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How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

9781591846918_custom-550e5a01fbd83824c7be8bf5c59523b8586e2afb-s6-c30Author: Scott Adams
Title: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
Published: Oct. 10, 2013

As one might expect from a cartoon artist, Adams presents his life story in quite the comical fashion. Readers will likely be extremely surprised by his career path early on and how he eventually turned into the world-reknown creator of Dilbert. Adams covers a surprising amount of failures that he’s either participated in or helped to fund including restaurants (called the Dilberito), TV shows (based off the Dilbert show), and other comics that came out after Dilbert. The point of the book isn’t just to reinforce the popular idea of “Keep trying! You’ll succeed eventually.” Rather, Adams discusses the many things that he’s learned along the way including thoughts on success, goal setting, and health. I wrote about his “Systems vs. Goals” approach, which I thought was one of the most beneficial chapters of the book.

Reading Notes

The market rewards execution, not ideas.

For our purposes, let’s say a goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.

My proposition is that if you study people who succeed, you will see that most of them follow systems, not goals. When goal-oriented people succeed in big ways, it makes news, and it makes an interesting story. That gives you a distorted view of how often goal-driven people succeed.

It was starting to seem as if I might be able to interview my way to some sort of senior executive position in which no one would notice I was totally skill free.

If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it. It sounds trivial and obvious, but if you unpack the idea it has extraordinary power.

Few of these wishful people have decided to have any of the things they wish for. It’s a key difference, for once you decide, you take action. Wishing starts in the mind and generally stays there.

To put the success formula into its simplest form: Good + Good > Excellent

When I combined my meager business skills with my bad art skills and my fairly ordinary writing talent, the mixture was powerful. With each new skill, my odds of success increased substantially.

Recapping my skill set: I have poor art skills, mediocre business skills, good but not great writing talent, and an early knowledge of the Internet. And I have a good but not great sense of humor. I’m like one big mediocre soup.

Everything you learn becomes a shortcut for understanding something else.

The Knowledge Formula: The More You Know, The More You Can Know

The best way to increase your odds of success – in a way that might look like luck to others – is to systematically become good, but not amazing, at the types of skills that work well together and are highly useful for just about any job.

To change yourself, part of the solution might involve spending more time with the people who represent the change you seek.

The only reasonable goal in life is to maximize your total lifetime experience of something called happiness.

Happiness has more to do with where you’re heading than where you are.

Don’t let reality control your imagination. Let your imagination be the user interface to steer your reality.