Things Not to Worry About


The post on unnecessary traffic lights generated a heated debate about rules, laws, and traffic cameras.

When I let go of concerns that exist for no good reason, life becomes much easier. When I focus on outcomes and define success on my own terms, I’m able to accomplish goals quicker and more effectively.

It’s still easy to worry about the wrong things, though. Earlier this year I went on several dozen radio shows to talk about entrepreneurship and creating your own security through a small business.

Inevitably, the host of the show would take callers and someone would ask about taxes or business licenses. Sometimes the call-in was more of a lecture than a question: “You should really think about the license and tax planning process before you start any kind of business.”

Really? This is kind of like asking:

How do I pay the taxes on the millions of dollars that I’ll make?

My advice is to first figure out how to make the millions of dollars, then you can worry about paying the taxes.

You can see these kinds of concerns—and the obvious rebuttals—in many other parts of life.

How can I travel if I don’t speak other languages?

It will be fine. You travel the way you would anywhere.

You’ll get by. You’ll figure it out. (Hat tip: Danielle the Firestarter.)

It’s not that hard.

I have so many ideas that I don’t know which to choose.

Well, stop worrying and pick one of them.

You can make the decision by flipping a coin or doing the last thing on the list.

But seriously, just pick something.

What if something goes wrong?

If something goes wrong, it will go wrong. Who cares?

And more important, what if something goes right?

You just as well might succeed as well as you might fail.


There may be some valid things to worry about in your life. But make sure you’re worrying about the right ones—not anything that can’t be easily solved or ignored.

Are you doing that?


*Check out The Traveler’s Handbooks, a new series of guides from AONC friends including Jodi Ettenberg and Shannon O’Donnell.

Image: Erin

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  • Nicholas Casteel says:

    I agree with this article completely. Many times people start getting into a what if this, or what if that situation. Typically these situations are all good. Like for example, if we have that many sales we will not be able to handle the sales with the workforce we have, what will we do. Most often I hear myself saying something along the lines of “That is a problem I would like to have.” People need to get off their butts and just do and worry about all this other stuff if and when it become relevent.

  • Travis Hellstrom says:

    Nice post Chris, I loved the post about the traffic lights a lot and I’ve started following your lead. I’ve always enjoyed following the rules, but now I like knowing just enough about them to work around them. It’s more fun to do what you know deep down is right.

  • Natalie the Singingfool says:

    Exactly! Why worry about something that isn’t a problem yet? Or isn’t even real?? This shouldn’t be a quest to make life more difficult, which our fears generally dictate.

  • danabee says:

    I love your approach to silly questions (what happens if I fail? Pick something else!) and concerns that aren’t easily solved – ignore them. Good advice.

  • Patricia LaCroix says:

    I believe the saying goes: Don’t cross the bridge ’til you get to it. “What if” thinking is downright dangerous as it creates roadblocks that don’t exist. It’s all fantasy. And it will stop you dead in your tracks. One can only operate correctly and successfully on a foundation of truth and reality.

  • Brian Cotlove says:

    “I have so many ideas that I don’t know which to choose.” This is timely because I just brought up this issue to another writer that I follow. It’s a problem that I definitely have because I’m just so interested in so many things…I guess I’m just a naturally curious person. But I am insanely jealous of people who have laser-like focus and passion in one subject and then take that passion and achieve greatness. I guess I just need to flip a coin!

  • Deb A. says:

    But what if…? We live in a society (USA — can’t speak for everywhere!) that links maturity and adulthood with ‘worrying’. To be carefree is considered ‘childlike’. Your post today in no way suggests a mindless way of wandering through decisions but rather gives a call to action! Nonetheless, better prepare now for the naysayers — just givin’ you a ‘heads-up’! Enjoyed the post!

  • Vicky says:

    This whole worrying thing has been holding me back from my own success. I was was really worried about what idea to pick and if I will fail. So far, my decision has been great, but I have a feeling I’ll be changing my mind again, and I am fine with that. It’s the journey that counts and it has been exciting as ever!

  • Elise Daly Parker says:

    Love this clarity. We really do worry about things before we need to. Particularly love figuring out how to make the millions before worrying about paying taxes. Working on the millions now…

  • james canali says:

    I kinda just wanna cheer…sooo wooot wooot. Thank you again…

  • James says:

    These are simple, but essential ideas! It goes further than saying, “Don’t just dream; do.”

    It’s more like just saying, “Do.”

    We need to be more about taking action and less about worry. Don’t worry if there’s nothing to worry about!

    Thanks for the post. These are the kinds of messages I’m trying to spread with my start up Mind Right Media. Too many of us settle for the job given to us because of our fear of failure and pursuing something outside of the norm. Do something every day that scares you!

    Follow your Heart. Find your Passion. Live your dream.

    Get Your Mind Right!

  • Ken McClinton says:

    Great post Chris! It’s so easy to forget not to sweat the small stuff in life. Thanks for the reminder!

  • tunie says:

    Excellent reprogramming session, thank you.

  • Michael Max says:

    There are always problems. Of course! If there were not problems, most of would not be in business. One man’s “problem” is another man’s “service.”

    And yes, there are the problems and issues associated with starting a business. And there is a completely different set of issues that need to be attended to once you have achieved a modicum of success.

    The challenges change, and there are always challenges. The good thing about success is you get a tastier set of problems to chew on!

  • Gaia says:

    Nice post. The idea reminds me of a Dutch saying a friend of mine once told me: you can’t miss the bull’s eye if you don’t shoot first. So true! If you’re going to worry about missing… Just shoot already! You may not make the bull’s eye, but you’ll hit something, and you then have the knowledge to make an educated decision about your next move.

  • ashley kujan says:

    i think that the most valuable question you ask here is the one that we all need to ask ourselves in every situation……”what if something goes right?” i have been studying the “law of attraction” lately, as examined in the film, “the secret”, and it definitely applies! jack canfield would counsel us to NEVER worry. any focus on a situation, positive or negative, will almost certainly bring it! so why not CHOOSE to focus on the successful outcome? manifest our reality, brothers and sisters!!!

  • D Garner says:

    I like ” what if something goes right?”. No one ever goes around worrying about everything that might go right.

  • Mike Melia says:

    Noted speaker Brain Tracy asked, “What is the average time an idea is acted upon before someone give up?” Crazy answer — less than one. Turns out the overwhelming majority of people talk themselves out of it some way or another.
    You can’t send a duck to eagle school.

  • Cara Lopez Lee says:

    I’m with you, Chris. I’m amazed at how much resistance these ideas get. I recently gave a workshop on adventure travel, and one attendee said she felt pressure to do everything on her list even though she can’t, which makes traveling stressful. I suggested that she prioritize and let some things go. Her answer was something along the lines of “But I don’t want to miss anything.” Sometimes people don’t want solutions, just a validation that their problems are unsolvable.

  • Kurt Swann says:

    I’ve heard lots of “yeah, but” or “what if” comments related to travel. Language, crime, illness, getting lost etc. They’ve all happened (rarely) while traveling and I did figure it out. But most of those things have happened to me at home too 🙂 Besides the good things that have happened while traveling outweigh the bad by at least a 1,000 to 1.

    Also, I’m guessing one reason for a worry-attitude is it gives people an excuse for not doing anything.

  • Caroline White says:

    Very refreshing, simple, straight forward and realistic attitude. Really appreciate that. We’re all so worried about this or that – logistics, results, headaches, making a mistake, Becoming the Next Big Thing. Bottom line if you are reading this – you have a phone or computer or access – which means – you are one of The Lucky Ones. Get busy doing what you want/figuring out what you want/just trying stuff & daring to fail. Shit will hit the fan at some point, somehow – but you will still be a Lucky One even then. I spend too much time worrying about stuff that works out perfectly somehow 99% of the time.

  • Joseph Bernard says:

    Don’t worry, be happy – that is a great way to live in the world. Many people seem driven to find things to worry about and be fearful of.

    I once asked my mother what she would do if she didn’t worry. She said she didn’t know.

    Worry and fear are products of the ego-mind and are always created by thoughts about the past and the future. You can do two things to get rid of most worry and fear. 1. Change your thinking 2. Live in the here and now.

    Peace 2 all.

  • EarthDrifter says:

    Excellent stuff! Often excuses are a justification for laziness or to find an easy way out. I have so many ideas that I don’t know which to choose. Well, stop worrying and pick one of them. So so true.

  • Angela Glasser says:

    Great post! I had a quote on my refrigerater for a long time that went something like this, “to worry about the future is to be ungrateful for the gifts of today”. I try to live by that quote. Grounding myself in gratitude helps to put things in perspective. Also a great way to look at FEAR is:

  • Phil says:

    I have taken a lazy approach to worry.

    Every time I start worrying I think “I can’t be bothered to worry about it now, I’ll worry about it later”.

    When later comes I can’t even be sure what exactly it was I was worrying about

  • KT says:

    This is a great newsletter, needed to hear it today. I can’t tell you how many times I get stalled and don’t produce ANYTHING because I worry to much about the outcome. But as soon as I start a project and work on it over a course of time, I’m happy because I’m creating. Don’t worry be happy is one of my favorite mottos.

