Transcript: Scott Adams, Creator of Dilbert

 

 

The transcript from this week’s MIB: Scott Adams on Dilbert & Trump, is below.

You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunesBloombergOvercast, and Stitcher. Our earlier podcasts can all be found at iTunesStitcherOvercast, and Bloomberg.

~~~

This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.

BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This week on the podcast, I have an extra special guest and what can I say about Scott Adams the creator of Dilbert. We had a — where do I even begin? We had a wide-ranging conversation about everything from persuasion and communication skills to cartooning and writing books.

He and I have been on the opposite side of the Trump phenomena and I have to say we actually had a very fascinating and civil conversation about what makes Trump so unique and different than everybody else, how he’s disrupting politics, how he has won big league, coincidentally the name of the most recent book Scott wrote. And Scott admits to being to the left of Bernie Sanders which I think would surprise a lot of the people who criticize him on Twitter and elsewhere.

We had a fascinating conversation, be sure and stay until the very end to listen to that because really, it’s quite intriguing and if I had another hour, I probably could’ve continued the conversation for that much longer.

So with no further ado, my conversation with Scott Adams.

My extra special guest this week is Scott Adams, he is best known as the creator of the comic strip Dilbert which appears in over 2000 newspapers worldwide in 65 countries and 25 languages, he is the author of numerous books including “Dilbert Future and the Joy of Work” his most recent books are “How to Fail at Everything and Still Succeed” and “Win Bigly” he received the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award and the Newspaper Comic Strip Award in 1997.

Scott Adams, welcome to Bloomberg.

SCOTT ADAMS, CREATOR, DILBERT: Thanks for having me.

RITHOLTZ: You seem to come out of a fairly typical corporate background ,you worked in banking and technology, how did that road lead to the creation of Dilbert?

ADAMS: Well the corporate thing didn’t work out for me so I worked for eight and a half years in a big bank in San Francisco and eight and a half years or about years at the local phone company, well both of those careers ended for the same reason, in both cases, my boss called me into my office and said, it turns out the media just discovered that we have no diversity in management, and in each case, my boss said, “I’m going to tell you politely, you can’t be promoted here.”

RITHOLTZ: Really?

ADAMS: Yes, until things balanced out a little bit.

Now, when I tell this story people always say “stop being a victim, stop complaining” I’m not doing that, I’m telling you what happened.

RITHOLTZ: So how did each of those events lead you to exploring cartooning? You have been drawing since what — you’re 11? Something like that?

ADAMS: Yeah when I was little kid, like lots of little kids, I thought hey, I think I would grow up to be a cartoonist, that’s one of the most common …

RITHOLTZ: Really?

ADAMS: Little kid, you know, dreams, basketball player and cartoonist…

RITHOLTZ: Racecar driver.

ADAMS: Racecar driver, yes, astronaut. And I thought I wanted to be Charles Schultz when I grew up but by the time I reached probably age 11,12, I started to be able to reason…

RITHOLTZ: Yes.

ADAMS: And suddenly the fantastical world of children started to fall away, you know, Santa Claus wasn’t real, et cetera, but I started to think wait a minute I want to be Charles Schultz the most famous cartoonist in the world, but there are around 6 billion people in the world maybe back then and there was only one of him and I thought I’m not liking my odds, maybe I should try to be a lawyer a businessman or something.

So I gave up on the old cartooning thing and went to traditional economics degree, business world kind of a life, but when it didn’t work out, I started to say what can I do that would not have a boss?

Because I noticed that the common element was having a boss because my success or lack of it in the corporate world didn’t have anything to do with my ability or how hard I worked, it was entirely up to what a boss decided for the bosses and the company’s own reasons. And I thought well I’d like to be free of that so I’ve tried a number of things over the years, cartooning was the one that worked.

And what I did was I tried to do things which would have a low risk you know, I wouldn’t die if I didn’t workout I wouldn’t be bankrupt if it didn’t work out ,I would just be tired or embarrassed, those were the worst-case scenarios. I saw the world as sort of a slot machine that you didn’t have to put money into meaning that I could just sit there and pull until I got a jackpot and that I could win every time if I was willing to sit there long enough and pull.

So cartooning was one of those pulls, it wasn’t the only one, there were lots of them, I wrote about it in “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” and it just happened to be the one that worked.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about cartooning little because in the beginning you got a lot of rejection, you pulled the lever, you actually were debating, hey maybe I’ve pulled long enough on cartooning, that’s not working, but an inspirational letter from a fan kept you going. Tell — am I misstating that? Am I overstating that?

ADAMS: You’re close, you’re in the same ZIP Code.

RITHOLTZ: Okay.

ADAMS: Let me tell you the story. One day I came home and was flipping through the channels on TV and there was a show on how to become a cartoonist of all things…

RITHOLTZ: Really?

ADAMS: I’ve never seen it before but I missed most of the show and so I wrote down from the closing credits the name of the host and figured out how to send them a snail mail letter and I said “Hey, I missed your show but can you give me some tips how to become a cartoonist?”

And a few weeks later, I got a two-page handwritten letter from the host of the show, Jack Cassady is his name and he gave me some advice about what books to buy, what materials to use and then he gave me this advice. He said it’s a really competitive industry and you’re going to get rejected a lot but, don’t give up.

A year goes by, and one day I walk out to my mailbox and there’s a letter from the same cartoonist, Jack Cassady, who had given me the original advice and he said he was cleaning his office and came across my samples and the letter I sent him in the bottom of some pile and he said he was just writing to make sure that I hadn’t given up.

And I thought maybe he sees something I don’t see, so I decided to get out my materials and try again and by then I’d have this idea for a character called Dilbert, who was roughly based on my work experience and sent it out to the major syndicates, most of them rejected me, once I thought I had all the rejections, I put my materials back in the closet again, and then the phone rings a few weeks later. And it was a woman who said she worked for a company I never heard of, some company called United Media and they said they saw my samples, I didn’t know how, and wanted to offer me a contract to be a syndicated cartoonist, the biggest break you could possibly have in cartooning, but I never heard of this company.

And so I said “I haven’t heard of your company, this United Media Company, I didn’t send my samples to anybody with that name, so I feel more comfortable if you have some references. Was there somebody you’ve worked with before, a cartoonist who has been published in any way you know on a on a pamphlet or a greeting card anything like that. And there was this long pause and then she said “Yes, we handle Peanuts and Garfield and Robot Man and Nancy…” and when she got to about the 12th name on the list I realize my negotiating position have been compromised and I got myself a lawyer and got a contract and that’s the…

RITHOLTZ: The rest is history. That is hilarious.

So let’s talk a little but about that process of syndication, how does that work? What is the economics of syndication? What rights do you give up? What rights do you retain?

ADAMS: Well, first of all, the old syndicate was bought by the new syndicate so it’s universal you click is the syndicate now and the way that works, syndication, and it it works for cartoonists and columnists is that once you do your contract with the syndication company they do the marketing and the selling and the distribution so you can just concentrate on the creating.

And depending on your leverage you might be my make a deal where you split the revenue 50-50 but they’re picking up a lot of expenses and then as you get more successful you might be able to negotiate a better mix than that.

RITHOLTZ: That’s seems pretty reasonable, so you’re working in corporate America for a big bank and a telco company, I have always thought the Dilbert character was the man in the middle, he’s got an incompetent boys boss above him, he’s got lazy coworkers adjacent to him, he’s got aggressive sales people always promise the world and expect him to deliver and then annoying mentors and interns beneath him, what was the motivation for the experience? Because some people have said “Well Scott Adams is obviously Dilbert” but you’ve kind of pushed back on that.

ADAMS: Well, all of the characters are either some part of my own personality usually not the full personality because cartoon characters work better if they have some distinguishing characteristic that’s usually a flaw.

RITHOLTZ: Right, not fully fleshed out but they are this key characteristic.

ADAMS: So if you’re looking to develop your own cartoon, what you want to look for is can you describe the character in a word or two, Garfield is a cat, Dilbert is a nerd, depending on what word you want to use, he is an office worker, Alice is angry, Wally is lazy, Dogbert is scheming.

RITHOLTZ: The Elbonians.

ADAMS: The Elbonians are just the every other country, I learned that trick that if you use any other country that’s a real country there’s just nothing you can do humor wise, it’s going to come back, so I had to develop an imaginary country just to have somebody who is at another country doing foolish things.

RITHOLTZ: And the fact that it’s underwater, what was the significance of that?

ADAMS: It’s under mud, so the Elbonians are always in waist deep mud but that’s never explained.

RITHOLTZ: All right, so let’s talk a little bit about how the strip has evolved over the years, you’ve gotten some pushback from other cartoonists including some people who I have to admit to being perplexed by this, claim that you’re basically excusing bad corporate behavior. I don’t see it that way. How do you see do — first of all, do you respond to other cartoonists slagging your work and what do you think of this sort of, I don’t know, push back to the charming simplicity of the message of somebody stuck in the middle of a corporate drone type of a workplace.

ADAMS: Well first of all, the hierarchy in cartooning especially is that the people who are very successful tend not to criticize other cartoonists.

RITHOLTZ: Always punch up, that’s legit.

ADAMS: And the people who are lower in the rank are pretty sure that everybody above them got there by locked door or the public doesn’t understand how bad it is and they can’t understand why it’s successful. So the people who are not yet successful are just brutal, the people who are peers or above me in success cartooning are almost never that way, it’s the rarest thing in the world.

RITHOLTZ: You also and I’m going to interrupt right here and say you have frequently discussed the role of luck in everybody’s life, luck is so important, if this person didn’t follow up, Cassady didn’t follow up with that email that letter pre-email, who knows what might have happened?

ADAMS: Yes, luck is always the big variable but I think the mistake is thinking that you can’t control luck, you can’t control actual you know random events but you can certainly put yourself in places where more luck can happen.

RITHOLTZ: What’s the phrase, luck is where preparation meets opportunity, is that right?

ADAMS: Well, there is that plus there’s amount of energy, if you put more energy into the universe, if you try to start 10 companies one after another the odds of one of them working out by luck is pretty good. If you try one thing once and then you give up, your odds of finding luck are very low, so you can do a lot to go where the luck is, it’s the reason I moved from upstate New York to San Francisco because there was just more happening, more opportunity, more chances for luck.

RITHOLTZ: And much better weather.

ADAMS: Much better weather.

RITHOLTZ: To say the least.

Have you ever considered dramatically shifting the way Dilbert’s life has progressed, you’ve introduced new characters, you’ve introduced new plot lines but he seems to be pretty consistently Dilbert all the way through.

ADAMS: Well, actually I did make one big change early in the strip, the first several years it wasn’t really about the workplace he was a guy who had a job but it was about things he did with his dog and things he did at home and it was just about the time that email was just becoming a thing and I have email early because it was something we did a work so I got it before most of the public, and the few people who got an email didn’t have anybody to email so they didn’t have anybody to send a message to, but I started publishing my email in the comic strip and then people all over the country would say hey, I got somebody to write to, I’m going to tell you what I like about your strip and what I don’t like.

And consistently they said we love it when he’s at work doing workplace stuff, but I don’t like it as much when he is at home, so because my background is an MBA and an economics degree and not art, I did not have any artistic integrity to lose because I didn’t start with any, and I said what’s the point of making art that the audience doesn’t want to see, so I gave the audience what they wanted, more workplace and that’s when it all took off.

RITHOLTZ: Did you ever get specific ideas from people who shoot you an email and saying hey this happened at my job.

ADAMS: Yes, most of what I write is based on other people suggestions so I used to get those suggestions by email, before that, it was from my own experience and today every week or two, I will just send out a tweet and say “Hey, what’s bothering you about your job?” and I’ll get hundreds of responses…

RITHOLTZ: Hundreds.

ADAMS: And usually that writes my week of Dilbert right there.

RITHOLTZ: That’s absolutely astonishing. So I have to bring a very early in the cycle before the Republican nomination in 2016 was wrapped up, you had identified Trump as having a different approach to messaging that he was basically steamrolling not only the rest of the nominees of Republicans and you said he would win the Republican nomination, but you also said he’s likely to win the whole shebang at a point in history where that was just a wild forecast.

ADAMS: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: And it turned out you were correct, so tell us what did you see in 2015 that so many other people completely missed?

ADAMS: Just by chance I have a weird combination of skills and experience that gave me a different filter on the situation, one is I grew up in New York upstate but is close enough to get sort of the New York sensibility so that helped me understand when Trump was serious and when he was kidding, which seems to be a huge problem with people, they literally can’t tell when he is just sort kidding or he is using hyperbole to get a point.

RITHOLTZ: The famous line is take him seriously but not literally.

ADAMS: Right. The other thing I have going for me is a business background and so I can understand for example when he uses hyperbole to tell you the economy is doing better than it’s ever been, it’s going to be the greatest thing, he understands that the economy is a psychology engine, we don’t have a shortage of materials, we don’t have a resource problem, we have a psychology problem and he was looking to fix it directly.

Now I also have a background as a trained hypnotist so I could recognize and I’ve also been studying the ways of persuasion in general for decades so when I was watching the president work on the campaign trail I was seeing the techniques of persuasion used at the highest level I’ve ever seen in public, and to me it look like he was bringing a flamethrower to a stick fight and it and I thought it was actually an easy prediction.

RITHOLTZ: You know it’s funny New Yorkers kind of know him as a goofball businessman wannabe, he is not a huge developer, he is not this, he is not that, but he’s been incredibly successful person at managing and manipulating the media and I think a lot of people completely miss that skill set.

There are few better and then Donald Trump at dominating the news cycle even when he says something that’s not true and everybody rushes to correct him, the next day, all we’re talking about is still Donald Trump.

ADAMS: And you saw that right from the start at the first Republican debate when he was asked the very first question, Megyn Kelly asked him this incredibly toxic damaging career ending campaign ending question…

RITHOLTZ: For anyone else anyway.

ADAMS: For anyone else about his bad statements about women and instead of apologizing like somebody might do or avoiding the question in the normal way that people do it, he interrupts her with “Only Rosie O’Donnell” now first of all, completely not true but did it matter? It didn’t, because he took all of the energy out of the question which was lethal and he moved it to his answer which was so much fun and so provocative and so enjoyed by his base, especially they have a feeling about Rosie O’Donnell that I said, oh my goodness, he just sucked all of the energy out of the problem and put it into something that people can’t stop talking about…

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: While forgetting the question and I literally stood up and walked toward the television like my — I had a tingle in my arms and I thought I think I just saw the future.

RITHOLTZ: How to Win Bigly by dominating the news cycle and sucking all the oxygen out of the room.

ADAMS: The actual subtitle the book is “Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter” when I first wrote that, when I first started saying facts don’t matter back in 2015 people just rejected that as ridiculous, now you see those words those exact words the facts don’t matter, and they’re talking about in terms of our opinions not the real world and the real world if you walk in front of a bus and it hits you…

RITHOLTZ: It matters.

