Book Review: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life

I finished reading “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life” written by Dilbert creator Scott Adams today, and I enjoyed it very much.

I have been reading Mr. Adams’s blog for several years now, and I have also read most of his earlier books, so it was no surprise to me that the message in the book resonated with me, and I was able to finish the book in a few hours.

The book is about how Mr. Adams achieved success, and he lists down the factors that contributed to his success. This may sound like a self help book, but is very different from any other self help book because of its unconventional message.

I will talk about three specific points from his book that I found particularly interesting and will sum up the book after that.

System versus Goals

One of his key ideas is that people shouldn’t have goals but instead rely on a system to achieve success. An example of a difference between a goal and a system is that a goal can be losing 25 kilos by the end of the year while a system can be getting into a routine of exercising 15 minutes every day.

For me a good example is the difference between having a target in terms of subscribers – say 15,000 OneMint subscribers by the end of the year or a system where I say I will set aside an hour for blogging every day.

The latter is a system whereby I am telling myself that I need to get in the habit of blocking an hour for blogging every day. If I’m not able to finish a post in that time, or I’m not able to answer all comments that is still fine because I was dedicated to the blog for that one hour and what you achieve within the hour will always vary.

This type of thinking is good for motivating me to write because often the idea of finishing a post is a lot more daunting than the idea of spending one hour on blogging.

I think this is a useful way to look at things, and I’m trying this idea out with blogging and a few other things.

Maximizing Energy

Another interesting idea in the book is about maximizing energy and doing things that make you feel positive and get your energy up which rubs off on other things that you do in your life.

This is something I can easily resonate with in terms of blogging. Many times I have thought that the time spent on blogging is better spent doing something else that has more tangible and direct rewards. But every time I take a break from blogging to focus on such a thing I fail. I don’t see any gain in my productivity in other aspects of my life and I feel that I’m just frittering away the time that I would have used for blogging. Blogging energizes me in a way that no other thing does, and that is then reflected in other things I do.


Affirmation is positive reinforcement by writing down your wish a few times every day. An example from the book, “I, Scott, will become a syndicated cartoonist.”

Mr. Adams state that these have worked for him, and this is perhaps one of the more controversial parts of the book which a lot of people will question, and a few may have just stopped reading the book altogether after coming across the part where he claims affirmations have worked for him.

My own view of these things is that our knowledge is so limited that we can’t rule anything out. Our minds are simply too small to comprehend the workings of the universe, so I have a healthy and distant respect for anything that sounds mysterious or magical. There is simply no way for me to say affirmations don’t work, and if they have worked for him, they may work for others as well.


I think everyone should read this book at least once to get exposed to the ideas in it because I think they are truly useful. Not everything may be acceptable to you, and everything needn’t be to be your time’s full worth. Even if you like one or two ideas and are able to implement them I think that will change your life in meaningful ways, and you shouldn’t deprive yourself of that opportunity.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life”

  1. Hi,
    I often read your articles, and many time circulate the content of your post to the large audience to whom I meet.
    Would like to know, how more subscibers would help you in any way ???
    Yours is not a piad site, neither any ads get displayed on your site, so how does it really matters if it has subscription of 1500 or 15000, becuase indirectly you may b reaching 15000 ppl, through ppl like me.

  2. Thank you Manshu, I wanted to read the book of your recommendation from a long time, I don’t know about the book but ‘One Mint’ has created lot of meaningful n progressive difference in my life.

    Thanks n Regards


  3. Thank you for this review and the heads-up that Scott Adams has written a new book… I wasn’t aware of this. Looking forward to reading this.

    1. Yes it was quite an interesting thing to learn. It is a bit confusing at times to think what is a system and what is a goal since both look quite similar but I think the key is to not chase down a number or event and focus on your input instead.

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