How to Stop Worrying and Start Living – Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie

This book has stood the test of time. My mother took the Carnegie Course in 1971 and this is one of the books she read, the other one being How to Win Friends and Influence People. By the picture, it’s easy to tell that it has been read time and again.

The book is straight forward and is more than just ways to curb your worry. It has advice that been true since Jesus started teaching and, the part I love, is that Carnegie brings in teachings from all different faiths as well and even atheists. He shows how similar they think when it comes to worry. It is not a tough read by any means, but the reader must look at themselves honestly. Furthermore, it has lessons on being productive, organized, and seeing projects through which are some of the seeds of problems and worry.

The biggest ideas I took away from the book are:
1) Living in “Day Tight Compartments” – This helps me to live in the present and focus only on things I can control
2) Eight Words that can Transform Your Life – “Our life is what our thoughts make it” – Marcus Aurelius. Although a simple idea, its importance cannot go unnoticed.
3) Do Things in Order of Their Importance – I find myself putting important things off because of (insert excuse here). Face problems and life head on.

A synopsis of each section follows.

Part One – Fundamental Facts You Should Know About Worry

“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” There are many quotes in this book, this one by Thomas Carlyle. This idea rings through this chapter as he also quotes Jesus’ famous words “take no thought for the morrow.” Living in Day-Tight Compartments sounds easy until my mind starts wandering, but Carnegie addresses that later with being too busy to worry, or crowding-out worry.

This chapter covers a way of thinking so that you won’t be disappointed: prepare for the worst. Willis Carrier, the inventor of modern air conditioning, used this three rule process:
– Ask yourself “what’s the worst that can happen”
– Accept the worst if necessary
– Improve on the worst scenario you are prepared for
This chapter section also touches on the correlation between worry and the effect on one’s health.

Part Two – Basic Techniques in Analyzing Worry

Part two is short but covers analyzing problems and eliminating problems that are brought to you. Anybody who is a supervisor or boss will benefit from this section.

Think of the fact that people hear what they want to hear. Now see how that could lead to disagreements or stress? When the police file a report, they have to get both sides of the story. What if they only had one story to tell, because in actuality, there is only one event that happened a specific way.

“There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the labor of thinking” – Thomas Edison. If a person is to think or bother with facts at all, then, as Carnegie says, “we hunt like bird dogs after the facts that bolster up what we already think – and ignore the others.” As Andre Maurois put it: “Everything that is in agreement with our personal desires seems true. Everything that is not puts us into a rage.” Reminds me of politics these days.

Anyway, we are supposed to gather impartial evidence about what we are worrying about. Then write it down. Writing it down makes it real and helps anytime you want to recognize or name a problem, goal, worry, etc. Write it down, use impartial facts to make a plan, and then do that plan. That formula works for tons of problems, it was even recommended by Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich.

The second part of this section claims to alleviate fifty percent of business worries. I think Tim Ferriss may have another way to do the same thing (read The Four-Hour Workweek)… Carnegie gives the story of a businessman who had worked himself ragged for fifteen years. He spent large portions of his day in meetings thinking, worrying, squirming in his chair with other board members about what to do about this problem and that. Finally, he decided that anyone who brought up the problem in the meeting would have to also bring: 1) What is the cause of the problem 2)What are the possible solutions to the problem, and 3) What solution do you suggest?

That stopped 3/4 of the problems being brought up in the meeting.

Part Three – How to Break the Worry Habit Before it Breaks You

Be passionate about something you are doing and you will not worry. This is part of the “crowd-out” worry theme in the book. Carnegie says “we cannot be pepped up and enthusiastic about doing something exciting and feel dragged down by worry at the same time.” It’s true, and it’s also part of my “snowball effect” idea.

The “snowball-effect” came from my findings good habits spawn other good habits. Happiness spawns happiness just as smiles attract smiles. Good things happen to people who think happy thoughts which in turn makes them smile, which then makes other people respond positively to them, making the person feel even better. Like John Wooden said “things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

If you can’t seem to start this “snowball effect”, just start by staying busy. That will at least keep you from worrying. As George Bernard Shaw put it, “The secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not.”

