The winner effect: the science of success and how to use it (a review)

The Winner Effect

How power affects your brain

The Winner Effect” was written by Ian Robertson and came out in 2012. The hardback version has the subtitle, “How Power Affects Your Brain” (as shown in the picture here), but I guess the publishers thought that saying that it was about, “The Science of Success and How To Use It”, would appeal to more people. Another version has probably the title that most accurately describes the content: “The Winner Effect:The Neuroscience of Success and Failure”.

The science of success

I picked this up in a book shop and started reading a few pages and found myself hooked, so I bought it. It’s written in a fairly light style but contains a lot of research evidence to support the ideas being put forward. You can it on Amazon in hardback, paperback and kindle versions.

More than just a “self-help” book

The cover gives the impression of a self-help-type book that will show you how you can be a winner using the science of success, but it is actually much more interesting than that. It looks at what power and winning does to our brains, with plenty of interesting examples, and really makes you think about yourself and the possible reasons for the decisions made in your own life.

The book is divided into five main sections with cryptic titles that make you wonder what will be coming next, with a final section that pulls it all together.

The mystery of Picasso’s son

The first section is called, “The mystery of Picasso’s son”, and talks about the reasons why the children of successful parents often struggle to be successful themselves. One interesting idea is about how parents, “hide the ladder”, so that offspring cannot see the small incremental steps that they took to get where they ended up.

The puzzle of the changeling fish

The next called, “The puzzle of the changeling fish”, looks at the two types of cichlid fish (winner ones and loser ones) and how a little bit of status biologically changes the losers into winners. The implication here being that a little bit of status can make us into winners too.

The enigma of Bill Clinton’s friend

“The enigma of Bill Clinton’s friend”, refers to Tony Blair and compares the need for power in different leaders. In addition, the string of successes and total dominance Blair had over the rest of his government is said to be the reason why he was deaf to objections over the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The most interesting idea in this section looks at the way in which George W. Bush and his colleagues conned Tony Blair into joining them in Iraq by complementing them on, “their balls”, so that they would look like they no longer had, “balls”, if they didn’t join in.

The mystery of the Oscars

The next chapter is called, “The mystery of the Oscars”, and explores the observation that Oscar winning actors live longer than those who are nominated but don’t win. The conclusion being that winning an Oscar is like a “safety” signal to the winners’ brains, which reduces their stress levels and gives them better health and longevity.

The riddle of the flying CEOs

I had imagined that, “The riddle of the flying CEOs”, was going to be about some kind of executive levitation but it was actually about the uproar that followed the chief executives of three almost bankrupt car manufacturers coming to Washington in 2008 to beg for money to save their companies. The uproar resulted from these men flying to Washington in private jets. This chapter of the book examines the way in which power blinds people to the opinions of others, and how powerful people see their subordinates as things rather than people.

The winning mind

The final chapter, “The winning mind”, pulls all of these ideas together and tries to decide what makes a real winner, rather than a power-corrupted dictator.

Al in all, “The Winner Effect”, is a great read that will really made you think about the behaviour of people with more or less power that you know personally, and those that you hear about in the media. [easyazon-cta align=”right” asin=”1250001676″ height=”43″ key=”amazon-us-tall-light” locale=”us” width=”120″]

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