Friday, 28 February 2014

The philosophy of psychology. The role of personal initiative. Speed as a synonym for efficiency. The key to self-development and happiness: a rational approach

Aristotle was a great philosopher, but entrepreneurship was one thing that he never managed to understand. In the Nicomachean Ethics, his essay on justice and morality, he views society as a market where human desires are stable, where the demand for each product is constant, and each purchase has a predictable price.

The philosophy of psychology

One does not need to look at the world for long to rate Aristotle's view as highly unrealistic. The truth is that, in the field of work and commerce, prices vary incessantly. New products appear daily on the market. Growing ventures create jobs, while old-fashioned industries are reducing the number of their employees. Trading conditions change, markets move, and money circulates.

Businessmen are conscious of the fact that initiative leads to success. Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of innovation. Economic growth begins with one person making the first move and showing the way. In order to surpass average results, a man has to step out of the routine.

In the world of business, clients and profits are the result of entrepreneurship. A company that has profitable sales can always borrow money. Bankers seldom refuse a loan to businesses that generate positive cash-flow. Personal initiative fuels innovation and drives companies to higher levels of performance.

The role of personal initiative

The situation is not much different in the area of relationships. Friendship and love grow stale without personal initiative. Developing a happy social life requires a certain type of entrepreneurship. This is a factor that cannot be replaced by any amount of wishful thinking.

Unfortunately, the entrepreneurial factor in love and happiness is frequently underrated or denied. Television repeatedly shows stories where success happens by chance. Films love to portray heroes who attain happiness by coincidence without any effort from their side. Those tales are mostly made-up and a wise man should never take them as a fair representation of reality.

Entrepreneurial activity involves shifting resources through time and space. A businessman might, for instance, borrow money at 6% interest in order to invest it for a 10% return. If he does that several times with growing sums of money, chances are that he will become very wealthy.

The example can be applied to the field of relationships. If you wish to enjoy a great social life in the future, you should make the effort to establish new contacts regularly. Even if you just meet one new person per week, sooner or later, you will get to know a few individuals who share your values.

Friendships and love relations can begin in the most unusual circumstances. The key requirement is that individuals should be open to an initial contact. Brief introductions may lead to further interactions that develop into long-term relationships. This is why entrepreneurs are always alert to unexpected opportunities and love to meet new people. You will observe the same attitude in those who enjoy happy social lives.

Speed as a synonym for efficiency

Entrepreneurial minds can be spotted by their extreme impatience at school or during their apprenticeship. They dislike slow motion and are driven towards activities that produce tangible results. They want to lead a life of growing improvement and continuous progress. They view speed as a synonym of efficiency.

Let me encourage you to adopt an entrepreneurial attitude in the area of personal relationships. Everybody has constrains in terms of time and resources, but those limitations should not prevent you from seeking out opportunities to meet new people whom you might find interesting.

Conferences that revolve around your favourite subjects constitute great places for meeting like-minded individuals. In the majority of cases, those initial contacts will not lead to friendship or love and that is precisely the way it should be.

Entrepreneurs are only interested in opportunities that are right for them. They know that, before they can embrace one successful idea, they will have to discard many others that lead nowhere. Possibilities are infinite, but resources are always limited.

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


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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Five ideas to accelerate your personal development. Are you willing to become more tolerant? Are you ready to question things that seem self-evident? Can you focus your efforts on one goal?

You can win big in life by adopting an entrepreneurial mentality. It will allow you to overcome problems that other people find insurmountable, enabling you to detect hidden solutions and opportunities in difficult situations.

Five ideas to accelerate your personal development

How can you train yourself to become more entrepreneurial? Taking risks, staying alert, and being quick at exploiting chance encounters are things that do not come naturally to most of us. Nevertheless, like any other skill, entrepreneurship becomes sharper through practice.

The best approach is simply to make a list of those traits that you wish to acquire and work constantly at improving the quality of your thinking. What characteristics of the entrepreneurial mind can you make yours in order to accelerate your personal development? My list contains five suggestions:

1. Are you willing to become more tolerant?

What does a moral virtue have to do with entrepreneurship? Everything. Intolerance and inflexibility are deadly poisons when it comes to detecting opportunities and taking initiative. Unless you push yourself to tolerate uncertainty and risk beyond normal levels, your mind will never operate on a high entrepreneurial gear.

