Sunday, 31 March 2013

Ethics is the science of making wise choices. Prevention is better than cure. Look at problems in perspective. Accept the inevitable hassles of life stoically

Learning consists of turning facts into principles for choosing the right course of action. For managers and entrepreneurs, whose success depends on making many decisions at great speed, principles are essential.
"A wise man is not for or against anybody, truth is his only concern," wrote Confucius in the year 510 B.C. 

Ethics is the science of making wise choices

Unfortunately, during the last sixty years, ethics, the science of making wise choices, has progressively narrowed its ambitions. Instead of dealing with general concerns, discussions have turned to life-and-death situations, such as shipwreck survivors stranded on an island with limited food and too many mouths to feed. 
No wonder that, in such intellectual environment, many have given up all attempts to establish universal rules. If you open a newspaper, you will see to what ethics has been reduced: on the one side, pragmatism, on the other, positive thinking. These days, the latter is also being called "neuro-linguistic programming" and "law of attraction."

These two doctrines epitomize the abdication of philosophy. Pragmatism represents reality without principles. Positive thinking prescribes principles without reality. I submit that both are equally unsuitable, but I won't deny that both possess high intellectual appeal and popularity, in particular when it comes to discussing life-and-death situations:

  • YOUR PROFESSION: You lose your job during a recession. You cannot pay the mortgage and bills accumulate. There are no other jobs around and prospects are bleak.
  • YOUR HEALTH: You become seriously sick and cannot work any longer. Medical costs sky-rocket. Then the worst is confirmed. You are declared terminally ill.
  • YOUR BUSINESS: Competition makes you lower prices and your company begins to lose money. Negative cash flow leads to liquidity problems. You are then pushed into bankruptcy. The company that you have spent two decades building disappears.
  • YOUR RELATIONSHIPS: Things at home go from bad to worse. The situation reaches a point where it cannot be saved. Your spouse files for divorce. Your standard of living and your social life are shattered.

Pragmatism will prompt you to pick up the pieces and build a new puzzle, but it won't give you a blueprint, nor tell you which pieces are relevant, nor how to choose them or weigh their relative importance. Positive thinking will disregard tragedy and assure you that a bright future lies ahead. Since positive thinkers considers details irrelevant, little explanation will be provided.

What sustains the popularity of pragmatism and positive thinking is that both work sporadically, like a broken clock who tells the right time twice a day. The alternative to them, rational philosophy, tends to paint less vivid pictures, but those are truthful and reliable. What about life-and-death situations? The rational view on those can be summarized in three points:

Prevention is better than cure

Use rational principles to choose the right course of action long before any sign of trouble appears in the horizon. Sensible eating and exercise will reduce your health risks. Continuous learning will cut down your chances of becoming unemployed. Savings and frugality will get you through difficult periods.

Look at problems in perspective

Unless you are suffering from terminal illness, you have time to rebuild your social life, business, or profession. Disregard infeasible plans and avoid taking random decisions. Let your reason define your long-term goals and align your steps accordingly.

Accept the inevitable hassles of life stoically

Catastrophe can hit people unexpectedly for no good reason. Even the most talented managers make mistakes from time to time. Nobody knows everything and many factors are outside our control. That's life and it is better to face it and accept it. Stoicism and serenity will allow you to make the best of what is left.
As Confucius put it, "a wise man is sound in thought and diligent in action." 

Ethics is not to be discarded, but rebuilt. What we need for our business and private life is a science that allows us to make the right choices. What we need are logical premises, solid arguments, consistency with reality, and predictable consequences. What we need is 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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Saturday, 30 March 2013

Do you really need all those expensive health foods? An artificial lifestyle creates stress and anxiety. Low-cost food substitution, the preferred approach

This is a wake up call for those who believe that they cannot reduce their risk of falling sick. When it comes to health, evil is watching you closely at least three times a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nevertheless, the truth is so hard to accept that few people want to make the effort to change direction.

Do you really need all those expensive health foods?

Although millions of books about weight-loss and dieting are sold every year, have you observed improvements in the health of people you know? Pricey organic items have become popular in supermarkets, but have you witnessed those products having a positive effect on someone's health?

Most people's health-improvement attempts are fraught with waste and disappointment. Despite great intentions and strenuous effort, the tangible results are often negligible. Do most weight-loss plans and prescriptive diets fail because they are unnatural and expensive?

An artificial lifestyle creates stress and anxiety

What is unnatural goes against the grain. Trying to push people into radically new habits disrupts their psychological stability. On top of that, prescriptive diets often prove impractical and time-consuming. No wonder that many men and women give them up after a while. Who wants to lead an unpleasant and constrained life?

Take heart and stick to your objective of getting in better shape. There is a better way to achieve that goal, a more effective approach that takes into account the psychological aspects of self-transformation. The method that really works is called rationality.

Human beings are essentially logical. We can be fooled for a while, but ultimately, we come around and begin to ask tough questions. We want to make sure that we are advancing on the right track. We want to experience short-term progress in our long-term endeavours. We want to see beneficial results from our commitment.

Low-cost food substitution, the preferred approach

Low-cost food substitution should be the preferred short-cut to losing weight and improving our health. Forget about purchasing costly exotic vegetables. Don't bother with high-ticket packaged products that promise magical results. Instead, make inexpensive changes in your lifestyle, little by little.

Acquiring healthy habits at your own speed is more powerful than making radical lifestyle changes that cannot be sustained. You may for instance begin by replacing high-fat meat by simple fish, such as trout or halibut. Pick up a sort of fish that is readily available at your local supermarket and whose taste you enjoy.

Another short-cut to a better health is replacing prepared desserts, such as apple pie or ice cream, by simple fruit. Eating a modest apple for dessert instead of chocolate cake is a low-cost habit that anyone can acquire without much difficulty. You may for example peel the apple, cut it to pieces, mix it with low-fat yoghurt, and sprinkle it with cinnamon. This is easy to do and delicious.

When you replace prepared desserts by fruit, choose varieties that are abundant and inexpensive in your area. Keep always some fresh fruit on your office desk, in case you feel the need to have something to eat between meals.

Drink water instead of carbonated drinks

A third short-cut to a better health is drinking water instead of carbonated drinks. In many areas of the world, drinking mineral water is safer than tap water. See if you can purchase your mineral water at the local supermarket in discount packs and save some money.

At the office, it is a good idea to keep a small bottle of water within reach. Drinking a fair amount of water every day allows our organism to function better. If you can heat water and make some healthy tea, so much the better. Green tea is generally considered a healthy drink, but many other types of tea have positive qualities. Try out different sorts and see which one works best for you.

Once you start on the road towards a better health, there are no limits how far you can go. The trick is to take small but relentless steps. Replace unhealthy habits by rational ones. Get rid of negative influences and embrace a thoughtful approach to living.

If you spend some time reading cooking books, you will realize the possibilities of cooking your favourite meals in healthy ways. You may for instance learn to make pizza at home by mixing yeast and whole-wheat flour. Making pizza dough by hand is not difficult and does not take long. A whole-wheat pizza with tomatoes, tuna fish, olives, and onions is delicious and healthy.

Make up your mind and start moving in the right direction

Rationality demands that we advance slowly and that we enjoy the way. Babies take a year to learn how to walk and three times longer to speak in complex sentences. In dieting, weight-loss, and health improvement, a progressive transformation is usually the one that lasts.

We only live once and little is gained by making ourselves endure unnecessary hardship. Never choose suffering or deprivation if a better option is available. Radical diets can make your days bitter, rarely better. Persistent action guided by reason is the short-cut to a better health.

We are intelligent beings and our minds call for logic and consistency. It is natural that we prefer life to be enjoyable rather than unpleasant. It is understandable that we favour methods that produce tangible results rather than speculative theories. When it comes to attaining better health, check the facts and obtain proof. Then
Then make up your mind and move.

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, 29 March 2013

Peace of mind and happiness require substantial work. Relativism does not explain anything. From old mistakes, draw lessons if you will. Efficient routines lead to achievement

If you look around, you will find no lack of recipes for happiness. Believe this and avoid that. Don't go there and come here. Throw away the old batch and start from scratch. "Our solution is not hard," you will be told, "I just need your credit card." Here is a list of methods that don't work, never have, and never will:
  • Dubious or unethical practices.
  • Abusing people in any way.
  • Seeking short-term gains that wipe out future progress.
  • Complaining about deficiencies.
  • Trusting luck.

Peace of mind and happiness require substantial work

Even under the best circumstances, attaining peace of mind and happiness requires substantial work. Without the right principles, those endowed with prodigious gifts by heredity will just bury themselves in sorrow through mistakes and inconsistencies. You can find evidence of this by opening any newspaper.

What is the essence of happiness? How is it determined? How can we steer our life in its direction? These questions can be answered only by pointing out the main difference between human and animal psychology. 

Animals' moods are indissolubly connected to their immediate perceptions. For humans, this link is immeasurably more complex. Since ancient times, philosophers have wondered why different individuals react to the same event with anger, fear, anxiety, or happiness.

Relativism does not explain anything

Placing our hopes on uncertain possibilities is a better approach than believing apparent truths that rest on false premises and unrealistic promises. 

Relativism does not explain anything and serves only to obfuscate truth. "Anything can be good or bad," is not a valid proposition, in particular when one faces catastrophe or personal tragedy. Arbitrary valuations of events are nothing but sophisticated lies aimed at manipulating the naive. What really creates contrasting levels of happiness is how individuals interpret events according to their convictions about the past, present, and future.

From old mistakes, draw lessons if you will

No matter how painful, past events can often be reinterpreted as learning experiences. When this approach is unworkable, preceding mistakes or bad luck must be simply accepted stoically. Each human life is unique and must carry its own past, whether positive or negative. From old mistakes, draw lessons if you will, but above all, develop your acceptance skills.

Difficulties and, in particular, boring or unpleasant work are much better accepted by individuals who link them to their long-term personal objectives. Men and women of high ambitions know that performing daily routines well is a requisite of progress. 

The contentment of those who look beyond the present remains incomprehensible to short-term mentalities. This is why the same work can be experienced, depending on individual goals, either as dead-end or as a step forward.

Efficient routines lead to achievement

The progress derived from focused, efficient routines leads to achievement. The path to success might be irregular, advancement slow, and results below expectations, but you can always find another road that will take you father. Animals cannot assess their actions by linking them to long-term objectives. Human happiness is, to a great extent, the result of making such connection and anticipating those goals.

Routine, progress, and achievement constitute the sequence of happiness. Viewing the unique thread that links our past, present, and future is a fundamental gift of philosophy. Peace of mind and happiness start and end with personal responsibility. May all your present routines fit well your chosen destination.

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, 28 March 2013

Protect yourself, protect your health, protect your assets. Five principles to keep your boat afloat in times of crisis

Most catastrophes are preventable and most tragedies don't come as a surprise. On many occasions, a few minutes of reflection at the right time and a little more opposition when it was uncomfortable to speak up could have saved the day. Nobody is obliged to be a hero, but taking measures to protect ourselves is a primary moral obligation that we should never fail to implement. Here are some ideas.

