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

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Dilbert comic-strip creator Scott Adams explains how to stumble your way to success — one trip-up and mistake at a time.

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams Scott Adams claims he may be the biggest failure you’ve ever met. Excepting, that is, his little comic-strip masterpiece — Dilbert.

In this how-I-did-it memoir, Adams exposes himself. He tells of how he went from hapless, hopeless office worker and serial failure to the creator of Dilbert in just a handful of years. His secret: Embrace your failures. Learn from them. Build on them. Fail more. As he wisely notes, “Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.”

Adams proudly lists his failures, starting with his corporate career, his several inventions, his investments, and his attempts at running two restaurants. As he writes in summary, “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.”

Adams shares some unlikely truths that he’s discovered along his rocky path that just might be of use to you:

  1. Goals are for losers.
  2. Your mind isn’t magic. It’s a moist computer you can program.
  3. The most important metric to track is your personal energy.
  4. Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.
  5. Happiness is health plus freedom.
  6. Luck can be managed, sort of.
  7. Conquer shyness by being a huge phony (in a good way).
  8. Fitness is the lever that moves the world.
  9. Simplicity transforms ordinary into amazing.

Scott Adams, author of Dilbert and How to Fail at Everything and Still Win BigAdams obviously takes himself seriously — and at the same time, not seriously at all. Among his chapters are “Recognizing Your Talents and Knowing When to Quit,” “A Few Times Affirmations Worked,” and “Managing Your Odds for Success.” But beneath his humorous overtones are words of wisdom and hard-won truths.

His chapter on “Fitness” is typical. As with many a charismatic celebrity’s fitness program, he begins by testifying about the exercises that didn’t work for him before he saw the light: “Most normal adults, including me, find running to be little more than the most cost-effective way to be bored and uncomfortable.” Ditto for taking up tennis and his attempt at flying.

In the end, his celebrity fitness plan was simple and ideal and brilliant: “What you need is a natural and easy way to evolve into a fitness routine that works for your specific brain and body. And you want to do it all without drawing on your willpower. The starting point for that journey is nothing more than being physically active every day regardless of the specifics.”

This is not a self-help book. It’s a help-yourself book. As Adams states, “In summary, allow me to stipulate that if you think I’m full of crap on any particular idea or another, there’s a healthy chance you’re right. But being 100 percent right isn’t my goal. I’m presenting some new ways to think about the process of finding happiness and success. Compare it to what you know, what you do, and what others suggest. Every person finds his or her own special formula.”

Comic Strip by Scott Adams, author of Dilbert and How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big

Comic Strip by Scott Adams, author of Dilbert and How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big

Comic Strip by Scott Adams, author of Dilbert and How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big

Comic Strip by Scott Adams, author of Dilbert and How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big

Michael Dregni is Experience Life’s managing editor.

Images used with permission. Copyright Scott Adams, 2013.

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