Saturday, 10 October 2020

The massive advantages of adopting a rational philosophy


Three thousand years ago, life in Ancient Egypt was strictly hierarchical. Each person's origin was determining which trade or profession he was to take up, his choice of spouse, food, and ideas. No dissidence was possible. There was no opposition and no escape. Progress and innovation were forbidden. Society was closed and, for hundreds of years, it remained immobile. 

When Alexander the Great arrived in Egypt in the year 332 B.C., it didn't take him long to crush the Egyptian army. The fast, entrepreneurial Greeks destroyed the bureaucratic Egyptian forces in less than two weeks. The Pharaoh was deposed and Ptolemy, a Greek general, undertook to transform Egypt into a trading emporium and a marketplace for new ideas.

Five generations later, during the years of the Roman Republic, the world had changed beyond recognition. The idea of hierarchy had disappeared from the mind of Roman citizens, irrespective of their place of residence. Despite major differences in wealth and ability, a Roman citizen did not feel inferior to anyone when it came to purchase any products or services.

Under Roman law, if merchant Croesus hired architect Vitruvius to build a house, both men were free to agree the price, terms and conditions of their contract. Although Vitruvius was working for Croesus, he did not consider his customer "his superior." A Roman citizen would have found the idea of hierarchy a laughable idea in the context of a commercial relation.

No reason for discouragement

Regrettably, many people today are still adhering to the old Egyptian ideas about hierarchy. How often do you hear individuals complain (or even grow depressed) because their name has been displaced in some organizational chart, or because they had failed to get some job, been fired, or gone bankrupt?

While it is indisputable that organizations need a structure to function effectively, we should not forget that what keeps individuals working together is voluntary cooperation in the form of contracts. Let me underline the word "voluntary." People work together because they freely decided to do. Because they find the exchange of work for money mutually advantageous. Hierarchies do not exist in reality, although modern intellectuals will go a long way towards obscuring this fact.

If you hire someone to clean your flat, you are exchanging your cash for a service. If you look at yourself in the mirror and feel "superior" to the person cleaning your living-room, you are at odds with reality. Similarly, if you work as an employee in a company, you are in no way "inferior" to whoever is paying you money in exchange for your services. It is just a business transaction. There is no "superior" or "inferior." Both parties are benefiting from the exchange. Otherwise, they will refrain from exchanging money for services, or services for money.

Civilized society is based on contractual agreements. It consists of a myriad of formal and informal contracts between citizens. It is unfortunate that, in today's world, intellectuals are spreading mythical theories about "leadership" and "stewardship" that do not make any sense. Those false theories are harmful because they create the illusion that human hierarchies do exist in the marketplace. Such false theories are bringing unnecessary anxiety, fear, and envy upon people who are naive enough to believe them.

The right mentality

Work and happiness are individual endeavours unrelated to "superiority" or "inferiority." Which profession you practice, which employment you take, what tasks you perform, and how much money you make, are the result of contracts that you have entered because you considered them to your advantage. You are free to prolong those contracts, or you can decide to quit and do something else.

If you ever catch yourself thinking in terms of hierarchies, stop whatever you are doing and take a minute to sharpen your vision. Take a minute to adopt a rational view of the world. It is high time to discard the ideas of "superior" and "inferior." Instead, learn to view human beings simply as buyers and sellers in the marketplace. Adopting a rational perspective of the world will bring you the peace of mind of the philosopher, and the determination of an entrepreneur who has just rediscovered his freedom to trade.


Image: Photograph of ancient Egyptian 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
Here are the links to three audio interviews just published:
  1. John Vespasian interviewed by David Pamah on "The David Pamah Show" about rational living.
  2. John Vespasian interviewed by Gina Bengston on "The Fox Den" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  3. John Vespasian interviewed by Wes Malik on "Lifelong Wellness" about Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief.


Tuesday, 1 September 2020

There is no need to be fearful. The key to self-reliance in times of turmoil


Imagine for a moment that you would be able to go after your goals without having to fear criticism from friends and family. Would you devote more efforts to pursuing your ambitions if you did not have to worry about ridicule in case of failure? How far would you invest yourself if you never had to deal with discouragement and doubts? 

There are good reasons why people fear failure more than they crave success. If you formulate the proposition in purely material terms, the discomfort suffered from not having a car is far superior to the advantages derived from having two cars. Similarly, the terror of losing all your savings in a stock market crash is stronger than the perspective of doubling your assets within five years if stock prices rise.