2. Are you ready to question things that seem self-evident?

Why should you follow traditions that make no sense? Can things be improved? Why do we have to wait in line to purchase certain products or services? Is there a better way? When everything is expensive, try cheap. When everything is cheap, try borrowing. The best opportunities lie always below the surface.

3. Can you focus your efforts on one goal?

There is moral ambition and there is the search of wealth, but other people are embarked in a quest for honour, or simply desire to make the world a better place. Pick your choice and keep it present in your mind. What really counts here is consistency. Random changes in your goals will block your entrepreneurial vision. Confusion generates chaos. Consistency of purpose sharpens the mind.

4. Are you willing to face opposition and criticism?

Ambition is worthless unless it is accompanied by an iron determination to persist, to try again, to stand up and push repeatedly until the wagon moves. Why do different people possess unequal levels of determination? Personal philosophy plays a major role in this. Those who have a stable, rational, and integrated view of the world tend to advance faster on the entrepreneurial road.

5. Can you turn dissatisfaction into constructive action?

Contented souls seldom have the drive that is necessary to challenge the way things are. On many occasions, entrepreneurship is linked to personal dissatisfaction with a product, service, or environment. Annoyance and irritation can fuel the motor of change. A strong wish to turn the present into a better future is the thread line of many entrepreneurial careers.

Make your own list of the traits that you want to develop and place it on a visible place in your kitchen or bathroom. The world of tomorrow is shaped by those who reflect on their life's purpose while cooking and brushing their teeth.


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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The importance of looking before you jump. Do not allow anyone to push you into high-risk situations. You'll go farther with patience than with recklessness. Personal development requires rationality

Delusion is a bad advisor, hardly better than ignorance or convenience. We all love to hear words of praise and encouragement, although the truth would serve us much better. If we face reality with courage, we can spare ourselves countless trouble in the present and costs in the future. A wise man does not place his trust on agreeable lies.

The importance of looking before you jump

Wishful thinking has the capability of short-circuiting logic; beliefs that appeal to vanity should be examined with suspicion. Never accept at face value any idea pleasing to the ear, since it might contain more sugar than substance. Such is the case of the exaggerated qualities that many people attribute to enthusiasm.

Never allow self-reliance to render you blind to facts. When we start a new venture, ambition motivates us to move forward and overcome obstacles. Experienced entrepreneurs know how important it is to pursue opportunities with conviction, but they are also aware of the dangers of ignoring market signals.

Growing consumer demand is a key element of success in any commercial undertaking. If your products or services aim at willing buyers, your business should do well. In contrast, if your efforts are met with indifference, you should consider the possibility that your strategy is mistaken.

Feeling enthusiastic about your venture may help you close some sales, but cannot sustain a company in the long-term. If the demand for your products or services does not exist, your activities will be short-lived.

Do not allow anyone to push you into high-risk situations

Markets are constructed in a such a way that practicality and utility weigh heavier than exuberance. In the end, people buy only what they like. No amount of cheerful advertisements can change the fundamental views of consumers.

Every time that a company has tried to sell what people dislike, it has resulted in financial losses. Enthusiastic projects that are not aimed at the public are dead-end propositions. Before you make commitments to an appealing cause, take a moment to examine if it is sustainable.

The life of musician Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) provides a forceful illustration of this principle. When Antonio was a child, his father, Giovanni Vivaldi, taught him to play the violin and took him around to perform in parties and ceremonies in Venice. Those early contacts with the commercial market for music encouraged Antonio Vivaldi to develop his skills further. By the time he was 20 years old, he had become proficient at several string and wind instruments; from all of them, it was the violin that he played best.

Shortly after his 25th birthday, he obtained an appointment as music teacher at a municipal orphanage in Venice. The job involved teaching children to play the violin, training them to sing in the orphanage choir, and writing compositions for religious ceremonies.

Like most employees, Vivaldi soon realized that his position was not going to make him rich. Nevertheless, it provided him a stable income, a growing reputation as composer and performer, and contacts in the commercial music market that could prove profitable down the road.

Vivaldi's career exemplifies the dark side of exuberant optimism. While other musicians aimed at prologuing their appointments, he took disproportionate risks. His wrong assessment of the market led him to mistakes that wasted the assets that he had accumulated.

When Vivaldi was in his thirties, the orphanage promoted him to musical director in recognition of his excellent performance as teacher and composer. The new position brought him a higher salary and the possibility to devote more energies to commercial music ventures.

You'll go farther with patience than with recklessness

Without neglecting his job at the orphanage, Vivaldi branched out in the field of opera, which at that time constituted the most remunerative genre for composers. Venice possessed several theatres which competed with each other for audience and novelty.

Opera was a commercial market in which each new production could lead to large profits or financial losses. Vivaldi composed several dozen operas with varying success. A few of his pieces earned him substantial profits, while others quickly fell into oblivion. In parallel, his position at the orphanage continued to generate him a regular income.

If Vivaldi had maintained his strategy, he would have become wealthy with limited risk. His double role of musical director and opera entrepreneur enabled him to get the best of both worlds. By devoting his days to sacred music and his evenings to the theatre, he benefited from two complementary incomes and enhanced his reputation. Unfortunately, he became overenthusiastic and abandoned his well-structured life. Instead of maintaining a balance between his two occupations, he began to devote more efforts to the commercial market and seek commissions outside Venice.

During his forties and fifties, Vivaldi travelled frequently in pursuit of better appointments. He performed in Mantua, Milan, Rome, Trieste, Prague, and Vienna. His life became exciting and exhausting, leaving him little time for teaching. Although the commissions were quite lucrative, the money seemed to hardly cover expenditures. Travelling was uncomfortable and expensive. The continuous effort of chasing appointments in distant cities must have made Vivaldi regret his orderly life in Venice. While he was in Vienna trying to secure a new commission, he died in 1741, when he was 64 years old.

Personal development requires rationality

Vivaldi's excessive enthusiasm made him overrate the size and possibilities of the commercial music market. If he had been more realistic, he would have stayed in Venice and built on his assets. With less work and risk, he could have led a comfortable life.

A wise man does his best to avoid the delusion of exuberance. Appealing ventures in restricted markets frequently end in disaster. Never entrust fundamental decisions to your emotions. Growing consumer demand provides an open door to success, while projects sustained only by enthusiasm tend to have a dead-end.


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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Taking the inexpensive approach to an optimal health. A remarkably simple formula that works beautifully. Fresh produce is best, three times a day. Fat is not harmful as long as it is the right type

Studies in different areas of the world have tried to identify the common causes of extraordinary longevity. In Europe and Asia, certain villages, valleys, and islands are home to a large proportion of healthy octogenarians and nonagenarians. This is the case of Sardinia in Italy and Okinawa in Japan.

Taking the inexpensive approach to an optimal health

Medical research has identified the elements in local diet that help residents maintain an excellent health at an advanced age. Some factors, such as landscape and climate, are linked to specific areas; other determinants, those of a more general nature, can contribute positively to human vitality irrespective of geography.

It stands to reason that the driving factors of extraordinary longevity must correspond to those of excellent health. The issue is to identify elements that we can take up in our daily life without incurring disproportionate effort and expense.

Even if we possessed evidence that some exotic herb is the key to excellent health, such knowledge would be of little help to people who cannot afford to purchase that plant on a regular basis. What we need are ideas that are, at the same time, beneficial and workable.

The island of Sardinia, located in the Mediterranean Sea, is a favourite vacation destination for many Europeans. Its weather and landscape, however beautiful and pleasant, are not much different from other locations around the world. This factor alone renders the study of longevity in Sardinia particularly interesting.

Lessons drawn from the diet in Sardinia can be applied in other regions of the globe. This aspect is crucially important, since studies conducted in other areas of the world often link the enviable physical condition of youthful nonagenarians to herbs and plants that are unavailable to the populations of other countries.

A remarkably simple formula that works beautifully

Another remarkable outcome of the research carried out in Sardinia lies in the apparent simplicity of the formula. In contrast, if you have read any modern book on nutrition, you will have noted the extreme complexity of the advice it presents. Page after page are filled with long lists of recommendations and tables showing the specific dosage of each ingredient. Who can remember all that?

Like in business, success in health matters tends to depend on just a few factors. Minute instructions telling salesmen how to close a deal are useless in a commercial environment. Life is too fast for knowledge that cannot be summarized in a small number of consistent principles. The human mind is constructed to reduce knowledge to the essential and forget cumbersome details.

What are the few factors behind the excellent health of the elderly living in Sardinia? The conclusions of the research can be presented in five rules that are logical and easy to remember. These recommendations can be practised inexpensively by individuals in most countries of the world.

Fresh produce is best, three times a day

First, eat fresh food, above all vegetables and fruit: This truth may seem deceptively self-evident. In reality, few people make the effort to select fresh ingredients for their meals. The great majority of packaged food, whether intended for breakfast or dinner, does not contain fresh vegetables or fruit.

If you eat out frequently, you might go a long time without tasting fresh ingredients, except for the occasional salad. Can you figure out alternatives so that you consume more vegetables and fruit? What can you do to reduce your dependence on packaged food?

The reason why few people consume fresh food has to do more with inconvenience than expense. Eating fresh fruit and produce requires frequent visits to the supermarket, to the detriment of more pleasurable activities. Are you willing to make the necessary effort to protect your health?

Second, use olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is consumed widely in Mediterranean countries. Italian, Greek, and Spanish cooking include olive oil as necessary ingredient in many dishes, as well in salads, marinades, and sauces. The use of butter and margarine for cooking is considered an inferior choice for your health.

The retail price of olive oil has diminished in the last decade due to changes in packaging. The traditional dark green glass bottle has been replaced by a hard plastic bottle of the same colour, which seems to preserve the characteristics of olive oil equally well.

If you don't live in a region where olive oil is in abundant supply, you might have to pay a few additional dollars per bottle. All in all, the decision to incorporate extra virgin olive oil in your diet might increase your food budget by a couple of hundred dollars per year, which is a modest investment if you consider the advantages for your health.

Third, consume lemons and oranges: Citrus fruits contain high doses of vitamin C, which reinforces our immune system and helps combat cardiovascular disease. Vitamin C is also known to protect human cells against the accumulation of noxious substances.

Fresh oranges and lemons are available in most regions of the world at reasonable price, depending on the season. Grapefruit, papaya, strawberries, and mango are good substitutes for oranges and lemons.

Amongst the vegetables, vitamin C is also abundant in spinach and broccoli. Irrespective of your place of residence, eating citrus or similar fruits is an affordable habit that you should acquire.

Fat is not harmful as long as it is the right type

Fourth, eat fish often, and lean meat occasionally: The reason behind this recommendation lies in the beneficial type of fat that is present in fish. Fish, in particular oily fish such as mackerel and sardines, is rich in a type of fat known as "omega-3." This element has proven to reduce dangerous cholesterol in human beings.

Fresh fish is a major component of the traditional Greek, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese diets. Unfortunately, this dietary habit has declined in the last decades, leading to an overall deterioration of the health level of the population.

Wild salmon, whose consumption is known to be particularly beneficial, is neither part of the traditional diet of Sardinia nor widely available across the world. Luckily, in most countries, you can find at least one or two types of fish that are affordable. Eating fish is a habit that you can easily take up and which can bring substantial advantages to your health.

Fifth, don't drink alcohol, or if you do, drink a glass of red wine: The red wine produced in Sardinia, in particular the type known as "vino nero" due to its dark colour, contains high doses of poly-phenol. This element, which comes from grape skins, has been proven to have a positive effect on the human cardiovascular system.

The consumption of red wine might explain why extraordinary longevity in Sardinia is mostly a male characteristic. Octogenarian and nonagenarian women are also present in the island, but their number does not reach the unusual proportion of healthy elderly men.

Red wines produced in other countries may contain less poly-phenol, but a moderate consumption should also produce a beneficial outcome for your health unless there are specific reasons that advise against your consuming any alcohol at all. Quality red wine is available around the world at reasonable price and most people love its taste.

If you want to improve your overall health, forget about complicated rules. In the field of business, successful entrepreneurs know that the best results are obtained by concentrating energies on essential areas. Similarly, when it comes to enhancing our vitality, we will be better off if we acquire a few effective and pleasurable habits.


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Friday, 21 February 2014

Exaggerated patience is counter-productive. Do not let your rational expectations remain unfulfilled. Beware of persuasive, smooth talkers. Your determination sets the pace of your personal development

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."

Exaggerated patience is counter-productive

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.

Do not let your rational expectations remain unfulfilled

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.

Beware of persuasive, smooth talkers

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.

Your determination sets the pace of your personal development

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.


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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Why health and philosophy are closely connected. The right combination of elements produces an optimal result. The importance of avoiding excessive physical and mental strain. The large benefits of preventive measures

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

Why health and philosophy are closely connected

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

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

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

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

The right combination of elements produces an optimal result

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

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

The importance of avoiding excessive physical and mental strain

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

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

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

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

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

The large benefits of preventive measures

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

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

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


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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The surprisingly low cost of peace of mind. The most effective method for increasing your self-confidence. Using your creativity to increase your serenity and success. Do you know what it takes to get you want?

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 surprisingly low cost of peace of mind

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.

The goals of increased self-assurance and peace of mind 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 and peace of mind are those that, little by little, realign our thinking patterns according to consistent principles. In addition, those methods possess the advantage of being inexpensive.

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.

The most effective method for increasing your self-confidence

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 and desensitization to danger, 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.

Risk reduction is another method that has proven to be very effective. 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.

Using your creativity to increase your serenity and success

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. This method of increasing your self-confidence and peace of mind is called creative persistence.
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.

Building on existing strengths is another way to attain an increased peace of mind and self-confidence. 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.

Do you know what it takes to get you want?

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, increase our serenity, and prepare us for success on our next attempt. 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.

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.


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Saturday, 15 February 2014

We human beings have entrepreneurship in our genes. The natural tendency to allocate resources efficiently. Wasting efforts and working for nothing is against human nature. The irrepressible capacity for constant 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.

We human beings have entrepreneurship in our genes

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.

The natural tendency to allocate resources efficiently

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.

First, 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.

Second, 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.

Wasting efforts and working for nothing is against human nature

Third, 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.

Fourth, 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.

The irrepressible capacity for constant improvement

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.


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Friday, 14 February 2014

How useless things end up becoming irrelevant. Illogical justifications are good for nothing. A machinery that is too heavy first slows down, then collapses. Which worthless project are you quitting today?

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

How useless things end up becoming irrelevant

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

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

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

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

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

Illogical justifications are good for nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

A machinery that is too heavy first slows down, then collapses

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

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

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

Which worthless project are you quitting today?

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

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

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


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Thursday, 13 February 2014

Doing more with less all over again. Let yourself be driven by your desire to achieve. How to face disastrous losses successfully. Have you ever been told that you have no chance of winning?

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.

Doing more with less all over again

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

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

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

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

While indecisive people move at random, determined individuals walk as fast as they can in their chosen direction. While weak companies spread their resources too thin, strong enterprises concentrate 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.

Let yourself be driven by your desire to achieve

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

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

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

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

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

How to face disastrous losses successfully

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

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

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

Have you ever been told that you have no chance of winning?

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

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

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


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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Personal growth often demands a little bit more, a little bit longer. How to avoid motivational paralysis in case of short-term defeat. Valid principles can withstand even overwhelming adversity

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.

Personal growth often demands a little bit more, a little bit longer

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 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.

How to avoid motivational paralysis in case of short-term defeat

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.

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:

  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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?

Valid principles can withstand even overwhelming adversity

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. 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.

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.


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Monday, 10 February 2014

Beyond trouble, serenity; beyond conflict, peace of mind. Are you paying too much attention to disasters that will never happen? Taking action has the extra advantage of improving your mood

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

Beyond trouble, serenity; beyond conflict, peace of mind

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

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

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

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

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

Are you paying too much attention to disasters that will never happen?

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

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

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

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

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

Taking action has the extra advantage of improving your mood

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

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

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

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

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

Eliminate wasteful activities, make space for what really counts

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

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


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Saturday, 8 February 2014

Learning to love annoyance, irritation, and adversity. High prices are often the harbingers of great opportunities. Do not get discouraged by initial failure. One by one, problems become solvable

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.

Learning to love annoyance, irritation, and adversity

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.

High prices are often the harbingers of great opportunities

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.

Do not get discouraged by initial failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

One by one, problems become solvable

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.


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