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

One of the best self-help & personal development books I’ve read. It packs variety, humor and a highly enjoyable reading experience. The following are the passages I took away from the book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott AdamsAll content credit goes to the author.

On Truth

You need a system for sorting truth from rubbish. Most people think they have perfectly good bullshit detectors. But if that were the case, trial juries would always be unanimous, and we’d all have the same religious beliefs. Realistically, most people have poor filters for sorting truth from fiction, and there’s no objective way to know if you’re particularly good at it or not. 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.

The Six Filters for Truth:

  1. Personal experience (Human perceptions are iffy.)
  2. Experience of people you know (Even more unreliable.)
  3. Experts (They work for money, not truth.)
  4. Scientific studies (Correlation is not causation.)
  5. Common sense (A good way to be mistaken with complete confidence.)
  6. Pattern recognition (Patterns, coincidence, and personal bias look alike.)

On Energy > Passion

You can say your passion was a key to your success, because everyone can be passionate about something or other. Passion sounds more accessible. If you’re dumb, there’s not much you can do about it, but passion is something we think anyone can generate in the right circumstances. Passion feels very democratic. It is the people’s talent, available to all.

You already know that when your energy is right you perform better at everything you do, including school, work, sports, and even your personal life. Energy is good. Passion is bullshit.

Maximizing my personal energy means eating right, exercising, avoiding unnecessary stress, getting enough sleep, and all of the obvious steps. But it also means having something in my life that makes me excited to wake up. When I get my personal energy right, the quality of my work is better, and I can complete it faster. That keeps my career on track. And when all of that is working, and I feel relaxed and energetic, my personal life is better too.

On Execution > Ideas

Good ideas have no value because the world already has too many of them.

The market rewards execution, not ideas.

On Systems > Goals

Thinking of goals and systems as very different concepts has power. Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous pre-success failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, 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. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction.

For our purposes, let’s say a goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.

On Decisions > Desires

If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it.

When you decide to be successful in a big way, it means you acknowledge the price and you’re willing to pay it.

Successful people don’t wish for success; they decide to pursue it. And to pursue it effectively, they need a system. Success always has a price, but the reality is that the price is negotiable. If you pick the right system, the price will be a lot nearer what you’re willing to pay.

On Selfishness

The most important form of selfishness involves spending time on your fitness, eating right, pursuing your career, and still spending quality time with your family and friends. If you neglect your health or your career, you slip into the second category—stupid—which is a short slide to becoming a burden on society.

On Simplifiers vs Optimizers

A simplifier will prefer the easy way to accomplish a task, while knowing that some amount of extra effort might have produced a better outcome. An optimizer looks for the very best solution even if the extra complexity increases the odds of unexpected problems.

Don’t be an Asshole

The long-term effect of being an asshole can’t be good for the person immersed in the lifestyle, but it must feel good in the short term. That’s a bad trade-off. Your self-interest is best served by being a reasonable person whenever you can muster it.

On Smiling

Smiling makes you more attractive to others. When you’re more attractive, people respond to you with more respect and consideration, more smiles, and sometimes even lust.

On Perception > Reality

When you can release on your ego long enough to view your perceptions as incomplete or misleading, it gives you the freedom to imagine new and potentially more useful ways of looking at the world.

Reality is overrated and impossible to understand with any degree of certainty. What you do know for sure is that some ways of looking at the world work better than others. Pick the way that works, even if you don’t know why.

Don’t assume you know how much potential you have. Sometimes the only way to know what you can do is to test yourself.

On Expectations of Irrational > Rational

If your view of the world is that people use reason for their important decisions, you are setting yourself up for a life of frustration and confusion. You’ll find yourself continually debating people and never winning except in your own mind. Few things are as destructive and limiting as a worldview that assumes people are mostly rational.

On Making Conversation

Your job as a conversationalist is to keep asking questions and keep looking for something you have in common with the stranger, or something that interests you enough to wade into the topic.

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

On Humor

Adapt to what others want to hear, assuming your goal is to be liked. Observe what people laugh at, what sort of stories they tell, and whether they have an edgy personality.

On Overcoming Shyness

The single best tip for avoiding shyness involves harnessing the power of acting interested in other people. You don’t want to cross into nosiness, but everyone appreciates it when you show interest.

On Affirmations

Affirmations are simply the practice of repeating to yourself what you want to achieve while imagining the outcome you want. You can write it, speak it, or just think it in sentence form.

On Timing and Luck

I find it helpful to see the world as a slot machine that doesn’t ask you to put money in. All it asks is your time, focus, and energy to pull the handle over and over.

You can fail 99 percent of the time, while knowing success is guaranteed. All you need to do is stay in the game long enough.

On your Environment

Given our human impulse to pick up the habits and energy of others, you can use that knowledge to literally program your brain the way you want. Simply find the people who most represent what you would like to become and spend as much time with them as you can without trespassing, kidnapping, or stalking. Their good habits and good energy will rub off on you.

On Happiness

The only reasonable goal in life is maximizing your total lifetime experience of something called happiness.

Pursuing happiness without understanding the mechanisms behind it is like planting a garden without knowing the basics of fertilization, pest control, watering, and frost.

The happiness formula: Eat right. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Imagine an incredible future (even if you don’t believe it). Work toward a flexible schedule. Do things you can steadily improve at. Help others (if you’ve already helped yourself). Reduce daily decisions to routine.

On Diet Systems

Pay attention to your energy level after eating certain foods. Find your pattern. Remove unhealthy, energy-draining food from your home. Stock up on convenient healthy food (e.g., apples, nuts, bananas) and let laziness be your copilot in eating right. Stop eating foods that create feelings of addiction: white rice, white potatoes, desserts, white bread, fried foods. Eat as much healthy food as you want, whenever you want. Get enough sleep, because tiredness creates the illusion of hunger. If your hunger is caused by tiredness, try healthy foods with fat, such as nuts, avocados, protein bars, and cheese, to suppress the hungry feeling. If you’re eating for social reasons only, choose the healthiest options with low calories. Learn how to season your healthy-yet-bland foods.

Summary: On Success and Happiness

The last chapter was so good I’ve added it here for you, enjoy.

Focus on your diet first and get that right so you have enough energy to want to exercise. Exercise will further improve your energy, and that in turn will make you more productive, more creative, more positive, more socially desirable, and more able to handle life’s little bumps.

Once you optimize your personal energy, all you need for success is luck. You can’t directly control luck, but you can move from strategies with bad odds to strategies with good odds. For example, learning multiple skills makes your odds of success dramatically higher than learning one skill. If you learn to control your ego, you can pick strategies that scare off the people who fear embarrassment, thus allowing you to compete against a smaller field. And if you stay in the game long enough, luck has a better chance of finding you. Avoid career traps such as pursuing jobs that require you to sell your limited supply of time while preparing you for nothing better.

Happiness is the only useful goal in life. Unless you are a sociopath, your own happiness will depend on being good to others. And happiness tends to happen naturally whenever you have good health, resources, and a flexible schedule. Get your health right first, acquire resources and new skills through hard work, and look for an opportunity that gives you a flexible schedule someday.

Some skills are more important than others, and you should acquire as many of those key skills as possible, including public speaking, business writing, a working understanding of the psychology of persuasion, an understanding of basic technology concepts, social skills, proper voice technique, good grammar, and basic accounting. Develop a habit of simplifying. Learn how to make small talk with strangers, and learn how to avoid being an asshole. If you get that stuff right—and almost anyone can—you will be hard to stop.

It might help some of you to think of yourself as moist robots and not skin bags full of magic and mystery. If you control the inputs, you can determine the outcomes, give or take some luck.

Look for patterns in every part of life, from diet to exercise to any component of success. Try to find scientific backing for your observed patterns, and use yourself as a laboratory to see if the patterns hold for you.

Understand that goals are for losers and systems are for winners. People who seem to have good luck are often the people who have a system that allows luck to find them.

Always remember that failure is your friend. It is the raw material of success. Invite it in. Learn from it. And don’t let it leave until you pick its pocket. That’s a system.

The End.

This is one of the best self-help – personal development books I’ve read. It packs variety, humor and a highly enjoyable reading experience.

Once again, all content credit goes to the author of this book. I’ve simply shared the bits I’ve enjoyed the most and found most useful.

That’s it for now. Cheers ’till next time!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s