Bobby was Right!

More than 20 years ago – in 1988 – Bobby McFerrin wrote his song Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Before the year ended, the song had rocketed (risen quickly) to the top of the Billboard Top 100 Chart. The chart, published by Billboard magazine, is a list of the 100 most popular songs in the U.S. McFerrin’s song was the first a cappella (without instruments) song to ever become #1 on the chart.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy is a fun (enjoyable) song! And it’s funny, as you can see in this video.

The song showed up (appeared) recently on the Brain Pickings web site. Maria Popova, a writer for Brain Pickings, unpacked (analyzed and explained) some of the lyrics (words) and the scientific advice (opinion about what to do) they give for personal well-being (being healthy or happy). You may be familiar with some of the advice, but it’s often helpful to be reminded of things we already know.

Here are some of the lyrics from Don’t Worry, Be Happy and what Popova says we can learn from them:

“In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double (twice as bad)”

We’ve all probably noticed what happens when we keep thinking about things that we’re worried about – it makes them worse! And scientific research has found that constant (without stopping) worrying can be bad for our hearts.

“Here, I give you my [telephone] number
When you worry call me
I make you happy”

There’s probably nothing better than having a friend to talk to when you’re worried about something. Social support (encouragement and help from other people) helps protect us from the negative effect of stress (continuous feelings of worry) and worry. Finding a friend, and being a friend, can help reduce (make less) the effect of worry.

“Cause when you worry
Your face will frown (look unhappy or angry)
And that will bring everybody down”

Scientists tell us that we often mirror, or reflect, what we see other people do. So, if you smile, I’ll smile. If you frown, so will I. We can encourage each other by choosing to smile.

“Put a smile on your face”

There’s a popular piece of advice that says “fake it (pretend) ‘till (until) you make it (succeed)”.  Science tells us that if we think and act the way we want to feel, we will often experience the feeling we’re looking for. In other words, if we act happy, we’ll often become happy.

“Don’t worry, it will soon pass (go away)
Whatever it is”

A psychologist (someone who studies the mind and how people act) from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) says that we overestimate (think something is larger than it is) the negative effect of things that happen to us – discovering we have cancer, getting a divorce, etc. Another writer wrote that “negative events do affect us, but they generally (usually) don’t affect us as much or for as long as we expect them to.”

It sounds like Bobby McFerrin understood a lot about life and well-being when he wrote Don’t Worry, Be Happy. He’s not a psychologist, but his intuitive (based on feeling rather than facts) insights (clear understanding) appear to be on target (correct).

A couple of years ago, I used McFerrin’s song to illustrate (show; explain) an important aspect (part) of language acquisition (acquiring, or picking up, a language by reading or listening) in an article I wrote. If you want, you can find it here.

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

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24 Responses to Bobby was Right!

  1. Barbara says:

    thanks, Warren Ediger.
    it is nice song, not only words but also melody.
    proverb 17:17 ?A true companion is loving all the time,
    and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.?
    nowadays there is lots of strees, we need to release from it
    and relax.

  2. kadanielo says:

    I love the song. It’s terrific!! The article isn’t bad either. but,not as good as the song!

  3. meggiehoo says:

    I’m really listening this song now. The melody is so simple, so is the lyrics. However, I found I never get tired of hearing.Really good song and worthy of listening.

  4. Peter says:

    Lucy ,
    I love the humour you use on your scripts.
    Ha ha,
    Seems like ,I really need an intervention:)
    To prove my claim,I m
    Listening to you guys at this ungodly hours
    I just finished to listen to the last three episodes three times each.
    I am totally addicted:)))
    My average time on eslpod realm is literally 2 or 3 hours everyday.
    I Barly remember even one days has passed over the course of 4 years that I have been you guys that I have studied and checked one of the component of eslpod. It has been either The blog ,episodes ,or Lucy’s script. In fact,It is a combination of all three everyday, for the majority of cases.
    I m telling you , lounging aroud at tge hous of eslpod is my only luxury.
    My favorit hobby is to be at Eslpod’s (good one)

    I certainly believe, all your student collectively need an intervention.
    Eslpod is surely addictive. The only addiction that brings around just good.

