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Dilbert’s Creator is Proof That Failure Can Lead to Success

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Ask anyone who has ever worked in an office what they think of Dilbert and chances are they will tell you just how perfectly those comics capture the inanity of everyday office life and politics.

Needless to say Dilbert is a big success for creator Scott Adams, who started his corporate career as a bank teller in San Francisco --thousands of miles away from his hometown in upstate New York. Adams worked his way up, became a manager, got an MBA, then moved on to Pacific Bell where he met the personalities who would inspire his famous comic strip. Along the way Adams tried inventions, restaurants and investments, and all failed.

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Now those failures are the inspiration for his latest book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.

"If you have a choice, success is still better," says Adams. "But if you choose correctly you can choose things which even if they fail allow you to learn something."

It's worked for him. The Dilbert strip currently runs in 2000 newspapers in 65 countries and is the mostly widely read syndicated comic on the internet. In addition, Adams has sold 10 million books—Dilbert books and others. He's presumably worth millions but doesn't divulge those details.

In the video above, Adams imparts some lessons he's learned along the way which may even help you. For example:

Lesson #1: Passion is overrated

"The guy who opened the dry cleaning shop and then built 50 of them and sold it for a billion dollars...probably didn't have a passion for cleaning clothes. He probably just had a good idea."

Lesson #2: Goals are for losers

"If you have a goal without a system, then you don't really have much...A goal would be to lose 10 pounds but people lose 10 pounds maybe don't keep it off. A better system would be to learn as much as you can about what food choices are better for you...People who know the most about nutrition almost always eat better."

Related: Nice Guys Finish First: Counterintuitive Career Advice from Wharton's Top-Rated Prof

Lesson #3: Stay fit. It reduces stress, boosts energy

"You're competing against people who are putting in 100%. If your 100% is a little more energetic--[say] you work an extra hour--all those little advantages are going to make a big difference...Also people who are fit just get treated better in society."

Lesson #4: Stay in the game so luck can find you

"I grew up in a real small town in upstate New York. The very first thing I did after graduating college is I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area because I knew the odds there were just going to be better. Second thing I did was...[say] to myself 'I'm going to try a number of things which are high risk but possibly high reward. Try as many of them as I can until one of them gets lucky.' Sooner or later luck is going to find you. You just have to stay in the game."

Related: Mrs. Moneypenny's Career Advice for Ambitious Women

Lesson#5: Don't take career advice from a cartoonist. (or health advice or finance advice for that matter)

Adams didn't say you should ignore lessons 1-4 because he wouldn't call them advice--a word he says he "tries to stay away from." But he did say, "If you're going to do anything important in your life, the first place you always start--if you have the option--ask somebody who already did what you're planning to do 'What did you do? How did it turn out?' If you see enough of these examples, they're quite instructive."

Let us know if you found Adams' lessons instructive for you in the comments section below.

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