Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Confucius' great mistake and how to avoid it. He got tired of travelling and became disappointed with the people he met. Then he changed his strategy

According to the tradition, Confucius resigned his job when he was 55 years old and devoted the next 13 years of his life to preaching his ideals. During those 13 years, he wandered around different provinces of China, accompanied by a few disciples, looking for elevated souls who would appreciate his philosophical ideas.

Confucius' great mistake and how to avoid it

In this respect, Confucius was following one of his own precepts: "Seek out companions who are honest, truthful, and knowledgeable. Avoid those who are arrogant, lie, or compromise their principles." In the year 484 B.C., after the long pilgrimage, Confucius returned to his old town. 

He was tired of travelling and disappointed with the people he had met. His long search for perfect associates had been a failure. In all places he had visited, he had only met scorn, ignorance, and disdain for knowledge.

When Confucius settled down again in his town, he was already 68 years old. Since he knew that he would not live much longer, he asked himself how he should devote the remaining time of his life. A lesser man might have become sorrowful and bitter, but not Confucius. He was honest and clever enough to look at his previous 13 years and recognize that he had made a mistake.

He had been searching for something that did not exist. He had been wandering the desert in pursue of a mirage. "Perfect places and perfect people do not exist," he concluded. "Those are not the result of nature, but of our own making." During the next 5 years, until the day of his death, Confucius changed his strategy.

  • He gave up all attempts to preach to strangers.
  • He decided to focus his efforts on teaching those who were willing to listen to him.
  • He avoided heated arguments with anyone who disagreed with him.
Accepting that many men have no interest in philosophy or truth was not easier for Confucius than for anyone else. "Each man has the right to believe his own foolish ideas, to refuse to face the facts of reality, and to make his own mistakes," is an insight to which many come only after a long series of disappointing experiences.

For Confucius, that process of discovery took 13 years. Luckily, he made up for the wasted time during the remaining 5 years of his life, which he devoted to writing and to teaching a few loyal disciples in his own town. Those followers were the men who would later spread Confucius' teachings across China, setting up the basis for transmitting his writings through the centuries.

None of us needs to repeat Confucius' mistake. The lesson has been taught and should be learned forever. Nobody has to waste 13 years of his life preaching in a desert of ignorance. 

If you have something valuable to say or something worthy to sell, there is no point in devoting your energies to convincing those who do not care. Instead, seek out those who can appreciate it and forget about the rest. Life is too short for chasing what cannot be achieved.

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

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

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

What sets entrepreneurs apart from the rest of the population is their capacity to link current problems to potential solutions that can be implemented realistically

Persistence is often presented as the key element of entrepreneurial success, but this approach misses 99% of what makes a business viable and prosperous. A man can waste his life digging holes on the ground without achieving any positive results. No matter what goal we choose to pursue, our energies and resources will be always limited. 

"To persevere in obstinate condolence is a course of impious stubbornness," wrote Shakespeare in his play Hamlet in the year 1601. 

Overemphasising persistence can lead to commercial arrogance and blindness. Success is one, but errors can be infinite, such as repeatedly asking people who are obviously not interested, continue to use distribution channels that have proven inappropriate for certain products, sticking to formats or contents that customers don't like, or adopting a communication strategy that alienates the best prospects for your business.

The key element of successful entrepreneurship has nothing to do with persistence. Starting and growing a business has little to do with stubbornness and everything with flexibility. It is a psychological trait that is stifled by rigidity and enhanced by change.

Entrepreneurship is a skill that has everything to do with perception and vision. It is an ability that goes far beyond the sphere of commerce and that can be applied to all areas of human life, from cooking at home, to repairing old clothes. 

If I had to give the shortest possible definition of entrepreneurship, I would propose the words "realistic double vision."

What sets entrepreneurs apart from the rest of the population is their capacity to link current problems to potential solutions that can be implemented realistically. While many devote countless hours to complain about problems, the entrepreneurial mind is steadily focused on figuring out solutions and assessing their feasibility.

Such double vision, when exercised systematically, conveys powers resembling a higher level of awareness. This skill, which is half-psychological and half-material, is the only characteristic present in all entrepreneurs. Double vision is a talent that dwarfs the role played by persistence. The bridge between perceived problems and realistic solutions can be built in ten different ways:

  1. ASSEMBLY: Changes in design that make products easier and cheaper to manufacture.
  2. SPACE: Moving products from low-demand to high-demand territories.
  3. PACKAGING: Repackaging old content into highly attractive new products.
  4. HUMAN: Organizing or motivating people in ways that dramatically increase the value of their output.
  5. TIME: Figuring out how to increase dramatically the speed of delivering a service.
  6. MATERIALS: Replacing old materials by new ones that increase the perceived value of products.
  7. STORY: Associating a story to products that renders them popular.
  8. DISTRIBUTION: Finding more efficient ways to use existing distribution channels.
  9. FINANCE: Identifying ways to fund a venture that previously seemed unworkable.
  10. MERGE OR SPLIT: Splitting, disaggregating, or uniting elements in ways that make them more valuable to consumers.

Entrepreneurs dig holes on the ground only if they have good reasons to believe that this is a feasible solution to a burning problem. Their psychological energies and material resources are focused on identifying viable responses to perceived opportunities. I propose "realistic double vision" as optimal methodology to define, teach, and develop entrepreneurship, or as Shakespeare put it in Hamlet, "making more matter with less art."

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


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

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Why general goals are good for nothing and cannot motivate anybody. Beware of vague promises from strangers. Personal growth requires clear purpose and constant focus

Unless you love to do things for no reason and work for free, you belong to those who expect to receive adequate compensation for their efforts. It does not have to be money, since humans do a million things to help each other without payment, but fair enough, we all want to see concrete results and a minimum of gratitude.

Why general goals are good for nothing

Groups of all sorts welcome those who want to give a hand. Since there are conflicting views about which direction is best, lots of efforts are devoted to discussing where to go and who does what. To the thousand organizations that call for your support, a new one is added every day.

When it comes to pursuing abstract objectives, it is up to you to decide how much time and resources you wish to invest. If you possess a generous heart, you will never lack opportunities to share what you have. Problems are everywhere and seem to multiply by the hour.

