Seldom do you find Genghis Kahn held up as a role model!

Book Cover

Book cover of Barking Up the Wrong Tree

That is what Eric Barker does in his new book, Barking up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Everything You Know About Success is (Mostly) Wrong. In it, you find other interesting characters who illustrate principles of success. Included is a diverse cast of characters such as Einstein, hostage negotiators, Emperor Norton (who called himself the Emperor of the United States), and the Navy Seals.

Barker writes a practical and widely-read blog called Barking Up the Wrong Tree. (Note: I have read his blog for some time.) Barker brings insights revealed by extensive research into the time-worn subject of success.

You will not find the typical “think it, live it” banality that flows so from the hundred of internet sites devoted to the subject. Barker takes a different approach. He asks, “what works?” and then opens a window to fresh thinking about a stale subject.

In the book, he stands up the usual cast of characters (long hours, networking, etc.) and gives them the third degree. It makes for a compelling book. He simplifies complex and scary terms to make them understandable. In many of them, the scary mask comes off. It is a much more useful work than the usual diet of self-help books and websites.

My gleanings include:

  • Networking is vital for success but scares us. The word leaves us with sweaty palms and the aroma of greasy manipulators. Instead, he simplifies it to, “be a friend.” Barker details the simple formula for being a friend: give more than you get. (The getting always comes later).
  • Friendship grows from authentic listening, a lost art in modern society. To listen you have to hear the words and the emotions. Until you listen well, you can never connect with another human being.
  • The standard benchmarks for happiness (money, possessions, and position) are wrong. Connection with others brings happiness, not having things.
  • Make a plan and have a goal. Most people wait for life to happen to them rather than doing something about their lives.
  • Success is not what you do or an amount of money or a position or title. It is aligning what you do with who you want to be.


Barker writes in the same easy-to-read and humorous vein as his website. It is one of those books I plan to go back and read again to gain new insights.