Scott Adams

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Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

Scott Adams (born 8 June 1957) is an American cartoonist and satirist, best known for his Dilbert series of comic strips and books.



The Dilbert Principle (1996)[edit]

The most important skill for any leader is the ability to take credit for things that happen on their own.
  • These days it seems like any idiot with a laptop computer can churn out a business book and make a few bucks. That's certainly what I'm hoping. It would be a real letdown if the trend changed before this masterpiece goes to print.
  • Ninety percent of all new business ventures fail. Apparently, ten percent of the time you get lucky, and that's enough to support a modern economy. I'm betting that's what separates us from the animals; animals are lucky only nine percent of the time. I suspect this is true because I play strip poker with my cats and they rarely win. In fact, it's gotten to the point where they run like cowards at the sound of my electric shaver.
  • It's useless to expect rational behavior from the people you work with, or anybody else for that matter. If you can come to peace with the fact that you're surrounded by idiots, you'll realize that resistance is futile, your tension will dissipate, and you can sit back and have a good laugh at the expense of others.
  • You're only as important as your furniture. And that's at peak levels of dignity. [...] If you think about it, you can get fired but your furniture stays behind, gainfully employed at the company that didn't need you anymore.
  • A Mission Statement is defined as "a long awkward sentence that demonstrates management's inability to think clearly." All good companies have one. Companies that don't have Mission Statements will often be under the mistaken impression that the objective of the company is to bicker among departments, produce low-quality products, and slowly go out of business.
  • Contrary to popular belief, it's often your clothing that gets promoted. [...] Always dress better than your peers so your clothes will be the ones selected for promotion. And make sure you're in your clothes when it happens. One man made the mistake of bringing his dry cleaning to work and ended up as a direct report to his own sports jacket.
  • Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of phenomenally unlikely payoffs. This is the principle behind lotteries, dating, and religion.
  • The office is designed for "work," not productivity. Work can be defined as "anything you'd rather not be doing." Productivity is a different matter. Telecommuting substitutes two hours of productivity for ten hours of work.
  • If not for the compulsion of engineers, mankind would have never seen the wheel, settling instead for the trapezoid because some Neanderthal in Marketing convinced everybody it had great braking power. And there would be no fire, because some middle-manager cave person would point out that if fire was such a good idea the other cave people would already be using it.
  • The goal of change management is to dupe slow-witted employees into thinking change is good for them by appealing to their sense of adventure and love of challenge. This is like convincing a trout to leap out of a stream to experience the adventure of getting deboned.
  • The most important skill for any leader is the ability to take credit for things that happen on their own.
  • I have a saying: "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."

Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook (1996)[edit]

Hopelessness isn't the same as happiness, but it's enough to make the employees stop complaining, and that's a good start.
  • As a manager you could do a lot of thinking, experimenting, and continuous training. Or you can just do what everyone else does and blindly follow my directions like an unthinking zombie. Blind obedience is easier than the alternatives and the pay's the same. In fact, the pay is better, if you look at it from an hourly perspective.
  • Always "lead by example." Let's say you're trying to reduce costs in the company. You can set an example by ordering your chauffeur to get his hair cut at Super Cuts. This is the kind of personal sacrifice that inspires the employees. Soon you'll be able to squeeze their health benefits like a tourniquet on a seedless grape.
  • When we are born, all humans are clueless, self-absorbed, and helpless. Most babies will grow out of it. Those who don't become managers.
  • When you have an exceptionally nasty project, present it to your employee as a "challenge." That seemingly minor change in syntax will cause the employee to feel like an Olympic athlete instead of the boot-stomped carpet mite that he is.
  • Rumors are an excellent way to keep your employees nervous and edgy, which is similar to being alert. Actually, it's better. When they're alert they realize what you're doing to them and they resist. But when they're edgy they work like crazed bumblebees and die of stress before they become cynical. In other words, everyone wins.
  • The most efficient way to implement an empowerment program is to have meetings where you punish people for the decisions they made while at the same time encouraging people in the group to think for themselves. Eventually, the employees become numb, thus developing a healthy tolerance to the hopelessness of their situation. Hopelessness isn't the same as happiness, but it's enough to make the employees stop complaining, and that's a good start.

