How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big - Scott Adams

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big - Scott Adams

Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes 

How to Fail at Almost Anything and Still Win Big

“When I was in my twenties, I didn’t know anyone who could tell me how to become a cartoonist, how to write a book, or how to be successful in general." 

"This was a big obstacle to my success. It seemed as if other people were benefiting greatly from the wisdom of their friends and families."

"That’s exactly the sort of inequality that pisses me off and motivates me at the same time. As a result, I’ve spent decades trying to figure out what works, and what doesn’t, on the topic of success."

"If you want to be successful, in just about any field, let me be your starting point. I’ll describe over the course of this book a sort of template for success that can serve as your launching pad. I won’t always have the right formula for your specific situation, but I can help narrow your choices.”

Obstacle to Success

Are you trying to achieve something no one you know has achieved?

• This can be extremely difficult..  (Although a little less difficult now that we have the internet)

• Because connections and mentors are so important to success.

But the good news is..  That a lot of core lessons of success are transferable!

• Essentially that's what Scott has given us in this book..  

• He's probably the most successful person in his field..  Maybe of all time?

• That in and of itself is a very impressive feat!

• But when you look at the field.. It's creative and extremely competitive!

• Learning these principles is what Scott says helped lead him to success..

The book as you could guess is very funny even though it's packed with very important information!

• I enjoyed the writing style and I'm sure you would too!

• Pick this book up if you have the chance


“You could word-glue goals and systems together if you chose. All I’m suggesting is that thinking of goals and systems as different concepts has power."

"Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at every turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their systems. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction."

"The systems-versus-goals model can be applied to most human endeavors. In the world of dieting, losing twenty pounds is a goal, but eating right is a system. In the exercise realm, running a marathon in under four hours is a goal, but exercising daily is a system. In business, making a million dollars is a goal, but being a serial entrepreneur is a system."

"For our purposes, let’s say a goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.”

“To put it bluntly, goals are for losers.”

Systems vs Goals

Systems are things that you do on a consistent basis..

  • Generally you set up your systems in order to achieve a certain goal..  
  • But you get to win every time you implement your system rather than only when your goal is achieved

Goals are the end point of a achievement..

  • Generally you set goals that you would like to achieve based on the vision you see for your life
  • As Scott says here the problem with goals is it's very difficult to stay motivated when you might not achieve them anytime soon.. 

Self Coaching course philosophy

  • Similar to what Scott says here I've noted the systems vs goals phenomenon in my own life for some time..  
  • Setting goals and focusing too intently on them would get me in the mindset of 'I can't wait to accomplish that' or even the 'I can't be happy I haven't accomplished that yet" mindset..  
  • Both of those mindsets don't lend themselves to lasting success!

So what I've taken to instead inside my Self Coaching course is setting a "Vision" for your life.. 

After we've set your Vision instead of setting 'Goals' we develop a system you can implement and follow daily that will lead to you achieving that Vision..  Much more fulfilling and sustainable way to achieve anything!

Where is your focus?

  • Are you obsessing over achieving a goal?
  • Or are you focusing on implementing the systems that will help you achieve that goal?
  • More about systems/goals in Atomic Habits by James Clear

Don't Wish

“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. It sounds trivial and obvious, but if you unpack the idea it has extraordinary power."

"I know a lot of people who wish they were rich or famous or otherwise fabulous. They wish they had yachts and servants and castles and they wish they could travel the world in their own private jets. But these are mere wishes. Few of these wishful people have decided to have any of the things they wish for. It’s a key difference, for once you decide, you take action. Wishing starts in the mind and generally stays there."

"When you decide to be successful in a big way, it means you acknowledge the price and you’re willing to pay it.”

“Successful people don’t wish for success; they decide to pursue it. And to pursue it effectively, they need a system. Success always has a price, but the reality is the price is negotiable. If you pick the right system, the price will be a lot nearer what you’re willing to pay."

"I can’t change the fact that success requires a lot of hard work. But if you learn to appreciate the power of systems over goals, it might lower the price of success just enough to make it worth a go.”

Pay The Price

Are you stuck in wishing mode?

  • This is the mode our minds naturally graduate towards unless we train them!
  • This mode keeps us in safety and makes sure we don't fail..
  • But it also makes sure we don't succeed!

Three Step Process to Break Wishing

1. Figure Out What You Want

2. Figure Out The Price

3. Pay It 

Creating a system to pay the price will make it easier..  

  • Looking at the hundreds of hours in the gym or the total pounds to lose will cause the price to seem much higher..  
  • But looking at 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise and walking after dinner instead of snacking makes the price seem much smaller!

Productive Hours

“One of the most important tricks for maximizing your productivity involves matching your mental state to the task."

"For example, when I first wake up, my brain is relaxed and creative. The thought of writing a comic is fun, and it’s relatively easy because my brain is in exactly the right mode for that task. I know from experience that trying to be creative in the midafternoon is a waste of time. By 2:00 P.M. all I can do is regurgitate the ideas I’ve seen elsewhere. At 6:00 A.M. I’m a creator, and by 2:00 P.M. I’m a copier."

