Back when he was a lowly office worker slaving under fluorescent lights and drinking bad coffee at an unsatisfying string of office jobs, Scott Adams would try to stave off some of the mind-numbing boredom he faced each day by doodling a little comic strip about a hapless office drone he called Dilbert. As he worked, Adams filed away the fodder for his fledgling comic strip. Today, Dilbert is officially an empire -- and Adams is the CEO.
Adams didn't start his career path intending to become a workplace warrior. As he told FamousVeggie.com, he graduated high-school as valedictorian "because the other 39 people in my class couldn't spell ‘valedictorian.'" After earning a B.A. in economics at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, Adams went on to earn an M.B.A. at the University of California at Berkeley. Adding an interesting twist to his education, he also managed to pick up a Certified Hypnotist diploma from the Clement School of Hypnosis in 1981.
After college, during his often-brief tenure at a series of low-paying, low-on-the-totem-pole jobs at corporations from Crocker National Bank in San Francisco to Pacific Bell in San Ramon, Adams started to wonder if his sanity-saving doodles really could rescue him from a life spent working for The Man. Acting on a tip from a kindly fellow cartoonist, he picked up the 1988 Artist Markets guide and simply followed the instructions on how to get syndicated. He mailed out fifty sample Dilbert strips, and was offered a contract by United Media within weeks.
Adams's first attempt writing an actual book was 1996's The Dilbert Principle, which became a number one New York Times bestseller and one of the top-selling business books of all time. More than just a compilation of Adams's cartoons, the book included essays on the trials and tribulations of corporate culture. "Each one is on target and deliciously sardonic," said Booklist in its review. "Sometimes too true to be funny." Today, the strip continues its clip as the fastest-growing cartoon of all time, and is enjoyed daily by 150 million people in 1,900 newspapers, in 56 countries.
Transitioning from comic compilations to full books was a challenge for Adams. As he admitted to Salon.com, "Drawing the comic strip is fun -- it can actually increase my energy. I feel good when I'm doing it, and I feel good when it's done. But writing just sucks the energy right out of me. I find that after about an hour of writing sometimes I have to jump on the floor and fall asleep, right now. It's so much harder than it looks."
When he's not helping Dilbert bring a smile to the faces of the working wounded, Adams moonlights as a restaurateur, running two successful Stacey's Cafés in Northern California. He has also founded the Scott Adams Foods company, home of the Dilberito™ -- a protein-packed burrito perfect for the office microwave.
(Amanda H. Reid)
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Adams describes himself as a "a cat-loving, vegetarian tennis player."
His past jobs include bank teller, computer programmer, financial analyst, product manager, loan officer, corporate strategist, and pseudo-engineer. Says Adams, "I was incompetent in each of those fields, but for some reason no one ever noticed."
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In the fall of 2002, Scott Adams answered some of our questions.
What was the book that most influenced your life -- and why?
Hypnotherapy -- a book I studied while taking classes in hypnosis. It helped shape my worldview that people are irrational, moist machines.
What are your favorite books -- and why?The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger: For the brilliance of the writing. Every sentence is delicious.
The Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling (all of them): For making me feel twelve years old.
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand: For making me ponder the role of art while enjoying a great story.
The Truth About Uri Geller by James Randi: On the surface, it's a book about the alleged tricks used by a famous alleged psychic. In the process you learn a lot of useful things about the frailty of human perception.
You Got Nothing Coming by Jimmy A. Lerner: A fascinating first person account of a cubicle-dweller turned convicted murderer. It's based on a true story, with some degree of embellishment. The author worked in the cubicle next to mine during my corporate days. I had no idea he was such a talented writer -- or a future murderer.
Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer by Michael White: A fascinating book about one of the most interesting people who ever lived. Newton was half nut, half genius, and born centuries before his time.
Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb: This book stripped away the last bit of delusional trust I held in the judgment of professionals.
Favorite films?Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Little Man Tate
The Road Home
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Who are your favorite writers, and what makes their writing special?
Dave Barry and George Carlin make me laugh out loud. They both have a knack for looking at the same thing everyone else is looking at, but seeing it differently.
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