Barking Up The Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

Barking Up The Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

The Big Idea: how to succeed in business and life using science.

Chapter 1: Should We Play It Safe and Do What We’re Told If We Want to Succeed?

  • Grades are a great predictor of self-discipline, conscientiousness, and compliance.
  • Grades are a poor predictor of career success.
  • There are two types of leaders: filtered (rise up the ranks), and unfiltered (leap forward).
  • Unfiltered leaders break things but can also transform.
  • Good leaders are usually filtered leaders. Great leaders are usually unfiltered.
  • Ex: Winston Churchill vs Neville Chamberlain.
  • Swedish expression: most kids are dandelions but a few are orchids.
  • Some traits that lead to bad stuff can actually lead to great stuff in a different situation. Ex: eccentric pianist Glenn Gould.
  • A “hopeful monster” is an individual that deviates radically from the norm because a genetic mutation that confers a potentially adaptive advantage. Ex: Michael Phelps, geniuses.
  • All of Silicon Valley is based on character defects that are rewarded uniquely in this system. (Intensifiers theory.)
  • Ex: Israeli Defense Force recruits autistics to help surveil.
  • Ex: to reinvigorate Pixar, Brad Bird recruited “black sheep”.
  • Extremely creative people have a far higher incidence of mental disorders. The Mad-Genius Paradox.
  • Poor people are called crazy while rich people are called eccentric.
  • Ten thousand hours requires an unhealthy obsession.
  • 10% of the Fortune 400 founders never finished college.
  • Silicon Valley founder stereotypes indicate hypomania, a relentless, euphoric, impulsive machine that explodes towards its goals while staying connected with reality.
  • Marc Andreesen invests in flawed founders who can be extreme successes.
  • Know thyself. Know if you’re filtered or unfiltered. Know your signature strengths.
  • Pick the right pond. Which environments value your signature strengths?

Chapter 2: Do Nice Guys Finish Last?

  • Jerks definitely win in the short-term.
  • Work teams with just one bad apple underperform by 30%.
  • In the long-term trust matters.
  • Ex: criminal organizations know that selfishness, internally, doesn’t scale.
  • Pirates were so successful because they treated their people well.
  • Professor Adam Grant found that Givers were found at the very top and at the very bottom.
  • On average, jerks do better, but at the very top, Givers do better.
  • The most successful Givers surround themselves with Matchers, who punish Takers and protect Givers.
  • Don’t be envious. Let others win too.
  • Start off by giving.
  • Never betray anyone, but if a person cheats you, don’t be a martyr.
  • Pick the right pond. Connect with Givers if you’re a Giver.
  • Cooperate first. Get others to like you. Do small favors.
  • Don’t be a martyr. Sometimes you’ll need to retaliate. Giving too much can lead to burnout.
  • Work hard but make sure it gets noticed. You need to be visible. Your boss needs to like you.
  • Think long-term and make others think long-term. People who act like family treat each other better than colleagues.
  • Forgive to prevent death spirals.

Chapter 3: Do Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit?

  • Sometimes you need grit to be successful. Sometimes you need to know when to quit and start over.
  • Navy SEALs use positive self-talk to pass BUD/S.
  • Optimistism is telling yourself the kind of stories you need to keep going.
  • Optimistic people are happier, healthier, and luckier.
  • Optimistic people tell themselves that bad things are: temporary, aren’t universal, and are not their fault.
  • Viktor Frankl survived the Holocaust because his stories were greater than his suffering. He was living for something greater than himself.
  • Hearing how couples tell their story can predict with 94% accuracy if they’ll get divorced.
  • Stories rule our thinking, because they impose meaning on events.
  • When schools are structured like a game, students perform better.
  • Games change the struggle to something fun instead of something that requires willpower.
  • Games are another kind of story.
  • Change the story and you change the behavior.
  • Games must be: Whiny Neutered Goats Fly (WNGF)
  • Games must be: Winnable (not too hard, not too easy), Novel (new challenges), Goal-Oriented (clear goal), Feedback (small wins)
  • Strategic quitting recognized the concept of opportunity cost.
  • If you quit something, it frees up time for something else.
  • Peter Drucker’s book The Effective Executive highlights the supreme importance of time.
  • Jim Collins’ book Good to Great highlighted that most of the turnarounds involved quitting something instead of starting something.
  • Lucky people maximize opportunities. They are more open to new experiences. They try lots of new stuff. They don’t dwell on failures, they see the good side of failures and learn from them.
  • Ex: comedians know the importance of trying lots of material until a joke clicks.
  • Ex: successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas; they discover them.
  • Devote 5-10% of your time to small experiments to make sure you keep learning and growing.
  • Thinking about love as a journey, with twists and turns and challenges, leads to more success.
  • Stoics used “premeditatio malorum” (premeditation of evils). What’s the worst that could happen?
  • US Special Forces use if-then scenario planning.
  • How do you know when to quit? WOOP. Wish-Outcome-Obstacle-Plan.

