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Positively Speaking: The law of averages

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By Toby Moore

For Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of man named Toby Moore
Toby Moore

For many of us, a never-ending stream of worries dominates our thoughts. These persistent fears disturb our peace of mind and impact our ability to enjoy life.

Will the economy crash? Are we headed for nuclear conflict? Is my partner going to leave me? Will my child be lost to addiction?

It’s one worry after another, a never-ending cycle, like a hamster running on a wheel.

Yes, it’s normal to worry at times, but there is a point where it can impair your physical health, causing you to be worried sick!

Imagine a universal law that can help manage these fears. If you’re constantly burdened with fear and worry, keep reading because this law is so simple and easy to understand that you don’t need anyone to teach you how to use it.

When fear overwhelms you, you must ask yourself, “What are the odds?”

Why, you ask? Because the law I’m talking about is called “The Law of Averages.”

This principle, described by Dale Carnegie in his book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” is a pragmatic approach to tackling the worries that plague our minds.

The Law of Averages teaches us to analyze our fears logically and statistically.

Carnegie once said, “Ninety-nine percent of the things we worry about never occur!”

Imagine Sarah is about to board a flight for a long-awaited vacation. She should be excited, but a nagging worry clouds her: the fear of a plane crash. Each sound during takeoff and bit of turbulence inflates her anxiety.

Now, let’s apply the Law of Averages to Sarah’s situation. This principle suggests evaluating the likelihood of an event based on statistical probability rather than subjective fears. So, what do the numbers say?

Plane crashes are rare, with odds of about 1 in 11 million. To put this into perspective, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning or win a major lottery jackpot than experience a plane crash.

Knowing these stats, Sarah can see her fear doesn’t match how safe flying is. Like millions before, the Law of Averages tells us that her flight is overwhelmingly likely to be safe and uneventful.

Let’s consider John, a dedicated employee at a large corporation. Recently, there have been rumors of layoffs, and John is increasingly unable to focus, plagued by the fear of being laid off.

Every meeting invite or email from his boss heightens his anxiety, and he starts imagining the worst-case scenarios.

Now, let’s apply the Law of Averages to John’s situation. This principle encourages us to evaluate the likelihood of an event based on statistical data and realistic assessment rather than fears and rumors.

First, John can look into the economy and his industry’s stability. Are widespread layoffs happening in his field, or is it relatively stable? Next, he should consider his position within the company. Has he received positive performance reviews? Does he have unique skills or experiences that are valuable to the team?

Suppose John finds that his industry is stable and his performance has been consistently strong. In that case, the Law of Averages would suggest his chances of being laid off are relatively low. While it’s not impossible, the probability doesn’t warrant the level of worry he’s experiencing.

This approach doesn’t dismiss your fear but puts it into a rational framework. The Law of Averages is a powerful tool to counteract our exaggerated anxieties about rare events.

The Law of Averages is beautiful for its simplicity and usefulness.

It doesn’t ask you to stop worrying cold turkey, which is nearly impossible. Instead, it offers a pathway to reframe your worries into something manageable. By analyzing the probabilities, we often find that many fears are less likely to materialize than we think. And even if they do, you’re mentally prepared to handle them and work towards a better outcome.

“By the law of averages, it won’t happen.”  is the phrase Carnegie said has destroyed 90% of his worries and made years of his life beautiful and peaceful beyond his highest expectations.

Next time you find yourself in the grip of fear, pause, breathe, and embrace the Law of Averages to transform fear into a catalyst for confidence and clarity.

Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy-nominated “A Separate Peace,” and the CEO of Cubestream Inc.

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