Yesterday I had a wonderful goal-setting session with a client who is in my January 30-day Goal Slayer Mastermind and after we wrapped up, we were discussing all kinds of different things. Often when we discuss goal-setting we get into many discussions about family, work, values, morals, lifestyle, and even our childhood and how we were raised. We talked about so many different things, but there was one thing that I shared with her that was really profound and stuck with me the whole night.
You know how some times you say things casually in a conversation aloud, then you go back and think about it, then realize, “Wow! That was deep!?!” That is exactly what happened to me yesterday. Last night, I remembered what I said and all of a sudden, I knew exactly why I went to school for 27 years after high school and why I got my Ph.D.
It wasn’t to be the first Latina in my family to get the advanced degree, it wasn’t to be the only women or the only person in my family to get the Ph.D. It wasn’t to prove to all those people who were my elementary and high school teachers who said that I was a “Lazy Mexican” or that I was “unfortunately not White enough” to be successful. It wasn’t because I wanted to prove that a single mother could do it on her own with all the BS thrown at her around every corner, and it wasn’t because the university faculty and advanced studies structure didn’t support my topic and where my research was going. All of these were the reasons why, when I was in the thick of it, I thought I was going to school all those years.
The light bulb went off yesterday, almost six months after living #mividadoctora, while working with my dear friend and client. I was discussing with her how throughout high school, my undergraduate career, my management career at Sears Credit, University of Phoenix, and my early years as an elementary school teacher; I was always torn in two from what I had been taught by my father and what I was learning in the workforce, society, and college.
My father is a pure genius. He is one of the smartest men I know and trust me, I have lived a majority of my life trying to find facts that are contrary to what he states and the man is just a walking machine of information. We always used to get mad at him because he would not go on Jeopardy! and win us a bunch of money (hence why I have way too much in student loan debt) LOL! This is why he knows so much…he is an introvert who found some way to retire at the age I am now, 44 (I could not imagine retiring right now and I am excited to just be starting my real life). Since 44, I have seen him soak information like an ocean size sponge and raise me with that information. Of course, there was no question I was going to go to college.
The area where I had the most anxiety and was completely torn all my life was with the nature v. nurture debate. I would even write about it back in high school, where a teacher gave me a horrible grade because he didn’t agree with the information I presented in the paper. In one master’s program, I had another faculty member who said in the feedback on a management v. leadership paper that she wanted to give me an F because she “disagreed with me to her core” but because I had peer-reviewed references to back up my claims she “had to give me an A.” I would do any assignment I could with the nature v. nurture perspective because of this internal struggle of mine.
My father always told me, “Don’t have expectations so you’ll never be disappointed.” He also taught me things that came from books like The Blank Slate by Stephen Pinker and The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris. I became very aware of the grand expectations that I placed on others because of everything that I was learning in school and work. For example, the Pygmalion Effect was something that I believed in and was implementing as a manager and teacher. This is where high expectations yield high performers. Well, it was producing an ulcer in my gut, tears in my eyes, disappointment, stress, and tons of frustration. I would go running to my dad and ask him what I was doing wrong. I was met with, “Don’t have expectations so you’ll never be disappointed.” WTF? is what I thought…really? How can I live with that type of attitude and produce results in my own productivity and the productivity of others?”
THAT WAS IT! The question that really drove me. I knew there was a way that we as humans were innately productive and motivated, and that there were external influences that could increase that productivity and motivation to some level. I just didn’t know to what level, how the two — nature and nurture, coexisted in this realm of learning and performance.
Now, I get it! 27 years later, duh? I finally understand that there is no percentage of nature and nurture. There is no boxing match of nature v. nurture either. In the same breath, we shouldn’t try to find “balance” between nature and nurture either. There isn’t a counting or measurement system so that we can say that we have 20 natures to the left on the scale and 20 nurtures to the right of the scale wither. It is nature and nurture. We have to look at the whole picture.
If I knew this when I was at Sears Credit, I probably would have seen that some people were just going to be miserable being credit collectors regardless of the training and incentives because they just didn’t want to be the “bad guy” and collect money. They couldn’t “just get over it.” It just wasn’t in their nature to do so, and that’s ok. They are a better fit for other jobs for sure. The key is to take our thoughts, expectations, and assumptions out of the equation. We need to find out what the other person’s abilities are and where they want to go. This way we can have realistic expectations and avoid disappointment.
Ever since I have understood this concept, I have been able to work on understanding my authentic self. I have become more aware of what I enjoy working on, what I am good at doing, and where I can contribute the most in this world. I think understanding this has made it easier to align the nurture and natural elements so that there is less conflict within me. I am so thankful that I am here and that now I can help others find their strengths, passions, and talents as well.
Blog post first published on January 5, 2018 & Revised 7, 23, 2018.