Loserthink Book Review

A book on learning to think more effectively

March 25, 2024

A number of years ago I started a personal website/blog which you are obviously reading from now. Something a lot of people do when they start a website like mine is explain somewhere on their site the type of content they intend to put on their site in the future. Then just like a politician, almost none of those promises get fulfilled. I’ve done this at least a dozen times and have since adopted the policy to never make a sort of announcement on my website for just about anything since this is a hobby and I have no real obligation to fulfill the promises I make here. If you run a website like mine I suggest doing the same. (And of course I’m not casting any judgment your way)

That being said, there was probably a point in time where I said I’d post book reviews here and I’ve decided to start doing that, mostly for my benefit because I want to get better at remembering stuff from the books I read and writing about them seems like a great way to do that. I’m not really sure if “review” is the right word for whatever I’m about to write, but here is my review of Scott Adams’ book Looserthink: How Untrained Brains are Ruining America. Will I be writing more of these? I hope so, but I’m not making any promises.

Despite making up the word “Loserthink,” Scott Adams doesn’t do the greatest job of giving it a clear definition. I guess I don’t blame him because I can’t seem to do that either. Loserthink is basically unproductive thinking or reasoning patterns, they are the sort of arguments that make smart people look dumb. Adams gives the common idea that history repeats itself as an example of loserthink. Loserthink is prevalent because people are not trained how to think. Artists, engineers, and economists all think differently from each other, some of their thought patterns are worth emulating and others are loserthink. The majority of the chapters in this book are titled thing like, “Thinking Like an Artist,” “Thinking Like an Engineer,” and “Thinking like an Economist,” and because Adams has had experience either working as or alongside many of these professions he spends time teaching us the great ways these people think along with their loserthink. I’ll explain a few of the interesting points that stuck out to me, I’m sure that if you read the book different points would stick out to you.

“Artistic Integrity” is loserthink, at least if you have any interest in making money from your art. Scott Adams is most well known for creating the Dilbert comic strip. Dilbert was popular because it focused on workplace annoyances, Elon Musk once wrote a memo to all Tesla employees that read “If following a ‘company rule’ is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change.” That’s how famous Dilbert is. But Dilbert didn’t start out that way. At first Dilbert comics included all sorts of things that Adams found funny but during the first year of Dilbert Adams was getting a bunch of fanmail from people telling him that the strips that had Dilbert at work were their favorite, so, understanding good entrepreneurship, Adams shifted Dilbert to be a workplace annoyance focused comic strip.

Adams explained that if he had stuck with the idea of artistic integrity and refused to make this shift Dilbert would not have been as successful as it was. Adams also explained that a lot of artists come to him for advice for success and he almost always tells them that they have to make what the market wants rather than the stuff the artist wants to make. Almost every artist he gave that advice to refused to follow it because of muh artistic integrity and their art failed. Humility is important.

“Word-Thinking” is another example of loserthink. This is another term that Scott Adams made up in this book (there’s a few more) and I’m not the biggest fan of this name for it, I prefer to call it the definition game. Playing the definition game “involves trying to understand the world, or trying to win a debate, by concentrating on the deffinition of words.” I wanted to talk about this phenomenon in my last post about axioms since it is a perfect example of what happens when two people are debating with different sets of axioms but I couldn’t fit it in.

Most debates on abortion ultimately turn into the definition game. At some point somebody in the debate will have a problem with the other’s definition of the word “murder,” “fetus,” or “human life” and the whole debate will just become an argument over the definition of these words and the whole thing will go nowhere. This is a clear example of loserthink. If you find yourself wanting to argue with someone over the definition of a word, don’t. You might be smart, and you might even be right, but playing the definition game will make you look like a looser, there are better ways to argue a point. Adams explains many better ways to debate, and more that are losertink of course.

Judging people by their mistakes is loserthink. Instead Adams teaches us that we should judge people based off of how they respond to their mistake. You’re a jerk if you chose to judge a person based off of the worst thing they have ever done, especially if they have corrected their mistake. One could argue that there could be some extreme exceptions to this but exceptions are not the norm and Christ teaches us to forgive.

Scott Adams is not familiar with Christ’s teachings but he somehow figured this one out. He tells us that if a person has a good response to their mistake then we should not judge them based on their mistake. Adams describes a pattern that people who respond well to their mistakes follow and without realizing it he taught the repentance process (of course without the parts that directly involve God). The whole section of this book Adams dedicated to this concept could be summarized by saying, “If a man repents of his sins, forgive him.”

I found that section to be an unorthodox testament to the truth and wisdom of Christ’s teachings. If a secular man like Scott Adams can teach the importance of repentance and forgiveness without even realizing that he was doing that then Jesus Christ is obviously who someone we should grow closer to and someone whose teachings we should study and follow.

Loserthink is full of many more good insights some better than others, I can’t say I agree with everything Scott Adams said in the book but I still think it is a book worth reading, especially if you want to become a more effective thinker (which we all should). If you know me in real life I have a second copy of the book I’d be willing to part with, if you don’t maybe I’ll set up an Amazon affiliate account so that you could buy it off a link I’d publish so that I could generate a penny’s worth of revenue from this blog of mine.

Also feel free to tell me what you think about my idea of starting to do book reviews, and any books you think I’d enjoy. Did I do a good job here? Would you even classify this as a book review? I’ve come to realize that a review for a piece of media is a bit of an abstract thing. Right now I am reading Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up by Abigail Shrier. I’m nearly a quarter of the way through it and it is very good so far but I do have one major concern with it which I hope Shrier will resolve by the end of the book. If I finish that book it will likely be the next review, but of course I’m not going to make any promises about that, I hope it happens but it might not.