Scott Adams failure book


Scott Adams now joins Nassim Taleb and Seth Godin among my list of my thought leader heroes who have also embraced failure so publicly as to write a book about it. Curiously, my fandom did not explicitly grow out of their embrace of failure as I got introduced to them before their embrace was so explicit. But something about their world perspective must have resonated along the shared elements of that theme.

Adams’ new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big – Sort of the Story of My Life, was précised in his post “Systems” last week…

  • “The trick is that I didn’t have an exercise goal in the first place, so I couldn’t have failed to reach it. What I do have is an exercise system, and I was completely successful at the system. My philosophy is that losers have goals and winners have systems. In this case, my system is that I attempt to exercise five times a week around lunchtime. And I always allow myself the option of driving to the gym then turning around and going home. What I’ve discovered is that the routine of preparing to exercise usually inspires me to go through with it even if I didn’t start out in the mood. This particular day, my body wasn’t going to cooperate. No problem. The system of attempting to exercise worked as planned. I didn’t have a trace of guilt about driving home. I’ve used this system for my entire adult life. I see exercise as a lifestyle, not an objective.”

I see this in business regularly. People strive for objectives with dashboard single-mindedness. They prioritise the ‘objective’ over the ‘system’. Anything to hit this month’s profit or revenue number neglecting the fact that the true objective is to build a system that regularly grows the revenue and profit. Confused or delusional executives often sacrifice the ‘system’ for the sake of the ‘objective’. They spend too much time obsessing over the numbers and not enough understanding the dynamics.

And ‘Embracing failure’ itself is a ‘system’. Failure happens. Instead of responding with energy-sapping despair and problem compounding denial, embracing the failure turns it into a positive force for carrying on.  Maybe, as far as Adams’ definition applies and the title of his book on the subject implies, it is the ultimate system.