When you think of testosterone and it's impact on male health and performance, you typically think about sexual performance and drive, losing fat, gaining muscle, and things of that nature. But we have to talk about work performance, productivity, and achievement.
Does having high testosterone levels equate to higher achievement for men?
Does having high testosterone levels mean better productivity?
We'll answer these questions, and more, in this article. And we'll cover ways to naturally increase testosterone levels.
The Role of Testosterone in Cognitive and Work-Related Functions
Cognitive Abilities: Studies have consistently found correlations between testosterone levels and cognitive abilities, especially among older males. For instance, a publication in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggested that higher testosterone levels might be beneficial for certain cognitive tasks, particularly those related to spatial and mathematical abilities.
This runs contrary to the view that testosterone is merely a hormone that makes men aggressive and driven, it appears to also improve our decision-making, which is anything but an aggressive trait.
Decision-making: Testosterone's influence on decision-making is a topic of growing interest. Recent research highlights that elevated testosterone levels could predispose individuals to make riskier decisions. Depending on your position in your work place, this can be beneficial or detrimental.
However, with no risk there is no reward, namely in entrepreneurship. Understanding risk, however, makes me see this differently. What we call 'risky', isn't necessarily riskier than what we'd deem as 'safe'.
If you've read any of Nassim Taleb's Incerto series (Black Swan, Antifragil, Skin in the Game etc...), you'll know what I'm talking about.
When you look at two professions, the safe one is fraught with risk, namely risk of the economy. If you lose your safe, cushy job, you lose everything. If, however, if you're in a riskier career - taxi driver, entrepreneur - you may be open to more volatility on a daily, weekly, and yearly business, but everyone needs things. We need taxis (or Ubers) regardless of whether it's a strong economy or one in a recession.
We'll always need products, regardless of how the economy is, so if you're willing to withstand the ebbs and flows of daily risk, your aptitude for 'risk taking' can result in less overall risk - like the loss of a job during a bad economy.
In my book, being open to taking risks is good, so long as they're measured and you're also willing to work very hard and persist, which testosterone may also play a role in.
Mood and Drive: Low testosterone levels have been linked with mood disturbances such as depression. A meta analysis found that testosterone can alleviate depressive symptoms, suggesting potential implications for work motivation and productivity.
Life and work is easier when you're motivated. I won't deny that. Testosterone seems to play a role in motivation and drive, for sure. This just makes achievement more automatic, but it doesn't provide a guarantee, obviously.
The only way I've found to 'guarantee' improvement, and ultimately achievement (assuming you don't constantly move the goal posts of what achievement is in your life) is to do what you say you're going to do - ie. discipline.
Motivation helps. But discipline beats motivation every day of the week.
Other Health Factors Impacting Work Performance
Stress: Testosterone plays a role in stress in that if your stress hormones are high, your testosterone levels are going to be negatively impacted. The solution to high stress isn't to pump yourself full of synthetic testosterone, though, it's to figure out stress.
The goal is to be great at handling stress. (read: Lessons in Handling Stress from Charlie Munger)
I've been working on this for decades. Good books. Good philosophy. Good journalling and reflection seem to help most. If you can become great at handling stress, there's no limit to what you can achieve. In some ways, achievement is merely one's ability to work hard, think well, and their stress tolerance.
Testosterone and Achievement
We've talked about productivity, which is an aspect of achievement, but here has also been research examining the relationship between testosterone and various measures of achievement, motivation, competitiveness, and risk-taking in men. Some key findings from this body of research include:
1. Testosterone and Competitive Drive:
Testosterone levels can rise in anticipation of a competition and in response to winning, suggesting a link between testosterone and competitive drive. These fluctuations in testosterone levels around competitive events might promote future competitive behavior.
Life is competition. If you're in the market - job, free, any market - you're competing against yourself and likely others. Testosterone works as a reward for competition.
You get a bump in testosterone in anticipation of competition, and again if you win in competition.
This is looking at testosterone from a different angle, not how to boost my testosterone levels so I can do better, but, try to do better so I can boost my testosterone levels. These brief boosts in testosterone are important. They're a reward mechanism that may keep our hormonal balance optimal and healthy.
We get lost in the 'do this or that to boost testosterone', but competition, achievement, pursuing your own version of greatness and trying to hunt down your potential is act act of living a 'high testosterone' life. So, compete. Don't wait for the right moment, just get after it.
Reference: Mazur, A., & Booth, A. (1998). Testosterone and dominance in men. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 21(3), 353-363.
2. Testosterone and Occupational Achievement: Some studies have suggested that men with higher testosterone levels may gravitate toward professions or roles that are more competitive or that allow for higher social status. However, the causality and direction of this relationship remain a subject of debate.
Some research also shows that you get a boost in testosterone if you have a nice car - a Ferrari, for example. But is testosterone that cause of getting the nice car or the result of having that feeling like you're winning? We don't know. To be honest, I don't care.
