Saturday, 18 October 2014

Strive to help others

Earlier this week I felt my life had no purpose. I had managed several crises for the past few years and the situations are now under control. I thought again of the 3 reasons to live given by Viktor Frankl that I wrote about in ‘Survive your camp’. You can survive a difficult situation by having a meaning in life, a great love, or acceptance of your suffering.
Because the crises had passed, I was no longer suffering.
I recently studied stoical philosophy to help me cope and understand life. This resulted in me focusing more on my place in the universe, on acceptance of fate and on how little influence I have outside my own mind. While this acceptance significantly lessened pain I might feel, I could no longer love anyone or aspire to love anyone with great intensity.
So that just left life’s meaning – the great work that I would do. I do a lot of work at my job, my writing, my horticulture and looking after my house. But right now none of it seems to be the main meaning in my life.
I even wished for another crisis so I would have something on which to focus. So my suffering would again become the driving factor. But I quickly discarded this idea. Why would anyone wish for pain? I should be thankful that I was no longer suffering. I have great talents and multiple opportunities, even if none of them really felt strong enough to be a meaning of life.
Then I asked what I could do that would make my life feel fulfilled and ultimately reward me. What do the people we most admire do?  They dedicate their lives to helping others or doing things that bring happiness to others. We all know many people who dedicate their lives to helping or entertaining others. Yesterday on the radio I heard a British nurse who survived Ebola say he was going back to West Africa again to help others. Many people are similarly giving.
Then it struck me. Most of what I do is to help others. In my work I develop useful products to make people’s lives better and help my colleagues to do their jobs. I do my job to earn money to help my family. I help with social clubs for the benefit of others. Even the work I do in my garden will ultimately help others by producing fruit, jams and wines. I will be rewarded for helping others, both in personal satisfaction and perhaps financially. By writing this column today I am helping you the reader.
Perhaps you are happy living a life with another focus. Perhaps you have a job, or hobbies and pastimes that you find so engrossing and satisfying that you are happy and fulfilled in yourself. In this case you should continue with the life that you have. You may if you examine your life realise that you are bringing happiness to others just by doing what you do.
But if your life feels empty, focus on the help you give to others. Think how others benefit from what you do. Spend more of your time doing things for other people. A more selfless focus to your life will make you feel so much better about yourself. It will give your life meaning.
Strive to help others and to make their lives better. The life most benefitted by the help you give will be your own.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

What is it that it is in your nature to do?

Get up every morning as early as you can and do what it is your nature to do. Marcus Aurelius
We can overthink things. After completing the recent blog post about getting up and doing what it is in your nature to do I spent hours thinking about what that was. Was there a big task I should accomplish? Books? Politics? Public speaking? Inventions? Fruit growing? Was some big thing the task that was in my nature to do?
     Nothing earth shattering came to mind. I suspect that is the same for most people. So I thought about what I do each day. I get up and write. I may make bread first thing. I get kids ready for school and to their bus. I go to work. After work I may jog, cook, watch TV, read, attend meetings, clean up my shed, mow the lawn. I do what it is in my nature to do each day and it changes somewhat from day to day depending on what needs doing. And this is right. I am fortunate that I always have something to do. The task that I should do is always apparent. I am lucky.
     Knowing what it is you have to do and doing it is not difficult so long as you do not try to overthink it as I did recently. If there is a big task to which you should devote most of your time that will be apparent. Otherwise it will just be a series of smaller tasks – tasks related to your job, to looking after your family, looking after your home, meeting friends or just relaxing. If what you are doing does not feel right, do something that does feel right.

     Only you can answer the question in your own mind about what the next most important task is for you to do. Sometimes it will be to relax. We all need downtime. And if you spend too much time relaxing then something else will become the most important task for you to do. So long as you let your nature decide what it is you should do, you will be happy with your life.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Do what is in your nature

"Get up every morning as early as you can and do what it is your nature to do." Marcus Aurelius
     My recent contemplation of stoicism has led inevitably to a consideration of nihilism. Stoicism tells us that anything over which we do not have complete control is irrelevant – that is everything apart from our own virtues and vices. So anything done by other people is irrelevant. That is nearly everything that most people are concerned about. While following a stoical lifestyle increases your serenity and decreases stress, you inevitably wonder if it leaves enough in life to keep it interesting.
     Nihilism is a short step beyond that. You wonder if anything is relevant at all. Our own virtues and vices are only of interest to us and so what do they matter in the great scheme of things? Is anything you do of any relevance? After you go all that you are and have done will return to dust. Shortly after that your kids and grandkids will return to dust and with them your memory. Therefore you wonder if anything is worth worrying about at all.
     The Galaxy Song from the end of Monty Python’s Meaning of Life comes to mind.
The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
 As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth.
     So what is the meaning of your life or anyone else’s? It has been said that I think too much and I feel I may well be overthinking this point. Many people commit suicide. Maybe some of them overthink life and come to the same conclusion.
     What do less intelligent creature than humans do? Cows graze, chew the cud, rest on the grass and walk slowly to the milking parlour. Your dog will at times run around life a mad lunatic maybe chasing rabbits. He will scrounge for food and at times lie resting in the sun. Creatures do what it is in their nature to do. This is a good guidance to what you should do.
     I thought of all the great things done by so many people in the past. Much of this work has served to make the world a much more liveable place. There are great works of engineering, of art, of literature, of business. These works make the world better. In some cases the creators are remembered well. In others their memory is their work. If all these people had not done what they did the world would be a lesser place.
     The key to life comes back again to the words of the philosopher king, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius – Get up every morning as early as you can and do what it is your nature to do. This could be anything, but by doing whatever is in your nature it will make you happier and more content with life and ultimately will make the world a better place.
     But the question that many people need an answer is what is it in your nature to do? Ask yourself what feels right? When I wake up this morning what do I feel I should be doing? You probably already do it for at least some time. One tip I read recently from a blog writer called Robert D is that you always know what you should do next. Ask yourself hypothetically what you should do next if you didn’t know what to do. Think about it for 15 seconds. You will answer the question and you should do that next. The 2 most important questions are 1. What is important right now? 2. What is important immediately after that?
     Again do not overthink it. This task is what is in your nature to do next.
     You might need to think a bit deeper if you need a better direction in life. But again you need to ask yourself what is in your nature to do. Ignore for a minute all those drudging tasks you feel you have to do. What gives you a buzz? What are you good at? Think for minute …
     Thought of it? … Think on… Whatever it is feels right. Now there are other things you have to do. Think about ways of not spending so much time doing these tasks so you have more time to do what is in your nature. If you are fortunate it will be something that other people will pay you to do. I read recently in another blog by Mike Figliuolo’s that to plan your career you should identify the tasks on the Venn diagram intersection of the sets ‘the things you enjoy’, ‘the things you are good at’, ‘the things people will pay you to do’. Anything in this intersection should make a good career. There is a good possibility that you will be able to make a good living if your can do something well and with great enthusiasm.
     But if you are having difficulty identifying something in the sweet spot, do not despair. There may be nothing that people are willing to pay you for that falls into the other 2 categories. But some people have achieved great things without means. We all know of penniless artists and authors who were only discovered after their deaths. But they could not have made their great works if it were not in their nature.
     For your own happiness you need to do what is in your nature – things you enjoy and are good at. You need to have faith that you will survive. Our basic needs are quite meagre if you are willing to give up luxuries. You may be fortunate enough to live in a country with a welfare blanket. You may be supported by your spouse or family. You should go for it. Do not feel guilty. You are doing what is in your nature. It may be in the nature of these others to support you doing it. If you are producing good work, I suspect these others enjoy supporting you.
     So now ignore all the responsibilities you feel are holding you back. Ask yourself again ‘what is it that it is my nature to do?’. Identify it. Once you decide to do it, you will think of ways to hand the responsibilities to someone else. If you want do something you will find a way. If you don’t want to do something you will find an excuse.

