Friday, 3 October 2014

How to have confidence when everything seems lost

If you ever spend a holiday in Egypt, don't forget to visit the place where the barrack of archaeologist Howard Carter used to stand one century ago. When you inquire about the exact location, your guide will point at a promontory in the sand, a small elevation in the Egyptian desert that looks no different from the other dunes.

Curiosity and persistence work in your favour

Tourists who visit the place stand still, examine the spot, and look around, wondering if the guide is telling them truth. Those visitors are actually not interested in looking at the desert. What has brought them there is the story of Howard Carter, a man who, thanks to his curiosity and persistence, became the most famous archaeologist in History.

Despite his modest origins and lack of academic degrees, Carter's profound interest in the history of Ancient Egypt led him to read all available books on the subject and, little by little, he earned a reputation of specialist in Egyptian antiquities. His initiative and hands-on experience in excavations led him to develop the theory that the tomb of one Pharaoh, Tutankhamen, had not yet been found.

Carter's hypothesis conflicted with the prevalent idea at that time, held by professors and specialists alike, who sustained that all tombs in the Valley of Kings had been already found. When Carter was in his early forties, he teamed up with an English wealthy landowner, Lord Carnavon, obtained a concession to excavate the Valley of Kings and began to look for the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

Visit the promontory where Carter's barrack used to stand and you will see that the sand ends abruptly at the riverbank three hundred meters down the slope. The small boats crossing the Nile these days still offer a sight that is not that different from what Howard Carter witnessed at the beginning of the 20th century.

Rational living, rational working
Walking past the point of maximum discouragement

In 1922, Carter went through the lowest point in his career and he must have spent many hours pondering his dark future and unsuccessful past, as he contemplated the boats sailing across the river. His sponsor, Lord Carnavon, had announced that he would no longer be funding Carter's excavations beyond the end of that year.

The belief in the existence of Tutankhamen's undiscovered tomb had not earned Carter any professional distinction. On the contrary, his theory, developed out of his own interpretation of fragments found by other archaeologists, was considered marginal and obscure.

During the previous six years, Carter had spent a good part of Lord Carnavon's fortune in excavations in the Valley of Kings. The results had been so disappointing that Carnavon had decided to put an end to the enterprise at the end of that season.

At that time, Carter was already 48 years old and must have been looking back at his life wondering if he had done the right thing by embarking on a risky venture instead of choosing a safer career as antiquities dealer or monuments inspector. He had no money, no wife, no children, and an uncertain future.

Rationality is the way to happiness

Success with an unconventional strategy

Although he had devoted decades to studying Ancient Egypt, he had failed to secure a high-paying position. The dominant view was that Tutankhamen's tomb had been pillaged and forgotten centuries ago. Only Carter was convinced that the tomb could still be found, buried somewhere under the sand.

Carter's hypothesis and initiative had moved Lord Carnavon to entrust him with conducting excavations in the Valley of Kings, but six years of digging had been to no avail. In fact, the determination to search for Tutankhamen's tomb had wasted Carter's own life and a substantial part of Lord Carnavon's fortune. Europe had been ravaged by World War I and Carter knew that, after his long years of failure, his chances of finding another sponsor for his excavations was nil.

Initiative is a virtue that can be taught only by example. Taking calculated risks to pursue your dream, as Howard Carter did, cannot be emphasized enough as the key to a happy and successful life. The level of risk must be assessed and minimized as much as possible, but in the end, a man must remind himself that he is going to live only once. Extraordinary value cannot be achieved by simply following prescribed routines.

Nowadays, when tourists visit the location of Carter's wooden barrack in the Valley of Kings, their guide usually asks them to take a few steps on the sand, turn around, use their hand to shade their eyes from the sun, and look at the sign on the other side of the dune.

It is the sign that points visitors to Tutankhamen's tomb, which Carter finally managed to find in November 1922, just when his last excavation campaign was to end. He had spent years looking for that tomb and had succeeded only a few days before Carnavon's final deadline. Carter's extraordinary initiative and persistence had paid off against all expectations, in direct opposition to the views of official experts and professors.

Take the next step now

History provides countless examples of how entrepreneurship opens the door to striking success. Relentless initiative is far superior to stale knowledge. Those with vision and ambition can always acquire the information they miss. Possessing expertise is not worth much without the willingness to put it to practical use and take the risks associated with innovation.

After discovering Tutankhamen's tomb, Carter lived for another 16 years, enjoying the prestige and financial advantages of being the best known archaeologist in the world. The treasures found in Tutankhamen's tomb have an immense value, but they cannot be compared to the lesson drawn from Howard Carter's initiative and persistence.

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


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

Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief

Motivational stories about success and happiness

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
by John Vespasian 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 10 Principles of Rational Living
by John Vespasian