[Author’s note: This post is a continuation of the Welcome to the Future series of essays. If you haven’t read Welcome to the Future, I suggest that you start >> HERE <<]
Wrestling with Worry
I would really like to be able to say, “I vividly remember the night I couldn’t take it any more,” but I can’t. What I do remember is that it was during high school, I was really worried about something, and I was walking over to my best friend’s house thrashing it out in my mind. I was going over and over all of the various scenarios for the outcome of whatever it was I was dreading, and trying to formulate an action plan for each and every contingency. I remember stopping dead in my tracks and thinking … “[expletive deleted] Every time I plan for an outcome it ALWAYS turns out different from what I expected.” There had to be a better way.
From that point on, I vowed to stop worrying. To paraphrase Captain James T. Kirk from the Star Trek episode A Taste of Armageddon, “Worry is instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. I can stop it. I can admit that I am a worrier … but I am not going to worry today. That’s all it takes. Knowing that, I’m not going to worry – today!” I didn’t stop worrying over night, but every time I was tempted to start worrying I told my self “not today.” At some point, without even realizing it, I had stopped worrying. It took a few years, but I no longer worry. Not that I don’t get concerned, upset, or even angry at times (ask my wife). I just don’t worry about things anymore. Worry and fear cause normally rational people to do irrational things. Worry is counter-productive, it clouds the mind and hinders the ability to think clearly. Worry is fear. Fear is the mind killer.
In the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, Dale Carnegie reached out to thousands of people with his books and training seminars. His two most popular books were: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living and How to Win Friends and Influence People. They continue to be popular today. My dad was a big fan of Dale Carnegie’s teachings. As a kid in the mid-60s, the last thing I wanted to do was read a bunch of self-help books. As teenager in the late ’60s, I knew better than anyone else and didn’t have the interest in reading self-help books. Instead, as an adult, I had to learn it all on my own. But learn it I did. People are people. We all want basically the same thing. We want to be respected. We want to be acknowledged. We want to be appreciated. We want to be valued. Sometimes a smile and a nod is all it takes. A kind word, and a “Thank you” do wonders.
My dad was always talking to total strangers. It was embarrassing. We went places and he called people by name. Everyone seemed to like my dad. As I grew older I paid more attention to the people around me. I listened more and talked less. I worked hard to learn people’s names and politely kept asking until I remembered. I embarrass my grown sons now when I ask people their names. Yet I go into restaurants and it is like a family reunion. Everyone is glad to see me. Caring enough to learn someone’s name, greeting them by name, thanking them by name means that you respect that person as a unique person – someone of value. Rich, poor, black, white, male, female, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, American, Russian, Chinese … we all seek respect and good will. Not long ago it dawned on me … “Oh My God I have become my father.”
As part of my research for this essay, I discovered that the Apple iBookstore had both Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living and How to Win Friends and Influence People. I purchased and downloaded them both to my iPad. Better late than never …
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