Home
A delivery truck brings a little pile of garbage to my house almost every day of the week. I gather up the daily piles of garbage and put them in a large container until it's time for a different service to take it all away.

Yes, I have a garbage delivery service and a garbage pickup service. I'm just the middleman. I would like to say that my role in all of this feels life-affirming. But it doesn't.

The garbage delivery service sometimes goes by the name United States Postal Service. The garbage itself goes by the name junk mail. I don't think there is legal way to stop the garbage deliveries. I think every home in my country is legally required to have some sort of mailbox or mail slot. I would look it up but I use all of my free time prepped the incoming garbage for the outbound leg of its trip.

The other day I had an idea for cutting out the middleman (me). What if I forward all of my incoming mail to my local garbage dump's address? That way the Post Office could deliver my garbage to its final resting place without experiencing the purgatory of my kitchen.

I think this could work.

Sometimes, hidden within the little piles of garbage that come to my house, I will spot a letter that looks important for one reason or another. That's why all of you need to join me by forwarding your mail directly to your local garbage dumps. If we all do it, people will lose hope that their letters are getting through. As a general rule, you can't experience progress until someone else loses hope. So let's speed that along, okay?

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

My new book is How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. It’s my best work.

 
Rank Up Rank Down +103 votes | 36 comments | add a comment
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
After reading the comments to my post titled "How to Build a Country," I am left wondering if the intense backlash to "central planning" represents a valid opinion or if it is more of a psychological condition.

If it is a psychological condition, it is one I've often seen. It is the inability to distinguish between an analogy - which could be a component of a valid opinion - and something that simply reminds you of something else.

For example, if you see a bed sheet blowing in the wind on a clothesline, it might remind you of a ghost, and that would be perfectly normal. But if you think the sheet might later haunt you because of its similarity to a ghost, you probably have a psychological problem.

Likewise, when my idea of planning a city from the furniture up reminds you of Stalin and Chairman Mao, you might be suffering from a condition that just feels like an opinion to you. I want to assure you that there is no danger from Stalin, Mao, or the bed sheet. You are simply reminded of them.

Keep in mind that any newer city in this day and age is centrally planned, from the road layout to the sewer systems to the water supply. And there is always some sort of planning commission approving new construction. If you are lucky enough to live in such a planned community, you'll be happy that you can easily get from one place to another and find parking. If you live in an older city, such as Washington DC or Boston, you know it's a nightmare to get from A to B.

I've lived in three planned communities. There was an apartment complex that was planned from the ground up. There was a housing development the size of a small city. Then there was a townhouse development I lived in for several years while building the house I live in now.

Do you know what was terrible about all of those "centrally planned" communities?

Nothing.

The cost of the homes was probably half of what it would have cost an individual to build from scratch, and they had all the safety and convenience features you would need. I could quibble about closet space, and the availability of guest parking, but that's exactly the sort of thing you can fix with better central planning. If there were no centrally planned government building codes, developers would screw the living daylights out of home buyers who don't even know what questions to ask.

When it comes to building a home or even a modern city, central planning is how it is already done, and it is the only sensible model. The alternative to central planning is unambiguously stupid. No intelligent human believes you get a better result by letting people do whatever they want with their homes, streets, and sewage. If you do believe that, you are once again confusing the bed sheet with a ghost. Political freedom - which we all want - is not an analogy to home building. If you give people the freedom to build whatever homes they want, you don't get something awesome like democracy; you get a shantytown nightmare.

Keep in mind that the planned city I described would have numerous different models of homes, just as current developments do. And no one would be required to move to this city. It would compete with every other open society on earth as a desirable place to live.

My post on building a city from the furniture up is about better central planning. Central planning itself is a given. There is no rational alternative. I'm only suggesting that technology would allow an amazing leap in livability if we plan correctly, and I think a company such as Google would do a better job than a government entity when it comes to planning .

And if you see a bed sheet and that reminds you of a ghost, that isn't an opinion.

 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
Why is everyone in a grumpy mood today?
 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
Suppose you wanted to build an entire country from the ground up. How would you start?

I'd start with the furniture.

When you design a home, you first figure out what furniture arrangements you like, and how the kitchen is laid out. That tells you what shape and size the rooms have to be. Next you imagine what tasks need to be accomplished in the house and you layer on the functionality. For example, you make sure there is storage in the garage, and that the laundry room is near the master bedroom. And you want the sun orientation to be a big part of the planning.

Once you have individual rooms designed, the next step is figuring out how they flow together. And from that you get a good idea what the outside of the house looks like. Once the house is done you can start doing some city planning. You'd want bike paths and dog parks and fun places for neighbors to gather. You might ban cars from the city entirely.

