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"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Monday, April 4, 2011

3 Personality Traits Analyzed In Terms of Heredity

Three Personality Traits Analyzed in Terms of Heredity

April 3, 2011
By Daniel Kurland
Psychology 231
Dr. ***

Nature and nurture seem too deeply intertwined in my personality to fully separate these influences into separate strands. However, combining what I know about my personality, childhood experiences, family and cultural influences, plus what I have read in the textbook, The Developing Person, I will do my best to untangle some connections between my genotype (“genetic potential”), my environment, and three personality traits (“the actual expression of that genetic inheritance.” (Berger, 73) First, I will briefly list and elaborate about three of my personality traits, hyper-focus, risk-taking, and personal charm. Next, using these personality traits as a window, I will reflect upon some childhood experiences, and certain family and cultural influences that have contributed to shaping these personality traits. Finally, I will connect the formation of my personality with “generalities that virtually all developmentalists accept.” (Berger, 73) My personality continues to show both durability and change, reflecting a lifetime of interplay between nature, nurture, and my own personal decisions.

Three of My Personality Traits Briefly Listed and Slightly Elaborated Upon:

  1. Hyper-focus:
· Lifelong habit of reducing what I have observed to simple formulas, habits, or routines
· Have been driven by a desire for certainty (observe, practice, make continuous improvements in pursuit of clear and highly specific goals)
· Tend to obsess over preparation to avoid surprises and increase odds for success
· Ruminate over experiences to refine thinking, identify patterns, and achieve goals
· Driven by expectation of success
· Defeat is visceral
· Steadfastness (persist in spite of failure, highly resilient)

  1. Risk-taking:
· Opportunistic
· Decisive (have tended to plunge into uncertain situations with little hesitation)
· Sensitive to environmental changes (keenly attuned to changes in mood, appearance, and other cues)
· Confident in situations requiring physical coordination (giftedness in sports, music, and art)
· Tendency to become increasingly calm during confusing or dangerous situations (subconscious takes over)
· Thrill seeking (high speeds, roller coasters)
· Enjoy taking culinary risks
· Malleability (changes in social groups, roles, job changes)

  1. Personal Charm:
· Ability to attract, mix easily, and quickly bond with a wide variety of people and animals
· Desire and ability to please (enjoy making others feel good)
· Ability to match and mirror body language, tonality, and rhythms
· Ability to make other people laugh (observe differences, comedic timing)

Childhood Experiences

In 1971, at age 8, I wrote a short piece entitled, “The Story of Nature,” for my second grade anthology at Taylor Elementary School, in Arlington, Virginia. Beneath innocent factual errors, in 2nd grade my writing already displayed a desire for certainty that has persisted over my entire lifetime. One of my earliest memories was being forced to learn how to read at age 3, screaming. Similarly, when my son was 3 and my mother was providing our daycare, my mom would chase my son around the house and he would squeal, “No Hop on Pop! No Hop on Pop!” As a child, I was immersed us in books and cultural experiences. She took us to libraries and museums. For as long as I can remember, I have loved Greek mythology, origin myths, and books about science and history.

At age 8, I joined the swimming team, the diving team, and began playing soccer. I was always chasing after my older brother, who was three and a half years my elder, and his friends and their siblings, which led me into the woods, into houses under construction, adventures in sewer tunnels, and climbs into tree forts.

           Since my brother and sister played the violin, in 3rd grade, I too began taking violin lessons, and I soon began taking weekly lessons with Ellis Chasens, the Concert Master for the Arlington Symphony. I became the Concert Master at Taylor Elementary. Around that time, my soccer team, The Arlington Cubs went on an undefeated streak that lasted for over three years. I rode my bike to practice, I rode everywhere. In 6th grade, I was the soloist for the school play, The Wizard of Oz. I was athletic, musically gifted, a solid student, popular at school, at the pool, and in the neighborhood. I was also hyper-competitive. I remember twisting Elizabeth Rudy’s arm after she defeated me in checkers while in 3rd grade. On rare occasions, I would say and do things that might hurt other children’s feelings because I did not always consider the feelings of others. At some point, I defeated the local chess master, Carolyn Mano, who called my mother to inform her that I was the first person in the neighborhood who had ever defeated her. At the time, it did not occur to me that I had done anything special, because I had expected to win. Many years later, Carolyn shared with me how my mother had gloated about my victory, and how insulted she had been.

