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How to fail at almost everything

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


Book Tease: Goals are for losers. Your mind isn’t magic. It’s a moist computer you can program. The most important metric to track is your personal energy. Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success. Happiness is health plus freedom. Luck can be managed, sort of. Conquer shyness by being a huge phony (in a good way). Fitness is the lever that moves the world. Simplicity transforms ordinary into amazing

It sounds unconvincing when you put it like that.

Advice goes from meaningless straight to obvious. There is wisdom in cliches and aphorisms, but I have never been able to learn from them.

The best I have managed is to get close to the idea via experience, then read a book that points it out, gives it a name, and gets me the final 10% of the way there. I'm not sure there is much wisdom that can be learnt from books alone.

This is why children ignore their parents advice, only to give the same advice to their children a few decades later.

John Stuart Mill:

All languages and literatures are full of general observations on life, both as to what it is, and how to conduct oneself in it; observations which everybody knows, which everybody repeats, or hears with acquiescence, which are received as truisms, yet of which most people first truly learn the meaning, when experience, generally of a painful kind, has made it a reality to them

This book was excellent at popping lots of observations to the surface of my mind. it is hard to know if Scott Adams is especially gifted at doing this, or if I just happened to read the book at the right time for it to work.

I liked the last few chapters on exercise and nutrition less, nothing particularily stood out. The first 30 chapters more than make up for this though.

I tried to bullet point some of my takeaways from the book, but after writing '- Learn from failure, embrace failure' I realised my mistake.



Location: 83 ‘I wish I could give you a surefire formula for success, but life doesn’t work that way. What I can do is describe a model that you can compare with your current way of doing things. The right answer for you might be some combination of what you’re already doing and what you read here. You’re the best judge of what works for you, as long as you acquire that wisdom through pattern recognition, trial, and observation.

Location: 111 By any objective measure, I might be one of the least credible people on earth. I’m not too proud to admit that given a choice between saying what’s true and saying what’s funny, I’ll take the path with the greatest entertainment value.

Location: 119 Book Tease: Goals are for losers. Your mind isn’t magic. It’s a moist computer you can program. The most important metric to track is your personal energy. Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success. Happiness is health plus freedom. Luck can be managed, sort of. Conquer shyness by being a huge phony (in a good way). Fitness is the lever that moves the world. Simplicity transforms ordinary into amazing.

Location: 136 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.

Location: 156 think about how you begin the process of tackling any new and complicated problem. There’s one step you will always do first if it’s available to you: You’ll ask a smart friend how he or she tackled the same problem. A smart friend can save you loads of time and effort. Many of you have a smart friend or two already, and you are lucky to have them. But my observation is that a startling percentage of the adult population literally has no smart friends to help them in their quest for success and happiness.

CHAPTER ONE The Time I Was Crazy

Location: 195 I was in seemingly perfect health, except that I had suddenly lost the ability to speak to other humans. I could speak normally to my cat. I could speak normally when alone. I could recite a poem. But on the phone I could barely squeeze out an intelligible sentence. […] I learned that loneliness isn’t fixed by listening to other people talk. You can cure your loneliness only by doing the talking yourself and—most important—being heard. For the next three and a half years I experienced a total disconnect from normal life and a profound sense of aloneness, despite the love and support of family and friends. My quality of life was dipping below the point of being worth the effort.

CHAPTER TWO The Day of the Talk

Location: 263 over the years I have cultivated a unique relationship with failure. I invite it. I survive it. I appreciate it. And then I mug the shit out of it. Failure always brings something valuable with it. I don’t let it leave until I extract that value. I have a long history of profiting from failure. My cartooning career, for example, is a direct result of failing to succeed in the corporate environment.

CHAPTER THREE Passion Is Bullshit

Location: 296 It’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion. I’ve been involved in several dozen business ventures over the course of my life, and each one made me excited at the start. You might even call it passion. The ones that didn’t work out—and that would be most of them—slowly drained my passion as they failed. The few that worked became more exciting as they succeeded. […] In hindsight, it looks as if the projects I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked. But objectively, my passion level moved with my success. Success caused passion more than passion caused success.


Location: 309 I hate selling, but I know that’s because I’m bad at it. If I were a sensational salesperson or had potential to be one, I’d probably feel passionate about sales. And people who observed my success would assume my passion was causing my success as opposed to being a mere indicator of talent.

CHAPTER FOUR Some of My Many Failures in Summary Form

Location: 416 This was about the time I started to understand that timing is often the biggest component of success. And since timing is often hard to get right unless you are psychic, it makes sense to try different things until you get the timing right by luck.

CHAPTER FIVE My Absolute Favorite Spectacular Failure

Location: 539 A few months later, I kept my promise to myself. I traded my car to my sister for a one-way plane ticket to the vibrant economy and easy climate of northern California. It was the smartest decision I ever made. The experience of nearly dying in the frozen tundra of upstate New York inspired me to move to California. Thank you, failure. I no longer fear death when I go outdoors.

CHAPTER SIX Goals Versus Systems

Location: 572 Throughout my career I’ve had my antennae up, looking for examples of people who use systems as opposed to goals. In most cases, as far as I can tell, the people who use systems do better. The systems-driven people have found a way to look at the familiar in new and more useful ways. […] 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 short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary. […] If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or set new goals and reenter the cycle of permanent presuccess failure. […] 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.

Location: 614 have a friend who is a gifted salesman. He could have sold anything, from houses to toasters. The field he chose (which I won’t reveal because he wouldn’t appreciate the sudden flood of competition) allows him to sell a service that almost always auto-renews. In other words, he can sell his service once and enjoy ongoing commissions until the customer dies or goes out of business. His biggest problem in life is that he keeps trading his boat for a larger one, and that’s a lot of work. Observers call him lucky. What I see is a man who accurately identified his skill set and chose a system that vastly increased his odds of getting “lucky.” In fact, his system is so solid that it could withstand quite a bit of bad luck without buckling. How much passion does this fellow have for his chosen field? Answer: zero. What he has is a spectacular system, and that beats passion every time.


