Day 13. Get all the facts before you abandon all your houseplants

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 13.  April 7, 2011 
This week was a challenge at home.  I have had to vacuum my kitchen dining area every single night. 

You see, I have quite a collection of houseplants by a bay window in the dining room.  These plants have been with me for as long as I’ve had my home.  Sometimes I forget to water my plants but they faithfully hang on for dear life until I remember to give them something to drink.  I like them because it reminds me of being in a greenhouse. 

But this week, my entire tile floor has a new, ‘peppered’ look.  These little specks of ‘pepper’ are gnats.  I’m not talking one, two, or twenty.  It’s as if someone took a pepper mill and dusted my entire floor.  It’s a despicable, horrifying sight.  I cautiously enter my home every night wondering if my floor will be completely black. 

I’ve been coping with this problem as patiently as I can.  There was a time I would have decided to remove all houseplants and never permit another plant in my home again for the rest of my life.  But not this time.

I wasn’t sure what the source of the problem was.  Was it one plant?  All the plants?  It hardly seems right to get rid of all my plants.    

So I decided to get all the facts.  What was baffling was that none of the gnats were alive—and they were only on the tile floor. 

Last night I did some reading on the subject and tried some poisonous concoctions on the plants. 

I was eager to see the results this morning.  UGH.  No, this time these audacious creatures were alive and well all over the tile floor—particularly around one particular potted plant.  I examined the plant and the soil was moving. 

This plant has now been relegated to the great outdoors and I’m carefully examining the health of the rest of the plants.  So far they seem ok. 

Did I really apply Dale Carnegie principles in this instance?  Absolutely.
From How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Get all the facts.

How to face trouble—
What is the problem?  What are the causes of the problem?  What are the possible solutions?  What is the best possible solution?

Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth and refuse to give it more.

I didn’t enjoy the gnats one bit but I also didn’t want them to occupy my mind all day and night.   In order to solve the problem I needed to behave rationally and gather the facts and then take action.  Long term it wouldn’t do any good developing an unhealthy fear of houseplants!  Plantphobia?  Botanophobia?  No.  Not me.    

So remember, when you are facing a challenge, keep your composure, gather the facts then take action.  You’ll find this approach more effective than making rash decisions or going into panic mode.

Day 6. How Dale Carnegie helped me to ice skate


365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 6.  March 31, 2011 
Preface:  Thank you for reading my blog about living the Dale Carnegie principles.

Today was an important day in my world—it was Session 3 of my ice skating lessons.  I was certain this day would be the perfect application of the principles for overcoming worry from Dale Carnegie. 

During last week’s skating experience I crashed on the ice so hard I passed out.  So today I was facing my enemy head on.  The enemy was fear.  I really thought I had a good handle on the fear until I put the skates on and was staring at the ice rink in front of me. 

I wore my gym watch to monitor my heart rate—and was pretty surprised to see my heart racing at 145 beats just standing by the skating rink.

Suffice it to say, I clung to my trainer for the entire hour.  Is there a word stronger than terrified? 

I tried to relax by taking deep breaths. 

I remembered my instructor Frank Starkey, from the Dale Carnegie course, explaining in the first session that as we progress through each of the Dale Carnegie classes our confidence will increase.  Being able to reference past successes in class will give us confidence to push ourselves to new challenges in the course and in life. 

I grinned remembering my achievements in the Dale Carnegie course. 

Despite my efforts to relax and think all these points through my limbs just weren’t loosening up.  Picture a stiff board on ice skates.   It was a very long hour. 

I was relieved the session was up—yet I was disappointed by my terror.  I thanked my trainer and said I was going to go back on the ice and try to tackle my fear.  I must do it.  And she said, “you will do it.”

She said the magic words: “you will do it”. 

You know that scene in the Gladiator, where Maximus is entering the Roman Colosseum, ready to face the battle?  That’s me.  Except picture someone 5’ 4”, a small frame, walking clumsily in ice skates up the stairs to enter the ice rink for Round 2. 

Gladiator, ice skater or just a person trying to exercise the Dale Carnegie principles?

There was just one little girl on the ice—probably 8 years old. She asked—“is this your first time?”  I explained my situation and that I had come to conquer my fear.  She said, “you can do it!”

Armed with confidence that my trainer and a random 8 year old girl had in me— I stepped onto the ice.  Terrified but determined.  I will not go home until I do this.  Period.

I reflected on my past success on the ice.  Last week I skated on my own for two hours with success.  Sure, I fell 4 times.  But I got up each time.  And although I did pass out—I lived to tell the story.  The bruises and scabs are badges of honor.  Free souvenirs. 

It took great mental effort but I was able skate—and I skated for two hours on my own.  The big stupid grin on my face summed it up.  I gave the little 8 year old girl a thumbs up as we crossed paths on the ice.  She shared the pleasure of my accomplishment.  And I grinned happily at her. 

There are multiple principles I applied (or tried to!) in this scenario:

From Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:

  1. Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can possibly happen?”  Prepare to accept the worst.  Try to improve on the worst. 
  2. Once a decision is reached, act!
  3. Cooperate with the inevitable.

 This evening wasn’t about how well I skated—I was still very clumsy—but the point was—I didn’t back down from my fear and I accepted the possibility that I could fall again.  The rewards—a big stupid grin, a very amusing show for the bystanders at the rink and I get the pleasure of knowing I did not back down. 

