Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year! __________About the crucial importance of finding people who share your worldview


As soon as I enter the hall, I see the sign they have placed on the wall. The oversized red letters read “Do not let strangers into the building.” I nod approvingly as I reread the notice. It was high time. There are too many deranged people out there.

They have not cleaned the stairs this month and the steps are a little greasy. When I arrive at the fourth floor, I have the apartment key already in my hand. I walk down the corridor, turn the corner, and then I freeze. There is a woman standing at my front door.

“Are you the scientist?” she asks with a heavy accent. I stare at her and take a deep breath. I know how to deal with this. At work, we have been trained to handle this type of situations. “I am a scientist, not a medical doctor,” I reply in a neutral tone. “I am afraid that I cannot help you.”

She shakes her head firmly. “I know that you are a physicist, Prof. Raymond,” she says. How come she knows who I am, I wonder. “My name is Raymon, without a d,” I correct her mechanically. She has long blond hair and, for a moment, I wish that she was here just to sell me something.

When she walks up to me and produces a cable from her pocket, my worst fears are confirmed. Now I have no doubt that she is one of the lunatics against whom we have been warned. “What do you want from me?” I ask, shrugging my shoulders, but she is not discouraged in the least. “I can't start the battery,” she explains, showing me the cable. “Can you help me?”


Her apartment is a mess, but the view from the twentieth floor is breathtaking. She picks up a box of electronic components and points at the ceiling. “It is on the rooftop,” she says. I decline her offer of a cup of green tea and climb the stairs after her. How long has she been working on this?

The spacecraft on the rooftop corresponds to the old design available on internet. I inspect the battery and shake my head. Although people obsessed with Alpha Centauri are known to be mentally unstable, this woman seems surprisingly well-balanced. Does she really believe that she can build at home a spacecraft to return to Alpha Centauri? The whole idea is insane.

She informs me that her name is Amy and tells me the story that has been passed from generation to generation. Who hasn't heard of Alpha Centauri? Who doesn't want to believe in the myth of a perfect world? I give her back the cable and I start to tell her that I must return to my apartment, but she cuts me off. “My real name is not Amy,” she says. “It's AmyFri.”

My heart misses a beat. This can't be true. She cannot possibly know about the names. “I am AmyFri,” she repeats, “and you are RayMon.” I stare at her blue eyes, seeking to be reassured. I want to be certain that I am not dreaming. Only real Alpha Centauriers possess names ending with their day of birth, Mon for Monday in my case. Was AmyFri born on a Friday? She cannot possibly be one of us.

I accept her cup of green tea and we sit on the sofa in her living-room. As we watch the sun go down, we exchange stories about our forefathers. AmyFri tells me that she belongs to the Rigil tribe. “From the forty-six tribes of Alpha Centauri,” I confirm, “Rigils are the most intrepid.” Then my voice trembles and I shut up, unable to say that I am also a Rigil.


When I return to my apartment, I close the door and the keys drop from my hand. As I stand motionless in the corridor, my mind reviews everything that's wrong with AmyFri's spacecraft. There is a long list of insurmountable technical problems. No wonder, since the design available on internet is nonsense.

I pick up the keys from the floor, walk to my bedroom, unlock the drawer under my bed, and take out my own design. This is my blueprint for an ultra-light spacecraft, the result of fourteen years of working nights and weekends. I have not looked at it since my fortieth birthday, the day when I gave up all hope of ever returning to Alpha Centauri.

As I deploy my blueprint on the kitchen table, I remember the reasons that made me abandon the project. The impossible technical specifications. The gigantic cost. The back-breaking work that it will require. My design is revolutionary, but I know that it can work. With the help of AmyFri, I may be able to build the spacecraft in less than two years.

I spend the whole night feverishly remaking my calculations. I find no errors, but I wonder if this can really work. When the first light of dawn comes through the window, I have already made up my mind. No matter how long it takes, no matter how much it costs, I am going to do it. I am going to build a spacecraft to return to Alpha Centauri. And when it is ready, I will take AmyFri with me.

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

My best wishes for 2015 to all my readers.


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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Your personal growth will sometimes require you to shrug your shoulders and move on

Unfairness is everywhere and, if you care to look, you will detect more than your equitable share. Some people are born in the right environment, others possess powerful connections, inherit better looks, or simply draw the lucky number in a lottery. 

Say no to useless stress

Occasionally, your valuable work won't be appreciated and, instead, people will praise worthless nonsense. You may at times have to endure discrimination or ostracism, with the accompanying financial drawbacks. Disappointment, self-pity, and envy are frequent reactions to those situations.

Those negative emotions result from complex thought processes, which are as widespread as they are illogical. Imagine, for example, the case of an inexperienced person who is appointed to a high position within a bank thanks to his family connections to the detriment of a much better-qualified candidate.

Avoid unjustified discouragement

What will be the feelings of the person who has seen his rightful expectations evaporate in a cloud of unfairness? On the one hand, irritation and perhaps anger. In addition, discouragement or even depression. Finally, envy, together with an overall sensation of futility. Let us examine in detail the thought sequence that generates these feelings:
  1. The open position should be filled with the most competent candidate.
  2. The people who will make the choice should strive to identify who the best candidate is.
  3. The selection should be made exclusively on the basis of rational criteria.
  4. People should display extra care when they make such crucial decisions.
  5. When someone makes important choices for an organization, he should not let himself be influenced by personal interests and family connections.
  6. Since I am the best-qualified candidate, I should obtain the appointment.
  7. If a less experienced person is selected for the job, that would constitute a terrible injustice.
The ideas described above seem irrefutable at first sight, but they fall apart if we subject them to rational examination. In reality, we all know that some people carry out their duties in an exemplary manner while others are as negligent as you can be. For every person who possesses a strong sense of justice, how many will you find who prefer to look the other way?

