Monday, 30 April 2012

Turning disruption into innovation

Have you ever wondered why human beings cannot perceive opportunities in their immediate surroundings? For years, I have been taking the same route to work. I was absolutely convinced that it was the most efficient way to get to the office. I was even proud that the drive took me only 40 minutes every morning.

Two weeks ago, local authorities happened to decide to begin works simultaneously on two roads in my area. Those two roads were precisely my main route and my back-up route to get to the office. The road works created a gigantic traffic jam, which most drivers took more or less philosophically.

On the first day, I got out of the main road and tried to circumvent the works by driving through a village whose existence I had barely noticed until that time. I got lost a few times, but I got to the office in about 50 minutes. Not bad, considering the circumstances.

The following morning, I explored the possibility of driving through another village, which allowed me to reduce my travel time by another 10 minutes. Amazing. Even with the road works, I had managed to keep to my usual driving time of 40 minutes.

By Friday that week, I had explored more and more of the area, managing to reduce my travel time further. Now I am at 31 minutes, which is a whopping reduction of my driving time. Compared to my old routine, the new route is saving me one and a half hours driving time per week.

The possibility of radically reducing my driving time had not even crossed my mind until road works disrupted my daily pattern. For years, I had been driving my car more constrained by the rigidity of my ideas than by physical limitations.

I am not going to stop here. I have decided that this improvement is just the beginning. Forget about driving time, there are so many other things that I want to do better. It is the interior that makes a house into a home, I tell myself every morning. It is ideas that transform random events into stepping stones. Next time you hear me talking about my car, please remind me that I should rather be focusing on my destination.


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

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

Turning disruption into innovation

Have you ever wondered why human beings cannot perceive opportunities in their immediate surroundings? For years, I have been taking the same route to work. I was absolutely convinced that it was the most efficient way to get to the office. I was even proud that the drive took me only 40 minutes every morning.

Two weeks ago, local authorities happened to decide to begin works simultaneously on two roads in my area. Those two roads were precisely my main route and my back-up route to get to the office. The road works created a gigantic traffic jam, which most drivers took more or less philosophically.

On the first day, I got out of the main road and tried to circumvent the works by driving through a village whose existence I had barely noticed until that time. I got lost a few times, but I got to the office in about 50 minutes. Not bad, considering the circumstances.

The following morning, I explored the possibility of driving through another village, which allowed me to reduce my travel time by another 10 minutes. Amazing. Even with the road works, I had managed to keep to my usual driving time of 40 minutes.

By Friday that week, I had explored more and more of the area, managing to reduce my travel time further. Now I am at 31 minutes, which is a whopping reduction of my driving time. Compared to my old routine, the new route is saving me one and a half hours driving time per week.

The possibility of radically reducing my driving time had not even crossed my mind until road works disrupted my daily pattern. For years, I had been driving my car more constrained by the rigidity of my ideas than by physical limitations.

I am not going to stop here. I have decided that this improvement is just the beginning. Forget about driving time, there are so many other things that I want to do better. It is the interior that makes a house into a home, I tell myself every morning. It is ideas that transform random events into stepping stones. Next time you hear me talking about my car, please remind me that I should rather be focusing on my destination.


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

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

Saturday, 28 April 2012

There is hardly a bigger waste of time than waiting for events that will never happen. Move on and search for better opportunities. When hope is not based on facts and logic, it can destroy your life


Since nobody likes to hear negative answers, the word "no" has almost disappeared from polite conversations. Instead of rejecting requests straight away, people often make vague promises or simply reply that they don't know. Even when refusals are uttered, they are usually phrased as "possibly, but not at this moment."

At least, outright rejections can push you to correct your approach. In contrast, indefinite answers only lead to doubt and paralysis. When someone tells you that he is not interested at this moment, he is implying that he might change his mind in the future. Is he inviting you to try again next month? How much time should you devote to pursuing undefined opportunities?

There is hardly a bigger waste of time than waiting for future events that never come. Vague promises of attention, advice, jobs, funding, or friendship should not be taken seriously. You have to face the fact that, instead of substance, you are being served worthless hope. Do not expect much from such assurances. Instead, move on and search for better opportunities.

In those cases, you should not only write off the promise but also the person who made it. Speculating about the seriousness of empty words is unproductive. You will be much better off if you devote your energies to seeking alternative solutions. Take action and do not waste a minute. You will be able to achieve much more on your own.

The same principle applies to the cardinal purpose of philosophy, that is, the search of happiness. Although many ideas, groups, and individuals promise well-being and prosperity, few deliver anything worthwhile. Excuses and apologies are the likely output of unrealistic assurances.

The story will play out in an all-too-predictable way. If you ask to receive your due, you will hear that the time is not ripe. You will be asked to be patient and wait a little longer. Your rational demands will be played down as immature. Your claims will be ignored and your plan of action, postponed.

In that context, you need to ask yourself how long you are willing to wait for happiness. Will you delay your dreams until all pieces of the puzzle fall into place? Are you ready to make further investments in projects that fail to generate profits? How many chances are you willing to give people who repeatedly let you down?

Although hope is universally presented as virtue, this should not always be the case. When hope is not based on facts and logic, it can destroy your life. Irrational expectations can make you waste your days waiting. Inconsistent wishes can pull your forces in opposite directions. Exaggerated expectations may submerge you into conflicts that cannot be resolved.

Amongst all false philosophies, the worst ones preach that you cannot be happy until the whole world changes. Putting your life on hold until the world becomes better is the ultimate folly. Unfortunately, millions of people fall passionately for this idea, which seems to feed on every sort of misery and pain.

In past centuries and nowadays, many individuals show willingness to spend their lives waiting for tidal changes. Such persons talk persuasively and paint pictures of a better world. They make speeches in favour of present sacrifice in exchange for indeterminate future compensation.

A life spent waiting will be devoured by emptiness and diluted by nothingness. Happiness cannot be attained through irrational hopes and exaggerated expectations. Problems rarely get solved on their own. Irrational hopes, instead of elevating your soul, will bury it in a deep black hole.

Difficulties can be turned into prosperity only if you make workable plans, take swift action, stabilize the situation, and pursue feasible improvements. Passive waiting never leads to happiness. Chance will seldom reduce inconveniences in your environment. Luck cannot be trusted to remove obstacles from your path.

Look at yourself in the mirror and ask how long you are willing to wait for happiness. The higher your self-confidence, the more determined you will be to advance your cause. Never trust promises that cannot be fulfilled. Instead of putting your plans on hold, redouble your efforts to attain your goals.

The faster you recognize unworkable theories, you better off you'll be. When people request you to wait indefinitely to receive your fair share, discard their assurances and search for alternatives. Life is too short to be wasted in pointless waiting. Do not let vain words interfere with your plans. Make sure that you pursue your objectives with relentless passion.

