Saturday, 31 January 2015

It is time to discard meaningless comparisons

Rational living, rational working
by John Vespasian

Are you trying to live rationally and facing all kinds of difficulties? How do you deal with people who won't listen to logical arguments? How should you react to situations of massive unfairness?

This book provides practical advice on how to live rationally and maximize your chances of happiness in every situation. Amongst others, it will show you how to minimize stress and maintain your peace of mind, benefit from the advantages of non-linear thinking, avoid short-sighted decisions, and increase your resilience during times of adversity.

Each chapter contains real-life examples of individuals who have used reason to surmount obstacles, solve personal problems, and recover from setbacks. The ideas presented in this book will help you make better decisions, increase your effectiveness, and enjoy the benefits of rational living. 


Chapter 1. Become conscious of your uniqueness

A method for building an unshakable self-confidence
Overcome weaknesses in one area by strengths in others
Let go of distractions and focus on your unique talents
The man who taught me how to make the best of setbacks
It is time to discard meaningless comparisons
Why do millions of people waste their talents?

Chapter 2. Dream in decades, but live by days

Get rid of work overload and improve your results
The type of deadlines that generate little stress
Quick relief for those who are about to quit
The right way to deal with adversity
Before you make a rash move, read this
A proven solution to a critical problem


Chapter 3. Understand that most people won't understand
Are you afraid of rejection and failure?
The most effective method for overcoming self-doubt
Warning: irrational motivation can wipe you out
Do not trust inaccurate interpretations
When the wrong choice turns out to be right
Making difficult decisions with as little risk as possible


Chapter 4. Look for healing in nature
Can you maintain your good habits in difficult times?
Three inexpensive remedies for everyday complaints
How emotional stability helps you lead a good life
Practical steps to reduce harmful stress
Do you want to become a centenarian?
The fountain of youth has already been discovered


Chapter 5. Call things by their names
Two thieves that are stealing your life away
How to become immune to manipulation
Exotic explanations are seldom true
A powerful idea that has brought relief to many
Seven types of irrational behaviour to stay away from
The courage to keep asking questions


Chapter 6. Find serenity in silent places
Three mistakes that can destroy your peace of mind
The dire consequences of short-sighted behaviour
How an overstressed celebrity regained his serenity
People who are free of anxiety do this every day
An ancient formula for tranquillity in times of turmoil
Stay away from theories that don't work


Chapter 7. Embrace non-linear thinking
A widespread delusion that can kill your motivation
Four practical lessons you can learn from monks
The opportunities that lie behind disruptive events
How to produce good results with few resources
A non-linear approach is often the only one that works
For those who believe that they have no opportunities


Chapter 8. Stay away from evil people
The personal benefits of a peaceful philosophy
Individuals seldom change in any fundamental way
Avoid recklessness and you'll have a brighter future
Nobody can explain colours to the blind
Withdrawal is a mighty weapon
A true story that showed me how to stay safe


Chapter 9. Make resilience your biggest strength
Ignore fairy tales and you will do well
How rationality reinforces your strengths
If you want to sail far, keep the wind on your back
Enjoy the luxuries of a simple lifestyle
Is the best option so close to you that you cannot see it?
Avoid the temptation to exaggerate your problems


Recommended reading

Friday, 30 January 2015

The best way to overcome adversity

Reading History is the ideal remedy to discouragement and dissatisfaction. During difficult periods, man can gain perspective by learning how his ancestors turned problems into opportunities. Past centuries have repeatedly shown how individuals with limited resources can face life's challenges and overcome extraordinary obstacles.

Hesiod, an Ancient Greek poet, recounted in the year 770 B.C. that "the world did not welcome me when I was born and each season brought nothing but problems and difficulties." The reason for such lamentations was that a court decision in favour of his brother, Perses, had deprived Hesiod of his inheritance at an early age, forcing him to earn his subsistence by working in other people's fields.

First-hand experience

As a result of adversity, Hesiod soon acquired first-hand experience in all kind of farm labours and gained expertise in breeding goats and sheep. "Watching the sheep kindled my ambition," recorded Hesiod. "I realized that, unlike sheep, I had the capacity to control my future."

During the winter, Hesiod witnessed how the cold temperature in the mountains of northern Greece often culled herds by half. Later on, he would write that the destiny of animals, unlike that of human beings, is fully dependent on the weather. The young shepherd spent a long time preparing himself in the solitude of the mountains until, one spring, he walked to Chalces, a nearby village, and enrolled in the annual poetry contest.

A ticket to fame

In Ancient Greece, winning a poetry contest was a ticket to fame and opened the door to a political career. That year, competition was particularly fierce since Homer, the most famous poet of the time, had come to Chalces to take part in the contest.

On the eve of the competition, Perses asked his brother to which God he would be devoting his poem, as it was customary to do on such occasions. Hesiod smiled and shook his head. "My poem is not about Gods, it's about sheep." Perses stared at his brother incredulously, but did not make any comment.

At the beginning of the contest, the jury separated the participants in two groups, one for the morning session and the other for the afternoon. After that, the winners from both groups would face each other in the evening finale.

Sheep in the mountain

Homer achieved an easy victory in the morning competition, but the jury deliberated long before picking the afternoon winner. Who was this youngster Hesiod? It was the first time that anyone had ever heard a poem about sheep in the mountain.

Amiphidamas, who was the mayor of Chalces and the president of the jury said that he liked Hesiod's poem. In a way, his opinion was not surprising, since he owned the largest herd of the village. "That shepherd has interesting ideas," Amiphidamas told the other judges of the contest.

