In Praise of Worry
Why, much as we'll always love MAD magazine, "What Me, Worry?" isn't a great motto for life.
January 24, 2012 - 12:01 am
More recently, Andrew Grove, the retired co-founder and CEO of Intel, the pioneering microchip company, titled his classic business book Only The Paranoid Survive. He would know: while he and his mother, Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary, were sheltered by friends during World War II, Grove’s father was imprisoned in a concentration camp, which he survived.
Grove’s book focuses on the need to stay competitive in business, where sudden changes in regulation, innovation, and market forces require pivoting on a dime. Worry in business and at many places of employment is essential: competition from other companies and from others within your workplace create the necessity for worry. Others are trying to surpass, supplant, and outdo you or your enterprise. Unruffled, over-confident complacency is unwise.
To skip through life with nary a care may seem to be an agreeable way to go, but you probably won’t go far. In his penetrating book, The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker illuminates the critical importance of being realistically worried about the dangers that surround us.
While necessity is the mother of invention, worry is the parent of prudence. Not only in business, but also in our daily lives, being on the qui vive can prevent disaster.
When you’re driving, for example, worry is as functional as knowing how to brake. If it never occurs to you on a Saturday night or on New Year’s Eve that other drivers could be drunk, you will be more likely to conclude your evening in an accident, a hospital emergency room, or on a marble slab at the morgue than if you’d worried and been hyper-alert.
If you’re in the woods and are happily unconcerned about poison ivy, you could discover the shiny three-leafed plant has left you with some maddeningly irritating souvenirs.
A happy-go-lucky unmarried man with a “What Me, Worry?” tattoo can go condomless as often as he pleases, until a gnawing itch is diagnosed as herpes, or other symptoms turn out to be syphilis, gonorrhea, or worse.
Being worried enough to wear a condom isn’t being a fussbudget. It’s being smart.
In family finances, not to mention the federal budget, worrying about disaster compels the prudent person or government to put aside money for a rainy day. Worry is the cause of saving, which can be the difference between having a home and being homeless, having a Triple A bond rating, or being downgraded.
In political life, if we weren’t worried, we wouldn’t vote at all.
Forward-thinking worry is part of a realistic person’s intellectual and emotional suit of armor in dealing with what Hamlet called the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Do not ask for whom worrying is indispensable. It’s indispensable for you.
Worry isn’t just for worrywarts: it’s for us all.
– Belladonna Rogers
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