Classics to get through a crisis

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My mind was humming like an electric wire as I slipped into bed. I had a to-do list running into next week and I had missed my exercise again for a third day. I felt worn out and frazzled. As I lay in bed for twenty minutes without falling asleep I considered getting up to go through my e-mails and knock a few out of the way before tomorrow. I pushed the light on my watch, 12:15. Why couldn’t I get to sleep?

I took a deep breath and slid the bed covers back. I picked up my kindle and searched through my books for Dale Carnegie. The timeless classic “How to stop worrying and start living” had helped me through worry, anxiety and sleepless nights in the past.

Before I opened it, I paused for a moment to consider what was really going on with me. Sure, I was stressed, but there was a reason why I couldn’t get to sleep. I took a few deep breaths and focussed on the knot in my stomach. I closed my eyes.

The answer came to me suddenly. It had nothing to do with long to-do lists or early morning presentations. I was scared of losing money. The knot in my stomach and the anxious feelings were due to large fluctuations in the value of investments I had made due to COVID19. I realised I was scared of losing money.

I was drawn suddenly to a quote in Carnegie’s book “those who do not know how to fight worry die young.” I realised I was carrying this worry around with me on a daily basis and being preoccupied with it, to the point where it was weighing me down every time I checked the asset values online. I couldn’t sleep, my heart was thumping and my head was fuzzy.

I reflected on one of his fundamental rules when it comes to dealing with trouble. I asked myself:

  • What is the worst that can possibly happen?
  • I prepared myself to accept the worst (if necessary)
  • Then I calmly tried to improve upon the worst, which I had already accepted as a possibility.

I looked at the historical asset values to determine how much the asset had fallen in value in the past. Then I determined how much I would lose if the asset dropped by that much (which it was still a long way from).

After that, I went about reframing my thinking on this investment. I accepted it could fall in value further, I also accepted it could increase in value and in particular I accepted it was a time of extreme volatility and it would likely swing up and down a lot. As Henry Ford told Dale Carnegie directly “when I can’t handle events, I let them handle themselves.”

Being a mere observer of the asset values I decided to stop observing them hour after hour every day and just let those wild, market induced swings play out as they would.

Then something wonderful happened. Not only did I relax and let my turbulent mind find calm but the next day as I awoke I realised that once I stopped fighting the inevitable I could release energy which enabled me to create a richer life.

There is so much sensible advice to be gleaned from Dale Carnegie’s books. Reading one is like being in the company of a generous, wizened everyman who is happy and willing to offer you advice from his own life’s journey. It is both relatable and practical.

It has helped me through a crisis of my own making.

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