Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Posted August 31, 2017 in What We're Reading

By:  Eric Barker

Reviewed by: Shelby Gobbo

The Premise: Eric Barker challenges the traditional advice that we have been given throughout our lives and rallies the pros and cons, successes and failures and point-bank, cold, hard facts that have emerged from those who have chosen the ‘guided path’ and those who have taken the ‘alternative route.’ He examines both sides, compares each ‘story’ and presents a conclusion based on the contradictions.

Barking Up The Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell’s “David & Goliath” which I had reviewed earlier this year. Focusing heavily on why some of your greatest weakness may actually be your best assets, Barker challenges the norms and ‘traditional advice’ by presenting us with stories of individuals who have become extremely successful, and shares how they may have gotten there via the unconventional or surprising route. His case based approach is rich in examples and shows evidence that “what we do know about success” is indeed “mostly wrong”. He starts the book off with relatable and classic questions like: do nice guys finish last?, and do class Valedictorians become millionaires? He uses this stage setting to show what divides the extremely successful from the average and then uses these scenarios and comparisons to highlight the path that made the successful successful and kept the average well, average.

One of my favourite elements that Barker touched on was the idea of “small wins”. Highlighting that, “[t]he progress you see doesn’t need to be big. As Harvard professor Teresa Amabile found, “Our research inside companies revealed that the best way to motivate people, day in and day out, is by facilitating progress – even small wins.” [T]he data shows that consistent small wins are even better at producing happiness than occasionally bagging an elephant: “Life satisfaction is 22 percent more likely for those with a steady stream of minor accomplishments…Celebrating those “small wins” is something that gritty survivors all have in common.” The idea of small wins seems so simple an idea, but one that is frequently overlooked, as now-a-days, we are always aiming for something bigger and better. Barker also explores other debatable questions that have run through our heads many of times like:

  • Should We Play it Safe and Do What We’re Told?
  • Do Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit?
  • Work, Work, Work…or Work-Life Balance?

The Bottom-line: Showing both sides to the story, Barker really has broken down the metrics of success to a science. Exploring tales of some of the world’s most successful people, Barker is really able to illustrate what separates those successful from the average, and challenge how their success story breaks the ‘rules’ of the success ladder. Barker does a great job at creating a factual and ‘science based’ battle between actual success stories vs. “what we’ve been told success looks like”.

Recommendation: If you are looking to challenge the way you think and are looking to head down a path of improvement, I recommend giving this a read. We love this book so much we’ll be giving 50 copies away at our annual Recharge Unconference on November 17th! Haven’t registered yet? Click HERE to reserve your seat!


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