Contractor Tip of the Month: Stop Worrying and Start Living

Words: Damian Lang

Who among us can claim that worry has resulted in a longer life? The same thing applies to business. Who among us can claim that worry has resulted in business growth? I’m confident the answer is no one. 

In my experience, worry only debilitates leaders and distracts us from focusing on what adds value and growth to our businesses and our lives. The only things we gain from worry are stress and anxiety.

In “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” Dale Carnegie explains, “At one time half of all the beds in our hospitals were reserved for patients with nervous and mental troubles, patients who had collapsed under the crushing burden of accumulated yesterdays and fearful tomorrows.” 

He suggests that most of those people could have avoided a hospital stay and led happier, more useful lives if they had learned how to manage their worries.  

The great French philosopher Montaine claimed, “My life is full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.” So, why worry about them? 

In my early 50s, I set a goal to own a home on the water in Florida by the time I turned 59. I accomplished the goal by closing on a house on Lemon Bay on my 57th birthday. Reaching this goal was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. My joy was short-lived, however, when a few months later, our house was in the direct path of Hurricane Ian. 

The night the storm made landfall, I was in Branson, Missouri, having dinner with some customers. My phone kept buzzing with texts from friends asking if I was okay and from my security system alerting me that the doors and windows were being rattled as if someone was trying to break into my house.

The thought of the inevitable destruction was devastating, and there was nothing I could do to reverse the situation. As I sat in the restaurant, Carnegie’s book came to my mind. If ever I needed to know how to deal with worry, it was that night. I did exactly what his book suggested:

1. Identify the worst-case scenario. 

2. Accept this outcome.

3. Calmly decide how to improve the situation. 

With that advice in mind, I ordered another cocktail while I formulated this plan: 

  • The worst-case scenario would be a destroyed house 

I decided I could accept that outcome because, of course, I had no other choice.

I reminded myself that the home was insured, so if Hurricane Ian destroyed it, I would rebuild. My family and I loved it so much there that it would be worth rebuilding and hoping to avoid another strong hurricane in the future.

That evening, I prayed that any damage would be minimal and the house would at least be livable while we made repairs. Then, I went to bed with a plan not to worry about an outcome that was out of my control. Would staying up all night worrying about something over 1,000 miles away make the situation any better? No, it would have resulted in a sleep-deprived night filled with anxiety and stress. 

While I successfully applied Carnegie’s lesson on worry in that situation, I am far from perfect when it comes to keeping it at the forefront of my life. Several years ago, I was working 60-plus hours a week, yet it felt like I was not getting much accomplished. So, I set out to learn the root of my lack of productivity. In his book, Carnegie quotes Herbert Hawkes from Columbia University, who said:

“Half the worry in the world is caused by people trying to make decisions before they have sufficient knowledge on which to base a decision. If a man will devote his time to securing knowledge in an impartial, objective way, his worries will usually evaporate in the light of knowledge.”

That was my situation. I was working all those hours because I was worrying about things without knowing why I was worrying about them. I successfully changed my situation by modifying Carnegie’s three steps to managing worry:

1. Identify what you are worried about. 

I was concerned that my business growth was not equal to the amount of effort I was exerting.

2. Isolate the reasons for worry. 

I realized I was investing an exorbitant amount of time each day on people and projects that accounted for only a small portion of our sales.

3. Decide on a solution and immediately carry out that decision. 

I made a goal to spend 80% of my time with the 20% of the people who gave me the best return on the investment of my time. The results were amazing. My productivity soared. I tripled my effectiveness and, in essence, tripled my sales outreach. 

Joseph F. Monique, author of “Nervous Stomach Trouble,” explains, “You do not get ulcers from what you eat; you get ulcers from what is eating you.” Fear causes worry, worry makes you tense and nervous, and it affects the nerves of your stomach, often leading to stomach ulcers. Do I still have worries? Yes, but Carnegie’s lessons have taught me to live in the present, which is from now until bedtime. I make a list of priorities and live each day, completing one task at a time. By doing this, I can do my work without being hindered by stressful feelings that will impact my life. 

Anyone can carry a burden, no matter how hard it is, until nightfall. Anyone can do the work, no matter how hard it is, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, and purely until the sun goes down. “Every day is a new life to a wise man, as those who do not know how to fight worry die young,” says Carnegie. 

So, the next time you are overly worried about a situation, know that 50% of your worries vanish once you arrive at a definite decision, and 40% vanish once you start to carry out that decision. Therefore, 90% of your worries go away by taking these three steps:

  1. Write down precisely what you are worried about. 
  1. Decide what to do. 
  1. Start immediately to carry out that decision. 

When you face a problem, if you have the facts you need to make a decision, solve it right away. Do not keep putting off decisions, or you will be less effective. Also, encourage your staff to stop procrastinating and make the decision at hand.

Take these steps before worry wrecks your business or even your life.

BIO  Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, JVS Masonry, Buckner and Sons Masonry, Wolf Creek Construction, Buckeye Construction and Restoration, 3 Promise Labor Services, Malta Dynamics Fall Protection and Safety Company, and EZG Manufacturing. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make job sites safer and more efficient, visit his websites at ezgmfg.com or maltadynamics.com. To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, email dlang@watertownenterprises.com, or call 740-749-3512.  

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