Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong Info

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Wall Street Journal
Bestseller

Much of the advice we’ve been told about
achievement is logical, earnest…and downright wrong. In
Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker reveals the
extraordinary science behind what actually determines success and most
importantly, how anyone can achieve it. You’ll
learn:


• Why valedictorians rarely become millionaires,
and how your biggest weakness might actually be your greatest strength

• Whether nice guys finish last and why the best lessons
about cooperation come from gang members, pirates, and serial
killers

• Why trying to increase confidence fails and how
Buddhist philosophy holds a superior solution
• The secret
ingredient to “grit” that Navy SEALs and disaster survivors
leverage to keep going
• How to find work-life balance using
the strategy of Genghis Khan, the errors of Albert Einstein, and a
little lesson from Spider-Man

By looking at what separates the
extremely successful from the rest of us, we learn what we can do to be
more like them—and find out in some cases why it’s good that
we aren’t. Barking Up the Wrong Tree draws on startling
statistics and surprising anecdotes to help you understand what works
and what doesn’t so you can stop guessing at success and start
living the life you want.


Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong:

5

Nov 04, 2017

Readable to the extreme. Loved the way the author stepped back from all the psychology popular stuff. He went to great length to show that all the 'go and become the hero', 'get it done' approach, 'don't say quits until you drop!' stuff can be counterproductive at times, though not always.
Also loved the author's way of thinking. He basically employs the recipe for dealing with most tasks where one-size-fits-all answers are unlikely to work.
Surprisingly memorable, with bright examples easing the Readable to the extreme. Loved the way the author stepped back from all the psychology popular stuff. He went to great length to show that all the 'go and become the hero', 'get it done' approach, 'don't say quits until you drop!' stuff can be counterproductive at times, though not always.
Also loved the author's way of thinking. He basically employs the recipe for dealing with most tasks where one-size-fits-all answers are unlikely to work.
Surprisingly memorable, with bright examples easing the reader into every discussion. Wow! A lot of things here make a lot of sense. Way more than I expected.
PS I thought a lot on what exactly this book reminded me of, since this no straight self-help. And I remembered: the Freakonomics series is really similar to this one.
Q:
As far back as the 1800s, scientists like Philippe Tissié and August Bier noted that an unsound mind can help an athlete ignore pain and push his or her body beyond its naturally conservative limits.
I don’t know about you, but my high school guidance counselor never told me that hallucinations, mailbox assaults, and generalized insanity were vital to being a world-renowned success at anything. I was told to do my homework, play by the rules, and be nice.
All of which raises a serious question: What really produces success? (c)
Q:
Do “nice guys finish last”? Or first?
Do quitters never win? Or is stubbornness the real enemy?
Does confidence rule the day? When is it just delusion? (с) Sounds like just the book I might love, since it looks at both sides of an argument, any argument!
Q:
In each chapter we’ll review both sides of the story. We’ll see the strengths of each perspective. So if anything seems like a slam-dunk or a contradiction, hang with me. Both angles will present their case, much like a trial. Then we’ll settle on the answer that gives the best upside with the least downside.
In chapter 1, we’ll look at whether playing it safe and doing what we’re told really produces success. We’ll learn about what Harvard professor Gautam Mukunda calls “intensifiers.” Like Jure Robič’s insanity, intensifiers are qualities that, on average, are negative but in certain contexts produce sweeping benefits that devastate the competition. We’ll learn why valedictorians rarely become millionaires, why the best (and worst) U.S. presidents are the ones who subvert the system, and how our biggest weaknesses might actually be our greatest strengths.
In chapter 2, we’ll find out when nice guys finish first as well as when Machiavelli was right on the money. We’ll talk to a Wharton School professor who believes in compassionate business and altruism, and a teacher at Stanford whose research shows hard work is overrated and kissing up is what gets promotions. We’ll look at pirates and prison gangs to see which rules even rule breakers follow, and find out how to strike the right balance between ambitiously getting ahead and being able to sleep at night.
In chapter 3, we’ll dive into Navy SEAL training and explore the emerging science of grit and resilience. We’ll talk to economics Ph.D.s to calculate the best time to double our efforts and when to throw in the towel. Kung fu masters will teach us when being a flaky quitter is a great idea. And we’ll learn the silly word that can help us decide when to stick with something and when giving up is the best move.
Chapter 4 looks at whether it really is “what you know” or “who you know.” We’ll see how the most networked employees are often the most productive but that the greatest experts almost invariably classify themselves as introverts (including an astounding 90 percent of top athletes). We’ll get insights from the most connected guy in Silicon Valley and learn how to network without feeling sleazy.
In chapter 5, we’ll look at attitude. We’ll see how confidence can push us past what we think we’re capable of but how that needs to be balanced with a grounded view of the challenges ahead. We’ll learn how the emerging science of “mental contrasting” can help us determine when to go all in and when to think twice. Most important, we’ll look at new research that shows why the entire confidence paradigm might be problematic at its core.
In chapter 6, we step back to view the big picture and try to see how success in career aligns with success in life—and when it doesn’t. Is there any place for work–life balance in our 24/7 go, go, go world? Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen and Genghis Khan provide examples of how to find peace in a fast-moving office. We’ll get lessons from tragic case studies of legends who achieved success but paid too steep a price, sacrificing family and happiness. (c)
Q:
So why are the number ones in high school so rarely the number ones in real life? There are two reasons. First, schools reward students who consistently do what they are told. Academic grades correlate only loosely with intelligence (standardized tests are better at measuring IQ).
... “Essentially, we are rewarding conformity and the willingness to go along with the system.” Many of the valedictorians admitted to not being the smartest kid in class, just the hardest worker. Others said that it was more an issue of giving teachers what they wanted than actually knowing the material better. Most of the subjects in the study were classified as “careerists”: they saw their job as getting good grades, not really as learning.
The second reason is that schools reward being a generalist. There is little recognition of student passion or expertise. The real world, however, does the reverse.
... If you want to do well in school and you’re passionate about math, you need to stop working on it to make sure you get an A in history too.
... Shawn Achor’s research at Harvard shows that college grades aren’t any more predictive of subsequent life success than rolling dice. A study of over seven hundred American millionaires showed their average college GPA was 2.9. (c) And with dice we could have expected a 2.5, if their grades vary between 0 and 5.
Q:
Winston Churchill should have never been prime minister of Great Britain. He wasn’t someone who “did everything right,” and it was shocking that he was elected. His contemporaries knew he was brilliant—but he was also a paranoid loose cannon who was impossible to deal with.
... Churchill was a maverick. He did not merely love his country; he displayed a clear paranoia toward any possible threat to the empire. He saw even Gandhi as a danger and was beyond outspoken in his opposition to what was a pacifist rebellion in India. He was the Chicken Little of Great Britain, passionately railing against all opposition to his country, great, small—or imagined. But this “bad” quality is the key to why he is one of the most revered leaders in world history.
