Saturday, 15 December 2018

Christmas, a time to slow down in order to advance faster

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"You are a strange man, Ludovico," complained Alessandra Benucci. "You say that you love me, but you care as little for me as you do for your career." Ludovico Ariosto looked out of the window and did not reply immediately.

His new job as governor of Lucca was difficult and his salary meagre, but the beauty of Tuscany never ceased to astonish him every time he looked outside. "Sometimes, you have to slow down to prepare yourself for a long run," answered Ludovico, shrugging his shoulders. "Anyway, at this moment, this was the only job I could find."

"But you promised that we would get married soon," went on Alessandra, walking up to him and setting her hand on his shoulder. It was June of 1516 and, in three months, Ludovico would be forty-two years old. He turned around to face Alessandra and saw his promises reflected in her eyes.

"I am just asking you to have a little patience, my love," he said, taking in a deep breath. "We will be married as soon as I have saved enough money to lead a proper life." How often had he tried to explain that to her? A hundred, a thousand times? It didn't matter.

Ludovico had changed jobs often, always moving forward, working endless days only to be able to devote the nights to his passion. After years of efforts, he had just completed his poem "Orlando Furioso," although he was still planning to make some revisions.

"You should just let it stand as it is now, Ludovico," exhorted Alessandra. "Your poem is more than good, it is even more than wonderful! It is high time for you to publish it and work on something else. Why don't you write a comedy to please the Bishop? Or a song dedicated to the Duke?"

During the following eight years, Ludovico saved as much money as he could from his salary. Shortly after his fiftieth birthday, he fulfilled his promise and married Alessandra. The couple purchased a small farm near Ferrara, and retired to live there.

When Ludovico Ariosto published his poem "Orlando Furioso," only eighty six copies were printed. During his retirement in Ferrara, he never stopped revising the poem. It is believed that he rewrote parts of it at least two hundred times.

Little by little, the reputation of "Orlando Furioso" began to grow. By the time Ludovico was fifty-seven, his poem had been reprinted many times, and was already considered the work of a genius. Nevertheless, Ludovico continued to make revisions. After his death, Alessandra Benucci published the final version. It was absolutely perfect.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2018.

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Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Confucius' recipe for the good life in four simple steps

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"A happy man is consistent in his steps, not disorderly," wrote Confucius in the year 510 B.C. Twenty-six centuries later, it remains a challenge to lead a consistent, well-balanced, happy life.

Technology has rendered human life less demanding in terms of physical effort, opening the door to endless choices, but the multiplication of choices has increased the risk of losing sight of our goals, and making colossal mistakes.

"Foolish men do things without knowing their purpose," remarked Confucius, "but chaos is not the way. Assess your options, find the right path, and walk it every day." From Confucius' writings, I have extracted the following four practical recommendations for leading a happy life.



Practical recommendations

First, define your long-term direction: Following the fashion of the day is unlikely to bring you peace of mind. You need to figure out what you want from life, your long-term goals, your lifetime priorities. No formula can guarantee happiness for everyone, but if you think of people you know who are highly satisfied with their lives, are they not without exception individuals who are pursuing consistent goals year after year?

Second, remember that activity beats immobility: "Fortune comes from turning promising ideas into reality by means of patient practice, day after day," observed Confucius. Passivity,
contradictions and endless hesitations were as much a waste of time in Confucius' times as they are today. Once you have defined your long-term direction, start walking the path. No matter how ambitious your goals may be, the best strategy is to take determined action. Start doing something today to move in the direction you've chosen. Even if the wind stands still for a while, a ship already motion will keep advancing.

Third, cultivate your strengths: Nowadays, you can learn almost anything you want, no matter where you live, but should you acquire knowledge at random? Should you spend years testing the waters of different pools until you find the perfect one to swim? Of course not. The easiest way to attain success and happiness is to cultivate your strengths. Know yourself, what you enjoy and what you dislike. Assess your abilities, choose a particular field, and develop your expertise. As Confucius put it, "learning requires no rank and knows no end." Yet, learning will prove more productive if you cultivate your best qualities. They will take you as far as you want to go.

Fourth, don't grow discouraged by obstacles: "The wise man does not fret, even if he sometimes must stand still for a while," remarked Confucius. Life is full of challenges, annoyances and inconveniences. It is normal to encounter some obstacles when you are moving forward.
From time to time, you'll be caught in traffic jams, misfortunes and disasters, so what? Occasionally, you will be unfairly criticised, so what? Getting discouraged by obstacles or by other people's folly is a waste of time. Keep trudging forward, keep working, keep building a better life for yourself.

Your time on earth is limited. Your best chance of attaining happiness lies in using your resources and opportunities efficiently. Define your long-term ambitions and pursue them with passion. Happiness results from purposeful motion, not from passivity. Become what Confucius defined as "a man of endless purpose, a man who never tires of learning." If you do so, you'll be on your way.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2018.


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Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Aristotle's formula for success and happiness

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Twenty-five centuries ago, Aristotle wrote about the principles of reality. His conclusions remain fully applicable in the twenty-first century. For those who don't have much spare time, Aristotle's teachings possess the great advantage that they can be summarised in a single sentence: "Identity and causality govern reality."

There is no way of escaping the principles of identity and causality. They apply to everything we do, and also to our perceptions and thinking. When we make mistakes, the reason always lies in our attempt to breach one of these principles.

