Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year. Start 2013 with the commitment to think long-term. Random, inconsistent decisions do not work. Long-term thinking is the rational answer

The great advantage of Aristotelian philosophy is its universality. Nevertheless, for everyday decisions, who has the time to check the validity of long chains of reasoning? The fact is that modern life requires instantaneous choices, professional and private. If we do not possess an effective way to deal with complexity, we run the risk of letting random events determine our priorities.
 

Making fast and accurate decisions in 2013

Is there a way to simplify the thinking process without making it lose its accuracy? Can we summarize philosophy in a brief practical guideline that can be applied in all cases? Whatever your personal situation and constraints, I believe that, in life, one can achieve excellent results by means of a simple rule.

The principle can be stated in just one sentence: what you need to do is to develop a clear objective for the remaining decades of your life and then make all choices, substantial or minor, in accordance with that goal. If you manage to get that right, chances are that your years will become an outstanding success.

Random, inconsistent decisions do not work


The formula is difficult to apply, but its results can be spectacular. Few people make the effort to establish a definite direction for their life. As a result, they lack the capacity to move consistently towards a specific goal. In the short term, randomness can be pleasurable, but very soon, problems begin to appear:

1. Money is wasted in useless purchases.

2. The motivation to develop specialized skills is missing.

3. Entertainment becomes an end it itself and turns quickly into boredom.

4. Projects that require long-term efforts are abandoned or not undertaken at all.

5. Erratic behaviour leads to loss of credibility.

6. Maintenance tasks are neglected or ignored.

7. In the absence of a proper perspective, excessive risks are taken.

8. Contradictory desires lead to paralysis.

9. Past decisions cannot be explained or justified.

10. In the absence of strong convictions, one cannot connect deeply with other human beings.

In contrast to animals, human beings cannot let their instincts guide their actions. While dogs and cats perceive a narrow part of reality, our brains are aware of hundreds of interconnected details, past or present, that are relevant in each situation. We do not have the choice of ignoring our rational nature.

Long-term thinking is the rational answer


The refusal to think long-term is man's attempt to become less than human. Leading an effective life begins with the selection of rational goals that comprise the whole lifetime of an individual. A vision that reaches into the next decades is the most reliable tool for making optimal choices in the present.

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

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

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

Saturday, 29 December 2012

No more bottlenecks. Immediate improvement typically results from removing the bottleneck in a process. The bottleneck principle has universal applications

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.

Immediate improvement typically results from removing the bottleneck in a process


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.

The bottleneck principle has universal applications


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 in the 20th century and promises to maintain its prime status in the foreseeable future.

Here is the proof of the positive benefits of bottleneck elimination


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 about how to be rational  "The 10 Principles of Rational Living"

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

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

Friday, 28 December 2012

A bit of prudence and foresight goes a long way. The short-term thinking that dominates our culture is leading millions of people to expose themselves to disproportionate risks

The Irish Times published on 14 April 2012 a detailed account of how the economic crisis is pushing many businessmen to take their own lives. Even the New York Times devoted a long article that week to the problem and presented the testimony of family members of several men who had recently killed themselves.

The death of Giovanni Schiavone, an entrepreneur who committed suicide in Padua at the end of 2011, constitutes the archetype of those who have seen no other option than putting an end to their days. Mr. Schiavone had lived through much better times in the recent past, and now he was being forced to face overwhelming financial pressures and to witness the destruction of the enterprise that he had fought so hard to create.

A good part of the men who have killed themselves were owners of small companies, artisans and merchants that could not withstand the shame of being unable to pay their creditors and employees, or the loss of reputation associated with insolvency or bankruptcy. On many occasions, the financial difficulties were compounded by family and health problems. All factors combined, the psychological pressure had become irresistible. In Greece, for instance, the number of suicides is reported to have almost doubled since 2010, when the economic downturn began.

The suicide reports are however surprising if you place them into a wider context. While the number of cases in Europe has increased dramatically during the last two years, very few of the concerned persons are reported to have been terminally sick or desperately poor. Despite the widespread financial struggles, very few people in Europe actually go hungry or have to sleep on the street.

A wide network of social agencies, charities and churches provides help to those who are going through hard times. Support is available to those who need a warm meal and a place to sleep. Although most people will find demeaning having to beg for help, the fact is that such help can be obtained if the situation becomes real bad.

The suicide statistics are even more difficult to fathom if we compare the living conditions in Europe with those in sub-Saharan Africa, where thousands of people suffer from extreme poverty and hunger. Paradoxically, those who risk starvation in Africa rarely commit suicide, an idea that they would find surely inconceivable if their standard of living was raised to the level of the poorest Europeans.

A closer look to the wave of suicides in Europe can teach us some important lessons about the pursuit of happiness. Contrary to what is reported by the media, poverty is not the real reason behind the increased number of suicides in Europe. As it is clearly demonstrated by history, people do not kill themselves just because they are poor. Through the centuries, millions of human beings have lived in dire poverty in many parts of the world and suicide has remained a rare event.

Lack of money seldom deprives individuals of their will to live. In many cases, poverty has been known to energize men to work hard and turn their lives around. To say that people tend to kill themselves when they lose their jobs is as inexact as saying that people tend to drink hot soup when they are sick. Some do, and some don't, but there is insufficient evidence to establish a link of causality.

If the reasons for the increased number of suicides are not purely economic, then what are they? The reactions to the death of Giovanni Schiavone give us a clue to the answer, when we learn that he had never expected things to become so bad.

The reports in the media on the increased numbers of suicides have led some commentators to demand extra financial support for struggling businessmen, but I am afraid that this idea misses the point completely. The suicides reported by the press would have not been prevented if some system of financial subsidies had been put in place, since there is no guarantee that the subsidies would have been granted to the right persons when their need was most pressing.

An impartial analysis of the situation must begin by paying a close attention to the statements made by those who have taken their own lives. It is very telling to read repeatedly in the suicide reports that the deceased persons "had not seen their problems coming" and that they felt "unable to find a way out the crisis."

Hopelessness, despondency and shame are the real reasons behind the wave of suicides in Europe. Those are the factors that have really led people to put an end to their lives. At least some of those unfortunate deaths have not been caused by hunger and physical pain, but by a wrong philosophy, by a distorted world-view that is driving so many men and women to despair. Each of those unnecessary deaths breaks my heart. They are cruel, unfair, wasteful and catastrophic.

The crucial question to ask is whether the businessmen and the unemployed that have regrettably committed suicide would have remained alive if they had adopted preventive measures to cushion the sort of financial troubles that nowadays can happen to anyone, in any country, from one moment to the next.

I can certainly not judge those persons as individuals, since I do not know all the details of their personal circumstances. My concern is focused primary on the future, on the prevention of similar misfortunes when the difficulties become overwhelming. My goal is to prevent that you, the reader, will ever find yourself in a situation where you find all doors closed.