Worry and anxiety are powerful inhibitors of achievement. Fear can make you discard viable initiatives. Apprehension may consume your energies and prevent you from moving forward. Exaggerated concerns can block reasonable attempts to improve your situation.

You are guaranteed to stay behind if you allow your mind to blow risks out of proportion. You will give up too soon if you underestimate your capacity to adopt preventive measures. If you allow panic to control your thoughts, you will end up walking downtrodden paths for fear of lions that you have never seen. Do not follow into the trap of sticking to unproductive routines because you want to avoid the discomfort associated with change.

Books and lectures that recommend you to take risks will remain unconvincing if they are unsupported by reason. Only after adopting a thoughtful stance, your common sense will start weighing heavier than emotional speeches. Change is disruptive, but so what. You should not assume that, in times of turmoil, you stand to gain less than you risk losing. Yet, in order to increase your self-reliance, you need to stay calm and alert. Do not be misled by doubtful promises. Only realism can prompt you to overcome fear. Only rationality can lead you to take calculated, entrepreneurial risks that will enable to profit from the turmoil.

In any case, thinking must take place before action if your actions are to be productive. Planning must take place before implementation if success is to be attained. Your self-confidence needs to be built before you can exercise it. Your skills must be acquired before you can employ them. How can you overcome exaggerated fears? How can you take well-calculated steps? In which way can you increase your chances of success?

Reason is the most powerful tool for dismantling exaggerated fear, which will be invariably based on falsehoods. Once you grow convinced that you stand a good chance of accomplishing your goals, you will become less worried and more adventurous. Logic is your cardinal ally for contesting overblown concerns. The best way to face fear is to demonstrate its irrationality. Here is what you can do.
First, you should compare the perceived risks with their actual likelihood. The intensity of a potential catastrophe is unconnected to the likelihood of its occurrence. Salesmen will promote their insurance policies by painting vivid pictures of potential misfortunes, but their sales presentations seldom mention the actual statistical probability of such misfortunes taking place. If you want to increase your self-reliance and reduce your fear, you should figure out what is the actual likelihood of problems, and take measures accordingly. Reasonable measures, not driven by panic.

Second, you should assess potential threats objectively, not emotionally. Your perception of risk may be heavily influenced by cultural stereotypes. This explains why saving rates will differ from country to country, according to how citizens see their future. Or why the willingness to change jobs and move to a distant city is higher in the USA than in Europe. Or why the proportion of the population that invests in the stock market will vary from country to country. Do not let your cultural stereotypes drive your decisions. Look at problems coldly, objectively, using universal logic, reason, and prudence. 

Third, you should quantify the potential damage. Potential dangers need to be quantified in order to be properly assessed. If you let your emotions take control, you will exaggerate the negative consequences of risks, and grow exceedingly fearful. On many occasions, the material damages that you might actually suffer are minor compared to the accompanying psychological discomfort. In order to improve your effectiveness in times of turmoil, you should grow conscious of the gap between imagined damages and real potential damages. Forget about the former, and take reasonable measures to avert the latter.

Fourth, make sure that you eliminate distortions from your perceptions. It is time to realize that many of your fear are arising from stories written by marketeers. Why do California residents will protect themselves more often against earthquakes than against divorce? Because salesmen have promoted earthquake insurance very effectively although devastating earthquakes  are less likely to happen than divorce. Distortions in perception explain why few couples will sign a pre-nuptial agreement to protect themselves against an acrimonious divorce.

Taking the time to assess risks objectively is essential to your making good decisions. If you are considering a challenging professional move, forget about irrational fears and ask yourself the right questions: if your new job proves to be a disappointment, what is the actual likelihood of your becoming unemployed? If your new job proves a failure, how long would it reasonably take you to find another one?

Are you worrying about risks that have been exaggerated by marketeers trying to promote their products or services? Those who sell pension plans will paint grim pictures of retired people living in poverty, but is it a risk that really affects you? It is up to you to appraise risks according to their true severity, and take reasonable steps to protect yourself.

Unbreakable self-confidence

The next time that you hesitate between taking action or staying put, do not make a decision until you have assessed the relevant facts rationally. Make an effort to discard exaggerated emotions if those are polluting your perceptions. Stay calm, and quantify the positive and negative aspects before you choose your course of action. Weigh off the severity of risks with the likelihood of their occurrence before you determine what to do.

By employing logic, you can minimize risks and unveil opportunities. By adopting thoughtfulness, you can replace overblown concerns by prudence. You can substitute excessive worry by caution. On many occasions, a rational assessment of advantages and disadvantages will lead you to take bold initiatives, and become an entrepreneur in your everyday life.


