Shelf Life

How stress and competition can improve your life

Kai Ryssdal Feb 19, 2013
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Shelf Life

How stress and competition can improve your life

Kai Ryssdal Feb 19, 2013
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Competition isn’t a bad word. That is true in the office — as well as on the race track. At least it’s true for Po Bronson, the co-author of a new book on the topic called “Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing.” The important step, Bronson said, is to embrace competition.

“You can learn to actually enjoy the stress and intensity of competition and actually miss it when it’s not happening in your life,” Bronson said. “And you can actually get competitive advantages by enjoying the stress rather than being freaked out by it.”

And one interesting fact, related to Bronson’s time as a bond salesman on Wall Street: “All the financial projections made from 1983 through recently — over three million financial projections, over 20,000 stocks, almost 20,000 analysts — and female financial analysts are 7.3 percent more accurate than men, on the whole,” Bronson said. “And there’s a similar science that looks at when women are CFOs, when women are on the audit committee, when women are on boards — that they keep some of the corporate risk from being taken. And men tend to drive companies to take risks. It could be argued that we need a lot more women on Wall Street to try to help prevent some of these wild swings that we’re getting into.”

Bronson began working on the book after recovering from surgery. “I was kind of losing my edge, and reading all this research and being soaked up in the minutiae of competing,” he said, “gave me the zeal again to tackle big challenges.”

He warned, though, that there are points when mastering competition can become dangerous. “Being great at something can sort of backfire because you’re overconfident,” he said. “Being slightly underconfident wires up the mind to have this sort of critical thinking — you’re looking ahead for strategic things that you can do.”

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