Chapter 5 - How to Eliminate Fifty Per Cent of Your Business Worries

23 April 2022

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IF you are a business man, you are probably saying to yourself right now: "The title of
this chapter is ridiculous. I have been running my business for nineteen years; and I
certainly know the answers if anybody does. The idea of anybody trying to tell me how I
can eliminate fifty per cent of my business worries-it's absurd I"
Fair enough-I would have felt exactly the same way myself a few years ago if I had seen
this title on a chapter. It promises a lot-and promises are cheap.
Let's be very frank about it: maybe I won't be able to help you eliminate fifty per cent
of your business worries. In the last analysis, no one can do that, except yourself. But
what I can do is to show you how other people have done it-and leave the rest to you!
You may recall that on page 25 of this book I quoted the world-famous Dr. Alexis Carrel
as saying: "Business men who do not know how to fight worry die young."
Since worry is that serious, wouldn't you be satisfied if I could help you eliminate even
ten per cent of your worries? ... Yes? ... Good! Well, I am going to show you how one
business executive eliminated not fifty per cent of his worries, but seventy-five per cent
of all the time he formerly spent in conferences, trying to solve business problems.
Furthermore, I am not going to tell you this story about a "Mr. Jones" or a "Mr. X" or "or a
man I know in Ohio"- vague stories that you can't check up on. It concerns a very real
person-Leon Shimkin, a partner and general manager of one of the foremost publishing
houses in the United States: Simon and Schuster, Rockefeller Centre, New York 20, New
Here is Leon Shimkin's experience in his own words:
"For fifteen years I spent almost half of every business day holding conferences,
discussing problems. Should we do this or that-do nothing at all? We would get tense;
twist in our chairs; walk the floor; argue and go around in circles. When night came, I
would be utterly exhausted. I fully expected to go on doing this sort of thing for the rest
of my life. I had been doing it for fifteen years, and it never occurred to me that there
was a better way of doing it. If anyone had told me that I could eliminate three-fourths
of all the time I spent in those worried conferences, and three-fourths of my nervous
strain-I would have thought he was a wild-eyed, slap-happy, armchair optimist. Yet I
devised a plan that did just that. I have been using this plan for eight years. It has
performed wonders for my efficiency, my health, and my happiness.
"It sounds like magic-but like all magic tricks, it is extremely simple when you see how it
is done.
"Here is the secret: First, I immediately stopped the procedure I had been using in my
conferences for fifteen years-a procedure that began with my troubled associates
reciting all the details of what had gone wrong, and ending up by asking: 'What shall we
do?' Second, I made a new rule-a rule that everyone who wishes to present a problem to
me must first prepare and submit a memorandum answering these four questions:
"Question 1: What is the problem?
("In the old days we used to spend an hour or two in a worried conference without
anyone's knowing specifically and concretely what the real problem was. We used to
work ourselves into a lather discussing our troubles without ever troubling to write out
specifically what our problem was.)
"Question 2: What is the cause of the problem?
("As I look back over my career, I am appalled at the wasted hours I have spent in
worried conferences without ever trying to find out clearly the conditions which lay at
the root of the problem.)
"Question 3: What are all possible solutions of the problem?
("In the old days, one man in the conference would suggest one solution. Someone else
would argue with him. Tempers would flare. We would often get clear off the subject,
and at the end of the conference no one would have written down all the various things
we could do to attack the problem.)
"Question 4: What solution do you suggest?
("I used to go into a conference with a man who had spent hours worrying about a
situation and going around in circles without ever once thinking through all possible
solutions and then writing down: 'This is the solution I recommend.')
"My associates rarely come to me now with their problems. Why? Because they have
discovered that in order to answer these four questions they have to get all the facts
and think their problems through. And after they have done that they find, in threefourths of the cases, they don't have to consult me at all, because the proper solution
has popped out like a piece of bread popping out from an electric toaster. Even in those
cases where consultation is necessary, the discussion takes about one-third the time
formerly required, because it proceeds along an orderly, logical path to a reasoned
"Much less time is now consumed in the house of Simon and Schuster in worrying and
talking about what is wrong; and a lot more action is obtained toward making those
things right."
My friend, Frank Bettger, one of the top insurance men in America, tells me he not only
reduced his business worries, but nearly doubled his income, by a similar method.
"Years ago," says Frank Bettger, "when I first started to sell insurance, I was filled with a
boundless enthusiasm and love for my work. Then something happened. I became so
discouraged that I despised my work and thought of giving it up. I think I would have
quit-if I hadn't got the idea, one Saturday morning, of sitting down and trying to get at
the root of my worries.
"1. I asked myself first: 'Just what is the problem?.' The problem was: that I was not
getting high enough returns for the staggering amount of calls I was making. I seemed to
do pretty well at selling a prospect, until the moment came for closing a sale. Then the
customer would say: 'Well, I'll think it over, Mr. Bettger. Come and see me again.' It was
the time I wasted on these follow-up calls that was causing my depression.
"2. I asked myself: 'What are the possible solutions?' But to get the answer to that one, I
had to study the facts. I got out my record book for the last twelve months and studied
the figures.
"I made an astounding discovery! Right there in black and white, I discovered that
seventy per cent of my sales had been closed on the very first interview! Twenty-three
per cent of my sales had been closed on the second interview! And only seven per cent
of my sales had been closed on those third, fourth, fifth, etc., interviews, which were
running me ragged and taking up my time. In other words, I was wasting fully one half of
my working day on a part of my business which was responsible for only seven per cent
of my sales!
"3. 'What is the answer?' The answer was obvious. I immediately cut out all visits beyond
the second interview, and spent the extra time building up new prospects. The results
were unbelievable. In a very short time, I had almost doubled the cash value of every
visit I made from a call!"
As I said, Frank Bettger is now one of the best-known life-insurance salesmen in
America. He is with Fidelity Mutual of Philadelphia, and writes a million dollars' worth of
policies a year. But he was on the point of giving up. He was on the point of admitting
failure-until analysing the problem gave him a boost on the road to success.
Can you apply these questions to your business problems? To repeat my challenge-they
can reduce your worries by fifty per cent. Here they are again:
1. What is the problem?
2. What is the CAUSE of the problem?
3. What are all possible solutions to the problem?
4. What solution do you suggest?
Part Two In A Nutshell
RULE 1: Get the facts. Remember that Dean Hawkes of Columbia University said that "
half the worry in the world is caused by people trying to make decisions before they
have sufficient knowledge on which to base a decision."
RULE 2: After carefully weighing all the facts, come to a decision.
RULE 3: Once a decision is carefully reached, act! Get busy carrying out your decisionand dismiss all anxiety about the outcome.
RULE 4: When you, or any of your associates are tempted to worry about a problem,
write out and answer the following questions:
a. What is the problem?
b. What is the cause of the problem?
c. What are all possible solutions?
d. What is the best solution?
Nine Suggestions on How to Get the Most Out of This Book
1. If you wish to get the most out of this book, there is one indispensable requirement,
one essential infinitely more important than any rules or technique. Unless you have this
one fundamental requisite a thousand rules on how to study will avail little. And if you
do have this cardinal endowment, then you can achieve wonders without reading any
suggestions for getting the most out of a book.
What is this magic requirement? Just this: a deep, driving desire to learn, a vigorous
determination to stop worrying and start living.
How can you develop such an urge? By constantly reminding yourself of how important
these principles are to you. Picture to yourself how their mastery will aid you in living a
richer, happier life. Say to yourself over and over: "My peace of mind, my happiness, my
health, and perhaps even my income will, in the long run, depend largely on applying
the old, obvious, and eternal truths taught in this book."
