Barking Up The Wrong Tree

This was a short and simple book packed with succient life lessons, and exposes common fallacies we tend to view the world. Specifically, it deals with the notion of success, and what makes a person successful.

The book tells of 6 things we think successful people do that makes them successful, and that if we do enough of it, we too, can be successful. And for each of these perceived actions, he provides a recommendedapproach, which in most cases ends up taking the middle path of non-extremeties.

In each of the 6 lessons, i’m going to cut through the fluff, and get straight to the point, and not tell stories and parables. Afterall, this is a summary, not an actual book itself.

1. Play It Safe, or Do What We’re Told?


Filtered people don’t rock the boat. Unfiltered people break the boat. Often people think they want a filtered leader, when what they actually NEED is an unfiltered leader.

If you are a filtered person, go to company with rules, where complying with them means success (public sector). If you are an unfiltered person, go to a company that moves fast and break things, or create your own path.

What really matters here is picking the right pond, and knowing when to transit to the next pond once you’re a big enough fish. Starting in a pond with too many big fishes will overshadow you. Starting in a pond where you’re already the biggest fish gives you no growth.

Having a matching moral context matters more than you think. Does what the company do align with what you believe is right? e.g. working in cybersecurity allows me to defend companies from threats, and I believe that no one should be going around stealing data.

“What are you good at that consistently produces desireable results?”

2. Do Nice Guys Finish Last?


This section pulls some ideas from Adam Grant’s book, Originals.

Givers, Takers, Matchers.

Givers give unconditionally. Matchers wait until they recieve something, before giving. Top and Bottom of the success list are Givers, while Matchers are in the middle. Bottom Givers give TOO MUCH. Top Givers give enough to win favors from people.

Takers are no where on the list, because they are viewed negatively.

Don’t be a Taker or a Matcher. Be a prudent Giver.

Being an asshole might help you in the short term (Taker), but over the long term, being a nice guy wins (Giver), just not too much of a nice guy (Over Giver).

Unfortunately, visbility matters. Make sure you work hard, and people are noticing you working hard. Sound out initiatives that you helmed, , and show people the progess you have helped make. Don’t be too humble and quiet.

Forgive people and their mistakes. Don’t hold grudges.

3. Do Quitters Never Win, and Winners Never Quit?


Knowing what you need to push through, and making time for it. Time is limited, you cannot be good at everything. Quit things that are iffy, and don’t produce desirable results. Focus entirely on one or two things that you are absolutely sure will bring you far.

Having a wide breadth of knowledge is beneficial, but you MUST have at least one deep vertical. Don’t be a afraid to try many things and quit, those things will add up to your breadth of knowledge. Make little bets on things you don’t know about, and see where it takes you. Approach them with a mindset that 90% of the time it will fail, but it’s all about learning.

Pessimism is usually an accurate gut feeling, but we need to have Flexible optimism. For high payoff stuff like your career and family, be overly optimistic about it. For low payoff stuff, be pessimistic, which often ends up being the truth. Being overly optimistic about everything makes you delusional. Being overly negatively makes you depressed.

Have a meaningful story behind your endeavours.

Gamify your obstacles. Your game must be Winnable, Novel, have Goals, and provide Feedback.

Get rid of things that are wasting your time. Again, you can’t be good at everything, and be pessimistic about those activities. (I know I can be a good guitarist if I spend enough time on it. But what are the pay offs? Do I enjoy it? If not, put that thought about playing on stage aside and focus on something else.)

4. It’s Not What You Know, but Who You Know


Know who you are. Introvert, Extrovert, Ambivert. Pick the right pond that allows your character to flourish.

Stop Networking, and start making Friends. Networking to keep people close for favours will never work when the time comes, but friends will genuinely help you out when needed.

Seek a mentor, and ask help from a bigger fish. You need to study someone and idolize them to grow towards something (Having a goal). At the same time, help the smaller fishes around you.

You are who you hang out with. No, really. Evaluate the people around you HARD, and know that you will become what they are.

5. Levels of Confidence


Are you a very confident person? Keep that in check to make sure you’re not delusional, and remember to stay empathetic. Seek situations that challenges and humbles you.

Are you not a very confident person? Don’t worry, you’re most likely going to learn more because of your lack of confidence in your abilities. However, don’t doubt yourself too much, because you need to be visible and seen.

Success–>Confidence, not the other way around. Same with Action–>Inspiration. Work hard at what you do until you become successful, and that will inspire confidence.

Fake it till you make it… just don’t fake yourself. Don’t be something you’re not, instead, show your best self everyday and not your lazy self. Eventually, you’ll fake people into thinking you’re always the best (even though you’re lazy at times)

Have more self-compassion. Don’t be so harsh on yourself when you make mistakes.

6. Hardwork


Track your time, and split up work accordingly. Stop multitasking, start monotasking.

Time is limited, focus your efforts selectively on one thing. It does not matter if you only accomplished one thing in a day, as long as it was purposefully done with effort. That is better than half-assing 5 things.

Dont measure yourself based on one thing, it does not make sense. Instead, use multiple yard sticks for measurement.

Happiness = Feeling contented Achievement = Winning at something Significance = Impacting others Legacy = Establishing something that enables others

Talk to your boss about expectations of your work. This is not just for you and clarity of your work, but for your boss as well, so he knows how to fairly judge you when the time comes.

Throw away your to do list, and start actually planning and scheduling them. Cement that time slot for something and actually do it, instead of putting them on the back burner of To-Do.

Learn to say No to things that waste your time, or distract you. Yes, this means saying to no to a co-worker who calls for one too many teabreaks.

Take control of your environment. Declutter your desk. If the open office is too noisy, don’t be afraid to book a quiet room just for work. You will cut off distractions.

End your day on time, and in the right way. Plan for the next day.

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