Worry Less, Do More

  • Posted on Apr 22, 2018

Today's Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier column, for your delight and edification.  I lament the time most of us spend worrying rather than doing.  Whenever I do more and worry less, life goes better.             

             A retired UNI colleague and I took lunch last week, and he chuckled when he reminisced about his long career. 

            “You know, I worried so much about bad things happening, and thought our department was always falling apart.  Some faculty colleagues never bothered recruiting majors, so our whole program was doomed.  Or so I thought.  Then they up and resigned, better faculty replaced them, new majors came in, and the program thrived.”  

            He went on, “That happened over and over. I always worried too much.”  

            Sometimes his worries were warranted. Then he had a problem to solve, which he usually did.  But draining energy by worrying never helped.  

            “How much time I wasted worrying!” He lamented.  

            So do we all, my friend, so do we all.  Look up the quote “I’m old and have had lots of troubles, most of which never happened.”  That idea has been around in various forms for literally centuries, and was cited by Seneca, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, and Mark Twain, among others. It’s ancient wisdom that gets wiser as I get older.  

            Worrying alone only creates higher stress levels, sleepless nights, and complaining to hapless listeners. Boorish and useless.    

            However, that’s the only bad news.  The good news is that worrying isn’t a disease or an addiction.  It’s merely a bad habit we can conquer.    


  • North Korea’s nuclear capabilities threaten our mainland.  Yes, it’s possible, but seems less and less likely, given current diplomatic efforts started during the Winter Olympics. 

It’s a problem that’s receding, and worrying made no difference.   

  • We have a “morally unfit” President whose only life goal is self-promotion.  He seems unable to strategize about anything, leaving our country’s leadership in tatters. 

Time for hand-wringing? If it helps, yes. But it doesn’t help. Lack of leadership is unsustainable, and it will unravel sooner or later, probably sooner, worry or no worry.   

What helps? Less worrying and more organizing, speaking out, urging change, and voting.  Repeat that: voting.  

  • Opioid addiction and deaths plague the country.  It’s a problem that helps get solved by making the antidote, naloxone, widely available and cheap.  Also new legislation controlling the use, sale and distribution of such killer drugs Instead of getting worried, get busy making your voice heard.   
  • Gun deaths are a national scandal, and the easy availability of assault weapons makes no sense to anyone but NRA-brainwashed citizens, lost in paranoid fantasies or fascination for lethal toys.   Yes, worry, but only only enough to motivate yourself to get busy—march, write letters, and again, vote.  
  • Public education and the teaching profession continues to lose funding, undercutting our very democracy, which can’t survive without an educated citizenry.  Truly worrisome, but there’s a problem to solve here that takes real energy.  Write, call, contribute, organize, support, march, and vote.  

            It’s activist citizens, not worriers, who will help solve these and dozens of other pressing problems. It’s way beyond worrying and worriers.  

            To hand-wringers everywhere, remember Bobby McFerrin’s song, with a slight change:   

            Don’t worry, get busy, be happy.  



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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.


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