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Customer Review

31 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book for everyone, February 5, 2013
This review is from: Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing (Hardcover)
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This is a book about a subject that all of us are involved with - competition. We compete all the time in a myriad of different contests, and some of us are much better at competition than others - this book explains why, how you can improve, and how coaches, business managers and leaders in general can drive this improvement. These explanations (plural because many different aspects of competition are considered) are based on the results of behavioral psychology and biology, but you do not have to be a physiologist or biologist to understand the book. The writing is entertaining and very clear, and does not require any scientific background. I recommend this book to parents, teachers, students, coaches, athletes, employers, employees, and military leaders - in short to everyone. Below is a general discussion of some of what is in book.

o The book begins with how people react to stress and competition - the biological reasons why some people freeze up under stressful situations and others do not, and why competition improves some people's skills but degrades that of others.
o The book describes how a genetic variation can drive some people to be "warriors" - those who respond better to new situations and have less of a tendency to freeze up under them, and others to be "worriers" - those who are less tolerant of new situations and more likely to freeze up when confronted by them. Lest one think that we should all strive to be warriors, the book points out that worriers tend to have better working memories, are better organizers and can be habituated to specific stressful situations and can then handle them successfully.
o The book contrasts those who seek to win and those who seek not to lose and how the latter strategy often leads to failure in a competition.
o The book discuses the many different biological responses between men and women and how each handles competition - why men are more likely to take on competition with very little chance of success, whereas women tend to compete only when there is a realistic chance for success.
o Much of the book is devoted to the competition between teams. It discusses how men and women differ in their response to being in a team.
o The book contains lengthy discussions of the effects of the hormones testosterone and cortisol - how they interact with one another and how their influences are generally completely different from what people generally believe them to be.
o The book shows how the results of behavioral psychological studies and biological measurements can be used by parents, teachers, coaches and business managers to improve the ability of those they are leading and to realize some of the inherent biological limitations of those they lead and how to act accordingly.
o While the book does not contain footnotes, it does contain 79 pages of sources and references keyed to each chapter.

My only reservation, and it is not enough to outweigh my 5-star rating, is that the degree to which environmental factors, such as the conditions under which a person is brought up in, are not considered. I would have liked to have seen a clearer statement that the observations in the book represent average ones, often expressed in statistical terms, but that individuals can and do rise above any genetic tendency that they may have. Nonetheless, this is a terrific, well-written and most illuminating book, and I highly recommend it.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 8, 2013 10:21:14 AM PST
Mind opening

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 18, 2013 5:04:24 AM PST
Very luck to have received it first - read about the idea of worrier/warrior in the NYTimes magazine. Book seems Malcolm Gladwellesque, which is what the masses want (and - guilty as charged - I too treasure!)
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