Saturday, 31 December 2011

Rational living and financial foresight


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During the next years, he worked frantically, trying to write more books to pay off his debts. His health deteriorated rapidly and, finally, he died in 1832, physically and financially exhausted, when he was only 61 years old. Was it worth it that he had incurred huge personal debts in order to build a mansion? These are some lessons to draw from such stories:

1. Live below your means.

2. Save some money every month, even if it is a small sum.

3. Take insurance to cover critical risks, such as major surgery or invalidity.

4. Conduct your business or profession in a prudent manner.

5. Choose slow but safe growth over wild and risky expansion.

6. Diversify your investments amongst many different assets.

7. Stay away from profligate individuals or businesses. Their tales seldom have a happy end.

The virtues of foresight and saving constitute the backbone of civilization. Despite the negative stories presented by the media, millions of working men and women possess the habit of planning for the future. In fact, their prudent conduct and the ensuing peace of mind are what render them uniquely able to "enjoy the day."


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

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

Rational living and financial foresight


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During the next years, he worked frantically, trying to write more books to pay off his debts. His health deteriorated rapidly and, finally, he died in 1832, physically and financially exhausted, when he was only 61 years old. Was it worth it that he had incurred huge personal debts in order to build a mansion? These are some lessons to draw from such stories:

1. Live below your means.

2. Save some money every month, even if it is a small sum.

3. Take insurance to cover critical risks, such as major surgery or invalidity.

4. Conduct your business or profession in a prudent manner.

5. Choose slow but safe growth over wild and risky expansion.

6. Diversify your investments amongst many different assets.

7. Stay away from profligate individuals or businesses. Their tales seldom have a happy end.

The virtues of foresight and saving constitute the backbone of civilization. Despite the negative stories presented by the media, millions of working men and women possess the habit of planning for the future. In fact, their prudent conduct and the ensuing peace of mind are what render them uniquely able to "enjoy the day."


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

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

Friday, 30 December 2011

Rational living: the choice of simple strucutures that are easy to operate


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rational living: the choice of simple strucutures that are easy to operate


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Rational living: knowing which elements are important


Experienced managers tend to focus on a few key parameters that tell them how their business is doing. Seasoned investors proceed in a similar way. Since they know the kind of opportunities they are looking for, they are able to discard unsuitable investment proposals after checking a couple of critical figures.

No one can take correct decisions without knowing which elements are important. Gathering huge amounts of data will prove useless if complexity cannot be reduced to manageable levels. What you need are simple graphics or tables that show you how you are doing presently and what the trend for the future is.

When it comes to running your own life, could you reduce information to a small number of factors? Is it possible to simplify reality to such an extent? Can a few numbers suffice to express your level of happiness? Can we isolate the crucial components of our existence and make projections for the next decade? Here are some examples:

1. The general condition of your health.

2. Income from your main business or activity.

3. Overall level personal freedom.

4. How many close friends you meet regularly.

5. The size of your bank account and other liquid assets.

6. Level of satisfaction with your home and living environment.

7. How you rate the non-monetary aspects of your principal occupation.

8. Happiness derived from your spouse and other family relationships.

9. Overall perspectives for personal growth.

If routine fills most of our days, we should not allow random events to eat up the little free time we have available. Becoming conscious of the status in each area of our life and pushing for improvement requires substantial effort. Reducing situations to fundamental numbers can contribute to remind us where we stand and where we want to go.

More often than not, one or two figures should be enough to identify the issues closest to our heart. Even when we deal with immaterial elements, such as the non-monetary aspects of a business or profession, we should force ourselves to come up with a number.

Let us establish, for instance, where we are today on a scale from zero to ten and where we want to be in a year from now. In a similar way, trainers encourage overweight people to track their slimming progress by means of a simple graphic.

The sheer exercise of decomposing our life into its main constituents can prove highly beneficial. Turning observations into numerals may, for example, allow latent irritation to be verbalized. The first time that someone takes the time to write all this down frequently results in a couple of surprises.

In fact, if you can figure out the way to do it, the only number that you need to watch is your overall happiness index, where it stands today and how to extend the years you have left in order to raise it to the highest level.


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

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

Rational living: knowing which elements are important


Experienced managers tend to focus on a few key parameters that tell them how their business is doing. Seasoned investors proceed in a similar way. Since they know the kind of opportunities they are looking for, they are able to discard unsuitable investment proposals after checking a couple of critical figures.

