The next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself, do something nice for somebody. It will make you feel better.
That’s what happened to Robert Updegraff, a prominent business consultant. He tells a story about it in a book called “Try Giving Yourself Away”, which he wrote many years ago under the pen name of David Dunn.
“Suppose you wake up grumpy, or actually belligerent – as who doesn’t once in a while?” he wrote. “You are quite sure that nothing or nobody can make you feel cheerful.
“I remember sitting at breakfast one morning at a lunch counter near the South Station in Boston. Having arrived on the sleeper train from New York, and having been routed out of my berth before seven o’clock after a poor night’s sleep, I was feeling very sorry for myself.
“What you have to accomplish in Boston today is too important to risk failure just because you feel grumpy,” I told myself sternly. “You better start giving away … But how can you give away sitting on a stool in a row of other grumpy night travellers before seven o’clock in the morning?” I said to myself.
“Then I looked at the salt and pepper. I recalled reading of some woman who said she was sure her husband loved her dearly – but he never thought to pass her the salt and pepper. I had noticed ever since how seldom anyone takes the rouble to pass them.
“I glanced up and down the counter. The only salt and pepper shakers in sight were directly in front of me. I had already seasoned my fried eggs, with no thought of my fellow dinners. Now, picking up the shakers, I offered them to the man on my right.
“Perhaps you – and some of the other people down the line – can use these.” I said.
“He thanked me, seasoned his eggs, and passed the shakers on. Every person at the counter used them.
“That broke the ice. I got into conversation with my neighbour, and the man next to him joined in. Before I knew it, everyone at the counter was talking, and presently we were all laughing and joking, eating breakfasts seasoned with salt, pepper and good humour. And I had supplied the seasoning.
“By the time I had finished my breakfast, I was feeling positively cheerful. My mission in Boston that day worked out better than I thought possible.”
“Experience is the name everyone should give to their mistakes”