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Worry Is a Vicious Murderer

Worry Is a Vicious Murderer

I’m beginning to hate blogging.

Not because I don’t like writing or talking to people. But because every time I sit down to write something, I have to make a choice—I have to decide who I want to present myself as. With each word I write, I have to decide if I should be my “real” self, or if there’s some enhanced internet Daniel that I should be more like. And if there is, I have have to figure out what the hell that guy would say. On top of all the other decisions I have to make every day, that’s just tiring. Who is reading this? How do I sound to them? How do I want to sound? What will they think of me, and if they don’t like what they read… will they stop reading?

And honestly, I get worried. A lot.

I get worried that people will read what I write and think I’m some prick, fake-phony bastard snake oil salesman internet skeezebag. Or I get worried that people will genuinely start to like me, but then I’ll let them down somehow.

I’m sick of worrying. I don’t want to worry anymore.

The downside of having figured some things out, made some money, done some cool business things and made some small achievements… is when you tell people the two or three things you’ve figured out, they expect you to have answers to other problems too.

I don’t have any answers. That also worries me. Am I supposed to have answers?

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Oh God, if I am supposed to have answers at 25, I’m drastically behind. If someone were to ask me “are you a worrier” though, I’d probably say no. But I’d be lying. I worry about a million little things every day. Don’t you?

Sometimes we don’t even realize what’s going on while it’s happening.

Today, I was at the gym working on my vertical jumps off those little teal and purple stackable step blocks and there were two guys working out in the aerobics room on the heavy bags. As I kept stacking the blocks higher and higher, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make the jump. I had this terrifying, completely vivid blu-ray quality mental image that my clumsy toe was going to catch on the blocks, and send them all crashing down, and I’d land in a horrifically twisted pile, writhing in agony.

Then the guys would turn around and laugh at me. Or maybe they would just look in the mirror without turning around, shaking their heads and laughing at me. Or worst of all, maybe they would come and try to help me up. That would be completely emasculating. I don’t fucking want help. Then, from that day forward, all of us would know, if only non-verbally, that they were the alpha males and I was just a tiny beta male peon. And every time I passed them in the gym, I would feel inferior.

All those scenarios, their outcomes, and the potential accompanying emotional states flew through my head in about 3 seconds before I attempted to make the jump, stacked 19 blocks high.

And I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it, man.

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I felt slow. I felt like there was a glassy haze over my senses. My brain was just too cluttered. I stood there frozen. All the spring was sapped from by calves. All my energy was drained. I was literally paralyzed. I made a couple feeble attempts to get my spring back, but I just felt like my grandma trying to get out of her chair.

Have you ever felt utterly paralyzed by worry?

If there was some version of me that could have made that jump, some doppelgänger out there in a parallel reality that had the athleticism, another doppelgänger might as well have put a gun to the first guy’s head and blew his beautiful little brains all over the linoleum.

I killed myself in three seconds with worry.

Sometimes I wake up at 3am worried. Will my business keep going well? What if all my clients dry up, and nobody wants to work with me? What if I can’t feed myself? What if I make a stupid mistake and everything I’ve built gets torn down? One time I got in a fight with my girlfriend and she said that I “wasn’t even her type anyway”. Was she saying that just to hurt me? What if I’m really not her type? Is she going to cheat on me? Is she already cheating on me? I think she likes dark guys. Should I start going to a tanning booth?

Worries, worries, worries.

Compound worries for the future with over-analysis of the past and it leaves precisely zero percent of your mental capacity to seek opportunities and enhance your creative muscles in the present. Zero. Why are we even worrying so much anyway? What’s there really to worry about? I don’t know about you, but when I’m worried, I’m not at my best. I think when I’m worried, I actually get dumber.

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I haven’t run any statistical tests to back this up, but I think if you were to take two IQ tests, one when I was fraught with worry and one when I was at…I dunno, say…Disney World or something…you’d find that I am much smarter on Space Mountain. When I’m happy, when I’m not agonizing over the past or obsessing about the future, I actually make smarter, more insightful, more creative decisions. When I’m not worried about anything, I’m actually pretty brilliant.

As entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs, we can’t afford to get any dumber because we are worrying about things we can’t control. To have the clarity to make smarter decisions, we have to stop worrying so much about things that are outside of our locus of control and instead, only focus on the things that we can control. Period. We have to mentally clean house. Our brains are computers,and when a computer has too many programs running in the background, it crashes. Let’s sort things into 3 buckets:

  1. Things I can’t control.
  2. Things I can control, but I’m choosing to let go of.
  3. Things I can control and I’m going to act on immediately.

Notice how there’s no fourth category that says: “Things I can’t control but I’m still going to think about incessantly until I can find a way to control them, or if I really can’t find a way to control them, spend energy being worried about the potential outcome.”

Most of us love this phantom fourth choice. Fuck that bastard. Banish him to Siberia. He’s no longer an option. And while you’re at it, banish the options in buckets 1 and 2 as well. Anything you can’t control in bucket 1 gets the mental DELETE button. 99% of everything in the entire world falls into this bucket. What people think of you. The actions others take. The way people feel about things you say or do. Events that happen as a result of things you can’t control. DELETE, DELETE, DELETE.

This isn’t to say you should be a thoughtless prick. Be kind to others and do your best, but if that’s still not good enough, throw your hands up and be done with it. Some things you can control, but you should choose not to engage them. Just because you CAN make a choice, doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes the tradeoff just isn’t worth it. You could choose to continue a business or personal relationship that causes you worry and anxiety. You could push through. But why? DELETE.

You could choose to continue a fruitless argument, but in the end, it won’t make a difference whether you “win” or not. The damage is in the arguing, not the outcome. Just DELETE.

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I only want to deal with things in bucket 3: things I can immediately engage and have an impact on. If there’s something I can do that will resolve the situation, or at least make the situation better, I want to do it immediately. Otherwise, I’m not going to let worry and clutter simmer in my subconscious and take up precious mental energy. This isn’t the same as saying that I don’t care about outcomes. I do. I’ve just come to realize that I rarely have the power to change the path of people or events in my life. So I do my best, then I just stop worrying about it. Because worry has never helped me solve any of my toughest problems. And I’m only interested in being alive if I’m solving tough problems.

Worry is a doppelgänger that’s come to murder our creative selves. So I’m just going to stop worrying. I’m done with it.

What do you think?

You should leave a comment. That’d be cool. If not, that’s ok too. I’m not going to worry about it.

 

– Daniel

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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