No one can take correct decisions without knowing which elements are important. Gathering huge amounts of data will prove useless if complexity cannot be reduced to manageable levels. What you need are simple graphics or tables that show you how you are doing presently and what the trend for the future is.

When it comes to running your own life, could you reduce information to a small number of factors? Is it possible to simplify reality to such an extent? Can a few numbers suffice to express your level of happiness? Can we isolate the crucial components of our existence and make projections for the next decade? Here are some examples:

1. The general condition of your health.

2. Income from your main business or activity.

3. Overall level personal freedom.

4. How many close friends you meet regularly.

5. The size of your bank account and other liquid assets.

6. Level of satisfaction with your home and living environment.

7. How you rate the non-monetary aspects of your principal occupation.

8. Happiness derived from your spouse and other family relationships.

9. Overall perspectives for personal growth.

If routine fills most of our days, we should not allow random events to eat up the little free time we have available. Becoming conscious of the status in each area of our life and pushing for improvement requires substantial effort. Reducing situations to fundamental numbers can contribute to remind us where we stand and where we want to go.

More often than not, one or two figures should be enough to identify the issues closest to our heart. Even when we deal with immaterial elements, such as the non-monetary aspects of a business or profession, we should force ourselves to come up with a number.

Let us establish, for instance, where we are today on a scale from zero to ten and where we want to be in a year from now. In a similar way, trainers encourage overweight people to track their slimming progress by means of a simple graphic.

The sheer exercise of decomposing our life into its main constituents can prove highly beneficial. Turning observations into numerals may, for example, allow latent irritation to be verbalized. The first time that someone takes the time to write all this down frequently results in a couple of surprises.

In fact, if you can figure out the way to do it, the only number that you need to watch is your overall happiness index, where it stands today and how to extend the years you have left in order to raise it to the highest level.


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

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

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Rational living: preventing problems so that they never happen


Every morning, I remind myself that there is no future in repeating the past. After some years of doing this, the message is beginning to sink in. I am now becoming more adept to listening to truths extracted from past mistakes.

In my kitchen, I keep a battered red spiral notebook where I write down principles I should not forget. As I continue to fill its pages, I realize how often I record the same messages. Will I ever learn to...
  • Never expect someone else to solve my problems
  • Concentrate on work I love.
  • Ignore silly rules and preposterous expectations
  • Don't waste my resources
  • Mix fun and productivity in every task
  • View mistakes as learning experiences
  • Drop false ideas that keep me paralysed
  • Design my own future and colour my own dreams
  • Avoid nasty individuals
  • Delegate as much as I can
  • Devote more time to my close friends
  • Seek creative alternatives in every situation
  • Turn off the news (which are always pretty much the same as the day before)
  • Learn to see everything in perspective
  • Read my favourite books more frequently
  • Put aside my car keys and take long walks
  • Spend more time thinking about what's important
  • Never expect magic
  • Mistrust first impressions and, instead, always go for substance
  • Pursue my goals relentlessly, irrespective of short-term difficulties
  • Prevent problems so that they never happen
  • Cook and enjoy wonderful food
  • Escape noise, conflict, and nonsense
  • Remind myself that, in the end, time is all I have
[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

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

Rational living: preventing problems so that they never happen


Every morning, I remind myself that there is no future in repeating the past. After some years of doing this, the message is beginning to sink in. I am now becoming more adept to listening to truths extracted from past mistakes.

In my kitchen, I keep a battered red spiral notebook where I write down principles I should not forget. As I continue to fill its pages, I realize how often I record the same messages. Will I ever learn to...
  • Never expect someone else to solve my problems
  • Concentrate on work I love.
  • Ignore silly rules and preposterous expectations
  • Don't waste my resources
  • Mix fun and productivity in every task
  • View mistakes as learning experiences
  • Drop false ideas that keep me paralysed
  • Design my own future and colour my own dreams
  • Avoid nasty individuals
  • Delegate as much as I can
  • Devote more time to my close friends
  • Seek creative alternatives in every situation
  • Turn off the news (which are always pretty much the same as the day before)
  • Learn to see everything in perspective
  • Read my favourite books more frequently
  • Put aside my car keys and take long walks
  • Spend more time thinking about what's important
  • Never expect magic
  • Mistrust first impressions and, instead, always go for substance
  • Pursue my goals relentlessly, irrespective of short-term difficulties
  • Prevent problems so that they never happen
  • Cook and enjoy wonderful food
  • Escape noise, conflict, and nonsense
  • Remind myself that, in the end, time is all I have
[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

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

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Rational living applied to marketing


In the last five decades, management thinkers have reflected and debated on how to increase the effectiveness of organizations. Different theories have been put forward, argued, and often withdrawn. Even nowadays, only a couple of management precepts enjoy universal acceptance. The bottleneck principle is one of those few.