If someone promises you a job at an indeterminate date, keep on searching for a suitable position. If people tell you to be patient, thank them politely for their advice and look for a short-cut to your goals. If your environment favours passivity, figure out how to motivate yourself to work harder in order to accomplish more.

Write down your answer to the question of how long you are willing to wait for happiness. Are you going to stop chasing your dreams until the world becomes a perfect place? Are you going to devote your best years to pointless discussions? Would you accept just to grow older without ever improving your situation?

To those who preach endless waiting, let your reply be short and determined. Shrug your shoulders and tell them the truth. Life is too short for trusting uncertain predictions. It is up to each individual to face problems courageously, stabilize his situation, and transform it into opportunity. Your willingness to wait for happiness should not go beyond what circumstances dictate as absolutely necessary.


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

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

There is hardly a bigger waste of time than waiting for events that will never happen. Move on and search for better opportunities. When hope is not based on facts and logic, it can destroy your life


Since nobody likes to hear negative answers, the word "no" has almost disappeared from polite conversations. Instead of rejecting requests straight away, people often make vague promises or simply reply that they don't know. Even when refusals are uttered, they are usually phrased as "possibly, but not at this moment."

At least, outright rejections can push you to correct your approach. In contrast, indefinite answers only lead to doubt and paralysis. When someone tells you that he is not interested at this moment, he is implying that he might change his mind in the future. Is he inviting you to try again next month? How much time should you devote to pursuing undefined opportunities?

There is hardly a bigger waste of time than waiting for future events that never come. Vague promises of attention, advice, jobs, funding, or friendship should not be taken seriously. You have to face the fact that, instead of substance, you are being served worthless hope. Do not expect much from such assurances. Instead, move on and search for better opportunities.

In those cases, you should not only write off the promise but also the person who made it. Speculating about the seriousness of empty words is unproductive. You will be much better off if you devote your energies to seeking alternative solutions. Take action and do not waste a minute. You will be able to achieve much more on your own.

The same principle applies to the cardinal purpose of philosophy, that is, the search of happiness. Although many ideas, groups, and individuals promise well-being and prosperity, few deliver anything worthwhile. Excuses and apologies are the likely output of unrealistic assurances.

The story will play out in an all-too-predictable way. If you ask to receive your due, you will hear that the time is not ripe. You will be asked to be patient and wait a little longer. Your rational demands will be played down as immature. Your claims will be ignored and your plan of action, postponed.

In that context, you need to ask yourself how long you are willing to wait for happiness. Will you delay your dreams until all pieces of the puzzle fall into place? Are you ready to make further investments in projects that fail to generate profits? How many chances are you willing to give people who repeatedly let you down?

Although hope is universally presented as virtue, this should not always be the case. When hope is not based on facts and logic, it can destroy your life. Irrational expectations can make you waste your days waiting. Inconsistent wishes can pull your forces in opposite directions. Exaggerated expectations may submerge you into conflicts that cannot be resolved.

Amongst all false philosophies, the worst ones preach that you cannot be happy until the whole world changes. Putting your life on hold until the world becomes better is the ultimate folly. Unfortunately, millions of people fall passionately for this idea, which seems to feed on every sort of misery and pain.

In past centuries and nowadays, many individuals show willingness to spend their lives waiting for tidal changes. Such persons talk persuasively and paint pictures of a better world. They make speeches in favour of present sacrifice in exchange for indeterminate future compensation.

A life spent waiting will be devoured by emptiness and diluted by nothingness. Happiness cannot be attained through irrational hopes and exaggerated expectations. Problems rarely get solved on their own. Irrational hopes, instead of elevating your soul, will bury it in a deep black hole.

Difficulties can be turned into prosperity only if you make workable plans, take swift action, stabilize the situation, and pursue feasible improvements. Passive waiting never leads to happiness. Chance will seldom reduce inconveniences in your environment. Luck cannot be trusted to remove obstacles from your path.

Look at yourself in the mirror and ask how long you are willing to wait for happiness. The higher your self-confidence, the more determined you will be to advance your cause. Never trust promises that cannot be fulfilled. Instead of putting your plans on hold, redouble your efforts to attain your goals.

The faster you recognize unworkable theories, you better off you'll be. When people request you to wait indefinitely to receive your fair share, discard their assurances and search for alternatives. Life is too short to be wasted in pointless waiting. Do not let vain words interfere with your plans. Make sure that you pursue your objectives with relentless passion.

If someone promises you a job at an indeterminate date, keep on searching for a suitable position. If people tell you to be patient, thank them politely for their advice and look for a short-cut to your goals. If your environment favours passivity, figure out how to motivate yourself to work harder in order to accomplish more.

Write down your answer to the question of how long you are willing to wait for happiness. Are you going to stop chasing your dreams until the world becomes a perfect place? Are you going to devote your best years to pointless discussions? Would you accept just to grow older without ever improving your situation?

To those who preach endless waiting, let your reply be short and determined. Shrug your shoulders and tell them the truth. Life is too short for trusting uncertain predictions. It is up to each individual to face problems courageously, stabilize his situation, and transform it into opportunity. Your willingness to wait for happiness should not go beyond what circumstances dictate as absolutely necessary.


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

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

Listen only to those who preach by example. The idea that sickness rarely happens by chance, is still ignored by millions of people. The answer points to individual responsibility


Medicine and other sciences have advanced immensely since Antiquity. Unfortunately, many of their fundamental principles have barely spread beyond the circle of professionals and specialists. Even in the 21st century, important segments of the population still know less about their own health than about sports or entertainment celebrities.

Hippocrates (460-370 BC), the most famous physician of Ancient Greece, already identified basic rules for protecting our health. However, although many generations have passed, his major discovery, the idea that sickness rarely happens by chance, is still ignored by millions of people.

Centuries ago, the belief that illness was a matter of bad luck was widespread in society. In our days, even though such conception has become less prevalent, it still plays a key role in determining how we live, how we see ourselves, and how we make important decisions.

According to Hippocrates, medical practitioners should above all allow Nature to exert its curative powers on patients. Artificial remedies should be avoided because they interfere with the self-healing capacities of our body. Treatments should be mild and gentle, aiming at helping patients recover their energies and strengthen their natural defences.

Illness, better than cured, should be prevented whenever possible. Hippocrates named the three essential risks that are, in most cases, responsible for our physical decay: our food, our environment, and our personal habits. The conclusion that follows is that each individual is primarily responsible for his own health, barring irresistible accident or catastrophe.

Modern holistic medicine has adopted many of Hippocrates' precepts, emphasizing a balanced diet, adequate rest, mild exercise, and peace of mind. Does it not stand to reason that it is immeasurably less expensive to avoid sickness than to cure it? Why do millions of individuals destroy their health thought self-defeating behaviour?