2. Read each chapter rapidly at first to get a bird's-eye view of it. You will probably be
tempted then to rush on to the next one. But don't. Unless you are reading merely for
entertainment. But if you are reading because you want to stop worrying and start
living, then go back and re-read each chapter thoroughly. In the long run, this will mean
saving time and getting results.
3. Stop frequently in your reading to think over what you are reading. Ask yourself just
how and when you can apply each suggestion. That kind of reading will aid you far more
than racing ahead like a whippet chasing a rabbit.
4. Read with a red crayon, pencil, or fountain-pen in your hand; and when you come
across a suggestion that you feel you can use, draw a line beside it. If it is a four-star
suggestion, then underscore every sentence, or mark it with "XXXX". Marking and
underscoring a book make it more interesting, and far easier to review rapidly.
5. I know a man who has been office manager for a large insurance concern for fifteen
years. He reads every month all the insurance contracts his company issues. Yes, he
reads the same contracts over month after month, year after year. Why? Because
experience has taught him that that is the only way he can keep their provisions clearly
in mind.
I once spent almost two years writing a book on public speaking; and yet I find I have to
keep going back over it from time to time in order to remember what I wrote in my own
book. The rapidity with which we forget is astonishing.
So, if you want to get a real, lasting benefit out of this book, don't imagine that
skimming through it once will suffice. After reading it thoroughly, you ought to spend a
few hours reviewing it every month. Keep it on your desk in front of you every day.
Glance through it often. Keep constantly impressing yourself with the rich possibilities
for improvement that still lie in the offing. Remember that the use of these principles
can be made habitual and unconscious only by a constant and vigorous campaign of
review and application. There is no other way.
6. Bernard Shaw once remarked: "If you teach a man anything, he will never learn."
Shaw was right. Learning is an active process. We learn by doing. So, if you desire to
master the principles you are studying in this book, do something about them. Apply
these rules at every opportunity. If you don't you will forget them quickly. Only
knowledge that is used sticks in your mind.
You will probably find it difficult to apply these suggestions all the time. I know,
because I wrote this book, and yet frequently I find it difficult to apply everything I
have advocated here. So, as you read this book, remember that you are not merely
trying to acquire information. You are attempting to form new habits. Ah yes, you are
attempting a new way of life. That will require time and persistence and daily
So refer to these pages often. Regard this as a working handbook on conquering worry;
and when you are confronted with some trying problem-don't get all stirred up. Don't do
the natural thing, the impulsive thing. That is usually wrong.
Instead, turn to these pages and review the paragraphs you have underscored. Then try
these new ways and watch, them achieve magic for you.
7. Offer your wife a shilling every time she catches you violating one of the principles
advocated in this book. She will break you!
8. Please turn to pages 193-4 of this book and read how the Wall Street banker, H.P.
Howell, and old Ben Franklin corrected their mistakes. Why don't you use the Howell
and Franklin techniques to check up on your application of the principles discussed in
this book? If you do, two things will result.
First, you will find yourself engaged in an educational process that is both intriguing and
Second, you will find that your ability to stop worrying and start living will grow and
spread like a green bay tree.
9. Keep a diary-a diary in which you ought to record your triumphs in the application of
these principles. Be specific. Give names, dates, results. Keeping such a record will
inspire you to greater efforts; and how fascinating these entries will be when you
chance upon them some evening, years from now!
In A Nutshell
1. Develop a deep, driving desire to master the principles of conquering worry.
2. Read each chapter twice before going on to the next one.
3. As you read, stop frequently to ask yourself how you can apply each suggestion.
4. Underscore each important idea.
5. Review this book each month.
6. Apply these principles at every opportunity. Use this volume as a working handbook
to help you solve your daily problems.
7. Make a lively game put of your learning by offering some friend a shilling every time
he catches you violating one of these principles.
8. Check up each week on the progress you are making. Ask yourself what mistakes you
have made, what improvement, what lessons you have learned for the future.
9. Keep a diary in the back of this book showing how and when you have applied these

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