Because I get anxious too, I often find myself drawn to the self-help genre.
Usually, it strikes me when I wake up in a funk, not caused by any particular trouble. Then I begin making lists. Mental ones, of course; no one writes actual lists.
I begin rattling off all the things I haven't done, but which a successful version of me would have done, by this stage in my life.
Some of you might be surprised to learn that I have not been elected President of the United States, even though I technically do qualify.
Not that I'm working towards that goal. Or even wish for it. From what I hear, the White House isn't very nice these days.
No matter. I still haven't achieved it.
I try to shake these thoughts while waiting for my first cup of coffee to brew by plopping down in my reading chair (a $99 dollar Ikea special) and cracking open a classic book. One of those everyone "loves" but I've never seen anyone actually read.
When my eyes hit the page, I can't make sense of the words. And it's not because I'm an idiot. It's because I can't concentrate. How could anyone concentrate when they haven't accomplished noteworthy yet?
What the hell's my problem?
So I close the book (with the mark in the same place where I started) and grab my Kindle. With a swipe of the wrist and two finger taps, I'm in the Kindle Store surfing for books. Surely, someone out there must know why I haven't achieved all those things that seemed inevitable twenty years ago.
Most times, I do find something. A bestseller. Or an approach to life that has helped millions. At first, I feel it's helping me too. I have a renewed bounce in my step. I'm confident I'm back on the right track.
But then I give up. Or get bored. Or worse. And within a few days, I'm back to making lists again.
Occasionally, however, I stumble across something worth sharing.
Today's tip comes from Letter No. 13 in Tim Ferriss's Tao of Seneca. It's called On Groundless Fears. You can download it here for free. It's part of Volume 1.
Seneca (an old Roman dude) is writing a series of letters to his friend, Lucilius, explaining the things he's learned in life.
In this letter, he tells Lucilius that "there are more things . . . likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality."
He advises Lucilius "not to be unhappy before the crisis comes; since it may be that the dangers [feared] will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come."
And while he admits that some troubles are inevitable, he suggests that his friend ask:
“Well, what if it does happen? Let us see who wins! Perhaps it happens for my best interests; it may be that such a death will shed credit upon my life." Then he provides examples of famous Romans who are remembered because of how they died.
He finishes by urging Lucilius not to delay in charging forth. Go out and "increase and beautify the good that is in you."
"For the fool, with all his other faults, has this also, he is always getting ready to live.”
Wow! How many times have I been the fool?
For me, the groundless fears Seneca describes are the reason I haven't done many of the things I've wanted with my life. I've taken the safe route. Been a good lawyer. Done the things society expects of me.
But no more!
Starting today, this blog will tell the story I want to tell. And if you don't like it, feel free to click away.
I hope you don't.
Imagine how much more we could all do together if we weren't afraid of our own thoughts.