Losing your job or your business during an economic recession is an extremely unpleasant experience, but it has happened to millions of people in history and will continue to happen to millions of people in the future. Those disasters are in fact everyday events in most countries of the world.

Fashions change and can drive some companies into bankruptcy. Well-meaning but incompetent managers sometimes drive their businesses into the ground and cause thousands of employees to lose their jobs. Bad decisions can ruin investors, cities, and whole countries. That is all too regrettable, but that's simply life.

My point is that you need to adopt measures to ensure that you will be able to survive even if the worst happens to you. You should definitely not wait until you are already caught in the trap, with all doors closed and all your resources exhausted.

The short-term thinking that dominates our culture is leading millions of people to expose themselves to disproportionate risks that they could have easily avoided. A low rate of personal savings is on most occasions the direct cause of the desperate situations that make people view suicide as the only possible option. Financial pressure, coupled with a low level of psychological resilience, form the explosive cocktail that explains the recent wave of suicides in Europe.

Our task here is to examine the tragic events and draw conclusions that can help you improve your life. The suicide prevention hot-line numbers mentioned in the New York Times article published on 15 April 2012 are, in my view, unlikely to make things better. The best approach to prevent desperate financial situations is simply to have a back-up plan, an alternative to the baseline, an option that you can use when everything else fails.

At the same time, it will certainly benefit you to do everything you can to increase your psychological resilience. The acquisition of a steady character and a well-integrated philosophy is the best present that you can make yourself, a present that is going to allow you to thrive in good times and stay afloat when the situation becomes worrying.

These are several steps that you can take to minimise your risks, should an economic catastrophe occur.

Opening a bank account in a foreign country is a basic precaution against a total financial collapse. Few countries in the world forbid their citizens to open bank accounts abroad, and if you are reading this, chances are that you don't live yourself in any of those countries. In any case, you should check that this is legal in your country before actually doing it.

A simple internet bank account in a foreign currency will allow you to make deposits outside your country and keep them there for a rainy day. If the economic situation in your place of residence becomes a total mess, you will always be able to fall back on your foreign savings to ensure your financial survival.
 

Second, you can invest part of your savings in assets located in other countries. You do not need a large sum of money to be able to do this. Nowadays it has become the easiest thing in the world to invest in mutual funds that will put your cash to work in a specific country or region of the world.

Most stock markets also offer you the possibility of investing in Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) that will channel your savings specifically into Poland, Finland, the Middle East, South Africa, Australia, China, India, or other growing economies.

By buying shares if any of those ETFs, you can participate in the growth of a specific country or region different from your place of residence. The broker fees for purchasing those ETFs are relatively modest, and if you spread your savings amongst several ETFs, you will mightily increase your financial resilience in case that your country falls into a deep economic recession. Geographical diversification is one of the most effective forms of protection.


Thirdly, you should adopt measures to separate your business ventures from your private finances. Some of the European businessmen that have committed suicide in the past two years have undoubtedly done so out of shame. They could simply not make themselves face the loss of reputation that typically goes along with insolvency or bankruptcy.

They had grown to see their companies as inextricable parts of their lives, as elements so essential to their existence that they could simply not imagine to continue to live in their absence.

Such devotion to a particular business or job is of course utter nonsense. Every person can be happy and successful in a varied range of enterprises. A wise man may love his job or his business, but he also sees them as external elements that he might need to replace or renounce in the future, something that will inevitably happen when he retires due to old age.

An added precaution that you can take is to create multiple sources of income. Nothing renders an individual more self-reliant than the ability to say no to any job or business proposition in the confidence that he will be always able to fall back on his second income.

To secure a second source of revenue takes some work, but it is perfectly feasible for most people. If you are a professional, you could devote two days per month to give an intensive seminar on the subject of your expertise; or if you have an office job, you could try to develop your weekend hobby into a business.

By adopting a few common-sense measures, you can make absolutely sure that you won't be one of the victims of the next economic downturn. All you need to do is to devote a few hours to drawing up your personal back-up plan and then implement it without hesitation. Bad things do happen to good and bad people, but they can only wipe you out if they find you unprepared.


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

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

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


Thursday, 27 December 2012

My simple strategy for an optimal health. Discard the idea that you are going to change your lifestyle overnight. Acquiring better health habits is a strenuous undertaking that pays off handsomely over time

Overcomplicated prescriptions discourage individuals from taking action to improve their lives. Through the years, I have read a large number of health books that offered unworkable advice. The theories that they espoused were confusing and often contradictory. Their recommendations proved, on many occasions, too impractical or expensive to implement.

As a result, from each of those books, all that I retained were a couple of conclusions. The effort of reading hundreds of pages was not wasted, since I have implemented many of those ideas with good success. The following twelve habits have served me particularly well. I like to think that I owe them, at least in part, the good health that I enjoy.

[1] Choose whole-grain products:
The reason for this is that whole grains contain beneficial minerals, vitamins, and fibre that are not present in white flour.

Indisputably, white-flour products, such as pastries, look more inviting to the eye than those made of whole-grains, but the latter are much better for your health. Explore the shelves of your local supermarket and, in the next weeks, try different whole-grain products to see which ones you like best.

[2] Drink green tea: From all herbal infusions, green tea contains one of the highest percentages of polyphenol, a natural substance that helps combat bacteria and viruses. Apparently, green tea also has a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system because it helps decrease low-density cholesterol.

[3] Minimize your sugar consumption: eating sugar, which is highly pleasurable, increases glucose levels in your blood. That phenomenon leads your pancreas to produce additional insulin and your liver to produce triglycerides, which cause your cells to age prematurely. Obesity, which has taken epidemic proportions in some countries, is often linked to excessive sugar consumption.

[4] Consume salt sparingly:
Too much sodium in your diet has an adverse effect on your body because it tends to raise blood pressure. In addition, excessive salt consumption disrupts the sodium-potassium balance in your cells, leads them to multifunction, and accelerates ageing.

[5] Choose high-quality proteins and fat: fish, in particular oily fish such as salmon, contains first-class protein and fat for the human body. The benefits of abandoning red meat and, instead, consuming fish regularly can result, within weeks, in a better complexion.

[6] Eat some nuts every day:
they contain poly-unsaturated fats and selenium, which are both excellent for human health. Selenium, in combination with vitamin E, has been proven to strengthen our immune system. It helps combat viral infections and keeps our heart, liver, and pancreas healthy.

[7] Maintain a stable, appropriate weight: this is extremely easy if you are a disciplined person and almost impossible otherwise. The best way to attain this goal is to have a scale at home and check your weight regularly. As soon as you see it deviate from your target, simply adapt your diet during the following week until your weight returns to the desired level.