The Dilbert Future (1997)[edit]

What are the odds that you live in exactly the window of human existence when all of the major optical illusions have been discovered?
  • People don't change their basic nature, they just accumulate more stuff upon which they can apply their stupidity, selfishness, and horniness. From this perspective, the future isn't hard to predict.
  • Technology magnifies the ability of one person to have a big impact on other people. If that doesn't scare you, then the next time you see professional wrestling on television, look at the crowd shots and ask yourself if you'd like those people to have a bigger impact on your life.
  • Of all the things that influence elections, it appears that information is the least significant. Elections are won by the candidate whose staff members are the most skilled at manipulating the voters. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because you have to be quite smart to figure out the best way to manipulate millions of Induhviduals into marching in the same direction.
  • A growing number of workers -- those who are more clever than industrious -- have already discovered the unbridled joy of sitting at home and getting paid for sleeping, eating, masturbating, and watching television. This technique -- sometimes called telecommuting -- has all the financial advantages of being employed with none of the stigma of being a filthy, perverted hobo.
  • Companies form confusopolies to make it impossible for the average Induhvidual to determine who has the lowest price. This way each major company gets a share of the pie, the size of which depends on how skillfully they can dupe customers with advertisements. That will be the primary job of marketing professionals in the future-- disguising the true cost of your product in order to be a successful confusopolist.
  • The first thing that young people need to realize is that the concepts of "career" and "job security" are a bit dated. In the future, most people's jobs will involve scrambling around like frightened chipmunks trying to find the next paycheck in an endless string of unrelated short-term jobs. But since "Frightened Chipmunk" doesn't look very impressive on a business card, people will call themselves entrepreneurs, consultants, and independent contractors.
  • Rich guys used to be able to manipulate the stock market and make huge profits at the expense of smaller investors. It was big news when the small investors discovered they'd been screwed. Now there are many safeguards against the small investor ever finding out how much he's getting screwed.
  • I predict that news outlets will try to compensate for the loss of relevant news by focusing on stories that are more shocking and depressing than ever. At least that way they'll get your attention and sell advertising even if the stories aren't "news" in the traditional sense.
  • What if there are other optical illusions about our existence that are just as major as the illusion of the Sun revolving around the Earth? [...] What are the odds that you live in exactly the window of human existence when all of the major optical illusions have been discovered? Wouldn't that be an amazing coincidence, since every previous generation of humans has believed they were born in that window of time?

The Joy of Work (1998)[edit]

Never laugh when you're being sarcastic. It will ruin the effect.
  • Thinking is easier than working. And the best kind of thinking is the kind where you don't have to write anything down, i.e., "meeting thinking." When you think up an idea during a meeting, all you have to do is blurt it out. You won't have to involve any parts of your body except your mouth and maybe your brain stem.
  • Never laugh when you're being sarcastic. It will ruin the effect. If you feel the uncontrollable need to giggle, wait until your boss says something hilarious, such as, "Is this only Wednesday? It feels like Friday already!" Then you can throw back your head, open your mouth like you're about to swallow a live porpoise, and laugh like a naked teenager in a field full of pussy willows. Sincerity like that will make your sarcasm all the more convincing.
  • Unless you work alone, one of the biggest assaults on your happiness is something called a meeting. A meeting is essentially a group of people staring at visual aids until the electrochemical activity in their brains ceases, at which point decisions are made. It's like being in suspended animation, except that people in suspended animation aren't in severe physical discomfort and praying for death.
  • Trying to win an argument with an irrational person is like trying to teach a cat to snorkel by providing written instructions. No matter how clear your instructions, it won't work. Your best strategy is to reduce the time you spend in that sort of situation.
  • Creativity doesn't require much time. But creativity always needs your energy. You can't create if you're pooped or your brain is full of junk. A person who manages creativity makes sure his schedule has lots of free spaces, no matter how many priorities are looming.
  • For humor to work, it must be original. It's easy to create original humor -- or anything else original -- if you follow my formula. [...] Identify someone who has more creative talent than you do, then try to imitate that person exactly. If you're like me, you can depend on your lack of talent to make your imitation look nothing like the source. Over time, you'll drift even further from the source of your theft, thus becoming "original."
  • The hardest part of writing humor is finding a topic that hasn't already been used more times than the only back scratcher at the Institute of Very Itchy People. Ideally, you want a situation that makes you smile even before the humor has been added. If you start with a fresh and inherently funny situation, you're halfway home. [...] If a topic makes you gag, or clench your buns, or laugh, or sigh, or retch -- or react physically in any way -- you have a winner.
  • Some humor experts say the secret to humor is to combine something unexpected with something bad and then make sure it's happening to someone else. But if that's all it took, serial killers would be winning comedy competitions. The evening news is full of unexpected bad things that happen to other people. Most of it isn't funny, unless it involves exploding whales, ear biting, or pies thrown at billionaires.
  • If you're going to create, create a lot. Creativity is not like playing the slot machines, where failure to win means you go home broke. With creativity, if you don't win, you're usually no worse off than if you hadn't played.

