Monday, March 6, 2017

Book Review: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

I recently finished two books that I thought were very interesting.

The Art of the Deal, by Donald Trump
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, by Scott Adams

Scott Adams has very different political views than I do, but he has given me some useful tips on how to live my life. The five ideas that stick out to me are

1.) Willpower is a limited resource.

   My knee-jerk reaction to this idea was to say it was bull, and to start pounding my chest in a proclamation of my infinitely limitless willpower. As it was expanded upon in the book, I began to see parts of my life in which this was true. If I have an extremely tough workout planned and a meal prepared afterwards, I tend to be more open to cheating on my meal more than if I had a normal workout and the same meal prepared. This may have a biological aspect to it, which leads into...

2.) Energy is a predictor of success.

   It doesn't take a genius to take a look at their lives and notice that when they had more energy, they seemed to be more successful. It is very probable that the effect is cyclical, in that when one is successful then they are given a boost of energy. A good way to start that cycle is to self-affirm...

3.) Self-affirmations are magical, and they work.

   This idea is tangled up in the whole 'power of positive thinking' category. Although it may seem arbitrary, there is some kind of neurological sci-fi that goes on in your brain when you repeatedly state your intentions (i.e. "I will be a famous author", "I will be fit and cut"). It is important not to affirm specific goals, as they may end up having a negative consequence if goals are not completed. There is an alternative to goals, and that is...

4.) Systems are for Winners, Goals are for Losers.

   Goals are good in the short term, and if objective measurements are absolutely necessary. What it is not good for is building a long-term successful philosophy. Goals can be failed. They can be demoralizing, and unexpected variables can pop up that can render them useless. A common factor in successful people is that they implement systems. Systems are probably common in your own life too (if you are successful at something) and they are often confused with goals. for example:
Goal: Lose 10 pounds
System: Go to the gym every day
Goals are one-and-done achievements, while systems are a way of life. Systems leave a little wiggle room for day-to-day variations. For example, if one is feeling terrible one day and does not wish to work out, then they miss their weight goal the next day. On the other hand if you implement a system of going to the gym every day, then you could simply walk in the gym, look around disgustedly, and walk out. This way, the system has continued to be implemented, instead of your goal failing. Systems have a way of correcting themselves, and eventually you will walk into the gym the next day and feel like working out again. A common failing of companies and CEOs is that they focus on individual goals and numbers, trying to raise those numbers specifically instead of examining the system in general and implementing successful designs. When one does fail, it is important that they...

5.) Fail Forward.

   This one I would consider general knowledge, but it is always a good idea to learn from one's mistakes and change the habits that didn't work into ones that do. Although my preferred mindset is to learn from others, as my favorite saying goes: "Smart men learn from their mistakes. Wise men learn from the mistakes of others."

Overall, I would rate the book:


The book is well written, and has some persuasive arguments based on Scott Adams' own life story. There was only ONE typo that I detected. I did enjoy his style of writing, lacing the book with a subtle sense of humor, fitting of the author of the Dilbert cartoons. It was organized topically, with short chapters in general. The journey through his battle against Spasmodic Dysphonia was touching, and left me feeling connected and inspired. His blog can be located at

I would like to note now that my rating is completely arbitrary, as I do not have an organized system for rating books. I liked the book, okay? Especially how he kept politics out of it.



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