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Regular reader Phantom raised an interesting question: How do I know I've ever written or said anything that made a positive difference in anyone's life? Did anyone ever get richer, happier, or healthier because of anything I ever wrote? How would I know?

Over the years people have thanked me on a surprisingly regular basis, usually by email, for inspiring them to one sort of success or another. Usually it's based on something I wrote in a book, newspaper article, or in this blog. Sometimes it's because of a speech I gave somewhere. But I figure everyone in the public eye gets those sorts of thank-you messages. I assume the local TV weatherman gets email every day from viewers thanking him for giving them the courage to carry on no matter the weather. So I discount my personal experience as relevant to answering the question of whether I've ever done anything useful. I'm a biased observer and I can't trust those suspiciously thankful strangers. I need better data.

So I thought I'd put the question to you. Has anything I've ever written had a positive impact on your life beyond the momentary entertainment of consuming it? I'm looking for something bigger than it "put me in a good mood" or "made me think in a different way."

I'm asking if you've ever tried something you wouldn't have otherwise tried, and it worked out well, because of something I said or wrote.

This is clearly not scientific, but if there's no trace of benefit in the group that follows this blog, I wouldn't expect a better result in the general public.

If signing up to comment here is a pain, you can email me at dilbertcartoonist@gmail.com. I'm the only person who sees that account.

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An entertaining preview of my new book's content in a slideshow is here.

 



 

 
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+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 22, 2014
Yes, your comic strip was the inspiration for naming the family pet, although in retrospect naming my dog 'Scott Adams' may have been a mistake.

Actually I read your blog because you have a lot of crazy ideas that make me question the 'conventional wisdom' and think about them in ways I never would have before. I don't always agree with your ideas but I like the different perspective.
 
 
Jan 22, 2014
Your blog is one of the few sources of weird ideas around and this is pretty valuable to me.

The way I see it, common sense is nothing but a collection of wrong/broken/failed ideas that people believe in because everyone thinks the same way.

Your craziness helps my brain to also produce "out of the box" ideas, which have helped me a lot multiple times in the past. Thanks.
 
 
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 22, 2014
Re: "Right on point. And still bor...ing."

Oops. Commented on the wrong entry. That was meant for the last one. Sorry.

My comment for this one is:

You do not, it seems, inspire me so much as you verify my opinions and beliefs.
 
 
-6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 22, 2014

Right on point. And still bor...ing.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 22, 2014
Absolutely. As I posted here, I outlined "How To Fail..." and got a lot out of it. Specifically, the concept of assembling a system rather than pursuing goals helped organize a daily routine I'd been struggling with.

As far as trying something, the section of the book which urges the reader to learn new skills pushed me to work on the psychology of persuasion. I've read Cialdini's book, but I liked your thought linking improved business writing with improving one's ability to persuade. So I worked on that also.
 
 
Jan 22, 2014
Absolutely. In the Dilbert Future you wrote some really psychedelic stuff about imagining yourself to success (terrible paraphrase). Anyway, the basic message was to focus on the destination and let the details shake out. I've done this exactly once and it easily resulted in my life's greatest success, which sounds trite, but I found my perfect life-partner: smart, tall, educated, teaches yoga (yes, smoking hot), and also empathetic and intelligent about it.

The details were kind of insane: I switched majors to be surrounded by individuals who roughly fit the bill, then excelled in the (somewhat useless) discipline, and, bam! I wound up with the tallest, cutest, and smartest one in the whole department.

What's weird is that I knew when we started dating that this would be my greatest success ever. I was 23. Your description of your experience hitting #1 on the Bestseller list helped me cope with the idea that I would never make any decision or accomplish any task that would bring me as much real happiness as this one. It's still weird to me.

Whenever you write about marriage and binary couples not really working, I smile to myself. Sure, you're probably right, something about statistics and averages and most people. But, I found myself out beyond the second standard deviation for relationship fulfilment thanks to you.
 
 
Jan 22, 2014
Back in the days of the DNRC newsletter, long before this blog, you posted a story about how an editor wrote you a letter of encouragement. That letter led you to work harder at what would become Dilbert. You urged us all to, and I paraphrase loosely here, "Find someone whose happiness you have no stake in, and do something uplifting for them." It requires making a thoughtful action for a specific individual, with no hope of payback.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 22, 2014
For me it's more small things in your cartoons, mostly knowing that engineers around the world essentially have the same sort of problems.

