Entrepreneurial Spirit: Nature or Nurture?

by jim on December 10th, 2009

There’s an article in the December 2009/January 2010 issue of Fortune Small Business that discusses nature vs. nurture. It tackles the question of whether entrepreneurs have something in their DNA or whether it’s something that can be taught. It cites a study from Case Western that concluded entrepreneurs are 40% born and 60% made. While that seems to point towards nurture, the argument that 40% of them are born is pretty surprising. The article continues to discuss how this could be exploited, how other data disputes that fact, etc.

I’m inclined to believe that the entrepreneurial spirit is very much tied to risk aversion. Risk aversion is part nature and part nurture. I’d like to believe that entrepreneur DNA is in my DNA but I think it’s more about taking on and managing risk.

My dad bought a one way ticket from Taiwan to New York to go to college on an education visa. Traveling thousands of miles to go to college in a language that you didn’t know very well. To buy a one way ticket, because it was cheaper, to a place where you had no network, no friends… nothing, because it potentially meant a better life for you and your family. That’s pretty risky.

I was raised to get good grades in high school, get into a good college, graduate and get a good job. By nurture, I was not taught to take on risks. I was taught this because it wasn’t necessary, we were completing the grand plan my dad set out on when he stepped onto a plane in Taipei.

But I think DNA took over… five years later, I’m a personal finance blogger working for myself, taking on risks, and trying to get to the next level.

Is it nature or nurture?

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3 Responses to “Entrepreneurial Spirit: Nature or Nurture?”

  1. Nathaniel Broughton Says:

    Nature. The DNA leads you to the influences, friendships, and life experiences that get you going on the entrepreneurial path. It might take one person longer than another to ‘escape the cubicle’, but if you’ve got it in your head to do things for yourself, the time will come. You’ll be so hungry for nurturing, it will come.

  2. Patrick Says:

    I’m gonna roll with Nathaniel on this one. Being an entrepreneur is something you have to want. You can try to nurture it, but if you don’t have the passion and desire, you won’t succeed. And passion and desire aren’t something you can teach – it has to come from within.

    Nurture plays a part for sure, but nature is the ultimate factor.

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