Originally posted on Advisor Perspectives
I often wish I could follow the advice in Bobby McFerrin’s hit song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. These days, I find it particularly challenging.
An abundance of worrying
I’m in the proposal phase for a new book. It’s intended for the general public and has nothing to do with investing or sales, which were the subjects of my previous books. It’s a self-help book, based on extensive research in the fields of psychology and neuroscience (building on the research I did for my last book, The Smartest Sales Book You’ll Ever Read). I’m confident it will help improve the quality of interactions with others in any context.
That confidence doesn’t keep me from worrying about this project.
My worries include the following: the proposal won’t be good enough to attract a world-class literary agent or publisher; it’s taking too long to finish the proposal; and if the book is published, it won’t sell, or that it will get bad reviews (or no reviews).
I worry that I don’t fit the image of a self-help guru. I don’t even think of myself that way. Whenever I see images of popular self-help writers, they don’t seem worried about anything. They beam with happiness. They have found “the way,” which is often a simple shortcut to complex issues. They project supreme confidence and radiate positive energy.
That’s not me.
Now I’m worried about worrying so much.
I decided to research worrying to find out if my angst was serving any useful purpose.
A useless emotion
The phrase most often associated with “worry” is that it’s a “useless emotion.” It has been described as “insidious” and defined as: “to give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.”
I found this recent article by Sarah A. Benton in Psychology Today helpful. According to her, worrying doesn’t provide a solution to any problem. There’s no relationship between worrying about something and preventing that event from actually occurring.
Too much worry can cause anxiety disorders by constantly contemplating worst-case scenarios. It can also inhibit you from taking risks, because of the fear of adverse consequences.
In my case, writing another book is inherently risky. There are tens of thousands of new books published every year. The amount of work involved in crafting a compelling proposal is significant. The odds of landing a deal with a traditional publisher is small. If you beat those odds, the chance the book will sell is miniscule.
What if Dale Carnegie worried so much he didn’t write How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936? It remains a bestseller today and has changed the lives of millions of readers.
Many people tell me they “have always wanted to write a book.” When I ask them what stops them, they don’t have a good answer.
I know the real reason. They’re worried it will flop.
Benton cited research showing that 85% of what people worry about never come to pass. Of those that did, 79% was manageable, “meaning that 97% of what you worry about could be a product of your mind.”
I’m going to try to stop worrying and focus on making my book the best it can be. I should have a lot of extra time to channel in a positive way.
Next time you find yourself worrying about something, consider whether the bandwidth of your brain could be put to a more positive use.