How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big – Book Review

how to fail

Scott Adams is the very successful creator of Dilbert.  He is also a very intelligent guy and sincerely interested in making the world a better place. In this book he gives advice on optimizing your chances for luck and success.  I found this book fascinating because I love learning from smart people who have figured out something I haven’t.

My top five most important take aways from this book were:

  1. Personal energy is your most important resource and the most important metric to track.  Ways to maximize your energy include diet, exercise, sleep, and having a flexible schedule.
  2. Goals Vs. Systems – Adams says goals are for losers.  Harsh words, but he goes on to say that you spend every moment before you reach your goal (if you reach it at all) feeling as if you are short of your goal.  In other words you exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that you hope will be temporary.  The smarter choice is to have a system for continuous improvement.  You succeed every time you apply your system, and this maintains your personal energy in the right direction.  There is a lot of discussion on how to create systems.
  3. Simplifing vs. Optimizing.  An optimizer looks for the very best solution even if extra complexity increases the odds of unexpected problems.  A simplifier looks for the simplest solution with the least chance of complexity complicating things.  Optimizers make elaborate plans that can collapse if one variable is not perfect – think traffic, road construction, an unexpected wait somewhere.  Simplifiers look for simple solutions that might take a bit of extra effort but have a good chance of working out.  Think of a dinner and movie night with friends.  You allow plenty of travel time, make a reservation at the restaurant, meet friends there rather than make elaborate plans to meet somewhere else and travel together.  You don’t tack on other errands or stops on the way.  Chances are you’ll be on time for your movie.  If you optimize the trip you might drop off the dry cleaning on the way, but find a big line waiting to pick up and have your time table go straight to hell.  Sometimes optimizing works and sometimes it doesn’t.  I tend to optimize – I combine all my errands in one big trip with an elaborate itinerary.  Somtimes this is great, sometimes not so much.  Nothing causes me stress like being late, and optimizing can cause the whole house of cards to collapse if one little thing goes wrong.  Simplifying sometimes makes more sense, especially when timing is critical or others are involved.
  4. Knowing when to quit.  No one wants to be a quitter, right? Persistence is a virtue and all.  He posits that things that will work out start out well.  So, if you have a great idea that you just can’t any traction with, maybe it isn’t such a wonderful idea after all, or the timing just isn’t right.  He cites examples like cell phones, the first clunky ones were eagerly purchased even though they were terribly flawed.
  5. Every skill you acquire doubles your chances of success.  Some skills, like business writing and a working understanding of psychology are more important than others.  I agree!  He gives a list of skills he recommends.

Adams invites us to think of ourselves as moist robots, rather than “skin bags of magic and mystery”.  Robots are programmable and we can program ourselves for success and happiness.   I do think we are also magical and mysterious, but I don’t find these two ideas so incompatible that I can’t accept both.

I found this book easy to read and did so quickly, since it was full of good ideas and well written to keep the reader interested in moving forward.

A big thumbs up to How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big, it’s definitely worth a read.

I’m going to create a morning system designed to get me off to a good start every day.  Right now my morning consists of lying around sipping coffee and goofing around on my Ipad for a couple of hours.  I can probably improve that!

 

 

The Book That Changed The Way I Think About Fear

I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic last month, and it has changed the way I think about many things.

Before I start talking about this book, a word about her earlier books, just so you know I am fairly objective.  I read Eat, Pray, Love – or more properly, I should say I tried to read it.  I just could not connect with it.  So, I’m not a huge fan of all her work.

big magic

One of the most intriguing things she talks about is that fear we all feel from time to time when we try something new, or meet someone new, or think in a new way.  She points out that fear actually does serve a very important evolutionary purpose.  Our ancestors who paid good attention to their fears survived to reproduce.  Life was chancy and danger was everywhere – people who were cautious lived longer lives than careless risk takers.  The ones who put every unknown berry in their mouths lived a shorter life.    Since evolution weeded out risk takers, we’ve inherited that fear mindset.

Life is much safer now in general, when was the last time you met a tiger in your back yard, after all?  But fear doesn’t understand that.  And when you try something new or undertake a project with an uncertain outcome it can easily take over the show.

Ms. Gilbert explains all this in much more detail and more elegantly than I can, but additionally, she gives a great tool for overcoming fear.

She says we cannot and should not eliminate fear entirely, it’s purpose is still important at times.  It keeps you safe when something really is about to go south.  But undertaking a new art project is not terribly dangerous.  So, she gives you one way to put fear in the back seat where it belongs.

She advises talking to fear as if it were a person, and telling it that it’s not going to get to drive on this road trip.

Now, that may sound silly, but I’ve been doing this and it’s made a big difference in the amount of anxiety I feel at various times, especially when beginning a creative project in an area in which I don’t consider myself very expert.

Acknowledging the fear and putting it in the back seat helps me feel safe enough to move forward with things that seemed overwhelming in the past.  I don’t worry so much about what people will think about my work or even about me.  Fear seems to cooperate and sit quietly watching the scenery.

I liked this book so much I copied a section into my journal and read over it several times a week.

I recommend every artist and creator (and that’s all of us, isn’t it?) read this book.

If you are reading my blog hoping for juicy pictures of fiber, this picture of a new handspun yarn is for you.

Hanspun Silk And Wool Yarn
Hanspun Silk And Wool Yarn

Shoes

More on  crazy shopping; here is a photo of youngest daughter’s shoes when we got home from Costco last Sunday.

She was in a hurry when we left!

I went out with two different shoes once when I was about 28 – to work!  Must have been tired (or hungover) that day.  I know I wasn’t late – I’m not a person who is ever late for work.  That job started at 8, I was usually at work well before 7.  (Morning person!)

I noticed around 2 pm, then was in an agony of despair for the rest of the workday.  Thank heavens I mostly sat at my big, solid desk at that job.

Have you ever left the house with unmatched shoes?  If so, how long did it take you to notice?