We break the principle of identity when we imagine qualities that do not exist in reality. How often have you assessed a person, object or situation much too quickly, only to realise later how flawed your initial judgement was? We also tend to exaggerate problems when we grow overly emotional. Blowing problems out of proportion is an all too common phenomenon. I view exaggeration as the quintessential breach of the principle of identity.

Causality simply means identity in motion. It entails amongst others that, once you identify the true characteristics of an individual, you can predict how he will act in the future. Similarly, once you identify the essential characteristics of an organisation, you can predict with a large degree of certainty how it will act in the future.

The shortest path

Your understanding of identity and causality determines the success of your private and professional endeavours. Observing these principles constitutes the shortest path to prosperity and happiness. In business, individuals who respect these principles will be rewarded with increased efficiency and productivity. Conversely, those who act in breach of these principles are bound to suffer financial losses and personal tragedy.

Ignoring the characteristics of human beings and organisations, overlooking their identity, is tantamount to blinding your eyes. The result of self-inflicted blindness is predictable: you will make mistake after mistake, and those will be accompanied by failure, anger and depression.

Aristotle's principles are extremely useful for solving practical problems. Imagine for instance a manager who becomes aware that his employees are delivering erratic levels of quality. How can he apply identity and causality to solve the problem?

A wrong approach would be for him to implement immediately rigid quality controls across the board. Strict quality controls will do little good because the manager has not bothered to study the problem and identify the cause. Instead of addressing the real problem, the new quality controls are likely to alienate employees, and slow down operations.

A simple formula

The Aristotelian method demands observation and a rational assessment of facts. The manager in our example needs to check the facts, and ask the right questions: Why are quality levels erratic? Are employees using the right materials? Is every member of the team well-trained to do his job? Does the company's compensation system align employees' interests with the company's goals? Should the company redesign its production process? Is the company using the right technology?

Of course, the manager might make mistakes when he is trying to find the answers, but if he is using the proper methodology, his mistakes will be self-correcting. Identity and causality are offering him a proven system for reaching accurate conclusions. It is a system from which everybody can benefit. If you adopt the Aristotelian way of thinking, you will achieve your goals faster, with less effort and lower levels of stress.

Aristotle's formula is easy to remember. Check the facts. Think clearly. Be consistent. And if you discover contradictions, check your logic and correct the errors. Consistency is the key, not only to clear thinking, but also to success and happiness.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical sculpture. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2018.

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

 
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Sunday, 16 September 2018

The most difficult decision you'll ever make

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Giacomo Raffaelli discovered his passion for drawing 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 take a job at his uncle's quarry.

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 the 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 by offering his services to churches to repair old mosaics or lay new ones. The drawing abilities required by mosaics were modest, since most scenes consisted of geometrical decorations, flowers, and animals.

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 preparatory drawings for grandiose projects, but the costs of European wars had dried out the funding for new mosaics.

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


Dozens of rejections

Giacomo made attempts for nine years, and 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.

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

Still, the commission from San Giovanni Church would give Giacomo a unique opportunity to make a name for himself and gain recognition as an artist. Giacomo was close to his 57th birthday. Was it worth it for him to take such a risk? Or should he rather concentrate on his profitable mosaics-repair business?

An opportunity

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 give Giacomo a commission for a large mosaic at the Minoriten Church in Vienna.

"I will be marrying the Duchess of Parma this summer," went on Napoleon. "The mosaic will be my wedding present." Giacomo then 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 large commission just to make a copy of an old painting! Just to copy another artist's work! When Napoleon mentioned the price, Giacomo asked the interpreter to repeat it. It was a real fortune, more money than Giacomo had ever made in his whole life.

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

A difficult choice


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 money will be used to make repairs in the apse."

That night, Giacomo had a long discussion with Simonetta. Their first child was on the way, and
Napoleon's offer was twenty times higher than Cardinal Mazelli's. "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 so 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, but 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 still be admired in Vienna, although its colours have somewhat faded. Since it is just a copy of another artist's painting, it has never attracted large crowds. In fact, most people living in Vienna don't even know it exists.



Giacomo Raffaelli never got another opportunity to carry out his Garden of Eden project. When Giacomo died, the project remained undone. Most likely, it will never be done. The preparatory drawings for the Garden of Eden project 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.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2018.

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

 
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Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Why clear, rational preferences are essential to achieving and keeping happiness

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How would you rate your current level of happiness? If you are already experiencing the highest levels of personal satisfaction, let me congratulate you. Fact is that most people aren't. My next questions is slightly more sensitive. If you were to assume for yourself a life expectancy of 90 years, at what level of happiness are you aiming to spend the rest of your life?

Individuals who are already having a great life tend to worry about how they are going to maintain their happiness in the coming decades. In contrast, people who are rating themselves as unhappy tend to hope for a better future. The crucial question for them, of course, is how to make their dreams come true.

In any case, if achieving and keeping happiness is a long shot, it pays to aim as close as you can. How can you make sure that you are moving in the right direction? Through the years, the following three principles have helped me sharpen my focus. They may be of interest to you.

1. Clear preferences make happiness more easily attainable

People have different ideas of what it means to be happy, but this does not mean that random events possess the capacity to improve your life. More often than not, random factors will only create confusion and irritation.

Happiness is composed of specific experiences that human beings desire to have. Well-being is a positive event, something that we really wish to experience, and keep experiencing. It is a place where we want to be, and a place where we want to stay.

In this respect, I strongly encourage you to draw a detailed picture of your ambitions, so that the picture can serve you as compass while you are walking through life day after day. The sharper your picture, the better decisions you will make, and the faster you'll move in the right direction.

