Monday, 31 October 2011

A problem well defined is a problem half-solved


Annoyance and irritation are part of daily life. When we encounter unexpected difficulties, we often become emotional and raise our voice. When people oppose our plans, we question their intentions and express our discontent. However, the fact that those reactions are natural does not make them effective.

Successful living is a process of dealing with adversity and overcoming obstacles. If we stay alert and adopt an entrepreneurial attitude, trouble can reveal opportunities to improve our environment. Everybody is able to complain, but too few individuals are motivated to analyse problems, study their causes, and figure out solutions.

Anger and discontent may mark the steps to a better life more effectively than conformity. Those who accept disruption without resistance seldom come up with ideas to prevent further perturbation. In contrast, those who hate interruptions tend to be the ones who suggest protective measures.

Problems must be perceived as such before they can be dissected and solved. It is not a coincidence that most inventors and entrepreneurs are independent characters. Individuals who trust their own perception do not fear calling things by their names. Exacerbated diplomacy can undermine sincerity and inhibit personal initiative.

Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468), to whom History credits with the invention of the printing press, was the quintessential self-reliant entrepreneur. He was trained as a goldsmith, plied his trade for decades in several German towns, and it was only in his forties that he identified the business opportunity that would transform his life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A problem well defined is a problem half-solved


Annoyance and irritation are part of daily life. When we encounter unexpected difficulties, we often become emotional and raise our voice. When people oppose our plans, we question their intentions and express our discontent. However, the fact that those reactions are natural does not make them effective.

Successful living is a process of dealing with adversity and overcoming obstacles. If we stay alert and adopt an entrepreneurial attitude, trouble can reveal opportunities to improve our environment. Everybody is able to complain, but too few individuals are motivated to analyse problems, study their causes, and figure out solutions.

Anger and discontent may mark the steps to a better life more effectively than conformity. Those who accept disruption without resistance seldom come up with ideas to prevent further perturbation. In contrast, those who hate interruptions tend to be the ones who suggest protective measures.

Problems must be perceived as such before they can be dissected and solved. It is not a coincidence that most inventors and entrepreneurs are independent characters. Individuals who trust their own perception do not fear calling things by their names. Exacerbated diplomacy can undermine sincerity and inhibit personal initiative.

Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468), to whom History credits with the invention of the printing press, was the quintessential self-reliant entrepreneur. He was trained as a goldsmith, plied his trade for decades in several German towns, and it was only in his forties that he identified the business opportunity that would transform his life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Things you can do in 17.000 days


Do you know how to calculate the amount of fear holding you back in life? Take a pen and a piece of paper. On top of the page, write down your current age, for instance "34 years old." At the bottom, indicate how old you intend to grow before you die. "Death at 80" is a reasonable target.

Now comes the mathematical part of the exercise. Draw a straight line connecting your current age with your death. That line represents the number of days that you have left on earth. In our example, the difference between 80 and 34 leaves you with 46 years, that is, almost 17.000 days.

The vertical line on the page divides your future in two areas. The last part of the game consists of deciding how you are going to use those 17.000 days. On the left side of the line, you can write down safe and commonplace goals. On the right side, difficult and disruptive ambitions.

Boring projects are easy to name and quantify. They include, amongst others, looking for better jobs (600 days), cleaning the house (600 days), and going on holidays (1000 days). The rules of the exercise allow you to list as many activities as you wish, provided that you don't run out of time to live.

On your left-side list, you should not forget mundane tasks such as working five days a week (5400 days), washing your car once per month (500 hours), getting a divorce (150 days) and shopping for new clothes (250 days). When your remaining term of 46 years is up, you are dead.

You only need to worry about the opposite side of the line if you have unused time, which is unlikely. The truth is that most people will allocate their complete lifespan to left-side tasks, including essential activities such as watching television (4000 days) and walking their dog (1000 days).

What about the right side of the line? Does anyone actually write down adventurous, risky goals? Are there people foolish enough to risk total failure in order to pursue their dreams? Is it not better to stick to attainable objectives? This is the type of activities that usually come up under the label "difficult and disruptive:"
  1. Live in Paris for a year (500 days, including preparation and removal)
  2. Start up and grow a global business (3000 days)
  3. Write twenty great books (3000 days)
  4. Save and invest until you are able to live from dividends (6000 days)
  5. Learn to cook according to good nutrition principles (300 days)
  6. Lose weight and acquire habits that allow you to stay in good shape (500 days)
One could argue that this game is useless, since it has no winner and no loser. Since the same individual appears on both sides of the line, what is the point? What is the purpose of the exercise? The answer is that, paradoxically, the subjects on each side of the line are different persons.

One of them is boring, the other fearless. One of them is aimless, the other determined. One of them is predictable, the other exciting. The lesson is that, one day, the 46 years will be consumed all the same. At the end, results will be trivial or spectacular, meaningless or irreplaceable.

If you don't like the outcome of your calculations, take a blank piece of paper, draw a new vertical line, and start the exercise again. After a few times, you will get quite good at it. At one point, you will begin to fear boring activities more than risky ones. If you are already there, congratulations, now you know how to win the game.

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

[Image by Irene2005 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Things you can do in 17.000 days


Do you know how to calculate the amount of fear holding you back in life? Take a pen and a piece of paper. On top of the page, write down your current age, for instance "34 years old." At the bottom, indicate how old you intend to grow before you die. "Death at 80" is a reasonable target.

Now comes the mathematical part of the exercise. Draw a straight line connecting your current age with your death. That line represents the number of days that you have left on earth. In our example, the difference between 80 and 34 leaves you with 46 years, that is, almost 17.000 days.

The vertical line on the page divides your future in two areas. The last part of the game consists of deciding how you are going to use those 17.000 days. On the left side of the line, you can write down safe and commonplace goals. On the right side, difficult and disruptive ambitions.

Boring projects are easy to name and quantify. They include, amongst others, looking for better jobs (600 days), cleaning the house (600 days), and going on holidays (1000 days). The rules of the exercise allow you to list as many activities as you wish, provided that you don't run out of time to live.

On your left-side list, you should not forget mundane tasks such as working five days a week (5400 days), washing your car once per month (500 hours), getting a divorce (150 days) and shopping for new clothes (250 days). When your remaining term of 46 years is up, you are dead.

You only need to worry about the opposite side of the line if you have unused time, which is unlikely. The truth is that most people will allocate their complete lifespan to left-side tasks, including essential activities such as watching television (4000 days) and walking their dog (1000 days).

What about the right side of the line? Does anyone actually write down adventurous, risky goals? Are there people foolish enough to risk total failure in order to pursue their dreams? Is it not better to stick to attainable objectives? This is the type of activities that usually come up under the label "difficult and disruptive:"
  1. Live in Paris for a year (500 days, including preparation and removal)
  2. Start up and grow a global business (3000 days)
  3. Write twenty great books (3000 days)
  4. Save and invest until you are able to live from dividends (6000 days)
  5. Learn to cook according to good nutrition principles (300 days)
  6. Lose weight and acquire habits that allow you to stay in good shape (500 days)
One could argue that this game is useless, since it has no winner and no loser. Since the same individual appears on both sides of the line, what is the point? What is the purpose of the exercise? The answer is that, paradoxically, the subjects on each side of the line are different persons.

