Wednesday, 22 November 2017

What is the point of having principles? How rational living can spare you expensive mistakes

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Wouldn't life be wonderful if we never made mistakes? Imagine how much money you could save through the years if you never purchased any of those products that look so good before you take them home and later turn out to be useless. How much effort would you spare if you could perform any undertaking without mistakes?

The function of principles is to condense lessons from the past that we can apply to our present. Rational guidelines cannot guarantee success in your endeavours, but will reduce the risk of failure and minimize any ensuing damages.

What are the principles of rational living and how can we use them in our daily life? From the work of Aristotle, Epictetus, and Spinoza, I have extracted the following three guidelines, which I consider the backbone of a rational life:
  • Use the law of cause and effect to your advantage: Understanding that reality works according to cause-and-effect constitutes the difference between civilized men and savages. Despite influence of family and society, each individual is the principal agent of his own fate. Accepting responsibility for your actions means taking charge of all aspects of your life that are under your control. 
  • Take good care of your health: Each individual has control of the food he consumes and determines how much he exercises. Few ignore the crucial role that nutrition and physical fitness play in maintaining good health, but how many men and women actually take action on the basis of such knowledge?
  • Identify your lifetime goals: Barring major accidents, humans can expect to become at least 70 years old in many areas of the world. Research has repeatedly proven that setting long-term goals plays a decisive role when it comes to achievement. 
Drifting from day to day, from one occupation to another, does not require clear objectives and avoids the friction generated by those who pursue ambitious goals. On the other hand, drifting is often associated with anxiety and psychological insecurity, since it fails to provide long-term perspective. Only well-defined goals allow man to concentrate his resources wisely and make the best of his life.

Rationality demands us to strike an adequate balance between our habits of the present and our expectations of the future. If you care little about being healthy and are willing to spend your life's savings on hospital fees, there is no reason why you should adopt healthy habits in your daily living. If that is not the case, then you know what to do.

The three principles above can be complemented with other recommendations, such as:
  • Accepting catastrophes philosophically and taking swift action towards recovery
  • Learning from mistakes in order to improve your effectiveness
  • Befriend honest people and ditch the rest or, at least, minimize your contacts with aggressive or nasty individuals
  • Actively protect your privacy and possessions
  • Stand up for your rights and do not give up too easily when you meet opposition
Accepting cause-and-effect as the overriding philosophical truth will turn you into a much more effective and happier human being. Applying rational principles to your life will bring you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your thoughts and actions are aligned with the essence of reality.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image: photograph of classical building; photo taken by John Vespasian, 2017

For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books

 
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Here is the link to a media interview just published:

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Why you should choose to live according to rational standards

Contrary to what is commonly predicated, individuals extract massive advantages from telling lies and pretending to be convinced by them. Most people are perfectly conscious of the falsehood of silly social conventions, but still, opt for maintaining those practices.

When corporations adopt unethical policies, experience shows that most employees will shrug their shoulders, and pretend that everything is fine. In those situations, a company's revenue projections will become exaggerated, its profits fake, and its bookkeeping out of touch with reality. A few months later, such company will collapse.

Nonetheless, would you call someone irredeemably evil if he chooses to behave in a manner that allows him to keep his job, at least for a while? It is a fact that millions of men and women are complying daily with questionable demands that they could avoid if they so wished.

Next time, things will be better

This sort of stories appear so frequently in newspapers that we almost take for granted that people will learn from experience. Next time, we tell ourselves, things will be better. After every scandal, we love to believe that manipulations and corruption will not happen again. Unfortunately, our hopes never come true, and shortly after, another scandal comes to light.

What makes human beings engage in such counter-productive behaviour? How is it possible that we devote so much effort to lying to ourselves? The correct answer is not that people are fundamentally evil. The truth is much more complex than that.

There are three reasons that explain why so many individuals are invested in falsehood. Social convenience is the first, since it feels good to belong to the majority. Financial benefit is the second, since those who are accepting to look the other way will be often rewarded by their negligence. The third motive, fear of rejection, is perhaps the strongest.

An almost irresistible appeal

Each of those justifications possesses extraordinary appeal on its own. All three combined are almost irresistible. Nevertheless, history proves that, in the long run, pretence and manipulation will inevitably destroy those who employ them.