No need to waste your resources

Even if you happen to be the best-qualified individual for that particular job, how much of that is the result of luck anyway? If you are reading this, I bet that you have not been born in appalling poverty, deprived of access to basic education, and neglected by your parents to the point of near-starvation. Do take a minute to assess if at least part of your success is the result of pure coincidence or good fortune.

My point is not to state that everything is relative, which is not. Equally, I am not trying to tell you that you shouldn't have ambitions, which you should, by all means. What I am arguing is that envy, a deep feeling of misplaced disadvantage, is mostly a logical illusion.

In a world where millions of people are ignorant, thoughtless, and driven by nefarious ethics, what sense does it make to focus on the unfairness of the day? Lamentations and wishful thinking can bring about certain psychological relief, but they are essentially a waste of resources.

Here is your very best option

The rational response to unfairness is not envy, but relentless action. Given sufficient time, intelligent persistence tends to weigh off the influences of inheritance and chance. In our example, the person who has not been chosen for the job would do better to put on a good face and start to look around, discreetly, for a better position for himself at a rival bank.

Your time on earth is limited and should be used promoting your own cause in front of rational, fair individuals. For what concerns other people's mistakes, prejudice, or arbitrariness, you will be better off if you shrug your shoulders and move on. In the long-term, life often has its own funny ways to settle accounts without your intervention.

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, 29 December 2014

The rational response to lack of appreciation

There are reasons enough in the world to feel worried and concerned. Nonsense and injustice, ignorance and prejudice, just to name a few. Mistakes are made day after day, frequently out of kindness and in good faith, although those are poor consolations to those on the receiving end.

Rightful indignation

Should one choose to feel distressed? The answer to this question will depend on what you want to achieve. Let us not underestimate the appeal of rightful indignation. Complaining makes you feel important, gives free rein to your emotions, and gets you closer to like-minded plaintiffs or outraged defendants.

Anger increases your energy and keeps you alert, but it has substantial drawbacks. More often than not, obfuscation will blind you to reality and lead you to discard relevant facts. You will misjudge people and situations, attributing ill-intent where only negligence exists. Wild emotions can easily block your personal development and lead you to foolish actions such as the following. 

First, ongoing activities will be put on hold waiting for redress that might or might not come, but will sure not happen today. Life goes on and indignation keeps you focused on the past. Anger prevents you from using your hours in the best possible way.

Preserving your resources

Second, your expectations of obtaining reparation will often be unrealistic. Even if you possess all the good arguments in the world, your claim might have to face indifference and contempt, inefficiency and nepotism. Your resources will be exhausted and your patience eroded.

Third, most people do not care and few will even make the effort to listen, let alone understand what you are saying. Thinking in principles requires substantial mental concentration. Unless someone is already used to abstract reasoning, his perception of your story will not go beyond unconnected details.

Fourth, the financial and personal cost of pursuing old claims can be extremely high. Stress, preoccupation, uncertainty, fees, and deposits will eat up your savings and weaken your health. Would you not rather use your energies for better purposes?

The overwhelming evidence

In terms of results, the evidence is overwhelming. Stress, anger, and indignation are not worth the cost you pay and the time you waste. You have much better options at your disposal. Serenity and persistent action will bring you more advantages than unbridled emotions. Understanding this will radically change your view of the world.

If you have made mistakes, learn the lesson and start something new. If you find yourself in a position that forces you to deal every day with unreasonable people, move on and find better people to share your life with. If your talents are not being properly appreciated, cut off your losses and join those who admire what you have to offer. Liberate your ship from the entanglements of dead waters, make a clean slate, and head for a friendlier horizon.

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, 28 December 2014

Profit from these 10 opportunities to increase your personal happiness

Please turn off the radio and TV for a while and let me give you some realistic opinions. Despite all the gloom and doom, there are solid reasons for being optimistic in our times. If we keep our head cool and assess facts objectively, this is what we find.

1.- ECONOMIC RESTRUCTURING IS CREATING WEALTH. As a result of the current crisis, some companies are going bankrupt. In most cases, this means that assets are being taken over by a different management, people with new vision and ambitions. Those companies will stop producing what few want to buy and, instead, focus their efforts on better opportunities. Restructuring can lead to creating new wealth.

. It used to be costly to move in order to take a new job, but things are changing. The cost of housing has been reduced in many areas of the world. If you want to move in order to pursue new opportunities, there has never been a better time. Even if you decide to change cities only for a while, you can now rent furnished apartments cheaply in many areas. The cost of moving can hardly prevent anyone from pursuing his dream.

3.- VIOLENCE IS DECREASING. Despite grim news in the media, violence is decreasing around the world. There are still many unresolved problems and dangerous places, but overall, the situation is improving. The reason for this is purely practical: violence is bad for business. Production and commerce get people together. Selling things to each other goes a long a way towards preventing conflict.

4.- MANY ASSETS WILL APPRECIATE. While some businesses and currencies are losing value, other assets are appreciating. Instability creates opportunity. Although it might be uncomfortable and risky, remember that only dead matter is stable. Human beings thrive in change. Look for currencies and assets that are appreciating, invest your savings wisely, and you will be rewarded. Life flows in the direction of opportunity.

5.- TOLERANCE AND GOODWILL ARE INCREASING. There are many different opinions around the world. Some are foolish and unrealistic, but they hardly justify heated debates. Live and let live, people say. Tolerance is carrying the day amongst thinking individuals. As people travel and see the world, tolerance and goodwill increase.