ADAMS: That matters.

RITHOLTZ: Physics matters, facts don’t matter.

ADAMS: But your decision about what to do that day might not be driven by facts, it’s about your emotion, how you feel everything else, so now I would say that that’s common way of thinking and I predicted in 2015 as well, and this is in “Win Bigly” that Trump would do more than win the presidency, I said he would tear the fabric of reality apart and then we would see ourselves and how we fit into the universe completely differently because of the experience, and you’re watching the fact checker site, he got 7000 things wrong in the past 24 hours why is nobody acting differently because of this? Well because the facts don’t matter, as long as he’s persuading us in the direction that people feel comfortable going, better economy, beat ISIS, have good news in North Korea, people are okay with it.

RITHOLTZ: I want to talk about the book “How to Fail at almost Everything and Still Win Big” because there are some really fascinating ideas in that book, one of which is don’t have goals, have a system. I was intrigued by that. Explain the thought process there.

ADAMS: Yes, so the distinction there is a goal is you’ve got a very specific idea what you want, but a system is something you do every day to get you to a better place but you don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out. So an example would be if you go to college and get a degree, you might not know exactly where that is going to lead but there’s a virtually a guarantee that you will have more options to do whatever you want.

RITHOLTZ: In the book you use the example “Don’t set a goal of losing 20 pounds, set a goal of eating more healthy.”

ADAMS: Or even more specifically, using the topic of diet, I say make it a lifelong practice to increase what you know about nutrition to understand that this is better than that, to understand for example if you have a choice between a plain white potato and pasta, that the pasta has a better glycemic index, so if you if you like them the same, eat the pasta, you are going to be better off, that is just one example. But you can learn almost forever about nutrition so that you always have the option of the healthier versus less healthy choice, I tell people to make it a habit to practice trying to figure out how to get the best flavor in the things that are good for them.

RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk about the combination of mediocre skills which I’m also amused by, how do a series of mediocre skills add up to something that’s very successful?

ADAMS: This is the idea of the talent stack, so a talent stack is where instead of becoming the one best person in the world at a specific skill which only works for a few people. So if you’re Tiger Woods, learn to golf and just ride that horses as hard as you can, but for most of us we don’t have a Tiger Woods level skill at anything but what we do have is the ability to put together a stack of talents in which we’re pretty good, maybe top 20 percent compared to the rest of the world just because the rest of the world isn’t practicing those skills in the first place, and if you combine them right, you get a very powerful package.

For example, as a cartoonist, it’s no secret that I’m not very good at drawing, and you would think that’s pretty important to being a cartoonist, you should be a pretty good artist, but I’m not. I can however, draw, better than most people, likewise, I’m not the best writer in the world but I can write better than most people, I’m not the funniest guy in the room but I’m funnier than most people. I don’t know the most about business but I know a lot, so it gives me a topic to write about.

So I probably have a dozen or so modest skills which happen to sum up to something that’s of commercially extraordinary.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about your process, I love to write in the morning I feel like it’s a fresh reboot, you shake the Etch-a-Sketch screen empty and you begin clean, you also like to write in the mornings but for a different reason, explain why you enjoy the mornings.

ADAMS: Yes, that’s part of my system as well, there are some things you can do in certain energy states that you can’t do in others, so in the morning my brain is at its very best, so between four and 10 in the morning I’m absolutely the most creative, most productive, best concentration, by noon, I’m a little burned out, and it’s a perfect time to go to the gym because I don’t want to think too hard but my body is in perfect shape.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: And then by evening I’m ready to do you know more fun stuff, so I try to match my energy state to the task which is something you can only do if you don’t have a boss most of the time. And if your boss is saying, you know, “I want you to be here in the meeting from 8 to 10,” you don’t get to say “You know boss, that was the only time I was going to do something useful and you just took it from me.” So that’s a big, big incentive to find a way that to control your own schedule because and I often say this happiness is not caused by whether you can get the stuff you want, happiness is caused as that even more by getting the stuff when you want it, it’s not what you have is because we live in a world where you can often get you what you need but you can often get it when you need it, you can’t often sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, exercise when you have the energy, and write when your brain is the best.

So to the extent that you can develop a system so that your energy is always right for the task, you are way ahead.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk a little about the happiness ratio, I love that concept of having a certain so you and I will disagree about certain things, the ability to sell focus your thoughts on happy ideas and create a sort of self awareness of positivity, am I overstating that? Is an important aspect.

ADAMS: Yes, you can you can manage your own brain like you can manage shelf space and so if you don’t manage your brain, it’s going to think about whatever it thinks about and for most of us, that will drift off to negative thoughts, there is something that happened in the past or something bad that might happen tomorrow.

But if you tell yourself, well let me think about what could go right, let me think about what I appreciate, let me think about who I’m in love with, let me think about that, you can just use up the shelf space and the…

RITHOLTZ: More happy thoughts to negative thoughts gives you a better ratio and that affects your whole outlook.

ADAMS: Right, so assuming that the things you think are just the things you think is sort of a losing strategy, a better system is to manage what you’re thinking because you can make yourself think about other topics.

RITHOLTZ: For sure.

ADAMS: You have that control.

And if you do that, your body will respond, your health will respond, your every part of your — your immune system will be stronger because we know that negativity works against all that stuff.

RITHOLTZ: So let me push, I’m with you on this and you and I are completely simpatico on the happy thought ratio, there are other ways to phrase that but we’re in the same camp there.

I have to push back a little bit on the daily affirmations which looked to me like survivorship bias, meaning well the ones that don’t work out we don’t really focus on but hey I used to say affirmations about Dilbert and Dilbert worked out, therefore.

So how do you separate the daily affirmations that work from the ones that don’t or am I just being a stick in the mud?

ADAMS: It might not matter which is which is the interesting thing, I’m not sure if I will be able to expand on it completely, but what we’re talking about is the practice of writing down what you want every day so you might say, “I, Scott Adams, will be a famous cartoonist” Now that works against the systems’ way of working because it’s better to have a system that could get you a lot of different outcomes.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: So if you’re doing an affirmation, it’s probably better to say I will be wealthy than to say I will be rich in a specific way because you want to leave open the options.

Now the idea here is that there is there’s something about focusing that gives you a better result and the repeating it or the writing it down every day for…

RITHOLTZ: Consistency according to Bob Cialdini and the whole…

ADAMS: Yes, so just the process of doing that sort of reprograms you into a better collector of information, meaning that you can tune your brain to notice things you wouldn’t notice. You know how you’re in a crowd sometimes and you’ll hear people say people say “blah blah blah blah blah” background noise ” blah blah blah blah blah Scott blah blah blah blah blah” and like you could pick your name out of a crowd without trying.

So whatever you tune your brain to, you notice things that are useful, so part of what might be good about affirmations is that by concentrating on it, is sort of allows you to see the world that expands your perception and by the way, there’s a science behind that.

RITHOLTZ: The availability bias, you go out and get a Jeep and suddenly you see Jeeps everywhere because you’re familiar with it.

ADAMS: Yes, but beyond that, there’s also been studies that show that if you approach the world as an optimist and you just sort of keep optimistic thoughts in your head that you actually increase your perception and that this can be shown that you’ll notice things that other people wouldn’t notice. Let me give you an example.

So part of the test was, this is a — Wiseman was a guy who did this test Dr. Wiseman and he showed people of the same copy of a newspaper but they were divided into two groups, one group consider themselves lucky and another group consider themselves unlucky…

RITHOLTZ: Self evaluate…

ADAMS: Self evaluate.

RITHOLTZ: Okay.

ADAMS: Of course, there is no such thing as actual luck, neither those groups could perform better on randomized test but he said count up the number of photographs in these newspapers, and the people who were unlucky or consider themselves unlucky counted the number and on average you got the right number let’s say it was 42, the people who consider themselves lucky also got the right number on average but they were done in seconds whereas the other people took minutes, what was the difference? In each of the newspapers that both groups saw on page 2 in big words, it said stop counting the photographs, there are 42 of them.

RITHOLTZ: Really?

ADAMS: Now if you expect to be lucky, you’re looking for luck because you expect it, so the people who were looking for locket just had a broader perceptual plane and they notice that sentence the rest of the other said well my task is to look at photographs, where are the photographs, 1 to 3, I sure am bored, what a boring day, looks like another bad day for me. So your outcome can actually change what you recognize as opportunities.

RITHOLTZ: That’s fascinating, can you stick around a little bit? I have a ton more questions.

ADAMS: Absolutely.

RITHOLTZ: We have been speaking with Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. If you enjoyed this conversation, well, be sure to come back and listen to the podcast extras where we keep the tape rolling and continue to discuss all sorts of things ranging from cartooning to how to win bigly in political battles, we love your comments, feedback, and suggestions, write to us at MIBPodcast@Bloomberg.net, you can find that at iTunes, Overcast, SoundCloud, Bloomberg.com, wherever your finer podcasts are sold. Check out my daily column at Bloomberg.com/ opinion, you could follow me on Twitter @Ritholtz.

I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’re listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.

Welcome to the podcast, Scott, thank you so much for doing this, I’ve been looking forward to having this conversation for a while. I have so many questions, I have to start by saying how annoyed I am I have most of your books and including various Dilbert collections but the early Dilbert Scott Adams corporate books as opposed to Dilbert collections and we moved about three years ago and were mostly impact and I went through a bunch of boxes of books in the basement and over the weekend and I could not find anything that is making me…

ADAMS: Well, that’s why I write more.

RITHOLTZ: There you go.

ADAMS: I just count on you to lose the old ones.

RITHOLTZ: And you — speaking of writing more, you have “Win Bigly” out this month in paperback, is that right?

ADAMS: That’s right for those people who wanted to wait for the cheaper version.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk a little bit about politics and by the way, your email is still public so for angry people don’t email me you can email Scott about whatever, but you got a ton of pushback on a lot of things that you wrote about Trump, even though many of those things have come to pass and that your forecast and expectations have proven out. How do you do you deal with that sort of pushback? Is it just that people can’t see what they don’t want to see or…

ADAMS: Yes, I would — I should say first of all that I’m not a Republican, I’m not a conservative, I consider myself left of Bernie so when I was talking about Trump, when I was talking about Trump, I was talking about his technique and I think there are some unique things he brings such as the way he can y talk an economy up and the way he could talk to North Korea for example. So I was really trying to find the positive and I trusted the rest of the media to find the negative, that’s their job, they do a really good job at it, some would say too good a job at it and having been in the public for a long time with Dilbert, I’m use to withering criticism on a daily basis, and you do kind of get used to it.

RITHOLTZ: Thick skin develops after — you coming up on is it 25 years, is that right?

ADAMS: 30 years of Dilbert.

RITHOLTZ: That’s amazing.

ADAMS: What is different when I talk about politics is that recently just in last year or so, I’ve discontinued appearing in public for actually security reasons.

RITHOLTZ: Come on, is that?

ADAMS: That’s true. It’s literally, in my opinion, dangerous for me to be in a big crowd these days because you don’t know, it only takes one nut in the crowd to ruin your day.

RITHOLTZ: As we’ve seen recently what’s taken place in Pittsburgh and what’s taken place with mail bombs and God knows what else.

ADAMS: Let me kind of put a frame on that, here’s my observation of why the world looks crazier and it all came — it all started when the technology allowed us to measure for the first time exactly how the news was being received by the audience. So as soon as you could tell that this headline got you more clicks that that headline, this approach got you more than the others, the fiduciary responsibility of management of people in the media and the press was to follow the clicks. You’ve got to go where the profit is because you’re a public company most cases and the shareholders require that.

RITHOLTZ: The Buzzfeed model so to speak.

ADAMS: Yes, you can’t really avoid that and still stay in business. So once you got that, you had a press which through no fault of their own, no bad intentions, just following the clicks, had to go where the emotional centers of the brain were most stimulated because that’s what makes people click, makes them act, and so the news one from even attempting to give an unbiased view of the world to not really trying to do that at all but rather trying to give a view that they know they’re base, whoever’s watching them already will interact with, will like.

So once you get in that situation, it has to get worse because the business model won’t change, there’s nothing that is going to replace the model where you make a lot of money by getting people to click.

So any calls for people to be more civil are missing a basic understanding of how the world works, people are not going to be nicer because they know they ought to, their opinions are coming from what they read, what other people say, how they feel about stuff and the business model is now designed to keep them permanently in fight or flight mode.

RITHOLTZ: I literally have a column, we’re recording this the day the column should be out in about 15 minutes how to have a financial debate without mailing pipe bombs to each other because if you believe the founding fathers and if you believe the marketplace of ideas, we should be able to debate these things not with our Danny Kahneman system or an emotional fight or flight response, more coolly and actually have a debate about the merits of these issues.

But it sounds like at least in the public political sphere we don’t get past that immediate response very often, do we?

ADAMS: Yes, we’ve developed two separate worlds, I call it two movies on one screen so the people on opposite sides believe they’re looking at the facts and making a perfectly objective opinion based on what they see as the facts.

Trouble is the other side thinks exactly the same thing and they’re looking at for the most part, the same facts, there are some differences about the different silos, it will have a little bit different information, for example, one silo does not like George Soros, the other silo doesn’t talk about it, so those things are different, but for the most part, were looking at the same information and having completely different conclusions.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about that because there’s a couple issues here and I want to unpack them but you raised like a really interesting question. To me, so first of all, I’m a New York pretty middle-of-the-road guy, working in finance, Jewish background, I have never felt oppressed or discriminated against, but clearly within the little bubble that’s my world, I’m not discriminated against and even go back 50 or 100 years, the reason firms like Goldman Sachs came about or some of the bigger Fried Frank or Kaye Scholer or some of the bigger law firms came about, was because Jews couldn’t get hired at the waspy farms and so they created their own.

So I was fortunate to be born into part of the world where I don’t really experience discrimination although I certainly see it online, and to me when I when I see the way George Soros’ name is used, it always seems to be a totem or a dog whistle for the anti-Semites, for people you can name a million different financiers, it used to be the trilateral commission or go down the list of all the crazy different people who were pulling the levers of power behind the scenes, how do you respond when people say hey George Soros is dog whistle to anti-Semites, he’s a billionaire, he’s Jewish, therefore wink wink nudge nudge we are going to let people know exactly what we’re saying.

ADAMS: Well let me tell you the experiment I’ve been running on Twitter recently, I couldn’t understand what all the complaints about Soros were about and I thought well that’s just because I’ve not exposed myself to it, if I read the right link, if I read the right stuff, I would maybe have an opinion so I asked people can you tell me in summary what the problem is and people couldn’t do it, not even close, but they would say but if you look at this link, look at this interview, watch this video, most of the video links, were to an edited video we did for 60 minutes in which it’s taken out of context to make it look like he really enjoyed the Holocaust. You know, I’m exaggerating a little bit right but that’s essentially how it is being portrayed or that he was a Nazi collaborator.

If you see the whole clip without the editing it doesn’t look like that, so part of it is that people are looking at the wrong video and they are — through no fault of their own they believe it’s the full story. So it starts with that just do some editing job but then you go okay but what’s he doing now, I get why you don’t like what he did when he was 14 even if you have the wrong information, but what’s your complaint now? And people will send me these long rambling articles in which there is mind-reading written into the article, in other words the author will say and then George Soros wants to destroy the fill in the blank…

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: Destroy our Republic, destroy Israel, he wants to destroy something, and I’m thinking to myself I’ll bet he never said that, I will bet there is no quote of him saying I want to destroy you don’t whatever they love, but everybody is sure they have seen it, they have seen enough information that they have that opinion.

So then I ask a simple question okay you don’t like what organizations he’s funding because those organizations are doing things which you think are destructive to the United States, to Israel or whatever you’re complaining about, and I say can you tell me the percentage of the budget of those people he is funding and then give me an idea what bad things they’re doing so I know if he’s like the big reason that some bad stuff is happening.

Nobody has that list or at least nobody I can find it can forward it to me in a consumable form, I’ll get endless word salad descriptions about the bad things he’s funding to destroy the world but nobody seems to be able to actually describe it in any coherent way. So I can’t even form an opinion about whether he’s something I should be opposed to or in favor of, I literally can’t even form an opinion, so what I’m observing is a mass hysteria kind of reaction and part of the way that you can tell it’s — it is not based on fact is that is limited to one silo, right? The people on the left, it’s invisible to them.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: It’s just not even a question.

RITHOLTZ: But it’s so far along to the people — Kevin McCarthy is the guy teed up to replace Paul Ryan, he tweeted something about Soros funding the caravan coming from Guatemala to the United States, when it reaches that level, it makes you stop and say what’s going on here? And to me the common thread through all of at least on the right I find the left and the right are it’s not identical and the crazy is different in different ways and I I’m very anti-PC culture, the left tends to embrace that, the right has something unique which the left doesn’t, Fox News is a very different animal than CNN or MSNBC.

I’m happy to say every media outlet has a bias, there is no — I don’t think anybody could disagree with that but Fox News behaves like it’s a wholly-owned subsidiary and that’s a quantitative difference from everything else. Agree or disagree?

ADAMS: Well, let me put it in this frame, it’s my observation that the side that is out of power is the craziest while they are out of power. So while Obama was in power, Fox News was talking about Birtherism…

RITHOLTZ: Right, Donald Trump was talking about Birtherism.

ADAMS: Yes, uranium one, et cetera.

RITHOLTZ: Benghazi, email server, go down the whole list.

ADAMS: So you know, nobody’s innocent of pushing stories that don’t pass all the fact checking, but at the moment, because Trump is an office, it seems obvious to me that Fox has the advantage that they can talk about real things like the economy is doing well and North Korea is going well, et cetera…

RITHOLTZ: So why don’t they?

ADAMS: Well they do.

RITHOLTZ: They are spending a lot of time on other — I’m always back and forth between the two of them.

ADAMS: So I’m giving nobody a pass here, I’m just saying that in a relative craziness scale, the one who is out of power will act crazier while they are out power until they get back in power. Because Fox News can talk about real things that are good things and they’ve got a factual basis for that. If you’re anti-Trump, say CNN MSNBC you talk about things like, well I think if we saw his tax returns, there would be a problem or I think when Mueller is done, we’ll find something we don’t know that we don’t like about Russia and Trump, or I think he’s going to say something in the future that will blow up the world, or I think this violence that happened is because something he said although we should probably talk about those sort of things separately, because I think deserves its own topic.

So I think that you see a lot of mind-reading imaginary Trump derangement syndrome on the left because he’s in power, and he’s changing their world in the way they don’t like. If Trump, left office and you just say Nancy Pelosi took over the presidency in a few years it would just reverse and Fox News are making up stuff and CNN would be reporting more facts.

RITHOLTZ: We clearly saw Obama derangement syndrome, and before that, we clearly saw Bush derangement syndrome…

ADAMS: Right.

RITHOLTZ: There is no doubt I’m fond of pointing out that the so-called deficit hawks, the people concerned about deficit spending is directly a function of who’s in power.

ADAMS: Of course.

RITHOLTZ: So when George Bush is in the office, the Democrats are saying what you mean you want a big tax cut that’s not funded and a war of choice that’s going to cost trillions of dollars? Then the Democrats come at the office and we have to rescue the banks and we need a stimulus we need this, and now the Republicans are talking about it and then that reverses. Now Trump is in office and we have a big tax cut and the deficit has gone up, it’s always a function of who’s out of power.

But the question that I raise is, is there a qualitative difference to that derangement syndrome between each side or are you suggesting it’s just strictly who’s ever out of power is angry and they say and do things that are crazy?

ADAMS: The two biggest variables are who’s in and out of power and then the personality of the person in the office, is there something about them that is special? Trump is special in lots of ways, so he tweaks people’s feelings harder than anybody’s ever tweaked feelings.

RITHOLTZ: No doubt.

ADAMS: So you should expect that every everything that’s a normal bias becomes a super bias in this situation and that’s what we see.

RITHOLTZ: So we’re recording this about a week before the midterms, what do you think happens? Any thoughts? You’re not a political analyst but you have some insight into how both sides communicate, sometimes they’re more effective, sometimes less effective, what do you think is the outcome here?

ADAMS: So I think it’s tough for people in my position to call individual races because it probably has more to do with the match ups and..

(Crosstalk)

RITHOLTZ: Right, no, I mean generally who takes the House? Who takes the Senate? What happens in the governorships?

ADAMS: Right, so in general you need to know a lot of the details to make a good overall predictions so I will stick with what I feel comfortable with. It looks like Republicans are heading for a historic turnout, like a jaw-dropping amount of turnout and I think they’re holding — they are keeping their powder dry. I think Republicans have as a characteristic if I can generalize they like to act more than they like to talk and so I think you are going to be surprised the way people were surprised about the election in 2016, the Republicans turnout. And then the other prediction is that it’s can be closer than people imagined a year ago.

RITHOLTZ: Purple wave, not a blue wave.

ADAMS: I think it could, this will be the most extreme I’m not sure I want to call this a prediction but if things go the way that the world has been going for the last couple years it almost seems like whatever’s the best movie plot is what happens, that would that would result in almost a deadlock in the house meaning it would be so close that there’s something about it one of the — somebody got elected, maybe there’s some doubt about the vote, I think we’re not going to get a clean outcome, it’s possible that we will have something that’s so close to even that there will be enough things and doubt that we wonder who even won.

RITHOLTZ: I will I will concur by saying if under normal circumstances in a midterm election the party out of power usually gain seats both in the house and at the state assembly level but if anybody can steal defeat from the jaws of victory, the Democrats know how to do that. That said by the time this is broadcasted, the results are probably in and I’m guessing the Democrats take the house, I’ve no idea what happens in the Senate but like you said, this is very tough to do, neither of us are political analysts and we don’t really know what the outcome is.

But I’m intrigued by your perspective of the communication that takes place and how people are influenced.

I would imagine the Democrats should be more motivated to come out and vote only because the Republicans got what they want they, they got their tax-cut, they got Kavanaugh, they shouldn’t be as motivated but who can tell? Your position is he is a great motivator and therefore they are going to come out and vote.

ADAMS: Well there is also — there are number of other influences, one is that people are more motivated by fear of loss than they are motivated by hey, I might get something. The Democrats are trying to get something and the Republicans are trying to prevent losing what they’ve already gotten. Those are different motivations and usually the person who is trying to prevent a loss is going to get off the couch before the person who says, well if I vote, something good might happen, a lesser motivation.

RITHOLTZ: Classic risk aversion.

ADAMS: Right and so there’s that, but I also think the Democrats might be more transparent about how much — let’s see, how much energy they have on their side, you can see them dancing in the streets, you can see them talking, you can see them registering people at apparently record rates, but the Republicans are sleepers and this is weird but I think you might see a repeat of 2016 just because Republicans enjoyed it so much the first time.

In other words they saw the model where, well, we didn’t talk about it but we showed up and voted, you saw what happens, I’ve got a feeling.

RITHOLTZ: Well, the argument is they but they if you look at total votes cast, Trump get less votes than Hillary did in the presidential election and the GOP got less votes than the Democrats did in Congress, however they got the right votes in the right states for the electoral college and for the individual congresspeople.

ADAMS: Yes, that obviously makes a huge difference and you can’t discount that but there’s a big energy issue too and that might be — the energy might be the difference between that one or two percent in either direction and that’s really all that’s in play. People have largely made up their minds…

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

ADAMS: But there may be one or two percent who are going to vote but it’s raining or they don’t have a babysitter and how hard are you going to try?

RITHOLTZ: So you think the Republicans are more motivated than the Democrats realize?

ADAMS: I think it’s a big sleeper and they are going to break some records.

RITHOLTZ: That is quite fascinating, you mentioned something earlier, by the way I love that you and I disagree about a lot of things and can actually engage in a civil debate, where online it seems so few people can do that.

ADAMS: Well if people were polite online like they are in person, online would be fine, too.

RITHOLTZ: Well that that’s the automobile pedestrian disagreement when people yell stuff from the safety of their steel and glass enclosure that you would never say walking down the street and online seems to be that indulgence of id seems to be encouraged when you are online. People forget that you’re not dealing with a robot, you’re dealing with a human being on the other side, it’s very easy to lose sight of that when you’re just punching something into a little twitter square and hitting “tweet.”

ADAMS: And probably 20 times a day at minimum, somebody will come onto my Twitter feed and say some version of “Your cartoons are terrible, you’re an idiot” and that is all they will say. There’s nothing else. And I think to myself, what exactly was your motivation there? It had to just feel good.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: so I think they just get a little charge at being able to hurt somebody they don’t know that they’ve got a problem with.

RITHOLTZ: That doesn’t seem like it’s a positive or healthy way to deal with the disagreement, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions but I made a resolution this year to try and be nicer on Twitter and you would be shocked at how often somebody says something that is you know, there’s a legitimate point there but it’s lost in the obnoxiousness and the anger, and when you just respond with a factual statement about well here’s the data source I used and this was the basis that, the person will then turn around and say, “oh thanks for that, by the way, I love Masters in Business, keep doing what you are doing” I’m like “wait a second you were just a total jerk…”

And I learned that a long time ago and it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion and forget these are real people you’re dealing with.

ADAMS: Yes, I might have different people following me because I’ve never — it is pretty rare that I can send them better information and have them say “yes, you changed my mind” usually it’s you know, “your link is crazy in your crazy and you’re crazy.”

RITHOLTZ: They don’t say they changed their mind, they said “I like the radio show” like they still haven’t walked back whatever data point — you know, I love it when people tell me “well you didn’t inflation-adjust that.” I can’t inflation-adjust height it’s just the guy’s height, what are you talking about?

ADAMS: So that’s sort of you know, you get the sort of stuff, I do get the — it’s not that uncommon to get somebody who will insult me while complementing me, and say yes, love your show, you’re crazy about this, I don’t know if I should block them because they’ve got these weird insulting ways to be my friend.

RITHOLTZ: Are you are you familiar with the soft block, we were just discussing this in the office the other day.

ADAMS: The mute?

RITHOLTZ: Soft block is if somebody’s following you, I shouldn’t while — normally I would say I wouldn’t reveal this because it’s a secret trick, but the old joke is if you want to hide something, bury it in the back of the podcast and nobody will hear it. So someone’s following you and you don’t want to block them but you’re tired of their crap so you block and then immediately unblock them, and what that does is it makes them unfollow you and then you mute them and so now you don’t see their stuff, they are no longer getting your stuff but they don’t know they’ve been unfollowed, and everybody’s life just goes on their separate paths with let’s just agree to divorce and move forward.

It’s the twitter case of an amicable divorce.

ADAMS: You’ve changed my life.

RITHOLTZ: So I have to give credit to my partner Josh Brown who claims to have invented this in 2010, I discovered it independently five years later, I’m like this is a very effective technique to — because once you block somebody, then it’s like “That idiot Scott Adams blocked” Or “Ritholtz, he’s a jerk, he blocked me.”

So instead, but you have to do it immediately so they can’t see it, it is block unblock and then mute, and we all just move along with our lives.

ADAMS: That’s brilliant, I’ve been calling people Nazis and then blocking them.

RITHOLTZ: That’s funny, so let’s talk about Nazis for a second or actually more specifically, you said the situation with Pittsburgh and some of the more incendiary rhetoric is different than some of the other stuff. What were you thinking along those lines?

ADAMS: Yes, just in the sense that it requires a little more expensive context, the first thing I’d say is that if you’re looking at the president’s rhetoric and saying how was that affecting people, there are different filters to view that.

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

ADAMS: If you are looking at a legal filter or a social filter, even his enemies agree that you can’t blame the talker for the person who did the bad act.

RITHOLTZ: Hey you’re the guy with the gun…

ADAMS: Right.

RITHOLTZ: You know, crazy is crazy.

ADAMS: But if you viewed it through a science lens and you’ve got millions of people listening to a message, are some of them going to be influenced in ways that are unproductive and dangerous, and the answer is yes, just about every time.

Now President Trump is surely the type of personality that could trigger people on the fringes but I would say most presidents probably are, probably most presidents have triggered people for their own reasons to do things.

Now if you are looking at somebody who is triggered to it in the case of the synagogue shooting, to attack people who the president clearly favors, I mean he’s been good to Israel, his family is Jewish.

RITHOLTZ: His daughter married someone who is Jewish and converted to Judaism.

ADAMS: His advisers, you know you can go down, and the shooter actively disliked Trump but he still being — Trump is still being blamed for raising the temperature and…

(Crosstalk)

RITHOLTZ: What about the mail bomber, how do you define that guy?

ADAMS: Just mental illness, it’s always a problem to say that we should change all of our behavior because there are some mentally deranged people who are going to take it wrong.

RITHOLTZ: So while all presidents say things that might affect some of the people on the extreme fringe, Trump seems to be much more incendiary than Obama or Bush or Clinton.

ADAMS: I think that’s right and I don’t think that we should ignore that and then the president should do whatever he needs to do with that. But let’s also size it. I did a twitter poll which of course is deeply unscientific but I asked what you think causes people to act more violently? The president’s rhetoric or fake news, video games, or music? And what you find is that the president is in the same range, at least in people’s opinions with music and video games, which I also believe do trigger people if you’re looking at a huge population, if 100 million people are playing a videogame where somebody gets shot, somebody’s going to shoot somebody. That just the…

RITHOLTZ: So the question is is it the videogame or you take 100 million people and statistically, there is going to be one crazy in that group?

ADAMS: It is the price of free speech, but you want to size it, fake news can kill millions, I mean fake news is a serious, serious problem.

RITHOLTZ: So how do you define fake news and…

ADAMS: Two ways.

