How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big Summary

Book Review

Adams has a funny, refreshingly considered set of ideas about how to find success—and what that success will look like when one gets there

About Scott Adams

Scott Adams has drawn nearly 9,000 Dilbert cartoons since the strip began, in 1989, and his cynical take on management ideas, the effectiveness of bosses, and cubicle life has affected the worldview of millions. But he built his successful career mainly through trial and error


A simplification that can inform all of the steps you take toward your own personal success. It’s the human equivalent of profit.

Chapter One The Time I Was Crazy

I learned that loneliness isn’t fixed by listening to other people talk. You can cure your loneliness only by doing the talking yourself and—most important— being heard.

Chapter Two The Day of the Talk

Failure always brings something valuable with it. I don’t let it leave until I extract that value. I have a long history of profiting from failure.

Chapter Three Passion Is Bullshit

My boss, who had been a commercial lender for over thirty years, said the best loan customer is one who has no passion whatsoever, just a desire to work hard at something that looks good on a spreadsheet

success was a combination of desire, luck, hard work, determination, brains, and appetite for risk.

Energy is good. Passion is bullshit.

Chapter Four Some of My Many Failures in Summary Form

Steeped to your eyebrows in failure. It’s a good place to be because failure is where success likes to hide in plain sight. Everything you want out of life is in that huge, bubbling vat of failure. The trick is to get the good stuff out.

Chapter Six Goals Versus Systems

if you study people who succeed, you will see that most of them follow systems, not goals.

Chapter Seven My System

My system of creating something the public wants and reproducing it in large quantities nearly guaranteed a string of failures.

Being systems oriented, I felt myself growing more capable every day, no matter the fate of the project I happened to be working on.

Chapter Nine Deciding Versus Wanting

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard goes something like this: If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it.

Chapter Ten The Selfishness Illusion

The most important form of selfishness involves spending time on your fitness, eating right, pursuing your career, and still spending quality time with your family and friends.

Chapter Eleven The Energy Metric

Maximizing my personal energy means eating right, exercising, avoiding unnecessary stress, getting enough sleep, and all of the obvious steps.

But it also means having something in my life that makes me excited to wake up

Chapter Twelve Managing Your Attitude

Your brain is wired to continuously analyze your environment, your thoughts, and your health and to use that information to generate a sensation you call your attitude.

The easiest way to manage your attitude is to consume as much feel-good entertainment as you can.

Chapter Thirteen It’s Already Working

The group of people who read books on how to succeed is an excellent group to be in. You’re the people most likely to succeed because you’re putting real thought and research into the mechanics of success.

Chapter Fourteen My Pinkie Goes Nuts

Drawing on the Wacom product cut my total workday in half

The quality of my drawing improved dramatically on the Wacom because it’s so easy to make small adjustments.

Chapter Fifteen My Speaking Career

It’s a cliché that who you know is helpful for success. What is less obvious is that you don’t need to know CEOs and billionaires.

Chapter Eighteen Recognizing Your Talents and Knowing When to Quit

If your work inspires some excitement and some action from customers, get ready to chew through some walls. You might have something worth fighting for.

Chapter Nineteen Is Practice Your Thing?

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

When I was a kid I spent countless bored hours in my bedroom on winter nights trying to spin a basketball on one finger. Eventually I mastered that skill

Chapter Twenty Managing Your Odds for Success

The Success Formula = Every Skill You Acquire Doubles Your Odds of Success

Chapter Twenty-one The Math of Success

The future is thoroughly unpredictable when it comes to your profession and your personal life ten years out. The best way to increase your odds of success—

in a way that might look like luck to others—is to systematically become good, but not amazing, at the types of skills that work well together and are highly useful for just about any job.

  • Public speaking
  • Psychology
  • Business writing
  • Accounting
  • Design (the basics)
  • Conversation
  • Overcoming shyness
  • Second language
  • Golf
  • Proper grammar
  • Persuasion
  • Technology (hobby level)
  • Proper voice technique

Chapter Twenty-two Pattern Recognition

A lack of fear of embarrassment is what allows one to be proactive. It’s what makes a person take on challenges that others write off as too risky

Exercise makes people smarter, psychologically braver, more creative, more energetic, and more influential.

Chapter Twenty-three Humor

A good sense of humor can compensate for a lot of other shortcomings in one’s looks and personality.

Humor makes average looking people look cute and uninteresting people seem entertaining.

Chapter Twenty-four Affirmations

Chapter Twenty-five Timing Is Luck Too

If affirmations had any kind of value, I should set my sights

higher. But for the next few years I focused on my day job and didn’t use affirmations because things seemed to be going generally well without any help

Chapter Twenty-six A Few Times Affirmations Worked

The pattern I noticed is that the affirmations only worked when I had a 100 percent unambiguous desire for success.

Chapter Twenty-eight Experts

If your gut feeling (intuition) disagrees with the experts, take that seriously.

You might be experiencing some pattern recognition that you can’t yet verbalize.

Chapter Twenty-nine Association Programming

Given our human impulse to pick up the habits and energy of others, you can use that knowledge to literally program your brain the way you want.

Simply find the people who most represent what you would like to become and spend as much time with them as you can without trespassing, kidnapping, or stalking.

Chapter Thirty Happiness

The happiness formula:

  • Eat right.
  • Exercise.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Imagine an incredible future (even if you don’t believe it).
  • Work toward a flexible schedule.
  • Do things you can steadily improve at.
  • Help others (if you’ve already helped yourself).
  • Reduce daily decisions to routine.

Chapter Thirty-one Diet

The Simple, No-Willpower Diet System:
1. Pay attention to your energy level after eating certain foods. Find your pattern.
2. Remove unhealthy, energy-draining food from your home.
3. Stock up on convenient healthy food (e.g., apples, nuts, bananas) and let laziness be your copilot in
eating right.
4. Stop eating foods that create feelings of addiction: white rice, white potatoes, desserts, white
bread, fried foods.
5. Eat as much healthy food as you want, whenever you want.
6. Get enough sleep, because tiredness creates the illusion of hunger.
7. If your hunger is caused by tiredness, try healthy foods with fat, such as nuts, avocados, protein
bars, and cheese, to suppress the hungry feeling.
8. If you’re eating for social reasons only, choose the healthiest options with low calories.
9. Learn how to season your healthy-yet-bland foods.

Chapter Thirty-two Fitness

1. Do thirty minutes of aerobic exercise daily.
2. Stretch.
3. Hydrate.
4. Eat protein within thirty minutes of strength training.
5. Carb load the night before a big exercise day.
6. Do resistance/weight training every other day.
7. Do three sets of ten to fifteen reps.
8. Get lots of rest.
9. Vary your workout to create “muscle confusion.”
10. Use proper form for lifting.

Chapter Thirty-four Luck

Books change us automatically, just as any experience does. And if a book helps you see the world in a more useful way or amps up your energy level, it becomes part of the fabric of your personal luck.

Chapter Thirty-five CalendarTree Start-up

Every time we add new skills and broaden our network of contacts, our market value increases.

Chapter Thirty-seven A Final Note About Affirmations

Affirmations is a system that helps you focus, boosts your optimism and energy, and perhaps validates the talent and drive that your subconscious always knew you had.

If you plan to try affirmations, I recommend keeping your

objectives broad enough to allow some luck. It’s probably better to affirm future wealth than to try to win a specific lottery.

Chapter Thirty-eight Summary

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.

book summary

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