This Chicken Little was the only one who saw Hitler for the threat he was. Chamberlain, on the other hand, regarded Hitler as “a man who could be relied upon when he had given his word.” The entrenched British leadership was convinced appeasement was the way to quell the Nazis.
When it mattered the most, Churchill’s paranoia was prescient. (c)
Q:
Gautam Mukunda speculated that the reason for the inconsistency in the research was there are actually two fundamentally different types of leaders. The first kind rises up through formal channels, getting promoted, playing by the rules, and meeting expectations. These leaders, like Neville Chamberlain, are “filtered.” The second kind doesn’t rise up through the ranks; they come in through the window: entrepreneurs who don’t wait for someone to promote them; U.S. vice presidents who are unexpectedly handed the presidency; leaders who benefit from a perfect storm of unlikely events, like the kind that got Abraham Lincoln elected. This group is “unfiltered.”
By the time filtered candidates are in the running for the top spot, they have been so thoroughly vetted that they can be relied upon to make the standard, traditionally approved decisions. They are effectively indistinguishable from one another—and this is why much of the research showed little effect for leaders.
But the unfiltered candidates have not been vetted by the system and cannot be relied upon to make the “approved” decisions—many would not even know what the approved decisions are. They do unexpected things, have different backgrounds, and are often unpredictable. Yet they bring change and make a difference. Often that difference is a negative. Since they don’t play by the rules, they often break the institutions they are guiding. A minority of unfiltered leaders are transformative, though, shedding organizations of their misguided beliefs and foolish consistencies, and turning them toward better horizons. These are the leaders that the research said have enormous positive impact.
In his Ph.D. thesis, Mukunda applied his theory to all the U.S. presidents, evaluating which ones were filtered and which unfiltered, and whether or not they were great leaders. The results were overwhelming. His theory predicted presidential impact with an almost unheard of statistical confidence of 99 percent.
The filtered leaders didn’t rock the boat. The unfiltered leaders couldn’t help but rock it. Often they broke things, but sometimes they broke things like slavery, as Abraham Lincoln did.
Mukunda understood firsthand. His unconventional Ph.D. thesis made him an outlier in the academic job market. Despite a Harvard and MIT pedigree, he received only two job interviews after more than fifty applications.(c)
Q:
Glenn Gould was such a hypochondriac that if you sneezed while on a phone call with him, he’d immediately hang up. ... (c)
Q:
Let’s talk about orchids, dandelions, and hopeful monsters. (I know, I know, you talk about these things all the time and this is nothing new to you. Please indulge me.) (c)
Q:
Why do some people end up crazy-brilliant and others end up crazy-crazy? ... They seem to possess just the right amount of weirdness.(c)
Q:
Andrew Robinson, CEO of famed advertising agency BBDO, once said, “When your head is in a refrigerator and your feet on a burner, the average temperature is okay. I am always cautious about averages.”(c)
Q:
It’s a matter of basic statistics. When it comes to the extremes of performance, averages don’t matter; what matters is variance, those deviations from the norm. Almost universally, we humans try to filter out the worst to increase the average, but by doing this we also decrease variance. Chopping off the left side of the bell curve improves the average but there are always qualities that we think are in that left side that also are in the right. (c)
Q:
Would you hire a psychopath? No. And the research shows that psychopaths don’t do well on average. Most people would just stop there, but a study titled “Personality Characteristics of Successful Artists” showed that top performers in creative fields demonstrate markedly higher scores on measures of psychoticism than lesser artists. Another study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that successful U.S. presidents also demonstrate higher scores on psychopathic characteristics.
Often intensifiers masquerade as positives because we give successful people the benefit of the doubt. It’s the old joke that poor people are crazy and rich people are “eccentric.” Traits like obsessiveness are framed as positives for those already in the successful camp and negatives for others. We all know some who benefit from perfectionism and others who are just “crazy.” (c)
Q: Research by Gallup shows that the more hours per day you spend doing what you’re good at, the less stressed you feel and the more you laugh, smile, and feel you’re being treated with respect. (c)
Q:
Ask yourself, Which companies, institutions, and situations value what I do? Context affects everyone. (c)
Q:
We tend to think experts are experts just because of their unique skills and we forget the power of context, of knowing one’s way around, of the teams who support them, and the shorthand they develop together over time. (c) And another thing about that is when the company you're with undergoes drastic changes, sometimes it's best to leave when you start feeling the 'pond' having undergone changes to the worse.
Q:
This was well illustrated by how Toyota helped a charity. The Food Bank for New York City relies on corporate donations to function. Toyota had donated money—until 2011 when they came up with a far better idea. Toyota’s engineers had dedicated countless hours to fine-tuning processes and realized that while any company could donate cash, they had something unique to offer: their expertise. So they decided to donate efficiency.
Journalist Mona El-Naggar described the results:
At a soup kitchen in Harlem, Toyota’s engineers cut down the wait time for dinner to 18 minutes from as long as 90. At a food pantry on Staten Island, they reduced the time people spent filling their bags to 6 minutes from 11. And at a warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where volunteers were packing boxes of supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy, a dose of kaizen cut the time it took to pack one box to 11 seconds from 3 minutes. (c) And that's a really inspiring thing about the whole kaizen thing.
Q:
Feeling powerless actually makes you dumber. (c)
Q:
Eighty percent of our evaluations of other people come down to two characteristics: warmth and competence. And a study from Teresa Amabile at Harvard called “Brilliant but Cruel” shows we assume the two are inversely related: if someone is too nice, we figure they must be less competent. In fact, being a jerk makes others see you as more powerful. Those who break rules are seen as having more power than those who obey. (c)
Q:
But hold on—it gets worse. Ass kissers aren’t the only ones who thrive. Jerks do too. (c)
Q:
Rude people also have better credit scores. (c) Now that seems to be an urban legend.
Q:
A study bluntly titled “Bad Is Stronger than Good” shows that in a shocking number of areas bad things are more impactful and longer lasting than good things: “Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good . . . Hardly any exceptions (indicating greater power of good) can be found. Taken together, these findings suggest that bad is stronger than good, as a general principle across a broad range of psychological phenomena.” (c) And here I and my fixation on happy endings go angry.
Q:
And I can’t help but mention that an informal study showed that ethics books are 25 percent more likely to be stolen than the average library book. (c) Hilarious!
Q:
I’m going to stop now because my publisher won’t let this book be packaged with antidepressants. (c) Or chocolate.
Q:
What happens when you go total Tony Soprano and start whacking everyone who causes problems? Everyone will respect you and no one will want to work with you. Being a mob boss who is too violent has an inherent irony to it. Would you want to work for someone whose response to late expense reports is two bullets to the head? I didn’t think so. (c)
Q:
These savvy businessmen of the oceans were not all crazed psychopaths with eye patches. In fact, according to Blackbeard expert Angus Konstam, that famed pirate, over the course of his career, killed exactly zero people. And there are no cases on record of anyone walking the plank. Nope. Not one.
So why do we have this impression of them as bloodthirsty savages? It’s called marketing. It’s much easier, cheaper, and safer to have people surrender quickly because they’re terrified of you than it is to fight every battle, so pirates were sharp enough to cultivate a brand image of barbarity. (c)
Q:
Pirate ships were very democratic places. (c)
Q: ...more
4

May 09, 2019

Now, Rick recommended this one to me – and put it under the category of a ‘good business self-help book’ – which, well, it sort of is, but it sort of isn’t too. This is a bit more like a book that I might shelve under behavioural economics/psychology. There are things I didn’t particularly like about it, but we will get to that.

Much of what it has to say that might do you some good involves thinking about the stuff you say to yourself about yourself. And the really nice thing this book will give Now, Rick recommended this one to me – and put it under the category of a ‘good business self-help book’ – which, well, it sort of is, but it sort of isn’t too. This is a bit more like a book that I might shelve under behavioural economics/psychology. There are things I didn’t particularly like about it, but we will get to that.

Much of what it has to say that might do you some good involves thinking about the stuff you say to yourself about yourself. And the really nice thing this book will give you permission to do is to be kind to yourself – which, when all is said and done, really is something many of us need to be given permission to do. I think many of us are far more forgiving of other people than we are of ourselves – and that’s a pity, because most of us are much nicer people than we give ourselves credit for. Much nicer than some of the bastards we are forgiving towards…

I’ve always had a problem with ideas like ‘the secret’ or ‘positive psychology’ or what I think of as optimism as ideology. I’m not particularly someone who basks in endless reserves of self-confidence, but that said, that doesn’t mean that I’m particularly attracted to people who do have endless stores of self-confidence either. The overly self-confident often strike me as fairly stupid. I much prefer people who are a bit more self-aware. Not least, as the author says here at some point, because when the overly self-confident do finally get to see themselves in a mirror, and see that their over-confidence wasn’t really based on anything, no matter how that works out, it generally doesn’t work out well – you know, the choices being either a crushing loss of confidence or denial.

A lot of the advice in this book can be brought back to the notion of ‘deliberative practice’ – you know, you can be an expert in just about anything if you spend 10,000 hours practicing at it – as long as that practice is structure so as to always test your limits so as to exceed them – what Vygotsky called your ‘zone of proximal development’. The author quotes another education god in this – Bloom (the taxonomy man) in something I’ve only learnt recently that Bloom was interested in, what he called the two sigma problem. Bloom said that people who are taught one-on-one do much, much better at learning just about everything than people taught in group situations. He felt that a key task of education research ought to be to find out how to make that gap disappear. Let’s face it, very few of us are likely to get an education from an expert on a one-to-one basis, so finding out how to teach groups as effectively as in one-to-one teaching would be a pretty damn good thing for just about all of us. Bloom said that virtually anyone can learn virtually anything – as long as the conditions are right. This really is something we ought to know and believe. If we really did believe that, it would change our lives.

In some ways this comes down to our bullshit beliefs around talent. We often think that talent is something we are born with – I can feel my eye twitching as I type that. The problem with believing something like that is that a single failure can be interpreted as a lack of natural ability. And that really is stupid. If Vygotsky is right about his idea that we learn the most when we are right at the cusp of our abilities, then failure is not just inevitable, it is also the only way we can learn anything. Natural ability isn’t about not failing, talent is in structuring the learning so that failing helps us improve, rather than being a huge kick in the guts.

But while we might be able to learn anything, or even achieve anything, the other thing this book makes clear is that we can’t achieve everything – to achieve one thing has opportunity costs – and so we need to give up stuff to get stuff. I’m never going to do some of the stuff recommended here – map my time so I can see what is directed at achieving my goals compared to other stuff that isn’t – but I can see it makes sense.

I really liked the discussion in this on people who totally dedicate themselves to becoming the best in their field – how this often involves cutting out all other things in their lives and almost by definition then becoming basically arse-holes. Whether it is Einstein, Newton, Kafka, some baseball guy, some navy guy – success often seems to be predicated on being a turd to just about everyone around you. Maybe that type of success isn’t always worth having?

I also liked that telling stories to yourself and making things into games were seen as important aspects of succeeding. This was, in some ways, the ‘I think I can’ part of the book, but only in the sense that those who generally succeed do so by chunking tasks into winnable games and then playing at those as a game within a game. Doing that, and then being kind to yourself when things don’t quite work out – when you lose the match say – allows you to regroup and then focus on the next match.

Now, this sort of brings me to the things I didn’t find all that good here. I found some of the stories a bit annoying. I find I get quite bored by sports stories – especially when I have no idea at all about the sport – I find sports insanely boring, so I struggle to give a stuff about some guy who could really hit a ball – what an ultimate waste of a life. I also find that silly bits of writing – in this case where the author does sort of cute talking to the reader – annoy me a bit more than it totally reasonable. I also think that the book places too much stress on ‘finding your vocation’ which I think is counter to some of the other arguments here. This reminded me of Aristotle – that everyone has their own natural ability and that they should find and do that. The problem is that, as the book makes clear later, people who do just one thing often end up pretty stuffed up. I’ve said this elsewhere, but I’m becoming more and more attracted to Marx’s idea that we should be many things, rather than just one thing, and that being many things is a kind of useful definition of what being a healthy human is.

That said, this book does provide some useful advice. Not least, and to say it again, around the idea of being kind to yourself. Do that – do that often.
...more
3

May 27, 2017

Bad boys do well in life. Much better than the class toppers, says Eric Barker, in his primer for success. The best lessons in cooperation come from gang members, pirates and serial killers, continues Eric Barker in this how-to-strategize-and-be-successful guide. Sensational theories, but Barker, a former Hollywood screenwriter , uses stories, research studies and liberally quotes the gurus of productivity and psychology to buttress his analysis and advice .

The book has 6 chapters, all with Bad boys do well in life. Much better than the class toppers, says Eric Barker, in his primer for success. The best lessons in cooperation come from gang members, pirates and serial killers, continues Eric Barker in this how-to-strategize-and-be-successful guide. Sensational theories, but Barker, a former Hollywood screenwriter , uses stories, research studies and liberally quotes the gurus of productivity and psychology to buttress his analysis and advice .

The book has 6 chapters, all with catchy subtitles like 'Does Playing by the Rules Pay Off ? Insight from Valedictorians, People Who Feel No Pain, and Piano Prodigies' . Or 'What We Can Learn About Walking the Tightrope Between Confidence and Delusion from Chess Masters, Secret Military Units, Kung Fu Con Artists, and People Who Cannot Feel Fear'

In the chapter subtitled 'What Navy SEAL's, Video Games, Arranged Marriages, and Batman can Teach Us About Sticking it Out When Achieving Success is Hard' , Barker explains why playing games are important ."We can apply game mechanics to our lives and turn dull moments into fun ones " he says quoting productivity guru Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi . A game is a win and data shows that consistently small wins are even better at producing happiness than occasionally bagging an elephant. Of course investing these games with meaning is key .

Barker tells the story of how Steve Jobs lured John Sculley away from his great job as CEO of Pepsi. He asked him,"Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?" Meaningful doesn't have to be saving orphans or curing the sick. As long as your story is meaningful to you, it has power "he says .

