The Importance of Systems – Insights from Scott Adams

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life” by Scott Adams is a book about systems. It’s a book about simplifying.

I’m not an expert in any of the topics I’ll discuss here. But I am a professional simplifier.

I recommend this book to anyone feeling stuck, and needs a fresh (and motivating) perspective. The essence of the book is the importance of simplifying and developing systems. Then honing and applying these systems throughout your life.

Here are some of my favorite passages from the book.

On Failure

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. Failure always brings something valuable with it. I don’t let it leave until I extract that value. I have a long history of profiting from failure.

I do want my failures to make me stronger, of course, but I also want to become smarter, more talented, better networked, healthier, and more energized.

My failure taught me to seek opportunities in which I had an advantage.

Systems vs Goals

One should have a system instead of a goal.

Throughout my career I’ve had my antennae up, looking for examples of people who use systems as opposed to goals. In most cases, as far as I can tell, the people who use systems do better. The systems-driven people have found a way to look at the familiar in new and more useful ways. To put it bluntly, goals are for losers.

Let’s say 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.

Goals are a reach-it-and-be-done situation, whereas a system is something you do on a regular basis with a reasonable expectation that doing so will get you to a better place in your life.

Paying the Price for Success

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.

When you decide to be successful in a big way, it means you acknowledge the price and you’re willing to pay it. That price might be sacrificing your personal life to get good grades in school, pursuing a college major that is deadly boring but lucrative, putting off having kids, missing time with your family, or taking business risks

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

Personal Energy

The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main metric: my energy. I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities.

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.

Imagination & Visualization

Imagination is the interface to your attitude. You can literally imagine yourself to higher levels of energy.

I’ve also discovered that acting confident makes you feel more confident.

The external reality doesn’t change, but your point of view does. In many cases, it’s your point of view that influences your behavior, not the universe. And you can control your point of view even when you can’t change the underlying reality.

Systems for Success

A great strategy for success in life is to become good at something, anything, and let that feeling propel you to new and better victories. Success can be habit-forming.

The smartest system for discerning your best path to success involves trying lots of different things—sampling, if you will. For entrepreneurial ventures it might mean quickly bailing out if things don’t come together quickly.

Success isn’t magic; it’s generally the product of picking a good system and following it until luck finds you.

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.

You can’t directly control luck, but you can move from a game with low odds of success to a game with better odds.


Simplification is often the difference between doing something you know you should do and putting it off.

Simplification done right also helps connect the important parts of exercise, diet, career, finance, and social life. If any of those things becomes too complicated, it forces you to borrow time, willpower, and resources from something else you also care about. I won’t try too hard to sell you on the benefits of simplicity because you see them in your own life every day.