Thursday, 31 July 2014

Get out of dead-end projects now. Personal development begins when you discard unworkable ventures. Do fewer things and live more effectively

Few things in life are as difficult as acknowledging mistakes, in particular those that we have made out of conviction. Choosing an unsuitable profession or marrying the wrong person generate a myriad of negative consequences. Many who suffer from those situations hang to their errors with unshakable determination.

It is easy to identify dead-end projects

Why do we feel such a strong urge to deny our mistakes? Why do we often devote efforts to looking for excuses rather than solutions? Refurbishing a building with structural problems is pure waste; even if you paint the ceiling and plaster the walls, problems will remain and continue to grow.

In retrospect, it is easy to identify dead-end projects. If we look back at Alexander the Great, we can see that his dream of conquering the world was a foolish adventure. Similarly, if we look back at the Byzantine Empire, we can see how the erosion of principles ruined its legal system.

On the other hand, acknowledging that a beloved current activity may be a dead-end project is a whole different question. Human beings seldom stop detrimental actions even when errors become apparent; instead, we come up with a hundred reasons in favour of continuing what is manifestly unworkable. We do not want to lose face by admitting that we have made a mistake.

Sustainability marks the difference 


The long-term view marks the difference between difficult undertakings and dead-end enterprises. A feasible plan leads to a better future; a hopeless proposition, to endless nightmares. High-quality service leads to satisfied customers; wasteful chaos, to regrets. Learning valuable skills leads to increased productivity; senseless memorizing, to unbearable boredom.

Although there is no foolproof formula for identifying dead-end projects, experience provides us with effective guidelines. The sooner we recognize a losing pattern, the faster we can correct it or escape it. The following eight questions can help establish if a project is worth pursuing or not.


1. Does it create assets or liabilities?

Valuable undertakings provide the foundation for a better future; detrimental activities destroy resources. The worst sort of ventures are those that create permanent liabilities. Never embark yourself on an enterprise that requires you to make disproportionate commitments.

2. Does it involve dealing with nice or unpleasant people?


Dead-end projects attract bitter persons who relish in sharing their misery. Enterprises that possess a culture of aggressiveness hire workers who are nasty and mean. Those environments are not conductive to success; seek out kind people and do your best to avoid the rest.

2. Is the project inspired by reason or by prejudice? 


Rigid preconceptions constitute a disadvantage in the age of globalisation and internet. Prejudice cannot provide a sound basis for cooperation and friendship. Avoid projects based on cultural bias; instead, choose activities inspired by reason.
 

3. Does it develop valuable skills or is it just a hobby? 

The best games make us acquire useful habits and think for ourselves; similarly, the best sports improve our overall physical condition. In contrast, dead-end activities have restrained scopes with no wider application; they are doomed to remain hobbies forever.
 

5. Does it have a local or an international focus? 

Minority languages, despite their many charms, cannot match the array of possibilities offered by English, Spanish, French, and German. Projects with strict local focus provide few opportunities for growth and learning. Activities with a global view allow participants to meet many interesting people.

6. Does it revolve around production or consumption? 


Activities that consume a massive amount of resources cannot be carried out for long. If you work in the field of development, choose projects aimed at building up productive skills in the local population. The purpose of sustainable development is to provide individuals with know-how so that they can generate a steady income for themselves.

7. Does it create a feeling of adventure or routine? 


The best enterprises possess high goals that motivate participants to perform everyday activities that often are unchallenging or boring. Inspiration transforms routine into adventure. Undertakings that do not provide an ennobling vision of the future will rarely be worth your time.

8. Does it encourage growth or simply tries to prevent decay? 


History changes markets and fashions; the clock cannot be turned back. Worthy activities follow current trends and attract new customers; in contrast, unworkable projects attempt to maintain dying traditions; they have already lost the race against time.

Stop wasting time on dead-end projects


As soon as you identify a losing pattern, discard rationalisations and analyse your motivation. Shun activities that keep you running in circles; instead, seek out opportunities for growth and learning; choose projects that enhance productiveness, cooperation, kindness, and friendship.

