The origin of the word “compete” emphasizes the notion of striving together (as compared to striving against). Author Ashley Merryman takes a deep dive into the science of competition – and reveals practical strategies people can use to “become better.”

There’s an art to bringing the mechanics of science to life, and Ashley uses storytelling to illuminate the application of good science.

Ashley Merryman is the co-author, with Po Bronson, of two New York Times bestsellers, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children and Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing.

Ashley and Po have won nine national awards for their writing including: the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Journalism; the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Award for Science Journalism; an “Audie” from the Audio Publishers Association; two Clarion Awards; the Books for Better Life Award; the Mensa Press Award; and the award for Outstanding Journalism from the Council on Contemporary Families.

Their work is considered so substantial that scientists themselves rely on their reporting and have cited it as a research authority in more than 120 academic journals and 400 books, in addition to being used as text in universities across the world. You’ll also find references to their work in publications by the White House and speeches by politicians around the globe.

Previously, Ashley was an attorney and a speechwriter in the Clinton Administration. She lives in Los Angeles, directing a small all-volunteer tutoring program for inner-city kids since 1999. For her civic involvement, Ashley received commendations from both the Clinton and Bush Administrations.

“The benefit of competition isn’t the win. The benefit of competition is improvement, it’s improvement in the moment.”

In This Episode:

  • The quest to always be better
  • How she became interested in what she does today
  • Extroverts vs. introverts
  • Different types of risk-taking
  • Why competition is important
  • Relevant neurotransmitters for competition
  • Why trophies shouldn’t be given away for participation
  • Challenge and threat
  • Putting in work to become skilled in a certain thing and viewing it as a challenge rather than a threat
  • Most important mental skill for competitors
  • Defining mastery



“Women are really good at calculating their odds of success and men are really good at ignoring them.”

“The benefit of competition isn’t the win…the benefit of competition is improvement… it’s improvement in the moment.”

“I always thought that motivation was sort of the gas in your car that got you to your goal.”

“It’s not whether or not I’m going to be successful with the task, it’s can I learn from this? And if I can learn from this, it should always be a challenge.”

“Pursuing and acquiring technical skill but using everything in your arsenal, psychological, cognitive, physical, peer support to help you achieve those goals.”


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Author |

Co-author of two New York Times bestsellers NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children and Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing – Merryman has had enormous critical and commercial acclaim.