This rule predicts that the positive short-term benefits of any action will always be the greatest when efforts are focused on removing a bottleneck from a process. For instance, when the production of furniture is being slowed down by assembly difficulties, such bottleneck could be removed by using a simpler fastening procedure.

This formula has been applied successfully thousands of times to speed up manufacturing and service operations. On the other hand, its application has been rare in the field of marketing and sales. In general, entrepreneurs find easier to create new products than finding customers willing to purchase them.

Selling water to thirsty tourists in the desert places you in the ideal marketing position. 

In that context, you would be able to charge a high price and hardly hear complaints from customers. The reality that most businesses face in our age is precisely the opposite. Large numbers of players compete in each market and customers have become increasingly difficult to reach.

If we try to apply the bottleneck principle to sales, we are going to face, first of all, the question of identifying the critical problem. In the example of furniture manufacturing, we were able to see the assembly difficulties. In contrast, when it comes to marketing, the primary obstacle frequently remains invisible and might consist of any of these cases:

  1. Lack of credibility in the marketplace.
  2. Potential customers are unaware that a solution exists to their problem.
  3. High perceived risk of purchasing an unknown product.
  4. The advantages of the product are difficult to explain.
  5. General scepticism of potential buyers about anything new.
  6. Established suppliers dominate the market although they make inferior products.

Luckily, there is one sales method that addresses all those bottlenecks simultaneously. Giving free product samples and service demonstrations has become the marketing system of choice for new products and promises to maintain its prime status in the foreseeable future.

You will not have to seek long to find evidence of this phenomenon. Software programmes are installed and run without charge for six months. Novel delivery services offer you vouchers to transport your packages at no cost for a week. Exotic restaurants invite you to try out their menu without having to pay the bill.

The system of free samples can be practised in dozens of different ways. Complimentary demonstrations of new products and services provide the best proof of their value. 

Whatever your field of business or professional activity, if you are not already using this sales approach, you may be missing one of the most powerful tools for acquiring new customers.


For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living

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

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

Rational living applied to marketing


In the last five decades, management thinkers have reflected and debated on how to increase the effectiveness of organizations. Different theories have been put forward, argued, and often withdrawn. Even nowadays, only a couple of management precepts enjoy universal acceptance. The bottleneck principle is one of those few.

This rule predicts that the positive short-term benefits of any action will always be the greatest when efforts are focused on removing a bottleneck from a process. For instance, when the production of furniture is being slowed down by assembly difficulties, such bottleneck could be removed by using a simpler fastening procedure.

This formula has been applied successfully thousands of times to speed up manufacturing and service operations. On the other hand, its application has been rare in the field of marketing and sales. In general, entrepreneurs find easier to create new products than finding customers willing to purchase them.

Selling water to thirsty tourists in the desert places you in the ideal marketing position. 

In that context, you would be able to charge a high price and hardly hear complaints from customers. The reality that most businesses face in our age is precisely the opposite. Large numbers of players compete in each market and customers have become increasingly difficult to reach.

If we try to apply the bottleneck principle to sales, we are going to face, first of all, the question of identifying the critical problem. In the example of furniture manufacturing, we were able to see the assembly difficulties. In contrast, when it comes to marketing, the primary obstacle frequently remains invisible and might consist of any of these cases:

  1. Lack of credibility in the marketplace.
  2. Potential customers are unaware that a solution exists to their problem.
  3. High perceived risk of purchasing an unknown product.
  4. The advantages of the product are difficult to explain.
  5. General scepticism of potential buyers about anything new.
  6. Established suppliers dominate the market although they make inferior products.

Luckily, there is one sales method that addresses all those bottlenecks simultaneously. Giving free product samples and service demonstrations has become the marketing system of choice for new products and promises to maintain its prime status in the foreseeable future.