  • Joe says:

    I have so many ideas that I don’t know which to choose.

    What if something goes wrong?

    For the last 3 months or so I’ve been practicing the advice you give to the above topics, and things are moving along very well, much better than the last 2 years when I just wasted time & energy worrying about how to make a living and how to get my own businesses going. These are simple suggestions that can make life much nicer.

  • Tonya says:

    Great reminder. Came right on time for me. Thanks.

  • Rick Wolff says:

    I’m reminded of a character in a science fiction story I read ages ago — I think it was Ringworld — whose life was charmed by luck, and so had no concept of what to do if that luck ran out, no life experience to prepare her, because for her, it never did.

  • sarah wang says:

    great post, love the examples! everything is a choice, you can choose to worry or choose to live stress-free! Focusing on positive outcomes will more likely bring you positive outcomes.

  • Glen Stansberry says:

    These types of questions often come up in web development. People genuinely ask “how do we scale this when we have a million users?!”. What a great problem to have! The better question is “how do I just get started?”

    It’s a good indicator that project X won’t happen when people are worried about problems that don’t exist yet. The projects that actually become popular were worried about the important things. Great reminder, Chris.

  • Jo says:

    I used to tell my mother “90% of what you worry about won’t happen and the other 10% will and worrying won’t stop it”.
    Now I have to remind myself not to worry about my grown and flown children!

    I have found travelling “as the wind blows me” with no plans,
    means I live in the moment and consequently don’t worry about anything. It’s wonderful.

  • Kathryn Hardage says:

    Just jump off the edge and enjoy the feeling of being in the air. When you land, dust yourself off, and figure out what to do next. I have done this many times and will continue doing it. I have no idea how things will work out, but I will figure out a way. I have discovered that it is more interesting and fun to figure out new things than to be dragged down by the same old stuff. And yes, your mind and brain and intelligence are built to do just that, to solve puzzles.

  • Jenny says:

    Short and sweet, and what I needed to hear. I love the very last part – not anything that can’t be easily solved or ignored.
    Ignored! Yes! When I let others make their problems my problems, or I myself take on other people’s problems – sometimes the solution is simply that – ignore it.
    I get so hung up not on the problems I can and should be solving, but on the ones that I should simply be ignoring in the first place.
    And I have to say I’ve been one of those tax people… >_< I'm not completely done being one of those what about taxes people, I have to admit. *blushes*

  • Seth says:

    When my wife and I decided to teach abroad, we started with a list of twenty countries, then narrowed that down to fifteen, then ten.

    In the end, we were split on Korea vs. Japan. After a couple days of deliberations, I flipped a coin. Two months later we were on a flight to South Korea.

    Everything worked out just fine.

    It almost always does.

  • Beth West says:

    I have learned to worry and work at the same time. I think I would enjoy my work much more though if I stifled the worry!

  • Jason Williams says:

    Thanks for the follow up post. Good stuff! I am reminded of one of Seth Godin’s posts from earlier this year about Beats by Dre headphones (below). Thanks for the reminder of “what if something goes right”. For the record, Dr. Dre was in the news recently for unseating Jay-Z as rap’s top earner, in part due to…Beats by Dre headphones.

    “Dr. Dre licensed his name for a line of headphones. I have no idea how much his royalty is, but figure it’s $20 a pair.

    At some point during the negotiations, perhaps someone said, “wait a minute! What if it’s a hit? What if we sell more high-end headphones than anyone has ever sold, ever, and we sell 5,000,000 pairs. That means that he’ll get a hundred million dollars. That’s absurd! We need to put a limit on this.”

    We often hesitate to pay a portion of the upside to someone who is taking a risk, because we’re worried that perhaps, just perhaps, his risk will pay off and he’ll make a fortune…

    The thing is, if they make a fortune, you make five fortunes. Don’t worry about it. Go ahead and give people the opportunity to have their risk pay off. More than ever, people are motivated by the opportunities that come with scale.”

  • Siobhain Danaher says:

    Great post Chris 🙂 ‘Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere’ – Erma Bombeck

  • Clay says:

    Sometimes people mix up stuff worth worrying about with the not-so-worth-worrying-about stuff. The challenge I see is when worrying becomes a habit, it can be hard to for some people to tell the difference.

    I always ask clients who are attached to being worried:

    1. What’s the absolute worst that can happen? And if it does, can you handle it?

    2. What is the probability of that happening?

    They often realize that their worries are unfounded. But this is just the initial realization. Consistent action to overcome the worry can take a little more encouragement sometimes.

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