. If your industry faces a shrinking market, it is painful to lose your job, but try to look at it from a different perspective. Economic changes shift resources from low-profit to high-opportunity areas. The speed of that process shows the health of an economy. There can be no progress without change. Be flexible and use your creativity to adapt to the new situation.

7.- EDUCATION COSTS ARE DECREASING. Inexpensive internet access and mp3 players have cleared the way for low-cost transmission of knowledge in all fields. Lectures that were accessible only in universities, can now be downloaded for free or for little money. For those who wish to learn, opportunity is continuously expanding.

. For a short while, we are living in an environment of decreasing prices and this is something that we all can profit from. Things that used to be hardly affordable have become cheaper for millions of people around the world.

9.- IMMIGRATION CONTINUES TO CREATE JOBS. Frontiers are opening in many countries and millions of people move every year in search of a better life. Immigration continues to create opportunities for many. A promising future in a new environment. Immigrants bring ambition, knowledge, and tolerance to society. Immigration creates wealth for open economies and its positive effect can be felt in many areas around the world.

10.- LOW-COST COMMUNICATIONS ENHANCE TRANSPARENCY. With television cameras and internet access everywhere, it has become increasingly difficult to be evil. Problems are immediately reported and people take action to improve things. When transparency increases, people become more ethical.

Do not let daily news get you down. Instead, look at the world with rational optimism. Some currencies are losing value and others are appreciating, but opportunities are being created everywhere. Two thousand years ago, Roman philosopher Epictetus said that a wise man focuses his effort on things he can control. That's something that we should keep in mind everyday.

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, 27 December 2014

The link between frugality and self-confidence

Poverty has few benefits other than awakening personal ambitions and making people realistic about how the world works. Those are things, of course, that can be learned in many different ways without having to experience deprivation.

On the other hand, whatever your level of income, frugality constitutes a choice of permanent value. Contemporary society does not promote temperance and thrift. The story is seldom told of how present prosperity is the consequence of previous savings and investment.

The law of cause and effect governs of the world. Nothing escapes its reach, no one circumvents its application. The same principle that brings perspective to centuries shapes the microcosm of daily life. What you do today builds tomorrow's structure and level of pay.

In addition to economic returns, frugality brings about substantial psychological advantages to the individual. Stress and anxiety remain foreign to the parsimonious. Discouragement and fear stay away from the house of the austere. If you live this way, these are some blessings to expect.

First, peace of mind. Worries do not keep awake at night those who live their days with measure. Leading a simple life spares man the effort of following the latest fashions. By quickly dismissing artificial alternatives as inappropriate, we are left with the fundamental. Serenity is the result of simplification.

Second, the ability to make fast and consistent decisions. Trusting your own judgement more than external opinion allows your skills to grow through success and mistakes. Stable values and sharp priorities are the prerequisite of frugality. Decisiveness is the will to recognize and reject the drawbacks of inconsistency.

Third, overall reduction of the risks in your life. A judicious man should protect himself when at risk, but is it not wiser to avoid danger in the first place? The tension of making daily complex choices can wear out the most balanced mind. Adopting simple ways of doing things reduces errors of oversight. Shunning unnecessary costs keeps exposure to chaos low.

Free yourself of encumbrances

Four, less stress and increased enjoyment. Ignoring the noise of the world liberates time and other resources. Priorities lose their meaning in overgrown agendas. Frugality enables man to breathe free of encumbrances and focus his efforts on the basics. Happiness is not the result of cumulating random tasks, but of concentration on projects that make a difference.

Leading a simple life allows man to accumulate wealth and the peace of mind that comes with it. The material advantages of frugality go hand in hand with its psychological benefits. Discarding the unnecessary lets individuals pay attention to the crucial elements of a good life. Making wise choices starts with the realization that most things don't count.

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, 25 December 2014

The virtue of comparing prices

"Inquiring about prices is sinful," wrote scholar Hugh of St. Victor in the year 1130 C.E., "since it only serves to aid the vice of avarice." The medieval mind saw the world as immobile and human beings as passive spectators. Life was something that happened to you. Silent acceptance was regarded as a virtue, particularly in Christmas, but is that really a virtue?

Acting on the basis of knowledge

Nine centuries have gone by. The universe has not changed, but we have erred and learned. In our age, looking up prices occupies a good part of our time. We cut off coupons from newspapers and compare discounts from car dealers. We listen to commercials on the radio and participate in auction sales.

Our activities have taken a new course, but to a certain extent, our thinking remains anchored in the Middle Ages. Reflect for a minute and count the people you know who actively pursue price information in their endeavours and who act consistently on that knowledge.

Making correct valuations

How long is your list of those who look around and compare offers? What percentage of men and women carefully assess cost before making decisions? If you write down names, chances are that they will be few, since whole segments of the population prefer to ignore price information.

Children, for instance, are foreign to cost considerations, since their priority is to have everything right now, irrespective of the price. Instilling sound economic judgement should be one of the objectives of a good education. Psychological growth demands perception of the bond between effort and reward.

Smokers must be also excluded from any list of cost-conscious individuals. How many of them are unaware of their increased health risks? Anyone who watches television or reads newspapers can hardly claim ignorance of the massive cost of cancer treatment.

Complainers also typically spend their days deploring problems which, on closer examination, could have been easily avoided by looking at the market. Depressed prices or exaggerated valuations do not prompt rational men to lamentation, but to cautious action.

The link between rationality and happiness

What is proper for youth looks ridiculous as men age. Acquiring consciousness of prices is part of becoming an adult. Irrationality makes people angry and depressed, leading them to sell their property at reduced prices. Obsession deprives men of understanding, inducing them to pay too much for fashion.