1. Keep an eye on the job market

 Even if you feel absolutely safe in your present occupation, it pays to know what is going on in the employment market, if only to make sure that you are not being underpaid. What kind of benefits are other companies offering to people with your skills and level of experience? In which area of the country are open vacancies at this time?

2. Increase your knowledge and skills

The simple habit of downloading podcasts in your field of experience and listening to them in the car may already put you ahead of many. Read weekly a few blogs and digital newsletters in your field. If you live in a major urban area, advanced training courses are available in the evening and weekends. Take a look and see if any of them fits your interests and career objectives.

3. Avoid deranged individuals like the pest

In any random concentration of people, you will find a few who are deranged and dangerous. In case that you must deal with any of those in your working environment, try to avoid them like the pest. In most cases, there is nothing that you can do to help them. Do not fall into the trap of assuming that everybody is balanced and well-meaning. Once you identify the risk, act accordingly.

4. Eat sensibly

You don't need to spend a fortune to enjoy a good nutrition. Fast food is cheap and tasty, but you might pay an enormous price later in life. Learn to cook and choose healthy food. Purchase a scale for your bathroom and check your weight regularly. If you are too heavy, take appropriate action, such as making better nutrition choices and walking more often.

5. Save money every month

A few decades ago, when many people didn't have insurance, putting cash aside for a rainy day was considered essential. Sickness, the loss of a job, or a damaged car might place a heavy strain on your finances. Nobody is immune from bad luck or a downturn in the economy. Prudence today might help you overcome a major crisis down the line.

Protecting your life and possessions is crucial to maintain your well-being. Trust only those who have proven to be worthy of your confidence. Never accept offers that look to good to be true. By paying attention to details and acting with common sense, you can enhance your happiness and, to a good extent, protect your success from misfortune.

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


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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Do not waste your best years pursuing unworkable ideals. Let go of the dead weight of prejudice. Become tolerant of mistakes, since you will make so many

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 March 2013

There are too many rules to live by, too many principles to memorize, clues to follow, and lies to swallow

There are too many rules to live by. Too many principles to memorize, clues to follow, and lies to swallow. Too many ideals to discard and too much junk in our yard. The moment has come to simplify.

There are too many rules to live by

Every few years, we read about research performed on twin brothers. This was particularly popular in the seventies, when researchers checked twins' moods, ask them what they ate, and watched them go on dates. Later they recorded how some twins took courses, found jobs, and travelled around the globe.

At the end of each study, facts are typed, tabulated, and debated. Results are never what scientists expected. Why are some subjects doing great while brothers live in a sorry state? How come that often one twin thrives while the other barely survives?

From time to time, more money is poured into such studies and researchers talk again to every twin and his brother. To everyone's surprise, old data is usually not just confirmed, but magnified. Subjects who are successful feel not at all resentful, while apparently, to those who wail and cry, every chance in life has been denied.

Complexity in the method cannot overcome imperfection in the logic

Although the outcome of studies show clear differences between subjects, scientists continue to be clueless about the cause. How is it possible that each twin fares a way that cannot be compared? If not family and background, what makes some people mess around and others rebound?
  • Are there so many factors involved that no conclusion can be drawn?
  • Is every man nothing but destiny's pawn?
  • What is the secret that turns ugly ducklings into swans?

In my view, such investigations have never been able to teach us much because they are based on faulty premises. Undoubtedly, family and origin play a certain role, but so do educational opportunities, an individual's health, the state of the economy, luck, and many other factors.

Complexity in the method cannot overcome imperfection in the logic. Even when computers are fed overwhelming streams of data, they remain unable to grasp what human intuition can instantly deduct by means of fuzzy short-cuts.

In life, action is the only thing that counts

In life, action is the only thing that counts. It is what makes your days valuable or sells them at discount. It does not matter whether two men are twins or not. Neither origin, background, or talking can equal the impact of a man walking.

Statistics won't reveal the clue. They can determine neither when nor who. From the many rules to live by, most are not even true. Purposeful, consistent, rational action is the key, a habit that we must daily renew. Decide what you want to construe, take action, and follow through.

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 March 2013

Technology has brought entrepreneurship within everyone's reach. Massive reduction of start-up costs. Immediate availability of low-cost standard solutions

Conformity has so many advantages that, nowadays, it has become the choice by default. Few are told that its short-term sweetness must be counterbalanced by long-term blindness. Seldom is the fact mentioned that domestication makes individuals lose their capacity for invention.

Technology has brought entrepreneurship within everyone's reach

Change remains possible, although never easy, and it is often fraught with unintended consequences. This is why tales of horror about the wilderness are conveniently circulated when faith is about to default. "Quitting is not an option," has been written on every wall. 

What explains then the call of the wild? Why is an increasing number of individuals reassessing past choices and exploring new options? Without a doubt, the following two factors play a major role in motivating individuals to choose an entrepreneurial career:

Massive reduction of start-up costs

These days, affordable telecommunication services are allowing entrepreneurs to outsource their non-essential business processes around the world at highly competitive prices. The cost of leasing brick-and-mortar retail space has also plummeted in some cities due to the economic recession.

Immediate availability of low-cost standard solutions

Sophisticated software applications for electronic commerce are now available at low monthly fees. Merchant accounts and professional-looking websites can be set up in less than an hour. A few years ago, this sort of infrastructure would have eaten up most of the capital of a new venture and would have taken months to develop. Now it is immediately available on the web.

