Scott Adams (the Dilbert guy) on how to be successful

Dilbert: Follow Your Passion

Scott shares a very honest and modest story of his own success over at the WSJ.

1. Don’t “follow your passion”

When I was a commercial loan officer for a large bank, my boss taught us that you should never make a loan to someone who is following his passion. For example, you don’t want to give money to a sports enthusiast who is starting a sports store to pursue his passion for all things sporty. That guy is a bad bet, passion and all. He’s in business for the wrong reason.

Cal Newport explains why the phrase is a modern phenomenon.

2. Success drives passion, not the other way around

Dilbert started out as just one of many get-rich schemes I was willing to try. When it started to look as if it might be a success, my passion for cartooning increased because I realized it could be my golden ticket. In hindsight, it looks as if the projects that I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked. But objectively, my passion level moved with my success. Success caused passion more than passion caused success.

3. Systems are more powerful than goals

If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize that you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or to set new goals and re-enter the cycle of permanent presuccess failure.

4. Failed? Don’t just get stronger…get smarter

I do want my failures to make me stronger, of course, but I also want to become smarter, more talented, better networked, healthier and more energized. If I find a cow turd on my front steps, I’m not satisfied knowing that I’ll be mentally prepared to find some future cow turd. I want to shovel that turd onto my garden and hope the cow returns every week so I never have to buy fertilizer again. Failure is a resource that can be managed.

Scott ends by sharing anecdotes of his own failures, including a big investment in Webvan, which he subsequently increased just a few weeks before it declared bankruptcy. What did he learn? Diversify your investments. And never listen to company management.

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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.