Think About It: What is the worst thing that can happen?

Miss Betty
Miss Betty
Miss Betty
Miss Betty

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

Paulo Coelho

Gail Perrone is married to my former dentist, Dr. Leonard Perrone. After Dr. Perrone retired some years ago, he and Gail moved to Georgia. I have never met Gail but she recently sent me a great story which I would like to share with you.

Years ago Gail took a night school photography class and one of the assignments was to shoot a whole roll of photographs of one person. After much thought, she decided a wonderful subject would be “Miss Betty,” the founder of the Charlestown Playhouse here in the Phoenixville area.

Elizabeth Foster Stonorov, fondly known as “Miss Betty,” was a legend in our community. The Charlestown Playhouse is a private academic pre-school and kindergarten that 30-year-old Miss Betty started in 1936. By the time Gail decided to photograph her, Miss Betty was known far and wide.


The very thought of asking Miss Betty filled Gail with trepidation. While going for a walk one day with a friend, Gail shared her desire and also her anxiety. Right then, Gail’s friend stopped walking, turned and looked her in the eye and said, “Gail, what is the worst thing that could happen if you asked her?” Gail realized that the worst thing that could happen is that Miss Betty would just say no.

Gail describes it this way, “I summoned the courage, stopped at the Playhouse and asked her to be my subject for the assignment. Of course she wasn’t particularly happy, but she said yes. I could just come whenever to take the photographs. On the day I photographed her she complained that her hair didn’t look very good and she didn’t have a comb, etc., but she graciously allowed me to follow her around.”

The day ended with Gail taking Miss Betty home and shooting a few final pictures as “Miss Betty walked across a narrow pedestrian bridge carrying her basket.” Looking back on that entire experience, Gail said, “That roll of photographs contains wonderful memories for me and I learned a valuable lesson; what is the worst thing that can happen?”

I love that story. And I have been pondering that question ever since. How easy it is to obsess with the “worst thing that can happen” and, in the process, miss what might be the best thing that could ever happen.

“The worst thing one can do,” according to Jim Rohn, “is not to try, to be aware of what one wants and not to give in to it, to spend years in silent hurt wondering if something could have materialized—never knowing.”

What if Gail had not listened to her friend? A moment in her life which she remembers to this day would have been missed. How easy it is to allow fear or anxiety to prevent us from what could become one of our best experiences. What if I had not asked Evie to marry me because I was afraid of what she might say? What if we had decided not to have children because we were afraid we could not be good enough parents?

As Will Rogers said, “The worst thing that happens to you may be the best thing for you if you don’t let it get the best of you.” Or, in the words of Art Buchwald, “Whether it is the best of times or the worst of times, it is the only time we’ve got.”

Do you have an adventure ahead of you but you are hesitant to take the first step? Perhaps you should ask, “What is the worst thing that can happen to me?” And, if we can live with that, we can certainly live with anything on this side of that.

Joseph Campbell said, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA

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