"Everyone is different, but you’ll discover that most writers work either early in the morning or past midnight. That’s when the creative writing juices flow most easily.”

Finding Your Rythm

Everyone has certain hours that they are more productive in..  

  • For some people their hours are early in the morning (like me)
  • For others it's late at night..  

Less important is what hours they are but that you know your own personal rhythm and stick too it!

  • How can you build your schedule around your rhythm? 
  • Can you do your most important and creative work early?
  • Can you schedule meetings and more monotonous tasks later in the day?

My Schedule

  • Creating these Mind Maps and videos is an early morning thing for me..  I wake up early and get right to work as my creative energy rapidly declines!
  • Reading is more of a night time thing for me so I often will read for 1-2 hours before bed rather than watching TV
  • Coaching is by itself a much more reflective and calm activity..  Something I'm much better at in the afternoon after drinking some relaxing tea!


“Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, tells us that people become unhappy if they have too many options in life." 

"The problem with options is that choosing any path can leave you plagued with self-doubt. You quite rationally think that one of the paths not chosen might have worked out better." 

"Choosing among attractive alternatives can also be exhausting. You want to feel as if you researched and considered all of your options."

"That’s why I find great comfort in routine. If you ask me today where I will be at 6:20 A.M. on a Saturday morning in the year 2017, I’ll tell you I will be at my desk finishing the artwork on some comics I drew earlier in the week. That’s what I was doing last Saturday at that time and what I plan to do this Saturday as well. I can’t recall the last time I woke up and looked at my options for what to do first. It’s always the same, at least for the first few hours of my day.”

“I never waste a brain cell in the morning trying to figure out what to do when. Compare that with some people you know who spend two hours planning and deciding for every task that takes one hour to complete. I’m happier than those people.”

Find Your Rhythm Create Routine

Once you've found what your natural energetic rhythm is it's important to create routine!

  • Scott points out here that Attention and Willpower are both limited resources.. 
  • Don't waste them by forcing your brain to make decisions that are best decided once.. 

After finding your rhythm and deciding on your routine it's important to let habit take over..

  • Habits are a wonderful facet of the human mind..  They simple allow us to conserve energy!
  • While we often thing of them as 'bad habits' they are serving a purpose..  You've decided on your routine and the brain is simply making it easy for you to follow that routine!  
  • Hint: Change your routine for long enough and your habits will change as well!

Again I recommend checking out Atomic Habits by James Clear..  It's a powerful way to stick to your ideal routine!

Moist Robots

“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." 

"You know from experience that you do better work, and you more enjoy life, when your attitude is good. If you could control your attitude directly, as opposed to letting the environment dictate how you feel on any given day, it would be like a minor superpower. It turns out you have that superpower. You can control your attitude by manipulating your thoughts, your body, and your environment."

"Your attitude affects everything you do in your quest for success and happiness. A positive attitude is an important tool. It’s important to get it right.”

“The best way to manage your attitudes is by understanding your basic nature as a moist robot that can be programmed for happiness if you understand the user interface.”

“Exercise, food, and sleep should be your first buttons to push.”

Changing Your Attitude 

What currently dictates how you feel?

  • Most people allow their environment to control how they feel..  
  • But a better way a 'superpower' we all have access to is to control your attitude yourself

Mindfulness and Meditation are a great place to state..

  • Sam Harris shows us all about how our mind works in his book Waking Up..  
  • He shows us how our thoughts control our emotions and how we are not actually our thoughts!  
  • Mindfulness is a large topic to get into in a Mind Map not about Mindfulness..  But I recommend you check that map out!

Control Pannel

  • The first buttons you should be pushing in order to help yourself get into a good state?
  • Exercise
  • Food
  • Sleep
  • Check in time!  How are those areas in your life?
  • Ps. Meditation would fit into the 'rest' or 'sleep' category and is extremely powerful!


“If you want to make a habit of something, the worst thing you can do is pick and choose which days of the week you do it and which ones you don’t." 

"Exercise becomes a habit when you do it every day without fail. Taking rest days between exercise breaks up the pattern that creates habits. It also makes it too easy to say today is one of your nonexercise days, and maybe tomorrow, too.”

“I exercise at lunchtime because mornings are better for my creative work and afternoons are unpredictable in terms of work and family time. Other successful exercisers get up long before the sun to do their workouts. Still others go straight from work to the gym. In each case the key is to have a predictable system. The method that never succeeds is exercising whenever you have some spare time. If you’re like most adults, you haven’t had spare time in years.”

Key Principle of Habit Building

The number of times you do a habit matters..

  • Therefor doing an activity every single day helps speed up the timeframe in which it becomes a habit!
  • Scott also talks about how doing an activity everyday doesn't allow a 'break in pattern' which is also useful in keeping habits

What habits are your trying to build?

  • How could you do them everyday?
  • How can you link that habit to something you ALREADY do every single day?
  • Overcome that little voice in your head by saying 'this is just what we do now buddy'
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