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Podcast #322: Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong | The Art of Manliness

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We all know those collective maxims on success: nice guys finish last; it’s not what you know, it’s who you know; winners never quit.

We’ve heard them so often that we accept them as articles of faith.

But are they really true?

My guest today says, yes…and no.

His name is Eric Barker and he’s the author of one of the few blogs I regularly read: Barking Up the Wrong Tree. There, he takes a look at what actual research says about these tried-and-true maxims of success and provides a nuanced, often counterintuitive look at them. He’s recently taken some of his best writing from 8 years at the blog, expanded on it, and turned it into a book by the same name.

Today on the show, Eric and I discuss why most of the ideas we have about success are wrong and what we can do to be better advice sleuths. Eric shares research that shows why high school valedictorians are less likely to become millionaires or influential leaders, and what that teaches us on the importance of knowing ourselves. He then breaks down the idea that nice guys always finish last, and how it’s both true and false at the same time. We then discuss why grit can sometimes be overrated and why winners in fact always quit. We end our conversation discussing why being a glad-handing extrovert can both garner success and sew the seeds of failure, and how the idea of work/life balance is making people more miserable than ever, as well as what you can do about it.

Lots of fascinating tidbits in this show that you can implement right away to improve your life. Plenty of great cocktail party fodder as well.
Show Highlights

The uneven distribution of information regarding questions about success and happiness
Why is so much information on the internet wrong? And why do people keep consuming it?
Why blanket, generalized advice is so misleading
The power of doubling down on your strengths vs trying to improve your weaknesses
Why valedictorians are less likely to become high-powered leaders
Why the world still needs people who follow the rules and aren’t “cool”
Do nice guys really finish last?
The two things we ask ourselves when meeting new people, and how that impacts our interactions
Is grit overrated?
Strategic quitting — how to know when to give something up
WOOP — Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan
The real importance of networking
How extraversion can hurt your career
Work-life balance — the unhealthy sacrifices of the uber-successful
Why 30-somethings are more miserable today than they were a generation ago

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