How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

Summary

  1. Adams is the comic behind the Dilbert series and this book is his story about how he stumbled his way to success amid many failures. Goals are for losers, your brain isn’t magic – you can program it, most important metric to track is your personal energy, every skill you acquire doubles your chances of success, success is happiness + freedom, conquer shyness by being a huge phony (in a good way), fitness is the lever that moves the world, simplicity transforms the ordinary into the amazing
Key Takeaways
  1. When it comes to any big question, humility is the only way to handle it
  2. 6 filters for truth (how to filter out the bullshit) – personal experience, experience of people you know, experts, scientific studies, common sense, pattern recognition
    1. Look for truth by getting at least 2 of the filters in agreement
  3. Consistency is the closest thing we can get to truth
  4. Writing good comics requires stripping a situation of all noise until only the true but absurd core is left
  5. Adams invites failure into his life whenever he can and extracts as much value from it as possible. View failure as a tool, not an outcome
  6. Energy is good. Following your passion is bullshit – people tend to be passionate about things they’re already good at. Never hear about passionate people who failed
  7. The market rewards execution, not good ideas 
  8. Seek opportunities in which you have an advantage 
  9. Timing is often the biggest component of success – makes sense to try many things because timing is so hard to predict
  10. There are very few, if any, useful things which can come from management
  11. Looking for a better job should be a continual process
  12. Systems over goals – Instead of having goals, have a system. Goals lead to an uneasy state and temporary satisfaction but a system is a long term, sustainable life style
  13. A proven, sustainable system which utilizes your talents will beat passion in the long term
  14. Aim to create something which is easy to scale which utilizes your competitive edge and makes it easier for luck to find you
  15. If you want success, figure out the price and pay it
  16. 3 levels of generosity – selfish, stupid and a burden to others. Best to be selfish as this will more than likely lead to success and giving more than you consume and forces you to take the long term view on things
  17. Aim to pick up a room whenever you enter it – have infectious energy
  18. Influence works best when the person you’re trying to influence has no objection to the given change
  19. Organize and base your life upon your personal energy. Search to fill your life with things and activities which fill you with energy. Some selfish things in life are enlightened as they make you a better person and more fun to be around
  20. Match your task to your mental state
  21. There are optimizers and simplifiers – choose which is appropriate for you, the task and your energy
  22. Be aware of how a tidy vs messy home and workspace affect you
  23. Do flash searches (1 minute research) for topics to intimidate you and you’ll often find it’s simpler than you might think
  24. Set your priorities by what will add the most to your personal energy. Priorities are things you need to get right so things you love can thrive 
  25. Positive attitude very important. Be conscious of the media you consume and aim to have as much of it as possible be feel good stuff
  26. Perception of reality most likely flawed so change perception to what makes you happy and that works. Reality is overrated
  27. Quality sometimes not a good predicting success (computers). However, customers still demanded the product although it would be a while until the product was of a high quality
  28. Your product or service doesn’t need to be loved by all, but a small subset must be very enthusiastic about it
  29. What people do is much more honest than what they say
  30. Determine if you are a “practicer” or need novelty in order to keep enthused
  31. For your resume, imagine that you got $100 for each word you removed and see how it looks after. Simplicity beats accuracy every time
  32. Being good at a couple different skills is often better than being great at one (unless you’re world class)
  33. Everything you learn becomes a shortcut to learning everything else
  34. Knowledge formula – the more you know, the more you can know
  35. Finding your “blind spots” is extremely important. see the world as math (probabilities) as opposed to magic. This will help you be more positive and build new skills
  36. If you see something that impresses you, it it is your duty to speak up and complement the person
  37. People’s perception of their own potential is often very lacking 
  38. Never be blind to the psychology in a situation 
  39. Quality is not an independent force – it must be compared to something 
  40. Make learning a psychology a top priority and a lifelong goal
  41. Reason is often the smallest driver of our decisions – consider incentives and psychology over reason 
  42. Business writing is all about getting to the point and leaving out the noise
  43. Being a good conversationalist is about asking good questions – name, where from, where live, family, work, hobbies, travel
  44. Determine whether the person or people you are talking to are ‘thing’ people or ‘people’ people – like to hear of events or things vs hearing about other people
  45. Persuasive phrases – because, would you mind, I’m not interested, I don’t do that, I have a rule, I just wanted to clarify, is there anything you can do for me?, thank you, this is just between you and me, decisiveness, energy is contagious, insane people usually have their way (can fake insanity by bringing emotions into it which won’t bend to reason), proper voice technique (speak how you think a confident person would speak, low voice, no “umms”)
  46. Always look for patterns
  47. Affirmations – Writing, thinking, speaking the outcome you want to achieve many times per day
  48. Step 1 to happiness is getting control of your schedule; where you’re heading more important than where you currently are; reduce daily decisions to routine
  49. As humans have limited willpower, you want to routinize as much as possible, especially diet and exercise. An attractive alternative makes willpower much less important
  50. Make healthy foods as convenient as possible for you in order to save willpower and make it easier on yourself
  51. Fail forward – if you’re going to fail, make sure you learn a lot out of it
  52. Optimists make it easier for luck to find them
  53. Don’t think of your body as magic. Understand that the right inputs (diet, exercise, thoughts, etc) lead to better outputs 
What I got out of it
  1. An unexpectedly good book – Adams is honest, rational, witty and gives a lot of great advice from diet/exercise to affirmations to what it takes to be successful. One of my favorite books of the year

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