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Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong Hardcover – May 16, 2017
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From the Back Cover
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 important—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.
- Item Weight : 1.03 pounds
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780062416049
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062416049
- Product Dimensions : 1.3 x 6.2 x 8.5 inches
- Publisher : HarperOne; 1st Edition (May 16, 2017)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 0062416049
- Best Sellers Rank: #43,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This book is different. If you’re serious about living a life that’s more like the one you want to live, you should read this book. Before I tell you why, let me tell you something about me so you can judge my recommendations.
I’m 71 years old, and for more than half a century, I’ve been working on making myself and my life better. I’ve learned a lot by getting it wrong and then adjusting, and I’ve learned a lot by reading and talking to other people and trying things. As a result, I’ve read a lot of books about how to do life better and this is one of the best. Early in the book, Eric Barker says this:
“You’ve been told about all the qualities and tactics that will help you get where you want to go, but there’s no real proof – and perhaps you’ve seen plenty of exceptions. That’s what we’re going to look at in this book.”
Barker keeps his promise in six focused chapters. Chapter 1 is about whether playing it safe produces success. Chapter 2 deals with whether nice guys finish last or first. In Chapter 3, he looks at the emerging science of resilience, starting with Navy SEAL training. I bet you’ve never thought of SEAL training as a game, but you might after you read this. Chapter 4 addresses the issue of whether success is based on what you know or who you know. Chapter 5 is all about attitude. Chapter 6 is a step back to review the big picture.
Barker makes another promise early in the book. He promises that in each chapter he’ll review both sides of the issue. He keeps that promise and it’s one of the reasons why this is a great and helpful book.
This book was valuable to me for several reasons. Here they are.
Barker does what many great business and self-help authors do. He states things that you could not have articulated before but seem obvious once he says them. One thing like that for me was the fact that the major reason people don’t get enough sleep is that they spend the time working. He also adds detail and insight to things I already knew.
I knew that turning challenges into games was a good thing and it’s a technique I’ve used for years, but I didn’t know much of the science behind it until I read this book. In fact, this book has the best short summary I’ve come across of how to use game elements to make your life and work experience better.
Barker reframed things that I already knew. I knew, for example, that the beginnings and endings of things are perceived as important. I used that to design speeches and training programs. After reading this book, I’m thinking about the same thing when I plan my day. There’s a bit of science about why your mood in the morning can affect your whole day. And more about ending the day right.
There are also things here that I’d already discovered for myself over the last several decades. Among them are the facts that naps can greatly improve performance and that relationships are the key to a satisfying life. There’s also the idea that saying “no” is a critical skill if you want to be as successful as possible. There’s material on why making progress every day and seeking out small wins is both a good strategy and emotionally satisfying.
There were also some things that were brand-new to me. I learned about self-compassion and it’s something that I will try to use in my life. Barker told me about the research that supports the idea that we don’t do the things that make us the happiest naturally. Instead, we do what’s easy. And he introduced me to the idea of intensifiers, traits that are mostly negative but can be huge performance enhancers in certain situations.
In addition to covering both sides of several important issues, Barker does a magnificent job of connecting the dots. As you move through the book you will find that things discussed in early chapters will make another visit in later chapters.
Toward the end of the book he puts together a framework for creating a successful life. I’ve used several of these frameworks in my life to evaluate how things were going and to get ideas for what improvements I should prioritize. Generally, they had more than four issues. His four are happiness (enjoying), achievement (winning), significance (counting to others), and legacy. A single word for legacy is extending, but I find his definition much more helpful: “Establishing your values or accomplishments in ways that help others find future success.”
Barking Up the Wrong Tree is a book which will help you do better at work and in life.
Like Dale Carnegie, Eric Barker uses so many stories, book references and great quotations to make his points across. 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.
Top reviews from other countries
Even self-help haters will find this book interesting as it dispels some common misconceptions around success and takes a holistic approach with sections on work life balance and relationships that I found particularly relevant personally.
It’s hard to criticise this book but self-help connoisseurs might recognise a lot of the concepts here from other books. With that said there is plenty of original content that make this book very valuable.
Here are some of the ideas that I took away from the book:
On playing it safe
• School grades are very good at predicting self-discipline and ability to go along with the system but not very good at predicting success and riches
• The same attributes that make some people objectionable can enable them to be very successful
• There is a similar concept for investing in companies. Just because a company has good products, a good team and customers doesn’t mean it will be very successful. Companies with one massive strength can dominate and make do with weaknesses in other areas
• Be aware of your own strengths and find environments that complement them
On being a jerk
• Effort is a poor predictor of success
• Work hard but be sure to keep your boss(es) happy instead
• Making sure you’re noticed does not require you to act like a jerk
• Be a giver to foster good relationships and trust
• Be optimistic with positive self-talk to improve your ‘grit’
• Don’t perceive bad events as being permanent, pervasive or personal
• Develop your own meaningful purpose in life.
• Create games when completing tasks to increase grit and reduce stress
• Eliminate time wasting people and activities
• Know yourself
• Don’t network, make friends and check in often
• Help other people to build a network
• Show gratitude often with other people.
On work life balance
• Track your time to make sure you’re spending enough time on stuff that will make you happy. You will be shocked at how much time you waste!
• The problem with many high achievers is that they don’t spend enough time on relationships.
• Healthy relationships are the strongest predictor of happiness and focusing too much energy on careers and making money may come at a great cost if left unchecked
• Try and split your time between enjoying, winning, giving and extending
• Allocate specific times for achieving these goals and the rest of your to do list
• Schedule blocks of time for deep work, the early mornings work well because it is typically free of distractions
• Success is alignment between where you are and where you want to be combined with healthy relationships and a personal positive story about the whole that keeps you going through tough times
• You should also choose the right career and company to work for that matches your personality and level of introversion or extroversion
• Lastly, understand the huge importance of relationships, they are correlated to your success
This book does contains alot of interesting stories, information and tips. However the chapters can be very long, and the main points can become a bit lost. There is no real summary or breakdown give at the end of each chapter, or even the end of the book to bring it all together. I learnt alot from this book, but there is no easy way for me to quickly refer back to this at a later date without re-reading it cover to cover.
The content itself is very good, and makes a lot of good points, as well as directing you to source materials and references.
So, to summarise, I would say buy this book, you will learn a lot from it. JUST DON'T BUY THE MASS MARKET PAPERBACK!
(sorry to shout!)
I also bought this book after seeing 5 star reviews on amazon. I liked it and found it great..so I am also rating it 5 stars.