Book Summary of Barking up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

Barking up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker is a light-hearted book how to be successful and lead a happier life. He redefines what people mean by success in life. In every chapter, Eric Barker shows the readers both extreme sides of an argument to convince us why a balanced conclusion is the best outcome. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to be awesome and happy in life.

Book Summary of Barking up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

In this article, I present to you the key concepts of his book.

Chapter 1: Should we play it safe and do what we are told if we want to succeed? Chapter 2: Do nice guys finish last?
Chapter 3: Do quitters never win and winners never quit?
Chapter 4: It’s not what you know. It’s who you know
Chapter 5: Believe in yourself… sometimes
Chapter 6: Work, work, work or work-life balance

READ: Book Summary: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Should We Play it Safe and Do What We are Told if We Want to Succeed?

Schools consistently rewards students who consistently do what they are told. Grades are, however, an excellent predictor of self discipline, conscientious, and the ability to comply with rules.

Schools rewards being a generalist. There is little recognition of student passion or expertise.  The real world, however, does the reverse. 

The majority of those with high GPA are now in professional careers with 40% in the highest tier jobs. They are reliable, consistent, and well adjusted and by all measures the majority have good lives. 

But how many of these number one high school performers go on to change the world, run the world, or impress the world? Zero.

Valedictorians aren’t likely to be the future’s visionaries. They typically settle into the system instead of shaking it up. 

There  are two types of leaders. The first kind rises up through formal channels, getting promoted, playing by the rules, and meeting expectations. These leaders are “filtered”.

The second kind doesn’t rise up through the ranks, they come in through the window, Entrepreneurs don’t wait for someone to promote them. This group is “unfiltered”.

Following the rules doesn’t create success, it just eliminates extremes – both good and bad. 

How do you know what to do to be successful? Know thyself. Being aware of your strengths. If you are good at playing by the rules, if you are a filtered leader. Then double down on that. Make sure you have a path that works for you. 

To find out what those strengths are, come up with a system called “feedback analysis”. When you undertake a project, write down what you expect to happen, then later note the result. Over time you will see what you do well, and what you don’t. 

Once you know what type of person you are and your strengths, how do you thrive? Pick the right pond. What companies, institutions and situations value what i do?

READ: Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg

Do Nice Guys Finish Last?

For those of us expecting to be rewarded for long hours and fair play, this can be tough to stomach. Ass kissers arent the only ones who thrive. Jerks do too. 

Do you approach salary negotiations with a win-win, mutual benefit attitude? People who push for more money out of self interest do better. In the short term, sometimes being bad can be very good. 

Appearances seems to trump truth at the office. 

Managing what your boss thinks of you is far more important than actual hard work. Those who made a good impression got better performance reviews than those who worked harder but didn’t manage impressions well. 

Flattery is so powerful that it works even when the boss knows its insincere.

Do nice guys finish last? Yes. But they also finish first.

Why do jerks succeed? They are assertive about what they want, and they are not afraid to let others know about what they have achieved. 

In the short term, a little cheating and bullying can pay off. But over time it pollutes the social environment and soon everyone is second guessing everybody and no one wants to work towards a common good.

Being a taker has short term benefits, but its inherently limited. In the end, no one wants to help you because they know what you are like. Who are  a taker’s worst enemies? Other takers. 

People who are kind actually lived longer. Giving help to others prolong your life. i.e It is better to be a Giver.

Lessons to learn from being kind:

Don’t be envious. Most of life isn’t zero sum. Just because someone wins doesn’t mean you lost.

How to be ethical and successful and not be a chump.

– Pick the right pond

– Don’t be the first to defect

– Reciprocate both cooperation and defection

– Don’t be too clever

When you take a job take a long look at the people you are going to be working with – because the odds are you are 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. 

Work hard – But make sure it gets noticed

What lessons can you take from the jerks without becoming a jerk? Jerks aren’t afraid to push a little. They self-promote. They negotiate. They make themselves visible. 

How do you do so without being a jerk? Every Friday send your boss an email summarizing your accomplishments for the week. When it’s time to negotiate for that raise (or refresh your resume), you can just review the emails for a reminder. 

Think long term and make others think long term

Bad behaviour is strong in the short term but good behaviour wins over in the long term. 

Do Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit?

Sometimes quitting is the smartest choice. And giving up, when done right, can make you more successful. 

You can see your job (or any side hustle) as a game: 

They are winnable, have novel challenges, goals and provide feedback.

Find a winnable skill set. 

If your goal is a raise or a promotion, seek feedback. Making work a game is quite simple, you don’t have to change what you are doing all that much, you just have to change your perspective. 

If you don’t know what to be gritty at yet, you need to try a lot of things – knowing that you will quit most of them – to find the answer. Use quitting and trying as a deliberate strategy to find out what is worth not quitting. You are not being a total flake but someone who strategically tests the waters. 

Limited duration experiments. Give something a shot. Taking a yoga class, but not signing up for a year long membership just yet. This is what spurs new opportunities and creates good luck. All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better. In other words: Fail Fast, Fail Cheap. 

It’s Not What You Know. It’s Who You Know.

To get ahead you need to self- promote. This comes naturally to extroverts and is actually more important than competence when it comes to being seen as a leader. Most people think of leaders as extroverts. That perception becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Research shows that you don’t actually need to know more to be seen as a leader.  Merely by speaking first and speaking often – very extroverted behaviour – people come to be seen as the Boss.

The superpower of introverts is that they are more likely to become experts in their field. Want to know who will do best in school or who will actually have more knowledge? Don’t bet on IQ. Being an introvert is more predictive of good grades than intelligence. They are more likely to put in hours of practice alone than extroverts who may find it boring.

Whether an introvert or an extrovert is the better leader depends on whom they are leading. When employees are passive, the social, energetic extroverts really shine. However, when  you dealing with very motivated workers, introverts do better because they know how to listen, help and get out of the way. 

Fundamentals of Friendship: 

Choose to be friends with people who are like us

Listen and encourage other toddlers

– Your brain gets more pleasure from talking about yourself than it does talking about food or money. This is why you should stop doing it and let others do it as much as possible around you.

– Asking people questions about themselves can create a bond as strong as a lifelong friendship

Be a giver. Share your twinkies.

– Friends do each other favors. They don’t have a goal or payoff in mind. 

Start with friends you already have.

Find your ‘superconnectors’

– The payoff can be disproportionate when you connect with people who can introduce to many others in the network.

Make the time – and the budget to meet up on a regular basis

Join groups

– The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become

Always follow up

Most importantly, how do we make people want to stay as friends in the long term. Gratitude. 

Believe in Yourself… Sometimes

Overconfidence increase productivity and causes you to choose more challenging tasks, which makes you shine in the workplace. Overconfident people are more likely to be promoted than those who have actually accomplished more. Speaking first and often – very confident behaviour – makes others perceive you as a leader. 

Why is confidence so powerful? It gives us a feeling of control. People who believe they can succeed see opportunities, where others see threats. They are not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity, they embrace it. They take more risks and achieve greater returns. 

But over confidence can lead to denial and being a jerk. When we are less confident, we are more open to new ideas are actively and passively scanning the world for new ones. Listening to other people’s ideas increases brainpower. 

How to achieve a balance – by having self-compassion. This can be done by talking to yourself, practicing mindfulness and meditating.

Work, work, work or Work-life Balance

A playful attitude was associated with better grades. People whose minds wander more have been shown to be better problem solvers. 

The most effective method for reducing stress was having a plan. Because we feel in control. 

What do you think of Eric Barker’s pointers on how to be awesome at life? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


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