Scott Adams: How to Avoid Loserthink- The Knowledge Project, Hosted by Shane Parrish

Check out The Knowledge Project Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Looks for areas in life where you can stack your talents 
    • For example, with Dilbert, Scott combined his business background (his personal experience in the workforce, his MBA, and his degree in economics) with his artistic abilities 
  • Humans are irrational creatures – remember this as you go about life
    • We make decisions for reasons we don’t understand, and then we rationalize the decisions to ourselves after the fact 
  • “Most of what we regard as fact is some kind of sheltered truth” Scott Adams
  • Become aware of your blind spots by exposing yourself to concepts from a variety of different fields (psychology, history, economics, etc.)
    • This way, with whatever you come across in life, you’re able to view it through many different filters
  • How to disagree with someone:
    • Technique #1:
      • First, state what you do agree on
      • Then, slowly introduce the disagreements (by introducing what you agree on first, the other person is primed to think: “Okay, this person agrees with me on a bunch of stuff, so maybe I should take him/her seriously”
    • Technique #2:
      • Put your disagreements in the form of questions, rather than statements
        • For example, you might ask the person you’re disagreeing with: “What would it look like if your idea played out for the next 10 years?”

Intro

Scott’s Career Progression and the Rise of Dilbert

  • We covered this a bit already in these Podcast Notes, give them a read

What Made Dilbert So Successful?

  • During the comic strip’s first few years, it wasn’t getting much traction
  • Scott was still working his day job at the time and had an idea: That he should put his email address in the comic strip, allowing his readers to get in touch with him
    • After all, rule #1 of business is to listen to the customer and give them what they want (but artists rarely do this)
    • The feedback came rolling in, and it was mostly the same: “We like your cartoon a little, but when Dilbert is in the office and with his co-workers, we LOVE that”
      • So, Scott changed things up, catering to the feedback, and boom!
  • Another thing that helped: Scott stacked his skills, combining his business background (his personal experience in the workforce, his MBA, and his degree in economics) with this artistic abilities 

If Scott were to give a quick 2-minute class in “media training,” what would he advise?

  • “The main thing you learn in media training is almost laughable, which is you don’t have to answer the questions” – Scott Adams
    • This doesn’t exactly mean what you think. A better way to say it: If you have something you want to say, say it; as long as it’s interesting, you’re probably okay
  • “You never want to say something in an interview that can be easily misinterpreted, and almost anything can be misinterpreted” – Scott Adams

What are some common misconceptions about Scott?

  • “The normal texture of my life is LOTS of people criticizing me every day… I’m massively criticized every day about 100s of different things, and the thing that they all have in common is they’re based on a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of my opinion.” Scott Adams

How does Scott deal with the criticism he receives about this work?

  • “One does not go into a public life without realizing criticism is part of the job” – Scott Adams
    • You don’t become rich and famous without the other side of the coin (constant audience criticism)
  • So, Scott tries to realize:
    • That he’s the one who choose this career path and criticism is part of the job
    • The more criticism that comes his way, the better he’s able to deal with it
    • Much of it comes down to perspective:
      • “Listening to somebody criticize their own misunderstanding feels different than being criticized for something you did say” – Scott Adams
        • (It’s an essential skill to be able to realize this)

Humans Are Irrational Creatures

  • In his 20s, Scott decided to take a hypnosis class to “add it to his talent stack”
    • You might think he was crazy, but: “If there’s anything to this, if hypnosis is real, meaning it has any function whatsoever, why would you not want to add it to your talents? It could be the king of all talents, the one that makes the other ones unnecessary.” – Scott Adams
    • “One of the things you learn as a hypnotist, and probably one of the most important things I’ve learned in life… I learned that hypnotists see the world backward, but it works better backward.”
      • For example – You probably think humans are rational most (~90%) of the time
        • Hypnotists, on the other hand, know humans are true rationalizers – we make decisions for reasons we don’t understand, and then we rationalize the decisions to ourselves after the fact 
  • “We are a rationalizing irrational species who can be rational 10% of the time”Scott Adams
    • The truth is: we make most of life’s biggest decisions in an irrational manner (where we work, our political stance, our life partners, etc.)
    • “If you try to paint anything useful assuming people are rational… it just doesn’t work”
      • Therefore, go about life assuming people are irrational MOST of the time

A Few Real-Life Examples of Irrational Behavior

  • Example #1:
    • “It’s pretty clear, if you’re watching politics, that it doesn’t matter what happens. People just take sides. You see it so clearly that it’s laughable at this point.” Scott Adams
      • People “fight like wounded weasels” to defend whatever their political side does
  • Example #2:
    • Many smokers refuse to quit, saying something along the lines of, “My grandmother lived to 95; she drank whiskey and smoked a pack of Marlboro’s every day”
      • This is FAR from rational

