Jon Rolnik Head Coach at Game Set & Match Tennis Academy based at Pythouse Tennis Club in Wiltshire, shares Dale Carnegie’s top strategies with Country Child for some great ways to overcome anxiety and worry that we can all try out.
Any self-help enthusiast will have heard of Dale Carnegie, one of the most respected authors in the self-improvement world, this is all down to his bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People, originally published in 1936. His 1948 book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, looks at ways to release yourself from troublesome anxieties that deprive you of happiness and stifle your productivity in your work or business environment. Carnegie’s book came to life by dealing with experiences from teaching adult education courses at the YMCA in New York City. Carnegie realised worry was a common theme among his students, no matter their profession or background, and decided to write a book that would inspire them to take action against their own negativity and insecurities.
In the seven years leading up to the book’s publication, Carnegie researched ancient philosophy and spoke to a range of business executives about their strategies for conquering worry. Carnegie tested his students by giving them advice for eliminating worry and observing what worked.
In the book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living we find Carnegie’s five most compelling strategies for reducing everyday anxieties, which I believe can assist you in all areas of life from business to sport.
1. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
There’s a simple three-step technique that can help when you’re besieged by personal or professional worries. First, ask yourself what’s the worst that could possibly happen. Second, prepare to accept the worst. Finally, figure out how to improve upon the worst, should it come to pass. This technique is based on a real life example from Willis Carrier, founder of the modern air-conditioning industry. While working for the Buffalo Forge Company as a young man, Carrier found that a new gas-cleaning service his company provided wasn’t as effective as he’d hoped. Carrier realised that the worst that could happen was that his company would lose $20,000. He then accepted it: The company could qualify the loss as the cost of researching a new strategy. Finally, he figured out how to improve the situation: If the company bought $5,000 worth of new equipment, they could resolve the issue. Ultimately, that’s exactly what they did, and they ended up making $15,000.
2. Gather all the facts in an objective way
As Herbert E. Hawkes, former dean of Columbia College, told Carnegie, “If a man will devote his time to securing facts in an impartial, objective way, his worries will usually evaporate in light of knowledge.” Carnegie offers two ways to go about collecting facts objectively. You can pretend that you’re gathering this data for someone else, so you’re less emotionally invested in what you find. Or you can pretend that you’re a lawyer who is preparing to argue the other side of the issue — so you gather all the facts against yourself. Write down the facts on both sides of the case and you’ll generally get a clearer picture of the truth.
3. Generate potential solutions to the problem.
Leon Shimkin, was once general manager at Simon and Schuster (later becoming the owner), figured out a way to cut the time he spent in meetings by 75%. He told his associates that every time they wanted to present a problem at a meeting, they had to first submit a memorandum answering four questions: What is the problem? What is the cause of the problem? What are all possible solutions of the problem? What solution do you suggest? According to Shimkin, once he instituted this new system, his associates rarely came to him with their concerns. “They have discovered that in order to answer those four questions they have to get all the facts and think their problems through,” he told Carnegie. Once they did that, they typically found that “the proper solution jumps out like a piece of bread jumping from an electric toaster.” In other words, action replaced worrying and talking.
4. Remember the law of averages.
The law of averages refers to the probability of a specific event occurring and if it’s worth the concern. Chances are good that whatever you’re worried about isn’t likely to happen. In Carnegie’s book the US Navy employed the law of averages in order to boost sailors’ morale. Sailors who were assigned to high-octane tankers were initially worried that they would be blown up when the tank exploded. So the Navy provided them with exact figures: Of the 100 tanks that were hit by torpedoes, 60 stayed afloat and only five sank in less than 10 minutes, leaving time to get off the ship.
5. Place stop-loss orders on your worries.
This idea is based on stock trading principles. Some stock market investors use the stop-loss order on every market trade. Here’s how it works: Say you buy stock that sells for £100 a share and set a stop-loss order for £90 a share. As soon as that stock dips to £90 a share, you sell it — no questions asked. You can use this principle in everyday life. For example, Carnegie once wanted to be a novelist, but after two years of failure, he placed a stop-loss order on this type of writing and decided to cut his losses by going back to teaching and non fiction writing. Looking back at Carnegie’s career of self-improvement, the moment he decided to introduce this stop-loss decision making on his life was probably one of his most important. With Carnegie’s foresight why not try out some of these principles for yourself….what’s the worst that can happen?