Williamsburg Junior High School was a total disaster. In 7th grade, since my elementary school had sent students to two junior high schools, I became separated from some of my closest friends. My house soccer team had disbanded and I was playing full-time with my travel team. That was the first time I noticed my short height, and when playing the violin no longer seemed cool anymore. Thrill-seeking behavior and a habit of showing off led to unfortunate decisions. Having quit the violin, having lost my status as a star player on an undefeated team, and having descended into juvenile delinquency, in 9th grade, I learned about a unique opportunity to attend Georgetown University at no tuition cost. When my mother told me that she had been working at Georgetown University to give me, my brother, and sister the opportunity to go to college at no tuition cost, thanks to a program she had read about in the Washington Post, I decided to become hyper-focused.

My decisions to go to Georgetown University helped stabilize my personality. At Yorktown High School, I was hyper-focused, taking advanced placement courses in English, Math, and Social Studies. A major source of stability in my personality was a research paper I wrote in 10th grade on the Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Afterwards, I became increasingly identity conscious, and decided to learn everything I could about my family history, on both sides.

My university days were exciting times. I was exposed to rigorous academic thinking, celebrated championship Hoya basketball teams, and my favorite football team, The Washington.Redskins, was winning Super Bowls. At Georgetown University, I thought zero about the future, having decided to squeeze every bit of juice out of my academic experiences. I worked on the assumption that, for financial reasons, this was my one opportunity to wrestle with big ideas. Driven by hyper-focus, I read in Lauinger Library until I could no longer see, then would walk across campus, and drive home to my parent’s home in Arlington. My grades were far from spectacular, but my ability to read, write, and think took a quantum leap forward. During my senior year, I studied the poetry of Dylan Thomas and Gerard Manley Hopkins in the Office of the President, Fr. Timothy Healy, S.J., who recognized my talent for original thinking.

After graduating from Georgetown University in 1985, at 22, I seized an opportunity to work for Allied Plywood Corporation, a 100% employee-owned company, where I ended up working for 15-1/2 years, never taking a sick day until after my son was born in 1998. In the late 1970’s Allied Plywood Corporation had become the first client of my father’s new company. It had been featured in an article by Tom Peters in Inc. for its innovative compensation system. The founders, who had sold the company to the employees through an ESOP, had made the decision to sell direct to builders and contractors, which was something that wholesale companies traditionally had not done. I joined the company at a time when the DC housing market was booming. We were supplying builders with profitable plywood packages, cutting out the middleman. We also had a growing base of industrial and institutional accounts. As an employee-owner, I participated in a profit-sharing plan that was adding several hundred dollars per month to my paychecks, earning huge annual bonuses, and earning stock through an Employee Stock Ownership plan. Working long hours was part of the company culture, especially around bonus time. With my first bonus, I purchased the company President’s 5.0 1985 Mustang. The company had a blue collar culture, and I became a champion of that culture. In 1986, I was invited by Lawrence Kohlberg to attend a seminar on School Climate and Governance at Harvard University, where I shared how great it was to be an employee-owner. Over the years, I took on numerous roles throughout the company, adjusting my personality to every new role.