Fear cannot justify foolishness. Conformity cannot excuse willingness to delude ourselves or the world. Ignorance is unacceptable when knowledge is freely available. Wisdom begins with consciousness of our environment. For products, services, or convictions, there cannot be valid advice without reference to price.

Merry Christmas 2014 to all readers around the 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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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

How to use Christmas day to increase your confidence in the future

Experienced managers tend to focus on a few key parameters that tell them how their business is doing. Seasoned investors proceed in a similar way. Since they know the kind of opportunities they are looking for, they are able to discard unsuitable investment proposals after checking a couple of critical figures.

No one can take correct decisions for his personal development without knowing which elements are important. Gathering huge amounts of data will prove useless if complexity cannot be reduced to manageable levels. What you need are simple graphics or tables that show you how you are doing presently and what the trend for the future is.

The crucial elements

When it comes to running your own life, could you reduce information to a small number of factors? Is it possible to simplify reality to such an extent? Can a few numbers suffice to express your level of self-confidence and happiness? Can we isolate the crucial components of our existence and make projections for the next decade? Here are some examples:

  1. The general condition of your health.
  2. Income from your main business or activity.
  3. Overall level personal freedom.
  4. How many close friends you meet regularly.
  5. The size of your bank account and other liquid assets.
  6. Level of satisfaction with your home and living environment.
  7. How you rate the non-monetary aspects of your principal occupation.
  8. Happiness derived from your spouse and other family relationships.
  9. Overall perspectives for personal growth.
Gaining perspective

If routines fill most of your days, you should not allow random events to eat up the little free time you have available. Becoming conscious of the status in each area of your life and pushing for improvement requires substantial effort. Reducing situations to fundamental numbers can contribute to remind you where you stand and where we want to go. This is a particularly useful exercise to do on Christmas day or at the end of the year, in order to gain perspective for the coming twelve months.

More often than not, one or two figures should be enough to identify the issues closest to your heart. Even when you are dealing with immaterial elements, such as the non-monetary aspects of a business or profession, you should force yourself to come up with some number.

A highly beneficial process

Try to establish, for instance, where you are today on a scale from zero to ten, and where you want to be in a year from now. In a similar way, trainers encourage overweight people to track their weekly weight loss by means of a simple graphic.

The sheer exercise of decomposing your life into its main constituents can prove highly beneficial. Turning observations into numerals can allow latent irritation, frustration, depression, anxiety, or anger to be verbalized. The first time that you take the time to write all this down may result in a couple of surprises, but the process is bound to help you focus your efforts, and increase your confidence in the future.

In fact, if you can figure out the way to do it, the primary number that you need to watch is your overall happiness index, where it stands today and how to raise it to the highest level in the decades you have left. My best wishes for Christmas 2014.

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, 23 December 2014

The key to emotional stability is ethical consistency

In traditional education, lying is universally abhorred. Children are taught that one should tell the truth under any circumstances. Such paradigm is usually reinforced with morality tales of liars who suffer terrible punishments. However, when children grow up and become adolescents, they realize that some details do not match in the story they've been told.

The extreme emotionality of teenagers (depression, anxiety, anger) is linked to their moral awakening. At thirteen, they complain that people don't follow the principles they preach. At fourteen, they point out inconsistencies between ideals and facts. At fifteen, they long to see alignment between purpose and means, but where should they find it?

Predictable and reliable

In this context of straight virtues and twisted reality, becoming an adult frequently leads to disillusionment, cynicism, or sectarian self-delusion. As a result, truth is reduced to the realm of talk, actions become unpredictable, and promises unreliable. What an ethical mess, what an intellectual nightmare.

The moral confusion of our age is the natural consequence of contradictory premises in our thinking. You cannot expect people to tell the truth while you overwhelm them with equivocations and misrepresentations. There is no excuse for eluding the issue. There is no answer to this dilemma except for that provided by logic and evidence.

First, the ethical requirement to tell the truth under any circumstances does not hold water and there is no evidence that it has ever worked. Such requirement lacks solid grounds, since it fails to acknowledge the difference between good and evil.

Second, when dealing directly with nature, it is in our own interest to remain faithful to acquired data and confirmed observations. Machines and chemical processes operate according to the laws of identity and causality. In those cases, if you lie, you will simply get different results or none at all.

Be aware of the context

Third, when dealing with other men, truth is morally due to those who are themselves authentic and reliable. The proportion of genuine and benevolent individuals in your life might include, depending on the context, a few or most people. Indisputably, you should be loyal and faithful to those who are honest.

What about the rest of your social contacts? How should one face individuals who are evil or misinformed, in numbers large or small? For those cases, we need to define clear guidelines for ourselves and our children. For instance, when we have a duty to provide accurate information, what we should do in case of doubt, and so on.

No morality should demand individuals to tell the truth to those who are trying to do them harm. Equally, no ethical system should require people to disclose private details to random strangers. Contradictory ideals lead to depression, anxiety and anger. The key to emotional stability is ethical consistency.

We have seen too often what prejudice has to offer. We have experienced too frequently how chaos arises from contradictions and waste from inconsistencies. Let us place our principles under reason and our actions under logic, for no other approach can ever meet the demands of reality.

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, 22 December 2014

Why increased consistency leads to increased self-confidence

You can choose either way to fill your years, not with happiness, but with souvenirs. Imitating someone else's pictures is not the way to create great paintings. Adopting values that make no sense will not move you forward nor render your feelings more intense. Downtrodden tracks lead to dejected spirits. For sure, that is not a path you want to take.

