I have previously confessed in this blog that I am a man ‘of a certain age.’ So, this should not be a surprise that once again I dig deep into the past to resurrect some timeless wisdom from my youth. This time from no less a sage than the ageless, and for a time ubiquitous, Alfred E. Neuman.
Don’t remember Mr. Neuman?
He is “…the fictitious mascot and cover boy of the American humor magazine Mad. The character’s distinct face, with his parted red hair, gap-tooth smile, freckles, protruding nose, and scrawny body…” (Wikipedia), quite literally became the face of Mad Magazine over the decades. According to Wikipedia, Mad has published well over 550 issues and Alfred E. appeared in just about every single one.
He debuted in the magazine in the mid 1950’s, but the actual character, and his immortal tag line (“What, me worry?”, or earlier “What? Me worry?”) was already decades old. Although he was not Alfred at that point, his visage appeared in various iterations for products as diverse as painless dentistry and auto parts. Apparently, he also did a cameo for then presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt, but in this case he spouted “Sure, I’m for Roosevelt.”
According to Wiki, Mad changed his line only one time, and that to “Yes, me worry!” following the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. ‘Nuff said about that.
Who does he look like? Again, according to Wiki: “Neuman’s face was assembled, feature by feature, from parts of photographs of well-known politicos, including then-President Lyndon B. Johnson (left ear), Richard Nixon (nose), [former] Oregon Governor Mark Hatfield (eyes), and Ronald Reagan (hair). The gap in his teeth (which was otherwise the grin of Dwight D. Eisenhower) came from “The ‘Credibility Gap’ Created by Practically All Politicians”.
And what does the “E.” stand for? One source says it stands for Enigma. Alfred Enigma Neuman. I’m not so sure about that but you go look it up.
Well, Mad Magazine wound up embedding itself deeply into my DNA, affecting and warping my sense of humor to this day. Ah, the great ‘fold-ins’, Spy vs. Spy, Don Martin, “The lighter side of… [you name it]” and of course who can forget those immortal movie satires! Ah the wackiness of my youth!
So, what does any of this have to do with anything? Good question.
In my opinion it appears good ol’ Alfred E. was right: why worry? His kind of weird, gap-toothed smile radiated that “What? Me worry” nonchalance and guess what? Taking that attitude (Three Mile Island aside) is actually very healthy!
Jelena Kecmanovic, a columnist for the Washington Post, recently wrote an article titled “Don’t worry about it—really” (read it here). In it she references a “Gallup poll [which] found that 45% of Americans said they felt worried a lot — about work, relationships, children, health and money, among other things.”
Of course, that did not take into account those who worry less frequently, and that, it would seem, would then include all of us.
Kecmanovic writes: “Unrelenting worry accompanied by anxiety symptoms such as irritability, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, fatigue and poor sleep, has been recognized as a condition called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).”
Like many types of behavioral conditions, we can often fall into self-justification to support unhealthy habits.
“Chronic worriers often hold more positive beliefs about the usefulness of worry than the general population. They frequently view worry as motivating, helpful in preparing them for bad outcomes. They even see it as a positive personality trait…Some believe that worry shows to others how much they care. Two frequent manifestations of GAD — perfectionism and workaholism — often are rewarded in our culture” writes Kecmanovic.
Is chronic worry a positive trait? Hardly. Worrying tends to not only add stress to life, it can delay action, justify procrastination and lead to severe health problems.
And then there is this to add insult to injury: “A recent study found that 91% of worries held by people with GAD did not come true.” Not only do we worry but we worry about things that don’t even exist!
I have a little trick for putting worrying in perspective. I ask myself what I was worried about just two weeks ago. For the most part I can’t recall. That should tell us all something.
Kecmanovic suggests seeking professional help if worry becomes chronic or a larger health concern. She also suggests: “Don’t fret, fix it: One way to minimize catastrophizing is by distinguishing between worrying and problem-solving. Worrying is fretting about a bad situation; problem-solving is trying to remedy it.”
Of course, it helps, too, to focus on things we can control and what we can do about our worries just for this day. Our worries of yesterday are likely gone, and the future will have worries of its own. Today, more than likely, is manageable.
Are you worried about your receivables? Many of our clients are this time of year. Remember that we are coming into one of the best periods of the year to recover your bad debts. Let us worry about them for you. When the boss comes in and asks about the state of your bad debts, just say “I turned them all over to A. Alliance: What, me worry?”
A. Alliance Collection Agency, Inc. is a full service, licensed accounts receivable management and debt collection agency providing highly effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. Founded in northern Illinois in 2005, we have been proudly improving the bottom-line on behalf of our business partners in and around Chicagoland for over 15 years.