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Dilbert Creator Scott Adams Recommends 13 Skills Every Adult Should Acquire


Last fall, Dilbert creator Scott Adams published How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. In one chapter—The Math of Success—Adams writes that you “can’t directly control luck, but you can move from a game with low odds of success to a game with better odds.” To that end, he recommends 13 skills worth pursuing. “Luck has a good chance of finding you if you become merely good in most of these areas.”

1. Public Speaking:

Take the Dale Carnegie public speaking course. [One] thing I learned from my Dale Carnegie experience is that we don’t always have an accurate view of our own potential. I think most people who are frightened of public speaking can’t imagine they might feel different as a result of training.

2. Psychology:

If your view of the world is that people use reason for their important decisions, you are setting yourself up for a life of frustration and confusion.

(See also 6 Popular Psychology Books That You Should Be Reading)

3. Business Writing:

One day during my corporate career I signed up for a company-sponsored class in business writing… If I recall, the class was only two afternoons long. And it was life altering. As it turns out, business writing is all about getting to the point and leaving out all of the noise… business writing is also the foundation for humor writing. Unnecessary words and passive writing kill the timing of humor the same way they kill the persuasiveness of your point.

4. Accounting:

You can pay others to do your accounting and cash-flow projections, but that only works if you can check their work in a meaningful way. The smarter play is to learn enough about accounting and spreadsheets that you understand the basics.

5. Design (the basics):

If you’re like me, you were born with no design skills whatsoever. I was amazed to learn, well into my adult years, that design is actually rules based… learn just a few design tricks and people will think you’re smarter without knowing exactly why.

6. Conversation:

Your job as a conversationalist is to keep asking questions and keep looking for something you have in common with the stranger, or something that interests you enough to wade into the topic. In my entire life I have never met a stranger who didn’t have some fascinating life experiences that spilled out if I asked the right questions. Everyone is interesting if you make the situation feel safe.

7. Overcoming shyness:

The single best tip for avoiding shyness involves harnessing the power of acting interested in other people… you should also try to figure out which people are thing people and which ones are people people. Thing people enjoy hearing about new technology and other clever tools and possessions… People people enjoy only conversations that involve humans doing interesting things.

8. Second Language:

If… this… sounds painfully obvious… keep in mind that California schools still teach French for some ridiculous reason, so clearly someone hasn’t gotten the commonsense memo.

9. Golf:

If you’re resisting golf because it doesn’t look fun, you’re likely mistaken.

10. Proper Grammar:

No matter how smart you are, educated people will think you’re a moron if your grammar is lacking.

(See also 7 Indispensible Writing Tips From Orwell to Ogilvy to Strunk & White)

11. Persuasion:

A good starting point in learning the art of persuasion is to go to your preferred online bookstore and search for “persuasion.” You’ll see a number of books on the topic. Keep reading those books until they seem to be repeating the same tricks.

(See also Dan Pink: Rebirth of Salesman–6 Books on the Art and Science of Sales)

12. Technology (hobby level):

Technology is part of the fabric of civilization, and you need to jack into it if you haven’t already. Learn the basics and you’ll be a lot happier.

13. Proper voice technique:

Studies show a commanding voice is highly correlated with success. Other studies suggest that both men and women with attractive voices find partners more quickly than those with less attractive voices. While most of us will never be able to speak like Morgan Freeman no matter how diligently we train our voices, we’re all capable of improving how we speak, and that’s probably worth the effort.

Still Interested? Check out Seth Godin’s Book Recommendations For Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Image via Business Insider

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Books Mentioned in this Post

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of my Life

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of my Life by Scott Adams