I learned about Scott Adams from his writings on Trump and became interested in buying his book. His posts on Trump have been the most fascinating real time look into political/persuasive strategy I have seen. As such I wanted to learn more about what Scott had to say in general. This is my overview of his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.
Systems vs. Goals
The the difference between a system and a goal is that a goal is an object to be obtained and a system is the means by which you will achieve that goal. For instance if my goal is to write a thesis or dissertation the systems approach would be to make sure to write everyday and make sure I am doing research everyday. The intertwining of the book is focusing on systems is superior to goals
1.) Systems are psychologically easier on the body than goals.
Be definition goals are never complete. And when they are completed they leave a what’s next feeling. So, goals are inherently negative. Systems on the other hand are inherently optimistic. As long as you are following the system, you have achieved. That is, systems allow you to build positive feedback loops while goals make that difficult.
2.) Systems are more likely to succeed than goals
Because systems are inherently optimistic they give you psychological boost. Secondly they allow you to consider failure (something that is bound to happen) a step in the right direction
3.) Systems allow you to play the odds.
Systems allow you to change what you are working on based on what you believe will be most successful without giving up.
4.) Systems are conducive towards long term thinking
With goals, you have to break them into piecewise parts (so you can be accomplishing something). However with a systems approach allows you to pursue things not directly related to your goal that are likely to become useful later. For instance I am starting a company in a very small marketplace. I suspect the monetary return will not be worth my time. But I am learning a ton of useful skills: CAD, sales, manufacturing, design that I wouldn’t have learned in the normal course of my PhD program. Likewise, this blog is unlikely to have a financial return
Some examples of systems
Below are some examples of successful people using a systems approach
Jerry Seinfeld wrote one joke everyday.
Another example of a is good looking loser’s golden rule: Do The Most Productive Thing At Every Given Moment
Scott Adams used the system approach (every new skill you learn doubles your chances at success) to start his own business.
Mike Cernovich from Danger and Play advocates using a system approach of developing multiple streams of income even if they are tiny in order to achieve financial freedom.
Stephen King recommends writing 1000 words a day.
Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown, recommends deliberate practice everyday.
Adams also suggests exercising everyday as a system for getting into shape and losing weight. Focusing on exercising gives a positive feedback, but stepping on the scale gives negative feedback.
There are many ways a string can be loose, but only one which it can be taut. Naturally, not all systems are equivalent. So how do you pick a system which gets the best results in all of your desires.
The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main metric: my energy. I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities.
Without a metric, it is impossible to optimize a problem, especially a problem with multiple outputs. While it would certainly be possible to devise a cost function and manage your different wants and priorities with regards to the cost function, the energy measurement provides a simple effective metric which to judge your actions and systems.
Jujitsu You Mind
Scott recommends using psychological jujitsu on your mind. An example of which is using your laziness as a way to accomplish your goals. His best example is diet. Scott always keeps healthy snakes available so that his laziness will cause him to naturally eat the healthy snacks and food. This is practical application of Scott’s energy method, make everything you want as easy to accomplish as possible and make actions that are undesirable difficult to do. Scott also applies such tricks to his work and exercise routine he builds habits (which are easy to maintain) through methods that are easy to start at times when his body and life schedule easily allow him to continue.
Scott Adams book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big is a good read, which should take less than a day to read. It will leave you feeling energized and ready to take on the word. It is well worth the time to read.