The Bookworm Review: Top Dog—The Science of Winning and Losing

Top Dog copyc.2013, Twelve                                    $27.99 / $29.99 Canada                       352 pages

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

Last week marked the beginning of another sales contest.

So far, it’s as predictable as ever.

The office go-getter is at the top of her game, followed closely by the rising star of the staff, who hates being Number Two. Most of the group is grouped in the middle somewhere, moving ahead or behind on a daily basis while the usual slackers bring up the rear, content with whatever happens to them.

So how can you get better results from these contests?  Are some people just naturally more competitive?  Find out that, and more in Top Dog” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.

Practice makes perfect.

That’s what your mother and popular books would like you to think: sharpen your skills and you’ll come out on top. Researchers, however, know that you could practice 24/7, but what really matters is being able to perform when needed.

What you’ll do when faced with that kind of pressure largely depends on the kind of human you are. Introverts handle stress differently than extroverts; gender and situation also come into play. It also depends on whether you’re attempting something solo, or competing with others – and how many.

Studies show that we tend to work harder if there are just a few competitors than if there are lots of them. We also tend to reach higher if the race is closer. Overall, competition improves the output of most people, although there are those who decline in productivity if faced with a race. Part of that can be attributed to an individual perception of risk or chance, and part of it can be blamed on the fact that some people thrive on stress, while others must avoid it to do well.

In order to land at the top of your game, there are things you can do: seize the home advantage as much as possible. Manage, but don’t distract, at the office. Acknowledge physiology, your Warrior / Worrier mindset, and your hormones; they all influence your ability to compete.  Finally, look at your hands. The drive to succeed may literally be at your fingertips!

So you’ve been doing a marathon in your career lately, but the rat is winning the race?  Then it’s time for a boost, and “Top Dog” can give it to you.

With advanced science, real-life examples, and stories that go off-track in a relevant way, authors Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman take readers on a short trip through what makes a winner.  This is irresistible reading made even more so by subtle tips on working with individual personality and biology to reach the top, or at least get a little closer to it. I enjoyed this book for that, and because it explains the mystery of how some people conquer challenges effortlessly and why others struggle.

I think that if you’re looking to urge on your staff, your children, or yourself, you’ll find a lot of information and advice between the pages of this very fine book. For you, “Top Dog” is what you want, no contest.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books. For more information, visit

+ posts