Each chapter has parable-like stories , like those of Ashlyn Blocker the girl who feels no pain, Alfredo Hinojosa the brilliant immigrant , Michael Swango the killer doctor, Glenn Gould the obsessive pianist or Joe Simpson the survivor mountaineer . Barker quotes and liberally, from a galaxy of distinguished behavioural economists like Kahnemann and Dan Ariely, from literary figures like David Foster Wallace and icons like Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein.

Then there's the advice , which appears at the end of each of the six chapters. Like 'Rule 1 :Pick the Right Pond Rule 2 : Cooperate first ' or 'Believing in yourself is Nice . Forgiving Yourself is Better ' . Chapter 6, the concluding chapter ends with stepping back to examine how career success aligns with success in life - where Harvard Business School Clayton Christensen and ( yes !) Mongol warrior Genghis Khan provide examples of how to find peace in a fast moving world .

Most of Barker's advice( 'Know yourself. Network. Join Groups. Always Follow Up') is plain common sense and has been done to death . But Barker does manage to liven up the lectures . And if you like gimmicky , this screenwriter turned blogger turned author is up there. Plus he is prolific in his parables of modern day success. From the Navy Seals to Dalai Lama to Steve Job, each chapter has several stories. He quotes generously and is himself quotable - definitely the stuff of motivational presentations !
...more
3

Jul 05, 2017

Completely forgettable and totally unsurprising science behind everything I've already heard everywhere else. All the books in this genre should be called Kahneman and Tserversky lite. There's got to be some behavioral flaw to explain why I keep reading these books even though they tell me the same thing over and over again.
2

Aug 10, 2017

[Abandanded 50% of the way through]

It's rare that I abandon a book. However, this book was enough of a struggle to get through that I decided to cut my losses. It is not that book isn't well written (it is). It's not that it isn't slightly funny (it is). I gave up on reading it because the style was just not for me. Each chapter seemed to hop, skip and jump all over the place. The book covered all aspects of personal development...from work/life balance to networking to what makes people [Abandanded 50% of the way through]

It's rare that I abandon a book. However, this book was enough of a struggle to get through that I decided to cut my losses. It is not that book isn't well written (it is). It's not that it isn't slightly funny (it is). I gave up on reading it because the style was just not for me. Each chapter seemed to hop, skip and jump all over the place. The book covered all aspects of personal development...from work/life balance to networking to what makes people "successful" and more. Within each chapter the author seemed to both validate conventional wisdom but also spin a gladwell-ian yarn about conventional wisdom isn't the only truth. I ended up being confused about what the book was actually asserting! Further, much of the book was a collage of quotes and citings of other semi-famous non-fiction authors....from Charles Duhigg (Power of Habit) to Dan Coyle (Talent Code) to Eriksson (10,000 Hours / Peak) and more. I felt like I was being "name dropped" on constantly and it made the book tough to read.

Sometimes, books can cover a broad subject like personal development and "success" and make it work (as in Mastery by Robert Greene, The Road to Character by Brooks or even Gladwell's work) but in this case it was too disjointed and scattered to continue with. ...more
4

Jun 15, 2017

We all have ideas of what we think makes people successful. And though author Eric Barker claims to "EXPLODE ALL THE MYTHS!!" in this book, his ideas aren't actually all that crazy--and certainly not so crazy that we've never heard them before. In fact, I recognized more than a few ideas summarized from other books I've read (like Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Just Enough: Tools for Creating Success in Your We all have ideas of what we think makes people successful. And though author Eric Barker claims to "EXPLODE ALL THE MYTHS!!" in this book, his ideas aren't actually all that crazy--and certainly not so crazy that we've never heard them before. In fact, I recognized more than a few ideas summarized from other books I've read (like Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Just Enough: Tools for Creating Success in Your Work and Life, and the list goes on). The great thing about Barking Up the Wrong Tree, though, is that, not only is Barker a great story teller, he's also very clear, specific, and organized in the way he presents his information. In other words, he makes learning really, really fun.

There are six chapters in the book. Chapter 1 talks about how people become successful--some by rising through the ranks over time, others by being so different and driven that they bust down the door and invite themselves to the party. Chapter 2 discusses the importance of being kind and giving (without being a martyr). Chapter 3 argues that knowing when to quit is just as important as having grit. Chapter 4 points out the many benefits of having a network, but emphasizes that it should be built by giving to others. Chapter 5 argues that self-compassion is more important than self-esteem. And Chapter 6 talks about the power of good close relationships.

There is a lot of information to absorb in here, and it can be overwhelming, but Barking Up the Wrong Tree is still an incredibly interesting and educational book. I think my favorite part is the conclusion where Barker sums it all up:

What's the most important thing to remember when it comes to success? Alignment. Success is not the result of any single quality; it's about alignment between who you are and where you choose to be. The right skill in the right role. A good person surrounded by other good people. A story that connects you with the world in a way that keeps you going. A network that helps you, and a job that leverages your natural introversion or extroversion. A level of confidence that keeps you going while learning and forgiving yourself for the inevitable failures. A balance between [happiness, achievement, significance, and legacy] that creates a well-rounded life with no regrets.

At the end of the day, having a successful life really comes down to knowing who you are and finding a place where you can be exactly that. It's such a simple message, but a powerful one, too. 

See more of my reviews at www.BugBugBooks.com!

ARC provided through Amazon Vine. ...more
3

Jun 11, 2017

Started off strong and then slowly lost steam. First half of the book contains a few gems, but by the second half, the reflection gets to be a bit fluffier and less definitive / more of the same from other books in the genre.
Still worth reading for the first half though!
My favourite take aways:
-Volunteering 2 hours a week is the sweet spot for maximum benefits to your overall happiness / likeliness to stay alive (/100hours per year)
-Work hard but draw attention to it, every Friday send an Started off strong and then slowly lost steam. First half of the book contains a few gems, but by the second half, the reflection gets to be a bit fluffier and less definitive / more of the same from other books in the genre.
Still worth reading for the first half though!
My favourite take aways:
-Volunteering 2 hours a week is the sweet spot for maximum benefits to your overall happiness / likeliness to stay alive (/100hours per year)
-Work hard but draw attention to it, every Friday send an email with accomplishments.
-There is really no point where flattery goes too far and backfires
-Bad behaviour works in the short term but good behaviour works in the long term.
-WOOP: Write down your wish, the outcome, any obstacles you may face, and how you'll overcome them. ...more
2

Sep 01, 2017

Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, Unless You've Read Any Other Productivity Book From this Century.

On the plus side, productivity classics like Cal Newport's Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, or Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, are summarized in a single page each, so if you're new to this, the book works as a speed learning hack.
4

Sep 27, 2017

I heard this audio book in my car whilst driving. It was a good companion. As Barker says he is not inventing the wheel here. What he did was remind me of the lessons I had learned in the past and gave me new examples or case histories. What holds through the book is the message:

Know thyself

Find balance

Be positive

Focus

A good voice and message to hear.

Fits into slot 20 of my book challenge - a book with career advice - here I had career and life advice aplenty.
5

May 14, 2017

What a thoughtful and entertaining book. This gem kept me engaged as I learned about pirates and prisons and valedictorians success rate right out of the gate. The author uses studies and facts to create arguments and then plays devils advocate to view a different side of the coin. The lessons are told in a conversational way and asks questions that you can think about yourself or talk to co-workers/ friends about. It's a great mix of science and psychology and applying the information in your What a thoughtful and entertaining book. This gem kept me engaged as I learned about pirates and prisons and valedictorians success rate right out of the gate. The author uses studies and facts to create arguments and then plays devils advocate to view a different side of the coin. The lessons are told in a conversational way and asks questions that you can think about yourself or talk to co-workers/ friends about. It's a great mix of science and psychology and applying the information in your every day life. I enjoyed this very much and the conversations it's helped me start with others. ...more
1

Sep 14, 2017

I honestly, can’t get my mind around those reviewers who never bring their opinions about the book they’ve read out loud. I mean those reviewers simply summarize the book and quote some of the book points or phrases without bringing their critical review of the book. What is the benefit of reading a book and never show your critical views about it? What I mean exactly are those reviewers who give these books “ Five Stars”!

I personally think that this book is not worth it and it’s unbelievably I honestly, can’t get my mind around those reviewers who never bring their opinions about the book they’ve read out loud. I mean those reviewers simply summarize the book and quote some of the book points or phrases without bringing their critical review of the book. What is the benefit of reading a book and never show your critical views about it? What I mean exactly are those reviewers who give these books “ Five Stars”!

I personally think that this book is not worth it and it’s unbelievably overrated. The author has made some certain research papers thinking they would fit into this vague ideas. The author is jumping from here and there and I didn’t understand what he is trying to make. He took lots of ideas from other books like Thrive, Quiet: The Power of Introverts, and some others without bringing something new to the table. In his introduction, he talked about filtered and unfiltered students, and how millionaires have low GPA back in school where high-performance students end up with positions lower the CEOs. But the author never elaborated about filtered and unfiltered people; he jumped from one topic to another with no relation between them and without closing his points. He didn’t bring anything new to me other than his wonderful introduction that deceives you into thinking that next chapters would be awesome. I thought this book is boring and everything I have read is common sense and nothing much. The author was in hurry making this book because he wanted to compile all his unrelated ideas and thoughts into one book. I thought he could make it much better than if he had taken his time making this book. Lots of anecdotes and some humor yet the wisdom of the situations he mentioned are very common and known to even a high school student. And for those who gave this book 5 stars ! all I can say: “wow !! you are as the book stated … filtered”. I apologize. ...more
4

Jul 01, 2017

It did that thing where the answer is pretty much "it depends" to every question about what folks should do with their lives.

That said, a pretty excellent book. Solid tips on figuring shit out.
5

August 19, 2018

There comes a book which you don't want to stop reading. This is a very good read and very well written.
5

Jun 26, 2017

Have you ever read a self-help book that gave you all the answers, only to find that real world is far too messy to make use of “simple truths”? Or, from the other side of the genre, have you read a self-help book preaching how everything is relative, leading to the inevitable conclusion that you should stop making choices and stop trying in life? “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” falls in the sweet-spot between the dumb templates and the blind acceptance.

The book explores research about life Have you ever read a self-help book that gave you all the answers, only to find that real world is far too messy to make use of “simple truths”? Or, from the other side of the genre, have you read a self-help book preaching how everything is relative, leading to the inevitable conclusion that you should stop making choices and stop trying in life? “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” falls in the sweet-spot between the dumb templates and the blind acceptance.

The book explores research about life decisions and offers bits that hold scientifically true. Rather than giving a success plan to follow, it envisages likely outcomes of alternative paths. A lot is psychologically hardwired (sorry, you can’t “fake it till you make it”), but there are small choices and possibilities to optimise.

Barker presents facts in a delightfully counterintuitive way. (Turns out the best way to impede a workplace opportunist who takes advantage of colleagues’ good will is… gossip!) The author has done the hard work of original investigation. You could tell because his stories and examples are not the standard recycled ones usually found in popular psychology. I also enjoyed how statistical comparisons are used to make scientific findings more tangible. (Having few friends is more dangerous than obesity and is the equivalent health risk of smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.)

A great read if you want to know how much (or how little) popular success maxims are supported by actual science. ...more
5

Nov 24, 2017

Thoroughly enjoyed this one. It's balanced and full of interesting anecdotes to underline its arguments. The style reminded me of "Teams of teams", which I can also highly recommend
5

January 29, 2018

Great book. A good map to navigate this complex world.
2

Jun 07, 2018

Started out strong, but about halfway through it just got bogged down with too much detail. Some good nuggets, but in need of some serious editing.
5

May 12, 2018

The only and right perspective about the real definition of success base on facts and data researches, Great Read !!
5

Jun 02, 2017

The funnest, the most out-of-the-box analysis, on the keys for success

This is the 1st book I've ever pre-ordered. I am a regular reader of the blog Barking Up The Wrong Tree, and I once thought would it be cool if Eric Barker can make a book out of these gems? And my God he did, and it did not disappoint one bit.

Like Dale Carnegie, Eric Barker uses so many stories, book references and great quotations to make his points accross. There are stories such as how a poor boy in Mexico can become a The funnest, the most out-of-the-box analysis, on the keys for success

This is the 1st book I've ever pre-ordered. I am a regular reader of the blog Barking Up The Wrong Tree, and I once thought would it be cool if Eric Barker can make a book out of these gems? And my God he did, and it did not disappoint one bit.

Like Dale Carnegie, Eric Barker uses so many stories, book references and great quotations to make his points accross. There are stories such as how a poor boy in Mexico can become a world class neuro surgeon, how a clinically crazy person can win the enduring Race Across America, or how can an illiterate person in a horrible time and place and without proper education can conquer more land in 25 years than the Romans ever did in 400 years. There are also eye opening stories of how trust is completely lost in a Moldovan culture, how crimes create street gangs (and not the other way around) for protection, and how surprisingly civilised and organised pirates were.

The author then back them up with numerous scientific findings to validate the points he is making, just like the approach of Daniel Kahneman. For example, there are scientific explanations on why some people never quit, why people have depression, and why people commit suicide. Moreover, there are explanations on why high achievers can sometimes have anxiety problem or even depression, why the number ones in high school (the valedictorians) so rarely become the number ones in real life, why beautiful people normally becomes more successful, why nice guys finish first and last (and not in the middle), and why high achievers are rarely active in their social media accounts.

Along the way we'll learn so many amusing facts, such as how an IQ of 120 does not make much difference than 180, 2 and a half to 4 hours after we wake up is when our brains is at its sharpest, how Hedonic Adaptation explains why after a brief change everything change back to baseline (e.g. on diet and clean behaviour), how viagra started out as a medicine for angina that had a serendipitous "side effect", that the US once had an (almost official) emperor, Emperor Norton I.

And we'll also gain some great wisdom like "sometimes an ugly duckling can be a swan if it finds the right pond" or "life is noisy and complex, and we don't have perfect information about others and their motives. Writing people off can be due to just lack of clarity", or "things aren't as scary when we have our hands on the wheels."

All of these wealth of information are then knitted nicely to become the central theme of the book: to discover the core determinants of success, through considering both sides of the argument with extreme stories and scientific facts.

In each individual chapters the book then provide concluding analysis, such as the importance of quiting something that is not good for you to make room and time for something good for you, the scientific explanation on luck as a function of choice, the disadvantages dreaming will cause on your wellbeing, effort and reality, the best predictor of our child's emotional well-being is whether they knew their family history, the importance of sleep and self-compassion, and many more.

The author also gives us so many practical tools for us to work out the determinant factors for succcess, on our own unique way, such as Shawn Anchor's "twenty second rule", Cal Newport's "shutdown ritual", how to skillfully and sincerely use our network, figuring out whether we're filtered or unfiltered leader, the importance of setting a parameter in a negotiation, and the findings of Robert Epstein research on how to reduce stress, among many others.

All in all, this book is the most complete analysis for its subject, using unorthodox approach and very amusing wide range of information that makes it very fun to read. What Freakonomics did for economics, Why Do Men Have Nipples? did for medicine, and Moonwalking With Einstein did with memory, Barking Up the Wrong Tree does it brilliantly with exploring the keys for success in the real world. I couldn't recommend it more. ...more
1

Apr 07, 2018

Chocked full of the narrative fallacy.

Some of the advice seemed good and to confirm my own opinions of success. However, upon further reflection, the book is loaded with the narrative fallacy—many of the success stories cannot be attributed to his principles but to luck.