Now let's assume your planned city has free Internet and everyone is connected. And let's further imagine that a big player such as Apple or Google is behind the venture. Everything from your lights to your grocery shopping would be managed by smartphones. Every citizen over the age of 10 would have one.

The biggest potential of this planned city springs from universal Internet access. Once you have every citizen online, you can move all billing, voting, and government services online. And anyone could take any online class from home. There's a lot you can do when you have 100% Internet penetration.

Now that you have the perfect city design you can duplicate it until you form a nation. You might need to put this nation on barges on the ocean, or perhaps you buy some land from a country that has extra. Perhaps you pay taxes to the host country in return for military protection.

You could design your government from scratch. The Internet probably makes some new forms of government feasible, such as a direct democracy, as opposed to a republic, for issues that aren't especially complicated.

Pick any frustration from you current life and you can imagine how a planned country would make it better. Commute too long? Fixed. Cost of living too high? Fixed. Childcare too expensive and inconvenient? Fixed. Don't have time to exercise? Fixed. Too much crime in the neighborhood? Fixed. Drunk drivers? None. Healthcare? Universal and inexpensive because your doctor consultations are via Internet.

At tax time, every adult gets an email that says "This is what you earned and this is what you paid." Done. You never have to see an accountant.

It's hard to imagine a problem that couldn't be fixed or improved by a country that is planned from the furniture up and has universal Internet connectivity.

I could imagine an existing country authorizing these "start-up" cities within their own borders, as test beds. After twenty years, whatever is working in the test cities gets implemented countrywide.

Designing a country from the furniture up would have been impractical twenty years ago. To do this sort of thing right, you need high end CAD software and the ability to visualize everything from the furniture to the street layout in 3D. You need smartphones. And you need a fiber optic Internet connection to every home.

My larger point is that I think the future will include cities planned from the furniture up. And that era will see enormous economic activity. Living the old way, in legacy communities, will feel like camping compared to the cities of the future.

I would be surprised if planned cities are not being discussed somewhere within Google.

My new book is How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. It's my best work.

 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
Strangers on the Internet often accuse me of being egotistical. I will stipulate that I say and do things that give people that impression. No argument there.

I had to look up the word "egotistical" to make sure I knew what it meant. Some of the definitions involve selfishness, and that's probably not what people have in mind with me. Then there's the part about talking too much about oneself, which, as it turns out, is about half of my job description, so that probably isn't the root problem. My best guess is that I fall into the part of the definition of egotistical behavior involving my "unduly high opinion" of myself.

That's where it gets interesting.

Just to put things in context, my new book is called How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. It's a full public confession of my incompetence across a broad range of human endeavors. I've failed at more things than most people have even tried. And that's not even counting my personal life. I'm also short, bald, and near-sighted. My Dilbert fame came well after my self-image had been hardened, so I perceive the minor celebrity part of my life much the way an observer would. I couldn't integrate that stuff with my self-image even if I tried.

But my question of the day is this: Is egotistical even a thing?

If we use the "unduly high opinion" of oneself as the base definition, how does a third party judge what is unduly and what is the right amount? Who among us is sufficiently perfect and wise as to pass judgment on the worthiness of another human?

Answer: No one

So the interesting thing is that you can only be accused of egotistical behavior by someone who has such an unduly high opinion of himself that he thinks he can stand in judgment of your value as a human while simultaneously knowing your private thoughts about your self-worth. You'd need to be enormously egotistical to label someone egotistical. There's no getting around it.

So, if you think I'm egotistical, I accept the invitation to join your club of judgmental egomaniacs. It sounds fun. And if it's not too much to ask, I'd like to be the only one who gets to talk.

 

 
Rank Up Rank Down +107 votes | 43 comments | add a comment
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:

You can see my dog Snickers and me hamming it up for the Cute Overload site. 

Apparently there is nothing I will not do during the first week of promoting my new book.

And if you prefer my blog posts over cute dog pictures, I've been guest blogging over at TIME.com this week. Here's a link to the first bunch

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






 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
Bestselling author Carmine Gallo interviewed me about my new book for Forbes. I can't stand watching myself on video so let me know if I did anything embarrassing. The backdrop is my office. I'm probably sitting in that same chair right now.

The interview is here.
 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
I'll be doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit at 4 PM EST today (10/23/13).

That's 1 PM for my California friends.

You can find it by going to this link when the time comes.

I expect some haters so it should be fun.

Have I mentioned that I have a new book.?



 
Rank Up Rank Down +13 votes | 8 comments | add a comment
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
My new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, is released today in the United States.



I think it's my best work, and I have you blog readers to thank for that. Allow me to explain.

For years people have been asking me why I blog. At one point, blogging was taking about half of my work time while providing only 5% of my income. My wife and my friends asked "What is your goal in blogging?"