RITHOLTZ: And the reason I’m going to tee up this question very specifically, there’s an inherent bias in all media operations from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal and entities on the far extreme, what is your definition of fake news?

ADAMS: So for me, fake news would be inaccurate news that especially the kind of that they should have known or they should have corrected, but that’s kind of rare, there isn’t that much of the like seriously fake news. The other kind is worse because it’s changing our thinking about things. So if you talk consistently about let’s say, Russia, it will rise in people’s minds in importance, that may be good but it may be bad, so the media is changing the importance and the priority and how we rank things.

RITHOLTZ: The focus of perception. By the way meant to tell you I know you’re a big fan of Bob Cialdini who wrote “Influence” and “Presuasion” it was fun reading his stuff and then reading your stuff because clearly he has influenced you.

ADAMS: Yes, he has influenced me a great deal which make sense, he wrote a book called “Influence”

(LAUGHTER)

ADAMS: Yes, he is probably one of my biggest influences and we’ve had brief connection on Twitter, exchanged some professional complements.

RITHOLTZ: So the concept of reprioritizing and focusing comes from “Influence” comes from his book, you’re saying with the media does fake news not so much, false statements of fact, but changing or reprioritizing the subjects we’re discussing.

ADAMS: Right, and then there’s a hybrid which is the worst case — in my opinion this is the worst fake news maybe we will ever see short of actually starting a war, and that was what I call the Charlottesville hoax…

RITHOLTZ: Which is what?

ADAMS: Now the way — and it goes like this, when the president said they were fine people on both sides, the frame that should have been reported was both sides of the statue question, people want statues people want them to come down, there are fine people on both sides of that even if you disagree with their position, but because the news had framed as anti — against the white supremacist.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: They reported it as both sides being white supremacist and antifa and then they said well, the president is calling the white supremacists fine people…

RITHOLTZ: So now I have to go back and resee that video.

ADAMS: Hold on, let me finish. Now, in order to believe that, you have to believe that he called the antifa demonstrators fine people also because he said both sides, that didn’t happen. Second of all there is no world in which the president of the United States got in front of the public and decided to side with the white supremacists by calling them fine people. In no world was that possible or did it happen. Indeed when they asked him for clarification he condemned the white supremacist, he clearly was not supporting them and anybody who could’ve seen objectively should have known that.

But you can turn on CNN almost any day of the week and there will be a pundit who will say “Well he called the white supremacist fine people” and nobody calls him on it nobody says wait, that was ambiguous, obviously he wasn’t saying white supremacists are fine people because those white supremacist, for God sakes, they were marching against — it was an anti-Semitic demonstration.

RITHOLTZ: Yes.

ADAMS: His daughter’s Jewish, his family is Jewish, he is pro-Israel, Israel loves him.

RITHOLTZ: Very much so, by the way.

ADAMS: Right, more than any president.

RITHOLTZ: Amongst the Orthodox Jews I think his approval rating is like 90 percent in the United States.

ADAMS: Right.

RITHOLTZ: Very, very high.

ADAMS: So to think that he got in front of the public and made a choice to say yeah I think this’ll work out well for me, I’ll throw in with the white supremacist that absolutely did not happen but as reported as fact by CNN MSNBC and I would say that that one event crystallized all the things that people worried about the president and put it into fact, and so it so that event more than anything else is ripping the fabric of the country apart and it’s despicable and it’s bordering on intentional.

RITHOLTZ: So I have to now go back and re-watch that video because I didn’t see it live, I just saw the clips, however…

ADAMS: If you see the video, that won’t clear it up, you have to wait for him to explain what he meant that he was disavowing them and then you have to understand that the context was always two sides of the statue debate, that’s what the whole event was about.

RITHOLTZ: So I will watch the whole thing, part of the problem is that we bring past statements to what we do so the whole Birther controversy very much looks like it’s a racist trope and he was key in that…

ADAMS: Wait a minute, I agree that people are perceiving it that way…

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: But are you saying that the facts support that as being a racist attack?

RITHOLTZ: The first African-American president, clearly born in Hawaii, clearly tons of evidence that that’s where he’s from, somehow he’s a Muslim or somehow he’s a non-US citizen, I find that confusing.

ADAMS: Hold up, I don’t think the president was bringing up the Muslim part, I believe the president was using a common attack that he uses for everybody, he said Ted Cruz…

RITHOLTZ: Not born in the United States?

ADAMS: He said Ted Cruz was Canadian.

RITHOLTZ: Well, he was born in Canada but to American parents and you are dual citizen there.

ADAMS: So you see that the president uses every available attack against every opponent without exception, if he can say it, if he could throw it against the wall and he thinks it will influence three voters, he’s going to throw that against the wall.

He said he said that Ted Cruz’s father might’ve been involved in killing Kennedy, you don’t believe he believed that, right?

RITHOLTZ: I assume nobody believes that.

ADAMS: Right.

RITHOLTZ: So let me throw another one at you which I think is fascinating, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, there was a episode where he attacks Trump, I think it was for how he cut pizza something idiotic, and Trump tweets John Leibowitz also known as John Stewart, now I interpreted that as hey everybody in Hollywood and everybody in TV changes their name, you’re bringing up a very Jewish name, that sounds like a dog whistle to the anti-Semites. Tell me why that’s wrong?

ADAMS: Sounds to me like he was calling him a phony, in other words he wasn’t true to his own heritage.

RITHOLTZ: Like everybody else in show business.

ADAMS: Right, but the fact — don’t get caught up in the logic of the fact of it.

RITHOLTZ: Okay.

ADAMS: It was something he could say to make him deal with…

(Crosstalk)

RITHOLTZ: And he just throws everything, he opens the cannon fodder and that’s it, whatever he can throw, he throws.

ADAMS: Yes, if you see him going easy on opponents who happen to be white males let me know because I haven’t noticed that.

RITHOLTZ: Well, low-energy jab in Lyin Ted in what did he call Rubio, Tiny Marco or something like that, but it seems like it’s not religious or racial, it just seems that…

ADAMS: Cryin Chuck, you know if you if you are someone who insults everybody with every tool that you have at your disposal all the time, if you’re picking up that one example say well is this one’s black…

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: So it must be racist, that is not based in fact…

RITHOLTZ: He just machine guns everybody and that’s that.

ADAMS: Your bias is showing through in that.

RITHOLTZ: So I have my favorite questions I ask all my guess but I have one more question I have to get to you because people are — I see why you are annoyed by the tweet streams that come at you, you said earlier you’re to the left of Bernie.

ADAMS: Correct.

RITHOLTZ: How do you define left right that you’re to the left of Bernie Sanders? We are talking Bernie Sanders, right?

(Crosstalk)

ADAMS: Yes Bernie Sanders, so let me give you some examples. On abortion, conservatives would like to limit it, liberals would like more of it with certain conditions, I’m left of that which is I say that men and me in particular should abstain from the decision and just support women. The reason is that women bear the greatest responsibility for childbirth and childrearing and as a general standard, the people who take on the biggest responsibility especially for something so important should have the greatest say.

RITHOLTZ: That’s a pretty progressive perspective.

ADAMS: And to think that men should have somehow an equal say in what women do with their bodies as a law is ridiculous, because first of all, this assumes that men are adding something to the to the quality of the decision, nothing like that’s happening…

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: We’re not adding to the quality of the decision, but what society needs is a decision because it’s life-and-death because it’s one of our biggest issues, you need it an outcome that’s credible so that even the people who don’t like it say yeah but the way you got there, that’s a good — at least it is credible, even though I don’t like it.

RITHOLTZ: Give us another example because I’m fascinated by this.

ADAMS: Let’s take reparations.

RITHOLTZ: Okay.

ADAMS: Conservatives don’t like it, even most liberals would not be in favor because it feel like I don’t want to pay for something that wasn’t my fault.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: I say we should at least consider solve one of our biggest social problems to have a 1 percent tax on — a tax on just the top 1 percent, so that would include people like me and it would be a 25 year — let’s say one generation tax only to make college and trade training free for African-Americans for one generation.

So that we could say look, we recognize it was something bad, we can do something about it now here’s what’s special, the top 1 percent also have nothing most of them have nothing to do with slavery, their ancestors weren’t involved…

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

ADAMS: But what’s different is the top 1 percent if they can make a big difference in what’s in the — let’s say the most disadvantaged part of society, if you can flip somebody from being unemployed to employed that is a huge boost to the economy and who benefits from that?

RITHOLTZ: Sure, everybody.

ADAMS: The top 1 percent.

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

ADAMS: We live in a society where the top 1 percent gets most of the gain.

RITHOLTZ: Give us one more example and then I’ll go jump to my favorite questions. Scott Adams, Socialist.

ADAMS: Let’s take healthcare, healthcare, the conservatives say let the market work it out, more or less, liberals say let the government handle it…

(Crosstalk)

RITHOLTZ: Regulate the market a little, yes.

ADAMS: I say the government should be more involved which is that we should be creating a portfolio, meaning just a conceptual portfolio of startups that could lower the cost of healthcare in the future.

So if the president said look, I’m going to give you a running list of companies that if they did well your health care costs would go down…

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: So the government I think could be more involved than just being single-payer, they could be directly involved in boosting that part of the startup world that will directly help things.

RITHOLTZ: Scott Adams, you are a fascinating and complex individual and I’ve enjoyed our conversation.

Let’s jump to our speed round, I will try and get through as many of these questions as quickly as possible. Tell us the most important thing we don’t know about you.

ADAMS: Wow, l I live such a public life that that is a very small category. Things you don’t know about me. I’m learning to play the drums because I think it will be good for my brain as I reach my older years.

RITHOLTZ: I’m with you ,it’s just adding to that talent stack. Who are some of your early mentors? Obviously this Cassady gentleman has to be one.

ADAMS: Yes, Jack Cassady as I mentioned before, my college roommate Mike Charlie, weirdly I got into college without knowing much about the world and he sort of taught me what it was like to be a functioning person.

RITHOLTZ: A functioning human being.

ADAMS: And then my first editor, Sarah Gillespie who’s the one who called me and offered me the first contract.

RITHOLTZ: Any specific cartoonists that influenced the way you approach Dilbert?

ADAMS: Yes…

RITHOLTZ: You mentioned Charles Schultz.

ADAMS: Sergio Aragones who did the little characters in the margins of Mad Magazine.

RITHOLTZ: Sure, they were fantastic.

ADAMS: Gary Larson, of course, I stole his technique of drawing characters that don’t have necks, and probably those are the big ones, yes, I would say Schultz and Gary Larson.

RITHOLTZ: Favorite books, we mentioned Bob Cialdini, what are some of your favorite books be they fiction, nonfiction, cartoonist related or other?

ADAMS: Oh man, “Impossible to Ignore” is good, teaches you how to do memorable presentations and slideshows and stuff by Dr. Carmen Simon, I’m reading “Sapiens” now, I like it so far, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to like the rest of it.

RITHOLTZ: You will find the second book, “Homo Deus” to be very, very dark with this one isn’t very dark.

ADAMS: Well, okay.

RITHOLTZ: Just an FYI.

ADAMS: Maybe I will stay away from that one.

And then as we mentioned, Cialdini’s book “Influence” and then his follow-up book, his newer one “Presuasion.”

RITHOLTZ: Yes.

ADAMS: Those I would consider absolute fundamental reading for anybody in the business world, if you haven’t read those books, you’re disadvantaged, period I wouldn’t say that of many books, and then my books “Win Bigly” and “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” would be I consider fundamental reading on persuasion.

RITHOLTZ: What are you excited about right now?

ADAMS: Right now, I’m working with Bill Pulte on something called “the Blight Authority” blight meaning B-L-I-G-H-T the rundown inner cities areas, what he’s doing with his nonprofit is helping cities clear out big contiguous areas and then I’m helping them try to figure out you can we attract some ideas because ideas are the bigger problem than money, nobody knows what to do, so we’re trying to come up with some ideas to help the inner cities and productively use that space.

RITHOLTZ: Tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from the experience.

ADAMS: Wow.

RITHOLTZ: You mentioned a restaurant in “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win.”

ADAMS: Yeah.

RITHOLTZ: I thought that was interesting.

ADAMS: So almost everything I failed at was something I chose that would teach me something along the way. So the first time I gave a corporate speech when I was paid way too much to give a speech when Dover was just taking off and the speaking request come in and I didn’t know how to be a public speaker but I took the deal, I did really poorly and then they paid me. And I thought wait a minute I did really, really poorly in my opinion and then they paid me. So I thought well maybe I should do more of this maybe I could get good at it and eventually I was one of the top corporate speakers in America.

RITHOLTZ: What you do for fun?

ADAMS: Well my girlfriend, Kristina and I spend a lot of time together and mostly it’s whatever couples do, go out to dinner, travel.

RITHOLTZ: Sounds like fun.

Someone comes to you, a millennial, a recent college grad and they’re interested in becoming a cartoonist, what sort of advice would you give them?

ADAMS: Well I would tell them first of all, develop their talent stack so I would tell them to concentrate on writing even more than the art, I would tell them to create online and see if they can build an audience, I would tell them to change their art based on what the audience is telling them is working or not. I would tell them to know exactly who they’re targeting their art to, and not try to be a generic oh everybody will love this because that is kind of rare these days, or rather to say as I did, this is a comic for the workplace, this is comic for pet owners, this is comic for single people, whatever it is.

RITHOLTZ: Make makes perfect sense.

Final question, what do you know about the world of cartoonists today you wish you knew 30 years ago when you were first starting Dilbert?

ADAMS: I did not know that the main thing you have to get right is that the reader looks at your comic and says “That happened to me too” if you don’t get that part right you don’t have anything. Now there was a day when that wasn’t true, the old style of humor was more absurdist and more generic but in today’s world people just have to say “Oh, that’s me” or they don’t care.

RITHOLTZ: Fascinating.

We have been speaking with Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. If you enjoyed this conversation, be sure and look up an inch or down an inch on Apple iTunes and you could see any of the approximately 250 such conversations we’ve had previously.

We love your comments, feedback, and suggestions. Write to us at MIBPodcast@ Bloomberg.net.

You can check out my daily column at Bloomberg.com/ opinion, you could follow me on Twitter @Ritholtz.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack staff that helps put this together each week, Madena Parwana is my producer, Atika Valbrun is our project manager, Taylor Riggs is our Booker, Michael Batnick is our head of research.

I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio

Melane Riddle
Coordinating Administrator
Broadcast Department
ASC Services LLC
mriddle@ascserve.com

Transcription | Translation | Social Media Monitoring | Content Licensing
ASC is an ISO 27001 Certified Organization – committed to ensuring data security

From: Atika Valbrun (BLOOMBERG/ NEWSROOM:) <avalbrun@bloomberg.net>
Sent: Friday, November 16, 2018 4:29 PM
To: Sam Spaid; Elizabeth Pennell; Bob Hoenstine; list-newsteam@fdch.com; Melane Riddle
Subject: MIB Scott Adams

Hello everyone,

Please send us the transcript on Monday 11/19, thank you very much.

This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.

BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This week on the podcast, I have an extra special guest and what can I say about Scott Adams the creator of Dilbert. We had a — where do I even begin? We had a wide-ranging conversation about everything from
persuasion and communication skills to cartooning and writing books.

He and I have been on the opposite side of the Trump phenomena and I have to say we actually had a very fascinating and civil conversation about what makes Trump so unique and different than everybody else, how he’s disrupting politics, how he has won big
league, coincidentally the name of the most recent book Scott wrote. And Scott admits to being to the left of Bernie Sanders which I think would surprise a lot of the people who criticize him on Twitter and elsewhere.

We had a fascinating conversation, be sure and stay until the very end to listen to that because really, it’s quite intriguing and if I had another hour, I probably could’ve continued the conversation for that much longer.

So with no further ado, my conversation with Scott Adams.

My extra special guest this week is Scott Adams, he is best known as the creator of the comic strip Dilbert which appears in over 2000 newspapers worldwide in 65 countries and 25 languages, he is the author of numerous books including “Dilbert Future and
the Joy of Work” his most recent books are “How to Fail at Everything and Still Succeed” and “Win Bigly” he received the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award and the Newspaper Comic Strip Award in 1997.

Scott Adams, welcome to Bloomberg.

SCOTT ADAMS, CREATOR, DILBERT: Thanks for having me.

RITHOLTZ: You seem to come out of a fairly typical corporate background ,you worked in banking and technology, how did that road lead to the creation of Dilbert?

ADAMS: Well the corporate thing didn’t work out for me so I worked for eight and a half years in a big bank in San Francisco and eight and a half years or about years at the local phone company, well both of those careers ended for the same reason, in both
cases, my boss called me into my office and said, it turns out the media just discovered that we have no diversity in management, and in each case, my boss said, “I’m going to tell you politely, you can’t be promoted here.”

RITHOLTZ: Really?

ADAMS: Yes, until things balanced out a little bit.

Now, when I tell this story people always say “stop being a victim, stop complaining” I’m not doing that, I’m telling you what happened.

RITHOLTZ: So how did each of those events lead you to exploring cartooning? You have been drawing since what — you’re 11? Something like that?

ADAMS: Yeah when I was little kid, like lots of little kids, I thought hey, I think I would grow up to be a cartoonist, that’s one of the most common …

RITHOLTZ: Really?

ADAMS: Little kid, you know, dreams, basketball player and cartoonist…

RITHOLTZ: Racecar driver.

ADAMS: Racecar driver, yes, astronaut. And I thought I wanted to be Charles Schultz when I grew up but by the time I reached probably age 11,12, I started to be able to reason…

RITHOLTZ: Yes.

ADAMS: And suddenly the fantastical world of children started to fall away, you know, Santa Claus wasn’t real, et cetera, but I started to think wait a minute I want to be Charles Schultz the most famous cartoonist in the world, but there are around 6 billion
people in the world maybe back then and there was only one of him and I thought I’m not liking my odds, maybe I should try to be a lawyer a businessman or something.

So I gave up on the old cartooning thing and went to traditional economics degree, business world kind of a life, but when it didn’t work out, I started to say what can I do that would not have a boss?

Because I noticed that the common element was having a boss because my success or lack of it in the corporate world didn’t have anything to do with my ability or how hard I worked, it was entirely up to what a boss decided for the bosses and the company’s
own reasons. And I thought well I’d like to be free of that so I’ve tried a number of things over the years, cartooning was the one that worked.

And what I did was I tried to do things which would have a low risk you know, I wouldn’t die if I didn’t workout I wouldn’t be bankrupt if it didn’t work out ,I would just be tired or embarrassed, those were the worst-case scenarios. I saw the world as
sort of a slot machine that you didn’t have to put money into meaning that I could just sit there and pull until I got a jackpot and that I could win every time if I was willing to sit there long enough and pull.

So cartooning was one of those pulls, it wasn’t the only one, there were lots of them, I wrote about it in “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” and it just happened to be the one that worked.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about cartooning little because in the beginning you got a lot of rejection, you pulled the lever, you actually were debating, hey maybe I’ve pulled long enough on cartooning, that’s not working, but an inspirational letter from
a fan kept you going. Tell — am I misstating that? Am I overstating that?

ADAMS: You’re close, you’re in the same ZIP Code.

RITHOLTZ: Okay.

ADAMS: Let me tell you the story. One day I came home and was flipping through the channels on TV and there was a show on how to become a cartoonist of all things…

RITHOLTZ: Really?

ADAMS: I’ve never seen it before but I missed most of the show and so I wrote down from the closing credits the name of the host and figured out how to send them a snail mail letter and I said “Hey, I missed your show but can you give me some tips how to
become a cartoonist?”

And a few weeks later, I got a two-page handwritten letter from the host of the show, Jack Cassady is his name and he gave me some advice about what books to buy, what materials to use and then he gave me this advice. He said it’s a really competitive industry
and you’re going to get rejected a lot but, don’t give up.

A year goes by, and one day I walk out to my mailbox and there’s a letter from the same cartoonist, Jack Cassady, who had given me the original advice and he said he was cleaning his office and came across my samples and the letter I sent him in the bottom
of some pile and he said he was just writing to make sure that I hadn’t given up.

And I thought maybe he sees something I don’t see, so I decided to get out my materials and try again and by then I’d have this idea for a character called Dilbert, who was roughly based on my work experience and sent it out to the major syndicates, most
of them rejected me, once I thought I had all the rejections, I put my materials back in the closet again, and then the phone rings a few weeks later. And it was a woman who said she worked for a company I never heard of, some company called United Media
and they said they saw my samples, I didn’t know how, and wanted to offer me a contract to be a syndicated cartoonist, the biggest break you could possibly have in cartooning, but I never heard of this company.

And so I said “I haven’t heard of your company, this United Media Company, I didn’t send my samples to anybody with that name, so I feel more comfortable if you have some references. Was there somebody you’ve worked with before, a cartoonist who has been
published in any way you know on a on a pamphlet or a greeting card anything like that. And there was this long pause and then she said “Yes, we handle Peanuts and Garfield and Robot Man and Nancy…” and when she got to about the 12th name on the list I realize
my negotiating position have been compromised and I got myself a lawyer and got a contract and that’s the…

RITHOLTZ: The rest is history. That is hilarious.

So let’s talk a little but about that process of syndication, how does that work? What is the economics of syndication? What rights do you give up? What rights do you retain?

ADAMS: Well, first of all, the old syndicate was bought by the new syndicate so it’s universal you click is the syndicate now and the way that works, syndication, and it it works for cartoonists and columnists is that once you do your contract with the
syndication company they do the marketing and the selling and the distribution so you can just concentrate on the creating.

And depending on your leverage you might be my make a deal where you split the revenue 50-50 but they’re picking up a lot of expenses and then as you get more successful you might be able to negotiate a better mix than that.

RITHOLTZ: That’s seems pretty reasonable, so you’re working in corporate America for a big bank and a telco company, I have always thought the Dilbert character was the man in the middle, he’s got an incompetent boys boss above him, he’s got lazy coworkers
adjacent to him, he’s got aggressive sales people always promise the world and expect him to deliver and then annoying mentors and interns beneath him, what was the motivation for the experience? Because some people have said “Well Scott Adams is obviously
Dilbert” but you’ve kind of pushed back on that.

ADAMS: Well, all of the characters are either some part of my own personality usually not the full personality because cartoon characters work better if they have some distinguishing characteristic that’s usually a flaw.

RITHOLTZ: Right, not fully fleshed out but they are this key characteristic.

ADAMS: So if you’re looking to develop your own cartoon, what you want to look for is can you describe the character in a word or two, Garfield is a cat, Dilbert is a nerd, depending on what word you want to use, he is an office worker, Alice is angry,
Wally is lazy, Dogbert is scheming.

RITHOLTZ: The Elbonians.

ADAMS: The Elbonians are just the every other country, I learned that trick that if you use any other country that’s a real country there’s just nothing you can do humor wise, it’s going to come back, so I had to develop an imaginary country just to have
somebody who is at another country doing foolish things.

RITHOLTZ: And the fact that it’s underwater, what was the significance of that?

ADAMS: It’s under mud, so the Elbonians are always in waist deep mud but that’s never explained.

RITHOLTZ: All right, so let’s talk a little bit about how the strip has evolved over the years, you’ve gotten some pushback from other cartoonists including some people who I have to admit to being perplexed by this, claim that you’re basically excusing
bad corporate behavior. I don’t see it that way. How do you see do — first of all, do you respond to other cartoonists slagging your work and what do you think of this sort of, I don’t know, push back to the charming simplicity of the message of somebody
stuck in the middle of a corporate drone type of a workplace.

ADAMS: Well first of all, the hierarchy in cartooning especially is that the people who are very successful tend not to criticize other cartoonists.

RITHOLTZ: Always punch up, that’s legit.

ADAMS: And the people who are lower in the rank are pretty sure that everybody above them got there by locked door or the public doesn’t understand how bad it is and they can’t understand why it’s successful. So the people who are not yet successful are
just brutal, the people who are peers or above me in success cartooning are almost never that way, it’s the rarest thing in the world.

RITHOLTZ: You also and I’m going to interrupt right here and say you have frequently discussed the role of luck in everybody’s life, luck is so important, if this person didn’t follow up, Cassady didn’t follow up with that email that letter pre-email, who
knows what might have happened?

ADAMS: Yes, luck is always the big variable but I think the mistake is thinking that you can’t control luck, you can’t control actual you know random events but you can certainly put yourself in places where more luck can happen.

RITHOLTZ: What’s the phrase, luck is where preparation meets opportunity, is that right?

ADAMS: Well, there is that plus there’s amount of energy, if you put more energy into the universe, if you try to start 10 companies one after another the odds of one of them working out by luck is pretty good. If you try one thing once and then you give
up, your odds of finding luck are very low, so you can do a lot to go where the luck is, it’s the reason I moved from upstate New York to San Francisco because there was just more happening, more opportunity, more chances for luck.

RITHOLTZ: And much better weather.

ADAMS: Much better weather.

RITHOLTZ: To say the least.

Have you ever considered dramatically shifting the way Dilbert’s life has progressed, you’ve introduced new characters, you’ve introduced new plot lines but he seems to be pretty consistently Dilbert all the way through.

ADAMS: Well, actually I did make one big change early in the strip, the first several years it wasn’t really about the workplace he was a guy who had a job but it was about things he did with his dog and things he did at home and it was just about the time
that email was just becoming a thing and I have email early because it was something we did a work so I got it before most of the public, and the few people who got an email didn’t have anybody to email so they didn’t have anybody to send a message to, but
I started publishing my email in the comic strip and then people all over the country would say hey, I got somebody to write to, I’m going to tell you what I like about your strip and what I don’t like.

And consistently they said we love it when he’s at work doing workplace stuff, but I don’t like it as much when he is at home, so because my background is an MBA and an economics degree and not art, I did not have any artistic integrity to lose because I
didn’t start with any, and I said what’s the point of making art that the audience doesn’t want to see, so I gave the audience what they wanted, more workplace and that’s when it all took off.

RITHOLTZ: Did you ever get specific ideas from people who shoot you an email and saying hey this happened at my job.

ADAMS: Yes, most of what I write is based on other people suggestions so I used to get those suggestions by email, before that, it was from my own experience and today every week or two, I will just send out a tweet and say “Hey, what’s bothering you about
your job?” and I’ll get hundreds of responses…

RITHOLTZ: Hundreds.

ADAMS: And usually that writes my week of Dilbert right there.

RITHOLTZ: That’s absolutely astonishing. So I have to bring a very early in the cycle before the Republican nomination in 2016 was wrapped up, you had identified Trump as having a different approach to messaging that he was basically steamrolling not only
the rest of the nominees of Republicans and you said he would win the Republican nomination, but you also said he’s likely to win the whole shebang at a point in history where that was just a wild forecast.

ADAMS: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: And it turned out you were correct, so tell us what did you see in 2015 that so many other people completely missed?

ADAMS: Just by chance I have a weird combination of skills and experience that gave me a different filter on the situation, one is I grew up in New York upstate but is close enough to get sort of the New York sensibility so that helped me understand when
Trump was serious and when he was kidding, which seems to be a huge problem with people, they literally can’t tell when he is just sort kidding or he is using hyperbole to get a point.

RITHOLTZ: The famous line is take him seriously but not literally.

ADAMS: Right. The other thing I have going for me is a business background and so I can understand for example when he uses hyperbole to tell you the economy is doing better than it’s ever been, it’s going to be the greatest thing, he understands that
the economy is a psychology engine, we don’t have a shortage of materials, we don’t have a resource problem, we have a psychology problem and he was looking to fix it directly.

Now I also have a background as a trained hypnotist so I could recognize and I’ve also been studying the ways of persuasion in general for decades so when I was watching the president work on the campaign trail I was seeing the techniques of persuasion used
at the highest level I’ve ever seen in public, and to me it look like he was bringing a flamethrower to a stick fight and it and I thought it was actually an easy prediction.

RITHOLTZ: You know it’s funny New Yorkers kind of know him as a goofball businessman wannabe, he is not a huge developer, he is not this, he is not that, but he’s been incredibly successful person at managing and manipulating the media and I think a lot
of people completely miss that skill set.

There are few better and then Donald Trump at dominating the news cycle even when he says something that’s not true and everybody rushes to correct him, the next day, all we’re talking about is still Donald Trump.

ADAMS: And you saw that right from the start at the first Republican debate when he was asked the very first question, Megyn Kelly asked him this incredibly toxic damaging career ending campaign ending question…

RITHOLTZ: For anyone else anyway.

ADAMS: For anyone else about his bad statements about women and instead of apologizing like somebody might do or avoiding the question in the normal way that people do it, he interrupts her with “Only Rosie O’Donnell” now first of all, completely not true
but did it matter? It didn’t, because he took all of the energy out of the question which was lethal and he moved it to his answer which was so much fun and so provocative and so enjoyed by his base, especially they have a feeling about Rosie O’Donnell that
I said, oh my goodness, he just sucked all of the energy out of the problem and put it into something that people can’t stop talking about…

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: While forgetting the question and I literally stood up and walked toward the television like my — I had a tingle in my arms and I thought I think I just saw the future.

RITHOLTZ: How to Win Bigly by dominating the news cycle and sucking all the oxygen out of the room.

ADAMS: The actual subtitle the book is “Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter” when I first wrote that, when I first started saying facts don’t matter back in 2015 people just rejected that as ridiculous, now you see those words those exact words
the facts don’t matter, and they’re talking about in terms of our opinions not the real world and the real world if you walk in front of a bus and it hits you…

RITHOLTZ: It matters.

