How I learned to stop worrying and take my own advice

A big lesson learned from a trip with friends.

I recently had the pleasure of traveling with two of my closest friends. We took the opportunity to connect over a weekend by meeting up in a city where none of us lives. Not only are these two amazing people, but we share many commonalities in our personal values and professional goals.

One of the things I love about our trio is that we don’t always agree. We don’t necessarily disagree either. We push one another by asking probing questions and bringing perspective that the others may not necessarily have thought.

We are also an entrepreneurial bunch. One owns and operates a global transportation company that provides ground, logistics, and strategic consulting services. The other is an executive by day and an ingenious inventor and creator by nights and weekends, with a full-time career and a full-time side hustle.

The trip was great. We stayed in the center of the city and walked just about everywhere, including to dinner every night. One particular night at dinner, we started talking about me and my professional journey, and one of my friends asked, "What is the biggest lesson you have learned?"

I had to pause. It was a lot to chew on. My mind quickly scanned a range of responses, everything from trusting myself, to not being afraid to fail, to understanding the value of relationships. Before I could mentally explore any one lesson or takeaway, I found myself saying, "To not worry, because ultimately things will be just fine."

That was it. As I shared with my friends, I have had many days, in business and in life, when I thought the world would come crashing down. There have been days when  making any decision seemed like the toughest thing to do; making the best decision turned out to be everything other than great; and not making a decision at all proved that it was best to simply make a decision or one will be made for you. Either way, worry has never, ever served me well.

Even on the best of days and at the heights of life and work, worry has managed on occasion to creep its way in. I don’t know about you, but there have been times when things are going so well, I have stopped to worry that maybe this period of peace and harmony is a sign that something surely will go wrong.

I have worried about whether my counsel would be well received, worried about whether clients would be in a good or bad mood, worried about whether we would win a business pitch, worried about whether I would make my flight on time. I can go on and on and on. Yet I can’t think of a single instance where the worry was warranted.

Here’s the thing: to contemplate all scenarios and determine the most effective route to take is something I’ve always been good at. I’m known for having a balanced perspective, unflappable instincts, and keeping a cool head. I make my best decisions when I can let my thoughts flow and am open to the most creative and non-traditional ideas. Worry is counterproductive to all that. In fact, when I worry, I get very little done but worry.

There were many great things about our trip. As usual, it was a fun time. We had juicy conversations about all kinds of topics, laughed a lot, and relaxed even more.

However, that night at dinner was a highlight for me. I could physically and emotionally feel how my response to a simple question gave me so much confidence and peace. I reaffirmed through words what I already knew instinctively. The certainty of it all was like a boomerang coming right back to me, not only as a response to my greatest lesson, but also as some of my best advice to myself.

It has been said before that most people don’t take their own advice. Maybe you’re not one to worry. Maybe your answer to my friend’s question would have been something totally different. Maybe sit now and contemplate, "What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?" Whatever you come up with, listen attentively as if you were a friend to yourself. Whatever your takeaway from that lesson, follow your own advice.

Rashada Whitehead is president and chief transformation officer at KGBerry.

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