Instead of worrying over something that may or may not happen, take positive steps to prevent or solve the problem.

Worry Wisdom Quotes

• First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst. — Dale Carnegie

• You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time. — Pat Schroeder

• The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one. — Elbert Hubbard

• As a cure for worrying, work is better than whiskey. — Thomas A. Edison

• Worry bankrupts the spirit. — Berri Clove

• If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you. — Calvin Coolidge

• If you treat every situation as a life and death matter, you’ll die a lot of times. — Dean Smith

• You can never worry your way to enlightenment. — Ed Northstrum

• I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. — Mark Twain

• We are more disturbed by a calamity which threatens us than by one which has befallen us. — John Lancaster Spalding

• Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. — Author Unknown

• Rule number one is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, it’s all small stuff. — Robert Eliot

During my consulting engagements I often run across one or more individuals that have been under a lot of stress. Usually they share with me how draining it is, and it often shows on their faces and in the way they talk about their company. Worry can become debilitating and negatively affect one’s efficiency in his work. While many books have been written on the subject by "worry experts," I want to focus on how this topic can relate to management issues.

What Is Worry

A really good place to start talking about conquering worry is to look at what it really is. Everyone knows the feeling of worry: tension, fear, confusion, irritability, a sick feeling and a host of others - all of which are unpleasant to us and to those around us. If you want to get a standard definition of worry, you can always go to the dictionary. One of the "Websteronian" definitions that most of us can relate to is: "To feel distressed in the mind; be anxious, troubled, or uneasy."

The one from Webster that really gets me is: "To manage to get (along or through) in the face of trials and difficulties." In this definition, worry is somehow justified as a necessary crutch used to get through trials and difficulties. I agree that worry often accompanies such circumstances, but I don't agree that we should use it as our way of managing through difficulties. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that many do go through trials and difficulties by worrying, and that is the modus operandi of many in our industry when facing challenging issues.

I have always used a definition that I learned early in my career in the furniture industry, when I read "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living" by Dale Carnegie. I am not sure exactly how it was worded since I have long given the book to someone else, but my best recollection is: Worry is thinking about something you don't want to happen.

Reflect on this simple definition as you consider your own life experiences. How many times have you spent countless hours at work thinking about the "what-ifs" of tomorrow? We tend to concentrate on the anticipated and dreaded consequences of a current situation instead of focusing on what to do to address the issue - if it even needs addressing. Many times, worry is focused on something that never happens. It has been said that 60 to 90 percent of the things we worry about never happen.

The Substitute for Worry

Worry is a real issue in our lives; you can see from the quotes in the accompanying sidebar that this has been recognized by a variety of famous people. I have had times in my career when I literally could not accomplish what was required due to worry over an issue that all but consumed me.

The first thing you need to admit about worry is that it is counterproductive and a waste of time. Worry is not trying to solve a problem. Worry is thinking about the consequences of the issue if not resolved - something you do not want to happen. Worry is like looking through a magnifying glass. The more you look at the issue, the larger it seems in your mind. I am not saying not to analyze the challenge because that process is essential. However, the time comes to step back and do something about the issue in light of what you have learned.

Thus, we always seem to get back to basics:
1. Define the real issue.
2. Determine the root cause.
3. Identify the possible remedies.
4. Choose the best.
5. Expeditiously implement the solution.

The sooner you can do this, the better it will be for your company and for your own state of mind. If you linger with the magnifying glass too long, you will find yourself with sleepless nights. The idea is to move through the five-step process with focus and speed. This usually means do not do it alone, but utilize the expertise around you and get others involved so you can navigate the process with warp speed.

Remember that there probably are others in your organization that know more about the issue than you do. There also may be someone outside your company who can assist you or give you advice. The point is that you should not try to carry the burden of the challenge alone, but use resources available to help you. If worry sets in, it is a pretty good sign that you need to look for others to assist you in the five-step process noted above.

It is important to remember that you can have trouble and conflict on the outside and have peace on the inside. This empowers you to be a manager of adversity instead of a slave to it. We all have the choice to worry or to immediately recognize that the challenge needs positive action taken to solve it or prevent it from happening.

So, the substitute for worry is peace and with peace comes confidence - confidence in your ability to handle the difficult.

A Lesson for All

There is something that all of us need to remember and that is that each of us holds a position in our company for a reason. If you are a supervisor or a manager, that reason is to help the company reach its goals and objectives through your areas of responsibility - including handling troubles expeditiously. I continually remind people that if there were no adversities in our industry, their wood products company would not need them.

In fact, if you or someone working for you cannot handle the stress of work, you are falling short of one of the most important responsibilities in your job description, whether written or not - to solve problems. As discussed, one cannot solve issues when in a worrisome state of mind.

If you are a worrier, I want you to pay close attention to this story.

A contest challenged young artists to depict peace. The artists painted a variety of scenes: flowers, pastures, picturesque mountain ranges and some of a mother holding a newborn child. However, the winning painting was quite different: a thunderous water fall crashing down a mountain side. In the foreground was a tree limb, and on that limb was a tiny bird - asleep.

This is the picture you and I need to keep in our minds as we encounter challenges. Peace and a tranquil mind do not necessarily mean the absence of turmoil. The circumstances in our wood products companies may be raging, but we can - and must - keep our peace and be managers of that adversity. This is our purpose.

Share this with someone in your company and remember the saying: "Actions speak louder than words." This applies to your personal life as well!

Tom Dossenbach is the president of Dossenbach Associates Inc., a Sanford, NC-based international consulting and research firm. Contact him at (919) 775-5017 or e-mail [email protected]. Visit his Web site at Past Management Matters columns are archived on

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