This is the Book you Read and Then Ask: Hmmm, How Much Better Could I Really Become?

Barking up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, by Eric Barker

This book, Barking up the Wrong Tree, by Eric Barker, is the perfect combination of practical advice and key questions worthy of reflection for all entrepreneurs and business owners.  Allow me to share some highlights . . .

The Practical Advice

Leverage your strengths.  Rely on others to cover your weaknesses.

The most successful entrepreneurs and business owners are those who are able to identify their “intensifiers” – their strongest qualities.  After identifying those intensifiers, the next step is to find or create a business where you can deploy and leverage those qualities to the greatest extent possible.  As we often hear from successful entrepreneurs, and which is always worth a reminder, it is better to be great at a few things or even one thing than it is to be average at a lot of things.

Be a Giver

This book backs up how essential it is that by default you adopt the character of a Giver.  “Givers” are those who volunteer to help without waiting to see what the other person will do in return.  There are selfish reasons to be a Giver: Givers score highest in terms of success and happiness and studies show that, in monetary terms, each $1 selflessly given has a 3.75x return on investment to the Giver. Of course, there has to be a point where the giving ends. The recommendation: Trust others until you have a reason not to.

Optimism should be your default

Optimism leads to health, happiness and even luck. Luck? Studies show that by thinking positively optimistic people persevere and end up creating more opportunities for themselves, which often bring with them unexpected and positive results.  Optimism stems from the stories you tell yourself about the world.  And the stories that you tell yourself are something that you can always control.

The importance of self-compassion over confidence

Everyone could use a bit more self-compassion.  As entrepreneurs and business owners, we are often our own harshest critics.  Studies show that because people with self-compassion don´t beat themselves up, they have less fear of failure, which translates into less procrastination as well as more grit. You will do yourself a great benefit to remember to accept your own humanity. This quote from Barking up the Wrong Tree rings true: “Be self-compassionate.  It has all the upsides of confidence without the downsides.”


Hours alone spent on something are not enough to make you good.  Those hours have to be hard.  Research shows that two and a half to four hours after waking is when your brain is sharpest.  What are you doing with those critical hours? Are you using your time correctly to master your field?

Creativity and Burnout

Study after study shows that creativity comes from being relaxed, not stressed and overworked.  When is enough, enough?  Research from Stanford University, as cited in Barking up the Wrong Tree, states that “productivity declines so steeply after fifty-five hours that someone who puts in  seventy hours produces nothing more with those fifteen extra hours.  All they are creating is stress.”  Give yourself the freedom of time required to have the creative thoughts that will propel your business.  This happens during downtime.

Barking up the Wrong Tree Ideas Worthy of Some Reflection

Quoting Henry David Thoreau: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

“The fault of being consistently conservative about predicting how much extra cash we´ll have in our wallets, but when it comes to time, we always think there will be more tomorrow.  Or next week. Or next year.”

“Just try stuff.  The ones that most energize you should get serious consideration.”

“Remember the rule of thumb is simple when making friends/networking: be socially optimistic.  Assume other people will like you and they probably will.”

“It all comes down to the question: What do I want? If you do not decide, the world will decide for you.”

“That’s what you need: a plan.”

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”

“What was the number-one regret? I wish I´d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”  (Is there any entrepreneur that can’t relate to that one?)

“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.” (This is a personal favorite.)

I bought Barking up the Wrong Tree at the airport on a business trip because it had the title that most caught my interest of all the books on the rack.  I judged this book by its cover.  I am glad I did.  Now I go back to this book often.  I recommend that you do too!

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This book is the perfect combination of practical advice and key questions worthy of reflection.