There is an alternative, the same that has always worked. You don't need to spend your days wondering which fashion leads to less dismay. Wisdom does not entail rejecting principles that are preached, but comparing them with reason, and selecting those that work.

Eliminating random noise

Individuality can only draw meaning from private reflection. Sound choices are the result of man's logical evaluation of the world. Before we start to compose our own song, we must allow our mind to filter out random noise. These are my three suggestions about how to move from inherited values to consistency with reality:

First, stop believing in myths. Neither specific clothes, nor gadgets, nor locations lead to happiness. The majority might bestow moral credibility to arbitrary standards, but you are not obliged to buy in. The idea that things have to be done in one specific way is, more often than not, false. Shun rigidity and look around for original answers.

Rebuilding your thinking

Second, abandon contradictory goals. Irrationality is synonymous with inconsistency. False ideas conflict with facts and with each other. Anxiety is the mark of those who move at random, without destination. Animals do not need perspective, but humans do. Drop ideas that do not make sense and rebuild your thinking structure.

Third, determine a clear long-term direction. Universal principles can be distilled from observation, but each has a myriad of different applications. The law of cause and effect drives all existence, but your context is unique. No one can tell you how to lead your life best. Let your reason establish your ambitions and priorities.

Realize that the short-term contentment of imitation adds little worth to your experience and much expense to you detriment. Shrug your shoulders at unrealistic advice and ignore insincere invitations. Happiness calls for stable purpose and continuous action. Choose the way of 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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Sunday, 21 December 2014

How to get a job in times of high unemployment

Unrealistic scenarios and promises are counter-productive. When planning our future, we should think twice before trusting exaggerated positive statements. On the other hand, we should also refrain from painting all alternatives as dark and all attempts as hopeless.

What works and what doesn't 

Various approaches have been tried against poverty, with different levels of success. Living in an environment of deprivation can undermine a man's spirit and this is why he needs to figure out a feasible plan to improve his situation. What we know is that unrealistic expectations do not work.

If you happen to find yourself living in a poor district of town, you do not need to give up your hopes of a better future. If you are suffering from lack of formal education, becoming bitter is not going to improve anything.

What is needed is to take action to detect and seize available opportunities, but frequently, those can only be perceived when we look at the world realistically. When a man is unemployed or stuck in low-income occupations, he might develop a view of the world that prevents him from seizing his chances.

The wrong perception

The conviction that nobody is going to listen to one's troubles does not necessarily correspond to reality. The perceptions that nobody is going to help and that no one cares are contrary to the fact that opportunities, although scarce, do exist.

The great news is that businessmen, generally speaking, like to grow their companies and that this creates sales openings in many areas. The way out of poverty involves the recognition that a man must often take whatever jobs are offered, even if he would have liked to do something else.

The most critical business function

Sales work is available almost at any time, irrespective of the overall economic situation, since selling is the most critical business function. Taking a sales position is frequently the only way available to break out of poverty into fields of better opportunity, so here is my advice:
  1. Go to the public library, borrow some books about sales, and study them.
  2. Get a suit and a tie, even if they are second hand, so that you can go to interviews.
  3. Forget about fixed-income jobs and look instead for a sales position.
  4. Ignore those around you who criticize or ridicule your ambitions.
  5. Watch the best-performing salesmen in your company and listen to their advice.
  6. Keep on reading about sales and learn as much as you can about your industry.
  7. Gain experience and become proficient in sales.
  8. Move to a better sales job.
  9. In the future, consider the possibility of starting your own company.
Taking the future in one's own hands might require discarding unrealistic ideas held in the past. The fact is that some opportunities exist and others are hard to come by. Experience shows that sales work can be the way to a better life, a path that many have successfully walked before.

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, 20 December 2014

An egregious error that you don't need to commit

Learning karate has many advantages. The exercises build your muscles and improve your general health. The practice makes your body fit and your movements precise. Those benefits are indisputable and martial arts schools seldom forget to mention them in their advertisements.

However, if you ask experienced judo practitioners about the reason behind their enthusiasm for the sport, you will get a completely different answer. "The best thing about martial arts," they will tell you, "is that you learn to defend yourself in case of an attack."

Stop relying on false stories

Nothing could be further from the truth. People with no karate training are often better skilled at detecting trouble before it appears on the scene. Since they know that they are not trained for combat, they avoid physical confrontation. When they experience threats, they retreat. When they see danger, they keep away from it.

On the other hand, how often have you heard stories about some karate expert shot by a criminal in the street for refusing to surrender his wallet? In most cases, if the victim had tried to run away, he might have easily escaped. Realizing that few things are as lethal as a false sense of security has tremendous implications.

First, wrong perception. A strong belief in nonsense leads men to disregard the evidence of their own perceptions. When that happens, thinking becomes pointless, since it is no longer based on reality. Ignoring our own pain or physical discomfort is a recipe for disaster. When sensations contradict conclusions, it is high time to re-examine the latter.

Second, mistaken decisions. Relying on something that is not true is worse that confessing ignorance. Make-believe prevents individuals from acknowledging problems and looking for the right answer. Self-inflicted blindness destroys man's sense of direction and invalidates his ambitions.

How to stay out of trouble

When meeting new people, trusting what you see is the only way to form an accurate opinion about their qualities and ethical standards. Judging strangers by what they say or by their appearance is a losing proposition.

The most egregious errors are not committed out of ignorance, but by relying on false stories that we tell to ourselves. Accidents that tear apart families and companies could have been frequently prevented by reading the writing on the wall.

Being brave enough to acknowledge a gap between belief and fact is the foundation of personal integrity. There can be no honesty without courage, no serenity without consistency. Entrepreneurs trust their own perceptions and experience more than anything else. A man's ability to detect opportunities equals his willingness to focus on reality. 

