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.


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



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Jan 22, 2014
Your explanation of humor has helped me recognize when something is or isn't funny before I say or write it. If I don't quite have two of the six elements (clever, recognizable, bizarre, cute, naughty, and cruel) I try to re-work it so that it does. It was one of those things where I was skeptical at first, not quite able to believe that something so seemingly complex could actually be that simple, and then realizing that it was and seeing the world differently from that point on. It was kind of amazing actually. I'm still not super funny or anything, but at least it's rarer for a joke to fall flat when I actually try to make one, and that's kind of a big deal sometimes.
Jan 22, 2014
I've used some of your blogs on how you make your cartoon to help me draw better. Which has helped me write online and mobile games. I've also taken both inspiration and technique from some of your blogs on writing, and with the periodicity of it, writing spurts have led to the completion of a couple books. I forget the details, exactly, but you also had a blog about some politics and weighing public opinion on public policy... I set out to create that website but lost interest in it along the way -- but ended up recoding that into an agnostic "template" website/web application with user registration, navigation, security, content editing, content ranking, search, reporting, administration, and other tools that I've since used as a "quick start" for building new web sites -- probably a dozen or more at this point.

I'm about half-way through your book, and it has jazzed me up for some writing and animation projects I've been mulling over. I spent a couple hours this week working on them.
Jan 22, 2014
[Has anything I've ever written had a positive impact on your life beyond the momentary entertainment of consuming it?]

I don't think you should dismiss your value as an entertainer. Even if your contribution to humanity is individually insignificant, that contribution is multiplied by many times daily. If you slightly improved the mood of a million people with your comic today, that is a million people slightly more likely to do something good today. In the aggregate that is not an insignificant contribution.

If you make someone smile today, that is good. If you make a million people smile, that is awesome. I appreciate that you want to accomplish something visible and grand - we all do - but don't forget that not all great things are obvious, or measurable.
Jan 22, 2014
Fishing for compliments eh? Ill oblige. You contributed, along with many other writers, to my rejection of God. Did that make my life better? Meh, I don't know. Maybe I would have been happier in a fantasy world, maybe this on net made my life worse!

Generally people think someone is brilliant if there ideas match their own. People think that their own metal life is unique and that only they think the way they do. He wrote exactly what I was thinking, he's a genius! When someone you have never met matches your thoughts exactly, but better, it can seem like a very important moment. That insight was probably there all along and you would have realized it eventually. It can speed things up though. I'll say you made me an atheist about a month sooner than I other wise would have been.

[So I helped free up your Sunday mornings a month earlier than it might have happened on its own. That's not nothing. -- Scott]

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Jan 22, 2014
Sure! I followed your one-page financial advice from the Weasel book 10 years ago and am now debt-free and in much better overall financial shape - thanks! And your WSJ article "A Year Without Fear" motivated me to rethink my own cautious approach to life and take more risks. I even went white water rafting and other than getting very, very, wet it was great!
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