Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know about Success Is (Mostly) Wrong
May 08, 2017
Eric Barker's new book brings the "science-based answers and expert insight on how to be awesome at life" approach he takes on his blog to hardcover.
Eric Barker is the man behind the Barking Up the Wrong Tree blog, which "brings you science-based answers and expert insight on how to be awesome at life." It has been syndicated by TIME, The Week, and Business Insider, and has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Financial Times. He's also become a popular speaker and interview subject, having appeared at MIT, Yale, West Point, and on many NPR affiliates and morning television shows. So, he's pretty successful himself.
He has now added a new book to that already impressive bio, also entitled Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success is (Mostly) Wrong. So what is it?
Sometimes what produces success is raw talent, sometimes it's the nice things our moms told us to do, and other times it's the exact opposite. Which old saying are true and which are myths?
Do "nice guys finish last?" Or first?
Do quitters never win? Or is stubbornness the real enemy?
Does confidence rule the day? When is it delusion?
Barker explores each of those questions and more. He looks at why valedictorians never become the most successful people after school, how eccentricity often drives the greatest success, and "how your biggest weakness might just be your greatest strength." He tells us why the most important thing is to know yourself well, and explains why "finding the right pond to swim in" is so critical to finding success. He explains how being selfish may help you get ahead in business, but tells us that while jerks may do better on average, the most successful people are those that Adam Grant has labeled "Givers."
He turns to some very surprising sources, such as Moldova (the least happy place on Earth), even using prison gangs and pirates to demonstrate the importance of rules, trust, and cooperation, order and honesty:
Much like prison gangs, pirates weren't originally unified to do evil. In fact, one could easily argue that they were a response to evil. Mercantile ship owners of the period were despotic. Captains routinely abused their authority. They could take any crewman's share of confiscated loot or have him executed. As a response to this predation, and a desire to sail the seas and not worry about being abused by "management," the life of the pirate was born.
Pirate ships were very democratic places. All rules needed to be agreed to unanimously. Captains could be deposed for any reason, and this turned them from tyrants into something closer to servants. […] Pirates ended up forming a "company" you might be very happy to work for. Since the boss could be fired at any time, he was quite focused on taking good care of his employees.
And he always explores every side of the issue. Quoting W.C. Fields—"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again… then give up. There's no use being a damn fool about it."—he transitions from the benefits of grit to the upside of quitting. His chapters have titles like "It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know (Unless It Really Is What You Know)" and "Believe in Yourself … Sometimes." And although it may not be black-and-white, it is imbued with the authority of the science he brings to bear on the topic, and it's always a lot of fun to read.
We have 20 copies available.