The Silicon Valley Voice

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Don’t Be Happy. Worry.

I’m worried about you.

I’m worried that you are not worried about you.

Really, the way things are going at work, you should be worried, but instead, you blithely go from meeting to meeting, cruller to cruller, paycheck to paycheck without ever considering the trouble you’re in.


And I do mean trouble with a capital “T.”

Your company is clearly not positioned for greatness. It’s not even positioned for survival. Head hunters are not hunting you. And why should they? You’re hardly the sharpest pencil in the pencil box. And if you doubt it – consider the evidence. Here you are, spending precious time reading this column. Only a real loser would do that.

Of course, I know why you’re not worried. You’ve fallen under the spell of do-gooder, pop-psychology charlatans who have convinced you that worrying is bad. It causes ulcers. It’s not productive. It’s just darn negative to be so darn negative.

“Think positive!” they all say, but they’re all wrong, and I have the scientific evidence to prove it.

Or, rather, Jan Hoffman does. Hoffman, a writer for The New York Times, recently published an article titled, “Don’t Worry About Fretting.” The basis for the piece is a recent study published in what I am sure would become one of my favorite scientific journals if I actually read scientific journals, Emotion, which “suggests that imagining failure lets you cope with it much better.”

The study examined “how people manage stress while waiting for high-stakes results.” More specifically, the focus was on “the waiting period, during which a person is in limbo, powerless to affect a possibly life-altering outcome.” In other words, exactly what you face every morning when you get out of bed.

Surprisingly, the “think positive” people positively fell apart if the results were negative, while the “immerse yourself in a puddle of negativity people” managed bad results much better and, when the results were good, were a whole lot happier about it.

You can see how this applies to what we laughingly call your career. Someone like you, whose working life is a series of ever-expanding disasters, should embrace the storm just over the horizon, and let yourself wallow in despair. You’ll be much better off when the worst happens, which, of course, it probably will.

Considering all the experience you’ve had, worrying is probably one of the few things you do really well, but thanks to scientists who study this stuff, it turns out there are good and bad ways to worry, which – good news! – should give you something new to worry about.

Kate Sweeny, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, studied 230 law school graduates during the four months they had to wait to get the results of the bar exam. This is worrying in itself, the idea that at any given minute there could be 230 more lawyers out there, looking for someone to sue.

As reporter Hoffman explained, “people tried to make time fly and their worries disappear; yoga and exercise, work, binge-watching television, talking with friends, not talking with friends. Drinking.”

Before you decide on a strategy for your particular period of limbo hell, and I know you’re leaning towards binge-watching your friends drinking, you should know that “studies have shown that immersive activities, such as video games or even rainy-day household chores like closet de-cluttering are more successful distractions than passive ones, like watching TV.”

Now this is useful research. And if you don’t happen to have a closet that needs de-cluttering, here’s more good news – you can come over to my place! Just be sure to bring gloves and a biohazard suit.

If it goes against your corporate culture to be known as a wimpy worrier, adopt the descriptive jargon scientists use – “defensive pessimism” or “proactive coping.” Whatever you choose to call your doomy, gloomy condition, know that you are more likely to thrive than all those positive-thinking morons who keep smiling through as they try to find a silver lining in the disaster that lies ahead.

“Those who sailed through the waiting period were shattered and paralyzed by the bad news,” Dr. Sweeney says of her 230 guinea pigs waiting for their bar exam results.

You, on the other hand, will be neither shattered nor paralyzed by the inevitable bad news raining down on you from Mahogany Row. You’ll be totally crushed, and emotionally devastated, but you won’t be surprised. After all these years of worrying, you’re expecting it.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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