Book review: How to fail at almost everything and still win big

I had previously read The Dilbert Principle from the same author, Scott Adams, and for some reason, I thought that this book would be in a similar vein which may be why I held off on reading this book that I did. I thought it would be humorous, but with some interesting thoughts or philosophies. I can say now after reading this book that I am really glad I dug into it. The author talks about his story as a cartoonist, how he got into drawing cartoons, his ‘luck’, the time when he had a debilitating voice disorder and his diet and exercise which I found interesting. Scott is a very healthy skeptic and he does not take things at face value, which also added to his credibility.

Here are my notes from the book:

  • The idea of goals vs. systems – loosely if you have a goal, you can sometimes achieve your goal and other times not which means that you can fail. If you have a system though, you are working within a system that makes you feel good every time you apply your system. For example, you might have a goal of losing 10 pounds. You check every week to see how many pounds you have lost and it disheartens you when you haven’t reached 10 pounds; however, if you have a system of eating right (which may achieve the same goal in the long term) then you can feel good about applying your system every time you eat right (and even if you don’t eat right).
  • “If you want success, figure out the price then pay it” – a great quote that has a lot of power if you unpack it (as the author says)
  • Every skill you achieve doubles your odds of success – this is something that James Altucher talked about in one of his articles where he says that being good at multiple things and being at the center of those skills means that you will quickly be world-class in those combination of skills (e.g., Scott Adams was an okay drawer, okay at telling jokes, okay at writing but in combination, that made him the cartoonist for Dilbert which has had extraordinary success).
  • “Every unnecessary word = $100” – if you are a business writer, this is a good quote to keep in mind. This is the mindset that you need to take to simplify and clarify your writing when you write professionally. It is weird but it will help you more than trying to think “i need to write professionally”
  • There are a list of skills that Scott thinks will really lay the foundation for success for anyone and I tend to agree on the majority of these skills:
    • Public speaking
    • Psychology
    • Business writing
    • Accounting
    • Design
    • Conversation / overcoming shyness
    • Second language
    • Golf
    • Grammmar
    • Persuasion
    • Proper voice technique
  • Use positive reinforcement – find out how to reframe things because there is definitely a transformative power of praise (vs. criticism)
  • Use the “L” design for PowerPoint – leave some negative space in a corner of your PowerPoint slide, website or photo and it will quickly look much better
  • Storytelling components: setup, pattern, foreshadowing, characters, relatability, twist (i.e., how to tell a good story)
  • This was interesting to me: conversation topics to avoid include food, tv pilots, dreams and medical stories (especially the food part which I talk about all the time to others)
  • When entering conversations with people, there are people that are ‘things’ people and there are people that are ‘people’ people, i.e., there are people that like to talk about things (technology gadgets, toys, sports items) and then there are people that like to talk about other people (celebrities, relationships, friends).
  • How to stop telemarketers dead in their tracks: “I’m not interested”
  • From Scott, I learned the power of affirmation. I haven’t read the book The Secret but I believe that it talks about the power of affirmation and having something so clear in your mind that you know and think about it every day. The universe will then conspire for you to have whatever it is you think about it 24 / 7.
  • Happiness is about a number of things according to Scott: flexibility, direction / growth, imagination, exercise, diet, sleep, helping others and reducing daily decisions (note that this is a good system to work towards).

All in all, a lot of great takeaways from this book and something for me to take away to implement into my own daily routines.

Wang