How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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Scott Adams, creator of the comic Dilbert, tells his story while offering random assortment of life tips in his book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life”.

A big theme and takeaway from this book was the emphasis on personal energy: “We humans want many things: good health, financial freedom, accomplishment, a great social life, love, sex, recreation, travel, family, career … So how do you organize your limited supply of time to get the best result? I make choices that maximize my personal energy.” It was enlightening to have a framework you can use when making choices. Jeff Bezos’s Regret Minimization Framework is another one that I really like.

My favorite part of the book is where Scott Adams argues that “goals are for losers, one should have a system instead of a goal”. He tells the story of a CEO he met on the plane and the career advice he got: “He said that every time he got a new job, he immediately started looking for a better one. Your best bet, he explained, was to always be looking for the better deal. The better deal has its own schedule. I believe the way he explained it is that your job is not your job; your job is to find a better job.” He goes on to explain the idea of having a system: “In the world of dieting, losing twenty pounds is a goal, but eating right is a system. In business, making a million dollars is a goal, but being a serial entrepreneur is a system.” For instance, for exercise he argues that “all that matters in the long run is that you made exercise a daily habit. The right amount of exercise today is whatever amount makes me look forward to being active tomorrow.” The problem with goals, he argues, is that we lose purpose and direction once we achieve them.

Here are other random bits from the book that I found interesting:

  • “I am a professional simplifier”
  • “My boss, who had been a commercial lender for over thirty years, said the best loan customer is one who has no passion whatsoever, just a desire to work hard at something that looks good on a spreadsheet. You want the grinder, not the guy who loves his job. My hypothesis is that passionate people are more likely to take big risks in the pursuit of unlikely goals, and so you would expect to see more failures and more huge successes among the passionate.”
  • “Good ideas have no value because the world already has too many of them. The market rewards execution, not ideas.”
  • “Failure is where success likes to hide in plain sight.”
  • “If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it.”
  • “The smartest system for discerning your best path to success involves trying lots of things…The formula, roughly speaking, is that every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success. The idea is that you can raise your market value by being merely good — not extraordinary — at more than one skill.”
  • “Smiling makes you feel better even if your smile is fake. The physical act of forcing a smile may trigger the feel-good chemistry in your brain that is associated with happiness. I’ve discovered that acting confident makes you feel more confident”
  • “A real-estate salesperson might show you the worst house first, knowing it will make you appreciate the better home you see later. A car salesman knows that a high sticker price will make the eventual negotiated price look better than it would have otherwise.”
  • “The first rule of eating right is avoiding foods that feel like punishment.”
  • “People will automatically label you a friend if you share a secret.”
  • “You become like the people around you”
  • “A person with a flexible schedule and average resources will be happier than a rich person who has everything except a flexible schedule. Step one in your search for happiness is to continually work toward having control of your schedule… Happiness has more to do with where you’re heading than where you are.”
  • “Another big part of my system involves generating lots of opportunities for luck to find me”

If you really enjoy this kind of content, I’d recommend reading the book, it was a blast. Otherwise, reading this Wall Street Journal article will be sufficient, it’s like a movie trailer: has all the best parts of the book …

November 18, 2013



sarp centel

Sarp is a software developer. He writes about technology, books and software.
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