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, 19 December 2014

Career opportunities: How to tell the propaganda apart from the truth

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.

The fundamental misconception

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 further. 

It is wise to recognise that some markets are actually 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.

Shiny things that don't mean a thing

You should also beware of seemingly attractive professions that actually 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?

A recipe for the next twenty years

It is also highly advisable that you steer away from careers that are heavily dependent on a particular local market. 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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Thursday, 18 December 2014

The permanent value of rational living

We can learn a great deal from History. The details in old stories awake our curiosity. Knowing what has happened in the past gives us perspective. Trying to figure out explanations renders us thoughtful; comparing sources, insightful. Theories unconfirmed by facts prompt a man to stop, not to move. Doubts make us reflect and yearn for proof.

Teachings of permanent value

Giacomo Casanova's autobiography is an outstanding literary achievement that has elevated its author to the prototype of perfect seducer. Few novels or essays have equalled his vivid depiction of the best and worst in human nature. His portrayal of vanity and foolishness has remained fresh through the centuries, providing evidence of how little the world has changed.

Does Casanova's romantic advice still apply in the age of instant messaging and on-line dating? Are there practical lessons that we can draw from his experience? Would Casanova (1725-1798) have proven an effective seducer also in the era of mobile phones and blogs?

My answer might surprise you, but I am convinced that on-line dating would have not modified Casanova's results. His story would have been repeated, sequence by sequence, only faster. He would have become extremely successful in the short term, but eventually, as it did happen, he would have ended up in loneliness and financial ruin.

Despite the fact that Casanova was not particularly handsome, we can be sure that, if he lived today, he would have placed a fantastic photo on his internet dating profile. Through clever grooming, lighting, and composition, he would have managed to portray himself as irresistible.

Most people who date on-line don't take the trouble to do that, since they prefer to be themselves. They opt for looking as they usually do even if that makes them less popular.

Well-crafted but foolish

The text of Casanova's internet dating profile would have been well crafted. Most likely, he would not have mentioned many details about himself. Instead, he would have written what potential romantic partners want to hear. His internet chatting would have consisted of witty and flattering remarks. Empty words are as effective with foolish people today as they were two centuries ago.

We can also be sure that, in his internet dating, Casanova would have remained a relentless liar driven by short-term benefits. In the 18th century, he was a manipulator bent on immediate action. His tactics consisted of assailing preys with flowers and jewellery until the battle was won.

Would he have found contemporary romantic films too slow? Possibly. The real Casanova was as fast in charging as he was in retreating. His objective was to win and deplete the confidence of his victims. His effectiveness was measured in days. His purpose would not accept any delays. Even in the worst of times, few men possess Casanova's callousness.

Feeding the soul

Finally, we can also assume that Casanova's house of cards would have inevitably collapsed in a contemporary context. Romantic attraction without substance can never be sustained for long. If we trust literature and History, human nature has not fundamentally changed in this respect.

Extreme short-term orientation involves high psychological costs and deprives man of the possibility of attaining real affection. Being focused only on immediate benefits starves the spirit and destroys the soul.

Looking for a life's partner is an exercise in self-knowledge which needs just the time it takes. Remain true to your rational nature and learn from Casanova's mistakes. Discard a short-term approach to human relationships. It generates disproportionate costs and inevitably results in failure.

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, 17 December 2014

Twice as productive, ten times more self-confident

Human beings have an innate tendency towards efficiency. Achieving maximum gains with minimum effort is in our genes. Even children, as soon as they can verbalize their thoughts, begin to show entrepreneurial traits. Their behaviour progressively evolves from the passivity of babies to the search of short-term benefits typical of adolescence.

Once we reach adulthood, most of our attempts to increase productivity take place in the realm of work. Industrial management researchers have been studying successful companies during the last forty years, trying to identify the keys to great performance. What conclusions have they drawn?

Universally valid recommendations

From the very beginning, the recommendations to be formulated by those studies were intended to have general application. Otherwise, it is clear that few would be willing to adopt them. Before accepting a lesson as scientific truth, we must prove the universal validity of its underlying propositions.

The problem with the main three recommendations in the field of productivity is that, to a certain extent, they are contradictory. What works in a certain environment often delivers poor results when transplanted to a different industry. In a sense, modern management has become the art of playing with these three formulas.

First, continuous flow. Car manufacturers have made this productivity approach their standard a long time ago. As long as the demand for cars is stable, just-in-time production works wonderfully. The trick is to keep the factory going at a steady pace. Other industries, like package-holidays retailers, are trying to implement similar techniques. The idea in that case is to use price incentives to spread the demand for package-holidays more evenly throughout the year. Continuous flow requires lots of preparation before production starts, but then, it frequently leads to spectacular results at enormous speed.

A questionable approach

Second, batch production. This method of streamlining production is the one that comes most easily and naturally to human beings. When children have to do homework consisting of several A, B, and C activities, they soon figure out for themselves that the fastest way to complete their assignment is to perform first all A tasks, then all B tasks, and finally all C tasks. Cooks in well-frequented restaurants usually keep a ready-made stock of the main ingredients that they will be needing for soups, sauces, and the like. Office cleaners tend empty all waste-baskets before they begin to vacuum the floor.

Third, multi-tasking. This approach seems to be part of the image of the contemporary professional. Accountants, lawyers, salesmen, or advertising executives speak on their headphones while they read e-mails. They exercise while they watch the news on television. They listen to audio-books while they commute to work. Indeed, performing two tasks at once gives the impression of high efficiency, but are the results in line with the image? High stress is, on many occasions, the dark side of multi-tasking. This is a method to be used with caution. 

Increased self-confidence

Productivity experts agree on which is the worst possible system of work. They call this method, or rather the lack of it, "chasing." It simply means that you are performing your tasks on the defensive, being forced to run from point A to B and then back to A in order to comply with a certain deadline. This way of working can lead to physical and business exhaustion.

Whether you employ continuous flow, batch techniques, or multi-tasking will depend on your objectives and on which resources you have available at a given time. Choose your method wisely in accordance with the situation, but become conscious of the advantages and limitations of each approach. By combining those techniques and through trial and error, you can grow into a more effective person. If you become twice as productive, chances are that your self-confidence will be multiplied by a factor of ten.

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, 16 December 2014

How to minimize annoyance and further your progress

Even when a recipe looks simple, actual cooking may demand a detailed selection of ingredients, quantities, temperature, and timing. From the hundreds of decisions that we make every week, most are automatic. We use routine to make life easy and predictable, so that we can concentrate on important matters. This is the efficient way to live. 

Dealing with contradictory information

The information we need to make choices is frequently unavailable, insufficient, or contradictory. Sometimes, we cannot even figure out what kind of details we are missing to make a picture understandable. New ideas are built on previous knowledge, which to a certain extent, has been randomly acquired.

Luckily, when solutions require complex reasoning, there are ways to shorten the process of analysing alternatives. Using our subconscious is a surprisingly reliable method to come up with correct answers. On many occasions, the conclusions we reach, will involve a new formulation of the initial questions. 

Our subconscious is specially well suited to assess situations where many elements are connected on several levels. How can we make optimal use of this approach to solve problems? These are the four steps you can take to exploit this capacity to your advantage.

Exploiting your capacity to the maximum

First, you can formulate long-term goals. Without a clear sense of direction, no one can make consistent choices. Long-term objectives allow man to minimize the impact of daily adversities and counter misfortune with rational action. The time you devote to defining your principal goals can be your best investment.

Second, you can place your problems in perspective. Few situations are really life-threatening. Exaggerating the seriousness of difficulties does not improve our ability to deal with them. Events should not be given more relevance than they deserve. Let your fundamental goals, not your feelings, determine the importance of present concerns.

Third, you can identify the driving factors of success. When dealing with trouble in unfamiliar areas, we might not even be aware of which aspects we need to consider. Each situation is driven by different elements and no man has universal expertise. Asking questions, visiting the public library, or consulting the internet will allow you, more often than not, to figure out what is crucial in the business at hand.

Fourth, you can take your time and let the information sink in. Take your time before making major decisions. Make a list of the factors that you have discovered in your initial research. Read what you can on related subjects and let your mind organize the information. Make notes and let them lead you to new details.

A new thinking pattern

After a while, you will begin to see the results of the process. The answers you were looking for might come when you are most relaxed, thinking of something completely different. It may also happen that you wake up at night and the solution occurs to you. Write it down and congratulate yourself of the good work.

Your most valuable achievement is that you have acquired a new thinking pattern. Over time, this method for surmounting obstacles can render you tremendous service. Use it to minimize annoyance from adversities and let it further your progress towards your chosen goals.

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, 14 December 2014

The root cause of self-confidence and optimism

Anxiety and depression, the undesirable companions of modern times, are spreading their nets over growing segments of the population. If those problems have not been solved yet, we can certainly not blame it on the lack of trying:

Unfortunately, from the many pharmaceuticals in the market against this predicament, none has proven universally effective, it is unclear to what extent therapy helps and which sort is best, and furthermore, special diets and exercise often consume the little energy that people have left.

The symptom and the cause

Treating the symptoms without correcting the cause will bring about little improvement. Smoking or eating chocolate might improve your mood for a while, but in the long run, those approaches are unsustainable for your health.

If we look around these days, we can not fail to notice how psychological problems aggravate in times of recession. When the economy was growing, have we not all witnessed how optimism rendered people happier? Should we not conclude that there is a direct link between economic security and mental well-being?

You will find many books that argue that the best way to face difficulties is to change your thoughts. Those books will tell you that you can become positive and motivated by means of repetition and suggestion, even though the reality around you sucks like a vacuum.

Although the cheerful approach does work for some people, for many others, groundless optimism shows little success as a method of improving their life. Luckily, there is an alternative method for those who prefer more down-to-earth solutions.

Better than positive thinking

The theory is that we can be happier if we improve the level of economic security in our lives, since that would eliminate a good part of the reasons for anxiety and depression. Irrespective of any positive thinking, people who are able to cover their living expenses for the next months tend to worry much less when they lose their job.

Can anyone accumulate enough savings to achieve a reasonable level of economic security? Is there a way for all of us to reach the peace of mind and well-being that come from feeling in control of our own life? Yes, this is indeed possible, whatever your personal situation.

The guaranteed way to economic security is to live modestly. If you make little money, you should spend even less, so that every month you can save some. If you make a lot, you should spend with caution and regularly put aside part of it. Rainy days don't bring the blues to those who are depression-proof, so forget about psychological tricks and focus on the facts of reality.

It is up to you to adopt a lifestyle that will allow you to accumulate sufficient savings and enjoy the self-confidence that goes with them. Rational living is the root cause of self-confidence and optimism. Living frugally might not make you popular, but it will surely make you wiser and much more resilient.

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, 13 December 2014

How to replace deep fear by amazing self-confidence

Do you know how to calculate the amount of fear holding you back in life? Take a pen and a piece of paper. On top of the page, write down your current age, for instance "34 years old." At the bottom, indicate how old you intend to grow before you die. "Death at 80" is a reasonable target.