One of them is boring, the other fearless. One of them is aimless, the other determined. One of them is predictable, the other exciting. The lesson is that, one day, the 46 years will be consumed all the same. At the end, results will be trivial or spectacular, meaningless or irreplaceable.

If you don't like the outcome of your calculations, take a blank piece of paper, draw a new vertical line, and start the exercise again. After a few times, you will get quite good at it. At one point, you will begin to fear boring activities more than risky ones. If you are already there, congratulations, now you know how to win the game.

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

[Image by Irene2005 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Saturday, 29 October 2011

The rational way to make difficult decisions


You can easily tell a dead-end project by the massive opposition it generates. If your initiatives create fierce resistance, it might be wise to reconsider your strategy. Some products or services are just impossible to sell at a profit, even if they could greatly benefit potential customers. People choose to ignore whatever conflicts with their convictions.

Entrepreneurs are conscious of the fact that markets possess sensitivity and taste. If you try to impose your views on customers, you will fail. If you try to sell what people find misplaced, your attempts will produce only irritation and waste.

Prosperity and happiness require loyalty to principles and practicality in the implementation. Only fools start fights where everybody loses. Logic and consistency are worthless without a workable plan. Philosophy serves no purpose if it does not help improve your life.

The question is how to accomplish demanding goals while remaining loyal to truth. The story of Roger Williams (1603-1683) provides powerful inspiration about how attain success and well-being by minimizing confrontation, in other words, by taking the path of least resistance.

Williams was born in London at a time when religious dissidence was often punished with death. As a child, he witnessed the public execution of members of minority movements. Those tragic events shaped his philosophy and turned him into a highly effective advocate of tolerance and individual responsibility.

After his ordination as protestant priest, Williams got married and emigrated to America. When he arrived in Boston, he was 29th years old. He gained employment as preacher in one of the local churches and began to promote his ideas of tolerance and respect of religious minorities.

His parishioners, who favoured a strict line of thought, did not appreciate William's views. Soon after, he faced a difficult choice. If he refused to conform his ideas to public expectations, he would lose his position. If he remained loyal to his philosophy, his reputation would be damaged and no other congregation in the area would be willing to hire him.

He attempted to find steady employment in Salem and Plymouth, to no avail. Churchgoers in those cities liked Williams' opinions as little as those in Boston. He consulted his wife, Mary, and learned that she was pregnant. An upcoming baby constituted a strong reason for Williams to try to keep his position even if that meant sacrificing his ideals. What would you have done in such a situation?

Choosing the path of least resistance requires, in the first place, that you determine your principles and values. Random decisions do not lead to happiness, especially if they are motivated by fear. A wise man identifies his priorities before assessing his options. Our goal should be to find the alternative that can accomplish our objectives with minimum opposition.

Williams analysed his possibilities carefully. On the one hand, he could renounce his views and keep his job. On the other hand, he could give up his ambition of establishing himself in America and return to England. None of those alternatives was satisfying. Instead, he opted for a third choice, the path of least resistance.

With his pregnant wife on trail, he left Boston, purchased some land from the Narragansett Indians, and established a new settlement that he called Providence. Williams' philosophy of tolerance and self-reliance soon attracted entrepreneurial minorities of all sorts. As a result, his land became one of the most prosperous American colonies.

The two alternatives that he had rejected were dead-end projects. If he had kept his position in Boston, he would have continued to receive a regular income, but only at the price of betraying his ideals. If he had returned to England, his destiny would have not been much different.

In retrospective, William's decision to establish a new settlement was the obvious path of least resistance. He had seen the consequences of intolerance in England and was convinced that there was a better way. He suspected that thousands of people thought the way he did, minorities of all sorts, entrepreneurial individuals who only wanted to be left alone to lead their own lives.

Instead of disputing the views of his Boston parishioners, Williams walked away. Instead of wasting time on bitter debates, he opted for building a workable alternative. Instead of trying to impose his views on disgruntled opponents, he decided to spend his life with those who were naturally on his side.

The success of Providence during the following decades provides an impressive example of the benefits of rational decisions: increased cooperation, tolerance, goodwill and self-reliance, all accompanied by growing industry, trade, and productivity.

In addition, Williams' peaceful relations with the neighbouring Narragansett tribes led to mutual understanding. In 1643, he published a handbook on the language of American Indians, which he hoped would improve communication and exchanges between frontier communities.

The next time that you are faced with a similar situation, why don't you adopt the same strategy? Write down your values and priorities. Identify which elements are essential to your happiness. Discard options that don't fulfil your fundamental requirements. Amongst the remaining choices, choose the path of least resistance.

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

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

Friday, 28 October 2011

Job opportunities, although scarce, do exist


Unrealistic scenarios and promises are counter-productive. When planning our future, we should think twice before trusting exaggerated positive statements. On the other hand, we should also refrain from painting all alternatives as dark and all attempts as hopeless.

Various approaches have been tried against poverty, with different levels of success. Living in an environment of deprivation can undermine a man's spirit and this is why he needs to figure out a feasible plan to improve his situation. What we know is that unrealistic expectations do not work.

If you happen to find yourself living in a poor district of town, you do not need to give up your hopes of a better future. If you are suffering from lack of formal education, becoming bitter is not going to improve anything.

What is needed is to take action to detect and seize available opportunities, but frequently, those can only be perceived when we look at the world realistically. When a man is unemployed or stuck in low-income occupations, he might develop a view of the world that prevents him from seizing his chances.

The conviction that nobody is going to listen to one's troubles does not necessarily correspond to reality. The perceptions that nobody is going to help and that no one cares are contrary to the fact that opportunities, although scarce, do exist.

The great news is that businessmen, generally speaking, like to grow their companies and that this creates sales openings in many areas. The way out of poverty involves the recognition that a man must often take whatever jobs are offered, even if he would have liked to do something else.

Sales work is available almost at any time, irrespective of the overall economic situation, since selling is the most critical business function. Taking a sales position is frequently the only way available to break out of poverty into fields of better opportunity, so here is my advice:
  1. Go to the public library, borrow some books about sales, and study them.
  2. Get a suit and a tie, even if they are second hand, so that you can go to interviews.
  3. Forget about fixed-income jobs and look instead for a sales position.
  4. Ignore those who criticise or ridicule your ambitions.
  5. Watch the best-performing salesmen in your company and listen to their advice.
  6. Keep on reading about sales and learn as much as you can about your industry.
  7. Gain experience and become proficient in sales.
  8. Move to a better sales job.
  9. In the future, consider the possibility of starting your own company.
Taking the future in one's own hands might require discarding unrealistic ideas held in the past. The fact is that some opportunities exist and others are hard to come by. Experience shows that sales work can be the way to a better life, a path that many have successfully walked before.

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

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

Job opportunities, although scarce, do exist


Unrealistic scenarios and promises are counter-productive. When planning our future, we should think twice before trusting exaggerated positive statements. On the other hand, we should also refrain from painting all alternatives as dark and all attempts as hopeless.

Various approaches have been tried against poverty, with different levels of success. Living in an environment of deprivation can undermine a man's spirit and this is why he needs to figure out a feasible plan to improve his situation. What we know is that unrealistic expectations do not work.

If you happen to find yourself living in a poor district of town, you do not need to give up your hopes of a better future. If you are suffering from lack of formal education, becoming bitter is not going to improve anything.

What is needed is to take action to detect and seize available opportunities, but frequently, those can only be perceived when we look at the world realistically. When a man is unemployed or stuck in low-income occupations, he might develop a view of the world that prevents him from seizing his chances.

The conviction that nobody is going to listen to one's troubles does not necessarily correspond to reality. The perceptions that nobody is going to help and that no one cares are contrary to the fact that opportunities, although scarce, do exist.

The great news is that businessmen, generally speaking, like to grow their companies and that this creates sales openings in many areas. The way out of poverty involves the recognition that a man must often take whatever jobs are offered, even if he would have liked to do something else.

Sales work is available almost at any time, irrespective of the overall economic situation, since selling is the most critical business function. Taking a sales position is frequently the only way available to break out of poverty into fields of better opportunity, so here is my advice:
  1. Go to the public library, borrow some books about sales, and study them.
  2. Get a suit and a tie, even if they are second hand, so that you can go to interviews.
  3. Forget about fixed-income jobs and look instead for a sales position.
  4. Ignore those who criticise or ridicule your ambitions.
  5. Watch the best-performing salesmen in your company and listen to their advice.
  6. Keep on reading about sales and learn as much as you can about your industry.
  7. Gain experience and become proficient in sales.
  8. Move to a better sales job.
  9. In the future, consider the possibility of starting your own company.
Taking the future in one's own hands might require discarding unrealistic ideas held in the past. The fact is that some opportunities exist and others are hard to come by. Experience shows that sales work can be the way to a better life, a path that many have successfully walked before.

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

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

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A simple formula for personal growth


"The principle is one, but its manifestations are many," wrote Chinese philosopher Cheng-Ha a thousand years ago. If we had to establish the simplest possible formula for maximizing happiness, it would probably contain just one instruction. In fact, a single word would suffice: growth.

Some define self-development as becoming more of what you are and reaching for more ambitious goals. In pure biological terms, growth implies dilatation or enlargement. Paralysis, most of the time, involves some form of pathology. Stasis is equivalent to death.

Increasing one's ability to live is the fundamental driver for animals and plants. For humans, extending our breadth and depth of experience is the only goal that can be all-encompassing. If you are looking for a permanent and comprehensive recipe to make the best of your life, growth is all you need.

The unpredictability of personal development is what makes it so difficult to pursue successfully. Growth frequently takes place in areas where it is least expected. On the other hand, concentrating all efforts on developing a certain skill might, paradoxically, constrain overall personal growth.

How does self-development actually take place? In which way can it be facilitated? Why must each man follow a different path towards personal growth? These questions have occupied psychologists for years. Here are two ideas that you can use.

* GROWTH IS SELDOM LINEAR. When you learn a foreign language, your knowledge does not increase following a precise pattern. By memorizing 20 new words per day, your ability to communicate does not expand at a fixed rate, for example, at 1% per day. Even with sustained study and practice, your progress will now and then stagnate. Sometimes, you will even forget words that you had already learned. Finally, after extensive effort, one day, you will reach a point where you can speak that language fluently.

* GROWTH IS NOT ALWAYS SYSTEMATIC. Still today, despite decades of research, there is no guaranteed method to achieve growth. Some focus on a limited set of skills and try to develop them to perfection. Others prefer to learn bits and pieces on various subjects and put them together in original ways. Using commonplace elements to produce unexpected combinations is a great development strategy. Breakthrough ideas result, on many occasions, out of curiosity rather than from the organized approach of research laboratories.

What experience seems to prove is that understanding the varying speed of self-development is a prerequisite of peace of mind. Pushing the human body beyond its capabilities does not tend to accelerate, but to hinder growth. Do not try to run too fast and make sure not to carry too much weight.

The important lesson is that taking daily steps in your chosen field is the best formula to make yourself ready for growth. When opportunities materialize, you will be able to seize them. Regular work and steadiness of purpose usually lead to a better life. There are many variations, but the theme is one.

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

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

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Reformulate your goal, multiply your results


If you have made a mess of your life in the past, you are in good company. Thousands of successful people have embarked themselves on dead-end projects leading to catastrophic losses. Failure is always a discouraging experience, but wise men never view it as the end of the game.

They take some time to rest, regroup forces, and gather resources for their next venture. The consequences of dead-end projects are rarely lethal. Entrepreneurs that incur losses see them as the price of pursuing their dreams. If they suffer damage to their reputation, they pick up whatever is left and move on.

People possessed by doubt quit when they encounter difficulties. In contrast, individuals motivated by strong desire cannot imagine a life a passive acceptance. Both types of persons may advance at the same speed for a while, but only the relentless reach the end of the path.

Consistency and persistence, like any other conviction, cannot be purchased with money. We know that personal psychology plays an important role in how actively people work at improving their lives, but we still ignore the precise mechanics of motivation.

Why do certain individuals develop extraordinary drive and exploit possibilities to the maximum? What makes other persons in similar situations waste their lives and resources? Biographers of high-achievers tend to agree that ambitious goals open the door to excellent performance.

While indecisive people move at random, determined individuals walk as fast as they can in their chosen direction. While weak companies spread their resources too thin, strong enterprises concentrate on their most profitable markets. While the members of one group hesitate, the others are already half-way. Their final goal makes all the difference.

The life of French writer Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) offers a fascinating example of the role that strong motivation plays in success. It took him 14 years of continuous failure before he actually wrote a book that sold well. During that time, he cumulated business disasters and incurred such enormous debts that he was obliged to hide from creditors.

His desire to become writer grew slowly during his time at school and his experience as an employee. In his youth, he laboured for two years as a clerk at a notary office, where he learned to draft marriage contracts and property mortgages. Balzac was 20 years old when he decided to quit his job at the law firm and devote the rest of his life to writing.

After a long discussion, he managed to convince his father to grant him a small allowance for a year. That was the time that Balzac had allowed himself to write a brilliant novel that would immediately propel him to the highest echelons of literary fame.

During those initial 12 months, Balzac produced two appalling books which were quickly forgotten. A long string of poorly crafted novels followed during the next years; none of those earned him sufficient money to break out of poverty.

In his late twenties, Balzac contemplated his massive failure and resolved to abandon his ambitions. He told himself that he had done his best, but that becoming a writer was too difficult. Would he not rather make a fortune in business and later, when he was free of material concerns, return to literature?

His entrepreneurial attempts soon ended catastrophically. He borrowed large sums of money and established himself first as a publisher and later as a printer, two businesses about which he knew little. Competition was hard and Balzac lacked the experience to run such operations with any chance of success.

He brought out books that did not sell and saw financial losses accumulate. In less than a year, he had wasted his complete capital and was obliged to shut down his business. His dreams of prosperity were shattered; his personal debts, astronomical; his prospects of turning around the situation, negligible.

Psychological misery followed financial ruin. For an extended period, Balzac spent his days feeling sorry for himself and hiding from creditors. He was so poor that he only escaped hunger thanks to family and friends. They provided him a roof over his head and helped him regain his self-confidence.

Balzac's healing took place slowly. Eventually, his pride returned to his previous size; his ambitions were rekindled; his persistence was reborn, stronger than ever before. He announced to his family that he was going to retake his literary career and that, this time, he was not intending to stop until he had attained popularity and sales.

When he told them that he was willing to do whatever was necessary, his declaration was met with scepticism. Had he not tried to become a writer for longer than a decade? Had he not failed completely at every attempt?

Balzac nodded, smiled, and replied that he had conceived a plan that would put him on the map as a writer. His past novels had been dead-end projects composed without grand ambitions; his future works would form a collection integrated by a single idea, a final goal, a fundamental purpose.

Popular success came to him in 1833 and continued for a good part of his life. Balzac baptised his collection of novels La Comédie Humaine, which grew to encompass 95 books. At several times in his career, he played again with the idea of acquiring a business and living a different life. Fortunately for his readers, he stuck to his final goal.

[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]

Reformulate your goal, multiply your results


If you have made a mess of your life in the past, you are in good company. Thousands of successful people have embarked themselves on dead-end projects leading to catastrophic losses. Failure is always a discouraging experience, but wise men never view it as the end of the game.

They take some time to rest, regroup forces, and gather resources for their next venture. The consequences of dead-end projects are rarely lethal. Entrepreneurs that incur losses see them as the price of pursuing their dreams. If they suffer damage to their reputation, they pick up whatever is left and move on.

People possessed by doubt quit when they encounter difficulties. In contrast, individuals motivated by strong desire cannot imagine a life a passive acceptance. Both types of persons may advance at the same speed for a while, but only the relentless reach the end of the path.

Consistency and persistence, like any other conviction, cannot be purchased with money. We know that personal psychology plays an important role in how actively people work at improving their lives, but we still ignore the precise mechanics of motivation.

Why do certain individuals develop extraordinary drive and exploit possibilities to the maximum? What makes other persons in similar situations waste their lives and resources? Biographers of high-achievers tend to agree that ambitious goals open the door to excellent performance.

While indecisive people move at random, determined individuals walk as fast as they can in their chosen direction. While weak companies spread their resources too thin, strong enterprises concentrate on their most profitable markets. While the members of one group hesitate, the others are already half-way. Their final goal makes all the difference.

The life of French writer Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) offers a fascinating example of the role that strong motivation plays in success. It took him 14 years of continuous failure before he actually wrote a book that sold well. During that time, he cumulated business disasters and incurred such enormous debts that he was obliged to hide from creditors.

His desire to become writer grew slowly during his time at school and his experience as an employee. In his youth, he laboured for two years as a clerk at a notary office, where he learned to draft marriage contracts and property mortgages. Balzac was 20 years old when he decided to quit his job at the law firm and devote the rest of his life to writing.

After a long discussion, he managed to convince his father to grant him a small allowance for a year. That was the time that Balzac had allowed himself to write a brilliant novel that would immediately propel him to the highest echelons of literary fame.

During those initial 12 months, Balzac produced two appalling books which were quickly forgotten. A long string of poorly crafted novels followed during the next years; none of those earned him sufficient money to break out of poverty.

In his late twenties, Balzac contemplated his massive failure and resolved to abandon his ambitions. He told himself that he had done his best, but that becoming a writer was too difficult. Would he not rather make a fortune in business and later, when he was free of material concerns, return to literature?

His entrepreneurial attempts soon ended catastrophically. He borrowed large sums of money and established himself first as a publisher and later as a printer, two businesses about which he knew little. Competition was hard and Balzac lacked the experience to run such operations with any chance of success.

He brought out books that did not sell and saw financial losses accumulate. In less than a year, he had wasted his complete capital and was obliged to shut down his business. His dreams of prosperity were shattered; his personal debts, astronomical; his prospects of turning around the situation, negligible.

Psychological misery followed financial ruin. For an extended period, Balzac spent his days feeling sorry for himself and hiding from creditors. He was so poor that he only escaped hunger thanks to family and friends. They provided him a roof over his head and helped him regain his self-confidence.

Balzac's healing took place slowly. Eventually, his pride returned to his previous size; his ambitions were rekindled; his persistence was reborn, stronger than ever before. He announced to his family that he was going to retake his literary career and that, this time, he was not intending to stop until he had attained popularity and sales.

When he told them that he was willing to do whatever was necessary, his declaration was met with scepticism. Had he not tried to become a writer for longer than a decade? Had he not failed completely at every attempt?

Balzac nodded, smiled, and replied that he had conceived a plan that would put him on the map as a writer. His past novels had been dead-end projects composed without grand ambitions; his future works would form a collection integrated by a single idea, a final goal, a fundamental purpose.

Popular success came to him in 1833 and continued for a good part of his life. Balzac baptised his collection of novels La Comédie Humaine, which grew to encompass 95 books. At several times in his career, he played again with the idea of acquiring a business and living a different life. Fortunately for his readers, he stuck to his final goal.

[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]

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Bad news is good news


When you were a kid at school, you probably endured lots of preaching about the virtue of flexibility. Most likely, the moral speeches you heard were accompanied by fulminating diatribes against rigidity. Imprecise is right and exact is boring, you were told. Weightlessness is strength and fragility is solidity.

In terms of ethics, this approach leads to the enthronement of relativism as a moral absolute, which is of course absurd, since when anything goes, fuzziness is portrayed as sharpness, ignorance as information, and confusion as wisdom.

On the other hand, look at what happens when we turn our attention from theory to reality. When values and commitments lose their contours, life becomes chaotic. If you doubt my words, talk to anyone who has lived for a while in a country where basic principles have been abandoned:

* CONTRACTS ARE IGNORED. The stories that you read in newspapers about doing business in unstable countries only reflect a small part of the horror. Without people's willingness to keep their word, society simply disintegrates. Without enforceable contracts, all that remains are shady transactions and an extremely high cost of living.

* INSECURITY BECOMES DOMINANT. Once ethics become dispensable, life turns into a race of cheating and abuse. If people begin to question fair, well-functioning agreements that have been long established, everything is up for grabs. When psychological manipulation becomes the currency of the day, any sort of purchase turns into a nightmare.

* MISTAKES GROW WITHOUT LIMIT. Productivity is always the first victim of moral decay. Without honesty, any agreement about delivery and price loses its meaning. Reliability and credibility are the best cost-reduction tools in business. When those two disappear, the effort needed to complete any task grows exponentially

At the same time, bad news is good news. Even if some people advocate moral relativism, you are not obliged to adopt vagueness as personal philosophy. Even if someone persons around you behave dishonestly, you can decide to stay dependable and truthful. That decision will give you enormous advantages in the long-term.

A wise man seeks compromise in negotiations, but only when essential moral principles are left untouched. Reality is forgiving of innocent mistakes, but merciless with those who twist facts and corrupt their soul.

Your peace of mind and self-confidence depend on your rational principles. Stick to them and they will show you the way. For the sake of your present happiness and future health, reject temptation and pass the test. Your decisiveness will be enhanced and your results will improve.

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

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

Bad news is good news


When you were a kid at school, you probably endured lots of preaching about the virtue of flexibility. Most likely, the moral speeches you heard were accompanied by fulminating diatribes against rigidity. Imprecise is right and exact is boring, you were told. Weightlessness is strength and fragility is solidity.

In terms of ethics, this approach leads to the enthronement of relativism as a moral absolute, which is of course absurd, since when anything goes, fuzziness is portrayed as sharpness, ignorance as information, and confusion as wisdom.

On the other hand, look at what happens when we turn our attention from theory to reality. When values and commitments lose their contours, life becomes chaotic. If you doubt my words, talk to anyone who has lived for a while in a country where basic principles have been abandoned:

* CONTRACTS ARE IGNORED. The stories that you read in newspapers about doing business in unstable countries only reflect a small part of the horror. Without people's willingness to keep their word, society simply disintegrates. Without enforceable contracts, all that remains are shady transactions and an extremely high cost of living.

* INSECURITY BECOMES DOMINANT. Once ethics become dispensable, life turns into a race of cheating and abuse. If people begin to question fair, well-functioning agreements that have been long established, everything is up for grabs. When psychological manipulation becomes the currency of the day, any sort of purchase turns into a nightmare.

* MISTAKES GROW WITHOUT LIMIT. Productivity is always the first victim of moral decay. Without honesty, any agreement about delivery and price loses its meaning. Reliability and credibility are the best cost-reduction tools in business. When those two disappear, the effort needed to complete any task grows exponentially

At the same time, bad news is good news. Even if some people advocate moral relativism, you are not obliged to adopt vagueness as personal philosophy. Even if someone persons around you behave dishonestly, you can decide to stay dependable and truthful. That decision will give you enormous advantages in the long-term.

A wise man seeks compromise in negotiations, but only when essential moral principles are left untouched. Reality is forgiving of innocent mistakes, but merciless with those who twist facts and corrupt their soul.

Your peace of mind and self-confidence depend on your rational principles. Stick to them and they will show you the way. For the sake of your present happiness and future health, reject temptation and pass the test. Your decisiveness will be enhanced and your results will improve.

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

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

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Say no to useless complexity


Although hundreds of individuals teach Latin for a living, few of them spend time explaining why it became a dead language. If you read about its history, facts are presented as self-evident and no general lessons are drawn.

The official version of the story is that, when the Roman Empire was conquered in the 5th century, barbarian words polluted the purity of ancient speech. Foreign influences changed the manner of writing Latin, did away with its grammar, and distorted its pronunciation.

During the Middle Ages, clerics and lawyers tried to maintain the old language alive, overall with little success. The quality of written Latin deteriorated at the same speed as it was taught to younger generations. The spoken word, undisturbed by grammatical constraints, became approximative and vague.

By the end of the 16th century, the great language of antiquity was clinically death, although a few volumes were still written and published in Latin in the 17th century. Those relics symbolize man's reluctance to acknowledge tidal changes that disrupt established patterns of thought.

The expulsion of Latin to the realm of the dead becomes an intriguing question when we compare it with other achievements of the time, such as the laws of Ancient Rome. In contrast to language, the principles of Roman law have survived the passage of time and can be found today in the civil code of numerous European and South American countries.

While Latin was dead and buried centuries ago, ancient Roman law still permeates our culture and institutions. The logic of modern contracts replicates the arguments of ancient jurisprudence; our court procedures follow the steps conceived by Roman magistrates; our conception of marriage and inheritance is derived from ancient family law.

Causality is the weak point in the official story of the disappearance of Latin. If ancient language was polluted by barbarian influences, so was Roman law. If grammar and pronunciation lost their original purity, so did Roman law. Nevertheless, legal principles survived and Latin is no longer alive.

A closer look at the facts reveals that Latin did not actually die, but was displaced. It was not destroyed or dismantled, but abandoned. Nobody took active steps to eliminate it from the minds of citizens. People just stopped using it, like a car that is too old to be worth repairing.

Financiers know that there is a world of difference between a company that is taken over and one that goes bankrupt. The official story is that Latin was merged or transformed into medieval languages. While this aspect is indisputable, it misses an important part of the picture.

The truth must include the acknowledgement that Latin, like an enterprise that loses customers, went bankrupt. The decline of the ancient language must have begun before the barbarian invasions. Most likely, Latin would have decayed even if the Roman Empire had lasted another century.

Insolvent companies that blame their difficulties on the market show blindness to the real cause of their financial demise. If competitors have stayed in business and thrived, why did a specific company go bankrupt? Why did Latin wane into oblivion despite all efforts to keep it alive?

Lovers of ancient languages will seldom give you the answer to that question: Latin was highly inefficient. Left to its own devices, it was unable to maintain itself. Its grammar was calling for simplification. It was too difficult to learn and brought little value to the table.

Four major languages of our age, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, are derived from Latin. All four have shed the overcomplicated structure that made Latin so inefficient. The cost of maintenance became to heavy and the old construction fell apart. Like a bankrupt company, Latin collapsed under the weight of its liabilities.

The ancient language built sentences by adding affixes to adjective and names depending on their grammatical role, gender, and number. In order to create a correct sentence, each name and adjective had to be combined with the right affix. Latin had many different affixes, which varied from name to name and case to case. In contrast, modern Spanish just adds "s" for most plurals.

Speaking correct Latin required extensive training that few could afford in the Middle Ages. Even with our most advanced learning methods, languages that continue to use numerous affixes for names and adjectives demand great efforts of foreigners who wish to learn them.

Trying to maintain Latin alive was the quintessential dead-end project. Relatively few people were willing to devote resources to the undertaking; its cost far exceeded the capital available. The project was doomed from the start; those who believed that it could succeed were massively unrealistic.

The ancient language did not die the glorious death of a heroic medieval knight; it perished from starvation and neglect. Its structural inefficiency rendered it unable to compete. History broke it down and scattered the remnants. The clock stopped at a time when it could not be repaired.

Has the lesson been learned? Have we grown capable of recognizing and avoiding dead-end projects? Anyone willing to recognize mistakes can acquire the necessary knowledge and perspective. Latin is a dead language and rightly so. The next time that someone asks you to participate in a project, make sure that is has a future.

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

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

Say no to useless complexity


Although hundreds of individuals teach Latin for a living, few of them spend time explaining why it became a dead language. If you read about its history, facts are presented as self-evident and no general lessons are drawn.

The official version of the story is that, when the Roman Empire was conquered in the 5th century, barbarian words polluted the purity of ancient speech. Foreign influences changed the manner of writing Latin, did away with its grammar, and distorted its pronunciation.

During the Middle Ages, clerics and lawyers tried to maintain the old language alive, overall with little success. The quality of written Latin deteriorated at the same speed as it was taught to younger generations. The spoken word, undisturbed by grammatical constraints, became approximative and vague.

By the end of the 16th century, the great language of antiquity was clinically death, although a few volumes were still written and published in Latin in the 17th century. Those relics symbolize man's reluctance to acknowledge tidal changes that disrupt established patterns of thought.

The expulsion of Latin to the realm of the dead becomes an intriguing question when we compare it with other achievements of the time, such as the laws of Ancient Rome. In contrast to language, the principles of Roman law have survived the passage of time and can be found today in the civil code of numerous European and South American countries.

While Latin was dead and buried centuries ago, ancient Roman law still permeates our culture and institutions. The logic of modern contracts replicates the arguments of ancient jurisprudence; our court procedures follow the steps conceived by Roman magistrates; our conception of marriage and inheritance is derived from ancient family law.

Causality is the weak point in the official story of the disappearance of Latin. If ancient language was polluted by barbarian influences, so was Roman law. If grammar and pronunciation lost their original purity, so did Roman law. Nevertheless, legal principles survived and Latin is no longer alive.

A closer look at the facts reveals that Latin did not actually die, but was displaced. It was not destroyed or dismantled, but abandoned. Nobody took active steps to eliminate it from the minds of citizens. People just stopped using it, like a car that is too old to be worth repairing.

Financiers know that there is a world of difference between a company that is taken over and one that goes bankrupt. The official story is that Latin was merged or transformed into medieval languages. While this aspect is indisputable, it misses an important part of the picture.

The truth must include the acknowledgement that Latin, like an enterprise that loses customers, went bankrupt. The decline of the ancient language must have begun before the barbarian invasions. Most likely, Latin would have decayed even if the Roman Empire had lasted another century.

Insolvent companies that blame their difficulties on the market show blindness to the real cause of their financial demise. If competitors have stayed in business and thrived, why did a specific company go bankrupt? Why did Latin wane into oblivion despite all efforts to keep it alive?

Lovers of ancient languages will seldom give you the answer to that question: Latin was highly inefficient. Left to its own devices, it was unable to maintain itself. Its grammar was calling for simplification. It was too difficult to learn and brought little value to the table.

Four major languages of our age, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, are derived from Latin. All four have shed the overcomplicated structure that made Latin so inefficient. The cost of maintenance became to heavy and the old construction fell apart. Like a bankrupt company, Latin collapsed under the weight of its liabilities.

The ancient language built sentences by adding affixes to adjective and names depending on their grammatical role, gender, and number. In order to create a correct sentence, each name and adjective had to be combined with the right affix. Latin had many different affixes, which varied from name to name and case to case. In contrast, modern Spanish just adds "s" for most plurals.

Speaking correct Latin required extensive training that few could afford in the Middle Ages. Even with our most advanced learning methods, languages that continue to use numerous affixes for names and adjectives demand great efforts of foreigners who wish to learn them.

Trying to maintain Latin alive was the quintessential dead-end project. Relatively few people were willing to devote resources to the undertaking; its cost far exceeded the capital available. The project was doomed from the start; those who believed that it could succeed were massively unrealistic.

The ancient language did not die the glorious death of a heroic medieval knight; it perished from starvation and neglect. Its structural inefficiency rendered it unable to compete. History broke it down and scattered the remnants. The clock stopped at a time when it could not be repaired.

Has the lesson been learned? Have we grown capable of recognizing and avoiding dead-end projects? Anyone willing to recognize mistakes can acquire the necessary knowledge and perspective. Latin is a dead language and rightly so. The next time that someone asks you to participate in a project, make sure that is has a future.

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

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

Reducing obstacles to a manageable size


Discouragement has become so common in our society that, most of the time, we don't even notice it. You can only see the phenomenon through the darkness its exudes. Motivation becomes paralysis. Vision breaks apart in doubts. Energy can no longer be replenished and attention gets distracted.

If you look around, you will find plenty of examples: Co-workers who lately have been looking sort of sad, call up the office, name some vague problem at home, and disappear for week. Students who have been at the top of their class, start to fail one exam after the other. Thoughtful friends, the kind who used to have strong opinions, suddenly turn silent.

What is the cause of this wide-spread ailment? Where is this malignant wave coming from? The automatic response in those cases is to blame the world. When you talk to men and women who suffer from the blues, you will often find them willing to enumerate all the negative conditions affecting their life.

Those complaints will usually have a sound basis in reality. Some people will tell you stories of abuse and unfairness, injustices of all sorts, inefficiency and dishonesty. Others will speak about their sickness, the ingratitude of their family, treason by friends, loneliness or divorce.

Nevertheless, those explanations remain insufficient to justify the overweening levels of discouragement in our society. The most important element in the equation is never mentioned. Why is nobody pointing out that, for every dispirited person, you can find a reasonably contented one who is enduring similar difficulties?

Misfortune and catastrophe are not to be trivialized. Bad luck and sickness can wipe out your savings, your business, your family, and put to test your will to keep on living. Serious problems and painful periods do occur in most people's lives. My point is not that one should become foolishly cheerful in the face of adversity.

Pharmaceuticals aimed at alleviating distress can help to a certain extent, although they are frequently loaded with secondary effects. My message is that, in the worst possible moments, a man owes to himself, to his happiness, to reflect and act with proper perspective. What one should keep in mind is that, on many occasions, discouragement is a synonym for short-term vision.

Rational thinking is the only antidote that has repeatedly proven its effectiveness against discouragement. Seeing obstacles and disadvantages in the frame of a lifetime helps to reduce them to a manageable size.

Drop the false comfort of self-pity. Never allow yourself to limit your own potential. Never give up before the game is really over. Remind yourself everyday that life offers many opportunities. Define your long-term targets, sharpen your arrows, and leave the blues behind. You have better things to do.

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

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

Reducing obstacles to a manageable size


Discouragement has become so common in our society that, most of the time, we don't even notice it. You can only see the phenomenon through the darkness its exudes. Motivation becomes paralysis. Vision breaks apart in doubts. Energy can no longer be replenished and attention gets distracted.

If you look around, you will find plenty of examples: Co-workers who lately have been looking sort of sad, call up the office, name some vague problem at home, and disappear for week. Students who have been at the top of their class, start to fail one exam after the other. Thoughtful friends, the kind who used to have strong opinions, suddenly turn silent.

What is the cause of this wide-spread ailment? Where is this malignant wave coming from? The automatic response in those cases is to blame the world. When you talk to men and women who suffer from the blues, you will often find them willing to enumerate all the negative conditions affecting their life.

Those complaints will usually have a sound basis in reality. Some people will tell you stories of abuse and unfairness, injustices of all sorts, inefficiency and dishonesty. Others will speak about their sickness, the ingratitude of their family, treason by friends, loneliness or divorce.

Nevertheless, those explanations remain insufficient to justify the overweening levels of discouragement in our society. The most important element in the equation is never mentioned. Why is nobody pointing out that, for every dispirited person, you can find a reasonably contented one who is enduring similar difficulties?

Misfortune and catastrophe are not to be trivialized. Bad luck and sickness can wipe out your savings, your business, your family, and put to test your will to keep on living. Serious problems and painful periods do occur in most people's lives. My point is not that one should become foolishly cheerful in the face of adversity.

Pharmaceuticals aimed at alleviating distress can help to a certain extent, although they are frequently loaded with secondary effects. My message is that, in the worst possible moments, a man owes to himself, to his happiness, to reflect and act with proper perspective. What one should keep in mind is that, on many occasions, discouragement is a synonym for short-term vision.

Rational thinking is the only antidote that has repeatedly proven its effectiveness against discouragement. Seeing obstacles and disadvantages in the frame of a lifetime helps to reduce them to a manageable size.

Drop the false comfort of self-pity. Never allow yourself to limit your own potential. Never give up before the game is really over. Remind yourself everyday that life offers many opportunities. Define your long-term targets, sharpen your arrows, and leave the blues behind. You have better things to do.

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

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

Saturday, 22 October 2011

If it doesn't improve, let it go


Few things in life are as difficult as acknowledging mistakes, in particular those that we have made out of conviction. Choosing an unsuitable profession or marrying the wrong person generate a myriad of negative consequences. Many who suffer from those situations hang to their errors with unshakable determination.

Why do we feel such a strong urge to deny our mistakes? Why do we often devote efforts to looking for excuses rather than solutions? Refurbishing a building with structural problems is pure waste; even if you paint the ceiling and plaster the walls, problems will remain and continue to grow.

