Dilbert's Scott Adams: Goals are for losers

Photo courtesy Flickr user quinn.anya

(MoneyWatch) If you read Scott Adam's "Dilbert" comic strip, you are aware that the cartoonist has a somewhat sarcastic, dour outlook on the business world. His career advice is equally sardonic.

In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, he explains why two of the most cited attributes for success in business -- passion and goals -- won't position you for long-term success.

As an avid reader of business books, I can attest to the fact that most business advice centers on following your passion. Adams takes a different tack on this idea, though, pointing out that people often confuse cause and effect. In essence, any business idea or venture that is successful will cause you to become passionate, whereas ideas that don't pan out will erode any passion you had.

In other words, it's easy to be passionate about an idea that is thriving, and the result is a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. But if all you have is passion while lacking the drive, skill, experience and opportunity to make it a success, you are likely to lose.

Likewise, having specific career goals can have unintended consequences as well. Adams claims that goals can be demotivating:

If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize that you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or to set new goals and re-enter the cycle of permanent pre-success failure.

Instead, consider setting up a system in which you constantly scan the horizon for better options. For example, be willing to change roles or jobs as opportunities arise, like a bird who leaps from perch to perch simply because a higher ledge is available. In this system, specific in-role goals are not as important as simply looking for better opportunities on a continuous basis.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user quinn.anya