Sunday, December 8, 2013

How To Fail And Still Win Big?

I have always been a great Dilbert fan and have over the years kept digital copies of the gems. I have also read many of Adams books and while very funny, sadly mirror too well the American corporate culture. A friend recommended his newest book and I immediately got it from Amazon and read it.

Scott Adams of DILBERT fame's newest!

While it has moments of humor, HOW TO FAIL AT ALMOST EVERYTHING AND STILL WIN BIG, it is also a journey of Adams life of wins but also many loses. In fact, he points out that often it is the losing that gives us the strength and knowhow to try again. He documents those loses in detail. It is probably the best book I have read about achieving success.

To me the most important part of the book, though there are many other points I will follow up on, is his separation of "goals" versus "systems." He makes a clear distinction that I never had thought of before.

Many of us have goals. We want to lose weight, we want to be better artists, we want to exercise more for a nicer appearance or for our health. So we start working towards that goal. He points out, truthfully I sadly admit, that goals are often broken with an amazing number of excuses and before we know it, we give up. How many of you have kept those New Years Resolutions beyond the first week?

He says a better way to achieve an end goal is to put a system into place. He uses as his example Ernest Hemingway. Every morning, before he did anything else, old Ernest would write 500 words. Every single day. That was his system. If could be more but never less. When he was done he could do whatever he wanted. Drink probably. Yet after a point in time those 500 words became a book. That may have been the ultimate goal but because he had a system in place, books became realities. They weren't hopes. They were not dreams. They became realities. We can do the same thing. An artist needs to find the best time of their day to be able to spend an hour to work at whatever they do. Get away from distractions, find the best time each day where you can leave the outside world and work on your skills.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book OUTLIERS also makes an important point when he says anyone could be anything they wanted IF they put 10,000 hours into it. He lists many who have achieved this very goal and for it to work, whether they consciously thought of it or not, they worked at it every day until they achieved what they wanted. They had a goal in mind, but a system in place. Mozart by age 8 had practiced enough each day with his father's guidance to write a concerto, Bill Gates by about 15 had coded enough to be an expert, and the list goes on and on.

What both authors are saying is that we need to do practice, practice practice. Practices are not goals, they are systems. They might lead us to a goal but the point with a system is doing, NOT wishing. He cautions that we need to not do so much we get bored and tired of it, but consistently a little every day. I know from my own experience that when I sit down everyday for an hour or two I become a little bit better. Stop for awhile and I have to work again on skills that I thought I had mastered. Like a fine machine, our skills "need" to be used and fine tuned. Systems help with those skills.

The next time you complain that you don't have the skills to do this or that, you should ask yourself, "is this a goal or have I been steadily working towards that skill with a system in place?" It makes a lot of sense. I say give it a try. I am.

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