How to Fail at Almost Everything

howtofailThe full title of Scott Adams’ book is: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Kind of the Story of My Life. (Too long to fit in the headline space above.) Easily one of the better “how to succeed” books I’ve read. And I’ve read a bunch of them. I won’t try to explain how Mr. Adams’ approach differs from the others. As always, the best I can do is share a few excerpts that spoke to me.

Consider the people who routinely disagree with you. See how confident they look while being dead wrong? That’s exactly how you look to them.

In our messy, flawed lives, the nearest we can get to truth is consistency.

Sometimes the only real difference between crazy people and artists is that artists write down what they imagine seeing.

My optimism is like an old cat that likes to disappear for days, but I always expect it to return.

Things that will someday work out well start out well. Things that will never work start out bad and stay that way.

If no one is excited about your art/product/idea in the beginning, they never will be. Don’t be fooled by the opinions of friends and family. They’re all liars.

Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.

Everything you learn becomes a shortcut for understanding something else.

I don’t read the news to find truth, as that would be a foolish waste of time. I read the news to broaden my exposure to new topics and patterns that make my brain more efficient in general and to enjoy myself, because learning interesting things increases my energy and makes me feel optimistic. Don’t think of news as information. Think of it as a source of energy.

Skills in which every adult should gain a working knowledge:

* Public speaking
* Psychology
* Business Writing
* Accounting
* Design (the basics)
* Conversation
* Overcoming shyness
* Second language
* Golf
* Proper grammar
* Persuasion
* Technology (hobby level)
* Proper voice technique

When politicians tell lies, they know the press will call them out. They also know it doesn’t matter. Politicians understand that reason will never have much of a role in voting decisions. A lie that makes a voter feel good is more effective than a hundred rational arguments. That’s even true when the voter knows the lie is a lie.

The point of conversation is to make the other person feel good.

People who enjoy humor are simply more attractive than people who don’t. If you don’t have funny friends, find some.

Escape from my cell, free the other inmates, shoot the warden, and burn down the prison.


(Happiness is) a feeling you get when your body chemistry is producing pleasant sensations in your mind.

We’re all born with a limited range of happiness, and the circumstances of life can only jiggle us around within the range.

The single biggest trick for manipulating your happiness chemistry is being able to do what you want, when you want. […] A person with a flexible schedule and average resources will be happier than a rich person who has everything except a flexible schedule. Work toward having control of your schedule.

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

Pessimism is often a failure of imagination. If you can’t even imagine an improved future, you won’t be happy no matter how well your life is going right now.

Dying at age eighty isn’t worse than dying at a hundred. If you meat diet is a bomb with a long enough fuse, it might kill you at just about the time you’d want it to.

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