You will not have to seek long to find evidence of this phenomenon. Software programmes are installed and run without charge for six months. Novel delivery services offer you vouchers to transport your packages at no cost for a week. Exotic restaurants invite you to try out their menu without having to pay the bill.

The system of free samples can be practised in dozens of different ways. Complimentary demonstrations of new products and services provide the best proof of their value. 

Whatever your field of business or professional activity, if you are not already using this sales approach, you may be missing one of the most powerful tools for acquiring new customers.


For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living

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

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

Monday, 26 December 2011

Build your pyramid stone by stone


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

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

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

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

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

My point is that Paul Gaugin made a mistake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas to all readers: a great day to enjoy all we have today and to devote some time to thinking how Christmas next year will be even better.

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

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas to all readers: a great day to enjoy all we have today and to devote some time to thinking how Christmas next year will be even better.

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

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Learning on your own: faster, better, cheaper


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was just the end of the second period of his writings, since later on, he began to produce texts about medicine, including a commentary on the aphorisms of the Greek physician Hippocrates. How did Moses Maimonides managed to accumulate such an extensive knowledge in different areas? Here is the explanation that I can put forward:

1. Enormous curiosity to learn things that he considered interesting.

2. Getting hold of a few good books in the areas of knowledge that he liked.

3. Reading those books many times, year after year, making his own notes.

4. Taking every opportunity to learn from experts and ask questions, driven by his curiosity.

5. Concentrating on different fields of knowledge one after the other. In the case of Maimonides, he focused his research and writings, sequentially, on the areas of law, for about twelve years, then on philosophy, for about another twelve years, and finally, on medicine.

6. Learning from mistakes and making corrections as he went along.

You may argue that such rules of learning were good for someone living nine centuries ago, but that they have become obsolete in our time. Modern schools and universities, such as those in the fields of law and medicine, impose strict requirements on which subjects are to be covered by students.

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

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

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

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

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

[Image by Mara 1 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Learning on your own: faster, better, cheaper


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was just the end of the second period of his writings, since later on, he began to produce texts about medicine, including a commentary on the aphorisms of the Greek physician Hippocrates. How did Moses Maimonides managed to accumulate such an extensive knowledge in different areas? Here is the explanation that I can put forward:

1. Enormous curiosity to learn things that he considered interesting.

2. Getting hold of a few good books in the areas of knowledge that he liked.

3. Reading those books many times, year after year, making his own notes.

4. Taking every opportunity to learn from experts and ask questions, driven by his curiosity.

5. Concentrating on different fields of knowledge one after the other. In the case of Maimonides, he focused his research and writings, sequentially, on the areas of law, for about twelve years, then on philosophy, for about another twelve years, and finally, on medicine.

6. Learning from mistakes and making corrections as he went along.

You may argue that such rules of learning were good for someone living nine centuries ago, but that they have become obsolete in our time. Modern schools and universities, such as those in the fields of law and medicine, impose strict requirements on which subjects are to be covered by students.

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

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

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

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

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

[Image by Mara 1 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Friday, 23 December 2011

Where personal growth begins


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Where personal growth begins


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The rational response to unfairness


Unfairness is everywhere and, if you care to look, you will detect more than your equitable share. Some people are born in the right environment, others possess powerful connections, inherit better looks, or simply draw the lucky number in a lottery.

Occasionally, your valuable work won't be appreciated and, instead, people will praise worthless nonsense. You may at times have to endure discrimination or ostracism, with the accompanying financial drawbacks. Disappointment, self-pity, and envy are frequent reactions to those situations.

Those negative emotions result from complex thought processes, which are as widespread as they are illogical. Imagine, for example, the case of an inexperienced person who is appointed to a high position within a bank thanks to his family connections to the detriment of a much better-qualified candidate.

What will be the feelings of the person who has seen his rightful expectations evaporate in a cloud of unfairness? On the one hand, irritation and perhaps anger. In addition, discouragement or even depression. Finally, envy, together with an overall sensation of futility. Let us examine in detail the thought sequence that generates these feelings:

1. The open position should be filled with the most competent candidate.

2. The people who will make the choice should strive to identify who the best candidate is.

3. The selection should be made exclusively on the basis of rational criteria.

4. People should display extra care when they make such crucial decisions.

5. When someone makes important choices for an organization, he should not let himself be influenced by personal interests and family connections.

6. Since I am the best-qualified candidate, I should obtain the appointment.

7. If a less experienced person is selected for the job, that would constitute a terrible injustice.

The ideas described above seem irrefutable at first sight, but they fall apart if we subject them to rational examination. In reality, we all know that some people carry out their duties in an exemplary manner while others are as negligent as you can be. For every person who possesses a strong sense of justice, how many will you find who prefer to look the other way?

Even if you happen to be the best-qualified individual for that particular job, how much of that is the result of luck anyway? If you are reading this, I bet that you have not been born in appalling poverty, deprived of access to basic education, and neglected by your parents to the point of near-starvation. Do take a minute to assess if at least part of your success is the result of pure coincidence or good fortune.

My point is not to state that everything is relative, which is not. Equally, I am not trying to tell you that you shouldn't have ambitions, which you should, by all means. What I am arguing is that envy, a deep feeling of misplaced disadvantage, is mostly a logical illusion.

In a world where millions of people are ignorant, thoughtless, and driven by nefarious ethics, what sense does it make to focus on the unfairness of the day? Lamentations and wishful thinking can bring about certain psychological relief, but they are essentially a waste of resources.

The rational response to unfairness is not envy, but relentless action. Given sufficient time, intelligent persistence tends to weigh off the influences of inheritance and chance. In our example, the person who has not been chosen for the job would do better to put on a good face and start to look around, discreetly, for a better position for himself at a rival bank.

Your time on earth is limited and should be used promoting your own cause in front of rational, fair individuals. For what concerns other people's mistakes, prejudice, or arbitrariness, you will be better off if you shrug your shoulders and move on. In the long-term, life has its own funny ways of settling open accounts without your intervention.

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

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

The rational response to unfairness


Unfairness is everywhere and, if you care to look, you will detect more than your equitable share. Some people are born in the right environment, others possess powerful connections, inherit better looks, or simply draw the lucky number in a lottery.

Occasionally, your valuable work won't be appreciated and, instead, people will praise worthless nonsense. You may at times have to endure discrimination or ostracism, with the accompanying financial drawbacks. Disappointment, self-pity, and envy are frequent reactions to those situations.

Those negative emotions result from complex thought processes, which are as widespread as they are illogical. Imagine, for example, the case of an inexperienced person who is appointed to a high position within a bank thanks to his family connections to the detriment of a much better-qualified candidate.

What will be the feelings of the person who has seen his rightful expectations evaporate in a cloud of unfairness? On the one hand, irritation and perhaps anger. In addition, discouragement or even depression. Finally, envy, together with an overall sensation of futility. Let us examine in detail the thought sequence that generates these feelings:

1. The open position should be filled with the most competent candidate.

2. The people who will make the choice should strive to identify who the best candidate is.

3. The selection should be made exclusively on the basis of rational criteria.

4. People should display extra care when they make such crucial decisions.

5. When someone makes important choices for an organization, he should not let himself be influenced by personal interests and family connections.

6. Since I am the best-qualified candidate, I should obtain the appointment.

7. If a less experienced person is selected for the job, that would constitute a terrible injustice.

The ideas described above seem irrefutable at first sight, but they fall apart if we subject them to rational examination. In reality, we all know that some people carry out their duties in an exemplary manner while others are as negligent as you can be. For every person who possesses a strong sense of justice, how many will you find who prefer to look the other way?

Even if you happen to be the best-qualified individual for that particular job, how much of that is the result of luck anyway? If you are reading this, I bet that you have not been born in appalling poverty, deprived of access to basic education, and neglected by your parents to the point of near-starvation. Do take a minute to assess if at least part of your success is the result of pure coincidence or good fortune.

My point is not to state that everything is relative, which is not. Equally, I am not trying to tell you that you shouldn't have ambitions, which you should, by all means. What I am arguing is that envy, a deep feeling of misplaced disadvantage, is mostly a logical illusion.

In a world where millions of people are ignorant, thoughtless, and driven by nefarious ethics, what sense does it make to focus on the unfairness of the day? Lamentations and wishful thinking can bring about certain psychological relief, but they are essentially a waste of resources.

The rational response to unfairness is not envy, but relentless action. Given sufficient time, intelligent persistence tends to weigh off the influences of inheritance and chance. In our example, the person who has not been chosen for the job would do better to put on a good face and start to look around, discreetly, for a better position for himself at a rival bank.

