Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A simple strategy is all you need. Would you recognize yourself in the crowd? Conflicting values lead to contradictory behaviour. Why it is so difficult to lead a simple life

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
by John Vespasian 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
by John Vespasian 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The massive psychological advantage of entrepreneurial individuals. The capacity to withstand adverse weather. The willingness to learn new things. Adherence to universal ethical principles

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

The massive psychological advantage of entrepreneurial individuals

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

Inherited behaviour models are crumbling in our midst. Old morality is taking the blame for current problems, although often through spurious argumentation. Never mind. Ethical decay has reached such an extent that many parents have given up all attempts to provide moral guidelines to their offspring.

Where are we headed? 

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

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

The capacity to withstand adverse weather

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

The willingness to learn new things

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

Adherence to universal ethical principles

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

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

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

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


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Sunday, 24 February 2013

Are you doing enough to protect yourself? Keep your personal details private. Stay away from dangerous places. Make a vow to avoid paralysis in any situation

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

Are you doing enough to protect yourself?

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

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

Keep your personal details private

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

Stay away from dangerous places

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

Spread your investments, spread your risks

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

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

Make a vow to avoid paralysis in any situation

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

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

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


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Saturday, 23 February 2013

Go to where there are plenty, ask from who can give. Would you do better if you had no fear? With success, his smile and self-confidence returned

Every town has a Saturday market, but in the whole of India, you will not find a tougher weekly market than the one that takes place in Shurasena. A dozen spice merchants compete to offer the lowest prices and, if you are planning to buy a camel, choices in Shurasena are more numerous than the hairs of a squirrel.

Like all philosophers, Krishna loved to go the market. In the morning, he traded his medicinal herbs for coins, and in the afternoon, he used those to purchase fish and salt. Every week, he did the same, and the path he walked to the market was the path he walked to return home.

One Saturday in July, after Krishna had bought a trout and an ounce of salt and was about to leave the market, he saw a kid, barely a man, sitting on the ground and weeping bitterly. "Why are you crying?" asked Krishna to the kid, who stopped sobbing and lifted his head.

Why are you crying?

"Will you have a lemonade?" asked the boy with a trembling voice, as he got to his feet and pointed at a two-wheel cart next to him. Ripe lemons and mountain ice were lying on the cart, as well as six glasses and a tin jar. A banner on the cart read "Dhiren's Cold Lemonade."

The kid's question was as incongruous as misplaced hope can be, since ten yards away, there was a public fountain. "I am Dhiren," he announced shyly. "If I don't sell enough lemonade, tonight I will not have a room to stay." The whole scene was so pathetic that, if Krishna had had any coins left, he would have drunk several glasses.

"Would you sell more if you had no fear?" inquired Krishna. Dhiren nodded and explained that he had not sold a single glass of lemonade in the whole day. The ice on the cart was melting and Dhiren had been weeping because he had lost all confidence in himself.

Would you do better if you had no fear?

"I have done my best," Dhiren went on sadly, "but there must be something wrong with me, since nobody in the world wants to buy my lemonade." Krishna smiled, for he knew better. In Dhiren's doubts, Krishna had recognized the doubts that he had had himself a long time ago.

"Changing oneself is often harder than changing the world," commented Krishna, laying his hand on one of the wheels and signalling Dhiren to push the cart forward. The wheels squeaked as they rolled on Market Square and the narrow streets of Shurasena.

When Dhiren asked where they were going, Krishna just repeated his mysterious words about change. An hour later, they crossed the south port of Shurasena and, right outside the walls of the ancient city, they met a long caravan of pilgrims that had just arrived from the desert.

With success, his smile and self-confidence returned

As soon as the pilgrims saw Dhiren's banner, they dismounted their camels, and walked to the cart. By the time all ice had melted, Dhiren had sold more glasses of lemonade than in the previous three months. With success, his smile and self-confidence returned.

When the day was over, Dhiren was a different man, sure of himself and fearless of the future. He searched long amongst the pilgrims, since he would have liked to express his thanks, but Krishna w
as already gone. The night fell and Dhiren found that, although the stars had not changed, he was living in a different world.

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


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Do not waste your time trying to impress people who do not care for you. Stay away from markets that are closed to outsiders. Do not get into professions that offer little opportunity

Do not waste your time trying to impress people who do not care for you. Most of the career advice that you will hear comes from ancient times that, actually, never existed. Make a commitment to discard what makes little sense. It is time to reshape your strategy according to reality.

