Ian Robertson’s book The Winner Effect: The Science of Success and How to Use It is a very engaging read and a good handbook to have while you’re working towards your goals. I first came across it some time ago while looking for evidence behind claims that testosterone levels are directly related to some people being bigger risk-takers (and therefore) more successful than others. This claim might sound crazy to you too, but this book provides some good arguments. It dives straight into the heart of the matter, explaining step by step the ‘hidden forces’ that everyone should be aware of while pursuing certain goals.

The animal that has won against weak opponents is more likely to win later against stronger contenders

The ‘winner effect’ is a term used in biology to describe the phenomenon whereby an animal that has won a few fights against weak opponents is now much more likely to win later bouts against stronger contenders. We can see the same effect in humans too, because we are as bio-chemically driven as any other form of living organism. The book explains how winning small fights alters your physical and mental states through hormone fluctuations and psychographics.

Basically, a multitude of small victories will give you momentum and velocity in acquiring even bigger wins. Let’s say you are one of the people who don’t consider themselves lucky enough to become a champion in obstacle racing. One useful takeway from this book would be that you should start small and build up to the role of a champion. For example , you could start by competing in a regular 5k run (even if it seems easy!) followed by a 10k race. and maybe then you could transition to a 5k obstacle race, followed by a 10k and so on. You can see that there’s a slow but strategic build-up in this approach. Approaching this goal in any other way could result in a lack of progress made and even in potential injuries.

So where does testosterone tie in with this? According to the book, testosterone levels are responsible for our risky decisions. Since men have higher testosterone levels, they are naturally hardwired to take more risks and thus, statistically speaking, they can achieve more success in business, sports or other pursuits. Testosterone is there not just because men were built to outrun the lions, but their brain is wired for it too. Interesting, isn’t it?

Quick winning momentum would result in a total failure…

It has to be said, however, that there are dangers to the winner effect and this book does a good job of covering those issues too.

One of the bigger issues discussed is that winning can be blinding and dangerous. There’s a long history of people who, after several quick wins in succession, would encounter total failure. This would include various dictators, pop stars, athletes and more. They had what could be considered a ‘talent’ and after the primary spike of wins, they stopped working on it and it dropped to complete nothing. Another pitfall to be aware of is being born a winner, or in a winning environment. How often do children born to famous people grow into underachieving, depressed and underperforming adults who are set to fail… The book discusses this all by introducing a compelling set of stories, all building up to a final set of pros and cons of the winner effect.

The Winner Effect is certainly a must-read for everyone who is competing in the OCR world, in a business environment or in any other field where basic human social dynamics still play a major role in unlocking achievement. Being aware of things that can make you or anybody else a winner versus a loser, knowing how success can blind a person through addictive levels of dopamine, and most importantly how to make it work for you by building success momentum will all come in handy. With this book as a guide you will be able to deconstruct the path towards your goal and know what to avoid, as well as what to do, in order to achieve it.

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