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Top Dog
Cover of Top Dog
Top Dog
The Science of Winning and Losing
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New York Times Bestseller
Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman's work changes the national dialogue. Beyond their bestselling books, you know them from commentary and features in the New York Times, CNN, NPR, Time, Newsweek, Wired, New York, and more. E-mail, Facebook, and Twitter accounts are filled with demands to read their reporting (such as "How Not to Talk to Your Kids," "Creativity Crisis," and "Losing Is Good for You").


In TOP DOG, Bronson and Merryman again use their astonishing blend of science and storytelling to reveal what's truly in the heart of a champion. The joy of victory and the character-building agony of defeat. Testosterone and the neuroscience of mistakes. Why rivals motivate. How home field advantage gets you a raise. What teamwork really requires. It's baseball, the SAT, sales contests, and Linux. How before da Vinci and FedEx were innovators, first, they were great competitors.
Olympians carry TOP DOG in their gym bags. It's in briefcases of Wall Street traders and Madison Avenue madmen. Risk takers from Silicon Valley to Vegas race to implement its ideas, as educators debate it in halls of academia. Now see for yourself what this game-changing talk is all about.

New York Times Bestseller
Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman's work changes the national dialogue. Beyond their bestselling books, you know them from commentary and features in the New York Times, CNN, NPR, Time, Newsweek, Wired, New York, and more. E-mail, Facebook, and Twitter accounts are filled with demands to read their reporting (such as "How Not to Talk to Your Kids," "Creativity Crisis," and "Losing Is Good for You").


In TOP DOG, Bronson and Merryman again use their astonishing blend of science and storytelling to reveal what's truly in the heart of a champion. The joy of victory and the character-building agony of defeat. Testosterone and the neuroscience of mistakes. Why rivals motivate. How home field advantage gets you a raise. What teamwork really requires. It's baseball, the SAT, sales contests, and Linux. How before da Vinci and FedEx were innovators, first, they were great competitors.
Olympians carry TOP DOG in their gym bags. It's in briefcases of Wall Street traders and Madison Avenue madmen. Risk takers from Silicon Valley to Vegas race to implement its ideas, as educators debate it in halls of academia. Now see for yourself what this game-changing talk is all about.

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About the Author-
  • Po Bronson is the author of seven books, including What Should I Do with My Life?, a #1 New York Times bestseller with more than ten months on the list. Po has been on Oprah, on every national morning show, and on the cover of five magazines, including Wired and Fast Company. He is Strategy Director at IndieBio. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children. Ashley Merryman's journalism has appeared in Time, Newsweek, New York, the Washington Post, and many other venues. She lives in Los Angeles.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 7, 2013
    Bronson and Merryman (coauthors of NurtureShock) praise healthy competition as a force that not only spurs individuals to excel but drives the progress of entire cultures, convincingly pegging the development of democracy as a side-effect of the original Greek Olympics, and the composition of Bach’s masterpieces as a product of musical/religious politics. Citing studies that explore individual performance in the contexts that offer only intrinsic motivators versus those that provide a peer challenge, they find that performance is most enhanced when a competitor feels externally judged, opponents are few, the roles and goals are clear, and the participants are well-enough matched that the outcome is uncertain until the end. The authors explore physiological components of performance (like enzymes that may correlate with whether an individual needs stress to perform optimally), the role of gender in competition (men are more likely than women to overestimate their chances and take a risk), as well as the culture of competition at large, postulating on the effects of teaching universal self-esteem and the replacement of a “playing to win” ethos with one of “playing not to lose.” Accessible for fans of pop science, yet substantial enough to have practical applications, Bronson and Merryman’s investigation will have folks rethinking the impulse to win at work and play. Agent: Peter Ginsberg, Curtis Brown.

  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2012
    Bronson and Merryman (Nurtureshock: New Thinking About Children, 2010, etc.) combine forces again to debunk truisms of positive psychology. "Competition facilitates improvement," write the authors. "At a certain point, those with seeds of doubt actually do best," as they are open to learning from past mistakes and better able to compete. The authors juxtapose what they call adaptive competitiveness (playing by the rules, team spirit and a willingness to accept defeat) with a dog-eat-dog model of ruthless competition and look at how stress can have a beneficial effect on performance. Analyzing record-breaking Olympic performances, high-stakes corporate gambles, competitive chess and more, Bronson and Merryman draw a parallel to sky-diving. "[P]ushing ourselves to the brink is our preferred state. We like competition [because we want]...the thrill ride beyond the limit of our fears." Probing deeper, the authors cite research showing that women are as competitive as men (and willing to take risks to win) but more strategic in evaluating odds. Though men have a higher testosterone level than women, both benefit from testosterone spikes during competition. The benefits from optimism bias, such as belief in good luck and a winning streak, may seem to work against the authors' counter-thesis, as they freely admit, but it can lead to disastrous underestimates of risk. As both stage performers and athletes claim, there is an optimal level of stress that helps them give their best performance. Illuminating and entertaining, with some surprising insights from current research in neuroscience and endocrinology.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    February 1, 2013
    Bronson and Merryman follow up the best-selling NurtureShock (2009) with this intriguing look at the nature of competition. Most of us are taught from an early age that it's good to be competitive, but we're not usually taught how to compete. Sure, we can learn how to play a sport, and we can practice the skills, but practicing is not the same as competing. You can perfect your baseball swing in practice, but how do you react when you're facing a pitcher who wants you to miss? The key element of competition, the authors say, is the ability to compete under pressure in situations that are not under one's own control. Using plenty of real-world examples, from Olympic athletes to fighter pilots to intelligence operatives, the authors persuasively argue that technical skill is only one partin many cases, the least important partof what it takes to come out on top. Expect lots of talk-show play for this one.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

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