Insights from Eric Barker’s “Barking Up The Wrong Tree”

 

Eric Barker PictureOn July 7, at the First Friday Book Synopsis at the Park City Club in Dallas, I will present the essence of Eric Barkers best-seller, Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong (Harper One, 2017).

BarkingUpWrongTreeCoverAs a preview for my synopsis, here are a few key quotes from the book that will interest you:

“If you want to do well in school and you’re passionate about math, you need to stop working on it to make sure you get an A in history too. This generalist approach doesn’t lead to expertise. Yet eventually we almost all go on to careers in which one skill is highly rewarded and other skills aren’t that important.”

“But as any mathematician knows, averages can be deceptive. Andrew Robinson, CEO of famed advertising agency BBDO, once said, “When your head is in a refrigerator and your feet on a burner, the average temperature is okay. I am always cautious about averages.”
 
“This leads us to the strengths of being less than confident. Confidence makes it very hard for us to learn and improve. When we think we know all the answers, we stop looking for them. Marshall Goldsmith says, “Although our self-confident delusions can help us achieve, they can make it difficult for us to change.”
“Research shows that you don’t actually need to know more to be seen as a leader. Merely by speaking first and speaking often—very extroverted behavior—people come to be seen as El Jefe.” 
 
“The hard-charging Silicon Valley entrepreneur has become a respected, admired icon in the modern age. Do these descriptors match the stereotype? A ball of energy. Little need for sleep. A risk taker. Doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Confident and charismatic, bordering on hubristic. Boundlessly ambitious. Driven and restless. Absolutely. They’re also the traits associated with a clinical condition called hypomania. Johns Hopkins psychologist John Gartner has done work showing that’s not a coincidence. Full-blown mania renders people unable to function in normal society. But hypomania produces a relentless, euphoric, impulsive machine that explodes toward its goals while staying connected (even if only loosely) with reality.”
 
“Anyone who knows baseball knows Ted Williams. He played professionally from 1939 to 1960 and is one of the undisputed greatest hitters of all time, right up there with Babe Ruth. But whether you’re familiar with him or not, I have news for you: Ted Williams never played baseball. Nope, he never did. The problem there is the verb: Williams wasn’t playing. To him, hitting a baseball wasn’t a game. He always took it very, very seriously. In a 1988 interview he said as a child he literally wished on a falling star that he would become the greatest hitter to ever live. But he didn’t sit around and wait for the dream to come true. His obsessive, perfectionist work ethic would bring him more success than any descending celestial body would. Williams said, “I . . . insist that regardless of physical assets, I would never have gained a headline for hitting if I [had not] kept everlastingly at it and thought of nothing else the year round . . . I only lived for my next time at bat.” Ten thousand hours to achieve expertise? Williams probably did that a few times over. He was obsessed. After school, he’d go to a local field and practice hitting until nine P.M., only stopping because that’s when they turned the lights out. Then he’d go home and practice in the backyard until his parents made him go to bed. He’d get to school early so he could fit in more swings before classes started. He’d bring his bat to class. He picked courses that had less homework, not because he was lazy but so he’d have more time for hitting. “

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