Friday, 30 November 2012

Do not let the daily news get you down. Here are 10 reasons for optimism. A wise man focuses his effort on things he can control. There can be no progress without change. Be flexible and use your creativity

Please turn off the radio and TV for a while and let me give you some realistic opinions. Despite all the gloom and doom, there are solid reasons for being optimistic in our times. If we keep our head cool and assess facts objectively, this is what we find:

1.- ECONOMIC RESTRUCTURING IS CREATING WEALTH. As a result of the current crisis, some companies are going bankrupt. In most cases, this means that assets are being taken over by a different management, people with new vision and ambitions. Those companies will stop producing what few want to buy and, instead, focus their efforts on better opportunities. Restructuring can lead to creating new wealth.

2.- MOVING HAS BECOME CHEAPER. It used to be costly to move in order to take a new job, but things are changing. The cost of housing has been reduced in many areas of the world. If you want to move in order to pursue new opportunities, there has never been a better time. Even if you decide to change cities only for a while, you can now rent furnished apartments cheaply in many areas. The cost of moving can hardly prevent anyone from pursuing his dream.

3.- VIOLENCE IS DECREASING. Despite grim news in the media, violence is decreasing around the world. There are still many unresolved problems and dangerous places, but overall, the situation is improving. The reason for this is purely practical: violence is bad for business. Production and commerce get people together. Selling things to each other goes a long a way towards preventing conflict.

4.- MANY ASSETS ARE APPRECIATING. While some businesses and currencies are losing value, other assets are appreciating. Instability creates opportunity. Although it might be uncomfortable and risky, remember that only dead matter is stable. Human beings thrive in change. Look for currencies and assets that are appreciating, invest your savings wisely, and you will be rewarded. Life flows in the direction of opportunity.

5.- TOLERANCE AND GOODWILL ARE INCREASING. There are many different opinions around the world. Some are foolish and unrealistic, but they hardly justify heated debates. Live and let live, people say. Tolerance is carrying the day amongst thinking individuals. As people travel and see the world, tolerance and goodwill increase.

6.- NEW EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES ARE BEING CREATED. If your industry faces a shrinking market, it is painful to lose your job, but try to look at it from a different perspective. Economic changes shift resources from low-profit to high-opportunity areas. The speed of that process shows the health of an economy. There can be no progress without change. Be flexible and use your creativity to adapt to the new situation.

. Inexpensive internet access and mp3 players have cleared the way for low-cost transmission of knowledge in all fields. Lectures that were accessible only in universities, can now be downloaded for free or for little money. For those who wish to learn, opportunity is continuously expanding.

8.- YOU CAN BENEFIT FROM ENORMOUS BARGAINS. For a short while, we are living in an environment of decreasing prices and this is something that we all can profit from. Things that used to be hardly affordable have become cheaper for millions of people around the world.

9.- IMMIGRATION CONTINUES TO CREATE JOBS. Frontiers are opening in many countries and millions of people move every year in search of a better life. Immigration continues to create opportunities for many. A promising future in a new environment. Immigrants bring ambition, knowledge, and tolerance to society. Immigration creates wealth for open economies and its positive effect can be felt in many areas around the world.

10.- LOW-COST COMMUNICATIONS ENHANCE TRANSPARENCY. With television cameras and internet access everywhere, it has become increasingly difficult to be evil. Problems are immediately reported and people take action to improve things. When transparency increases, people become more ethical.

Do not let the daily news get you down. Instead, look at the world with rational optimism. Some currencies are losing value and others are appreciating, but opportunities are being created everywhere. Two thousand years ago, Roman philosopher Epictetus said that a wise man focuses his effort on things he can control. That's something that we should keep in mind everyday.

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


[Image by Paul Stevenson under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The true believer is the one who preaches by example. Adopt a realistic and practical approach. Conflicting values lead to contradictory behaviour. Personal effectiveness depends on patterns

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
by John Vespasian 

In order to improve your life, you don't need to place your hopes on a lottery ticket or wait for the world to grant you the perfect opportunity. There is a better way and it is condensed in the principles of rational living, principles such as “think like an entrepreneur, not like a crusader,” “ignore the noise and focus on results,” “stay away from high-risk situations,” “find people who share your values,” and “develop strong long-term passions.” 