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

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

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

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Thinking and focusing are not automatic. Lack of progress is frequently due to shifting convictions. Why it is crucially important to reaffirm essential truths

Contrary to trains, cars can change direction at the driver's will. Along the highway, billboards invite us to stop by and visit all sorts of tourist attractions. On the car radio, advertisers present us their wares, some useful and convenient, others pricey and counter-productive.

Thinking and focusing are not automatic

Distractions are many and increase by the hour. The longer the trip, the harder it becomes to keep the vehicle on the right track. If you carry passengers in your car, they will express their views about what you are trying to do. "Turn around and return," you will be told, "stop and let it go."

Our environment offers us support at the same time that it places obstacles in our path. Physical barriers are visible and material problems can be directly faced. If you experience hunger or extreme discomfort, your attention will seldom be deviated from the issue at hand. Pressing needs demand immediate action.


Lack of progress is frequently due to shifting convictions


Stonewalls will seldom prevent your progress, since they can circumvented. Nor the price of gasoline, food, and lodging. Your delays will be caused more often by doubts than by certainties. Your lack of progress will be more frequently due to shifting convictions than to insufficient means.

Thinking is not automatic. Observing reality and reaching correct conclusions requires effort. Focusing your mind on what is relevant involves selecting and discarding. Establishing goals and taking consistent action demands concentration. No one but yourself is going to ensure that your current concerns are aligned with your long-term interests.

Unless you remind yourself daily of your priorities, chances are that you will spend your time dealing with the latest emergency, only to discover later, that the problem was inconsequential. Noise distorts music in the same way that fashion distorts principles. Not by contesting them, but by making them inaudible and invisible.


Why it is crucially important to reaffirm essential truths

The reason why men read old philosophers is not to learn about the latest scandal, but to reaffirm essential truths. The news of the hour may entertain your attention and satisfy your curiosity. Novelties might provide you subjects for small talk with strangers, but superficiality leads to anxiety.

Foolishness arises not so much out of ignorance, but out of the willingness to obliterate what we already know to be true. Balance and motivation require sharpness of intent. Unless you find a way to restate your goals every day, nonsense will contaminate reason and your determination will wane.

Personal objectives are meaningless if plans are not implemented. Relentless activity ensues from self-confidence, not from self-effacement. You need to find the manner to keep your purpose in view and your understanding fresh. Restate truth at every turn the road and ignore signs that tell you to stall.
 

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living 
 
[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

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

Monday, 28 July 2014

Why hedonism and stoicism don't work. Rationality is the basis of correct decisions. The key to sustained personal growth. Empty pursuits cannot still the hunger for happiness. The critical importance of lifetime goals

Traditional behaviour models are crumbling in our midst. Old morality is taking the blame for current problems, although often through spurious argumentation. Never mind. Ethical decay has reached such an extent that many parents have given up all attempts to provide moral guidelines to their offspring. 

Rationality is the basis of correct decisions

Where are we headed? Should we conclude that principles are relative? That happiness is unattainable through individual action? That success is more dependent on luck than on personal effort? To answer these questions, we must point out the connection between personal effectiveness and happiness.

Rationality establishes the basis for making productive decisions and developing valuable skills. Even in an unfavourable environment, individuals who possess strong values and motivation grow more effective with each passing day. Principles are not luxuries, but practical tools that enable progress and achievement.

Logic and consistency are the keys to quick learning and rapid implementation. A well-organized mind absorbs information more effectively than a mind affected by anxiety. Ethical certainty nourishes psychological stability and personal productivity.


The key to sustained personal growth

Sustained personal growth relies on universal ethical principles. Virtues such as openness, tolerance, and honesty render individuals efficient and self-confident. Prosperity and happiness result from consistent action in pursuit of sensible goals. Nobody can predict the future accurately, but no matter how difficult the situation becomes, rational individuals will do better than average.

There is too much noise in the world and too many offers compete for our attention. We cannot accept every proposal that promises to improve our condition. Focusing our efforts on becoming more effective is a simple way to increase our chances of leading a more satisfying life.

New fashions that entertain your spirit for a while will distract you from important matters. We all want to experience the fresh before it becomes stale, but do you want to waste your days chasing the latest novelty? Leading a chaotic life is self-destructing. Without focus and personal effectiveness, there can be no real happiness.
 

Empty pursuits cannot still the hunger for happiness

Overcharging our agendas and accelerating our life is the equivalent of a sugar-coated sedation. The pursuit of faster results makes no sense if those are irrelevant to our long-term goals. Actions that contradict our plans and ambitions rarely produce beneficial consequences.

Empty pursuits cannot still human hunger for happiness. Leading a meaningful life requires consistent ethical values, long-term plans, and effective implementation. The link between personal effectiveness and happiness cannot be denied.

The life of the Ancient Roman writer Titus Livius (59 BC-17 AD) provides a good illustration of this point. When Titus Livius turned thirty-five, he looked back at his life and realized that he had not accomplished much. Like many Romans of good family, he had enjoyed a solid education, read widely, done some travelling, and also a little writing.

He had tried his hand intermittently at everything and achieved pretty much nothing. Since his life lacked purpose and ambition, Titus Livius felt ineffective and unhappy. He asked himself if he should continue living in the same way. Was there something that he could do to give meaning to his days?

Why hedonism and stoicism don't work


The prevalent philosophies in Ancient Rome, stoicism and hedonism, did not provide an answer to his questions. Hedonism encourages man to live for the pleasures of the day and ignore long-term consequences. Stoicism seldom provides other contentment than the quiet acceptance of misfortune.

We do not know what made Titus Livius change his ways, but we do know the results. Instead of continuing to pursue random interests, he conceived a wide-ranging project that would take him decades to accomplish. Instead of wasting time in abstract speculation, he fixed himself an ambitious goal and figured out how to accomplish it.


By the time he turned thirty-six, he had already formulated how he was going to spend the rest of his life. He would write a History of Rome unlike anything ever written before. He would speak not only of facts, but also of heroes. He would recount not only events, but also the values that had inspired them.

Titus Livius' plan comprised researching hundreds of documents and writing 150 books, an enterprise that nowadays would keep busy a complete university department. He did most of the work himself and it took him four decades.


The importance of formulating lifetime goals


Apparently, he was very happy devoting his time to such a demanding undertaking. Such devotion to a single long-term purpose is essential to improve a man's personal effectiveness and psychological well-being.

When Titus Livius died, he was 77 years old. His only regret must have been that he had not started his project earlier, since he only managed to complete 142 books out of the 150 that he had initially planned.

Do you have similar objectives and plans in your life? Have you established long-term goals for yourself? Do you have a strategy that consistently favours your personal growth? Are you becoming more effective at what you do day after day?


For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living 
 
[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

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

Friday, 25 July 2014

Achieving happiness through rationality. Important lessons from history. In search of principles that make sense. Living in accordance with nature

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

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

One major virtue that you won't learn from penguins. Squandering your days is not a satisfactory option. Human happiness requires a long-term purpose

Penguins don't care how long it takes them to catch their daily fish quota. Year after year, they go through the same routine, hardly improving anything. Their survival is entirely based on the expectation of zero change. 

One major virtue that you won't learn from penguins
 
From the 32 million estimated living penguins, none gives a damn about productiveness. They don't save for the future and often remain unaware of the existence of predators until it is too late to do anything about it.

Contrary to what is portrayed in cartoons and children books, penguins are neither creative nor funny. This is proven by the fact that tourists going to the Stewart Islands in New Zealand rarely devote more than a couple of hours to watch penguins. 

"I had never realized that penguins were so passive," Japanese tourists frequently comment. "They just stand there for hours and do nothing."
Practically without exception, tourists return home with the conviction that being a penguin is not really that much fun. Luckily, most humans come to a similar conclusion by the time we grow up. 

Squandering your days is not a satisfactory option

Hanging around, squandering our days, is not a viable option for those who aspire to happiness. Only purposeful action and continued achievement fulfil our psychological need to feel in control of our future.

Irrespective of the field involved, personal initiative is a major element of happiness. It matters little whether you choose to devote yourself to growing your company, writing music, searching for an effective treatment of cancer, or raising your kids to become great human beings. 


Human happiness requires a long-term purpose 

Our rational nature takes pleasure in every achievement. No matter how small our victories, we all love to tell our friends about them.

  • AT WORK: when you figure out a way to complete a task quicker than anyone expected.
  • AT HOME: when you manage to fix an old appliance that was considered beyond repair.
  • IN SPORTS: when you succeed at running faster and score additional points.
  • AT INVESTING: when you see the value of your assets go up and feel your strategy vindicated.
  • IN YOUR LIFESTYLE: when you achieve simplicity and eliminate waste.
  • IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS: when you focus on honesty and creativity
  • IN YOUR PHILOSOPHY: when you view life as a flow of actions that can be continuously improved.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Give yourself a break. Build on existing strengths. Embrace a philosophy that leads to happiness. Increase your resilience against adversity. Let go of linear expectations

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.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

Monday, 21 July 2014

Many causal connexions are far from self-evident. Philosophy has been slow in adopting a scientific approach. Small steps taken regularly can go a long way

Irregular verbs and plurals are the most difficult part to memorize when you study foreign languages. For children learning their mother tongue, atypical cases are also the most complicated. Asymmetrical constructions are slowly assimilated by the human mind, which, at any stage of development, automatically tries to find patterns in reality.

Many causal connexions are far from self-evident

We have created numbers, which are a sequential representation of quantities. We love to understand complex phenomena and find solutions to problems. Our brains seek to identify consequences through observation and logic. Weather prediction comes from generalizing past experience. Looking for order in chaos is natural to humans. It is our way to grasp the world and make sense of it.

Nevertheless, as soon as we begin to gather knowledge in any field, we realize that many causal connexions are far from self-evident. The earth looks flat and it is no wonder that it took hundreds of years to develop and spread the understanding of planetary orbits. Science rests on the recognition that causal connexions need to be, not only theorized, but proven.


Philosophy has been slow in adopting a scientific approach

From all disciplines, philosophy and economics have been the slowest to adopt a scientific approach. Even nowadays, professionals in those fields disagree on basic questions of methodology. Discussing what is true makes little sense if we cannot even concur on the criteria to assess the validity of a proposition.

As a result, defining success and happiness has turned into a haphazard endeavour for most of History. Determinism, which attributes those to chance, remains a wide-spread philosophical error in many segments of the population. A superficial examination of the human condition can lead to see life as a series of misfortunes intertwined with lucky encounters. This perception is as false as the belief that the earth is flat.

Scientists know that observing reality with our eyes and drawing immediate conclusions frequently leads to mistakes. A more accurate view of the world is the result of understanding that a large number of effects can only be perceived long-term. The impact of events is not necessarily local. Actions without consequences to those who performed them can have a devastating outcome for third parties.


Small steps taken regularly can go a long way

Reality is more complex than the eye can perceive and rational explanations more uncomfortable than make-belief. This is why confusion reigns about the roots of happiness and success. Determinism exaggerates the role played by misfortunes and luck in human life. Believing that your destiny is controlled by random events only leads to paralysis and nihilism.

Ambition and purpose, relentlessly implemented on good and bad days, constitute the bedrock of individual progress. Small steps taken regularly can go a long way. Advancing a little every day in your chosen direction is what makes great achievements possible. Big breaks, at first sight, seem to have happened overnight, but the truth is that a river takes years to build a gorge. The results are breathtakingly beautiful.


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

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

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

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Only 3% of the population read books, so what? Three factors that make books irreplaceable. Presentation of well-argued minority views. Access to complex ideas

It happens every spring, but this year, the questioning has been particularly intense. Every month of April, on occasion of the London Book Fair, newspapers publish articles speculating if it still makes sense to publish books.

Only 3% of the population read books, so what?


At the turn of the 21st century, one thousand book titles were published for every feature-length film made. Today, the ratio is one to six hundred. The number of films produced every year has increased and, at the same time, the number of published books has diminished.

