In his book, the author Eric Barker explores the idea- what brings success in the real world i.e. life success not merely making money. With the help of lots of research and interviewing the experts what he finds, is quite a revelation.

“Much of what we have been told about the qualities that lead to achievement is logical, earnest and downright wrong” Eric Barker

1. Should we play it safe and do what we are told if we want to succeed

The author says school grades are no more predictive about future success. The school has clear rules while life has no clear path to follow, and often in such conditions, academic high achievers often break down.  There are fundamentally two types of leaders in this world a) Filtered who rise up through the formal ranks and play by the rules and b) Unfiltered who don’t go by rules and often rise in informal settings, do unexpected things, and bring the changes which make a difference.

Schools often emphasize being good when good is merely average. To be great we must be different and when it comes to the extremes of performance the average does not matter. The filtered leaders don’t rock the system but the unfiltered do. These unfiltered leaders have some unique qualities which may be negative but due to the specific context, they become positive. These are intensifiers that hold the secret of how the biggest weaknesses might just be your greatest strengths.

So know yourself, recognize your strengths and pick the right pond (context) to thrive. Put yourself in an environment where your biases, strengths, talents, and abilities all can be aligned.

2. Do nice guy finish first

Yes…but they also finish first. In the short term, a little cheating and bullying can pay off. But over time it pollutes the social environment and soon everyone is second-guessing everybody and no one wants to work towards a common good. Being a taker has short-term benefits, but it’s inherently limited. In the end, no one wants to help you because they know what you are like. Who are a taker’s worst enemies? Other takers. People who are kind actually lived longer. Giving help to others prolong your life. i.e. It is better to be a giver. Don’t be envious. Most of life isn’t zero-sum. Just because someone wins doesn’t mean you lost. In a nutshell – a)Work hard – But make sure it gets noticed b) Cooperate first c) Being selfless is not saintly, it is silly and d) Think long term and make others think long term

3. Do quitters never win and winners never quit

 We all are familiar with the grit stories but, sometimes quitting is the smartest choice. And giving up, when done right, can make you more successful. But quitting is not the opposite of grit, once you have found something you are passionate about, quitting secondary things can be an advantage because it frees up time to do, that number one thing. 

Apply game mechanics to your work to make it more interesting. Making work a game is quite simple, you don’t have to change what you are doing all that much, you just have to change your perspective. Define a game for yourself which is winnable, with novel challenges and goals. Take feedback to know your progress and feel success and happiness at the same time.

If you don’t know what to be gritty at yet, you need to try a lot of things – knowing that you will quit most of them – to find the answer. Use quitting and trying as a deliberate strategy to find out what is worth not quitting. Do limited duration experiments. Give something a shot. Taking this is what spurs new opportunities and creates good luck. 

4. It is not what you know… It is who you know

To get ahead in life you need to self-promote yourself. People are mainly extroverts and introverts. When it comes to leadership, extroverts who speak first and often seen as leaders. The superpower of introverts is that they are more likely to become experts in their field.  They are more likely to put in hours of practice alone than extroverts who may find it boring.

Whether an introvert or an extrovert is the better leader depends on whom they are leading. When employees are passive, the social, energetic extroverts really shine. However, when you deal with very motivated workers, introverts do better because they know how to listen, help and get out of the way. Networking is crucial in both cases; a skill that can be developed for positive growth and success in life.

5.Believe in Yourself… Sometimes

More confidence increase productivity and causes you to choose more challenging tasks, which makes you shine in the workplace. Overconfident people are more likely to be promoted than those who have actually accomplished more. Speaking first and often – very confident behavior – makes others perceive you as a leader. Why is confidence so powerful? It gives us a feeling of control. People who believe they can succeed see opportunities, whereas others see threats. They are not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity, they embrace it. They take more risks and achieve greater returns. 

But overconfidence can lead to denial and being a jerk. When we are less confident, we are more open to new ideas are actively and passively scanning the world for new ones. Listening to other people’s ideas increases brainpower. How to achieve a balance – by having self-compassion. Being self-compassionate lets you see issues and take action on them.

6. Work, work, work or Work-life Balance

Evaluating life by one metric turns out to be a key problem, we can’t use only one yardstick to measure a successful life.   The researchers came up with four metrics that matter most: happiness ( enjoying), achievement ( winning), significance ( positive impact on people you care about), and legacy( extending and establishing your value to help others). Track, review and improve and make a plan which takes you closer to all-around life success.


What is the most important thing to remember, when it comes to success: Alignment. Success is not the result of any single quality. It is about alignment between who you are and where you choose to be i.e. right skill in the right role, good networking, the right level of confidence, and a balance among the big four – happiness, achievement, significance, and legacy, that creates a well – rounded life with no regrets.