Book Notes: How to Fail at Almost Everything by Scott Adams

How to fail by Scott AdamsI’ve written about Scott Adams before [1, 2].

He just seems like an awesome guy: funny, opinionated, someone who succeeded through hard work and cleverness and a determination to live on his own terms.

In particular I like his recommendation to build systems [3] instead of chasing goals, and I couldn’t agree more when he says “passion is bullshit”.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big [Kindle]

If you read nothing else:

Recapping the happiness formula: Eat right. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Imagine an incredible future (even if you don’t believe it). Work toward a flexible schedule. Do things you can steadily improve at. Help others (if you’ve already helped yourself). Reduce daily decisions to routine.

(all of the below are quotes)

On life: Always be improving

  • There’s one step you will always do first if it’s available to you: You’ll ask a smart friend how he or she tackled the same problem. A smart friend can save you loads of time and effort.
  • It’s a good idea to make psychology your lifelong study.
  • If your gut feeling (intuition) disagrees with the experts, take that seriously. You might be experiencing some pattern recognition that you can’t yet verbalize.
  • The directional nature of happiness is one reason it’s a good idea to have a sport or hobby that leaves you plenty of room to improve every year. Tennis and golf are two perfect examples.

On career: What were you obsessively doing at ten years old?

  • I’ve been involved in several dozen business ventures over the course of my life, and each one made me excited at the start. You might even call it passion. The ones that didn’t work out—and that would be most of them—slowly drained my passion as they failed.
  • I believe the way he explained it is that your job is not your job; your job is to find a better job. This was my first exposure to the idea that one should have a system instead of a goal.
  • If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it. (one of my favorite quotes!)
  • In my career I’ve always felt that my knack for simplicity was a sort of superpower. For example, when I draw Dilbert I include little or no background art in most panels, and when I do, it’s usually simple.
  • My cartooning skills improved dramatically within a week of United Media’s offering to syndicate Dilbert. The simple knowledge that I had become an official professional cartoonist had a profound effect on unlocking whatever talent I had.
  • One helpful rule of thumb for knowing where you might have a little extra talent is to consider what you were obsessively doing before you were ten years old.
  • There have been times I stuck with bad ideas for far too long out of a misguided sense that persistence is a virtue. The pattern I noticed was this: Things that will someday work out well start out well. Things that will never work start out bad and stay that way.
  • The Success Formula: Every Skill You Acquire Doubles Your Odds of Success

On health: Do stuff that gives you energy

  • The main reason I blog is because it energizes me. I could rationalize my blogging by telling you it increases traffic on Dilbert.com by 10 percent or that it keeps my mind sharp or that I think the world is a better place when there are more ideas in it. But the main truth is that blogging charges me up. It gets me going. I don’t need another reason.
  • Energy is good. Passion is bullshit.
  • Tidiness is a personal preference, but it also has an impact on your energy. Every second you look at a messy room and think about fixing it is a distraction from your more important thoughts.
  • When you see a successful person who lacks a college education, you’re usually looking at someone with an unusual lack of fear. The next pattern I’ve noticed is exercise. Good health is a baseline requirement for success.
  • The main thing I learned is that nutrition presents itself as science but is perhaps 60 percent bullshit, guessing, bad assumptions, and marketing.

On relationships: Smile!

  • Research shows that loneliness damages the body in much the same way as aging.
  • As a bonus, smiling makes you more attractive to others. When you’re more attractive, people respond to you with more respect and consideration, more smiles, and sometimes even lust.
  • A lie that makes a voter feel good is more effective than a hundred rational arguments.
  • It’s a good idea to always have a backlog of stories you can pull out at a moment’s notice. And you’ll want to continually update your internal story database with new material.
  • Your story isn’t a story unless something unexpected or unusual happens. That’s the plot twist. If you don’t have a twist, it’s not a story. It’s just a regurgitation of your day.
  • The reality is that everyone is a basket case on the inside. Some people just hide it better. Find me a normal person and I’ll show you someone you don’t know that well.
  • Another good persuasion sentence is “I don’t do that.” It’s not a reason and barely tries to be. But it sounds like a hard-and-fast rule.
  • Crazy + confident probably kills more people than any other combination of personality traits, but when it works just right, it’s a recipe for extraordinary persuasion. Cults are a good example of insanity being viewed as leadership.
  • Studies show a commanding voice is highly correlated with success. Other studies suggest that both men and women with attractive voices find partners more quickly than those with less attractive voices.
  • For in-person humor, quality isn’t as important as you might think. Your attitude and effort count for a lot.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.