     A quote by Hugh Hefner ‘Life is too short to be living someone else’s dream’.

Friday, 5 September 2014

It’s hard to p!$$ you off if your don’t give a S&!+

I remember well something said to me years ago by a laid-back friend – ‘It is hard to piss off a man who doesn’t give a shit’. I made the point in Survive your Camp that when you are in a difficult life situation you have to let stuff go. Use apathy as a defense.
     But this has application to your life in general. The Buddha said that all unhappiness is caused by attachment. This could be attachment to possessions, to your job or avocations, or to people. Life is easier if you are not so attached.
     Many people become quite disheartened when their comfortable life changes for the worse. They suffer bereavement, divorce or a loss of a job. You should be thankful for the good things you have, but realize that they are not permanent either. This realization will make their inevitable loss to you less painful.
     This is an underlying ethos of stoicism. Stoics classify everything as either good, bad or indifferent. The only things that are good are virtues. You should work on improving these. The four cardinal virtues, from ancient Greek philosophy are prudence, justice, temperance (or restraint) and courage (or fortitude). The seven heavenly virtues of Christianity are chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.
     The only bad things are vices. The vices that mirror the virtues in Greek Philosophy are rashness, injustice, intemperance and cowardice. A fuller list of vices is the seven deadly sins of medieval Christianity - wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. The seven virtues above are opposites of these. You should work at eliminating them.
     Everything else is indifferent. Everything external to you, i.e. outside your total control, should be indifferent to how you feel. There are preferred indifferents, rejected indifferents and genuinely indifferent indifferents. It is important to neither be excessively pleased about the preferred or upset about the rejected indifferent events. If they are outside your control you have no reason to feel excessively pleased or displeased about them.
     Obviously it is preferred to have a job, wealth, friends and a family. You would rather not have illness, poverty or enemies. But it is important to neither be too attached to the former nor too upset about the latter. Anything outside your control should not affect how you feel about yourself.
     If you can maintain a stoical acceptance of the good and bad things that happen in your life you will have much more control over your happiness. If something is upsetting you ask yourself is it a result of your vice? If not don’t let it bother you. If you are overjoyed at an event ask yourself is it due to your own virtue? If not you should restrain your joy. Something that is the result of an action by another can easily be taken away.
     You will have a much happier life if you learn to not give a shit about good things or bad things. Chill! Be cool like Zeno.

(Illustration of Zeno from

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Survive your camp. New book about concentration camp survival skills now available

‘To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.’ – Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher, 19th century

I read many books to learn lessons to help me better deal with difficult life situations. I came across a reference to Viktor Frankl. Frankl, a Viennese psychiatrist, survived for three years in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. He applied what he learned from his camp experiences to logotherapy, the theory of psychotherapy that he developed.
     One can survive a difficult situation by having a meaning in life, a great love, or a noble, stoical acceptance of one’s suffering.
     I read many of Frankl’s books, especially Man’s Search for Meaning, the book that describes his experience. I used his experience as a guide for dealing with my difficulties. I surmised that skills learned and used to help someone survive the greatest, most evil calamity that man has committed against man must be powerful skills.
     So I started to write this book and read about other concentration camp experiences. I extracted lessons that can be applied to our own lesser difficulties in life. Our difficulties do not approach the horror of the Nazi death camps.
    Nothing else that man has ever done to his fellow man approaches the organized, systematic horror of the Nazi death camps. Only one inmate in 28 sent to these camps survived. Their main purpose was racial extermination.
     The Nazis established several camps for the sole purpose of extermination – most notably Treblinka, Sobibor, Chełmno and Bełżec. There were very few survivors of these camps, which is why they are less well known than the bigger workcamps.
     Only two Jewish prisoners survived Bełżec, in which around 500,000 died. Only three survived Chełmno. There were revolts in Treblinka and Sobibor and some escapees survived to tell their tale. Extermination was carried out on a similar scale at the multi-purpose camps of Auschwitz and Majanek.
     The Soviet Gulags, to which I also refer, were bad but not in the same league. Many were imprisoned for surprisingly minor reasons such as escaping from a German POW camp or referring to Stalin as ‘Old Man Whiskers’ in private communication to a friend.
     30% of those imprisoned in gulags perished. This was an inevitable result of carelessness and indifference. Inmates died because they were underfed and overworked in Siberian winters. There was not a policy of deliberate extermination as there was in Nazi camps.
     Auschwitz, in Poland, earned its notoriety because more people died there than in any other camp – over one million. It was the main destination for Jews transported from occupied countries as part of the Final Solution in the latter years of the war. By then the Germans were losing the war and most other extermination camps had been closed.
     Upon arrival there was the first selection. Children, old people and those judged unfit to work went straight to the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
     During those latter years of the war, healthy adults were sent to workcamps to help the failing war effort. Frankl was transported to a subcamp of Dachau near Munich. Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel, other authors I refer to below, were both sent to Auschwitz-Monowitz. This workcamp, also known as Auschwitz III or Buna, provided labor for building of a synthetic rubber factory.
     Wiesel also survived the notorious death march and transportation ahead of the Russian advance to Buchenwald in Germany. His father died shortly after arriving in Buchenwald.
     Some uneasy facts that I came across in my research present surviving a concentration camp in a darker light than that presented by Frankl. Primo Levi, an Italian Jewish chemist who survived for a year in Auschwitz, wrote extensively on his experience in If This Is a Man.
     In his follow-up book The Drowned and the Saved, published in 1986, Levi makes the point that the privileged prisoners were a minority in the camps but represent a majority of the survivors.
     Privileged prisoners, or Prominenten in German, helped run the camps. They included specialist workers such as doctors, and cooks, and supervisors to help run the camp — camp wardens and foremen, known as Kapos. They received better treatment than the ordinary prisoners.
     Many of the survivors felt guilty about surviving when so many ‘better’ people died. They might have done something that they felt was not the right thing in order to survive a bit longer.
     This is another reason that the death camps were so evil. Not only did they kill so many people, but they also scarred many survivors with feelings of guilt. The Nazis wanted those imprisoned, especially the Jews, to be degraded.
     I now realize that doing whatever it takes to survive is a key message of this book. To survive you need not just a noble attitude, your life work or someone to love, and resilience. You may also need to make compromises. You may have to do things that you would not do in better circumstances.
     This book contains lessons to help you survive a difficult situation until a better day. When that day comes you can fully enjoy life again. Do not feel guilty about doing what it takes to survive your difficult situation.