I don't do goals. I do systems. (That's a theme of the book.)

In this case, my system involved publicly experimenting with a variety of writing styles and topics and closely monitoring the reactions of readers. I was honing my writing skills and my understanding of the reading public. I didn't have a specific goal. I was aiming for "better."

I reasoned that my system would generate good opportunities for me in ways I couldn't predict with any precision. That's what makes it a system and not a goal. I was simply improving my odds that something good would happen. I just didn't know when it might happen or in what form it would come.

Blogging also charges me up. I like the interaction, the angry villagers with torches and pitchforks, and the possibility of saying something useful. It is one part of my overall system for keeping my personal energy high. It also keeps my mind sharp.

Several years into my system, it seems to be working. My blogging prompted the Wall Street Journal to ask me to write some guest articles for them. Those articles did well, in large part because the topics and the approach had been pretested in rough form here. I knew exactly which topics and writing styles would resonate with readers because of your comments and votes.

A combination of my blogging plus the exposure in the Wall Street Journal attracted a variety of fascinating and attractive business offers. One of those offers turned into the book that launched today.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big is a sort of unified field theory for my observations on what works and what doesn't in the game of life. It's not advice per se, because as you know, taking advice from cartoonists is generally a bad idea. So I call it information, not advice.

Before you embark on anything important in your life, the first thing you will do - if it is available to you - is ask someone who travelled a similar path what they did and how it turned out. You won't follow that same plan, but it gives you a good starting place and a point of comparison. That can be worth a lot.

I'm in the middle of my promotional swing for the book. I just returned from a series of interviews in Los Angeles. The early reactions to this book are quite exciting. Not counting the Dilbert reprint books, I've written eight regular books. Only two of them got the kind of reaction I saw this week, and those were by far my most popular books. (The Dilbert Principle and God's Debris.)

Now I'm going to ask a favor. I wrote How to Fail to be helpful and not just entertaining. And to be helpful, people need to know it exists. If you were planning to buy it anyway, it makes a big difference if you do it soon because that's what pushes it onto the bestseller list and gives it a buzz.

I'm fairly sure you'll like it. After all, you helped write it.

Thank you in advance.

Here's a link.

 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
I don't know anything about Obamacare except that it's so complicated there's no point in an ordinary person trying to understand how it will all turn out. And evidently the people who try to understand Obamacare come to different conclusions about whether it will destroy civilization or simply help some people who need it.

But interestingly, I'll bet there will someday be an objective way to look back and say, "That worked," or "What the $#%@ were we thinking?"

For example, economists will someday calculate that Obamacare cost X number of jobs, or perhaps even created jobs, or it was a drag on GDP of X dollars, or perhaps helped GDP. And we'll know how many people got health care, especially preventive healthcare, that otherwise might not have. I think economists can calculate the economic value of preventive healthcare. In other words, I'm fairly sure that in ten years we can say Obamacare worked, overall, or it was a huge mistake.

So who is up for some side bets on Obamacare?

I'm sympathetic to the opinion that introducing a huge, complicated, government-run program is just asking for trouble. On the other hand, the Adams Rule of Slow-Moving Disasters says everything will work out.

As a reminder, The Adams Rule of Slow-Moving Disasters says that any disaster we see coming with plenty of advance notice gets fixed. We humans have a consistent tendency to underestimate our own resourcefulness. For example, the Year 2000 bug was a dud because we saw it coming and clever people rose to the challenge. In the seventies, we thought the world would run out of oil but instead the United States is heading toward energy independence thanks to new technology.

Obamacare is a classic slow-moving disaster. Absent any future human resourcefulness, it just might be a nightmare. But my money says that clever humans will figure out how to tame the beast before it triggers the collapse of civilization.

If betting were legal, I'd bet $10,000 that in ten years the consensus of economists will be that Obamacare had a lot of problems but that overall it was neutral or helpful to the economy. I base that hypothetical bet on The Adams Rule of Slow-Moving Disasters, not on the scary first-year state of the law. And I reiterate that I know next-to-nothing about the details of Obamacare. I'm just working off of pattern recognition.

The armchair economist in me thinks there is a solution to the problem of some folks thinking Obamacare will be a disaster and other people thinking it will not. Simply create an online market in which the opposers can buy "insurance" from the supporters. In other words, a hardcore Tea Partier could pay $1,000 now to insure against future Obamacare calamity to his own net worth. An Obamacare supporter would accept the $1,000 and put in escrow $10,000 as a payout in the event that Obamacare heads to the worst case scenario. This idea needs work, but the idea is that opposers and supporters could place insurance-like side bets.

Which way would you bet? And keep in mind that you know as little about Obamacare as I do.

 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
 
 
Showing 91-100 of total 1016 entries
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog