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

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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.

224 pages, ebook

First published May 16, 2017

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About the author

Eric Barker

4 books579 followers
Eric Barker is the author of The Wall Street Journal bestseller Barking Up the Wrong Tree which has been translated into more than 20 languages. Over 500,000 people have subscribed to his weekly newsletter. His work has been covered by The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Financial Times, and others. Eric is also a sought-after speaker, having given talks at MIT, Yale, Google, the United States Military Central Command (CENTCOM), and the Olympic Training Center. His new bestseller, “Plays Well with Others,” was released by HarperCollins in May of 2022.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,393 reviews
December 27, 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 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.
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)
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!
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)
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.
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)
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)
Glenn Gould was such a hypochondriac that if you sneezed while on a phone call with him, he’d immediately hang up. ... (c)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Ask yourself, Which companies, institutions, and situations value what I do? Context affects everyone. (c)
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.
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.
Feeling powerless actually makes you dumber. (c)
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)
But hold on—it gets worse. Ass kissers aren’t the only ones who thrive. Jerks do too. (c)
Rude people also have better credit scores. (c) Now that seems to be an urban legend.
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.
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!
I’m going to stop now because my publisher won’t let this book be packaged with antidepressants. (c) Or chocolate.
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)
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)
Pirate ships were very democratic places. (c)
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,293 reviews21.7k followers
May 10, 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 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.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
December 15, 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.
Profile Image for Sonya Dutta Choudhury.
Author 1 book62 followers
May 28, 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 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 !
Profile Image for Ravi Raman.
146 reviews16 followers
August 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 "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.
Profile Image for Emma Sea.
2,184 reviews1,064 followers
September 2, 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.
Profile Image for Lorilin.
757 reviews241 followers
June 29, 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 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.
Profile Image for Ahn Mur.
132 reviews
April 18, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Yaser Had.
44 reviews2 followers
September 25, 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 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.
Profile Image for Andy.
1,373 reviews465 followers
November 18, 2021
This is like a crib sheet summary of many other books. So if you've read much about the science of happiness/success/effectiveness then this will not be "surprising" news. If you haven't read anything before and only want to read one book, then this might do the trick. The problem is that by skimming the surface of all these different studies, the author winds up sounding wishy-washy: extroversion, confidence, persistence are the secrets to a good life except when the exact opposites are better! In the end, the advice is to align with what's right for you, and that is basically the concept of Flow, so personally I would recommend just reading that to get an appreciation of where that advice comes from and a deeper understanding of the nuances. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Flow The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Profile Image for Sofia.
1,144 reviews194 followers
October 6, 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


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.
Profile Image for Fahri Rasihan.
472 reviews106 followers
May 10, 2019
Buku yang membahas tentang kesuksesan mungkin sudah sangat banyak yang beredar. Di mana buku-buku tersebut kebanyakan membahas hal-hal apa saja yang dapat membantu kita untuk meraih kesuksesan. Biasanya hal-hal tersebut bersifat wajar dan normal, seperti kerja keras, disiplin, bakat, dan lain sebagainya. Namun, berbeda dengan buku-buku tentang kesuksesan lainnya, Mendaki Tangga Yang Salah menyorot beberapa hal yang mungkin dianggap negatif dan dipandang sebelah mata dalam meraih kesuksesan. Berbagai hal ini dibahas bersamaan dengan hal positif lainnya dengan sudut pandang yang berasal dari kisah hidup, penelitian, dan gagasan dari para pakar, dan tokoh terkenal. Di mana hal-hal yang biasanya kita anggap sebagai penghambat, ternyata bisa juga berperan penting dalam meraih kesuksesan. Bagaimana faktor-faktor penentu kesuksesan ini dibahas lewat dua sisi, positif dan negatif. Selain itu Eric Barker juga menjelaskan berbagai cara dan tindakan yang bisa kita lakukan untuk menerapkan, menyiasati, dan mengoptimalkan berbagai hal tersebut ke dalam kehidupan kita agar bisa meraih kebahagiaan yang memicu kesuksesan.