Technology has brought entrepreneurship within everyone's reach. At any age and in any circumstances, individuals can change their lives and go their own way. You just have to decide on the menu. 

Global markets and internet businesses are specially tasty, but failing those, local malls are equally fine. In any case, irrespective of your occupation, adopting an entrepreneurial attitude will contribute to your prosperity and well-being.

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 March 2013

There is no point in reading about past mistakes if we cannot draw lessons for the future. Mistakes are personal

The best biographies are short on dates and rich on story, meagre on doubts and abundant on motion. Reading about mistakes made by illustrious individuals is why people enjoy biographies. In this respect, little, insubstantial errors don't count. A solid biography must contain at least one horrendous, shattering mistake.
  • A great actor who accepts a role in a trash movie and ruins his career.
  • A successful fund manager who makes a bad investment and experiences enormous losses.
  • A self-made millionaire who marries a worthless woman and goes through devastating divorce.

Many biographies provide extensive details about how eminent persons turn into fools. Vanity and greed play a role sometimes, although less frequently than venal authors like to portray. The truth is that, in the great majority of cases, mistakes are made in good faith, out of insufficient knowledge, insight, or perspective.

There is no point in reading about past mistakes if we cannot draw lessons for the future

Dangers that appear self-evident in hindsight often pass undetected under real-life strains and tensions. Demanding readers expect stories to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. We want books to provide teachings that go beyond the trite and commonplace. There is no point in reading about past mistakes if we cannot draw lessons for the future. How can you overcome feelings of impotence, sadness, and guilt after you have committed a gigantic error?

Here is what I have learned form reading History. As soon as we realize the full extent of a major error, psychological misery arises from comparing ourselves to others or to a parallel reality that would have existed if we had known better. Such negative emotional reactions rest on a logical fallacy that only determined reasoning can erase.

Mistakes are personal

The knowledge present in an individual's mind is the only relevant factor when it comes to taking decisions. This means that, after making a dreadful mistake, you should avoid comparing your situation with someone else's. It makes little sense to lament how well you could be doing if you had made wiser choices.

Each of us is born in different circumstances and each life is unique. Individuals have to grow at their own pace and learn their own lessons. Competition is a fallacy because life is not a race. 

Experience can be painful but it is irreplaceable. Don't linger on illogical comparisons that bring nothing but misery. Stand up and look ahead. Your next achievement will bring you farther. Mistakes can make you a better human being and show you the way to happiness. Let them.

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 March 2013

The antidote against the poison of discouragement. A wise man faces problems with resiliency and creativity. An active mind is always searching for better alternatives

"The economy is collapsing," is a expression of gloom that one hears frequently these days on the radio. Newspapers and TV illustrate current catastrophes with pictures of unemployed workers demonstrating in front of closed factories. No wonder that those who watch those images get the feeling that the world is coming to an end.

The antidote against the poison of discouragement

If you ask yourself what most people are going to do to help the victims, chances are that your answer will be "pretty much nothing." One could argue that the sole purpose of reporting those nightmares is to exaggerate existing problems and induce numbness in the audience. The implicit motto seems to be "watch and be paralysed."

Presenting problems as allegedly unsolvable is not an approach conductive to finding solutions. Why on earth are people devoting their precious time to watching news about dreadful events if they are not planning to contribute to a solution?

The antidote against this type of poison is simple. Cut down the hours that you spend in front of the television. Spend less time reading newspapers. Ignore depressing messages on the radio that are meant to turn misery into entertainment. Rational individuals are never satisfied with hearing about problems. An active mind looks for alternatives and practical solutions.

A wise man faces problems with resiliency and creativity

The question becomes essential when we focus on our immediate environment. A man needs resiliency and creativity to face problems that affect his family and friends. Compassion and good words rarely save the day. Acquiring the habit of looking for alternatives might do more to increase your success and happiness than receiving a substantial inheritance.

A man becomes an independent thinker when he readjusts his views in favour of a realistic perception of the world. Sooner or later, you will have to deal with a catastrophe in your life. Your ability to search relentlessly for better options will minimize your losses and lead you out of the danger zone.

Insecure men and women are paralysed by dreadful news, but rational individuals know that media reports tend to exaggerate catastrophes. Passive spectators love to point out how desperate a situation is, but self-reliant individuals know that depressing media stories tend to portray people who lack initiative to improve their own life. When scaremongers conclude that all is lost, independent thinkers are already exploring new opportunities.

Every minute devoted to contemplating disasters is wasted. If you are a victim of a major economic shift or personal tragedy, stand up, wipe the dust off your clothes, refocus your goals, and move on.

An active mind is always searching for better alternatives

Remind yourself that today's catastrophes might be regarded as minor annoyances a decade later. In the long term, your goals, actions, and persistence play the decisive role in your life. An active mind does not stand still in the dark and is always searching for better alternatives.

False convictions, in particular when a persons believes that he is not creative, can constitute a monumental barriers to independent thinking. This is the kind of myth that is meant to keep you down and destroy everything you own. This is the sort of fantasy that can make you small and reduce your ambitions to nothing at all.

  • Have you ever been fed nonsense such as that creative people are exclusively those who do artistic things, such as singing, playing guitar, drawing, or directing films?
  • Have you been sold on the mistaken idea that most jobs in industry and commerce consist of boring routines to be performed in a narrowly-described manner in order to arrive at predetermined results?
  • Have you been wrongly told that only top positions in an organization require some measure of creativity and that all other employees are not supposed to put forward new ideas?

