An Open-Letter to Chronic Worriers : Under30CEO An Open-Letter to Chronic Worriers : Under30CEO
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An Open-Letter to Chronic Worriers

| July 31, 2013 | 58 Comments

Worry

I’m beginning to hate writing.

Not because I don’t like talking to people or expressing myself. But because every time I sit down to write something, I have to make a choice.

I have to decide whom I want to present myself as. With each word I write, I have to decide if I should be my “real” self, or if there’s some enhanced Internet Daniel that I should be more like.

And if there is, I have to figure out what the hell that guy would say.

On top of all the other decisions I have to make every day, that’s just tiring.

Who is reading this? 

How do I sound to them? How do I want to sound?

What will they think of me, and if they don’t like what they read…will they stop reading?

And honestly, I get worried. A lot.

I get worried that people will read what I write and think I’m some prick, fake-phony snake oil salesman Internet skeezebag.

Or I get worried that people will genuinely start to like me, but then I’ll let them down somehow.

I’m sick of worrying. I don’t want to worry anymore.

The downside of having figured some things out, made some money, done some cool business things and made some small achievements…is when you tell people the two or three things you’ve figured out, they expect you to have answers to other problems too.

I don’t have any answers.

That also worries me.

Am I supposed to have answers? Oh God, if I am supposed to have answers at 25, I’m drastically behind.

If someone were to ask me “are you a worrier” though, I’d probably say no.

But I’d be lying.

I worry about a million little things every day. Don’t you?

Sometimes we don’t even realize what’s going on while it’s happening.

Today, I was at the gym working on my vertical jumps off of those little teal and purple stackable step blocks and there were two guys working out in the aerobics room on the heavy bags. As I kept stacking the blocks higher and higher, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make the jump.

I had this terrifying, completely vivid blu-ray quality mental image that my clumsy toe was going to catch on the blocks, and send them all crashing down, and I’d land in a horrifically twisted pile, writhing in agony. Then the guys would turn around and laugh at me.

Or maybe they would just look in the mirror without turning around, shaking their heads and laughing at me.

Or worst of all, maybe they would come and try to help me up.

That would be completely emasculating. I don’t want fucking help.

Then, from that day forward, all of us would know, if only non-verbally, that they were the alpha males and I was just a tiny beta male peon.

And every time I passed them in the gym, I would feel inferior.

All those scenarios, their outcomes, and the potential accompanying emotional states flew through my head in about 3 seconds before I attempted to make the jump, stacked 19 blocks high.

And I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it, man.

I felt slow. I felt like there was a glassy haze over my senses.

My brain was just too cluttered. I stood there frozen. All the spring was sapped from by calves. All my energy was drained. I was literally paralyzed. I made a couple feeble attempts to get my spring back, but I just felt like my grandma trying to get out of her chair.

Have you ever felt utterly paralyzed by worry?

If there was some version of me that could have made that jump, some doppelgänger out there in a parallel reality that had the athleticism, another doppelgänger might as well have put a gun to the first guy’s head and blew his beautiful little brains all over the linoleum.

I killed myself in three seconds with worry.

Sometimes I wake up at 3am worried.

Will my business keep going well? What if all my clients dry up, and nobody wants to work with me? What if I can’t feed myself?

What if I make a stupid mistake and everything I’ve built gets torn down?

One time I got in a fight with my girlfriend and she said that I “wasn’t even her type anyway”.

Was she saying that just to hurt me?

What if I’m really not her type? Is she going to cheat on me? Is she already cheating on me?

I think she likes dark guys. Should I start going to a tanning booth?

Worries, worries, worries.

Credit: lifeandself.com

Credit: lifeandself.com

Compound worries for the future with over-analysis of the past and it leaves precisely zero percent of your mental capacity to seek opportunities and enhance your creative muscles in the present.

Zero.

Why are we even worrying so much anyway? What’s there really to worry about?

I don’t know about you, but when I’m worried, I’m not at my best. I think when I’m worried, I actually get stupider.

I haven’t run any statistical tests to back this up, but I think if you were to take two IQ tests, one when I was fraught with worry and one when I was at…I dunno, say…Disney World or something….you’d find that I am much smarter on Space Mountain.

When I’m happy, when I’m not agonizing over the past or obsessing about the future, I actually make smarter, more insightful, more creative decisions.

When I’m not worried about anything, I’m actually pretty brilliant.

As entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs, we can’t afford to get any stupider because we are worrying about things we can’t control.

To have the clarity to make smarter decisions, we have to stop worrying so much about things that are outside of our locus of control and instead, only focus on the things that we can control. Period.

We have to mentally clean house.

Our brains are computers – and when a computer has too many programs running in the background, it crashes.

Let’s sort things into 3 buckets:

  1. Things I can’t control.
  2. Things I can control, but I’m choosing to let go of.
  3. Things I can control and I’m going to act on immediately.

Notice how there’s no fourth category that says: “Things I can’t control but I’m still going to think about incessantly until I can find a way to control them, or if I really can’t find a way to control them, spend energy being worried about the potential outcome.”

Credit: bronwenwinterphoenix.com

Credit: bronwenwinterphoenix.com

Most of us love this phantom fourth choice. Forget that guy. Banish him to Siberia. He’s no longer an option.

And while you’re at it, banish the options in buckets 1 and 2 as well.

Anything you can’t control in bucket 1 gets the mental DELETE button.

99% of everything in the entire world falls into this bucket.

What people think of you. The actions others take. The way people feel about things you say or do. Events that happen as a result of things you can’t control. DELETE, DELETE, DELETE.

This isn’t to say you should be a thoughtless prick. Be kind to others. Do your best. But if that’s still not good enough, throw your hands up and be done with it.

Some things you can control, but you should choose not to engage them. Just because you CAN make a choice, doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes the tradeoff just isn’t worth it.

You could choose to continue a business or personal relationship that causes you worry and anxiety. You could push through. But why? DELETE.

You could choose to continue a fruitless argument, but in the end, it won’t make a difference whether you “win” or not. The damage is in the arguing, not the outcome. Just DELETE.

I only want to deal with things in bucket 3. Things I can immediately engage and have an impact on. If there’s something I can do that will resolve the situation, or at least make the situation better, I want to do it immediately.

Otherwise, I’m not going to let worry and clutter simmer in my subconscious and take up precious mental energy.

This isn’t the same as saying that I don’t care about outcomes. I do. I’ve just come to realize that I rarely have the power to change the path of people or events in my life. So I do my best, then I just stop worrying about it. Because worry has never helped me solve any of my toughest problems. And I’m only interested in being alive if I’m solving tough problems.

Worry is a doppelgänger that’s come to murder our creative selves.

So I’m just going to stop worrying. I’m done with it.

You should leave a comment and tell me what you think. That’d be cool. Then again, if you don’t, I’m not going to worry about it.

Daniel DiPiazza is the founder of Rich20Something, where he teaches young people how to stop doing shit that they hate and break free of 9 to 5 boredom by starting their own businesses. Click here to join his tribe of hungry young entrepreneurs and get free coaching.

About the Author: Daniel DiPiazza

Daniel DiPiazza teaches young people how to stop doing shit that they hate and break free of 9 to 5 boredom by starting their own businesses at his blog Rich20Something.com.

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Category: Career Advice, Entrepreneurship, Startup Advice

  • Rob

    Solid article. Very insightful.

  • Michael Luchies

    One of my favorite posts ever.

    Reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living changed my life, and pieces like this and hearing other people’s stories about worries keeps me going strong! Thanks Daniel!

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Thanks for reading, Rob!

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Thanks, Michael. I’m also a big Carnegie fan – seems I can read his stuff over and over again and take something different every time. Thanks for reading!!

  • http://thedsmgroup.com/ Darren Magarro

    Amen brother. Your letter is killer. Have owned my marketing company for 6+ years and the biggest lesson I have learned in those years to control what you can, do your best, value relationships and forge ahead. There are only so many things a human can process and worrying slows everything down. If its not meant to be…let it roll off your back like water on a duck. To my staff, I tell them to focus on their tasks. Don’t worry about doing someone else’s job. That is why the other person is there. Big ups on this post Daniel.

  • Steeve

    Amazing article but as easy it is to admit that we worry too much it is not easy to stop worry about stuff we can’t control. I think its a slow and long process to get full control of the things we worry about. For example now i’m worry about my writing skills since english is my second language and french my first :)
    But anyway, reading this help me a lot today. Thanks again Daniel!

  • Tim Frie

    Daniel, all I can say is abso-freakinlutely. Yes. This could not have been published on a better day. Thank you for your transparency in this article.

    I think it’s the plight of an entrepreneur that we’re always wanting more. We KNOW that we’re so much greater than we already are. But the road to getting there? It takes to damn long. Will we ever get there? Is what we’re after going to exist by the time we get there?

    I’d love to connect with you outside of here. I just sent you an e-mail.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Hey Darren – thanks for reading, and (of course) I totally agree. Would you agree that “non-worrying” is a learned skill?

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Hey Steeve – thanks for reading – glad it helped :)

    You’re worried about writing in your 2nd language? I’m still trying to learn mine ;)

  • Cara Murphy

    Daniel, you did it again! Great article. This really speaks to me because I think that constant worry and anticipating failure is probably my biggest obstacle to success (and a topic of conversation that comes up with a lot of friends). Sometimes you spend so much time worrying about something that never ends up happening or being a problem! Thanks for really digging into this subject.
    Also, your gym example reminded me about a workout fail I had a few weeks ago. I’m doing a Tough Mudder in the fall with some friends and we do circuit workouts a few mornings a week at the pier. One morning it was just me and 3 other guys. One of the reps was box jumps. As I walked over to the bench I usually do them on, they said I should try to do them on a taller pillar nearby. I really didn’t think I could do it and expressed my concerns, but gave it a try. I cleared it the first time, but on the second try I landed right on the pillar and ended up with huge bruises on my shins for weeks. I thought they looked awful and illustrated my complete failure- but the guys said they made me look tough (which is debatable since im a skinny 5’4” girl lol). It just goes to show that perspective means a lot. You often think that people will judge you more than they actually do. Getting back up after a setback or a failure can illustrate your toughness and perseverance rather than your inability.

  • Tyson Hartnett

    Sick man, I love the article. I think unless you are a hugely successful entrepreneur like Zuckerberg, everybody will have worries. I’m even worried right now about if this whole entrepreneur thing is even a good idea. I have friends who have corporate jobs, making over $50K per year, and I’m wondering if I should just go do something like that.
    So, thanks, I’m definitely going to use some of these things. You da man

  • Wendy

    It cannot be more true. I often find myself overwhelmed for things that I cannot control at all. Most of it are outcomes. I admit it, I do not have patience at all, therefore, it is easy for me to start worrying when I do not see any immediate results. The same thing happens to my closest friends, we want to make it so bad that we often forget to enjoy the ride. Once we accept that we cannot control certain things, it becomes more enjoyable to work harder for our dreams.

  • Mark.

    Yes. YES. This article is everything. Take those 3 buckets and continue to march forward.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Yo mark! Glad you liked it. March.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Absolutely, Wendy. I think there will be a little discomfort in anything we do that challenges us to stretch our boundaries – let me ask you this: have you ever worried about outcomes you can’t control, and then worried that you were worrying too much? This is called “wrapping emotions”. Can definitely get toxic. There’s so much value in learning how to truly let go.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Just shot you an email back – and glad you liked it, bro. You’re very right about entrepreneurs. Now, here’s the catch 22: Since we KNOW that we are so much more, that awareness actually empowers us to act. And since we are empowered, there really is no reason to worry…because we are ready, willing and capable.

    As far as the time on these things….yeah, totally feel you. For me, the key has been celebrating little wins.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    $50k can kiss my ass.

    And I think Zuck does have worries, they are probably closer to ours than you might think. He may have more resources now, but at the end of the day we value our relationships above all else. That’s the point of the money in the first place – to do more things with people that we care about. If you have people that you care about, and people that care about you, there will always be worries about whether you’re enough, whether you’re doing enough and how to become better. $10B USD can’t fix the fact that you missed your mom’s bday, etc. So with that in mind, we have to treat entrepreneurship as a tool, not an end goal in and of itself. A tool to help us build better relationships because we are much freer than we would be otherwise.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Thanks so much, Cara!

    “Getting back up after a setback or a failure can illustrate your toughness and perseverance rather than your inability.” that’s a great insight Cara, and probably something I really need to think about.

    I think we often do a lot of “projecting” onto other people and situations – We assume we know what will happen in a given scenario. We assume we know what others are thinking and feeling. Based on those assumptions, we then begin creating new feelings for ourselves about how we THINK they are thinking. Can you see how convoluted that is? We are literally creating real, physical emotional states based on things that haven’t happened. All the while, building more and more anxiety.

    I call that “time traveling”

    Try this – whenever you feel yourself thinking too deeply about something that happened in the past (completely useless to worry about) or swimming in anxiety about something that could happen in the future (basically imaginary) just say to yourself – “stop time traveling”. Think about what’s going on in the present, and focus on only responding to incoming stimuli until the anxiety of past or imaginary events fades away.

    This helps me a lot.

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Daniel– awesome stuff my man. A handful of things come to mind:

    1. I love how honest you were at the beginning. You get the reader into your corner by opening up, especially with things that make us get emotionally tied to you like your girlfriend saying “your not my type anyway”.