We know we get a boost in testosterone when we win, so do your best to win. But having high testosterone may also lead to victory, so come at it from the other angle as well; create a lifestyle conducive to winning and to having optimal hormones (this isn't as complicated as it may seem, we'll cover this below).
Another way to look at this is reframing and celebrating victories. Too often in life we celebrate a win - or even experience a win, or even get a win and move right onto the next challenge - and then move on without feeling like we actually won, without celebrating anything.
If testosterone jumps when you win, celebrate those victories! Treat them like real victories. I need to do this as well, even in small things. Every morning I get up around 4am, I read, and then I run on our treadmill. I never feel like running.
Cardio, for me, is the worst. But I do it. That's a win - and one I just realized as I'm writing this. Look for the wins in your life. Celebrate them and get the hormonal benefits that come with them.
Long-term Effects and Age-related Changes:
Testosterone levels naturally decline with age. Some research has investigated the correlation between this decline and changes in cognitive abilities, motivation, and other factors related to achievement. The consensus is that while testosterone plays a role, various other factors, including overall health, social interactions, and lifestyle, significantly influence achievement trajectories in older age.
Here's how I see this...
We don't necessarily get to decide when we win (and, again, victory comes in all shapes and forms based on our own interests - FORGET what society tells you 'victory' is, and choose your own path). Having optimal testosterone levels naturally, longer in life merely helps you in your quest to achieve what you want to achieve.
It's an ally, and one you want by your side. So do the work in your work, but also do the work with your health to have an optimally performing body and mind as you continue your pursuit in your 40's, 50's, 60's, and beyond.
Reference: Harman, S. M., Metter, E. J., Tobin, J. D., Pearson, J., & Blackman, M. R. (2001). Longitudinal effects of aging on serum total and free testosterone levels in healthy men. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 86(2), 724-731.
Strategies to Bolster Work Performance and Productivity
Stress Management Techniques: As I've said, managing stress isn't the goal, thriving on stressful situations so in that they don't have a negative impact on you is the goal. The only way to learn (and it is a learned skill) this skill is to read, study, and work on it.
Read good business books. Read about guys who faced greater odds than you, more stress than you, and see how it all worked out in the end - or it didn't, but life was okay anyway. Read Man's Search for Meaning, to understand that struggle is a necessary part of life.
Read Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, read the Stoics like Meditations, The Art of Living, and Seneca's Epistles. Watch good youtube videos. Learn the skill of thriving amidst stress and you have a massive impact on your hormonal health long term.
Other ways to manage stress:
- Get a great sleep every night - (read: how to get a great sleep and boost your testosterone)
- Add Man Sleep to your nightly routine.
- Take adaptogens like KSM-66 ashwagandha that you'll find in a full dose in our supplement Man Greens.
Adaptogens are actually very effective at helping men mitigate their response to stress. So instead of having that constant bump in cortisol, you can relax and think clearly, and maintain healthy testosterone levels.
Sleep Hygiene: We covered this above, but getting a great sleep every night plays a huge role not just in your ability to reduce stress, but in your actual production of testosterone.
Try these supplements to help with sleep:
The Anabolic Sleep Stack
Balanced Diet: Maintaining a diet rich in essential nutrients, antioxidants, and staying hydrated can have noticeable effects on cognitive functions and, by extension, work performance.
Follow the Man Diet for the best way to eat to naturally increase testosterone levels.
We also have a bunch of articles on the topic like Low Fat Vs High Fat Diet (what's better for testosterone levels).
Supplement Effectively: I've always thought supplements were nice, not necessary. But, I've done a ton of reading on the decline of soil quality and the degrading amount of nutrients in our food and we're just not getting enough of the right nutrients.
On top of that, there's been promising research on some herbs and plants that aren't a part of our natural diet for increasing testosterone, reducing cortisol, and blocking estrogen.
If you take your performance and testosterone levels - and achievement - seriously, consider adding zinc, boron, magnesium, tongkat ali, KSM-66 ashwagandha, and things like maca (for libido) into your supplement routine. You can find them in these supplements:
Man Boost (zinc, boron): helps boost testosterone and block estrogen
Man Greens (tongkat ali, forskolin, maca, KSM-66 ashwagandha): helps boost testosterone, block estrogen, and reduce stress.
Man Sleep (magnesium): helps you get a great sleep every night.
Testosterone is a complicated and wonderful hormone that makes men, men. Women have it, too, we just have a lot more of it flowing through our bodies.
The thing about testosterone, in our own bodies, is we want to produce more of it naturally. We don't know exactly how it works with achievement, whether it's the result of achievement or a partial cause of it, but it has a relationship with achievement that we want to exploit.
If your testosterone levels are high you're going to be more comfortable taking risks, you'll have more energy, less depression, better health, better energy, and more, all of which create a better atmosphere for achievement.
So, achieve to boost testosterone levels, and boost testosterone levels to achieve.