2. Happiness involves the avoidance of undesirable events

At the very minimum, happiness demands the postponement of death for as long as possible. What other negative elements do you need to keep away in order to stay happy? Make the list as long as you need. Pain and sickness should be amongst the first things to avert. The same goes, for most people, for poverty and discomfort.

Your compilation of negatives won't be complete until you have added names of particular individuals, or at least, identified which types of persons you dislike. The purpose of this exercise is to make you conscious of which elements you consider incompatible with happiness.

Few people are actually aware of everything they dislike. Beyond trivialities ("I don't like to eat boiled vegetables"), they won't be able to name the type of environment, physical and psychological, that they rather avoid. Again, the sharper the picture in your mind, the better you will become at steering away from unpleasant things, places and people.

3. Happiness requires a strong sense of direction

This third aspect is often overlooked. Lacking a sense of direction is the equivalent of trusting luck to make you happy. Random events might occasionally make you happy, but most of the time, they won't. If you don't know where you are going, if you don't know what you want from life, you will inevitably feel lost, vulnerable, and confused.

Clarity of purpose gives individuals targets to achieve and paths to follow. The human mind, our ability to think logically, is preeminently teleological ("teleo" means "goal" in Greek). We feel, think and act on the basis of goals that we give ourselves, on the basis of a sense of direction that we develop through experience.

Steps taken in the right direction are likely to improve the quality of your experiences, at least in the long term. Your life should flow towards your objectives, even if those objectives are as imprecise as "I like doing this" or "this is the kind of place I want to live in." Steer your days accordingly, so that you pursue specific or semi-specific goals, while at the same time, you keep negative events at bay.

Whatever your present situation, achieving and keeping a better future is going to involve steady work. Most people are able to motivate themselves for a short while, but they are quick to give up when they meet the first difficulties. Don't be one of those who can only motivate themselves for very short periods.

Draw a sharp picture of your future, as sharp as you can, and let that vision provide you with a clear, strong, steady sense of direction. Only consistent, rational ambitions can sustain the long-term motivation that allows individuals to reach the highest level of happiness.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2018.

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

 
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Wednesday, 8 August 2018

How to face a painful loss without giving up hope for the future

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No matter how hard you work or how motivated you are, bad luck is going to hit you sooner or later. Maybe someone acting negligently or mistakenly will cause your misfortune. Maybe you will become a victim of a shift in the economy, or of some random accident. Adversity just happens.

It is not easy to recover your peace of mind when life has turned dramatically for the worse. Difficult periods will test the validity of your philosophy, and rightly so. Can your convictions help you regain serenity? Are you able to face a painful loss without giving up hope for the future?

Some psychologists recommend groundless optimism as an emotional defence against adversity. If you try out their recommendation, you will see that it doesn't work for long. In fact, you will only be wasting your time.

The human mind, for as long as it remains healthy, cannot sustain beliefs that are not anchored in reality. Self-manipulation, instead of creating joy, will only lead to bitterness, errors and confusion. Stay way from fabricated emotions.

The first step

What is the first step to improve your mood when the world seems to be falling apart? My recommendation is that you should focus on reality, and on reality only. Forget about empty positivity and gratuitous cheers because they won't do you any good.

What you need to do is to look hard at your problems, analyse and measure them. In order to recover, you first need to assess the damage, and take inventory of what you have left. An analysis of your situation should allow you to identify the real trouble, the real cause behind the adversity that has hit you. The problem might be as easily to identify as some common sickness, or the loss of a job. Or it could be an exploitative relationship or a wrong career, factors that are not so easy to detect.

Whatever the affliction, it is essential that you separate the actual problem from your emotional reaction. You worrying about bankruptcy is not the same as bankruptcy itself. Make an effort to distinguish the facts from the folklore around the facts. Unless you are in jail still for a long time, or suffering from terminal illness, you can turn around most situations. Yet, you first have to size up the problem in its real proportions.

You have to stay real, reasonable, objective. Human beings possess an innate inclination to exaggerate misfortunes. Such exaggerations will frequently grow to a ridiculous extent. Our emotions, if left unchecked, will automatically magnify our problems.

The rational response

The rational response to adversity begins with reducing difficulties to their actual size. Do not be overwhelmed by seemingly unavoidable catastrophes that might occur in the future. If you can predict a problem, chances are you can do something to solve it, or at least minimize it. Force yourself to drop exaggerated concerns, so that you can concentrate exclusively on the issues at hand.

Severe sickness is destructive and unpleasant, but you might still have many years left to enjoy life. A loss of employment or reputation will reduce your current income, but nothing prevents you from giving your career a new direction. There are countless options you can explore to rebuild your finances, reputation, and social life.

To recover your peace of mind, you don't need to become artificially optimistic. What you need to do is gain true perspective. Rationality is the path to serenity, recovery, and happiness. Can you appraise your concerns realistically, look at the next decades, and muster enough strength to shrug your shoulders? Try to say "so what?" and mean it. Chances are that you still have plenty of time to do great things in life, enjoy your days, and thrive in your chosen career. Once you get rid of exaggerated emotions, you are on your way.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2016.

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

 
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Monday, 23 July 2018

A cure for pessimism -- Why you should practise Aristotle's advice every day

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More often than not, the desire to achieve ambitious goals immediately and easily is going to prove unrealistic. Important things, such as building your career, investments and personal relationships, demand substantial time and effort.