    2. EVERYONE battles with being their authentic self in all different situations. Everyone has fears, vulnerabilities, and insecurities. Everyday I think about this stuff… how do Under30CEO readers perceive me? How does my Instagram following take m? What about my Facebook friends who REALLY know me? Who actually matters?

    3. You have actionable steps, that people can put into buckets, and have specific ways that you can train your mind to stop worrying. This is the type of article I could read everyday for the next 3 weeks until I mold these habits into my brain.

    Great stuff Daniel– you’re truly setting an example for our Under30CEO Community, both to our contributors as to what quality content is like, and by sharing the lessons you are learning in your everyday life.

    You are crushing it with the Open Letter series.

  • Tyson Hartnett

    Wow, I really really like that

  • http://thedsmgroup.com/ Darren Magarro

    Interesting question…I think some people are born with it innately. Myself, not so much. I learned how not to worry in the school of hard knocks. I am Sicilian…there is a certain amount or worry and skepticism in general that comes with it. Not joking. I still struggle with it as my company has grown because I feel responsible for my staff. On the flip, I can only do what I can do at any given moment. That’s what helps a fosters my growth to becoming a “non worrier”.

  • Michael Luchies

    I really think it is. I have to actively not-worry. Seems dumb, but it is true and not always easy to pull off.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Yep. Daily.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    You hit it on the head there, Darren. It’s a growth towards non-worrying. Hey, I’m Sicilian as well.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Matt – a true honor to have to chime in here.

    Agreed that everyone can have a struggle finding their authentic self. One thing I’ve noticed particularly is that this struggle is NOT connected to income. As in, making more money doesn’t make anything clearer. In fact, sometimes the opposite. That’s why it’s important to see the money as a means, not the end, to whatever you want your life to be. Sounds cliché, I know – but it really is true. I feel that many get into entrepreneurship for the wrong reasons – thinking that they are going to make a boatload of money, then go crazy when they completely lose themselves in the struggle and the process.

  • http://thedsmgroup.com/ Darren Magarro

    So you know (and knew when you were writing this) what comes with being Sicilian…The women in my family got my started early on with worrying by laying on the “the guilt”

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    My mom is the worry mastermind. My grandmother is the guilt monster. They raised me. Enough said.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Me too ;)

  • Mike Darche

    Dude… You absolutely killed this article! It’s definitely one of the best posts I’ve seen on the site.

    “Most of us love this phantom fourth choice. Forget that guy. Banish him to Siberia. He’s no longer an option.”—Truer words have never been written. I’ve never thought about it this way, but you’re spot on. The root of all worry comes down to our tendencies to jump into this miserable camp. I know it’s definitely something that I need to work on, but I’ll have a much easier time navigating my worries when I think about them this way. Keep this gold coming man!

  • Cara Murphy

    Daniel, you are so right. We do project what other people are thinking and often grossly overestimate how much value it has (the psych nerd in me can talk about this for hours!).
    And thanks for the tip! I will definitely try this the next time I start to spiral into a worry frenzy. Staying in the present is key to maximizing your time and happiness- you can’t change the past or the future.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Hey Mike – appreciate the feedback. Isn’t it interesting how SCARY our brains are when we take the time to actually analyze our thought processes?

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Cara – I’m a huge nerd too. You should read “Subliminal”. Just picked it up. AMAZING work that sheds light on all these subconscious processes we have going on: http://www.amazon.com/Subliminal-Unconscious-Rules-Behavior-Vintage/dp/0307472256

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Completely agree here about mo’ money mo’ problems!! If you don’t know who you are to begin with, making money is just going to complicate things.

    Stay true to yourself my man. Really a pleasure to read your work.

  • Cara Murphy

    I’ll definitely check it out! Sounds like a book I’ll really enjoy!

  • Barend Potgieter

    Great Article. Thank you.

  • http://buizachristina.com/ Christina Buiza

    Daniel, thank you for writing this. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I had wanted to start freelancing for a long time, but worrying stopped me from actually starting. I made up so many excuses, saying to myself that it wouldn’t work out because I don’t have enough experience or I wouldn’t know where to start. Finally, I decided that all I had to do was stop worrying so much, and actually take action.

    Until now, I still have constant worries, and I know I will always have them. As you said, it’s making the conscious effort of banishing worries about things you can’t control and things that just don’t matter.

    Related to this, an important ability is deciding which things fall in which buckets. Sometimes, I think that there are things that I can’t control (such as the number of viewers on my website), but in reality, I just need to think deeper and realize that these are things that I can actually control (writing better content, promoting myself better, and so on).

    Thanks again, Daniel!

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    My pleasure, Barend. Thanks for reading!

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Great points, Christina – and thanks for reading. And you’re very right. I think it’s, aside from worrying (which creates more pain), there’s a polar opposite tendency in human nature to avoid pain at all costs. To do this, we create natural scapegoats and falsely assign certain problems into the “I can’t do anything” bucket – which is often our way of saying “I know what I have to do, but that would be too hard and I don’t really want to go through that…so it’s better if I pretend the solution is out of reach.” It’s a hassle keeping this brain under control, lemme tell you.

    What do you think?

  • James

    Daniel I respect your message. I think it will helpothers and myself with our worries. I feel better already after reading.

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  • Daniel DiPiazza

    My pleasure, James. Glad it helped. I actually had to take my own advice today. It was one of those days. Thanks for reading ;)

  • http://www.twoodo.com/ Andrea Francis

    Fantastic! This really helped give me a kick up the ass. I’ve personally heard stories from too many people in their 20s and 30s suffering from stress and worry and pointless crap that saps their life. Delete delete delete… that’ll be my mantra for all the worries. More please!

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Haha – happy to have helped, Andrea. Deleting is easier said than done. But when it’s done. Oh man, does it feel good.

  • cesar romero

    @danieldipiazza:disqus another 5-star inspirational article. There’s a reason why you carry the name Colossus :)

    I have my buckets ready to fill them out accordingly. Finding your true self takes time in getting to know more about who you are and some of us sometimes hold back because we worry too much about the outcome or being judged in a particular way; all of our fears and insecurities are just projections of possible outcomes that prevent us from taking action on those things we can control.

    Getting into entrepreneurship or any other endeavor because of money is definitely the wrong reason and even if you end up making a lot of money, you are going to end up not feeling fulfilled because it wasn’t aligned with your particular passion and interests.

    I do a lot of time travel, but I totally agree that it’s really not useful at all and it creates more worries and clutters your brain from the present. What if I ask her out and she says no? What if I cannot pull that last rep? I’m running late what are they going to think about me? what if I’m betrayed by my friends? all of this time traveling is useless.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Thanks for reading Cesar, and your right – it is useless…but still, it’s almost automatic sometimes. Have you figured out any good ways to stop yourself when you find yourself time traveling?

  • cesar romero

    you might think I’m crazy but I talk to myself a lot just like if I was talking to my best friend and I go: Ok Cesar, what are you doing? just concentrate on the task at hand and forget the rest.

    At the gym, every time I finish a set of 10-15 reps and take a break my brain automatically goes time traveling into the next set and how it’s going to be harder than the previous one, but I always talk to myself, just do it and if you need a spotter, there’s plenty of people who you can ask.

    I have found that talking to yourself on a regular basis can keep you in check.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Nah, you’re not crazy. Everyone has that voice. As long as it stays positive, it’s healthy. I’ve actually read some good books on it. Try reading “What to say when you talk to yourself”. Classic: http://www.amazon.com/What-Say-When-Talk-Yourself/dp/0671708821

  • http://www.callboxinc.co.uk/ Oliver Scott

    You’re right, Daniel—what is there to worry about? We worry about things that do not exist, thus, we have the phantom fourth choice. But sometimes we worry because of past experiences; maybe we wouldn’t want to make the same mistake before? The problem with that, though, is we’re more concerned of what we’ve felt in the past and what might happen in the future rather than focusing on what we should do right now. Thank you for the great insight!

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    The fourth choice is the most dangerous in my opinion. Thanks for reading @OliverScott:disqus! ;)

  • tweetsbynorma

    Thanks for the article, great advice! Michael J. Fox says “If you imagine the worst case scenario and it happens, you lived it twice”.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    That’s great advice. Why “time travel” to negative events that haven’t even happened? Pointless.

  • Ciaur

    When I read blog articles, I don’t tend to think about the writer behind it but rather the content itself. Any writer can write anything for me but its truly how the reader interprets it. All I can say is let the readers think for themselves! Nice article my friend :)

  • tatiana

    Great article. I am always worrying about things and it makes me feel better knowing I am not the only one. Stress and worrying really does change ourcharacter I was starting to notice that- it puts a damper in your everyday life. So from now on worry no more :) thanks for the article!

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Thanks for reading, @ciaur:disqus :)

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    It’ll be hard never to worry again, but it’s good to consciously control the worry :) @9e8637ceb07af207574ec262b957e479:disqus

  • Christine Monto Randle

    This is an absolutely amazing article! I feel like he read my mind….worry, worry, worry!! No more! I’m saving this to read it every time I obsess over things that I can’t control. And I thought I was the only person who did this ;)

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