How to Stop Worrying and Start Living – A Summary

Reading this book several times has taught me that worrying constantly is a detriment to the life we are born to live. Dale Carnegie published “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” in 1944, and his lessons still hold true today. This is a summary detailing lessons from each chapter contained in the book. The implications of these lessons are vast and we will learn the lessons taught in each.

The larger, centered headings represent the titles of each section of the book, while smaller ones represent the chapters. Let’s get started.

Fundamental Facts You Should Know About Worry

Live in “Day-Tight Compartments”

live-in-day-tight-compartmentsThis advice is very similar to the advice given to alcoholics in meetings. “One day at a time.” Yesterday is gone forever and tomorrow is not guaranteed. As “Carlyle wrote: “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.

This principle has many implications. The advice is created by premier physician Sir William Osier who witnessed an ocean liner shutting off compartments to keep water out. His advice is to shut out tomorrow and yesterday. We cannot live a full life carrying around yesterday’s boulders or while filled with anxiety about tomorrow’s pitfalls.

Obviously, we must make plans. However, the best laid plans come in the way of performing your work superlatively TODAY!  More advice:

  • One task at a time.
  • Every day is a new life to a wise man.
  • Life, we learn too late, is in the living, in the tissue of every day and hour.

A Magic Formula for Solving Worry Situations

This is one of the best chapters in the book. It involves three simple steps. The first is to analyze any situation and figure out what is the absolute worst thing that can happen. You’ll likely come to the conclusion that the worst thing that can happen isn’t that terrible.

magic-formulaThe second step is accepting the worst thing and reconciling that you will go on if it occurs.

The third step is devoting your energies toward improving on the worst case scenario. As you have already accepted the worst, any improvement on that will be acceptable to you.

This method allows us to concentrate on what needs to be done. I have used this over and over again and find that my acceptance of all situations improves while letting me focus on the task at hand.

What Worry May Do to You

Worry does not cause health problems in that are only in your head; they are very real. Many people are familiar with ulcers being cause by “what is eating you,” and not what you are putting in your body. This is only one example.

While business success is commonly sought after, would you trade 20 years of your life for it? There are many executives that amass millions only to develop ulcers and heart disease, which severely shorten their life spans. For me, money isn’t everything, freedom is my ultimate goal.

Emotions such as frustration, futility, anxiety, and worry shorten our life spans. In today’s world, millions do not treat these real causes of disease and a shorter life-span. Our shot nerves can actually cause our body composition to deteriorate in many ways that cause illness. Guess what? This results in further worry.

Furthermore, it can actually cause you to look ugly, Worry lines are real. They can form permanent scowls, turn your hair gray, ruin your complexion, etc. Take these tips seriously, if only for your appearance sake.

Basic Techniques in Analyzing Worry

How to Analyze and Solve Worry Problems

Aristotle taught that we must get facts, analyze them, and arrive at a decision. Once we have made that decision, the acting phase should begin immediately.

Confusion is one of the chief causes of worry, so it is important to look at our situation objectively. This can actually make your worries go away immediately. When you know what you are facing, confusion disappears. We have to put aside our biases only looking for facts that justify our actions. 2 +2 does not equal 5; we must accept that.

One of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain is “It is not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble, it is what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” While collecting facts write them down like you are an investigator hired by someone else. This means you even account for facts that go directly against your beliefs.

Look at the facts you have before you, and ask yourself what you can do about them.  Once your analysis is complete, start working immediately.

How to Eliminate Fifty Percent of Your Business Worries

This is similar to the last chapter in many ways. It is all about identifying the problem, the real causes of the problem, offering up potential solution to the problem, and engaging others in their suggestions for solutions.

Essentially, when in meetings, only focus on the real problems. The example that is presented is sales. The salesman was very worried about not getting enough meetings after the second try. When he analyzed the facts, over 70% of people were closed on the first visit. He also found that over 20% had been closed on the second visit.

He figured out that additional visits didn’t make sense, which solved his problem. He simply cut out these visits. They were not worth the time.

How to Break the Worry Habit Before it Breaks You

How to Crowd Worry Out of Your Mind

crowd-out-worryThis tip centers around distracting yourself when worry seems far-reaching. When we are busy on tasks that require planning and thinking, we have no room for incessant worries, justified or not. At the height of WWII, Winston Churchill was working 18 hours a day and was asked if worried about his never ending responsibilities. His answer was that he did not have time for worry.

It is near possible to focus on completing a task and your worries at the same time. Keeping busy can be a cure for even the most neurotic people. So, if your children or friends need your attention, or you can help somebody out in some way, you will no longer be focused on your worries. This is a reason that drug addicts and alcoholics are told to immediately start helping new people in the program.

Keep busy. The worried person must lose himself in action, lest he wither in despair.

Don’t Let the Beetles Get You Down

How often do we let the insignificant or trite conflicts trump major problems. People seem to have no problem tackling the biggest obstacles in their way, while getting upset by some annoying trait of a co-worker.

Here is a good example I see often: People apologizing for their homes being a “mess.” Unless the place is an absolute disaster to the point where people can’t even find a place to sit, THEY DO NOT CARE even 1% as much as you do.

We worry about the stupidest things. He is a well-known legal maxim, “the law does not concern itself with trifles.” And neither should we!

The little things are just that, little. We can’t let them consume us. “Life is too short to be little.”

A Law That Will Outlaw Many of Your Worries

Instead of gradually discovering that nearly 100% of your worries will never happen, start looking at them now. Do you ever have odd worries such as falling through a grate on the street? These things are so uncommon that they should not be given a second thought.

If you have a fear of being buried alive, for example, would it surprise you to learn that only 1 in 10 million experience this? One in eight dies of cancer; perhaps we should worry about something more real and take precautions against things that can ACTUALLY happen.

If you consider that most of your worries are utter nonsense, you will prevent yourself from unnecessary worry. If you are worried about a sink-hole on the highway, ask yourself how many people you know have died this way. Take a look at it; you’ll be surprised at how often your fears are illogical.

Co-operate with the Inevitable

Terrible things happen to us; once they occur we can either accept them as our new situation or relive them to the point where we ruin our lives. The author, Dale Carnegie, had his finger ripped off when a ring caught on a nail of window sill he jumped from. He rarely thought about it after that. Once something is so, it cannot be not so.

While our egos prevent us from trying to fix every situation, there are plenty of instances where this just isn’t possible. The only thing to do is accept the situation.

Additionally, we can change ourselves to be better suited facing adversity. A Mother Goose rhyme presents this lesson the best:

For every ailment under the sun.

There is a remedy, or there none;

If there be one, try to find it;

If there be none, never mind it.

Put a “Stop-Loss” Order on Your Worries

If you have ever never heard of a stop-loss as it relates to the stock market, it occurs when a certain stock falls below a price that the owner of the stock will continue to hold it. When it hits that price, a sell order will instantly be generated.

Another example is tossing money after bad in a poker game. We may have had the best hand when we first put money in the pot, but once this is no longer the case, it is time to fold.

If we can do this with our worries, we will be happier people. Resentments, such as somebody is constantly late, need to be dealt with. If you tell a friend that you will allow him to be 10 minutes late, and after that point, you will leave without fail, you have just granted yourself peace of mind.

In meditation or relaxation, this means that we allow ourselves to worry or think about a subject for a predetermined amount of time. After that, we go about our business without a second though. While it takes time and effort to become this vigilant, it helps with emotions and anxiety.

Don’t Try to Saw Sawdust

Once the wood has been cut, we cannot make it longer. We may be able to improve on our situation, but we can’t change the past at all. It is impossible to saw sawdust. However, we CAN analyze and learn from our mistakes and profit from them. After that, it is best to put them out of our heads and forget them.

All the complaining and contemplation that you do does not change the fact that what has happened. Too often, we cry over spilt milk when there is no way to recover it! Instead of worrying about the past, we have to look to at what we can do TODAY. As stated previously, today is all we ever have.

Seven Ways to Cultivate a Metal Attitude That Will Bring You Peace and Happiness

Eight Words That Can Transform Your Life

peace-stop-worryingMarcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome, once said “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” Lincoln once said that “people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Both of these quotes have profound inclinations.

Nothing is either true or false, but thinking makes it so.

Getting away from quotes, we must evaluate our lives based on our beliefs. We are often being pulled in so many directions trying to be controlled by so many others. The advice is not to become a lunatic always wearing a smile regardless of what is happening. However, a general positive attitude is worthwhile.

I particularly liked the example where a hypnotist under hypnosis convinced men they were very weak and tested their grip. The average grip was 29 pounds. After doing the opposite, their grip increased to an average of 142 pounds. This was a great demonstration of the power of positive thinking.

Think and act cheerfully, and you will feel cheerful.

The High Cost of Getting Even

Many people have heard the saying “gratitude is a burden; revenge a pleasure.” But is it really? Resentment is one of the biggest causes of hypertension. When we are consumed with hating our enemies, they are unaffected. They would be thrilled if they knew how much hating them made us miserable.

Jesus might have been telling us forgive seventy time seven for reasons outside of morality. It was also to help us enjoy healthy lives. Forgetting about our enemies transgressions allows us to focus on what matter to us. Stewing over past hurts is the best way to the loony bin!

If You Do This, You Will Never Worry About Ingratitude

gratitudeExpecting gratitude is a recipe for disaster. If we do not understand human nature that people simply will not always be bowled over by our gifts or favors, we come to expect gratitude. However, this shouldn’t be expected in any case. Jesus healed ten lepers one afternoon and only one thanked him.

Andrew Carnegie gave a relative a million dollars, but was being cursed by the same person only months after his death that it was meager compared to what he gave to charity!

The main point of this chapter is not to expect gratitude. It is even sweeter when it comes out of nowhere. Instead, focus on the act of giving for its own sake. Expect ingratitude, give for the joy of giving, and train your children to act graciously.

Would You Take a Million Dollars for What You Have?

Comparably, our lives are often not as bad as we make them out to be. The old adage about being upset about having no shoes only to cross somebody who has no feet should be at the forefront of our minds. What in the hell are you worrying about?

Concentrate on what you have. Obviously, this is a cliche. But are not all cliches based in real wisdom?

We always seem to be thinking about what we lack, instead of what we have. Money CAN buy happiness to a certain extent, but only for those who know how to use it.

Another lesson in this chapter deals with trading your problems for another’s. If 50 people put their situations on note cards and everyone was asked to take on another’s problems, they would likely take their own card back!

Find Yourself and Be Yourself: Remember There is No One Else on Earth like You

Too often they try to be something they are not, which causes them despair. A fish cannot be a cat, or vise versa. If you are a fish, be the absolute best fish you can be. If you try to become just like someone else, you can only be labeled a second-rate (insert name here). However, when you are yourself, others will try to imitate you even when they shouldn’t.

This doesn’t end here. Being frank with other people is also part of being yourself. Telling people what they want to hear only causes US grief. In all likelihood, it will cause the other person grief as well.

People often try to borrow bits and pieces from others to combine into a “perfect” self. Well, a horse designed by a committee is a camel.

If You Have a Lemon, Make a Lemonade

This is an old saying, so let’s rephrase it from a quote from the book: “Two men looked out from prison bars, One saw the mud, the other saw stars.” How you view your life depends on what you do when presented with opportunities.

If you were just given a promotion you didn’t want because the company you work for is mismanaged, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to go with the flow or are you going to set about making some changes? If you are able to change things in your own little niche, this could have a ripple effect. You never know until you try.

Keep this in mind as well: real happiness comes from victories, not pleasure. When you achieve something and feel triumph, you have turned lemons into lemonade.

How to Cure Melancholy in Fourteen Days

Once you take the emphasis off yourself, and learn to serve other people for fourteen days, see what happens. The key is to try to find a way to please someone by offering a compliment, offering your assistance, or simply your time.

This takes the load of your own problems off your back for a moment. While you should never expect gratitude, new opportunities present themselves when this is done with good intentions, You forget yourself entirely after a while.

The Golden Rule for Conquering Worry

How My Mother and Father Conquered Worry

Dale outlines his unfruitful childhood into his parents financial situation. They had it bad most of his life, but his mother never worried. She used prayer as an answer to nearly everything. Personally, I find that prayer is quite powerful. In many instances of my own life, my prayers have most certainly been answered.

Whether you believe in God or not, three principles are offered in this chapter. Prayer helps us determine what our real problems are. It gives us a feeling of sharing our troubles. We do not feel alone, and can admit things that we might not want to tell another human being. Finally, these two principles lead to the third: action. When we put our troubles into words, we can develop solutions that deal with them.

If you do not believe in prayer, I advise attempting this for a week. I challenge you to leave a comment that it wasn’t at least somewhat helpful in the comment section.

How to Keep From Worrying About Criticism

Remember That No One Ever Kicks a Dead Dog

This is one of my favorite chapters. Essentially, it states that people love criticizing people of importance or skill. Feeling of envy cause this reaction to greatness. When you are a bumbling idiot, no one cares to criticize you at all. So, when you have a target on your back, take pride in it.

Schopenhauer once said that “Vulgar people take huge delight in the faults and follies of great men.” When you are doing well, your mistakes will be amplified because envious people like to take shots at their betters.

George Washington was called a hypocrite, an impostor, and little better than a murder. If people are not taking shots at you, then you haven’t yet made it.

Do This–and Criticism Can’t Hurt You

It is important to let criticism role off you as if you had an invisible umbrella with you at all times. How do we do this? First, do the very best you can, and let the chips fall where they may.

Realize that people are thinking about themselves constantly. You simply are not important enough to let unjust criticisms affect you. People care more about a pimple on their face then they do millions dying of starvation. While some may find this sad, it is undoubtedly true.

Even Jesus was denied three times by Peter, and he still made him the head of the church. Peter simply was thinking of himself. He did not want to be crucified along with Jesus.

Fool Things I Have Done

Keep your own file of stupid things that you have done. When you re-read this list, you can start dealing with the problem of self. We have all erred over and over again. When you fall, it is important to blame no one but yourself.

Evaluating yourself can be difficult, but I find it useful to do each night. I go over my day and figure out where I could have done a better job with my interactions with other people. Perhaps I was lazy at work. I put myself to task for this. When you know yourself, you can improve on you.

This self-analysis will allow you to make corrections and move forward as a better person.

Six Ways to Prevent Fatigue and Worry and Keep Your Energy and Spirits High

How to Add One Hour a Day to Your Waking Life

When we are fatigued, we are more susceptible to illness. Of course, illness is certainly something to worry about. In order to prevent this, it is advised that you rest even before you get tired. Do not wait until you are exhausted to put time aside to simply rest.

Even your own heart takes a rest between beats. So take a lesson from your heart and take frequent rests throughout your day. It has been proven that this increases your physical and mental capabilities. This rest, even incorporated in as part of a workday, allows you to get more done than if you had not rested in the same amount of time.

Many people look as rest as weakness. It isn’t advocated that you be lazy, it is recommended that you repair (rest).

A few examples of people who adopted practices of resting regularly are Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

If you take anything from this chapter it is this: “Why stand when you can sit or sit when you can lay down.”

What Makes You Tired–and What You Can Do About It

A very interesting chapter, it details the cause of our fatigue. Most fatigue does not occur because of physical exhaustion. For the most part, our emotions and attitudes are what makes us tired. When we are experiencing joy and contentment, this causes no fatigue.

However, feelings such as resentment, boredom, futility, and anxiety make us tired quickly. Think of a time when you felt tense.  Now think about if you felt more tired during the end of that day. You will find that the answer is a resounding YES.

Sometimes we feel as if we are supposed to be tense or we are not really working! This is not the case. Feeling tense or “concentrating” does not assist the brain in doing a better job. As I write this, I am as loose as a rag doll. Hopefully, it is not affecting my ability to communicate.

After reading the chapter, I believe many meditation practices were ripped from this chapter. Dale advocates that you sit and allow each body part to realize perfect relaxation. Move through the body and feel yourself become limp and truly relaxed.

It is advised that you study cats if you want to know how to truly relax. Also, work in as comfortable position as you can. Do not let nervous tensions take over. Third, do not appear to be working hard. This means that don’t make a harder job of something than it actually is. Finally, evaluate yourself at the end of the day to figure out how tired you are. If you accomplished a lot and are not tired, you are doing well.

How the Housewife Can Avoid Fatigue–and Keep Looking Young

This is a tried and true method of reducing fatigue. A problem shared is a problem halved. Instead of keeping all of your troubles to yourself, find an empathetic soul to share with. I assume everybody does this to some extent. Even when we are simply bitching, it can have a therapeutic effect.

The five recommendations in this chapter are as follows:

  • Keep a list of quotes or whatever that inspires you in a notebook. When your spirits are low, read these for a quick lift.
  • Don’t dwell or others faults. Everyone has faults. When you are finding fault everywhere, start writing down these people’s good points. They are often people you love that you criticize severely. Avoid this.
  • Develop a habit of getting interested in others. When you are interested in others and let them talk, you will certainly make some friends.
  • Write down everything that needs to be completed tomorrow today. You will be able to set out to accomplish these tasks efficiently and will have more time for yourself.
  • Relax. As mentioned in the previous chapter, relax whenever possible or reasonable.

Four Good Working Habits That Will Help Prevent Fatigue and Worry

These habits are particularly useful. I will outline them in my own words.

  1. Remove everything from you sight that does not relate to the task at hand. The reason for this is it distracts you. You will start one thing only to never finish it. Soon you’ll have started ten projects accomplishing very little.
  2. Prioritize your agenda. Do not do things that are supposed to be done in a month just because they are easy to do. Whatever needs your immediate attention is what you should work on first.
  3. If you have all the information you need to make a decision, make it now!
  4. Start delegating tasks. We can’t do everything ourselves. At some point, you must know what is beneath your skills and abilities and delegate it to others.

How to Banish the Boredom That Produces Fatigue, Worry, and Resentment

As stated many times in the book, emotional worries bring us down much faster than physical exertion. How many times have you been tired after doing something that you loved? Even people who claim to be tired after doing something like mountain climbing are tired because they no longer enjoy it.

Whatever tasks that you are charged with, it is important to at least attempt to make it novel and exciting. Act as if you are really interested and your brain won’t be able to tell the difference. Here is an example from my day: I was bored playing poker because I wasn’t being dealt any good hands

After a couple of hours of this, I decided to make a game of guessing what others had. Truthfully, I should always be doing this, but I can get lazy. My interest was perked, and my lethargic attitude left me. It also helped me when I came up against these people in hands I played.

How to Keep from Worrying About Insomnia

Try these five things if you worry about insomnia:

  1. Find something to do until you feel sleepy.
  2. People don’t die due to lack of sleep. The body will force you to sleep before that happens.
  3. Try praying.
  4. Relax as outlined in previous sections.
  5. Exercise.


This is my personal take on “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” Obviously, I put my own thoughts into summary, but I believe it is an accurate description of the book. If you have time to read the entire book, I certainly recommend it. If not, bookmark this page and return to it often. People are master’s at forgetting things almost instantly. I get a lot out of just reading the headings of the pages in the copy I own. They jog my memory.

Please share this post if it has helped or will help others close to you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *