How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

3 minutes read

Scott Adams is creator of Dilbert comic strip and author of several non fiction works. In this book he recounts the humorous ups and downs of his life, revealing the outsized role of luck in our lives and how to best play the system.

I have summarized the best of his advices from the book.

Personal Energy

We want to increase our personal energy. The flow may look like this :

Diet -> Exercise -> Personal Energy

  • Focus on your Diet first and get that right so you have enough energy to want to exercise.
  • Exercise will further improve your enery, 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.

Increase your odds for Luck

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 you 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 preparaing 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.

Developing Skills

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.

Eat right, exercise, think positively, learn as much as possible, and stay out of jail, and good things can happen.

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.

Goals vs Systems

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.

Humans will always think in terms of goals. Our brains are wired that way. But goals make sense only if you also have a system that moves you in the right direction.

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’a a system.


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