If you are feeling stressed because of your slow progress, remind yourself that it makes no sense to put pressure on the wrong places. Some things in life take as long as they take. The process of reaching ambitious goals is to be enjoyed day by day, not viewed as a waste of time.

Substantial skills, like learning a foreign language, require months or years of effort. Yet, the investment in effort, time and energy to pursue long-term goals is worth it. In life, you have plenty of time to find your own way. If you think that this is not the case, you may want to check your priorities.

"Some talents are innate, but others can only be acquired through practise," wrote Aristotle in twenty-five centuries ago. "The movement of animals is governed by the law of cause and effect, but the essential characteristic of human beings, rationality, can only be developed by choice." Are you aware of your choices and priorities? Are those rational and well-aligned with each other?


Slow progress


Rationality and alignment, personal or societal, should not be taken for granted. Centuries of decay followed the fall of the Roman Empire. For generations, fear replaced rational discourse as the primary means of human interaction. In many fields, knowledge remained inaccessible to the great majority of the population. As a result, life expectancy dramatically decreased.

Conditions only improved in the thirteenth century. The transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance opened a wide range of opportunities for talented individuals. Towns attracted tradesmen and merchants, who manufactured utensils, made clothes, and built houses.

In Italian cities, like Florence and Venice, the wealth created by entrepreneurs created a market for artists.
In the time of the great Renaissance artists, such as Botticelli and Michelangelo, upward social mobility became possible for an important segment of the population.

Problems and obstacles

In our days, despite problems and obstacles, our opportunities for personal development have multiplied to the extent that they are practically endless, making it easier for all of us to explore our fields of interest, grow in knowledge and skills, and find our own path.

Millions of men and women are now enjoying levels of prosperity that would have been unthinkable for the wealthiest prince in the Middle Ages. The Internet and global markets are opening new opportunities to entrepreneurship. We are living in a period of economic growth that offers countless opportunities for each person to build a better future for himself.


Ours is the century of the empowered individual. We inhabit a world where businesses can be started with negligible upfront investment, where innumerable doors are open to personal initiative, giving us plenty of opportunities to find our own way to success and happiness.


A cure for pessimism 

If you feel short-changed in any way, make a pause and look at things with perspective. If you are lucky enough to live in an industrialised country, you will not lack chances for personal development.

In moments of pessimism, remind yourself that digital media are decreasing our educational costs, that thousands of job openings are available on line, that inexpensive software apps are making our lives easier, and that the cost of starting a business remains low in many jurisdictions. Chances are that you have more opportunities than you think.

"Materials and substances are not enough to produce change," observed Aristotle. "The fact that something can be transformed, does not mean that it will. Without activity, there is no motion." 


Let us devote our days to staying in motion in the direction of our choice. Let us transform the assets and skills we have into something more valuable. Let us seize the opportunities, and turn ourselves into a motor of change.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2018.

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



 
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Saturday, 7 July 2018

What should I do with my life? That's a question young people ask themselves all the time

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What should I do with my life? That's a question young people ask themselves all the time, especially when they have to choose a career. Adults will also ask themselves a similar question when they are considering embarking on a new career, starting their own business, or moving to a new city or country.

If you adopt a rational philosophy, the answer is straightforward. It does not matter much where you start your new career, business, friendships or relationships. What matters is the overall sense of direction, the overall motivation and drive. Let those define the details, so that you only have to worry about the great lines.

By all means, do not be afraid of selecting a demanding career as long as you stay away from narrow, negligible markets. What you want is a career, business, and social relationships that lead you to crowded markets, to places where there are plenty of new potential customers, investors, business partners, and friends.

As long as you avoid minuscule markets, you will do well if you operate rationally, that is, with steady persistence and motivation. This is why, before embarking on a long-term venture, you should make a pause, and assess how your project relates to the eight fundamental human needs. Here is a check list you can use. If you stay centrally or marginally within these eight markets, chances are that you will do very well.

1. Food: The objectives of new food technologies are to increase productivity, quantity, quality, and speed of delivery. Can you build your new career or business in this area? Population growth, in particular in developing countries, is requiring higher agricultural outputs at lower costs. In addition, consumers in industrialised countries are demanding higher quality. Research and development efforts in the food industry are focused not only on production, but also on distribution. Improved packaging and logistics are as important as improved agricultural techniques. Still today, large amounts of food are ruined during transportation and storage. If you can find a way to earn a living in any of those market segments, you can develop a successful career decade after decade.

2. Health services: In addition to the development of new patentable drugs, massive efforts are being devoted to improving hospital management. Pilot projects carried out in the last decade have shown that a better organisation of resources can slash patients' waiting time and hospitals' operational costs. Even if you are not a physician or scientists, there are plenty of opportunity to earn a living in health-related industries. Human beings will always be willing to pay good money to live longer and stay healthier. If you choose to develop a career in this area, you can also profit from low-cost training opportunities on-line.

3. Housing: The last decade has led to overbuilding in some countries. At the time of this writing, you can still acquire houses for a low price in some areas of Greece and Uruguay, just to name two examples. Thus new construction should concentrate on the most profitable segments of the market. Pre-manufactured housing is still underdeveloped in many countries, and can be expected to grow in our century. Without having to be an architect or engineer, there are plenty of opportunities to make a living in the housing market. I know personally some people who are earning high incomes as real estate agents just because they have chosen to work in hot housing markets. Will you consider relocation, so that you can also profit from high-growth career opportunities?

4. Clothing: The internet has changed how the fashion industry operates. The separation of design and production is bound to accelerate during the next decades with an emphasis on increased speed. It is conceivable that, very soon, the time that elapses from design to consumer purchase is reduced to a few days. If you feel affinity for fashion, colours, and human relationships, you may feel at home in the rag trade. Fortunes continue to be made by opening chain shops that appeal to a particular segment of the market. As the population grows wealthier, individuals are willing to pay more for clothes that fit their individual style and size, and clothes that incorporate the reliability of high-quality brands. Either in design, production o sales, opportunities are virtually limitless.

5. Communication and transportation: Ubiquitous internet access will continue to affect how we work, drive, and communicate. The capabilities of mobile phones are already surpassing those of laptop computers, improving our productivity and quality of life. Whether you want to design apps for mobile phones, or earn a living in anything related to transportation, hotels, holidays or event organisation, you will need persistence and imagination. Theme hotels are becoming hot because people are willing to pay more for unique experiences. The same goes for special theme holidays. If you like travelling or communications, you can find a niche in this huge market, even if you are not a engineer or software developer.

6. Culture and entertainment: Better digital audio and video technology will continue to increase the world's cultural output. Our century is already multiplying the world's choice in films, songs, books, and podcasts. What we have seen during the last decade is just the beginning. If you have any kind of creative urge, this might be the perfect market for you. You no longer need a large company behind you (such as a large record company) to launch your career as musician or entertainer. The market grows every year, and will continue to grow exponentially. Once people have covered their basic needs, they are more than willing to devote a good part of their income to entertainment. Will you take advantage of this major trend?

7. Financial services: The gap between professional and personal money management continues to diminish year after year. The quality and speed of financial information should increase further in the next years. Improved trading platforms on the internet are opening additional market segments to individual investors, leading to more transparency, and reducing their investment risk. If you have been investing for years for your private needs, will you consider doing that professionally. Money-management has become a global business. Once you have acquired the necessary skills, it does not really matter where you live in London, Paris, Frankfurt, New York, Shanghai, or anywhere else. If you have a quiet, analytic personality, money-management might be the perfect business for you, the perfect environment in which to build your career.

8. Legal and protection services: Pre-paid legal plans and litigation insurance, which have become successful in some countries, will continue to expand in the next decades. Conflict-resolution services should also experience growth in our century, since more companies are discovering the effectiveness of mediation and arbitration in commercial disputes. Protection and security markets are also growing exponentially, not only in terms of services, but also in terms of products, often composed of hardware and software. Even if you are not a lawyer, this market offers limitless opportunities to develop products and services, also with the advantage that those can be easily (with minor adaptations) rolled out in different countries and languages.

Irrespective of your choice of business or profession, those eight markets will determine your future. In fact, there is very little else in terms of large markets outside those eight areas. Our desires will always revolve around those eight domains because they meet the principal needs of what it means to be human. Those eight markets can be improved and enhanced, but they cannot be ignored. If you are about to choose a new career or business, make sure that you stay within those eight crowded markets.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2018.

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

 
Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter


Here is the link to an audio interview just published:


Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Five widespread ideas that are at odds with reality

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You have to let go of prejudices that prevent you from developing your potential. You have to discard traditions that are not in line with current opportunities. We live in an era of abundant resources and unlimited possibilities that, all too often, we fail to exploit.

By throwing away ideas that do not work, you will open the door to realistic plans, workable solutions, and satisfactory results. Let me review briefly five widespread convictions that are at odds with reality.

1. The idea that the purpose of life is to serve other people

The problem with this belief is that it is semi-true. Interacting with other human beings and providing good service to them is highly rewarding. All of us draw deep satisfaction from the gratitude of customers, friends or family members.

A different story is the desire to help strangers for the sake of achieving ethical perfection. If you pursue this desire too far, it can literally destroy your life.

Cost-effective service to customers can only be sustained permanently when it is provided commercially, that is, on a profit-making basis. Service rendered on the basis of personal sacrifice can be viable in some circumstances, but it will face major difficulties in remaining operational in the long-term.

2. The idea that you need someone else's approval before you can take initiative

Gregariousness is an essential component of human psychology. We all love to be appreciated by friends and colleagues. On many occasions, honours and distinctions are as important as monetary rewards. Nevertheless, this should not lead you to believe that you cannot determine your destiny unless your have obtained universal social approval.

In industrialised societies, personal initiative plays a determinant role in individual happiness. Innovation and change inevitably disrupt social structures. Anyone who deviates from standard behaviour will inevitably be criticised.

Innovators will frequently find these psychological obstacles harder to overcome than lack of access to capital. Yet, you should not let criticism paralyse your initiatives.

3. The idea that you have to content yourself with your current situation

Physical resources are indeed limited, but this fact should not prevent you from establishing ambitious goals for yourself. Keep in mind that you can borrow money and other assets if you demonstrate that you can use them productively.

The global economy is a scenario where resources are continuously shifted from low- to high-productivity areas. Purpose and initiative play a crucial role in exploiting assets to the maximum.

Individuals with visionary business models are discovering new applications for old technologies, and additional customers for existing products. Even if material resources are limited, the main driver of your personal growth is your creativity.

4. The idea that you are too young or too old to improve your life

Such limitations never hold true overall, although they may apply to specific goals. For instance, learning to play the piano at an advanced age can be a lot of fun, but a person in his seventies will find it very difficult to pursue a career as a pop artist.

