The Trouble With Trifles

There is a great book written by Richard Carlson entitled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” I knew the book was spot on before I even opened it because the second part of the title is “and it’s all small stuff.” 

 

My sentiments exactly!

 

Anger, especially anger that comes from small stuff, is a terrible master and if you let yours control any part of your life you will be worse off because of it. If you allow “little things” to bother you or add any amount of stress to your life then you are limiting your potential. 

 

My dad used to be a worrier; he allowed most everything, even the very trivial stuff, to bug him. It didn’t take much to cause him worry and it took even less to get his hackles up. Then he heard something far from trivial from his doctor. He heard he needed a heart transplant. 

 

Once he received his new heart he was like a new man. Not only was he physically better but he no longer sweat the small stuff and he truly believed it was all small stuff. 

 

After living decades with his still like new heart he would tell you that all it takes for the day to be great is to wake up. To be given a new day. To have one more chance to enjoy life, that’s all that truly matters. 

 

So before you get yourself worked up, before you add an ounce of stress to your life, before you care about anything, ask yourself if it will matter in 10 years. Ask if it will matter in 10 months, 10 weeks or even in 10 minutes. 

 

If you’re like most people you will discover that it won’t. 

 

A mentor of mine once told me to never underestimate the absolute unimportance of almost everything I did. At first I was offended and then I asked myself those questions. When I was honest with myself I was shocked to discover that most of what I did wouldn’t matter for long. Some of it might matter in 10 minutes, some for 10 weeks but hardly anything was going to matter in even a year much less 10 years down the road. 

 

It was a sobering realization. It’s humbling to realize that most of what you do, most of what you stress over, most of what you’ve convinced yourself is important really doesn’t matter. But it was also a freeing realization. It allowed me to “let go” of the little things that had imprisoned my joy of life. 

 

A trifle is defined as a thing of little value or importance. The trouble with trifles is that we give them undue importance and that allows them to block us from the truly important things that we could be thinking about, we could be talking about or we could actually be doing.

 

The most successful people and the most effective leaders don’t fuss over the trifle stuff. They focus on what matters today and what will still matter tomorrow and for many tomorrows to come. 

 

If you have trouble with trifles then decide today that you won’t be fooled any longer, decide today to focus on what truly matters.

Submarine Your Stress!

Most people have at least heard the phase “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It’s not just a saying, it’s actually the title of one of the greatest books ever written. It was written in 1936 by the legendary Dale Carnegie. It has been a best seller forever, translated into more languages than virtually any other book. 

It is truly a life changing book, to this very day. 

But many people who know Dale Carnegie’s work well would tell you it’s not his most impactful book. They would say it’s the book Carnegie people call “the worry book.” It’s official title is “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” 

It is truly a masterpiece of tactical insights into how to control worry in your life. 

The insight, or principle as Mr. Carnegie called them, that has made the biggest difference for me is the very first one discussed in the book. 

The principle says that to avoid worry we should “live in day-tight compartments.”

A submarine is divided into compartments so that when a problem develops in one compartment the other compartments can be sealed off from the trouble. Dale Carnegie suggested that we live our lives as a submarine is constructed. 

Live each day as a separate compartment. Don’t let yesterday’s troubles seep into today and never let tomorrow’s potential worries (which often never happen anyway) leak into today’s opportunity for success.

As simple and as easy as that sounds it is anything but. It requires a steely discipline and faith that today’s good can drown out yesterday’s not-so-good. 

Here’s one thing I’ve found that helps me to live in day-tight compartments. I don’t just compartmentalize my days, I put many things into their own compartments. 

I work hard to keep my work life separate from my family life. As bad as it is to let one bad work interaction negatively affect the next work interaction it’s absolutely terrible, tragic really, to let something bad that happened at work have a negative impact on my family. 

There is never a good reason to “take out” my work frustrations on the people who are far more important to me than anything to do with my job. By compartmentalizing those two areas of my life that’s much less likely to happen. 

I once had a participant in a Dale Carnegie Class tell the class that he passed over a long bridge on his way to and from work each day. He said that at the end of each work day he packed up all his worries and put them in a box. On his way home as he crossed the bridge he rolled down his window and tossed the box out the window and into the river he was crossing over. The problems and the worry they caused never came home with him. 

He went on to say that sometimes the box would be waiting for him on the bridge when he was returning to work but that was okay, he was back at work and that’s where his work worries belonged. 

If you want to attempt living in day-tight compartments then you need to find your own metaphorical bridge. Maybe you’ll need several of them, that’s perfectly okay.

This much I can tell you; developing the discipline of living in day-tight compartments will do more to relieve stress in your life than anything else you can do. There is enough stress for most of us in a single day, we don’t need to be dragging stress from yesterday or tomorrow into today. Most of us can deal with the weight of stress from one day, it’s when the days start to pile on that we have real trouble.

Live in day-tight compartments and the worries of life will find it very hard to gang up on you! 

By the way….read the book.