Those statements are misrepresentations you should not believe a word of them. Whatever your station in life, you owe to yourself to see things as they really are and let go of myths about creativity. The truth is that you are an intelligent, creative human being, and that it is up to you to decide how to exercise your creativity.

You are the only one who is entitled to choose what goals to pursue

Nobody has the right to exclude any fields of human activity from creativity and innovation. You are the only one who is entitled to choose what goals you want to pursue and in which way. Your life and your personal conditions are unique. There is no one else like you in the world and there will never be.

Your perceptions and experience cannot be internalized by another human being. The combination of knowledge that exists in your mind is singular to one person. Your creativity is the factor that allows you to reshape that knowledge and produce something original.

The years of your life will end up some day, hopefully in a distant future. No man knows how much time he has, but we are all conscious of our mortality. This fact should not be interpreted negatively. On the contrary, it should become an encouragement to make the best of every hour.

Today, right now, is the best moment to discard preconceived ideas about creativity. It is the ideal time to reclaim for ourselves, in our chosen field of activity, the right to exert our mind to the utmost.

Don't waste a minute in admiration of someone else's grandiose view of his own avocation. Develop an active mind that looks for alternatives. Make your own decisions and throw away what doesn't work. Creativity can be demonstrated daily in all our actions. When we choose and when we move, we become ourselves the living proof.

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 March 2013

There is no effect without a cause. How to improve your response to crisis situations. Continuous practice allows us to expand our skills

"There is no effect without cause," wrote Voltaire in his novel Candide in the year 1759. "All parts of the whole are necessarily linked to each other forming a causal chain." This immutable principle of existence is one of the hardest to accept for humans and this is why we spend a good part of our days complaining about the world and wishing that it was otherwise.

There is no effect without a cause

From the moment that you set foot out of your house in the morning until you are back in the evening, chances are that you will have to face the consequences of other people's ignorance and mistakes. If you have a really bad day, dark clouds brought about by third party's wrongdoings might drive all sunshine out of your life, at least for a while.
  • Your car might break down due to an error committed by the mechanic who repaired the engine two weeks ago.
  • You might lose your job if the company where you work becomes insolvent due to gross mismanagement by its directors.
  • You might be wrongly sued in court and be obliged to spend your life's savings on legal fees to defend yourself.

When confronted with the negative effects of faults committed by others, most victims become enraged, anxious, or depressed. In any case, a strong emotional response tends to be the mark of the day or, as Voltaire put it, "we cannot help thinking that God has abandoned the world to the tyranny of evil."

How to improve your response to crisis situations

Enduring the outcome of someone else's errors or stupidity is arduous enough. By adding emotional suffering to the equation, we only make life harder for ourselves. How can we improve our response to those situations? Is there a way to immunize ourselves against the psychological wear-and-tear caused by our share in the world's misfortunes?

Serenity of spirit combined with determined action constitute the optimal reaction to bad breaks in life. Nobody can tell if our society will become better in the next decades, but we can be certain of one thing: our getting angry at other people's mistakes or lack of knowledge will do nothing to improve our present.

Continuous practice allows us to expand our skills 

In Ancient Greece, the primary goal of education was the acquisition of rational thinking habits. Experience proves that, with a calm demeanour and a clear mind, man is able to overcome even the most formidable catastrophes. How can we develop our capacity to analyse problems without falling prey to stress and agitation?

Continuous practice allows us to expand our skills in any domain: building up sound thinking patterns is a demanding, but most worthy undertaking. No one is born a philosopher and no one stays one for long without relentless effort. As Voltaire observed more than two centuries ago, "man was not placed in the Garden of Eden for the purpose of standing still, but for cultivating it."

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


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

How to be rational in a chaotic world. A free presentation of my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living

  • How to be rational in a chaotic world
  • Maintaining psychological strength despite problems and obstacles
  • Techniques to stop worrying even when you have a thousand problems
  • How to get self-confidence when living in a hostile environment
  • Overcoming barriers to personal growth, internal and external
  • How to deal with difficult people in your business and personal life
  • Stress management under difficult circumstances
  • How to build your self-esteem in times of adversity
  • Overcoming anxiety and excessive concern
  • The low-cost approach to self-development
  • How to find peace of mind in a world of non-stop noise
A free presentation of my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living:

Monday, 18 March 2013

We no longer live in Ancient Egypt, although many ancient prejudices are still around. Civilized society is based on contractual agreements. Adopting a rational view of the world

Three thousand years ago, life in Ancient Egypt was strictly hierarchical. Each person's origin determined 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.

We no longer live in Ancient Egypt

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 undertook to transform Egypt into a trading emporium and a marketplace for new ideas.

Only five generations later, the world had changed beyond recognition. During the years of the Roman Republic, the idea of hierarchy disappeared from the mind of free individuals. Despite major differences in wealth and ability, Roman citizens did not feel inferior to anyone when it came to purchase one another's products or services.

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

Many ancient prejudices are still around

Regrettably, the modern digital capacity to draw organizational charts at great speed, is bringing our mentality back to Egyptian times. How often do we hear about people who are seriously depressed because their name has been displaced, in an organizational chart, from one box to another placed a centimetre below?

While it is indisputable that commercial organizations need a structure to be able to function effectively, one should never forget that what keeps individuals working together is voluntary cooperation in the form of contracts. Commercial hierarchies as such do not exist in reality, although modern corporate doctrines go a long way towards obscuring this fact.

