Scott Adams: Subtle Genius

Calling Scott Adams, a subtle genius may sound like the most backhanded of compliments.

Here’s the thing.

Scott Adams is one of the smartest guys on the planet. He views the world through his master persuader filter. For people like myself who need it further filtered there is the Scott Adams filter.

I’m going to do something unpersuasive and use an analogy. Scott is like a translator at an opera. You know something beautiful is going on, Scott helps you understand what.

Scott Adams
Grab your cup your mug your stein your chalice, you know what time it is.

This isn’t a review of Loserthink. What I will tell you is that you should buy it. Read it, twice and give it to a friend in need. If you get gifted Loserthink, what can I say?

Before you read on please be aware I’m using affiliate links in this article. If you haven’t already bought Loserthink, Win Bigly or How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big would you mind clicking through the links provided because it helps me keep up and running.

Actually how ready you are to read Loserthink depends on your answer to this question:

If a prisoner cannot see the bars are they captive?

Loserthink feels like a conclusion to a trilogy. A trilogy that began with How To Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big. It was followed up with Win Bigly. Loserthink feels like an unofficial third instalment.

The Win Bigly Trilogy

You should read all three, along with all of Scott’s other works, especially God’s Debris.

While I’m here, subscribe to his Youtube Channel where he uploads his periscopes. If you’re a little slow on the uptake like me, you can digest it at your own pace. I’ve watched the first 737 episodes so far. Whenever it feels I can’t learn anymore, he’ll drop a mind-altering perspective or make a prediction.

He’s not 100% all the time, but I think he does that, so we don’t suspect him of being a wizard. Scott Adams is the one exception to my rule of “I don’t trust people who don’t like The Godfather”.

Noticing the subtle genius of Scott Adams

I’ve read Scott Adams for a couple of years. I’ve watched his daily periscopes too. There are many times where he’s pulled back the curtain on his technique. I’d like to think I’ve picked up a few things.

I want to point out a few techniques that Scott uses in his writing that you may not notice, but your brain did.

Back at the ranch/ Cross-cutting

There is a term in filmmaking called “back at the ranch”.

You know what this is.

The cowboy is out chasing down cattle rustlers, he gets captured.

The filmmakers want to keep you in suspense. They keep you in suspense by cutting back to the ranch.

We see how the ranch hands are getting on. There are coyotes scaring the remaining herd. Whenever one of the ranch hands gets cornered by a coyote it cuts back to the cowboy. You see how he gets out of his bonds. Once he escapes the danger he falls into a den of vipers. One of the snakes rears up before it bites we go back to the ranch.

“Back at the ranch” is a way of breaking up the action and a system designed to create suspense. Once you’re interested, they shift your focus. It’s build-up and release, build-up and release.

Scott Adams
I’ve mastered the failing part, when does the winning begin?

Scott utilises this technique to fantastic effect in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

First time I read it I wanted to get to all the persuasion and system tips. What I found happening was I became invested in how Scott lost and regained his voice. You begin the book expecting to learn about systems and persuasion instead you come away learning more about Scott.

Breaking the fourth wall

You’re probably sitting there at your screen wondering, “What the hell is a fourth wall break?”. Maybe you think “Haha, I was actually standing while I was wondering, not sitting”. Either way, a fourth wall break is just that. It’s when an author draws attention to you reading their work. Like how you’re conscious of reading this on your phone. You might even be aware of your breathing and your blinking.

Fourth wall breaks are wonderful because they can be used to pace and lead your audience.

  • Make an outlandish claim: Now, you’re going to hate me for saying this.
  • Say something abstract to make a point: You’re wondering “Where is he going with this?”.
  • Don’t complete a rule of three: I should have something better to go here.

Fourth wall breaks call attention to the technique. Rather than dispelling, they further entrance the reader. You probably get the point. Let’s move on.

Keep it simple stupid

Scott Adams keeps it simple. Why go long and verbose when a short word will do? (I think using verbose was a bit too verbose) The effect of this is anyone can read it and understand.

Briefly a bit about me.

I love big words, you could say I have the best words and love using them. When I was younger, I wouldn’t waste any opportunity to show off my extensive vocabulary. I believed my exuberant execution of wordplay would lead to the extensive exercise of my excellent epididymis. Do you see what I’m getting at?

I was wrong. When you use big words, people think you’re an asshole. People thought I was a condescending snob.

What’s the point of knowing these words if they make you miserable? Scott Adams

Parts of Trump’s appeal is his ability to talk to large groups of people. His speaking style, his use of language is part of the reason he packs out stadiums. Trump’s use of simple language means he can speak to a multitude of people from various backgrounds.

Scott Adams recognised this in Trump and used the same technique in his books.

You never feel like Scott is talking down to you or he’s trying to intimidate you. You don’t have to read his work with a dictionary at hand.

Effective, simple, short words. Scott Adams uses them.

That’s all it takes.

Remember the KISS system: Keep It Simple Stupid.

Bite-size brilliance

You’re lying in your bed. You’re comfy, book in hand but it’s getting late. Once you finished the chapter, you’re putting the book down and going to sleep. How long is the next chapter? Not that long, right after that chapter, it’s lights out. The section after that isn’t that long either. OK, after those two chapters, that’s it. Well, the next chapter is only… Hold on, I could finish the book tonight.

Has this happened to you?

It has happened to me a couple of times. There are long books I shot through in a day. There are shorter books with long chapters that are still on my pile. Looking at you Stepford Wives with your three sections, give me a place to stop.

Remember it’s not the length of the book that matters, it’s the size of your chapters.

Scott Adams is aware of this, his chapters are short, and there are little sidebars too.

The effect is that you choose to keep on reading rather than feeling obligated to finish a chapter. Here’s the brilliance, Scott isn’t making you read, you want to read. You finished Loser Think in four hours because, well, the next chapter is so short.

Persuasion Combination

On their own, these are just techniques. On their own, they’re fine.

Use these four together? Now we’re talking.

Scott Adams is a master persuader.

The effectiveness of his writing, when you read it, tells you he’s not using the techniques at random.

To be honest, when it comes to what makes writing persuasive I’m a neophyte, I mean, a new student. There’s probably a whole lot more being used. It feels like I’m only scratching the surface of an iceberg, to mangle a metaphor.

Scott Adams
Loserthink, or as I call it, Think

Which one will you read first?

I’m biased, but everyone should read at least one of the three from the trilogy if not all three.

If I had to recommend a reading order it would be (affiliate links):

  1. Win Bigly (buy here)
  2. Loser Think (buy here)
  3. How to Fail (buy here)

Win Bigly explains persuasion through the context of Trump. Loser Think makes you aware of your own mental prisons and how to get out. How to Fail is an excellent manual to maximising your new-found thought freedom.

Give Scott Adams a chance, and he will expand your mind through the power of persuasion.

For those of you saying “Persuasion doesn’t work on me” come back and speak to us once you’ve got your BA in engineering.


There is one aspect of persuasion I didn’t mention, and that is the power of open loops.

Open loops are nuclear weapons when it comes to persuasion. In the wrong hands, it spells disaster.

You and I can’t stand open loops. From 1001 Arabian Nights to the spinning top from Inception. We need things to end conclusively.

There is a secret you need to consider when it comes to using open loops in your persuasion.


Thank you for reading.

If you liked this post consider reading about the Simplified Story System. It’s the best thing I’ve written… so far (I hope).

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Have a great day,


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