“Are you worried?”
“Would it help?”
This short exchange might be my favorite in any movie. In Bridge of Spies, Tom Hanks plays Jim Donovan, an insurance lawyer who is tasked with representing Rudolf Abel, a Soviet Spy caught in New York City. It’s based on a true story and garnered Mark Rylance, who portrayed Abel, an Academy Award for best supporting actor.
During Donovan and Abel’s first meeting, Donovan lays out the possible outcomes of the trial, which range from bad to worse. Abel listens, unmoved. “You don’t seem alarmed,” Donovan remarks.
Abel shrugs. “Would it help?”
I’ve always considered myself a laid-back person. Pressure doesn’t paralyze me. I can absorb the unexpected, make adjustments on the fly, and move on while remaining calm.
But Abel’s comment—and the exchange is repeated a few more times throughout the film—still haunts me. I may not be a worrier by nature, but how much time, effort, and energy do I spend on things that don’t help?
Whether it’s choosing how to react when I get behind a super-slow driver with no option to pass or deciding whether to reply to that Facebook post or tweet, I’m trying to choose the most helpful option.
It’s not a foolproof metric, but it’s a start.