[8] Set limits to stress: define in advance how much you are able to do. When your hours are full, you know that you cannot take any additional burden without first removing some item from your previous to-do list. Write things down and do not let problems linger in your head. As soon as you decide to drop an activity, cross it out from your list.

[9] Consume tomatoes regularly: they are available at affordable prices in most areas and they are excellent for human health. Tomatoes, which are an essential component of the Mediterranean diet, contain a natural substance called lycopene that helps protect our cells. Studies have shown tomatoes to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

[10] Eat fibre every day: vegetables and legumes contain fibre, an element that cleans our digestive system and helps stabilize glucose levels in our blood. Fibre also plays a role in preventing diabetes, appendicitis, and colon cancer. Whole grains are an excellent source of fibre.

[11] Walk at least half an hour a day: you don't need to kill yourself with exercise in order to enjoy its benefits. If you are too busy during the day, try to find time in the evening to take a brisk walk.

This type of exercise does not require sophisticated equipment and can be practised in most places, even if your work requires you to travel frequently.

[12] Eat garlic: amongst its many benefits, garlic enhances our immune system and helps lower blood pressure. The effects of garlic to combat sickness were already known in antiquity. Modern studies have confirmed its powers to fight viruses and bacteria, as well as its ability to lower blood sugar levels.

Discard the idea that you are going to change your lifestyle overnight. Despite extraordinary success stories shown on television, almost nobody is able to do that. The key to improving your health is to acquire better habits. Fundamental transformation takes substantial effort.

From time to time, your progress will relapse and you will fall back on previous patterns. View those as opportunities to renew your commitment to change. Acquiring better health habits is a strenuous undertaking that pays off handsomely over time.

One day, after you have rebuilt your life around a wholesome diet and regular exercise, your new routines will have become so ingrained that you won't consider living otherwise. Your increased vitality will be there for all to see and for you to enjoy, hopefully for many decades to come.


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

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

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

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Living better with less information. Depressing television programmes confirm the views of those who believe that man cannot improve his lot. How can we protect our serenity against the negative bias of daily news?

Adults living in industrialized countries spend more than 300 hours per year watching news on television, listening to commentators on the radio, and reading newspapers. That time exceeds what they devote to reading books or acquiring knowledge in any other way.

The greatest part of the information that is absorbed during those hours consists of catastrophes, disruptions, violence, poverty, divorce, vengeance, dishonesty, criminality, incompetence, hostility, complaints, abuse, and decay.

In view of the messages that fill the airwaves and newspapers, it is no wonder that many people suffer from anxiety or depression. If a man is convinced that the overall situation is deteriorating and that he is doomed, he won't be motivated to improve his life.

Should reporters be blamed for the negative bias given to daily news? Is it not true that those are the sort of reports that people want to read? If television news focus on negative events, are they not responding to their audience? If debates on talk radio are conducted in a harsh tone, it is not because this is what listeners want?

The media deliver negative news to those who are thirsty for them. Depressing television programmes confirm the views of those who believe that man cannot improve his lot. Bitter discussions on talk-radio reinforce the listeners' conviction that life consists primarily of conflict.

Dispiriting messages attain their targets with the precision of a laser. No discouraging word is wasted and no gloomy prediction remains ignored. The machine that destroys hope and inspiration works with outstanding efficiency.

Those who love dire forecasts expect to find them in the media. Those who want to hear about poverty and dereliction want television stations to cover those subjects. Those who believe that the next crisis is going to destroy the world expect their favourite talk-radio host to share that view.

Nevertheless, despite the massive barrage of depressing messages, other individuals remain unaffected by anxiety and depression. Instead of seeking out alarming news, these persons read newspapers sparingly. Instead of watching calamities on television, they prefer to devote their energies to improving their own lives.

How did this minority arrive at their independent thinking? What is the key behind their psychological stability? How can we protect our serenity against the negative bias of daily news? The following ideas can help you preserve your peace of mind:

[1] Transform risks into numbers: Most reported threats refer to events that, most likely, will never happen. For instance, every few years, newspapers discuss anew the possibility of an asteroid hitting the earth and killing millions of people.

Such calamity would be terrible, but you should not allow vague menaces to disrupt your tranquillity. Instead of losing sleep over risks, you should transform them into numbers or percentages. What are the actual chances of an asteroid hitting the town where you live? If the result of the calculation is one in a million, how much are you willing to worry?

[2] Set a limit on damages: Companies operating in consumer markets inevitably incur risks of civil liability. If you deliver products to millions of people, an accident will occur sooner or later, for example due to the failure of an electrical component.

No one is exempt from occasional mistakes and this is why liability insurance exists. Entrepreneurs who wish to limit their risks can purchase insurance coverage so that, if the worst happens, their financial losses will be limited.

Similarly, if you live in an area with a high risk of floods, you should insure yourself against damages caused by water. The rational approach to dealing with potential catastrophes is to reduce risks. By setting a limit to damages, you can protect your peace of mind against gloomy forecasts aired by the media.

When commentators predict a stock market crash, you can protect yourself by converting part of your investments to cash or by purchasing other assets, such as gold or real estate, whose performance is not correlated to the price of shares. In general, if you set a cap on potential losses, you will be able to stop worrying about catastrophes.

[3] Face problems by taking action: Uncertainty, more than any other factor, is what causes anxiety and fear. The feeling of not knowing what to do can render you insecure and lead you to make mistakes. Indecision causes physical tiredness and disrupts sleep at night. The solution is not to ignore risks, but to face them by taking action.

If your neighbourhood is becoming increasingly dangerous, you can choose between taking action or worrying yourself to death. Assess the problem and see what alternatives you have. Should you install an alarm system at home? Does the situation justify that you move to another part of town?

As soon as you make a decision, your preoccupation levels will diminish. People who lead serene lives tend to be incredibly proactive and organized. Those persons are always the first to adopt measures to prevent problems.

[4] Use only quality information: This is a key factor for maintaining your peace of mind. Why would you want to read gloomy articles in newspapers and magazines? What's the point of devoting your time to watching depressing reports on television?

Negative information is highly addictive and, without a strong will, the habit is difficult to break. You have to make a firm decision and stop paying attention to distorted news. You have to make the effort to filter out the noise and focus on quality information.

In most cases, you can keep yourself well informed by spending a few minutes a day on a few selected websites. If you make yourself deaf to nonsense and discouragement, you will have more time for pursuing your primary objectives.

Protect your peace of mind against negative news by transforming risks into numbers, setting limits to damages, facing problems with action, and using only quality information. Every minute of anxiety that you eliminate from your life will add positively to your well-being.


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

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

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

Do not be discouraged by your limited resources. Clear thinking gives you the ultimate advantage. Entrepreneurship is the opposite of resignation. You have more options than you think

Rationality is the way to happiness
by John Vespasian

In a world where philosophy is often reduced to catch-phrases and empty theories, this is a passionate defence of logic and consistency as the keys to happiness. Personal effectiveness, the basis of well-being and success, results from rational goals, workable plans and relentless action. 