"We live in a visual world," sociologists argue. "In many areas, the written word is becoming a relic of previous centuries." Media analysts blame the trend on video-games and portable DVD players. Others simply say that reading requires too much effort after our long work schedules.


Three factors that make books irreplaceable

In my view, those commentators are missing the point completely. Despite the abundance of cheap visual entertainment, readers' motivation remains strong. The reason why people read books has nothing to do with the demands of society and everything to do with individual psychology.

1. Presentation of well-argued minority views

Visual media, due to its structure and economics, is unable to express minority views in a consistent, intellectual manner. In this respect, all has been tried and all has failed. Complex ideas cannot be transmitted without the written word. No photograph and no film can replace a chain of reasoning built in clear sentences.

2. Access to diverse, complex ideas


Films, television, and radio, despite the growing number of channels, can only thrive when they aim at large audiences. They can offer multiplicity in the multitude, but no original ideas. Digital video has reduced the budget necessary to make a film, but not the distribution costs. Actors, good lighting, and a decent soundtrack are still expensive. Books, on the other hand, can still be published and distributed cheaply.

3. Direct contact with innovative reasoning


In a film, special effects cannot cure the problems of a weak scenario. Even great acting is unable to sustain a filmed story that doesn't make any sense. How long ago is it since you saw a really thought-provoking film? How often do you gain deep insights from watching television? The written word remains the ideal means to transmit innovative ideas.

The good news about reading is that three per cent of the population still remain avid readers. One out of thirty-three is not a bad proportion at all. A strong audience for writers is still there and it is not going to become smaller in the foreseeable future.

Do people read internet blogs for the same reason that they love books? Is it because they want to read original ideas? Do they do it in order to enjoy some fresh writing? I suspect that, for most, the main drivers are the joy of discovering something new and a steadfast refusal to join the other thirty-two.


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

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

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

Saturday, 19 July 2014

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.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

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 

Friday, 18 July 2014

In times of trouble, doubts spread like wildfire. Adversity prompts us to question our beliefs. Take heart and do not give up. Do not question 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 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 prompts 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 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 The 10 Principles of Rational Living 

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

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

Thursday, 17 July 2014

When everything fails, try this. A problem creates an opportunity. Profiting from bad breaks. Nothing to be worried about. Countermeasures. A better approach. Without the shadow of a doubt. Whatever it takes


When Everything Fails, Try This
a novel by John Vespasian


When a Belgian industrialist is diagnosed with cancer and told that he doesn't have long to live, he decides to bet his fortune on Prof. Zirkovsky's research. 

He convinces Zirkovsky to quit his teaching position in Brussels and set up a laboratory in Charlerois, a small town, in order to conduct experiments with monkeys. 

When Zirkovsky's research shows the first signs of success, animal-rights activists demand him to abandon his experiments. A series of violent attacks against the lab lead the industrialist to call his insurer, Alfred Grail, a Vietnam veteran living in Switzerland. 

What Alfred Grail will find in Belgium will shake his beliefs and make him change his life.
 
Table of Contents
  1. A problem creates an opportunity
  2. All threats are personal
  3. This is somewhat embarrassing
  4. A feeling of apprehension
  5. The dream of becoming an artist
  6. Fire without smoke
  7. Serious trouble
  8. Mutual dislike at first sight
  9. Running out of time
  10. A walk in the park
  11. Spreading false stories
  12. The return of the little princess
  13. Profiting from bad breaks
  14. A visit to the museum
  15. No longer in charge
  16. A trick with an envelope
  17. Countermeasures
  18. Nothing to be worried about
  19. Out of a job
  20. A better approach
  21. Without the shadow of a doubt
  22. A model citizen
  23. Whatever it takes
When everything fails, try this
a novel by John Vespasian

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Learning to see the truth is seldom easy and never without cost. Why we close our eyes to signs of decline. Few habits are as effective as standing still and questioning what looks too good to be true

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

Learning to see the truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A sharp vision of reality

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

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


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

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

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

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

On the choice of the right profession

Studies have identified many factors that contribute to career success, but so far, nobody has been able to build a convincing model to predict an individual's future or how much happiness a certain profession will bring him. In case of doubt, people will opt for the safe choice and this is why you seldom hear career counsellors recommend risky artistic professions that may lead to unemployment.

What to do in case of doubt

This sort of routine advice aims at achieving social insertion. Risk is identified as a problem, safety as the solution. However, a career recommendation based on conventional truth is never going to inspire a daring adventurer. In times when the market requires creativity at all levels, a fearful approach might prove fundamentally wrong, or perhaps, it is wrong in all circumstances.

In the year 1820, Bertel Thorvaldsen, an acclaimed romantic sculptor, travelled back from Rome to his native Denmark. Thorvaldsen was then 50 years old and at the pinnacle of his fame. During his stay in Copenhagen, he talked to many aspiring artists, giving them generous advice and encouragement.

One night, when Thorvaldsen returned to his hotel after a reception in his honour, he was told that a boy had been waiting for him all day. Intrigued, Thorvaldsen looked around the hotel hall and found a poorly dressed kid asleep on a chair.


A long waiting time

He walked up to the boy, shook his arm gently, and whispered to him: "It is late, kid, go home." Startled, the boy opened his eyes and jumped to his feet. "I was waiting for you, Herr Thorvaldsen. I have been waiting for you all day."

That must true, thought Thorvaldsen, since the boy looked so exhausted and hungry that he was pitiful to see. "I wanted to ask you for advice on my career," the kid went on. "I cannot decide whether I should become a novelist or a poet."


A heartbreaking tale

Out of compassion, Thorvaldsen ordered a glass of warm milk for the boy and listened to his story. It was a heartbreaking tale. With adolescence, the kid had lost the striking voice that had gained him praise and a small income in his home town, and had joined the thousands of unemployed youth that roamed the streets of Copenhagen.

"This is why I have thought of becoming a writer," the boy explained shyly, taking three ruffled pages out of his pocket and handing them over to Thorvaldsen. Strangely enough, the idea of asking a sculptor for literary advice seemed to fit the kid's pathetic situation.


When it seems you have no chance 

Thorvaldsen devoted a few minutes to reading the text and was appalled to see that it contained innumerable grammar and spelling mistakes. It was obvious that the boy had no chance of becoming a writer. Even if it was cruel, it was better that he learned the truth right away, so that he could at least learn a trade.

"What is your name?" asked Thorvaldsen, returning the pages. "Hans-Christian," replied the boy full of hope. "Hans-Christian Andersen." A silence ensued, as Thorvaldsen searched for the least hurtful way to express his judgement.


Leaving your hesitations behind

He stared at Hans-Christian Andersen for a long while as he remembered his own artistic ambitions as a young man, many years ago, but of course, his own situation had been completely different. Thorvaldsen took in a deep breath and shook his head. "Look, Hans-Christian," he began, "I don't know how to tell you this."

At that moment, Andersen nodded and gave the sculptor a crazy smile. That was what he had been waiting for. He was about to hear the words of encouragement that he needed so badly. He was sure that an artist of the calibre of Thorvaldsen would be immediately able to recognize his literary talent and point him in the right direction.

"What do you think, Herr Thorvaldsen, should I become a novelist or a poet?" he asked again, this time full of confidence. Fascinated, Thorvaldsen looked at the kid's bright eyes and realized how foolish he had been. "I have no doubt, Hans-Christian," he answered softly, "that you can become both."



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

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

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

Monday, 14 July 2014

Why most relationships don't work. The link between rational values and personal growth. Fight less and enjoy life more

Relinquishing individual thinking and embracing a standard lifestyle brings enormous advantages. For instance, it will save you time when making decisions. It will also spare you embarrassment when it comes to hiding the truth. However, irrationality and conformity cannot provide the basis for good relationships.

The opposite side of the psychological spectrum is filled by non-conformity, which often boils down to blind loyalty to some other style. For instance, non-conformists prefer to practise dangerous sports instead of spending their holidays on the beach.

