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Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong- Book 14 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on April 29, 2018

You can’t help but love the way Eric Barker writes. Throughout the “Barking Up The Wrong Trees: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong”, he keeps grabbing your attention with thought provoking theories explained in an interesting way. This book is about…err…How to be successful. Did you just yawn? Then, don’t.

Barking up the wrong tree is anything but boring. Yes, it dispenses conventional wisdom but backed up by downloadloads of anecdotes and research data to support his theories. With plenty of chutzpah, I must add. Considering the fact that the author waited until 2017, eight years, to publish his first book, he presents a distilled collection of his biggest and most surprising lessons.

He embellishes his narrative by drawing out-of-the-box lessons on leadership from an improbable cast of characters: pirates, serial killers, Navy SEALs, hostage negotiators, Albert Einstein and even Genghis Khan. Over six chapters, Barker’s book covers the following ground:

  • Should we play it safe and do what we’re told if we want to succeed?

  • Do nice guys finish last?

  • Do quitters never win and winners never quit?

  • It’s not what you know, it’s who you know (unless it really is what you know)

  • Believe in yourself… sometimes

  • Work, work, work… or work-life balance?

I will highlight some of the important pointers/myth busters mentioned in the book.

      • Good grades often lead to mediocrity.

      • Extroverts make more money, but introverts are better experts.

      • The amount of hours you work matters, it’s an undeniable fact.

      • 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.

      • 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.”

      • The same genes that lead to bad stuff can actually lead to great stuff in a different situation.

      • The same traits that make people a nightmare to deal with can also make them the people who change the world.

      • In his study “The Mad-Genius Paradox,” Dean Keith Simonton found that mildly creative people are mentally healthier than average — but extremely creative people have a far higher incidence of mental disorders.

      • It’s just human nature that when people do too much and don’t ever push back, they get taken for granted. So if you’re not a total saint, it’s okay; being a saint is actually a very poor strategy for getting ahead.

      • When you take a job take a long look at the people you’re going to be working with — because the odds are you’re going to become like them; they are not going to become like you. You can’t change them. If it doesn’t fit who you are, it’s not going to work.

      • Spending 5 percent of your time trying new things, knowing you will quit most of them, can lead to great opportunities.

      • Criminals are more aware of the value of trust and cooperation than you and I. (Yup, you got that right).

      • Vonnegut’s moral is that “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

      • The Stoics used an idea called premeditatio malorum (“premeditation of evils”) to prepare. It’s asking yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

      • David Foster Wallace once said, “If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.”

      • Zero failure means zero fun. And there’s so much busy work that offers no challenge at all. How is that engaging?

      • Drucker thought that time was the most precious resource. And the first line of defense he recommended to people wasn’t better scheduling; it was getting rid of everything that wasn’t moving the needle when it came to achieving their goals.

      • When you dream, that grey matter feels you already have what you want and so it doesn’t marshal the resources you need to motivate yourself and achieve. Instead, it relaxes. And you do less, you accomplish less, and those dreams stay mere dreams. Positive thinking, by itself, doesn’t work.

      • Analyzing eight million phone calls between two million people, researchers at Notre Dame found that what makes close friendships endure is simply staying in touch every two weeks.

      • How good your grades are only predicts one of your abilities, and it’s not one that matters in the real world.

      • We need optimism and confidence to keep going and convince others to join our cause, but negativity and pessimism help us see problems so we can make them better.

      • In a University of Lausanne study, researchers found people’s capacity for good leadership didn’t just level off, but actually declined as their IQ went beyond 120 points.

      • Mentoring a young person is four times more predictive of happiness than your health or how much money you make.

      • In the words of the great philosopher Tyler Durden, “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

      • Our education system turns people into excellent sheep, not excellent thinkers.

      • Most schools reward conformity over genius, allowing people with top grades to easily rise to middle management, but rarely above.

      • It all comes down to the question What do I want? If you don’t decide, the world will decide for you.

        The book offers advice from a multitude of diverse talents like Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman, an Israeli-American psychologist notable for his work on the psychology of judgement and decision making; literary figures like David Foster Wallace, Management guru Peter Drucker, behavioural economist Dan Ariely; and icons like Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein. If you look at the highlighted points mentioned above, most of them feels like plain common sense and has been done to death but what differentiates Barker here is his choice of extraordinary cast of characters presenting alternating theories on happiness and productivity with survival stories. As someone who enjoys counter-intuitive approaches to get desired results, I felt totally in sync with the points Barker makes in the book. Primarily, a collection of stories and studies that bring to life the factors behind success, the book offers pertinent points. Barking up the wrong tree is a refreshing take on success. It weighs pros and cons, offers you both side of the coin and pushes you to make your own choices.

        Happy Reading, folks. Cheers.

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