Friday, 31 October 2014

The guaranteed way to prevent a massive amount of problems

There are worse things than low-quality products and services. Invalidity and death, for instance. On the other hand, if you think about it, one thing often leads to the other. A deficient electrical installation in the bathroom might electrocute you and do you in. Long-term consumption of poor-quality food is likely to cause serious damage to your body. 

Low-cost ways to improve your life

A world of perfect quality does not exist, not even in an industrial environment. This does not mean that we should just give up, specially in our private life. During the last thirty years, engineers have developed techniques to render mistakes impossible in factories. 

These systems are known as "poka-yokes." The Japanese term "poka-yoke," which means "fail-safe," has been taken over in other languages to identify these principles, since many of them have been created by companies in Japan.

In our days, techniques for preventing human mistakes are spreading to all kind of manufacturing operations around the world. What is amazing is that, outside the industrial environment, those techniques are seldom used: How do you make sure that don't forget to take your car to the garage for the annual maintenance? Do you ever run out of milk at home?

Rationality is the way to happiness
Making mistakes impossible

Sixty years ago, it was relatively common that, when you bought a new car, you expected the dealer to have it fine-tuned for you before delivery. Vehicle assembly at factories in those days was fraught with random mistakes.

How did engineers solve this problem? By designing each mechanical part to be unique in size or form, they made sure that each element could be mounted only one way: correctly. By making non-matching parts impossible to fit together, engineers excluded the possibility of error.

"Poka-yoke" techniques are one of the reasons behind the relatively high quality of contemporary cars and washing machines. Is it possible to apply fail-safe techniques to make also our private life better? Yes, I do believe so. Let me put forward two examples:

Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief
A reminder you can't possibly miss

Write a reminder for yourself on a sheet of paper and use it to wrap up your car keys before you go to bed. When you pick up your car keys the following morning, there is no way that you are going to ignore the reminder you wrote for yourself.
The 10 Principles of Rational Living
Keeping a buffer stock

Keep at home some extra units of essential products, such as shampoo or tooth brushes. When your stock becomes too low, lay an empty box of the product on the corridor floor, next to the front door of your house. There is hardly a better way to make sure that you'll remember to replenish your stock.

Once you get used to thinking in terms of zero-mistakes, you will find many ways to apply fail-safe principles in your daily life. Just imagine how much time you could save if you never made the same mistake twice.

Developing systems to ensure perfect quality in factories keeps engineers busy and customers happy. It is not high time to start applying similar principles in our private life? The result will be, if not quality, at least peace of mind.

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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Rational living, rational working

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Why moral courage is essential for personal development

"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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Rationality is the way to happiness
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


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Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

How to overcome pessimism and discouragement

The Philosophy of Builders
by John Vespasian 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Philosophy of Builders
by John Vespasian

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Beware of the foolishness of change for the sake of change

Change is great. We all love to see people try to improve things. Where would we be without adventurers and risk-takers? If you are in search of glory or wish to make a fortune, it obviously pays to be first. Nevertheless, during an economic depression, it can happen that early birds just get eaten first.

Prudence is crucially important

That does not mean that we should be sceptical about innovation, but only that, when money is tight, it is advisable to be extra careful. If you are running a business these days, you are probably watching your cash-flow like a hawk. Well done. My guess is that, right now, you need to make a major mistake like you need a hole in your head.