No one possesses perfect knowledge of the impact of each of his actions on his own health, but we do know enough to be able to prevent a large number of self-inflicted diseases. How many people are actually unaware of the perverse effects of smoking? What percentage of heavy drinkers can claim to ignore the dire consequences of excessive alcohol intake?

The answers to those questions point to individual responsibility. In ancient times, patients used to blame sickness on supernatural forces. Nowadays, victims of their own faulty behaviour frequently blame third parties for illness or injury. In some cases, this is done with the aim of seeking a financial reward or other type of compensation.

During the last fifty years, massive efforts have been devoted to raising public awareness of fundamental health issues. The results, however, are all but encouraging. Advertising campaigns aiming at making individuals more responsible for their own health have still to provide evidence of long-term success.

If we look around, we still see millions of people making the same mistakes that citizens of Ancient Greece made in Hippocrates' time. We remain passive in the face of environmental threats to our health, we eat the wrong food or too much of it, and we lead unsustainable lifestyles that end up damaging our body.

What is the reason of the failure of most attempts to increase personal responsibility in health matters? Are people impervious to rational arguments? Is the message not sufficiently powerful or interesting? Shouldn't the importance of a good health not be self-evident to an adult audience?

The root of the problem might lie more in the theory than in its implementation. The whole discussion about responsibility might be missing an essential factor whose role in health protection is little understood, namely, entrepreneurship. Individuals who possess personal initiative want to take their destiny into their own hands, not only financially, but also in the area of physical and mental well-being.

Entrepreneurship helps prevent sickness because it trains the mind to compare current actions with future consequences. Medical doctors advise patients to behave and eat rationally. Similarly, businessmen assess markets, identify what consumers want to buy, and design their products accordingly.

They know that going against the facts of reality will fail to produce profits or, even worse, might push them into bankruptcy. Mistakes teach entrepreneurs what doesn't work. Errors force them to correct a misguided course. Their efforts are channelled productively into worthy pursuits.

Business is at the same time self-regulating and self-encouraging. In the market, virtuous behaviour tends to occur naturally because it furthers businessmen's own interests. There is no reason that would prevent a similar process from taking place in the field of preventive medicine.

If we want to improve our health, entrepreneurship is a workable, although far from self-evident solution. Few people change their lifestyle before they internalize the necessity to do it.

Smokers who quit their noxious habit have often been shaken by the realization that they are shortening their days. Their transformation frequently takes place after witnessing a fellow smoker die of lung cancer.

Rote learning rarely instils personal responsibility, neither in the field of preventive medicine nor in other areas. Entrepreneurship is a much better approach to encouraging individuals to take command of their health.

Hippocrates' principles should not be engraved in stone, but in our souls; they should not be presented as dead words, but as promises of a better future.

The essential characteristic of entrepreneurship, the need of constant focused action, promotes rapid learning to an extent that no education system can equal. Telling someone a hundred times a day that he should behave responsibly will simply put him to sleep.

In contrast, showing him the advantages of entrepreneurial action might whet his curiosity and prompt him to action. What man learns through example and experience is rarely forgotten. Hippocrates, who also made a point of practising his own theories and preaching by example, lived to be 90 years old.


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

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

Friday, 27 April 2012

Rational living - The untold benefits of withdrawal

 
If you have had the chance to work or spend a holiday in Finland, you might have noticed that Finns never raise their voice. Finnish men and women are remarkably polite towards friends and strangers and you will almost never see them quarrel. Finns are also known to be extremely honest and this is reflected in their incredibly low crime figures.

Most people react with disbelief when they hear these facts for the first time. "Human nature is similar everywhere," they argue. "We are all made of the same flesh and blood. Cultural myths are nothing but fairy tales."

To prove their point, they will look up on Internet until they find a news report about some atrocious murder in Helsinki and then they will smile satisfied. "You see, there are also criminals in Finland!" Perfection does not exist. Indeed, Finnish youths shout at each other from time to time and criminality, although relatively low, is far from being eradicated.

My point is not that Finnish men and women inhabit an ideal society. I am just trying to bring to your attention the fact that verbal or physical violence constitutes a relatively rare phenomenon in traditional Finnish society.

In this respect, Finns are amazingly different from other cultures. Foreigners who go to live in a small Finnish town for a year frequently experience a shock when they return to their own country. If you doubt my words, take a moment to reflect.

Pick up pen and paper and make a list of situations in the last month when you have witnessed verbal or physical abuse. Chances are that your list will be long.

  • Business discussions that turn to shouting matches.
  • Aggressive behaviour during sporting events.
  • Humiliating treatment of employees.
  • Loud, bitter, public recriminations between spouses.
Human life offers infinite occasions for disagreement and irritation. How is it possible that Finns systematically tend to avoid violence? Is there a lesson that we could all apply to improve our private life and working environment? What makes traditional Finnish culture so peaceful?

The answer is deceptively simple. Apparently, Finns have found a better way to discourage unacceptable behaviour. It is a way that involves not-doing, rather than doing. It is a form of punishment that can take life-threatening proportions in small Finnish towns isolated by snow during winter months. It is called ostracism.

Nobody will force you to be honest. You will be free to offend your neighbours. No one will prevent you from making as many enemies as you wish. There will be no shouting and few complaints. Nevertheless, one day, when you really need help in a critical moment, people will just leave you alone.

A few decades ago, specially in small Finnish villages, ostracism constituted a horrifying punishment that only a fool would be willing to incur. Nowadays, although modern technology renders snow and ostracism less threatening, honesty and politeness still remain at the core of Finnish culture.

"This is is an interesting principle," you might say. "Do we all need to go and live in Finland?" 


Frankly, I don't think so. I believe that we can start small, right here. It is quite simple, actually. In fact, next time you are about to raise your voice, all you have to do is think of the Finnish snow.

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

[Image by altazor08 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Rational living - The untold benefits of withdrawal

 
If you have had the chance to work or spend a holiday in Finland, you might have noticed that Finns never raise their voice. Finnish men and women are remarkably polite towards friends and strangers and you will almost never see them quarrel. Finns are also known to be extremely honest and this is reflected in their incredibly low crime figures.

Most people react with disbelief when they hear these facts for the first time. "Human nature is similar everywhere," they argue. "We are all made of the same flesh and blood. Cultural myths are nothing but fairy tales."

To prove their point, they will look up on Internet until they find a news report about some atrocious murder in Helsinki and then they will smile satisfied. "You see, there are also criminals in Finland!" Perfection does not exist. Indeed, Finnish youths shout at each other from time to time and criminality, although relatively low, is far from being eradicated.

My point is not that Finnish men and women inhabit an ideal society. I am just trying to bring to your attention the fact that verbal or physical violence constitutes a relatively rare phenomenon in traditional Finnish society.

In this respect, Finns are amazingly different from other cultures. Foreigners who go to live in a small Finnish town for a year frequently experience a shock when they return to their own country. If you doubt my words, take a moment to reflect.

