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I Used To Be One Of The World's Biggest Jackasses

I have died more times from more different diseases than any other man, living, dead, or half dead.

I was no ordinary hypochondriac. My father owned a drugstore, and I was practically brought up in it. I talked to doctors and nurses every day, so I knew the names and symptoms of more and more diseases than the average layman. I was no ordinary hypo-I had symptoms! I could worry for an hour or two over a disease and then have practically all the symptoms of a man who was suffering from it. I recall once that, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the town in which I lived, we had a rather severe diphtheria epidemic. In my father's drugstore, I had been selling medicines day after day people who came from infected homes. Then the evil that I feared came upon me: I had diphtheria myself. I was positive I had it. I went to bed and worried myself into the standard symptoms. I send for a doctor. He looked me over and said, "Yes, Percy, you've got it." That relived my mind. I was never afraid of any disease when i had it-so I turned over and went to sleep. The next morning I was in perfect health.

For years, I distinguished myself and got a lot of attention and sympathy by specializing in unusual and fantastic diseases-I died several times of both lockjaw and hydrophobia. Later on, I settled down to having the run-of-mill ailments-specializing in cancer and tuberculosis.

I can laugh about it now, but it was tragic then. I honestly and literally feared for years that I was walking on the edge of the grave. When it came time to buy a suit of clothes in the spring, I would ask myself: "Should I waste this money when I know I cant possibly live to wear this suit out?"

However, I am happy to report progress: in the past ten years, I haven't died even once.

How did I stop dying? By kidding myself out of my ridiculous imaginings. Every time I felt the dreadful symptoms coming on, I laughed at myself and said: "See here, Whiting, you have been dying from one fatal disease after another now for twenty years, yet you are in first-class health today. An insurance company recently accepted you for more insurance. Isn't it about time, Whiting, that you stood aside and had a good laugh at the worrying jackass you are?"

I soon found that I couldn't worry about myself and laugh at myself at one and the same time. So I've been laughing at myself ever since.

The point of this is: Don't take yourself too seriously. Try just laughing at some of you sillier worries, and see if you cant laugh them out of existence.


Carnegie, D. (1998). Dale Carnegie's lifetime plan for Success: How to Win Friends & Influence People ; how to stop worrying & start living: The great bestselling works complete in one volume. Galahad Books.