How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

I just finished reading ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living : Time-Tested Methods for Conquering Worry’ from Dale Carnegie. As usual, when I read self-development content I do my best to summarize the content. Doing so provides many tangible benefits and is probably the surest way to actually apply some of the stuff in life. Which, at the end of the day, is what matters most. Below are the points that I personally found interesting and worth remembering. The points are direct quotes from the book and are used for educational purposes. I do give my input on the quotes, but keep in mind that they are most easily understood within the context of their use. Therefore if you think this is worthwhile then please get the book for further reading.

Chapter 1

One grain of sand at a time, one task at a time. So let’s be content to live from now until bedtime.

We can only do so much in a day, let’s stay focused and avoid spreading ourselves thin.

Every day is a new life to a wise man.

We can avoid worrying by living in what Dale calls ‘day-tight compartments’. There’s no point thinking about our past screw ups beyond getting a lesson from them nor is it wise to dread tomorrow’s events if they might never happen.

Chapter 2 and 3

How to deal with problems that worry us :

  1. Ask yourself, what is the worst that can possibly happen if I can’t solve my problem?
  2. Prepare yourself mentally to accept the worst — if necessary.
  3. Then calmly try to improve upon the worst — which you have already mentally agreed to accept.

If we can’t stop thinking about a problem, we might as well prepare ourselves mentally to the worst outcome. This may alleviate our worries by giving us a clear picture of what could happen.

Those who do not know how to fight worry die young.

Understand that equipping yourself with the right mental tools to deal with worrying is priceless. It is worth acquiring these tools for improved quality of life.

Chapter 4

How to deal with a worry :

  1. Writing down precisely what I am worried about.
  2. Writing down what I can do about it.
  3. Deciding what to do.
  4. Starting immediately to carry out that decision.

Writing down our worry is a good exercise that helps us get a clear picture and action is often the best remedy.

Chapter 5

Have people coming up to you with problems all the time? Have them fill up a form with answers to the following four questions. Chances are they will figure it out on their own. Or at least they will have a clear picture of the problem, so will you.

  1. What is the problem?
  2. What is the cause of the problem?
  3. What are possible solutions to the problem?
  4. What solution do you suggest?

Chapter 6

The secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not.

I couldn’t agree more. This leisure usually translates to boredom. found out why you are bored if you hate boredom and need to think about something.

Keep busy. The worried person must love himself in action, lest he wither in despair.

This is true. I might add that it will be especially effective when our actions our purposeful. We want to avoid climbing the ladder against the wrong wall! Otherwise, keeping busy is a good way of dismissing our train of thoughts.

Chapter 8

Nearly all of our worries and unhappiness come from our imagination and not from reality.

We all know this. Unfortunately we often give in to our thoughts. How often do our thoughts never leave our head? Too many times. Let’s put a stop to it by catching ourselves whenever our minds wander for long periods of time.

Let’s examine the record, what are the chances?

It can be worth looking at statistics to see what are the odds. Taking a flight is difficult for some individuals, but when you look at statistics you have 1 in 11 million chances of dying in a plane crash. The odds of dying in a car accident are 1 in 5000!

Chapter 9

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference

Classic quote. Read it a few times to instill this priceless advice.

Cooperate with the inevitable.

If shit hits the fan, shit hits the fan. Acceptance is a powerful tool. It can make an uncomfortable experience more bearable.

Chapter 10

You have a worrying thought pestering you frequently? Put a stop/loss order on your worry:

How much does this thing I am worrying about really matter to me?

At what point shall I set a “stop-loss” order on this worry — and forget it?

Exactly how much shall I pay for this whistle?[1] Have I already paid more than it is worth?

To put you into context, the “stop-loss” order is inspired by the stock market action which let’s you automatically sell a stock after it reaches a certain threshold.

[1] How Benjamin Franklin spent too much money on a whistle.

This habit is surprisingly useful. If you find yourself worrying about something trivial 15–20 times over an hour or two, you can put a stop-loss order on this worry and surely enough, it will stop disturbing your peace of mind.

Chapter 11

Don’t cry over spilled milk.

A classic adage. I recently lost my left leather glove and a scarf that was dear to me. Partly due to a state of intoxication. After doing what I could to find them back the next morning I accepted my situation and moved on; No use crying over spilled milk.

Chapter 12

A man is what he thinks all day long, how could he possibly be anything else?

This thought is so obvious, that I was oblivious to it. Now and then as I do my commute, I do an internal check up to see what I am thinking about. If it’s worrying, resentment or anything that invalidates my purpose I do what I can to shake things up and influence myself into a confident state of mind.

Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.