Chapter 4: It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know (Unless It Really Is What You Know)

  • Eg. Mathematician Paul Erdos loved to collaborate.
  • Research shows that extroverts make more money, have more satisfying careers, are luckier, and happier.
  • People who speak early and often are seen as leaders.
  • Introverts are more likely to be experts in their field.
  • In some fields, introverts outperform. Eg. math, athletics, music, chess.
  • Extroversion is also linked to crime, infidelity, car accidents, overconfidence, and financial risk-taking.
  • Extroversion is a skill one can develop.
  • The best networker in Silicon Valley is Adam Rifkin. He’s a shy introvert nicknamed Panda. His secret? Be a friend, share knowledge, offer introductions.
  • Similarities create rapport.
  • Ask questions and then listen.
  • Flattery works. Even obvious, insincere flattery works if needed.
  • Ask people what challenges they face.
  • Offer to help others.
  • Reconnect with old friends. Send a few emails every week, asking ” What’s up?”
  • Find your super-connectors and ask them “who should I meet?”
  • Budget time and money every week to connect with people.
  • Join groups and be on the lookout for “Interesting People” dinners.
  • Be a part of diverse social groups.
  • Checking in every now and then matters.
  • Be the hub not the spoke. Organize events.
  • Following up and staying in touch is more important than meeting new people.
  • Top performers at work tend to have bigger networks.
  • Everyone needs a mentor. It’s one of the biggest shortcuts available.
  • Five tips to find an amazing mentor: be a worthy pupil, study your mentor’s work, never waste a mentor’s time, follow up and show them your completed homework, make your mentor proud
  • Mentoring makes mentors happy, too.
  • Want to win a negotiation? Get them to like you. Eg. NYPD hostage negotiators
  • Negotiation tips: keep calm, use active listening, label emotions out loud, ask questions that force them to think
  • Gratitude is the most certain strategy for happiness. Eg. Walter Green’s happiness tour.

Chapter 5: Believe in Yourself…Sometimes

  • Successful people are confident. They over-rate themselves relative to their peers.
  • Overconfidence increases productivity and causes you to choose more challenging tasks.
  • In a way, successful people are “delusional.” They interpret the past positively and increase the chance of future success.
  • Confidence gives you a sense of control.
  • Should you “fake it until you make it”? Eg. U.S.A. Ghost Army in WWII.
  • “The CEO who misleads others in public may eventually mislead himself in private.” –Warren Buffett
  • Confidence is dangerous when it leads to hubris and delusion. Eg. Kung Fu master’s $5,000 challenge.
  • Also, power reduces empathy, causes us to be more selfish, and makes us better liars.
  • If you don’t have any fear, bad things can happen. Eg. Urbach-Wiethe disease.
  • Humility has incredible benefits: drives self-improvement, improves performance, inspires leadership.
  • Abraham Lincoln is the epitome of humility in politics.
  • We need a balance of optimism and pessimism.
  • Bosses that show vulnerability and underrate themselves are the most popular.
  • The best is to develop self-compassion, which has all the benefits of self-esteem without the downsides. Self-compassion allows you to forgive yourself and increase your grit.
  • How do you increase self-compassion? Positive self-talk, mindfulness, meditation.
  • Eg. Emperor Norton I of San Francisco was both delusional and humble.
  • Believing in yourself is nice. Forgiving yourself is better.
  • Confidence is a result of success, not a cause. So focus on competence and self-improvement. Focus on improving your skills, not your outcome.
  • Don’t fake confidence. Present the best version of yourself.

Chapter 6: Work, Work, Work…or Work-Life Balance

  • Extreme hard work produces extreme success.
  • The top 10% of workers produce most of the results.
  • Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer’s keys to success: energy and stamina.
  • Talent + hard work = success.
  • Hard work also leads to unhappiness and stress, unless your work is meaningful.
  • A meaningful career boosts longevity.
  • A boring job can kill you.
  • Einstein strained his family to the breaking point, even creating a duties contract with his wife.
  • Ted Williams was a baseball perfectionist but also divorced three times.
  • Perfectionism is poison to relationships. And relationships are the key to happiness.
  • Burnout is virtually nonexistent in monasteries, Montessori schools, and religious care centers where people consider their work as a calling.
  • Resilience often comes from optimism. Burnout is the flipside of grit. Burnout is the result of pessimism towards your job.
  • Remember to have fun. A playful attitude is associated with better grades.
  • Money and promotions weren’t nearly as important to people as working someplace fun.
  • Predictable time off increases employee happiness and employee performance.
  • Creativity requires rest and freedom to let your mind wander.
  • Early morning hours are statistically the most productive.
  • Three highly productive hours is usually better than ten mediocre hours.
  • Technology increases choice but also increases comparisons with others and therefore dissatisfaction.
  • You need a personal definition of success because you can no longer rely on external comparisons (Facebook.)
  • What does the good life mean to you? If you don’t decide, the world will decide for you.
  • “Just Enough” authors say the good life is: a) happiness (enjoying), b) achievement (winning), c) significance (making a difference), and d) legacy (extending).
  • How did Genghis Khan conquer the world? He had a goal and a plan.
  • Without a plan, you’ll default to what’s easy.
  • A plan gives you a feeling of control and keeps you motivated.
  • Andy Grove says track your time in a journal to see where each hour goes and note which hours are contributing to the good life and which hours are the biggest time-wasters.
  • Todo lists are evil. Schedule everything. Make sure you give time to whatever is priority. Schedule work, not interruptions. Schedule time for deep work. Schedule free time. (Cal Newport.)
  • Control your environment. Create a distraction-free zone. Shawn Achor says make important but ignored tasks 20 seconds easier to start and make unimportant time-wasters 20 seconds harder to start. Reduce temptations (close that browser, put your phone in another room.)
  • Cal Newport recommends a shutdown ritual to settle your brain and help you relax.

Conclusion

  • The path to success is to dream and then do something about that dream. Example: Martin Pistorius and locked-in syndrome.
  • The key to success is alignment between you, your values, your environment, your peers, and your goal.
  • Know thyself.
  • The key to happiness is relationships.