     Now available in print and ebook from, (print and ebook) and amazon Europe. Follow links to read more excerpts.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

A ‘random’ breath test revealed Laplace’s demon

One morning recently I was stopped for a random alcohol breath test on the way home. While I was blowing into the breathalyzer a van pulling a trailer that I had finally had the opportunity to overtake a minute or so earlier was waved past. I was soon on my way again after registering zero and within minutes was driving behind the van and trailer again.
     The incident inspired me to think about fate and random events. If I had not had the opportunity to overtake the van a minute earlier its driver would have been subjected to the ‘random’ breath test. I would have been waved past and on my way.
     But none of this was random. Everything that happened on my journey home was the direct result of actions taken by me and others. And these actions were caused by previous actions going all the way back to the big bang. Nothing that happens is truly random. Everything is the inevitable result of previous actions.
     I left for home at a certain time. I missed a turn and went a slightly longer route. I came to be driving behind a van that left his departure point at a time determined by whatever was going on in the driver’s life. The checkpoint was set up for that place and time in advance. If you had total knowledge you could have predicted the events exactly as they occurred.
     But no one knows everything. That is why we have the concepts of ‘randomness’ and ‘probability’ to try and estimate unknowns. For instance there was nothing random about the checkpoint being where it was that morning or me being on that road or the other driver being on that road. An all knowing being would have known all that and would have predicted me being stopped and breathalyzed.
     Everything that happens is the direct result of events that have happened before.
     The event that morning was of little consequence. I had not been drinking so just drove on delayed by a few minutes. The van turned onto a different road shortly afterwards so I did not even have to overtake it again.
     But I did gain a deeper insight into the stoical concept that the course of events is set and cannot be changed. Now that you are aware of this inevitability, paradoxically, it allows you more control over adverse events and perhaps to ameliorate any bad effect on you.
     And your new awareness of the need to examine likely scenarios is an inevitable consequence of actions taken by you and others. This was entirely predictable to someone with the knowledge that you would read this and other similar material.
     You ask if you can ever have total knowledge of everything going on?  And if not how is this insight of use? You do know part of it – you know what is going on in your own mind and near you. Instead of living within your body take ‘a view from above’. Imagine you are not in your own body but looking down on yourself from the ceiling. See your actions and how you interact with others. Observe yourself as you would observe others. How do you appear to third parties? Are you popular? Do they think you are clever?
     Look at others from a similar vantage. What are they thinking? What are they doing? Now as a result of what you can see, predict the next few events in your life. The things you do yourself should be entirely predictable if you have planned your day. You will probably notice that the actions of others as they relate to you are also somewhat predictable.
     Obviously, you cannot know as much as an all seeing observer. Actions of some people you do not know may influence events. You did not expect the telephone survey to occupy 15 minutes of your time delaying your day. But if you had total knowledge of that person’s calling schedule the call to you was entirely predictable. But how often does this kind of outside interference affect our lives?
     This prediction of future events is known as predestination or determinism and is a well-known concept in religion and philosophy. Predestination is a core belief of Calvinism. Depending on the will of God some are chosen and some are damned and their actions follow.
     Determinism is independent of the influence of God or existence or not of an afterlife. It is a well-known concept in Eastern religions such as Buddhism as well as in Western Philosophy. The concept of all-knowing observer was presented in the early 19th century by the French mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace. He wrote a treatise on causal or scientific determinism and the all-knowing observer is now referred to as Laplace’s demon or Laplace’s superman. If someone, the demon, knows the precise location and momentum of every atom in the universe, their past and future values for any given time can be calculated from the laws of classical mechanics. With this knowledge the demon can predict everything that happens in the universe.
     To do this would require an immense computer and knowledge. Many have ‘proven’ that is not possible. However, absence of proof in this case is not proof of absence. Just because our current state of knowledge cannot construct such a computer does not mean it is not possible at some time in the future.

     To begin with don’t think so big. Take 5 minutes each morning to predict the events of your day. You won’t be able to predict the actions of all external actors that affect you. However, if you are honest the prediction of your entire day will be surprisingly close to reality.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Gift Value Ratio

Seneca wrote many books on the importance of gift giving. But what is the perfect gift? It should ideally be something needed by the receiver. And how much should it cost you?
     Many people do not like giving money as a gift. It seems slightly thoughtless. It is immediately apparent how much they value the other person. It shows no effort of thought. But I think this is unfair. There are few gifts more useful to the receiver or valued more highly than money – unless, perhaps, the receiver is so wealthy that he has no need of more.
     If you give cash as a gift the cost of the gift to you, the giver, and the value of its benefit to the receiver are the same. The value of the gift can be presented as a ratio – (value of gift to receiver)/(cost of gift). For cash this ratio will be 1. A gift that costs $20 to you is $20 benefit to the receiver.
     Let’s compare this value to other gifts. Sometimes people give gift vouchers for a store or chain of stores. In most cases these cost the same as their face value – a $20 voucher in a store costs $20. It also may cost you a little more if you had to go to the store specially to buy it. But how much is it worth to the receiver? If the receiver shops in the store regularly and spends much there it has the same value as cash, so gift value ratio is 1. But if the person never or seldom shops in the store, it is worth considerably less than 1. The receiver would have to make a special trip to the store and may end up buying something there that they would prefer to buy elsewhere for less. There is also a good chance that the voucher will never be used, or might expire, or the store might go out of business making the gift value ratio 0. The number of unused gifted store vouchers is considerable.
     Perhaps you can get a voucher with a gift value ratio greater than 1. If you pay less for the voucher than face value and it is for a store where the receiver often shops, the value is greater than 1 making it a high value gift. I am surprised that people do not demand a discount for vouchers. In many cases they expire unused. The receiver has to use them in that shop and may add to the voucher value with other money. They are a good business for the shop and I am surprised more shops do not discount them. 
     It is difficult to buy a gift and meet or exceed the gift ratio of 1. In many cases the person will not value the gift as much as it costs. If is it not something that the person would like to buy with their own money, it is not valuable gift. You would be better off giving cash. Or ask them what they want. You may prefer to give a surprise but the receiver would prefer to receive something they want.
     There are some cases where you can get a gift with a value higher than 1 and this is where thought comes in. If you travel often you may be able to buy gifts at duty free or in other countries cheaper than the receiver can buy them at home. You could buy smoking materials, food, drink, perfumes etc at a good price. If you know the brand will be to the liking of the receiver these gifts have a value greater than 1.
     Or perhaps you are a great shopper who finds bargains. You might finds something you know would be a great gift for someone at a good price. This shows that you are thinking about the person.
     A gift does not have to cost you money. Perhaps give the gift of time. If you can do a difficult task for a friend who is temporarily incapacitated, or mind their dog when they go on holiday or carry out a similar helpful task, this can cost you very little depending on how you value your time and be of considerable benefit to the receiver. Gifts such as this may have a value ratio well in excess of 1.
     So what do you give as a gift? Cash is always good. If you can think of something of greater value, so much the better. But resist the temptation to buy just anything. Be sure that the gift will be of greater value to the recipient than it costs you. If not cash is a more thoughtful gift.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Lesson in stoicism learned from being short changed

On holiday in France I made a morning trip to the campsite’s bakery for fresh baguettes. The price each is 90 cents and I bought 3 for a total of 2.70. I paid with a fiver. I was talking in French and could blame this for my carelessness, but is it a real excuse? Money is a common language in the Euro area. I should have received 2.30 in change. However, as I hastily put the money in the change compartment of my wallet I only noticed one euro coin as well as small money. Shortly afterwards, as I walked home I realised that I had only received 1.30 in change.
    There is a lesson. It is a cheaper lesson than the last one about the concert tickets, and one that I can solve with only a small adjustment to my behaviour. I decided that the mistake was genuine on the part of the shop assistant who gave me a one euro coin instead of a 2 euro coin by accident. I could easily prevent it happening in future by looking at my change and counting it at the counter before putting it in my wallet. The one euro this lesson cost me could save me many times that in future by this new adjustment to my behaviour. Later on when I bought drinks I always looked at my change and counted at the bar. It was always correct but soon I expect I will reap the benefit of my lesson.

      But more importantly that the money I will save myself in short changing in future is the lesson I reinforced about not sweating the small stuff. The major benefit was that I could take a minor annoyance and not overreact. I was out of pocket by one euro – very little. I often willingly make decisions that cost me much more than that. I had decided that instead of being annoyed with the shop assistant for not giving me correct change, or being annoyed with myself for not taking a moment to check, I decided that I had just learned a very important lesson and it had only cost me one euro. That outlook on life is priceless.  

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Lesson in stoicism learned from post office failure

“You can tell the greatness of a man by what makes him angry”- Abraham Lincoln
I learned a lesson this week about how far I have come in absorbing the lessons of the great stoics, in particular Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. The source of the lesson was the Post Office.
     I had bought tickets in January for a concert by former Led Zeppelin lead singer, Robert Plant, and his band the Sensational Space Shifters to be held at a venue in Cork this week 120 miles (200 km) from my home. This week I had car trouble, a series of appointments and am preparing to go on vacation next week. I decided to give the concert a miss and posted the tickets for sale on donedeal for half price.
     I sold them with no difficulty. However the main issue on Monday evening was how to deliver the tickets to a customer in Cork and get paid in time for the concert on Wednesday evening. The Post Office delivers practically all post next business day so I was confident this would work. I agreed that the buyer could pay me by check when he received them – after all I had his name, address and phone number! I posted the tickets on Tuesday. To make sure I paid extra to send it Express Post which provided a tracking number. I didn’t bother paying 2 euro more for signature service.
     The buyer phoned me around midday on Wednesday to say it was after his post delivery time and there was no sign of tickets. I checked the tracking number on line and there was no mention of the letter after 21:43 on Tuesday at the National Sorting centre. I made a few calls to no avail. I read the terms and now realised that my decision not to pay 2 euro more for signature also meant I had no insurance cover and would only be due a refund of my postage for failure to deliver the next day!
     Even up until relatively recently I would have become quite incensed about such an incident. I was justified to become angry with the Post Office for failing to deliver next day as promised. I could become angry with myself for not asking about insurance when paying for postage. I could be angry at the postmaster for not telling me about insurance. But for what benefit? I was out of pocket anyway for tickets since January. I did not have the pay the additional expense of travelling to Cork. The only new loss was that I will not receive 60 euro payment for the tickets.

     But I am healthy. I am only out a relatively small amount of money. I have learned important lessons. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Ask about insurance when posting something valuable. And don’t rely on the Post Office if you really need to guarantee next day delivery.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

If you don't know where you are going you will never get there

To get whatever you want follow the six-step plan. Decide what you want, what you will do for it, your timeframe, your plan, summarize all in a short statement and repeat every morning and evening.
The first step on the path to success is to know the path to success. As the old saying says, if you don’t know where you are going you will never get there, or as Yogi Berra put it, “If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” Napoleon Hill considered desire to be the first step on the path to success. You have to want success as badly as Socrates’ submerged student sought air. Hill interviewed many people who had achieved great things in life, and all knew what they wanted. They desired their goal above all else.
     When Hernán Cortes set out to conquer the Aztec empire, it is said that he burned his ships to prevent retreat. This has gone down in lore as the ultimate act of ensuring that there will be no going back. By removing the path of retreat you heighten your men’s desire to succeed in battle.
     You can follow a similar course on the path to success. If you give up your job with no chance of return before you set up your dream business, you have given yourself a very strong motive to succeed. If you have the option of return, this “packed parachute” will probably lessen the chances of success of your business.
     The path to success may not be the easiest path. After the great fire in Chicago, most of the city-center traders took the easier option: they left to establish stores on greenfield sites in western cities that were expanding. One exception was Marshall Field, who rebuilt his store where it had been. The store is still the most famous in that city.
     Hill identified a straightforward method of achieving success. He verified the validity of this method by asking very successful men of his time, Andrew Carnegie and Thomas Edison, what they thought. They agreed that it was the best course to any success in life – not just money.

  1. Decide exactly what you want. If it is money, pick an exact amount rather than just “lots.”
  2. Determine what you will do in return. Remember there is no such thing as a free lunch. 
  3. Set a definite date by which you intend to get the money. 
  4. Establish a clear plan and begin immediately. 
  5. Write a concise statement of the first four points, saying what you want, what you will do in return, by when you will get it and how you will get it. 
  6. Read this statement aloud twice daily – when you go to bed at night and when you get up in the morning.

In addition, when you are reading the statement, picture your success. Believe that you have already achieved your goal. If it is money, picture a bank statement with that amount on it. If it is a new car, picture yourself driving it. Enjoy the picture. Include in your picture yourself doing whatever you need to do to earn your dream. Stick to this plan and you will succeed.
     I used this exact formula for writing this book and others. I made the following statement, which I read aloud as part of my daily prayer morning and evening. “I will sell a million books within five years by writing books people want to read. My first book will be published in 2013. I will write something every day.”
     You can see all four elements in this statement. To sell a million books is a definite measure of success. I will do it by writing books people want to read. This is important. I am not writing this because it is what I want to write, although I do enjoy it. I am writing it because it is what you want to read and are willing to pay for. I have set a timeframe – 5 years to achieve one million sales. I have set a plan. My first book will be published in 2013. I will write something every day.
     As stated earlier, Graham Greene wrote brilliant novels by writing 500 words a day. I can manage that many words. I read over material to inspire me before going to bed at night. I wake up an hour earlier and write before starting to get myself ready for work and the kids ready for school. The method works. It is not difficult, but some effort is required.
     Hill practiced what he preached. He wrote “Our only limitations are those we set up in our own mind,” and this philosophy was put to the test when his son, Blair, was born without ears. He decided that he would instill in his son a burning desire to hear and speak. He discovered that his son could detect loud sounds at the base of his skull when he listened to records by biting the record player. Blair could hear when Hill shouted with his lips at the base of his skull.
     Gradually Blair heard enough sounds that he could speak. His parents insisted he go to regular school even though he could hear little. He got by. He had great drive and ambition to succeed. They refused to allow him learn sign language – a bit like ship burning.
     Eventually, when in college in his early 20s, Blair tried a new hearing aid that allowed him to hear perfectly. He was thrilled, and dedicated his life to helping people learn to hear. Doctors who examined him could find no trace of natural hearing equipment, but hear he did. Hill put it beautifully when he wrote “Truly, my son taught me that handicaps can be converted into stepping stones on which one may climb toward some worthy goal, unless they are accepted as obstacles, and used as alibis.”
     When you desire something badly enough, you will succeed. As I always say, if you want to do something you will find a way; if you don’t, you will find an excuse. There is no reason why you will fail if you use this approach. Follow the simple six-step process and go for it.

This is an extract from ‘Improve your life’ by George Nicholas. It is based on ideas of Napoleon Hill from ‘Think and Grow Rich’. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Speed of action

Last week I read Robert Ringer’s blog post as I always do. Robert repeated one of his usual messages about the importance of taking action. The famous quotation of Theodore Roosevelt came to mind
In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
The downside of the occasional wrong action is much less than the problems resulting from delaying taking action. In one job my boss used to refer to this as paralysis by analysis. In many cases you look for too much information and don’t do anything. It is often said that you should fail fast and often and this is the best way of succeeding.
     I resolved to stop delaying. I resolved to publish my book as soon as possible. I have to review a few parts with some people and should just hurry up. But immediately I worried about my son’s First Communion party on the coming Saturday. He wanted me to hire a bouncy castle. So naively I phoned a few companies locally. There was no bouncy castle available for Saturday. Of course most Holy Communions are on Saturdays in May and many parents are pestered to do likewise. One company told me that she was booked up for months and some people are booking bouncy castles up to a year in in advance!
     Undeterred and with my new found commitment to take action I decided I would buy a used bouncy castle and sell it on after the party. I expected the difference in price would be less than the cost of one day’s rental. So for some hassle and short term cash flow I would have a castle. So I looked on Donedeal, Ireland’s foremost trading website. There were a few small castles 50 miles away, but it was the massive inflatable slide near Wexford town, my location, that caught my eye. The price was a bit more than I wanted to pay but with the intention of recycling the sale this was not such a big issue.
     I phoned and visited the seller in a village just outside Wexford where I had actually gone to primary school. The seller had been in my brother’s class. The slide was huge. We got the pump going and as the slide rose to the heavens I asked the seller how he had come to own it. He trades and renovates used shipping containers, that are often used as temporary lockable stores on building sites. He bought a container and the seller told him that he would also have to buy the slide if he wanted the container. After selling the container he would have nowhere to store the slide.
     I told him I had a 20 foot container that I bought when I built my house 8 years earlier. He said he would be interested to trade and would look at the container later in the evening. When he looked he valued the container at the same as the slide. I agreed, and best of all he would deliver the slide and take the container the day before the big communion party.
     I emptied the container that evening. I moved junk that had been in it for 7 years since I completed building my house. Leaving the container there was the opposite of speed of action. I was glad that the deal had forced me to do something I should have done years earlier. I found space in the shed for stuff worth keeping and space in refuse bags for all the trash. I then arranged neighbors to move the container to a more accessible position. He delivered the following day, Thursday, in plenty of time for the party.
     The party was great. The kids loved the slide. It was so much bigger and better than the average bouncy castle. The downside is that it is difficult to move. I will keep it for a few months until the kids are bored with it before selling it.

     It tells me the importance of taking action soon. If you want to do something and it is very difficult remember few things are impossible. Take action today and you will succeed. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The power of thoughts

‘If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.’ Peace Pilgrim

Early in the week the above quotation arrived in my inbox from Darren Lacroix. It summarized perfectly using via negativa the underlying belief of many of the writers who have inspired me, especially Joseph Murphy.
     So I wondered who was this incredibly wise person, Peace Pilgrim? I googled and found that Peace Pilgrim was Mildred Norman Ryder who walked across America eight times campaigning for peace. She started as Peace Pilgrim in 1953 from Pasadena, California. She walked with nothing bar the clothes on her back and the few items she carried in the pockets of her blue tunic which read "Peace Pilgrim" on the front and "25,000 Miles on foot for peace" on the back. She relied on charity for food and shelter. She wrote books about her campaigns and the inner peace it brought.
     This brought to mind my friend Bettie-Marie. Bettie-Marie (pictured) walked over 13 days from Belfast in the North-east of Ireland to Wexford in the South-east campaigning for Body-Whys, an organization that works to help those with eating disorders. She took two weeks off from her job as manager of Brandon House Hotel to walk this long walk in a bikini raising money for Body Whys. The power of a thought.
     Bettie-Marie is an immigrant to Ireland and proudly became a citizen this year. She was sufficiently inspired to walk over 200 miles North to South.
     What ideas have you had to do something inspirational? You should do it. Act with speed because the longer you delay the more negative thoughts you will have that will stop you. Beware of negative thoughts. If you feel one coming reverse it as soon as you catch it.  I love this anonymous passage 

Rather than being annoyed, be amused.
Instead of getting angry, become curious.
In place of envy, feel admiration.
In place of worry, take action.
In place of doubt, have faith.
Negative energy is just positive energy
that's flowing in the opposite direction.