Pick up a pen and piece of paper and write down the names of unsuccessful persons you know. Chances are that your list will be quite long. Look at the names and ask yourself some hard questions. Recall their individual circumstances, assess their challenges, and question their excuses.

Let me put forward some controversial truths

Some men and women in your list will be intelligent and educated. From those, a few might deserve being recognized as brilliant. Others will be highly motivated and enthusiastic. How come that they are not progressing in life? The primary reason of their failure might be their belief in false ideas, such as overwork and career planning.

Let me put forward some controversial truths. These are the kind of statements that you might have heard before but that you were too quick to discard. Reality can be disrupting, but you will benefit from acknowledging facts as they are. You might want to sit down before you read this:

Stay away from markets that are closed to outsiders

Ignore the propaganda and examine the facts with a cool head. If you are trying to enter a market dominated by highly entrenched players, the undertaking might require too much effort to be worth it. People might preach openness and fairness to the gallery, while their actions show that outsiders are not welcome. Stay away from those markets. You have better things to do with your life.

Do not get into professions that offer little opportunity

College counsellors usually possess good statistics about the employment market. On that basis, they can tell students about the earnings that they can expect on their initial job should they choose, for instance, to become embalmers. The problem with this sort of advice lies in its short-term focus. 

Instead, go and talk to someone who works in your field of interest and ask how fast people can move upwards from their initial position. If the answer is unconvincing, stay away. There are plenty of professions whose markets are growing. Why on earth would you want to enlist in a losing legion?

Thinking local is a recipe for disaster

National economies and international trade are likely to transform the face of our cities in the next twenty years. Currencies fluctuate and importers might become exporters. Present territories of immigration might give rise to waves of emigration. 

Things are going to change massively in the next decades and nobody is quite sure how cards will be reshuffled. In this environment, thinking locally might bury your professional chances. Spread your risks and boost your career. Learn a foreign language and stay mobile.

Advertisements for jobs and training programmes always fail to tell you the ultimate truth: nobody cares about your career as much as yourself. Those who cheer you up with motivational talk frequently turn out to be exploitative. When it comes to your professional future, as for everything else, you will be much better off if you remain sceptic and think for yourself.

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


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Friday, 22 February 2013

In matters of love, as well as in all others, time is a great teacher. Drawing lessons from someone else's misfortunes and mistakes. The hero is a relentless, driven individual

"In matters of love, as well as in all others, time is a great teacher," wrote Giacomo Casanova in his Memories when he was 62 years old. Since his youth in Venice, he had gone a long way, making and losing several fortunes until he had finally found a modest librarian position in the castle of a Czech baron.

In matters of love, as well as in all others, time is a great teacher

From what we know, Casanova was neither particularly handsome, nor wealthy, nor privileged by family connections. Nevertheless, the 6.000 pages of his Memories recount a long string of amorous victories that have made Casanova the archetype of a successful seducer.

Casanova's Memories were published only in 1831, that is, 33 years after his death. Many adventures that he presented in his work are no doubt literary fabrications, but even so, his writings offer deep insights into human nature and love relations.

A contemporary publisher might have titled Casanova's work as "Proven principles of success in dating." The autobiographical nature of Casanova's writings enhances their value as teaching material without making their content less entertaining.

Drawing lessons from someone else's misfortunes and mistakes

Casanova invites the reader to draw lessons from the misfortunes and mistakes of his literary hero. His advice includes being properly groomed, using flattery, frequenting parties and social events, learning to speak well, ignoring petty offences when courting a prospective lover, being witty, and choosing the right moment to speak out your heart.

Since these are the sort of recommendations that one finds nowadays in any self-help book on the subject, why are Casanova's Memories so special? What particular characteristic makes Casanova's writings so compelling? Why does his personal example remain so vivid through the years?

The hero is a relentless, driven individual

My answer to this key question is simple: The hero that walks and stumbles through the 6.000 pages of Casanova's Memories is a relentless, driven individual. This is, in my view, the ultimate reason for the hero's success, what allows him to learn from experience and progressively sharpen his skills to perfection.

In dating, like in anything else, you have to play the game if you want to become a master. Forget any fears you might have and get down to action. Relentless practice will maximise your chances of success. As Casanova put it so well in his work "Timidity is often another word for stupidity."

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


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Thursday, 21 February 2013

Are your ideas helping you improve your life? Do you really need third-party endorsements? Resources flow naturally to people with good ideas. Prejudice limits your personal growth. Trial and error constitute the normal way to success

Ideas engage people and move the world. Our convictions contribute to our effectiveness more than our material resources. If we hold the right ideas, we will progress; if we believe in falsehoods and inconsistencies, we will fail. There is no escape from this principle.

Are your ideas helping you improve your life? 

Are your beliefs promoting fear or prompting you to take effective action? Have you acquired a clear view of the world? Can you see reality without the distortions of wishful thinking? Can you face life without envy and discouragement? Are your convictions hindering or supporting your motivation?

We can define ideas that work as those that allow us to identify problems, analyse their causes, and figure out workable solutions. Worthless opinions are those that render us insensitive to danger, lead us to react irrationally to difficulties, and contaminate our emotions with anger or anxiety. Counter-productive views are those that sabotage our initiatives and waste our potential.

The first step to improve your life is to throw away all ideas that do not work; you have to let go of unproven theories before you embrace feasible solutions; you cannot become efficient until you discard all excuses for rigidity and inertia. In order to move forward, we must stop pushing backwards; in order to look at the horizon, we must lift our eyes from the ground. Let us review briefly five widespread convictions that are at odds with reality.

Do you really need third-party endorsements

The idea that you need the approval of dozens of people 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 obtained social approval.

In industrialized societies, personal initiative plays a determinant role in individual happiness. Innovation and change disrupt social structures; any person who deviates from the standard behaviour risks criticism and ostracism; innovators frequently find these psychological obstacles harder to overcome than lack of access to capital.

Resources flow naturally to people with good ideas

The idea that you cannot obtain additional resources and that you have to content yourself with whatever you currently possess: 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; men with visionary business models discover new applications for old technologies and additional customers for existing products. Even if material resources are limited, the only constrain to economic growth is human creativity.

Prejudice limits your personal growth

The idea that you are too young, too old, or inadequate to ameliorate your situation: such restrictions never hold true overall, although they might apply to specific goals in certain environments; for instance, learning to play the piano at an advanced age can be a lot of fun, but it makes 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 products; careers can be redefined; professions can be combined in order to serve clients in surprising ways.

Trial and error constitute the normal way to success

The idea that, if you have not already attained success, you'd better give up because you have no chance: despite the fact that extraordinary achievements are reported daily by newspapers, few people possess the strength of character to encourage friends and neighbours to pursue challenging goals.

Psychologically, watching the outstanding performance of athletes on television is less menacing that seeing a friend start up a business; praising the latest film of our favourite actor feels less threatening than supporting our spouse's dream to become a novelist. 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.

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. By throwing away ideas that do not work, we open the door to realistic plans, workable solutions, and satisfactory results.

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


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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

My rules for writing a blog. Publish every day. Read widely. Avoid overkill. Write quickly, edit slowly. Focus on your subject. Write clearly. Set reasonable goals for yourself. Use readers' feedback to improve

When it comes to writing, quantity is not quality, but it sure helps a lot. Would Agatha Christie have made a fortune as an author if she had not written 80 books at great speed? The same goes for novelist George Simenon, who in his prime years was able to produce a complete book in two weeks.

Both Agatha Christie and George Simenon were known for their quick and sharp prose. If you are a writer in the 21st century, chances are that you post daily on your blog. Is there a way to increase your flow of ideas and to speed up your production? The following six principles can be, in my own experience, mightily helpful.

1. Publish every day

formula can be made universally applicable, since we all have different schedules. Nevertheless, whatever your personal constraints, I am convinced of the positive effects of establishing a daily production objective. Even if you do a lot of travelling, you can take your laptop with you and write on the plane. A little done consistently every day will amount to a lot in just a few months.

2. Read widely

Some writers read web pages, others prefer books, newspapers, or magazines. Which one is best? It doesn't really matter as long as you do it regularly. The more varied the materials you read, the farther your mind will expand with fresh knowledge.

3. Avoid overkill

Doing research for an article or a novel is fine, but keep it within reason. There are sensible limits to everything and perfection rarely pays. When you really need to check some facts, do take the necessary time. Gather information with patience, but don't overdo it.

4. Write quickly, edit slowly

There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to write almost as fast as you can think. Of course, the quickest you can type, the better. Some writers are fond of dictating their work into a recorder. Get your first draft done fast. Then take ample time for editing and polishing.

5. Focus on your subject

Before you sit down to write, you should know where you want to lead your reader. Determine your theme and let it permeate every aspect of the piece you are working on. Knowing your destination will prevent you from losing your thread. Move towards your objective and do not ramble.

6. Write clearly

There is much to read in the world and audiences have become very demanding. Text should be not only well written, but also pleasing to the eye. Keep it brief, be concise, and get to the point fast. One idea per paragraph should do. Using simple words is the best way to communicate complex ideas.

