Book Review: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big - by Scott Adams


I’ve slightly gone off Scott Adams, after he started posting a lot of pro-Trump stuff on his blog in 2015 or so, and Dilbert was starting to get fairly repetitive. This book is a collection of lifehack style advice, with some good stuff in there, although I’m fairly sceptical of someone who advocates affirmations as a way of encouraging the universe to bring forth what you want. Survivorship bias in action?

Nevertheless, his overall message is that it is better to have systems rather than goals, and I very much agree with that. Running a marathon in under four hours is a goal. Running daily is a system.A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something daily, it’s a system. If you’re want to achieve it in the future, it’s a goal.

Key points:

  • Sort out your diet & exercise. The main cause fo bad moods is a lack of one of: flexible schedule, imagination, sleep, diet, or exercise.

  • You can’t control luck, but you can use strategies with good odds, like getting multiple skills. People who have good luck are often the people who have a system that lets luck find them.

  • When tackling a new and complicated problem, ask a smart friend how they handled the same thing.

  • The world provides so many choices that you always need to discard some options and focus on others.

  • There are three kinds of people in the world (in Adams’s opinion):
    1. Selfish
    2. Stupid
    3. Burden on others
  • The best option is to be selfish, because being stupid or a burden on society won’t help anyone. If you’re selfish with compassion, you help society. Looking after your own diet, exercise, family, friends and career is selfish. Being selfish doesn’t mean being a sociopath. humans are wired to take care of their own needs first, then family, tribe, country, and the world.

  • To change how you feel and think, change where you are sitting.

  • “My so-called talent was little more than the result of insane hours of practice.” Have a hobby that leaves you plenty of room to improve every year. Slow improvement at anything makes you feel that you are on the right track.

  • Adults can go weeks without a compliment while enduring criticism both at work and at home.

  • People don’t use reason for important decisions. The worldview that assumes people are mostly rational is a limiting one.

  • Happiness has to do with where you’re heading rather than where you are.