Top Dog

Every one of your customers and repair jobs involves a firearm and you’re as likely as anyone to be asked for advice on their use. Unless you exclusively repair wall hangers, those firearms will be used. Skillful firearm marksmanship when it counts for something important—be it hunting, defense/tactical, or similar—will likely be done under conditions of varying degrees of stress. Scientific testing has proven formal competition is the only stressor that continues to work over time. Laboratory results reveal novice parachutists on their first day of jumping experience less stress by their third jump than a competitor with a decade of experience during a contest. This has important implications for gun owners that want or need to learn how to shoot well under stress.

Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman shows what it takes to win and reveals what’s truly in the heart of a champion. The joy of victory and the character-building agony of defeat. Testosterone and the neuroscience of mistakes. Why rivals motivate. How home field advantage gets you a raise. What teamwork really requires. It’s about baseball, marksmanship, the SAT, sales contests, and Linux. How before da Vinci and FedEx were innovators, first, they were great competitors.

“To compete well means to take risks that are normally constrained by fear,” Bronson says. “Risk-taking is a crucial quality of competitiveness. Science shows that if you focus on the odds, you tend not to take the risk.”

Top Dog places its focus on the importance of competition rather than the “10,000 hours of practice” that is often discussed. Completion requires taking risks that are held back by fear, and can teach us moral behavior—the Greeks called it aretas, attaining excellence through competition. Playing to win is very different than playing not to lose. Being stressed before competition is good, and if framed as a positive can improve performance. This stress boosts testosterone but doesn’t create unwanted aggression—it leads to intensity and focus. Bronson explains, “To harness the power of testosterone, the rules of what earns social regard must be changed. Change the culture, and the high-Test people will change what they do to earn respect.” Positive thinking is often not helpful, but having understanding and respect for the opponent or the obstacle to be faced is.

This sort of experience and benefit is available to everyone at the next competitive event. Sharing the science and research found in Top Dog will help you guide customers and fellow gun owners to events that will help them most.

Read more in the February 2019 issue.

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