The Plus Side To Woody Allen's Negative Side Just In Time For Christmas

Woody Allen — esteemed director, comedian, and pessimist — has been afraid of most things most of his life. So have I. So have you. Only we don’t admit it in ways that have made us multi-millionaires. But rather than envy Woody, I prefer emulating him.

He’s spent Jewish years rejecting Norman Vincent Peale’s Protestant ga-ga: The Power Of Positive Thinking. Allen [and I] instead prefer the ancient Roman Stoics who said [loosely translated]: “Life is lousy, but you can handle it if you know how.” They proposed a “premeditation of evil.” My version of that has been my lifelong true North Star: “Expect the worst, hope for the best, and you’ll never be disappointed!” In other words, my friends, don’t be misled by giggly thoughts if-I-can-dream-it-I-can-do-it. Instead picture yourself worse than you are; now once you’ve materialized your worse fears, you can better see how you might better survive them than you once thought.

In the popular ‘Rocky’ movies, Rocky Balboa was scared going into the ring with Apollo Creed until he began taking his worse punches. Rocky survived them, and pretty soon began realizing “not so bad, not so bad.” Drove Apollo crazy but helped Balboa survive. Most often most of us harbor fears bigger and badder than the real ones could possibly be. The brave die once, the coward dies a thousand deaths. That may sound counter-intuitive, but both Rocky and the Stoics found it to be true.


Using that same philosophy, you and I can face that next Christmas party or family dinner better prepared than last time. Being Jewish, Woody won’t be facing any Christmastime obligations. But for those of us who will, just remember: Stoics of the world, unite!

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