How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

over the years I have cultivated a unique relationship with failure. I invite it. I survive it. I appreciate it. And then I mug the shit out of it. the best loan customer is one who has no passion whatsoever, just a desire to work hard at something that looks good on a spreadsheet. objectively, […]

My Notes

over the years I have cultivated a unique relationship with failure. I invite it. I survive it. I appreciate it. And then I mug the shit out of it.

the best loan customer is one who has no passion whatsoever, just a desire to work hard at something that looks good on a spreadsheet.

objectively, my passion level moved with my success.

Success caused passion more than passion caused success.

steeped to your eyebrows in failure. It’s a good place to be because failure is where success likes to hide in plain sight.

Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out.

Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do.

a goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.

What he has is a spectacular system, and that beats passion every time.

The idea was to create something that had value and—this next part is the key—I wanted the product to be something that was easy to reproduce in unlimited quantities. I didn’t want to sell my time, at least not directly, because that model has an upward limit. And I didn’t want to build my own automobile factory, for example, because cars are not easy to reproduce. I didn’t want to do any sort of custom work, such as building homes, because each one requires the same amount of work. I wanted to create, invent, write, or otherwise concoct something widely desired that would be easy to reproduce.

It helps a great deal to have at least a general strategy and some degree of focus. The world offers so many alternatives that you need a quick filter to eliminate some options and pay attention to others. Whatever your plan, focus is always important.

My system of creating something the public wants and reproducing it in large quantities nearly guaranteed a string of failures.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard goes something like this: If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it.

Successful people don’t wish for success; they decide to pursue it. And to pursue it effectively, they need a system.

The most important form of selfishness involves spending time on your fitness, eating right, pursuing your career, and still spending quality time with your family and friends.

If you neglect your health or your career, you slip into the second category—stupid—which is a short slide to becoming a burden on society.

I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities.

Maximizing my personal energy means eating right, exercising, avoiding unnecessary stress, getting enough sleep, and all of the obvious steps.

I’m suggesting that by becoming a person with good energy, you lift the people around you. That positive change will improve your social life, your love life, your family life, and your career.

You have the same paradox with personal energy. If you look at any individual action that boosts your personal energy, it might look like selfishness. Why are you going skiing when you should be working at the homeless shelter, you selfish bastard!

My proposition is that organizing your life to optimize your personal energy will add up to something incredible that is more good than bad.

So I did the next best thing by going to bed early and getting up at 4:00 A.M. to do my creative side projects.

You might not think you’re an early-morning person. I didn’t think I was either. But once you get used to it, you might never want to go back. You can accomplish more by the time other people wake up than most people accomplish all day.

I prefer simplicity whenever I’m choosing a system to use.

Optimizing is often the strategy of people who have specific goals and feel the need to do everything in their power to achieve them.

When you are trying to decide between optimizing and simplifying, think of your entire day, not the handful of tasks in question. In other words, maximize your personal energy, not the number of tasks.

My experience is that when I sit in a position I associate with relaxation, such as slumping on the couch, my brain will start the lazy relaxation subroutine. But if I sit with good posture, both feet on the floor, it seems that my body signals to my brain that it’s time to concentrate on work.

If the couch is where you like to nap or watch television, it will probably be a poor place for doing serious work.

The best way to manage your attitude is by understanding your basic nature as a moist robot that can be programmed for happiness if you understand the user interface.

Exercise, food, and sleep should be your first buttons to push if you’re trying to elevate your attitude and raise your energy.

Things that will someday work out well start out well. Things that will never work start out bad and stay that way. What you rarely see is a stillborn failure that transmogrifies into a stellar success. Small successes can grow into big ones, but failures rarely grow into successes.

The predictor is that customers were clamoring for the bad versions of the product before the good versions were even invented.

Compared with today’s episodes, the first season of The Simpsons was an awful product. Again, the quality didn’t predict success. The better predictor is that The Simpsons was an immediate hit despite its surface quality.

Averages don’t mean much for entertainment products. What you’re looking for is an unusually strong reaction from a subset of the public, even if the majority hates it.

One of the best ways to detect the x factor is to watch what customers do about your idea or product, not what they say.

It’s generally true that if no one is excited about your art/product/idea in the beginning, they never will be.

If your work inspires some excitement and some action from customers, get ready to chew through some walls. You might have something worth fighting for.

There’s no denying the importance of practice. The hard part is figuring out what to practice.

You can manipulate your odds of success by how you choose to fill out the variables in the formula. The formula, roughly speaking, is that every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.

When it comes to skills, quantity often beats quality.

The most important is the transformative power of praise versus the corrosive impact of criticism.

Quality is not an independent force in the universe; it depends on what you choose as your frame of reference.

It is tremendously useful to know when people are using reason and when they are rationalizing the irrational. You’re wasting your time if you try to make someone see reason when reason is not influencing the decision.

Few things are as destructive and limiting as a worldview that assumes people are mostly rational.

Apple owes much of its success to Steve Jobs’s understanding that the way a product makes users feel trumps most other considerations, including price.

business writing is all about getting to the point and leaving out all of the noise.

Unnecessary words and passive writing kill the timing of humor the same way they kill the persuasiveness of your point.

would go so far as to say that 99 percent of the general public love talking about themselves. When you ask a stranger a personal question, you make that person happy.

The point of conversation is to make the other person feel good.

When I fake my way past my natural shyness, I like to imagine a specific confident person I know well.

The single best tip for avoiding shyness involves harnessing the power of acting interested in other people.

The simple rule for “I” versus “me” is that the sentence has to make sense if you remove the other person mentioned in the sentence.

people are more cooperative when you ask for a favor using a sentence that includes the word because, even if the reason you offer makes little or no sense.

I’ve found that any question beginning with “Would you mind . . .” tends to be well received.

The worst thing you can do in that sort of situation is give some logical-sounding reason why you don’t want whatever is being sold. People who sell for a living will try to talk you out of your reason with reasons of their own.

I’ve found that the most effective way to stop people from trying to persuade me is to say, “I’m not interested.”

Another good persuasion sentence is “I don’t do that.” It’s not a reason and barely tries to be.

A more effective way to approach a dangerous social or business situation is sideways, by asking a question that starts with “I just wanted to clarify . . .”

All you need to do is be polite and ask a direct question: “Is there anything you can do for me?” You’ll be amazed how well it works.

it helps to learn to breathe from the bottom of your lungs, not in the upper chest area. Proper breathing has lots of other benefits, including stress reduction, increased and more efficient metabolism, and better physical stamina, so it’s worth learning.8 If you put your hand on your belly button and breathe correctly, that’s the only part of your torso that should be rising and falling. If your upper chest is expanding when you breathe normally, you’re doing it wrong. When you get your breathing right, your words will come out sounding more confident.

Here’s my own list of the important patterns for success that I’ve noticed over the years.

Lack of fear of embarrassment Education (the right kind) Exercise

A lack of fear of embarrassment is what allows one to be proactive. It’s what makes a person take on challenges that others write off as too risky.

Generally speaking, the people who have the right kind of education have almost no risk of unemployment.

I believe exercise makes people smarter, psychologically braver, more creative, more energetic, and more influential.

There’s one more pattern I see in successful people: They treat success as a learnable skill. That means they figure out what they need and they go and get it.

Allow me to map the traps for you.

Overcomplaining is never funny. Don’t overdo the self-deprecation. Don’t mock people. Avoid puns and wordplay.

The problem comes when you start doing too much gripe-based humor. One funny observation about a problem in your life can be funny, but five is just complaining,

Affirmations are simply the practice of repeating to yourself what you want to achieve while imagining the outcome you want.

I find it helpful to see the world as a slot machine that doesn’t ask you to put money in. All it asks is your time, focus, and energy to pull the handle over and over.

In that environment, you can fail 99 percent of the time, while knowing success is guaranteed. All you need to do is stay in the game long enough.

the single biggest trick for manipulating your happiness chemistry is being able to do what you want, when you want.

Step one in your search for happiness is to continually work toward having control of your schedule.

kids remove almost all of the flexibility in your schedule, especially if you’re the stay-at-home parent. It’s no wonder that parents who seem to have everything—nice house, great kids, and good friends—still find themselves in misery during the years their kids are young. Those parents might have all the “stuff” they could ask for but no flexibility to enjoy what they want when they want.

I’ve transformed work into pleasure simply by having control over when I do it.

Just remember to keep your eye out for ways to maximize your schedule freedom in the long term. It’s something you want to work toward.

Happiness has more to do with where you’re heading than where you are.

Based on a lifetime of observation, my best estimate is that 80 percent of your mood is based on how your body feels and only 20 percent is based on your genes and your circumstances, particularly your health.

At times when you’ve exercised earlier in the day, eaten well, hydrated, and had enough sleep, what percentage of those times have you found yourself in a good mood?

Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, tells us that people become unhappy if they have too many options in life.

The problem with options is that choosing any path can leave you plagued with self-doubt. You quite rationally think that one of the paths not chosen might have worked out better.

I can’t recall the last time I woke up and looked at my options for what to do first. It’s always the same, at least for the first few hours of my day.

I always have a banana at about 6:05 A.M., my first sip of coffee at about 6:10 A.M., and a protein bar to keep me from getting hungry again until late afternoon. I never waste a brain cell in the morning trying to figure out what to do when.

Recapping the happiness formula: Eat right. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Imagine an incredible future (even if you don’t believe it). Work toward a flexible schedule. Do things you can steadily improve at. Help others (if you’ve already helped yourself). Reduce daily decisions to routine.

My proposition, which I invite you to be skeptical about, is that one of the primary factors in determining your energy level, and therefore your mood, is what you’ve eaten recently.*

In my case, eating simple carbs depletes my energy so thoroughly that a few hours after consuming them I can fall asleep within thirty seconds of closing my eyes.

When studies later confirmed that pasta isn’t especially high on the glycemic index,

Science has demonstrated that humans have a limited supply of willpower.3 If you use up your supply resisting one temptation, it limits your ability to resist others.

What you need is a diet system that doesn’t rely on willpower. And that means reprogramming your food preferences so willpower is less necessary. I’ll explain how to do that in a minute.

Focus on your diet first and get that right so you have enough energy to want to exercise.

Avoid career traps such as pursuing jobs that require you to sell your limited supply of time while preparing you for nothing better.