Nature vs. Nurture? It’s both!

Which matters more: nature or nurture? This debate rages on and off, and I chuckle every time I hear it. You will never win this argument, because both are equally important. Seriously, why must we choose only one answer? The West’s insistence on only one answer to each question has never made sense to me. The more you see of the world and experience of life, the more you appreciate how complex and interconnected everything is.

Let’s take the case of Mozart, a musical genius. Ok, so he has an incredible musical nature…but what would happen if he was born dirt poor in a remote part of Africa with no access whatsoever to any type of music? Clearly then he would never be the Mozart we know today. Or a less extreme example – what if our man Mo was exposed to music as a kid, but he is so poor that he must work long hours in the factory just to support his family? Without the opportunity to actually make music, he still wouldn’t be Mozart.

How about the opposite extreme – take a person who has a hands-on nature. He would be a brilliant builder or inventor if given the chance. Instead his parents push him towards mathematics, which is definitely not hands-on. Sure, with enough with practice, he may become a decent mathematician, but he will never be great because his heart isn’t in it. Even worse, what is he is so unhappy doing mathematics, he commits suicide?

Both nature and nurture are extremely interconnected. Talent makes opportunities possible – you have little chance of being “discovered” by a talent scout if you have no talent. And without opportunities, talent will never make its mark. For example, I’m sure there are many very talented singers and actors that never get a break and therefore will remain unknown. And as noted in the paragraph above, opportunity without the requisite ability won’t get you very far either.

Moral of the story? To be truly successful takes a combination of nature and nurture. Common sense isn’t always right, but it makes perfect sense here.

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2 thoughts on “Nature vs. Nurture? It’s both!

  1. The young restaurant patron is asked if he’ll have the soup or salad and he answers, “yes please”. Polite laughter follows, as he doesn’t know that we use the preposition “and/or” for the Boolean “or”. Nature or nurture is a (mis)leading question when the answer is: the product of both nature and nurture. Saying nature and nurture makes sense in Boolean terms, but people think of “and” as an additive operation instead of a multiplicative one.

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