Beware of vague promises from strangers

Despite massive efforts and dedication, little is achieved when we pursue general goals. You might argue about percentages of improvement, but still, the alleged solutions remain mostly invisible. Trouble persists and alternatives stall, to the extent that one could doubt if anything is being done at all.

Checking propositions thoroughly should never be seen as a sign of disrespect. If we ask for proof of what has been achieved so far, we might be regarded as cold-hearted, but when things are not clear, raising questions about methods and means is perfectly appropriate.

On the other hand, when we focus on our business or profession, things seem to get better at an amazing speed. Products are made, services rendered, invoices sent, and customers content. Companies grow or, at the very least, become more efficient. On many occasions, we don't need to advertise to gain credibility, since this is something that we earn through out daily work.

Personal growth requires clear purpose and constant focus

Before contributing to this or that new initiative, is it not fair to ask if our support is going to make any difference in the result? Is it not rational to remain sceptical when facts are inconclusive? A man cannot be expected to believe any story that he is told. Most of us expect paths to have clear destinations.

My point is that devoting time to grand theories and hopeless causes is never a good use of our energies. Experience shows that the best way to move someone to our views is to let our actions speak for themselves.

The most effective use of our resources seldom comes from following other people's agendas. To accomplish our chosen work and goals, that's what we are in this world for. As Confucius put it so well, "teachings are worthless without personal example."

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

Image by Ian Sane under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under

Saturday, 26 April 2014

More often than not, giving up is the wrong decision. How to achieve personal growth in difficult times. Entrepreneurs add value by questioning assumptions

Nowadays, in these times of financial crisis, you will rarely find a business book that does not recommend you to use stop-loss orders. The idea seems to have taken over also the field of psychology, where you will be encouraged to quickly drop anything that does not make you feel good.

Entrepreneurs love to draw their own targets, and rightly so

The justification behind this advice is that one should not devote resources to enterprises that have little chance of success. Tribal marketing, the latest trend in business thinking, has taken this principle to new heights, emphasizing that one should only embark in ventures that aim at groups that can be defined, identified, and reached.

Don't swim upstream, you will be told. Go with the flow, they preach. If it doesn't float, let it sink, you will be urged at every step. Read the writing on the wall. Follow what everybody knows. The trend is your friend. Nobody ever got anywhere by stepping out of line. There is only one truth, which is the majority view.

Luckily, this overwhelming consensus does not mean that you should quit worthwhile endeavours that are not producing positive results in the short term. Paying attention to market signals is a sign of wisdom, but more often than not, giving up is the wrong lesson to draw. Here is why:
  • Innovative projects frequently create their own markets. This process is slow, but extremely rewarding, both in private and business terms. Hundreds of currently popular products were initially ridiculed and misunderstood.
  •  Entrepreneurs love to draw their own targets. Their efforts are not aimed at satisfying yesterday's fashions. New products and services are frequently conceived to meet consumers' desires in ways or formats that had never been tried before.
  • The perception of problems and solutions depends strongly on the personal characteristics of the observer. Statistics can only aggregate elements of reality according to established points of view. In contrast, entrepreneurs add value by questioning assumptions, disputing traditions, and reformulating options.

More often than not, giving up is the wrong decision

Saying that you will quit such and such if you do not score a certain number of points within three months is usually a foolish approach. Projects of great magnitude are frequently completed only after overcoming dozens of opposing forces.

For major life decisions, do pay attention to the market, but learn to decipher its signals to your advantage. Do not sell yourself short by quitting too soon. If your horizon for attaining happiness and success is longer than a week, reason will usually lead you to persist rather than quit.

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


Image by SteveD. under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under

Friday, 25 April 2014

Five steps to improve your relationships. Choose the wisdom of rational action. Run the race you have chosen. Find a bird that can fly

Two thousand years have gone by since Ovid composed The Art of Love. The world looks different now, but human beings have remained essentially the same. Ovid's compilation of amorous advice has passed from generation to generation, proving its effectiveness through the ages.
"If you are looking for love," wrote the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC-17 AD), "you should spend your time in the stadium and the theatre, since it is in public places where you are most likely to find a companion to your taste. Bees know that, for making honey, they need to keep close to the flowers."

Five steps to improve your relationships

The details to reach the place where you want to be have changed, but not the principles. Today, as in Ancient Rome, personal initiative generates opportunities. The following five points summarize the teachings of The Art of Love. These are the sort of recommendations that each of us can apply. These five steps may improve our relationships in any environment or situation.

1. Make up your mind

Decide what kind of social life you want to have. Your determination will greatly contribute to your success. In this sense, meeting new people, making friends, or dating are like any other venture. If you have gone through divorce, have you decided that you are going to start looking for a new partner? Make a firm resolution and give it the priority that it deserves.

2. Ignore negative comments 

In particular, you should ignore all unfair criticism of your goals. You can always find reasons not to do something. If you let people, they will name you more obstacles than you can ever imagine. Life is already difficult enough without paying attention to discouraging remarks, so don't.

Avoid in particular comparing yourself to someone whom you might consider luckier. The world is made of all sorts of persons. If you are looking for love, all you have to do is find one good match for yourself. Shrug your shoulders at comparisons and look for the type of person that suits you best.

Your time on earth is limited. You only have one life to live. Move forward with it and don't get stuck in pointless arguments. Let people have their own opinion, but choose what you consider optimal for yourself. Opt for what is rational, even if that alternative lacks popular support.

3. Decide how you want to play

When it comes to developing an active social life, our century offers infinite possibilities for meeting people. If you live in a mid-sized town, there are clubs you can join and entertainment locales you can visit. The internet is, of course, the largest venue of all.

Ignore fashion and follow your own values. For your search of companions, select times and places that match your interests and disposition. Your background and constraints are unique. Your present course of action should be in line with your vision of the future. Never rely on chance to solve your problems. Take action from which success can be expected.

4. Run the race you have chosen

Do not let discouragement hold you back from taking action. Make entrepreneurship a habit in business and personal relationships. Stay alert and seize opportunities as they come along. Change the way you think. View life as a market that offers infinite possibilities.

No matter how you decide to play, you will increase your chances of success if you do it regularly. You might have to invest many hours to develop a satisfactory social life. Meeting people, making friends, and dating are similar to looking for a job. First, you have to detect the opportunity. Then, you have to seize it.