Their hobbies might include playing exotic games instead of watching films. They seldom go for a walk in the park, but they might spend a fortune on a tour in the tropical forest. The clothes of non-conformists, instead of clean and well ironed, tend to be messy and torn.

Whether you choose conformity or non-conformity as basis for your relationships makes little practical difference. In both cases, your years will be filled with more or less colourful souvenirs, not with happiness. Imitating distorted pictures is not the way to create great paintings.

Rational values lead to personal growth

Adopting values that make no sense will not move you towards success and happiness. The exaltation of inconsistencies will not render your feelings more intense. Walking a downtrodden track leads to a dejected spirit. In the field of love and friendship, thoughtlessness is not a path you want to take.

Rational values constitute the alternative to unsatisfactory relationships. If you embrace logic, you won't need to spend your days wondering which sub-culture leads to less dismay. Wisdom consists of identifying principles of human relations inspired by reason, applying them in our daily lives, and correcting our mistakes.


Making sound choices

Seeking out thoughtful persons as friends or spouse plays a crucial role in attaining happiness. Sound choices are the result of man's rational evaluation of people and events. Achieving individuality requires our deep involvement with human beings who respect logic and consistency.

In order to develop happy relationships, we must allow our mind to filter out the noise of culture and fashion. We need to stop believing in myths. Neither specific clothes, nor gadgets, nor living in a specific location can provide the basis for good personal relations. Only people who share rational values are really able to communicate, understand, and appreciate each other.

Large number of men believe in arbitrary moral standards, but you are not obliged to imitate their foolishness. The idea that things can be done only in one specific way is false. The expectation that people must accept imposed values is unworkable. If you have ethical questions, look around until you find logical and consistent answers.


Let go of contradictory goals

As friends or spouse, seek out exclusively individuals who can think for themselves. Abandon contradictory goals. Never get involved with persons whom you know to be dishonest, since they are unable to maintain good personal relationships. Deceit 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. In order to achieve great personal relationships, you need to determine your direction. A wise man cannot be satisfied with short-term relationships. Superficial personal bonds take a disproportionate amount of time and cannot provide the pleasures of deep conversation.

Rational values embody principles that are common to all thinking human beings. Those values are distilled from reality by means of observation and logic. Irrational people cannot establish steady relationships because their behaviour continuously clashes with the demands of the world.


The foundation of happy relationships

The law of cause and effect, the fundamental principle of existence, governs the relations between men and women. The relationships that you build today will determine how your future plays out. Your choice of friends and spouse will play a key role in your happiness.

Reason tell us how to lead our lives, whom to befriend, and who is worthy of our love. Let reason establish your ambitions and priorities also in the field of human relationships. Fashion and imitation provide the short-term contentment that comes from conformity, not real happiness.

Superficiality adds much expense to you detriment and brings little worth to your experience. Shrug your shoulders at unrealistic advice. Ignore invitations from irrational people, either as friends or love companions. You will spare yourself enormous costs and trouble.

In your choice of spouse, never pay attention to fashion or cultural expectations. Do not sell yourself short by exchanging your rational values for the worthless pleasures of conformity. Adopt logic and consistency as your only criteria for love and friendship.



Happiness calls for steady purpose and continuous action. Choose the way of reason and adopt consistent values. Developing relationships with other rational individuals can be a slow process, but it is extremely rewarding. It will enable you to lead a successful life and enjoy the company of the best of humanity.



For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living 
[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by yomi955 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]



Sunday, 13 July 2014

Do not be intimidated by other people's achievements. Redefine what is essential. Let go of linear expectations. Experiment to find out what works. Adopt effective routines

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.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Wise people don't place their trust on delusions. Facts are more reliable than enthusiasm. A forceful illustration that you will not easily forget. The dark side of exuberant optimism. A comfortable life with less work and risk

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. 

Wise people don't place their trust on delusions

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.


Facts are more reliable than enthusiasm


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.

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.


A forceful illustration that you will not easily forget

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.


The dark side of exuberant optimism

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.

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.


A comfortable life with less work and risk

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.

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 less effort, he would have led a very 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.

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

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

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