing research in the Malay Archipelago and, in his letter, he had presented a summary to Darwin. After fourteen years of paralysing doubts, Darwin swiftly made up his mind, prepared his notes for publication, and took the decisive step. All his fame and success come from that critical step, for which it took him fourteen years to gather enough courage.

Darwin's story made me wonder if failure and hesitation, instead of being the inhibitors of human success, should not be rather viewed as the harbingers, almost the prerequisites of any substantial achievement. Maybe, I thought, although failure is disruptive and scary, we can only appreciate its meaning when we place it in a long-term context.

Failure changes our way of thinking and our future actions, often turning us into wiser and more successful human beings. Indeed, failure is frightening, but only to a certain point. That's the point at which each of us is given one more chance to turn our lives around.

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

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

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Failure is scary, so what? (Part 4 of 5)


I was as wrong as you can be. Darwin's life story was much less glorious than I had expected, since it shows a man who had only moved towards success with utmost shyness and insecurity. In Darwin's actions, I found more hesitation than determination; in his doubts, I saw the reflection of my fundamental questions; in the middle decades of his life, I saw more risk aversion than entrepreneurship.

If failure is the equivalent of immobility, I concluded, then a good part of Darwin's life consisted of failure. Believe it or not, the man who is reputed to be one of the greatest scientists in history, procrastinated for fourteen years before publishing his theory. It is believed that Darwin's hesitation came out of his fear of criticism, although other factors may have also played a role.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that Charles Darwin might have died before taking the step to make his theory public. Apparently, by the time he turned 35, he had already put his thoughts in writing, but he only took the initiative to make his conclusions public when he was 49 years old, that is, fourteen years later. I suggest that you stop here for a second and ponder what you are planning to do with the next fourteen years of your life.

To be continued in Part 5

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

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

Failure is scary, so what? (Part 4 of 5)


I was as wrong as you can be. Darwin's life story was much less glorious than I had expected, since it shows a man who had only moved towards success with utmost shyness and insecurity. In Darwin's actions, I found more hesitation than determination; in his doubts, I saw the reflection of my fundamental questions; in the middle decades of his life, I saw more risk aversion than entrepreneurship.

If failure is the equivalent of immobility, I concluded, then a good part of Darwin's life consisted of failure. Believe it or not, the man who is reputed to be one of the greatest scientists in history, procrastinated for fourteen years before publishing his theory. It is believed that Darwin's hesitation came out of his fear of criticism, although other factors may have also played a role.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that Charles Darwin might have died before taking the step to make his theory public. Apparently, by the time he turned 35, he had already put his thoughts in writing, but he only took the initiative to make his conclusions public when he was 49 years old, that is, fourteen years later. I suggest that you stop here for a second and ponder what you are planning to do with the next fourteen years of your life.

To be continued in Part 5

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

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

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Failure is scary, so what? (Part 3 of 5)


In my eyes, determination without benevolence turns a person into a jerk rather than a success. Motivation without consideration makes people reckless and empty. Ambition without resilience results in anxiety. Engagement without perspective leads to intolerance. Definitely, I told myself, this is not the way to happiness.

Then one day I happened to read a biography of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), the English naturalist that formulated the theory of evolution through slow variation and adaptation of animal species. Since its inception, Darwin's theory has opened more wide-ranging discussions in society than any other idea in history.

Before reading about Darwin's life, I had assumed that he had come up with the theory of evolution at some point during his scientific expedition to the Galapagos, that he had quickly published his results, and that he had enjoyed for many years the prestige and wealth arising from the subsequent controversies.

To be continued in Part 4

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

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

Failure is scary, so what? (Part 3 of 5)


In my eyes, determination without benevolence turns a person into a jerk rather than a success. Motivation without consideration makes people reckless and empty. Ambition without resilience results in anxiety. Engagement without perspective leads to intolerance. Definitely, I told myself, this is not the way to happiness.

Then one day I happened to read a biography of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), the English naturalist that formulated the theory of evolution through slow variation and adaptation of animal species. Since its inception, Darwin's theory has opened more wide-ranging discussions in society than any other idea in history.

Before reading about Darwin's life, I had assumed that he had come up with the theory of evolution at some point during his scientific expedition to the Galapagos, that he had quickly published his results, and that he had enjoyed for many years the prestige and wealth arising from the subsequent controversies.

To be continued in Part 4

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

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

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Failure is scary, so what? (Part 2 of 5)


At that point, I began to realize that the kind of people that fascinated me never felt into the standard success category. The artists I liked were usually struggling or just getting by. The philosophers that I appreciated were far from being famous and wealthy. The movies I loved had no violence, no stars, and no special effects. What was that supposed to mean?

The years passed and, reluctantly, I embraced part of the official philosophy of success, although my conversion always remained uncertain and superficial. It did not take long before the old doubts came back to visit me, every week in the beginning, then every day, and finally, every night.

Whenever I made a pause and took the trouble to look around, the original questions returned to hunt me stronger than ever. Human life seemed to be made more of dishevelled threads, than of steel frames. The people I liked best had managed to strike a balance between their ultimate purpose and their immediate attachments.

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Failure is scary, so what? (Part 2 of 5)


At that point, I began to realize that the kind of people that fascinated me never felt into the standard success category. The artists I liked were usually struggling or just getting by. The philosophers that I appreciated were far from being famous and wealthy. The movies I loved had no violence, no stars, and no special effects. What was that supposed to mean?

The years passed and, reluctantly, I embraced part of the official philosophy of success, although my conversion always remained uncertain and superficial. It did not take long before the old doubts came back to visit me, every week in the beginning, then every day, and finally, every night.

