Transcript: Thanks, Allan. This is David Brower, and our special guest today, from the Netherlands, is John Vespasian. He’s just written his ninth book called “Sequentiality: The Amazing Power of Finding the Right Sequence of Steps.” Welcome back, John. We talked to you back on August 16th about a previous book. It was called “An Expert on Rational Living by Using History.” Really enjoyed that conversation, so I’m looking forward to hearing about this new adventure.
John Vespasian: Many thanks, David. The book just came out a few weeks ago before Christmas. It presents a model of personal development that is based on history as well. The gist of the book is that most people become successful in life, in different areas, in business, in finance, sometimes in their personal relationship, by finding the right sequence of steps. I present in the book many examples that prove it’s more important to be practical, to find the right sequence of steps, much more important than being extremely enthusiastic, extremely optimistic and extremely cheerful.
David Brower: Well, you just described my wife and I, because I am extremely enthusiastic and extremely optimistic and extremely cheerful, and she is extremely, to a fault, practical, so I understand of what you speak.
John Vespasian: You do need both aspects I think, but I think today when you watch the media and the movies, there’s a huge emphasis on the power of positive thinking and being enthusiastic, cheerful, which is not bad. But what I try to present in the book is that many, many people, I mean thousands of people in history have become extremely successful in many areas of their life, including health, just by being practical, by trying to find, little by little, the right sequence of steps.
David Brower: Well, give me an example of what you’re talking about. Do you have a person in mind or historical figure in mind that you could use to give us an example?
John Vespasian: Yes. One of my favorite stories in the book is the story of Luigi Cornaro, who lived in the 16th century. He’s one of the first person in history to be recorded to have lived more than 100 years. I think he lived 102 years actually. Cornaro is a fascinating character because when he was in his 30s, he was terminally sick. He was terminally ill. He had swollen limbs. He was really suffering terribly. He went to a few physicians. He was in Venice. He went to a couple famous physicians and basically, they told him to go home and to prepare to die because they didn’t find any solution.
The story of Cornaro is fascinating because he didn’t give up. He started to try different treatments that he made up himself by getting advice from different people. He reduced his food intake. He became vegetarian. He started to go to bed very early and to rise early in the morning. He took naps several times a day and eventually within six months he recovered completely, and he went on to live until 102 years. He wrote about it extensively when he was in his 80s, and this is why we know about Cornaro.
The point of the story is that he didn’t set out to live 102 years. He just wanted to improve his health, but eventually, step by step, he figured out the right sequence of steps and he became very successful.
David Brower: So, when he started on his quest, he’s there, he’s met with doctors, they’ve given him basically a death sentence and he’s going, “No, I don’t accept that. I’m going to go back and do some experiments on my own and try to figure out a way to increase the longevity of my life.” Did he do a lot of experimenting and then keep notes on those things to end up developing a good sequence or how did it get to that final sequence of events, I guess?
John Vespasian: Well, he was in a way very scientific, because he got contradictory advice from doctors because some doctors told him oh, I have to eat more meat, I have to drink more milk. They gave the old guy enough contradictory stories the guy said “okay, I’m going to stop everything,” so he stopped eating for a week and then he started to introduce different foods little by little. If he got a bit better, he continued. For instance, at the beginning, he started to drink soup several times a day. Then he started to eat some fish and some vegetables and sometimes he’d go to war, so he’d stop. So, after a few months of trial and error, he came up with a diet that improves health and prolongs life. He continued to do that for the next 70 years, and he actually wrote about it 30 years later when he was much older. He didn’t take any notes, but he had been practicing this diet and this lifestyle religiously for decades. This is how he came to it, so he found the right sequence of steps by trial and error. This is the full message of the book that you can do the same by following the techniques and examples presented in the book.
David Brower: So, let’s say you just meet a stranger. A stranger has heard about your book, reaches out to you, wants to understand how the sequence of steps works because they have a lot of confusion in their life, they have a lot of drama in their life, and they want to find the right path they’re on. So, is there a sequence of events that you can help them realize to help them get to where their goal is?
John Vespasian: Yeah, there are different messages in the book that come from examples. The first message I want to past is the first thing you have to drop if you want to find the right sequence of steps is not to be too sensitive to criticism, to people telling you that you don’t know what you’re doing. You have to stop this hypersensitivity that we find nowadays where so many people are extremely politically correct. They’re hypersensitive, and if you criticize them in any way, they become super upset and super heavily angry. You have to stop that. You have to stop that in your profession, in your health, in any area of your life. I give many examples in the book. This is really a huge drawback unless you drop any form of hypersensitivity, you will not get any further.