He looks at the most successful people; from a learning standpoint this is actually bad because, to quote nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman (His comment on this other book, Built to Last, can equally apply here.):

"The basic Chocked full of the narrative fallacy.

Some of the advice seemed good and to confirm my own opinions of success. However, upon further reflection, the book is loaded with the narrative fallacy—many of the success stories cannot be attributed to his principles but to luck.

He looks at the most successful people; from a learning standpoint this is actually bad because, to quote nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman (His comment on this other book, Built to Last, can equally apply here.):

"The basic message of Built to Last and other similar books is that good managerial practices can be identified and that good practices will be rewarded by good results. Both messages are overstated. The comparison of firms that have been more or less successful is to a significant extent a comparison between firms that have been more or less lucky. Knowing the importance of luck, you should be particularly suspicious when highly consistent patterns emerge from the comparison of successful and less successful firms. In the presence of randomness, regular patterns can only be mirages.

"Because luck plays a large role, the quality of leadership and management practices cannot be inferred reliably from observations of success. And even if you had perfect foreknowledge that a CEO has brilliant vision and extraordinary competence, you still would be unable to predict how the company will perform with much better accuracy than the flip of a coin. On the average, the gap in corporate profitability and stock returns between the outstanding firms and the less successful firms studied in Built to Last shrank to almost nothing in the period following the study. The average profitability of the companies identified in the famous In Search of Excellence dropped sharply as well within a short time. A study of Fortune's "Most Admired Companies" finds that over a twenty-year period, the firms with the worst ratings went on to earn much higher stock returns than the most admired firms." (Thinking, Fast and Slow p. 207)

Barker's stories are oversimplified, and he falls into the trap.

Probably the most useful part of the book are the steps that Barker outlines. However, his quality of thinking is so low, that I'm starting to doubt the usefulness of those processes. :/ ...more
5

Jul 27, 2017

I was really intrigued by what was dictated by the "eulogy values" outlined in a section of this book. The final definition of success (legacy if you will) is in a person's eulogy. The values engraved as those expressed in eulogies are those that are personal stories that filter messiness of life, many of which bring meaning for life that consequently entail "cognitive reappraisal" for an optimistic life. In retrospect, I learned that to have "grit" is to just quit (not simply quit, yet I was really intrigued by what was dictated by the "eulogy values" outlined in a section of this book. The final definition of success (legacy if you will) is in a person's eulogy. The values engraved as those expressed in eulogies are those that are personal stories that filter messiness of life, many of which bring meaning for life that consequently entail "cognitive reappraisal" for an optimistic life. In retrospect, I learned that to have "grit" is to just quit (not simply quit, yet strategically so). The "WOOP" framework (Wish, outcome, obstacle, plan) if so followed during the peak of anyone's challenges can find solutions without unnecessary and excess turmoil. In the end, I also learned that it is our PERSONAL DEFINITION OF SUCCESS THAT MATTERS THE MOST. The only determent to achieving this is the misplacement of time and effort. So pick your "pond," where one can learn, strengthen and thrive.

"When you align your values with the employment of your signature skills in a context that reinforces these same strengths, you create a powerful and emotionally engaging force for achievement, significance, happiness and legacy." (Barker, 2017, p. 263) ...more
3

Jul 26, 2017

I thought this book was about something else, but instead, it's one of those "everything you know is wrong" self-help books I've read 100 times before. I wouldn't have started it had I known that. After all, it did claim it was to discuss the "science" of success. However, what they meant was that they were going to use anecdotal stories to sing the same old song to people aiming to move up the corporate ladder. Don't get me wrong, i guess there's nothing wrong with that. I'm just tired of this I thought this book was about something else, but instead, it's one of those "everything you know is wrong" self-help books I've read 100 times before. I wouldn't have started it had I known that. After all, it did claim it was to discuss the "science" of success. However, what they meant was that they were going to use anecdotal stories to sing the same old song to people aiming to move up the corporate ladder. Don't get me wrong, i guess there's nothing wrong with that. I'm just tired of this genre. ...more
5

Aug 02, 2017

Great read about how to be the most successful person you can be

This is a fantastic book full of wonderful advice from detailed research along with some great anecdotes unique to this book. Eric covers lots of ground over many topics and at times it feels like a best hits of legendary self development books which he summarises perfectly. I'd recommend this (and his blog) to anyone!
5

Jun 27, 2019

Success doesn't necessarily mean being rich or famous. Each of us define success for ourselves. For most part, what matters are these four metrics:
1. Happiness - having pleasure or contentment
2. Achievement - achieving accomplishments
3. Significance - having a positive impact on people
4. Legacy - establishing values that help others find future success

To be truly successful, we need to spend our time on each of these week after week after week, and not put some of these on back burner for10 Success doesn't necessarily mean being rich or famous. Each of us define success for ourselves. For most part, what matters are these four metrics:
1. Happiness - having pleasure or contentment
2. Achievement - achieving accomplishments
3. Significance - having a positive impact on people
4. Legacy - establishing values that help others find future success

To be truly successful, we need to spend our time on each of these week after week after week, and not put some of these on back burner for10 years because we are too busy spending our time on only one of these right now.

And it's not a zero sum game. All of us can be successful! ...more
5

October 12, 2018

This is a must read and a book that should be read more than once.

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