Skip Nav

Career Advice From Dilbert Creator Scott Adams

Dilbert Creator Shares 4 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Success

You know all the things you thought you knew about success? Let's try throwing them all out the window. It's safe to say that the creator of Dilbert, Scott Adams, fits our idea of success. Today, the comic strip is available in 2,000 newspapers around the world in 65 countries. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Adams reveals some misconceptions on popular advice for success.

Be skeptical about advice from successful people: Keep in mind a successful person's path to success isn't necessarily what yours would look like. "For starters, no two situations are alike," says Adams. "Your dreams of creating a dry-cleaning empire won't be helped by knowing that Thomas Edison liked to take naps. Secondly, biographers never have access to the internal thoughts of successful people."

Don't follow your passion: You have to find something stronger than passion that will sustain your drive and ambition because it's easy to be passionate when things are going well. Passion is great, but it needs to be paired with practicality and effort. Adams says, "The [business ventures] that didn't work out — and that would be most of them — slowly drained my passion as they failed." Further, passion also comes when you find success. "Success caused passion more than passion caused success," according to the cartoonist. The lesson to learn here is to chase success, then passion will come.

Forget about goals: Adams says that you should not have goals; instead, you need systems. He says, "The system [is] to continually look for better options." That's because goals aren't that satisfying. If you don't reach your goal, you'll feel discouraged. But if you do reach your goal, you might feel lost and purposeless after your initial high wears off. Always looking for the next best thing means you'll always have something to look forward to. 

"What doesn't kill us makes us stronger" is a philosophy for losers: Don't just focus on surviving future challenges after a setback; you need to be proactive and actually make something out of the failure. "I don't want my failures to simply make me stronger, which I interpret as making me better able to survive future challenges," says Adams. "If I find a cow turd on my front steps, I'm not satisfied knowing that I'll be mentally prepared to find some future cow turd. I want to shovel that turd onto my garden and hope the cow returns every week so I never have to buy fertilizer again. Failure is a resource that can be managed."

Image Source: Corbis Images
Latest Money & Career