ADAMS: That matters.

RITHOLTZ: Physics matters, facts don’t matter.

ADAMS: But your decision about what to do that day might not be driven by facts, it’s about your emotion, how you feel everything else, so now I would say that that’s common way of thinking and I predicted in 2015 as well, and this is in “Win Bigly” that
Trump would do more than win the presidency, I said he would tear the fabric of reality apart and then we would see ourselves and how we fit into the universe completely differently because of the experience, and you’re watching the fact checker site, he got
7000 things wrong in the past 24 hours why is nobody acting differently because of this? Well because the facts don’t matter, as long as he’s persuading us in the direction that people feel comfortable going, better economy, beat ISIS, have good news in North
Korea, people are okay with it.

RITHOLTZ: I want to talk about the book “How to Fail at almost Everything and Still Win Big” because there are some really fascinating ideas in that book, one of which is don’t have goals, have a system. I was intrigued by that. Explain the thought process
there.

ADAMS: Yes, so the distinction there is a goal is you’ve got a very specific idea what you want, but a system is something you do every day to get you to a better place but you don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out. So an example would be if you
go to college and get a degree, you might not know exactly where that is going to lead but there’s a virtually a guarantee that you will have more options to do whatever you want.

RITHOLTZ: In the book you use the example “Don’t set a goal of losing 20 pounds, set a goal of eating more healthy.”

ADAMS: Or even more specifically, using the topic of diet, I say make it a lifelong practice to increase what you know about nutrition to understand that this is better than that, to understand for example if you have a choice between a plain white potato
and pasta, that the pasta has a better glycemic index, so if you if you like them the same, eat the pasta, you are going to be better off, that is just one example. But you can learn almost forever about nutrition so that you always have the option of the
healthier versus less healthy choice, I tell people to make it a habit to practice trying to figure out how to get the best flavor in the things that are good for them.

RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk about the combination of mediocre skills which I’m also amused by, how do a series of mediocre skills add up to something that’s very successful?

ADAMS: This is the idea of the talent stack, so a talent stack is where instead of becoming the one best person in the world at a specific skill which only works for a few people. So if you’re Tiger Woods, learn to golf and just ride that horses as hard
as you can, but for most of us we don’t have a Tiger Woods level skill at anything but what we do have is the ability to put together a stack of talents in which we’re pretty good, maybe top 20 percent compared to the rest of the world just because the rest
of the world isn’t practicing those skills in the first place, and if you combine them right, you get a very powerful package.

For example, as a cartoonist, it’s no secret that I’m not very good at drawing, and you would think that’s pretty important to being a cartoonist, you should be a pretty good artist, but I’m not. I can however, draw, better than most people, likewise, I’m
not the best writer in the world but I can write better than most people, I’m not the funniest guy in the room but I’m funnier than most people. I don’t know the most about business but I know a lot, so it gives me a topic to write about.

So I probably have a dozen or so modest skills which happen to sum up to something that’s of commercially extraordinary.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about your process, I love to write in the morning I feel like it’s a fresh reboot, you shake the Etch-a-Sketch screen empty and you begin clean, you also like to write in the mornings but for a different reason, explain why you
enjoy the mornings.

ADAMS: Yes, that’s part of my system as well, there are some things you can do in certain energy states that you can’t do in others, so in the morning my brain is at its very best, so between four and 10 in the morning I’m absolutely the most creative,
most productive, best concentration, by noon, I’m a little burned out, and it’s a perfect time to go to the gym because I don’t want to think too hard but my body is in perfect shape.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: And then by evening I’m ready to do you know more fun stuff, so I try to match my energy state to the task which is something you can only do if you don’t have a boss most of the time. And if your boss is saying, you know, “I want you to be here
in the meeting from 8 to 10,” you don’t get to say “You know boss, that was the only time I was going to do something useful and you just took it from me.” So that’s a big, big incentive to find a way that to control your own schedule because and I often
say this happiness is not caused by whether you can get the stuff you want, happiness is caused as that even more by getting the stuff when you want it, it’s not what you have is because we live in a world where you can often get you what you need but you
can often get it when you need it, you can’t often sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, exercise when you have the energy, and write when your brain is the best.

So to the extent that you can develop a system so that your energy is always right for the task, you are way ahead.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk a little about the happiness ratio, I love that concept of having a certain so you and I will disagree about certain things, the ability to sell focus your thoughts on happy ideas and create a sort of self awareness of positivity,
am I overstating that? Is an important aspect.

ADAMS: Yes, you can you can manage your own brain like you can manage shelf space and so if you don’t manage your brain, it’s going to think about whatever it thinks about and for most of us, that will drift off to negative thoughts, there is something
that happened in the past or something bad that might happen tomorrow.

But if you tell yourself, well let me think about what could go right, let me think about what I appreciate, let me think about who I’m in love with, let me think about that, you can just use up the shelf space and the…

RITHOLTZ: More happy thoughts to negative thoughts gives you a better ratio and that affects your whole outlook.

ADAMS: Right, so assuming that the things you think are just the things you think is sort of a losing strategy, a better system is to manage what you’re thinking because you can make yourself think about other topics.

RITHOLTZ: For sure.

ADAMS: You have that control.

And if you do that, your body will respond, your health will respond, your every part of your — your immune system will be stronger because we know that negativity works against all that stuff.

RITHOLTZ: So let me push, I’m with you on this and you and I are completely simpatico on the happy thought ratio, there are other ways to phrase that but we’re in the same camp there.

I have to push back a little bit on the daily affirmations which looked to me like survivorship bias, meaning well the ones that don’t work out we don’t really focus on but hey I used to say affirmations about Dilbert and Dilbert worked out, therefore.

So how do you separate the daily affirmations that work from the ones that don’t or am I just being a stick in the mud?

ADAMS: It might not matter which is which is the interesting thing, I’m not sure if I will be able to expand on it completely, but what we’re talking about is the practice of writing down what you want every day so you might say, “I, Scott Adams, will be
a famous cartoonist” Now that works against the systems’ way of working because it’s better to have a system that could get you a lot of different outcomes.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: So if you’re doing an affirmation, it’s probably better to say I will be wealthy than to say I will be rich in a specific way because you want to leave open the options.

Now the idea here is that there is there’s something about focusing that gives you a better result and the repeating it or the writing it down every day for…

RITHOLTZ: Consistency according to Bob Cialdini and the whole…

ADAMS: Yes, so just the process of doing that sort of reprograms you into a better collector of information, meaning that you can tune your brain to notice things you wouldn’t notice. You know how you’re in a crowd sometimes and you’ll hear people say
people say “blah blah blah blah blah” background noise ” blah blah blah blah blah Scott blah blah blah blah blah” and like you could pick your name out of a crowd without trying.

So whatever you tune your brain to, you notice things that are useful, so part of what might be good about affirmations is that by concentrating on it, is sort of allows you to see the world that expands your perception and by the way, there’s a science
behind that.

RITHOLTZ: The availability bias, you go out and get a Jeep and suddenly you see Jeeps everywhere because you’re familiar with it.

ADAMS: Yes, but beyond that, there’s also been studies that show that if you approach the world as an optimist and you just sort of keep optimistic thoughts in your head that you actually increase your perception and that this can be shown that you’ll notice
things that other people wouldn’t notice. Let me give you an example.

So part of the test was, this is a — Wiseman was a guy who did this test Dr. Wiseman and he showed people of the same copy of a newspaper but they were divided into two groups, one group consider themselves lucky and another group consider themselves unlucky…

RITHOLTZ: Self evaluate…

ADAMS: Self evaluate.

RITHOLTZ: Okay.

ADAMS: Of course, there is no such thing as actual luck, neither those groups could perform better on randomized test but he said count up the number of photographs in these newspapers, and the people who were unlucky or consider themselves unlucky counted
the number and on average you got the right number let’s say it was 42, the people who consider themselves lucky also got the right number on average but they were done in seconds whereas the other people took minutes, what was the difference? In each of
the newspapers that both groups saw on page 2 in big words, it said stop counting the photographs, there are 42 of them.

RITHOLTZ: Really?

ADAMS: Now if you expect to be lucky, you’re looking for luck because you expect it, so the people who were looking for locket just had a broader perceptual plane and they notice that sentence the rest of the other said well my task is to look at photographs,
where are the photographs, 1 to 3, I sure am bored, what a boring day, looks like another bad day for me. So your outcome can actually change what you recognize as opportunities.

RITHOLTZ: That’s fascinating, can you stick around a little bit? I have a ton more questions.

ADAMS: Absolutely.

RITHOLTZ: We have been speaking with Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. If you enjoyed this conversation, well, be sure to come back and listen to the podcast extras where we keep the tape rolling and continue to discuss all sorts of things ranging from
cartooning to how to win bigly in political battles, we love your comments, feedback, and suggestions, write to us at MIBPodcast@Bloomberg.net, you can find that at iTunes, Overcast, SoundCloud, Bloomberg.com, wherever your finer podcasts are sold. Check
out my daily column at Bloomberg.com/ opinion, you could follow me on Twitter @Ritholtz.

I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’re listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.

Welcome to the podcast, Scott, thank you so much for doing this, I’ve been looking forward to having this conversation for a while. I have so many questions, I have to start by saying how annoyed I am I have most of your books and including various Dilbert
collections but the early Dilbert Scott Adams corporate books as opposed to Dilbert collections and we moved about three years ago and were mostly impact and I went through a bunch of boxes of books in the basement and over the weekend and I could not find
anything that is making me…

ADAMS: Well, that’s why I write more.

RITHOLTZ: There you go.

ADAMS: I just count on you to lose the old ones.

RITHOLTZ: And you — speaking of writing more, you have “Win Bigly” out this month in paperback, is that right?

ADAMS: That’s right for those people who wanted to wait for the cheaper version.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk a little bit about politics and by the way, your email is still public so for angry people don’t email me you can email Scott about whatever, but you got a ton of pushback on a lot of things that you wrote about Trump, even though
many of those things have come to pass and that your forecast and expectations have proven out. How do you do you deal with that sort of pushback? Is it just that people can’t see what they don’t want to see or…

ADAMS: Yes, I would — I should say first of all that I’m not a Republican, I’m not a conservative, I consider myself left of Bernie so when I was talking about Trump, when I was talking about Trump, I was talking about his technique and I think there are
some unique things he brings such as the way he can y talk an economy up and the way he could talk to North Korea for example. So I was really trying to find the positive and I trusted the rest of the media to find the negative, that’s their job, they do
a really good job at it, some would say too good a job at it and having been in the public for a long time with Dilbert, I’m use to withering criticism on a daily basis, and you do kind of get used to it.

RITHOLTZ: Thick skin develops after — you coming up on is it 25 years, is that right?

ADAMS: 30 years of Dilbert.

RITHOLTZ: That’s amazing.

ADAMS: What is different when I talk about politics is that recently just in last year or so, I’ve discontinued appearing in public for actually security reasons.

RITHOLTZ: Come on, is that?

ADAMS: That’s true. It’s literally, in my opinion, dangerous for me to be in a big crowd these days because you don’t know, it only takes one nut in the crowd to ruin your day.

RITHOLTZ: As we’ve seen recently what’s taken place in Pittsburgh and what’s taken place with mail bombs and God knows what else.

ADAMS: Let me kind of put a frame on that, here’s my observation of why the world looks crazier and it all came — it all started when the technology allowed us to measure for the first time exactly how the news was being received by the audience. So as
soon as you could tell that this headline got you more clicks that that headline, this approach got you more than the others, the fiduciary responsibility of management of people in the media and the press was to follow the clicks. You’ve got to go where
the profit is because you’re a public company most cases and the shareholders require that.

RITHOLTZ: The Buzzfeed model so to speak.

ADAMS: Yes, you can’t really avoid that and still stay in business. So once you got that, you had a press which through no fault of their own, no bad intentions, just following the clicks, had to go where the emotional centers of the brain were most stimulated
because that’s what makes people click, makes them act, and so the news one from even attempting to give an unbiased view of the world to not really trying to do that at all but rather trying to give a view that they know they’re base, whoever’s watching them
already will interact with, will like.

So once you get in that situation, it has to get worse because the business model won’t change, there’s nothing that is going to replace the model where you make a lot of money by getting people to click.

So any calls for people to be more civil are missing a basic understanding of how the world works, people are not going to be nicer because they know they ought to, their opinions are coming from what they read, what other people say, how they feel about
stuff and the business model is now designed to keep them permanently in fight or flight mode.

RITHOLTZ: I literally have a column, we’re recording this the day the column should be out in about 15 minutes how to have a financial debate without mailing pipe bombs to each other because if you believe the founding fathers and if you believe the marketplace
of ideas, we should be able to debate these things not with our Danny Kahneman system or an emotional fight or flight response, more coolly and actually have a debate about the merits of these issues.

But it sounds like at least in the public political sphere we don’t get past that immediate response very often, do we?

ADAMS: Yes, we’ve developed two separate worlds, I call it two movies on one screen so the people on opposite sides believe they’re looking at the facts and making a perfectly objective opinion based on what they see as the facts.

Trouble is the other side thinks exactly the same thing and they’re looking at for the most part, the same facts, there are some differences about the different silos, it will have a little bit different information, for example, one silo does not like George
Soros, the other silo doesn’t talk about it, so those things are different, but for the most part, were looking at the same information and having completely different conclusions.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about that because there’s a couple issues here and I want to unpack them but you raised like a really interesting question. To me, so first of all, I’m a New York pretty middle-of-the-road guy, working in finance, Jewish background,
I have never felt oppressed or discriminated against, but clearly within the little bubble that’s my world, I’m not discriminated against and even go back 50 or 100 years, the reason firms like Goldman Sachs came about or some of the bigger Fried Frank or
Kaye Scholer or some of the bigger law firms came about, was because Jews couldn’t get hired at the waspy farms and so they created their own.

So I was fortunate to be born into part of the world where I don’t really experience discrimination although I certainly see it online, and to me when I when I see the way George Soros’ name is used, it always seems to be a totem or a dog whistle for the
anti-Semites, for people you can name a million different financiers, it used to be the trilateral commission or go down the list of all the crazy different people who were pulling the levers of power behind the scenes, how do you respond when people say hey
George Soros is dog whistle to anti-Semites, he’s a billionaire, he’s Jewish, therefore wink wink nudge nudge we are going to let people know exactly what we’re saying.

ADAMS: Well let me tell you the experiment I’ve been running on Twitter recently, I couldn’t understand what all the complaints about Soros were about and I thought well that’s just because I’ve not exposed myself to it, if I read the right link, if I read
the right stuff, I would maybe have an opinion so I asked people can you tell me in summary what the problem is and people couldn’t do it, not even close, but they would say but if you look at this link, look at this interview, watch this video, most of the
video links, were to an edited video we did for 60 minutes in which it’s taken out of context to make it look like he really enjoyed the Holocaust. You know, I’m exaggerating a little bit right but that’s essentially how it is being portrayed or that he was
a Nazi collaborator.