God's Debris (2001)[edit]

An omnipotent being has no need to rank things.
  • Four billion people say they believe in God, but few genuinely believe. If people believed in God, they would live every minute of their lives in support of that belief. Rich people would give their wealth to the needy. Everyone would be frantic to determine which religion was the true one. No one could be comfortable in the thought that they might have picked the wrong religion and blundered into eternal damnation, or bad reincarnation, or some other unthinkable consequence. People would dedicate their lives to converting others to their religions.
    • The Avatar
  • It is absurd to define God as omnipotent and then burden him with our own myopic view of the significance of human beings. [...] The concept of 'importance' is a human one born out of our need to make choices for survival. An omnipotent being has no need to rank things. To God, nothing in the universe would be more interesting, more worthy, more useful, more threatening, or more important than anything else.
    • The Avatar
  • We like to believe that other people have the same level of urges as we do, despite all evidence to the contrary. We convince ourselves that people differ only in their degree of morality or willpower, or a combination of the two. But urges are real, and they differ wildly for every individual. Morality and willpower are illusions. For any human being, the highest urge always wins and willpower never enters into it.
    • The Avatar
  • People think they follow advice but they don't. Humans are only capable of receiving information. They create their own advice. If you seek to influence someone, don't waste time giving advice. You can change only what people know, not what they do.
    • The Avatar
  • Conversation is more than the sum of the words. It is also a way of signaling the importance of another person by showing your willingness to give that person your rarest resource: time. It is a way of conveying respect. Conversation reminds us that we are part of a greater whole, connected in some way that transcends duty or bloodline or commerce. Conversation can be many things, but it can never be useless.
    • The Avatar
  • Express gratitude. Give more than is expected. Speak optimistically. Touch people. Remember names. Don't confuse flexibility with weakness. Don't judge people by their mistakes; rather, judge them by how they respond to their mistakes. Remember that your physical appearance is for the benefit of others. Attend to your own basic needs first; otherwise you will not be useful to anyone else.

Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel (2002)[edit]

The fastest way to spot a weasel is to look at a shiny surface.
  • People who have children have the best work-avoidance excuses in the world. If you don't have kids, get some immediately. The playgrounds are full of them.
  • There's a special word for bosses who care about their employees: unemployed. The whole point of being a boss is to get employees to do more work than they want to do and to accept less pay than they deserve. If a boss starts caring about employees, it screws up the whole oppressor-victim dynamic of capitalism.
  • The only people who serve on juries are people who have nothing better to do. Many of those people have jobs, which means jury duty is more pleasant than their jobs! [...] If my job was less pleasant than jury duty, I'd want to convict innocent people just to see their eyes bulge when they hear the verdict.
  • It's illegal to kill yourself in a quick and painless way, but if you do it slowly over a few decades -- say by not exercising -- that's called laziness, not suicide, and it's completely legal. You might even get credit for being jolly or get a job as a TV chef on a cable network.
  • The only person who wants real fairness is whoever has the worst life on earth, because he has nothing of his own to share in return. I don't know who that person is, but I have a mental image of a naked guy with no arms and legs, living in a rented poison ivy patch and being forced to read this book.
  • The fastest way to spot a weasel is to look at a shiny surface. The second-fastest way is to look for people who are certain about the future. When a person conveys a sense of certainty during times of great uncertainty, that is either a sign of mental illness called "leadership" or a sign of a weasel who is trying to get his way.

