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Nature or Nurture? I'm Taking A Stand

Nature or Nurture? I'm Taking A Stand

August 29, 2018

It’s 1961. The Vietnam War is raging. Hippies are in their full regalia. The study of psychology is advancing rapidly. And Albert Bandura has an idea.

It involves a Bobo doll and he’s looking to take a stand on an age-old debate.

Bandura takes a group of young kids and has some of them watch a big “Bobo doll” get clobbered and yelled at by an adult model. Then the adult leaves and the kids are left on their own.

You know what happened next: the kids who saw the violent behavior mimicked it. Even the insults they yelled were similar to what they had heard. Bandura published his findings in the infamous Bobo Doll Experiment and becomes a central figure in the ongoing debate of nature v.s. nurture.

See, we’ve got inherent tendencies—and the experiment proved, as well, that boys were more easily influenced to become violent than girls—that’s a fact. But what we see and what we hear influences how we perceive and think about the world, and more importantly, how we think about ourselves and those immediately around us.

Being a CEO, particularly in certain industries, is stressful. There are customer problems, employee problems, cash flow problems. You know the drill.

But despite the outward challenges, I’ve found that some business owners are able to rise above the negativity and thrive, regardless of the industry and level of tension they face.

Most people attribute that to nature.

“It’s just their personality.”
“They’re the positive type.”
"Being upbeat comes easily to them.”
“They’re just naturally happy.”

Sounds familiar?

Yes, it’s true. Some people naturally have a more positive temperament.


Over decades of working with the gamut of entrepreneurs, I’ve found that nature isn’t enough to predict the happiness level and “thriving level” of an individual, particularly a CEO.

I’ve met a lot of people with fantastic inborn traits who are down, constantly frustrated and struggling.

So what does predict their happiness?

You got it. Nurture.

Because deep down we’re as impressionable as a 6-year-old watching an adult hit a big doll. We’re just as much at risk for replicating the behavior and thought patterns of those around us. We might be more sophisticated, but we’re still malleable.

The most successful CEO’s I’ve met pay very close attention to their environment, namely what they expose themselves to both externally and internally.

Externally: they surround themselves with positivity. They don't read all of the bad news first thing every morning. They don't put themselves in environments fostering fear and negativity. They don’t make friends (or stay friends) with downers. They proactively choose positive role models and mentors and seek out their counsel.

Internally: they don't focus on the constant problems. They choose to focus on the good in their lives. They choose to be grateful. They choose to repeat positive, uplifting messages to themselves. They take ownership of the thoughts in their heads and which ones they allow to stay and which ones they let go.

Learn more about changing the way you think with ABT (Asset Based Thinking) here.

They take ownership of how they “nurture” themselves, instead of passively letting the outside world shape their lives.

Take a moment and reflect on your environment, how you “nurture” yourself:

  • What do you find yourself watching most often on TV? What websites or newspapers do you read most often? Is the content and tone disheartening and negative or uplifting?
  • Who are your friends? When you’re around them do you find yourself talking negatively about others and harping on problems or do you bring each other up and focus on the good in your lives?
  • What’s your physical surrounding like, both at home and at work? Is it disorganized, gloomy and bland, or bright, upbeat and inspiring?
  • Who do you look to for guidance? Are they role-models that you would want your kids to have?
  • What mantras do you find yourself repeating inside of your head? (If you’re not sure, pick 20 minutes today where you’ll plug in every few minutes to the inner dialogue going on. You might be surprised…) Do you find yourself thinking things like, “he’s so incompetent,” “that’s never going to work out,” “my life is so hard,” “nobody respects or cares about me,” “this is so stressful”?

Our blessing is that we’re self-aware adults, and we can understand and internalize this truth: Change what you see, and you’ll change how you see.

What is one change you will make to your environment today?

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,