Can You Influence Your Destiny?

Over the holidays I read a mind-blowing book by Scott Barry Kaufman - Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined.

One thing we run into, as leadership training facilitators who work with people all the way from middle school through adults, is the question, "Are leaders made or born?" According to Scott's research, the answer is, "Yes!"

All of our traits develop through a combination of nature and nurture. Research confirms what we already knew through behavioral genetics - that nearly every human trait is polygenic (that it involves many interacting genes).

"The most important lesson researchers have learned from over twenty-five years worth of twin studies is that virtually every single psychological trait you can measure - including IQ, personality, artistic ability, mathematical ability, writing, humor styles, creative dancing, sports, happiness, persistence, marital status, television viewing, female orgasm rates, aggression, empathy, altruism, leadership, risk-taking, novelty seeking, political preferences, and rates of talking on cell phones - has a heritable basis. Because our psychological characteristics reflect the physical structures of our brains and because our genes contribute to those physical structures, it is unlikely that there are any psychological characteristics that are completely unaffected by our DNA." (excerpt from the book, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined)

Does this mean, then, that our destiny in life is determined by a fixed set of traits not of our choosing and that we have no ability to change? According to the research, the good news is, "no!"

What really matters is not whether genes influence behavior or not, but how we take what we've got and steer the course of our lives. We are neither born nor made...every trait develops through the interplay of genes and environment. Nature and nurture are complementary, not at odds.

In the book Scott goes on to define "The Matthew Effect" named for biblical aphorism - For to him who has shall be given and he shall have abundance, but from him who does not have, even that which he has shall be taken away. This is used to explain how traits develop...tiny traits and advantages multiply, also called the "multiplier effect" over the years.

It's a new year, a new day, a new hour, a new moment...can you sense it? Now is the time to make the most of the amazing, mysterious, broken, talented combination of nature and nurture that is YOU! Make this the time in your life when you open space to multiply your giftedness, and influence your destiny.

Ritch