Saturday, 31 March 2012

The practical way to achievement: What works and what doesn't


At the beginning of the 16th century, life expectancy in Europe was much shorter that nowadays. Typhus and tuberculosis were fairly common. Influenza and common colds were lethal for undernourished peasants plagued by vermin and lice. Large numbers of deaths took place every winter.

Medicine at that time was evolving from mysticism into science. Renaissance physicians took over the knowledge from ancient Greece and Rome, developed their own ideas, and began to experiment with new treatments. The sale of curative herbs and potions was a booming business, although few of those remedies actually proved beneficial to patients.

When wealthy merchants became sick, they had the means to pay for the services of the best physicians, from which there were only a few in each city. Since Universities produced small numbers of graduates, tending to the sick was a lucrative and prestigious occupation.

The discovery of new medical knowledge generated opportunity and risk. On the one hand, innovative cures benefited patients and created the basis for further research. On the other hand, new remedies disrupted the established business of physicians and pharmacists.

Medical practitioners had little incentive to abandon useless treatments for which they could charge hefty fees. The discovery of inexpensive natural remedies undermined their incomes and reputations.

Historical distance allows us to contemplate the 16th century with a feeling of superiority. When we read about the beliefs that people upheld five hundred years ago, we react with amusement. Why did knowledge evolve so slowly? Why did ignorance and prejudice persist for so long?

The best minds of the 16th century asked the same questions. Paracelsus (1493-1541) offers a striking example in the field of medicine. His real name was Theophrastus von Hohenheim, which he changed himself to Paracelsus. The philosophical lesson to be learned from his life goes far beyond the scope of medical techniques.

We know little of Paracelsus' infancy. Like many middle-class youths of his time, he must have picked up the rudiments of Latin through private lessons. A knowledge of Latin was the only formal requirement to study at European Universities. The choice of subjects was mostly limited to theology, medicine, and law.

While Paracelsus completed his medical studies in Ferrara (Italy), the pest broke out and began to decimate the population. Those who could afford it left Ferrara for the countryside in order to avoid contagion. The poor remained in town and the epidemic wiped out complete families.

The municipality hired men to remove the sick from their houses and transport them to a closed camp outside the city wall, where they would be abandoned to die. Paracelsus, who was still a medical student, soon understood that medieval treatments, such as bleeding patients, were ineffective against the pest.

This realization led him to experiment with alternative methods. When the pest receded and normal life returned to Ferrara, Paracelsus presented his new ideas at the University. To his surprise, his views were met with scepticism and hostility. The professors in Ferrara did not welcome suggestions that contradicted inherited knowledge.

After graduation, Paracelsus travelled extensively throughout Europe. Sometimes, he would settle down in a city to practice medicine for a year; on other occasions, he would take up a position as surgeon in one of the armies involved in the wars that ravaged the Renaissance.

As his medical knowledge and expertise grew, so did his irritation with the incompetence of fellow physicians. Thanks to his wide travelling, Paracelsus had accumulated impressive surgical skills and long experience in the use of herbs and minerals for curative purposes. In contrast, the average medic in the 16th century possessed only the little knowledge that he had acquired at the University.

Paracelsus' effectiveness increased his fame, but his criticism of ignorant doctors made him many enemies. His conflicts with colleagues became extreme after he was appointed to teach medicine at the University of Basel (Switzerland).

With the perspective of five centuries, we can clearly see how unrealistic Paracelsus' expectations were. It was undeniable that he had acquired more knowledge than other physicians; nevertheless, it was chimerical for him to expect his colleagues to make way for truth when innovation undermined their livelihoods and reputations.

Is it not unfair that Paracelsus had to face such a strong resistance? Was his indignation at his ignorant colleagues not well justified? My point is that these questions are irrelevant because they are based on incorrect assumptions.

Unrealistic expectations are hard to discard because they are based on delusions of entitlement. Paracelsus felt wrongly entitled to reshape the world according to truth and innovation, even though the great majority of his contemporaries had vested interests in clinging to the past.

As a result, Paracelsus was forced to quit his position at the University of Basel a year later and return to his itinerant life. Although he was one of the best physicians of his time, he died in poverty before his 48th birthday.

The fact is that knowledge, expertise, or desire do not grant magical powers to anyone. Unrealistic expectations lead to waste and decay. A workable plan is worth a million debates. Let go of chimerical projects and focus on what can be reasonably accomplished. Stay away from grandiose undertakings and concentrate on entrepreneurship, which is the practical way to achievement.

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

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

The practical way to achievement: What works and what doesn't


At the beginning of the 16th century, life expectancy in Europe was much shorter that nowadays. Typhus and tuberculosis were fairly common. Influenza and common colds were lethal for undernourished peasants plagued by vermin and lice. Large numbers of deaths took place every winter.

Medicine at that time was evolving from mysticism into science. Renaissance physicians took over the knowledge from ancient Greece and Rome, developed their own ideas, and began to experiment with new treatments. The sale of curative herbs and potions was a booming business, although few of those remedies actually proved beneficial to patients.

When wealthy merchants became sick, they had the means to pay for the services of the best physicians, from which there were only a few in each city. Since Universities produced small numbers of graduates, tending to the sick was a lucrative and prestigious occupation.

The discovery of new medical knowledge generated opportunity and risk. On the one hand, innovative cures benefited patients and created the basis for further research. On the other hand, new remedies disrupted the established business of physicians and pharmacists.

Medical practitioners had little incentive to abandon useless treatments for which they could charge hefty fees. The discovery of inexpensive natural remedies undermined their incomes and reputations.

Historical distance allows us to contemplate the 16th century with a feeling of superiority. When we read about the beliefs that people upheld five hundred years ago, we react with amusement. Why did knowledge evolve so slowly? Why did ignorance and prejudice persist for so long?

The best minds of the 16th century asked the same questions. Paracelsus (1493-1541) offers a striking example in the field of medicine. His real name was Theophrastus von Hohenheim, which he changed himself to Paracelsus. The philosophical lesson to be learned from his life goes far beyond the scope of medical techniques.

We know little of Paracelsus' infancy. Like many middle-class youths of his time, he must have picked up the rudiments of Latin through private lessons. A knowledge of Latin was the only formal requirement to study at European Universities. The choice of subjects was mostly limited to theology, medicine, and law.

While Paracelsus completed his medical studies in Ferrara (Italy), the pest broke out and began to decimate the population. Those who could afford it left Ferrara for the countryside in order to avoid contagion. The poor remained in town and the epidemic wiped out complete families.

The municipality hired men to remove the sick from their houses and transport them to a closed camp outside the city wall, where they would be abandoned to die. Paracelsus, who was still a medical student, soon understood that medieval treatments, such as bleeding patients, were ineffective against the pest.

This realization led him to experiment with alternative methods. When the pest receded and normal life returned to Ferrara, Paracelsus presented his new ideas at the University. To his surprise, his views were met with scepticism and hostility. The professors in Ferrara did not welcome suggestions that contradicted inherited knowledge.

After graduation, Paracelsus travelled extensively throughout Europe. Sometimes, he would settle down in a city to practice medicine for a year; on other occasions, he would take up a position as surgeon in one of the armies involved in the wars that ravaged the Renaissance.

As his medical knowledge and expertise grew, so did his irritation with the incompetence of fellow physicians. Thanks to his wide travelling, Paracelsus had accumulated impressive surgical skills and long experience in the use of herbs and minerals for curative purposes. In contrast, the average medic in the 16th century possessed only the little knowledge that he had acquired at the University.

Paracelsus' effectiveness increased his fame, but his criticism of ignorant doctors made him many enemies. His conflicts with colleagues became extreme after he was appointed to teach medicine at the University of Basel (Switzerland).

With the perspective of five centuries, we can clearly see how unrealistic Paracelsus' expectations were. It was undeniable that he had acquired more knowledge than other physicians; nevertheless, it was chimerical for him to expect his colleagues to make way for truth when innovation undermined their livelihoods and reputations.

Is it not unfair that Paracelsus had to face such a strong resistance? Was his indignation at his ignorant colleagues not well justified? My point is that these questions are irrelevant because they are based on incorrect assumptions.

Unrealistic expectations are hard to discard because they are based on delusions of entitlement. Paracelsus felt wrongly entitled to reshape the world according to truth and innovation, even though the great majority of his contemporaries had vested interests in clinging to the past.

As a result, Paracelsus was forced to quit his position at the University of Basel a year later and return to his itinerant life. Although he was one of the best physicians of his time, he died in poverty before his 48th birthday.

The fact is that knowledge, expertise, or desire do not grant magical powers to anyone. Unrealistic expectations lead to waste and decay. A workable plan is worth a million debates. Let go of chimerical projects and focus on what can be reasonably accomplished. Stay away from grandiose undertakings and concentrate on entrepreneurship, which is the practical way to achievement.

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

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

Rational living - Action solves problems


Packaged foods are conditioned to suit the taste of the consumer, which varies from country to country. Bread is baked differently in cities that are just a hundred kilometres away. Our culture feeds on sugar contained in cakes, cookies, ice cream, and alcoholic drinks.

Opponents of the Western diet will warn you that sugar is going to kill you. Actually, not only sugar, but also alcohol, red meat, white flour, and other elements of the modern fare. Contemporary medical studies have proven those admonishments true to a good extent, but they also acknowledge that death will very rarely be the penalty for eating a beef hamburger.

The rational conclusion is that some foods create certain health risks; you should be aware of them and select your meals accordingly. Nowadays, few people contend the principle that bad food is detrimental to your vitality.

If you don't make a minimum effort to gather correct dietary information, you will make random choices. If you eat appallingly, you will suffer the consequences. In terms of food, science has established that sweetness is not always conductive to wellness.

Can we remove counter-productive actions also from other areas of our life? How much of what we believe about the world holds true upon detailed examination? Are our convictions solidly based on facts? What about our ethical values and fundamental goals? Do we resort to prejudice in order to hide irrational fears? Do we appeal to tradition in order to safeguard inefficiency?

It takes a strong will and massive efforts to modify the way we eat. On many occasions, men and women undertake such changes only as a last resort, for instance, after having suffered a heart attack or being diagnosed with cancer.

Embracing a better diet becomes a major challenge when individuals endure constant social pressure to behave irresponsibly. Business meetings in Russia are still being closed with rounds of vodka. When colleagues and customers push you to drink, it is very difficult to resist, even if you are conscious of the negative consequences of your actions.

Inferior food and excessive alcohol undermine our health. Falsehoods sabotage our interests and place heavy burdens on our shoulders. Misrepresentations can be pleasant and enticing despite their lethal consequences.

The bigger the falsehood, the less that will remain of your independence. If you subscribe to misrepresentations, they will erode your entrepreneurial abilities. You will forsake your initiative and become psychologically dependent. How can you replace common myths by effective truths?

[1] Misplaced hope should make way for initiative: Do you ever tell yourself that someone, somewhere is going to recognize your talent? Good things do not necessarily happen to those who wait long enough. The effective truth is that, if your talents are underutilized, you'd better take action to promote them. It is up to you to improve your situation.

[2] Irritation should make way for constructive action: Imagine that, after suffering some minor abuse or discrimination, you become enraged, lusting for revenge. Is someone going to come to fix the world and put an end to unfairness?

The truth is that everybody makes mistakes. It is seldom worth it to devote your time to correcting other people's minor faults. Put the unpleasant story out of your mind and move on. Apply your efforts to pursuing your goals, not to telling people off.

[3] Passive acceptance should be replaced by workable plans: Put yourself in the shoes of someone who gets divorced in his mid-forties. For this man, it feels good to hang around his old friends and be comforted for the difficulties that he is encountering, but is this an effective behaviour?

Maybe they will introduce him to someone nice who will put his life back on track. Otherwise, he will just have to get used to loneliness, won't he? The truth is that he needs to make a workable plan to rebuild his life. Should he join a health club? Should he use on-line dating to meet a new romantic partner?

[4] Postponement should make way for entrepreneurship: Imagine that you practise a beloved hobby that you would like to turn into a source of income. Unfortunately, everybody is telling you that you should not take risks at your age. You hear that your best chance of success is to stay put in your job until retirement age.

The effective truth is that it takes a long time to establish any sort of business. The sooner you start your entrepreneurial career, the better off you will be in the long term. Postponement does not reduce risk. A sensible approach would be to start up your business on the side, devoting your evenings and weekends to it.

In every single case, hesitation delays progress. Do not allow wrong ideas to park your projects for years. Do not be contented with bromides that waste your life. Throw away misrepresentations and adopt an entrepreneurial attitude based on facts. Waiting only keeps you down. Action solves problems.

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

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

Rational living - Action solves problems


Packaged foods are conditioned to suit the taste of the consumer, which varies from country to country. Bread is baked differently in cities that are just a hundred kilometres away. Our culture feeds on sugar contained in cakes, cookies, ice cream, and alcoholic drinks.

Opponents of the Western diet will warn you that sugar is going to kill you. Actually, not only sugar, but also alcohol, red meat, white flour, and other elements of the modern fare. Contemporary medical studies have proven those admonishments true to a good extent, but they also acknowledge that death will very rarely be the penalty for eating a beef hamburger.

The rational conclusion is that some foods create certain health risks; you should be aware of them and select your meals accordingly. Nowadays, few people contend the principle that bad food is detrimental to your vitality.

If you don't make a minimum effort to gather correct dietary information, you will make random choices. If you eat appallingly, you will suffer the consequences. In terms of food, science has established that sweetness is not always conductive to wellness.

Can we remove counter-productive actions also from other areas of our life? How much of what we believe about the world holds true upon detailed examination? Are our convictions solidly based on facts? What about our ethical values and fundamental goals? Do we resort to prejudice in order to hide irrational fears? Do we appeal to tradition in order to safeguard inefficiency?

It takes a strong will and massive efforts to modify the way we eat. On many occasions, men and women undertake such changes only as a last resort, for instance, after having suffered a heart attack or being diagnosed with cancer.

Embracing a better diet becomes a major challenge when individuals endure constant social pressure to behave irresponsibly. Business meetings in Russia are still being closed with rounds of vodka. When colleagues and customers push you to drink, it is very difficult to resist, even if you are conscious of the negative consequences of your actions.

Inferior food and excessive alcohol undermine our health. Falsehoods sabotage our interests and place heavy burdens on our shoulders. Misrepresentations can be pleasant and enticing despite their lethal consequences.

The bigger the falsehood, the less that will remain of your independence. If you subscribe to misrepresentations, they will erode your entrepreneurial abilities. You will forsake your initiative and become psychologically dependent. How can you replace common myths by effective truths?

[1] Misplaced hope should make way for initiative: Do you ever tell yourself that someone, somewhere is going to recognize your talent? Good things do not necessarily happen to those who wait long enough. The effective truth is that, if your talents are underutilized, you'd better take action to promote them. It is up to you to improve your situation.

[2] Irritation should make way for constructive action: Imagine that, after suffering some minor abuse or discrimination, you become enraged, lusting for revenge. Is someone going to come to fix the world and put an end to unfairness?

The truth is that everybody makes mistakes. It is seldom worth it to devote your time to correcting other people's minor faults. Put the unpleasant story out of your mind and move on. Apply your efforts to pursuing your goals, not to telling people off.

[3] Passive acceptance should be replaced by workable plans: Put yourself in the shoes of someone who gets divorced in his mid-forties. For this man, it feels good to hang around his old friends and be comforted for the difficulties that he is encountering, but is this an effective behaviour?

Maybe they will introduce him to someone nice who will put his life back on track. Otherwise, he will just have to get used to loneliness, won't he? The truth is that he needs to make a workable plan to rebuild his life. Should he join a health club? Should he use on-line dating to meet a new romantic partner?

[4] Postponement should make way for entrepreneurship: Imagine that you practise a beloved hobby that you would like to turn into a source of income. Unfortunately, everybody is telling you that you should not take risks at your age. You hear that your best chance of success is to stay put in your job until retirement age.

The effective truth is that it takes a long time to establish any sort of business. The sooner you start your entrepreneurial career, the better off you will be in the long term. Postponement does not reduce risk. A sensible approach would be to start up your business on the side, devoting your evenings and weekends to it.

In every single case, hesitation delays progress. Do not allow wrong ideas to park your projects for years. Do not be contented with bromides that waste your life. Throw away misrepresentations and adopt an entrepreneurial attitude based on facts. Waiting only keeps you down. Action solves problems.

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

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

Friday, 30 March 2012

Why safety is a side effect of entrepreneurship


Prosperity and happiness would be easy to achieve if we could make correct decisions all day long. Imagine how efficient we would become if we never succumbed to seductive lies. How far could we go if we never got distracted by irrelevancies? How much would we profit if we never wasted time chasing what cannot be accomplished?

An exalted view of permanence and safety can be a constant source of erroneous choices. Human beings seem to suffer from a persistent cognitive distortion that makes them favour all things that are tall, wide, and long. If you think about it, you will find few exceptions to this misconception.

The groundless preference for tall, wide, and long applies equally to space and time. In cities, residents like tall buildings better than small houses. In the countryside, hotels are built next to wide lakes, not little streams. In literature, readers prefer long novels to short stories.

Our belief in permanence and safety is the culmination of our cultural bias towards everything tall, wide, and long. Children stories such as Three Little Pigs teach infants the desirability of solid homes. Career advisers encourage youths to choose well-established professions. Dietitians recommend patients to keep a constant weight.

Safety is presented as the perfect answer to all questions. It is the one solution that fits all types, the one preference that always satisfies. Temporary approaches are considered unwise. Anything transient is to be revised; anything incomplete, despised. Long live the mirage of permanence and safety.

How wrong and how historically false. The truth is that human beings have been leading predictable lives for less than 10.000 years. During the ten-times larger period that preceded agriculture, men and women had few routines and were, in certain aspects, much better off.

Prehistoric hunter-gatherers moved around frequently, carrying their household items with them. A varied diet and daily exercise kept them healthy. Tribes rarely stayed long in one place; their changing habitations made them difficult targets for parasites.

In those days, man lived on the alert. The world was unsafe; the environment, disorderly; man's attitude, entrepreneurial. Each season brought him new challenges, each territory fresh scents and herbs. To danger, he reacted with prudence; to opportunities, with self-reliance.

Safety made its entrance in man's life together with agriculture. Land cultivation and animal domestication brought us a steady supply of wheat, rice, corn, and cheese. On the other hand, they also brought us smallpox, influenza, malaria, measles, lice, and vermin.

As soon as human beings built permanent dwellings, rats became their companions. Insects multiplied fed by our blood. Bacteria found a fertile ground to grow; viruses procreated and mutated. Sickness turned to epidemic, illness to pandemic, and disease to morbidity.

Safety possesses a downside of which many people become aware only when it's too late. Routine has advantages, but it can blind you to innovation. Predictability has benefits, but it can render you passive. Steadiness has charms that can make you forget to profit from the present day.

Viewing regularity as supreme virtue can lead to the demise of independent thinking. The idea of permanence will keep you down if you let it overrule your perception of reality. If you trust routine too strongly, you will develop tunnel vision. If your entrepreneurial skills wane, change will find you unprepared.

Our world looks orderly because we have trained ourselves to disregard inconsistencies. Familiarity does not necessarily breed contempt, but it often renders individuals overconfident. Immigrants that arrive in a new country make observations that puzzle those whose ancestors have lived there for generations.

Watch out for the entrapment of safety so that you do not fall asleep. Our two most precious assets, our health and our mind, depreciate with excessive comfort. Our two most valuable qualities, ambition and persistence, vanish as soon as we take them for granted.

Once a man is born, he is tested and contested until the day he dies. Permanence is for the greatest part an illusion to which we cling too avidly. Most things we do are meant to be temporary; attempting to make them last too long is unnatural and counter-productive.

Civilization has brought us a million gains beyond what prehistoric hunter-gatherers enjoyed. Those benefits should be preserved and enhanced. Let us savour modern life without relinquishing our entrepreneurial spirit.

Science has reduced the impact of sickness so that we can remain free-ranging adventurers. Technology has enlarged the scope of our activities so that we can explore unknown territories. Do not let your longing for permanence and safety paralyse your initiative.

The price that we pay for the pretence of orderliness is too high. Human beings function best when their mind remains flexible and alert. A wise man attains certainty by overcoming contradictions, not by avoiding action.

Security is a desirable goal because it allows individuals to develop their abilities and achieve a comfortable life, but it should not become an excuse for immobility. The purpose of a home is to have place to rest, not a prison to restrain our action. Independent thinking and entrepreneurship lead to personal effectiveness, from which safety is just a side effect.

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

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

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The myth of career planning and what to do instead


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The myth of career planning and what to do instead


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The necessity of making mistakes


Reading about mistakes made by illustrious individuals is why people enjoy biographies. In this respect, little, insubstantial errors don't count. A solid biography must contain at least one horrendous, shattering mistake.
  • A great actor who accepts a role in a trash movie and ruins his career.
  • A successful fund manager who makes a bad investment and experiences enormous losses.
  • A self-made millionaire who marries a worthless woman and goes through devastating divorce.
Many biographies provide extensive details about how eminent persons turn into fools. Vanity and greed play a role sometimes, although less frequently than venal authors like to portray. The truth is that, in the great majority of cases, mistakes are made in good faith, out of insufficient knowledge, insight, or perspective.

Dangers that appear self-evident in hindsight often pass undetected under real-life strains and tensions. Demanding readers expect stories to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. We want books to provide teachings that go beyond the trite and commonplace. There is no point in reading about past mistakes if we cannot draw lessons for the future. How can you overcome feelings of impotence, sadness, and guilt after you have committed a gigantic error?

Here is what I have learned form reading History. As soon as we realize the full extent of a major error, psychological misery arises from comparing ourselves to others or to a parallel reality that would have existed if we had known better. Such negative emotional reactions rest on a logical fallacy that only determined reasoning can erase.

Mistakes are personal. The knowledge present in an individual's mind is the only relevant factor when it comes to taking decisions. This means that, after making a mistake, you should avoid comparing your situation with someone else's. It makes little sense to lament how well you could be doing if you had made wiser choices.

Each of us is born in different circumstances and each life is unique. Individuals have to grow at their own pace and learn their own lessons. Competition is a fallacy because life is not a race. Experience can be painful but it is irreplaceable. Don't linger on illogical comparisons that bring nothing but misery. Stand up and look ahead. Your next achievement will bring you farther. Mistakes can make you a better human being and show you the way to happiness. Let them.

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

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

The necessity of making mistakes


Reading about mistakes made by illustrious individuals is why people enjoy biographies. In this respect, little, insubstantial errors don't count. A solid biography must contain at least one horrendous, shattering mistake.
  • A great actor who accepts a role in a trash movie and ruins his career.
  • A successful fund manager who makes a bad investment and experiences enormous losses.
  • A self-made millionaire who marries a worthless woman and goes through devastating divorce.
Many biographies provide extensive details about how eminent persons turn into fools. Vanity and greed play a role sometimes, although less frequently than venal authors like to portray. The truth is that, in the great majority of cases, mistakes are made in good faith, out of insufficient knowledge, insight, or perspective.

Dangers that appear self-evident in hindsight often pass undetected under real-life strains and tensions. Demanding readers expect stories to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. We want books to provide teachings that go beyond the trite and commonplace. There is no point in reading about past mistakes if we cannot draw lessons for the future. How can you overcome feelings of impotence, sadness, and guilt after you have committed a gigantic error?

Here is what I have learned form reading History. As soon as we realize the full extent of a major error, psychological misery arises from comparing ourselves to others or to a parallel reality that would have existed if we had known better. Such negative emotional reactions rest on a logical fallacy that only determined reasoning can erase.

Mistakes are personal. The knowledge present in an individual's mind is the only relevant factor when it comes to taking decisions. This means that, after making a mistake, you should avoid comparing your situation with someone else's. It makes little sense to lament how well you could be doing if you had made wiser choices.

Each of us is born in different circumstances and each life is unique. Individuals have to grow at their own pace and learn their own lessons. Competition is a fallacy because life is not a race. Experience can be painful but it is irreplaceable. Don't linger on illogical comparisons that bring nothing but misery. Stand up and look ahead. Your next achievement will bring you farther. Mistakes can make you a better human being and show you the way to happiness. Let them.

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

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

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Rational living - You have more options than you think


You should never believe anyone who tells you that you only have one option, in particular when that person tries to justify his view by quoting some trite anti-philosophical remark. Never pay attention to people who tell you that, in life, you cannot get what you want. The ability to find alternative paths is critical to get out of losing situations.

If your parts supplier tells you that you have no choice, find a new supplier. If your internet provider acts as though you have no alternative, change providers. If an expensive computer repair shop tells you that they are the only experts in your type of machine, throw away the old computer and purchase another brand.

Should your bank tell you that you have no other possibility, go and open accounts in three other banks. If your plumber tells you that your have no alternative, learn how to replace the kitchen tabs yourself. When a painter tells you that he is the only choice in town, hire someone else to paint your house.

The life of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) provides one of the best examples of how a man can create alternatives where none seems to exist. In his essay Ethics he wrote that "the human mind is designed for exercising memory and imagination." Few men in History have shown such extraordinary courage as Spinoza, whose dismissal of conformity estranged him from his family and made him a social and financial pariah.

Born into a wealthy family of Jewish merchants and destined to a life of economic comfort, Spinoza's free spirit already began to outgrow the narrow traditions of his community when he was a young man in Amsterdam.

In July 1656, when Spinoza was 24 years old, the rabbi of the synagogue, after having consulted the elders, gave him an ultimatum. He was to stop asking questions during lectures. He was to stop talking to other young men about tolerance and individual freedom. In a word, he was to stop thinking differently than everybody else in the community.

Although the rabbi uttered his threat in a soft voice, he painted clearly the consequences of non-compliance. Expulsion from the synagogue was tantamount to lifelong ostracism. If Spinoza refused to conform to social conventions, all doors would be closed to him.

"We expect your answer on the last Sabbath of the month," concluded the rabbi, already anticipating his victory. In his view, no one would be foolish enough to throw away a bright professional future in an established community for the sake of some nonsense about truth. On July 27th, Spinoza returned to the synagogue. The rabbi and the elders were awaiting him. "What have you decided?" they asked. "Are you with us or are you on your own?"

"A man must be guided by reason, if he is to remain fully a man," answered Spinoza. "Without the urge to understand and the freedom to search for answers, neither truth nor happiness are possible." After leaving Amsterdam, Spinoza moved thirty kilometres south and created a new community from scratch: a group of free-thinking intellectuals who would spread around the world his ideas about tolerance.

If Spinoza had believed that he had no options, he would have remained in his traditional community and led an obscure life of conformity. As he wrote in his Ethics, "the essence of human thinking is the ability to identify true ideas." When somebody tells you that you have only one way to go, give yourself a break. Don't get upset and don't give a snappy reply. Don't bother. Instead, nod, smile, and move on. You have more options than you think.

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

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

Rational living - You have more options than you think


You should never believe anyone who tells you that you only have one option, in particular when that person tries to justify his view by quoting some trite anti-philosophical remark. Never pay attention to people who tell you that, in life, you cannot get what you want. The ability to find alternative paths is critical to get out of losing situations.

If your parts supplier tells you that you have no choice, find a new supplier. If your internet provider acts as though you have no alternative, change providers. If an expensive computer repair shop tells you that they are the only experts in your type of machine, throw away the old computer and purchase another brand.

Should your bank tell you that you have no other possibility, go and open accounts in three other banks. If your plumber tells you that your have no alternative, learn how to replace the kitchen tabs yourself. When a painter tells you that he is the only choice in town, hire someone else to paint your house.

The life of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) provides one of the best examples of how a man can create alternatives where none seems to exist. In his essay Ethics he wrote that "the human mind is designed for exercising memory and imagination." Few men in History have shown such extraordinary courage as Spinoza, whose dismissal of conformity estranged him from his family and made him a social and financial pariah.

Born into a wealthy family of Jewish merchants and destined to a life of economic comfort, Spinoza's free spirit already began to outgrow the narrow traditions of his community when he was a young man in Amsterdam.

In July 1656, when Spinoza was 24 years old, the rabbi of the synagogue, after having consulted the elders, gave him an ultimatum. He was to stop asking questions during lectures. He was to stop talking to other young men about tolerance and individual freedom. In a word, he was to stop thinking differently than everybody else in the community.

Although the rabbi uttered his threat in a soft voice, he painted clearly the consequences of non-compliance. Expulsion from the synagogue was tantamount to lifelong ostracism. If Spinoza refused to conform to social conventions, all doors would be closed to him.

"We expect your answer on the last Sabbath of the month," concluded the rabbi, already anticipating his victory. In his view, no one would be foolish enough to throw away a bright professional future in an established community for the sake of some nonsense about truth. On July 27th, Spinoza returned to the synagogue. The rabbi and the elders were awaiting him. "What have you decided?" they asked. "Are you with us or are you on your own?"

"A man must be guided by reason, if he is to remain fully a man," answered Spinoza. "Without the urge to understand and the freedom to search for answers, neither truth nor happiness are possible." After leaving Amsterdam, Spinoza moved thirty kilometres south and created a new community from scratch: a group of free-thinking intellectuals who would spread around the world his ideas about tolerance.

If Spinoza had believed that he had no options, he would have remained in his traditional community and led an obscure life of conformity. As he wrote in his Ethics, "the essence of human thinking is the ability to identify true ideas." When somebody tells you that you have only one way to go, give yourself a break. Don't get upset and don't give a snappy reply. Don't bother. Instead, nod, smile, and move on. You have more options than you think.

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

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

Monday, 26 March 2012

Rational living - Discarding mythical theories in the workplace


Three thousand years ago, life in Ancient Egypt was strictly hierarchical. Each person's origin determined which trade or profession he was to take up, his choice of spouse, food, and ideas. No dissidence was possible. There was no opposition and no escape. Progress and innovation were forbidden. Society was closed and, for hundreds of years, it remained immobile.

When Alexander the Great arrived in Egypt in the year 332 B.C., it didn't take him long to crush the Egyptian army. The fast, entrepreneurial Greeks destroyed the bureaucratic Egyptian forces in less than two weeks. The Pharaoh was deposed and Ptolemy undertook to transform Egypt into a trading emporium and a marketplace for new ideas.

Only five generations later, the world had changed beyond recognition. During the years of the Roman Republic, the idea of hierarchy disappeared from the mind of free individuals. Despite major differences in wealth and ability, Roman citizens did not feel inferior to anyone when it came to purchase one another's products or services.

Under Roman law, if merchant Croesus hired architect Vitruvius to build him a house, both men were free to agree the price, terms, and conditions of their contract. Although Vitruvius worked for Croesus, he did not consider the merchant to be "his superior." A Roman citizen would have found hierarchy a laughable idea in the context of a commercial relation.

Regrettably, the modern digital capacity to draw organizational charts at great speed, is bringing our mentality back to Egyptian times. How often do we hear about people who are seriously depressed because their name has been displaced, in an organizational chart, from one box to another placed a centimetre below?

While it is indisputable that commercial organizations need a structure to be able to function effectively, one should never forget that what keeps individuals working together is voluntary cooperation in the form of contracts. Commercial hierarchies as such do not exist in reality, although modern corporate doctrines go a long way towards obscuring this fact.

If you hire someone to clean your apartment, you are exchanging your cash for a service. If you look at yourself in the mirror and feel "superior" to the person who is cleaning your living-room, you are at odds with reality. If you work as an employee in a company, you are in no way "inferior" to whoever is paying you money in exchange for your professional services.

Civilized society is composed of a myriad of formal and informal contracts amongst free citizens. It is unfortunate that, in the business world, mythical theories about "leadership" and "stewardship" are doing much harm by creating the illusion that human hierarchies exist in the marketplace. Such false theories bring only anxiety, fear, and envy to those unlucky enough to believe them.

Work and happiness are individual endeavours. Which profession you practice, which employment you take, what tasks you perform, and how much money you make, are the result of contracts that you have entered into some time ago and in which you have decided to stay, for the time being.

If you ever catch yourself thinking in terms of corporate hierarchies, stop whatever you are doing and take a minute to sharpen your vision. Forget about "superior" and "inferior" positions and learn to view human beings simply as buyers and sellers in the marketplace. Adopting a rational perspective of the world will bring you the peace of mind of the philosopher and the determination of the entrepreneur whose freedom to trade has just been rekindled.

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

[Image by jimbowen0306 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Rational living - Discarding mythical theories in the workplace


Three thousand years ago, life in Ancient Egypt was strictly hierarchical. Each person's origin determined which trade or profession he was to take up, his choice of spouse, food, and ideas. No dissidence was possible. There was no opposition and no escape. Progress and innovation were forbidden. Society was closed and, for hundreds of years, it remained immobile.

When Alexander the Great arrived in Egypt in the year 332 B.C., it didn't take him long to crush the Egyptian army. The fast, entrepreneurial Greeks destroyed the bureaucratic Egyptian forces in less than two weeks. The Pharaoh was deposed and Ptolemy undertook to transform Egypt into a trading emporium and a marketplace for new ideas.

Only five generations later, the world had changed beyond recognition. During the years of the Roman Republic, the idea of hierarchy disappeared from the mind of free individuals. Despite major differences in wealth and ability, Roman citizens did not feel inferior to anyone when it came to purchase one another's products or services.

Under Roman law, if merchant Croesus hired architect Vitruvius to build him a house, both men were free to agree the price, terms, and conditions of their contract. Although Vitruvius worked for Croesus, he did not consider the merchant to be "his superior." A Roman citizen would have found hierarchy a laughable idea in the context of a commercial relation.

Regrettably, the modern digital capacity to draw organizational charts at great speed, is bringing our mentality back to Egyptian times. How often do we hear about people who are seriously depressed because their name has been displaced, in an organizational chart, from one box to another placed a centimetre below?

While it is indisputable that commercial organizations need a structure to be able to function effectively, one should never forget that what keeps individuals working together is voluntary cooperation in the form of contracts. Commercial hierarchies as such do not exist in reality, although modern corporate doctrines go a long way towards obscuring this fact.

If you hire someone to clean your apartment, you are exchanging your cash for a service. If you look at yourself in the mirror and feel "superior" to the person who is cleaning your living-room, you are at odds with reality. If you work as an employee in a company, you are in no way "inferior" to whoever is paying you money in exchange for your professional services.

Civilized society is composed of a myriad of formal and informal contracts amongst free citizens. It is unfortunate that, in the business world, mythical theories about "leadership" and "stewardship" are doing much harm by creating the illusion that human hierarchies exist in the marketplace. Such false theories bring only anxiety, fear, and envy to those unlucky enough to believe them.

Work and happiness are individual endeavours. Which profession you practice, which employment you take, what tasks you perform, and how much money you make, are the result of contracts that you have entered into some time ago and in which you have decided to stay, for the time being.

If you ever catch yourself thinking in terms of corporate hierarchies, stop whatever you are doing and take a minute to sharpen your vision. Forget about "superior" and "inferior" positions and learn to view human beings simply as buyers and sellers in the marketplace. Adopting a rational perspective of the world will bring you the peace of mind of the philosopher and the determination of the entrepreneur whose freedom to trade has just been rekindled.

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

[Image by jimbowen0306 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Which ethical system leads to happiness?


From all branches of philosophy, ethics is the most practical. Values connect abstractions to decisions and morality provides guidelines to surmount difficult situations. Ethical systems are worthless if they are not aligned with reality and validated by facts.

History has produced hundreds of different ethical teachings that work well in specific circumstances but fail catastrophically in other contexts. Fortunately, we can see if those philosophies pass the tests of veracity and practicality without having to examine them one by one. For the purpose of analysis, ethical systems can be grouped in three main types: the partial, the logical, and the teleological.

[1] Partial ethics consist of one or several precepts that are not comprehensive enough to constitute a system of thought. The vast majority of ethical convictions held by people can be classified as partial ethics.

Let me underline that moral principles enunciated in this manner are not necessarily false. Sometimes, flawless albeit incomplete guidelines are predicated; on other occasions, utter nonsense is put forward as ethical precept.

As examples of two well-meaning commandments, take for instance "protect the planet" and "help other people." Individuals who advocate such ethics usually possess good intentions, but their formulations are so fragmentary that cannot be implemented consistently.

If you want to protect the planet, you have first to define "planet." Does it involve only mountains or also animals and trees? If the concept encompasses animals, should it not include human beings as well? If plants and micro-organisms are both part of the planet, should you protect them from each other? Interesting questions, for which partial ethics cannot provide unassailable answers.

If your only ethical principle is to help other people, how do you determine which individuals you should assist with priority? If person A is expected to help person B, is person B required to help person A? What happens if B has a different opinion? Who will settle disagreements on the meaning and scope of the word "help"?

Partial ethics are unsatisfactory because they do not work in all circumstances. Principles such as those mentioned above are correct if applied in a certain context, but cannot be stretched to a full-blown system of morality. Life is too complex to navigate if you know only one thing. Man requires a thinking methodology, not just a list of unconnected precepts.

[2] Logical systems of ethics represent a major step forward in human thought. Their purpose is to create a morality that answers all questions, a method that can be applied to all events without incurring contradictions. In History, partial ethics often evolve to logical moral systems after it becomes obvious that man cannot make rational decisions on the basis of isolated precepts.

In contrast to partial ethics, logical moral systems are consistent. Their principles and guidelines are linked to each other. Their conclusions aim at universality in space and permanence in time. A well-rounded moral system should be able to guide individuals in any situation that they may encounter in their private or professional lives.

The "categorical imperative" originated by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is the best known system of logical ethics. According to Kant, true principles of morality must be universal, non-contradictory, and recognizable by reason. Decisions and actions are considered virtuous if they can be elevated to universal rules for all men.

"Do not steal" and "do not murder" are just two specific applications of the categorical imperative. Kantian ethics do not address simply a few situations, but all alternatives of human action. Logical ethical systems do not just provide recommendations for isolated cases, but a complete thinking methodology.

Nonetheless, these morality systems suffer from an inherent weakness. They are superior to partial ethics because they are non-contradictory, but internal consistency does not guarantee usefulness. Kantian morality is an intellectual clockwork foreign to the richness of human experience; it is a cold machinery that functions without feeling, ambition, passion, or hesitation.

Categorical imperatives forbid man to attack his neighbour but they won't tell him what he needs to do to be happy. Logical systems of ethics deal with the psychological aspects of human action only to a minor extent. Kantian morality won't provide you guidelines on how to define personal goals, allocate resources, and deal effectively with adversity.

[3] Teleological systems of ethics are the best that philosophy has produced. On the one hand, they go beyond the isolated commandments of partial morality; on the other hand, they aim at providing a comprehensive and consistent methodology, just like logical ethics. In addition, teleological systems render morality alive by linking it to an overriding goal, namely, happiness.

The word "teleological" comes from the Greek term "telos" which means purpose or goal. Advanced systems of ethics go far beyond "do not steal" and "do not murder." They view the human condition as a complex combination of factors that need to be judged according to general values and prioritized according to individual objectives.

A teleological morality based on reason provides a frame of thought that encompasses all of man's decisions and actions. This system of ethics aims not only at keeping you out of trouble, but also at helping you make the best of your life. The list of teleological virtues includes not only honesty and justice, but also independence, ambition, and persistence.

If you want to make optimal choices, you should adopt a teleological system of ethics based on reason. Other approaches to morality are workable in certain conditions, but fail to pass the tests of universality, permanence, consistency, and comprehensiveness.

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

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

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Rational living: Acknowledging uncomfortable facts


Do not waste your time trying to impress people who do not care for you. Most of the career advice that you will hear comes from ancient times that, actually, never existed. Make a commitment to discard what makes little sense. It is time to reshape your strategy according to reality.

Pick up a pen and piece of paper and write down the names of unsuccessful persons you know. Chances are that your list will be quite long. Look at the names and ask yourself some hard questions. Recall their individual circumstances, assess their challenges, and question their excuses.

Some men and women in your list will be intelligent and educated. From those, a few might deserve being recognized as brilliant. Others will be highly motivated and enthusiastic. How come that they are not progressing in life? The primary reason of their failure might be their belief in false ideas, such as overwork and career planning.

Let me put forward some controversial truths. These are the kind of statements that you might have heard before but that you were too quick to discard. Reality can be disrupting, but you will benefit from acknowledging uncomfortable facts. You might want to sit down before you read this:

1.- MANY MARKETS ARE CLOSED. Ignore the propaganda and examine the facts with a cool head. If you are trying to enter a market dominated by highly entrenched players, the undertaking might require too much effort to be worth it. People might preach openness and fairness to the gallery, while their actions show that outsiders are not welcome. Stay away from those markets. You have better things to do with your life.

2.- SOME PROFESSIONS OFFER LITTLE OPPORTUNITY. College counsellors usually possess good statistics about the employment market. On that basis, they can tell students about the earnings that they can expect on their initial job should they choose, for instance, to become embalmers. The problem with this sort of advice lies in its short-term focus. Instead, go and talk to someone who works in your field of interest and ask how fast people can move upwards from their initial position. If the answer is unconvincing, stay away. There are plenty of professions whose markets are growing. Why on earth would you want to enlist in a losing legion?

3.- THINKING LOCAL IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER. National economies and international trade are likely to transform the face of our cities in the next twenty years. Currencies fluctuate and importers might become exporters. Present territories of immigration might give rise to waves of emigration. Things are going to change massively in the next decades and nobody is quite sure how cards will be reshuffled. In this environment, thinking locally might bury your professional chances. Spread your risks and boost your career. Learn a foreign language and stay mobile.

Advertisements for jobs and training programmes always fail to tell you the ultimate truth: nobody cares about your career as much as yourself. Those who cheer you up with motivational talk frequently turn out to be exploitative. When it comes to your professional future, as for everything else, you will be much better off if you remain sceptic and think for yourself.

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

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

Rational living: Acknowledging uncomfortable facts


Do not waste your time trying to impress people who do not care for you. Most of the career advice that you will hear comes from ancient times that, actually, never existed. Make a commitment to discard what makes little sense. It is time to reshape your strategy according to reality.

Pick up a pen and piece of paper and write down the names of unsuccessful persons you know. Chances are that your list will be quite long. Look at the names and ask yourself some hard questions. Recall their individual circumstances, assess their challenges, and question their excuses.

Some men and women in your list will be intelligent and educated. From those, a few might deserve being recognized as brilliant. Others will be highly motivated and enthusiastic. How come that they are not progressing in life? The primary reason of their failure might be their belief in false ideas, such as overwork and career planning.

Let me put forward some controversial truths. These are the kind of statements that you might have heard before but that you were too quick to discard. Reality can be disrupting, but you will benefit from acknowledging uncomfortable facts. You might want to sit down before you read this:

1.- MANY MARKETS ARE CLOSED. Ignore the propaganda and examine the facts with a cool head. If you are trying to enter a market dominated by highly entrenched players, the undertaking might require too much effort to be worth it. People might preach openness and fairness to the gallery, while their actions show that outsiders are not welcome. Stay away from those markets. You have better things to do with your life.

2.- SOME PROFESSIONS OFFER LITTLE OPPORTUNITY. College counsellors usually possess good statistics about the employment market. On that basis, they can tell students about the earnings that they can expect on their initial job should they choose, for instance, to become embalmers. The problem with this sort of advice lies in its short-term focus. Instead, go and talk to someone who works in your field of interest and ask how fast people can move upwards from their initial position. If the answer is unconvincing, stay away. There are plenty of professions whose markets are growing. Why on earth would you want to enlist in a losing legion?

3.- THINKING LOCAL IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER. National economies and international trade are likely to transform the face of our cities in the next twenty years. Currencies fluctuate and importers might become exporters. Present territories of immigration might give rise to waves of emigration. Things are going to change massively in the next decades and nobody is quite sure how cards will be reshuffled. In this environment, thinking locally might bury your professional chances. Spread your risks and boost your career. Learn a foreign language and stay mobile.

Advertisements for jobs and training programmes always fail to tell you the ultimate truth: nobody cares about your career as much as yourself. Those who cheer you up with motivational talk frequently turn out to be exploitative. When it comes to your professional future, as for everything else, you will be much better off if you remain sceptic and think for yourself.

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

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

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The link between dating and marketing


"Love goes towards love, as schoolboys from their books," wrote Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. Since the 17th century, times have changed to remain essentially the same. Is it not a force akin to love that moves customers in the direction of their favourite product? Or spectators to watch every game of their preferred team?

Luckily for us, modern men and women, hundred of years of accumulated science have identified the keys to success in romantic and business undertakings. Is it not high time to proclaim that marketing wisdom has rendered Shakespeare's plays obsolete for didactic purposes?

Theatre might continue to exist as harmless entertainment for summer nights, but when it comes to learning dating and salesmanship, you are much better served by the teachings of hard science. Won't you agree with me that only fools would refuse to adopt a proven formula that knows no contrary views? Here is my condensed version of modern marketing truth:

1.- ESTABLISH MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR CUSTOMERS. An entrepreneur promoting a new product or service would be ill advised to walk around blindly trying to convince everybody he meets to make a purchase. Most likely, in that way, he would just waste his resources and make no sales at all.

Like in dating, efficient salesmen establish minimum requirements for their prospects. If you identify your prerequisites in advance, you will be able to discard quickly anybody who doesn't hit the mark. Draw a sharp picture of your target and focus your marketing energy like a laser.

2.- KEEP YOUR STEPS SLOW AND SEE YOUR RESULTS GROW. Investors know that the best kind of assets are those who produce long-term compound growth with little risk. What you want to avoid is a situation where you must continuously shift your money from place to place. Even if you manage to make a decent return on your investment, the need to reinvent the wheel every day will leave you too exhausted to enjoy life.

Effective start-up marketing is about acquiring a few enthusiastic customers who tell their friends about the unique experience that you can provide. In the case of dating, it is even more important that uniqueness in the being goes along with consistency in the telling. From this perspective, dating is a one-number game and marketing is the same.

Anyway, should the scientific formula fail, you can always go back to classical theatre for inspiration. Marketing is, in a way, distilled philosophy, an almost exact discipline as you know, or as Shakespeare wrote in his most famous play: "Hang up philosophy, unless philosophy can make a Juliet!"

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

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

The link between dating and marketing


"Love goes towards love, as schoolboys from their books," wrote Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. Since the 17th century, times have changed to remain essentially the same. Is it not a force akin to love that moves customers in the direction of their favourite product? Or spectators to watch every game of their preferred team?

Luckily for us, modern men and women, hundred of years of accumulated science have identified the keys to success in romantic and business undertakings. Is it not high time to proclaim that marketing wisdom has rendered Shakespeare's plays obsolete for didactic purposes?

Theatre might continue to exist as harmless entertainment for summer nights, but when it comes to learning dating and salesmanship, you are much better served by the teachings of hard science. Won't you agree with me that only fools would refuse to adopt a proven formula that knows no contrary views? Here is my condensed version of modern marketing truth:

1.- ESTABLISH MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR CUSTOMERS. An entrepreneur promoting a new product or service would be ill advised to walk around blindly trying to convince everybody he meets to make a purchase. Most likely, in that way, he would just waste his resources and make no sales at all.

Like in dating, efficient salesmen establish minimum requirements for their prospects. If you identify your prerequisites in advance, you will be able to discard quickly anybody who doesn't hit the mark. Draw a sharp picture of your target and focus your marketing energy like a laser.

2.- KEEP YOUR STEPS SLOW AND SEE YOUR RESULTS GROW. Investors know that the best kind of assets are those who produce long-term compound growth with little risk. What you want to avoid is a situation where you must continuously shift your money from place to place. Even if you manage to make a decent return on your investment, the need to reinvent the wheel every day will leave you too exhausted to enjoy life.

Effective start-up marketing is about acquiring a few enthusiastic customers who tell their friends about the unique experience that you can provide. In the case of dating, it is even more important that uniqueness in the being goes along with consistency in the telling. From this perspective, dating is a one-number game and marketing is the same.

Anyway, should the scientific formula fail, you can always go back to classical theatre for inspiration. Marketing is, in a way, distilled philosophy, an almost exact discipline as you know, or as Shakespeare wrote in his most famous play: "Hang up philosophy, unless philosophy can make a Juliet!"

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

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

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The purpose of principles


Wouldn't life be wonderful if we never made mistakes? Imagine how much money you could save through the years if you never purchased any of those products that look so good before you take them home and later turn out to be useless. How much effort would you spare if you could perform any undertaking without mistakes?

The purpose of principles is to condense lessons from the past that we can apply to our present. Rational guidelines cannot guarantee success in your endeavours, but will reduce the risk of failure and minimize any ensuing damages.

What are the principles of rational living and how can we use them in our daily life? From the work of Aristotle, Epictetus, and Spinoza, I have extracted the following three guidelines, which I consider the backbone of a rational life:

1.- RECOGNIZE THAT YOUR FUTURE WILL BE THE CONSEQUENCE OF YOUR PRESENT ACTIONS. Understanding that reality works according to cause-and-effect constitutes the difference between civilized men and savages. Despite influence of family and society, each individual is the principal agent of his own fate. Accepting responsibility for your actions means taking charge of all aspects of your life that are under your control.

2.- ESTABLISH LONG-TERM GOALS IN THE MAIN AREAS OF YOUR LIFE. Barring major accidents, humans can expect to become at least 70 years old in many areas of the world. Research has repeatedly proven that setting long-term goals plays a decisive role when it comes to achievement.

Drifting from day to day, from one occupation to another, does not require clear objectives and avoids the friction generated by those who pursue ambitious goals. On the other hand, drifting is often associated with anxiety and psychological insecurity, since it fails to provide long-term perspective. Only well-defined goals allow man to concentrate his resources wisely and make the best of his life.

3.- TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR HEALTH. Each individual has control of the food he consumes and determines how much he exercises. Few ignore the crucial role that nutrition and physical fitness play in maintaining good health, but how many men and women actually take action on the basis of such knowledge?

Rationality demands us to strike an adequate balance between our habits of the present and our expectations of the future. If you care little about being healthy and are willing to spend your life's savings on hospital fees, there is no reason why you should adopt healthy habits in your daily living. If that is not the case, then you know what to do.

The three principles above can be complemented with other recommendations, such as:
  • Accepting catastrophes philosophically and taking swift action towards recovery
  • Learning from mistakes in order to improve your effectiveness
  • Befriend honest people and ditch the rest or, at least, minimize your contacts with aggressive or nasty individuals
  • Actively protect your privacy and possessions
  • Stand up for your rights and do not give up too easily when you meet opposition
Accepting cause-and-effect as the overriding philosophical truth will turn you into a much more effective and happier human being. Applying rational principles to your life will bring you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your thoughts and actions are aligned with the essence of reality.

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

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

Monday, 19 March 2012

When inflation is looming in the horizon


With inflation looming in the horizon, it is a good time to recall solid investment wisdom from a distant past: a bird in the hand might be worth two devalued birds in the future. Once of the problems associated with inflation is that nobody is able to predict exactly when it is coming. Is it a matter of a few weeks? Are we talking about months? Years maybe?

In any case, shares of good companies listed in the stock market constitute attractive investments at this moment. You can actually have the best of both worlds if you invest in enterprises that offer, at the same time, a high current dividend and reasonable perspectives of profit growth in the future. Sooner or later, better financial results or inflation are bound to drive share prices upwards.

The following are some of my favourite shares. I am looking at these four companies as possible additions to my personal investment portfolio:

1.- GENERAL ELECTRIC (NYSE:GE). Due to the spread of businesses amongst different sectors and countries, GE's overall corporate profits should not suffer badly in a high inflation scenario. In particular, stable international demand should keep GE's power generation and water processing divisions going forward at a good speed. GE's shares can be currently purchased at a price/earnings multiple of 7.5, which makes them reasonably attractive.

2.- MARATHON OIL (NYSE: MRO). This company is a major player in the gas and oil market. It possesses operations in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States of America. The shares are paying now a dividend around 3%, which is nice to have, and the price/earnings ratio remains at 6.5. A reasonable expectation is that, if inflation drives the oil price upwards, Marathon Oil shares should benefit as well.

3.- CHINA MOBILE (NYSE:CHL). The current yield of these shares is higher than 3%. This Chinese cell phone operator has more than 400 million subscribers to its various services. Even a modest increase in China Mobile's profits in the year 2009 should help maintain the share price at good levels. If the Chinese currency gains value during the next months, that might generate extra profits for international investors.

4.- NOVARTIS (NYSE:NVS). The shares of this Swiss pharmaceutical company are now yielding 4.5% Novartis business is stable, with a good risk spread amongst divisions: vaccines, diagnostics, and pharmaceuticals. Inflation should not have a too negative impact on this company, which possesses subsidiaries and distributors all around the world. Even in periods of economic recession, pharmaceutical companies rarely suffer from major fluctuations in demand.

No investment can offer absolute security and the stock market offers much less than that. Never follow any investment advice blindly and always make your own research before committing your hard-earned money to the stock market. Nevertheless, when the risk of inflation increases with the hour, paralysis might entail the biggest risk of all.

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

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

When inflation is looming in the horizon


With inflation looming in the horizon, it is a good time to recall solid investment wisdom from a distant past: a bird in the hand might be worth two devalued birds in the future. Once of the problems associated with inflation is that nobody is able to predict exactly when it is coming. Is it a matter of a few weeks? Are we talking about months? Years maybe?

In any case, shares of good companies listed in the stock market constitute attractive investments at this moment. You can actually have the best of both worlds if you invest in enterprises that offer, at the same time, a high current dividend and reasonable perspectives of profit growth in the future. Sooner or later, better financial results or inflation are bound to drive share prices upwards.

The following are some of my favourite shares. I am looking at these four companies as possible additions to my personal investment portfolio:

1.- GENERAL ELECTRIC (NYSE:GE). Due to the spread of businesses amongst different sectors and countries, GE's overall corporate profits should not suffer badly in a high inflation scenario. In particular, stable international demand should keep GE's power generation and water processing divisions going forward at a good speed. GE's shares can be currently purchased at a price/earnings multiple of 7.5, which makes them reasonably attractive.

2.- MARATHON OIL (NYSE: MRO). This company is a major player in the gas and oil market. It possesses operations in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States of America. The shares are paying now a dividend around 3%, which is nice to have, and the price/earnings ratio remains at 6.5. A reasonable expectation is that, if inflation drives the oil price upwards, Marathon Oil shares should benefit as well.

3.- CHINA MOBILE (NYSE:CHL). The current yield of these shares is higher than 3%. This Chinese cell phone operator has more than 400 million subscribers to its various services. Even a modest increase in China Mobile's profits in the year 2009 should help maintain the share price at good levels. If the Chinese currency gains value during the next months, that might generate extra profits for international investors.

4.- NOVARTIS (NYSE:NVS). The shares of this Swiss pharmaceutical company are now yielding 4.5% Novartis business is stable, with a good risk spread amongst divisions: vaccines, diagnostics, and pharmaceuticals. Inflation should not have a too negative impact on this company, which possesses subsidiaries and distributors all around the world. Even in periods of economic recession, pharmaceutical companies rarely suffer from major fluctuations in demand.

No investment can offer absolute security and the stock market offers much less than that. Never follow any investment advice blindly and always make your own research before committing your hard-earned money to the stock market. Nevertheless, when the risk of inflation increases with the hour, paralysis might entail the biggest risk of all.

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

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