David Brower: And that’s really kind of cutting through all the crap, if you will, that we’re exposed to with the media and people that we run into who are hypersensitive about it seems everything but themselves. So, you’ve got to figure out a way to calm yourself, I would think, through prayer or meditation or some technique, to be able to get you back down to where you can actually start looking honestly at a sequence. Is that fair?
John Vespasian: You have to avoid reinventing the wheel. One of the reasons why human beings fail … we all fail very, very often … is because we try to find the answer inside our hearts, and we forget to look around. Nowadays, with internet, it’d be foolish not to look at what other people are doing, but we still keep making the same mistake over and over again. I present in the book in some detail the story of how explorers conquered Antarctica in the early 20th century, which is a very, very dangerous area, because it’s super, super cold, super, super unpredictable. And the guy who actually managed to get to the South Pole relatively easily without any accidents and without any problems is a guy, a Norwegian guy, Amundsen, who was super practical. He really figured out the problems he was going to encounter. He took a very, very safe approach of making [inaudible 00:09:01] in Antarctica. He bought a huge amount of dogs. So, he went there, and he really listened to the experts who had been in that area, and it was clean sailing. He didn’t encounter any problem.
All the other people who tried to do it like the British explorers … Scott, Shackleton was Scottish … they died. They were frozen because they didn’t bother to get any advice. They tried to do things that were completely impractical. Like for instance, Scott, instead of taking dogs, he took ponies. He bought some small horses and took them to Antarctica. Of course, the horses were completely useless. He didn’t bother to draw the necessary information, so we should not make the same mistakes. The right way to find the right sequence of steps is first to look at what other people are doing and to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
David Brower: That makes perfect sense in a lot of areas of our life. I think sometimes, and I notice this in many people that I’ve met or on the news or what have you, that a lot of times our ego gets in the way. We are driven by what we think is right instead of doing the research to find out what really is right.
John Vespasian: You know that to find the right sequence of steps, you have to be really flexible and open-minded, because most people who start a business or who want to do something, we tend to become very narrow-minded. We set ourselves a goal. I want to do this. I want to do this in this amount of time, and we fail to see the opportunities on the sidelines. Sometimes we blind ourselves, and this happens continuously. All these ideas of having a goal and setting yourself a certain amount of time to reach it is very nice in theory, but it’s much better to be flexible, to be open-minded and to be able to pursue opportunities as they arise. Because when I analyze in the book the lives of many, many people who have been very, very successful, you will see that 90 percent of them, they found success on the sidelines. They were trying to get somewhere, and they found another opportunity on the way, and they pursue it very successfully. We should not blind ourselves with over confidence.
David Brower: Boy, I believe that wholeheartedly. I think sometimes what happens is, first of all, big mistake is having a timeline because you want your goals to allow themselves to grow organically and become what they’re supposed to be instead of trying to make that all happen by a deadline. The other thing is, I think John, and you tell me if this is right, sometimes when you’re on a quest for a goal and you have a mission, along the way, you find another goal that is actually more beneficial to where you want to go. Had you been working on a deadline, you might’ve totally missed that.
John Vespasian: Yes, and the problem is that we human beings, we hate confusion.
David Brower: Yeah.
John Vespasian: I just mentioned this earlier that we don’t want to be confused. We don’t want to have too many options, because we find it annoying. We find it irritating.
I just want to mention briefly the movie Casablanca. It’s a movie from 1942 starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. It’s very, very successful movie.
David Brower: Yeah, it is.
John Vespasian: One of the points that makes the movie so attractive and so realistic is that the characters are confused. We just see the fantastic acting of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. They look confused in most of the love scenes, and this is because they were actually confused. Because while they were shooting the movie, they were still writing the script. And this is one of the few movies in the 1940s, ’50s that was shot in sequence, that means they shot one scene after the other. They didn’t put them together. The whole team was there all the time, and they were shooting the movie scene after scene. The actors were playing the roles, but they didn’t know the end of the story. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, they didn’t know if they were going to be together at the end or they were going to die, or they were going to separate. And this kind of confusion, which human beings dislike so deeply, this is actually normal, and this is what I present in my book, “Sequentiality,” that you have to get through this discomfort. It’s perfectly normal, and it’s better to be confused, but moving forward, then waiting for the right opportunity, the perfect opportunity that might never come.