And your cartoons trained up the cynic in my head something great. By now I can hear just about any persuasive argument and figure out what Dilbert or Wally would say. So, now I almost reflexively view any argument from at least two sides. This is a great help in preventing me from being "led" by a good talker.

And, of course, since http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2010-05-22/ I'm hopelessly in love with Alice.

Oh, and your "system vs goal" has already shown up once before: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2000-05-09/
 
 
Jan 22, 2014
I would echo what many others have stated here about how the "entertainment" you provide is NOT insignificant in our lives. I've read your blog and cartoons daily for many years. I'm always on the search for intellectual stimulation. I always come here first everyday for that stimulation because for me, learning without being entertained is boring. There are not many people that can teach, instruct and stimulate the mind and make it entertaining at the same time. My 16 hellish years of classroom instruction were living proof of that.
I live a very isolated rural existence these days so to find this level of stimulation is truly a treasure for someone like myself. So, most sincerely I thank you very much for improving the quality of my life on a daily basis.
 
 
Jan 22, 2014
[The fact that so many readers agree with your blogs has, however, made me realize how much out of touch I am apparently with modern popular thinking.]

Really. Ive noticed that too with regard to some of my own thinking, but my take on that isnt so much that Scotts thinking is more modern than mine but that folks who think like Scott tend to congregate here.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 22, 2014
This is my honest opinion, let readers swamp me with negative ratings as they will. Scott, through your cartoons I have realized the amazing extent all businesses are similar in the odd and self-destructive things they do. I bought many of your collections through the years, and I view your site every day. Your cartoons are what interest me. We all have limited time in the sun, and I choose to spend some of it with you. You make me laugh and it helps carry me through swamps of nonsense in my working life. There are only a few other cartoonists and editorial artists about whom I feel the same.

Your blogs don’t usually interest me in the ideas themselves, as I see them expressed better elsewhere, currently as well as in the past. You have an agile mind, much more than mine, but I think you need more time to express your views properly to last and be read years from now. This is not meant as an insult. It must be hard to work them up for semi-weekly posts, and it is certainly beyond my capability. Libraries are full of books, long forgotten, written by really intelligent people all through the years. I have and never will write a single one of them.

The fact that so many readers agree with your blogs has, however, made me realize how much out of touch I am apparently with modern popular thinking. This is really helpful, as more and more I deal with younger people and do not expect them to listen to my opinions, from work habits to political views. I try not to criticize the present, anymore. When I do, I hear memory echoes from all the crabby old people in my past, puzzled and resentful as their world fades. Instead I take interest in the future and really think we are on the cusp of great things, good and bad. I hope they are good, and my genes are in there contributing.

The greatest thing someone can give another is that ultimate nonrenewable resource, time. And I thank you for a brief bit of yours in reading this comment.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 22, 2014
Yes. You wrote a blog post years ago on hypnosis that made me start paying close attention to people as they make decisions. If you're watching carefully, you can almost see the trigger that starts a rationalization.

It has made me more devious and crafty. You may want to exclude me from your tally.
 
 
Jan 22, 2014
No.
 
 
Jan 22, 2014
I'm honored, Scott.

I had to think about your question for a few minutes. At first I thought, 'nah.' Nothing came to mind.

But then it hit me: reading your blog posts and responding to them has made me a better writer. So the answer to your question is an unconditional 'yes.'

You set the bar high. Your writing is clear, organized, and often laced with wry humor. Your command of the language is exceptional, and your imagination and creativity are without peer. You also have the ability to make it seem like you're writing to us the way you'd talk to a friend or acquaintance. It seems very personal, and that's refreshing. It's not the sermon on the mount; it's banter between some folks sitting in your living room.

When I respond to your posts, I'm not just positing my ideas. I'm trying to do so in a way that is as clear and cogent as your blog entries. While I always fall short, the effort you make me put in, and the examples you provide, have definitely improved my writing. Not to the point where anyone will publish me, but even so. . .

I guess you could say you've given me a system (gasp!) for improving my writing ability. Oh, my God, he's right! It's working!!! ARGGGHHHH!!!!

Now, if I could just kill that passion for writing, lol. . .

Truthfully, some of your most memorable posts (to me) are some of the best examples of first-person writing I have ever seen. My novel is written largely in first person; I doubt if I could have been as effective had I not had your examples, and been able to practice, via my responses, to hone my understanding of the craft.

Which posts stand out? For one, your movie reviews. I couldn't stop laughing. Also, your Scott for President manifestos. While they could have been subtitled, "Why I'll never win an election," they were creative, funny and polished. My response to one of those presidential posts, IMHO, was a breakthrough for me. I wouldn't have been able to do that without your unknowing help.

I sometimes wish I could watch you write, just to see just how you do it. Do your blog posts come out fully formed in a stream-of-consciousness transition from brain to page? Or do you write, rewrite, reorganize and rewrite again?

An Adams book that I would buy the second it's available? One on creative writing. That's a subject on which you'd have immediate credibility.
 
 
Jan 22, 2014
When you first started blogging about systems and processes, I assumed it was total crap. Goals tell you when you're done something. The error, of course, is assuming you can ever be "done" something. E.g. "I want to lose 10lbs" - you can't lose it and say "done" because then it comes back and we have failure.

I joined a gym, went every day for 3 months and didn't lose a pound. So I started counting calories and quickly found myself starving at all hours of the day. Educated as a researcher, I looked into all aspects of nutrition and found out all about nutrient density, glycemic index, macro-nutrient ratios and whatnot. But nobody goes from pizza and wings 3 nights a week to asparagus and chicken overnight. My system was to substitute worse items for better ones, slowly. I started adding spinach, baking instead of frying, using low-calorie versions. When I was still hungry, I'd have to wait an hour before getting more food. I'd reward myself weekly with a cheat day so I could hold off temptation.

Result: I didn't notice the first 40 lbs come off because I was always full. And my body started hating cheat days because it felt awful. Yet I never felt deprived. I ate within my limits and found that 2000 calories of chicken, spinach, rice etc went farther than pepperoni and sausage.

The system works because its progressive. It focuses on small choices each time. It doesn't rely on deprivation and willpower. It conditioned my body to prefer better choices.

So yes, Scott, your writing definitely helped me realign my life. I'll check in after I cross the 100lb lost mark.
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 22, 2014
A while back you suggested that when someone asks, "how are you" you should respond "Excellent!" even if it isn't true, because it will help make you feel like it is true. I've been trying that and it kind of works!
 
 
Jan 22, 2014
1. You used to post a lot on productivity habits like positive self reinforcement, maximizing, energy, etc. Many of those techniques have been directly applied to my life and promoted my own success. And moreover changed my personal philosophy on success. I can say that your writing has had a tangible benefit on my profession, hobbies, and even dating life.

2. I work professionally in film and video. I have studied your writing technique and it has greatly influenced my developed method of joke-telling.

3. I think it was you who first suggested having 2 dishwashers in your kitchen. Genius.
 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 22, 2014
You advised that I should not take financial advice from a cartoonist. I followed that advice and did not invest in the stocks you promoted avoiding a financial loss. So I did not get richer per se, but I did not get poorer thanks to your advice.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 22, 2014
I read a ton. I've read every Dilbert cartoon ever published. I consume dozens of RSS feeds, and this one is my highest priority. And it's not for the comedy value. There's no way to quantify it, but if there was a way to measure (intelligence gained/minutes of reading) your writing would rank near the top for me. I've had your newest book in my reading queue since you announced it; I expect to begin it next month.

You really opened my mind about various human irrationalities, helped me realize how our brains trick us all the time. (I wish you would write more about hypnosis. What do you recommend for learning about it?)

And I don't think I agree with you more than an average person. I'm pretty !$%*!$%* libertarian, so I've called you a statist many times. But we can still be friends.

My life is much better for having read the work of Scott Adams.
 
 
Jan 22, 2014
People arent very good at compromise. Exhibit A: the federal government shutdown three months back. Exhibit B: how we went, within my lifetime, from unreasoning bigotry towards homosexuals to condemning priests for refusing to bless homosexual conduct by marrying them. Exhibit C: Scott Adams, who, within a week, went from beleiving his book to be the most important book in history to questioning his worth.

As Kingfisher pointed out entertaining millions of people is not worthless. Neither is making people think in a different way. To answer your question, no, you havent made a difference in my life beyond entertainment and thought-provoking, but so what? Does anyone else reading this believe they have made a contribution comparable to that?

As for your book, even if its not as awesome as you thought does that make it worthless?
 
 
 
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