Restrictions can often be lifted or circumvented by changing the context. Goals can be slightly modified in order to seek better market opportunities. Personal limitations can inspire us to figure out more effective approaches to make or sell our products. Careers can be redefined. Professions can be combined with ancillary tasks in order to serve clients in surprising, more fulfilling ways.

5. The idea that you should give up because you really have no chance

Although newspapers are reporting daily extraordinary achievements in all areas of human activity, few people possess the strength of character to defy colleagues, friends and family members to pursue challenging goals.

Psychologically, most people find less menacing to watch the performance of top athletes on television than seeing a friend start a business. Most men will rather praise the latest film of their favourite actress rather than support their wife's dream to become an actress herself. We do not mind being surpassed by those we have never met, but we dread the idea that someone close to us might grow faster than ourselves.

Do not let any of those prejudices slow you down. Each day, you can find new possibilities to pursue your dreams. Do not be discouraged by your age, lack of resources, or lack of connections. As soon as let go of counter-productive beliefs, your alertness and effectiveness are bound to increase. Use them to figure out which steps you need to take.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2016.

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

 
Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter

Thursday, 24 May 2018

A proven self-development method everybody can use

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If you are well prepared, good things will happen to you. Closed doors will open, opportunities will materialize, and jobs will become available. Preparedness brings not only material benefits, but also psychological ones, in particular self-reliance, which is a highly desirable trait in all walks of life.

Through education, apprehensive kids can become stars. Through training, people fearful of every shadow can thrive in new challenges. Through preparation, men suspicious of every innovation can turn themselves into self-confident achievers.

We should all welcome any means and ideas that help us face life courageously. While dejection leads you to disaffected railway tunnels, self-reliance will motivate you to seek out the shortest way to attain your objectives.

Looking ahead

Training and education, reading and learning, enable man to see farther down the road. Preparedness builds the conviction that achievement is within your reach. Looking ahead with confidence raises individuals above the average. While people without goals are so afraid to slip and fall that they will keep their eyes focused on the ground, those with a vision can use preparedness to reinforce their self-confidence.

How long does it take for a person to develop the ability to turn temporary defeat into a step to victory? In the eyes of worrisome men, achievement is a receding point in the horizon, but in the mind of rational individuals, objectives are to be pursued relentlessly, day after day. Rational people know that attaining ambitious goals is going to involve overcoming difficult obstacles.

In our age, if you talk to men in their nineties, you will hear the story of how they returned from  World War II without any savings or prospects, how they had to rebuild their lives from scratch. Their trust in the opportunities provided by their environment was motivating them to achieve new goals, start families, build houses, accumulate wealth, and lead happy lives.

The only way they knew was to move forward. Each step was preparing them for the next. What they learned one evening, they would put in practice the next morning. Training was done on the job. Evening education was often the only path to whatever knowledge they were missing to get ahead. Their self-confidence was the result of their willingness to absorb new information.

Preparedness

Preparedness allows individuals to overcome shyness. In addition, when you learn to perform new tasks, you will develop mental resilience. A man who acquires new specific skills is, at the same time, training himself overall to deal with any sort of obstacle. Acquiring new information will enhance your general capacity to solve problems, and face life's challenges successfully.

Developing an active mind enables man to overcome adversity. Self-reliance allows us to identify risks, and discard fears that lack basis in reality. Preparedness and education, either formal or self-acquired, reinforce creativity. Imagination and innovation are characteristics of active minds. Those faculties are unknown to people living in fear.

When things go wrong, fearful men blame the world, but self-confident individuals will simply assess their options, choose the most promising, and redouble their efforts. Training and education help us accept the fact that making mistakes is part of our learning process. Only ignorant, unprepared people will see all adversities as final, all obstacles as insurmountable.

Trees planted on fertile ground will always grow to cover any hurts from their past. Learning and education in all forms constitute the fruitful land where your self-confidence can take roots. The conviction that knowledge can be acquired and mastered will motivate you to further achievement.

Self-reliance

Self-reliance renders man willing to try new approaches, it help him grow adventorous and bold. His capacity for innovation constitutes an essential element of his long-term success. By the time a cautious conservative begins to move, a fearless innovator will already have gone through the process of failure, reflection, and self-improvement.

In all fields, learning inevitably involves errors, plenty of them, until you have acquired the skills and expertise necessary to achieve your objectives. Self-confidence will allow you not to pay too much attention to your failures. Resilience will preclude your temporary doubts from turning into permanent paralysis.

Beginner's mistakes are part of the learning curve in any endeavour, whether it is private or professional. Detailed, valuable knowledge can only be acquired by playing on the field. The experience of trial and error will build your alertness and self-confidence. Start your preparation for future challenges today, so that you can get the clock to tick in your favour.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: Photograph of classical fountain. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2017.

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

 
Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter


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Here is the link to an audio interview just published:


Saturday, 5 May 2018

The philosophical impact of setting longevity as a top personal priority

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If human beings were happy all the time, there would be little need for philosophy. If transactions never went wrong, there would be no need of lawyers and arbitration services. If individuals never became sick to the extent that they fear for their lives, few persons would choose to become physicians. If unhappiness and conflict justify the existence of philosophy and law, we can regard death as the ultimate justification for medicine, and its prevention, as the most crucial subject of study.

Statistics tell us why people die, but there is much more to death than what the eye can perceive. Road accidents, heart failure, stroke, and cancer occupy prominent positions in every country's causes of decease. Contemporary data also record the growing death toll taken by Parkinson and Alzheimer.

Statistics show the immediate causes of decease, but do not address the fundamental question of why we have to die in the first place. This issue should not to be dismissed as trivial. Unless we get a clear idea of why we must die, statistical data become irrelevant. After all, one could argue, if we are doomed to die at eighty-two (statistically speaking), what does it matter whether we die of cancer or diabetes?

The way to longevity

Since all living creatures expire at a certain point, we take for granted that nature has assigned a fixed lifespan to each species, but is this really true? Can science extend man's life and push death away, decade after decade, allowing the average person to become a hundred years old before his or her final demise?

History gives us many examples of men and women who have lived longer than a century. What is preventing us today from transforming longevity into a general rule applicable to all citizens? If we could eliminate accidents as a cause of death, can we also get rid of cancer and cardiovascular disease? Will those conditions ever be eradicated?

Scientists have put forward different theories to explain why living creatures die. Nonetheless, most hypotheses have been abandoned during the last sixty years due to insufficient evidence. The two remaining theories (the waste theory and the exhaustion theory) are still considered as work in progress, but they seem to be pointing in the right direction.

First, the waste theory regards death as the ultimate consequence of biochemical decay. From the moment an animal begins to breath, its cells will act as miniature biological converters that turn oxygen and other substances into chemical products that are consumed in order to keep the organism alive.

The conversion process is going to generate a certain amount of biological waste, which will slowly accumulate in the body. When the amount of chemical waste surpasses the body's ability to withstand decay, the living creature will die.

Second, the exhaustion hypothesis regards death as the natural depletion of the body's capacity to replace its own cells. While an animal is alive, its cells are continuously dying and being replaced by new cells, which are almost identical to the ones that have died.

According to this theory, cells can only reproduce themselves a limited number of times without losing important genetic information. This limitation is what determines the maximum lifespan of each species, which in the case of human beings. it is estimated to be 120 years.

When you hear about these two theories, you realize how little sense death statistics make. Indeed, if these hypotheses prove to be true, there might be a common reason for widespread causes of death such as cancer, Alzheimer, and cardiovascular disease.

A mentality change

What if those conditions are nothing but symptoms of a general process of biochemical waste-accumulation and cellular exhaustion? If that is the case, the practical consequences are earth-shattering. It is the equivalent of waking up one day, and realize that your vision of the world has been, until that moment, completely wrong.

If the latest scientific theories about death are correct, this means that the way most people make decisions is massively unrealistic. The misunderstanding has its roots in our perception of sickness and death as the result of the following steps:
  • We are born into a certain family and social environment.
  • We live, eat, and work according to what is generally considered acceptable.
  • One day, cancer, cardiovascular disease, or other major sickness hits us out of the blue.
  • We follow a medical treatment in order to combat that particular illness.
  • Even if the treatment is successful, sooner or later, another disease will hit us.
  • Finally, when medical treatments fail, we die.
However, if the theories of waste-accumulation and cellular exhaustion are true, we need to revise our concept of what it means to live, eat, and work. Sickness and death take a different significance when they are viewed as part of a natural process which each of us can influence to a larger extent than it is currently assumed.

The new paradigm would reshape our vision of life into a sequence of events in which we play a much more significant role:
  • We are born into a certain family and society, which do not always know what is good for us.
  • We will be much better off if we live, eat, and work using reason as a standard, irrespective of what other people may think of us.
  • We need to learn how to live in ways that slow down the accumulation of biochemical waste in our organism because our own behaviour is the number-one factor that contributes to keeping us healthy.
Take action today

Thus, when it comes to health matters, prevention should be our primary concern. If we trust the waste-accumulation theory, the right behaviour should help us postpone fatal illness to a later stage in life, enabling us to live longer and more healthily.

We need to learn to live in ways that minimize cell exhaustion, and help us extend our lifespan towards the ideal 120 years, which seems to be the limit for the human species. What kills most people is a direct consequence of their wrong way of living. By improving our decisions and actions, we can lead a healthier existence, and extend our lifespan.

Imagine the advantages of living a decade longer without being afflicted by debilitating illness. The inspiring aspect of the latest theories about death is that they are reinforcing the idea that each of us, as rational individuals, are in control of our own future.

Although we are still far away from understanding all implications of the new paradigm, it is clear that state-of-the-art scientific theories are strongly favouring the fundamental tenets of rational living: thoughtfulness, prudence, and self-reliance.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: photograph of classical painting -- photo taken by John Vespasian, 2016.

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

 
Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter


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Here are the links to four audio interviews just published:


Saturday, 21 April 2018

Turning what you have into something more valuable

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Centuries of decay followed the fall of the Roman Empire. For generations, fear replaced rational discourse as the primary means of human interaction. In many fields, knowledge remained inaccessible to the great majority of the population. As a result, life expectancy dramatically decreased.

Conditions improved in the 13th century. The transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance opened a wide range of opportunities for talented individuals. Towns attracted tradesmen and merchants, who manufactured utensils, made clothes, and built houses.

In Italian cities, like Florence and Venice, the wealth created by entrepreneurs brought into existence a market for artists. Upward social mobility became possible to an important segment of the population in the time of great Renaissance artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo.

Developed by choice

In that period, people rediscovered the teachings of Aristotle: "Some talents are innate and others are acquired through practice," wrote Aristotle in the year 328 B.C. "While the movement of animals is governed by the law of cause and effect, the essential characteristic of human beings, rationality, can only be developed by choice."

In our days, despite problems and difficulties, opportunities for personal development have multiplied in many countries to the extent that they are practically endless, making easier for every individual to explore fields in which he is interested, and find his own path.

