If you’ve never heard of Scott Adams, do yourself a favor and look him up. In my opinion, he’s one of the more brilliant, analytical thinkers in the public sphere. He’s best known for his hilariously dry humored Dilbert comics, which highlight common tensions between coworkers, employees, and employer/employee relationships within the corporate world. Adams has written several books, as well as deliver a wildly popular daily podcast through social media. At the core of all of his accomplishments is his deep knowledge and understanding of persuasion and how it can not only be used to manipulate others positively or negatively, but also by how it can be used to manipulate ourselves.
I’ve only read one of Scott Adams’ books, but in that book I gained an entirely new perspective on how to approach success in life. In his book, “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big”, he makes one very bold statement: “Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners.” I remember reading this several years ago and really appreciating his perspective on this concept. He highlights one of the main issues that most people encounter when trying to achieve goals, consistency.
Like many, I tend to be perfectionistic in the way that I view the desired result. Because of this, I find myself setting unrealistic expectations and timelines for myself in how I’m going to achieve that result. When setting goals for myself, I often find myself spiraling out of control rather quickly. What initially started as a goal for myself to get into shape has now morphed into a 5 page document highlighting all of the different workouts I’m going to do, vitamins I’m going to take, food I’m going to eat.... you get the picture. A week or two later, I find myself losing interest and saying “How does anybody have time for all of this!”
After reading Adams’ book, I decided to take a new approach to success. Rather than chasing success through a number of goals, I decided to try Adams’ system oriented approach. Forget perfection. Focus on consistency. Take things a week at a time and start trying to develop your good habits into lifestyle changes rather than short term goals.
What I found through this approach is that it immediately started to take the pressure off of myself and allowed me to ease into projects, gradually getting better along the way. The more consistent and deliberate I was in my approach, the better results I would find. Whether it be in practicing or writing music, managing stress, building furniture, taking on projects around the house, improving my cooking (or cocktail!) skills, etc., I found that achieving goals was best accomplished through a systems-oriented approach that promotes new lifestyle changes rather than from a point A to point B perspective that promotes short-term pressured win-fail scenarios.
When you really get down to it, his concept can be applied to almost every facet of our lives. While checklists and short term goals do serve a temporary purpose (and they are very important!), Adams’ makes a strong argument that systems are what lead you on the path to victory, not goals. Goals can hurt our self-esteem. When we don’t achieve our goals, what do we often do? Get frustrated and pissed off at ourselves. We sometimes get dejected and set that goal on the back burner until we’re ready to try it again. It can quickly become a never ending hamster wheel of letdowns and failures that wear down our self-esteem. That’s why I believe viewing success from a systematic point of view is so important. Just as practicing the three foot put in golf leads to confidence in becoming a better putter, so does reading a chapter a night lead to confidence towards our goal of becoming more “well-read” and intelligent. Just as gradually adding to your number of miles run per week boosts confidence towards your weight loss goals, so does smiling a little more around your coworkers lead to more confidence in achieving your goal of making more friends at the office. It’s all about being deliberate, patient, consistent, faithful, and having that “never-quit” mentality that ultimately leads to success.
Next time you’re shopping on Amazon, think about adding “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” to your cart, if you haven’t already read it. I believe it will broaden your perspective on how best to approach projects moving forward. Now, if I could just apply this logic when I’m playing 18 holes of golf my life would be so much easier!!... Fore!!!!