How can you prevent your improvement from stalling? There is a straightforward method to sustain your motivation to do better:

  • Set reasonable goals for yourself
  • Establish a system to measure your results
  • Use readers' feedback to improve

If you do your running every day, soon you'll be one of fastest kids on the blog.

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


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Monday, 18 February 2013

The best 10 blogs about philosophy

  • Psychology and philosophy blogs
  • Self-improvement techniques
  • Where do you find love?
  • Develop your critical thinking skills
  • Keep your serenity in all circumstances
  • How to communicate effectively
  • The best blogs about personal development
  • Advice on relationships
  • Finding peace of mind through personal growth
  • Self-help techniques that work
  • How do you find happiness?
  • Blogs about goal setting
  • How to make your personal development plan
The best 10 blogs about philosophy
  1. John Vespasian
  2. Philosophy and Life
  3. The Philosophy Blog
  4. Experimental Philosophy
  5. The Partially Examined Life
  6. Philosophy etc
  7. Philosophers Anonymous
  8. Maverick Philosopher
  9. Philosophy Talk
  10. Philosophy in a Time of Error

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The easiest way to accelerate your personal growth. Contradictions ultimately result in failure. Rationality enables self-reliance and motivation

Given sufficient time, logic and consistency always produce optimal results. A rational approach to living gives you the ultimate advantage in the fields of investment, health, career, or relationships. Barring extreme bad luck or misfortune, ethical actions lead to happiness.

The easiest way to accelerate your personal growth

The easiest way to accelerate your personal growth is to concentrate your efforts on the area of your life where problems are most pressing. You only have one life to enjoy and it is up to you to decide which path to follow. Assess your situation objectively, placing facts above prejudice. Design your strategy according to reality. See what works well in the world and identify the keys to prosperity.

Complaining and wishful thinking are ineffectual. Ambitious goals can only be achieved through thoughtful plans and consistent implementation. Psychological balance can only be maintained through rational values and a sense of purpose.

Contradictions ultimately result in failure

Sound principles are as beneficial as they are demanding. Irrationality may seem comfortable in the short-term, but contradictions ultimately result in failure. No matter how experienced you are, mistakes are inevitable, but a wise man is not intimidated by difficulties. He sets goals and plans how to accomplish them.

Entrepreneurship epitomizes the rational approach to living. Innovative spirits do not ask if they can attain their objectives, only how. Creative minds are always looking for better options. Originality is an essential element of success. Productiveness is a fundamental ingredient of happiness.

Rationality enables self-reliance and motivation

Do not allow lack of capital to stop your dreams, nor lack of contacts, nor massive ridicule. Seek out thoughtful, benevolent human beings who appreciate what you have to offer. Build your future around them and happiness will ensue.

History recounts the same tale again and again. When difficulties arise, scepticism turns into discouragement and irrationality into fear. Pragmatism leads to counter-productive actions and confusing results. Without a long-term perspective, problems soon strike the ship under the waterline.

A fully human life is impossible without thoughtfulness. This principle is universal. It knows no exceptions. No one can escape it. Learn from experience, abandon wishful thinking, and embrace a philosophy that works. Rationality, determination, and consistency are the essential factors of happiness and prosperity. Let them carry the day.

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


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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Small ponds tend to dry out fast. Forget about niche markets and focus on fundamental problems

Everybody is able to make money when the Gross National Product is growing fast, but the real challenge is to keep customers when money is tight. During the last twenty years, marketing thinking seems to be focused on the fringes of the mass market. This selective approach has received different names, such as "niche marketing" or "speciality marketing."

Small ponds tend to dry out fast

Focusing your marketing efforts on your most profitable or most accessible customers is a clever sales strategy, but I doubt that it can be elevated to the category of "business model." Small thinking usually remains small until in shrinks into oblivion.

The theory behind niche marketing is that it is better to be a big fish in a small pond, that just another player in the huge ocean. Interesting point, but is it really true? Let me put forward some strong objections to the prevailing ideas:

1. During economic downturns, small ponds tend to dry out fast.

2. Providing solutions to a restricted number of customers makes you highly vulnerable to criticism, whether fair or not.

3. How solid is the future of a business that supplies nice-to-have products instead of products that meet essential needs?

4. Do you want to peg your professional future to the success of a specific fashion?

5. Would you invest your savings in funding an enterprise that provides solutions to non-pressing problems?

Forget about niche markets and focus on fundamental problems

In these difficult economic times, we are watching niche companies and speciality retailers go bankrupt one after the other. On the other hand, enterprises that cater to essential human needs are staying afloat due to their ability to generate repeated business from a stable pool of clients.

