How to Fail at Almost Everything

I recently had an experience with someone suggesting my life has been a failure. This automatically triggered reflective thinking accessing Abraham Maslow’s concept of self-actualization. I paused inside Abraham’s theory, examining my life to see if it could be characterized as a failure.  I graduated with B+ average and captain of the High School hockey team, however, my first marriage failed on the way to BS, MBA, and DBA degrees in psychology and management. I failed to receive tenure at UND but had already decided to accept a teaching position at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Department of International Business. After four years teaching and several successful research projects and award-winning publications, I took a leave to teach at National Taiwan University giving up another opportunity for tenure to stay at NTU where I met Fannie Tai, whom I married having children Aaron and Annah, now graduates of NDSU pursuing their careers. My teaching career moved through UIBE in Beijing, NDSU in Fargo, back to CUHK, then to the University of Mary Fargo, and Concordia Moorehead. At every school research projects were conducted resulting in publications. We own two modest houses, one VW wagon, two bikes, one push-lawn mower, and have one small dog. How is this failure?

It is a failure when failure is seen as not having kept up with the neighbors, with their new Lexus SUV and Buick sedan in the garage. One issue to consider is how “keeping up with the Jones” affects one’s daily thoughts? What does envy do to us? But more to the point, I am still healthy, reading, reflecting, thinking, and writing – it is these activities that impact one’s quest and achievement of self-actualization? No amount of money, material possessions can help one achieve this highest Maslow need. I am not Breaking Bad – Really Bad yet!

The Hoover Institution recorded on July 12, 2017, How to Fail at Almost Everything with Scott Adams the Dilbert comic strip author/artist – political philosopher.  Adams sits down with Peter Robinson to discuss his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. He discusses his theory of “talent stacking,” the idea that rather than being an expert in one particular skill (Tiger Woods at golf), one can become successful by stacking a variety of complementary non-expert skills. Adams demonstrates how talent stacking has been beneficial in his life because he has stacked comic artist skills with his MBA and experience in corporate environments to create successful comic strip that resulted in spin-off books, a television series, a video game, and merchandise. His business skills gave him the tools to create a business satire comic strip and the skill set to manage the business that evolved from the Dilbert strip.

Adams also discusses how he uses his Dilbert Blog to discuss his political philosophies and observations about Trump and his administration. He wrote blog posts about the 2016 election and predicted that Donald Trump would win based on Trump’s talent stack as a media mogul and businessman who had spent significant time in the public eye and so was immune to scandals and thick-skinned enough to handle what the media and other politicians would throw at him. Adams argues that Trump is one of the best branders, influencers, and persuaders he has ever seen, in that he uses persuasive techniques in debates and on social media as a way to get people to do what he wants. Adams contends that Trump’s persuasive techniques will help solve the problem of North Korea because he has already set up China to get involved by intimating that it tried and failed. Adams suggests this will cause China to get involved in order to save face, an important Chinese need.

Adams explains his idea of the story arc of life, which has one starting life intentionally selfish so that by the end of life one will have given away all of his wealth, knowledge, and wisdom, a process he says he has already begun at mid-life. This strategy starts easy and becomes increasingly more difficult. Wealth can be left in the bank, but giving away knowledge requires one to write, and giving away wisdom requires one to write well and be widely read.  Adams also discuss his new book, Win Bigly, about the persuasive strategies of Donald Trump, which we need to understand as November approaches. Adams thinks Trump has the potential to leave a very significant impact on American political life but he does not outline it. I also sense this. This impact ought to be understood because it appears that our democracy is in trouble no matter which political party wins. We cannot fail in our project to understand both Trump and Bidden by November! Ready for some Dilbert advice on why this project may fail?

By SAScherling

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