Philosophical and social progress are achieved only little by little, by taking daily steps, but even in the short term, there are clear signs that misrepresentations don't work:
  • Social convenience leads people to repress their best ideas. The habit of seeking conformity at all times deprives men of the strength to speak out their views and pursue their dreams. 
  • The financial benefits of lying, although sweet, tend to be short-lived. Schemes that look too good to be true will typically inflict heavy losses on people who engage in them.
  • In industrial societies, the negative consequences of rejection are wildly exaggerated. Nowadays, global markets are allowing innovators to find customers across the world even if their ideas are not appreciated by their own family, friends, and neighbours.
Independent thinking is difficult in the face of opposition, so what? Trusting the golden promises of social convenience will always seem the obvious choice at first sight, but blind conformity to other people's irrationalities will simply destroy your life. Choosing to live according to rational standards can prove hard at times, but constitutes the path to success and happiness.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: photograph of classical painting; photo taken by John Vespasian, 2017.


For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books
 

 
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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

How to develop a sound psychological armour: Two techniques for increasing your mental resilience

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When you are out there looking for the right person to share your life with, you should remind yourself that maintaining your balance and self-esteem is going to put you ahead of the game. "A wise man should not fear losing anything in life as long as he is able to preserve his peace of mind," taught the Roman philosopher Epictetus.

When it comes to dating, each of us can easily make a list of unpleasant situations that we would rather avoid in order to keep our tranquillity. For instance, most men and women would consider themselves happier if they could avoid dealing with nasty people altogether. The same preference applies to averting unwanted criticism. Last but not least, wouldn't your days be easier if you never had to comply with silly social conventions?

The crucial element in successful dating is rational persistence. The question is how you can sustain your motivation long enough to achieve your romantic goals. Indeed, looking for a soul mate would be less complicated if you could keep all those inconveniences away, but let's face it, the world is not going to turn into paradise tomorrow morning.

Minimize your annoyance 

Negative personal interactions are particularly aggravating during dating, since romance seekers who invest themselves heavily in their search are often going to put their egos in the line of fire.

The good news is that you can minimize your dating annoyances if you grow a thick skin, that is, if you become more philosophical about life. Learn to enhance your psychological resilience, and the knowledge will serve you well for the rest of your life. The techniques are not difficult, and you can learn them on your own. During your dating adventures, you will have ample opportunity to test the validity of these techniques.

One can only wonder why mental resilience is rarely taught at school. Every elephant in the savannah knows the importance of growing a thick skin for protection against weather inclemencies, viruses, and infections. In the same way, human beings need to develop a sound psychological armour against the inevitable frictions of life.

As Epictetus observed, "some men find joy in fishing and others in hunting, but there is no greater pleasure than living your days with serenity."

Two useful techniques

Which techniques can you use to build yourself a psychological protection layer as thick as elephant skin? In the case of dating, my choice of methods would go towards cultivating deliberate slowness and purposeful indifference. Let us see how these two techniques work.

When you meet new people with romantic purposes in mind, some of your new acquaintances will be great, others will leave you cold, and a few will personify everything that you dislike in a human being. If you are attending a formal social event or have been invited for dinner by friends, you might not wish to leave right way, but on the other side, you really don't want to spend all evening in conversation with obnoxious strangers.

In those cases, adopting a strategy of deliberate slowness can work wonders. By the way, this is an approach that you can take to defuse many exacerbating social situations. Deliberate slowness is the ideal defence mechanism on those occasions when someone is verbally distressing you or bothering you at a party.

Should you find yourself in that situation, the perfect way to play is to remain calm. Instead of arguing and reacting with indignation, you can pretend that your brain needs hours to absorb the simplest information, and just stall. Very often, people will succumb to their own impatience, rate you as a hopeless bore, and leave you in peace.

The second technique, purposeful indifference, requires longer practice, but its field of application is much wider. Occasionally, during the dating process, you won't be able to escape nasty, unfair criticism either from friends, family or strangers. Don't let them ruin your day. Remember that it is great that people are free to express their opinions even if they don't know what they are talking about.

Put on your poker face, say that you take note of their comments, and move on. As soon as you are away from the scene, shrug your shoulders and don't let anxiety take control of your mind. Reserve your energies for the next date, where you might meet someone who is right for you.