Now comes the mathematical part of the exercise. Draw a straight line connecting your current age with your death. That line represents the number of days that you have left on earth. In our example, the difference between 80 and 34 leaves you with 46 years, that is, almost 17.000 days.

The vertical line on the page divides your future in two areas. The last part of the game consists of deciding how you are going to use those 17.000 days. On the left side of the line, you can write down safe and commonplace goals. On the right side, difficult and disruptive ambitions.

Mundane and boring

Boring projects are easy to name and quantify. They include, amongst others, looking for better jobs (600 days), cleaning the house (600 days), and going on holidays (1000 days). The rules of the exercise allow you to list as many activities as you wish, provided that you don't run out of time to live.

On your left-side list, you should not forget mundane tasks such as working five days a week (5400 days), washing your car once per month (500 hours), getting a divorce (150 days) and shopping for new clothes (250 days). When your remaining term of 46 years is up, you are dead.

You only need to worry about the opposite side of the line if you have unused time, which is unlikely. The truth is that most people will allocate their complete lifespan to left-side tasks, including essential activities such as watching television (4000 days) and walking their dog (1000 days).

Difficult and disruptive

What about the right side of the line? Does anyone actually write down adventurous, risky goals? Are there people foolish enough to risk total failure in order to pursue their dreams? Is it not better to stick to attainable objectives? This is the type of activities that usually come up under the label "difficult and disruptive:"
  1. Live in Paris for a year (500 days, including preparation and removal)
  2. Start up and grow a global business (3000 days)
  3. Write twenty great books (3000 days)
  4. Save and invest until you are able to live from dividends (6000 days)
  5. Learn to cook according to good nutrition principles (300 days)
  6. Lose weight and acquire habits that allow you to stay in good shape (500 days)

One could argue that this game is useless, since it has no winner and no loser. Since the same individual appears on both sides of the line, what is the point? What is the purpose of the exercise? The answer is that, paradoxically, the subjects on each side of the line are different persons.

Spectacular and irreplaceable

One of them is boring, the other fearless. One of them is aimless, the other determined. One of them is predictable, the other exciting. The lesson is that, one day, the 46 years will be consumed all the same. At the end, results will be trivial or spectacular, meaningless or irreplaceable.

If you don't like the outcome of your calculations, take a blank piece of paper, draw a new vertical line, and start the exercise again. After a few times, you will get quite good at it. At one point, you will begin to fear boring activities more than risky ones. If you are already there, congratulations, now you know how to win the game.

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, 12 December 2014

Don't make the same mistake as Confucius

Rationality is the way to happiness
by John Vespasian

In a world where philosophy is often reduced to catch-phrases and empty theories, this is a passionate defence of logic and consistency as the keys to happiness. Personal effectiveness, the basis of well-being and success, results from rational goals, workable plans and relentless action. 

In the areas of career, health, relationships and investments, this essay shows how to let go of wasteful propositions, pursue compatible goals, cultivate perseverance and resilience, minimize problems and maximize opportunities. Inspired by the teachings of Aristotle, Maimonides, Erasmus, Montaigne, Epictetus and Spinoza, the book encourages readers to embrace rationality and adopt a self-reliant, entrepreneurial attitude.

1. The untold key to success and happiness
Ten positive trends rarely reported by the media
The way to independent thinking
Trust only your own statistics
Achieving happiness through rationality
Wake up to a sharp vision of reality
Important lessons from history
In search of principles that make sense

2. Fundamental skills that everybody should master
Relentless initiative creates opportunities
An active mind looks for alternatives
Cultivate perseverance and resilience
Avoid waste and embrace frugality
Shun overcommitment and worry

3. The easy way to prosperity
Select a career where you can make a good living
Principles of accelerated learning
Using Ancient Mongol tactics to find employment
Discard the myth of career planning
Growth sectors in the 21st century
Those who can sell are always received well

4. Philosophical ideas to make the best of your life
Take the perspective of a lifetime
Focus on practical solutions
Self-confidence arises from preparedness
Pursue compatible goals
Concentrate your resources on essential tasks

5. Get out of losing situations
Immobility is the enemy of achievement
Train yourself to face nonsense calmly
Throw away unworkable plans
Read the writing on the wall
Take simple measures to protect yourself
You have more options than you think

6. Avoiding major mistakes
Preserve your independent thinking
Don't make the same mistake as Confucius
Entrepreneurship is the opposite of resignation
Abandon perfectionism right now
Waiting for the world to change is a waste of time

7. How to find love without making a mess of sex
Rational values are the basis of great relationships
Overcoming the main obstacle to meeting new people
The high cost of short-term romantic involvement
The entrepreneurial factor in love and friendship
What is the crucial success element in dating?
Break free from artificial social constraints

8. Saving and investing to secure your future
Take control of your financial life
Principles of rational investment
Techniques for reducing risk
How to develop self-confidence as an investor
Saving regularly brings peace of mind
The advantage of turbulent times

9. Principles of optimal health
The teachings of Maimonides
Living in accordance with nature
How psychology can improve your health
Modern theories about prolonging life
How some people live to become 100 years old
The low-cost approach to good nutrition
Effective methods for minimizing stress
Sleeping well by natural means

10. Seeking personal growth one day at a time
Embrace rational principles
The link between personal effectiveness and happiness
Become an entrepreneur in your everyday life
Do not be discouraged by your limited resources
Clear thinking gives you the ultimate advantage
It is on slow days when you make big breaks

11. Conclusion
The human need for logic and consistency
Achieving happiness in a chaotic world
Philosophy summarized in a single sentence
It takes a while, but it can be done

Rationality is the way to happiness
by John Vespasian