Buku ini dibagi menjadi enam bab yang setiap babnya membahas hal-hal yang membantu kita menggapai kesuksesan. Uniknya, setiap pembahasan tidak hanya mengangkat sisi positif dari sebuah sikap, tapi juga sisi negatifnya. Mulai dari percaya diri, keteguhan, relasi, dan masih banyak lagi. Pada bab pertama kita akan diajak untuk melihat apakah kita harus bermain aman agar bisa sukses? Menurut spekulasi Gautam Mukunda terdapat dua jenis pemimpin, yaitu "tersaring" dan "tidak tersaring". Pemimpin yang tersaring adalah pemimpin yang mendapatkan posisinya lewat saluran-saluran resmi, memperoleh kenaikan jabatan, bermain mengikuti aturan, dan memenuhi harapan. Sedangkan pemimpin yang tidak tersaring adalah pribadi yang melakukan hal-hal yang tidak terduga, mempunyai latar belakang yang berbeda, dan tidak bisa diprediksi. Pemimpin yang tidak tersaring bisa memiliki dampak yang kuat karena memiliki keahlian unik yang membedakannya dengan pemimpin tersaring. Biasanya keahlian unik ini bisa bersifat negatif, namun dalam kondisi tertentu bisa menjadi positif. Mukunda menyebutnya dengan sebutan pemekat yang di mana bisa merubah kelemahan kita menjadi kekuatan.

Kita memerlukan optimisme dan kepercayaan diri agar bisa terus maju dan membentuk relasi. Namun, negativitas dan pesimise pun menolong kita untuk melihat masalah agar dapat kita perbaiki. Terkadang percaya diri yang terlalu tinggi bisa membutakan kita sehingga menolak untuk mendengarkan masukan dari orang lain. Akibatnya diri kita tidak mau belajar sehingga sulit untuk berkembang. Rasa percaya diri yang tinggi membuat kita merasa nyaman, memberi keteguhan, dan mengesankan orang lain, tapi juga bisa membuat kita menjadi pribadi yang angkuh, yang menolak orang lain, tidak mengalami peningkatan diri, dan mungkin akan kehilangan segalanya akibat pengingkaran. Dan dengan menjadi sosok yang kurang percaya diri akan memberikan dorongan dan sarana untuk kita menjadi seorang ahli yang lebih disukai orang lain. Namun, di antara percaya diri dan kurang percaya diri, kita lebih baik untuk memiliki bela rasa diri. Ketika percaya diri bisa mengacuhkan umpan balik yang tidak cocok dengan realitas internal kita, sehingga menyebabkan kurangnya perubahan. Ketika kurang percaya diri bisa memperlihatkan masalah tapi kita tidak siap untuk mengatasinya. Bela rasa diri merupakan jawaban yang tepat, di mana memungkinkan kita melihat masalah dan mampu mengatasinya.

Apakah dengan bekerja keras kesuksesan bisa cepat kita raih? Mungkin jawabannya bisa iya asalkan kita bisa tahu akan batas akan kerja keras itu sendiri. Contohnya seperti atlet Ted Williams yang secara ekstrim terus berlatih, berlatih, dan berlatih. Karena saking sibuknya dengan latihan, Ted melupaka kehidupannya. Memang benar dia berhasil menjadi salah satu pemukul terbaik sepanjang sejarah baseball. Namun, kehidupan sosialnya bisa dibilang sangat mengkhawatirkan. Ted menjadi pribadi yang sangat ambisius dan perfeksionis sehingga memunculkan sikap tempramennya jika sesuatu tidak terjadi sesuai dengan kehendaknya. Di sini kita bisa melihat kerja keras itu memang perlu agar bisa menjadi yang terbaik, tapi apakah itu sepadan jika relasi kita dengan orang lain menjadi buruk? Padahal relasi merupakan salah satu faktor penting dalam mencapai kesuksesan. Maka dari itu Eric Barker menyarankan kita agar bisa memberi batas akan kerja keras yang kita lakukan. Dengan menyusun rencana yang jelas kita bisa membagi waktu dalam mengerjakan pekerjaan, menjalankan hobi, dan berkumpul bersama orang-orang yang kita cintai. Menurut para peneliti ada empat tolok ukur untuk kehidupan, yaitu:


Melalui keempat tolok ukur tersebut, kita bisa membuat rencana agar bisa membagi waktu. Karena kesuksesan tanpa kebahagiaan sama saja dengan bohong, tapi kebahagiaan pasti akan mendatangkan kesuksesan.

