As I said yesterday, worry is wasteful. The problem is, knowing that doesn’t help.
When Dale Carnegie was teaching public speaking and influence to his classes, he noted the other area his students struggled with was worry. Just like his prior books,1 he started out researching the topic only to realize he’d have to write it himself.
I looked over these twenty-two books on worry reposing on the shelves of the New York Public Library. In addition, I purchased all the books on worry I could find; yet I couldn’t discover even one that I could use as a text in my course for adults. So I resolved to write one myself.
I began preparing myself to write this book seven years ago. How? By reading what the philosophers of all ages have said about worry. I also read hundreds of biographies, all the way from Confucius to Churchill. I also interviewed scores of prominent people in many walks of life, such as Jack Dempsey, General Omar Bradley, General Mark Clark, Henry Ford, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Dorothy Dix. But that was only a beginning.
I also did something else that was far more important than the interviews and the reading. I worked for five years in a laboratory for conquering worry—a laboratory conducted in our own adult classes. As far as I know, it was the first and only laboratory of its kind in the world. This is what we did. We gave students a set of rules on how to stop worrying and asked them to apply these rules in their own lives and then talk to the class on the results they had obtained. Others reported on techniques they had used in the past.
As a result of this experience, I presume I have listened to more talks on “How I Conquered Worry” than has any other individual who ever walked this earth. In addition, I read hundreds of other talks on “How I Conquered Worry”—talks that were sent to me by mail—talks that had won prizes in our classes that are held throughout the world. So this book didn’t come out of an ivory tower. Neither is it an academic preachment on how worry might be conquered. Instead, I have tried to write a fast-moving, concise, documented report on how worry has been conquered by thousands of adults. One thing is certain: this book is practical. You can set your teeth in it.
“Science,” said the French philosopher Valéry, “is a collection of successful recipes.” That is what this book is: a collection of successful and time-tested recipes to rid our lives of worry. However, let me warn you: you won’t find anything new in it, but you will find much that is not generally applied. And when it comes to that, you and I don’t need to be told anything new. We already know enough to lead perfect lives. We have all read the golden rule and the Sermon on the Mount. Our trouble is not ignorance, but inaction. The purpose of this book is to restate, illustrate, streamline, air-condition, and glorify a lot of ancient and basic truths—and kick you in the shins and make you do something about applying them.2
There’s no magic trick that will rid us of worry, but neither is a magic trick required. We know what to do. We just need to do it. This book will help us get there.