Behavior History

Success: natural gift or supernatural effort?

Success: natural gift or supernatural effort?

"A gift without effort is like the sun without heat; effort without a gift is like heat without light"

Walter Scott

In the debate on the development of abilities and gifts, a central question emerges: are people born with natural gifts or is it the stimulus, the environment and the effort that create the facility to develop abilities?

The discussion goes back to ancient Greece. Plato in his theory of innatism suggests that certain knowledge is inherent in the mind from birth. Plato discussed this idea in his work "The Ménon", in which he argues that knowledge is remembered from previous experiences of the soul.

In contrast, John Locke's environmentalist vision believes that most human knowledge and behavior is shaped by the environment and experience. According to the English philosopher, the human mind is a blank slate on which nothing is written. Thus, all knowledge comes from sensory experience, observation and interaction with the surrounding environment, with an emphasis on education, culture, society and the environment in general. This theory emphasizes the collective responsibility for creating environments that promote well-being and human development.

Research into behavioral genetics has identified genes that can influence traits such as intelligence, personality and specific skills. Thus, as empirical data has emerged, especially with studies comparing pairs of monozygotic (genetically identical) and dizygotic twins, it has become clearer that both factors matter for improving skills.

What was missing was the weight of each of them.

No more. In 2015, the journal Nature Genetics published a robust study that evaluated thousands of twin studies involving approximately 15 million pairs of siblings and concluded that there is an equivalence between genetics and the environment. More precisely, 49% for genetics and 51% for the environment. The bad news for those who defend the greater influence of the environment is that the factors over which we would have some control, such as city, school, diet, parental attitudes, don't seem to play a very important role.

It seems that the non-shared environment is much more relevant, ranging from elements of intrauterine life to the forces of chance.

This conclusion seems to adhere to reality. The genius Mozart, one of the most prodigious musicians in history, received musical stimuli from an early age. His father, Leopold Mozart, was a talented musician and pedagogue who provided his son with an early musical education, helping to develop his exceptional musical talent.

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the incandescent light bulb, was known for his intelligence and curiosity from an early age. His mother encouraged him to explore new experiences by providing a stimulating environment that led him to create innovations.

From the world of sport, we can mention Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter known for his favorable genetics, including a high proportion of fast muscle fibers which, combined with rigorous training from a young age, have made him one of the greatest sprinters of all time. Or Michael Phelps, the American swimmer who, due to genetic factors, has a larger than average wingspan and exceptional lung capacity. His natural talent for swimming was honed by years of intensive training and family support, which led him to become the all-time record holder for Olympic medals.

Some unbridled flamenguistas claim that Zico, the greatest Brazilian player after Pelé, is the perfect combination of gift and effort. These friends abuse exaggeration. Zico does not fit this definition. The study only compares mortals, and since he is the reincarnation of Apollo, the Greek god of perfection and the arts, it would not be right to mention him in this context.

In my academic and professional life, I have come across some truly talented people. They have succeeded professionally to a greater or lesser extent. Some of them, unfortunately, combined talent and effort for the mischief of others. I hope that their environment can influence them to become better people.

As the popular saying goes, "the natural gift is the seed, the environment is the soil; only when the seed finds the right soil can it flourish in all its splendor".

So, for the lazy on duty, who credit the success of others solely to natural talent, you can be sure that you may not be a genius, but you can compensate for unfavorable genetics with the right effort, environment and stimulus. Because failure remains a characteristic of the less resilient.

About Author

Maurício Ferro

What do soccer, wine, law, politics, and economics have in common? Much more than you can imagine. And contrary to what the popular saying says, they can and should be debated and analyzed, yes. Welcome to Maurício Ferro's site, a channel to create and exchange thoughts and opinions. Maurício Ferro is a lawyer, graduated from PUC university in Rio de Janeiro, with a Master's degree and specializations from universities such as the London School and the University of London. He studied OPM at Harvard Business School. Author of published works in the commercial and capital markets areas, and acting in the Board of Directors of large companies, he based his legal and executive career with a focus on Business Law. But his passion goes beyond the corporate world. A passionate Flamenguista, Mauricio knows the ins and outs of the professional world of soccer and other sports. He is a partner in innovative companies such as 2Blive, a global startup focused on technological solutions to fill the education gap, especially in areas of great need such as Africa. He also invests in the Flow Kana company, based in California, and focused on the scientific production of cannabis for various purposes, such as medicinal, clothing production, or recreational use. To all these ingredients, add a deep knowledge of wine and the delicious ways of winemaking. That is the recipe for what you will find here.

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