How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big - Deepstash
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big


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How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

by Scott Adams

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1. Goals Have Two Major Problems

Self-help gurus have a knack for encouraging people to create and stick to goals. But Adam believes goals are for losers. According to him, the reality is that even the clearest goals have two problems that will always persist:

Goals are future-oriented

Goals can become overly-specific

Firstly, there is the issue that goals are placed in the future, but we have to work in the present to achieve them. This means you are unlikely to see any results from your actions until much further down the line. Most people would find this reality frustrating and discouraging.


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Adams believes that systems are more effective than goals. Systems are firmly grounded in the present. This means they can be grounded in your life right now, and you will get daily pleasure from successfully operating them. Adams describes the time he first learned of the power of systems. He sat on a flight next to a man who explained to Adams how systems had transformed him from an employee to a CEO. 


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3. Examples of Systems

An exercise system would focus less on an end goal and more on day-by-day improvement. For example, committing to daily exercise. This shows one of the greatest strengths of systems, which is that it helps establish habits.

Adams used systems as a young man to help him achieve the success he now has. He created a system around writing and drawing things people were receptive to rather than having a clear end goal. This meant he did not feel like a failure if it was not successful, which helped him keep going. This continual motivation meant he could create the hit comic strip Dilbert.


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4. The Benefits of Being a Generalist

We must understand our talents, but we must also be willing to favor new skills over our talents to become a generalist. The business world was previously obsessed with specialization. Adams points out that general knowledge about several fields is more useful in the modern world. This does not make you mediocre or your average Joe. 

Adams explains that he has always been a generalist. When he started Dilbert, he was not a talented writer, artist or businessman. He was just relatively proficient at each skill.


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5. Specialize in the Areas You Enjoy

As well as developing general skills, you must use introspection to identify your unique skills. Parents and teachers often pressure people to pursue specific careers. You are in the best position to notice your special skills and think about which career would suit those skills. If you are struggling to notice these skills, Adams recommends thinking about what you like to do. It is generally the case that the activities we enjoy the most are the things we are good at.

Suppose this doesn’t help you recognize your unique skills. 


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You have likely experienced occasions where you have gone on a run when you have felt drained and unmotivated. These circumstances occur when you adhere to a schedule rather than listening to your bodily rhythms. Adams believes this is an inferior approach and recommends using your energy levels as a metric for allocating tasks. You will feel far more energized and become more efficient if you allocate the right tasks to the right time of day.


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As well as timings, you should also consider how a location makes you feel and the order of activities. For example, you should avoid working in spaces where you feel relaxed. You can also couple activities which help each other. By identifying the tasks that drain you, you can pair this task with a primary task you find energizing. Adams’ energizing task is blogging, while his draining task is shopping. So, he tries to blog as much as possible and shop as infrequently as possible. If he must shop, he will pair it with a blogging session.


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8. Prioritize Personal Energy

Instead of worrying about which task to prioritize first, you should always make personal energy your priority. This is because personal energy allows you to achieve all your other priorities. Exercise, food and sleep are all essential for looking after your energy levels. So, these should be the first buttons to push to elevate your attitude and raise your energy. Adams recommends experimenting with food to learn which food groups and diets will improve our personal energy levels. This means he also advises against just taking health experts’ knowledge as gospel.


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Adams also recommends spicing up foods that you know are healthy but find bland. For example, vegetables and grains are clearly healthy. That said, he doesn’t find them tasty when they are by themselves. He uses nutritious additions to make them tempting, e.g., by adding honey, lemon, soy sauce or pepper. 


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10. Use Association Programming

Moods are infectious, so the moods of those around us heavily influence us. This is called associate energy and means we should always strive to associate ourselves with people we want to be like and people who give us energy. This idea was brought to Adams’ attention when one of his friends decided to live in an affluent neighborhood, as he felt this would push him to become affluent himself. Adams was initially skeptical, but then read a scientific article explaining how spending time with overweight friends can lead to weight gain.


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11. Selfishness is an illusion

Society tells us that selfishness is something we should avoid at all costs, and you should make other people’s desires your priority. Adams challenges this view and points out that there are three kinds of people in this world: stupid, a burden on others, and selfish. 

Stupid people are solely interested in satisfying others before themselves. The reason Adams believes they are stupid is that it is impossible to please everyone. So, these individuals end up living an unsatisfactory life.


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Adams believes affirmations should be used by all individuals with aspirations for their life. An affirmation is a positive statement about what you want to achieve. You can engage with an affirmation in whatever way you want. Still, the affirmation should be imagining what you want and repeating it several times.

Adams was initially skeptical of affirmations, but he decided to test them after being recommended by a MENSA member. He still agrees affirmations lack scientific evidence, but he has several examples where affirmations have come true.


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13. The Six Filters for Truth

Adams credits himself with an advanced BS detector based on his experience in the business industry. He believes this detector is based around six filters for truth. The more filters something can pass through, the truer it probably is.


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• Book summaries, mostly •


How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big is a guide to succeed despite your failures. Adams admits he has failed at more things than anyone he has ever met. But, he managed to transition from working in an office to being the creator of a world-famous comic strip within a few years. The key to this success were fundamental principles that he picked up along the way. This book outlines these principles and how they will benefit you more than what society suggests is best for you and your future.