Secara keseluruhan Mendaki Tangga Yang Salah sedikit mengingatkan saya dengan buku Grit karya Angela Duckworth. Di mana kedua buku ini sama-sama membahas faktor penunjang untuk meraih kesuksesan. Hanya saja dalam Grit, Duckworth lebih memfokuskan pembahasannya pada satu faktor, yaitu kegigihan. Sedangkan dalam buku ini lebih banyak faktor yang dibahas dan salah satunya adalah kegigihan itu sendiri. Barker menyajikan studi ilmiahnya tentang kesuksesan dengan sudut pandang yang unik. Melalui dua sisi, yaitu positif dan negatif. Kita diperlihatkan bagaiamana dari kedua sisi tersebut memiliki kelebihan dan kekurangannya masing-masing. Dikemas dengan berbagai kisah, penelitian, dan gagasan dari orang-orang yang berpengaruh, menjadikan buku ini menarik untuk dibaca. Selain mendapatkan ilmu ilmiah tentang kesuksesan, kita juga disuguhkan dengan kisah-kisah yang tidak kalah menarik dari pesepeda yang gila, orang-orang yang tidak merasakan nyeri dan takut, pianis yang ganjil, pembunuh berantai, bajak laut, geng penjara, Angkatan Laut Amerika, racoon dari Toronto, pendeta Shaolin, berapa lama anda bisa menjadi Batman, angka Erdos, Newton dan Einstein, Ted Williams dan Spider-Man, perang radar antara Harvard dan MIT, serta masih banyak lagi. Bagi kalian yang ingin mendapatkan perspektif baru akan kesuksesan buku ini cocok untuk kalian lahap. Saya sarankan untuk membacanya secara perlahan agar ilmu yang ada bisa terserap dengan baik.
Profile Image for Mojtaba Shirani.
85 reviews10 followers
August 10, 2021
کتاب فوق العاده جذاب برای موفقیت نه مثل کتاب های زرد دیگه با خوندن این کتاب انگار 5،6 کتاب مختلف موفقیت خوندید منابع حرف هایی که میزنه همه کتاب های معتبرن
16 reviews
April 9, 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 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. :/
Profile Image for Mart Roben.
41 reviews9 followers
June 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 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.
Profile Image for Leona.
1,724 reviews18 followers
June 7, 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.
Profile Image for Edwin Setiadi.
270 reviews12 followers
June 3, 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 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.
Profile Image for Maliha.
220 reviews135 followers
August 1, 2021
In this book you'll meet crazy cyclists, people who don't feel pain and fear, oddball pianist, serial killers, pirates, prison gangs, Navy Seals, Toronto raccoons, Shaolin monks, how long you can be Batman, Erdos numbers, Newton and Einstein, Ted Williams and Spiderman, radar wars between Harvard and MIT, ghost armies and hostage negotiaters, the Emperor of United States of America (may he rest in peace), confident chess computers, Japanese wrestlers with orange hair, Genghis Khan, and a guy who flew around the world just to say "Thanks"

There are basically 7 topics this book discusses in detail which are as follows:

1. What really produces success?

By looking at the science behind 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.

2. Should we play it safe and do what we're told if we want to succeed?

Does playing by the rules pay off? Insight from Valedictorians, people who feel no pain, and piano prodigies.

3. Do nice guys finish last?

What can you learn about trust cooperation and kindness... From gang members, pirates and serial killers.

4. Do quitters never win and winners never quit?

What Navy SEALs, videos games, arranged marriages, and Batman can teach us about sticking it out when achieving success is hard.

5. It's not what you know, it's who you know (unless it really is what you know)

What we can learn about the power of networks from hostage negotiaters, top comedians, and the smartest man who ever lived.

6. Believe in yourself.... Sometimes

What we can learn about walking the tightrope between confidences and delusion from chess masters, secret military units, kung fu con artists, and people who cannot feel fear.

7. Work, work, work . . . Or work-life balance?

How to find harmony between home and the office, courtesy of Spiderman, buddhist monks, Albert Einstein, professional wrestlers, and Genghis Khan.

