Book Review: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

How to Fail at Almost Anything Book

Recently I read Scott Adams’ (the creator of Dilbert) part auto-biography cum part self-help book, ‘How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.’ I started with the book with the intention of reading one chapter per day. However after I started reading curiosity and Scott Adam’s writing style got the better of me and I completely ignored my original rule and read as much as possible in a day. I finished the book in about a week’s time.

The book provides a sneak-peek into Scott Adams’ life. While it is very easy to assume that a very successful person like Scott Adams’ might have tasted success from the word go, in reality his life has not been a bed of roses. He has faced a number of failures before and after Dilbert; in fact the book has two entire chapters where he recollects all his failures (being a hyper-optimist, he actually sees them as learning opportunities).

Scott Adams actually spent 16 years in the corporate world before starting out as a cartoonist and then had to cross several hurdles before tasting success with Dilbert. Twice in his life he also faced career threatening medical issues that did not have any known medical remedies at that time. While the author does not a portray his story as that of Knight winning against dismal odds, his story is inspiring. I liked the fact that most of the chapters are short, crisp and clear.

Scott Adams seems to be a big believer in ‘Affirmations.’ The book has three chapters about how he has used affirmations at different stages in his life. While he gives several reasons as to why one should indulge in the practice of affirmations and why it might actually help, I like the particular reasoning that affirmations might be a way focusing your energies around something that you aspire for.  Some of Scott Adams’ observations in the book that I liked are given below:

‘Success caused passion more than passion caused success.’

‘Failure is where success likes to hide in plain sight.’

‘If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it.’

‘Ideas change the world routinely, and most of those ideas originate from ordinary people.’

‘Good health is a baseline requirement for success.’

‘Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.’

‘There’s no denying the importance of practice. The hard part is figuring out what to practice.’

‘The idea I’m promoting here is that it helps to see the world as math and not magic.’

Scott Adams’ has given a list of 13 skillsets (psychology, business writing etc.) that every adult should gain a working knowledge of. The author also quotes a number of studies by experts in support of some the advice that he is proposing. The book is laid out in a way that Scott Adams is reflecting on his life journey and recollecting some of the pivotal moments. He discusses about which approaches worked for him and advises us to think about similar approaches that might assist us in our journey towards success. Overall the book is a delight to read and has a healthy mix of success advice, insights from Scott Adams’ life, humor and Dilbertoons.


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