“Don’t let reality control your imagination. Let your imagination be the user interface to steer your reality.” – Scott Adams.
How to Fail at Almost Everything is a quirky, funny, irreverent, and often inspiring “sort of autobiography” from the creator of Dilbert, that quirky, funny, irreverent, and often inspiring comic strip that lays out the truth of working in the
trenches cubicles of corporate America.
This is not another collection of Dilbert cartoons or Dilbert philosophy. It’s more of a Dilbert origin story. We know we’re in for a different kind of kind of how-to-book when Adams begins by advising us to make sure our bullshit detectors are working before we take advice from a cartoonist.
He dismantles many self-help cliches in order to clear the way for fresh perspectives. “Goals are for losers,” he says, and recommends strategy instead. “I will finish my first novel,” is a goal. “I will write for an hour a day,” is a strategy. Every day we don’t attain a goal is slightly depressing, he says, and soon after we reach it, the “what next?” question arises. A strategy, on the other hand, brings a daily sense of satisfaction as we move in the right direction.
“I tried a lot of different ventures, stayed optimistic, put in the energy, prepared myself by learning as much as I could, and stayed in the game long enough for luck to find me…with Dilbert it did.” – Scott Adams
Adams gives a chronology of his many failed careers and entrepreneurial ventures. Shining through the story is a positive attitude that allowed him to find key lessons and life experience in every failure. His optimism is gold, and he spends a lot of time writing of health, especially, diet and exercise, although he cautions that there is a “non-zero chance” that health advice from a cartoonist could be fatal.
“I’m here to tell you that the primary culprit in your bad moods is a deficit in one of the big five: flexible schedule, imagination, sleep, diet and exercise.” The “big five” benefit mood, which builds personal energy, which is the driver of aspiration and effort.
Adams packs an abundance of topics into his book. Not every one resonated, and several dragged for me, but much of my copy is highlighted and underlined, and I’ve reread several chapters already. If you like Dilbert, you will value this story of the life twists and turns of his creator, and you will benefit from the lessons he learned along the way.