In the evening, torches were lighted to illuminate the theatre. Peasants from surrounding villages had come to Chalces to see the poetry finale, which featured Homer against an unknown shepherd called Hesiod. The result of the contest was predictable and Perses bet heavily against his brother.

An impeccable speech

Homer recited a poem recounting the Trojan war and his performance galvanized the young. His strong voice and impeccable speech brought the audience memories of long-forgotten Gods and glories. When he finished his declamation, the jury nodded satisfied. Nobody doubted that Homer would come out winner.

Then the young shepherd Hesiod came to stand before the public. "How hard life is," he started, "and how recurrent our miseries." Puzzled by the unusual beginning, the audience held their breath to be able to hear better. What was this poem all about?

It was the story of a farmer who lost half of his herd every winter due to extreme cold. In his poem, Hesiod noted the scarcity of sheep in the winter, their over-abundance in the summer, and how sheep prices oscillated with the change of seasons. 

How to overcome scarcity

"I asked the oracle for an answer," recited Hesiod, "but he told me to look for it myself." At that point, part of the audience murmured their disapproval. Undaunted, the young poet questioned his public. "What to do in face of winter scarcity? Should man suffer passively the caprice of the Gods?"

Hesiod's poem was called "Work and Days." His conclusion was unmistakable. A wise man should buy sheep in the summer at a low price and wait for the winter's cold weather to bring back high prices and the opportunity of a profitable sale.

When Hesiod finished his performance, the audience remained silent. Half of the jury members were in favour of Homer, but Amiphidamas' preference allowed the young shepherd to carry the day. Hesiod's rhyme had been awkward and his presence on stage unexciting, but the judges had found his poem "highly instructive for ourselves and future generations."

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


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Thursday, 29 January 2015

How to profit from bad breaks

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.
  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, 28 January 2015

Beware of misleading statistics and unworkable advice

If you are planning to consult statistics before making a major decision, you'd better check your sources twice. Many proclaimed truths are solely based on opinion. Countless times, surveys do little more than elevate preferences to models of conduct that are to be followed out of convenience or for personal gain. Every morning, we should remind ourselves that serious errors have been committed in the past by placing blind trust in numbers produced by self-interested parties.

Check the underlying logic

Our best protection against misguided statistics is not searching for alternative data, but using our common sense to interpret the conclusions presented to us. We should check if the recommendations match our experience and knowledge of the world. We should assess the consequences of the outcome of such surveys, ask ourselves uncomfortable questions, and take the necessary time to think things through.

When it comes to determining the direction of your life, never trust other people's calculations without subjecting them to rational examination. No matter what results from a survey, its conclusions can never be as reliable as your own perception of the world. No matter how sophisticated a mathematical model may be, it will never match the accuracy of your direct inspection of the facts. The following list presents six sensitive areas where you should be particularly attentive to check the logic of any recommendation that is presented to you.

1. Solve your own problems

Statistics proving otherwise should be subject to close scrutiny, since they seem to contradict a fundamental aspect of human nature. We all love to help family and friends, but should we believe any survey that promises uncertain help from indeterminate strangers? Check things twice before you act on such conclusions.

2. Do the sort of work you love

Do not decide on your career solely on the basis of statistics. A survey might show you, for instance, what are the average salaries in different professions, but remember that, within each field, there are large differences of income due to individual expertise, ambition, and dedication. Take career statistics with a grain of salt and rather use your common sense to identify which professional path is suitable for you.

3. Keep your expectations realistic

Never trust studies that provide evidence that you can make a quick fortune by entering a business field where you don't posses any knowledge or experience. That kind of statistics, even if based on real data, frequently portrays a window of opportunity that has already closed by the time you hear about it. Be prudent and don't go blindly for things that look too good to be true.

4. Avoid wasting resources

If someone proves to you with numbers that work and play are equally productive, you should not believe it. If a survey tells you that it doesn't matter whether you take care of your health or not, you should stick to your salutary habits and rational good choices. Such surveys make the headlines precisely because they are controversial and contradict basic common sense. The data might be true if applied to particular circumstances, but the conclusions make little sense as general advice.

5. Discard dire predictions

For instance, a study showing that people holding a certain type of job die young might reflect the statistical truth. Nevertheless, if you read its conclusions in full, you will realize that many individuals in that profession live substantially longer than the average. Ask yourself what are the factors that make those men and women reach an advanced age and seek to draw lessons that you can apply to your life.

6. Trial and error is the way

For this reason, you should question the scientific value of any survey that enthrones a specific method of doing things. Are the conclusions based on local circumstances or do they have general application? Has the study been conducted with impartiality or do you have reasons to suspect the existence of conflict of interests? Whenever you face a recommendation to narrow your field of inquiry, compare the statistics to what you know from experience, and see if the conclusion makes sense.

What you should rely on

The purpose of surveys is to extract lessons from reality, but without method and logic, data cannot teach us anything of value. Place your common sense above all statistics and your reason above all calculations. 

Trust your immediate perception more than a hundred volumes of allegedly scientific conclusions, since in life, you will have to pay for your own mistakes. Always check twice what seems to be lie beyond doubt and question what appears self-evident. Let your own independent judgement guide your life according to reason and reality.

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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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Let practice take precedence over speculation

It takes a while before a man realizes that he is going to die some day. Some people never become conscious of their mortality and continue to waste their days until the very last moment. Drug consumption, including alcohol, is a failed attempt to appease the anxiety created by the fundamental truth that time moves in only one direction.

Instead of anxiety

Accepting that your days are limited is a precondition for making the best use of your time. With happiness as a long-term goal, personal growth becomes a short-term objective. With longevity as a desirable aim, good nutrition becomes a crucial element of the good life. The trend is given by Nature, but each individual must define his own strategy.

Gaining understanding of the fact that each passing day is irrecoverable exerts enormous pressure on the insecure. They wonder incessantly if they are doing the right thing or enough of it. They speculate about a myriad of other activities that they could be carrying out instead. They terrorize themselves with statistics of who is doing what, how fast, and how well.

Should we let anxiety drive our lives? In the pursuit of our goals, how can we strike the optimal balance between peace of mind and personal growth? An hour always has sixty minutes and every new day offers us another twenty-four hours. Exaggerated time-consciousness and focus on achievement may lead men to a psychological misery not better than the destitution of the idler.

Occasional mistakes

The path to happiness should be first drawn with charcoals and then brought to life with oil colours. We learn as we walk. Making occasional mistakes is inescapable as we sometimes take the wrong turn of the road. Nobody possesses the ability to make all the correct choices.

No man can at the same time concentrate all resources on his future and enjoy the hours of the present. Each individual is born and raised in different circumstances. Genetic, family, and personal qualities vary heavily from one person to the next, even within the same family. The philosophical approach to happiness should not deviate from the hard rules of reality.

Imagine a young man who, growing in the most favourable environment, identifies his lifetime ambitions when he is fifteen years old. He may well spend the rest of his life pursuing his goals, but there is no guarantee that he will achieve them. Anyone entering a professional field has to learn the trade and assimilate its written and unwritten rules.

When progress comes to a standstill

Sooner or later, lack of knowledge, bad luck or misunderstandings will slow down his professional progress or bring it to a complete standstill. Any biography that you may read will provide evidence of the universality of this principle. Trains stop from time to time, careers stall, and fortunes are sometimes lost.

Occasionally, evil forces may play a role in the demise of a great ambition, but those cases are more rare than popular accounts tend to portray. More often than not, discouragement is the visceral response to failure. Summer grows the seeds nourished by spring rain and winter kills the trees weakened by autumn storms. However, when it comes to human beings, our mental versatility allows us to develop extreme resiliency and surmount all disappointments.

What is the best approach to adapt the rhythm of our personal growth to our own conditions and situations? Can we define a formula that applies to all men, all countries, and all historical periods? Experience has taught me that best strategy is to identify your target, start moving immediately towards it, and correct mistakes along the way.

Relentless action will take you farther on any road you choose, but the crucial aspect in the happiness quest might not be motivation but efficiency. Everybody can raise his motivation level, at least for a while, by attending rallies and listening to speeches. You can chant and dance around, you can dream and speak your heart out, but very little will be achieved.

Other people may support your endeavours or oppose your initiatives, but in the long-term, their actions play only a minor role, like the noise of a train running on its track. Indeed, the sound accompanies the train, but what moves the wagons is the engine, not the noise.

More important than motivation

Discard motivation and let action drive you to a better life. What you do counts more than what you dream about. Gaining efficiency and speed on your path to happiness are desirable effects connected to the choice and extent of your actions. If you wish, spend some time cultivating your motivation, but do not let it develop into a game of its own. Talking is not tantamount to doing.

Fast and cheap mistakes are the cardinal accelerator of human success. Inexpensive errors are the sweetest way to happiness, in particular when those errors are rapidly admitted and corrected. Learn a lesson from each of them and avoid repeating the cause and effect. This factor alone can compound the positive effects of your work and lead you to levels of achievement that you previously thought beyond your reach.

The experience acquired in a few years of continuous action will teach you more than several decades of exquisite motivational talks. Reality is too complex to be reduced to pure theory. This is why personal growth can be achieved only through experience.

Knowledge is spread in the market like minerals are contained in sea water. If you wish to become a great surfer, you will have to taste the water hundreds of times. Your reflexes will become faster as you learn how to profit from the changing wind. 

In your search of happiness, let practice take precedence over speculation. From mistakes, you gain insight and a sharper vision, while empty talk will just eat up your limited time. Choose the way of action.

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, 26 January 2015

How to remove your self-imposed restrictions

Why would anyone devote efforts to convince himself that he cannot improve his own situation? Although many individuals are conscious of the disadvantages of psychological immobility, such paralysis is frequently endorsed. Millions of men and women fall prey to self-imposed restrictions that they could remove if they wished.

A crucial question

Why are restraining beliefs so ingrained in society? What makes human beings support fantasies in word and deed? How is it possible that some people devote their energies to pretending that paralysis is an acceptable approach to living?

Three reasons explain why human beings are often deeply invested in immobility. Social convenience is the first, since it feels good to belong to the majority. Financial benefit is the second, since many doors are closed to those who ask uncomfortable questions. The third motive, fear of rejection, is perhaps the strongest.

Each of those justifications possesses extraordinary appeal on its own. All three combined are almost irresistible. Nevertheless, experience proves that, in the long run, doubt and psychological paralysis will destroy a man's life.

Social convenience can lead people to repress their best initiatives. The habit of seeking conformity deprives men of the force to pursue their dreams and stake their claims. However, the financial benefits of immobility, although sweet, tend to be short-lived.

In industrial societies, the negative consequences of rejection tend to be exaggerated by the media. Nowadays, global markets allow innovators to find their customers anywhere in the world even if their ideas are not appreciated by friends and neighbours.

The difficulties

Thinking for yourself is difficult in the face of opposition. The golden advantages of social convenience always seem, at first sight, the obvious choice, but conformity and passivity make man's happiness impossible. Becoming aware of long-term consequences of immobility and taking rational initiative mark the path to success.