This book presents the principles of rational living in great detail, with numerous examples of people who have applied them successfully. The principles of rational living are sound ideas that can dramatically improve your life. Learn all about them and start applying them today.


1. Think like an entrepreneur, not like a crusader
A recipe for getting ahead in good and bad times
Debating and arguing are a waste of time
The true believer is the one who preaches by example
Entrepreneurs thrive on trouble and inconvenience
Unlike resources, opportunities are infinite

2. Ignore the noise and focus on results
If one road is blocked, take another
How to keep calm when you are surrounded by nonsense
The effective way to handle work overload
Learning from people who never feel discouraged
A proven strategy against career stagnation

3. Live inexpensively and invest for future income
Why the stock market offers the best opportunities
Common traits of great businessmen and investors
What kind of companies should you invest in?
A simple strategy is all you need
Adopt a realistic and practical approach

4. Choose a simple and healthy lifestyle
Don't just eat well, eat wonderfully
What is healthy, tasty, and easy to cook?
How to reduce everyday risks to your health
Eating healthily when you are travelling
Is it possible to slow down ageing?
Why it is so difficult to lead a simple life

5. Find people who share your values
Why you should ignore most of what you hear
The ugly duckling story repeats itself every day
Overcoming the resistance to changing jobs and relocating
Don't be original, be unique
Proven strategies for building great relationships
Would you recognize yourself in the crowd?

6. Listen to your emotions, but check the facts
Beware of exaggerated romantic tales
In dating and cooking, choose natural ingredients
How far are you willing to go for happiness?
Conflicting values lead to contradictory behaviour
The short distance between infatuation and obfuscation
Do not waste your best years pursuing unworkable ideals

7. Accept the inevitable hassles of life
Putting an end to exaggerated fears
Extreme reactions are foolish and wasteful
In praise of caution and circumspection
Can you remain self-confident in times of trouble?
How impatient people become stoic philosophers
Never grant problems more weight than they deserve

8. Stay away from high-risk situations
Death statistics make great bedtime reading
Tranquillity seldom comes cheap
Do not make an obsession of the perfect profession
Three situations that you should avoid like the pest
Every archer needs more than one arrow
The jungle never sleeps

9. Acquire effective habits
An hour has sixty minutes, a day twenty-four hours
In praise of staying behind
How a proactive attitude helps you overcome difficulties
Let go of the dead weight of prejudice
Smooth operators get more out of life
Personal effectiveness depends on patterns

10. Develop strong long-term passions
Comparing yourself with other people makes no sense
Don't drink the poison of contradiction
What heroes are made of
The myths of the single skill and the unique opportunity
Become tolerant of mistakes, since you will make so many
The link between integrity and passion

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
by John Vespasian 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

In times of trouble, doubts tend to spread like wildfire. Adversity prompt us to question our beliefs. Take heart and do not give up. Do not question your good habits during bad times

There is no deeper disappointment in life than seeing your fundamental convictions contradicted by unexpected events. When facts turn upside down what you have believed all your life, disorientation ensues. In those situation, doubts spread like wildfire across your philosophy, leading you to wonder if your other ideas are equally false.

In times of trouble, doubts tend to spread like wildfire

How is it possible that you have been wrong all this time? Have you perhaps misunderstood the teachings of antiquity? Does modern life require giving up all traditions, values, and principles of previous eras? To whom can you turn to seek confirmation, or at the very least, consolation?

Nowadays, millions of people are asking these and similar questions. The last decades have been particularly hard on those who had placed their trust on prudence and loyalty. The issue is whether thrift and careful investment have lost their sense and purpose.

Adversity prompt us to question our beliefs

Adversity and misfortune prompt victims to question their beliefs. The spectacle of great financial losses incurred by conservative businessmen is not edifying. In this context, it is perfectly fair to doubt your convictions. In a world that seems to reward chance rather than constancy, should one remain faithful to ethical rules?

Take heart and do not give up. Current events offer an incomplete picture of the story. Superficial and nonsensical ideas can only enjoy ephemeral popularity. The balance of time will soon regain its accuracy. Rational measurements will be restored.

Short-term defeat is just a temporary disturbance of the universal rule that links cause and effect. The principle of causality alone governs reality. None of us can escape it, ignore it, or contradict it. Correct principles remain uncontested through the ages. Essential ethical guidelines are meant to show us the way especially during difficult periods.

