Day-tight Compartments

I made this video about day tight compartments after hearing about it on the Tim Ferriss Show when he interviewed Terry Crews. It’s a phrase from Dale Carnegie’s book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

What I urge is that you so learn to control the machinery as to live with ‘day-tight compartments’ as the most certain way to ensure safety on the voyage.

Tim talks about how much he likes that book and that he has it face out on his bookshelf. (I think another book he’s mentioned that’s like that is The Magic of Thinking Big.)

Terry Crews proves how much of a book junkie is by bringing up the phrase “day-tight compartments” from memory.

I started reading the book and I can see why he remembered day-tight compartments. It’s a powerful concept. It’s a great reminder that you should focus on things you can control.

That’s the easy part. The harder part is not worrying about the things that you cannot control.

What are day-tight compartments?

The book has a story about Sir William Osler. (It’s an old book so it’s nice to hear stories that aren’t the same behavioral science studies that you see in books from the last decade or two.)

Osler organized the Johns Hopkins’ School of Medicine and was knighted by the king of England in the late 1800s. In a speech to Yale students he talks about being on an ocean liner and seeing the captain with a bunch of buttons.

Each button isolated each watertight compartment. If something happened and water started coming into the ship, the captain would be able to seal off that leak so that the ship wouldn’t sink.

In life, it’s useful to seal today off from the future and the past

This doesn’t mean you don’t have a plan for the future. It doesn’t mean you don’t learn lessons from the past.

It means you trust that plan for the future so that you aren’t constantly worrying about it. The only way you can change the future is by the actions that you take today. It means that you don’t put the regrets of the past on repeat in your head.

Like a lot of things, it’s simple but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. You’ll have to practice to add it to your mental tool belt as something you can rely on.

If you need a quick reminder, you can start by remembering this quote, also from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:

Everyday is a new life to a wise man.