The Best Book on Success Ever Written?

I just had the opportunity to read what may be the best book on success ever written.

Well, I didn’t actually read it, because, as of this writing, it hasn’t been published. But I did get to read a long excerpt of it, and promptly pre-ordered it on Amazon, something I suggest you do immediately, although by the time you read this the book will be out and you’ll be able to get it right away. And let me mention, for those cynics among us, that I have no connection with this book, never even heard of the author, and have no financial interest in it whatsoever, though I wish I did because, if there’s any justice in the world, it will make is author millions of well-deserved dollars.

The book is by a fellow named Scott Adams, who, apparently, is the cartoonist who invented Dilbert, a character with whom I’m also supremely unfamiliar with. But no matter. What Adams has to say turns everything we “know” about success on its ear, and contradicts most of what we’ve been taught about how to have a financially successful life. It’s truly a book that can change your life, and I don’t say that about a lot of books.

The book is called How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big and here are three of the highlights.

1) Don’t “Follow Your Passion”

Before he was one of the most successful cartoonists in the world, Adams worked as a loan officer for a bank. His bank manager told him that the one person you don’t want to lend money to is the guy who’s “following his passion”.

The guy who opens a sporting goods store because he loves sports and wants to be around all things sporty is not a good investment.

The guy who comes in with spreadsheets and a boring—but effective– plan to open a dry-cleaning business is.

The thing about passion is it doesn’t necessarily lead to success, but it almost always follows it. “Dilbert started out as just one of many get-rich schemes I was willing to try”, Adams says…

“When it started to look as if it might be a success, my passion for cartooning increased. The projects I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked!”

On a personal note, the great love of my life—the one I have now and forever with Michelle, which is the most passionate relationship I’ve ever had—started in a pretty mundane way, without all that much passion. Passion will often grow, even when you’re not “head over heels” to start with—and (from my experience) that kind of passion has a lot more staying power than the instantaneous kind.

2) Forget About Goals

It’s way—let me emphasize waaaaay—better to have a system than to have a goal.

“Goals are for losers”, Adams writes.

A specific goal keep you in a perpetual state of perceived failure (because you haven’t achieved it yet). People who use systems instead of goals do better.

“If your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary”.

Much better, says Adams, to learn how to eat well for your body (i.e. a system). Systems-oriented people grow more capable every day. I know a lot of people whose “goal” is to write a book (and who probably never will). On the other hand, someone who focuses on a system- (“I get up every day and write for one hour, or I blog every day and pay attention to the comments”) has a way better chance of success. Focus on the system and the results will take care of themselves.

3) Stack the Game

Look, no one who has ever achieved anything in life will tell you that luck didn’t play a part in her success.

But you can make it easier for luck to find you.

As Adams says, “You can’t control luck, but you can move from a game with bad odds to one with better odds.”

I’ve believed this all my life. Luck favors the prepared.

I live in Los Angeles where everyone and his personal trainer has aspirations to be a movie star and to be magically “discovered” while working as a barrista in the Van Nuys Starbucks. But on the off-chance that the guy ordering the half-caf latte with soy happens to be Stephen Sodenberg and he happens to “see” something in you and asks you to audition, you’ve got a way better chance of turning that opportunity into something real if you’ve been practicing monologues every day than if you’ve been playing Angry Birds and waiting for your “big break”.

Adams is a big believer in the idea that failures are just learning opportunities, provided, of course, that you actually learn from them. It helps to see failure as a road and not a wall. Failure can be your friend if you know how to make use of it. Stay adaptable, keep your eye on the big picture, don’t get too obsessive about specific “goals”, focus on systems, and keep your skill-set sharp so that you’re prepared for luck when it finds you.

“The universe has plenty of luck to go around”, he says. “You just need to keep your hand raised until it’s your turn”. If you happen to be “steeped to your eyebrows in failure”, well, Adams says that’s a good place to be.

“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.”

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