Millions of men and women are enjoying today levels of prosperity that would have been unthinkable for the wealthiest prince in the Middle Ages. The advent of the internet and the global economy are tearing down barriers to entrepreneurship. We are living in times of economic growth that offer countless opportunities for each person to determine his own future.

The 21st century is the age of the empowered individual. We inhabit an environment where many businesses can be started with negligible upfront investment. Innumerable doors are open to personal initiative and skills, giving each person almost infinite opportunities to find his way to happiness and success.

Business has become international, but the low-cost of internet communication is giving us instant access to all corners of the earth. If you feel short-changed in any way, make a pause and look at things in perspective. If you are lucky enough to live in an industrialised country, you will not lack chances for personal development.

Important accomplishments

The perception that achievement should be immediate (and that otherwise should be regarded as impossible) is fundamentally wrong. Important accomplishments will frequently demand substantial time, as it is the case of building new relationships. It makes no sense to put pressure on the wrong places. Some achievements will take as long as they take. The whole process of reaching complex goals is to be enjoyed, not regarded as a waste of time.

Substantial skills, like learning a foreign language, may require years of effort, but such strech of time remains modest if compared with the human lifespan. Each individual has many years to pursue ambitions goals. If you think that this is not the case, you may want to check your priorities, and reorient your activities.

In moments of pessimism, remind yourself that the digital media are decreasing educational costs for everyone, that information about job openings is available on line, that inexpensive software applications are readily available, and that the cost of incorporating a company remains low in many jurisdictions. Chances are that you have more opportunities than you think.

"Materials and substances are not enough to produce change," observed Aristotle. "The fact that something can be transformed, does not mean that it will. Without activity, there is no motion." Let us devote our days to turning what we have into something more valuable. Let your alertness to  opportunities become your motor of change.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: photograph of classical painting -- photo taken by John Vespasian, 2016.

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

 
Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter


Saturday, 31 March 2018

Letting go of prejudice -- a prerequisite of fast personal growth

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter

You have to let go of prejudices that prevent you from developing your potential. You have to discard traditions that are not in line with current opportunities. We live in an era of abundant resources and unlimited possibilities, but those will remain unused if you allow prejudice to slow you down.

By throwing away ideas that do not work, you will open the door to realistic plans, workable solutions, and satisfactory results. Let us review briefly five widespread convictions that are at odds with reality.

A partially true belief

First, the idea that the purpose of life is to serve other people:The problem with this belief is that it is partly true. Interacting with other human beings and providing good service to them is highly rewarding. Men and women draw deep satisfaction from the gratitude of customers, patients, or clients.

On the other hand, helping strangers for the sake of achieving ethical perfection should not be taken to such an extreme that it destroys your life. Cost-effective service to customers can only be sustained permanently when it is provided commercially, that is, on a profit-making basis. Service rendered on the basis of personal sacrifice can be viable in some circumstances, but will face major difficulties in remaining operational in the long-term.

Second, the idea that you need someone else's approval before you can improve your life: Gregariousness is an essential component of the human psychology. We all love to be appreciated by friends and colleagues. On many occasions, honours and distinctions are as important as monetary rewards. Nevertheless, this is not the same as professing that individuals are incapable of affecting their destiny unless they have first obtained social approval.

In industrialised societies, personal initiative plays a determinant role in individual happiness. Innovation and change are disrupting traditional social structures, and we have to learn to cope with new challenges. It is no longer true that any person who deviates from standard behaviour will risks massive criticism and ostracism. Innovators frequently find psychological obstacles harder to overcome than lack of access to capital, but those obstacles can be surmounted if you work at them persistently.

Exploiting your assets

Third, the idea that you have to content yourself with your current situation: Physical resources are indeed limited, but this fact should not prevent you from establishing ambitious goals for yourself. Money and other assets can be borrowed if you demonstrate that you can use them productively.

The global economy is a scenario where resources are continuously shifted from low- to high-productivity areas. Purpose and initiative play a crucial role in exploiting assets to the maximum. Innovative individuals are coming up with new business models, new uses for old technologies, and new ways to find customers for existing products. Even if material resources are limited, the only constrain to economic growth is human creativity.

Fourth, the idea that you are too young or too old to improve your life: Such restrictions never hold true overall, although they might apply to specific goals in certain contexts. For instance, learning to play the piano at an advanced age can be a lot of fun, but it will be difficult for a senior person to pursue a career as a pop artist.

Restrictions can often be lifted or circumvented by changing the context. Goals can be modified in order to pursue better opportunities. Personal limitations can inspire us to figure out more effective approaches to make or sell our products. Careers can be redefined. Professions can be re-shaped in order to serve clients in new, surprising ways.

Opportunities enough

Fifth, the idea that you should give up because you really have no chance: Despite the fact that extraordinary achievements are reported daily by newspapers, few people possess the strength of character to pursue highly challenging goals. Psychologically, watching the outstanding performance of athletes on television is less menacing that starting up a business. Praising the latest film of our favourite actor feels less threatening than becoming a novelist. We do not mind being surpassed by those we have never met, but we dread the idea of taking risks in order to grow as persons.

Do no let those risks discourage you. Do not allow false ideas to paralyse you. There are opportunities enough out there for you to find the way. By using reason, prudence and persistence, you can immeasurably improve your life. Start today.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: photograph of classical painting -- photo taken by John Vespasian, 2018.

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

 
Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter