How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big Book Summary


Hi Success Titan reader, I’m Sal Damiata and that’s the book summary of “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams. Enjoy your read!

Why this Book?

Are you looking for a way to maximize your success chances while at the same time avoiding getting at the end of the day tired of your work? Keep reading as that’s probably the right book summary for you.

Who’s this Book for? 

  • Employees stuck in their routine and struggling with the fear of failure;
  • Ambitious people believing that to succeed, a talent on something and a clear goal is necessary;
  • Everybody unmotivated to keep going and that finds it hard to make definitive life-changing decisions.

What You’ll Learn from this Book

  • Why systems are better than goals to achieve success;
  • How to maximize your energy levels and keep you active most of the times;
  • Why possessing many skills is preferable to being a specialist in today’s world.

The Book in a Nutshell

  • Failure is a normal part of our life journey but if we keep a system of habits that lead us towards our goals, the risk of failure will be hugely reduced. Moreover, if you manage to develop a set of different skills during your career and to surround yourself with the right energy and people, your chinches of success will skyrocket. 

3 Sentence Summary

  • Setting goals is not the best way to reach success because on the way to measure it, people generally lose motivation. Having a system works better because when you do a specific activity consistently, it will keep you accountable and motivated to go on.
  • Scott noticed how the majority of the people that became successful, made a conscious decision to succeed and let wishing out of their vocabulary. That conscious decision implied that the would not have acted the same way again.
  • In our society, nowadays, it’s preferable to possess many skills rather than just one because the more the world changes and the more the market need for people that can do more than one thing. Combine your skills in such a way that they are complementary and choose them wisely because possessing just any skill won’t be enough.

Big Ideas

Those are the most relevant ideas expressed in the book that we’ll explore together.

  1. Manage Your Personal Energy
  2. Multiple failures won’t prevent you from Succeeding
  3. Having Systems are better than Setting Goals
  4. Decide, Don’t Wish!
  5. Acquire many Skills

Let’s explore them together now:

Big Idea #1: Manage Your Personal Energy

Another concept that the author talks about in his book is energy management. The first advice he gives here is to separate the place where you work from the space where you relax.

Apart from that, he says that each one of us has his own body rhythm and that because of that we must adapt to it in order to function effectively. Don’t just work at a specific time because others told you to do it. When are you the most productive? And the most creative? It’s all about knowing thyself. 

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Next, the author talks about how important it is to understand what tasks drain you of energy and which ones give you energy. Those activities could really be anything, like dancing, writing, reading a journal, shopping, working out, socializing, solving problems and so on. In his was, for example, shopping drains him of energy while blogging fills him with energy.

Then the importance of a good diet is also stressed. The perfect diet for you can be found with the same concept expressed above; which foods give you energy and which ones rob you of energy? Fitness is also important as keeping the body moving is a way with which you can keep the energy flowing without getting stuck.

A Relatable Example

When it comes to energy it’s important to understand the concept of associate energy as the author calls it. In his book, he talks about a friend of his that once told him that he would move into an affluent block so that he would have become affluent himself.

Scott Adams at first thought that his friend was nuts, in reality, he was right because the people we associate ourselves can greatly influence us, especially if we spend a lot of time with them. The author also remembers that before starting to write his comics, he was spending his time with various aspiring writers that, it seems like they influenced him.

Big Idea #2: Multiple failures won’t prevent you from Succeeding

Many people are terrified of the idea of failing, let alone the idea of failing in more than one project. You know, Scott Adams failed at dozens of projects and failed at more things than what most people are even willing to try. 

In fact, he was fired from a phone company, then started a burrito chain business than went down as well as failed at dozens of other projects. What he says is that you must always keep the optimism in your mood and have the belief that eventually something will work out.

Success, most of there time, depends on timing the idea rather than having the right one, apart from possessing a specific skill set that would turn useful at that moment. Scott Adams was successful because it turned out that his idea, develop with a set of skills accumulated during his many failures, was promoted at the right time. That’s why you don’t have to be scared to keep trying. 

A Relatable Example

Want to know my story? I probably failed as many times as Scott Adams did and I’m just 26 at the time this article is being written. Those have been my failures so far.

1: When I was 18 I went to the Italian Air Force to become a military pilot but then dropped out as I didn’t like it.

2: Then went to study economics and I even graduated but didn’t like the subject and decided not to work in this field. 

3: During my college times I wanted to work as PR to make some money while knowing people but didn’t bring enough at parties and had to quit it. 

4: Then I worked as an Electronic Dance Music producer but never made it and thus failed. 

5: Then I started a personal development blog with a friend of mine that made us earn less than $200, fail. 

6: Later I worked at a famous record label in Italy but had an issue with the boss and quit it. 

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7: After that, I worked as a sales representative in Barcelona but I was told not to continue after the probation period. 

Now I have my own coaching business that slowly is taking off and this website is my first real success, anyway I had been a writer for many years without seeing any result whatsoever. You ahem to keep trying because as Scott said, you can fail but the amount of skills you’ll acquire during the way will be invaluable, just as it has been with me.

Big Idea #3: Having Systems are better than Setting Goals

The self-help industry stresses a lot on the concept of setting goals, like if it is the holy grail to reach success. In reality, what Scott Adams says, is that goals are not the best way to become successful as they put a mental strain on you that is never relieved until you reach that goal.

Moreover, goals come with a predetermined end-point that once gotten puts you in a mental state of void as you have nothing else to strive for. Lastly, whenever you check how you’re doing with your life, you will feel like a failure every time you didn’t get closer to your goal (weighting yourself for example). 

This puts you in a continuous state of failure, that is nothing else than your body producing cortisol instead of dopamine. How can we overcome that? By creating a system according to Scott Adams. Having a system works better than having a goal because you just have to do a specific activity every day. Then this activity, if done consistently, will keep you accountable and motivated to keep at doing it.

A Relatable Example

Scott in his book talks about Mark Zuckerberg’s system. In fact, he never had the goal to create largest social media company in the world. He just followed a system that eventually proved to be right. That’s why goals are generally pathways to failure if they’re not backed up with a systems that it what concretely gives you the tools you need for success.

Big Idea #4: Decide, Don’t Wish!

Many people wish they could be richer, happier, fitter or more famous. The problem with wishing is that there is no correlation between it and taking action unless you actually decide to become all the above-mentioned things.

Scott notices how all the people that made it to success made a conscious decision to succeed one day. That conscious decision implied that they would eventually need to make concrete choices that were completely different from the previous ones, as the word decisions literally means cutting out.

Then Scott says that once you make your decision you must become aware of the price to pay for that decision and be willing to pay it. Once you know the price to pay and are willing to pay it, just do it without second-guessing yourself. 

A Relatable Example

Talking about my story a little bit, I was a very shy guy when I was young. I could express myself around people, let alone women. That made me suffer so much that one day I literally said to myself that I had to change, or my life would have remained the same shitty one I had. That decision I made that day, at the bottom of depression changed my life for the better because I completely refused to be the person I was before. 

That’s when I started socializing, making new friends and talking to women in a way I had never done before. I proved myself right eventually as now I’m a socially free person, apart from being truly satisfied with my dating and social skills. What life-changing decision will you take today?

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Big Idea #5: Acquire many Skills

Scott Adams is one of those men that supports the idea of possessing various skills instead of becoming a master in one single one. He says that you can succeed both by possessing a very strong skill or by possessing many of them that are complementary and that make you stand out from the crowd.

That’s why he says that you shouldn’t be the best at one thing but moderately good in various things so that you can stand out fro the crowd. But is it just enough to possess various skills to be successful? 

Not at all, in fact the trick is to have some skills that are complementary, like being with a writer and a speaker (with which you can promote your written products).

Every skill you acquire, he says, doubles your odds of success and makes you a much more valuable piece in today’s market. Choose your skills well anyway because the world is in constant change and just possessing any combination of various skills won’t be enough to make you successful. 

A Relatable Example

In his book, he talks about failing many times and only after having failed many times at different thing she managed to acquire skills that were very competitive in the market.

Anyway in order to make it happen this way he had to be the first one to believe in himself and to create some products that had that x-factor that eventually made them successful. If nobody has already done what you want to do it doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be successful. 

Conclusion & Takeaway

Don’t let failure put you down. Adopt a smart system that is applied every day and, with patience, success will come. In the end, we don’t have a magic wand that will make our dreams come true but by following the advice Scott Adams gave use, we can maximize the probability of that event. 

My Advice For You

If you want to try a new thing, do it because you never know what you can learn from it. Anyway if you’re struggling financially, I would suggest you start first with a job that provides you financial stability so that you don’t stress yourself on how to make a living.

I tell you that from my personal experience because when I was producing music I didn’t have a job and I was supported by my parents. This made me stressful over time and, when I eventually failed with my project I found myself without a job and without money savings.

More About the Author

Scott Adams was raised in a small town in upstate New York. He studied at Hartwick College from which he graduated with a bachelor in economics in 1979, then he got an MBA from Berkeley California.

After that he started working an office worker, anyway in the meantime started working on his Dilbert character that eventually became a worldwide phenomenon. Today he owns a blog where he writes about American politics, specifically he likes to write about how Trump should think of America.

Reading Suggestions

  • “Good to Great” – Jim Collins
  • “Zero to One” –  Peter Thiel
  • “Principles” – Ray Dalio
  • “The four-hour workweek” – Tim Ferris
  • “Essentialism” – Greg McKeown

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Armin is an online entrepreneur and writer in the dating, psychology and spirituality areas of the self-help industry.
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