The book is a humorous compilation of pragmatic lessons which Scott Adams learned while navigating his professional career.
The author admits his failures as well as successes openly.
He also talks his personal medical problems (first hand and then speech).
Major takeaways from the book
- Passion is bullshit
Most people think passion causes success, its usually the other way round.
- Goals vs Systems
Goals are specific objectives while systems are to be followed on regular basis. “Losing 10 pounds” is a goal, “eating healthier” is a system. Focus on better systems rather than goals. Systems oriented people feel good every time they follow the system, goals oriented are always busy chasing their goals and once they have attained it feel miserable (and start looking for another one). There are too many options (distractions) irrespective of the plan, focus is important.
- Deciding vs wanting
A lot of people want something, successful ones decide that they are going to pursue it and are willing to pay the price for the same.
- Being selfish is important
Focus on self (be it food, exercise or career), once a reasonable level of success has been attained, you will automatically develop the feeling to start distributing its fruits.
- Maximize personal energy
Always try to optimize personal energy (Something which you a positive mental or physical lift), some people enjoy solace, some crowded places, decide what maximizes your personal energy and do those activities in spare time. Maximizing personal energy is selfish but has best impact of the person and his/her contribution to society in long run.
Between optimization (doing many things optimally) and simplification (doing just a few things), pursue simplification in long run, since it maximizes personal energy.
Priorities (highest to lower)
Self > Personal finance > family > community > country > world.
Positive attitude is not optional. Daydreaming, positive forms of entertainment, smiling, success (from anything spills into success in other fields), perceptions (even incorrect ones) – all contribute to positive attitude.
- Who you know is important
You don’t not need CEOs and billionaires, just knowing friends who know different things than you is sometimes sufficient.
- Recognizing your talents and knowing when to quit
Childhood obsessions and tolerance for risk are rough guides are talents. Deciding when to fight against an obstacle and when to quit is difficult, things which some day work out well, start out well (albeit small success), things which start bad usually never become success.
- Repetition vs Novelty based jobs
Some jobs require a lot of practice (eg. sports), some require a lot of disciplined study and novelty (eg. software engineer, entrepreneur), decide which one suits your nature and choose a career path which is inline with your nature.
- Managing your Odds for Success
Every new skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.
Its better to be good at two complementary skills than excellent at one.
The more you learn, the easier it becomes to learn even more.
Read news about topics which interests you and which are positive in nature (avoid reading a lot about tragic events).
- The Maths of Success
Some skills increase odds of success – public speaking (Dale Carnegie’s course), psychology (List of biases), business writing(eg, using active over passive), accounting, design(basics – the L-shape), conversation, overcoming shyness, second language, golf, proper grammar, persuasion (being decisive, using write responses), technology and proper voice (pitch).
- Pattern Recognition
Learn to recognize patterns in life.
Certain patterns are direct predictor of success.
As per author, lack of fear of embarrassment, education, exercise and looking at success as learnable skill are major patterns for successful people.
Its not just a form of entertainment, it helps in developing more social connections as well as boosts personal energy.
Repeat to yourself what you want to achieve while imagining the outcome you want. It improves the odds of success.
Author is careful at pointing out that there might a coincidence or his selection bias in play here.
- Timing is luck too
Don’t ignore the importance of timing in success.
The world is like a slot machine where one has to put time, focus and energy and occasional rare payoffs can be big.
Experts are 98% right on easy cases but only 50% on unusual complicated cases.
If your intuition disagrees with experts, go with intuition, it could be an indicator of some pattern recognition which you can’t yet verbalize.
- Association Programming
Humans are social animals, we are influenced by people near us.
Spend time with people who most represent what you would like to become. Their good habits and energy will rub off on you.
Happiness has more to do with self than with situation.
Happiness has more to do with direction than the current situation (when things are going in right direction, we are happy).
In a career, improvement of skills makes a person feel happy. So, focus on career where you can improve over time.
Imagination of brighter future makes a person happy.
Exercise, diet (eat right) and sleep (ing enough) strongly influence happiness.
Routines makes us happy since they reduce the number of choices we have at any time (more choice makes us unhappy). Reduce daily decisions to routines.
Help others (after helping yourself).
Food impacts a person’s mood. Pay attention to energy level after eating certain foods.
All humans are different, find patterns in food, which food makes you feel better, which ones make you feel sleepy.
Remove unhealthy energy draining food from home and stock convenient healthy food instead.
Get enough sleep, tiredness causes illusion of hunger.
Willpower is a limited resource, using that to fight against cravings is a bad idea instead author suggests an alternative, make a list of healthy food items and decide that “you will eat as much of healthy food items as you can”.
Over time, you will stop eating unhealthy food, in long run, the habits of eating healthy food in limited quantities will become the norm.
Getting recommended dietary allowance with just food is impossible.
If eating for social reasons, choose lowest calorie options.
Author’s diet consists primarily of complex carbs (like nuts), protein bar, fruits and fish.
Don’t make healthy food bland by avoiding butter and salt, its better to eat healthy food (with butter and salt) than unhealthy one.
The author recommends vegetarian or near-vegetarian diet.
Coffee has higher highs and lower lows which aligns with creative workers, while it does make a person addicted, the trade-off is worth it.
Be active every day – don’t use willpower to decide workout and don’t do things you don’t like. Do anything which feels pleasant, walking is fine too.
Always exercise at same time (routine).
Try Exercising with spouse if married.
Don’t burn yourself out so that, next day you won’t be able to do it.
Reward yourself after workout eg. relaxed reading for a while after workout.
Failures will happen from time to time, learn from them and come forward because of that learning.