Your time on earth is limited and should be used promoting your own cause in front of rational, fair individuals. For what concerns other people's mistakes, prejudice, or arbitrariness, you will be better off if you shrug your shoulders and move on. In the long-term, life has its own funny ways of settling open accounts without your intervention.

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

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

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Peace of mind does not come from immobility


Does it pay to hire someone to analyse your dreams? Will it make any difference in your present or future life? I must express my scepticism about the psychological and practical returns on such investments.

When a problem of personal nature comes up, do you really believe that talking endlessly about your past is going to change your future? Should you not rather establish a plan of action and push yourself into implementing it?

The solution to past problems begins with present action. Paralysis only aggravates problems. Relentless action is the best countermeasure. The way forward entails defining goals, making plans, and following them through.

Let me break down my advice in 12 sequential steps:

1. Get a pencil and a piece of paper and draw two vertical lines in the middle, creating three columns.

2. In the first column, write down where you are now, for instance "I live in Detroit and I don't like it."

3. In the second column, write down where you want to be, for example "I want to live in Paris."

4. For the moment, leave the third column blank.

5. Cross from the list all items that are of secondary importance or that you don't wish to address right now.

6. You should be left with no more than six present and future elements. Let those be your priorities, at least for the time being.

7. Classify your six remaining problems and objectives into two groups. One should contain burning short-term issues that need urgent attention, like settling pending bills or avoiding the foreclosure of your home. The second group should encompass your most important long-term goals, like moving to Paris.

8. The less short-term burning issues and the more long-term goals you have, the better.

9. In the third column, write down specific steps that you can take in order to advance, for each issue, from your present status to your future goal. In the geographical example, the actions could consist of selling your house in Detroit, learning French, looking for a job in Paris, finding a house to rent there, and preparing the removal of your possessions from Detroit to Paris.

10. Begin to implement your actions one by one, pushing yourself everyday into carrying them out.

11. Many of your foreseen undertakings will fail or will reveal themselves impracticable. Never mind. Simply cross failed actions from your list and replace them by new alternatives. The fact that you are doing something is already helping you learn what doesn't work.

12. Step by step, your implementation will become sharper and increase the effectiveness of your results.

Relentless action, in addition to producing practical gains, enhances your psychological well-being. The souls of those who live by action also grow daily in wisdom. Peace of mind does not come from immobility, but from the process of pushing forward.

The human brain is not made for wallowing in past mistakes. Rational goals and ambitions bring out the best in human beings. Relentless action elevates men and women beyond the weight of personal history.


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

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

Peace of mind does not come from immobility


Does it pay to hire someone to analyse your dreams? Will it make any difference in your present or future life? I must express my scepticism about the psychological and practical returns on such investments.

When a problem of personal nature comes up, do you really believe that talking endlessly about your past is going to change your future? Should you not rather establish a plan of action and push yourself into implementing it?

The solution to past problems begins with present action. Paralysis only aggravates problems. Relentless action is the best countermeasure. The way forward entails defining goals, making plans, and following them through.

Let me break down my advice in 12 sequential steps:

1. Get a pencil and a piece of paper and draw two vertical lines in the middle, creating three columns.

2. In the first column, write down where you are now, for instance "I live in Detroit and I don't like it."

3. In the second column, write down where you want to be, for example "I want to live in Paris."

4. For the moment, leave the third column blank.

5. Cross from the list all items that are of secondary importance or that you don't wish to address right now.

6. You should be left with no more than six present and future elements. Let those be your priorities, at least for the time being.

7. Classify your six remaining problems and objectives into two groups. One should contain burning short-term issues that need urgent attention, like settling pending bills or avoiding the foreclosure of your home. The second group should encompass your most important long-term goals, like moving to Paris.

8. The less short-term burning issues and the more long-term goals you have, the better.

9. In the third column, write down specific steps that you can take in order to advance, for each issue, from your present status to your future goal. In the geographical example, the actions could consist of selling your house in Detroit, learning French, looking for a job in Paris, finding a house to rent there, and preparing the removal of your possessions from Detroit to Paris.

10. Begin to implement your actions one by one, pushing yourself everyday into carrying them out.

11. Many of your foreseen undertakings will fail or will reveal themselves impracticable. Never mind. Simply cross failed actions from your list and replace them by new alternatives. The fact that you are doing something is already helping you learn what doesn't work.