I’m putting this one in bold. It’s a citation that resonated with me and is worth contemplating on. Give yourself a quiet day to see how this may apply to you.

Chapter 13

Let’s never waste a minute thinking about people we don’t like.

To put another way, resentment is wanting to poison someone by drinking the poison yourself. Avoid the feeling at all costs.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.

This was Bernard Baruch’s answer when Dale Carnegie asked him if he has ever been disturbed by the attacks of his enemies during the war.

Chapter 14

People who are ill from ingratitude, loneliness and neglect. They long to be loved, but the only way in this world that they can ever hope to be loved is to stop asking for it and to start pouring out love without hope of return.

Words of truth.

Chapter 15

You can express only what is in your own consciousness. I resolved to think only the thoughts I wanted to live by.

It all starts in the mind. Pay attention to what you are thinking about, if it’s counter-productive or painful, face them.

Count your blessings not your troubles.

Similar to being grateful for what we already have. The human brain is almost wired to always seek things to fill an imaginary pit. Reverse this process and start seeing that life can work for you instead of the opposite.

I had the blues because I had no shoes. Until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet.

One of my favorite quotes in the book. It’s quite visual. I personally don’t like comparing myself to people who are worst-off, but there’s nothing wrong with using every tool in the bag to swing our mood back up and create value for ourselves and consequently everyone else.

Chapter 16

Nobody is so miserable as he who longs to be somebody and something other than the person he is in body and mind.

I won’t talk about the feasibility aspect involved here, but if we can at least avoid mass-exposure to media and cultivate a sense of worth for ourselves we might just make our world that much better.

Nobody wants a phony. Nobody ever wants a counterfeit coin.

It’s so much better to act on our own value system, even if it means shaking up people in our immediate surrounding. There is a fine line between being yourself and respecting the social ethics that are in place. You will know if you are fooling yourself or if you are being a jerk. Use those hints. As Thoreau once said : “Above all else, do not lie to yourself”.

Chapter 17

Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw the mud, the other one saw the stars.

The north-wind made the vikings.

The best things are the most difficult, happiness is not mostly pleasure, it is mostly victory. The victory that comes from a sense of achievement, of triumph. Question your definition of happiness. Question your relationship with opposition.

Chapter 19

Ask, and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find it; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Powerful words to live by.

Chapter 20

None ever kicks a dead dog.

If it’s done it’s done. Move on.

Chapter 21

Do the very best you can and just laugh at criticism.

As far as I am concerned, laughing can be a real life-saver. I remember seeing a man who had lost everything but kept on living for his family who said that he would have long gone insane if it wasn’t for his ability to laugh things off.

Chapter 22

Benjamin Franklin gave himself a severe going-over every night. He discovered faults which he wanted eliminated… Go over your good and bad moves every night.

Be honest with yourself, this practice can lead to better living standards.

Chapter 23

Rest up before before getting tired: take frequent rests!

People ask me why I look so healthy after a week at work during a late-night party. What they don’t know is that I take an hour-long nap before leaving the house before supper!

Chapter 24

I find that the chief obstacle is the almost universal belief that hard work requires a feeling of effort else it is not well done.

I’d like to think that this is what separates adepts from masters.

Chapter 25

Try to make up a story about the next person you meet.

This one is a classic for increasing personal warmth with people. It is an exercise that can help us boost our charisma, become more approachable and develop a sense of humility with everyone.

Now you can Pray

Not what he wishes and prays for does a man get, but what he justly earns. His wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions. — James Allen

Isn’t this quote lovely? I have been having stomach problems for a few months now. I did everything I could expect one obvious thing. That thing was to consult a doctor. It sounds obvious, but I do not have a family doctor so from the get-go I did not want to deal with the cities shitty public health system(this has nothing to do with the employee’s). Anyways, after some negligence I kicked the bucket and answered the call. I had already changed my diet, took time off of alcohol and did my best to contribute to a healthy gut, but to no avail. I even took time to read books on avoiding worry because I do believe that the immune system is influenced by our thoughts.

So on Sunday I went to see a doctor at a clinic which took patients with no appointment. I had already had bad experiences with that clinic, but I knew that bitterness would be absolutely pointless. I was assertively kind and made sure I had been understood. Before I knew it, I had been asked to do a stool sampling and over the week I went to the hospital to get that done. And it wasn’t a pain in the ass. There was waiting time, but I made sure to show distinguished respect for all the health-care professionals who served me because it is a tough job where ungratefulness and violence can be expected on a daily basis.

If I look at the list of all the things I can do, I am about 90% done. Aside from consulting a specialist(which would logically come after a test that brought up nothing) and consulting a naturopath I have done what I had to do as far as I was concerned.