If you see the whole clip without the editing it doesn’t look like that, so part of it is that people are looking at the wrong video and they are — through no fault of their own they believe it’s the full story. So it starts with that just do some editing
job but then you go okay but what’s he doing now, I get why you don’t like what he did when he was 14 even if you have the wrong information, but what’s your complaint now? And people will send me these long rambling articles in which there is mind-reading
written into the article, in other words the author will say and then George Soros wants to destroy the fill in the blank…

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: Destroy our Republic, destroy Israel, he wants to destroy something, and I’m thinking to myself I’ll bet he never said that, I will bet there is no quote of him saying I want to destroy you don’t whatever they love, but everybody is sure they have
seen it, they have seen enough information that they have that opinion.

So then I ask a simple question okay you don’t like what organizations he’s funding because those organizations are doing things which you think are destructive to the United States, to Israel or whatever you’re complaining about, and I say can you tell
me the percentage of the budget of those people he is funding and then give me an idea what bad things they’re doing so I know if he’s like the big reason that some bad stuff is happening.

Nobody has that list or at least nobody I can find it can forward it to me in a consumable form, I’ll get endless word salad descriptions about the bad things he’s funding to destroy the world but nobody seems to be able to actually describe it in any coherent
way. So I can’t even form an opinion about whether he’s something I should be opposed to or in favor of, I literally can’t even form an opinion, so what I’m observing is a mass hysteria kind of reaction and part of the way that you can tell it’s — it is
not based on fact is that is limited to one silo, right? The people on the left, it’s invisible to them.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: It’s just not even a question.

RITHOLTZ: But it’s so far along to the people — Kevin McCarthy is the guy teed up to replace Paul Ryan, he tweeted something about Soros funding the caravan coming from Guatemala to the United States, when it reaches that level, it makes you stop and say
what’s going on here? And to me the common thread through all of at least on the right I find the left and the right are it’s not identical and the crazy is different in different ways and I I’m very anti-PC culture, the left tends to embrace that, the right
has something unique which the left doesn’t, Fox News is a very different animal than CNN or MSNBC.

I’m happy to say every media outlet has a bias, there is no — I don’t think anybody could disagree with that but Fox News behaves like it’s a wholly-owned subsidiary and that’s a quantitative difference from everything else. Agree or disagree?

ADAMS: Well, let me put it in this frame, it’s my observation that the side that is out of power is the craziest while they are out of power. So while Obama was in power, Fox News was talking about Birtherism…

RITHOLTZ: Right, Donald Trump was talking about Birtherism.

ADAMS: Yes, uranium one, et cetera.

RITHOLTZ: Benghazi, email server, go down the whole list.

ADAMS: So you know, nobody’s innocent of pushing stories that don’t pass all the fact checking, but at the moment, because Trump is an office, it seems obvious to me that Fox has the advantage that they can talk about real things like the economy is doing
well and North Korea is going well, et cetera…

RITHOLTZ: So why don’t they?

ADAMS: Well they do.

RITHOLTZ: They are spending a lot of time on other — I’m always back and forth between the two of them.

ADAMS: So I’m giving nobody a pass here, I’m just saying that in a relative craziness scale, the one who is out of power will act crazier while they are out power until they get back in power. Because Fox News can talk about real things that are good things
and they’ve got a factual basis for that. If you’re anti-Trump, say CNN MSNBC you talk about things like, well I think if we saw his tax returns, there would be a problem or I think when Mueller is done, we’ll find something we don’t know that we don’t like
about Russia and Trump, or I think he’s going to say something in the future that will blow up the world, or I think this violence that happened is because something he said although we should probably talk about those sort of things separately, because I
think deserves its own topic.

So I think that you see a lot of mind-reading imaginary Trump derangement syndrome on the left because he’s in power, and he’s changing their world in the way they don’t like. If Trump, left office and you just say Nancy Pelosi took over the presidency
in a few years it would just reverse and Fox News are making up stuff and CNN would be reporting more facts.

RITHOLTZ: We clearly saw Obama derangement syndrome, and before that, we clearly saw Bush derangement syndrome…

ADAMS: Right.

RITHOLTZ: There is no doubt I’m fond of pointing out that the so-called deficit hawks, the people concerned about deficit spending is directly a function of who’s in power.

ADAMS: Of course.

RITHOLTZ: So when George Bush is in the office, the Democrats are saying what you mean you want a big tax cut that’s not funded and a war of choice that’s going to cost trillions of dollars? Then the Democrats come at the office and we have to rescue the
banks and we need a stimulus we need this, and now the Republicans are talking about it and then that reverses. Now Trump is in office and we have a big tax cut and the deficit has gone up, it’s always a function of who’s out of power.

But the question that I raise is, is there a qualitative difference to that derangement syndrome between each side or are you suggesting it’s just strictly who’s ever out of power is angry and they say and do things that are crazy?

ADAMS: The two biggest variables are who’s in and out of power and then the personality of the person in the office, is there something about them that is special? Trump is special in lots of ways, so he tweaks people’s feelings harder than anybody’s ever
tweaked feelings.

RITHOLTZ: No doubt.

ADAMS: So you should expect that every everything that’s a normal bias becomes a super bias in this situation and that’s what we see.

RITHOLTZ: So we’re recording this about a week before the midterms, what do you think happens? Any thoughts? You’re not a political analyst but you have some insight into how both sides communicate, sometimes they’re more effective, sometimes less effective,
what do you think is the outcome here?

ADAMS: So I think it’s tough for people in my position to call individual races because it probably has more to do with the match ups and..

(Crosstalk)

RITHOLTZ: Right, no, I mean generally who takes the House? Who takes the Senate? What happens in the governorships?

ADAMS: Right, so in general you need to know a lot of the details to make a good overall predictions so I will stick with what I feel comfortable with. It looks like Republicans are heading for a historic turnout, like a jaw-dropping amount of turnout
and I think they’re holding — they are keeping their powder dry. I think Republicans have as a characteristic if I can generalize they like to act more than they like to talk and so I think you are going to be surprised the way people were surprised about
the election in 2016, the Republicans turnout. And then the other prediction is that it’s can be closer than people imagined a year ago.

RITHOLTZ: Purple wave, not a blue wave.

ADAMS: I think it could, this will be the most extreme I’m not sure I want to call this a prediction but if things go the way that the world has been going for the last couple years it almost seems like whatever’s the best movie plot is what happens, that
would that would result in almost a deadlock in the house meaning it would be so close that there’s something about it one of the — somebody got elected, maybe there’s some doubt about the vote, I think we’re not going to get a clean outcome, it’s possible
that we will have something that’s so close to even that there will be enough things and doubt that we wonder who even won.

RITHOLTZ: I will I will concur by saying if under normal circumstances in a midterm election the party out of power usually gain seats both in the house and at the state assembly level but if anybody can steal defeat from the jaws of victory, the Democrats
know how to do that. That said by the time this is broadcasted, the results are probably in and I’m guessing the Democrats take the house, I’ve no idea what happens in the Senate but like you said, this is very tough to do, neither of us are political analysts
and we don’t really know what the outcome is.

But I’m intrigued by your perspective of the communication that takes place and how people are influenced.

I would imagine the Democrats should be more motivated to come out and vote only because the Republicans got what they want they, they got their tax-cut, they got Kavanaugh, they shouldn’t be as motivated but who can tell? Your position is he is a great
motivator and therefore they are going to come out and vote.

ADAMS: Well there is also — there are number of other influences, one is that people are more motivated by fear of loss than they are motivated by hey, I might get something. The Democrats are trying to get something and the Republicans are trying to
prevent losing what they’ve already gotten. Those are different motivations and usually the person who is trying to prevent a loss is going to get off the couch before the person who says, well if I vote, something good might happen, a lesser motivation.

RITHOLTZ: Classic risk aversion.

ADAMS: Right and so there’s that, but I also think the Democrats might be more transparent about how much — let’s see, how much energy they have on their side, you can see them dancing in the streets, you can see them talking, you can see them registering
people at apparently record rates, but the Republicans are sleepers and this is weird but I think you might see a repeat of 2016 just because Republicans enjoyed it so much the first time.

In other words they saw the model where, well, we didn’t talk about it but we showed up and voted, you saw what happens, I’ve got a feeling.

RITHOLTZ: Well, the argument is they but they if you look at total votes cast, Trump get less votes than Hillary did in the presidential election and the GOP got less votes than the Democrats did in Congress, however they got the right votes in the right
states for the electoral college and for the individual congresspeople.

ADAMS: Yes, that obviously makes a huge difference and you can’t discount that but there’s a big energy issue too and that might be — the energy might be the difference between that one or two percent in either direction and that’s really all that’s in
play. People have largely made up their minds…

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

ADAMS: But there may be one or two percent who are going to vote but it’s raining or they don’t have a babysitter and how hard are you going to try?

RITHOLTZ: So you think the Republicans are more motivated than the Democrats realize?

ADAMS: I think it’s a big sleeper and they are going to break some records.

RITHOLTZ: That is quite fascinating, you mentioned something earlier, by the way I love that you and I disagree about a lot of things and can actually engage in a civil debate, where online it seems so few people can do that.

ADAMS: Well if people were polite online like they are in person, online would be fine, too.

RITHOLTZ: Well that that’s the automobile pedestrian disagreement when people yell stuff from the safety of their steel and glass enclosure that you would never say walking down the street and online seems to be that indulgence of id seems to be encouraged
when you are online. People forget that you’re not dealing with a robot, you’re dealing with a human being on the other side, it’s very easy to lose sight of that when you’re just punching something into a little twitter square and hitting “tweet.”

ADAMS: And probably 20 times a day at minimum, somebody will come onto my Twitter feed and say some version of “Your cartoons are terrible, you’re an idiot” and that is all they will say. There’s nothing else. And I think to myself, what exactly was your
motivation there? It had to just feel good.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: so I think they just get a little charge at being able to hurt somebody they don’t know that they’ve got a problem with.

RITHOLTZ: That doesn’t seem like it’s a positive or healthy way to deal with the disagreement, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions but I made a resolution this year to try and be nicer on Twitter and you would be shocked at how often somebody says something
that is you know, there’s a legitimate point there but it’s lost in the obnoxiousness and the anger, and when you just respond with a factual statement about well here’s the data source I used and this was the basis that, the person will then turn around and
say, “oh thanks for that, by the way, I love Masters in Business, keep doing what you are doing” I’m like “wait a second you were just a total jerk…”

And I learned that a long time ago and it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion and forget these are real people you’re dealing with.

ADAMS: Yes, I might have different people following me because I’ve never — it is pretty rare that I can send them better information and have them say “yes, you changed my mind” usually it’s you know, “your link is crazy in your crazy and you’re crazy.”

RITHOLTZ: They don’t say they changed their mind, they said “I like the radio show” like they still haven’t walked back whatever data point — you know, I love it when people tell me “well you didn’t inflation-adjust that.” I can’t inflation-adjust height
it’s just the guy’s height, what are you talking about?

ADAMS: So that’s sort of you know, you get the sort of stuff, I do get the — it’s not that uncommon to get somebody who will insult me while complementing me, and say yes, love your show, you’re crazy about this, I don’t know if I should block them because
they’ve got these weird insulting ways to be my friend.

RITHOLTZ: Are you are you familiar with the soft block, we were just discussing this in the office the other day.

ADAMS: The mute?

RITHOLTZ: Soft block is if somebody’s following you, I shouldn’t while — normally I would say I wouldn’t reveal this because it’s a secret trick, but the old joke is if you want to hide something, bury it in the back of the podcast and nobody will hear
it. So someone’s following you and you don’t want to block them but you’re tired of their crap so you block and then immediately unblock them, and what that does is it makes them unfollow you and then you mute them and so now you don’t see their stuff, they
are no longer getting your stuff but they don’t know they’ve been unfollowed, and everybody’s life just goes on their separate paths with let’s just agree to divorce and move forward.

It’s the twitter case of an amicable divorce.

ADAMS: You’ve changed my life.

RITHOLTZ: So I have to give credit to my partner Josh Brown who claims to have invented this in 2010, I discovered it independently five years later, I’m like this is a very effective technique to — because once you block somebody, then it’s like “That
idiot Scott Adams blocked” Or “Ritholtz, he’s a jerk, he blocked me.”

So instead, but you have to do it immediately so they can’t see it, it is block unblock and then mute, and we all just move along with our lives.

ADAMS: That’s brilliant, I’ve been calling people Nazis and then blocking them.

RITHOLTZ: That’s funny, so let’s talk about Nazis for a second or actually more specifically, you said the situation with Pittsburgh and some of the more incendiary rhetoric is different than some of the other stuff. What were you thinking along those
lines?

ADAMS: Yes, just in the sense that it requires a little more expensive context, the first thing I’d say is that if you’re looking at the president’s rhetoric and saying how was that affecting people, there are different filters to view that.

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

ADAMS: If you are looking at a legal filter or a social filter, even his enemies agree that you can’t blame the talker for the person who did the bad act.

RITHOLTZ: Hey you’re the guy with the gun…

ADAMS: Right.

RITHOLTZ: You know, crazy is crazy.

ADAMS: But if you viewed it through a science lens and you’ve got millions of people listening to a message, are some of them going to be influenced in ways that are unproductive and dangerous, and the answer is yes, just about every time.

Now President Trump is surely the type of personality that could trigger people on the fringes but I would say most presidents probably are, probably most presidents have triggered people for their own reasons to do things.

Now if you are looking at somebody who is triggered to it in the case of the synagogue shooting, to attack people who the president clearly favors, I mean he’s been good to Israel, his family is Jewish.

RITHOLTZ: His daughter married someone who is Jewish and converted to Judaism.

ADAMS: His advisers, you know you can go down, and the shooter actively disliked Trump but he still being — Trump is still being blamed for raising the temperature and…

(Crosstalk)

RITHOLTZ: What about the mail bomber, how do you define that guy?

ADAMS: Just mental illness, it’s always a problem to say that we should change all of our behavior because there are some mentally deranged people who are going to take it wrong.

RITHOLTZ: So while all presidents say things that might affect some of the people on the extreme fringe, Trump seems to be much more incendiary than Obama or Bush or Clinton.

ADAMS: I think that’s right and I don’t think that we should ignore that and then the president should do whatever he needs to do with that. But let’s also size it. I did a twitter poll which of course is deeply unscientific but I asked what you think
causes people to act more violently? The president’s rhetoric or fake news, video games, or music? And what you find is that the president is in the same range, at least in people’s opinions with music and video games, which I also believe do trigger people
if you’re looking at a huge population, if 100 million people are playing a videogame where somebody gets shot, somebody’s going to shoot somebody. That just the…

RITHOLTZ: So the question is is it the videogame or you take 100 million people and statistically, there is going to be one crazy in that group?

