Forget passion. Goals are for losers. Suffer defeat.

October 16, 2013

dogbertScott Adams, creator of Dilbert, discusses his new book – How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big – in both print and video at the WSJ.

Mr. Adams provokes a bit with his trademark jaded humor (of which we are fans), but he also provokes fresh thinking on passion, failure, goals, and the role of luck.

We can’t quite endorse every piece of advice he offers – not everyone enjoys the sinecure of an established syndicated cartoonist – but we can recommend the article and the interview.  And perhaps after we’ve finished it, the book.

Don’t follow your passion because your passion might not be very rationalSuccess creates passion, not the other way around:

My boss, who had been a commercial lender for over 30 years, said that the best loan customer is someone who has no passion whatsoever, just a desire to work hard at something that looks good on a spreadsheet. Maybe the loan customer wants to start a dry-cleaning store or invest in a fast-food franchise—boring stuff. That’s the person you bet on. You want the grinder, not the guy who loves his job.

For most people, it’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion. I’ve been involved in several dozen business ventures over the course of my life, and each one made me excited at the start. You might even call it passion.

The ones that didn’t work out—and that would be most of them—slowly drained my passion as they failed. The few that worked became more exciting as they succeeded.

Goals are less important than having a system or process for success:

To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That’s literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary.  If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize that you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or to set new goals and re-enter the cycle of permanent presuccess failure.

If you have a choice, success is better than failure, but failure is a great teacher.  In the real world, luck is a huge part of any success story:

You can’t control luck, but you can move from a game with bad odds to one with better odds. You can make it easier for luck to find you. The most useful thing you can do is stay in the game. If your current get-rich project fails, take what you learned and try something else. Keep repeating until something lucky happens. The universe has plenty of luck to go around; you just need to keep your hand raised until it’s your turn. It helps to see failure as a road and not a wall.

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