5. Find a bird that can fly

Entrepreneurs who wish to purchase an existing business often explore dozens of possibilities before they finally make a deal. They are not looking to buy just any company. Their interest is attracted only by businesses with high growth potential which also match their personal taste. They want to catch a bird that can fly.

In the field of personal relationships, you should be willing to discard what doesn't work. Don't hang around someone who is not a good match for you. You are looking for an individual who will make you happier than you already are.

If you are serious about finding a love companion, single-mindedness will move you closer to the place where you want to be. You can never predict the moment when the opportunity for a great relationship will come across your way. Search persistently and keep your eyes open.

Choose the wisdom of rational action

In business, love, or friendship, discard speculative advice and choose the wisdom of rational action. Your personal initiative is the decisive factor to enhance your well-being and improve your prospects for the future.

Let others debate if the world should be this or that way. Focus on specific actions that you can carry out to ameliorate your own situation. Make a pause from time to time, assess your progress, and correct your mistakes. Move on and redouble your attempts to reach the place where you want to be. Personal initiative is the key to achieve more in life. Let your actions speak for themselves.

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


[Image by Mara 1 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Never expect someone else to solve your problems. Concentrate on work you love. Ignore silly rules and preposterous expectations

Every morning, it pays to remind ourselves that there is no future in repeating the past. After some time of doing this, the message sinks in and we become more adept to drawing lessons from past mistakes, lessons such as:

* Never expect someone else to solve your problems
* Concentrate on work you love.
* Ignore silly rules and preposterous expectations
* Don't waste your resources

* Mix fun and productivity in every task
* View mistakes as learning experiences
* Drop false ideas that keep you paralysed
* Design your own future and paint your own dreams

* Avoid nasty and deranged individuals
* Delegate as much as you can
* Devote more time to your close friends
* Seek creative alternatives in every situation

* Turn off the news (which are always pretty much the same as the day before)
* Learn to see everything in perspective
* Read your favourite books more frequently
* Park your car and take a long walk

* Spend more time thinking about what's important
* Never expect magic
* Mistrust first impressions and, instead, go for substance
* Pursue your goals relentlessly, despite short-term difficulties

* Prevent problems so that they never happen
* Cook often at home and enjoy wonderful food
* Escape noise, conflict, and nonsense
* Remind yourself that, in the end, time is all you have

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


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

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Luck is the result of previous actions. The three factors that contribute to extend human life beyond the 85th birthday. How to turn those factors in your favour

Few would dispute that living to become 100 years old is a particularly appealing sort of good fortune. Many would be ready to pay a fortune for such privilege, but contemporary medicine still has major difficulties to extend human life beyond the eighty-fifth birthday. In the course of the last three decades, scientific studies on longevity have outgrown the status of fringe curiosities.
"Luck is the result of previous actions," wrote Aristotle in his essay Physics in the year 329 B.C. "In this respect, one can also say that happiness and good fortune are the result of previous good actions." 

Today, trying to figure out how human beings could live longer occupies a central place in medical research. When researching longevity, the approach taken by the great majority of scientists has been based on the following five steps:
  1. Seek out very old people in different countries.
  2. Talk to them and to their families.
  3. Organize the information in four areas, namely, genetic characteristics, environment, lifestyle, and food.
  4. Compare the details in each area.
  5. Identify patterns that explain why those people live much longer than average.

In the late seventies, a population survey in Okinawa, a group of islands located between Japan and Taiwan, discovered an unusually large population segment that had reached an age beyond ninety years old. The scientific investigation conducted with Okinawan men and women led to the same results as studies carried out in other areas of the world.

"Time is a measure of motion and change," observed Aristotle. "Growing old shows the effect of time on living entities." 

No one can modify the genetic characteristics of human beings after their birth, at least for the moment, but researchers agree that we are able to influence the other three factors that determine longevity. These are some of the ways of turning those factors in our favour:

  • ENVIRONMENT: If possible, move to live in an unpolluted area, free of smoke, industrial fallout, and with abundant green areas for relaxation.
  • LIFESTYLE: Try to spend a good part of the day outside, cycling, gardening, or simply walking. Live close to friends and see them often. Pursue long-term interests in fields that require continuous learning, skill development, and intellectual concentration. Follow your passions.
  • FOOD: Eat moderately and seek to maintain a stable weight. Food affects people in various ways and there is no universal formula for youth. In general, it seems that legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish tend to further essential biochemical processes at cellular level. Find out which precise diet works best for you by observing how your metabolism reacts to different foods.
"Virtues are actions that move us in the direction of happiness," defined Aristotle. "In order to find out the right direction to follow, a man should think of the likely effects of his actions." Let us learn how to live properly by learning from reality. The more we learn, the longer and happier our life will be. 

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


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

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

How to think long term in a short-term world. Do not constrain your thinking to the immediate. There is a better way. Great achievements come from sustained consistency of purpose

Undoubtedly, we live in a short-term world. If you work for a company that is listed in the stock market, you will feel the pressure to reach monthly targets. Financial results have to be reported every quarter to shareholders and rightly so. There is no escape.

How to think long term in a short-term world

If you are a movie distributor, you watch the weekly box-office receipts like a hawk. You want to know which kind of movies are doing well these days. Historical romance? Vampire stories? Is there a trend that you can follow? When a film goes into theatrical release, the first weekend is decisive. There is no choice.

Are you opening a retail outlet? You need a powerful campaign in order to make sure that shoppers come to your store on day one. Cash-flow targets must be reached on a weekly basis. If results fall short of expectations, the location might be reconsidered. If the store does not become profitable quickly, it might be shut down. There is no option.

Many jobs are short-term. Products are conceived for maximum attractiveness and minimum durability. Relationships are superficial. Companies sell their brands overnight to total strangers. Clothes lose their colours after a few washings. Books that don't sell within 18 months are shredded. Is there no alternative?

Yes, luckily, there is a better way. It is called long-term thinking and it wins hands-down in every field

Look at your own life and your own preferences. Chances are that you have been wearing the same brand of shoes for a long time. Most people's choices are remarkable stable when it comes to their family doctor, their favourite place to shop for clothes, or to buy groceries.

Do not constrain your thinking to the immediate

If you list your greatest achievements in life, those you are most proud of, you will detect in every case the thread of long-term plans. Learning to speak a foreign language or to play piano are remarkable accomplishments that require years of effort. Acquiring professional qualifications and establishing a business on solid ground can demand a decade of your life.

Although we cannot change the short-term orientation of the world we live in, we do not need to constrain our thinking in the same way. Each person is free to make his own decisions. Causes can bring about effects that shape a man's life for years. Refusing to see beyond immediacy leads to spiritual impoverishment.

Effort devoted to connect current events to future consequences will be compensated down the line. Great achievements come from consistency of purpose sustained through decades. Make your own plans and carry them through with serenity. Days can only be lived to the fullest if we think and act with the perspective of a lifetime.

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


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

Monday, 21 April 2014

A mistake Aristotle made that you don't need to repeat. What entrepreneurs really do: shifting time and resources. A flow of money is, fundamentally, a flow of time

Aristotle was a great philosopher, but the one thing that he never managed to understand was entrepreneurship. In the Nicomachean Ethics, his essay on justice and morality, he saw society as a market where human desires are stable and each product possesses a fair price.

A mistake Aristotle made that you don't need to repeat

One does not need to look long at the world to realize that Aristotle's view of work and commerce was highly unrealistic. The truth is that prices vary incessantly and new products appear daily on the market. Jobs are created by growing ventures and lost by dying industries. Things change, markets move, and money circulates.

Start-up entrepreneurs are deeply conscious of the fact that the driving factor of business success is not money, but time. Any financial advisor will tell you that, for a solid undertaking, money can always be raised or borrowed. Bankers rarely refuse a loan to a company that produces positive cash-flow.

What entrepreneurs do, essentially, is to shift resources through time. They borrow from the slow at 6% interest in order to invest with the fast at a 10% rate. If you learn how to do that repeatedly, with growing sums of money, chances are that you will become very wealthy.

What entrepreneurs really do: shifting time and resources

Since Aristotle never grasped the impact of time on resources, he was never able to explain why people pay interest when they borrow money. The different personal needs are what, already a thousand years ago, prompted farmers to exchange cheese for meat and wool for wheat.

Entrepreneurs trade present resources, which are used slowly or not at all, for future results, which are to be produced as fast and efficiently as possible. A company should encounter few obstacles to issue bonds at 7% interest if it can achieve a 20% profit margin in its operations.

A flow of money is, fundamentally, a flow of time

The essence of business activity is to shift resources from slowness to velocity. At school or during their apprenticeship, entrepreneurial minds can be spotted by their extreme impatience and disdain for slow motion. Speed is seen as a synonym of efficiency, progress as a continuous forward movement.

How can one acquire entrepreneurial reflexes? Is it wise to let our irritation run free when we face slowness? Does annoyance automatically make us more alert to opportunity? Here is some practical advice:

  1. THE WORLD IS ASYMMETRIC. Commit to seeing the world as a playing ground of time and resources that can be shifted by personal initiative.
  2. TARGETS MOVE. Realize that opportunities are continuously created and destroyed by markets.
  3. PERSPECTIVE CHANGES PERCEPTION. Your decision to enter a market or profession will immediately affect your attitude towards that field.
  4. ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS WIDER THAN BUSINESS. As soon as you start to shift time and resources, you have already become an entrepreneur. In this sense, a medical student is one. The same goes for someone who takes up a modest job in order to learn a trade that will allow him later to set up his own company.
The ability to link present slowness to future speed can be cultivated like any other skill. Taking notes and asking questions are excellent methods to focus your thoughts on what can be done, changed, or contested. At some point, when your impatience begins to drive your imagination, you will be on your way

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


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

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The three elements of unshakable self-confidence. The three essential ingredients of personal development. The three pillars of personal growth

Newspapers and other media often paint a dark picture of contemporary education. Studies that compare the knowledge of mathematics of children in different countries add little to the discussion, since many question if teaching algebra to seven-year-old kids makes any sense at all.

The three elements of unshakable self-confidence

The modern school curriculum contains a wide range of subjects and attempts to develop children's talents in all directions. From music to History, from drawing to sports, everything is there to fascinate and entertain the minds of the young.

Since the variety of subjects that are addressed in today's classrooms is mind-boggling, how does one explain that many youths experience boredom at school? Does the number of subjects correspond to a real learning need or is it rather a fashion? Do we really want such complexity? What are the essential elements of a good education?

History gives perspective and, in this particular case, it teaches us a precious lesson. You might be surprised to learn that, for almost two thousand years, since the times of Aristotle until the Renaissance, a good education consisted only of three subjects.

In ancient times and during the Middle Ages, there was no radio, no television, and no internet. Books were expensive and difficult to reproduce. The thoughts of the past were carefully compiled and copied by hand. Education represented a considerable investment and was held in high regard.

The three essential ingredients of personal development

Pupils traveled hundreds of kilometres in order to enroll in schools that featured famous speakers. The subjects that students were taught equipped them with the most crucial skills that a man needs in life, whatever his later choice of profession. If you mastered those three subjects, chances were that you would do well in life:

1.- LEARN TO THINK LOGICALLY. Even during periods of intense religiosity, such as medieval times, the study of Aristotle's essays on logic was considered indispensable. The mark of an educated man was his ability to think consistently, find patterns, and draw conclusions from events. Even though this subject has disappeared from the school curriculum in many countries, anyone can afford to buy a copy of Aristotle's works. When it comes to learning logic, the only barriers to acquiring knowledge are self-inflicted.

2.- DEVELOP YOUR LANGUAGE SKILLS. Communicating your thoughts orally and in writing is the basis of most commercial activities. Without proper syntax, men cannot make themselves understood. Language allows individuals to formulate complex connections between facts. Creativity without grammar frequently turns out to be meaningless. The simple practice of reading good authors will boost your ability to communicate in any field. Access to public libraries is free in most countries. Are you using that possibility to your full advantage?

3.- MAINTAIN HIGH ETHICAL STANDARDS. The science of human choices played a central role in education since the times of the Ancient Greeks. Aristotle himself recognized the importance of learning moral values as milestones in the path to individual happiness. Another benefit of studying ethics is learning from other people's mistakes. Making your own errors will teach you unforgettable lessons, but learning from publications and good speakers is less expensive. In our days, books are cheap and internet access is widespread. If you want to learn, you will find many doors open.