This book is an insane rollercoaster ride to finding out what exactly makes a successful life! Loved it! Would absolutely recommend to everyone!
Profile Image for Michele Feng.
15 reviews
May 10, 2019
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)
Author 5 books36 followers
May 15, 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 every day life. I enjoyed this very much and the conversations it's helped me start with others.
Profile Image for Bjoern Rochel.
370 reviews66 followers
November 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
Profile Image for Raghu.
385 reviews77 followers
February 14, 2020
I cannot remember how this book ended up in my 'to read' list. I don't generally read self-help or motivational books. The title suggested a contrarian outlook. Perhaps, that is what interested me in reading it. Still, I am always skeptical about books that try to tell you that they have decoded the path to something that has eluded many others.

The standard wisdom on success practically includes everything from being a friendly, pleasant person to being a driven, singularly-focused individual. In between, the advice is to be a good listener and exude supreme confidence under most trying circumstances. Discipline, courage, and being yourself are some other traits that are supposed to make you successful. 'Discover who you are,' say some others. 'Love is the ultimate answer,' say yet others with supreme conviction. Hope, action, and focus are also qualities that contribute to success. Many others say that there is no one set of rules that brings achievement to everyone. Each one of us is supposed to have our specific key to success, and once we find it, success will follow. The title of this book says 'the Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong.' I expected the author to suggest some compelling, contrarian scientific arguments to counter most of the keys mentioned above. But I was mostly disappointed, not only by the style but also the content. It would be a stretch to claim the author's arguments as science, even though the book has an extensive list of references.

The book makes for breezy reading because it is a collection of stories. A book such as this would naturally invite the question of what success is. Depending on the definition, we would ask the follow-up question of whether there are any universally applicable ways of achieving success. Eric Barker answers that "we get hung up on the heights of success we see in the media and forget that it's our definition of success that matters." In other words, Barker says, "what defines success for you is, well, up to you." With such a flexible definition, it is easy to characterize most anecdotal events as successes or failures and then look at their causes.

So, Barker's approach to researching the keys to success is through a large number of parables from modern-day success stories. There are anecdotes from the lives of famous people like Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein, Paul Erdos, and even Genghis Khan. Somewhat obscure people like Jure Robic, Michael Swango, and Glenn Gould also find mention as examples. Swango was particularly interesting as he was a doctor cum serial killer and very successful in his serial-killing. Barker makes an engaging analysis of what made him so good at killing!

The book is full of quotes, arguments for and against a proposition, and then a resolution. My favorite quote from the book is the one attributed to Kurt Vonnegut, who said, "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." So, what does Eric Barker say are the keys to success? As far as I can gather, it is probably the following chunks:

Whatever you want to accomplish, approach it as a game, define end goals, and work on them by reaching smaller intermediate goals.
Networking with people and organizations is essential. Joining diverse groups helps to meet different people. Keep in touch through several communication channels such as email, phone, chat, etc
Being happy is vital to achieving success. Hence, working hard and obsessively must be balanced with other aspects of life
You must decide what you want. If you don't do it, the world outside will do it for you, and it may not be the right thing for you
Optimism is necessary to pursue our cause, but pessimism is useful to identify problems
We must be compassionate to ourselves
Listen actively and be democratic
Confidence is a result of success, not its cause
Pursuing success demands a flexible approach where you adopt different strategies based on different situations
There is a time to pursue success doggedly despite significant adversities, and then there is also a time to quit. For example, when a relationship is a wrong one or when you choose wrong goals, to begin with, it is better to quit when you realize it
Apart from many other such aphorisms, there is plenty of advice and quotes from Nobel Laureates like Daniel Kahnemann, behavioral scientists like Dan Ariely, and literary elites like David Wallace.

