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Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know about Success Is (Mostly) Wrong – Eric Barker

14th February 2020
Barking Up the Wrong tree book cover


Everyone wants to be successful but how do we achieve success? Barking Up the Wrong Tree provides some interesting views on this topic. It explores what brings success in the real world.


Eric Barker is a blogger. His blog has the same name as this book. He has experience working in the film industry and gaming industry.


Barking Up the Wrong Tree has only 6 chapters. It begins with an introduction and ends with a conclusion.

The chapters are 1) Should We Play It Safe and Do What We’re Told If We Want to Succeed? 2) Do Nice Guys Finish Last? 3) Do Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit? 4) It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know (Unless It Really Is What You Know), 5) Believe in Yourself… Sometimes, and 6) Work, Work, Work… or Work-Life Balance?

In the chapters, the author presents the strengths and weaknesses of both perspectives and recommends the action with best upside and least downside.


What does success mean? We have to define it on our own and it should be individualized. It is not supposed to be measured against other humans but according to our own choice.

To achieve success in the world, IQ alone would not suffice. Success in classroom does not equal to success in the real world. Thus, we need to find out our strengths and make good use of them. There is a concept mentioned by the author which is known as intensifiers. Intensifiers are qualities that, on average, are negative but in certain contexts can devastate the competition. If you have an intensifier, leverage it to your advantage and do not let it destroy you.

The environment is important to our success, so we should choose our network wisely. Surround ourselves with people who we admire and respect. Be nice to people but impose a limit. Do not overstretch yourself and learn to say no if you are a giver.

Be selective with our time and give up the non-essentials. Dedicate our time to activities that we enjoy and are good at. Remember that this is a trade off. There will always be opportunity cost involved when we choose to do one thing and not the others. However, if you are unsure of your interest, the author recommends to try lots of things to discover your passion. After that, focus your time on what makes you happy.

It is important to have a good story and make the struggle a game to achieve success. Humans like to make sense of events and with a good story (purpose), we are motivated to keep going when the going gets tough. Meaningful work is something that is important to you and something you are good at. True burnout occurs when we are not right for the job.

There are a lot of tips in the book and two of them are WNGF and WOOP. WNGF is doing what is winnable, has novel challenges and goals, and provides feedback. WOOP is wish, outcome, obstacle and plan. The techniques in the book, if applied well, will help us to achieve success.

The author writes this book in a light and easy way. If you are busy and do not want to read every page, you can read the conclusion and the summary at the end of every chapter (except chapter 1). Lastly, remember that success is about alignment between who you are and where you choose to be. Often being the best means just being the best version of you.


  1. Following the rules doesn’t create success; it just eliminates extremes – both good and bad.
  2. Hard work doesn’t pay off if your boss doesn’t know whom to reward for it.
  3. Success doesn’t come from shrugging off the bad as unchangeable and saying things are already “meant to be”; it’s the result of chasing the good and writing our own future.
  4. Making time is the most fundamental way to show someone is important to you and that you care.
  5. Confidence is a result of success, not a cause.


3 out of 3 stars

Interested in Barking Up the Wrong Tree?

You may get the book from Kinokuniya Malaysia through the link below*.

Get the book here

*Disclosure: The above link is Involve Asia affiliate link. Thus, I may earn a small commission when you purchase the book through this link.

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