If you hire someone to clean your apartment, you are exchanging your cash for a service. If you look at yourself in the mirror and feel "superior" to the person who is cleaning your living-room, you are at odds with reality. 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 professional services.

Civilized society is based on contractual agreements

Civilized society is composed of a myriad of formal and informal contracts between citizens. It is unfortunate that, in the business world, mythical theories about "leadership" and "stewardship" are doing much harm by creating the illusion that human hierarchies exist in the marketplace. Such false theories bring only anxiety, fear, and envy to those unlucky enough to believe them.

Work and happiness are individual endeavours. 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 into some time ago and in which you have decided to stay, for the time being.

Adopting a rational view of the world 

If you ever catch yourself thinking in terms of corporate hierarchies, stop whatever you are doing and take a minute to sharpen your vision. 

Forget about "superior" and "inferior" positions and 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 the entrepreneur whose freedom to trade has just been rekindled.

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


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

Sunday, 17 March 2013

No choice, no alternatives? Give me a break. How to create alternatives where there aren't any. What have you decided?

You should never believe anyone who tells you that you only have one option, in particular when that person tries to justify his view by quoting some trite anti-philosophical remark. Never pay attention to people who tell you that, in life, you cannot get what you want. The ability to find alternative paths is critical to get out of losing situations.

No choice, no alternatives? Give me a break
If your parts supplier tells you that you have no choice, find a new supplier. If your internet provider acts as though you have no alternative, change providers. If an expensive computer repair shop tells you that they are the only experts in your type of machine, throw away the old computer and purchase another brand.

Should your bank tell you that you have no other possibility, go and open accounts in three other banks. If your plumber tells you that your have no alternative, learn how to replace the kitchen tabs yourself. When a painter tells you that he is the only choice in town, hire someone else to paint your house.

How to create alternatives where there aren't any

The life of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) provides one of the best examples of how a man can create alternatives where none seem to exist. In his essay Ethics he wrote that "the human mind is designed for exercising memory and imagination." Few men in History have shown such extraordinary courage as Spinoza, whose dismissal of conformity estranged him from his family and made him a social and financial pariah.

Born into a wealthy family of Jewish merchants and destined to a life of economic comfort, Spinoza's free spirit already began to outgrow the narrow traditions of his community when he was a young man in Amsterdam.

In July 1656, when Spinoza was 24 years old, the rabbi of the synagogue, after having consulted the elders, gave him an ultimatum. He was to stop asking questions during lectures. He was to stop talking to other young men about tolerance and individual freedom. In a word, he was to stop thinking differently than everybody else in the community.

Although the rabbi uttered his threat in a soft voice, he painted clearly the consequences of non-compliance. Expulsion from the synagogue was tantamount to lifelong ostracism. If Spinoza refused to conform to social conventions, all doors would be closed to him.

What have you decided?

 "We expect your answer on the last Sabbath of the month," concluded the rabbi, already anticipating his victory. In his view, no one would be foolish enough to throw away a bright professional future in an established community for the sake of some nonsense about truth. On July 27th, Spinoza returned to the synagogue. The rabbi and the elders were awaiting him. "What have you decided?" they asked. "Are you with us or are you on your own?"
"A man must be guided by reason, if he is to remain fully a man," answered Spinoza. "Without the urge to understand and the freedom to search for answers, neither truth nor happiness are possible." 

After leaving Amsterdam, Spinoza moved thirty kilometres south and created a new community from scratch: a group of free-thinking intellectuals who would spread around the world his ideas about tolerance.

If Spinoza had believed that he had no options, he would have remained in his traditional community and led an obscure life of conformity. As he wrote in his Ethics, "the essence of human thinking is the ability to identify true ideas." 

When somebody tells you that you have only one way to go, give yourself a break. Don't get upset and don't give a snappy reply. Don't bother. Instead, nod, smile, and move on. You have more options than you think.

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


[Image by insane photoholic under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Saturday, 16 March 2013

One major virtue you won't learn from penguins. Squandering your days is not a viable option. Human happiness requires long-term purpose

Penguins don't care how long it takes them to catch their daily fish quota. Year after year, they go through the same routine, hardly improving anything. Their survival is entirely based on the expectation of zero change. 

One major virtue you won't learn from penguins
From the 32 million estimated living penguins, none gives a damn about productiveness. They don't save for the future and often remain unaware of the existence of predators until it is too late to do anything about it.

Contrary to what is portrayed in cartoons and children books, penguins are neither creative nor funny. This is proven by the fact that tourists going to the Stewart Islands in New Zealand rarely devote more than a couple of hours to watch penguins. 

"I had never realized that penguins were so passive," Japanese tourists frequently comment. "They just stand there for hours and do nothing."
Practically without exception, tourists return home with the conviction that being a penguin is not really that much fun. Luckily, most humans come to a similar conclusion by the time we grow up. 

Squandering your days is not a viable option

Hanging around, squandering our days, is not a viable option for those who aspire to happiness. Only purposeful action and continued achievement fulfil our psychological need to feel in control of our future.

Irrespective of the field involved, personal initiative is a major element of happiness. It matters little whether you choose to devote yourself to growing your company, writing music, searching for an effective treatment of cancer, or raising your kids to become great human beings. 

Human happiness requires long-term purpose 

Our rational nature takes pleasure in every achievement. No matter how small our victories, we all love to tell our friends about them.

  • AT WORK: when you figure out a way to complete a task quicker than anyone expected.
  • AT HOME: when you manage to fix an old appliance that was considered beyond repair.
  • IN SPORTS: when you succeed at running faster and score additional points.
  • AT INVESTING: when you see the value of your assets go up and feel your strategy vindicated.
  • IN YOUR LIFESTYLE: when you achieve simplicity and eliminate waste.
  • IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS: when you focus on honesty and creativity
  • IN YOUR PHILOSOPHY: when you view life as a flow of actions that can be continuously improved.

Consider that there is a good reason behind the passivity of penguins: although they know how to catch fish, they don't realize that, one day, they are going to die. 

None of us, however, can hide behind that sort of ignorance. Understanding the link between personal initiative and happiness represents a major step towards a brighter life.

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


[Image by Glen Bowman under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Friday, 15 March 2013

Four great lessons you can learn from failure. Never give up unless it is rationally justified. Do not take rejection personally. Remember that you can still win next time

Do you ever wonder whether all your efforts are being in vain? Do you ever ask yourself if you should give everything up and start a new career? In all professions and businesses, disappointment comes in waves, but that is no reason to do anything foolish.

Four great lessons you can learn from failure

Please do not throw anything away, make yourself a cup of tea, and let me draw a few facts to your attention. The best lessons can be learned from those who have experienced failure the most often and have found the way to turn it into success.
  • Barely 16% of movies make money for their financiers. Most other films are little more than financial black holes.
  • Only 5% of actors make as much money as a mid-level employee, that is, during the years when actors are lucky enough to find work at all.
  • Less than 1% of movie scripts ever get made into films, despite the fact that many scripts are rewritten a dozen times before they are finally rejected.
Despite their glamour, film festivals are playgrounds where people spend their days saying no to each other. Hundreds of movie producers attend the Cannes Film Festival with projects under their arms, trying frantically to raise money from film distributors around the world.

1. Never give up unless it is rationally justified

Ten days later, when the festival is over, most of those movie projects are still unfunded and die an early death. Disappointment and rejection belong to the nature of the film business as much as exciting stories and colourful personalities.

Nevertheless, despite all difficulties, you see those people get up from the ground, take a shower, change clothes, and go back immediately to work on the next project. How come that they don't give up and quit the movie business disgusted with the lack of opportunity? Here are the three reasons:

2. Do not take rejection personally

If a project is rejected, maybe it was not the right time or the right people. If there is a lesson to be learned for the future, learn it. Sometimes, there is none, so just shrug your shoulders and move on.

3. Remember that you can still win next time

Movie producers who never had a single great success in their careers know that the next film could be the right one. When a movie catches the taste of the public, there is no limit to how far it can go.

4. If you continue to improve day after day, your results will also improve

Nobody knows everything about any business and the rules of success are changing everyday. There are no limits to how much you can learn. You can develop breakthrough ideas. Your decision to stay in the game for the long run already puts you ahead of most people.

Do not waste time wondering if all your efforts are being in vain. Instead, devote your days to looking for the next opportunity. Never ask yourself if you should give everything up. Instead, build on what you already have and learn how you can improve. 

In all professions and businesses, disappointment comes in waves. Learn to move with the flow and enjoy the come-and-go. Waves are just waves. They can only hit you hard if they catch you standing still.

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


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

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The three principles to build a better future: self-reliance, tolerance and entrepreneurship. How to establish the foundation of long-term achievement. The danger of getting stuck in abstractions

The Philosophy of Builders
by John Vespasian 

The factors that lead to prosperity and happiness have changed little through the ages. From the lives of accomplished men and women, we can extract the three principles that they have used to build a better future: self-reliance, tolerance and entrepreneurship. 

This book presents how individuals can use these principles to overcome adversity and improve their lives. Through the analysis of situations in the areas of relationships, career, health and investments, it shows how to overcome pessimism and discouragement, walk the path of least resistance, simplify your life and reduce costs, and focus on real opportunities. 

The ideas are illustrated with examples from the lives of Paracelsus, Jane Austen, Thomas of Aquinas, Gutenberg, Jules Verne and many other historical figures, showing how they overcame obstacles and built a better future for themselves.


1. Achieve basic stability
Never underestimate what one man alone can do
Establish the foundation of long-term achievement
Attack problems one by one
Do not allow vanity to paralyse you
Pay attention to danger signals
Build on existing strengths
Learn to view problems in perspective
Wait only the strictly necessary

2. Overcome pessimism and discouragement
Assess risks rationally, not emotionally
Quantify what you can expect
Passive acceptance is not the way to go
Dispute negative thinking patterns
Embrace a philosophy that leads to happiness
Avoid inconsistent decisions
Read inspiring authors

3. Walk the path of least resistance
Discard unworkable plans
Use realism to avoid waste
Look at what people are actually buying
Adopt a lifestyle that suits your temperament
Use long-term goals to determine your direction
Stay out of hopeless ventures
Avoid relativism and scepticism
Find an outlet for your talents

4. Take measures to prevent problems
Be prepared to face misfortune
Concentrate on crucial factors
Pay attention only to quality information
Identify potential threats
Look for simple prescriptions
Protect yourself effectively
Increase your resilience against adversity

5. Simplify your life and reduce your costs
Don't fall in the trap of short-term thinking
Enjoy the benefits of the immigrant mentality
When should you be willing to overpay?
Choose inexpensive alternatives
You can learn the basics quickly
Being healthier by consuming less
The solution to stress: simplification

6. Start new projects with minimum resources
Gather support as you go
The danger of getting stuck in abstractions
Avoid inaccessible markets
Do not be intimidated by other people's achievements
Most barriers are psychological
Small but regular steps often lead to success

