Tabula Rasa

Do you believe we are a “blank slate” to be filled in with beliefs that are built on experience and perception as John Locke professed? Or does humanity have a predetermined course based upon genetics?

Nature versus nurture is a long-held philosophical debate and its influence can be seen clearly in those reaching out toward entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur must be able to maintain a strategic view of a business and be able to guide that vision to completion through executing a plan. The tactics used to achieve that goal are largely dependent on the entrepreneur’s leadership abilities and self-awareness. Leadership and personal development theory are premised on the belief that we are in control of our thoughts and actions and must make the conscious effort to make the changes we want in our lives. They also hold that these traits can be learned and developed. To be able to lead others, we must be able to lead ourselves. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, the first step in the process of self-improvement is to figure out who you are. This internal realization will give birth to the remaining steps you must take toward using your potential.

Many philosophers and self-help experts agree that we never reach the “end” of this journey, as it is a continual process toward self-awareness and personal growth. Jean Piaget is famous for positing the theory of cognitive developmental stages in humans, and this system can account on a general scale for many of the major milestones we reach in how we think. Of course, these stages alone do not make us complete. Piaget’s stages basically stop at age 12 into adulthood, and that stage, “concrete operational”, can be developed and refined significantly as one gathers experience.  In addition to experience, there are other variables such as environment, cultural biases, and emotions that influence who we are and how we think. These have been impacted greatly by some profound technological advancements.

Today our environmental and cultural influences are obviously quite different than they were even 30 years ago. As technology has developed, one of the most exciting uses of it is the Internet. And within the context of the Internet, one of the most recent development in the last several years is the proliferation of social networking sites. These sites have removed many of the physical barriers that have separated us from one another across the planet, and they allow us to connect with other like-minded people.

This ability to connect on such a massive scale is what leads me to believe strongly in the “nurture” side of the philosophical argument. I believe that the slate begins as a blank, transitions to being filled in with the conditioned behaviors we learn through childhood development, and can then be re-written where necessary in adulthood. By surrounding yourself with people that share the same values and beliefs, you can influence the change you want to see in yourself and re-write your own story.

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