Managing a company in recession mode demands more of the ant than of the grasshopper in our souls. When the market recovers, there will be plenty of time for taking bold risks. In the meantime, a miser's frame of mind might be what you need to ensure business survival. In my view, in difficult times, one should keep in mind the following three principles:

Rationality is the way to happiness  
Go for the easy catch

If you are running a specialist service company in Minnesota, forget about the Chinese market for the moment. Chances are that you'll be able to detect better opportunities if you concentrate your attention on people next door. Transportation costs money and communication takes time. In times of deep economic trouble, I believe in focusing all efforts on the easiest markets and putting aside, temporarily, risky expansion ideas.
Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief
Deliver high-quality work

If you are delivering services, such as painting houses, what level of quality should you try to achieve? How often do you give grounds of complaint to your customers? If your answer is never, you are doing great. If not, that might be good news as well. Quality improvements, as perceived by customers, often involve negligible costs for business. Delivering impeccable quality saves you money. For this reason, during an economic recession, I wouldn't recommend launching new products with potential quality problems that might take you down beyond hope of recovery.
The 10 Principles of Rational Living
Spend money wisely

An economic recession blurs the line between fixed and variable costs, production and overhead. When money is tight, you need to take immediate decisions about where your cash is going. Evaluating every expenditure as an investment is a technique that brings about outstanding results. Is your inventory going to make you a profit within the next two months? Which steps of your process could be eliminated without negative impact for customers? In periods of crisis, one should eliminate investments in new technologies with long payback periods, since they might eat up the cash that you need to survive right now.

When you look around and see people going bankrupt, it is not unwise to become risk-shy. Before you explore new countries, take a walk down the street. Before you invest in new technology, make sure that you can afford it. Before you take additional cargo, stabilize your ship. One day, hopefully soon, the storm will be over and we will be able to go back to plain sailing, bold innovation, and massive expansion.

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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Rational living, rational working

How you succeed at one thing is how you succeed at everything

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

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

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

When everything  fails, try this
1. A clear idea of what you want

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

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

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
2. Thoughtful persistence

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

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

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

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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Rational living, rational working

Friday, 24 October 2014

When it comes to personal development, rational ideas constitute the best tool

Opportunities are created every minute that news report a further deterioration of the economy. All sort of assets can now be bought at discounted prices.

Shares of excellent companies are on sale and pay a high dividend. Rental properties are on sale and it is still possible to get a mortgage at a reasonable rate. A two-week holiday to Greece has not been cheaper for a long time. Hundreds of small businesses are now also for sale.

Looking for a job? It is the ideal time to accept a package of shares (or other incentives) instead of a cash salary. Want to buy something and do not have money? Try bartering other items or services. There are plenty of opportunities around. Don't be afraid of the economic crisis. Relentless initiative, good sense, and a thick skin against pessimism will get you through bad times with flying colours.

Rational living, rational working
Passion requires resilience

Starting a new business? The passion to turn a product or service into a commercial success is the essential factor that determines the future of a new enterprise. Mistakes are inevitable, no matter how old and experienced the entrepreneur. This is why passion requires flexibility and resilience.

Is the selling price too high or too low? Are the distribution channels adequate for the product? Should the packaging be improved? What happens if we run out of money? To all these and other questions, the relentless passion of the entrepreneur is already weighing alternative answers.

Ideas are precious and constitute the basis of civilization. Without the concepts of free trade, freedom of speech, and human rights, our standard of living would rapidly collapse to medieval levels. Product development, production, distribution, and marketing are based on ideas. Entrepreneurship is nothing but a sustained vision driving the transformation of existing resources into more valuable products of services.

Rationality is the way to happiness
Lack of capital won't stop the dream

It is only new ideas that will take you forward, personally or professionally. Closed doors reflect fear of change. Keep you door open to new concepts and ideas. Some of them will be wrong and others will be annoying, but a few will bring about breakthrough improvements.

Lack of capital won't stop the dream, nor lack of contacts, nor massive ridicule. History shows the same story again and again. Scepticism does not need to turn to discouragement. Resistance and difficulties do not need to hit the ship under the waterline. Determination is the essential factor. Let it carry the day.

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


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

The 10 Principles of Rational Living

Thursday, 23 October 2014

A simple strategy is all you need

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
by John Vespasian 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
by John Vespasian 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The massive psychological advantages of entrepreneurial individuals

There is a Portuguese riddle that asks you to guess which being grows rapidly during its youth, takes 18 years to reach adulthood, usually lives to celebrate its 70th birthday, is able to survive adverse conditions, and produces sufficient wealth to feed a family.