In the areas of career, health, relationships and investments, this essay shows how to let go of wasteful propositions, pursue compatible goals, cultivate perseverance and resilience, minimize problems and maximize opportunities. Inspired by the teachings of Aristotle, Maimonides, Erasmus, Montaigne, Epictetus and Spinoza, the book encourages readers to embrace rationality and adopt a self-reliant, entrepreneurial attitude.


Table of Contents

1. The untold key to success and happiness
Ten positive trends rarely reported by the media
The way to independent thinking
Trust only your own statistics
Achieving happiness through rationality
Wake up to a sharp vision of reality
Important lessons from history
In search of principles that make sense


2. Fundamental skills that everybody should master
Relentless initiative creates opportunities
An active mind looks for alternatives
Cultivate perseverance and resilience
Avoid waste and embrace frugality
Shun overcommitment and worry


3. The easy way to prosperity
Select a career where you can make a good living
Principles of accelerated learning
Using Ancient Mongol tactics to find employment
Discard the myth of career planning
Growth sectors in the 21st century
Those who can sell are always received well


4. Philosophical ideas to make the best of your life
Take the perspective of a lifetime
Focus on practical solutions
Self-confidence arises from preparedness
Pursue compatible goals
Concentrate your resources on essential tasks


5. Get out of losing situations
Immobility is the enemy of achievement
Train yourself to face nonsense calmly
Throw away unworkable plans
Read the writing on the wall
Take simple measures to protect yourself
You have more options than you think


6. Avoiding major mistakes
Preserve your independent thinking
Don't make the same mistake as Confucius
Entrepreneurship is the opposite of resignation
Abandon perfectionism right now
Waiting for the world to change is a waste of time


7. How to find love without making a mess of sex
Rational values are the basis of great relationships
Overcoming the main obstacle to meeting new people
The high cost of short-term romantic involvement
The entrepreneurial factor in love and friendship
What is the crucial success element in dating?
Break free from artificial social constraints


8. Saving and investing to secure your future
Take control of your financial life
Principles of rational investment
Techniques for reducing risk
How to develop self-confidence as an investor
Saving regularly brings peace of mind
The advantage of turbulent times


9. Principles of optimal health
The teachings of Maimonides
Living in accordance with nature
How psychology can improve your health
Modern theories about prolonging life
How some people live to become 100 years old
The low-cost approach to good nutrition
Effective methods for minimizing stress
Sleeping well by natural means


10. Seeking personal growth one day at a time
Embrace rational principles
The link between personal effectiveness and happiness
Become an entrepreneur in your everyday life
Do not be discouraged by your limited resources
Clear thinking gives you the ultimate advantage
It is on slow days when you make big breaks


11. Conclusion
The human need for logic and consistency
Achieving happiness in a chaotic world
Philosophy summarized in a single sentence
It takes a while, but it can be done


Rationality is the way to happiness
by John Vespasian

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas. The best time of the year to change your life for the better. The advantages and benefits of embracing rationality

The question whether you should behave rationally is not a trivial one. In fact, many people do not even ask the question at all. For them, the issue has been settled long ago in favour of shallowness and randomness. Reason is not important, they say, because human beings are not rational.

If questioned further, they will point out that history is just a compilation of mistakes, hostility, ignorance, hatred, and prejudice. Is there any place in the world where you can find reason and logic? What is the point of looking for the right answers if nobody seems to care? Should we not rather live for the moment without giving much thought to the future? Why is it better to guide ourselves by logic than by whim?

It would be foolish to deny that many people have little regard for reason. History provides a disquieting record of human irrationality and shows us the dark side of the facts, but if we want to learn the truth, we must look at the whole picture.

A balanced view of events is going to lead us to a different conclusion. In all periods of history, despite much irrationality, millions of people have pursued progress and truth. For every mistake, a hundred steps have been taken in the right direction; and for every failure, a hundred successes have been attained.

You only need to look around to see the results of human ingenuity. From electricity to computers, from cars to aeroplanes, from cell phones to the internet, the proofs of man's achievements are all around us. It is through reason that man has been able to survive, expand his reach, and attain a high standard of living.

The amenities and the good health that millions of people enjoy nowadays are the result of logical thinking. No one can produce a refrigerator by assembling parts at random, nor write a novel by typing senseless words. In every case, man's mind needs to select a goal, establish a plan, and implement it.

The crucial role played by rationality becomes crystal-clear when we look at our own lives. The assessment of history can be difficult due to the incompleteness of data, but we cannot say the same of our personal experience: when we attain our goals, we feel happy; when we overcome sickness or poverty, we feel proud of our achievement; and in all cases, rationality plays a key role in making good things happen.

Living rationally is not going to guarantee that you will attain success and happiness, but it will increase dramatically your possibilities to do so. If you apply logic to your decisions, you will make better ones, and if you make mistakes, they are going to be less serious. Your actions will become more effective, your labours less trying, and your rewards more plentiful.

Why does rationality have such a positive influence on our lives? Why should you make the effort of acquiring knowledge and leading a thoughtful life? Why can you not get away with drifting from day to day, oblivious to logic and principles? The case for rationality rests on powerful justifications, namely:

  • Rational individuals perceive many aspects of reality that escape casual observers.
  • They can make logical connections that remain invisible to other people.
  • They draw lessons from experience and apply them to solve problems.
  • Their decisions and actions are consistent with their goals.

  • Rational individuals are extraordinarily self-reliant.
  • They have the courage to make the right choices in the face of opposition.
  • They understand that the law of cause and effect governs all areas of their lives.
  • They pursue their goals with passion and serenity.

  • Rational individuals are inordinately persistent.
  • They build meaningful, stable relationships.
  • They accept the inevitable hassles of life.
  • They do not blow problems out of proportion.
Rationality is a methodology, a way of thinking, not a fixed system of beliefs. Logical thinking does not consist of a list of precepts that you have to learn by heart. Reason is a way of looking at the world with curiosity and independence, questioning inconsistencies and searching for truth. It is a process of discovering what is right and implementing it day after day.

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

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

[Image by Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Why I remain optimistic about the future. There are lots of positive news out there if you care to look for them. The increased opportunity to exercise human creativity provides a solid ground for a bright economic future

At the time of this writing, newspaper headlines are all tremendously negative. However, if you look beyond the obvious, you will be able to see the seeds of the accelerated economic growth that will take place in the next years.

Indeed, in some areas of the world, the economy is stagnating, inflation is rising and unemployment remains high. As a result, millions of people are seeing their lives disrupted. Those who have recently lost their jobs may have the feeling that finding a new position is going to take extensive efforts and a very long time.
 