What conclusion can be drawn for someone who wants to start a business? Forget about niche markets and focus on fundamental problems. Look for a problem that annoys and irritates people. If you can solve that problem for a fair price, you have found yourself a solid business model.

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


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Monday, 11 February 2013

In case you ever thought of becoming an artist. Why people will opt for the safe choice. A heartbreaking tale. I don't know how to tell you this

Studies have identified many factors that contribute to career success, but so far, nobody has been able to build a convincing model to predict an individual's future or how much happiness a certain profession will bring him. In case of doubt, people will opt for the safe choice and this is why you seldom hear career counsellors recommend risky artistic professions that may lead to unemployment.

In case of doubt, people will opt for the safe choice

This sort of routine advice aims at achieving social insertion. Risk is identified as a problem, safety as the solution. However, a career recommendation based on conventional truth is never going to inspire a daring adventurer. In times when the market requires creativity at all levels, a fearful approach might prove fundamentally wrong, or perhaps, it is wrong in all circumstances.

In the year 1820, Bertel Thorvaldsen, an acclaimed romantic sculptor, travelled back from Rome to his native Denmark. Thorvaldsen was then 50 years old and at the pinnacle of his fame. During his stay in Copenhagen, he talked to many aspiring artists, giving them generous advice and encouragement.

One night, when Thorvaldsen returned to his hotel after a reception in his honour, he was told that a boy had been waiting for him all day. Intrigued, Thorvaldsen looked around the hotel hall and found a poorly dressed kid asleep on a chair.

I have been waiting for you all day

He walked up to the boy, shook his arm gently, and whispered to him: "It is late, kid, go home." Startled, the boy opened his eyes and jumped to his feet. "I was waiting for you, Herr Thorvaldsen. I have been waiting for you all day."

That must true, thought Thorvaldsen, since the boy looked so exhausted and hungry that he was pitiful to see. "I wanted to ask you for advice on my career," the kid went on. "I cannot decide whether I should become a novelist or a poet."

It was a heartbreaking tale

Out of compassion, Thorvaldsen ordered a glass of warm milk for the boy and listened to his story. It was a heartbreaking tale. With adolescence, the kid had lost the striking voice that had gained him praise and a small income in his home town, and had joined the thousands of unemployed youth that roamed the streets of Copenhagen.

"This is why I have thought of becoming a writer," the boy explained shyly, taking three ruffled pages out of his pocket and handing them over to Thorvaldsen. Strangely enough, the idea of asking a sculptor for literary advice seemed to fit the kid's pathetic situation.

It was obvious that he had no chance 

Thorvaldsen devoted a few minutes to reading the text and was appalled to see that it contained innumerable grammar and spelling mistakes. It was obvious that the boy had no chance of becoming a writer. Even if it was cruel, it was better that he learned the truth right away, so that he could at least learn a trade.

"What is your name?" asked Thorvaldsen, returning the pages. "Hans-Christian," replied the boy full of hope. "Hans-Christian Andersen." A silence ensued, as Thorvaldsen searched for the least hurtful way to express his judgement.

I don't know how to tell you this

He stared at Hans-Christian Andersen for a long while as he remembered his own artistic ambitions as a young man, many years ago, but of course, his own situation had been completely different. Thorvaldsen took in a deep breath and shook his head. "Look, Hans-Christian," he began, "I don't know how to tell you this."

At that moment, Andersen nodded and gave the sculptor a crazy smile. That was what he had been waiting for. He was about to hear the words of encouragement that he needed so badly. He was sure that an artist of the calibre of Thorvaldsen would be immediately able to recognize his literary talent and point him in the right direction.

"What do you think, Herr Thorvaldsen, should I become a novelist or a poet?" he asked again, this time full of confidence. Fascinated, Thorvaldsen looked at the kid's bright eyes and realized how foolish he had been. "I have no doubt, Hans-Christian," he answered softly, "that you can become both."

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


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Saturday, 9 February 2013

The sure help that never fails. When you reach the bottom, you have several alternatives. Personal philosophy plays a key role in surmounting adversity

Do you have lots of problems? I am talking about serious troubles, not small stuff. Have you lost more than 80% of your assets in the stock market crash? Are you going through divorce? Did you just lose a great job? Sometimes, it seems that all dikes break simultaneously in order to make sure that your home is flooded beyond repair. 

When you reach the bottom, you have several alternatives

Your first option is to believe that your life is over. That could translate into opening a beer, sitting down on the sofa, turning on the TV, and letting electromagnetic waves numb you into unconsciousness. I have tried this approach myself once and it doesn't work. Let's see what else you can try.

A second possibility consists of crying and wailing. Make a list of your problems, from major to minor, call up a friend, and start sharing your lamentations. A close friend will put up with your complaints for a while, but eventually, he might decide to become an ex-friend of yours. Have I ever gone on a wailing binge myself? You bet. Did it ever work? To this question, I believe that you already know the answer. Complaining doesn't work. Which other paths can you take?

Fury comes in the third place. Get angry, stand up from your sofa, go to the kitchen, and throw a dish against the wall. The dish breaks into pieces and now you have to sweep the kitchen floor. The anger approach is useless and will generate extra costs, additional work, or both. Fury turns into obfuscation, which is never conductive to improving your life.

The sure help that never fails

Action comes next. This is a good alternative, the only proven to work. If you have lost a job, go and look for another position, preferably a much better one. Why is this obvious solution so difficult to implement? Why do most of us tend to run in circles doing nothing, complaining, or displaying pointless anger? This question addresses a crucial point. We fail to move forward because we are convinced that action won't result in our desired outcome.

Would you admit that people react in highly divergent ways when facing exactly the same problem? Some men need five years to get over a failed marriage, while others begin dating a couple of weeks after getting divorced. How come that one person gives up the hope of rebuilding a family, while the other immediately starts to search for a new life partner?

Personal philosophy plays a key role in surmounting adversity

Personal philosophy plays the key role in surmounting any kind of tragedy or catastrophe. The beliefs and convictions inside a man's mind determine whether he will stand up once more, shrug his shoulders at failure, gather his remaining resources, and try again.

What is the best way to acquire the moral reflexes that will lead you out of darkness? I have a low-cost recommendation for you: read History, the more, the better. You will learn how men and women have triumphed over desperate situations by taking action. When everything fails, try imitating solutions that have repeatedly worked in the past. You might be surprised to find out that they usually work.

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


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Friday, 8 February 2013

Are you overexposed to nonsense? If you let inconsistency rule your life, your years will be wasted. You can tell bad advice by its paralysing effect. Acquiring wisdom requires trial and error

Soul corrosion is the loss of ideals caused by overexposure to nonsense and irrationality, a phenomenon that is frequently the result of following wrong advice. You can take vitamins to reinforce your immune system and improve your defences against common colds, but how do you protect your motivation against false ideas? Philosophy, taken in daily doses, is the only effective remedy against misconceptions and misrepresentations.

Are you overexposed to nonsense?

In contrast to vitamins, the cost of a daily dose of philosophy is difficult to estimate, since it varies from person to person. Some men pay it dearly, while others get it at a discount. It is, nevertheless, for none of us free. Time and effort are the only currencies accepted in exchange for self-development. Knowledge and experience are the only vaccines that can inoculate you against counter-productive advice.

Beware of self-interested counsellors who try to push you away from entrepreneurship into conformity. Do not trust those who propose you magic solutions that are supposed to lead to achievement without dedication. Reality teaches us that results cannot exist without cause. No one can run faster than the world itself. A day lasts the same for us all. For extra time, none is allowed to rob. You'll be better off by disregarding speech tainted with irrationality, endorsements without logic, and conclusions without proof.

If you let inconsistency rule your life, your years will be wasted

Welcome philosophy into your life by reading or listening to it at regular intervals. If necessary, drop other tasks less essential, since self-development is the factor that allows men to raise their soul above the stars. Given infinite time, everybody would be able to attain his goals, but no individual possesses the power to extend his lifespan beyond the biological limits. If you let nonsense and inconsistency rule your life, your years will be wasted and you will end up in a place where you don't want to be.

When someone tells you that you have nothing to lose by following his recommendations, check details twice before you reply. If you spend a decade moving in the wrong direction, you might miss your best opportunities and be unable to walk back the road that you have taken. Our lifespan is limited and no human being can try his luck countless times at any game.

Making the same mistake repeatedly might bring you down beyond recovery, in particular if you injure your body or alienate people who love you. Reading History is a highly effective way to become conscious of the lethal consequences of subscribing to irrational ideas. Through the centuries, large numbers of individuals have ruined their life by pursuing unworkable projects and burdening themselves with unlimited cost.

You can tell bad advice by its paralysing effect

Before embarking in any expensive adventure, your should check what the real chances of success are. Errors weigh heavier when men and women become middle-aged and realize that they are half-way through their life and that they no longer enjoy possibilities of endless improvement. Bad advice is typically characterized by a paralysing effect which turns your best talents into liabilities.

Unlimited time would render people fearless, but infinity does not exist for individuals. By the time we reach our tenth year of age, we acquire a solid grasp of the meaning of time. The years available to a person for developing his career and relationships are limited. Internalizing that fact pushes irrational people into a chronic state of fear that renders them amenable to manipulation. On the contrary, individuals who have embraced reason are impervious to such apprehensions.

No matter how lucky you are in a specific area, life will always present you with never-ending problems. When situations become critical, self-reliance and psychological resiliency keep rational individuals afloat. Do not listen to advice coming from unethical people and, instead, work at increasing your capacity to respond rationally and effectively to challenges.

Acquiring wisdom requires trial and error

Choose learning and experimentation instead of adopting ready-made solutions that lack justification. Through analysis and reflection, you will become a better human being. If you imitate blindly what others are doing, you will jeopardize your capacity to think independently. Accept that acquiring knowledge requires trial and error. Gathering experience at your own pace is worth more that ready-made advice coming from strangers.

Base your actions on facts and logic, check the accuracy of your assumptions, and abandon the fantasy of perfection. When we purchase a new car and begin to drive it, we know that, sooner or later, it is going to become dirty and scratched. If someone tells you that he knows how to prevent a car's normal wear and tear, you know that he is not telling you the truth. You must have the fortitude to turn your back to unrealistic advice and go your own way, in the knowledge that such perfection does not exist.

If we subscribe to impossible beliefs, such as that our vehicle should remain forever intact and clean, we will tend to drive at ridiculously slow speeds that might cause a traffic accident. In addition, we will become extremely upset the first time that our car suffers a minor scratch.

The rational approach to self-development requires that we ignore nonsensical recommendations. Try to excel at whatever you are up to, without attempting to meet unrealistic standards. False expectations lead to wasted effort and create high levels of stress, shame, inhibition, and psychological paralysis.

Take a break from the noise of the world 

Give up wrong advice and drop the search of perfection. Adopting a realistic approach to life will enhance your self-reliance. Let your thinking and experience carry you forward on the road to a better life. Take a break from the noise of the world and save yourself from soul corrosion. Paint your dreams in warm colours and let them blossom.

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


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Tuesday, 5 February 2013

I will never reveal my formula to anyone. A momentous decision. What to do next? Following the old routine. An unpleasant surprise. Despair calls for creativity. Fixing the problem permanently

"I will never reveal my formula to anyone," announced Ludovico Egli to the venture capitalists. At that point, it was obvious that the negotiation was over.

After spending three days in Brussels, trying to obtain funding to keep his farm afloat, Ludovico Egli had decided to reject the financiers' final offer.

A momentous decision

Ludovico's father had passed to him the secret recipe for making Emmenthal cheese with mountain herbs. One day, it might be Ludovico's turn to pass the recipe to his son. No, he would never let strangers into a secret that had belonged to his family since the times of Wilhelm Tell.

Ludovico drove back from Brussels to Bern in his old Volkswagen, wondering what he was going to do next. He had placed all his hopes in obtaining funding from the Brussels venture capitalists.

What to do next?

After the failure of the negotiations, Ludovico Egli had no idea where to turn next. He was already two months late with his mortgage payments and he feared that his bank might foreclose his farm, the land of his father, the land of his ancestors.

When Ludovico arrived at his farm in Muri, a village near Bern, he went to bed and fell into an agitated sleep. The following morning, he got up early, as he usually did, milked the cows, took his leather bag, and walked up the mountain to pick up wild herbs to make cheese.

Following the old routine

Ludovico knew exactly where to go. On Ludovico's seventh birthday, his father had revealed the place to him and sworn him to secrecy. "I will do whatever it takes to protect the recipe, I will protect the secret with my life," Ludovico had promised his father. A quarter of an hour later, he arrived at a cliff, stood still, and looked around to make sure that he was alone.

The secret herbs grew next to that cliff and nowhere else, as though they could not grow without the constant challenge of the wind. Ludovico bent down and began to pick up herbs, putting them in his leather bag.

An unpleasant surprise

"On Monday, I saw you drive by," said a female voice behind Ludovico's back. He froze and the herbs in his hands felt as warm as a cow's breath in January. Ludovico turned around slowly and faced Marguerite Stutsi, who lived in an isolated house near Ludovico's farm.

"I saw you drive by the petrol station," she explained with a smile. Of course, realized Ludovico, as he remembered that Marguerite worked in the restaurant next to the petrol station. He had known Marguerite all his life. With the years, her beauty had become less conspicuous and more profound.

"I was just going for a walk," Ludovico replied, as though to justify his presence by the cliff. I could have not given a more stupid answer, he told himself. She must think that I am retarded, or even worse, a liar. Besides, how could she help seeing Ludovico's leather bag and the herbs in his hands?

Despair calls for creativity

Marguerite Stutsi contemplated Ludovico in silence for a long moment, wondering why he had never asked her out. All single men in Muri had asked Marguerite out. All except Ludovico. 

They walked together down the mountain slope, exchanging few words. She has seen me pick up the secret herbs, lamented Ludovico in his heart. Now she knows the secret, the recipe of my father, the recipe of my ancestors. What if she tells anybody? The mere thought that his recipe could fall in the hands of strangers was making Ludovico sick.

They stopped walking when they reached the crossroad and stared at each other. For a second, all sorts of crazy ideas came to Ludovico's mind. Killing Marguerite and throwing her body down the cliff. Kidnapping Marguerite and keeping her prisoner in his farm.

But then he would have to take care of her all day, and who would milk the cows? Who would make the cheese? Damn woman, what was she doing in the mountain all on her own? Why didn't she have a husband and children to take care of? No, he could not let her take away the secret.

Fixing the problem permanently

"Marguerite," he said in an irritated tone, "will you marry me?" The question did not seem to take Marguerite Stutsi by surprise. She shrugged her shoulders and replied simply. "Why?"

Ludovico's answer showed his long practice in cheese-making. "It's better to mix the herbs while the milk is still fresh. Besides, I have been planning to talk to you already since five years ago." Ludovico saw Marguerite hesitate and he added a further argument. "I want you to know that I don't mind that you work in a restaurant."

She looked at him in the eyes and nodded. It was only after the wedding that Ludovico learned that Marguerite actually owned the restaurant near the petrol station. Their daughter, Lisette, was born a year letter. One day, Ludovico will walk with his daughter up the mountain. One day, Ludovico will pass the secret recipe to her.

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


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Monday, 4 February 2013

Harsh actions lead to inhumane consequences. Wild emotions provide the wrong solution to every problem. Fallacies underlie most cases of violence. When in trouble, stand still and think

"May prosperity, whose end is woe, never be mine," wrote Euripides in the year 435 B.C. "I do not wish such wealth that would sting my heart." These words from Euripides' play "Medea" express an all too common attitude towards wealth and success.

Harsh actions lead to inhumane consequences

The idea is that one should refrain from desiring anything too strongly in order to prevent the pain of losing it. The fear of emotions permeates the works of Euripides. In his dramas, the warnings to his characters are always vicious, their responses harsh, and the consequences inhumane.

Euripides wrote his plays many centuries ago, but the attitudes that he portrays in his scenes have influenced writers generation after generation. Soap operas, movies, novels, and pop songs spread the belief that emotions rightly dominate our lives.

Since that idea is false, it is barely a surprise to see most of those stories end the same way as "Medea," that is, in a bloodbath.

Wild emotions provide the wrong solution to every problem

Wild, unrestrained emotions provide the wrong solution to every problem. "You evil villain, after all I have done for you, you have betrayed me," cries Medea in Euripides' play when her lover Jason abandons her to marry another woman. "Wait, and I will pay you back as you deserve, my friend."

In the Ancient Greek play, revenge goes far beyond the level one is accustomed to see in contemporary films. Medea, after assassinating the other woman, ends up also murdering her own children. Why on earth does she put them to death? To make her ex-lover Jason suffer!

Fallacies underlie most cases of violence

Euripides' play is tainted with understanding for the poor Medea, who doesn't know any better than to kill everyone who hurts her feelings. The notion that bruised pride gives you the right to take savage revenge is profoundly unethical and reprehensible. That fallacy underlies most cases of domestic violence.

* The hardest the tragedy, the greater your need of a firm temper.

* The deeper the disappointment, the more urgently you should search for perspective.

In difficult situations, never let your feelings take control of your life. Self-inflicted moral blindness is the worst kind of mental impairment.

When in trouble, stand still and think

Consider your options, assess calmly which is the best way to go, and then start rebuilding your life. Irrationality and hatred only make situations worse. "Harsh temper is an unruly pest," wrote Euripides in "Medea."

It is high time to discard abrasive behaviour and brand it as uncivilized. It is high time to reject savage responses and mark them as unacceptable. The day has come for human beings to start building their ethical ideals on nothing but reason.

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


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