In Portugal, a school kid who already knows the answer will smile at you and point his finger at a poster of an oak tree on the wall of his classroom. On the other hand, if you ask the same question during an evening course at a business school in Lisbon, students are likely to give you a different response. "What you mean is an entrepreneur," they will tell you.

Inherited 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 way to happiness
Where are we headed? 

Should we just continue to chant the old incantations of our culture even after it has become clear that the melody is broken? I don't think so. I submit that an ethical model for the 21st century is brewing in old pots and casseroles: the sovereign entrepreneur.

Like the oak tree in the Portuguese riddle, the new species will reproduce and spread worldwide. It will survive a thousand years and open the door to a new era of tolerance and prosperity. What are the characteristics of this ethical standard?

The Philosophy of Builders
The capacity to withstand adversity

Through the ages, oak trees have taken root in most areas of the world, from California to Italy, from Argentina to South Africa. Even in unfavourable environments, these plants have grown stronger with each generation.

The willingness to learn

The internet is compressing more and more the time needed to acquire professional or business training. Forget about dragging along six-years at an expensive University. Instead, turn on your mp3 player and listen to lectures in your field of interest. How long will it take for sovereign entrepreneurs to learn their trade? Possibly, less than two years, which, by the way, is the average lifespan of oak tree leaves.
When everything  fails, try this
Adherence to universal ethics

Virtues such as flexibility, openness, tolerance, and honesty will render entrepreneurs sovereign of their fate and unconstrained in their business approach. In many cases, adherence to universal values will be preferred to identification with a specific country or culture. Oak trees have spread around the world on the basis of the essential characteristics of their species, irrespective of local accidents and fashions.

Despite massive efforts to foretell the future, nobody can predict accurately what is to come during the next years. Will we witness currencies collapse? Will major shifts in world economic flows take place? 

No matter how difficult the situation becomes, sovereign entrepreneurs constitute the species best fit to survive. When everything is said and done, wherever you live, you will always need to call up an expert to fix your toilet when it breaks down. That expert, you see, that's the person you want to be.

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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The 10 Principles of Rational Living

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

How to increase your self-confidence by increasing your self-protection

A child must be able to stand on his feet before he can walk. A student must learn grammar before he is able to build complex sentences in a foreign language. In house construction, steady progress presupposes structural stability. Vehicles can ride only when their essential systems function properly.

Are you doing enough to protect yourself?

Manufacturers know that catastrophic failure will make their machines stand still and this is why they carry out preventive maintenance at regular intervals. For the same reason, individuals adopt measures against hazards that could seriously disrupt their lives.

Personal risk-prevention is a subject that is, unfortunately, rarely addressed at school. Pick up a newspaper any day and count the reports on men and women who have seen their future destroyed by factors that can be easily avoided. The following steps can help reduce three essential personal risks:

Keep your personal details private

Bad experience have taught many of us to think twice before giving our credit card details to unfamiliar merchants. In this digital age, we should actually take the same precautions before disclosing any sensitive details that might enable identity theft. It is also recommended to avoid using, for your internet accounts, obvious passwords such as your birth date.

Stay away from dangerous places

Never place yourself in a situation of physical danger by walking into a high-risk area. If you keep your eyes open, you will find more than enough signals of danger as you approach unsafe streets. In those cases, choose the best option: turn around and get away as fast as you can. The same principle applies to your choice of business associates or employees. Learn to detect violence-prone individuals in advance and avoid them like the pest. Chances are that you will live healthier and longer.

Spread your risks

In addition to diversifying between, for instance, real estate and stocks, you should aim at holding shares of companies in different industries. Have you considered investing in precious metals and multi-currency mutual funds? Whatever your taste, make sure that you get plenty of spices from various countries around the world. Farmers know that growing complementary crops is less risky that planting a single type of seed.

You can take similar actions to protect all key areas of your life from catastrophic failure. How do you reduce your risk of becoming unemployed? By constantly increasing your knowledge and skills. In which way can you reduce health hazards? Learn about nutrition and make good choices when it comes to food.

Avoid paralysis in any situation

The greatest risk in life is, however, the most difficult to see: immobility. Human well-being goes along with growth, which is a direct consequence of purposeful action. Ideas dissociated from reality are as useless as engaging in random action.

Make a vow to avoid paralysis in any situation. The most effective way to reduce risks in any area is taking your future in your own hands, which is, by the way, a definition of entrepreneurship.

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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Monday, 20 October 2014

Achievement motivation drawn from rational living

Here is a summary of some additional questions that I have answered this week:

Focused and constructive action

QUESTION: Due to my personal and cultural background, I have had to endure substantial discrimination through the years. As a result, I have become demotivated and discouraged, reluctant to undertake any new initiatives. 

ANSWER: Some people grow discouraged because, due to their personal and cultural characteristics, they feel unappreciated, or in any case, insufficiently appreciated in their current social environment. In some cases, it is true that those individuals can become very discouraged because they don't know how to overcome the problems they are facing. The solution to discouragement is to take focused and constructive action. I am talking only about undertaking the type of action that can really improve your situation on practical terms. Do not waste your time debating with people who don't appreciate you, and who never will. It is much more productive if you invest your energies in finding a better environment where you can deploy your talents, and get to know the kind of persons who will know how to value and appreciate you for what you are. Taking focused, constructive action is one of the principles of rational living.

Rational living, rational working  
Making consistent decisions

QUESTION: I have to take an important decision whether to accept a job in the Middle East or not, but I cannot make up my mind. On the one hand, the job offers a high salary and attractive benefits, but on the other hand, I pretty certain that I am not going to feel at ease in that relatively closed environment. Which should my driving criterion to make such a decision? 

ANSWER: It is indeed surprising to see that people will often make critical decisions in a rather frivolous and uncritical manner. Years later, when the damage is already visible and mostly irreparable, these people are going to complain that they could not have known the consequences of their choices. Yet, this statement is seldom true. The primary reason why individuals make momentous mistakes is because they fail to apply rational principles in their thinking, not because they could not foresee the outcome of their actions, which is rarely the case. The best way to make decisions with self-assurance and accuracy is to weigh the advantages and disadvantages on the basis of rational values. For instance, if you are offered a job in a foreign country for a very high salary, but you are not enthusiastic about the prospect, you should probably drop the idea altogether and look for something better. The need to take consistent decisions, and make choices that take your long-term goals into account, is one of the main tenets of rational living.
Rationality is the way to happiness 

The right path for long-term happiness

QUESTION: In our school, conformity is praised as a fundamental virtue, and pressure is exerted on the students to conform to the school traditions, both formally and materially. Since I have never been very good at dissimulating my opinions, my scepticism about such conformity is sometimes bringing me into trouble. How important is conformity for success and happiness? 

ANSWER: While each individual is responsible for his own life, it is clear that some environments exert pressure on people to follow a certain career path, or to make some particular personal choices. This should not be regarded negatively in itself, since it is perfectly logical that parents want the best for their children, and try to steer them into a direction that, as far as the parents can see, offers good possibilities of success. The same can be said of choices in other areas of life. However, the essential question is not whether someone should or not follow the well-intended advice from his parents, or  conform to someone else's benevolent directions. When it comes to determining whether you have taken the right path for long-term success and happiness, the essential question is whether that path is rational, consistent, and sustainable. The need to get those critical decisions right is one of the pillars of rational living.
The Philosophy of Builders
Prudence and determination

QUESTION: Since a long time ago, I have adopted the habit of avoiding conflicts, opting as much as possible for doing my own thing without making a big fuss if someone disagrees with me, and systematically ignoring those who criticize me negatively. Am I doing the right thing? Should I instead show more assertiveness and engage in confrontation when my views are not respected? 

ANSWER: Conflict, in particular of the psychological type, possibly generates more stress in the world than all financial and health problems combined. People who fight verbally with their neighbours, co-workers, and family members will frequently experience sleep difficulties, and other disturbances related to stress. Conversely, individuals who opt for doing their own thing, and pretty much ignore those who dislike them, tend to do very well in the long term. Psychological conflict is a bad business altogether, since it produces anxiety and stress that are difficult to heal. As the ancient Roman author Cicero put it so well: "Incerti sunt exitus belli," which means that, once you start a conflict, you can never be sure of how it will end. Irrespective of the correctness of your views, overheated emotions can undermined your health and peace of mind. As a general rule, the inexpensive approach to serenity is the most effective. Go after your dreams quietly but relentlessly. Pursue your long-term goals prudently but determinedly. The avoidance of unnecessary conflicts is one of the principles of rational living.

Reduce your worry, reduce your stress
QUESTION: Due to bad experiences in the past, I have become an overly preoccupied individual. Day and night, I tend to worry about my problems, which are numerous, and can never find the peace of mind that I would like to have. How can I minimize my fears and become more confident about the future? 

ANSWER: You might not know this, but 33% of the population view themselves as overly stressed. They consider themselves psychologically vulnerable, and spend hours every week passing review to their problems, without ever finding good solutions. Indeed, these people would love to be able to look at the future with confidence, but their desire will only be fulfilled if they adopt a rational philosophy. The ancient Roman philosopher Seneca used to say that "nulla dies maerore caret," which means that, in human life, there is never a day without trouble. The key to maintaining your serenity and surmounting the obstacles on your way is to embrace rational living, adopt rational values, and establish your lifetime goals accordingly. If you want to regain your peace of mind and look at the future with confidence, you have to start by discarding all false ideas that promote nervousness and confusion. The adoption of consistent goals and values is one of the principles of rational living.

When everything  fails, try this

Are you wasting your resources?

QUESTION: I have difficulty concentrating myself on my long-term goals, and this is not a new problem for me. I am the type of person who massively enjoys socializing, participating in events, and doing sports, but I feel that I am not making the best of my life. How can you strike the right balance between productiveness and enjoyment? 

ANSWER: When you observe high-achievers in any area of human endeavour, you are going to see people who do one thing exceedingly well. Those are individuals who have decided at a certain point to focus their energies on one particular area, and develop one particular skill to a level of perfection. In contrast, such levels of achievement are rare amongst people whose goal in life is simply to enjoy themselves. If you employ your time in random socializing, attending pleasant but unexciting social events, and doing sports for fun, chances are that you will lead an enjoyable life, but will not make the best of your talents. Yet, it is likely that one day you will utter the same lamentation as the ancient Roman author Plautus: "oleum et operam perdidi," which means that he considered that he had wasted his resources (his oil) and efforts without getting much in return. More often than not, people who pursue difficult long-term goals with passion tend to be happier than those who spread their time amongst many unconnected activities. Consistency of action is one of the principles of rational living.
Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief

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


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

The 10 Principles of Rational Living

Sunday, 19 October 2014

How to overcome the nervousness caused by hesitation and failure

Here is a summary of the questions that I have answered this week:

Too many problems

QUESTION: Someone feels paralysed by the fact that he has too many problems, and he doesn't know where to start in order to improve his life. 

ANSWER: It often happens that people feel paralysed by the fact that they have too many problems, and they don't know where to start in order to improve their lives. More often than not, the best way to proceed is to stop working on anything that does not require immediate attention, to drop all activities that are not conductive to immediate dramatic improvements. The most difficult problems can be easily identified by elimination. Those problems are usually the ones that can wipe you out if you don't take immediate action to avert the danger. The second step is to identify the correct course of action, the solution to solve those problems. This can be easily accomplished by applying the principles of rational living. Once you have completed those two steps, you will see your hesitations vanish all by themselves, and being replaced by a strong motivation.