Now I can pray with steadfast conviction. Onwards!

Vagabond Series : An Introduction

I can’t say that I am a connoisseur or an addict of manga, but there is a series that I hold dear in my heart. It is called Vagabond, a series written and illustrated by Takehiko Inoue. Takehiko Inoue is most definitely an outstanding manga illustrator. His attention to detail is ridiculous and it makes you wonder how he goes about drawing rock walls with so much variance or giving scenes a sense of motion that compels the reader to aptly imagine each manga cell in his mind.

The Vagabond Vizbig edition books in their full glory!

And it is with great pleasure that I will be sharing remarkable scenes from the manga series over the next few weeks. These scenes often demonstrate Takehiko’s ability to convey powerful messages and lessons through his art. I can honestly say that some moments in the manga series made me stop and reconsider myself. Since the books deal with philosophy, buddhism and the meaning of life in a medivial Japan setting, there is a lot of compelling material to absorb and be transported by; both intellectually and spiritually.

I will be leaving you with a basic summary from Wikipedia, which should give you enough information to understand the context of the story for future articles that I will be writing :

Growing up in the late 16th century Sengoku era Japan, Shinmen Takezō is shunned by the local villagers as a devil child due to his wild and violent nature. Running away from home with a fellow boy at age 17, Takezo joins the Toyotomi army to fight the Tokugawa clan at the Battle of Sekigahara. However, the Tokugawa win a crushing victory, leading to nearly three hundred years of Shogunate rule. Takezo and his friend manage to survive the battle and afterwards swear to do great things with their lives. However, after their paths separate, Takezo becomes a wanted criminal and must change his name and his nature in order to escape an ignoble death. -Wikipedia

Obviously, to truly appreciate this work of art I invite you to find the books at your local libraries or purchase the series and support the author.

On Eliminating Thoughts

We’ve all been there before. We are living life with peace of mind, life is good, sometimes we get minor road bumps but we manage. Then on a random day, when we least expect it BOOM! a tragedy occurs. It could be bad news, an accident, an illness, family affairs… anything you can think of that has the potential to challenge your life style is an adequate candidate.

There’s a lot that can be said about this topic. For this piece I will concentrate on a common fallacy that all of us fall into when facing a tragedy; obsessive thinking.

It is difficult to stop thinking about something. Whenever we try to suppress a thought in our mind we are actually re-enforcing this thought. Think, for example, when you are giving attention to a baby. The fact that you are giving the baby your attention indirectly means one thing. That the baby is important and that it is worth caring about. In the same way, when we try to get rid of a thought that we want OUT of our head, we are indirectly saying : “This thought is important, it is worth my attention.”

In Zen and Buddhism, this obsessive thinking is described as a fixation of the mind. It is even classified as a sickness. In order to give ourselves a chance to deal with obsessive thinking we the proper tools. A plumber needs a wrench. A surgeon needs his scalpel. You need your tools!

The following text is taken from Soul of the Samurai, which was translated by Thomas Cleary[1]. It will provide you with the tools you need to face a fixation of the mind.

Eliminating Sickness: Elementary and Advanced Levels

Elementary Level

“Free from thought having gotten into thought, free from fixation having gotten fixated.” The meaning of this is that the intention to get rid of thought is a thought. To intend to eliminate sickness in the mind is getting into thought.

Now then, the expression “sickness” also means obsessive thought. To think of getting rid of sickness is also thought. Thus you use thought to get rid of thought. When rid of thoughts, you’re free from thought, so this is called being free from thought having gotten into thought.

When you take thought to get rid of the sickness that remains in thought, after that the thought of removal and the thoughts to be removed both disappear. This is what is known as using a wedge to extract a wedge.

When you can’t get a wedge out, if you drive in another wedge to ease the pressure, then the first wedge comes out. Once the stuck wedge comes out, the wedge driven in after isn’t left there. When sickness is gone, the thought of getting rid of sickness is no longer there, so this is called being free from thought having gotten into thought.

To think of getting rid of sickness is fixation on sickness, but if you use that fixation to get rid of sickness, the fixation will not remain. So this is called being free from fixation having gotten fixated.

Advanced Level

To think of riddance is itself sickness. Letting sickness be while living in the midst of sickness is to be rid of sickness.

This might be hard to grasp at first, but once it clicks it can feel liberating. So whenever you feel like you are having having obsessive thoughts, think about the obsession as it’s own thing, before you know it, the thoughts will dissipate and you can resume your day.

[1] Soul of the Samurai, page 46–47, Tuttle Editions. Used for educational purposes.