Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Quotes by Barker

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Barking Up the Wrong Tree" by Eric Barker. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here .

What’s Barking Up the Wrong Tree about? What quotes from the book capture its essence?

It’s hard to tell what the key to success is when so much success advice is contradictory. Some say you should be kind, while others say that being nice is for losers. Some believe you should spend every waking hour at work, while others advise you to focus on work-life balance. In Barking Up the Wrong Tree, peak performance expert Eric Barker examines the research on every option—and shares what he believes are the secrets to success.

Keep reading for some of our favorite Barking Up the Wrong Tree quotes.

Quotes From Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Consider these inspirational Barking Up the Wrong Tree quotes, along with context and explanation.

“We spend too much time trying to be ‘good’ when good is often merely average. To be great we must be different. And that doesn’t come from trying to follow society’s vision of what is best, because society doesn’t always know what it needs.”

Barker explains that, most of the time, things aren’t inherently good or bad: They just work differently for different people. Such is the case with rules for success: Some people can succeed by following a prescribed path, while others succeed by doing the exact opposite.

“Mentoring a young person is four times more predictive of happiness than your health or how much money you make.”

Once you’ve progressed in your field, mentor your juniors. Being helpful to others ultimately comes back around: When the people you know become happier, you become happier too.

“What’s shocking is that, when asked to make predictions, depressed people are more accurate than optimists. It’s called ‘depressive realism.’ The world can be a harsh place. Optimists lie to themselves. But, if we all stop believing anything can change, nothing ever will. We need a bit of fantasy to keep us going.”

Barker argues that one key to persevering through setbacks is telling yourself a good story. By nature, your brain tells stories about the random events in your life—doing so gives you a sense of control. These stories are often objectively untrue, as they lead you to ignore information that doesn’t fit into the narrative you’ve created.

Barker contends that, when it comes to grit, ignoring facts is a good thing: A good story provides you with a sense of meaning that motivates you to surmount obstacles. If you didn’t have this story and focused instead on the facts, you probably would realize you were unlikely to surmount these obstacles—so you wouldn’t even try.

“The only place where success comes before work is a dictionary.”

Barker explains that, if you want to succeed, you have to spend several hours on your goals—ideally, at least 10,000 hours to become an expert.

“Confidence makes it very hard for us to learn and improve. When we think we know all the answers, we stop looking for them.”

Barker contends that we focus too much on the benefits of confidence and not enough on its negative consequences: the reality that just because we’re confident (or pretend to be confident) in our ability to do something doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re able to do that thing. As a result, being confident can lead us to believe that we can do things we can’t and thus make poor decisions.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Quotes by Barker

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Eric Barker's "Barking Up the Wrong Tree" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Barking Up the Wrong Tree summary :

  • How you can achieve the ideal balance of work and play
  • The importance of kindness, networks, and your attitude towards success
  • Why you should gamify your life journey

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.