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Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: Barking up the Wrong Tree

Barking Up The Wrong Tree has great marketing copy. The back of the cover and the book's description on Amazon talks about how all the usual advise you have about working hard and getting good greats and being nice is wrong, and how this book will have all the secrets that you need to become truly successful.

It doesn't take much statistics to peruse the book and realize that the author plays frequently upon the difference between what most people view as "success" and what he extremely outliers in success is. Basically, you or I might think that being a doctor, a pharmacist, or a top ten percentile software engineer's pretty good. Eric Barker instead tries to convince you that you should only settle for being right at the top, along with all the extreme situations that puts you into.

For instance, he uses Ted Williams as an example, noting that he was successful in many aspects of his life, not only having been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Fishing Hall of Fame. But then he reveals that his personal life was not quite so great, having had 3 divorces in addition to many acrimonious relationships with the team he managed.

Again, the study of extremely successful people is fraught with danger. In particular, there's surivorship bias, which the author does not discuss: many people might have tried the same approach and failed miserably, but the one guy who gains success through unusual luck or circumstance would get undue press. That doesn't mean people who try the same strategy in the future will have a similar degree of success.

The one piece of good advice I found in the book is the same advice you would have gotten from John T Reed's Succeeding, which is that it's a heck of a lot easier to change your environment than it is to change your personality, so you should find environments that play to your strengths rather than trying to change who you are.

All in all, a book that goes for the shallow approach to success. I recommend reading John T Reed's Succeeding instead.

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