12. Step by step, your implementation will become sharper and increase the effectiveness of your results.

Relentless action, in addition to producing practical gains, enhances your psychological well-being. The souls of those who live by action also grow daily in wisdom. Peace of mind does not come from immobility, but from the process of pushing forward.

The human brain is not made for wallowing in past mistakes. Rational goals and ambitions bring out the best in human beings. Relentless action elevates men and women beyond the weight of personal history.


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

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

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The philosophy of builders Available at AMAZON.com


The factors that lead to prosperity and happiness have changed little through the ages. From the lives of accomplished men and women, we can extract the three principles that they have used to build a better future: self-reliance, tolerance and entrepreneurship.

This essay presents how individuals can use these principles to overcome adversity and improve their lives. Through the analysis of situations in the areas of relationships, career, health and investments, it shows how to overcome pessimism and discouragement, walk the path of least resistance, simplify your life and reduce costs, and focus on real opportunities.

The ideas are illustrated with examples from the lives of Paracelsus, Jane Austen, Thomas of Aquinas, Gutenberg, Jules Verne and many other historical figures, showing how they overcame obstacles and built a better future for themselves.

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

The philosophy of builders
Available at AMAZON.com


The factors that lead to prosperity and happiness have changed little through the ages. From the lives of accomplished men and women, we can extract the three principles that they have used to build a better future: self-reliance, tolerance and entrepreneurship.

This essay presents how individuals can use these principles to overcome adversity and improve their lives. Through the analysis of situations in the areas of relationships, career, health and investments, it shows how to overcome pessimism and discouragement, walk the path of least resistance, simplify your life and reduce costs, and focus on real opportunities.

The ideas are illustrated with examples from the lives of Paracelsus, Jane Austen, Thomas of Aquinas, Gutenberg, Jules Verne and many other historical figures, showing how they overcame obstacles and built a better future for themselves.

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

Monday, 19 December 2011

Always compare several sources


Most ideas about investment are fairy tales, although pervasive ones. Who could blame you for believing what is daily propagated by alleged experts? Do you spend lots of time selecting stocks that you intend to keep for the long term? Are you aware of the fact that market corrections take place from time to time?

After losing 60% of their liquid assets in the last years, many investors threw away their previous theories. Pain pushed them to change. They have become determined to reshape their practices and take control of their lives.

They have promised themselves that, whatever happens in the future, they will not be paralysed again; they will not be playing sitting duck any more. If investors had to condense all they have learned in a few rules, chances are that they would choose the following ten:

1. Develop long-term ambitions and work on their implementation by devoting daily a fixed amount of time to supervising your investments.

2. The major difference between professional and amateur investors is that professionals are always willing to recognize their mistakes. If facts turn against your theories, drop the theories. Be ready to sell your shares when it becomes obvious that you have made a mistake.

3. In stock market investments, like in real estate, the easiest profits are made by purchasing attractive assets at a low price.

4. You don't need to spend hours on end doing research in order to achieve high investment returns. The cost of a few superb investment newsletters is negligible compared with the time you'll save.

5. The cheapest way to avoid catastrophic losses in the stock market is to place stop-loss orders in every share in your portfolio. It's up to you to decide whether you are ready to take a loss of 10% or 20% before recognizing a mistake.

6. Never invest more than 5% of your assets in one single share or venture. Even if you devote all the care in the world to select your investments, you will never be able to rule out all risks.

7. There are dozens of stock markets in the world. If you live in the US or Europe, take a look at Brazil, China, Australia, or New Zealand. The costs of investing internationally are lower than you may think.

8. Dividend-paying shares with a long history of increasing dividends every year are usually solid investments if you can buy them at a reasonable price.

9. Never invest in something that you don't understand. Avoid obscure companies with unidentifiable sales and profits.

10. Use the internet to the maximum. The amount of investment information available for free is mind-boggling. Nevertheless, remain sceptical, compare sources, and check critical data several times.

Investment mistakes are no different from others. Marketing failures will allow you to improve your product targeting next time. Human resources blunders should help you hire better candidates in the future.

The validity of the lessons we learn is often commensurate with the pain caused by our mistakes. Mismanaged assets, like mismanaged advertising, may lead to a financial loss, but if the loss teaches you a great lesson for the future, nothing has been wasted.

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

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