    Thanks Lucy
    You are funny as hell
    I love the-always-humour touch on your scripts.
    Indeed,you write in style
    Sorry Warren,
    I took your post to wrote something to Lucy
    I couldn’t resist
    Hope,you are not mad
    She is something , isn’t she.
    Cach you later bro

  5. Jesús says:

    I am completely agree with the song´s message; no matter what we do for living there´re always things that make us worry about, but the best way to face them is to put them in their place and don´t exaggerate them, don´t worry about them before they even happen, just be happy!!
    Above some words of my favorite author, Og Mandino:

    I will live this day as if it were my last.
    And what should I do with this last precious day which remains in my keeping? First, I
    will seal up its container of life so that not one drop spills itself on the sand. I will waste
    not a moment mourning yesterday’s misfortunes, yesterday’s defeats, yesterday’s aches
    of heart, for why should I throw good after bad?
    Can sand flow upward in a hourglass? Will the sun rise where it sets and set where it
    rises? Can I relive the errors of yesterday and right them? Can I call back yesterday’s
    wounds and right them? Can I become younger than yesterday? Can I take back
    the evil that was spoken, the blows that were struck, the pain that was caused? No.
    Yesterday is buried forever and I will think of it no more.
    I will live this day as if it were my last.
    And what then shall I do? Forgetting yesterday neither will I think of tomorrow. Why
    should I throw now after maybe? Can tomorrow’s san flow through the hourglass
    before today’s? Will the sun rise twice this morning? Can I perform tomorrow’s deeds
    while standing in today’s path? Can tomorrow’ child be born today? Can tomorrow’s
    death cast its shadow backward and darken today’s joy? Should I concern myself over
    events which I may never witness? Should I torment myself with problems that may
    never come to pass? No! Tomorrow lies buried with yesterday, and I will think of it no
    I will live this day as if it were my last.

    Thanks Warren & regards to ESLPOD Team

  6. Sergio says:

    “Scientists tell us that we often mirror, or reflect, what we see other people do.
    So, if you smile, I’ll smile. If you frown, so will I.”
    Dear Warren, some philosophers say about that: “I desire what (the same) you desire!”
    In other words: I nourish myself with the desire of the other people”!
    It’s true? Otherwise, why do fashions, relationships, movies, novels and so on ever succeed?
    Scientists often call that: mirror-neuron.
    P.S. I woud have another couple of examples, but I’m sure someone up there on the esl pod…
    would censor me! 🙂

  7. J. Henrique says:

    Wow! I knew I was right listening to Bobby. His lyrics are about things everyone intuitively know, but we forget too often or simply don’t value it. His lyrics are still valid even after so long because remember us about the simple things that we shouldn’t forget.

  8. Peter says:

    Jeff,Lucy ,and warren
    You guys lead the field
    You are progressive

  9. Betty says:

    Thank you so much, Warren, for once again giving us an enjoyable English lesson.

    I have learned some important words here as well as a good “attitude towards life” lesson.

    I have also enjoyed the music and the jolly funny video.

    Thanks again, Warren, you are a great creative English teacher and mentor.

  10. Betty says:

    Hi Elvis Johnny,

    Thank you so much for writing back.

    I love what you told us about your experience in learning English. You said: ““finally I am able to learning English in English in a natural way”

    “Learn English in English”; NOT “Learn English in Chinese”.

    So many Chinese people “learn English in Chinese” and it is very hard to learn it “in a natural way”.

    I am very happy to read your message which tells us it is possible to learn a foreign language and love it.

    Our English translation in many parts of China has become a laughing stock for many people. I do not find it funny. Instead, I think China needs people like you, Elvis Johnny, to learn English properly and to oversee a change of all the wrong English translations in China.

    I must thank you again for giving me a chance to realize the benefit of learning English.

    All the best wishes


  11. Betty says:

    Hi Jesús

    Thank you for your encouragement.

    Yes, I had taught English for one academic year before. It was about 30 years ago – when my English was a disaster. 🙁

    I lived with guilt in me thinking how awful I taught English when my English was so bad. 🙁

    Now I have found our excellent teachers here – Jeff, Lucy and Warren (name in alphabetical order), and I have more time to learn English more properly, I think I should not waste this chance of learning.

    Thank you for quoting the lovely contents from your favourite author, Og Mandino. Really nice, I love every bit of it. 🙂

    Best Regards


  12. Peter says:

    U outdid yourself in the latest cafe.
    The explanation on the limits ,and limitation is perfect in every level.
    In particularly ,limits I didn’t have clue about the use of limits.

    Thanks boss,

  13. Myo ko ko says:

    Well, Warren,
    I’ve got it! I mean your article, not the song video you linked to.
    when I clicked the link, I faced this:

    …..The uploader has not made this video available in your country.Sorry about that…..

    This happens to me every time I click a link! 🙂

    But need not be upset, I’m downloading the song in mp3 format right away through my friend. Google, 😛
    And I’ll take it to my home and enjoy it, lying in my bed of course!.:)
    I love both the song’s lyrics and your narrative writing about it.
    Thanks a many, warren.

  14. emiliano says:

    I always like this song very very much, now that I could understand the lyrics so well it
    likes me even more.

    It is easy to say, live just this moment, this day as it could be the last but usually we
    do not act the right way.
    Sure if we do not care so much about things that are inside our minds only, that
    are going to be real or not, sure life would be happier and easier.

    Looking at my cat “Gatufo” I could see he is absolutely happy, he has not any worries
    about anything, only having enough food and being close to us he do not care about
    tomorrow, he is living the real time that it is every one second of this moment.

    I need to sing the song every day twice in low vice and act accordingly with the

    Thank you very much Warren.

  15. Betty says:

    I have followed the link that Warren gave us to the “” website and then from there to the article “The pain of one arrow” by Danai Chanchaochai Bangkok Post published on 5 July 2005.

    In the article it says:

    “The untrained layman, when touched by painful bodily feelings, grieves and laments and is distraught. But the well-trained disciple, when touched by painful bodily feelings, will not weep, nor grieve, nor lament; nor will he be distraught. The layman, when touched by painful bodily feelings, weeps. He experiences two kinds of feelings: a bodily one and a mental one.

    “It is as if a man is hit by one arrow, and then by a second arrow; he feels the pain of two arrows. So it is with the untrained layman; when touched by a painful bodily feeling, he experiences two kinds of feeling, a bodily one and a mental one. But the well-trained disciple, when touched by a painful bodily feeling, weeps not. He feels only one kind of feeling: a bodily one, not a mental one. It is as if a man is hit by one arrow, but not by a second arrow; he feels the pain of one arrow only. So it is with the well-trained disciple; when touched by a painful bodily feeling, he feels but one feeling, bodily pain only.”

    I am not a well-trained disciple, and I have constantly been hit by pain – unfortunately – but I have always told myself that “don’t let one bad thing lead to another bad thing”, and I just “deal with it” step by step and then at the end I sorted out the problems – luckily – and the pain has gone.

    Recently one of my pains was to hear my father telling me how unhappy he was because of all the illness that he had to bear with. I always stayed with him and told him some stories about how unfortunate some people in this world died involuntarily, like, in tragedies. He always started asking me questions about those tragedies and he forgot about all his own illnesses. Soon after, he told me that he was tired and needed to go to sleep. That’s the end of his pain and my pain, for the afternoon anyway.

    Thanks again, Warren, your articles are always worthy of reading again and again until one fully understand the reason behind the articles.


  16. Jesús says:


    Thank you for taking the time to check my comments, I like the way you write, and I think that I learn every time I read one of yours.
    Regarding your English teaching experience I think that life always gives us second chances and if you can, you should think about teaching English in your country. There’s a proverb here in my country, that says that the best way to learn something is by teaching it…

    Best Regards from Colombia,

    Jesús P.

  17. meme says:

    Thanks Warren about this topic nice 2 learn

    (I am not a well-trained disciple, and I have constantly been hit by pain – unfortunately – but I have always told myself that “don’t let one bad thing lead to another bad thing”, and I just “deal with it” step by step and then at the end I sorted out the problems – luckily – and the pain has gone.)

    in this word I’m like U the way what i feel, from time 2 time i usually love my life, but when I’m facing a hectic week I set with myself what I’m doing in my life
    my life was so dump, so with a lot of concentrate I figured out 🙂 I say 2 myself LIFE IS EASY 2 live with GO OUT see people share laugh with forget ur problem
    SO I have to be HAPPY to get rod of all my stress
    When I need to feel HAPPY 😛 I LOOK TO YELLOW SMILE I adore this pic it’s make HAPPY & optimistic 😛


  18. Sanaz says:

    Great! Many thanks Warren. I really need to read something like this to remind me of a big truth! I know them all, but you know we sometimes need a reminder. And it was a big, invaluable one.
    You know, I have a great friend that always helps me to reduce the effect of worry.
    Thanks again.

  19. Elvis Johnny says:

    Betty, I’m flying high when I saw and hear the encouragements and back up you gave…
    It’s right similar to the topic Warren gave us here “if others act happy, so will you”,
    the significance behind your inspiring words is right on target, cheering us up all the time..
    I’m just one of common people like any other Chinese, but there is one thing I thought I was pretty luck ’cause
    I had found the meanning for my life that’s “you don’t know what you can achieve until you’ve tried, and then well-being would draw you close”,
    which can kind of be a motto for me, you know what, even up to now there is still some of obstacles in my any endeavor on my way head,
    sometimes it’s got be all about these anxious around my mind, of couse , like Warren’s sights you would get your heart hurt,
    that’s pretty true, I’ve seen the share of this tortured stuff, reaaly, my friends here, do being not stress out whenever it is,
    you really need to think about toward something pleasure, which would get you mellow out and cozy..

    That will be all this time, and I’m sure I would get the hang of it when I’m committed to do something special.

  20. Elvis Johnny says:

    1.I’m listening to music.
    My teacher told me that you don’t say ” listen at” , cause listen to is a set phrase.

    My question is why would teacher say “don’t say” instead of saying” can’t say “?

    2.”you didn’t write bestseller, cause you despised emotions of people”.
    my initial reaction to this sentence “you didn’t write something” is something were not done and finished,
    back to the original text it indicates ”you had written a book, and yet this book was not in popularity,
    was not too good enough to impress people to become a bestseller.. “
    you know when I am going to express the original text’s point of view, I always want to say ”you can’t write bestseller ”,
    I know this is wrong. Here is my doubts, now that you didn’t write it, how it become a bestseller?
    I’m convinced there is must be something wrong in my thinking and mind..
    I’ve been trapped in this “don’t and can’t ” question for so long, can’t figure out what went wrong…
    what’s subtle distinction between “you don’t write bestseller”?? and “you can’t write bestseller”??

    Would you please to help me out, my adorable teacher? or if somebody else would like to help me with this intangible trick..
    I’m very open to any of your answer..

  21. Betty says:

    Hi Elvis Johnny,

    Warren told us in his article that “There’s a popular piece of advice that says “fake it (pretend) ‘till (until) you make it (succeed)”.”

    I am faking to be able to answer your grammar questions until I make it one day – hopefully.


    When your teacher says, ‘you don’t say “listen at”’, she was asking you not to say “listen at”, say “listen to”.

    If your teacher says, ‘you can’t say “listen at”’, there is a suggestion that you say “listen at” incorrectly, for example, because the English words are too difficult for a Chinese to say.

    Sometime we have to guess the meaning of the sentence from the speaker’s tone.


    If your teacher says “you can’t write bestseller”. It can have two meanings:

    1. You must not write bestseller, for example, it may bring you rich and famous which you dislike.
    2. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to write a book which is good enough to become a bestseller.


    In the sentence “You can’t write bestseller”, “can” is a present tense form of the auxiliary verb “can”. It suggests that you have not started doing the writing yet, no book has been published.

    In the sentence “You didn’t write bestseller”, ” didn’t” is a past tense form of the verb “don’t”. It suggests that you had done the writing, and published the book, but the book was not a bestseller.

    If you have time, look up ”” for the word “Can” and “Do”, it has very good explanations.
    “” also has very good learning material for the verb “can”

    If Warren allows, I am listing part of’s “Can” here:

    can 1
    aux.v. Past tense could
    a. Used to indicate physical or mental ability: I can carry both suitcases. Can you remember the war?
    b. Used to indicate possession of a specified power, right, or privilege: The President can veto congressional bills.
    c. Used to indicate possession of a specified capability or skill: I can tune the harpsichord as well as play it.
    a. Used to indicate possibility or probability: I wonder if my long lost neighbor can still be alive. Such things can and do happen.
    b. Used to indicate that which is permitted, as by conscience or feelings: One can hardly blame you for being upset.
    c. Used to indicate probability or possibility under the specified circumstances: They can hardly have intended to do that.
    3. Usage Problem Used to request or grant permission: Can I be excused?


    I just hope that I have not confused you.


    Thank you for helping me finding answers to some of my future questions. 🙂


  22. Tania says:

    Hi! Don’t Worry, Be Happy – a very nice song, a song of the hopefulness and wellness. Thank you.

    Best wishes,


  23. Betty says:

    Sorry, Elvis Johnny, I forgot to mention some points in my previous message.

    I hope Warren will give me a second change (as Jesús Says: life always gives us second chances) and let me explain further as below:


    Your teacher used the word “don’t” which is a present simple form of the verb “do” to indicate that it is a habit for English users to say “listen to”, they do not say “listen at”.

    If the teacher uses “you can’t” which can mean “you must not”, her tone will be too bossy which is not very nice.


    I hope you will have time to have a look at the’s page about “Present Tense”.

    It said:

    “The present simple or simple present is used in several ways:
    • to describe both habits and or routines (habitual aspect) (I eat breakfast every morning at 6:30; I go to work every day), and general facts or the truth (The earth revolves around the sun);
    • to present thoughts, feelings, and other unchanging states (stative aspect) (I think so; I like it; It is hot; The sun always shines in the desert);
    • to indicate scheduled events in the near future (so that the simple “present” verb form actually indicates future tense) (I take the train tomorrow at 6:00);
    • to indicate events at any time in the future in a dependent clause (I’ll retire when I reach age 65);
    • to provide narratives such as instructional narratives (Now I mix the ingredients; now I put the pan in the oven);
    • to narrate past events (the historical present) for stylistic effect.

  24. Rolf says:

    Don’t worry – think positive, act positive, be positive – and you’ll be happy

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