Inaction and conformity have so many advantages that, for some people, they become the choice by default. Few are told that those short-term benefits are dwarfed by their lifetime costs. Seldom is the fact mentioned that long-term passivity wipes out man's capacity for attaining success and happiness.

Psychological immobility arises when people are overwhelmed by problems, threats, or obstacles that look insurmountable. Logic and evidence provide the means to dispute and eliminate from our mind the fallacies that feed mental passivity. Rationality is what allows a person to make reasonable calculations and take action to improve his life.

For instance, if you want to avoid psychological exhaustion, you should never take it personally when people do stupid things. Never allow yourself to be paralysed by the fact that other persons have made a large mistake.

The solution

Stand up and resume your efforts to attain success. Get back on your feet and avoid the temptation of passivity, since it produces nothing and leads to nothing. Motivational paralysis only serves to waste your life.

Make a point also to ignore gloomy predictions from the media, friends, or family. Most depressing statements are not true anyway and the world is not coming to an end. Do not join people wallowing in their misery. Never fall into immobility out of fear of things that, most likely, will never happen. Asses your alternatives, pick up the best, and begin to move in the right direction.

What looks today as universal malignancy often turns to be just another benign local problem that is quickly forgotten. What today seems a serious challenge has often little long-term significance. For those who refuse to be paralysed, catastrophes frequently contain the seed of profitable opportunities.

When people embrace passivity, that's the best time to take swift action. A crisis, personal or otherwise, should be faced through relentless initiative, not with immobility. Nobody but you can decide when a game is over.

Psychological paralysis is the worst enemy of achievement and happiness. Immobility is always a losing proposition. What you learn on bad days builds your creativity and strength of character. For those who remain alert and active, opportunities are created every minute.

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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Sunday, 25 January 2015

Coming out a winner despite severe adversity

by John Vespasian

The thesis of this book is that the dominant ideas about how to reduce stress are ineffective because they are irrational. They hardly provide any short- or long-term relief. Reason is the only workable method to relieve stress permanently, a method that requires work and dedication, but provides excellent results.

This book presents many real-life examples that will show you how to eliminate stress in tense situations, bring peace of mind to your life, make choices that enhance your self-reliance, avoid nerve-wrecking inconsistencies, and lead a good life based on reason.

The principles presented in this book are supported by extensive historical evidence, logical arguments, and workable strategies. If you are serious about reducing the stress in your life, this book is for you.

Chapter 1 - The key skill for overcoming negative stress
What to do when problems begin to accumulate
Don't let difficult people get you down
How should you deal with unfairness?
Living happily despite rejection and negative criticism
The essential element for sleeping well

Chapter 2 - No more stress from financial difficulties
Breaking out of a stressful lifestyle
Raising yourself from disaster
Don't make this major mistake if you can avoid it
What you shouldn't do if you value your time
Here is a recipe proven by experience

Chapter 3 - A structured approach for reducing stress
The characteristics of effective remedies
Facing rapid changes and excessive pressure
An unusual method that produces wonderful results
How to reduce your tension by improving your routines
The temptation to do things you don't need to

Chapter 4 -The straightforward way to eliminate conflicts
The man who painted himself into a corner
When situations get out of control
Surviving and thriving in the face of conflict
Long hours don't necessarily lead to success
The most dangerous threat you can encounter

Chapter 5 - Get rid of anger definitively
Don't let this popular nonsense mislead you
Understanding where negative emotions come from
The drop that makes the glass overflow
Eight powerful strategies for reducing anger

Chapter 6 - Learning to overcome discouragement
Don't adopt these counter-productive strategies
How to stay afloat during difficult times
Coming out a winner despite severe adversity
A great formula for leaving discouragement behind

Chapter 7 - How to become immune to sadness
A challenge that millions of people continue to face
The main reason why people feel stressed
Breaking out of pessimism once and for all
Discarding ineffective emotional reactions

Chapter 8 - The end of worry and preoccupation
Serenity amidst poverty and sickness
How to reduce your exposure to emotional fallout
Practical techniques for getting rid of worry
Learning to be optimistic

Chapter 9 - The type of lifestyle that minimizes stress
Do you want to function better?
Here is a lifestyle worth imitating
Overcoming your constraints in a clever way
Never be embarrassed to do the right thing

Chapter 10 - The escape from stressful routines
How to put your dissatisfaction to good use
Bold steps can create exciting possibilities
If you are tired of boredom, here is some advice
The adoption of effective practices

Chapter 11 - Advice for seemingly insoluble problems
When no solutions are in sight
An advantage that you can always create for yourself
Stay away from defeatism and resignation
The critical skill for surmounting daunting obstacles

Chapter 12 - Keeping a clear mind in the face of prejudice
What to do in the face of overwhelming social pressure
Stay alert and don't overlook these threats
Are you inadvertently following a terrible example?
A safe method for navigating dangerous waters

Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief
by John Vespasian

Saturday, 24 January 2015

How to become more entrepreneurial: The verbalization approach

Despite his many innovations in the field of psychology, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) rarely spelled out the social consequences of his theories. His baseline approach was to listen to patients and analyse their mental shadows. Interpreting dreams constitutes an interesting intellectual exercise, but in terms of effectiveness, it cannot compare to vigorous rational discourse.

Letting go of fear

By the time Freud dared to present his social views in writing, he was already 74 years old. His essay Civilization and its Discontents (1930) was radically different from his previous publications. In this ground-breaking book, Freud outlines his views on human psychology from the point of view, not only of individual history, but also of interpersonal behaviour.

Although the overall tone of the essay is cautious and conservative, readers noticed Freud's underlying criticism. Reviewers of the book had no problem with Freud's listening to patients and interpreting their dreams, but his latest opinions were out of the question. The essay generated such opposition that Freud never addressed similar subjects again.

Many decades have passed, but tradition has not lost any of its force. Its tentacles feed on the weak in order to starve the independent; it silences doubts and paralyses initiative; it renders questions inaudible and self-reliance unthinkable.

On the other hand, preaching change for the sake of swimming upstream makes little sense. Being like everybody else has substantial private and professional advantages. It would be foolishly for anyone to discard a secure position simply because it offers few challenges. Before making a bold move, you should have something better in view.

Overcoming passivity

Boredom is one of the most destructive effects of passivity. Lack of variety is annoying; extreme repetitiveness drives people to despair. Passivity generates drudgery because it sucks ambition out of the environment. Little by little, routine turns to hopelessness. Life enjoyment wanes as individuals are emptied of their last drops of entrepreneurship.

Few people are completely innovative or passive. The majority of us oscillate between the two poles, gaining ground one day and retreating on the next. Although we are clever enough to see the long-term disadvantages of passivity, we move away from it only slowly, in careful steps.

Human beings require time to change essential thinking patterns. Even if a man exerts massive efforts, he will not transform his personality in a week. Emotional changes are the outcome of philosophical transformation.

A quick fix will not overhaul your personality, but for all practical purposes, you don't need it either. To improve your effectiveness, you just have to correct your thinking when passivity makes its appearance.

How to verbalize change

We can start the transition from routine to entrepreneurship with a mental exercise that takes only ten minutes, but if you perform it daily for several months, your attitude will change permanently. Here is how the process works:

Devote the initial two minutes to verbalizing the habit that you wish to be discard. Ask yourself why you have been acting and thinking in that particular way. What were you trying to achieve with such behaviour? Was it something that you learned in infancy or that you have picked up along the way?

If you perform the exercise while you are driving alone, take the opportunity to speak out your thoughts. In these days of ubiquitous mobile phones, nobody will be surprised to see a driver speaking aloud in his car. Who knows if he is dictating notes into a recorder or giving instructions by phone to his stock broker?

Take a deep breath a spend the next three minutes exploring your feelings. How strong is your motivation to change? What penalties would you incur if you drop tasks you dislike? Can you afford to quit what you detest? Are you afraid of changing? How justified are your concerns?

During the remaining five minutes of the process, paint a mental picture of the desired transformation. Name the benefits of the alternatives that you want to pursue. Think of the doors that your new behaviour will open. Speak out the advantages and let them turn around your emotions.

Get rid of doubts

If your disputation is sufficiently strong, a feeling of elation should ensue. Make your defence of change passionate. Your speech should win over your heart, not justify the past. Let optimism burn down the remnants of boredom; let ambition bury passivity under the debris of broken routines.

Ten minutes of thoughtfulness can turn around your mood. A vigorous disputation can shift your views from passivity to entrepreneurship. Make this exercise a fun performance. Win yourself over with sound arguments and enthusiastic words.

If you do this once a day during several months, your thought patterns will change. Your alertness to opportunities will increase. Your willingness to seek alternatives will grow until you won't need those ten minutes any more. At that point, your ship will have successfully sailed away from the shore.

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my books.


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Friday, 23 January 2015

A proven formula for enhancing your personal effectiveness

The great advantage of Aristotelian philosophy is its universality. Nevertheless, for everyday decisions, who has the time to check the validity of long chains of reasoning? The fact is that modern life requires instantaneous choices, professional and private. If we do not possess an effective way to deal with complexity, we run the risk of letting random events determine our priorities.

A plan for the next decades

Is there a way to simplify the thinking process without making it lose its accuracy? Can we summarize philosophy in a brief practical guideline that can be applied in all cases? Whatever your personal situation and constraints, I believe that, in life, one can achieve excellent results by means of a simple rule.

The principle can be stated in just one sentence: what you need to do is to develop a clear objective for the remaining decades of your life and then make all choices, substantial or minor, in accordance with that goal. If you manage to get that right, chances are that your years will become an outstanding success. 

A proven formula

The formula is difficult to apply, but its results can be spectacular. Few people make the effort to establish a definite direction for their life. As a result, they lack the capacity to move consistently towards a specific goal. In the short term, randomness can be pleasurable, but very soon, problems begin to appear:
  1. Money is wasted in useless purchases.
  2. The motivation to develop specialized skills is missing.
  3. Entertainment becomes an end it itself and turns quickly into boredom.
  4. Projects that require long-term efforts are abandoned or not undertaken at all.
  5. Erratic behaviour leads to loss of credibility.
  6. Maintenance tasks are neglected or ignored.
  7. In the absence of a proper perspective, excessive risks are taken.
  8. Contradictory desires lead to paralysis.
  9. Past decisions cannot be explained or justified.
  10. In the absence of strong convictions, one cannot connect deeply with other human beings.
The most reliable tool 

In contrast to animals, human beings cannot let their instincts guide their actions. While dogs and cats perceive a narrow part of reality, our brains are aware of hundreds of interconnected details, past or present, that are relevant in each situation. We do not have the choice of ignoring our rational nature.

The refusal to think long-term is man's attempt to become less than human. Leading an effective life begins with the selection of rational goals that comprise the whole lifetime of an individual. A vision that reaches into the next decades is the most reliable tool for making optimal choices in the present.

