Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, by Scott Adams

This is a self-help book from the author of the Dilbert cartoon. I find Dilbert enormously funny, probably because I worked for many years in a large company that gave me cause to resonate with so many of the silly situations at which Mr. Adams pokes fun. But this isn't meant to be a humor book (although it is amusing at times); it is meant to be taken seriously.  I'd say it is more interesting and helpful than not.

The key notions include being selfish enough to take care of yourself and your finances well enough that you're then positioned to take care of others. Mr. Adams spends many words explaining his use of selfish in this context; it isn't grabbing the last donut in the box. His ordered list might look like this:

  1. Eat right to maximize energy; exercise to further improve your energy. This will allow you to be more productive, creative, positive, etc.
  2. Improve the odds that you'll have good luck. Mr. Adams provides many examples and the net is, develop multiple skills. You needn't be great at any of them, but having a bit of capability across a number of domains is a game changer at generating luck.
  3. Perhaps just to set up some tension and controversy, Mr. Adams asserts that goals are for losers, winners use systems. He explains the notion of systems in detail.
  4. Most of the auto-biographical content describe his many failures and motivates the notions that failures are okay and that you have to learn from them.
In one part of the book [p111ff], Mr. Adams discussed cognitive traps that allow folks to be taken advantage of or sub optimally negotiate. He provided a list, but didn't explain any of them in detail. This is very unfortunate; while it would have added a very long chapter to the book, it would have been worthwhile.

This is light reading with good advice and some humor. Not an academic treatise, but probably useful because it is so accessible and easy to read.

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