Location: 705 This brings me to my system. I still have the diary I wrote when I graduated from Hartwick, in which I outlined my entrepreneurial plan. The idea was to create something that had value and—this next part is the key—I wanted the product to be something that was easy to reproduce in unlimited quantities. I didn’t want to sell my time, at least not directly, because that model has an upward limit. And I didn’t want to build my own automobile factory, for example, because cars are not easy to reproduce. I didn’t want to do any sort of custom work, such as building homes, because each one requires the same amount of work. I wanted to create, invent, write, or otherwise concoct something widely desired that would be easy to reproduce.


Location: 718 My system of creating something the public wants and reproducing it in large quantities nearly guaranteed a string of failures. By design, all of my efforts were long shots. Had I been goal oriented instead of system oriented, I imagine I would have given up after the first several failures. It would have felt like banging my head against a brick wall. But being systems oriented, I felt myself growing more capable every day, no matter the fate of the project I happened to be working on. And every day during those years I woke up with the same thought, literally, as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and slapped the alarm clock off. Today’s the day.

CHAPTER EIGHT My Corporate Career Fizzled

CHAPTER NINE Deciding Versus Wanting

Location: 796 One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard goes something like this: If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it. It sounds trivial and obvious, but if you unpack the idea it has extraordinary power. I know a lot of people who wish they were rich or famous or otherwise fabulous. They wish they had yachts and servants and castles and they wish they could travel the world in their own private jets. But these are mere wishes. Few of these wishful people have decided to have any of the things they wish for. It’s a key difference, for once you decide, you take action. Wishing starts in the mind and generally stays there.

CHAPTER TEN The Selfishness Illusion

Location: 812 For starters, when it comes to the topic of generosity, there are three kinds of people in the world:

  • Selfish
  • Stupid
  • Burden on others

That’s the entire list. Your best option is to be selfish, because being stupid or a burden on society won’t help anyone. Society hopes you will handle your selfishness with some grace and compassion. If you do selfishness right, you automatically become a net benefit to society. Successful people generally don’t burden the world. Corporate raiders, overpaid CEOs, and tyrannical dictators are the exceptions.


Location: 823 By “selfishness” I don’t mean the kind where you grab the last doughnut so your coworker doesn’t get it. That wouldn’t be enlightened selfishness because that sort of pettiness can bite you in the ass later. And it might rob you of some energy if you feel guilty about it or you get caught.

Sounds like a moral nihilist egoist: Living With Moral Nihilism

Location: 839 Luckily most of us have filters that prevent us from being influenced in the most obviously damaging ways. If I were to encourage you to buy a rifle with a high-powered scope and wait on a bridge for further instructions, you probably wouldn’t do that. Influence works best when the person being influenced has no objection to the suggested change. Often all one needs is some form of permission to initiate a change, and it doesn’t always matter what form the permission is in, or if it even makes sense. I’m sure you already want to be fit and successful and happy. You already want to skip some of your chores at home or at work to take care of your own needs. I’m simply your cartoonist friend telling you that generous people take care of their own needs first.

Location: 845 I should pause here for my more literal readers and explain that being selfish doesn’t mean you should let a runaway baby carriage roll into traffic if you think stopping it will make you ten seconds late for work. Humans are so emotionally and societally connected with one another that often the best thing we can do for ourselves is to help others. I’ll trust you to recognize those situations. Being selfish doesn’t mean being a sociopath. It just means you take the long view of things.

Yes, similar point as made by The Virtue of Selfishness

Location: 855 I meet a lot of super successful people in my line of work, especially living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and my observation is that it’s rare to find a selfish successful person. I assume some or even most successful people started out selfishly, but success changes you. It’s not a coincidence that Brad Pitt is helping to build homes after the Hurricane Katrina disaster or that Bill Gates is one of the most important philanthropists of all time. Success does that.

Maslow hierarchy of needs?

CHAPTER ELEVEN The Energy Metric

Location: 866 The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main metric: my energy. I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities. 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.

Location: 874 You’ve seen for yourself that when a sad person enters a room, the mood in the room drops. And when you talk to a cheerful person who is full of energy, you automatically feel a boost. I’m suggesting that by becoming a person with good energy, you lift the people around you. That positive change will improve your social life, your love life, your family life, and your career. When I talk about increasing your personal energy, I don’t mean the frenetic, caffeine-fueled, bounce-off-the-walls type of energy. I’m talking about a calm, focused energy. To others it will simply appear that you are in a good mood. And you will be.

Location: 881 Cartooning was just one of a dozen entrepreneurial ideas I tried out during my corporate days. For years, the prospect of starting “my own thing” and leaving my cubicle behind gave me an enormous amount of energy.

Location: 889 “Energy” is a simple word that captures a mind-boggling array of complicated happenings. For our purposes I’ll define your personal energy as anything that gives you a positive lift, either mentally or physically. Like art, you know it when you see it. Examples will help. […] For me, shopping is an energy killer. The moment I walk into a busy store, I feel the energy drain from my body. The exhaustion starts as a mental thing, but within minutes I feel as if my body had been through a marathon. Shopping is simply exhausting for me.

Location: 919 One of the most important tricks for maximizing your productivity involves matching your mental state to the task. For example, when I first wake up, my brain is relaxed and creative. The thought of writing a comic is fun, and it’s relatively easy because my brain is in exactly the right mode for that task. I know from experience that trying to be creative in the midafternoon is a waste of time. By 2:00 P.M. all I can do is regurgitate the ideas I’ve seen elsewhere. At 6:00 A.M. I’m a creator, and by 2:00 P.M. I’m a copier.

Location: 932 Most people aren’t lucky enough to have a flexible schedule. I didn’t have one either for the first sixteen years of my corporate life. So I did the next best thing by going to bed early and getting up at 4:00 A.M. to do my creative side projects. One of those projects became the sketches for Dilbert. You might not think you’re an early-morning person. I didn’t think I was either. But once you get used to it, you might never want to go back. You can accomplish more by the time other people wake up than most people accomplish all day.

Location: 971 The cost of optimizing is that it’s exhausting and stress inducing, at least for people like me. Sometimes I think I’m literally going to have a heart attack from all of the optimizing. It also requires full concentration. I prefer simple, foolproof plans that allow my heart to beat normally and my mind to wander toward blissful thoughts of puppies and rose petals.

Location: 1,022 it’s a good idea to dedicate certain sitting positions and certain work spaces to work and other spaces to relaxation or play. That makes your physical environment a sort of user interface for your brain, and it becomes a way to manipulate your energy levels and concentration. To change how you feel, and how you think, you can simply change where you are sitting.

Location: 1,066 I would define an asshole as anyone who chooses to make the lives of others less pleasant for reasons that don’t appear productive or necessary.

Location: 1,090 For example, if your boss asks you to work the weekend to finish something worthwhile and challenging, you might be willing to give up a little of your personal life and health. Meaningful work can be energizing. And if things work out, perhaps you will be promoted because of your efforts. That’s a trade-off that might charge you up in both the short run and the long run. On the other hand, if your boss routinely asks you to work overtime for no good reason other than to claw through piles of brain-deadening administrative work, you probably need to look for a new job. In both examples your boss is asking for extra work at the cost of your higher priorities, but only one of those situations increases your personal energy.

CHAPTER TWELVE Managing Your Attitude

Location: 1,113 A simple trick you might try involves increasing your ratio of happy thoughts to disturbing thoughts. If your life doesn’t provide you with plenty of happy thoughts to draw upon, try daydreaming of wonderful things in your future. Don’t worry that your daydreams are unlikely to come true. The power of daydreaming is similar to the power of well-made movies that can make you cry or make you laugh. […] A powerful variation on the daydreaming method involves working on projects that have a real chance of changing the world, helping humanity, and/or making a billion dollars.

Location: 1,143 Another benefit of having a big, world-changing project is that you almost always end up learning something valuable in the process of failing. And fail you will, most of the time, so long as you are dreaming big. But remember, goals are for losers anyway. It’s smarter to see your big-idea projects as part of a system to improve your energy, contacts, and skills. […] From that viewpoint, if you have a big, interesting project in the works, you’re a winner every time you wake up.

Location: 1,190 A great strategy for success in life is to become good at something, anything, and let that feeling propel you to new and better victories. Success can be habit-forming.

Location: 1,192 When my dog, Snickers, wants to play fetch in the backyard, she follows me around and stares into my eyes with freakish intensity, as if using her Jedi doggy powers on me. More often than not, it works. I know what she wants and I take a break from work to accommodate her. The interesting thing is that I’m not sure she understands that it’s my choice whether I go play with her or not. Her mental control of me works so reliably that I’m certain she thinks all that matters is how hard she stares at me and how vividly she imagines† herself chasing a tennis ball. To me, the fascinating thing about Snickers’s flawed view of the world is that it works perfectly. She has a system for getting what she wants, and it seems to work, albeit for different reasons than she imagines.

Location: 1,235 because of my imaginary future in which the book is enjoyed by millions, I’m able to find great satisfaction in writing it. No matter what reality delivers in the future, my imagined version of the future has great usefulness today. Free yourself from the shackles of an oppressive reality. What’s real to you is what you imagine and what you feel. If you manage your illusions wisely, you might get what you want, but you won’t necessarily understand why it worked.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN It’s Already Working


CHAPTER FIFTEEN My Speaking Career

CHAPTER SIXTEEN My Voice Problem Gets a Name

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN The Voice Solution That Didn’t Work

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Recognizing Your Talents and Knowing When to Quit

Location: 1,386 If you have world-class talent—for anything—you probably know it. In fact, your parents probably dragged you from place to place when you were young to develop your skill. But world-class talent is such an exception that I prefer ignoring it for this book.

Location: 1,409 I enjoyed having a motorcycle, but it wasn’t an obsession for me. And eventually I concluded that it wasn’t worth the risk. Clearly I was not destined to be a motorcycle daredevil or motocross star. I wasn’t willing to accept a high risk in return for the joy of riding. But when it came to comics, I eagerly accepted the risk of expulsion and great bodily harm that comes with insulting larger kids. My risk profile predicted my future. When you hear stories about famous actors as kids, one of the patterns you notice is that before they were stars they were staging plays in their living rooms and backyards. That’s gutsy for a kid. A child who eagerly accepts the risk of embarrassment in front of a crowd—even a friendly crowd—probably has some talent for entertaining.

Location: 1,428 There have been times I stuck with bad ideas for far too long out of a misguided sense that persistence is a virtue. The pattern I noticed was this: Things that will someday work out well start out well. Things that will never work start out bad and stay that way. What you rarely see is a stillborn failure that transmogrifies into a stellar success. Small successes can grow into big ones, but failures rarely grow into successes.

Location: 1,449 The turning point for Dilbert came in 1993 after I started printing my e-mail address in the margins of the strip. It was the first time I could see unfiltered opinions about my work. Until then I’d relied on the opinions of friends and business associates, and that had limited value because that group of folks rarely offered criticism. But wow, the general public doesn’t hold back. They were savage about my art skills—no surprise—and that was just the tip of the hateberg. But I noticed a consistent theme that held for both the fans and the haters: They all preferred the comics in which Dilbert was in the office. So I changed the focus of the strip to the workplace, and that turned out to be the spark in the gasoline.

Location: 1,470 Back to my point, the enthusiasm model, if I may call it that, is a bit like the x factor. It’s the elusive and hard-to-predict quality of a thing that makes some percentage of the public nuts about it. When the x factor is present, the public—or some subset of the public—picks up on it right away. For the excited few, the normal notions of what constitutes quality don’t apply. In time, the products that inspire excitement typically evolve to have quality too. Quality is one of the luxuries you can afford when the marketplace is spraying money in your direction and you have time to tinker.

Location: 1,476 One of the best ways to detect the x factor is to watch what customers do about your idea or product, not what they say. People tend to say what they think you want to hear or what they think will cause the least pain. What people do is far more honest. For example, with comics, a good test of potential is whether people stick the comic to the refrigerator, tweet it, e-mail it to friends, put it on a blog page, or do anything else active. You might be tempted to think that sometimes an idea with no x factor and no enthusiastic fans can gain those qualities over time. I’m sure it’s happened, but I can’t think of an example in my life. It’s generally true that if no one is excited about your art/product/idea in the beginning, they never will be. If the first commercial version of your work excites no one to action, it’s time to move on to something different. Don’t be fooled by the opinions of friends and family. They’re all liars.

Location: 1,484 If your work inspires some excitement and some action from customers, get ready to chew through some walls. You might have something worth fighting for.

For example, instead of starting on a novel, might be better to write many short stories until you find one that people are excited about, then expand that into a novel

CHAPTER NINETEEN Is Practice Your Thing?

Location: 1,510 If you’re not a natural “practicer,” don’t waste time pursuing a strategy that requires it. You know you won’t be a concert pianist or a point guard in the NBA. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’re not doomed to mediocrity. You simply need to pick a life strategy that rewards novelty seeking more than mindless repetition. For example, you might want to be an architect, designer, home builder, computer programmer, entrepreneur, Web site designer, or even doctor.

CHAPTER TWENTY Managing Your Odds for Success

Location: 1,531 The Success Formula: Every Skill You Acquire Doubles Your Odds of Success. Notice I didn’t say anything about the level of proficiency you need to achieve for each skill. I didn’t mention anything about excellence or being world-class. The idea is that you can raise your market value by being merely good—not extraordinary—at more than one skill. […] To put the success formula into its simplest form: Good + Good > Excellent Successwise, you’re better off being good at two complementary skills than being excellent at one. I’m ignoring the outlier possibility that you might be one of the best performers in the world at some skill or another. That can obviously be valuable too. But realistically, you wouldn’t be reading this book if you could throw a baseball a hundred miles per hour or compose hit songs in your head. […] When I say each skill you acquire will double your odds of success, that’s a useful simplification. Obviously some skills are more valuable than others, and the twelfth skill you acquire might have less value than each of the first eleven. But if you think of each skill in terms of doubling your chances of success, it will steer your actions more effectively than if you assume the benefit of learning a new skill will get lost in the rounding.

Location: 1,559 I’m a perfect example of the power of leveraging multiple mediocre skills. I’m a rich and famous cartoonist who doesn’t draw well. At social gatherings I’m usually not the funniest person in the room. My writing skills are good, not great. But what I have that most artists and cartoonists do not have is years of corporate business experience plus an MBA from Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. In the early years of Dilbert my business experience served as the fodder for the comic. Eventually I discovered that my business skills were essential in navigating Dilbert from a cult hit to a household name.

Location: 1,564 If you think extraordinary talent and a maniacal pursuit of excellence are necessary for success, I say that’s just one approach, and probably the hardest. When it comes to skills, quantity often beats quality.

Location: 1,593 One of my lifelong practices involves reading about world events every day, sometimes several times a day. Years ago that meant reading a newspaper before work. Now it usually involves reading news aggregator sites on my phone or tablet computer whenever I have a minute or two of downtime. The great thing about reading diverse news from the fields of business, health, science, technology, politics, and more is that you automatically see patterns in the world and develop mental hooks upon which you can hang future knowledge.

Tried again recently, doesn't work for me.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE The Math of Success

Location: 1,654 The future is thoroughly unpredictable when it comes to your profession and your personal life ten years out. The best way to increase your odds of success—in a way that might look like luck to others—is to systematically become good, but not amazing, at the types of skills that work well together and are highly useful for just about any job. This is another example in which viewing the world as math (adding skills together) and not magic allows you to move from a strategy with low odds of success to something better.

Location: 1,710 By the end of the course, some weeks later, every member of the class could have sold Tony Snow’s product. Every time we spoke, we got compliments from the instructor and sometimes other students. We got applause. It felt great. Today when I see a stage and a thousand people waiting to hear me speak, a little recording goes off in my head that says today is a good day. I’m the happiest person in the room. The audience only gets to listen, but I get to speak, to feel, to be fully alive. I will absorb their energy and turn it into something good. And when I’m done, there’s a 100 percent chance that people will say good things about me.

Location: 1,715 The most important is the transformative power of praise versus the corrosive impact of criticism. I’ve had a number of occasions since then to test the powers of praise, and I find it an amazing force, especially for adults. Children are accustomed to a continual stream of criticisms and praise, but adults can go weeks without a compliment while enduring criticism both at work and at home. Adults are starved for a kind word. When you understand the power of honest praise (as opposed to bullshitting, flattery, and sucking up), you realize that withholding it borders on immoral. If you see something that impresses you, a decent respect to humanity insists you voice your praise.

Location: 1,756 Dilbert was the first syndicated comic that focused primarily on the workplace. At the time there was nothing to compare it with. That allowed me to get away with bad artwork and immature writing until I could improve my skills to the not-so-embarrassing level. Since the launch of Dilbert in 1989, dozens of cartoonists have tried to enter the workplace-comic space and gotten clobbered by unfavorable comparisons to a mature Dilbert.

Location: 1,761 Over the past ten years or so I have been in a few dozen meetings on the topic of turning Dilbert into a feature film. I always get the question of how we could make a Dilbert movie different enough from the TV show The Office or the cult movie Office Space. The implication is that the quality of a Dilbert movie might be less important to its success than whatever the public reflexively compares it with. Quality is not an independent force in the universe; it depends on what you choose as your frame of reference.

So choose a weak niche!

Location: 1,806 You’ve heard the old saying that knowledge is power. But knowledge of psychology is the purest form of that power. No matter what you’re doing or how well you’re doing it, you can benefit from a deeper understanding of how the mind interprets its world using only the clues that somehow find a way into your brain through the holes in your skull.

Location: 1,819 My experience with hypnosis completely changed the way I view people and how I interpret the choices they make. I no longer see reason as the driver of behavior. I see simple cause and effect, similar to the way machines operate. If you believe people use reason for the important decisions in life, you will go through life feeling confused and frustrated that others seem to have bad reasoning skills. The reality is that reason is just one of the drivers of our decisions, and often the smallest one.


Location: 1,833 It is tremendously useful to know when people are using reason and when they are rationalizing the irrational. You’re wasting your time if you try to make someone see reason when reason is not influencing the decision. If you’ve ever had a frustrating political debate with your friend who refuses to see the logic in your argument, you know what I mean.

Location: 1,851 Apple owes much of its success to Steve Jobs’s understanding that the way a product makes users feel trumps most other considerations, including price. If Steve Jobs had seen people as rational beings, he might have followed a path similar to Dell, selling highly capable machines at the lowest possible price. Dell succeeded too, of course, but if buyers were rational, there would have been only one computer manufacturer left after about a year; consumers would always buy the best computer for the money and drive out the bad players overnight.

Location: 1,887 Business writing is also the foundation for humor writing. Unnecessary words and passive writing kill the timing of humor the same way they kill the persuasiveness of your point. If you want people to see you as smart, persuasive, and funny, consider taking a two-day class in business writing.

Location: 1,914 When you take a photograph, you can use the same concept. Instead of centering the person in the pictures, adjust your field until the person is one side of the L and the ground is the bottom. The less-busy quadrant might be some landscape or the sunset.

Location: 1,917 Skim through any well-designed magazine and you’ll see the L design in 80 percent of the art and photography. The other 20 percent will be some special cases that I won’t go into here. I’m only trying to convince you of the importance of design and the ease with which you can pick up the main idea. Learn just a few design tricks and people will think you’re smarter without knowing exactly why.

Location: 1,939 I’ll paraphrase the Dale Carnegie question stack as best I remember it. It goes something like this: What’s your name? Where do you live? Do you have a family? What do you do for a living? Do you have any hobbies/sports? Do you have any travel plans?

Location: 1,948 The secret to making the list of six questions work without seeming awkward is in understanding that the person you meet will feel every bit as awkward as you. That person wants to talk about something interesting and to sound knowledgeable. Your job is to make that easy. Nothing is easier than talking about one’s self. I would go so far as to say that 99 percent of the general public love talking about themselves. When you ask a stranger a personal question, you make that person happy. Your question relieves the stress of awkward silence and gets the conversation moving. Best of all, it signals that you have interest in the stranger, which most people interpret as friendliness and social confidence, even if you’re faking it. And faking social confidence leads to the real thing over time.

Location: 1,956 Here’s a summary of good conversation technique. Ask questions. Don’t complain (much). Don’t talk about boring experiences (TV show, meal, dream, etc.). Don’t dominate the conversation. Let others talk. Don’t get stuck on a topic. Keep moving. Planning is useful but it isn’t conversation. Keep the sad stories short, especially medical stories.

Location: 1,973 As a writer, I reflexively translate whatever I observe into a story form with a setup, a twist if there is one, and some sort of punch line or thought that ties it in a bow. You can do the same thing. Try to get in the habit of asking yourself how you can turn your interesting experiences into story form. I find it helps to imagine telling the story to someone in particular—a spouse, friend, or relative. Try a few versions in your head, telling the story and feeling how it goes. Was it brief? Did you save the surprise for just the right moment? Did you have a way to end the story with a punch line or interesting observation?

Location: 1,978 It’s a good idea to always have a backlog of stories you can pull out at a moment’s notice. And you’ll want to continually update your internal story database with new material.

Location: 1,983 The most important key to good storytelling is preparation. You don’t want to figure out your story as you tell it. If something story-worthy happens to you, spend some time developing the story structure in your head—a structure I will explain in a minute—and practice telling the story in your head until you have it down.

Location: 1,986 Setup - There’s only one important rule for a story setup: Keep it brief. And I mean really brief, as in “So, I took my car in for a brake job …” That’s it. Don’t tell us the problem with the brakes. Don’t tell us what made you think you had a brake problem, unless for some reason it is relevant. Try to keep your setup to one sentence, two at most.

Location: 1,989 Pattern - Establish a pattern that your story will violate. For example, you could say, “Whenever I take my car for any kind of service, I’m always amazed how expensive it is.” That establishes the pattern. Now we know that what follows will be a violation of the pattern.

Location: 1,992 Foreshadowing - Foreshadowing means you leave some clues about where the story is going. The foreshadowing can happen as early as the setup, as in “My in-laws in Arkansas have something they call the ‘fraidy hole’ that everyone climbs into in case of tornadoes. It’s meant to hold no more than four people.” That’s the setup with the foreshadowing built in.

Location: 1,995 The Characters - Every story involves characters, and you might be one of them. For people who know all of your foibles, defects, and preferences, no elaboration is required. But if you are talking to strangers or talking about unfamiliar others, fill in the story with some character traits that will be relevant. For example, “Our friend Bob has been borrowing our power tools for years because he’s too cheap to buy his own.”

Location: 1,999 All good stories are about personalities.

Location: 2,003 The Twist Your story isn’t a story unless something unexpected or unusual happens. That’s the plot twist. If you don’t have a twist, it’s not a story.

Location: 2,032 When I fake my way past my natural shyness, I like to imagine a specific confident person I know well. I do my bad impression of that person and it comes off much better than my default routine of breaking into a sweat, laughing too hard at my own jokes, and excusing myself to go sit in a corner and perspire.