Some companies listed in the stock market are showing daily fluctuations over 3%, an enormous range by historical standards. Some investors have liquidated their holdings in despair and incurred a substantial loss. The current levels of market volatility are testing the faith of the most devoted believers in a better economic future.

The psychological pressures that accompany these events are considerable. The gloom-and-doom atmosphere that dominates conversations inevitably influences people's decisions. Purchases are delayed and changes are feared. When the future looks dark, hesitation seems safer than action.

Nevertheless, despite all these threats and uncertainties, I remain massively optimistic about the future of the world economy. I am convinced that growth will soon resume strongly and take us to higher levels of prosperity. On which facts do I base my optimistic conviction? Are my positive expectations justified by statistical trends?

Yes, in fact there are lots of positive economic data out there if you care to look for them, and not only in China, India and Singapore. Freight volumes are growing and the same can be said of the number of new vehicles sold. More car sales means more steel production and more jobs. For every negative newspaper headline, you can find plenty of data that predict an upwards trend.

Even so, my purpose today is not to engage a statistical discussion. Facts can be measured, but opportunities need to be discovered. Improvements are what you get when you apply creativity to problems.

For predicting the future, structural factors are more reliable than isolated details. If you know a man's character, you will be able to foretell his destiny with greater accuracy than if you know everything he did during the last two days.

Human creativity, or rather, the increased opportunity to exercise it, provides us a solid ground for forecasting a bright economic future. Like a man's character, the level of personal initiative and inventiveness in the world changes only slowly, but one it gets as good as it is now, chances are that it will stay this way for many years.

My overall optimism is based on the following factors, that you will find no difficulty in observing yourself:

[1] Emigration has become easier than at any previous time in history: Millions of people are moving every year from one place to another to take advantage of the expanded opportunities to exercise their talents.

Sometimes, emigration takes place within the same country (between two cities), but very often, it involves crossing the border between countries. As travel costs continue to decrease and regulations become more flexible, companies benefit from the influx of new talent and workers can find jobs that offer improved economic prospects. In addition to the economic advantage, the contact with other cultures also tends to make people more tolerant and open.

[2] Artists can now offer their creations directly to millions of consumers. The tide has turned for creative individuals. If you are a musician, you can now develop your career without having to wait for a record company to give you a break. The same goes for writers, painters, illustrators, composers, and photographers.

Even new film-makers can now make their movies at a fraction of what it used to cost a few years ago. With the help of low-cost digital cameras, free editing software, and internet distribution, many wonderful films are getting made nowadays, films that would have never seen the daylight in previous decades.

[3] The cost of starting a new business has never been so low. In some cases, all you need is an innovative idea and the determination to build something from scratch. We live in a world where vision and commitment are more important that the size of your bank account. Money and other resources can always be borrowed if you know how to apply them productively.

The endless possibilities offered by the internet have unleashed human creativity to levels unknown before. You no longer need to relocate in order to have your products designed, manufactured, and sold in other countries. Video-conferences with clients and suppliers all over the world have become virtually free-of-charge. The cost of market intelligence has also been drastically reduced.

What is even better, the time-line for starting a new business has been compressed and shifted. Low-cost software applications will routinely spare new entrepreneurs hundreds of hours of work, and the work that still needs to be done, they can do it during the evenings and weekends.

Never before in history have millions of people enjoyed the opportunity of starting their own business while they can still keep their day job. A lower risk for starting new companies means that more companies will be started, making overall economic growth almost inevitable.

For the three reasons above, I believe that the world economy will continue to grow strongly in this decade. Of course, the situation will not be equally positive in all countries and in all currencies, but so what? Creativity will always flow to places where opportunities exist and this is the way it should be. Stop listening to negative reports and learn to look beyond the headlines. Things will continue to get better overall as entrepreneurs seize the immense economic possibilities of the 21st century.


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

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

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

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Stress management under difficult circumstances. How to find peace of mind in a world of non-stop noise. Maintaining psychological strength despite problems and obstacles

  • How to be rational in a chaotic world
  • Maintaining psychological strength despite problems and obstacles
  • Techniques to stop worrying even when you have a thousand problems
  • How to get self-confidence even when living in a hostile environment
  • Overcoming barriers to personal growth, internal and external
  • How to deal with difficult people in your business and personal life
  • Stress management under difficult circumstances
  • How to build your self-esteem in times of adversity
  • Overcoming anxiety and excessive concern
  • The low-cost approach to self-development
  • How to find peace of mind in a world of non-stop noise
A presentation of The 10 Principles of Rational Living: Free e-book about how to be rational

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Discard the myth of the polymath and don't waste your time trying to become a Renaissance man. Reality is structured in a way that rewards constant purpose. The market wants reliable products and services. Nobody cares if you are a genius

Imagine that you have been born with amazing talents that allow you become anything you want. On the one hand, your unparalleled mechanical abilities can serve you to start up an engineering company whose innovations would be sold around the world. On the other hand, your extraordinary knowledge of anatomy can secure you a place amongst the best physicians.

In addition, your talent for drawing and composition can allow you to become an internationally-renowned artist and produce hundreds of paintings that would be avidly purchased by collectors. All doors are open to you and the whole world is at your feet. Powerful men seek your friendship and everybody respects you.

To make things even better, Nature grants you a reasonably long life so that you can accomplish as much as possible. You get to live 67 years and enjoy an overall good health. You are born in a country that offers wide opportunities and your family encourages your initiatives.

How much would you achieve in your lifetime? Would you concentrate your energies on one field? Or would you rather change occupation every few years? Which goals would you set for yourself? Would you choose a profession or business that allows you to accumulate a quick fortune?

Two weeks after your 67th birthday, your time is up. You find yourself terminally ill and look back on your life to see how much you have actually accomplished. When you count your material assets, you realize how little you possess after decades of work. When you review your output, you feel shame about how few tasks you have actually finished.

At that point, you cannot help thinking that you have wasted your life. What will remain after you are gone? Why did you squander your talents in conjecture and speculation? You have started many projects, but abandoned most of them half-way.

With trembling voice, you dictate your last will. Since you never married nor fathered any children, your few possessions are to be divided amongst servants and friends. The house where you are about to die is not yours either. When you close your eyes for the last time, you beg for extra time to complete all that you have left unfinished, but now, it is too late.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) died in a house that the King of France had lent him. His last will, which was published after his death, names his meagre possessions. His wealth amounted to a few books, a small estate in Milan, some money, and a few paintings. Not much for someone who many regard as the most talented man who has ever lived.

Except for a few dozen paintings, Leonardo da Vinci rarely finished anything he started. He made copious notes about inventions that never took off the ground. He spent two years making drawings to illustrate an anatomy book that was never published in his lifetime. He also made designs for churches that were never built.

If you have a talented son that leads his life in imitation of Leonardo, your patience won't outlast your disappointments. You will come to regret your son's inability to focus on a specific field and advance his career. You will also have to endure the sight of your son's being surpassed in honours and wealth by others who possess less talent but more determination.

Reality is structured in a way that rewards constant purpose. Zigzagging can be psychologically rewarding, but seldom leads to extraordinary achievement. Even highly talented individuals need time to acquire expertise and establish themselves in the market. Customers pay for finished products and services, seldom for preliminary designs.

When you study History, you will hear great things about Leonardo da Vinci. Art teachers will tell you about his genius as a painter, physicians about his prodigious knowledge of human anatomy, and engineers about his visionary design of a flying machine.

Fair enough, but if you look at all those projects with the eye of a tax accountant, you will be forced to classify most of them as "work in progress." My point is that, if Leonardo da Vinci lived today, he would probably attain only modest success.

In our century, innovation and competition are fierce in every field. Artists, scientists, physicians, and inventors never rest in the age of internet. The global economy guarantees that someone, somewhere is about to overtake your achievements or your company.

There is so much to learn in every field that contemporary professionals rarely engage in unproductive ventures. The market wants reliable products and services. Nobody cares if you are a genius. What counts is whether you are able to deliver value to paying customers.

More often than not, zigzagging slows you down and wastes your opportunities. The difference between Leonardo da Vinci and his contemporary Raphael da Urbino (1483-1520) provides a striking illustration of this principle.

Raphael, one of the most talented painters in History, only lived 37 years, but authored more than a hundred paintings. In contrast, Leonardo, who lived to become 67 years old, only produced a few dozen works. How many other brilliant paintings could Leonardo have created if he had focused on this line of activity?

Leonardo spent his life moving from one project to another. At 28, he interrupted his work on his painting "St. Jerome" and never found time to finish it. At 29, he went to Milan and abandoned in Florence his half-way completed painting "Adoration of the Magi," which he never retook.

At 40, Leonardo obtained a commission for an equestrian monument in Milan, but the project also remained uncompleted. Leonardo did manage to produce a clay model of the horse, but by the time he was ready to cast it in bronze, his client decided to use the bronze to manufacture cannons.

Long-term achievement demands a consistent purpose. If zigzagging ever leads to success, it will be of sort duration. Personal efforts go farther when they are compounded by time. Each step of a career consolidates yesterday's accomplishments and prepares the next. Constant improvement requires a good level of stability.


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

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

[Image by Reinante El Pintor de Fuego under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Achieving happiness through rationality. Concentrate your resources on essential tasks. Throw away unworkable plans. Break free from artificial social constraints. Clear thinking gives you the ultimate advantage

Rationality is the way to happiness
by John Vespasian

In a world where philosophy is often reduced to catch-phrases and empty theories, this is a passionate defence of logic and consistency as the keys to happiness. Personal effectiveness, the basis of well-being and success, results from rational goals, workable plans and relentless action. 

In the areas of career, health, relationships and investments, this essay shows how to let go of wasteful propositions, pursue compatible goals, cultivate perseverance and resilience, minimize problems and maximize opportunities. Inspired by the teachings of Aristotle, Maimonides, Erasmus, Montaigne, Epictetus and Spinoza, the book encourages readers to embrace rationality and adopt a self-reliant, entrepreneurial attitude.


Table of Contents

1. The untold key to success and happiness
Ten positive trends rarely reported by the media
The way to independent thinking
Trust only your own statistics
Achieving happiness through rationality
Wake up to a sharp vision of reality
Important lessons from history
In search of principles that make sense


2. Fundamental skills that everybody should master
Relentless initiative creates opportunities
An active mind looks for alternatives
Cultivate perseverance and resilience
Avoid waste and embrace frugality
Shun overcommitment and worry


3. The easy way to prosperity
Select a career where you can make a good living
Principles of accelerated learning
Using Ancient Mongol tactics to find employment
Discard the myth of career planning
Growth sectors in the 21st century
Those who can sell are always received well


4. Philosophical ideas to make the best of your life
Take the perspective of a lifetime
Focus on practical solutions
Self-confidence arises from preparedness
Pursue compatible goals
Concentrate your resources on essential tasks


5. Get out of losing situations
Immobility is the enemy of achievement
Train yourself to face nonsense calmly
Throw away unworkable plans
Read the writing on the wall
Take simple measures to protect yourself
You have more options than you think


6. Avoiding major mistakes
Preserve your independent thinking
Don't make the same mistake as Confucius
Entrepreneurship is the opposite of resignation
Abandon perfectionism right now
Waiting for the world to change is a waste of time


7. How to find love without making a mess of sex
Rational values are the basis of great relationships
Overcoming the main obstacle to meeting new people
The high cost of short-term romantic involvement
The entrepreneurial factor in love and friendship
What is the crucial success element in dating?
Break free from artificial social constraints


8. Saving and investing to secure your future
Take control of your financial life
Principles of rational investment
Techniques for reducing risk
How to develop self-confidence as an investor
Saving regularly brings peace of mind
The advantage of turbulent times


9. Principles of optimal health
The teachings of Maimonides
Living in accordance with nature
How psychology can improve your health
Modern theories about prolonging life
How some people live to become 100 years old
The low-cost approach to good nutrition
Effective methods for minimizing stress
Sleeping well by natural means


10. Seeking personal growth one day at a time
Embrace rational principles
The link between personal effectiveness and happiness
Become an entrepreneur in your everyday life
Do not be discouraged by your limited resources
Clear thinking gives you the ultimate advantage
It is on slow days when you make big breaks


11. Conclusion
The human need for logic and consistency
Achieving happiness in a chaotic world
Philosophy summarized in a single sentence
It takes a while, but it can be done


Rationality is the way to happiness
by John Vespasian

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Say goodbye to the medieval mentality. The first step for making improvements in your life. Stake your claim for a better future by redefining what is essential

In the 12th century, philosophy was simple and inflexible. A man was born into a certain family and inherited his father's trade. A peasant raised his children to follow into his footsteps. Perspectives were narrow and improvement unthinkable.

The fate of each person was to accomplish certain prescribed tasks and preserve tradition. A good part of a person's earnings was spent to maintain his position: to keep housing, attire, and diet according to his condition. Those who succeeded in improving their social status represented a very small minority.

The medieval mentality encompassed a mixture of short-term frenzy and long-term resignation. On feast days, banquets were held and wine consumed, but during the rest of the year, passive acceptance was the rule. Silent suffering was viewed as a sign of wisdom.

People in the Middle Ages focused on immediate advantages and lacked long-term plans. A peasant in the 12th century would not have viewed a good harvest as an opportunity to save money, move to the city, and start his own business. In his mind, a good year was just a temporary escape from misery, not a step towards a better situation.

Our age offers almost unlimited opportunities to those who possess ambition and initiative, but it demands a radically different philosophy. Unless you acquire sound financial habits, chances are that you won't be able to seize those opportunities.

Unfortunately, not everybody makes the effort to pursue improvement. If you doubt my words, ask yourself the following questions: How many people save regularly in order to achieve financial independence? How many make to-do lists regularly? Material growth is linked to psychological development. Wealth is the consequence of vision and persistence.

Our world offers numerous opportunities to individuals who want to exert their creativity and entrepreneurship. Businesses can be started with little capital, digital technology can be used to enhance productivity, and the internet allows everyone to sell his products around the globe. If you want to improve your situation, there are no limits to what you can achieve.

No excuse can justify renouncing this immense array of possibilities. The barriers to change are mostly psychological. Irrespective of your current situation, you can embrace transformation. If you take action, you can improve your life.

The transition from the Middle Ages to modern thinking began in the 13th century, when Thomas of Aquinas wrote down his observations on the nature of individual initiative. His views about risk represented a major advancement vis-à-vis medieval beliefs. His understanding of the existence of different prices in various markets put an end to the medieval mentality and introduced the world we know, where each man determines his own destiny.

Nowadays, if you ask people about what is blocking their progress, you might hear the same answers that were given in the 13th century: insufficient resources, limited opportunities, excessive competition, and lack of contacts. Even though the world has drastically changed, not everybody is conscious of the opportunities.

Unlike peasants living in the Middle Ages, we no longer inhabit an immobile world that limits our ambitions. Is it your goal to further your education and accelerate your career? Do you dream of starting your own business?


More often than not, saving some money is going to be the first step for making improvements in your life. You are going to have to let go of your impulse to spend money today and focus instead on the opportunities down the road. Time will reward your efforts if you define your objectives and carry out a plan to attain them.

Living frugally will allow you to save the funds that you need to take advantage of the next opportunity. In the Middle Ages, there was no way to move forward, but in the present world, real possibilities exist. Here are three ideas to help you gather that initial capital:

[1] Redefine what is essential: You can make important savings if you acquire frugal habits. Your utilities bill can often be reduced. You can cut down your energy consumption, for instance, by turning off the heating in rooms that you are not using all the time and by improving the isolation of windows and doors.

[2] Extend the lifespan of your possessions
: Clothes constitute a good example, in particular business suits. If you handle your wardrobe with care, it can serve its purpose for a long time without need of additional purchases.

For office work, it is usually a good idea to choose conservative designs and colours. They are less subject to the vagaries of fashion and you can wear them for many seasons. White shirts are particularly easy to match with dark clothing. Frugality can also apply to items such as mobile phones. If the old one is still working fine, do you really need to purchase the latest model?

[3] Reduce detours and unnecessary travel: Avoid the come-and-go that accompanies indecision. Thinking ahead is as important on the road as in other areas of life. If you plan your journeys carefully and drive smoothly, you can make substantial savings in motoring expenses. Make the effort to programme your trips for maximum efficiency.

If you need to buy groceries, can you find a supermarket on your route to work? If you are planning to visit a computer store, can you run some errands on the same trip? If the location of your home allows it, you may even be able to ride your bicycle instead of using the car, a practice that would be also advantageous for your health.

Stake your claim for a better future by redefining what is essential. Declare yourself willing to exchange short-term benefits for permanent advantages, and ignore the words of those who preach passivity. The world is more open to personal initiative today than ever before. If you reduce your lifestyle to the essentials, you will increase your ability to seize the next opportunity.


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

[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]



Monday, 17 December 2012

My cheapest and first priority. People who devote more resources to purchasing sophisticated food and joining health clubs are not necessarily those who enjoy the best physical condition. By all means, do make health your first priority, but make it an inexpensive and workable one

When people talk about priorities, they usually refer to items on which they spend substantial sums of money. A comfortable car and a large house are on the top of the list of many individuals, together with a well-paying, stable, and interesting job.

Health is also important for the great majority of men and women. Products sold in supermarkets and convenience stores respond to this concern by promoting low-calories drinks, low-fat cookies, sugarless sweets, and cooking magazines.

Organic-food stores represent the last step in the evolution of this trend. Consumers want to buy the best produce, the purest bread, and fresh natural pastries. Even though the cost associated to those choices can be considerable in some cases, customers seem to be willing to pay for it.

The problem with spending additional money to consume so-called healthy products is that it does not seem to make a lot of difference. People who devote more resources to purchasing sophisticated food and joining health clubs are not necessarily those who enjoy the best physical condition. Paradoxically, in the field of health, more investments do not always result in additional benefits.

Making health your first priority is an excellent choice that works better if you implement it as inexpensively as possible. Are you surprised? Does this sound illogical to you? Before you discard this theory, you might wish to check out longevity statistics around the world. Those who spend the most to preserve their health are not necessarily the people who live the longest.

The Ancient Greek physician Galen (circa 130 - 200 AD) recorded many interesting ideas on this subject, which was later expanded by other medics in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Although many centuries have passed, many discoveries of antiquity are still adhered to by modern medicine.

Galen spent his youth learning about sickness and treatments before he moved to Rome in the year 162. He has gone down into History as much for his medical discoveries as for his tremendous output as a writer. Even though a great part of Galen's work has been lost, what remains fills more than 20 volumes.

His aphorisms, which condense medical truths in short sentences, reflect fundamental aspects of physical and mental health. One of the threads that runs through his writings is the search of simplicity. His advocacy of straightforward methods to improve man's well-being contrasted with the semi-magical medicine that was still being practised by most of his contemporaries.


Galen maintained that health and philosophy are closely connected. As a consequence, a man who wishes to maintain his vitality will do well to act prudently and respect ethical principles. Galen's four prescriptions for preserving health do not demand large financial resources and can be followed by most individuals. Here is a summary of his four fundamental precepts:

[1] Maintain a balanced diet: At the time of Galen's writings, the biochemical properties of vitamins and minerals had not yet been discovered. Nevertheless, what he had learned from other physicians and his own observations led him to recommend vegetables, fruits, and herbs on many occasions. Nowadays, those are items that most people can afford to purchase without making extraordinary efforts.

Ancient medicine believed that each element in the universe had a purpose. This conviction led Galen to experiment with different dietary treatments in response to sickness. His goal was to find the right combination of elements that fulfilled the purpose of health recovery. A balanced, prudent diet was also advocated in the Middle Ages by Maimonides, a famous physician who was familiar with Galen's work.

[2] Take up moderate exercise: While modern times favour body building and other forms of muscle training, Galen was an advocate of moderation. In his own life, he gave example of this precept by avoiding strenuous assignments. When he was offered a post of physician in the Roman army marching against the barbarians in Northern Europe, he declined and stayed in Rome.