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


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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Four crucial teachings of history

The great period of Ancient Roman prosperity lasted only two centuries, until the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 C.E. Nevertheless, the physical and intellectual assets accumulated during those years have allowed Roman civilization to exert its influence until our day.

The teachings of the past should never be forgotten, since the principles of how to achieve happiness and success are immutable. We don't need to waste resources making mistakes that can easily be avoided if we pay attention to History.

From the best times of Ancient Rome, we can learn important lessons about how to lead a rational life. Although technology and social context have evolved, we should still pay attention to recommendations of wise individuals who have learned from their errors, frequently after paying a heavy price. The following principles summarize essential elements of how to lead a rational life and enhance our chances of attaining happiness.

1. Adopt an entrepreneurial spirit

You should aim at becoming an entrepreneur, irrespective of your social origin, since individual initiative has repeatedly proven to be the ideal tool to create wealth, independence, and psychological well-being. 

During the golden age of Ancient Rome, the number of self-employed people grew faster than in any previous time in History, as large parcels of uncultivated land were put to agricultural use for the first time. In the 21st century, the same phenomenon is taking place on the internet, which has become the great liberator of entrepreneurial energies without distinction of sex, race, age, or personal history.

2. Devote your efforts only to feasible projects

There are more good ideas around that there is capital to fund them. Although the economy of Ancient Rome experienced sustained growth in the second century C.E., writings from that period show that it was not easy to obtain a loan. 

Contemporary financial institutions are thousands of times more efficient than the modest mortgage markets of Ancient Rome, but the number of individuals looking to borrow money has also grown exponentially. 

At any given time, there are always many more people in the world willing to borrow money than there are funds available. Do not waste your energy on projects that have no real chance of obtaining financial backing. Focus only on workable ventures.

3. Look for alternative ways to achieve your goals

In Ancient Rome, individuals with vision faced similar obstacles as nowadays. How do you fund trade expeditions? Which goods should you import and export? Entrepreneurial men in ancient times quickly realized that the traditional Roman approach to business finance, a mortgage on a piece of land, was inadequate to conduct commercial enterprises. 

Through trial and error, they created different types of partnership contracts that have evolved through the centuries into our modern venture capital funds. Do not give up when traditional methods prove unsuitable to carry out your ideas. Seek further until you find a practicable solution.

4. Embrace tolerance and practise salesmanship

Ancient Romans learned the hard way that a commercial attitude was the only way to maintain a high standard of living. The first and the second century C.E. led to massive wealth creation due to an expansion of tolerance and entrepreneurship across Europe and the Middle East. 

Conflicts, although frequent, were limited in range. In the present context, when millions of individuals across the world are devoting their creativity to international commercial ventures, rationality is respected as the cardinal virtue of those who achieve business success. Effective salesmanship is nothing but logic applied to commerce.

Living in accordance to Nature marks the path to happiness today as it did it in Ancient Rome. Logic and consistency remain the pillars of personal growth. If you doubt that rationality is the best way to conduct your life, read History and study the dire consequences of prejudice and abuse. The events of past centuries prescribe that each of us should become entrepreneurial instead of expecting free help to come to us.

Ancient wisdom that still applies

Instead of adopting self-defeating modern fashions, let us learn the lessons of ancient wisdom and keep away deceitful theories that contradict the facts of History. We need to develop enough resiliency to avoid being overwhelmed by other people's opinion or lack of it. Studying Ancient Rome is a very effective method of reinforcing the idea that we should not waste our time trying to establish paradise on earth.

Discarding new proposals that do not work and favouring proven systems is a sign of wisdom. The same logic applies to walking away from situations where people tell us that rationality doesn't count. Let us avoid repeating the faults of the past and do what is right, even if it happens to be unpopular.

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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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

A comprehensive philosophy summarized in a few sentences

Consistency is the key to clear thinking. Aristotle described the principles of logical reasoning already in the year 345 B.C. Twenty four centuries later, his conclusions remain applicable:
  • Consistency is the key to clear thinking. 
  • Entities should be defined on the basis of their essential characteristics. 
  • Actions lead to consequences. 
  • Today's events are the result of previous occurrences. 
The question, of course, is how you use those conclusions to improve your life.

The first step

When a man formulates his long-term objectives, he should strive to write them clearly and break them down into simple steps. A comprehensive philosophy that cannot be summarized into a few sentences is of little practical use.

Ambitious goals require sustained effort, often over a period of decades. Reducing complex strategies to simple formulas motivates us to attain intermediate targets. Happiness is the result of preceding actions that generate slow incremental progress. Sharp thinkers look, at the same time, far into the future and close into the present.


There is no way of escaping the requirement of clarity. Talking about forthcoming achievements becomes irrelevant if we are unable to define what we need to do today. The feasibility of long-term ambitions depends on man's ability to reduce them to sequential steps.

Mistakes arise from the temptation to move too fast towards our objectives. Disorganized ventures fall prey to their own chaos. Without a well-designed plan, self-reliance turns into doubt and convictions into prejudice. Without a method to filter out irrelevancies, man gets lost in secondary roads that lead him away from his goals.

Lack of thoughtfulness leads to exaggerate problems and blow inconveniences out of proportion. Unclear expectations undermine reason. Confusion renders tasks heavier than they have to be. Contradictory values bring about unbridled emotions. Inconsistent criteria waste energy in endless discussions and destroys the ability to perform well.


In the kitchen, only detailed recipes give consistent results. Eating well is the overall objective, but actual cooking relies on specific ingredients, temperature, seasoning, and a formula that combines them. Failing to identify concrete elements of action makes impossible to implement plans and deprives man of confidence on his own abilities.

