Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | August 2, 2010

Small stuff

Ever since the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all Small Stuff, came out in the late 90’s, that title phrase has become a life concept that has stuck with me.

When I’ve felt overwhelmed with lots of stuff going on, or started to have a “pity party” for me, myself, and I… that’s what I usually end up saying or thinking: “Don’t sweat it. It’s all small stuff.”

Today, we have more “small stuff” than ever – to keep track of, to remember, to mark off our lists, and to clutter our minds with. We also all have life’s stresses and strains to deal with, from health issues to unemployment and everything in between – not as easy to call “small stuff” unless we can take our eyes off our own stuff and look to someone else’s. Without exception, I can always find someone else’s situation that makes mine seem trivial in comparison.

As I was thinking about writing this blog post, I decided to look up its author, Richard Carlson, PhD, and found out some things about him that made an even stronger impression on me… more reasons to persevere, to not let “life happens” moments get me down, to not sweat the small stuff.

First, there is encouragement for authors and would-be authors: Eleven years and 11 books after publishing his first book in 1985, he wrote his bestseller, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all Small Stuff. It stayed on the New York Times list for two years, was later published in 135 countries and translated into 30 other languages. Twenty additional books followed.

Second, there was apparently a catalyst to his changed lifestyle. Said to have been “a driven workaholic, living a life ‘consumed with collecting achievements,’” things began to change after Richard’s best friend and his girlfriend were killed by a drunk driver on their way to his wedding.

Third, he died way too young, in the prime of his life at the age 45. The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism resulting in cardiac arrest while on a flight to New York to promote his latest book; he died instantly.

My intention for this blog on “small stuff” was taken to a new level after reading about this man who coined a single phrase that became part of popular culture in the mid- to late-90’s. It has changed my thinking whenever I am presented with an anxiety-producing challenge, and leads me to think about those things that truly matter.

Here are some other Richard Carlson truisms:

> Do one thing at a time.

> Don’t answer the phone when you’re rushing out the door.

(Nowadays, the phone is no longer a stationery object in our homes, to be ignored as we leave the house. We need to revise this one for 2010 to say, “Don’t answer the phone when you are in the car, at lunch or dinner with family and friends, in a meeting, and on and on…”)

> Give yourself, and others, a second chance.

> Don’t kill yourself over a mistake.

> Don’t finish other people’s sentences for them.

> Take a vacation, not a guilt trip.

> Your ‘in box’ is not your life.

Another seems to apply to Richard Carlson’s life and untimely death. It is probably the most compelling reason to live life fully and not become consumed with all the “small stuff” that is temporal – those things that will most likely not be important a year, a month, or even a week from now:

“Accept the fact that life is unfair.”

So, what is your “small stuff?” What can you mentally re-categorize and remove from the “big stuff” file to where it belongs?

And what is the “stuff” in your life that really does matter? Are you giving those things the time and attention they deserve? Are you being grateful for all the ways you have been blessed? Are you shifting your thinking and your perspective to focus on the things of life that cannot be moved, destroyed, or taken away – the things that are eternal?

Richard’s wife, Kristine, his co-author on Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff in Love (2000), shared this about her husband: “He was very good at living in the moment, and it came through in every correspondence – always a personal hello. And he always ended his correspondence with ‘Treasure Yourself.’”

And I would add: Treasure those you love, and treasure every day you are given. No one is promised tomorrow.

Link to the book on



  1. Much to think about here… Nice column.

  2. Great post, Debbra. Very interesting about the author. I have the book and have read it more than once.

  3. I was just researching who coined this phrase as I just encountered it Anthony Robbins 1987 offering Unlimited Power. I am still digging to see the actual source, but it would seem Carlson might not be the one that coined this phrase as Robbins book was publish long before Carlson’s offering. It is equally unlikely that Robbins is the source. If you read Ralph Waldo Emerson or James Allen you will find an amazing amount of “new age” ideas that many authors present as their own. I don’t think they do this knowingly, its simply leaks out from all their reading these gentlemen do.

    I will be picking up a copy of this book. Your glowing endorsement sold me…even if the origin of title is suspect and unresolved 🙂 Thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: