Monday, 28 March 2016

Why you should discard losing propositions quickly

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

An intriguing question

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

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

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

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

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

The cause of the demise


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

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

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

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

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

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

An overcomplicated structure


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

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

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

Be quick to quit worthless projects


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

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

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


Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

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



For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books
Rationality is the Way to Happiness

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The rational approach to acquiring a solid self-confidence

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

Workable methods


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

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

Sustainable improvement


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

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

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

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


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

Desensitisation to danger

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

Risk reduction


Risk reduction is another method that has proven to be very effective. Although History shows the many advantages of stock market investments, millions of people are terrorized of the idea of placing their savings at risk. Purchasing shares of a corporation is viewed as a disproportionate exposure to chance.

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

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


Creative persistence 

Our self-reliance increases when our accomplishments place us on a higher plateau of performance and satisfaction. Creative persistence demands constant exertion of effort and economy of energy. Our purpose is not to repeat unsuccessful attempts, but to assess failure, introduce variations in our approach, and progressively improve the outcome and reward. 
 
Intelligent perseverance allows us to maintain our overall goal but modify our strategy as needed. A wise man asks himself incessantly how he can do things faster, better, and less expensively. Keep your long-term objectives, but show flexibility in your means and time schedule. Your self-confidence will increase at the same speed as your attempts generate better results.
 

Building on existing strengths

Building on existing strengths is another way to attain an increased peace of mind and self-confidence. High achievers seldom possess a well-rounded personality. A person who is able to perform equally well on all areas is a rarity. An even character that is perfectly balanced in all facets should not be elevated to a psychological ideal.

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

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

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

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

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

Increased self-reliance


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

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: photo of ancient painting taken by John Vespasian, 2015.



For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books

Rationality is the Way to Happiness

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

A crucial lesson drawn from 14 years of continuous failure

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

Catastrophic losses


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

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

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

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

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


Disaster after disaster

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

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

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

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


Shattered dreams

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

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

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

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

All ends well

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

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

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

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


Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

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



For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books

The 10 Principles of Rational Living

Thursday, 10 March 2016

How to avoid motivational paralysis in the face of short-term defeat

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

An incomplete picture


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

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

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

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


Difficult challenges

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

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

  • An employee who has worked loyally for a company during several decades loses his job due to the economic recession and finds himself on the street. Was he wrong in devoting so much effort to his work? Instead of performing excellently, should he have done as little as possible in his job?
  • A middle-aged manager who has been saving laboriously all his life now witnesses a stock market crash that devalues his assets in half. Was he mistaken in trying to secure his retirement? Rather than investing, should he have spent his income on frivolities?
  • A loving wife who has dedicated her best years to care for his family is suddenly confronted with her husband's infidelity. Was she too naïve in trusting him? Should she become sceptical of truth in human relationships?
  • A couple who lives frugally for decades in order to pay off their mortgage sees their home damaged by a flood. Instead of saving money every month, should they have spent as much as they earned?

Valid principles

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

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

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

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

Rational action


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

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

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

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

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


For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books

The 10 Principles of Rational Living

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Four effective techniques for preserving your peace of mind

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

Protect your hope and inspiration


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

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

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

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

1. Transform risks into numbers


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

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

2. Set a limit to damages


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

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

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

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

3. Face problems by taking action


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

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

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

4. Rely only on quality information


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

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


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

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


Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

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


For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books