When I was in my late twenties, during an early point in my sales career, I called on Mr. Simmons, an elderly man whose printing company was located in an old St. Paul, Minnesota office and manufacturing building. I was a paper salesman and he was one of my printer customers.

Once he was seated at his large desk located right in the middle of his noisy production floor. He beckoned me to come over.

His checkbook was on the desk and he asked me to look at his account balance. It was $8,000, a sizeable amount of money in 1980. Then he told me, “I don’t need the aggravation.”

Mr. Simmons was telling me that his financial success had given him power; that he didn’t have to allow himself to be concerned or disturbed by unpleasant situations (aggravations) that could upset his inner peace. He had achieved a level of self-actualization an

d had established boundaries with the rest of the world.

As I’ve thought about that sales call decades ago, I’ve continued to realize how valuable and relevant his words are for us today:  I don’t need the aggravation. He could have as easily said, “I don’t need the stress.”

In his case, financial stability was his tool to beat stress; that others couldn’t make him seem worthless or aggravate him because he knew he was financially successful. What we must do is review the values we are proud to possess and our accomplishments. When we are confronted by others who want to turn our world upside down, we can draw on our values and successful past experiences and realize those people don’t have a clue about how great we are!

Mr. Simmons had successfully orchestrated his life by:

  • Knowing what it takes to be at peace with oneself. His peace was financial security. (But peace can also include strong personal values, spirituality, meaningful relationships, or any combination of a number of positive results in life).
  • Establishing boundaries to prevent or at least minimize the number of aggravations in his life. He wasn’t going to allow others create stress in his life.

I have long lost the opportunity to ask Mr. Simmons these questions: “Sir, at what age did you come to realize you don’t need the aggravation?”  “Once you realized you didn’t need it, how long did it take you to stop or at least reduce aggravation in your life?”  I’m guessing he’d have told me and everyone else who asked him that second question, “You’ll have to figure that out for yourself!”

EXERCISE: Think of three really important values you possess and three really important accomplishments in your life. 

BOTTOM LINE:  Use your values and accomplishments to build up your confidence and reduce stress. Recall the values you are proud to possess and your successes whenever someone does something to belittle or aggravate you. Realize you don’t deserve to be treated that way. With confidence (and boundaries on the behavior you’ll acceptfrom others), people won’t get to you.




Do you have the brain of an ant? You can become inspired by the tenacity of an ant and reduce stress if you model what an ant does.  A simple observation while working in my yard really struck home with me. It was a little experience with a big impact that inspired me to draw an analogy between how this insect acts as opposed to how we humans sometimes operate.

Do you have the brain of an ant? You’re lucky if you do! At my old house, I was watering the small flower garden I planted every year beneath the mailbox. Two ant hills had been built on the crack between the brick border of the garden and the street curb. With all the smugness that only we humans possess, I sprayed away the ant hills with my garden hose in about three seconds. 

Just twenty four hours later, I brought out the garden hose to water the flowers again and to my amazement the ant hills had reappeared! Imagine! Thousands of grains of sand had been washed away the day before, yet the ants were undeterred. After having experienced the total loss of their hills, they had instinctively rebuilt the entrances to their nests in just one day! 

Although I had destroyed the ant hills, and had probably damaged their nests and raised havoc with the colony below, what remained after my destruction was important enough to preserve and so the ants rebuilt. When we humans feel we have lost too much, we often fail to summon the inner strength and courage we need to rebuild. Instead, we let stress get to us and we give up.  An ant never sinks to that level!

THE LESSON: As long as hope is in our heart, we can never lose everything. If we operated with the brain of an ant, would never accept adversity. We simply wouldn’t quit at any cost if we believed the achievement was worthwhile and attainable. We’d focus on what has to be done, not stress out about how much there is to do—and begin the achievement process with intrepidity; perhaps even accomplishing our goal in twenty four hours!


We use acronyms to assist our memory, perhaps the most famous being E-G-B-D-F (Every Good Boy Does Fine), the mnemonic for the lines of the treble clef. The UK music version is Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and if you’re a fan of the English rock band, The Moody Blues, you’ll recognize this as the title of their seventh album, released in 1971. (I just wanted to plug my favorite band).

After thinking about subject matter for this week’s blog, I decided to create an acronym to help you to reduce stress by using the word S-T-R-E-S-S. Imagine—the same letters that spell out a negative-sounding word may also create positive solutions in your life!


  • S = Size-Up. Identify a stressful situation you’re facing. Do some serious thinking.  Decide what is real and what is only in your imagination. Now you have a baseline established to help you recognize the seriousness of your stressful situation.
  • T = Trust.  Trust yourself to have the talent to uncover alternative solutions to reduce your stress.
  • R = Research. Understand the alternative solutions you uncover may come from within yourself (logic or gut feelings—or both) or from external sources including educational resources and other people.
  • E = Employ.  Act on the simplest solution with the greatest number of positive results from those you received from your research. This is your optimal solution. Don’t procrastinate! Failure to act on a viable solution may actually intensify your stressful situation should feelings of guilt and self-loathing kick in. 
  • S = Strategize.  Consider actions you should have taken (or inactions) that would have prevented you from getting into your stressful situation in the first place. 
  • S = Systemize.  Develop an unwavering game plan to reduce (maybe even eliminate) the stress level of a similar situation in the future. 

Exercise  No. 1:  Identify a current stressful situation in your life. (Example:  A problem with a co-worker). Use the S-T-R-E-S-S acronym to reduce (maybe even eliminate) the stress level of your situation. 

Exercise No. 2:  Identify a stressful situation you anticipate occurring in your life because a similar event has proven stressful in the past. (Example:  Another family reunion taking place next summer). Use the S-T-R-E-S-S acronym to reduce (maybe even prevent from occurring) the stress in the anticipated stressful situation.

Exercise No. 3Think of a word that describes a negative emotion you are experiencing. (Examples:  F-E-A-R, P-A-I-N, W-O-R-R-Y, D-O-U-B-T). Use an acronym that includes a system to reduce (maybe even eliminate) the presence of that negative emotion in your life.

BOTTOM LINE:  Turn negative emotional words into powerful acronyms to combat stress.


You have visited my blog site to find out how to reduce stress in your life. But have you ever considered how you may be causing stress in the lives of others? If your commitments aren’t followed up with appropriate actions, you may be creating stressful relationships. If you are sometimes guilty of doing this, please read on….

To illustrate the lack of commitment to relationships, I’ve created two episodes in which you are the central character. Then I’ve listed the errors and possible ramifications, including stress—to those who were counting on you to honor your commitments.

Episode 1:  A co-worker is having a party at 7:00 Friday evening to show off her new home and has invited everyone at the office. You tell her to expect you a little early to help set up the party. As you’re about to leave your home, you notice the weather has turned a bit colder and you decide to stay in for the evening.

Episode 2Your cousin is moving to a new apartment. He could really use your help with his move early Saturday morning and you promise to be there. However, when you awaken on moving day, you figure your cousin has enough people to help him move and you go back to sleep. 

In both scenarios:

  • You promised to participate but you didn’t.
  • You had poor reasons for not participating and now you’re at a loss to explain your absences.
  • You decided that your absences would not affect the outcomes.
  • You did affect the outcomes. The party wasn’t set up in time and the move was tougher with one less helper.
  • You caused stress for two people and created stressful relationships.

Now, you’re left wondering what your co-worker’s attitude and your cousin’s attitude will be towards you and how long it will take them to rebuild their confidence in you—if it ever happens at all. Conversely, your participation would have strengthened your relationships with your co-worker and your cousin, especially if others had backed out at the last minute.

If your co-worker and your cousin share their feelings of disappointment or resentment about your absence to others, you may get a reputation as someone who can’t be counted on. Those people may hesitate to enter into a relationship with you—one they believe may prove stressful to them. I’ll leave it to you to determine if there are additional repercussions. 

Bottom Line

In order to avoid stressful relationships, keep your promises. Be dependable. Make your words and actions golden! The best people are those who can be depended on to honor their commitments. Whenever you are unable to fulfill a commitment, you are obligated to provide a valid explanation to those who are depending on you.


English clergyman and poet, John Donne (1572-1631) wrote the words, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main…” Those words, written nearly 400 years ago, are just as true in today’s world. The probability that you can maintain an unobtrusive lifestyle is practically nonexistent.

Yet, why do so many of us insist on going it alone? We become stressed with the prospect of a huge undertaking or the complexities of making a dream a reality without realizing we have a solution: We each need a team to assist us!

Just this week, my wife (Chris) ended a three-hour conference call with her two business partners. They are professional speakers and are now exploring the use of web conferencing for their paying clients. When they began their conference call, none of them knew much about that service but one of the partners knew a lawyer who uses it in his business. For one hour he answered many of their questions and helped them get a great start on their new business segment.

  • My wife is part of a team.
  • A member of her team brought in an expert to assist their team.
  • The stress they were feeling prior to the call was greatly diminished.

I really wanted my own website and spent thousands of dollars learning how to set one up. What I didn’t think about at the time was my ongoing interest in maintaining it. The fact is, I enjoy writing and public speaking much more than website development. I recognize my strengths and passions and willingly hired an expert to be responsible for an aspect of my business that—frankly—stressed me out just thinking about it!

My call to action for you is to look closely at all aspects of your business and your personal life. What inactions are holding you back and are stressful to you? Whom do you know that you can hire or trade expertise with to help you complete projects you can’t seem to get done on your own?

  1. Make a list of both the personal and professional obstacles currently facing you.
  2. Make a list of experts who might be able to help you overcome those obstacles. Write their specific talents next to their names.
  3. Contact each person on your list, explain your situation(s) and determine if using their services would reduce your stress level.

Bottom line:  Get experts to help you work out the kinks in difficult aspects of important projects and dreams while you focus on your areas of expertise.


Stress reduction through great relationship building is critical to your health and wellness in life and in business. When I was a rookie sales representative, a sales associate I greatly respected told me there were two keys to a successful sales career:

“You have to be lovable and you have to give a damn.”

My friend Patrick meant that customers want to do business with salespeople who are likeable and who care about them. One result for him was that his customers were also his friends. And because of his approach, the second result was the success he enjoyed as a top salesperson for the company!

His words are the greatest description of a customer-focused selling approach I’ve ever heard. Moreover, those words of wisdom apply equally well to achieving great relationships with everyone you know and meet outside the business world!

You must represent yourself as a sincere and honest person. Those are lovable attributes. You must dedicate yourself to the care of others. That’s the give a damn part of Patrick’s maxim. Those two components can be expressed in this equation:

1 Great Relationship   =   1 part Loveable  +  1 part Give a Damn

Imagine if you always looked at your relationships in this way. Wouldn’t you agree they would be stronger and more numerous—and a lot less stressful?

I spoke with thousands of people during my sales career. Nothing meant more to me than knowing my customers (many of whom I considered friends) genuinely enjoyed meeting with me to discuss their business needs, talk about our families and share life experiences. It was very important to act professionally but it was equally important to express my inner self (my inner personality), and not just a “persona”.

When people feign respectfulness, sincerity and interest, they’re operating with an ulterior motive—their own best interests. Others eventually see right through them and those relationships are stressed—or altogether broken.

So, how can you achieve stress-reduced relationship building results? Your relationships with others must be steeped in genuine respect, sincerity and interest. Also, your interactions must be commensurate with the personalities and statuses of others. In other words, you cannot successfully build relationships using a cookie-cutter approach when there are so many diverse personalities and statuses in our world.

Adopting the loveable and give a damn approach to relationship building won’t work with everyone you know or meet. But the beauty of trying it is the likelihood of developing wonderful relationships while reducing relationship stress. Achieving those goals will certainly be worth your efforts!

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An important way to reduce stress is to accept the realities of the world around us. In my forthcoming advice book, there’s a chapter entitled, “The Great Truths.” I’m going to share with you the greatest non-spiritual truth I’ve ever discovered: 

“No other person will ever care as much about you as you must care about yourself.”

  • No other person in this world will ever give you more love and attention than you must give yourself.  A spouse or partner, significant other, family members, friends, co-workers and everyone else you know or will meet—cannot and will not—look out for your well-being 100% of the time.
  •  You must take control of your well-being.  No one will ever be in a better position to guarantee your health, happiness, prosperity—and stress reduction—than you! 

Wouldn’t life be wonderful if you were always protected by others from bad outside forces or from your poor personal and professional decisions? Imagine if others constantly provided you with guaranteed-to-work advice on how to be a great parent, a great student or how to perform your job with the greatest efficiency.

Certainly you should ask others for help when you need it. Just don’t expect everything you want and need to fall into your lap exclusively through the assistance of others.

This Great Truth is a rather simple revelation that will become even more evident as you choose the obvious answers in the following multiple choice questions:

Who is ultimately responsible for my happiness, aspirations and life experiences

  1. Me
  2. Somebody else

Who is the one person I would entrust with the important responsibility of taking care of me?

  1. Me
  2. Somebody else

Can I really expect other people to be 100% devoted to fulfilling my desires and resolving my conflicts and afflictions?

  1. Yes
  2. No
The bottom line is that more often than not, throughout your entire life, you have to figure things out for yourself (with varying degrees of assistance from others). You have to live your life knowing you are 100% responsible for your health, happiness, relationships, professional outcomes, financial matters, spiritual well-being – stress reduction.

Although this great truth may appear as a harsh reality to you, there should be comfort in knowing that the exciting and rewarding outcomes from living this truth—are yours to cherish forever!

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