Summary of Barking Up The Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of Barking Up The Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

We are made to believe that success is a series of events dependent on a solid foundation of a good college and great work experience. However, how do you explain the college or even high school dropouts that went on to become successful business owners? The truth is that attaining success does not look like what we have been taught. In fact, it can sometimes go against all that we know. 

So, how do you start your journey to success? Well, first you should aim to learn from successful people and their experiences. You should also let go of society’s expectations and focus instead on achieving your goals. Are you ready to begin?

In this book summary readers will discover:

  • Creativity is crucial for success
  • Givers versus takers – How they rank
  • True grit and optimism
  • Introverts versus extroverts
  • Confidence is key
  • Hard work really does pay off

Key lesson one: Creativity is crucial for success

It’s every parent’s dream to have kids who get good grades in school and follow the rules. After all, these well-adjusted kids would translate into successful adults, right? However, what parents fail to realize is that the rules and regulations of school and college do not carry over into the real world. There is a lot more preparation needed to be able to succeed as an adult. In fact, studies have actually shown that high-school valedictorians rarely went on to do anything spectacular after school. They did not turn out to be visionaries of their time and instead settled for a simple life. 

This comes as no surprise given the fact that good grades in high school mean that you are great at following rules and school guidelines – but life doesn’t come with a set of guidelines. There is no singular path to success and thus those valedictorians and others who did well in school have no real advantage. 

The people who are truly successful in life are those who think creatively and are able to adapt quickly to changes. These are people who are driven by passion above anything else who are determined to see their dreams become a reality. Most importantly, these people do not stick to the rules. They are the trailblazers who make their own rules.

Key lesson two: Givers versus takers – How they rank

Did you know that nice people tend to make less money than their meaner colleagues? In addition, they also get worse reviews when it comes to their performance even though they most likely do more work than others. As shocking as it sounds, it was actually confirmed by research conducted by the Harvard Business Review. Turns out, flattery does get you anywhere as lazier workers tend to do better at their performance reviews because of it. 

But before you think that the nice guys always finish last, they are just as likely to come out on top. 

A Wharton School professor conducted a study that showed that those who were givers are split between the very bottom and very top. Whereas the takers, who always expect more for the little they give, make up the middle. This is unsurprising if you really think about it. Givers are always willing to help and are also most likely to be used by takers but they are also those givers who rise to the top purely because of all the people who they have helped. 

So, as much as being the nice guy might have some drawbacks, it is not always bad. Thus, you don’t have to resort to being the bad guy to succeed.

Key lesson three: True grit and optimism

There is a very successful brain surgeon named Dr Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa who has a lab at Johns Hopkins. Everyone knows him as Dr Q but few know his background. Dr Q started out as an illegal migrant farmworker living in total poverty. However, through hard work and determination, he got to where he is today. 

So, how can you develop the true grit that Dr Q has? As a matter of fact, it all comes down to what you tell yourself. If you use the 300 to 100 words that you tell yourself every minute to send positive and optimistic thoughts to yourself, it will boost your determination to succeed. This was even a technique used by the Navy SEALS to help candidates get through Hell Week which is part of their initiation. They taught candidates to use positive self-talk and it resulted in a 10 per cent improvement in their results.

But it’s not just optimism. Studies have shown that the stories we tell ourselves and believe about the meaning and destiny of our lives also has an effect. This was witnessed firsthand by psychologist Viktor Frankl in the Auschwitz camp in 1944. He saw that some people survive longer than others without being physically stronger or exhibiting any emotional differences. With further investigation, Frankl was able to determine that despite the immense suffering they experienced, these people told themselves that their lives had a purpose beyond their suffering. Even Frankl himself showed the same belief wanting to survive for his wife. He even had imaginary conversations with her to keep himself going.

Key lesson four:  Introverts versus extroverts

When it comes to success, introverts and extroverts are not equal. Research has shown that extroverts are more likely to succeed than their introverted counterparts. This is true for both salaries and the progress they make in their careers. Funnily enough, even an extroverts bad habits are more likely to lead to success. Going out to bars and getting drinks with friends leads to them meeting new people which could possibly have an impact on their career. In fact, drinkers make 10 per cent more money than non-drinkers!

However, one of the greatest differences between introverts and extroverts is that introverts have fewer distractions. This is why introverts can put their heads down and work uninterrupted becoming experts in their fields. This has even proven to be true for athletes with 89 per cent of top athletes identifying as being introverted. Extroverts don’t have the time to do the hard work needed to achieve expert status – they are too busy with their social lives. 

So, both introverts and extroverts have their advantages. The trick to finding success is being aware of them and knowing how to use these advantages. 

Key lesson five: Confidence is key

To be successful you need to be confident. The moment you doubt your abilities, you will stumble. Just look at what happened to master chess player Gary Kasparov when he played against the supercomputer, Deep blue. The computer had a software bug that caused it to make a random move. Instead of using it to his advantage, Kasparov assumed that the computer was playing an angle he could not comprehend. This caused him to lose his confidence and the game. 

Confidence has an important role to play in achieving our success. Even research has shown that overly confident people are more likely to get a promotion as compared to their less confident peers, regardless of whether the latter group was more accomplished. Confidence is even known to boost productivity and even encourages people to take on more challenging tasks. 

However, even though confidence is a key factor in success, too much can have a negative impact on your character. This occurs most of the time when success leads to positions of power. People in positions like this are seen to have lesser empathy than others as they make hard decisions regardless of the impact they may have on other employees. Just consider generals who have to lead their soldiers into war. If they had to second guess their decisions because of guilt, it would not end well. Research has also shown that confidence and power make people selfish and more comfortable with lying. 

Thus, there is a fine balance to be strung when it comes to confidence and success. It is necessary but not in excess. 

Key lesson six: Hard work really does pay off

There is no easy path to success Yes, you can develop skills that will aid you along the way but it still comes down to hard work. You have to be able to put in the hours if you want to elevate yourself to stand out above the crowd. In fact, a Harvard study showed that most successful managers work up to 60 hours a week. 

Further studies showed that in professional jobs, the top 10 per cent of people are 80 per cent more productive than the average. Even more shocking is that the same 10 per cent can be up to 700 per cent more productive than the bottom 10 per cent! That is an incredible difference but it’s not just your productivity and time that you put in that contributes to your success. You have to do tasks that challenge you – that go beyond your limits. This will ensure that your growth is continuous and that you continue to succeed. You have to be willing to improve constantly. 

This is why those who make an effort to learn continuously are always at the top of their fields. So, if you want to succeed, you have to push the limits and be determined to work hard to achieve your goals.

The key takeaway from Barking Up The Wrong Tree is:

Success is not confined to strict rules or pathways. No matter your level of education, number of qualifications or how much work experience you have – if you want to succeed you have to work to achieve your goals. You need determination, the willingness to work hard and confidence. If you don’t already possess these traits, the good news is that you can develop them. Success is possible, you just have to start working towards it.

How can I implement the lessons learned in Barking Up The Wrong Tree:

Don’t miss opportunities to network if you are an extrovert. Every social event is an opportunity to use your outgoing nature to make friends and possibly new connections that can benefit your career. You already have the confidence and the gift of the gab, now use it properly to help you achieve your success!

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