Books, Gear and Reviews: The Best Book I’ve Read in 2013: How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big
Read the reviews on Amazon here: How to Fail at Almost Everything
I haven’t done a book review here in a long time; after reading so many business / motivational books they all start sounding the same.
I set the timer for 30 minutes when I first started reading this book. By the time I finished my session, over 4 hours had past. It’s that good!
The author of the book is Scott Adams, better known as the creator of Dilbert comic strip. He writes about his long history of struggles and many failures until ultimately Dilbert becomes a runaway hit. What I love about the book is most of the advice is unique to him and come from his own experience. It’s one thing to read about “keep persisting” , but it’s so much more powerful when the advice is backed up by stories from his life.
Here are a few key points I learned from reading the book
Systems vs Goals
“Goals are for losers” he writes.
In order to explain his systems vs goals theory, I’ve written down a few examples.
Putting on Muscle:
Goal: I want to put on 20lbs of muscle
System: I will follow the xxx training program. I will eat 2700 calories a day.
Growing a Blog:
Goal: I want 100k visitors a month
System: I will write two blog articles a week.
Becoming a CEO:
Goal: I want to be a CEO
System: I will always be in search for a better job.
Scott met a CEO once who gave him some career advice on climbing the ladder. His system is that as soon as he has a job, he’s already looking to move on to a better one. With each job he moved on to, it would pay more and offer more responsibility. He kept applying the system until eventually he became CEO of a screw company.
Goal oriented people are always in chasing mode. When you’re chasing a goal, you’re always in a state of failure until you reach the goal. Sometimes when you reach the goal, you’ll find that you just lost the very thing that gave you drive and purpose.
Being system oriented means you feel a sense of achievement every time you complete the actions. It means that you’re always taking actions each day and making progress.
I want to improve my posture in the upcoming year (spending so many hours in front of the computer’s not good for you). Most people would set a “goal” of wanting a better posture, but how do you really measure? Instead I’ve put his advice to work and developed a system for it.
- I’ll attend Yoga once a week
- I’ve designed a workout program that emphasizes more pulling movements (rows, deadlifts, pullups). I need to do the workout twice a week.
- I’m switching to a standing desk. I need to use it at least 3 hours a day.
- I’ll do this exercise twice a day (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9ldFtv_DEo)
I’ve broken what I want to achieve into daily, actionable steps.
Passion is Bullshit
How many times have you heard the advice, “Follow your passion” or “Find work you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life again.” Sounds like advice that’s better for motivational posters than actually following.
Scott use to be a commercial lender at a bank and his boss gave him advice on who to lend money to.
Don’t give to people who are following their passion, it’s a bad bet. An example could be someone who loves Karate and it’s his dream to start a karate school. If you do the research maybe there’s no demand for karate schools or the area is over saturated with them. What about the people who love singing, but just aren’t particularly talented at it. Should they “follow their passion?”
His boss recommends instead to bet on the “grinder.” He’s the guy that’s in business to make money. He might start a dry-cleaning business because the math makes sense. It’s not sexy, but his goal is to make money, not chase a dream.
Why does every successful person always give the advice to follow your passion? Because it’s accessible and humble. You don’t want to be saying stuff that offends people such as, “I’m successful because I’ve worked my ass off or because I’m smarter.”
Think about the guys who followed their passion and failed – There are no books or wall street journal articles about those guys. What happens is most people actually develop their passion; the more skillful or successful a person becomes, the more their passion develops.
If you read my Rise of Ngo series, I was never “passionate” about internet marketing. I just did it because I saw people were making money from it and it seemed like a good idea.
What about now? I live and breathe this industry. I became passionate about it because I’m good at it and it gave me an awesome life.
Right now I have no passion for developing mobile apps, but I’d be passionate as fuck if I woke up with one doing 1 million bucks a day.
His argument is to chase after opportunity, and the passion will come.
If you want to read more on this subject, I recommend this bookSo Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
Increase Your Odds of Success
Scott views success as a numbers game involving odds. In order to increase your odds of being successful, you should be good (but not amazing) at multiple skills. Whatever your main pursuit in life is, being good in each of these areas will only increase the odds.
- Business Writing
- Public Speaking
- Conversation skills
My main skill is internet marketing. But I’ve been more successful at this business because I’m decent at various sub skills as well: basic programming, managing people, people skills, etc. For all the sub-skills he recommends I’m going to look into either reading books or taking classes to improve myself at them.
Optimize Your Life for Energy
You can’t do anything without energy.
Here’s how I think of it. Imagine if each human’s energy levels could be measured. By default we start off with 50 units a day. Lack of sleep, no exercise, and bad diet means you’re already at 40 compared to the average person. However someone who focuses their life around increasing energy levels might be at a 70.
Being at level 40 energy could mean you’re already exhausted by 5pm. No energy means you can’t do your best work. A man with level 70 energy means everything he does will be better
The big 3 ways to improve your energy are sleep, a good diet, and exercise.
His additional suggestions include: keeping your working area clean, simplifying everything you do in life, not being an asshole, and managing your priorities in life better.
Go Buy This Book
There’s much more material that he covers that I haven’t went into. Not only is the material good, but his writing style is funny and easy to understand.