The three pillars of personal growth

Do not pay attention to those who criticize schools and teachers. Complaining is not going to solve any problem. Realize that you are responsible for your own education, self-confidence, and personal development. Identify which knowledge you are missing and go for it. The world is full of opportunities for those who want to learn. Make sure that you have the three basic ingredients well covered, move on, and pursue your growth.

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


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

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Long-term thinking requires sustained effort. The most scarce resource is invisible. A strong sense of direction wins over random noise. Steady progress, even if slow, is a major achievement in itself

You cannot drive a car without traffic signs, a map, or at the very least, knowing where you want to go. A sense of direction allows man to make decisions, assess costs, and trade off alternatives. Most people are aware of the importance of setting goals in life, but in order to avoid losing motivation, it is crucial to keep your objectives visible to yourself. There are four reasons for that:

Long-term thinking requires sustained effort

Without reflection and concentration, human life tends to decay into a succession of events without order nor enjoyment. Using your days wisely and making the best of your life is impossible without long-term thinking. Keeping your major objectives in front of your eyes enables you to steer out of time-wasters.

The most scarce resource is invisible

Time continues to flow whether we have a great life or not. In the end, our days will be gone anyway. The question is how to live them in the best possible way. Happiness is never automatic. It requires thinking, goals, action, and progress. Keeping your dreams visible makes you aware of the passage of time and prompts you to move in your chosen direction.

A strong sense of direction wins over random noise

Daily events are meaningless without perspective. In addition, the random noise of nihilism and nonsense tends to discourage clear thinking. Maintaining a list of your goals in a visible place helps you ignore the noise of the world. Knowing where you are going is a fundamental element of self-confidence. It allows you to discard what cannot work and persist in what will. Only by ignoring noise can we put our energies to good use.

Steady progress, even if slow, is a major achievement in itself

The term success is frequently attributed only to spectacular victories. On the other hand, one should never forget that, behind every major achievement, there are years of preparation and relentless action. Place your long-term goals where you can see them everyday. That is the best manner to remind yourself that something needs to be done right now in order to keep advancing towards your objectives.

You cannot reach your destination without a plan, a list of actions, and the will to correct mistakes as they happen. Long-term goals allow man to evaluate alternatives, discard wasteful undertakings, and learn from experience. Setting goals in life is essential, but without constant action, little will be achieved. Keeping objectives present in our mind is what enables us to align present reality with future achievement.

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


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

Friday, 18 April 2014

How rational living promotes self-confidence and peace of mind. The antidote to stress, discouragement, and despondency. Consistent purposeful action

Self-confidence is the most admired character trait that actors play in movies. For most people, it dwarfs any other psychological or physical attribute in terms of desirability. What is the key to attaining self-assurance? Does it come from internal sources or from external validation?

Rational living promotes self-confidence and peace of mind

Most advice given on the subject consists of isolated prescriptions without logic or context. Telling people to repeat in their head that they are capable and positive does not help much. Focusing on external aspects, such as clothing, might lead individuals to think that they lack fundamental value.

For two thousand years, the writings of philosophers have linked personal happiness to a feeling of certainty. The serenity that comes from trusting the future cannot be replaced by artificial beliefs.

Self-reliance is the consequence of following the essential principles of reality, namely:

  1. What happens in the world is determined by the law of cause and effect.
  2. Human beings possess the unique characteristic of being able to set their own goals.
  3. Consistent purposeful action is the decisive factor that shapes the future of an individual.
  4. Ambitious long-term goals can be achieved by means of relentless activity in the chosen field.
  5. Progress is a natural process driven by persistence, mistakes, learning, and refocusing.

The antidote to stress, discouragement, and despondency

Despite the impression that one might gain from watching films, self-assurance is not a supernatural quality that chance bestows on certain people. It is not an innate talent or physical capacity that only a few inherit, but the result of continuous personal growth. It takes substantial effort to develop and maintain self-reliance.

Lack of trust in the future is originated by the conviction that nothing can be done to improve one's situation. The size of problems and obstacles is exaggerated. Opportunities are overlooked. Alternatives are not explored. The impact of external forces is magnified beyond measurement.

Consistent purposeful action

The opposite process takes place when we acquire a healthy, rational view of the world. We become conscious of the fact that, primarily, our actions will define how our life turns out. We learn to deal with the undesirable aspects of reality by taking appropriate steps. We focus on steadfast activity rather than on elements that we cannot control.

Uninterrupted focus on one area allows accelerated learning. Incessant alertness permits to discover opportunities that remain invisible to most. Self-reliance is the result of implementing rational thinking through long-term undertakings. If you pursue worthy goals through consistent action, self-confidence is your natural due. Claim it.

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


Image by ggallice under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The man who put labels on bricks. I bent over and looked closer at the bricks, wondering what was so special about them. To me, they appeared to be normal red bricks. What's the point of setting labels on bricks?

I had not seen the man on my way up to the mountain. Otherwise I would have remembered. He had set up a wooden table next to the path that led to the Inca ruins, offering his merchandise to the tourists.

I stood still in front of the table and inspected the products with curiosity. The table was covered with red bricks. Old bricks, as far as I could tell.

I bent over and looked closer at the bricks, wondering what was so special about them. To me, they appeared to be normal red bricks, such as those that you would find on any construction site. I contemplated the man behind the table for a moment, trying to assess his age.

The brick salesman was in his late thirties or early forties and had an intelligent look about him. Nevertheless, it was obvious that the poor man had lost his mind. As I walked away, I shook my head, feeling sorry for him.

What could possibly have happened to him? How come that he had lost his capacity for reasoning? After walking a few steps, I decided to inquire about the cause of his lunacy. I returned to his table, only to see that he was putting labels on the bricks.

He would pick up a brick, examine it carefully, remove a sticker from a plastic sheet that he had laid on the table, and then he would place the sticker on the brick. Each sticker had a hand-written name on it.

While the man continued to place labels on the bricks, I picked one of them and read the word on its label. "Kon" it read. What on earth is Kon, I asked myself. I put the brick back on the table and picked up another one. This time, I found the word "Apu" written on it. Apu? What was that supposed to mean?

The man placed the labels calmly on the last bricks and turned to me. "Which one do you like best?" he asked. I hesitated before replying, since I did not want to hurt his feelings. Most likely, it was not his fault if he had lost his mind. "Kon is a good choice," he went on, "but if you allow me, I think that Apu would be the most suitable for you."

My reaction came instantly, as I was suspecting him of a hidden attack against my honour. "Why do you say so? What does Apu mean?" The man smiled at my incomprehension. "Kon is the Inca God of the Wind, the God who brings good weather," he explained. "And Apu is the God of the Mountains, the God who exercises his power through kindness and understanding."

I could not help feeling flattered by the man's words. I have always liked to portray myself as a kind person and I believe that once I even heard someone actually called me so. "But what's the point of setting labels on red bricks?" I countered, puzzled. I did my best to formulate my question in a way that did not sound insulting.

The man seemed not to remark the absurdity of the situation and replied in a matter-of-fact tone. ''The brick it's just a symbol," he indicated patiently. "Like bricks, human beings are all essentially the same, but like Gods, each individual is different. Each man's uniqueness lies in his calling."

I won't tell you how much I paid for the brick, but I think that the price was worth the story. Even years later, I still keep the red brick on my living room table. Every visitor that has come to my home has picked up the brick, read the label, and asked me what Apu means. "Apu," I always begin, "let me tell you about Apu."

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


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

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Hippocrates identified the basic rules. Allow nature to exert its curative powers. Holistic medicine is based on ancient precepts. Millions of people still make the same mistakes

Medicine and other sciences have advanced immensely since Antiquity. Unfortunately, many of their fundamental principles have barely spread beyond the circle of professionals and specialists. Even in the 21st century, important segments of the population still know less about their own health than about sports or entertainment celebrities.

Hippocrates identified the basic rules

Hippocrates (460-370 BC), the most famous physician of Ancient Greece, already identified basic rules for protecting our health. However, although many generations have passed, his major discovery, the idea that sickness rarely happens by chance, is still ignored by millions of people.

Centuries ago, the belief that illness was a matter of bad luck was widespread in society. In our days, even though such conception has become less prevalent, it still plays a key role in determining how we live, how we see ourselves, and how we make important decisions. 

Allow nature to exert its curative powers

According to Hippocrates, medical practitioners should above all allow nature to exert its curative powers on patients. Artificial remedies should be avoided because they interfere with the self-healing capacities of our body. Treatments should be mild and gentle, aiming at helping patients recover their energies and strengthen their natural defences.

Illness, better than cured, should be prevented whenever possible. Hippocrates named the three essential risks that are, in most cases, responsible for our physical decay: our food, our environment, and our personal habits. The conclusion that follows is that each individual is primarily responsible for his own health, barring irresistible accident or catastrophe.

Holistic medicine is based on ancient precepts

Modern holistic medicine has adopted many of Hippocrates' precepts, emphasizing a balanced diet, adequate rest, mild exercise, and peace of mind. Does it not stand to reason that it is immeasurably less expensive to avoid sickness than to cure it? Why do millions of individuals destroy their health thought self-defeating behaviour?

No one possesses perfect knowledge of the impact of each of his actions on his own health, but we do know enough to be able to prevent a large number of self-inflicted diseases. How many people are actually unaware of the perverse effects of smoking? What percentage of heavy drinkers can claim to ignore the dire consequences of excessive alcohol intake?

The answers to those questions point out to individual responsibility. In ancient times, patients used to blame sickness on supernatural forces. Nowadays, victims of their own faulty behaviour frequently blame third parties for illness or injury. In some cases, this is done with the aim of seeking a financial reward or other type of compensation.

Millions of people still make the same mistakes

During the last fifty years, massive efforts have been devoted to raising public awareness of fundamental health issues. The results, however, are all but encouraging. Advertising campaigns aiming at making individuals more responsible for their own health have still to provide evidence of long-term success.

If we look around, we still see millions of people making the same mistakes that citizens of Ancient Greece made in Hippocrates' time. We remain passive in the face of environmental threats to our health, we eat the wrong food or too much of it, and we lead unsustainable lifestyles that end up damaging our body.

What is the reason of the failure of most attempts to increase personal responsibility in health matters? Are people impervious to rational arguments? Is the message not sufficiently powerful or interesting? Shouldn't the importance of a good health not be self-evident to an adult audience?

The root of the problem might lie more in the theory than in its implementation. The whole discussion about responsibility might be missing an essential factor whose role in health protection is little understood, namely, entrepreneurship. Individuals who possess personal initiative want to take their destiny into their own hands, not only financially, but also in the area of physical and mental well-being.

Entrepreneurship helps prevent sickness

Entrepreneurship helps prevent sickness because it trains the mind to compare current actions with future consequences. Medical doctors advise patients to behave and eat rationally. Similarly, businessmen assess markets, identify what consumers want to buy, and design their products accordingly.

They know that going against the facts of reality will fail to produce profits or, even worse, might push them into bankruptcy. Mistakes teach entrepreneurs what doesn't work. Errors force them to correct a misguided course. Their efforts are channelled productively into worthy pursuits.

Better health starts with a better lifestyle

Business is at the same time self-regulating and self-encouraging. In the market, virtuous behaviour tends to occur naturally because it furthers businessmen's own interests. There is no reason that would prevent a similar process from taking place in the field of preventive medicine.

If we want to improve our health, entrepreneurship is a workable, although far from self-evident solution. Few people change their lifestyle before they internalize the necessity to do it.

Smokers who quit their noxious habit have often been shaken by the realization that they are shortening their days. Their transformation frequently takes place after witnessing a fellow smoker die of lung cancer.

Rote learning rarely instils personal responsibility, neither in the field of preventive medicine nor in other areas. Entrepreneurship is a much better approach to encouraging individuals to take command of their health.

Principles that should be engraved in our souls

Hippocrates' principles should not be engraved in stone, but in our souls. They should not be presented as dead words, but as promises of a better future.

The essential characteristic of entrepreneurship, the need of constant focused action, promotes rapid learning to an extent that no education system can equal. Telling someone a hundred times a day that he should behave responsibly will simply put him to sleep.

In contrast, showing him the advantages of entrepreneurial action might whet his curiosity and prompt him to action. What man learns through example and experience is rarely forgotten. Hippocrates, who also made a point of practising his own theories and preaching by example, lived to be 90 years old.

