Goals are for Losers and Other Secrets of Success

goals losersEarlier this week I stumbled upon an article in the Wall Street Journal written by Dilbert creator, Scott Adams. The title of this particular article, Scott Adams’ Secret of Success: Failure, sounded a lot like works I’ve read in the past. There are books, blogs, and entire websites devoted to the idea of “failing forward.” Knowing this, and having embraced failure as part of the process, I elected to pass on this piece.

Then, later in the day, a link to this same article appeared in my Twitter feed. Tim Ferriss was sharing it. Since I’ve come to learn that almost everything Ferriss writes or shares have some value, I decided to give it a read. I’m glad I did. There were so many useful takeaways and nuggets of knowledge that I am writing about what Adams wrote about here. The entire article is worth a read, but some things really resonated. So that’s what you’ll encounter in this article, tips for finding success amidst failure. How to go beyond clichés to figure out how and why passion is overblown, luck is underrated, and systems always win.


Beware of advice about successful people and their methods…no two situations are alike.

Stop reading every article about the secrets of successful people. There really aren’t any secrets. You’re not going to encounter anything advice you didn’t already know. And, even if you do, there’s a good chance that it won’t apply to you anyway. Your life, experiences, strengths, and weaknesses are nothing like Mark Cuban’s or Warren Buffett’s. Do you know the one thing that all successful people have in common? They work really, really hard at achieving success. Unless you’re already doing that and until you’re all in, you have absolutely zero chance of being successful, no matter what you’re reading.


Success caused passion more than passion caused success.

Put simply, it’s easy to be passionate, energized, and happy when things are going well. But, what happens when everything blows up? There’s a good chance that all of that passion will fade away, fast. Then all we have is what we’ve learned. Some people take hardship as confirmation that they don’t have what it takes, they quit. Others are strengthened by this negative experience, they become resilient. But, how you respond to failure is not the only takeaway here. Think about why you’re starting in the first place. A business plan can’t be based on passion alone. It will run out. One thing that won’t run out is well thought out system.


A spectacular system beats passion every time.

It’s not what you do or even why that matters. How you do things matters more. As Adams wrote in his piece, he wanted to create a system that allowed him to; “create something that had value…that was easy to reproduce in unlimited quantities.” Trading time for money is a rough road. Becoming an employee makes you a commodity. But, devising a system that allows you to put your skills to work on your own terms is invaluable. In this instance your work is not a job, it’s a system.  This isn’t a goal either, because as the title of this article and Adams suggest; goals are for losers.

A system allows us to recreate out desired outcome. It’s scalable. It’s also manageable. A goal, on the other hand, has us striving for one singular outcome. Once we reach it, we’re done. We celebrate because we’ve arrived. Then we realize that we’re lost without our goal. Or, we fail to achieve our initial goal and quit. Think of it like dieting. Nobody ever succeeds when their goal is to go on a diet. The people who are healthy are the ones who have created a healthy lifestyle. They’re system people, not goal people.


Your job is not your job; your job is to find a better job.

The significance of this point can’t be overstated. Once you stop trying to grow or trade up you stop improving. Whether it’s more money, a better opportunity, or the chance to do meaningful work, you should always be looking for your next job. Otherwise, you’ll fall into your comfort zone, become complacent, and do the same exact job every day for 40 years. There’s no telling when your dream job will present itself, so you always have to be on the lookout.

Better still, don’t look for a job at all; create your next job instead. That’s the advice from author, investor, entrepreneur James Altucher. In his book, Choose Yourself, Altucher encourages everyone to forgo the rat race in favor of making our own way. That means creating your own opportunities, your own job, and your own success. It starts with the realization that no one will pick you, hire you, or choose you. You have to choose yourself. Like Adams, Altucher warns of failure, but reminds us that trying and failing is the only way to get ahead.

What are your thoughts on creating goals, building for the next job, and these other secrets to success?

About Carson Derrow

My name is Carson Derrow I'm an entrepreneur, professional blogger, and marketer from Arkansas. I've been writing for startups and small businesses since 2012. I share the latest business news, tools, resources, and marketing tips to help startups and small businesses to grow their business.

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