David Brower: Boy, that makes sense. I didn’t realize that about that movie, but now that you say that and kind of playing it back in my head a little bit, it makes all the sense in the world that they were actually shooting it in sequence, which they never, ever do that anymore. They never shoot movies in sequence anymore, that I know of anyway. So, the actors are going from one place one day to a totally different place the next day, then coming back and forth. I like the idea of Casablanca and the way that was filmed. Thanks for sharing that.
John Vespasian: Yeah, it’s a constant pattern in human life, to try to avoid this confusion, to try to pretend that we have the right answer. But I present in the book many, many stories of people who have gone from total blindness, self-inflicted blindness, to huge success just because they recognize that the market was offering opportunities that were not what they were expecting.
David Brower: If I hear you correctly about your book, one of the things that you said early on in our conversation is to not reinvent the wheel. Learn from other peoples’ experiences and success. It strikes me that that is what the premise of your book is to be filled with people, their experiences, their success, how they got to their Sequentiality, so that as a reader I wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel because there’s so many opportunities in your book.
John Vespasian: Yeah, and most of these patterns are not intuitive, are not self-evident. For instance, one of the patterns I present in the book is that it happens actually quite often, that for people to be successful, we have to give up some of our assumptions. I present this story of Giotto, who was a very successful painter in the 14th century. Giotto actually became very successful by becoming a bit less talented. This is a very paradoxical, but it happens still every day that people have to actually reduce their expectations when they’re trying to launch a business or they’re trying to find customers. You should not be too much ahead of the market, and this happened to Giotto, who was a fantastic [inaudible 00:16:01] painter. He made actually a transition from medieval painting to Renaissance painting, so he invented this natural color, this very sensitive, emotional expressions, but he was ahead of his time. The church didn’t like his paintings, so in the end he had to go back to his early style and to abandon his innovations.
This is what we have to accept in life, that sometimes the market is asking for something that is not so advanced or it’s not so sophisticated, and it’s better to recognize the opportunities like Giotto did in the 14th century. It’s better to become successful, because otherwise Giotto would’ve been completely ignored. He would’ve been miserable, and he wouldn’t have been to enjoy so many opportunities. So, this is a lesson from history. Sometimes you will find the right sequence of steps by reducing your expectations and trying to find the sweet spot between your talent and the market.
David Brower: I love that idea a lot. The sweet spot between your talent and the market. So, you’re trying to find, you’re trying to sequentially get to that sweet spot, correct?
John Vespasian: People have been making basically the same mistakes for centuries. We have many, many lessons to learn from history, and I took people from different centuries, from different backgrounds, from different nationalities, to try to show these patterns of success that are absolutely not [inaudible 00:17:29].
David Brower: I know the last book we talked about, and of course this book, has a lot of history built into it. Is that kind of your passion, is to figure out a way to introduce history to people and learn from history?
John Vespasian: In a way, yes, but I view history as a source of knowledge, not just entertainment. Because the problem when you study history at school and sometimes when people read history books, it is very entertaining to know about the past, to know about battles and queens and different revolutions.
David Brower: Right.
John Vespasian: But you have to learn the story. You have to learn the lesson. You have to learn some wisdom. If there is no wisdom, I see no point in history.
David Brower: I love it. I love that. Absolutely correct.
The book is “Sequentiality: The Amazing Power of Finding the Right Sequence of Steps,” and our guest is John Vespasian. John, where can folks get your book?
John Vespasian: It’s very easy to find all my work or my materials. If you just type “John Vespasian” on Google or on any search engine, “John Vespasian,” you will find my books, my blog, my newsletter. You will find everything in seconds.
David Brower: Great. And it’s John Vespasian. It’s V-e-s-p-a-s-i-a-n, correct?
John Vespasian: Correct.
David Brower: All right. John, great to talk to you again and continued success with this book. I’m looking forward to, you could have another one this year I would expect?
John Vespasian: Yes, there will be another book at the end of the year.
David Brower: Are you working on it now?
John Vespasian: Yes, I am. Yes, I am.
David Brower: Don’t let the secret out. We’ll find out later.
John Vespasian: Many thanks, David.
David Brower: All right, John. Always good to talk to you. Take care, my friend.
Allan Blackwell: Your 20 Minute Podcast with David Brower has been brought to you by Audible. You can listen any of David’s podcasts anywhere podcasts can be found, including iHeartRadio, the Spotify mobile app and at davidbrowervo.com/your20minutepodcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.