Book Review: Success Lurks in Your Attitude

Life and business require failure.

The premise of How to Fail at Almost Everything & Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life is that failure is worthy of celebration, because failing means learning.

The man who created Dilbert, Scott Adams, wrote this book (Penguin Random House Publishing, 2013). It is an odd mash-up between self-improvement and autobiography genres

A warning: This book includes language that is NSFW (Not Suitable for Work) so, around sensitive ears and semi-public spaces, it’s an earbuds-only audiobook.

Adams’ self-deprecation and odd juxtapositions help make the book entertaining and useful. In the introduction, Adams says, “I draw like an inebriated howler monkey and my writing style falls somewhere between baffling and sophomoric. It’s an ongoing mystery to me why I keep getting paid.”

In easy-to-read, short chapters, Adams navigates us through his personal and business experiences and attaches lessons learned that the reader can apply. He claims passion is overrated and that setting goals is a recipe for constant failure. Instead, establishing life systems guarantees one will never fail, even when an idea goes kaput.

About attitude, Adams says, “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.” Adams offers a theoretical equation that, “Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success,” and lists a handful of skills he believes are especially valuable when preparing for any career.

According to Adams, “…every adult should gain a working knowledge” of public speaking, psychology, business writing, accounting, design, conversation, overcoming shyness, a second language, golf, proper grammar, persuasion, technology, and proper voice technique.

As with most self improvement books, the author also spends time discussing the benefits of diet and fitness. But his legal disclaimers on all of these tips are almost worth the price of the book alone.

I’ve shared my dog-eared and pencil-marked paperback with a friend, and will likely continue to share copies of this book with those who are stinging from a business failure and need to be reminded that, eventually, there are positive take-a-ways in even the most unpleasant situations.