Imprecise plans and performance criteria blind our eyes. Today's random actions destroy yesterday's creations. Self-inflicted contradictions lead to failure, anger, and anxiety. A company whose employees render erratic, unpredictable services is doomed. Never trust individuals who are long on philosophical talk and short on implementation details.

Quality controls are useless if people don't know what they are doing. Quality requires clear objectives, purposeful thinking, and continuous action. If you want to be taken seriously, break down your twenty-year goals into monthly steps. The workable approach to happiness is a rational connection between our present actions and our life objectives.

A self-correcting formula

Manufacturers follow a production formula to ensure that they are using the right materials. Check-lists permit managers to assess if a worker is sufficiently trained to do his job. A company's compensation plan aligns the interests of employees with the corporate goals.

Nobody can figure out all right answers all the time, but if you condense your strategy into a formula, mistakes will be self-correcting. Chaos leads to more chaos, but a recipe can be improved from experience. Breaking down long-term goals into detailed steps is of critical importance in business and private life.

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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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The most difficult decision in life

Giacomo Raffaelli discovered his passion for drawing already when he was a kid playing in the streets of the Trastavere district in Rome. His father died in 1765, when Giacomo was only 12 years old, leaving him no other choice than to take a job at his uncle's quarry.

An opportunity

Work at the quarry was all-consuming and Giacomo had no time to devote to drawing, but he found an opportunity to get closer to art when he was 15 years old.

One afternoon, while Giacomo's uncle was away, a priest walked into the quarry and requested a quotation for coloured stones to repair medieval mosaics at Santa Cecilia Church. Giacomo made a quick calculation, offered a good price, and received the commission. As of that day, he began to learn everything he could about mosaics.

It did not take Giacomo long to start a business of his own offering his services to churches to repair old mosaics or lay new ones. The drawing abilities required by the mosaics business were modest, since most scenes consisted of geometrical decorations, flowers, and animals.

A great project

Year after year, Giacomo longed to land a commission for a large mosaic that would let him display his artistic talent, but that was not to be. At night, he would spend hours by the fire making drawings for grandiose mosaics, but the costs of European wars had dried out funding for new projects.

The mosaic-repair business slowed down during the French invasion and Giacomo took to spending whole days at home making drawings for his future masterpiece. With the drawings in hand, he made a tour of churches and monasteries, trying to obtain a commission for his project, a twenty-meter long mosaic representing the Garden of Eden.

Nine years of rejection

During the next nine years, Giacomo collected 82 rejections from places as far away as Ravenna and Aix-en-Provence. Only in December 1809, the Church of San Giovanni Laterano showed interest in a scaled-down version of the Garden of Eden project.

The price offered by the San Giovanni Church was so low that made it almost impossible for Giacomo to break even, let alone make a profit, precisely at the time when he needed money, since he had recently married Simonetta Cappella, a petite 32 year-old Venetian widow.

On the other hand, the commission of the San Giovanni Church would give Giacomo a unique opportunity to make a name for himself and gain recognition as an artist. Giacomo was then close to his 57th birthday. Was it worth it for him to take such a risk? Should he not rather concentrate on his profitable mosaic-repair business?

When the day comes

A visit from a captain of the Imperial Dragons in January 1810 took Giacomo by surprise. "Emperor Napoleon is in Rome and wants to discuss a commission with you," announced the captain.

Excited by the prospect of a major commission, Giacomo collected his drawings of the Garden of Eden and followed the captain to a villa in the Pallatino.

Emperor Napoleon greeted Giacomo warmly and, by means of an interpreter, explained that he had seen the high quality of Giacomo's work and that he was planning to grant Giacomo a commission for a large mosaic at the Minoriten Church in Vienna.

Here is the proposal

"I will be marrying the Duchess of Parma this summer," went on Napoleon. "This mosaic will be my wedding present." Giacomo tried to show his Garden of Eden drawings, but the Emperor shook his head. "The Duchess has already chosen a design for the mosaic. She wants to have a copy of Leonardo DaVinci's Last Supper. Can you do that?"

Napoleon's request made Giacomo's heart stand still for a second. The Emperor was offering him a commission to make a copy of an old painting! To copy another artist's work! When Napoleon mentioned the price of the commission, Giacomo asked the interpreter to repeat it. It was a real fortune, more money than Giacomo had ever made in all his life.

The Emperor had not expected to see Giacomo hesitate. What was that man thinking? Any other artisan in the French Empire would have immediately accepted such a generous commission. "I need a day to think it over," replied Giacomo after taking a deep breath. "I have to consult my wife."

Giacomo returned home, only to find a priest from San Giovanni Church waiting for him. "Cardinal Mazzelli wants to know if you accept the commission for the Garden of Eden mosaic," inquired the priest. "Otherwise, the budget will be used to make repairs in the apse."

A momentous decision

That night, Giacomo had a long discussion with Simonetta. Their first child was on the way and Cardinal Mazelli's price was twenty times lower than Napoleon's offer. "Take the Emperor's commission, Giacomo," concluded Simonetta. "You will have other opportunities later to do the Garden of Eden."

Giacomo knew that Simonetta was lying, but he loved her too much. What if he never had another chance to prove himself as an artist? What if he consumed his life making silly decorations and reproducing other artists' works? He spent the night contemplating his Garden of Eden drawings and, in the morning, he accepted Napoleon's commission.

The mosaic at the Minoriten Church in Vienna made Giacomo Raffaelli a rich man. He lived comfortably for another twenty-six years and had five children with Simonetta.

In our days, the mosaic reproducing Leonardo DaVinci's Last Supper can be still admired in Vienna, although it has lost most of it colours.