Elsewhere, Eric Barker cites some examples and correlations with success in life that do not carry much conviction. He says that famous figures like Lincoln, Gandhi, Michaelangelo, and Mark Twain all lost a parent before age sixteen. The list of orphans who became spectacular successes is long and includes no fewer than fifteen British prime ministers. I don't know why becoming a prime-minister of Britain should be considered a success in life? Then, why not the PM of Nigeria or Mali? The author says that due to their unique personality and circumstances, these orphans overcompensated and turned tragedy into fuel for greatness. Is he saying that being an orphan increases our chances of success in life? Is it even ethical to contemplate such a possibility? If we take his example of Gandhi, his father died when he was sixteen, but his mother lived for another six years. In the 19th century India, the father usually exercised much control over his children's life and growth as an adult. One can say that Gandhi freed himself from this control at sixteen, and that is the reason why he could explore life in South Africa by age 24. But Gandhi did not become the Mahatma that we know today overnight. It happened over the next many decades through his life experience both in Africa and India. To attribute his father's death as a salient cause would be at best clutching at straws to explain Gandhi's rise.
Then there is the quote, "89 percent of achievers classify themselves as introverts, in sports, in music, etc. Only 6% feel they are extroverts, and the other 5% are in-between". Does he suggest that becoming an introvert raises your chances of being an achiever? Can it be the other way around that we become introverts because of focusing on achievement and finding success?
Barker says that the System does not vet "unfiltered" politicians, and so they cannot be relied upon to make the "approved" decisions. Hence they act in unexpected ways and are often unpredictable. Yet they bring change and shake up the System. They often break the institutions they lead. Donald Trump comes to mind as an example of an unfiltered politician. But, we cannot yet say that he is successful as President of the US. It is premature, at best. In the 1980s, India had an unfiltered politician in Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister. He came with a lot of expectations from the people to do the unexpected. However, in five years, the System showed him that, in a democracy, everyone has to fall in line at least partially if one wants to retain power in the next polls. One can say that even Donald Trump recognizes this as he comes up for re-election in 2020.

A lot of the advice in the book feels like plain common sense. I didn't get much out of it as new insights. Still, some readers may find it fast-paced writing and useful advice.
Profile Image for Ahmad Moshrif.
Author 7 books355 followers
January 14, 2023
هل صحيح أن كا ما نعرفه عن النجاح (غالباً) خطأ؟
أتفق مع هذا الرأي، لأن النجاح أولاً شيء صعب القياس، فإن كان بالنسبة لأحهم هو المال، قد يكون لآخر هو الحصول على المزيد من الوقت بجانب شاطئ البحر.

روعة الكتاب (الذي استحق الخمسة نجوم) تتشكل في حجم البحث الدؤوب، والفكرة قبلها، وقليلاً من خِفة الدم المقبولة من الكاتب بعد أن يغرقك بمحاولات الإقناع.
«لماذا نبحث دومًا عن المزيد؟» كان هذا أهم تساؤل خرجت به من الكتاب بصراحة. نبحث عن المزيد من الصحة، من الثروة، من الوقت، من المتعة ... ولا نركز قبلها على الموضوع الأهم وهو محاولة تقليل ما يمكن لنا تقليله في حياتنا لننشغل بما هو أهم.

معادلة (العمل العمل العمل) مقابل التوازن الحياتي والعملي، هل ستكون هي الطريق الأوحد للنجاح؟ .. ربما! ... لكن السؤال الأهم: هي هي نفس المعادلة للسعادة؟ وما هي أصلاً معادلة السعادة بالنسبة لنا؟ هل هي بالتوازن؟ أم بالنجاح المهني؟.

كاتب وكتاب ممتازين حقاً
Profile Image for Jeremy.
578 reviews12 followers
February 28, 2018
I picked this up not knowing much of what it was about, but from the title I expected it to be a kind of anti-success book, to explain reasons why some popular "success is as easy as x" books are wrong. But no, this IS a success is as easy as x book, more or less. I'm allergic to books like this and really didn't like it. I was familiar with most of the points he made, and after looking up who this guy is, I'm wondering why anyone should read or trust what this guy has to say. Yes, I should have looked this up before, but I listened to it as an audiobook so my opportunity cost was low.
Profile Image for Cav.
658 reviews89 followers
August 14, 2022
"Much of what we’ve been told about the qualities that lead to achievement is logical, earnest—and downright wrong. We’ll explode the myths, look at the science behind what separates the extremely successful from the rest of us, learn what we can do to be more like them, and find out in some cases why it’s good that we aren’t. Sometimes what produces success is raw talent, sometimes it’s the nice things our moms told us to do, and other times it’s the exact opposite.
Which old sayings are true and which are myths?
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?"

Barking Up the Wrong Tree was an excellent look into the topic. The book is my second from the author, after his 2022 book Plays Well with Others, which I also really enjoyed.

