From Chapter 11 “Perspective” in Ingredients of Outliers.
Lemons? Or Lemonade?
You’ve probably heard this century-old bit of wisdom about perspective: “If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.” Although it didn’t originate with him, the late Dale Carnegie, well-known writer, lecturer and selfimprovement guru, commented on it in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. First published in 1946, the book is still in print today, with more than six million copies sold in dozens of languages.
“The fool,” he wrote, “if he finds that life has handed him a lemon, he gives up and says: ‘I’m beaten. It is fate. I haven’t got a chance.’ Then he proceeds to rail against the world and indulge in an orgy of self-pity. But when the wise man is handed a lemon, he says: ‘What lesson can I learn from this misfortune? How can I improve my situation? How can I turn this lemon into lemonade?’” The answer, of course, is by a change of perspective.
In 2009, a 50th anniversary edition of another popular book about worry was released. Written by Dr. John Edmund Haggai, a contemporary Christian leader and author with over 60 years of service, the book is titled How to Win Over Worry. Like Carnegie’s book, it has sold millions of copies in multiple languages.
In it, Haggai offers this insight, “The radar of worry sweeps far beyond the actual dangers and makes you believe that you’re hemmed in on every side by problems you can’t solve. Winning over worry begins with gaining proper perspective. . . . It all comes down to this: You choose to worry or you choose not to.”
Worry—a futile and deadly exercise that throughout human history has claimed millions of lives. Yet despite hundreds of books warning of its dangers, it continues unabated. Google the word “worry” and you’ll get about 499 million results.
With gazillions of words on the subject, Dr. Haggai summed it all up in just nine of them: “You choose to worry or you choose not to.”
So what’s it going to be for you—lemons, lemonade or, better yet, limoncello?
Fun in the Journey
Have you ever picked up a wedge of lemon and bitten into it to try and quench your thirst? If so, you know the “cure” is often worse than the disease. On the other hand, an ice-cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer afternoon is among life’s pleasures.
The choice is yours; your journey through life can be fun. If it isn’t, change the route, or change your perspective. I’m not sure I ever want to get to the destination. The struggle, the effort, the failures, the successes and the shared joy from the experience are what this is all about.
I don’t think I’ve worked a day in my life. Don’t get me wrong; there are days when I walk out of the Emergency Department after hours of treating the sick and the injured, or after having to fire a long-term physician. Those are times when I think they couldn’t pay me enough to do these jobs. Thankfully, those days are few.
I’ve treated tens of thousands of patients. I’ve seen the look in the eyes of so many of them when they realize that everything they wanted to accomplish, everything they wanted to see, say, or do will be forever lost. The looks on their faces screams: “If only.”
You should be enjoying the hell out of this life. If you aren’t, change it. Don’t wait until you’re on your death bed saying “if only, if only.” Don’t waste a second.