Pick up pen and paper and make a list of situations in the last month when you have witnessed verbal or physical abuse. Chances are that your list will be long.

  • Business discussions that turn to shouting matches.
  • Aggressive behaviour during sporting events.
  • Humiliating treatment of employees.
  • Loud, bitter, public recriminations between spouses.
Human life offers infinite occasions for disagreement and irritation. How is it possible that Finns systematically tend to avoid violence? Is there a lesson that we could all apply to improve our private life and working environment? What makes traditional Finnish culture so peaceful?

The answer is deceptively simple. Apparently, Finns have found a better way to discourage unacceptable behaviour. It is a way that involves not-doing, rather than doing. It is a form of punishment that can take life-threatening proportions in small Finnish towns isolated by snow during winter months. It is called ostracism.

Nobody will force you to be honest. You will be free to offend your neighbours. No one will prevent you from making as many enemies as you wish. There will be no shouting and few complaints. Nevertheless, one day, when you really need help in a critical moment, people will just leave you alone.

A few decades ago, specially in small Finnish villages, ostracism constituted a horrifying punishment that only a fool would be willing to incur. Nowadays, although modern technology renders snow and ostracism less threatening, honesty and politeness still remain at the core of Finnish culture.

"This is is an interesting principle," you might say. "Do we all need to go and live in Finland?" 


Frankly, I don't think so. I believe that we can start small, right here. It is quite simple, actually. In fact, next time you are about to raise your voice, all you have to do is think of the Finnish snow.

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

[Image by altazor08 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The natural inclination towards efficiency


 Research published in 2005 confirmed close similarities between the human genetic structure and that of Bonobo monkeys. Many differences exist between the two species, but pure statistical comparison reveals a 98% commonality in DNA sequences.

Ongoing experiments in the United States of America have shown the Bonobos' capacity to memorize words and use primitive tools. Tests show that, with sustained training, these animals can equal the linguistic abilities of a two-year-old human child.

Interesting as this research may be, the question is whether we can learn something from Bonobo monkeys. Ape enthusiasts have pointed out how peaceful these animals are, but facts contradict this conclusion: Bonobos are known to behave violently on some occasions. Their society cannot be portrayed as free of aggression.

Those who promote vegetarianism amongst humans by pointing at the Bonobos' diet also lack scientific evidence. Observation in their natural habitat has shown these apes eating not only fruit, but also smaller animals such as flying squirrels.

Are there any characteristics of Bonobo monkeys worth reflecting upon? Human beings possess infinitely more intelligence than apes, but are we necessarily happier? If our thinking impairs our primitive instincts, does this always happen to our advantage?

Naturalists are making great efforts to save Bonobos from extinction. At the turn of the 21st century, only a few thousand of these apes continue to live in their natural habitat in Central Africa. Hunting by man and deforestation, which diminishes their food supply, represent the greatest threats to their survival.

From what we know about Bonobo monkeys, four elements catch our attention: they possess modest skills to allocate resources, some marks of individuality, a tendency to avoid unnecessary effort, and a limited ability to adopt self-protection measures. Let us review these four ideas in detail.

[1] Allocation of resources: Bonobo monkeys, like all animals, do not move always at the same speed. What makes these apes remarkable is that they are able to walk upright on two feet for extended distances. Scientists estimate that Bonobo monkeys walk approximately ¼ of the time in upright posture.

We do not know yet what makes them walk sometimes upright and otherwise on all fours. The logical conclusion might be that, to a certain extent, Bonobos are able to allocate their physical resources to match the situation.

Similarly, observers in Central Africa have noted how Bonobo monkeys split in groups to look for food more efficiently. The drive to optimize resource allocation, which is intense in human beings, seems to be a characteristic that we share with Bonobos.

[2] Marks of individuality: the facial features of each Bonobo are highly differentiated, as it is the case in humans. Each monkey is unique and can be distinguished from other members of the species. On the other hand, research fails to show evidence of personality in apes to an extent that could be compared with complex human traits.

The individuality of Bonobos is linked to their particular family and group. Incestuous relationships do not take place and intruders from other groups are rejected. For humans, our uniqueness encompasses psychological aspects, convictions, and personal interests. In both cases, human and ape, attempts to ignore individual traits generate distress.

[3] Avoiding unnecessary effort: Bonobos eat mostly plants and fruits available in the area they inhabit in Central Africa. Hunting, which demands much more effort than foraging, plays an exceptional role. When these apes go after smaller animals, they focus on preys that can be easily caught and quickly eaten up.

Bonobo monkeys hunt above all flying squirrels and small forest antelopes. Preys are eaten up immediately after caught. Such violent behaviour is relatively uncommon for these apes, since they can obtain proteins more easily by eating haumania, a plant that grows in Central Africa.

In humans, the tendency to spare unnecessary effort seems to be linked to individual motivation. Long-term productivity gains demand levels of thoughtfulness, patience, and personal involvement that not every person is willing to contribute. However, the general inclination to avoid waste is present in all men.

[4] Adoption of measures that further self-protection: Bonobo monkeys build nests in trees where they retire to sleep at night. In their natural environment in Central Africa, this protective measure proves highly effective against predators. In addition, Bonobos protect their territory against intruders from other groups. These apes tend to react to problems by acquiring stable habits that consolidate improvements.

Experiments in the United States aimed at teaching Bonobos to recognize words show that their learning takes place in stages. After they memorize a series of sounds or signs, the knowledge is consolidated before further symbols can be taught. Human beings learn in a similar way, for instance foreign languages, although at an incalculably higher speed.

Bonobo monkeys share the above four characteristics with humans, but their performance is lower in all areas. Improvements in Bonobos' cognitive skills take place only in controlled experiments. Left on their own, these apes show little ability to develop or acquire new knowledge.

What we can learn from Bonobo monkeys is that their desire to profit from the environment with minimum effort seems to be innate. Bonobos possess marks of individuality, try to avoid unnecessary labour and are able, to a modest extent, to adopt self-protection measures.

Like humans, these apes react to problems by searching solutions that provide tolerable levels of stability. The inclination towards increasing efficiency is present in Bonobos only to the extent of their limited intellect. In man, who is endowed with endless capabilities for improvement, this tendency is irrepressible.


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

[Image by 111 Emergency under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The natural inclination towards efficiency


 Research published in 2005 confirmed close similarities between the human genetic structure and that of Bonobo monkeys. Many differences exist between the two species, but pure statistical comparison reveals a 98% commonality in DNA sequences.

Ongoing experiments in the United States of America have shown the Bonobos' capacity to memorize words and use primitive tools. Tests show that, with sustained training, these animals can equal the linguistic abilities of a two-year-old human child.

Interesting as this research may be, the question is whether we can learn something from Bonobo monkeys. Ape enthusiasts have pointed out how peaceful these animals are, but facts contradict this conclusion: Bonobos are known to behave violently on some occasions. Their society cannot be portrayed as free of aggression.

Those who promote vegetarianism amongst humans by pointing at the Bonobos' diet also lack scientific evidence. Observation in their natural habitat has shown these apes eating not only fruit, but also smaller animals such as flying squirrels.

Are there any characteristics of Bonobo monkeys worth reflecting upon? Human beings possess infinitely more intelligence than apes, but are we necessarily happier? If our thinking impairs our primitive instincts, does this always happen to our advantage?

Naturalists are making great efforts to save Bonobos from extinction. At the turn of the 21st century, only a few thousand of these apes continue to live in their natural habitat in Central Africa. Hunting by man and deforestation, which diminishes their food supply, represent the greatest threats to their survival.

From what we know about Bonobo monkeys, four elements catch our attention: they possess modest skills to allocate resources, some marks of individuality, a tendency to avoid unnecessary effort, and a limited ability to adopt self-protection measures. Let us review these four ideas in detail.

[1] Allocation of resources: Bonobo monkeys, like all animals, do not move always at the same speed. What makes these apes remarkable is that they are able to walk upright on two feet for extended distances. Scientists estimate that Bonobo monkeys walk approximately ¼ of the time in upright posture.

We do not know yet what makes them walk sometimes upright and otherwise on all fours. The logical conclusion might be that, to a certain extent, Bonobos are able to allocate their physical resources to match the situation.

Similarly, observers in Central Africa have noted how Bonobo monkeys split in groups to look for food more efficiently. The drive to optimize resource allocation, which is intense in human beings, seems to be a characteristic that we share with Bonobos.

[2] Marks of individuality: the facial features of each Bonobo are highly differentiated, as it is the case in humans. Each monkey is unique and can be distinguished from other members of the species. On the other hand, research fails to show evidence of personality in apes to an extent that could be compared with complex human traits.

The individuality of Bonobos is linked to their particular family and group. Incestuous relationships do not take place and intruders from other groups are rejected. For humans, our uniqueness encompasses psychological aspects, convictions, and personal interests. In both cases, human and ape, attempts to ignore individual traits generate distress.

[3] Avoiding unnecessary effort: Bonobos eat mostly plants and fruits available in the area they inhabit in Central Africa. Hunting, which demands much more effort than foraging, plays an exceptional role. When these apes go after smaller animals, they focus on preys that can be easily caught and quickly eaten up.

Bonobo monkeys hunt above all flying squirrels and small forest antelopes. Preys are eaten up immediately after caught. Such violent behaviour is relatively uncommon for these apes, since they can obtain proteins more easily by eating haumania, a plant that grows in Central Africa.

In humans, the tendency to spare unnecessary effort seems to be linked to individual motivation. Long-term productivity gains demand levels of thoughtfulness, patience, and personal involvement that not every person is willing to contribute. However, the general inclination to avoid waste is present in all men.

[4] Adoption of measures that further self-protection: Bonobo monkeys build nests in trees where they retire to sleep at night. In their natural environment in Central Africa, this protective measure proves highly effective against predators. In addition, Bonobos protect their territory against intruders from other groups. These apes tend to react to problems by acquiring stable habits that consolidate improvements.

Experiments in the United States aimed at teaching Bonobos to recognize words show that their learning takes place in stages. After they memorize a series of sounds or signs, the knowledge is consolidated before further symbols can be taught. Human beings learn in a similar way, for instance foreign languages, although at an incalculably higher speed.

Bonobo monkeys share the above four characteristics with humans, but their performance is lower in all areas. Improvements in Bonobos' cognitive skills take place only in controlled experiments. Left on their own, these apes show little ability to develop or acquire new knowledge.

What we can learn from Bonobo monkeys is that their desire to profit from the environment with minimum effort seems to be innate. Bonobos possess marks of individuality, try to avoid unnecessary labour and are able, to a modest extent, to adopt self-protection measures.

Like humans, these apes react to problems by searching solutions that provide tolerable levels of stability. The inclination towards increasing efficiency is present in Bonobos only to the extent of their limited intellect. In man, who is endowed with endless capabilities for improvement, this tendency is irrepressible.


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

[Image by 111 Emergency under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Personal initiative is the key



"If you are looking for love," wrote the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC-17 AD), "you should spend your time in the stadium and the theatre, since it is in public places where you are most likely to find a companion to your taste. Bees know that, for making honey, they need to keep close to the flowers."

Two thousand years have gone by since Ovid composed The Art of Love. The world looks different now, but human beings have remained essentially the same. Ovid's compilation of amorous advice has passed from generation to generation, proving its effectiveness through the ages.

The details to reach the place where you want to be have changed, but not the principles. Today, as in Ancient Rome, personal initiative generates opportunities. The following five points summarize the teachings of The Art of Love. These are the sort of recommendations that each of us can apply. These five steps may improve our relationships in any environment or situation.

[1] Make up your mind
about what kind of social life you want to have: Your determination will greatly contribute to your success. In this sense, meeting new people, making friends, or dating are like any other venture. If you have gone through divorce, have you decided that you are going to start looking for a new partner? Make a firm resolution and give it the priority that it deserves.

[2] Ignore negative comments and unfair criticism about your ambitions: You can always find reasons not to do something. If you let people, they will name you more obstacles than you can ever imagine. Life is already difficult enough without paying attention to discouraging remarks, so don't.

Avoid in particular comparing yourself to someone whom you might consider luckier. The world is made of all sorts of persons. If you are looking for love, all you have to do is find one good match for yourself. Shrug your shoulders at comparisons and look for the type of person that suits you best.

Your time on earth is limited. You only have one life to live. Move forward with it and don't get stuck in pointless arguments. Let people have their own opinion, but choose what you consider optimal for yourself. Opt for what is rational, even if that alternative lacks popular support.

[3] Decide how you want to play
: When it comes to developing an active social life, our century offers infinite possibilities for meeting people. If you live in a mid-sized town, there are clubs you can join and entertainment locales you can visit. The internet is, of course, the largest venue of all.

Ignore fashion and follow your own values. For your search of companions, select times and places that match your interests and disposition. Your background and constraints are unique. Your present course of action should be in line with your vision of the future. Never rely on chance to solve your problems. Take action from which success can be expected.

[4] Run the race you have chosen: Do not let discouragement hold you back from taking action. Make entrepreneurship a habit in business and personal relationships. Stay alert and seize opportunities as they come along. Change the way you think. View life as a market that offers infinite possibilities.

No matter how you decide to play, you will increase your chances of success if you do it regularly. You might have to invest many hours to develop a satisfactory social life. Meeting people, making friends, and dating are similar to looking for a job. First, you have to detect the opportunity. Then, you have to seize it.