Author Eric Barker's work has been mentioned in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, TIME magazine, The Week, and Business Insider. He is a former Hollywood screenwriter, having worked on projects for Walt Disney Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, and Revolution Studios. Over 500,000 people have subscribed to his weekly newsletter.

Eric Barker:

Barker gets the writing here off on a good foot, with a well-written intro. He talks about a champion bicycle racer who is seriously mentally disturbed. The scope of the book is also laid out.
He has an excellent writing style that is both interesting and engaging. He drops a few tongue-in-cheek tidbits of humour throughout in a way that really works. This can be hit-or-miss in a book, in my experience, and it is a rare talent to pull off effectively.

So, what does success look like? It is often found in those that deviate far from the mean. Barker expands further:
"...But as any mathematician knows, averages can be deceptive. 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.”
As a general rule, anything better aligned to fit a unique scenario is going to be problematic on average. And qualities that are “generally good” can be bad at the extremes. The jacket that works just fine eight months out of the year will be a terrible choice in the dead of winter. By the same token, with intensifiers, qualities that seem universally awful have their uses in specific contexts. They’re the Formula 1 cars that are undriveable on city streets but break records on a track.
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."

In this quote, Barker talks about choosing your "pond" effectively:
"When you choose your pond wisely, you can best leverage your type, your signature strengths, and your context to create tremendous value. This is what makes for a great career, but such self-knowledge can create value wherever you choose to apply it."
And failure in this quote:
"So what happens if you fail at something? You won’t die like Batman, so you shouldn’t act like you’re Batman. Try being more like a comedian or a kindergartener. Try things. Quit what fails. Then apply grit.
The research lines up with what the comedians and the kindergarteners already know. Steven Johnson notes that historical studies of patent records reveal that “sheer quantity ultimately leads to quality.” Trying more stuff. Just like the old saying “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
What’s all this leading to? You need to combine strategic quitting with your own personal R&D division.
Okay, some of you are probably angry with me right now. First you told me about opportunity/cost and quitting stuff to free up time to focus on the one thing that matters. Now you’re telling me to do lots of different stuff. What gives?
The answer is simple: If you don’t know what to be gritty at yet, you need to try lots of things—knowing you’ll quit most of them—to find the answer. Once you discover your focus, devote 5 to 10 percent of your time to little experiments to make sure you keep learning and growing.
This gives you the best of both worlds. Use trying and quitting as a deliberate strategy to find out what is worth not quitting. You’re not being a total flake but someone who strategically tests the waters."

Barker writes about the importance of experimenting with different methodologies, and exploring many separate paths to achieve a goal:
"The same is true for successful companies. They don’t just try new things; they often completely reinvent themselves when their little bets bear fruit. YouTube started out as a dating site, of all things. eBay was originally focused on selling PEZ dispensers. Google began as a project to organize library book searches.
So don’t be afraid to do some experiments, and quit the ones that don’t work. It can lead to great things. You need to quit some things to find out what to be gritty at. And you need to try stuff knowing you might quit some of it to open yourself up to the luck and opportunities that can make you successful."

The scope of the book is quite broad, and Barker covers a lot of ground here. Some more of what is covered here includes:
• The eccentricity of musician Glenn Gould.
• Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.
• Social cooperation among pirates and criminal gangs.
• Robert Axelrod and the tit-for-tat strategy in game theory.
• "Grit"; the SEAL BUD/S training. Martin Seligman's "learned helplessness" experiments.
• The power of stories in our lives and the broader culture.
• Cognitive reframing; "games" to achieve goals. Some excellent writing here.
• Strategic quitting; opportunity costs. Some more excellent writing.
• Romantic relationships; arranged vs love marriages.
• Introverts vs extroverts.
• The importance of mentors.
• The importance of gratitude; hedonic adaptation.
• Self-compassion and supportive self-talk, instead of self-esteem.
• The importance of good sleep.
• Work-life balance.


I wasn't sure what to expect from this one going in... I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of writing here. I really enjoyed this book.
I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested.
An easy 5 star rating for Barking Up the Wrong Tree.
Profile Image for Anastasia.
954 reviews16 followers
March 8, 2020
The first thing that attracted my attention about this book was the title. Idioms are so much fun when turned on their head. The second thing is that science and common knowledge are so different in many ways. Remember your grandmother telling you not to sit in a draft, you will get sick. So this book was a must read.

Well it does cover some interesting things. Time management, leisure and work balance, working smarter not harder, are all covered. While the book is aimed more at executives, many will find some good advice in here. Yes, working mom's and stay-at-home mom's will also find some great ways to balance their lives as well.

As a parent I am able to apply some ideas to how to raise my kids. I know a book about success is not about parenting, but with two older teens entering adulthoood it has given me some perspective. The conclusion has some workbook activities that I will be trying out on myself, and encouraging my university student to do the same.

So, yep I liked this book and do recommend it.
Profile Image for Holly Lê.
439 reviews126 followers
June 10, 2022
Chất lượng.
Gu Mị gu Mị =)))

Được xếp vào thể loại sách Kỹ năng sống, "Chó sủa nhầm cây" tập hợp các nghiên cứu, các kiến thức khoa học thường thức, các lý luận nhằm ứng dụng vào thực tiễn đời sống.

Viết lôi cuốn thật, nhưng hơi rời rạc lộn xộn.

Quyển này cũng làm mình liên tưởng đến "Nghệ thuật tinh tế của việc đếch quan tâm".
Profile Image for Tulip.
157 reviews49 followers
February 6, 2021
sách có 1 đoạn trích dẫn từ triết gia Tyler Durden, chắc là triết gia đẹp trai nhất sách rồi :)))

Mình thích cuốn sách này bởi mình cảm nhận được nét chung trong suy nghĩ của mình và tác giả. Giống như Taleb viết, nhiều khi suy luận là được rồi, mình cũng nghiền ngẫm những điều sách nói ra và đánh giá lại thôi.

Cuốn sách chia làm 6 chương, với 6 vấn đề:
1, Có nên thận trọng và vâng lời nếu thành công?
2, Nice guys finish last?
3, Quitters never win? Winners never quit?
4, Network
5, Tin vào chính mình, hay là tin vừa vừa thôi?
6, Làm việc hay cân bằng cuộc sống?

Một điều mình yêu thích ở cuốn sách là sự không rạch ròi ở các câu trả lời. Tất nhiên rồi, làm sao mà đủ context để mà trả lời được chứ? Nhưng tác giả cũng đưa ra 1 số phương hướng trả lời, mà theo mình là khá tốt.

Ví như câu hỏi đầu tiên. Điều đó, phù thuộc hành động của bạn (thực ra phụ thuộc bản chất của bạn hơn). Những cá nhân kiệt xuất thường khác người, và cần được nuôi dưỡng đặc biệt. Tác giả ví như hoa lan và hoa bồ công anh, nhưng mình thích so sánh giữa hoa và ngọc trong đá hơn. Ngọc trong đá thì không lấp lánh, phải biết cắt gọt, không như hoa lá rực rỡ giữa trời. Nhưng nếu đối đãi hợp lý, thì nó sẽ toả sáng mãi thôi. Cần phải có rất nhiều sự khác thường (đôi lúc hơi điên rồ) mới nuôi dưỡng được những cá nhân kiệt xuất như vậy. Một trong những điều đó là sự hy sinh hết mình cho sự nghiệp họ hướng tới (có liên quan chương 6 nè).

Tất nhiên thành công có nhiều dạng. Có những người vĩ đại và để lại thành quả ấn tượng cảm giác không thể vượt qua, và họ phải hy sinh rất nhiêu. Có những người vĩ đại nhưng sự hy sinh cũng tầm tầm và mình tin sự nghiệp của họ hoàn toàn có thể vĩ đại hơn nếu sự hy sinh lớn lao hơn. Tuy nhiên, hoàn toàn không phủ nhận việc toàn tâm toàn ý sẽ giúp bạn tăng khả năng trở thành 1 con người xuất chúng trong lĩnh vực bạn theo đuổi.

Mình nghĩ phần đa mọi người sẽ có những điều bổ ích rút ra sau khi đọc cuốn này.
Profile Image for Kan Bhalla.
39 reviews6 followers
June 28, 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 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!
Profile Image for Amir Ataei.
115 reviews25 followers
March 22, 2021
جزء معدود کتابهای موفقیت بود که واقعا راضیم از وقتی که ��رای خوندنش گذاشتم
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