Nature vs Nurture: is a skill acquired or inherent?

It’s an infamously controversial topic that’s been debated upon by a plethora of thinkers, philosophers and just people in general. 

In some way or another, we’ve all thought about this.  How often have you wondered about a certain skill you possess, whether you were born with it or if you acquired it through learning and practice?  For me, I always thought whether writing was something that naturally just came to me or whether I developed a knack for it because of the amount of reading I began to do at a young age.

Although many people claim that geniuses like Mozart or Michaelangelo were born with the innate ability to create musical and artistic masterpieces, it turns out that neither one of them would have been able to do so had they not gone through rigorous training and practice of that specific skill.  I mean, if Michaelangelo had instead been forced to become a clergyman by his father and not allowed to do apprenticeships with established artists, then it is very likely that many of his works would have never come into existence at all.

A skill is acquired, it is developed through the interaction with people and an environment that provides the opportunities for the cultivation of that skill.  It is not innate or contained within the genetic code of man, for if that were the case, there would be no such thing as the downfall or decline of empires and civilizations because progress and development would be neverending.  Certainly, the genetic code of a person may play a partial role, but the dominant position is taken up by that of practice.  It is not simply within the NATURE of man to become accomplished at something, but mostly through the process of NURTURE in a specific environment that enables him to do so.

In that case then, it seems that it could be possible for every single person to become a great singer if given the right amount of vocal training.  There are, of course, exceptions in the form of those who have physical impairments, but every single person definitely possess the potential to become a singer.  Each individual has a unique set of vocal chords and, if developed properly, they can enable a person to become the next Madonna.

I realise that writing was not something I was born to do, it’s not an ability that is inherent in me.  It did not naturally come to me, but it was a skill that I learned through practice.  I used to read A LOT as a kid, whether its a 300-page novel or a magazine or the daily newspaper, and this exposure to words and sentences became embedded in my mind so that when the time came to me form sentences myself, I was able to do so in a manner that surpassed the level I should have been at for my age. 

I remember being really interested in science and specifically chemistry when I was in grade 8, but in grade 9, I had a fantastic English teacher who appreciated my essays and my stories and made sure I knew that I definitely contained the potential to become a great writer.  She made me rethink my choices and made me aware of an alternative path that was available to me.  Had it not been for that, I think I probably would’ve continued on with my interest in chemistry. 

I made my decision then to study Art and Literature rather than the natural sciences and I have never looked back since.  Writing is something I enjoy doing and I definitely love it alot more than learning the chemical compounds of different substances.


One Comment

  1. While you are absolutely right that training is necessary to truly excel, it is not as simple as just taking a random person and giving him training: There has to be sufficient inborn talent present. Assume (in an over-simplified analogy) that Michael Jordan had been 5 foot tall…

    What is inborn is a strongly varying potential; the training causes this potential to be used to strongly varying degrees.

    As an aside, Madonna’s success (let alone Lady Gaga’s) is not caused by her singing abilities, but go back to a number of other factors.


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