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How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life Paperback – Illustrated, December 30, 2014
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“Scott Adams has drawn nearly 9,000 Dilbert cartoons since the strip began, in 1989, and his cynical take on management ideas, the effectiveness of bosses, and cubicle life has affected the worldview of millions. But he built his successful career mainly through trial and error—a whole lot of error, to be exact.
—Harvard Business Review
About the Author
- Item Weight : 7.7 ounces
- Paperback : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1591847745
- ISBN-13 : 978-1591847748
- Dimensions : 5.46 x 0.68 x 8.4 inches
- Publisher : Portfolio; Illustrated edition (December 30, 2014)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #21,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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As Adams says, you shouldn't take life advice from a cartoonist, but I did. I would enjoy reading more of his books as he is an interesting and outside-the-box thinker. Though it's not an earth-shattering-revelation tome, I give it 5 stars for ease and likeliness of success.
Unfortunately, though, it drops the ball on the central premise of the book: Goals Are Bad vs. Systems Are Good.
After finishing this book I was left with a lot of questions about Systems:
- What are they exactly?
- What are the components of a good system (do's and don'ts)?
- How are they different than a project?
While I understand that it can be a bit subjective, it would've been helpful if Scott spelled out "For Idiots" some of his systems. He alludes to them in the last bit about staying active, where his system allows "slippage". Again, having more visibility into the specifics of one or more of his systems (real or hypothetical examples) with some detail behind it would have made the book much better.
At issue is while I accept the premise that Systems are Better than Goals, I've got no clarity on how to go about setting up systems for myself. That was the big disappointment with the book. Otherwise it's plenty entertaining, and certainly gets to second or third base, but sadly isn't a home run.
I plan to copy / paste this into a tweet for @ScottAdamsSays (who is well worth following) in the hopes that he can direct me to some blog posts or respond to my question about.
I think the most useful pieces of advice were the simplest to convey. Use systems, not goals, to improve your odds of success. Goals are for losers and will let you down after you've failed to reach them and after you've reached them. Learn something new because this doubles your chances of luck finding you. Figure out how much sleep you need and stick to it because that influences your energy and mood, which influences just about everything else. Perhaps the biggest concept pitched in the book is that we are moist robots who can program our energy and moods by changing our inputs from our surroundings.
Yes, some of this is common sense, but much of it isn't.
I found something I had in common with Scott prior to reading in that I don't buy junk food at the grocery store and keep plenty of healthy food around that I can binge on if I want to, with little downside. If you don't have the junk lying around, you won't waste precious energy resisting it or torturing yourself with guilt trips. That energy is better spent on something else.
In any event, Scott's book is an inspirational story of how failures and a different view of reality can change your life. Well done, Scott.
Scott Adam's teaches a deceptively simple concept in this book, on leveraging SYSTEMS rather than GOALS. That chapter and concept has giving me many a great returns. It changed the way I approach weightloss and made it a lasting system that has been extremely successful. It was changed the way I run my business.
His key ideas are easy to follow because he keeps it simple and Scott Adams writes in a clear and witty manner
For example the chapter on applying a system vs setting goals and trying to follow them was worth the price of the book many times over for me (and this is reinforced through the book). In his own words goals are a reach-it-and-be-done situation (where you are often waiting to achieve it someday in the future) whereas a system is something you do on a regular or daily basis with a reasonable expectation that doing so will get you to a better place in life. Wanting better health or wanting to lose 10 kg are goals. Being active everyday is a system. One is tied to another - but goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn and the systems people are feeling good every-time they apply their system.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone smart and weary of reading tired cliches in the self-help genre. The book is a breath of fresh air!
Top reviews from other countries
Most of the wisdom I appreciated was not "new" to me, per se, but was excellently articulated, such that Scott crystalized some principles I had only vaguely identified and adopted myself. As such, he helped me internalise some useful ways to view the world, and has helped me to explain concepts to others much more clearly since I read this book. I found myself nodding along agreeing with the book as I read (rather than having "aha! that's new!" moments); nonetheless reading it still left me with clearer thought, as I was now armed with clearer language to describe the approaches Scott discussed.
If I had read this while still in college, I may have exposed myself to less risk.
The two main messages I got from this book:
1 - Scott provides some very simple guidance on how to manage the inputs to your brain so you are happy and healthy in the immediate term. You are a "moist robot" so can easily manipulate your environment to benefit yourself.
2 - He also provides simple principles for living via SYSTEMS that ensure you maximise your (career) options in future and increase chances of future success, potentially enjoying some very lucrative upside without having to take a major risk/gamble to get there.
I particularly like his push to use your "talent stack" — your collection of complementary skills at which you are sufficiently "good" — to achieve extraordinary success. The thesis is that sure, if you are an Olympic-level expert in one thing, you can make a lot of money by being an expert in that one thing, but generally most of us are better off using a combination of "good enough" skills to achieve great things. (Examples of this "talent stack" working are Scott Adams himself, or Donald Trump.)
Overall it reads a bit like a combination of:
(a) Some illustrative stories from Scott's life, that are either entertaining or drive home one particular point (e.g., reviewing his own particular "failures" and how he made sure he benefitted from each)
and (b) Some general "life advice" that reads a bit like advice a parent might write to leave their child, if the parent had been diagnosed with a terminal disease and wouldn't be around to coach their child through young adulthood (for example: advice on how to tell a funny story; which conversation topics are boring and should be avoided; how to adhere to a simple system for eating healthily; motherly reminders to make sure you get enough sleep and exercise).
I'm grateful Scott did NOT fall in the trap of adding pages to make the book seem more substantial. It's succinct enough.
That said, some story-telling chapters (such as details about his journey to recover his voice) appealed to me less, so I just quickly skimmed.
Since enjoying this book, I have gifted it and will continue to do so.
Adams' easy writing style and stick-to-the-bigger-picture method of presentation is refreshing in a world saturated by gurus who think endless layers of complexity and personal commitment are the only ways to achieve higher status or realise a dream. The title speaks to the books main idea: specific goals are for idiots, systems that guarantee success are for winners (literally).
Highly recommended to anyone who desires more happiness, personal improvement or simply an entertaining piece of literature from a seasoned and pragmatic entrepreneur.
Adams' books, however, are relentlessly excellent, including 2013's "How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life".
It's a lucid, entertaining self-help guide, drawing on the lessons Adams has learnt from his various life failures. And that's the point of the book: you have to try things, to go places that you fear if you want to be a success. Failure is to be embraced as long - and this is important - as you learn lessons from it, and adapt accordingly.
Thoroughly recommend this book to anyone, of any age. Read it, laugh, and learn.
This is a massive shame as people who buy this book are probably huge Adams fans and know he is a cartoonist and not any of the above. I bought the book to hear Scott's take on these matters and don't need constant disclaimers that start to sound like apologies for his thoughts.
The Dilbert work is so clear and confident but the great ideas in this book start to look swamped and less sure. This is true despite a whole Introduction that is little but a disclaimer for the whole book. Surely this was enough?