Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How to Banish Worry When All Hell Breaks Loose

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In 1995, I was riding high as a Wall Street stockbroker. I had lost 20 pounds and was looking quite healthy. My clients were enjoying double-digit growths and I was making a handsome six-figure income. On top of that, I was winning sales trips to exotic places like Mexico and Bermuda, interviewed on national television and accumulating one sales award after another.

Little did I know all hell was about to break loose. The problem was I had no clue it was coming. What's more, it caused me a lot of unnecessary worry.

One of my accounts was a woman whom I had affectionately labeled "the grandmotherly client." Always reeking of cheap perfume, she was a rail-thin lady with bushels of snow white hair whose kind face was overshadowed by gigantic red framed glasses. Like many of my clients, she was quite fond of me.

We had met at a black-tie fundraising affair one evening in New York City. Several days later, she opened an account with me, transferring almost all of her savings and investments. In the weeks that followed, we worked diligently to construct a portfolio in accordance with her investment objectives.

All was well until the market took a sharp nosedive in late 1995, causing investors everywhere to panic. Like everyone else, this scared her. Being the conscientious person I am, I took great pains to remind her that it was only temporary. After extensive hand holding sessions, I thought we came to an understanding and had everything squared away.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

My eyes widened in horror one morning when the legal compliance officer handed me a 3 page letter from her. It was full of harsh-sounding legalese, accusing me of gross incompetence! My hands shook rather violently.

"How could this happen?" I thought.

Before I was hired at Merrill Lynch, there was another deaf stockbroker from a competing firm who had developed a very bad reputation. Unfortunately, he had tricked hundreds of unsuspecting clients into making risky investments (options), causing tremendous losses. Many of them were retirees, living off social security who had no business having their money in options.

By the time I arrived to the securities business, I already had my work cut out for me. If I was to make it, I had to work a thousand times harder to earn the trust of potential clients. I vowed that I would do right by them and not steer them wrong. Eventually my reputation for integrity slowly but surely became widely known. My intention was to have not one complaint lodged against me.

Until I was handed that letter, I had almost succeeded.

The rest of the week blurred by. I walked around in a daze, losing all interest in the stock market. A million debilitating thoughts ran through my head: "You're going to be fired!" "You will be hauled to court!" "Your career on Wall Street is finished!" In the days that followed, I kept reading her letter over and over, not believing what she wrote. I must have looked like a shell-shocked zombie for I hardly ate or slept.

Eventually, I was called to the compliance office to discuss how we were going to handle the complaint. Swallowing hard, I knocked on the door of the compliance officer.

He motioned for me to come in and sit down while finishing up a call. As he was talking on the phone, he was smiling and winking at me. I thought that was strange. Maybe it was one of those “calm before the storm” type of things.

Putting the phone into the cradle, he took a deep breath and smiled some more. Did I want coffee or tea? I didn't. I wanted this to be over with. Either he was going to fire me or I was going to have to quit.

I braced for the worst.

No one was more surprised than I when he calmly folded his hands and proceeded to tell me that the next step was to write a memo to his attention, describing how and why this woman's portfolio was constructed the way it was.

"Hand it in a week from today," he said.

That’s all there was to it. No drama, no threats, no nothing. I couldn't believe it. For the first time in weeks, I saw a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

I went right to work on the memo. A week later I handed it in.

What followed taught me the first of many lessons on how to banish worry when in the midst of a major crisis:

1. The first thing you do is get busy obtaining the facts. That's what I did when putting together the memo. I gathered all pertinent information and created worksheets to show exactly what happened from the time she opened her account until the day I received the letter. Getting busy makes it difficult to worry about the future.

2. Analyze the data.

3. Make a decision on a course of action to take. Sometimes a course of action becomes clear to you and you just do it. Other times you have to let it go. In this situation, I had done my part. I handed in the memo. I had to trust that it would work out.

It did. She eventually transferred somewhere else. I never heard from her again. Two years later, I had a spiritual revelation, telling me that my destiny was no longer to be stockbroker, buying and selling securities but to become a motivational speaker, author and pilot. And that's what I'm doing today.

Food for thought: Fear brings on worry. Worry makes you tense and clouds your judgment. Trust that getting the facts will banish worry and help clear the mind. A course of action will become apparent one way or the other. Trust that if you did everything with integrity, the universe will do justice for you.
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Blogger Rose said...

Your post reminds me of my only little "worry" session!

I have worked for both the IRS and H & R Block and I have done some counseling and consulting online.

Well imagine my surprise when I got a notice in the mail that I was being audited! For about 2 seconds I panicked and was filled with worry but guess what? I remembered how much my work involves details and how I like to work with details and this was just a simple matter of providing some information to my local tax office. I remembered how much I love to work with details so all I did was copy the information from my "contractor's" website about how they deal - taxwise - with their W2 forms, put that information in a fax and faxed it to my tax office. It also reminded me of how grateful I am to be able to have a working fax/scanner and printer and copy machine so that I can work any kind of time day or night.

I think this whole incident was to remind me that even though something will go out of whack as long as you haven't done something wrong or illegal you will be alright and there should be nothing that you should worry about.

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Ste;phen Hopson said...


Just wanted to thank you for leaving a comment here about this article. I also wanted to let you know that this blog has moved and I'm no longer active at this location.

The new location is:

The article you saw here is also over at the new location at:

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Thanks so much for telling me this article helped you!

Stephen Hopson

11:50 AM  

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