Whenever I made a pause and took the trouble to look around, the original questions returned to hunt me stronger than ever. Human life seemed to be made more of dishevelled threads, than of steel frames. The people I liked best had managed to strike a balance between their ultimate purpose and their immediate attachments.

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Monday, 15 November 2010

Failure is scary, so what? (Part 1 of 5)


When I was a kid, I never really got to believe what I was told about success. Life seemed to have many more tracks that the one that was being officially preached. There were too many interesting destinations and I saw no justification why only one of them should be correct. In fact, I reasoned, how could anyone dare to formulate a model lifestyle that all people were supposed to follow at all times?

The tenets of the success philosophy were simple and have changed little ever since: failure is scary, so work hard and don't fall behind; keep it safe and don't take risks; don't be different and stay with the group; it is better to be warm with the majority than being left alone in the cold; and above all, you should avoid fundamental doubts and never question what is taken for granted by everybody else.

Reality, however, soon proved my doubts justified. For starters, I never met anyone who could be considered really successful according to the demanding standards that had been preached to me. Secondly, whenever I met people who called themselves successful, I found them so lacking in wisdom that I felt pity for them.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Failure is scary, so what? (Part 1 of 5)


When I was a kid, I never really got to believe what I was told about success. Life seemed to have many more tracks that the one that was being officially preached. There were too many interesting destinations and I saw no justification why only one of them should be correct. In fact, I reasoned, how could anyone dare to formulate a model lifestyle that all people were supposed to follow at all times?

The tenets of the success philosophy were simple and have changed little ever since: failure is scary, so work hard and don't fall behind; keep it safe and don't take risks; don't be different and stay with the group; it is better to be warm with the majority than being left alone in the cold; and above all, you should avoid fundamental doubts and never question what is taken for granted by everybody else.

Reality, however, soon proved my doubts justified. For starters, I never met anyone who could be considered really successful according to the demanding standards that had been preached to me. Secondly, whenever I met people who called themselves successful, I found them so lacking in wisdom that I felt pity for them.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The importance of focusing your efforts on specific projects (Part 3 of 3)


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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 13 November 2010

The importance of focusing your efforts on specific projects (Part 2 of 3)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

The importance of focusing your efforts on specific projects (Part 2 of 3)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Friday, 12 November 2010

The importance of focusing your efforts on specific projects (Part 1 of 3)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

The importance of focusing your efforts on specific projects (Part 1 of 3)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Thursday, 11 November 2010

My favourite method for selecting investments (Part 4 of 4)


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

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

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

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

My favourite method for selecting investments (Part 4 of 4)


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

My favourite method for selecting investments (Part 3 of 4)


* After that, you need to establish the infrastructure to manage your savings. Opening a brokerage account is a straightforward process in most countries, although it seldom takes less than a week. Many brokers accept orders by phone, but you are going to need internet access for the purposes of research.

* The final steps of my suggestion require that you establish an effective system to select your investments and devote a few hours per month to implementing it. An easy method of researching shares consists of identifying some reliable mutual funds that invest in dividend-paying equities and using the internet to look up their portfolios.

You will find the names of well-known mutual funds in any financial newspaper. More often than not, the web pages of those firms indicate which shares they have been holding in their portfolios during the last quarter. If you look up the web pages of a dozen different firms, you can get plenty of ideas about shares that might be worth considering for your personal portfolio.

To be continued in Part 4

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

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

My favourite method for selecting investments (Part 3 of 4)


* After that, you need to establish the infrastructure to manage your savings. Opening a brokerage account is a straightforward process in most countries, although it seldom takes less than a week. Many brokers accept orders by phone, but you are going to need internet access for the purposes of research.

* The final steps of my suggestion require that you establish an effective system to select your investments and devote a few hours per month to implementing it. An easy method of researching shares consists of identifying some reliable mutual funds that invest in dividend-paying equities and using the internet to look up their portfolios.

You will find the names of well-known mutual funds in any financial newspaper. More often than not, the web pages of those firms indicate which shares they have been holding in their portfolios during the last quarter. If you look up the web pages of a dozen different firms, you can get plenty of ideas about shares that might be worth considering for your personal portfolio.

To be continued in Part 4

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

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

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

My favourite method for selecting investments (Part 2 of 4)


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

My suggested method combines four elements that are available to most individuals: a monthly income from their jobs or professions, the possibility to open a brokerage account, internet access, and the willingness to devote a few hours per month to follow their finances.

* Nobody can make for you the commitment to set aside regularly part of your revenue in order to secure your future. This first step is the hardest to take, since frequently, man sees old age too far away. As a general rule, the sooner a person decides to take responsibility for his finances, the better his economic prospects.

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

My favourite method for selecting investments (Part 2 of 4)


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

My suggested method combines four elements that are available to most individuals: a monthly income from their jobs or professions, the possibility to open a brokerage account, internet access, and the willingness to devote a few hours per month to follow their finances.

* Nobody can make for you the commitment to set aside regularly part of your revenue in order to secure your future. This first step is the hardest to take, since frequently, man sees old age too far away. As a general rule, the sooner a person decides to take responsibility for his finances, the better his economic prospects.

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Monday, 8 November 2010

My favourite method for selecting investments (Part 1 of 4)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

My favourite method for selecting investments (Part 1 of 4)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Keep in mind the factors that are playing in your favour (Part 3 of 3)


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

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

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

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

Keep in mind the factors that are playing in your favour (Part 3 of 3)


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

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

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

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

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Keep in mind the factors that are playing in your favour (Part 2 of 3)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Keep in mind the factors that are playing in your favour (Part 2 of 3)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 3

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

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

Friday, 5 November 2010

Keep in mind the factors that are playing in your favour (Part 1 of 3)


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

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

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

To be continued in Part 2

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

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