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Barking Up the Wrong Tree

The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong

By Eric Barker
12-minute read
Audio available
Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker

Barking Up the Wrong Tree (2017) explores the divide between the extremely successful and the rest of the pack. These blinks draw on science, statistics and surprising anecdotes to explain the factors that determine success – and how almost anyone can attain it.

  • Parents, coaches and teachers
  • Psychologists and those interested in the field
  • Anyone who wants to be more successful in life

Eric Barker is a former screenwriter for Walt Disney and Twentieth Century Fox. His popular blog, Barking Up the Wrong Tree, offers scientific insights that help readers succeed. Barker’s work has been published in the New York Times, Wired, the Wall Street Journal and TIME magazine, for which he writes a regular column.

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Barking Up the Wrong Tree

The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong

By Eric Barker
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker
Synopsis

Barking Up the Wrong Tree (2017) explores the divide between the extremely successful and the rest of the pack. These blinks draw on science, statistics and surprising anecdotes to explain the factors that determine success – and how almost anyone can attain it.

Key idea 1 of 7

Playing by the rules will only get you so far; creativity is the real engine of success.

Just about every parent wants his teenager to turn out well-adjusted, conscientious and intelligent, with the grades to prove it. After all, students with these traits often grow up to be reasonably successful. The problem is, an ability to succeed in an environment governed by rules, like a high school, won’t prepare a student to rise to the top of the real world.

In fact, the number of valedictorians who transform the world is close to zero. There’s a Boston College study to demonstrate this. Researchers followed 81 high-school valedictorians from graduation onward and discovered that these incredibly high-achieving students were rarely visionary in their life pursuits. Rather than revolutionizing the system, they simply settled into it.

How come?

Well, good grades are a stellar predictor of a person’s ability to follow rules. However, while school has clear guidelines, life doesn’t; it’s an unpredictable roller-coaster ride with no clear path. In this environment, rule-addicted academics lose their advantage.

But if valedictorians aren’t the most successful people in the world, then who are?

Those who are obsessed; the unruly creatives who can adapt to every aspect of the outside world.

These creatives are driven by passion rather than external rules, and commit themselves to their passion projects with almost religious virtuosity – a clear recipe for excellence.

Just consider a sample of the richest people in the world. Are they conscientious rule followers? Absolutely not!

Some 58 people on the Forbes 400 list either dropped out of college or never even went. Those 58 academic failures have more than double the average net worth of the other individuals on the 400, all of whom attended Ivy League schools.

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