Giacomo Raffaelli's drawings of the Garden of Eden were purchased by a collector in 1838 and, still today, they remain in private hands. Those who have seen the drawings say that they are astonishingly beautiful.

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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Boston Public Library under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Taking action too late doesn't work, but taking action too soon doesn't work either

"Some matters pass off more quietly than anyone could expect," wrote Titus Livius two thousand years ago, "but times of trouble enable us to tell discerning men apart from the rest. You are going to see those men reflecting on the cause of their problems, rather than on the problems themselves." 

Tidal changes

These days, when catastrophe and disgrace fill pages of newspapers, we can all use some perspective to shield us from discouragement. Tidal changes have taken place in all ages. Instability and shifting paradigms will befall humanity again and again.
  • People have felt trapped in countries and occupations while their world fell apart.
  • Established markets have disappeared overnight.
  • Systems that were supposed to last forever have revealed themselves as too frail to be trusted.
Deceivingly fragile

Egg-shells look deceivingly fragile. The truth is that breaking out presents almost insurmountable problems for chicken. Baby chicken don't even know that they are inside a shell, since their eyes are still closed.

What makes the situation of infant birds even more critical, if that they have very limited time to accomplish their feat. The little oxygen that gets through the shell won't keep them alive for long. At a certain moment, almost by magic, baby chicken begin to move and break out of the egg.

Experiments have shown that the time needed for hatching varies with each individual bird. Try as you may, if you break the egg-shell yourself in order to help the bird get out, chances are that you will kill it. Do it too soon and the chicken will die. Waiting too long is also a sign of trouble. If the baby bird is unable to hatch on its own efforts, it means that nature has already decided otherwise.

Breaking the shell

Then why on earth do chicken break out of the shell? The simplicity of the answer will not make it less shocking. Birds hatch for one reason only: because, at a certain point in their development, it becomes too uncomfortable to remain inside the egg. It gets too constrained, too warm, too sticky, too hard to breathe inside the shell.

Invisible shells are the hardest to break. Inevitably, each of us carries around a few. Unlike those of chicken, our shells are not made of calcium, but of fear and indecision. We exaggerate problems and underestimate our resiliency. We cling to continuity even when we know that the old bridge ahead of the road has already collapsed. 

Invisible shells 

If your conclusions don't match reality, re-examine your premises. If History has turned your most precious dreams to dust, maybe they were not meant to be realized.

Every chicken must break out of its own shell. Life will be always fraught with distress and difficulties. Don't you ever let them bring you down. Look at the world with a fresh spirit, choose your path, and move on. As Titus Livius put it so well,"urgent measures are meant to be applied with great dispatch."

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my books.


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Saturday, 17 January 2015

There are wide, fertile fields down the river

"We have sown and we have harvested, but without rainfall in the spring, there was not much to reap this year," lamented Noah as he sat down in front of the fire. Sarah stared at her husband, but did not say anything. It was not the best moment to tell Noah that she was pregnant, expecting their first baby.

There is something I want to tell you

"Come and sit down by me, Sarah," went on Noah in a grave voice. "There is something I want to tell you." Sarah did what her husband asked and looked at him, trying not to show her alarm. During their years together, they had often gone through difficult times, but she had never heard Noah sound so desperate, so defeated.

Noah reflected for a long moment and then shook his head. His words came out slowly, reluctantly. "I have had a vision, Sarah. God has talked to me." Sarah bit her lip and waited. She did not believe in God herself, but she had always respected Noah's strong faith.

If we just wait and hope

 "Friends and neighbours are going hungry," continued Noah, "and after we pay the taxes, we will have nothing left ourselves. If we just wait and hope, we might not make it through the winter." Sarah turned her eyes to the fire, searching for some words of encouragement to say to her husband, but she found none.

Suddenly, Noah's voice changed and his tone became determined, almost pressing. "God has told me that we must move. I am to sell the farm for whatever price we can get, and use the money to build a boat, a large boat." He was interrupted by Sarah's surprised reaction. "A boat? What do you want to do with a boat? You know nothing about fishing."

"There are wide, fertile fields down the river, Sarah, I have seen them in my dream. God has told me that we can start a new farm there, a new life. I am to purchase a pair of goats, a pair of chicken, and a pair of sheep, male and female, and take them with us on the boat."

From all the projects that Sarah had heard from her husband night after night, year after year, this was by far the most daring and, at the same time, the most insane. From their first encounter, Sarah had loved Noah because he was an entrepreneur, but unfortunately, as it had turned out, a crazy one.

A pair of goats on a boat, what lunacy, thought Sarah, taking a deep breath. Once again, it was up to her to put some sense into Noah's mind. "Only a pair of each sort is too risky," she objected firmly, "we should take a least two pairs of each sort, male and female."


It was the first time

It was the first time that Sarah had expressed support for any of Noah's risky ideas, and he was so taken aback, that it took him a while to reply. "What if I am wrong, Sarah? What if we lose everything we have?"

Sarah contemplated the reflection of the flames in Noah's eyes. The project was risky, and she could not afford any doubts. She needed to ask the question point-blank. She had to be certain that Noah was telling her the truth. "Did you really have a vision, Noah? Did God really tell you what to do?"

Her heart ached when she saw the pain in Noah's eyes, and he lowered his head. "I am not sure if it was God, Sarah," his voice was
now barely audible, "but I know that my vision is true." There was a silence, but it was short, just long enough for Sarah to lay her hands on Noah's. "Then we will build the boat," she said.

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


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

Friday, 16 January 2015

Smooth operators get more out of life

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