Choosing the right path

QUESTION: How can I know if I am choosing the right path at the right time?

ANSWER: For those who want to turn around their lives, those who want to make radical improvements in their daily experience, it is critical to make correct strategies choices. If you fail to look beyond the horizon, if you fail to ask yourself where you want to be in twenty years from now, chances are that all your time will be taken up by mindless routines. Without a strong sense of purpose, human beings cannot maintain a course of action to achieve long-term goals. Without a clear vision of the future, you will easily will be swayed, distracted, and delayed. The only way to make sure that you make the right choices is to adopt a rational philosophy, rational values, and rational goals.

Rational living, rational working  
When no solution is in sight

QUESTION: What is the best approach for dealing with severe problems when you cannot easily find a solution, or when you suspect that no good solution can be found? 

ANSWER: Sooner or later, everybody has to face severe problems that cannot be easily solved, or that seem impossible to solve at a reasonable cost. Take heart. Millions of people in history have overcome life-threatening sickness, bankruptcy, poverty, unfairness, unemployment, and a myriad of other problems. First, take a deep breath and assess what the real chances are of those problems being lethal. Can they wipe you out definitively? Can they destroy your life completely and irreversibly? If the answer is negative, as it will typically be the case, you are already on your way to finding a solution. Rational thinking is the most effective method for improving your life, the most effective method to surmount obstacles and circumvent problems, should they prove unsolvable.

How to overcome failure

QUESTION: My life is a mess and I feel that I have failed at everything. When I compare myself to other people, I feel that I have not achieved anything important. 

ANSWER: A good percentage of the population describe their lives as a mess, and experience strong feelings of having failed at everything. The negative emotions are reinforced when those people compare themselves to individuals who have achieved important goals. Yet, those negative emotions are the result of a dangerous logical fallacy. For starters, it does not make any sense to judge your own value by comparing yourself with someone else. What should you compare the results attained by individuals whose circumstances, background, and opportunities are totally different? If you want to achieve more in your life, which is a perfectly healthy ambition to have, you should first reject the temptation of judging yourself subjectively. Then your next task should be to acquire a rational philosophy, embrace objective values, and establish rational goals.

Dealing with stress and worry

QUESTION: I have tried everything to reduce my levels of stress, but nothing works. My stress situation has become so bad that I often experience concentration difficulties and make a lot of mistakes as a result. 

ANSWER: If you have tried everything to reduce your levels of stress, and come the conclusion that nothing works, I must tell you that you are wrong. Even if your stress prevents you from concentrating your mind on your work, the problem can be addressed and the situation improved. The number one obstacle that prevents people from finding peace of mind is that they are looking for a short cut, a magical solution to their problems. Let me tell you that this approach is unlikely to work. More often than not, stress can be substantially reduced, and people can learn better patterns of thought, but such a transformation is going to take some time and effort. An effective approach for reducing stress is to embrace a rational philosophy, and practise its tenets every day.
Rationality is the way to happiness 

Regain your peace of mind

QUESTION: How can I regain my peace of mind? In the last two years, there have been many changes in my life, some of them for the worse, and I feel that I have lost my serenity forever. 

ANSWER: The idea that people lose their peace of mind because of some recent event has happened, or because they have been going through a tough period during the last two years, is difficult to believe. Similarly, I have difficulties to give credence to people who claim that they have lost their serenity due to the problems they are facing. Self-confidence and peace of mind constitute fundamental character traits that a person might take years to shape, but that offer the advantage of protecting that person from discouragement in the next decades. Let us not delude themselves by focusing on irrelevant details, by assuming that problems are more complex than they are. Serenity is typically the result of embracing a rational philosophy. Peace of mind is the natural companion of rational living.

Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief

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


[Image by TeeF86 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

The 10 Principles of Rational Living