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

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

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

When the worst happens, then what? Three assets that prove invaluable in times of adversity. Your first priority after the damage has occurred. How to enhance your self-reliance and decisiveness

Until the worst happens, we tend to consider ourselves immune to catastrophes. However, sooner or later, you may have to face a critical situation in your life. Sickness, loss of a job, a flood, a car accident, or poverty can happen to anyone.

When the worst happens, then what?

Misfortune may knock on your door without warning. If it catches you unprepared, it will inflict you more damage than the absolutely necessary. When adversity takes the upper hand, you won't be able to prevent all negative consequences, but you should at least strive to minimize them.

How can you remain alert and detect danger before it grows to threatening proportions? What measures can you take to cut your losses and stabilize the situation? Which qualities should you cultivate to strengthen your forces and resources?

Three assets that prove invaluable in times of adversity

In difficult times, there are three assets that prove particularly valuable: psychological resilience, the ability to view problems in perspective, and the willingness to take continual action. If you fall off a ship into the water, those are precisely the sort of skills that will allow you to stay afloat, orient yourself towards the coast, and swim vigorously to attain safety.

None of those three assets can be acquired overnight. Those abilities can be neither borrowed nor purchased, only cultivated. Patience and persistence play a key role in developing self-reliance, thoughtfulness, and decisiveness. Strangely enough, the three qualities that enable you to react to threats quickly can only be acquired through sustained effort.

1. Psychological resilience

Only a small percentage of individuals are highly resistant to irritation, discouragement, and anxiety. Self-reliance provides you with serenity, avoids foolish reactions, and multiplies your effectiveness. Fear and despair seldom affect self-confident people. What steps should you take to reinforce this quality?

2. The ability to view problems in perspective

Sound philosophical convictions do not develop by chance. Those who possess a logical mind enjoy overwhelming advantages when they face trouble. Individuals who make rational decisions don't worry about short-term inconveniences. How can you increase your ability to view problems in perspective?

3. The willingness to take continuous action

When a natural disaster occurs, injury and material losses paralyse large numbers of people. In contrast, other victims gather their remaining possessions and begin to fix the roof of their home immediately after the catastrophe. Individuals who have developed the habit of continuous action tend to overcome adversity faster. What can you do to strengthen this aspect of your character?

Your first priority after the damage has occurred

After suffering damage, your most urgent goal should be to stabilize your situation. If you lose your job, you don't want to lose your house too. If you catch the flu, you don't want it to turn into pneumonia. If you get a flat tyre while driving, you don't want to lose control of your car and crash against a wall.

Should you fall into a well, your immediate objective is not to drown. You know that you must attain this goal at all costs; other concerns become secondary or irrelevant. Your energies and senses align to ensure your survival. Your physical and mental resources concentrate on a single task to guarantee its accomplishment.

The cardinal skills that will help you in times of adversity

This must-do attitude that makes you unstoppable is precisely what you need to cultivate your critical assets. Self-reliance, thoughtfulness, and decisiveness are the cardinal skills that will help you in times of adversity. None of them can be artificially implanted into your personality.

These skills can only be developed in progressive steps. You cannot improvise psychological resilience more than you can cook perfect creme glacee if you have never set foot in the kitchen.

You cannot magically learn to view problems in perspective more than you can drive a car if you've never sat before behind the wheel. When you are facing a major threat, you will only be able to react quickly if you are already used to taking initiative.

How to enhance your self-reliance and decisiveness

Enhancing your self-reliance, thoughtfulness, and decisiveness is a long-term process. Those immaterial assets are worth more than physical wealth. If you possess them, prosperity will be within reach; if you don't, chances are that you will waste whatever wealth you may already have.

Do not be satisfied with trying just one method to attain your aim. Reading good material may increase your self-confidence, but so will taking risks, travelling overseas, public speaking, team work, sports, joining a social club, dancing, taking cooking classes, and many other activities.

What about acquiring thoughtfulness? Meditation and self-knowledge may be of help in this respect, but so will be lectures, work experience, learning how to write effectively, staying abreast of the latest news, and discussing with intelligent people.

The willingness to take continuous action

The same principle applies to decisiveness. Your willingness to take continuous action can be cultivated not just by making to-do lists, but also by identifying your priorities, cutting losses, spreading your risks, having a back-up plan, and developing a support network before you need it.

When disaster hits, those three assets may prove invaluable to you. They will help you identify which actions are critical, stabilize a bad situation, and build a sound basis for improvement. Commit yourself to developing those qualities until they become second nature to you.

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

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

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Why most people never manage to use their talents fully. An intense desire does not guarantee a positive result. A compelling strategy for personal development. Achievement comes from following the right approach

Everybody has talents waiting to be developed. Education may give you the opportunity to move into your chosen direction provided that you take the right courses. Similarly, the labour market offers many different positions; if you obtain suitable employment, you will learn and thrive; on the other hand, if your job is unchallenging, you will not have much fun.

Why most people never manage to use their talents fully
This principle, which seems so obvious and forceful, is extraordinarily difficult to implement. Most people are aware of the desirability of personal growth, but few individuals manage to exploit their talents to the maximum. Is this phenomenon due to lack of ambition? Would the problem be solved if those persons possessed greater determination?

If acquiring a stronger psychology was the answer, obstacles to personal growth would be easier to overcome. Those who wish to further their career would just need to attend a course on motivation or listen to an audio-book on the subject.

Even if there is no shortage of such courses and audio-books, the results speak for themselves. People's lives are affected for a short period of time, a few days or weeks, before they return to previous patterns.

An intense desire does not guarantee a positive result

An intense desire for personal growth does not guarantee a positive result. People fail in such endeavours because they lack any of the three indispensable elements: either they have not identified their specific talents, or they fail to develop them, or they cannot figure out how to exploit them commercially

Those three factors, if applied consistently, can result in phenomenal accomplishments. In contrast, when any of those three ingredients is missing, little will be achieved. If you do not focus on your best qualities, education will hardly increase your effectiveness. If you labour in the wrong field, you will experience boredom.

Readers who live in the United Kingdom have probably heard of Alexander Cruden (1699-1770). His life provides us a compelling example of the results of adopting brilliant and mistaken strategies for personal development. Like many talented people, Cruden attempted to improve his station in life through personal initiative. However, his well-intended actions did not always produce positive results.

Cruden was born in Scotland and studied in Aberdeen with the goal of becoming a priest. During his training, he acquired a deep command of Greek and Latin, as well as detailed knowledge of the Bible. In his early twenties, while he was preparing himself to be ordained, he fell in love with his professor's daughter, who apparently was already involved with another man. 

A compelling strategy for personal development

The problems that ensued blocked Cruden's ordination and forced him to move from Scotland to London in order to find a job. Since he could no longer become a priest, the question was how he could exploit his talents in the best possible manner.

Undoubtedly, Cruden must have experienced his failure to attain ordination as a major shock. His studies in Aberdeen had allowed him to acquire extensive expertise but only in areas that had little application outside the church.

His natural path to personal growth was obstructed and his employment prospects were bleak. If you had been in Alexander Cruden's shoes, what actions would you have undertaken to turn around the situation? Which strategy would you have adopted to exploit your talent? This is what Cruden did:

  • Stabilize the situation: While he figured out how to make the best of his life, Cruden took a job as a tutor in London, in the house of wealthy family. After a while, he found a position as proof corrector, supervising publications. These jobs allowed him to put some of his knowledge to good use.
  • Identify the best opportunities: Eventually, Cruden realized that he would be better off working for himself and began a book-selling business in central London. In parallel, he started to write, hoping to attain recognition and financial success.

Alexander Cruden's plan was impeccable and, given enough time, it would have produced substantial benefits with limited risks. Unfortunately, in addition to adopting the best possible strategy, he also chose, at the same time, to embrace the worst.

Useless conflicts should be avoided

For reasons that nowadays are difficult to fathom, Cruden became obsessed with righteousness and language. Single-handedly, he undertook a campaign to protect the morals of England and efface bad spelling from public life. It was a bizarre crusade which, in the eyes of many, made Cruden look quite mad.

When he was in his fifties, Alexander Cruden gave himself the surname "the Corrector" and petitioned the English Parliament to appoint him "Corrector of the Morals of the Nation." Despite Cruden's sustained efforts to convince Members of Parliament to grant him this title, it was all to no avail.

Cruden's fixation with correctness reached such an extreme that, when he went out of his home, he carried a sponge with which he deleted any signs that he found in the street that he considered against good morals, grammar, or spelling. Such attitude led him to conflicts in which he defended his views with emphasis and determination.

His activities as self-appointed public corrector did secure Cruden a place in the list of History's great eccentrics, but contributed little to exploit his talents. Even if the man possessed genius, his obsession with righteousness did not produce a successful outcome.

Achievement comes from following the right approach

To his advantage and that of posterity, Cruden simultaneously pursued his writing ambitions. When he was in his mid-thirties, he conceived the idea of a dictionary that would explain every concept in the Bible.

At a time when computers did not yet exist, the scope of such project could have exhausted the resources of any publishing house. Hundreds of words would have to be indexed, definitions would have to be written, quotations revised, and references organized.

The Bible Concordance was a gigantic enterprise, but Alexander Cruden carried it out alone. He did the complete work on his own, from beginning to end, without any help. It took him 12 years to complete the book, which he published himself when he was 38th years old.

Choose a project that employs your best talents

The project demanded the very best of Cruden's talents: his knowledge of classical languages and his extensive Bible expertise. The book, which sold slowly in the beginning, became a success after its second edition in 1761. During the last decade of his life, Alexander Cruden was able to enjoy the well-deserved success of his labour.

Since its first publication in 1737, Cruden's Bible Concordance has remained uninterruptedly in print. It has sold a large number of copies around the world and remains a testimony of how much an individual can achieve by following the right strategy.

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

[Image by alex_smith1 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Saturday, 12 April 2014

One big thing to learn from Aristotle. Why do we fail to read the writing on the wall? Don't be caught by delusions. There is not such a thing as occasional dishonesty

"In life, it is often difficult," wrote Aristotle in the year 328 BC, "to decide what to choose and what to endure when alternatives are painful and success uncertain." Whether you are in business for yourself, gainfully employed, or preparing for a better future, a day will rarely go by without your having to make decisions about people.

One big thing to learn from Aristotle

These are some choices that most human beings have to make in their lives:
  • Whether you will hire a person to work for you.
  • If a certain investment advisor is the right person to entrust your savings to.
  • Proposing marriage or not.
  • On whom you can rely in a critical situation.
I have made my share of mistakes with people, but luckily enough, I have also learned from them. Did I err differently on each occasion? Hardly. With the embarrassment of a slow learner, I must confess that, fundamentally, I have made every time the same mistake.

What was the reason for my repeated slips? In every case through all these years, without being able to recall a single exception, I have simply failed to read the writing on the wall. I have determinedly, doggedly, blinded myself to evidence once and again. I have ignored obvious danger signals and told myself that everything was going to be all right.

Why do we fail to read the writing on the wall?

Fooling ourselves about pretended virtues of people we deal with is such a common phenomenon that makes one wonder if a remedy exists for such sickness. The good news is that there is a cure. The bad news is that the medicine is free. Possibly, for that reason, it took me so long to take it seriously.

"The essence of things doesn't change," is Aristotle's fundamental maxim. I should have spent more time reading Aristotle, an hour a day for instance. I guess that, sooner or later, I would have understood that the essence of a person doesn't change either, or to be fair, I should rather say that the essence of a person very rarely changes.

How does Aristotle's principle translate into practical advice? These are a few examples:

  • Who lies to you once, is likely to do that again in the future.
  • Aggressive people might calm down for a while, but their true character will soon return.
  • There is not such a thing as occasional dishonesty. A tainted soul seldom becomes white again.
  • Rudeness and abuse show the meagre virtue of those who practice them.
  • Moral cowardice often signals worse things to come in the future.
Don't be caught by delusions

Do not fall into the trap of allowing wishful thinking to override your direct perception of reality. "It is absurd for an individual to doubt his sensing of external things," observed Aristotle, "yet man is easily caught by illusions."

When you experience someone's lies, rudeness, aggressiveness, or moral cowardice, make an indelible note in your mind never to trust that person ever again. Of course, from time to time, you will forget and suffer some negative consequences. Take heart, if you learn your lesson by the second or third mistake, you'd be already light-years ahead of most people.

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


[Image by Jim de Corsair under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Philosophy summarized in a single sentence. Become an entrepreneur in your everyday life. The link between personal effectiveness and happiness. The advantage of turbulent times

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.

Table of Contents

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