Take heart and do not give up

The law of causality, however, does not prevent connections between facts from working according to their own calendar. Consequences from past events can be wide-ranging. Sometimes, effects are only felt several years after their cause was initiated. The timing of History is seldom designed to fit our linking:

(a) An employee who has worked loyally for a company during several decades loses his job due to the economic recession and finds himself on the street. Was he wrong in devoting so much effort to his work? Instead of performing excellently, should he have done as little as possible in his job?

(b) A middle-aged manager who has been saving laboriously all his life now witnesses a stock market crash that devalues his assets in half. Was he mistaken in trying to secure his retirement? Rather than investing, should he have spent his income on frivolities?

(c) A loving wife who has dedicated her best years to care for his family is suddenly confronted with her husband's infidelity. Was she too naïve in trusting him? Should she become sceptical of truth in human relationships?

(d) A couple who lives frugally for decades in order to pay off their mortgage sees their home damaged by a flood. Instead of saving money every month, should they have spent as much as they earned?

No wonder that people feel overwhelmed

No wonder that people feel overwhelmed, physically and psychologically, when they go through such circumstances. Unmitigated disaster can demolish our most cherished principles together with our hopes, savings, home, possessions, and social and family connections.

In the face of catastrophe, the only way to overcome doubt is to extend our range of vision. The law of cause and effect always works, even though its results may be slower than we wish. Great victories are always won at the margin, through consistent application of fundamental principles. Do not desert your convictions when short-term events turn against them.

No human story is exempt from trouble. This is why, given enough time, a sensible lifestyle always wins. Your long-term investment plans may suffer a setback, but their value shall be restored as soon as economic conditions return to normality. Your job may be lost in the business disruption caused by a recession, but you were right in trying to perform your best every day.

Do not question your good habits during bad times

Do not question your good habits during bad times. Remain calm in the face of adversity and reaffirm your rational values. Recovery might be around the corner. Now it is no time to throw away your virtues. Learn to look beyond present disaster and figure out how to regain ground.

During a crisis, the best traits of your character become even more valuable. Honesty, frugality, and productivity ensure that you will be able to seize the next opportunity to get back on your feet. Stay alert and do not grow discouraged. Great victories are always won precisely at the moment when everything seems lost.

Great victories are always won at the margin

Linear thinking, so natural to our minds, is rarely accurate in seizing facts. Reality does not change at a steady pace. Prosperity seldom arrives at the moment we expect it. Success is the outcome of relentless, focused action carried out through the years.

Great victories are always won at the margin, by hanging on a little longer, by making an extra sale, and by saving an extra dollar. Virtues such as productivity and frugality allow us to enjoy life more intensely because they establish a permanent link between present desires and foreseeable rewards.

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


[Image by Stefano Mazzone under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Culture and fashion call for conformity. Do you want to fill your years with happiness or with souvenirs? Individuality can only draw meaning from thoughtfulness. Happiness calls for a stable purpose

Culture and fashion call for conformity. Relinquishing individual thinking and embracing a standard lifestyle bring enormous advantages. They save you time when it comes to taking decisions. They spare you embarrassment when it comes to disguising the truth.

Do you want to fill your years with happiness or with souvenirs?

The opposite side is filled by non-conformity, which is just a different sort of style. Holidays are not spent on the beach, but practising dangerous sports. Hobbies do not include watching movies, but wandering in the tropical forest. Clothes, instead of well-fitting and colourful, are torn and monochrome.

You can choose either way to fill your years, not with happiness, but with souvenirs. Imitating someone else's pictures is not the way to create great paintings. Adopting values that make no sense will not move you forward nor render your feelings more intense. Downtrodden tracks lead to dejected spirits. For sure, that is not a path you want to take.

There is an alternative, the same that has always worked. You don't need to spend your days wondering which fashion leads to less dismay. Wisdom does not entail rejecting principles that are preached, but comparing them with reason, and selecting those that work.

Individuality can only draw meaning from thoughtfulness

Sound choices are the result of man's logical evaluation of the world. Before we start to compose our own song, we must allow our mind to filter out random noise. These are my three suggestions about how to move from inherited values to consistency with reality:

1. Stop believing in myths

Neither specific clothes, nor gadgets, nor locations lead to happiness. The majority might bestow moral credibility to arbitrary standards, but you are not obliged to buy in. The idea that things have to be done in one specific way is, more often than not, false. Shun rigidity and look around for original answers.

2. Abandon contradictory goals

Irrationality is synonymous with inconsistency. False ideas conflict with facts and with each other. Anxiety is the mark of those who move at random, without destination. Animals do not need perspective, but humans do. Drop ideas that do not make sense and rebuild your thinking structure.

3. Determine your direction

Universal principles can be distilled from observation, but each has a myriad of different applications. The law of cause and effect drives all existence, but your context is unique. No one can tell you how to lead your life best. Let your reason establish your ambitions and priorities.

Happiness calls for a stable purpose

Realize that the short-term contentment of imitation adds little worth to your experience and much expense to you detriment. Shrug your shoulders at unrealistic advice and ignore insincere invitations. Happiness calls for a stable purpose and continuous action. Choose the way of reason.

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


[Image by kiwinz under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Self-confidence arises from preparedness. Train yourself to face nonsense calmly. Entrepreneurship is the opposite of resignation. The advantage of turbulent times. Achieving happiness in a chaotic world

Rationality is the way to happiness
by John Vespasian

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

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

Table of Contents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rationality is the way to happiness
by John Vespasian

Monday, 19 November 2012

Five proven methods to increase your self-confidence and self-reliance. Desensitization to danger. Risk reduction. Creative persistence. Building on existing strengths. Working by numbers

Prosperity and happiness seem to be directly proportional to self-confidence. Individuals with initiative and persistence tend to achieve more than others who, despite possessing larger resources, behave timidly and confusedly.

The methods that work are those that encourage you to use your creativity

Childhood experience plays an important role in building a strong personality, but nobody can do anything to change the past. If you wish to increase your level of self-reliance, you are going to have to use your creativity and take action in the present.

Methods that recommend repeating encouraging phrases to yourself seldom produce lasting effects. Monotonous messages, whether positive or negative, dull the mind. Such practices result in boredom, not in a dynamic personality. The systems that work are those that involve our mind and emotions at the same time.

A better future must entail a consolidation of past gains

 The goal of increased self-assurance should not be pursued for the needs of the moment, but for permanent improvements in our lives. Changes in our fundamental psychological patterns have little worth if they cannot be stabilized and maintained.

A better future must entail a consolidation of any gains in self-reliance that we may be able to attain. A man cannot become self-confident just for a single day. An isolated incident that provokes major psychological changes contradicts human nature, although it may provide an interesting story for a film.

The main drivers of our personality are incredibly stable. Even minor changes require tremendous effort or sustained external pressure. The only methods that can effectively increase our self-confidence are those that, little by little, realign our thinking patterns according to consistent principles.

These five methods have been repeatedly proven correct by experience

The five practices that, in my own experience, have proven to work well are the following: desensitization to danger, risk reduction, creative persistence, building on existing strengths, and working by numbers. Many people instinctively use some of these methods at one time or other. Results can be greatly enhanced by applying them in a conscious and regular manner.

1. Desensitization to danger

Once you acknowledge that you live in fear of a specific threat, you must decide if you want to invest time to overcome paralysis and anxiety. The answer to this question is far from self-evident, since thousands of individuals accept timidity as a way of life. Becoming more assertive and adventurous is best achieved by taking small steps. Worry is vanquished by means realism, not by self-delusion.

A progressive loss of sensitivity to danger is the basis of learning to ride a bicycle. At the beginning, you move slowly and hesitatingly. With practice, your body begins to take control by realizing that the situation is much less dangerous than it feels. Desensitization through successive steps is the ideal method to increase self-confidence in situations that allow progressive exposure.

2. Risk reduction

Although History shows the many advantages of stock market investments, millions of people are terrorized of the idea of placing their savings at risk. Purchasing shares of a corporation is viewed as a disproportionate exposure to chance.

Acquiring knowledge about economics can help you assess the benefits of investing in the stock market. However, it will seldom push to you take the decisive step to overcome your fears. In cases where the problem is to cross the line for the first time, risk reduction proves a more powerful tactic than accumulating theoretical knowledge.

The first-time investor should simply ignore his fears, open a brokerage account, and make a small purchase of some conservative securities. During the following weeks, he might tend to check the price of his stock ten times a day, but as time goes by, the neophyte investor will get comfortable with the level of risk and be willing to purchase shares of other corporations.

