How to fail at almost everything and still succeed

A cool book that I recently finished is „How to fail at almost everything and still win big“ by the creator of the well-known Gilbert comic strips Scott Adams.

As he is an economist and an MBA by training, he started his career at a bank and began drawing comics in his free time before and after work. Some of his key advice really seems great. He argues that goals are for losers and that one should aim to implement a “system” that would encourage oneself to get into one direction.

For example: One could set a goal of losing five kilos of weight. That is what most people do and if they do, they will try to change their eating-habits in order to fulfill the prior set goal. Adams suggests to primarily change to focus away from the goal and establish a system which lets you eat healthy so that you automatically lose weight by following your system. These systems also need to be simple. But he explains how he thinks human brains are programmable like a moist computer, which helps to follow systems instead of goals.

He also introduces a “personal energy” metric, which is his most important metric. One should manage the own personal energy so that it is optimized, that means: Eating healthy, work out and schedule tasks. And from my experience it is true. A carbon rich lunch increases the probability that I will get tired in the afternoon. So investing more time to eat healthy, energizing food is a good time-investment.

I really liked the book, but some critical remarks: Adams does not try to lure the reader into a “just fail, until you win big”-fallacy. But still, sometimes you overplays his failures to some extent. He received a good university education with his economics degree and a MBA. He also received a lot of training by the bank during his spell there (public speaking, business writing), which would, in words of Cal Newport ( who wrote a great book called “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love”) count as “career capital”. Career capital increases the probability of success. And even Adams argues that every new (heterogeneous) skill (which just needs to exceed “average”) increases any success rate.

I think, this is true for many industries. As I am a football fan I heard about an injury of Kevin Grosskreutz (former Dortmund player, now for Stuttgart) today. He is a player who really lives said principle: I think if one would asses all his football skills (passing, first touch, finishing, anticipation, heading, tackling, etc.) he would be above average, but not near a world cup winning squad as he was in 2014. What makes him so valuable is that he can play every position on both wings in every role (attacking, defensive, supporting) and he can even play in the center of the pitch as a midfielder. Not to forget his skills as a goalie.