One of Galen's aphorisms says that sickness caused by excessive strain should be cured by rest. In this sense, the inordinate professional stress that many people endure in our age should not be exacerbated by further tensions in their private life.

Spending time with friends, cultivating hobbies, and enjoying art will do more to re-establish balance in your life than watching television or practising demanding sports. Galen also recommended walking as a beneficial form of exercise.

[3] Practise good hygiene: Even though bacteria and viruses had not yet been discovered in antiquity, Galen's books show that he was conscious of the major role that external influences play in human health. The purpose of medicine, he wrote, was to re-establish the patient's health in relation to his environment, taking also the seasons into account.

Galen's early training as physician took place in Greece, which at that time comprised part of the Middle East. Ancient Greeks considered thermal baths salutary and those attracted far-away visitors seeking to cure physical or mental illness.

In those days, a journey to a renowned thermal location involved disproportionately high costs that few individuals could afford. Luckily, modern plumbing, shampoo, and tooth brushes now allow practically everybody to enjoy excellent levels of hygiene inexpensively.

[4] Adopt preventive measures against health problems: The need to preserve the natural limits of life is a theme that permeates Galen's books. The best way to maintain our health, he wrote, is to adopt preventive measures to counterbalance excesses.

He warned against lack of moderation and advocated measures against exaggerated eating as well as against insufficient food intake. Similarly, he advised to avoid excessive immobility and immoderate exercise. The purpose of prevention should be to maintain the natural balance in all areas of our lives.

Galen's principles emphasize the importance of preserving health at the same time as the need to do it in a simple and straightforward manner. By all means, do make health your first priority, but make it an inexpensive and workable one. Your goal should be to develop effective habits that maintain your vitality with minimum effort and expense.


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

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

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



Sunday, 16 December 2012

The most important economic paradigm is not mathematical. The fundamental economic difference between assets and expenditures lies in the use we give to each item. Do not fall into the trap of wrong assumptions

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

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

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

When it comes to applied economics, the most important paradigm is not mathematical. Understanding it can help you make better decisions and, above all, avoid many traps in your private and business life. If you choose to study only one thing about economics, let me suggest that you learn to tell the difference between consumption and investment, in particular:

1. Investments are not characterized by a high acquisition cost. A large house on the beach that you buy to spend your summer holidays every year can be expensive, but is not an investment, since it does not produce you any income. In comparison, a small low-cost apartment that you rent out to tenants does constitute an asset.

2. Investments are not defined by their long durability. A refrigerator that you purchase for your kitchen may last 10 years, but does not generate you any income. Such acquisition is not an investment. In contrast, a set of liquor glasses that may last 3 years is an investment if you buy them for use in your restaurant.

The lesson is that the aspect that creates the distinction between consumption and investment is psychological. Classifying buildings automatically as investments without considering their purpose may lead to wrong decisions and expensive errors.

The fundamental economic difference between assets and expenditures lies in the use we give to each item, not in the accounting rules regarding depreciation and tax deductions. A laptop computer to play video games is a consumption item, unless you get paid for playing those, for instance, because you write reviews for a video-games magazine.

The consequences of this principle are wide-ranging and encompass all fields of our lives. Being conscious of the difference can help you, for instance, to buy your clothes more efficiently, to discard worthless investment proposals quickly, and to reduce the cost of starting your own company.

Misunderstanding what truly constitutes an investment results in the waste of enormous sums of money every year. Do not fall into the trap of wrong assumptions. Not every big-ticket item is an asset and not all inexpensive purchases are consumer goods. When you make decisions, you will be much better off if you weigh each element according to its veritable nature.


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

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

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

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The entrepreneurial factor in love and friendship. How psychology can improve your health. Clear thinking gives you the ultimate advantage. Achieving happiness in a chaotic world

Rationality is the way to happiness
by John Vespasian

In a world where philosophy is often reduced to catch-phrases and empty theories, this is a passionate defence of logic and consistency as the keys to happiness. Personal effectiveness, the basis of well-being and success, results from rational goals, workable plans and relentless action. 

In the areas of career, health, relationships and investments, this essay shows how to let go of wasteful propositions, pursue compatible goals, cultivate perseverance and resilience, minimize problems and maximize opportunities. Inspired by the teachings of Aristotle, Maimonides, Erasmus, Montaigne, Epictetus and Spinoza, the book encourages readers to embrace rationality and adopt a self-reliant, entrepreneurial attitude.


Table of Contents

1. The untold key to success and happiness
Ten positive trends rarely reported by the media
The way to independent thinking
Trust only your own statistics
Achieving happiness through rationality
Wake up to a sharp vision of reality
Important lessons from history
In search of principles that make sense


2. Fundamental skills that everybody should master
Relentless initiative creates opportunities
An active mind looks for alternatives
Cultivate perseverance and resilience
Avoid waste and embrace frugality
Shun overcommitment and worry


3. The easy way to prosperity
Select a career where you can make a good living
Principles of accelerated learning
Using Ancient Mongol tactics to find employment
Discard the myth of career planning
Growth sectors in the 21st century
Those who can sell are always received well


4. Philosophical ideas to make the best of your life
Take the perspective of a lifetime
Focus on practical solutions
Self-confidence arises from preparedness
Pursue compatible goals
Concentrate your resources on essential tasks


5. Get out of losing situations
Immobility is the enemy of achievement
Train yourself to face nonsense calmly
Throw away unworkable plans
Read the writing on the wall
Take simple measures to protect yourself
You have more options than you think


6. Avoiding major mistakes
Preserve your independent thinking
Don't make the same mistake as Confucius
Entrepreneurship is the opposite of resignation
Abandon perfectionism right now
Waiting for the world to change is a waste of time


7. How to find love without making a mess of sex
Rational values are the basis of great relationships
Overcoming the main obstacle to meeting new people
The high cost of short-term romantic involvement
The entrepreneurial factor in love and friendship
What is the crucial success element in dating?
Break free from artificial social constraints


8. Saving and investing to secure your future
Take control of your financial life
Principles of rational investment
Techniques for reducing risk
How to develop self-confidence as an investor
Saving regularly brings peace of mind
The advantage of turbulent times


9. Principles of optimal health
The teachings of Maimonides
Living in accordance with nature
How psychology can improve your health
Modern theories about prolonging life
How some people live to become 100 years old
The low-cost approach to good nutrition
Effective methods for minimizing stress
Sleeping well by natural means


10. Seeking personal growth one day at a time
Embrace rational principles
The link between personal effectiveness and happiness
Become an entrepreneur in your everyday life
Do not be discouraged by your limited resources
Clear thinking gives you the ultimate advantage
It is on slow days when you make big breaks


11. Conclusion
The human need for logic and consistency
Achieving happiness in a chaotic world
Philosophy summarized in a single sentence
It takes a while, but it can be done


Rationality is the way to happiness
by John Vespasian