There's no need to fight or run away from that
negative energy. All you need to do is change its
direction. The more negative you are, the more
positive you can be. An automobile that can travel
70 miles per hour to the east... can also travel
just as fast when going west. But first, someone
must turn it around.

When you sense yourself becoming negative, stop
and consider what it would mean to apply that
negative energy in the opposite direction. Turn your
sadness into caring. Transform your complaints into
useful suggestions. Change your bitterness into
determination. The energy is already there,
All you need to do is change its direction.- Unknown

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Get up and do what you do

Lately I have been reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Verse 1 of book 5 is inspirational. I recommend you read it

At dawn when you have trouble getting out of bed tell yourself – ‘I have to go to work – as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I am going to do what I was born for – the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm? (from Gregory Hays translation, Phoenix 2004).

     It continues and is well worth reading the full verse. Coincidentally I also read a blog this week on Finding your daily motivation. Mike Figliuolo says that you should not pay attention to what keeps you awake at night. These are usually worries. You should pay attention to that which gets you up in the morning. This is your reason for living.
     I did find something to get me out of bed in the morning, writing. I awoke this morning to write this blog post. I get up every and write or edit books or a journal for an hour. I like to get up and get my children ready for school. I like to get up to go to work. It is what is in my nature. It is what I am good at.
     So find what you are good at and which inspires you. Get up every morning as early as you can and do what it is your nature to do. You have laid in bed long enough. Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? … Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

     Get up and make the world a better place.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Don’t criticize, condemn or complain

Think long and hard before you criticize, condemn or complain about anyone to themselves or to other people. Will any benefit come to you or them from your criticism?

When were you last criticized? Was it by your spouse or partner over a trivial household matter? Was it by your boss over your work not being on time? Was it by your mother or father over the way you do something that never comes up to their standard? Did you like it? I suspect not. I don’t like being criticized. I don’t like to be criticized by my spouse for comments I passed before we married. I didn’t like it when a very critical former boss criticized my work. I didn’t like it when my mother said I was odd and getting odder. No one likes to be criticized. So why do we criticize, condemn and complain about other people? They don’t like it either.
     One criticism my spouse makes of me from before we were married is that I complained about her spending and timekeeping. My criticisms must have cut deep, because I still hear complaints about my complaints 15 years later. Everyone knows their own faults. They don’t want to be reminded of them. So why do so many of us criticize others for their failings, major or minor?
     Chances are slim that someone will actually change their opinion or behavior as a result of something you say. So what is the point of saying it? What are you going to gain by doing so? Maybe you think you will get peace of mind by letting them know your opinion. You are not going to take it. But ask yourself whether this small amount of personal satisfaction is worth the extra animosity it may create in the mind of the other person.
     We are human, and most of us react to things we don’t like. We are programmed by evolution to react to attacks on us with a fight or flight response. This is appropriate for dealing with an attack by a saber-toothed tiger. It is usually an overreaction to the minor incidents that irk us nowadays. We need to realize that the other party is likely to react to our overreaction with a similar overreaction.
     The trick is to find a way of containing your anger without letting the other person know. A good method is to write an email to the person who annoyed you. Omit their email address. After you have written all that you are going to write, save a draft. Reread it 24 hours later and decide if you need to edit it before sending, or to send it at all. Chances are you will not feel quite so strongly as when you wrote it. Omitting the address is a good way to make sure you don’t accidentally send it.
     Dale Carnegie gives a good example of someone who learned to modify his condemnations of others. Young Abraham Lincoln would often write letters critical of others. He ended up being challenged to a duel by someone he had criticized in an anonymous letter to a newspaper. The duel with broadswords on a sandbank of the Mississippi was stopped by the seconds before any harm was done. The incident had such an effect on Lincoln that he modified his behavior and afterwards seldom criticized others. During the course of the American Civil War he had plenty to be concerned about when his generals were not doing as well as he would like. He wrote a letter to General Meade criticizing him for not attacking Lee’s forces before they retreated across the Potomac. Lee’s defeated army had been temporarily slowed by floodwaters of the Potomac after the Battle of Gettysburg, and Lincoln thought Meade missed a great opportunity to end the war 3 years early. But the letter was found in his papers. He never sent it.
     Think long and hard before you criticize, condemn or complain about others to themselves or to third parties. Think about complaints you may make about the government or businesses. Is your complaint justified? Will any benefit come from your criticism? In some cases there is good reason, but even in those cases be careful about the language you use.

This is an extract from ‘Improve your life’ by George Nicholas. It is based on ideas of Dale Carnegie from ‘How to win friends and influence people’.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The power of your subconscious

Use your conscious mind to influence your subconscious with positive images.