The Religion War (2004)[edit]

Beliefs are our software. When the software works properly, our beliefs help us survive. Sometimes there are glitches in the software, in the form of delusions that are harmful.
  • Humanity is like a huge organic computer. The hardware is functioning fine — reproducing more humans, creating food, learning — but the software is broken. Beliefs are our software. When the software works properly, our beliefs help us survive. Sometimes there are glitches in the software, in the form of delusions that are harmful. My job is to remove the glitches.
    • The Avatar
  • Extermination had begun. A thick rain of missiles streaked through the sky and landed on hospitals, schools, bridges, homes, mosques, businesses, and military targets. The missile crews and jet pilots didn't know what they were blowing up or why. [...] No one questioned why entire blocks — eventually entire cities — were being annihilated. Everyone did his job as if it were nothing more than delivering packages.
  • The public didn't know who said it first, but it was the most powerful question in human history. In nine words it overturned centuries of tortured logic and magical thinking. It pushed superstition into a cage and gave common sense room to maneuver. [...] The question was translated into thousands of languages, published billions of times. In English it was "If God is so smart, why do you fart?"


  • If there is one thing that our role models in this election have taught us, it's that omitting important information is completely different from lying.
  • The biggest issue in this election is something called flip-flopping, and all candidates are accused of doing it. A strong leader is expected to maintain steadfast resolve in his opinion even if the environment changes or he gets new information. In any other context, that would be considered the first sign of a brain tumor. When presidents do it, it's called leadership, and frankly, we can't get enough of it.
  • As you know, the best way to solve a problem is to identify the core belief that causes the problem; then mock that belief until the people who hold it insist that you heard them wrong.


  • Ask a deeply religious Christian if he’d rather live next to a bearded Muslim that may or may not be plotting a terror attack, or an atheist that may or may not show him how to set up a wireless network in his house. On the scale of prejudice, atheists don’t seem so bad lately.
  • There’s nothing more humbling than seeing your best quotes in a list, and thinking they could have been written by a coma patient with a keyboard and spasms.
  • If an economist uses a complicated model to predict just about anything, you can ignore it. By analogy, a doctor can’t tell you the exact date of your death in 50 years. But if a doctor tells you to eat less and exercise more, that’s good advice even if you later get hit by a bus. Along those same lines, economists can give useful general advice on the economy, even if you know there will be surprises. Still, be skeptical.
    • Press release, 10 September 2008 [1]
  • My philosophy is that every phone conversation has a loser.
    • "Phone". Scott Adams Blog (2010-09-03). Retrieved on 2011-09-30.


If our mushrooms make you hallucinate, please inform us immediately so we can overcharge you.
  • You might think the word “homemade” is just a word we use as a marketing ploy. But what you don’t realize is that the staff sleeps here at night. If your tablecloth is wrinkled, that’s why.
  • If you think it’s easy to write jokes about fried calamari, you’ve probably never tried.
  • Named after the great romaine emperor, Julius Salad.
  • This sandwich used to include endive, but no one wanted to eat a BELT.
  • Our salmon sandwiches are so good you’ll want to swim upstream to our kitchen and spawn. But please don’t.
  • If our mushrooms make you hallucinate, please inform us immediately so we can overcharge you.
  • This dish might not turn you into a syndicated cartoonist, but whatever you’re doing now probably isn’t working either.
  • If you don’t believe your salmon is wild, ask it to fetch your newspaper and see what happens.
  • Biblical scholars tell us that this is the same meal that Jesus ate at the last supper. But hey, I’m sure you have a good reason for ordering something else.
  • Our scallops are so delicious your mouth will thank you, which is creepy because your mouth can actually talk.


  • The basic concept of the Dilbert Principle is that the most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management. This has not proved to be the winning strategy that you might think.
  • The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It's just easier this way for everyone. You don't argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn't eat candy for dinner. You don't punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don't argue when a women tells you she's only making 80 cents to your dollar. It's the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles.
  • The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable. In other words, men are born as round pegs in a society full of square holes. Whose fault is that? Do you blame the baby who didn't ask to be born male? Or do you blame the society that brought him into the world, all round-pegged and turgid, and said, "Here's your square hole"?
    The way society is organized at the moment, we have no choice but to blame men for bad behavior. If we allowed men to act like unrestrained horny animals, all hell would break loose. All I'm saying is that society has evolved to keep males in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges, more commonly known as unhappiness.
  • Years later, when "Dilbert" was in thousands of newspapers, people often asked me if I ever imagined being so lucky. I usually said no, because that's the answer people expected. The truth is that I imagined every bit of good fortune that has come my way. But in my imagination I also invented a belt that would allow me to fly and had special permission from Congress to urinate like a bird wherever I wanted. I wake up every morning disappointed that I have to wear pants and walk. Imagination has a way of breeding disappointment.
  • But history has turned on a few people—like the Founding Fathers and Jesus Christ come to mind—who used the same tricks: They describe to people a better vision of themselves. And Trump fits into that [model] in the most direct way you could possibly do. He’s saying, "You're an American, I'm going to make you feel great".
  • If Biden is elected, there's a good chance you will be dead within the year. Republicans will be hunted. Police will stand down.
  • Tweet (July 1, 2020), as cited in "The Worst Political Predictions of 2021", Politico (December 24, 2021)
  • Much of politics is about hating imaginary people.
  • [P]olitics is about winning the definitions of words.
  • When a young male (let’s say 14 to 19) is a danger to himself and others, society gives the supporting family two options [...] 1. Watch people die. 2. Kill your own son. Those are your only options. I chose #1 and watched my stepson die. I was relieved he took no one else with him.
  • If one more person hallucinates to me about some "program" where teens are kidnapped and "fixed" and returned to their happy parents, I might explode. No such thing exists. You have two options. Only two. No help is coming. Only death and suffering.
  • If I were to invent a solution to the dangerous young man problem, I think it would involve putting them all in one place so they could only hurt each other, not necessarily in jail, just away from society. Once they are separated from society (and drugs) maybe help is possible.
  • Political differences are mostly a matter of what frightens you the most, with a thin frosting of rationalization on top.
  • You should absolutely be racist whenever it's to your advantage. Every one of you should be open to making a racist personal career decision.
  • Most of my income will be gone by next week [...] My reputation for the rest of my life is destroyed. You can't come back from this, am I right? There's no way you can come back from this.
  • [About the indictment of Donald Trump in 2023:] In a way I think he may have brought it on himself. His very first statement about Hillary Clinton should be in jail. I feel like when he started talking real jail then politics changed. And [the Democrats] said "If you're going to talk real jail for us, we're actually going to put you in jail." And it looks like that's what's happening.
  • Every single one of our large entities, we've seen, is corrup. From the FBI to the DOJ. I'm not talking about every person, but at least leadership elements. We've seen that our congress can be corrupt. We've seen that the CDC, basically everybody's corrupt once you find out what's really going on. The exception, we're told, is all 50 separate elections for a national election, all 50... All 50 of them are all good, but everything else is corrupt? But not those 50 things?
  • [About the 2024 US presidential election:] It feels like not an election to find your best guy, or woman. [...] It screams two sides trying to stay out of jail.
  • The way that most political hoaxes are done is that the person who gets cancelled did a real thing, lets say it's on video or they wrote it in this email, but nobody can imagine how that could be out of context. [...] You look at it and you go 'You know, I don't know the whole story, but how in the world could I be wrong about this? I'm looking right at it. It's really clear.' And that's how the trick is done, because there are ways to manipulate it to its actual opposite.
  • [About DEI-divisions in companies:] If your job is to look for that stuff, any offense, well you're gonna find it because that's your job. And the more you find, the more you're woth I guess, because you found a lot of it.
  • If you could reframe race relations, that would be the biggest win in America. And so here's my reframe: Everytime somebody says 'The average of this group is not doing as well as the average of this group', they're fucking you. They are not your friend.
  • [About his cancellation in 2023:] I could not have been luckier. I have the luckiest cancellation of anybody who's ever been cancelled. [...] It just couldn't have been better. It just absolutely could not have been better

Quotes about Adams[edit]

  • Every calamity has its bard, and downsizing's is Scott Adams.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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