Nonfiction Authors Are Really Fictions Authors

  • Shane recalls a quote (paraphrased) from Scott’s new book, Loserthink: “A consistently bestselling nonfiction author is really a fiction author”
    • Scott comments: “People who are writing nonfiction believe they’re telling you what’s objectively true in the world, but we don’t have that capability. We all have this illusion that this version of the world we’re seeing is the one, and if anybody has a different version, they must be wrong. It’s the most common illusion we all have.”
      • “Most of what we regard as fact is some kind of sheltered truth”

Scott’s New Book – Loserthink

  • The main idea behind the book: Become aware of your blind spots by exposing yourself to concepts from a variety of different fields (psychology, history, economics, etc.)
    • You DON’T have to become an expert in any of these fields, you just have to be exposed
    • Why? A few reasons:
      • By exposing yourself to a wide array of topics, with whatever you come across in life, you’re able to view it through many different filters
      • People aren’t aware of what they don’t know
        • Because of this, we’re prone to think about many of life’s situations through a narrower lens than optimal 
  • An example of loserthink:
    • You might say, “President X did a great job,” while someone else says, “President X did a horrible job”
      • But, these are both ridiculous opinions because the president hasn’t been compared to another president doing the same job, at the same time, under the same circumstances
      • “These are people who are applying loserthink accidentally because they haven’t been exposed to the proper way of comparing things” – Scott Adams
  • Or, this example:
    • Many people believe UFOs are real and there’s plenty of evidence to support it
      • “But, one of the things someone trained in psychology might inform those people: The most common explanation for something you don’t understand is something you’ve never heard of nor imagined” Scott Adams

How would Scott go about changing the education system?

  • As it stands now, teachers don’t do a good job of helping students think in a multi-disciplinary manner
  • “I think technology is going to change it on its own” – Scott Adams
    • Online schooling is only beginning; Scott believes we’re headed to more of a “Hollywood model”:
      • Eventually, anybody will be able to monetize their class through some kind of platform (the same way anyone can self-publish a book on Amazon)
    • “At some point, watching either a 2D or virtual reality lesson will be so superior to anything you can do in a classroom that the classroom won’t make sense anymore”
    • Also, individuals and entities may start blessing certain sets of topics
      • For example, imagine there being a “Warren Buffet degree” (granted by Warren Buffet if someone completes a particular set of classes)

Occam’s Razor Only Works in Science (But Not on People)

  • This is the belief that the simplest explanation is usually correct (assuming there are more than one ways to explain a specific set of facts)
    • This may work in science, but in the real world things are backward
      • “What we think we’re doing is picking the simplest explanation. What we’re actually doing is defining our own simple explanation as the simple one.” Scott Adams
  • Here’s an example:
    • When asked, “How did the world get here?”:
      • A creationist would say: “God did it”
      • A scientist would say: “Evolution did it”
      • BUT – Both people would have wildly different opinions of what was the simple explanation
  • Related:
    • “The person who has the simplest explanation is almost always the least informed. Part of what makes you think your explanation is right and simple is you don’t know the nuance of the situation.” Scott Adams

After writing Loserthink, how has Scott’s decision-making process changed?

  • There are decision-making techniques common to different fields, and by being familiar with them, you have more tools at your disposal
  • Avoiding loserthink means having a full toolbox:
    • You know how to compare things
    • You know when coincidences mean something and when they don’t
    • You see the difference between the short- and long-term

How to Disagree With Someone

  • NEVER tell someone they’re directly wrong
    • Doing so just makes them defensive and doesn’t result in a productive conversation
  • Technique #1:
    • First, state what you do agree on
    • Then, slowly introduce the disagreements (by introducing what you agree on first, the other person is primed to think: “Okay, this person agrees with me on a bunch of stuff, so maybe I should take him/her seriously”)
  • Technique #2:
    • Put your disagreements in the form of questions, rather than statements
      • For example, you might ask the person you’re disagreeing with: “What would it look like if your idea played out for the next 10 years?”

Never Be Sure

  • In general, Shane tries never to be 100% certain about anything
    • Whatever the topic, identifying as only 90% confident makes it much easier to change your mind
  • Related: Always be asking yourself, “How might the opposite of what I believe possibly be true?”
    • Another variant: “What information would I have to get to change my mind?”‘
  • And remember, there are plenty of times throughout history where scientists were absolutely sure of something that later turned out to be wrong

The Magic Question

  • From Loserthink:
    • “The most effective approach to addressing critics who misinterpret you and then criticize their own misinterpretation as if it came from you is this challenge: State one thing you believe on this topic that you think I do not believe.”
  • Scott adds:
    • “What I’ve noticed is that virtually everyone who seems to be disagreeing with me online is actually disagreeing with a misinterpretation of my opinion” – Scott Adams
      • “When I ask people to tell me one thing that they believe that they think I do not believe, we usually stumble. In the process of answering those questions, they will convince themselves that they didn’t understand my opinion to begin with.”

Additional Notes

  • “People judge something without comparing it to anything except their imagined perfect state. But usually, the alternative is nothing like a perfect situation. It’s another imperfect situation.” Scott Adams
Bookmark

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.