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How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

Kind of the Story of My Life

By Scott Adams
12-minute read
Audio available
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big (2013) is a grab bag of life and career advice from the creator of Dilbert, the popular comic strip. Scott Adams explains how he succeeded as a cartoonist and businessman, not despite his failures, but because of them. He also shares his secrets for maintaining high energy levels and using them to fuel a life of constant learning and improvement.

  • Exhausted people looking to raise their energy levels
  • Anyone thinking of changing their perspectives on failure
  • Entrepreneurs seeking motivation and guidance

Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert, a famous comic strip showcasing humorous aspects of office life. It has been published all over the world and in countless newspapers. He is also an author of many books, including the New York Times best seller Win Bigly.

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How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

Kind of the Story of My Life

By Scott Adams
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams
Synopsis

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big (2013) is a grab bag of life and career advice from the creator of Dilbert, the popular comic strip. Scott Adams explains how he succeeded as a cartoonist and businessman, not despite his failures, but because of them. He also shares his secrets for maintaining high energy levels and using them to fuel a life of constant learning and improvement.

Key idea 1 of 7

Create systems instead of setting goals.

Walk into a bookstore, find the self-help section and flip open a book. Nine times out of ten, you’ll encounter page upon page of upbeat prose extolling the life-changing benefits of setting clear goals.

But this praise is slightly misplaced, because goals, no matter how clear, have two problems: they’re future-oriented, and they’re overly specific.

Let’s start with the temporal trouble. All goals are situated in the future, but in order to achieve them, you must do work in the present. And when you begin working toward a goal, you usually won’t see immediate results. This can be frustrating and discouraging.

That’s why the author prefers systems, which are firmly grounded in the present. Unlike goals, systems are focused on the here and now and can be worked into your daily life, meaning that you can get daily pleasure from successfully operating them.

Adams learned about systems by chance. On a flight, he was once seated next to a man who explained how systems had transformed him from an employee to a CEO. His system was simple: keep moving from job to job, always looking for something better. Even though he didn't have a clear end-goal in mind, this system allowed him to accumulate so much know-how that he ended up in the CEO’s chair.

Systems also trump goals because they’re nonspecific.

The specificity of goals often creates an illusion of failure. People tend to feel that, if they don’t accomplish exactly what they set out to do, they haven’t accomplished anything.

For instance, say you want to lose 20 pounds before Valentine’s Day. This is a laudable goal, but it’s got some inherent issues. First, you’ll only get to celebrate when you achieve it; and second, if you fall one pound short, you’ve failed.

It’d be wiser to set up a system – say, to commit to exercising every day, whether for five minutes or half an hour. This way, you’ll establish a habit and have an easier time staying motivated.

This is what the author did as a young man. Whether writing or drawing or whatever it might have been, he’d create a system to produce and replicate material that people were receptive to, without a clear end-goal in mind.

And this was a clever move. Considering the number of jobs and projects he abandoned before creating his hit comic strip Dilbert, he probably would have felt like a total failure had he set his sights on one particular goal.

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