3. Creative persistence

Our self-reliance increases when our accomplishments place us on a higher plateau of performance and satisfaction. Creative persistence demands constant exertion of effort and economy of energy. Our purpose is not to repeat unsuccessful attempts, but to assess failure, introduce variations in our approach, and progressively improve the outcome and reward.

Intelligent perseverance allows us to maintain our overall goal but modify our strategy as needed. A wise man asks himself incessantly how he can do things faster, better, and less expensively. Keep your long-term objectives, but show flexibility in your means and time schedule. Your self-confidence will increase at the same speed as your attempts generate better results.

4. Building on existing strengths

High achievers seldom possess a well-rounded personality. A person who is able to perform equally well on all areas is a rarity. An even character that is perfectly balanced in all facets should not be elevated to a psychological ideal.

Due to varying background and talents, individuals tend to excel on a few aspects, perform acceptably on many others, and prove deficient in some. If you wish to become more self-reliant, you should concentrate on developing your strengths instead of worrying about your weaknesses.

5. Working by numbers

People who have low regard for themselves often expect too much. A man who demands to succeed in every endeavour should be viewed, with good reason, as wildly unrealistic. Such hard-headed attitudes produce high performance anxiety.

Facts and numbers provide us with the necessary perspective to deal with failure. A candidate who is rejected at a job interview might become needlessly enraged or depressed if he contemplates the event as a major injustice that has the potential to damage his career permanently.

In contrast, individuals searching for employment who are aware of the statistical odds against them tend to be more relaxed and resilient. If you acquire a realistic view of the amount of effort that you have to exert in order to find a good job, your temporary lack of success will not diminish your self-reliance.

During an economic downturn, there can be easily two dozen applicants for each worthy vacant position. Working by numbers means realizing that you might need two dozen interviews in order to get a desirable job. Internalizing that knowledge is bound to increase your serenity and render you more effective.

Choose a method, implement it, and enjoy the benefits 

Attaining stability on a higher level of personal effectiveness is the common purpose of the above systems to increase self-reliance. Take some time to decide which method you are going to use, make a decision, and carry out your plan. After you have followed the selected strategy for a few weeks, you will acquire better patterns of thought and become more self-reliant.

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


[Image by corrieb under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

The best 10 blogs about how to be rational. Stop fighting and learn to deal with difficult people. Keep your peace of mind in all circumstances. Self-improvement techniques

  • The best blogs about personal development
  • How to be rational
  • Self-improvement techniques
  • Where do you find love?
  • Overcoming obstacles, mistakes, and failure
  • Stop worrying and increase your self-confidence
  • Develop your critical thinking skills
  • Keep your peace of mind in all circumstances
  • How to communicate effectively
  • Stop fighting and learn to deal with difficult people
  • Advice on relationships
  • How to cure anxiety and depression
  • Finding peace of mind through personal growth
  • Self-help techniques that work
  • How do you find happiness?
  • Psychology and philosophy blogs
  • The effective cure for stress
  • Blogs about goal setting
  • How to make your personal development plan
The best 10 blogs about how to be rational
  1. John Vespasian
  2. The Albert Ellis Institute
  3. Dr. Hurd - Tools for Rational Living
  4. Dr. Aldo R. Pucci - Rational Thinking Score
  5. The Lazaroff Center
  6. Living Rationally
  7. Rational Philosophy
  8. Center for Rational Living
  9. Rational Living Therapy Institute
  10. National Association of Cognitive Behavioural Therapists

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Why you should pay some attention to the research about apes, but not too much. Ape enthusiasts tend to get carried away in their conclusions. Human beings are infinitely superior due to the human capacity for self-improvement

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.

Ape enthusiasts tend to get carried away in their conclusions

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.

Humans share 4 characteristics with apes, but humans perform infinitely better in all of them

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. The ability to allocate 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. The fact that every individual is unique

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. A tendency to avoid 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. The ability to adopt self-protection measures

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.

Human beings are infinitely superior due to the human capacity for self-improvement

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.

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


[Image by broma under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Saturday, 17 November 2012

FREE E-BOOK: How to be rational. Self-development in difficult circumstances. Overcoming barriers to personal growth. Stress management

  • How to be rational
  • Psychological resilience despite problems and obstacles
  • Stop worrying
  • How to get self-confidence
  • Overcoming barriers to personal growth
  • How to deal with difficult people
  • Stress management
  • How to build your self-esteem
  • Overcoming anxiety
  • Self-development in difficult circumstances
  • How to find peace of mind
A presentation of The 10 Principles of Rational Living: Free e-book about how to be rational

Friday, 16 November 2012

During periods of stress, take extra time to rest. Persistence cannot be purchased with money. The final goal makes all the difference. First entrepreneurial attempts often end catastrophically, so what?

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

In times of stress, take extra time to rest

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

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

Persistence cannot be purchased with money

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

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

The final goal makes all the difference

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

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

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

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

First entrepreneurial attempts often end catastrophically, so what?

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

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

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

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

It takes time until ambitions are rekindled

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

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

Eventually, entrepreneurs make a new plan and start again

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

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

More often than not, consistency and persistence win the day

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

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


[Image by stockerre under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The philosophy of builders. How to overcome pessimism and discouragement. Stay out of hopeless ventures. Start new projects with minimum resources. Focus on real opportunities

The Philosophy of Builders
by John Vespasian 

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

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

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


1. Achieve basic stability
Never underestimate what one man alone can do
Establish the foundation of long-term achievement
Attack problems one by one
Do not allow vanity to paralyse you
Pay attention to danger signals
Build on existing strengths
Learn to view problems in perspective
Wait only the strictly necessary

2. Overcome pessimism and discouragement
Assess risks rationally, not emotionally
Quantify what you can expect
Passive acceptance is not the way to go
Dispute negative thinking patterns
Embrace a philosophy that leads to happiness
Avoid inconsistent decisions
Read inspiring authors

3. Walk the path of least resistance
Discard unworkable plans
Use realism to avoid waste
Look at what people are actually buying
Adopt a lifestyle that suits your temperament
Use long-term goals to determine your direction
Stay out of hopeless ventures
Avoid relativism and scepticism
Find an outlet for your talents

4. Take measures to prevent problems
Be prepared to face misfortune
Concentrate on crucial factors
Pay attention only to quality information
Identify potential threats
Look for simple prescriptions
Protect yourself effectively
Increase your resilience against adversity

5. Simplify your life and reduce your costs
Don't fall in the trap of short-term thinking
Enjoy the benefits of the immigrant mentality
When should you be willing to overpay?
Choose inexpensive alternatives
You can learn the basics quickly
Being healthier by consuming less
The solution to stress: simplification

6. Start new projects with minimum resources
Gather support as you go
The danger of getting stuck in abstractions
Avoid inaccessible markets
Do not be intimidated by other people's achievements
Most barriers are psychological
Small but regular steps often lead to success

7. Focus on real opportunities
Select a low-risk approach
You can profit from troubled times
How to identify promising ideas
Should you worry about the state of the economy?
Use low-cost marketing techniques
Redefine what is essential
Value creation begins with observation

8. Adopt productivity as a way of life
Do not assign excessive weight to mistakes
In case of doubt, opt for a logical explanation
Steady work is preferable to occasional jobs
Choose stories that promote achievement
A change of speed might be all you need
Work only on one major project at a time
Let go of linear expectations
Never entrust your future to chance
Keep flexible and alert

9. Take relentless action
Fill your days with worthy activities
Experiment to find out what works
Adopt effective routines
In crucial matters, do not leave anything untried
Continuous action breeds opportunities
Rewrite your personal history
Can you turn adversity into an asset?
Action is the best way to overcome obstacles

The Philosophy of Builders
by John Vespasian

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

How the tide will turn for you. A crash course in personal development. Why we tend to exaggerate obstacles and problems. Personal growth in the face of major obstacles. Life is less complicated than it seems

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

The 1000 factors that are keeping you down

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

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

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

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

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

Why discouragement is the wrong response

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

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

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

Obstacles can be circumvented and solutions invented

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

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

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

Too many people give up their goals unnecessarily

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

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

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

How freshness and authenticity generate hope

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

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

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

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

More often than not, a path to happiness can be found

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

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

Life is less complicated than it seems

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

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

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


[Image by ingridtayler under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Why I remain optimistic despite the challenges ahead. Rational living applied to personal finance. What I am investing in right now. My favourite stocks in the stock market today

The levels of public debt vis-a-vis the Gross Domestic Product are worrying many investors. The public debt estimates of the International Monetary Fund released in April 2012 show the percentage per country. Investors are looking at the future, wondering what the consequences will be in the short- and mid-term for the world economy and for their personal investment portfolio.

If the public debt is paid out, at least in part, by creating new currency, inflation is the most likely result, followed by an increase in interest rates. We can find a good recent example of inflation if we look at the historical data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data show that inflation rose considerably at the end of the nineteen seventies and early eighties.

The Consumer Price Index in the US went up 7.62% in 1978, 11.22% in 1979, and finally peaked at 13.58% in 1980. Then year-to-year inflation diminished to 10.35% in 1981, 6.16% in 1982 and returned to a normal level of 3.22% in the year 1983. In parallel, the US Federal Funds Rate peaked in the same period, going above a 19% interest rate in the period December 1980 to January 1981.

Many investors fear that if we see such high interest rates in the near future, the effects will be very negative for stocks. Such fear is prompting many people to purchase gold, whose price has been sharply rising during the last two years from USD 1.400 per ounce in 2011 to the current USD 1730 per ounce.

At first sight, it is logical to expect a high interest rate to be negative for stocks, since companies will have to pay higher borrowing costs which would reduce their profitability. The risks of high inflation and the ensuing high interest rates make many investors feel pessimistic about the future, but are those negative expectations supported by historical facts?

Short-term fears can be overcome by taking a long-term view

The reason why I remain optimistic about stocks, despite the risks of high inflation and high interest rates, is because we have already gone through a similar situation at the end of the nineteen seventies and early eighties, and the final outcome was very positive for stocks. All you need to do to convince yourself is to take a look at the historical chart of the Standard and Poor's 500 Index.

Indeed, the rise in interest rates at the end of the nineteen seventies and early eighties caused a short-term decline in stocks (around 9% in the US and around 13% worldwide), but stock prices quickly rebounded afterwards and escalated to new heights in the following years. If you contemplate the S&P 500 Index chart from close, it shows a bumpy ride from 120 points downwards to 100 and then upwards to 140 in the period 1980-1982, but if you take a step back and look at the chart from a long-term perspective, the bumpy ride is almost imperceptible.

The current market continues to offer interesting opportunities for investors

When you look at today's situation from a historical perspective, you can easily see that it is not that different from what happened at the end of the nineteen seventies and early eighties. The historical data from the Standard and Poor's 500 Index give us good reasons to remain optimistic about stocks in the mid- and long-term. The historical market data show the likelihood of a short-lived 10% correction, but as a long-term investor, I am willing to take the risk of a bumpy ride in the next years.

In this context, these are some of my current ideas for my own share portfolio, with a strong preference for companies that pay regular dividends and that do not carry unsustainable debts in their balance sheet should interest rates go up to 19%. I also like companies with a well-established international presence, so that their profit and loss account can balance out the impact of inflation in different currencies.

Astra Zeneca AZN

The current price of the American Depositary Receipt of Astra Zeneca is USD 45.44, which gives a price-earnings ratio of 9.5. This major pharmaceutical company is well diversified internationally. Its headquarters are located in London, United Kingdom, and it has an operational presence in 100 countries. Astra Zeneca has a total of 57.000 employees, from which 13.000 are based in the Asia-Pacific region.

The wide international diversification means that, even if the USD lost value vis-a-vis other currencies due to inflation in the US, the currency depreciation would only affect 40% of the revenue of Astra Zeneca. The company's research and development efforts (USD 4 billion annually) are also spread in eight different countries.

Astra Zeneca's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Pascal Soriot, has released the company's latest quarterly results on 25 October 2012. Analysts estimate the company's earnings for the year 2012 to be between USD 6.00 to USD 6.30 per share, which gives a price-earnings ratio of 7.5 at the current share price. Astra Zeneca's major sales initiative at this time is the promotion of the Amylin diabetes treatment in the United States. The current yield of the shares is above 6%.

Wells Fargo WFC

The current price of the Wells Fargo shares is USD 32.35. As the fiscal cliff approaches in the United States, some investors may panic and dump indiscriminately all their bank stocks. This would be a great time to buy shares of Wells Fargo, which are currently yielding 2.6%. Wells Fargo data from the third quarter of 2012 show the company's net income rising to USD 4.9 billion, which represents a rise of 22% compared with the third quarter of the year 2011.

The earnings per share of Wells Fargo have been growing consistently during the last 11 quarters, climbing from USD 0.82 in the second quarter of 2012 to USD 0.88 in the third quarter. As a result, analysts are expecting Wells Fargo to end the year 2012 with earnings per share around USD 3.30. At the current share price, this gives a price-earnings ratio just under 10.

Ericsson ERIC

Ericsson is a Swedish electronics company with a strong international presence. It has more than 100.000 employees and operates in 180 countries. The company's American Depositary Shares are currently priced at USD 8.79, and this gives a price-earnings ratio of 15. Ericsson employs 22.000 people in its research and development activities, and owns 30.000 patents.

The company's results from the third quarter 2012 that have been reported by its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Hans Vestberg, show a decrease in sales of -2% compared the third quarter of 2011, but this overall decrease includes a sharp increase of 19% in the sales of Ericsson's Global Services Division. The company also reported a decrease of -7.7% in its operational expenses.

In a press release made public on November 7, Ericsson has announced its plan to cut 1.550 jobs in its central operations in Sweden in order to increase the company's profitability. Ericsson's balance sheet shows a ratio of 0.3 when you compare the debts to the shareholders' equity. For the year 2012, analysts estimate that the earnings per share will be between USD 0.62 and USD 0.70. At the current share price, Ericsson generates a yield of 2.7%.

Halliburton HAL

After the general market descent in the last days, Halliburton shares are currently priced at USD 30.56. Analysts are expecting Halliburton's 2012 earnings per share to be between USD 3.00 and USD 3.10, which gives a price-earnings ratio under 11 at today's share price. Halliburton's financial report for the third quarter 2012 shows earnings of USD 0.67 for the quarter.

The company has 70.000 employees and operates in 80 countries. The third quarter report of 2012 shows an increase of 8% of the revenue generated in Latin America, coming mainly from the good operational performance in Mexico and Brazil. In the region Middle East and Asia, Halliburton also reported a sales growth of 9%, coming primarily from the operations in Malaysia, Australia, and Iraq.

Halliburton's shares remain relatively cheap due to the fact that the company's net margin is only at 10% compared to the healthier 12% achieved by its direct competitor Schlumberger SLB. Halliburton has a solid balance sheet with a debt-equity ratio of 0.4 and, at the current share price, it generates a yield of 1.7%.

MSCI Turkey Investable Market Index Fund TUR

While the economy in many advanced industrialized countries is hardly growing, Turkish economic growth, as reported by the Wall Street Journal on September 10, 2012, remains at 2.9% for the third quarter of 2012. This represents a slowdown vis-a-vis previous predictions, but analysts still forecast the economic growth in Turkey to be above 3% for the whole of 2012.

This Exchange Trade Fund holds shares of most of the companies that make the Turkish stock market index. As a result, the ETF is heavily loaded with banks (about 50%), followed by consumer-products companies (around 13%) and industrial manufacturers (about 15%). 

During the last days, the price of this ETF has gone down with the rest of the market. This ETF generates a yield of 1.8%. You can also invest in Turkey by purchasing the American Depositary Shares of Turkcell TKC, but as a private investor, you may find difficult to buy shares of other companies in the Turkish stock market.

In terms of disclosure, readers should take into account that either I already own shares of these companies or that I am currently considering to add them to my investment portfolio. Before making any investment decision, readers should make their own research and check thoroughly several independent sources.

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


[Image by rasmithuk under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Monday, 12 November 2012

Goodbye to the medieval mentality. Living in the era of unlimited opportunities for entrepreneurs. The barriers to self-improvement are mostly psychological

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

Say goodbye to the medieval mentality

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

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

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

Living in the era of unlimited opportunities for entrepreneurs

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

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

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

The barriers to self-improvement are mostly psychological

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

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

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

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

aving some money is often the first step to a better life

Usually, saving some money is going to be the first step for making improvements in your life. You are going to have to let go of your impulse to spend money today and focus instead on the opportunities down the road. Time will reward your efforts if you define your objectives and carry out a plan to attain them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your claim to a better future

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

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


[Image by kimdokhac under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]