Looking for a soul mate is difficult enough. Do not allow yourself to be affected by nonsensical remarks from other people. Take advantage of your dating experiences to develop a thick skin. In addition to facilitating your search for love, you will be acquiring an invaluable asset.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: photograph of classical painting; photo taken by John Vespasian, 2017.


For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books
 

 
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Monday, 2 October 2017

Six situations where you should gladly overpay

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Frugality enables a better life by allowing you to choose. Instead of spending your resources on everyday consumption, you can decide when it is opportune to make extra expenditures. Normality seldom justifies extra expense, but sooner or later, everybody faces a difficult period that demands extraordinary exertions.

If you acquire sensible financial habits, you will be able to accumulate savings to cushion adversity and misfortune. However, a judicious management of your resources should not entail counter-productive economies. What you want is to apply your financial reserves to those areas where they are most needed.

In general terms, there are six situations where you should gladly overpay, namely, to acquire long-term assets that generate revenue, to solve serious health problems, to correct critical mistakes, to protect yourself and your possessions, to learn new skills at great speed, and to obtain performance guarantees. Let us review these points one by one.

First, acquiring long-term assets that generate revenue. The principle applies equally to real estate, company shares, or annuities. Choose high quality even if you have to pay more. In the long-term, prime properties will earn you more money and spare you preoccupations.

When buying a house, be willing to increase your budget in exchange for a better location. When investing in the stock market, select shares of well-managed companies with a long history of profitable operations. In those cases, you will eventually be glad that you agreed to pay more initially.

Second, solving serious health problems. Any doctor can help you cure a common cold. You do not need to pay extra money to address a minor sickness whose treatment offers little difficulty. On the other hand, if you are severely ill, you should be willing to spend as much as necessary to recover your health.

If your insurance does not cover a vital treatment, figure out how you can pay for it yourself. If necessary, liquidate your investments and sell your house. Even if you have to cross the ocean, you should go to see the best doctors. The purpose of frugality in trivial purchases is to allow you to overspend when the need arises.

Third, correcting critical mistakes. If you are in business or professional practice, a time might come when you will commit an important error. Those who take initiative inevitably make mistakes, since those constitute an essential ingredient of success.

Having committed a serious error represents the type of situation for which you want to keep sufficient financial reserves. Acknowledge the problem and find out how you can fix it. Be willing to overpay for a quick solution that puts an end to the story. That will be money well spent. Learn your lesson and move on to the next project.

Fourth, protecting yourself and your possessions. The principle applies to physical and digital protection. For instance, if your house is located in an isolated area, you should invest in a state-of-the-art security system. If you are going to place your savings on a bank account, you should select a financial institution that offers a high level of internet security.

Do not assume that someone else has your protection as first priority. If you can benefit from security provided by third parties, be thankful for it, but stay alert nonetheless. Saving money in the field of personal protection can be counter-productive. If necessary, be ready to overpay in this area.

Fifth, accelerated learning of new skills. Specialized expertise is expensive, in particular if you need to acquire it quickly. However, if you have the possibility to get your dream job on the condition that you learn a new language, you should be willing to invest a good part of your savings in accelerated learning.

Ideally, you should try to take your time for difficult learning projects, so that you can figure out an inexpensive way to carry them out. Nevertheless, sometimes you'll have no choice. Chances come and go, often requiring immediate action. If the opportunity is worth it, you should view your learning cost as an investment.

Sixth, obtaining performance guarantees. If you have never experienced the inconvenience of repairs on a big-ticket item like a car or a refrigerator, your might not be aware of the immense value of warranties and performance guarantees. The cost of spare parts and manpower to fix a problem can be staggering.

Quality manufacturers tend to offer longer warranties for their products. Do not hesitate to pay more if you can benefit of extended coverage for your new vehicle or washing machine. In the long term, those warranties may save you substantial sums, let alone headaches.

Remain unwavering in your commitment to save money on unimportant purchases. Overpaying for everyday merchandise is unnecessary and wasteful. Instead, devote your savings to investing in your future and attaining peace of mind.

Critical problems demand swift reactions. Those are the kind of situations that justify paying more in exchange of quick service or extraordinary expertise. A discerning man knows how to separate normal purchases from pressing needs. Reduce your expenses on the former and build your financial strength to deal successfully with the latter.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: photograph of classical building; photo taken by John Vespasian, 2017.


For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books
 

 
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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Philosophy serves no purpose if it does not help improve your life

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You can easily tell dead-end projects by the massive opposition they generate. If your initiatives create high resistance, stress and anxiety, it might be wise to reconsider your strategy. Some products or services are just impossible to sell at a profit, even if they could greatly benefit potential customers. People choose to ignore whatever conflicts with their convictions.

Entrepreneurs are conscious of the fact that markets possess sensitivity and taste. If you try to impose your views on customers, you will fail. If you try to sell what people find misplaced, your attempts will produce only irritation and waste.

Prosperity and happiness require loyalty to principles and practicality in the implementation. Only fools start fights where everybody loses. Logic and consistency are worthless without a workable plan. Philosophy serves no purpose if it does not help improve your life.

A practical question

The question is how to accomplish demanding goals while remaining loyal to truth. The story of Roger Williams (1603-1683) provides powerful inspiration about how attain success and well-being by minimizing confrontation, in other words, by taking the path of least resistance.

Williams was born in London at a time when religious dissidence was often punished with death. As a child, he witnessed the public execution of members of minority movements. Those tragic events shaped his philosophy and turned him into a highly effective advocate of tolerance and individual responsibility. Williams definitely refused to allow adversity to keep him down.

After his ordination as protestant priest, Williams got married and emigrated to America. When he arrived in Boston, he was 29th years old. He gained employment as preacher in one of the local churches and began to promote his ideas of tolerance and respect of religious minorities.

His parishioners, who favoured a strict line of thought, did not appreciate William's views. Soon after, he faced a difficult choice. If he refused to conform his ideas to public expectations, he would lose his position. If he remained loyal to his philosophy, his reputation would be damaged and no other congregation in the area would be willing to hire him.

Principles and values

He attempted to find steady employment in Salem and Plymouth, to no avail. Churchgoers in those cities liked Williams' opinions as little as those in Boston. He consulted his wife, Mary, and learned that she was pregnant. An upcoming baby constituted a strong reason for Williams to try to keep his position even if that meant sacrificing his ideals. What would you have done in such a situation?

Choosing the path of least resistance requires, in the first place, that you determine your principles and values. Random decisions do not lead to happiness, especially if they are motivated by fear. A wise man identifies his priorities before assessing his options. Our goal should be to find the alternative that can accomplish our objectives with minimum opposition.

Williams analysed his possibilities carefully. On the one hand, he could renounce his views and keep his job. On the other hand, he could give up his ambition of establishing himself in America and return to England. None of those alternatives was satisfying. Instead, he opted for a third choice, the path of least resistance.

With his pregnant wife on trail, he left Boston, purchased some land from the Narragansett Indians, and established a new settlement that he called Providence. Williams' philosophy of tolerance and self-reliance soon attracted entrepreneurial minorities of all sorts. As a result, his land became one of the most prosperous American colonies.

The two alternatives that he had rejected were dead-end projects. If he had kept his position in Boston, he would have continued to receive a regular income, but only at the price of betraying his ideals. If he had returned to England, his destiny would have not been much different.

Finding a better way

In retrospective, William's decision to establish a new settlement was the obvious path of least resistance. He had seen the consequences of intolerance in England and was convinced that there was a better way. He suspected that thousands of people thought the way he did, minorities of all sorts, entrepreneurial individuals who only wanted to be left alone to lead their own lives.

Instead of disputing the views of his Boston parishioners, Williams walked away. Instead of wasting time on bitter debates, he opted for building a workable alternative. Instead of trying to impose his views on disgruntled opponents, he decided to spend his life with those who were naturally on his side.

The success of Providence during the following decades provides an impressive example of the benefits of rational decisions: increased cooperation, tolerance, goodwill and self-reliance, all accompanied by growing industry, trade, and productivity.

In addition, Williams' peaceful relations with the neighbouring Narragansett tribes led to mutual understanding. In 1643, he published a handbook on the language of American Indians, which he hoped would improve communication and exchanges between frontier communities.

The next time that you are faced with a similar situation, why don't you adopt the same strategy? Write down your values and priorities. Identify which elements are essential to your happiness. Discard options that don't fulfil your fundamental requirements. And amongst the remaining choices, choose the path of least resistance

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: photograph of classical fountain; photo taken by John Vespasian, 2017.


For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books
 

 
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