What’s the worst thing that can happen?


Matthieu Ricard – Happiest man in the world

You have been there too, in a similar situation, I am sure. For me, there is this startup I am running called Buffer. And we are having troubles ever so often. Server issues, investors who said no to investing, annoyed users, who want to cancel.

What used to happen, is that I would think the world collapses. That there would be no more Buffer at the end of the day. There was no particular reason to think like that. I used to have this big, undefined thing in my head, that just keeps getting bigger.

What I found is, we keep thinking about that terrible situation, but we don’t think about that big thing in our head and why it is even there. We are worried.

A quote I found most accurate is this one:

Worrying is interest paid on a debt that you might never owe.

Whilst we keep worrying about the situation, that big thing in our heads is possibly something completely unnecessary. Yes, it’s easily said, but how can you arrive at such a leaned back thinking, when you believe the world is collapsing?

“Joel’s exercise” to battle tough situations

The one thing that helped me the most is something I have started to call Joel’s exercise”. Whenever we believe Buffer will be no more in 30 minutes, for whatever unsound reason, we would practice it.

Joel would in every case keep a calm mind and just say:”Let’s think about it, what’s the worst thing that can happen?” Whenever we do this, we realise, well we could be down for 30 minutes, we might lose that one paying user. It brings us from an emotional into a more rational state of thinking. And we realise, that the world might not just really collapse.

Originally derived from Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” (I highly recommend this one), it is that one simple exercise that often saves us from going through a day of worrying.

It’s dead simple, yet, these situations are often filled with emotions and having such a straight forward process of thinking, has probably saved me lots of hours of worrying.

Happiness is a skill, not a state

The bigger picture I got from this, is that being in this state of mind of calm and not worrying is something we should be spending lots of time on. It’s hard to achieve if we don’t. So, we have to learn to reach it.

A Buddhist monk, who was scientifically proven to be happiest man in the world, based on his brain activity, said something very interesting:

“Happiness – in essence, is not a state, but a skill to be learned.”

So yes, we have to practice being happy. How long? Well, he did so for 10,000 hours. Evidently the same 10,000 hour rule applies to it, as with anything else.

If you want to be good at being happy and not worrying, you have to practice it.

It’s actually a realisation that hit me pretty much out of nowhere recently. What do you think about this? What’s really the worst that could happen?

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