New York, 4 July 2008
Nature vs. Nurture
The above statement has led to much discussion and scientific research, for instance based on the differences and similarties of identical twins growing up in separate families.
It is all about the question – are we born with certain characteristics (Nature) or is the way and surroundings of where we grew up the determining factor in who we are (Nurture)? Research, such as I mentioned on twins and adopted children, shows that the environment in which we grew up, plays a very substantial role. So you almost take it for granted – at least I did – that Nurture wins out in the argument; the environment, your parents, brothers, sisters, school and nutrition being the primary factor. This is further emphasised in our current society by the importance placed on the early years of a child and how you raise and treat them…and genes kind of come a long way behind in our thinking. This was always my belief..
until the day that someone told me my father was not my biological father!
In a way, it did not really surprise me. It was more of a confirmation of something I had always felt. I didn’t belong with my family – physically speaking all my relatives (aunts, uncles) were tall, very tall and I was not. And I felt an outsider – I had always been building companies, was always looking to do business whereas no-one in my family had any affinity at all with entrepreneurship. After that comment "your father is not your real father" – I decided to do a DNA test for myself and my sister and it confirmed what I had been told – we had a different parent. Immediately following that confirmation ofcourse came the big question "Then who IS my real father?". As you can imagine there was only one person who had the definitive answer to that question…my mother. It actually took a number of years before I finally dared confront her. About 3 years ago I had finally had this conversation with her and she admitted the fact as such, but did not give me much more to go on than a name and an address where he had lived in 1944. Ofcourse it was a start, but not easy to get beyond that given todays laws regarding an individual’s privacy!
Using my network of contacts however, in the end it only took me 10 days to get further information… although my biological father had sadly passed away a few years earlier, it turned out he had had another son whose name and address I received. I took action immediately, picked up the phone and called him on a quiet Sunday morning – it was rather an interesting conversation, in which I told him that his father was more than likely also mine. We agreed to meet. Ofcourse there was a lot of scepscis on his side…until he saw me step out of the car when I turned up for our meeting. It turned out that my appearance was virtually identical to his (and my) father’s.
To make a long story a little shorter – we are actually the same age, he started his own business after his professional football carreer. His father had also been an entrepreneur, owner of a large company which he had built from scratch. My brother has two sons, like I do, both of whom he works with closely – as do I with mine. We have the same sense of humor, we talk the same way, we play golf with the same level of competitiveness – in a thousand and one little ways there is a click. We may only have met after 50+ years of our lives, we may have grown up in totally different families with different values and customs, but despite all of that, we share more then a lot of brothers and sisters do.
As you can image – for me the question of nature vs. nurture will never be the same again and has a totally different outcome to all the theory that you read in scientific papers.
Sometimes life gets to be more exciting then the best movie scenario.