Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Scott Adams on How Failure Can Breed Success

SPOTLIGHT: Scott Adams, the cartoonist who became rich and famous drawing the Dilbert strip, is also the author of several books.

BIG PICTURE: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big is part autobiography and part self-help manual. Now aged 60, Adams recalls what it was like to be a young person from a small town, with few role models and fewer connections.

“I remember my own galactic ignorance as a young man,” he writes. “I was poorly dressed, five feet eight inches tall, and prematurely balding in my twenties.” There was also crippling shyness: “I would drive to a party, park my car, break into a full sweat, then drive home without even saying hello.”

Despite his determination to make something of himself (he acquired an MBA at night school, amongst other things), his path was strewn with obstacles. After eight years in the banking sector, he was advised he wouldn’t be rising further up the corporate ladder:

My banking career ended when my boss called me into her office and informed me that the order had come down to stop promoting white males.

Some years later:

I thought my career at Pacific Bell was going well…My boss’s boss’s boss called me into his office and explained that the order had come down to stop promoting white males.

After deciding to pursue the “unlikely dream” of becoming a cartoonist, Adams became convinced it’s more important to have a system than a goal. Some attitudes and habits are conducive to success. So are certain psychological insights into how the human brain functions.

Adams describes “scores of embarrassing failures” that nevertheless provided him with useful knowledge and skills. He disagrees that being passionate is a smart career strategy (Chapter 3 is titled “Passion is Bullshit”), and employs section headings such as “Don’t Be an Asshole” and “The Power of Smiling.”

TOP TAKEAWAY: In his words: “if you think I’m full of crap on any particular idea or another, there’s a healthy chance you’re right. But being 100 percent right isn’t my goal. I’m presenting some new ways to think about the process of finding happiness and success.”


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

The Scott Adams blog is here. These days, his posts take the form of videos and podcasts.

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This entry was posted on May 21, 2018 by in quotations and tagged , .
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