This section also covers how to not worry about the small things. Sounds similar to a book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Funny how these ideas stay the same but get repackaged and resold. Anyway, there is a story about a navy sailor who is off the coast of Indo-China inside a US submarine which has just been spotted by a Japanese Destroyer. The submarine was in 275 feet of water. 500 feet almost always fatal when depth charges are being dropped. The submarine dove down, turned of all electrical devices including air conditioning and sat and waited. They waited for 15 hours while the ship dropped charges all around them. The soldier said he looked over his life so far and thought about all the things that had worried him: not being able to buy a car, working for a terrible boss, not being able to buy nice things for his wife. He swore that if he saw the sun again, he would not worry. And he hasn’t since. Sometimes it takes a traumatic event to put things in perspective.

There’s another story in this book that Carnegie tells later in the book, but I believe it is fitting now. There was a soldier who got stuck on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. He was nestled in his fox hole with no where to go, gunfire above his head, and bombs being dropped all around him. That is as bad as it gets. Any other worry is a faint whisper compared to that. But he finally came to terms with it. He figured out the gunfire from over the hill couldn’t hit him and he had rations to last. The only thing to fear were the bombs or shrapnel from the bombs. The shrapnel could be avoided by making a roof over his foxhole and the bombs, by his numbers, only had a 1 in 10,00 chance of hitting him. He slept like a baby on the beach.

Now think if you and I could come to such a place of solitude in our everyday problems.

Part Four  – Seven Ways to Cultivate a Mental Attitude That Will Bring You Peace And Happiness

Carnegie presents his work almost like a textbook. He has a cheat sheet at the end of each chapter and section to remind you the basics of what you read. For this section, it almost explains itself…

  1. Fill your mind with thoughts of peace, courage, health, and hope
  2. Never try to get even with your enemies
  3. Expect ingratitude
  4. Count your blessings, not your troubles
  5. Find Yourself and Be Yourself (Remember There Is No One Else on Earth Like You)
  6. Try to profit from your losses
  7. Create happiness for others

The first way follows the “thoughts lead to action” mentality and the fact that positive thinking spawns positive actions. The second lesson follows the thinking that energy spent thinking about others is negative, wasted energy. The third lesson I use whenever I get on the road. I am an aware driver, but as we all know, people on the road can be either rude or oblivious. I don’t know these people, so it is easy for me to expect to get cut off. I haven’t tried it with my friends and family, nor do I think I will need to. Use it as a generalization.

The Fourth rule is huge. Every single person have things to be thankful for and things they can complain about. I have seen two people be in the same situation but react differently. The difference in their point of views dictated their emotions. Focus on the positive and the world will seem brighter.

Rule five, find yourself and be yourself will allow you to relax and be confident in who you are. Rule six is big for entrepreneurs because it can be hard to remember that another door opens when one door shuts. And rule seven is a great point to end on. Creating happiness for others creates happiness for yourself. And be creative, it doesn’t have to be serving at the soup kitchen. It can be paying the toll for the person behind you or making the store cashier smile.

Part Five – The Perfect Way to Conquer Worry

This section, only one chapter, covers a squirmy topic for many. Prayer. Although I am sure some people discard this chapter because of its point of faith, it is an important chapter. I believe just having a belief in something bigger will help people worry less. Remember when you were a kid and had no worries? Why was that? Well, partly because as children we were unaware of what was going on, but more so because our parents took care of everything. I don’t need to worry about a mortgage because my parents cover it. Its the same thinking with believing in a larger entity.

Carnegie spends this chapter talking about how faith saved his fathers life and how Carnegie himself left religion and eventually re-discovered God. He has a great quote by Henry Ford when he met him. Carnegie was surprised when he saw how relaxed and calm Henry Ford was. When he asked Ford if he ever worried at age 78, Ford replied “No. I believe God is managing affairs and that He doesn’t need any advice from me. With God in charge, I believe that everything will work out for the best in the end. So what is there to worry about?”

Part Six – How to Keep Worrying About Criticism

Carnegie repeats “no one kicks a dead dog” throughout this section. His point is that if someone is criticizing you, then you are doing something well enough to get noticed. If you firmly believe in what you are doing, do the best you can. Successful people will always have other who criticize, so if you are being criticized you may be on the right path.

Do the very best you can. This is the second topic Carnegie covers. If you are truly giving your 100%, then there is no reason to listen to people say you are doing it wrong. Do your best and you can’t have any regrets. Carnegie pulls this together by saying you should find fault with yourself before others can. By finding your weaknesses and keeping a diary or log you can become a better person tomorrow than today.

Part Seven – Six Ways to Prevent Fatigue and Worry and Keep Your Energy and Spirits High

This is the type of book people should read every year. Information included in self help books stems from the information in this book. Why not read the original?

Here are links to other sites on the book.

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