How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Kind of the Story of My Life

by Scott Adams


2016 Nov 08


Blasting clichéd career advice, the contrarian pundit and creator of Dilbert recounts the humorous ups and downs of his career, revealing the outsized role of luck in our lives and how best to play the system.

Scott Adams has likely failed at more things than anyone you’ve ever met or anyone you’ve even heard of. So how did he go from hapless office worker and serial failure to the creator of Dilbert, one of the world’s most famous syndicated comic strips, in just a few years? In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Adams shares the game plan he’s followed since he was a teen: invite failure in, embrace it, then pick its pocket.

No career guide can offer advice that works for everyone. As Adams explains, your best bet is to study the ways of others who made it big and try to glean some tricks and strategies that make sense for you. Adams pulls back the covers on his own unusual life and shares how he turned one failure after another - including his corporate career, his inventions, his investments, and his two restaurants - into something good and lasting. There’s a lot to learn from his personal story, and a lot of entertainment along the way. Adams discovered some unlikely truths that helped to propel him forward. For instance:

  • Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners.
  • “Passion” is bull. What you need is personal energy.
  • A combination of mediocre skills can make you surprisingly valuable.
  • You can manage your odds in a way that makes you look lucky to others.

Adams hopes you can laugh at his failures while discovering some unique and helpful ideas on your own path to personal victory. As he writes: “This is a story of one person’s unlikely success within the context of scores of embarrassing failures. Was my eventual success primarily a result of talent, luck, hard work, or an accidental just-right balance of each? All I know for sure is that I pursued a conscious strategy of managing my opportunities in a way that would make it easier for luck to find me.”

Notes & Highlights

If your view of the world is that people use reason for their important decisions, you are setting yourself up for a life of frustration and confusion. You’ll find yourself continually debating people and never winning except in your own mind. Few things are as destructive and limiting as a worldview that assumes people are mostly rational.

On persuasion… I’ll give you a taste of the topic just so you know what I’m talking about. For starters, some words and phrases are simply more persuasive than others, and that has been demonstrated in controlled studies. I’ve included a few of my own favorite persuasion words, based on my own experiences. Persuasive Words and 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. Allow me to elaborate.

For starters, it helps to learn to breathe from the bottom of your lungs, not in the upper chest area. Proper breathing has lots of other benefits, including stress reduction, increased and more efficient metabolism, and better physical stamina, so it’s worth learning. If you put your hand on your belly button and breathe correctly, that’s the only part of your torso that should be rising and falling. If your upper chest is expanding when you breathe normally, you’re doing it wrong. When you get your breathing right, your words will come out sounding more confident.

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How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams