Military Book Reviews

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

By: Stephen Lepper

Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, by Eric Barker (HarperOne, 2017, 312 pages)

Do nice guys really finish last? Do quitters never win and winners never quit? How can you achieve a work-life balance and be successful in life? Eric Barker addresses these questions and more in this humorous book based on the latest data.

Barker is the author of the Barking Up the Wrong Tree blog, which he has been writing since 2009, where he strives to provide “science-based answers and expert insight on how to be awesome at life at

How to Be Successful

Barker makes the case that being successful is a matter of balancing four needs in your life: being happy, making achievements, having significance to others, and creating a legacy. He writes, “Success is not the result of any single quality, it’s about alignment between who you are and where you choose to be.”

Barker references a lot of information about the latest science in six entertaining chapters to help put each of those needs into perspective. Along the way, he addresses what type of leader you should be, how to network and engage with others, developing a work-life balance, and provides the keys to finding a good mentor.

What to Expect

Barker keeps the book interesting by liberally including relevant anecdotes about such diverse topics as prison gangs, Judd Apatow, Navy SEALs, Shaolin monks, Batman, pirates, Ted Williams, Albert Einstein, a French Scrabble champion, Japanese wrestlers, Genghis Khan, and the emperor of the United States. (Yes, you read that right.)

The information and anecdotes come at you quickly, but Barker does a great job summarizing the key points at the end of each chapter to pull it all together..

By defining success as a balance of needs, Barker’s advice is not to work longer hours and earn more money to be happy. At its most basic, the book is about learning who you are and putting yourself in situations surrounded by good people that will allow you to succeed. He makes the case that social connection is the greatest predictor of happiness and that those who survive stress the best are those who increase their social investments in the midst of stressful situations. 


I really enjoyed this book. Barker generally starts each chapter by providing information on one side of an argument, then provides evidence supporting the other side, and finally discusses what it all means to help you find balance and success. The numerous anecdotes and examples spread throughout each chapter illustrate his points well and keep the book very entertaining.

While the information and conclusions in the book might not be earth-shattering, Barker provides lots of recommendations based on the latest data to enable you to become happier, more successful, and to live a balanced life with no regrets. If you’re looking to apply more balance to aspects of your life, Barking Up the Wrong Tree, is a great way to go about it.   


Stephen Lepper is a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps. He lives with his family in central Massachusetts.

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