7. Focus on real opportunities
Select a low-risk approach
You can profit from troubled times
How to identify promising ideas
Should you worry about the state of the economy?
Use low-cost marketing techniques
Redefine what is essential
Value creation begins with observation

8. Adopt productivity as a way of life
Do not assign excessive weight to mistakes
In case of doubt, opt for a logical explanation
Steady work is preferable to occasional jobs
Choose stories that promote achievement
A change of speed might be all you need
Work only on one major project at a time
Let go of linear expectations
Never entrust your future to chance
Keep flexible and alert

9. Take relentless action
Fill your days with worthy activities
Experiment to find out what works
Adopt effective routines
In crucial matters, do not leave anything untried
Continuous action breeds opportunities
Rewrite your personal history
Can you turn adversity into an asset?
Action is the best way to overcome obstacles

The Philosophy of Builders
by John Vespasian

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

To whom do you owe honesty and truth? Your dreams and thoughts are only yours. Learning when to speak and when to forgo critique

Fifty-nine years is a long time in the life of a man. Days can go by without trace, leaving nothing behind, turned to dust by the daily grind. During such a long period, most men choose to ply quietly their trade, while a few prefer to go on a crusade. For writer Daniel Defoe, that was the time it took him to learn when to speak and when to forgo critique.
"It was then that I began sensibly to feel how much happier my current life was, despite its miserable circumstances, than the wicked, cursed, abominable life that I had led in the past," wrote Defoe in his immortal novel Robinson Crusoe.

To whom do you owe honesty and truth?

The book was first published in the year 1719, when Defoe had just turned fifty-nine. During the initial forty years of his life, he had been repeatedly prosecuted and imprisoned for speaking out his mind. Moved by financial desperation, he had then wasted the following decade writing propaganda for different employers.

It was only in his late fifties that Defoe finally felt secure enough to write a major work of fiction. Robinson Crusoe was the result, a story about a man stranded on a solitary island with no company other than his own thoughts. Taking into account Defoe's personal background, it is not surprising that the subject of his novel was silence.

Written in the first person, the narration continues to appeal modern generations due to its profound philosophical tone, which reflects Defoe's desire for freedom, independence, and truth. 

"Now I look back upon my desolate, solitary island as the most pleasant place in the world," laments Robinson Crusoe in the novel, "and all the happiness my heart could wish for is to be there again."

Life doesn't have to be that way. Playing the lies of society versus the honesty of the hermit is a powerful literary ploy, not an accurate portrait of reality. In any circumstances, only reason can tell you whether it is better for you to keep silent or if you should take a stand on principle. The dichotomy presented in the novel Robinson Crusoe makes a great story, but it is radically false.

Truth seldom comes for free and there is no reason why it should be. Individuals owe honesty to themselves and to their family and friends, not to strangers of doubtful reputation. Men owe loyalty exclusively to the facts of reality, not to any fashionable mentality.

Your dreams and thoughts are only yours

Your dreams and thoughts are only yours. They are meant to be exchanged with those who are congenial, not oppositional. If you perceive good reasons that counsel you to keep silent, heed the advice of your heart. Seek out those men and women who deserve the best in you. To the rest, let silence be their due.

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


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

Monday, 11 March 2013

Run away from problems and they will catch up with you at night. How to move from inefficiency to focus. The transition from worry to resilience

Few things in life are worth more than perspective. Overcharged agendas can push us to a point where we begin to lose direction. As management tool, planning is highly overrated. As personal philosophy, time management will just keep you sedated.

Run away from problems and they will catch up with you at night

In periods of low unemployment, when people burned out, doctors used to recommend taking a long vacation. Getting away from everything was considered the ideal means to regain perspective and figure out what is important in life.

Holidays are great, but physical distance for its own sake is a solution that seldom works. Run away from problems and they will catch up with you at night. Try to forget about reality and you will soon experience a loss of vitality.

The truth is that, to gain perspective, human beings don't require physical distance. The result from exotic travel, mental estrangement, won't render our agendas less inconsistent. Peace of mind can be based only on clear ideas and definite objectives.

Orientation comes from definition. Safety arises from prevention. Self-confidence is built on balance. Of course, the problems lie on the opposite side. Fear is made of images that we can't erase. Stress is the certainty of living in a mess, while longing for magic solutions that we don't possess. It is time for a turnaround:

How to move from inefficiency to focus

Most things that we do everyday are routines. How many of those are tuned to serving our long-term objectives? Imagine what you would do if you knew the precise day of your death. Go ahead and fix the date yourself, for instance, your ninetieth birthday.

Count the time that you have left, review your major priorities, and decide how many hours you can afford to waste on non-essential tasks. One thousand? One hundred? What about zero? Become focused in the way you allocate your time. Drop everything that is leading you away from your goals.

The transition from worry to resilience

On the other hand, you still have lots of time left. There is still plenty that you can achieve, irrespective of difficulties and contingencies. Put your impatience aside and work confidently towards your goals. With a sharp vision and calm persistence, you will be able to reach most objectives on your list. In the worst periods, perspective will feed your resilience; in the best times, your brilliance.

Physical distance and psychological tricks are not the way to gain perspective. Don't allow time management to fill your life with empty commitments. Walking too fast won't do. Walking too slow brings nothing but woe. Let go of excess baggage and advance on your chosen path with serenity. Forget about fashions and rediscover your true desire. Remember that everyday, you can build a little higher.

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


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

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
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  7. Philosophers Anonymous
  8. Maverick Philosopher
  9. Philosophy Talk
  10. Philosophy in a Time of Error