Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nature or Nurture?

I suffered through psychology classes in college because, for a brief and painful semester, I thought the study of psychology might be a pathway to gainful employment and happiness.

Adding misery to pain, my psychology prof seemed to believe that the Socratic method of teaching makes for a better learning experience. I can remember the exact moment when my prof asked every psychology prof’s favorite question: “Who am I?” This was followed, of course, by the second favorite question: “Are you the person you are because of ‘nature’ or ‘nurture?’”* I immediately fled to the comfort of the history department, and I can still recite most of the list of Egyptian 18th dynasty kings…

Anyway, we’ve all asked the same thing about ourselves. Maybe even more predictably, when we see someone else’s kid at the playground, we immediately pick his parent(s) out of a sea of other parents and say to ourselves, “that kid is going to be a [insert your favorite career stereotype].” In most cases, we just know that the child’s environment will be dominant in shaping who he will be when he grows up.

So, what’s the answer to the question of “nature vs. nurture?” Well, according to The Wall Street Journal, an insurance study has found no particular correlation between entrepreneurs and their upbringing, education, or other socioeconomic factors. There are certainly environmental influences, particularly within predominantly capitalistic economies. However, not all entrepreneurs are created equal, nor are they all “nurtured” in the same way. For example, perhaps counterintuitively, entrepreneurialism can even thrive in socialist states.

Stay tuned. I’m sure the search for the entrepreneurial “gene” is right around the corner.

* This question is not to be confused with any reference to “they are who we thought they were…”)

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