Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Eric Barker Book Review

Posted by Weston Lay on October 17, 2019

I just finished listening to Barking up the Wrong Tree and my overall impression of the book was that it's very theoretical. I attempted to listen to the book about a month ago but ended up not finishing because my current interest at the time was to learn more about marketing. After listening to some marketing books, I came back to this book hoping it would be an entertaining listen.

The thing about Eric's book is that it felt like there was no real take-away from it. He presented opposing sides to every idea he brought up so I felt like there was no compelling reason for me personally to do anything because either way there are pros and cons to any mindset or action. That being said I still want to write three points I did takeaway.

Taker, Givers, and Matchers

This distinction came in the second chapter of the book and Eric titled the chapter "Do nice guys finish last?" This was important to me because I wanted to see how nice guys could finish first. Eric explains there are three type of people in the world. Takers, Givers and Matchers. Takers are those people that just take from others and use it for their own personal gain. Givers are usually those that are exploited by Takers. They will give and give even if they have nothing more to give. Matchers are those that give back only if they are given to first.

The moral of the principle is that Givers, or nice guys, end up being the most successful and the least successful people. The difference was whether the Givers could recognize that they were being exploited or not. The most successful people are Givers that understand when they are being used and the least successful people are the Givers that continue to get used by Takers. Being a Taker is good only in the short term. Being a Matcher doesn't give others the benefit of the doubt, but being a Giver let's people know that you care about them, no strings attached.

My takeaway from this was that I should be more of a Giver and give my time and talents to people before they give anything to me and expect nothing in return. I would say that naturally I'm a Matcher. If someone does something good for me than I will do something good for them back, but unfortunately I don't think I would normally do something good for someone before I know their motives. I need to change that and become a Giver.

Self-Compassion rather than Self-Confidence

When talking about confidence, Eric recognizes there are two categories. People with overconfidence and people with a lack of confidence. Both of these situations are bad because overconfidence brings with it a feeling of being a jerk, and lacking in confidence makes you look like you are incompetent.

I've always been a person that lacks confidence and I felt like this section of the book struck a chord with me. I have tried to become a more confident person, but in the process I feel the effects of "being better than others." I knew there had to be a way to be confident in yourself without having to be over others and I think Eric nails this on the head.

Compassion is a feeling of empathy for others and being able to forgive other's mistakes. People love compassionate people because they feel understood and loved by them. Self-compassion is the same feeling but it's the ability to give that compassion to yourself. It's the mindset of knowing you are fallible and being totally ok with it. With this mindset of compassion towards yourself, you also naturally develop it for others, which makes you become more likeable.

Happiness, Achievement, Significance, Legacy

Another takeaway I appreciated from Eric's book come from the last chapters. His idea about keeping track of how much time you are spending on different aspects of your life is a good idea, but he also introduces four groups where your time should be allocated. Happiness or enjoying, achievement or winning, significance or counting to others and legacy or extending your values or accomplishments so others can have future success.

Recently I've been thinking a lot about data tracking and I felt like this hit home with me. What if I were to record every second of my life and see how I was spending it. That would be one of the most insightful data collection ever. This is exactly what Eric is suggesting. He believes that we should be spending our time on what matters most and although the "kind" of time you are spending also matters, the first step is to see what the distribution is.

These four time allocations of time spent on your happiness, time spend on achievement, time spent on building your significance, and time spent on leaving your legacy are what makes people feel successful. If you have too much time spent only on one or two of these things than it's time to rethink how you spend your time because ultimately time is all we have.


The pros for this book are the situations, stories, and illustrations of the principles he teaches. The stories he uses to teach the concepts in the book are phenomenal. The stories that best stuck out to me where the mountain climber that made it back to camp only because he "gamified" his survival. I also enjoyed the American Xiaolin Warrior that dropped out of school to become the greatest martial artist alive. Many of these stories really illustrate the concepts well and that is the main pro to this book.

The cons are that it seemed too theoretical and there was no actionable takeaway. Again, every principle he illustrated came with arguments for both sides. Be nice, but don't be too nice. Be an extrovert, but maybe be an introvert. Stick to something and have grit, or actually just quit. Because of this, it was hard to take anything away. After reading the book I just felt like I should do exactly what I've been doing because it doesn't really matter either way.

Barking Up The Wrong Tree by Eric Barker


This was not a bad book by any means. I learned a lot and it was nice to see some examples of the principles Eric was illustrating. I would say that this book is for someone that has had a midlife crisis or for someone that is just starting out in the business world. It's a very motivational book rather than an action book. It helps you to understand maybe why you do what you do and why that's ok.

Other books like this one would be How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I would put this book into the motivational books camp. For me, this book gets a six out of ten because I just didn't find it that useful. It was great understanding why things were the way they were but it just didn't get me excited about doing something about what I had just learned.

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