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


What is the book “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” about?

The book explores the question of what really leads to the success. By the word ‘success’, Eric Barker understands not just big money, but life success in general, attitudes and behavior that will help achieve the career and personal life goals. He considers important that the concept of success is different for everyone.

In the book, there are many true stories of people who used this or that successful strategy. Some of them seem contradictory at first glance, but all of them give an idea of what to do in order to gain an advantage. Eric Barker debunks many myths and social stereotypes about how successful people differ from others. He advises not to follow them because what is good for some may not work for others at all. Often our weaknesses can become a source of strength.

One of such examples is the story of the cyclist Yuri Robich, who won the race across the United States. The race consists of several stages of short breaks and lasts 4 days. The night’s sleep takes only three hours. Day by day participants become weaker, exhausted by lack of sleep, pain, and hunger. In 2004 and 2009, Yuri Robich won these races by a wide margin, and by the way not far from the finish line, when the other participants were completely exhausted. Everyone was exhausted but him. Physically, he was not harder than others; he did not have an experienced coach, he had not any at all, actually, because, according to his close friend, it was impossible to train him. And yet he was recognized as the greatest US cyclist. The quality that helped him achieve this is his psychosis. Outside the race, he was an ordinary man, but during the competition, he became completely crazy.

Yuri Robich thought he saw the Mujahidin with guns; he could jump off a bicycle to beat the mailbox; he saw mysterious signs in the cracks on the asphalt and frightened his wife so much that she locked up in the trailer during the preparation for the races and during them. He was embarrassed and ashamed of his psychosis, but, by his own confession, without it, he could not win the race.

And his case is not unique. In the 19th century, scientists described insane athletes ignoring the pain and pushing their bodies beyond their capabilities. So, a quality that seems to deprive the owner of almost all chances to succeed can result in success in some strange way. This, as Eric Barker notes ironically, is unlike the generally accepted idea of that it is necessary to study well from childhood, play by the rules and be good.

Success is not only what we are shown on TV. To achieve it, we do not need to align with others. We need to understand the context in which our weaknesses will be in our favor and find the right situation. According to Eric Barker, the ugly duckling might become a swan, if it finds a suitable pond. The thing distinguishing you from others, that feature, for which you may have been teased at school, can ultimately provide an unbeatable advantage.

Sometimes success is created by talent, sometimes by right behavior, but this is not always the case. What should you do, choose the traditional way or look for your own?

Summary and Ideas of “Barking Up the Wrong Tree”

Idea №1. If we want to succeed, we do not necessarily have to play by the rules

Idea №2. Your biggest weakness can be your greatest strength

Idea №3. The thing we call bad or good, often should be called simply different

Idea №4. Examine yourself and choose an environment that will work for you.

Idea №5. Sometimes selfish and adaptive strategies can bring tangible benefits, but only in the short term perspective

Idea №6. Disinterested and altruistic people succeed more often than it is commonly believed

Idea №7. Invent a good story for yourself

Idea №8. If your story does not work, edit it

Idea №9. To get out of a difficult situation or achieve a difficult goal, try to imagine this is a game

Idea №10. Do not be afraid to take on new experiments and leave those that do not work

Review “Barking Up the Wrong Tree”

The book is inspiring and interesting, full of practical advice and impressive examples. Its main message is the belief in yourself and the desire to push the boundaries of your opportunities as well as your own personality, which, according to the author, is the main guarantee of life success.

Pros and Cons

  • Valuable and original for literature on the self-development of ideas; interesting examples; humor and simplicity of presentation; practical advice.
  • Some critics note that too many stories distract from understanding the meaning of the book.

About Author Eric Barker

Autor of book Barking Up the Wrong TreeJournalist Eric Barker leads the blog Barking Up The Wrong Tree, which reveals scientific and professional secrets that help people become stronger, have more time, less worry and achieve outstanding results. His materials are published by Time, Business Insider, Time and other major publications.

Watch and listen to his thoughts


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