In retrospect, it is easy to identify dead-end projects. If we look back at Alexander the Great, we can see that his dream of conquering the world was a foolish adventure. Similarly, if we look back at the Byzantine Empire, we can see how the erosion of principles ruined its legal system.

On the other hand, acknowledging that a beloved current activity may be a dead-end project is a whole different question. Human beings seldom stop detrimental actions even when errors become apparent; instead, we come up with a hundred reasons in favour of continuing what is manifestly unworkable. We do not want to lose face by admitting that we have made a mistake.

Sustainability marks the difference between difficult undertakings and dead-end enterprises. A feasible plan leads to a better future; a hopeless proposition, to endless nightmares. High-quality service leads to satisfied customers; wasteful chaos, to regrets. Learning valuable skills leads to increased productivity; senseless memorizing, to unbearable boredom.

Although there is no foolproof formula for identifying dead-end projects, experience provides us with effective guidelines. The sooner we recognize a losing pattern, the faster we can correct it or escape it. The following eight questions can help establish if a project is worth pursuing or not.

[1] Does it create assets or liabilities? Valuable undertakings provide the foundation for a better future; detrimental activities destroy resources. The worst sort of ventures are those that create permanent liabilities. Never embark yourself on an enterprise that requires you to make disproportionate commitments.

[2] Does it involve dealing with nice people or unpleasant individuals? Dead-end projects attract bitter persons who relish in sharing their misery. Enterprises that possess a culture of aggressiveness hire workers who are nasty and mean. Those environments are not conductive to success; seek out kind people and do your best to avoid the rest.

[3] Is your project inspired by reason or by prejudice? Rigid preconceptions constitute a disadvantage in the age of globalisation and internet. Prejudice cannot provide a sound basis for cooperation and friendship. Avoid projects based on cultural bias; instead, choose activities inspired by reason.

[4] Does it develop valuable skills or is it just a hobby? The best games make us acquire useful habits and think for ourselves; similarly, the best sports improve our overall physical condition. In contrast, dead-end activities have restrained scopes with no wider application; they are doomed to remain hobbies forever.

[5] Does it have a local or international focus? Minority languages, despite their many charms, cannot match the array of possibilities offered by English, Spanish, French, and German. Projects with strict local focus provide few opportunities for growth and learning. Activities with a global view allow participants to meet many interesting people.

[6] Does the project encourage production or consumption? Activities that consume a massive amount of resources cannot be carried out for long. If you work in the field of development, choose projects aimed at building up productive skills in the local population. The purpose of sustainable development is to provide individuals with know-how so that they can generate a steady income for themselves.

[7] Does it create a feeling of adventure or routine? The best enterprises possess high goals that motivate participants to perform everyday activities that often are unchallenging or boring. Inspiration transforms routine into adventure. Undertakings that do not provide an ennobling vision of the future will rarely be worth your time.

[8] Does the project encourage growth or simply tries to prevent decay? History changes markets and fashions; the clock cannot be turned back. Worthy activities follow current trends and attract new customers; in contrast, unworkable projects attempt to maintain dying traditions; they have already lost the race against time.

Stop wasting time on dead-end projects. As soon as you identify a losing pattern, discard rationalisations and analyse your motivation. Shun activities that keep you running in circles; instead, seek out opportunities for growth and learning; choose projects that enhance productiveness, cooperation, kindness, and friendship.

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

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

If it doesn't improve, let it go


Few things in life are as difficult as acknowledging mistakes, in particular those that we have made out of conviction. Choosing an unsuitable profession or marrying the wrong person generate a myriad of negative consequences. Many who suffer from those situations hang to their errors with unshakable determination.

Why do we feel such a strong urge to deny our mistakes? Why do we often devote efforts to looking for excuses rather than solutions? Refurbishing a building with structural problems is pure waste; even if you paint the ceiling and plaster the walls, problems will remain and continue to grow.

In retrospect, it is easy to identify dead-end projects. If we look back at Alexander the Great, we can see that his dream of conquering the world was a foolish adventure. Similarly, if we look back at the Byzantine Empire, we can see how the erosion of principles ruined its legal system.

On the other hand, acknowledging that a beloved current activity may be a dead-end project is a whole different question. Human beings seldom stop detrimental actions even when errors become apparent; instead, we come up with a hundred reasons in favour of continuing what is manifestly unworkable. We do not want to lose face by admitting that we have made a mistake.

Sustainability marks the difference between difficult undertakings and dead-end enterprises. A feasible plan leads to a better future; a hopeless proposition, to endless nightmares. High-quality service leads to satisfied customers; wasteful chaos, to regrets. Learning valuable skills leads to increased productivity; senseless memorizing, to unbearable boredom.

Although there is no foolproof formula for identifying dead-end projects, experience provides us with effective guidelines. The sooner we recognize a losing pattern, the faster we can correct it or escape it. The following eight questions can help establish if a project is worth pursuing or not.

[1] Does it create assets or liabilities? Valuable undertakings provide the foundation for a better future; detrimental activities destroy resources. The worst sort of ventures are those that create permanent liabilities. Never embark yourself on an enterprise that requires you to make disproportionate commitments.

[2] Does it involve dealing with nice people or unpleasant individuals? Dead-end projects attract bitter persons who relish in sharing their misery. Enterprises that possess a culture of aggressiveness hire workers who are nasty and mean. Those environments are not conductive to success; seek out kind people and do your best to avoid the rest.

[3] Is your project inspired by reason or by prejudice? Rigid preconceptions constitute a disadvantage in the age of globalisation and internet. Prejudice cannot provide a sound basis for cooperation and friendship. Avoid projects based on cultural bias; instead, choose activities inspired by reason.

[4] Does it develop valuable skills or is it just a hobby? The best games make us acquire useful habits and think for ourselves; similarly, the best sports improve our overall physical condition. In contrast, dead-end activities have restrained scopes with no wider application; they are doomed to remain hobbies forever.

[5] Does it have a local or international focus? Minority languages, despite their many charms, cannot match the array of possibilities offered by English, Spanish, French, and German. Projects with strict local focus provide few opportunities for growth and learning. Activities with a global view allow participants to meet many interesting people.

[6] Does the project encourage production or consumption? Activities that consume a massive amount of resources cannot be carried out for long. If you work in the field of development, choose projects aimed at building up productive skills in the local population. The purpose of sustainable development is to provide individuals with know-how so that they can generate a steady income for themselves.

[7] Does it create a feeling of adventure or routine? The best enterprises possess high goals that motivate participants to perform everyday activities that often are unchallenging or boring. Inspiration transforms routine into adventure. Undertakings that do not provide an ennobling vision of the future will rarely be worth your time.

[8] Does the project encourage growth or simply tries to prevent decay? History changes markets and fashions; the clock cannot be turned back. Worthy activities follow current trends and attract new customers; in contrast, unworkable projects attempt to maintain dying traditions; they have already lost the race against time.

Stop wasting time on dead-end projects. As soon as you identify a losing pattern, discard rationalisations and analyse your motivation. Shun activities that keep you running in circles; instead, seek out opportunities for growth and learning; choose projects that enhance productiveness, cooperation, kindness, and friendship.

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

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

Friday, 21 October 2011

Acting rationally in difficult circumstances


Contrary to what is commonly believed, individuals extract massive advantages from telling lies and pretending to be convinced by them. A large number of people are perfectly conscious of the falsehood of many social conventions, but still, those practices are maintained, endorsed, and enforced.

It is a fact that millions of men and women comply daily with silly rules that they could avoid if they wished. When a corporation allows lies to shape its culture, History shows that most employees will shrug their shoulders and pretend to see what does not exist.

Would you call someone irrational if he chooses to behave in a manner that allows him to keep his job, at least for a while? In those situations, revenue projections of companies become unrealistic, profits are faked, and bookkeeping loses touch with reality. A few months later, the business collapses.

Such stories appear so frequently in newspapers that we almost take for granted that people will learn from example. Next time, we tell ourselves, things will be better. After every scandal, we love to believe that manipulation and corruption will not happen again. Unfortunately, this hope never comes true and it doesn't take long before the next scandal comes to light.

Why are such problems so ingrained in society? What makes human beings support fantasies in word and deed? How is it possible that we devote so much effort to lying to ourselves? The correct answer is not that people are sick and evil. No, the truth is more complex than that.

There are three reasons that explain why many men and women are deeply invested in falsehood. Social convenience is the first, since it feels good to belong to the overwhelming majority. Financial benefit is the second, since certain doors are closed to those who ask uncomfortable questions. The third motive, fear of rejection, is perhaps the strongest.

No wonder that, in History, philosophical and social progress are achieved only little by little, by taking infinitesimal steps. Each of those justifications possesses extraordinary appeal on its own. All three combined are almost irresistible. Nevertheless, experience proves that, in the long run, pretence and manipulation inevitably destroy a man's life.

* Social convenience leads people to repress their best ideas. The habit of seeking conformity at all times deprives men of the force to speak out their dreams and stake their claims.

* The financial benefits of lying, although sweet, tend to be short-lived. Schemes that look too profitable to be true lead those who engage in them, more often than not, to heavy monetary losses.

* In industrial societies, the negative consequences of rejection are wildly exaggerated. Nowadays, global markets allow innovators to find their public anywhere in the world even if their ideas are not appreciated by their neighbours.

Thinking for ourselves is difficult in the face of opposition. Taking the golden promises of social convenience always seems, at first sight, the obvious choice, but blind conformity to the world's fantasies destroys man's life. Becoming aware of long-term consequences and acting rationally can be hard at times, but they mark the path to real success and happiness.

[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]

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Age is not an issue in most undertakings


From time to time, it can be beneficial to sit down and make a list of all factors that are keeping you down. Make sure that you have plenty of paper available since the outcome might be long. If this is your first attempt at compiling such list, don't overdo it. A dozen pages will do.

Depending on your age and circumstances, you may wish to write down that you are too young or too old. If you live in the countryside, you should mention that opportunities are scarce. If you inhabit the city, that competition is fierce.

Should you be looking for a job, write a remark that the market is hard. For half of the open positions, your experience will be insufficient; for the other half, you will be overqualified. The situation will be worse if you are going out on dates. Those who might love you won't recognize you and those who approach you might not fit your needs.

After you have finished your list, read it aloud. In view of the obstacles that are blocking your way, the conclusion seems inescapable. The arguments have been heard and judgement cannot be deferred. Would you agree that no improvement is possible?

You aimed at a target and missed, so stop running and quit. You tried your best and it didn't work, so go away and never return. Your attempts did not lead to success, so it's time to abandon your quest. You have wasted your resources and exhausted your forces.

Your best ideas are spent, your best years filled with discontent. Since your performance did not earn a decoration, you can choose between abdication and resignation. Your ambitions are impossible to achieve, how could you ever be so naive?

Nonetheless, even if your difficulties seem insurmountable, the above conclusions are wrong. Thousands of individuals overcome much worse problems than the ones you have. Those who search for better ways tend to multiply their chances of success.

As long as you refuse to quit, possibilities continue to exist. The tide will turn today, washing away yesterday's waste and bringing new opportunities. Turn around, face the water, and look for the best moment to sail away from the coast.

Irrespective of your background and constraints, your situation can change for the better. Male or female, young or old, you should relentless pursue your goals. Most problems can be solved if they are faced with courage and creativity. Obstacles can be circumvented and solutions invented. Do not let your age and circumstances write off your future.

If you don't live in the United States of America, you may have never heard of Anna Mary Robertson Moses. She was popularly known as Grandma Moses and died in 1961, when she was 101 years old. Her days were spent working, initially for other people and later for herself.

During her life, Ms. Moses did farm work, cooked, washed clothes, raised her children, and made butter and embroideries. Her earnings remained modest for many decades, but she wasted no time complaining. She simply had too much to do, especially when she became a widow at 57.

Making embroideries kept her busy. It was the sort of work that she liked, a combination of creativity and routine, a challenge to her energies and imagination. Unfortunately, when she turned 76, arthritis prevented her from doing further needlework and she had to stop making embroideries.

Many people who reach that age give up whatever illusions they have left. They tell themselves that they can go no farther and fall pray to psychological immobility. Once they relinquish their will to live, their physical condition soon catches up with their attitude.

In contrast, when arthritis prevented Grandma Moses from doing embroidery work, she simply acknowledged the fact and searched for an alternative occupation. She chose to take up painting and began to produce her first works, which she would give away to family and friends.

Before long, her new activity turned into a passion. Grandma Moses would devote about six hours every day to painting, which she did mainly in her kitchen, often producing a finished work in one session. At that speed, her hand quickly gained confidence and mastery. In her paintings, the motives came from her memory and the bright colours from her philosophy.

After a while, she started to put up her work for sale. Since no art gallery would stage an exhibition for a 78 year old neophyte, Grandma Moses convinced a nearby drugstore to showcase her work. Her asking price was just a few dollars per painting.

As chance would have it, an art collector passed by the drugstore, saw her paintings, and purchased a few of them. Those sales proved that, if she persisted, she could become a professional artist. The collector's reaction predicted what millions of people would later come to experience when confronted with Grandma Moses' art: freshness, authenticity, and hope.

Little by little, her work found its way into exhibitions and galleries, initially with other artists and later alone. When Grandma Moses became famous, she was well into her eighties. Day after day, she continued to produce new paintings with an energy that few other artists could match.

Her compositions portray the joy of purposeful human activity. Her canvasses frequently ignore the classical rules of perspective, but are filled with colour and charm. Each of Grandma Moses' paintings is an affirmation of the pleasures of simplicity. Unaffected by her success, she continued to produce new works well beyond her 101st birthday.

If you are convinced that prejudice, age, or any other factor are denying you opportunities, you might be right, but that's beside the point. The question has to be formulated in a different manner: What are you going to do to circumvent obstacles and improve your situation? More often than not, a path to success can be found.

Should you consider your circumstances too distressing, the work of Grandma Moses might provide you the inspiration you need. See if you can get some colour posters of her paintings. Place the posters on your kitchen wall and let their optimism change your mood.

Life is less complicated than it seems: you wake up in the morning, you stay alert, and seize opportunities as they come. The message from Grandma Moses is reflected in her compositions: a world full of light that has little need of shadows.

Discouragement and complaints are dead-end projects that you shouldn't pursue. Those who are busy moving forward have no time for lamentations. Immobility keeps you down, but action generates opportunities. The tide will turn today: don't miss it.

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

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