The power of your subconscious is beyond measure. It never sleeps. It controls all your bodily functions. It stores vast amounts of information. You can use this power by plainly telling your subconscious before you go to sleep that you want it to perform a specific task.      Your subconscious is the source of your ideals, aspirations and altruistic urges. All the great artists and writers from history tapped into the potential of their subconscious mind to come up with the great ideas that inspired their work. 
     This great power can be used to control your body to help cure medical ailments. In the 1840s a Scottish surgeon called Dr James Esdaile carried out 400 major operations on patients in India. This was in the days before anesthesia or a proper understanding of control of infections. Esdaile hypnotized his patients before carrying out the amputation or removal of a tumor. They felt no pain. None died during surgery. None had infected wounds. The same power that inspired Esdaile and protected his patients can be yours.
     Murphy himself used the power of his subconscious mind to cure skin cancer. The subconscious makes the body. It processes food and turns it into tissue. Older cells are constantly being broken down and processed through your kidneys. The subconscious has made every cell in your body, so all you need to do is to tell it to make them better. Murphy wrote a prayer and repeated it aloud for 5 minutes two or three times a day. He told himself that all his bodily organs were created by the divine intelligence of his subconscious. It knows how to heal him. It is using that power to fix every cell in his body. He thanked it for fixing him. In 3 months the cancer was gone.
     You should make up a prayer in your own words and repeat it morning and nighttime to use this power to control your body. I myself used to suffer from rectal bleeding of internal hemorrhoids. Since I told my subconscious to strengthen the walls of the blood vessels in my anus I have not had a recurrence.
     Your whole life is there in your subconscious. Whatever thoughts, beliefs and theories are imprinted onto your subconscious will manifest externally. Therefore you must impress correct thoughts on your subconscious. If you think negatively, those thoughts generate destructive emotions that are also expressed. What do you feel about yourself now? About your body, finances, friendships, relationships, social status?
     What you feel is what is expressed. You injure yourself with negative thoughts such as anger, fear and envy. You were not born with those negative thoughts. Feed your subconscious positive thoughts to counter these and they will be wiped away.
     Your subconscious works night and day controlling your body. While you sleep your body continues to breathe, to pump blood, to digest food, to repair damaged cells. Your conscious mind does not know how to operate these processes, but it can interfere with them. Imagine that you go to the cockpit of an airliner. You would not be able to operate the plane, but you would be capable of interfering with the captain to make it difficult for him. The role of the conscious mind can be similarly destructive with bodily functions. Thoughts of stress, worry and anxiety from your conscious mind can interfere with your health.
     When you feel stressed or anxious you need to learn to relax. You need to talk to your subconscious mind in a way that helps it operate your body, not in a way that harms it. You should set some time aside each day to allow yourself to relax. While relaxed tell yourself you are relaxed. Tell yourself that your subconscious knows how to make you perfect. Create an image in your mind of the way you want to be.
     Use your conscious mind to expect the best. Convey a positive image to your subconscious. Do not dwell on the negative. Picture yourself succeeding, in good health, solving problems. Feel the thrill of achieving these things. Your subconscious will let it come to pass.

This is an extract from ‘Improve your life’ by George Nicholas. It is based on ideas of Dr Joseph Murphy from ‘The power of your subconscious mind’.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Any thought passed to the subconscious well enough is accepted

Keep affirming positive suggestions and outlooks to yourself and this will soon become your normal way of thinking.

Your mind is your most important thing you have. A well-developed mind is what separates us from animals. It has allowed many people to invent great things and produce great works of art. To get the most out of it you need to understand it better. The mind operates at two levels – the conscious and subconscious, or the rational and irrational. You think with your conscious, rational mind. The subconscious, irrational mind is the creative engine and the seat of emotions. Once the subconscious accepts an idea it begins to act. It treats good and bad ideas the same. If you plant negative ideas in your subconscious mind, you will reap negative outcomes. If you plant positive ideas, you will reap positive outcomes. Robert Collier said in The Law of Higher Potential that any thought that is passed on to the subconscious often enough and convincingly enough is finally accepted.
     You reason with your conscious mind. You choose what you want, your partner, your home. Your subconscious keeps your body running. Your subconscious mind accepts what it is told and acts without reasoning. We have all seen hypnotist shows. People who are susceptible to hypnosis are put into a trance by the hypnotist. The hypnotist is bypassing their conscious mind and talking straight to their subconscious. The subjects are very susceptible to suggestion and will do things in front of a large audience that their conscious mind would never allow them do. Your subconscious mind is suggestible. Think about that man walking on his hands and knees sniffing the chairs because the hypnotist suggested he was a dog. Your subconscious will accept ideas without reason even when they are false.
     The subconscious mind is very susceptible to suggestion. You have to use your conscious mind to protect your subconscious from damaging suggestions. If you are on a ship and you tell a rather unconfident looking passenger that she is not looking too good and that she might get seasick, she probably will. She is already worried. But if you tell an experienced crew member he might get seasick he will laugh at you or tell you to get lost. Your mention of seasickness only reminds him he is immune to it. The conscious mind has the power to reject suggestions.
     There is an old saying, “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.” Murphy tells a story about a man whose daughter had a terrible skin condition and crippling arthritis. Over and over he said he would give his right arm to see his daughter cured. One day the family was out driving and was involved in a serious car crash. He lost his right arm. When he got back from the hospital he discovered his daughter’s arthritis and skin problem were gone.
     Murphy tells another story about a man who was told by an Indian fortune teller that he would die at the next new moon. He told everybody the terrible prediction. He turned from being a vigorous, healthy individual into an invalid. He died of a heart attack on the appointed day. He accepted the prediction instead of laughing it off. If he had not accepted the suggestion he would not have died.
     You should repeat positive suggestions to your subconscious. If you are fearful or losing your memory or constantly angry, make positive suggestions to yourself. Write a prayer to tell yourself how you want to be. Repeat it several times a day including before you go to sleep and when you wake up. For instance if you are susceptible to angry rages, tell yourself you are getting calmer every day.
     I have a list of improvements I want to make, and things I want to be and do, saved as a note on my iPhone that I read morning and evening and in the middle of the day. Over and over I am suggesting what I want to be and do. This keeps my subconscious on track.
     You need to watch out for suggestions others make, and indeed the suggestions you make to others. From the day you were born you have been bombarded with negative suggestions, about you, about life, about the economy, about diseases, about the weather. As a child you were particularly susceptible, and your children are now. I remember that when I was a child, a man said on a chat show on TV that Chinese people believe that if your nostrils are open you will never be rich: the money will come out your nose. For years after hearing this I believed I could never be rich because I could see into my nostrils in the mirror. This is nonsense, but it does prove how susceptible even intelligent people are to suggestions when they are young.
     You should make positive suggestions to yourself to counter negative suggestions others make. If someone tells you the weather is awful, tell yourself tomorrow will be nice and your lawn needs the rain. If someone tells you the economy is terrible, tell yourself that so-and-so just got a good job so it can’t be all bad. You do not have to accept negative suggestions made by others about you or life in general. And be extra careful of the suggestions you make to your children.
     Watch out for the power of a major premise. If you have a self-destructive major premise, for example you think you will never amount to anything or that no one will ever like you, it makes it very difficult to do anything that contradicts this. You need to change to a positive major premise. You need to catch yourself every time you think your major premise, and change it. Write a prayer with how you would like to be and repeat it over and over until it becomes your new way of thinking.
     Your subconscious mind knows all the answers, but does not know that it knows, and could take time coming up with the answer. You need to keep affirming positive directions and in time you will know the answers. Keep affirming positive suggestions and outlooks to yourself. This will become your normal way of thinking. Choose life. Choose love. Choose health. Choose wealth. Choose happiness.

This is an extract from ‘Improve your life’ by George Nicholas. It is based on ideas of Dr Joseph Murphy from ‘The power of your subconscious mind’.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

There is great potential within you

Take control of your mind. If you change your thoughts you will change your destiny.

There is infinite power available to you: all you have to do is to realize it and use it. A magnetized piece of iron will lift many times its own weight. A demagnetized piece will lift nothing. Likewise a magnetic human personality will attract friends, lovers and wealth. A demagnetized person, full of fear and doubts about people not liking them or losing money, will repel all opportunities. You can control this by controlling your subconscious mind. Once you learn how to control this tremendous power that lies within you, your life can become grander. All it needs is for you to take control. You can attract the right business or life partner and money. Many people have already done so.
     There are a few key principles you need to learn to operate your subconscious mind. The rules for operating it are as set as the laws of physics or chemistry. If you burn hydrogen in oxygen you always get water, H2O: you don’t sometimes get H5O or HO2. Likewise if you let go of a heavy object at the top of a tall building, it always falls to the ground. The law of gravity always applies. The object never hovers or moves up, or sideways.
     Your subconscious mind also follows unvarying laws of nature. It follows the law of belief. Whatever you believe will come to pass within your mind. Everything is the result of your beliefs. Stop accepting false and damaging beliefs. Fill your mind with good things: with thoughts of harmony, health and wealth.
     Think of the human brain as a computer: the most powerful computer ever made. Like any computer it has parts for input and output and parts inside that you don’t see, for processing data. With a computer you input data using the keyboard or a webcam and receive output on the screen, printer or other controlled device. The human brain is the same. Most input from your senses and output to your limbs is controlled by the conscious mind. You input and output data with conscious thought. But the vast bulk of work is carried out by the subconscious mind.
     Just as you never really know what the microprocessor or graphics card is doing in a computer, you are not aware of how your brain is controlling your heart, digestive system or renal system. Your computer can produce tremendous work or garbage, depending on the input. So too can your brain. Computer programmers have a saying for the results of poor programming – “Garbage in, garbage out.” The same principle applies to your brain.
     Think of your subconscious mind as a garden and your conscious mind as a gardener. Your conscious mind plants thoughts in your subconscious mind. The thoughts can be the seeds of fruits or the seeds of weeds. You need to take control of the seeds that you plant. Sow thoughts of peace, happiness and prosperity. Think quietly about the good qualities you want to have. When you learn to control your thought processes you can take control of your life and be able to deal comfortably with any difficulty. Each of the following chapters will give specific illustrations of how to use the power of your subconscious mind to control your life as you would like it.
     Your conscious brain is like the captain of a ship. It orders the subconscious mind to operate the engines. But the people in the engine room don’t know if the ship is on course or headed for rocks. It is up to the captain to give the right orders. If you keep on telling yourself you cannot afford something or you will never attract a mate, you never will. Your subconscious mind will follow orders. But if you tell your mind you will receive it, your subconscious mind will obey. You or nature will find a way to bring it to you.
Never tell yourself you can’t have something or do something you want. If you do, immediately reverse the thought. Tell yourself you can afford it. You can do it.
     The great secret that those who achieved great things in science or the arts possessed was the power to control the mind. Decide now that you want to take control of your mind. Change your thoughts and you will change your destiny. Believe.
     This is an extract from ‘Improve your life’ by George Nicholas. It is based on ideas of Dr Joseph Murphy from ‘The power of your subconscious mind’.

Thursday, 10 April 2014


Last week on the radio I listened to a discussion about a government proposal to drastically limit the hours in which cigarettes could be sold and prevent cigarettes being sold in pubs. The justification was to make it harder for casual smokers to buy cigarettes. One of the supporters of the move threw out the comment that if cigarettes were invented today they would never get government approval. It got me thinking about freedom.
     There is nothing you can do that will have a more beneficial effect on your health than giving up smoking. 50% of smokers die younger of smoking related diseases. I used to smoke myself and gave up years ago. Although to be fair I was never a heavy smoker anyway. So why wouldn’t everyone give them up? Perhaps they think that they will be part of the 50% who will not die of a smoking related disease. The longest lived human Jeanne Calment smoked until she was 117. But 50:50 are not great odds.
     If people choose to do something risky that may shorten their lives aren’t they their lives? Shouldn’t it be their choice? Smoking is one of these activities. Many people engage in dangerous jobs and pastimes that could shorten their lives. Some people participate in equestrian sports or motorcycle racing or cliff diving– activities in which the chance of death and injury is high.  I don’t hear of calls for restrictions on these activities.
     So why is there such a campaign to educate smokers out of their habit? Sometimes the cost of treating smoking related diseases is mentioned. But what is never mentioned is that even people who do not smoke die eventually. And the last few weeks of their lives will cost a similar amount in hospital care to smokers. They will die at an older age on average and so will cost more for pensions than smokers. These costs are never mentioned.
     I recall hearing about a company in the late 80s or early 90s which conducted a study of the costs to its health plan of smokers and non-smokers. Surprisingly for the conductors of the study, smokers had lower healthcare costs. This was clearly not the expected result. The motivation for the study was to justify not hiring smokers. The survey did not get that result. So clearly the financial excuse does not stand up to proper financial scrutiny.
     Now it is a cash cow for governments. They can tax tobacco at high levels and justify it by saying they are trying to reduce smoking. It effect it is a very lucrative regressive tax. The do-gooders are comfortable with a tax that is especially heavy on lower income people because it is for their own good.
Another justification is the health of others. However, results of studies on health effect of secondhand smoke do not show convincing links to illnesses. The unpleasant smell on clothes and in the air is justification enough to make sure that non-smokers have smoke free indoor spaces. I fully agree with bans on smoking in certain areas.
     However, I do think that owners of restaurants and bars should be allowed to provide comfortable areas for smokers. This is often not allowed by law demonstrating that a very important secondary objective of laws to provide smoke free areas for non-smokers is to make life uncomfortable for smokers.  
Now that smoking is banned in many indoor and outdoor spaces, secondhand smoke exposure is no longer a good excuse for further restricting banning smoking. The latest idea is to ban smoking in cars with children present. It will only be a short shift to extend this ban to your own home if children are present. Now it is easy to see the emotional case for this – protect the children who have no say. But they are the children of the smokers and it is their duty as parents to bring up their children as well as they can. Perhaps smoking is the thin end of the wedge. Next thing the nanny statists will want to use the law to apply their standards of child rearing in many other areas.  While I would recommend that parents not smoke excessively in front of their children, making it the law seems excessive.
     Laws to restrict the use of illegal drugs have not worked expect for the drug dealers. They get high prices and no legal competition. But prescription medications from middle class doctors are OK, and indeed expected in many cases. It again shows that societal control is a major motivation behind the war on drugs dressed up as a health issue.
     Smoking and drug taking may shorten your life. But it is your life and if you choose to shorten it that is your choice. A number of years ago the law making suicide illegal was reversed. Shouldn’t the same principle apply to smoking? If you choose to shorten your life, it is your life and others should not intervene.