After experiencing personality conflicts at Allied Plywood, in the late 1980’s, I was encouraged to take a Dale Carnegie class called “Public Speaking and Human Relations.” After one of the teachers, Barbara Giallotta, handed me a tape, I became hooked on listening to motivational speakers including Tony Robbins, Dennis Waitely, Les Brown, Napolean Hill, Brian Tracy, and others. One of the lessons I learned was how to use matching and mirroring skills to become more persuasive. One day, while sitting in front of my parent’s house, I noticed a white dove on the electric line above and began using matching and mirroring techniques to see if I could persuade the dove to perch upon my palm. After about 10-15 minutes of matching and mirroring, adjusting my breathing and body posture to the bird, the dove decided to perch upon my palm. My mom witnessed the strange event from her window. On a whale watching trip around that time, I attracted a whale to my boat by whistling. For as long as I could remember, I had the gift of making people laugh. I was becoming increasingly aware of a gift I have of attracting people and animals. Meanwhile, I was becoming increasingly convinced that my personal values were no longer aligned with my company’s values anymore. The more I thought about getting married and having children, the more I thought about moving on. After 9-11, having built up a hoard of cash, having established a substantial line of credit, I left the company. Within a year, after testing the waters, I had decided to become a teacher. “Niche picking” led me to teaching, a career more suitable to my personality. (Berger, 73)

Family and Cultural History:

            My trait of hyper-focus is evident in both my parents and in what I know about several of my ancestors. After becoming involved in the Civil Rights Movement during the Kennedy Administration, my father learned about the teachings of Louis Kelso, and has been a tireless advocate of Kelso’s ideas since the1960’s. My mother taught herself how to read during while in Internment Camps during World War II. One of the first books she read was Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin. Driven by a goal of returning to the United States, after World War II, my mother managed to obtain a full scholarship to the University of Nebraska, despite having fewer than three years of formal education. My son displays the personality trait of hyper-focus when he plays video games. Just as my mother prepares for events obsessively, I do too.

            Risk-taking is another trait that I inherited from both parents. My grandfather on my mother’s side, Yunosuke Tsuchitani, who became an orphan at age 9, joined the Japanese Merchant Marines, and swam to America across the shark-infested waters of San Francisco Bay. Generations of Tsuchitani’s had gone to sea, fishermen from the island of Iwaishima. On my father’s side, my great-grandfather, Louis Kurlansky, was a blacksmith conscripted into the Czar’s army. He escaped with his family to America during the Japanese-Russo War. My father’s father, Ruben Kurlansky, married my grandmother Lena Cohen on a whim after attending a dance with a group of friends, and their had car broken down - on the long walk home, everyone in the group vowed to marry their date. As a young lawyer for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, my father, Norman Kurland, went to small towns in Mississippi and freed a number of Civil Rights leaders from jail during the 1960’s. A central story in my Jewish Heritage is the Exodus from Egypt to Israel. My brother rides motorcycles. I have a history of taking career risks.

Personal Charm is a trait I notice in my 97 year old grandmother, Masako Tsuchitani. Masako often used personal charm during postwar Japan to win gifts of food, which she brought home to her starving family. She continues to use that gift of to get people to help her remain in her apartment. My mother used to nurse sick birds back to health while in Internment Camps. After the war, in Japan, my grandfather became close with a chicken, which would roost on his bald head, while my mom became close with a pet goat. Both the chicken and the goat eventually had to be eaten. My father’s grandmother Fanny was a fixture in her Bridgeport, Connecticut neighborhood. She raised my father after he ran away from home at age 13. In sales and customer service positions, my ability to make customers feel important has been an asset. Today, I use my personal charm to develop rapport with students..

Connecting My Personality To Textbook Generalities:

According to the textbook, “personality patterns and cognitive skills are affected by thousands of genetic combinations.” (Berger, 73) While I can see how responses of others to my genetic makeup may have shaped their responses to me over the years, (Berger, 73) I have always felt that I was the master of my fate, the captain of my soul. With over half of my roughly 25,000 genes affecting my brain, however, it makes sense that my personality has been affected by genes, and that my genes have affected my choice of environments. (Berger, 73)

Berger, K. S. (2008). The developing person through the lifespan. New York: Worth.