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Walking into a box … (Part I)

Sawing sawdust!!!? Crying over split milk!!!? Walking into a box!!?
What do we mean by these expressions? Luckily for us, two of these expressions are very well explained in Dale Carnegie’s book: “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”. Let us start with the first two expressions: Sawing sawdust and crying over spilt milk. I will go into details about the last one in a future post.

Here is what Dale Carnegie wrote:

“As I write this sentence, I can look out of my window and see some dinosaur tracks in my garden dinosaur tracks embedded in shale and stone. I purchased those dinosaur tracks from the Peabody Museum of Yale University; and I have a letter from the curator of the Peabody Museum, saying that those tracks were made 180 million years ago. Even a Mongolian idiot wouldn’t dream of trying to go back 180 million years to change those tracks. Yet that would not be any more foolish than worrying because we can’t go back and change what happened 180 seconds ago − and a lot of us are doing just that. To be sure, we may do something to modify the effects of what happened 180 seconds ago; but we can’t possibly change the event that occurred then.”
“There is only one way on God’s green footstool that the past can be constructive; and that is by calmly analyzing our past mistakes and profiting by them-and forgetting them.”

A teacher taught his students one of the most valuable lessons that had ever learnt. One of them reported the below story to Dale Carnegie, he says: “I was only in my teens, but I was a worrier even then. I used to stew and fret about the mistakes I had made. If I turned in an examination paper, I used to lie awake and chew my fingernails for fear I hadn’t passed. I was always living over the things I had done, and wishing I’d done them differently; thinking over the things I had said, and wishing I’d said them better.”

“Then one morning, our class filed into the science laboratory, and there was the teacher with a bottle of milk prominently displayed on the edge of the desk. We all sat down, staring at the milk, and wondering what it had to do with the hygiene course he was teaching. Then, all of a sudden, [our teacher] stood up, swept the bottle of milk with a crash into the sink-and shouted: ‘Don’t cry over spilt milk!’

“He then made us all come to the sink and look at the wreckage. ‘Take a good look,’ he told us, ‘because I want you to remember this lesson the rest of your lives. That milk is gone you can see it’s down the drain; and all the fussing and hair-pulling in the world won’t bring back a drop of it. With a little thought and prevention, that milk might have been saved. But it’s too late now − all we can do is write it off, forget it, and go on to the next thing.”

“That one little demonstration […] stuck with me long after I’d forgotten my solid geometry and Latin. In fact, it taught me more about practical living than anything else in my four years of high school. It taught me to keep from spilling milk if I could; but to forget it completely, once it was spilled and had gone down the drain.”

“Some readers are going to snort at the idea of making so much over a hackneyed proverb like “Don’t cry over spilt milk.” I know it is trite, commonplace, and a platitude. I know you have heard it a thousand times. But I also know that these hackneyed proverbs contain the very essence of the distilled wisdom of all ages. They have come out of the fiery experience of the human race and have been handed down through countless generations. If you were to read everything that has ever been written about worry by the great scholars of all time, you would never read anything more basic or more profound than such hackneyed proverbs as “Don’t cross your bridges until you come to them” and “Don’t cry over spilt milk.” If we only applied those two proverbs-instead of snorting at them − we wouldn’t need this book at all. In fact, if we applied most of the old proverbs, we would lead almost perfect lives. However, knowledge isn’t power until it is applied; and the purpose of this book is not to tell you something new. The purpose of this book is to remind you of what you already know and to kick you in the shins and inspire you to do something about applying it.”

“I have always admired a man like the late Fred Fuller Shedd, who had a gift for stating an old truth in a new and picturesque way. He was editor of the Philadelphia Bulletin; and, while addressing a college graduating class, he asked: “How many of you have ever sawed wood? Let’s see your hands.” Most of them had. Then he inquired: “How many of you have ever sawed sawdust?” No hands went up.

“Of course, you can’t saw sawdust!” Mr. Shedd exclaimed. “It’s already sawed! And it’s the same with the past. When you start worrying about things that are over and done with, you’re merely trying to saw sawdust.”

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.”

“So why waste the tears? Of course, we have been guilty of blunders and absurdities! And so what? Who hasn’t? Even Napoleon lost one-third of all the important battles he fought. Perhaps our batting average is no worse than Napoleon’s. Who knows? And, anyhow, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put the past together again.”

Thank you for reading. The text in italic is by Dale Carnegie. The rest is by Zeina Gabriel