[5] Find a bird that can fly: Entrepreneurs who wish to purchase an existing business often explore dozens of possibilities before they finally make a deal. They are not looking to buy just any company. Their interest is attracted only by businesses with high growth potential which also match their personal taste. They want to catch a bird that can fly.

In the field of personal relationships, you should be willing to discard what doesn't work. Don't hang around someone who is not a good match for you. You are looking for an individual who will make you happier than you already are.

If you are serious about finding a love companion, single-mindedness will move you closer to the place where you want to be. You can never predict the moment when the opportunity for a great relationship will come across your way. Search persistently and keep your eyes open.

In business, love, or friendship, discard speculative advice and choose the wisdom of rational action. Your personal initiative is the decisive factor to enhance your well-being and improve your prospects for the future.

Let others debate if the world should be this or that way. Focus on specific actions that you can carry out to ameliorate your own situation. Make a pause from time to time, assess your progress, and correct your mistakes. Move on and redouble your attempts to reach the place where you want to be. Personal initiative is the key to achieve more in life. Let your actions speak for themselves.


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

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

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Rational living - The art of privacy and silence


 Fifty-nine years is a long time in the life of a man. Days can go by without trace, leaving nothing behind, turned to dust by the daily grind. During such a long period, most men choose to ply quietly their trade, while a few prefer to go on a crusade. For writer Daniel Defoe, that was the time it took him to learn when to speak and when to forgo all critique.

"It was then that I began sensibly to feel how much happier my current life was, despite its miserable circumstances, than the wicked, cursed, abominable life that I had led in the past," wrote Defoe in his immortal novel Robinson Crusoe.

The book was first published in the year 1719, when Defoe had just turned fifty-nine. During the initial forty years of his life, he had been repeatedly prosecuted and imprisoned for speaking out his mind. Moved by financial desperation, he had then wasted the following decade writing propaganda for different employers.

It was only in his late fifties that Defoe finally felt secure enough to write a major work of fiction. Robinson Crusoe was the result, a story about a man stranded on a solitary island with no company other than his own thoughts. Taking into account Defoe's personal background, it is not surprising that the subject of his novel was silence.

Written in the first person, the narration continues to appeal modern generations due to its profound philosophical tone, which reflects Defoe's desire for freedom, independence, and truth. "Now I look back upon my desolate, solitary island as the most pleasant place in the world," laments Robinson Crusoe in the novel, "and all the happiness my heart could wish for is to be there again."

Life doesn't have to be that way. Playing the lies of society versus the honesty of the hermit is a powerful literary ploy, not an accurate portrait of reality. In any circumstances, only reason can tell you whether it is better for you to keep silent or if you should take a stand on principle. The dichotomy presented in the novel Robinson Crusoe makes a great story, but it is radically false.

Truth seldom comes for free and there is no reason why it should be. Individuals owe honesty to themselves and to their family and friends, not to strangers of doubtful reputation. Men owe loyalty exclusively to the facts of reality, not to any fashionable mentality.

Your dreams and thoughts are only yours. They are meant to be exchanged with those who are congenial, not oppositional. If you perceive good reasons that counsel you to keep silent, heed the advice of your heart. Seek out those men and women who deserve the best in you. To the rest, let silence be their due.


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

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

Rational living - The art of privacy and silence


 Fifty-nine years is a long time in the life of a man. Days can go by without trace, leaving nothing behind, turned to dust by the daily grind. During such a long period, most men choose to ply quietly their trade, while a few prefer to go on a crusade. For writer Daniel Defoe, that was the time it took him to learn when to speak and when to forgo all critique.

"It was then that I began sensibly to feel how much happier my current life was, despite its miserable circumstances, than the wicked, cursed, abominable life that I had led in the past," wrote Defoe in his immortal novel Robinson Crusoe.

The book was first published in the year 1719, when Defoe had just turned fifty-nine. During the initial forty years of his life, he had been repeatedly prosecuted and imprisoned for speaking out his mind. Moved by financial desperation, he had then wasted the following decade writing propaganda for different employers.

It was only in his late fifties that Defoe finally felt secure enough to write a major work of fiction. Robinson Crusoe was the result, a story about a man stranded on a solitary island with no company other than his own thoughts. Taking into account Defoe's personal background, it is not surprising that the subject of his novel was silence.

Written in the first person, the narration continues to appeal modern generations due to its profound philosophical tone, which reflects Defoe's desire for freedom, independence, and truth. "Now I look back upon my desolate, solitary island as the most pleasant place in the world," laments Robinson Crusoe in the novel, "and all the happiness my heart could wish for is to be there again."

Life doesn't have to be that way. Playing the lies of society versus the honesty of the hermit is a powerful literary ploy, not an accurate portrait of reality. In any circumstances, only reason can tell you whether it is better for you to keep silent or if you should take a stand on principle. The dichotomy presented in the novel Robinson Crusoe makes a great story, but it is radically false.

Truth seldom comes for free and there is no reason why it should be. Individuals owe honesty to themselves and to their family and friends, not to strangers of doubtful reputation. Men owe loyalty exclusively to the facts of reality, not to any fashionable mentality.

Your dreams and thoughts are only yours. They are meant to be exchanged with those who are congenial, not oppositional. If you perceive good reasons that counsel you to keep silent, heed the advice of your heart. Seek out those men and women who deserve the best in you. To the rest, let silence be their due.


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

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

Monday, 23 April 2012

The myth of happy passivity and why you should run away from it


Penguins don't care how long it takes them to catch their daily fish quota. Year after year, they go through the same routine, hardly improving anything. Their survival is entirely based on the expectation of zero change. From the 32 million estimated living penguins, none gives a damn about productivity. They don't save for the future and often remain unaware of the existence of predators until it is too late to do anything about it.

Contrary to what is portrayed in cartoons and children books, penguins are neither creative nor funny. This is proven by the fact that tourists going to the Stewart Islands in New Zealand rarely devote more than a couple of hours to watch penguins. "I had never realized that penguins were so passive," Japanese tourists frequently comment. "They just stand there for hours and do nothing."

Practically without exception, tourists return home with the conviction that being a penguin is not really that much fun. Luckily, most humans come to a similar conclusion by the time we grow up. Hanging around, squandering our life away, is not a viable option for those who aspire to happiness. Only purposeful action and continued achievement fulfil our psychological need to feel in control of our future.

Irrespective of the field involved, personal initiative is a major element of happiness. It matters little whether you choose to devote yourself to growing your company, writing music, searching for an effective treatment of cancer, or raising your kids to become great human beings. Our rational nature takes pleasure in every achievement. No matter how small our victories, we all love to tell our friends about them.

* AT WORK: when you figure out a way to complete a task quicker than anyone expected.

* AT HOME: when you manage to fix an old appliance that was considered beyond repair.

* IN SPORTS: when you succeed at running faster and score additional points.

