From Hollywood to Business School to Best-Selling Author: Interview with Eric Barker

What does it take to succeed? Apparently, not what we think. Best-selling author Eric Barker had to learn this the hard way. From working as a screenwriter to creating video games to getting his MBA, Barker has an interesting career full of surprises all leading to an incredibly successful blog and accompanying book about the science of success.


From Hollywood Screenwriter to Best-Selling Author: Interview with Eric Barker

Barker first started writing in high school, then moved on to writing, in his words, “bad poetry.” After graduating from college, he moved to Hollywood where he worked as a screenwriter for Disney and Fox for 10 years.

Feeling burned out from the experience, he took a break and got his MBA. During business school, he took a class on negotiation and was exposed to social science, which he found fascinating.

Upon graduating in 2008, during the heart of a recession, Eric couldn’t land a job so he started reading abstracts and papers. Wanting to share what he was learning, Eric started a blog a year later. He explored what social science confirmed and what it didn’t by posting his own abstracts and case studies.

Over time the blog evolved into pulling these findings together to see trends in the science, and then adding his own voice to the mix. As his audience swelled to over 300,000 subscribers, Eric soon knew it was time to publish a book. In 2015, he started working on Barking up the Wrong Tree, which uses science to dispel the myths attached to the old axioms of success.

On this episode of The Portfolio Life, Eric and I talk about how he deals with the academic community’s opinions of his work and how, as a self-proclaimed “off the charts” introvert, he handles the extroverted aspects of marketing this book. Finally, we wrap up with what he would do if he were starting out as a writer today.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, Eric and I discuss:

  • What did he like and dislike about working in Hollywood?
  • How did he make the transition from fiction to non-fiction?
  • Why was reverse engineering a skill that helped him in his writing career?
  • What are the commonalities and the differences when writing for a blog, a book, and a screenplay?
  • Why did he stop writing for a few years?

To give people something that can be entertaining and useful in their lives is very powerful.

Eric Barker

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Eric on the progression of his blog

  • How did he grow his audience to over 300k readers from 2009 to 2015?
  • What was the process of finding his voice?
  • What makes his subject matter so accessible to everyone?
  • How did his work at video game studios impact the blog?
  • Did he start his blog with any specific plans for it?

The question is how can I be gritty at the things that matter in the long-term and quit the things that are not useful to me?

Eric Barker

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On his book and the business myths it dispels

  • Why did he know it was the time to write Barking Up The Wrong Tree?
  • Are there structural similarities among the best written books?
  • How long did it take to write this, and how long did he procrastinate first?!
  • Is there one myth about success that is most critical to dispel?
  • Are introverts or extroverts more likely to become experts at their field?


What have you learned from Eric that will help you grow your audience? Let us know in the comments.