I’m listening to How to Fail… by Scott Adams as I try out my new treadmill. Adams is the creator of the comic strip Dilbert. I have read an earlier book of his, from which I learned that some people like to talk about ideas and others like to talk about people. Each group finds the other boring. In the current book, he divides folks into people/things rather than people/ideas (or perhaps I misremembered the original division), but it’s still good advice.

Scott Adams favors selfishness. He says our priorities should be stacked up like this:

  1. Our physical health
  2. Our financial health
  3. Our family
  4. Our community
  5. Our nation
  6. Our world

He is apparently not a religious person. I can accept this idea if I think of it as the same as putting on your breathing mask first and then helping others with theirs. I think most of us have to fight against selfishness all the time — and we should.

But Adams suggests making our personal energy level our primary metric for success. This is an interesting idea. Having spent much of my life sleep-deprived and exhausted, I think I now have the option to change that because I no longer take care of the children and pets I was responsible for. My business has momentum of its own so it doesn’t require insane hours any more. I don’t have to get up in the wee hours of the morning to see my husband off to work or to drive him there.

I don’t think I was wrong to put others first for all those years. It’s probably good for me to put others first now, too, insofar as I still do so. I might be in a better position now if I had put my health and finances first when I was younger, but my kids probably would be worse off. The world? I’m not sure I have that much influence, but my choices in terms of the environment, which companies I choose to support with my purchases, voting, and so forth seem important enough to be worth some sacrifice.

So I guess I’m not really sold on selfishness. I do agree with Adams that success – luck x skill, but I don’t know whether I share his definition of success.

Adams also has a lot of very specific advice, though he claims that “taking advice from cartoonists is generally a bad idea.” Attractive people, for example, should talk as little as possible. People are predisposed to like physically attractive people, so opening your mouth just increases the chances that you’ll screw up that predisposition.

Also, take up golf.

I’m just about halfway through the book, so I assume I will learn much more before the end. So far, it’s an interesting combination of disruptive ideas and confirmation of things I’ve been seeing over the past few years.

Plus some weird stuff.