* AT INVESTING: when you see the value of your assets go up and feel your strategy vindicated.

* IN YOUR LIFESTYLE: when you achieve simplicity and eliminate waste.

* IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS: when you focus on honesty and creativity

* IN YOUR PHILOSOPHY: when you view life as a flow of actions that can be continuously improved.

Consider that there is a good reason behind the passivity of penguins: although they know how to catch fish, they don't realize that, one day, they are going to die. None of us, however, can hide behind that sort of ignorance. Understanding the link between personal initiative and happiness represents a major step towards a brighter life.


[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 myth of happy passivity and why you should run away from it


Penguins don't care how long it takes them to catch their daily fish quota. Year after year, they go through the same routine, hardly improving anything. Their survival is entirely based on the expectation of zero change. From the 32 million estimated living penguins, none gives a damn about productivity. They don't save for the future and often remain unaware of the existence of predators until it is too late to do anything about it.

Contrary to what is portrayed in cartoons and children books, penguins are neither creative nor funny. This is proven by the fact that tourists going to the Stewart Islands in New Zealand rarely devote more than a couple of hours to watch penguins. "I had never realized that penguins were so passive," Japanese tourists frequently comment. "They just stand there for hours and do nothing."

Practically without exception, tourists return home with the conviction that being a penguin is not really that much fun. Luckily, most humans come to a similar conclusion by the time we grow up. Hanging around, squandering our life away, is not a viable option for those who aspire to happiness. Only purposeful action and continued achievement fulfil our psychological need to feel in control of our future.

Irrespective of the field involved, personal initiative is a major element of happiness. It matters little whether you choose to devote yourself to growing your company, writing music, searching for an effective treatment of cancer, or raising your kids to become great human beings. Our rational nature takes pleasure in every achievement. No matter how small our victories, we all love to tell our friends about them.

* AT WORK: when you figure out a way to complete a task quicker than anyone expected.

* AT HOME: when you manage to fix an old appliance that was considered beyond repair.

* IN SPORTS: when you succeed at running faster and score additional points.

* AT INVESTING: when you see the value of your assets go up and feel your strategy vindicated.

* IN YOUR LIFESTYLE: when you achieve simplicity and eliminate waste.

* IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS: when you focus on honesty and creativity

* IN YOUR PHILOSOPHY: when you view life as a flow of actions that can be continuously improved.

Consider that there is a good reason behind the passivity of penguins: although they know how to catch fish, they don't realize that, one day, they are going to die. None of us, however, can hide behind that sort of ignorance. Understanding the link between personal initiative and happiness represents a major step towards a brighter life.


[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]

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Rational living - How trouble reveals opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Rational living - How trouble reveals opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The best learning tool we have


 If you read books or articles on the subject, you will soon learn about the "principles of successful blogging." Those precepts have been put together by top-ranking bloggers who wish to tell the rest of us what we should and shouldn't do.

Let me save you hours of your precious time. Allow me to tell you the truth and spare you some disappointments. Reality can be hard, but it is still the best learning tool we have. This is the summary of the little knowledge that I have acquired through my own experience in blogging:

1.- NOBODY KNOWS ENOUGH. Few bloggers have been around for long. Can anyone provide insight into what millions of people around the world want to read everyday? Forget about so-called rules and write the sort of content that you love to read yourself. The world is big. There are people like you out there. Let them find you.

2.- IMITATION DOES NOT WORK
. Look at the blogs of so-called experts. Do you really like their content? Would you feel proud if that was your own blog? Discard plans of becoming anyone other than yourself. You are an individual. You are special. Write about what you like. Tell your own stories.

3.- THIS IS A WHOLE NEW GAME. If the rules of successful blogging are well established, why are traditional media unable to conquer the field? How come that they have achieved so poor results? Ask yourself why no traditional writer has become a major blogger. If you read blogs, you already know the answer to these questions. Blogging is still unexplored territory. It is a world of total access and total privacy that has little to do with the past.

4.- BLOGGING IS SHOW BUSINESS. It is a show that takes place on the fringe of reality. It is a business that is still searching for successful patterns. You can enter the field for free and you can be ousted by silence. This is the only form of global entertainment that happens in real time and generates immediate response. It is extreme show business where stars fall quick and hard. If you possess an entrepreneurial spirit, you will find blogging irresistible.

Don't tell yourself that you have misunderstood the rules, since there are hardly any. Don't fear being criticized for doing things your own way, since there are no loyalties you can betray. Blogging is the new land of freedom and tolerance. Bring along the best you have, show others what you can, and become the leader of your own clan.


[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 best learning tool we have


 If you read books or articles on the subject, you will soon learn about the "principles of successful blogging." Those precepts have been put together by top-ranking bloggers who wish to tell the rest of us what we should and shouldn't do.

Let me save you hours of your precious time. Allow me to tell you the truth and spare you some disappointments. Reality can be hard, but it is still the best learning tool we have. This is the summary of the little knowledge that I have acquired through my own experience in blogging:

1.- NOBODY KNOWS ENOUGH. Few bloggers have been around for long. Can anyone provide insight into what millions of people around the world want to read everyday? Forget about so-called rules and write the sort of content that you love to read yourself. The world is big. There are people like you out there. Let them find you.

2.- IMITATION DOES NOT WORK
. Look at the blogs of so-called experts. Do you really like their content? Would you feel proud if that was your own blog? Discard plans of becoming anyone other than yourself. You are an individual. You are special. Write about what you like. Tell your own stories.

3.- THIS IS A WHOLE NEW GAME. If the rules of successful blogging are well established, why are traditional media unable to conquer the field? How come that they have achieved so poor results? Ask yourself why no traditional writer has become a major blogger. If you read blogs, you already know the answer to these questions. Blogging is still unexplored territory. It is a world of total access and total privacy that has little to do with the past.

4.- BLOGGING IS SHOW BUSINESS. It is a show that takes place on the fringe of reality. It is a business that is still searching for successful patterns. You can enter the field for free and you can be ousted by silence. This is the only form of global entertainment that happens in real time and generates immediate response. It is extreme show business where stars fall quick and hard. If you possess an entrepreneurial spirit, you will find blogging irresistible.

Don't tell yourself that you have misunderstood the rules, since there are hardly any. Don't fear being criticized for doing things your own way, since there are no loyalties you can betray. Blogging is the new land of freedom and tolerance. Bring along the best you have, show others what you can, and become the leader of your own clan.


[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]

Friday, 20 April 2012

Have you found the way to exploit your talent commercially?


Everybody has talents waiting to be developed. Education may give you the opportunity to move into your chosen direction provided that you take the right courses. Similarly, the labour market offers many different positions; if you obtain suitable employment, you will learn and thrive; on the other hand, if your job is unchallenging, you will not have much fun.

This principle, which seems so obvious and forceful, is extraordinarily difficult to implement. Most people are aware of the desirability of personal growth, but few individuals manage to exploit their talents to the maximum. Is this phenomenon due to lack of ambition? Would the problem be solved if those persons possessed greater determination?

If acquiring a stronger psychology was the answer, obstacles to personal growth would be easier to overcome. Those who wish to further their career would just need to attend a course on motivation or listen to an audio-book on the subject.

Even if there is no shortage of such courses and audio-books, the results speak for themselves. People's lives are affected for a short period of time, a few days or weeks, before they return to previous patterns.

An intense desire for personal growth does not guarantee a positive result. People fail in such endeavours because they lack any of the three indispensable elements: either they have not identified their specific talents, or they fail to develop them, or they cannot figure out how to exploit them commercially.

Those three factors, if applied consistently, can result in phenomenal accomplishments. In contrast, when any of those three ingredients is missing, little will be achieved. If you do not focus on your best qualities, education will hardly increase your effectiveness. If you labour in the wrong field, you will experience boredom.

Readers who live in the United Kingdom have probably heard of Alexander Cruden (1699-1770). His life provides us a compelling example of the results of adopting brilliant and mistaken strategies for personal development. Like many talented people, Cruden attempted to improve his station in life through personal initiative. However, his well-intended actions did not always produce positive results.

Cruden was born in Scotland and studied in Aberdeen with the goal of becoming a priest. During his training, he acquired a deep command of Greek and Latin, as well as detailed knowledge of the Bible. In his early twenties, while he was preparing himself to be ordained, he fell in love with his professor's daughter, who apparently was already involved with another man.

The problems that ensued blocked Cruden's ordination and forced him to move from Scotland to London in order to find a job. Since he could no longer become a priest, the question was how he could exploit his talents in the best possible manner.

Undoubtedly, Cruden must have experienced his failure to attain ordination as a major shock. His studies in Aberdeen had allowed him to acquire extensive expertise but only in areas that had little application outside the church.

His natural path to personal growth was obstructed and his employment prospects were bleak. If you had been in Alexander Cruden's shoes, what actions would you have undertaken to turn around the situation? Which strategy would you have adopted to exploit your talent? This is what Cruden did:

[1] Stabilize the situation: While he figured out how to make the best of his life, Cruden took a job as a tutor in London, in the house of wealthy family. After a while, he found a position as proof corrector, supervising publications. These jobs allowed him to put some of his knowledge to good use.

[2] Identify the best opportunities to exploit his talent: Eventually, Cruden realized that he would be better off working for himself and began a book-selling business in central London. In parallel, he started to write, hoping to attain recognition and financial success.

Alexander Cruden's plan was impeccable and, given enough time, it would have produced substantial benefits with limited risks. Unfortunately, in addition to adopting the best possible strategy, he also chose, at the same time, to embrace the worst.

For reasons that nowadays are difficult to fathom, Cruden became obsessed with righteousness and language. Single-handedly, he undertook a campaign to protect the morals of England and efface bad spelling from public life. It was a bizarre crusade which, in the eyes of many, made Cruden look quite mad.

When he was in his fifties, Alexander Cruden gave himself the surname "the Corrector" and petitioned the English Parliament to appoint him "Corrector of the Morals of the Nation." Despite Cruden's sustained efforts to convince Members of Parliament to grant him this title, it was all to no avail.

Cruden's fixation with correctness reached such an extreme that, when he went out of his home, he carried a sponge with which he deleted any signs that he found in the street that he considered against good morals, grammar, or spelling. Such attitude led him to conflicts in which he defended his views with emphasis and determination.

His activities as self-appointed public corrector did secure Cruden a place in the list of History's great eccentrics, but contributed little to exploit his talents. Even if the man possessed genius, his obsession with righteousness did not produce a successful outcome.

To his advantage and that of posterity, Cruden simultaneously pursued his writing ambitions. When he was in his mid-thirties, he conceived the idea of a dictionary that would explain every concept in the Bible.

At a time when computers did not yet exist, the scope of such project could have exhausted the resources of any publishing house. Hundreds of words would have to be indexed, definitions would have to be written, quotations revised, and references organized.

The Bible Concordance was a gigantic enterprise, but Alexander Cruden carried it out alone. He did the complete work on his own, from beginning to end, without any help. It took him 12 years to complete the book, which he published himself when he was 38th years old.

The project demanded the very best of Cruden's talents: his knowledge of classical languages and his extensive Bible expertise. The book, which sold slowly in the beginning, became a success after its second edition in 1761. During the last decade of his life, Alexander Cruden was able to enjoy the well-deserved success of his labour.

Since its first publication in 1737, Cruden's Bible Concordance has remained uninterruptedly in print. It has sold a large number of copies around the world and remains a testimony of how much an individual can achieve by following the right strategy.

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

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

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The best way to react to a deteriorating environment


"Men should avoid the distractions of pretence and delusion," wrote German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in the year 1842. "Impossible expectations disconnected from reality always result in disappointment and sorrow."

Learning to see the truth is seldom easy and never without cost, but a sharp vision of the world and a clear mind bring man unlimited rewards. Conformity is a bank from which you can borrow short-term convenience after you have secured repayment by means of a mortgage on your soul.

By willingly ignoring facts, we often place ourselves in a fog of ignorance, increasing our likelihood of making expensive mistakes and creating dangerous inconsistencies in our actions. Consider these five examples:

1.- UNHEALTHY FOOD: Despite being aware of long-term negative effects of some foods, we keep on consuming them in the illusion that, somehow, we alone will be immune to the consequences.

2.- DETERIORATING WORK ENVIRONMENT: We close our eyes to signs of decline in the company we work for, often for years, in order to avoid the nuisance of searching alternative employment or the risk of starting our own business.

3.- WRONG RELATIONSHIPS: We ignore major character flaws and attribute non-existent virtues to someone we find sexually attractive in order to justify an unsustainable choice.

4.- UNRELIABLE FRIENDS: We avoid confronting breach of trust to avoid rocking the boat, preferring to hang around people who do not deserve our friendship instead of making the effort to seek further.

5.- UNSOUND INVESTMENTS: We trust prodigious assurances of reckless money-managers and place our savings at great risk without giving it another thought.

Everybody makes mistakes and, when it comes to learning, there is no substitute for experience. However, if we wish to minimize errors, few habits are as effective as standing still from time to time, questioning aspects that look too good to be true, and checking the consistency of our logic.

"Only an unclouded vision of reality allows man to perceive truth," observed Schopenhauer. "Decisions based on facts render individuals self-supporting, which is the key to happiness." History shows that prejudice and conformity block progress more frequently than ignorance.

All too often, we forget to which extent the acquisition of knowledge is dependent on moral courage. Let us restate at every opportunity our right to discard facts that don't match. Only by allowing reason to thrive will we keep civilization alive.

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

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