ADAMS: It is the price of free speech, but you want to size it, fake news can kill millions, I mean fake news is a serious, serious problem.

RITHOLTZ: So how do you define fake news and…

ADAMS: Two ways.

RITHOLTZ: And the reason I’m going to tee up this question very specifically, there’s an inherent bias in all media operations from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal and entities on the far extreme, what is your definition of fake news?

ADAMS: So for me, fake news would be inaccurate news that especially the kind of that they should have known or they should have corrected, but that’s kind of rare, there isn’t that much of the like seriously fake news. The other kind is worse because
it’s changing our thinking about things. So if you talk consistently about let’s say, Russia, it will rise in people’s minds in importance, that may be good but it may be bad, so the media is changing the importance and the priority and how we rank things.

RITHOLTZ: The focus of perception. By the way meant to tell you I know you’re a big fan of Bob Cialdini who wrote “Influence” and “Presuasion” it was fun reading his stuff and then reading your stuff because clearly he has influenced you.

ADAMS: Yes, he has influenced me a great deal which make sense, he wrote a book called “Influence”

(LAUGHTER)

ADAMS: Yes, he is probably one of my biggest influences and we’ve had brief connection on Twitter, exchanged some professional complements.

RITHOLTZ: So the concept of reprioritizing and focusing comes from “Influence” comes from his book, you’re saying with the media does fake news not so much, false statements of fact, but changing or reprioritizing the subjects we’re discussing.

ADAMS: Right, and then there’s a hybrid which is the worst case — in my opinion this is the worst fake news maybe we will ever see short of actually starting a war, and that was what I call the Charlottesville hoax…

RITHOLTZ: Which is what?

ADAMS: Now the way — and it goes like this, when the president said they were fine people on both sides, the frame that should have been reported was both sides of the statue question, people want statues people want them to come down, there are fine people
on both sides of that even if you disagree with their position, but because the news had framed as anti — against the white supremacist.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: They reported it as both sides being white supremacist and antifa and then they said well, the president is calling the white supremacists fine people…

RITHOLTZ: So now I have to go back and resee that video.

ADAMS: Hold on, let me finish. Now, in order to believe that, you have to believe that he called the antifa demonstrators fine people also because he said both sides, that didn’t happen. Second of all there is no world in which the president of the United
States got in front of the public and decided to side with the white supremacists by calling them fine people. In no world was that possible or did it happen. Indeed when they asked him for clarification he condemned the white supremacist, he clearly was
not supporting them and anybody who could’ve seen objectively should have known that.

But you can turn on CNN almost any day of the week and there will be a pundit who will say “Well he called the white supremacist fine people” and nobody calls him on it nobody says wait, that was ambiguous, obviously he wasn’t saying white supremacists are
fine people because those white supremacist, for God sakes, they were marching against — it was an anti-Semitic demonstration.

RITHOLTZ: Yes.

ADAMS: His daughter’s Jewish, his family is Jewish, he is pro-Israel, Israel loves him.

RITHOLTZ: Very much so, by the way.

ADAMS: Right, more than any president.

RITHOLTZ: Amongst the Orthodox Jews I think his approval rating is like 90 percent in the United States.

ADAMS: Right.

RITHOLTZ: Very, very high.

ADAMS: So to think that he got in front of the public and made a choice to say yeah I think this’ll work out well for me, I’ll throw in with the white supremacist that absolutely did not happen but as reported as fact by CNN MSNBC and I would say that that
one event crystallized all the things that people worried about the president and put it into fact, and so it so that event more than anything else is ripping the fabric of the country apart and it’s despicable and it’s bordering on intentional.

RITHOLTZ: So I have to now go back and re-watch that video because I didn’t see it live, I just saw the clips, however…

ADAMS: If you see the video, that won’t clear it up, you have to wait for him to explain what he meant that he was disavowing them and then you have to understand that the context was always two sides of the statue debate, that’s what the whole event was
about.

RITHOLTZ: So I will watch the whole thing, part of the problem is that we bring past statements to what we do so the whole Birther controversy very much looks like it’s a racist trope and he was key in that…

ADAMS: Wait a minute, I agree that people are perceiving it that way…

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: But are you saying that the facts support that as being a racist attack?

RITHOLTZ: The first African-American president, clearly born in Hawaii, clearly tons of evidence that that’s where he’s from, somehow he’s a Muslim or somehow he’s a non-US citizen, I find that confusing.

ADAMS: Hold up, I don’t think the president was bringing up the Muslim part, I believe the president was using a common attack that he uses for everybody, he said Ted Cruz…

RITHOLTZ: Not born in the United States?

ADAMS: He said Ted Cruz was Canadian.

RITHOLTZ: Well, he was born in Canada but to American parents and you are dual citizen there.

ADAMS: So you see that the president uses every available attack against every opponent without exception, if he can say it, if he could throw it against the wall and he thinks it will influence three voters, he’s going to throw that against the wall.

He said he said that Ted Cruz’s father might’ve been involved in killing Kennedy, you don’t believe he believed that, right?

RITHOLTZ: I assume nobody believes that.

ADAMS: Right.

RITHOLTZ: So let me throw another one at you which I think is fascinating, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, there was a episode where he attacks Trump, I think it was for how he cut pizza something idiotic, and Trump tweets John Leibowitz also known as John
Stewart, now I interpreted that as hey everybody in Hollywood and everybody in TV changes their name, you’re bringing up a very Jewish name, that sounds like a dog whistle to the anti-Semites. Tell me why that’s wrong?

ADAMS: Sounds to me like he was calling him a phony, in other words he wasn’t true to his own heritage.

RITHOLTZ: Like everybody else in show business.

ADAMS: Right, but the fact — don’t get caught up in the logic of the fact of it.

RITHOLTZ: Okay.

ADAMS: It was something he could say to make him deal with…

(Crosstalk)

RITHOLTZ: And he just throws everything, he opens the cannon fodder and that’s it, whatever he can throw, he throws.

ADAMS: Yes, if you see him going easy on opponents who happen to be white males let me know because I haven’t noticed that.

RITHOLTZ: Well, low-energy jab in Lyin Ted in what did he call Rubio, Tiny Marco or something like that, but it seems like it’s not religious or racial, it just seems that…

ADAMS: Cryin Chuck, you know if you if you are someone who insults everybody with every tool that you have at your disposal all the time, if you’re picking up that one example say well is this one’s black…

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: So it must be racist, that is not based in fact…

RITHOLTZ: He just machine guns everybody and that’s that.

ADAMS: Your bias is showing through in that.

RITHOLTZ: So I have my favorite questions I ask all my guess but I have one more question I have to get to you because people are — I see why you are annoyed by the tweet streams that come at you, you said earlier you’re to the left of Bernie.

ADAMS: Correct.

RITHOLTZ: How do you define left right that you’re to the left of Bernie Sanders? We are talking Bernie Sanders, right?

(Crosstalk)

ADAMS: Yes Bernie Sanders, so let me give you some examples. On abortion, conservatives would like to limit it, liberals would like more of it with certain conditions, I’m left of that which is I say that men and me in particular should abstain from the
decision and just support women. The reason is that women bear the greatest responsibility for childbirth and childrearing and as a general standard, the people who take on the biggest responsibility especially for something so important should have the greatest
say.

RITHOLTZ: That’s a pretty progressive perspective.

ADAMS: And to think that men should have somehow an equal say in what women do with their bodies as a law is ridiculous, because first of all, this assumes that men are adding something to the to the quality of the decision, nothing like that’s happening…

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: We’re not adding to the quality of the decision, but what society needs is a decision because it’s life-and-death because it’s one of our biggest issues, you need it an outcome that’s credible so that even the people who don’t like it say yeah but
the way you got there, that’s a good — at least it is credible, even though I don’t like it.

RITHOLTZ: Give us another example because I’m fascinated by this.

ADAMS: Let’s take reparations.

RITHOLTZ: Okay.

ADAMS: Conservatives don’t like it, even most liberals would not be in favor because it feel like I don’t want to pay for something that wasn’t my fault.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: I say we should at least consider solve one of our biggest social problems to have a 1 percent tax on — a tax on just the top 1 percent, so that would include people like me and it would be a 25 year — let’s say one generation tax only to make
college and trade training free for African-Americans for one generation.

So that we could say look, we recognize it was something bad, we can do something about it now here’s what’s special, the top 1 percent also have nothing most of them have nothing to do with slavery, their ancestors weren’t involved…

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

ADAMS: But what’s different is the top 1 percent if they can make a big difference in what’s in the — let’s say the most disadvantaged part of society, if you can flip somebody from being unemployed to employed that is a huge boost to the economy and who
benefits from that?

RITHOLTZ: Sure, everybody.

ADAMS: The top 1 percent.

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

ADAMS: We live in a society where the top 1 percent gets most of the gain.

RITHOLTZ: Give us one more example and then I’ll go jump to my favorite questions. Scott Adams, Socialist.

ADAMS: Let’s take healthcare, healthcare, the conservatives say let the market work it out, more or less, liberals say let the government handle it…

(Crosstalk)

RITHOLTZ: Regulate the market a little, yes.

ADAMS: I say the government should be more involved which is that we should be creating a portfolio, meaning just a conceptual portfolio of startups that could lower the cost of healthcare in the future.

So if the president said look, I’m going to give you a running list of companies that if they did well your health care costs would go down…

RITHOLTZ: Right.

ADAMS: So the government I think could be more involved than just being single-payer, they could be directly involved in boosting that part of the startup world that will directly help things.

RITHOLTZ: Scott Adams, you are a fascinating and complex individual and I’ve enjoyed our conversation.

Let’s jump to our speed round, I will try and get through as many of these questions as quickly as possible. Tell us the most important thing we don’t know about you.

ADAMS: Wow, l I live such a public life that that is a very small category. Things you don’t know about me. I’m learning to play the drums because I think it will be good for my brain as I reach my older years.

RITHOLTZ: I’m with you ,it’s just adding to that talent stack. Who are some of your early mentors? Obviously this Cassady gentleman has to be one.

ADAMS: Yes, Jack Cassady as I mentioned before, my college roommate Mike Charlie, weirdly I got into college without knowing much about the world and he sort of taught me what it was like to be a functioning person.

RITHOLTZ: A functioning human being.

ADAMS: And then my first editor, Sarah Gillespie who’s the one who called me and offered me the first contract.

RITHOLTZ: Any specific cartoonists that influenced the way you approach Dilbert?

ADAMS: Yes…

RITHOLTZ: You mentioned Charles Schultz.

ADAMS: Sergio Aragones who did the little characters in the margins of Mad Magazine.

RITHOLTZ: Sure, they were fantastic.

ADAMS: Gary Larson, of course, I stole his technique of drawing characters that don’t have necks, and probably those are the big ones, yes, I would say Schultz and Gary Larson.

RITHOLTZ: Favorite books, we mentioned Bob Cialdini, what are some of your favorite books be they fiction, nonfiction, cartoonist related or other?

ADAMS: Oh man, “Impossible to Ignore” is good, teaches you how to do memorable presentations and slideshows and stuff by Dr. Carmen Simon, I’m reading “Sapiens” now, I like it so far, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to like the rest of it.

RITHOLTZ: You will find the second book, “Homo Deus” to be very, very dark with this one isn’t very dark.

ADAMS: Well, okay.

RITHOLTZ: Just an FYI.

ADAMS: Maybe I will stay away from that one.

And then as we mentioned, Cialdini’s book “Influence” and then his follow-up book, his newer one “Presuasion.”

RITHOLTZ: Yes.

ADAMS: Those I would consider absolute fundamental reading for anybody in the business world, if you haven’t read those books, you’re disadvantaged, period I wouldn’t say that of many books, and then my books “Win Bigly” and “How to Fail at Almost Everything
and Still Win Big” would be I consider fundamental reading on persuasion.

RITHOLTZ: What are you excited about right now?

ADAMS: Right now, I’m working with Bill Pulte on something called “the Blight Authority” blight meaning B-L-I-G-H-T the rundown inner cities areas, what he’s doing with his nonprofit is helping cities clear out big contiguous areas and then I’m helping
them try to figure out you can we attract some ideas because ideas are the bigger problem than money, nobody knows what to do, so we’re trying to come up with some ideas to help the inner cities and productively use that space.

RITHOLTZ: Tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from the experience.

ADAMS: Wow.

RITHOLTZ: You mentioned a restaurant in “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win.”

ADAMS: Yeah.

RITHOLTZ: I thought that was interesting.

ADAMS: So almost everything I failed at was something I chose that would teach me something along the way. So the first time I gave a corporate speech when I was paid way too much to give a speech when Dover was just taking off and the speaking request
come in and I didn’t know how to be a public speaker but I took the deal, I did really poorly and then they paid me. And I thought wait a minute I did really, really poorly in my opinion and then they paid me. So I thought well maybe I should do more of
this maybe I could get good at it and eventually I was one of the top corporate speakers in America.

RITHOLTZ: What you do for fun?

ADAMS: Well my girlfriend, Kristina and I spend a lot of time together and mostly it’s whatever couples do, go out to dinner, travel.

RITHOLTZ: Sounds like fun.

Someone comes to you, a millennial, a recent college grad and they’re interested in becoming a cartoonist, what sort of advice would you give them?

ADAMS: Well I would tell them first of all, develop their talent stack so I would tell them to concentrate on writing even more than the art, I would tell them to create online and see if they can build an audience, I would tell them to change their art
based on what the audience is telling them is working or not. I would tell them to know exactly who they’re targeting their art to, and not try to be a generic oh everybody will love this because that is kind of rare these days, or rather to say as I did,
this is a comic for the workplace, this is comic for pet owners, this is comic for single people, whatever it is.

RITHOLTZ: Make makes perfect sense.

Final question, what do you know about the world of cartoonists today you wish you knew 30 years ago when you were first starting Dilbert?

ADAMS: I did not know that the main thing you have to get right is that the reader looks at your comic and says “That happened to me too” if you don’t get that part right you don’t have anything. Now there was a day when that wasn’t true, the old style
of humor was more absurdist and more generic but in today’s world people just have to say “Oh, that’s me” or they don’t care.

RITHOLTZ: Fascinating.

We have been speaking with Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. If you enjoyed this conversation, be sure and look up an inch or down an inch on Apple iTunes and you could see any of the approximately 250 such conversations we’ve had previously.

We love your comments, feedback, and suggestions. Write to us at MIBPodcast@ Bloomberg.net.

You can check out my daily column at Bloomberg.com/ opinion, you could follow me on Twitter @Ritholtz.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack staff that helps put this together each week, Madena Parwana is my producer, Atika Valbrun is our project manager, Taylor Riggs is our Booker, Michael Batnick is our head of research.

I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Read this next.

Posted Under