Location: 2,038 You should also try to figure out which people are thing people and which ones are people people. Thing people enjoy hearing about new technology and other clever tools and possessions. They also enjoy discussions of processes and systems, including politics. People people enjoy only conversations that involve humans doing interesting things. They get bored in a second when the conversation turns to things. Once you know whether you are dealing with a thing person or a people person, you can craft your conversation to his or her sweet spot. It makes a big difference in how people react to you, and that in turn will make you more confident and less shy.

Location: 2,126 I’ll give you a taste of the topic just so you know what I’m talking about. For starters, some words and phrases are simply more persuasive than others, and that has been demonstrated in controlled studies. I’ve included a few of my own favorite persuasion words, based on my own experiences. Persuasive Words and Phrases

  • Because
  • Would you mind …?
  • I’m not interested.
  • I don’t do that.
  • I have a rule …
  • I just wanted to clarify …
  • Is there anything you can do for me?
  • Thank you
  • This is just between you and me.

I’ve found that the most effective way to stop people from trying to persuade me is to say, “I’m not interested.” You should try it. Don’t offer a reason why you aren’t interested. No one can say why a thing holds interest for some and not for others. There’s no argument against a lack of interest. Repeat your claim of disinterest as often as it takes to end the conversation.

Another good persuasion sentence is “I don’t do that.” It’s not a reason and barely tries to be. But it sounds like a hard-and-fast rule. If someone asks you to attend the annual asparagus festival, don’t say it doesn’t sound fun; that’s just begging the asparagus lovers in your group to endlessly describe just how joyous it could be if only you would try it. Instead, say something like “I don’t do food festivals.” And if anyone asks why, say, “I’m just not interested.” Some of these persuasive sentences work well in tandem.

In a similar vein, another good antipersuasion technique is to say you have a rule. For example, let’s say you have a lunch scheduled with a potential client and your obnoxious coworker asks if he can join you. Honesty won’t work because you have to coexist with your coworker. Instead, say something along the lines of “I have a rule of only doing one-on-one lunches with clients.” It will sound convincing and somewhat polite, while offering no reason whatsoever.

Location: 2,161 Sometimes you hear statements that are so mind-numbingly stupid, evil, or mean that you know a direct frontal assault would only start a fight. People tend to double down when challenged, no matter how wrong they are. A more effective way to approach a dangerous social or business situation is sideways, by asking a question that starts with “I just wanted to clarify …” That approach might look like this: “I just wanted to clarify: Are you saying you’re okay with an 80 percent chance of going to jail, or did I hear your plan wrong?” If you phrase your clarification question correctly, it will shine an indirect light on the problem and provide a face-saving escape path. In many cases the clarification you receive will actually be an entirely new and more rational plan.

Location: 2,171 You know that if you get angry and demanding the person you’re dealing with might stick to the rules and try to brush you off. The most powerful way to approach a situation like this is to ask, “Is there anything you can do for me?” You will discover it to be an extraordinarily persuasive question. The question frames you as the helpless victim and the person you are trying to persuade as the hero and problem solver. That’s a self-image that people like to reinforce when they have the chance.

Location: 2,187 No matter how you deliver a thank-you, make sure it includes a little detail of what makes you thankful. Was it the surprise, the thoughtfulness, or how helpful the favor or gift was? Be specific. For example, “Thank you so much for the ride. I was worried all day about how I would get everything done while my car is in the shop. You really saved me.” Compare that with a simple “Thank you for the ride.” Any thank-you is better than none, but you’re missing an opportunity if you do a poor job of it. It’s the sort of thing people remember when they decide whom they want to work with, pick for a team, or invite to a party. It seems like a small thing, but it isn’t.

Location: 2,193 Research shows that people will automatically label you a friend if you share a secret.3 Sharing a confidence is a fast-track way to cause people to like and trust you. The trick is to reveal a secret that isn’t a dangerous one.

Classic Draco

Location: 2,201 However, some people act much more decisively than others. And that can be both persuasive and useful. Decisiveness looks like leadership. Keep in mind that most normal people are at least a little bit uncertain when facing unfamiliar and complicated situations. What people crave in that sort of environment is anything that looks like certainty. If you can deliver an image of decisiveness, no matter how disingenuous, others will see it as leadership.

Location: 2,207 People respond to energy in others. If you show how much you love a particular form of entertainment, it will be easier to persuade others to try it. Energy is contagious. People like how it feels. If you show enthusiasm, others will want to experience the same rush.

Yes, dating etc.

Location: 2,214 Suppose you’re not insane. Can insanity help you? The answer is yes, but you want to use a calculated, emotional type of insanity. In any kind of negotiation, the worst thing you can do is act reasonable. Reasonable people generally cave in to irrational people because it seems like the path of least resistance. The way fake insanity works in a negotiation is that you assign a greater value to some element of a deal than an objective observer would consider reasonable. For example, you might demand that a deal be closed before the holidays so you can announce it to your family as a holiday present. When you bring in an emotional dimension, people know they can’t talk you out of it.

Reasons and Persons insanity pill to protect children against blackmail

Location: 2,258 Keep in mind that I was poorly dressed, five feet eight inches tall, and prematurely balding in my twenties. I certainly didn’t look like CEO material, and while I’d like to think my interior brilliance sometimes shined through, I doubt that was the case. I think my fake professional voice and body language were at least half of the reason I was seen as having management potential.

Location: 2,282 When you’re trying to convey a fake sense of confidence—which is often handy—you need to tell yourself you’re acting. Simply speak the way you imagine a confident person would speak and you’ll nail it on the first try. You want to get rid of the hemming and hawing, the “ums” and “uhs,” and anything that disrupts your flow. That takes practice. The quickest fix is simply to substitute silence where you once had “ums” and “uhs.”

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO Pattern Recognition

Location: 2,320 Here’s my own list of the important patterns for success that I’ve noticed over the years. This is purely anecdotal. I exclude the ones that are 100 percent genetic.

  • Lack of fear of embarrassment
  • Education (the right kind)
  • Exercise

A lack of fear of embarrassment is what allows one to be proactive. It’s what makes a person take on challenges that others write off as too risky. It’s what makes you take the first step before you know what the second step is. I’m not a fan of physical risks, but if you can’t handle the risk of embarrassment, rejection, and failure, you need to learn how, and studies suggest that is indeed a learnable skill.


Location: 2,371 So-called dry humor is the best strategy if you plan to go for quantity. I say quality is overrated when it comes to humor, but you do need to achieve a minimum threshold. And that usually means avoiding a handful of traps. If you avoid the traps, you’re golden. Allow me to map the traps for you. I’ll start with a summary then explain. Overcomplaining is never funny. Don’t overdo the self-deprecation. Don’t mock people. Avoid puns and wordplay.

Location: 2,409 In general, you want your punch line to inspire listeners to complete the story—including the bad part—in their own minds. That allows every person to imagine the ending in the way that is most amusing.


Location: 2,426 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. The typical form of an affirmation would be “I, Scott Adams, will become an astronaut.” The details of affirmations probably don’t matter much because the process is about improving your focus, not summoning magic.


Location: 2,488 The biggest component of luck is timing. When the universe and I have been on a compatible schedule—entirely by chance—things have worked out swimmingly. When my timing has been off, no amount of hard work or talent has mattered. Dilbert was the best example of lucky timing you will ever see. It wasn’t a complete accident that luck found me; I put myself in a position where luck was more likely to happen. I was like a hunter who picks his forest location intelligently and waits in his blind for a buck to stroll by. The hunter still has to be lucky, but he manages his situation to increase his odds.

Location: 2,527 The success of Dilbert is mostly a story of luck. But I did make it easier for luck to find me, and I was thoroughly prepared when it did. Luck won’t give you a strategy or a system—you have to do that part yourself. 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. A normal slot machine that requires money will bankrupt any player in the long run. But the machine that has rare yet certain payoffs, and asks for no money up front, is a guaranteed winner if you have what it takes to keep yanking until you get lucky. In that environment, 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.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX A Few Times Affirmations Worked

Location: 2,555 there are a number of perfectly reasonable explanations for the pattern. The one that stands out in my mind is that I really had no love for the work involved in the TV show, the Dilberito, or the restaurants. And I felt relief when each ended. The pattern I noticed is that the affirmations only worked when I had a 100 percent unambiguous desire for success. If I could have snapped my fingers and made the TV show, the Dilberito, and the restaurants successful, I would have done it. But I knew I wouldn’t enjoy ongoing management of any one of them. Did my mixed feelings matter? I’ll never know.



CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE Association Programming


Location: 2,703 For starters, the single biggest trick for manipulating your happiness chemistry is being able to do what you want, when you want. I’m contrasting that with the more common situation, in which you might be able to do all the things you want, but you can’t often do them when you want.

Location: 2,710 You need to control the order and timing of things to be happy. It’s important to look at happiness in terms of timing because timing is easier to control than resources. It’s hard to become rich enough to buy your own private island but, relatively speaking, it’s easier to find a job with flexible hours. A person with a flexible schedule and average resources will be happier than a rich person who has everything except a flexible schedule.

Location: 2,713 Step one in your search for happiness is to continually work toward having control of your schedule. Parents understand what I’m talking about. Most parents love their kids and are glad they had them. At the same time, kids remove almost all of the flexibility in your schedule, especially if you’re the stay-at-home parent. It’s no wonder that parents who seem to have everything—nice house, great kids, and good friends—still find themselves in misery during the years their kids are young. Those parents might have all the “stuff” they could ask for but no flexibility to enjoy what they want when they want.

Location: 2,718 I just came from a good workout, so I’m feeling relaxed and in the mood to write. By any definition, what I’m doing is work, but because I can control the timing of it on this particular day, it doesn’t feel like work. I’ve transformed work into pleasure simply by having control over when I do it.

Location: 2,721 Realistically, sometimes you need to suck it up and work long hours, watch the kids, and do your duty. Just remember to keep your eye out for ways to maximize your schedule freedom in the long term. It’s something you want to work toward.

Location: 2,725 A person who is worth two billion dollars will feel sad if he suddenly loses one billion because he’s moving in the wrong direction, even if the change has no impact on his ability to buy what he wants. But a street person will celebrate discovering a new Dumpster behind an upscale restaurant because it means good eating ahead. We tend to feel happy when things are moving in the right direction and unhappy when things are trending bad. The directional nature of happiness is one reason it’s a good idea to have a sport or hobby that leaves you plenty of room to improve every year.

Location: 2,750 I’m here to tell you that the primary culprit in your bad moods is a deficit in one of the big five: flexible schedule, imagination, sleep, diet, and exercise. I’ve explained to a number of people my observations about how exercise, diet, and sleep influence mood. The usual reaction is a blank expression followed by a change of topic. No one wants to believe that the formula for happiness is as simple as daydreaming, controlling your schedule, napping, eating right, and being active every day. You’d feel like an idiot for suffering so many unhappy days while not knowing the cure was so accessible.

Location: 2,758 Ask yourself this question: At times when you’ve exercised earlier in the day, eaten well, hydrated, and had enough sleep, what percentage of those times have you found yourself in a good mood? I’ll bet you don’t know the answer to that question because it’s not the sort of thing anyone pays attention to. But now that I’ve put the idea in your head, you’ll automatically find yourself noticing the link between daily body maintenance and your not-so-mysterious happiness. I predict you’ll observe that your good moods are highly correlated with exercise, diet, and sleep.

Location: 2,789 Choosing among attractive alternatives can also be exhausting. You want to feel as if you researched and considered all of your options. That’s why I find great comfort in routine. If you ask me today where I will be at 6:20 A.M. on a Saturday morning in the year 2017, I’ll tell you I will be at my desk finishing the artwork on some comics I drew earlier in the week. That’s what I was doing last Saturday at that time and what I plan to do this Saturday as well. I can’t recall the last time I woke up and looked at my options for what to do first. It’s always the same, at least for the first few hours of my day. Likewise, I always have a banana at about 6:05 A.M., my first sip of coffee at about 6:10 A.M., and a protein bar to keep me from getting hungry again until late afternoon. I never waste a brain cell in the morning trying to figure out what to do when. Compare that with some people you know who spend two hours planning and deciding for every task that takes one hour to complete. I’m happier than those people.


Location: 2,964 Another change you’ll notice after a few months without simple carbs is that your cravings will start to diminish. The sensation you feel as a preference for certain foods can be in reality more of an addiction than a true preference. For example, there was a long period in my life in which I couldn’t go a whole day without eating a giant Snickers candy bar. The first bite created a feeling of euphoria that I enjoyed in every particle of my being. But after a few months of eating as much as I wanted of healthier food, I lost the craving for Snickers bars. What I thought was some sort of deep genetic disposition to like chocolate was actually more of an addiction.

Location: 3,177 Coffee costs money, takes time, gives you coffee breath, and makes you pee too often. It can also make you jittery and nervous if you have too much. But if success is your dream and operating at peak mental performance is something you want, coffee is a good bet. I highly recommend it. In fact, I recommend it so strongly that I literally feel sorry for anyone who hasn’t developed the habit.

Location: 3,193 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.


Location: 3,255 no matter how you dress it up and no matter how inspirational the author may be. In the long run, any system that depends on your willpower will fail. Or worse, some other part of your life will suffer as you focus your limited stockpile of willpower on fitness.

Location: 3,297 When my wife, Shelly, tells me she has a tennis-league match scheduled on a Thursday night, it never makes me feel abandoned. For starters, I always have advance notice and I can make my own plans, which is great. But even more important, I know Shelly didn’t pick the specific date and time of the match. The fact that the game is scheduled by some unknown third party makes it okay with me because I know that Shelly didn’t make a conscious choice to be away at that specific time. Sure, sure, on some level it’s the same thing because Shelly knew in advance that matches would be on Thursday nights, and she chose to join the team. But it feels different. And that’s what matters. Whenever you can, join a team sport that has a set schedule. Your spouse will still be inconvenienced, but it won’t feel personal. […] the next-best solution is to schedule your exercise for the same time every day. Shelly can tell you where I will be on any given Tuesday at 12:40 P.M. I will be at the gym, just finishing my resistance training and heading for some stretching before cardio. Shelly finds my regular exercise schedule inconvenient at times, but it doesn’t feel personal because it’s my system. I don’t decide to be unavailable for a romantic lunch with my wife; I simply have an exercise system. On some level it’s exactly the same, but it sure feels different. And that’s the beauty.

Location: 3,321 If you want to make a habit of something, the worst thing you can do is pick and choose which days of the week you do it and which ones you don’t. Exercise becomes a habit when you do it every day without fail. Taking rest days between exercise days breaks up the pattern that creates habits. It also makes it too easy to say today is one of your nonexercise days, and maybe tomorrow too.

For me, body seems happier when I run every day rather than taking too many rest days also.



CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE CalendarTree Start-up

Location: 3,471 The key to my doing that many things is that I eat right, exercise daily, and have lots of control over my schedule, which allows me to match my tasks with my mental state. Later today, when I’m mentally spent, I’ll do a few hours of mindless drawing for the comics I already roughed out. So the first part of my system involves managing my mental and physical states so I can do more things with the right kind of energy.

Yes, for me: focused time in morning, mindless cleaning in evening


Location: 3,485 I could whisper because that doesn’t involve the vocal cords.


Location: 3,513 I wrote it, in part, for some poor soul in the middle of nowhere who has lost his voice to spasmodic dysphonia, and with it all enjoyment of life. It’s also for anyone who has an unsolvable problem, healthwise or otherwise. If you think your odds of solving your problem are bad, don’t rule out the possibility that what is really happening is that you are bad at estimating odds.

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN A Final Note About Affirmations

Location: 3,547 Whether you are a born optimist or you become one through affirmations, prayer, or positive thinking, you end up with several advantages that make it easier for luck to find you. Optimists notice more opportunities, have more energy because of their imagined future successes, and take more risks. Optimists make themselves an easy target for luck to find them.

Location: 3,549 Another explanation for the apparent power of affirmations might be that we have the causation wrong. Perhaps only the people who know, deep down, that they have the right stuff to succeed will even bother doing affirmations. In my case it means that somewhere in my mind, before I had written my first book, my subconscious somehow knew I had the talent to write a proper book despite having no relevant writing experience or training. That explanation sounds reasonable to me, but it still means affirmations are useful, just in a different way than you might imagine. Under this explanation of the power of affirmations, they act as a sort of message from your subconscious to your rational mind telling you that you have the right stuff, even if your common sense argues otherwise.

Location: 3,580 You might see an inconsistency between affirmations and the theme of this book, specifically the parts where I say goals are for losers and systems are for winners. Affirmations look a lot like focusing on goals. But I would argue that doing affirmations is a system that helps you focus, boosts your optimism and energy, and perhaps validates the talent and drive that your subconscious always knew you had. If you plan to try affirmations, I recommend keeping your objectives broad enough to allow some luck. It’s probably better to affirm future wealth than to try to win a specific lottery.


Location: 3,592 I’ve covered a lot of topics in this book, and I thought it would be helpful to provide a summary to wrap it all up. Keep in mind that if you skipped to the end of the book to read this section, it will seem extraordinarily unpersuasive out of context.


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Last modified 2020-01-15 周三 14:28. Contact