Image: Photograph of classical building. Photo taken by John Vespasian, 2021.

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter
Here are the links to three audio interviews just published:
  1. John Vespasian interviewed by Mark Wagner on "The Mike Wagner Show" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  2. John Vespasian interviewed by Darren Marlow on "The Senior Bulletin" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  3. John Vespasian interviewed by Dr Michael McGee on "How to |Love" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Dramatic improvement does not require vast resources. Daily nibbling is more than enough.

Many people spend their days trying to convince themselves that change is impossible. They feel trapped by their profession, job, spouse, friendships, or financial obligations to the extent that they regard any attempt at improving their situation as doomed to fail. Time goes by and, after a while, they give up all hope. In contrast, individuals who maintain a proactive attitude can achieve dramatic change for the better.

If you look around, you will find plenty of justifications for immobility, discouragement and withdrawal. Yes, some obstacles and constraints are very challenging, but you should not let them stop you. The truth is that, every year, thousands of people will successfully undertake large changes in their lives, people who possess few resources and lack support from family and friends.

Here are some examples of dramatic change: There are people who sell their house in the city, move to a village on the coast, and build up a new life there. Or people who drop out of their social circle from one day to the next, and start to seek out new friends who share their values and interests more closely. Or people who quit their job and look for a new one in a field unconnected to their previous experience, a field that they find more promising, more exciting, more inspiring.

No need to spend a fortune

Dramatic change does not need a revolution. If you are facing major obstacles, you can start simply by nibbling at them. Like a rabbit that nibbles at the wooden bars of a cage until the bars break, enabling the rabbit to escape. Do you want to improve your diet? Begin with a simple step. Go through your kitchen, throw away all unhealthy items, and commit yourself to purchasing only wholesome food in the future.

Do you want to adopt a healthier lifestyle? You don't need to spend a fortune on joining an expensive gym or buying special equipment. Instead, you can acquire a second-hand bicycle, and ride it every day for half an hour. Or you can throw away all tobacco and alcohol that you have at home, and never purchase those items again. Instead of making grand pronouncements, all you need is to start nibbling at the cage that is imprisoning you.

Are you lacking the skills necessary to move forward in your career? Start nibbling today at the obstacle on your way. You can unplug your television set, give it away, and never spend another minute watching TV. Then you can use the time to learn a foreign language, or to improve your professional skills, so that you can find the job of your dreams.

Nibbling starts with discarding elements that are preventing you from moving forward. You have to get rid of encumbrances, so that you can put your energies to a better use. Perhaps, you will decide to terminate your affiliation to an organization that has been part of your life for decades, cut off your links to former associates, and seek greener pastures.

Taking small steps is the way to go because it does not demand mythical qualities. You can undertake large projects little by little, one thing at a time. Within a few months, you can liquidate your assets, move to a low-tax or low-cost jurisdiction, and start a new life. Or perhaps even change your nationality.

Step by step, individuals can carry out major improvements in their lives. Hundreds of people have started up their own business during evenings and weekends, while keeping their present employment for a while. You can do the same, if you are so inclined. Stop trying to convince yourself that you can not surmount the obstacles you're facing.

Feasible and affordable

Nibbling does not require immense enthusiasm, motivation and energy. Day by day, you can study nutrition, learn to cook, and lose any extra weight that they have accumulated over the years. Or you can change your personal relationships if you find them dissatisfying. After experiencing a deep dissatisfaction in their lives, countless individuals decide to get a divorce, move to another place, and start building a new life.

These cases are not as rare as you may think. Nibbling might be the right strategy for you, whether you are young, middle-aged or old, male or female, wealthy or not. Stop hesitating and start nibbling one little piece at a time. If your determination to take a new road antagonizes family and friends, so be it. If your initiatives are undermining their unrealistic expectations, it's a sign that you are going in the right direction. 

Have you identified the obstacles you're facing? Do you know which aspects of your life you wish to improve? Stepping out of your routine, and taking a few days to reflect might be the initial step. Once you decide to carry out a major change, you don't need to wait for the perfect opportunity. You will do much better if you start nibbling at the obstacle today, right now. It is not a spectacular strategy, but it is one that works because it's feasible and affordable.

It takes courage to start nibbling, but not a supernatural amount of courage. Anyone can start addressing, little by little, the challenges he is facing. Anybody can start altering the essential elements of his existence. What makes people change is the realization that they have limited time, that their lifespan is finite, that they only have some decades ahead of them. The realization will sometimes happen as a result of a major illness, or simply because the situation becomes unbearable. Don't wait until the circumstances put you against the wall. Start nibbling today.


Image: Photograph of ancient ceramics relief. 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
Here are the links to four audio interviews just published:
  1. John Vespasian interviewed by Steve Kidd on "Thriving Entrepreneur" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  2. John Vespasian interviewed by Ronica Jacobs on "Strive for More" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  3. John Vespasian interviewed by David Nassaney on "Caregiver's Dave" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  4. John Vespasian interviewed by Precious Ada on "Preshnext" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Why happiness depends on growth -- and how to surmount the hardest obstacle

A new fashion is sweeping the world. It is reshaping the work of generations and throwing a new light on old certainties. If it gets you, it won't let you unchanged. Even if it doesn't, your environment won't remain the same. This agent of transformation is the idea that you can achieve much more with less effort and fewer resources.

Faster cars, ubiquitous internet, apps that enable you to find information more quickly, social media that let you connect more easily, sharper photographs, crispier sound, more exciting films, more engaging entertainment, more solid friendships, a brighter career, more pleasant travel, improved health, a longer lifespan -- all these things and more you can achieve if you learn how to grow in all areas of life.

Surprisingly enough, most people try to attain happiness by doing as little as possible. They have elevated passivity to a sacred ideal, viewing meditation as a goal in itself, relaxation as a decaffeinated substitute for passion, holidays as a panacea against disorientation, music as a curtain for covering hesitation, inactivity and emptiness.

Growth is the answer, irrespective of the question. In business and private life, in physical and emotional health, in relationships and friendships, in learning and innovating, in wealth creation and wealth preservation, in enjoyment and well-being, the farther you go, the more intense your experience will be. If you don't grow as a person, today's discoveries will soon become routines, then rituals, and subsequently, constraints.

Unfortunately, too many individuals are willing to devote their lives, not to growing, but to staying the same; not to widening their horizons, but to rigidizing their constraints; not to exploring new paths, but to spreading fear and defeatism. The main obstacle to growth is invisible, the main barrier is psychological. People fail to grow because they have convinced themselves that they cannot improve their lives.

The phenomenon is not new. For centuries, stagnation has been blamed on external circumstances, on powers that conspire to keep us poor, dissatisfied, unhealthy, ignorant, passive and indifferent. However, most of those conspiracies have little substance in reality. People choose to regard obstacles as insurmountable because, in this way, they can blame someone else for their lack of achievement. Instead of expanding their possibilities, they are working hard at keeping things unchanged.

"Men can perish out of their endeavours to preserve what has little value," wrote the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu in the year 520 B.C. 
Passivity won't take you anywhere. It will just keep you making the same mistakes over and over again instead of eliminating their cause. Lack of motivation will keep you cleaning up the mess you have created but that you could have prevented if you had been more proactive. The delusion of wisdom will keep you making countless attempts by using ineffectual methods, and feeling depressed about your lack of progress.

In this light, it is crucially important that you embrace growth as your pre-eminent strategy for attaining happiness. Focusing your vision on a better life is something that you need to practise day after day. No other philosophical matter is more urgent than this. It is high time to disengage from worthless routines, overblown tensions, unpromising ventures, and stagnating relationships. It is high time to start pursuing growth relentlessly.

Do no believe for a second that minimalism and disengagement are going to improve your situation. In order to grow, you have to take action, and manage your time, energy and resources wisely. Let go of immobilizing influences; drop weights that you don't need to carry; throw away delusions that are keeping you unnecessarily small. Instead of waiting for miracles, go and claim your place in the sun. The world offers plenty of opportunities to individuals who stay alert and keep pushing the envelope.

Do not wait until passivity, like an overgrown weed, suffocates your desires for improvement. Escape constraints while they are still small, so that they cannot gain strength. Discard detours that lead nowhere. You have no time to lose. If you want to pursue growth, avoid complicating your life with irrelevancies, minutia and tangential concerns.

"Our difficult problems result from complicating simple ones," observed Lao-Tzu. "It is wise to solve your problems when they are still small. You don't want to give them a chance to become threatening."

When encumbrances become too heavy, consider dropping them from one moment to the next. Use your energies for building new paths, not for maintaining decrepit signs that discourage you from going further. Think of what you want to become in all areas of life. Develop ambition, enthusiasm and creativity. Stop lamenting the mistakes you have made in the past. Do what you can do now, take a step further, and keep going.


Image: Photograph of classical sculpture. Photo taken by John Vespasian, 2019.

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter
Here are the links to seven audio interviews just published:
  1. John Vespasian interviewed by Tamala Coleman on "Amazing Grace" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  2. John Vespasian interviewed by Jackie Schwabe on "Press Play Lifestyle Inspired" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  3. John Vespasian interviewed by Denise Messenger on "Health Media Now" about
    Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  4. John Vespasian interviewed by Robert Bonte on "Curmudgeonly Yours" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  5. Robert Bonte: entretien avec John Vespasian (in French) on "Curmudgeonly Yours" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible. 
  6. John Vespasian interviewed by Mahesh Joshi on "Global Business" about assymetric strategies to create success.
  7. John Vespasian interviewed by Kris Embrey on "Soulmate Fireside Chat" about Plato's myth on twin flames.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Ten massive advantages of rational living

Ideas are precious and constitute the basis of civilization. Without the concepts of free trade, freedom of speech, and human rights, our standard of living would rapidly fall to medieval levels. Personal goals can shape a sustained vision that transforms our talents into valuable products of services.

Clear objectives will take you forward, but it is essential that those are compatible with reality and with each other. Inconsistent principles will weaken each other's force and deplete your resources. Keep your door open to new concepts and ideas, but make sure that those are logically integrated. 

If you discover that some of your goals are wrong, you should discard them. Yet, if your ambitions are challenging but consistent, you should keep them. With determination and persistence, you might achieve a breakthrough sooner than you think. 

Lower stress

While integrated goals will take you places, inconsistent ambitions will wear you down. Pursuing compatible goals will increase your personal effectiveness and enhance your creativity. Consistent ideals will also improve the accuracy of your thinking. Modern life requires instantaneous, complex choices. If you have well-integrated goals, you will deal with complexity effectively and with lower stress.

Rational persons will ensure the consistency of their actions by defining clear objectives for the remaining decades of their life. Effective living requires that your choices, minor or fundamental, are aligned with your overriding goals. If you follow this principle, you can achieve success faster and with less effort.

Pursuing integrated objectives requires sustained focus and effort, but can bring you spectacularly positive results. In contrast, people who lack consistent goals will often end up sabotaging their own efforts.

Faster progress

Few persons will make the effort to give a definite direction to their life, but those who do can reap enormous benefits. Motivational consistency can bring you, amongst others, the following advantages:

  1. You will avoid random decisions and useless purchases, and employ your financial resources with a minimum of waste.
  2. Your clear vision will feed your motivation to develop specialized skills and accumulate intellectual capital.
  3. Your consistent objectives will build perseverance and credibility. They will help you avert random behaviour, build a solid reputation, and grow your assets.
  4. Rational goals will lead you to choose entertainment (music, movies, games, sports) that reinforce your values and generate learning, growth and increased strength.
  5. Compatible long-term objectives will provide you energy to undertake ambitious projects and improve your living conditions in real terms.
  6. Logic and ambition will prompt you to carry out preventive maintenance that brings substantial long-term benefits.
  7. A stable vision and perspective will help you avert improbable schemes such as lotteries and other forms of gambling.
  8. Consistent objectives will keep your mind active and prompt you to explore innovative options. They will help you avoid waste and passivity.
  9. Long-term ambitions will enable you to accept mistakes as part of a learning process. They will help you avoid perfectionism and view yourself with tolerance.
  10. Realistic convictions will help you to connect deeply with other human beings. They will enable you to communicate clearly, avoiding irritation, confusion, misunderstandings and errors.

Dogs and cats perceive a narrow part of reality, but only human beings are aware of hundreds of interconnected details, past and present. Human beings can connect the dots and guide their lives properly only by reason. Your mind calls for logic and consistency. Happiness becomes much more likely when you follow your rational nature.

Compatible, feasible, long-term goals can help you make the best of your life. A consistent vision that reaches into the next decades is your most reliable tool for making optimal choices in the present.


Image: Photograph of classical painting taken by John Vespasian, 2019.

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

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter

Here are the links to four audio interviews just published:
  1. John Vespasian interviewed by Michaela Renee Johnson on "Be You Find Happy" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  2. John Vespasian interviewed by Alex Muir on "MindCep" about Asymmetry, the shortcut to success when success seems impossible.
  3. John Vespasian interviewed by Andrew Schatkin on "The Andrew Schatkin Show" about rational living.
  4. John Vespasian interviewed by Francelene Aprahamian on "Sands of the Mind" about rational living.