I read How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big December of 2015 and this review is long overdue.
Before I get into some of the concepts, I have to say this is easily one of the best books I’ve ever read and I highly recommend it.
Like many others, I was aware of Dilbert, but knew nothing about the man behind the comic. Then Adams appeared on the Tim Ferris podcast, and his message resonated with me.
I bought his book and added it to my to-read pile. Then I started reading his blog, and I was so fascinated that I moved his book to the front of the line.
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big is packed with insights and practical advice across a broad spectrum — everything from career advice and persuasion tactics to health tips and overcoming a rare speech disorder.
It’s the type of book you could read 100 times and still discover a hidden gem each time. I plan on reading it again to see what stands out after a year.
You really need to buy the book for yourself to get all of the value, but I’m going to outline some of the key concepts that stood out to me.
Systems > Goals
Adams argues that having a system is far more effective than having a goal.
In his words…
“To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That’s literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose ten pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal–if you reach it at all–feeling as if you were shorto of yoru goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that htey hope will be temproary. That feeling wears on you. In time, it becomes heavey and uncomfortable. It might even drive you out of the game.
Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanenet failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their system, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their system.”
I’m a big believer in systems, so Adams’ theory immediately struck a chord with me. On the other hand, I’ve always been a fan of goals as well.
To illustrate this, I’ll pull a quote from my post in January 2015 called 2015 is Not Your Year:
“Forget about making 2015 my year and start worrying about my life. 2015 is the first year of the rest of your life.
You don’t have to change everything in your life in one year. For some people, that’s just too much.
Instead, think of the big picture.
What can you do this year that will improve the rest of your life?
What if, instead of trying to make $1 million dollars this year, you decide to create habits that build a person capable of making $1 million every year?
What if, instead of trying to lose 30 lbs, you decide to create a lifestyle that keeps you healthy and fit forever?”
After reading Adams’ insights on systems versus goals, and seeing the success he’s created as a result, I doubled-down on developing my personal system in 2016.
In fact, that’s why I felt it was so important to make my first book about controlling your habits because your habits are literally the most powerful system synched between your body and mind.
Managing Personal Energy
Another concept in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big(ly) is Adams’ “energy metric.”
“We humans want many things: good health, financial freedom, accomplishment, a great social life, love, sex, recreation, travel, family, career, and more. The problem with all of this wanting is that the time you spend chasing one of those desires is time you can’t spend chasing any of the others. So how do you organize your limited supply of time to get the best result?
The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main metric: my energy. I make choices that maxmize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities.”
I’ve always had the attitude of forcing myself to push through when I didn’t have the energy, but admittedly that approach started to lose effectiveness around age 26 or so for whatever reason.
This year I’ve been extremely conscious of how everything I do affects my energy levels — from what I eat and when I eat it to who I talk to and what we talked about. That’s why I experimented with a vegan diet for several months, among other reasons.
More energy = more output and better output.
After nearly a year of using the energy metric, I can say for certain that our energy levels are critical to:
- Overall mood
- Quality of work
From now on, make a mental note of anything that noticeably changes your energy level up or down. Once you identify things affecting your energy, make adjustments to keep your energy at the highest level possible.
For example, if talking to a particularly negative person on the phone in the morning drains your energy, stop taking their calls. Be ruthless with you energy because, like time, it is a precious resource with a limited quantity.
Hypnotized for Success
Depending on your attitude towards hypnotism, you might think this is silly, or you might think it’s awesome.
Adams book is drenched in hypnosis for success.
Adams is a trained hypnotist and expert on persuasion. His book contains a lot of useful advice for using persuasion in daily life — although it’s not the primary subject of the book.
However, what’s interesting is that his book is written in such a way that’s designed to hypnotize the reader for success.
There’s literally a chapter called “It’s Already Working” that is pure hypnosis.
The thing about hypnotism is that it only works when the subject is open to it. Since the average reader of this book is interested in improving their life and might be familiar with Adams’ skills in hypnosis, they are often eager subjects.
As strange as it sounds, this is one of the best aspects of his book. And this is coming from someone who is adamant about protecting your mind from brainwashing.
As you read through the book, you can feel your optimism rising with each chapter that passes. You feel excitement for what the future holds.
It doesn’t give you a quick shot of motivation like you would get from the work of a con artist. You feel assurance in yourself and your abilities because Adams presents systems that are adaptable to virtually anyone in any situation.
I’m not saying you will be hypnotized into success from reading his book — but I’m saying Adams brought his A-game to do just that. You still have to follow through on your end.
Which leads us to your next question…
Did it work for me?
Well, to be honest, I can’t say for sure because obviously I consume a lot of information and put a lot of effort into improving my life (hence why I have this blog).
What I can tell you is that I did apply the principles in his book this year and this has been one of the best years of my life — significantly better than 2015. I more than doubled my income, exponentially increased a couple of skill sets I focused on, I worked harder than I have in years, and I had a damn good time.
Your mileage may vary.
More About Scott Adams
Check out Scott Adams’ blog here.
- The Persuasion Reading List — Adams put together a list of books to reach expert level on the subject of persuasion.
- The Trump Master Persuader Series — This is a list of all the Trump-related blogs where Adams predicted the unfolding events (with shocking accuracy) of the 2016 presidential election through the filter of a master persuader.
Follow Scott Adams on Twitter.
Adams is a man of the people, by the way, and responds to tweets:
@KWStout Thank you. I’m glad some of you understand the plan.
— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) July 30, 2016
P.S. If you agree that systems are for winners, you’ll love my book because habits are a system.
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This FREE guide includes 99 action steps to get in shape, feel excited to start the day, and accomplish more in less time!
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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