Let’s be practical—it’s hard to face fears in whatever form they come in.  But if you can practice the mental attitude of “I can and will do this, now”— then you will succeed.  And when you do this—you are able to manage worry and focus on achieving your goals—no matter how big or small.  Every accomplishment is worth being proud of and celebrating.

Day 5. Enthusiasm

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 5.  March 30, 2011 
I can’t decide which Carnegie story to share today so I’m sharing two today.  To the two people that read my blog (ha) feel free to let me know which you like best.



Story 1. 
I have suggested an idea on at least 3 different occasions to “Carlos”.  Each and every time the idea was shot down.  I understand Carlos’s hesitation to adopt my idea so I don’t really argue the point.  Well today Carlos came to me with a brilliant idea he was so excited to share. 

Put enthusiasm in your work. It makes the process easier.


You know where I’m going with this story. 

Carlos shared his idea—which of course was my idea. I can probably reference the exact days I suggested the idea.  I listened to Carlos telling me his brilliant idea and kept  repeating in my head… “Dale Carnegie.  Dale Carnegie.”  I took a deep breath.  I struggled internally because I thought Carlos was proving yet again that he’s nuts.  I sat there struggling and then thought… who cares whose idea it is… all I know is that the idea is a good one and I finally get approval to carry it out.  I smiled and told Carlos it’s a great idea. 

The principle I used is from Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People:

Principle 16.  Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers. 

When you let the other person feel the idea is his or hers—both of you can focus your energy toward following through on the idea.  Progress is made. 


Story 2. 
I had a photoshoot today that I was not especially enthused about.  I had a horrible time trying to prepare the studio.  The fabric I was using as a prop was wrinkled and all my efforts to iron and steam the wrinkles out failed.  I set the shot up—took a dozen photos.  Didn’t really like any of them.  I was completely frustrated that I had to do this task.  In my mind this task really wasn’t my responsibility… etc, etc.  The day just seemed to drag on forever.  I was concluding it was a crummy day.     

Before leaving I reviewed my to-do list and noticed I didn’t finish an article I had written.   I needed some photos to really make the article come alive.  I started gathering props and samples.  I went into the studio, removed the previous items I had photographed about two hours earlier.  I left the wrinkled fabric in place—mainly because I liked the color and didn’t want to try ironing other fabric. 

Well, after an hour and a half into this second photoshoot of the day, I had to pull myself away from my work.  I was completely engulfed in the work—I was not merely photographing pins, needles and flower samples—no—no—I was creating art.  I was immersed in my work—changing angles and lighting as I photographed.  I probably could have stayed well into the night photographing pins, needles and flowers. 

As I drove home trying to think of what Carnegie principles I exercised today I realized I was my own case study—my own lab rat.  The first photoshoot was miserable—because I didn’t approach it with enthusiasm.  The second photoshoot was creative, fun and a success (even with the same wrinkled fabric) because I approached it with giddy enthusiasm.  My perspective of the task I had to do changed.  It was the same work– just a different outlook. 

The principle I used in this example is from Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

Put enthusiasm into your work.

When you put enthusiasm in your work the output is better quality because you put your heart into it.  You might even find that the work doesn’t feel like labor at all.  And let’s be clear– it doesn’t matter what type of work– doing the dishes, mopping the floor, performing brain surgery– if you approach it with enthusiasm you are guaranteed to feel more productive and fulfilled. 

So, to the couple of people that read my blog… which story do you like best?

Day 4. Live in “day-tight” compartments

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 4.  March 29, 2011 

Tuesday can be summed up with one word:  Taxing.

I had a busy day.  I scheduled a special Coffee Celebration at Starbucks.  Then an associate wanted to have lunch.  Then I had a dental appointment in the afternoon—followed by a photoshoot for a friend.  Then I had art club.  And last, ice skating lessons.

Did I mention, I work full time?  And it happens to be print week… the busiest time of the month? 

 I knocked out the first two items on my task list, managed to squeeze in some work then stormed out to go to the dentist.  I was so irritated because the dental appointment really interrupted my schedule.  I was feeling the stress of the day.  How am I supposed to finish all my work?  This day is such a waste. 

I made it to the dentist, still crabby because I left a pile of work at the office.  As I sat down in the waiting room I took a deep breath.  I might as well accept the circumstances.  It does no good to take out my frustration on the dentist or the receptionist.  It’s not their fault I can’t keep my teeth clean. Besides, I always manage to get my work done.  Today will be no different. 

As I was sitting, taking a deep breath…my cell phone rang.  My ice skating instructor was calling to reschedule my skating lesson.  I was thrilled because this meant my evening opened up and I could catch up on work. 

Today’s entry will be different.  I will tell you the principle I should have implemented immediately.  It’s from Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

The principle is:
1. Live in ‘day-tight compartments.’

You see, I spent the day stressing and worrying about all the work and commitments I had to get done today when I didn’t have to.  I got my work and commitments completed and my schedule even opened up when my ice skating instructor rescheduled my appointment out of the blue.   I worried and stressed for nothing!

So, when you live in ‘day-tight compartments’ you can focus on one specific task or moment and not waste time or energy worrying about things that may or may not happen.