In his book The Winner Effect, Ian Robertson, who is Professor of Psychology in Trinity College Dublin, looks at the science of success and how to use it.
At the core of this book is the role of power in both achieving and dismantling success. The fact is for positions that require a high tolerance of stress an above average desire for power is the norm. But excessive desire for power can have a detrimental affect on success and it is largely to do with the relationship between testosterone and power.
Startup Weekend Dublin
Recently a group of young men would have experienced a surge in testosterone when they won the Startup Weekend Dublin competition. After fending off stiff competition from other aspiring startups that were looking to solve all sorts of problems from finding the right bra (FitMybits); the manual, time consuming process of surveying & measuring sites endured by architects (Photocad); making friends in a new city (Comrade), and a host of other problem solving ideas, a team whose 4 members combined age is about 77, won it.
The judges deemed Book-E, a digital platform that enables members to bet on e-sports, most worthy of the prize which is a trip to Berlin to participate in a large Hackathon in Berlin.
The purpose of contests
Participating in a competition like this serves many purposes. There’s making contacts, building confidence, learning from peers and those with more experience, but if you win, especially on home territory, something crucial in the early lifecycle of a startup happens: self belief increases. Founders think ‘I can do this, it is possible’ so then they take the next small step and if they win (it could be that they are accepted onto an incubator program) at that step, they’ll be spurned on to take another small step (perhaps this is seeking investment).
Side effects of winning
But beware there is also an insidious side-effect of winning. A big win causes a surge in testosterone which creates a feeling of power; winning triggers a chemical reaction in the brain, which can, in a high powered individual (someone who craves lots of power) create a feeling of invincibility. For all-male teams (particularly young males) particularly those with a few alphas in the ranks – sorry guys, it’s not your fault, it’s completely down to biology – this is something to be cognisant of.
You should absolutely celebrate the wins you have at every step of your startup’s development but don’t inflate it; over confidence, which is one of the consequences that a surge in power produces, particularly in individuals with a high need for power, is dangerous as it leads to blinkered decision making.
Blinkered decisions are those made without full clarity on the reality of your situation; without considering the threats to your success or the effects of your actions on others, at the next step, as well as the things that are in your favour. So you charge full steam ahead without considering the whole picture; with a kind of skewed judgement.
Set the right kind of goal
They key is to set the right kind of goal after every win; not a goal that’s a big leap, but a goal that allows you to take the next logical step. A step that may be a measured, rationale, risk but not a huge, irrational one borne of over confidence.
Teens with level heads
But there’s no sign of hubris or conceit in the teenagers of Book_e! Their demeanors made me wonder has their been a seismic shift in teenage hormones since the mid 90s? Are all generation Ys like this? As chatting with the guys about their experience during the SWD I thought: ‘here’s two young level heads with a great outlook’. They’ve already got clarity on what they want and what they don’t want! And they certainly don’t want to work for anyone but themselves. You have to respect and admire that kind of assurance in people so young.
You can find out more about where these two are headed and what they learned from SWD in the Great Life Podcast here. In our interview they talk about why they believe other people in school should participate in contests like SWD and they divulge what their idea of a Great Life is.
Do you remember what your vision was at 16 years old? Has it changed much or have you let it slip? Come visit GLDs facebook page and tell us!