There is a debate going on in our society: nature vs. nurture, genes vs. environment, past vs. future.
Most people never really think about what this means. They go about life with wants and desires but never think about how they can change or move forward.
But there is a reality to this argument that we all have to confront, whether we choose to or not.
Can we create our future?
You will answer that question every single day that you are alive.
Did You Know that Rubbing Your Toes Makes You Smarter?
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
‒ Sun Tzu
I previously shared some stories about my grandmother, Deanna Omron. She was an amazing woman.
One memory I have of her, though, perfectly fits this concept.
My mother had four kids. She gave her mother — my grandmother — the task of helping to put 7-year-old me to bed during the many summer days that she came to visit.
We would talk and laugh before bed. She would help me memorize my address and phone number and any number of other important things. She told some great stories.
But I have never forgotten one thing she told me: if I rubbed my toes right before bed, I would be smarter the next day. So right before bed, we said prayers and then she kissed me goodnight. She then rubbed my toes for a few minutes, and then got up to leave me for the night.
And as she left I rubbed my toes before falling asleep.
I rubbed my toes every single night for nearly a decade after that.
At first, I did not notice much of a difference.
But I kept rubbing my toes almost religiously every single night. I did this for years.
In middle school, I received top grades. In high school, I received perfect grades — never less than an A in any class.
When other kids would ask me how I earned the grades that I did, I was not sure what to tell them. I actually remember telling a select few people about my feet ritual: rub your toes at night — you will be smarter the next day.
I finished as the valedictorian of my high school class and gave an epic speech at graduation (I think so at least).
If you asked me then, I was convinced that my nighttime ritual of rubbing my toes made me considerably “smarter” and resulted in my perfect grades in high school.
“Remember that what you possess in this world will be found at the day of your death and belong to someone else; what you are will be yours forever.”
‒ Henry Van Dyke
While I was in college, my grandmother was hit with a second round of lymphoma. It was a tough time.
I remember visiting her for what was likely the last time. She was resting, alone. There was an opportunity to speak with her without anyone else — just me and her. So I grabbed the opportunity and walked into her room.
I remember not knowing what to say in those moments. I wanted to say goodbye. And thank you. And I love you. But I could not say anything.
I sat at the end of the bed she was resting on.
I slowly grabbed one of her feet.
And I started rubbing her toes, just like she did for me all of those years ago.
She looked at me and laughed for a moment. She asked me what I was doing. I did not know what to say, but this is what came out.
Do you remember when you used to rub my toes at night? I thought I would return the favor.
She smiled. And then I told her about the impact that it had on me.
It worked! You told me that if I rubbed my toes every night before bed, I would be smarter.
And then I listed all of the accomplishments that this amazing ritual had generated.
She started laughing. And then almost crying.
Why are you laughing? I asked.
And then she said something that resonates with me nearly every day.
She said, “I have no idea if that is true. I only told you that so you would go to sleep.”
I was amazed. Slightly shocked. But we laughed together.
That was the last time that I spent with her alone.
In my own quiet moments, I have asked myself countless times…
Is there some scientific evidence about a connection between rubbing your toes and intelligence? Maybe there are nerve endings that connect certain parts of our body to our brains?
Did rubbing my toes every night make me smarter?
Or was it something else?
I wrote this article to ask the questions — not to tell you the answers.
But I will say this: how you answer that question is important.
“Do anything you are big enough to do.”
— Sam Walton
You Are Not Simply a Product of Your Past
“Sublime is the dominion of the mind over the body, that, for a time, can make flesh and nerve impregnable, and string the sinews like steel, so that the weak become so mighty.”
‒ Harriet Beecher Stowe
When sports teams study their opponents, they look at the film from prior games.
The best teams intensely study what worked and did not work. They look for strengths and weaknesses. They look for opportunities.
Why do the best teams do this?
Because it works.
In general, most people tend to do what they have always done.
But it does not need to be that way.
Even better sports team study their own film. They look at the past and know this: the film from the past is not the future. Each player can make choices to act differently. The next game is not determined by the film from the last game.
The same is true for all of us.
Our past does not have to dictate our future.
Can Your Thoughts Make You Taller?
“No one doubts — certainly not I — that the mind exercises a powerful influence over the body… Physicians cure many patients with a bread pill; they know that where the disease is only a fancy, the patient’s confidence in the doctor will make the bread pill effective.”
‒ Mark Twain
Is your height strictly determined by your genes? Or maybe by your diet as well?
Most people think that your genes determine your height. You have DNA that you inherit from your biological parents. Then those genes determine how tall you are going to be.
Some people might add that your diet and environment play a role as well. If you have the proper food and nutrition, the expression of your biology might also play a role in your height.
But what about your mind?
What about your beliefs?
Can your thoughts make you taller?
How you answer that question is much more important than I answer it.
Mark Sisson provides an illuminating example to think about:
- Is it logical (or even possible) that a person could grow to six feet six inches tall when the person’s parents were well under six feet tall? And no siblings were over six feet either?
- What if that same person devoted his entire life to sports — wanting to be the best? What if he put all his time and energy into his sport and nothing else?
- Can a man will himself to grow to be able to play sports at the highest level?
- Is it possible that if someone needs to have a physical trait, like height, then he could think and believe and desire to have that trait so deeply that his body bends to his will?
- Can your thoughts make you taller?
What do you think?
Can biology follow thoughts and desires as much as genes or environment?
- Michael Jordan is at least 6’6” tall.
- His parents were no taller than 5’9” and 5’5”.
- His siblings were under six feet.
- In one summer, after he famously did not make the varsity basketball team, he grew over four inches.
Do you think that Michael Jordan grew because of his biology, or because he had to grow — he needed to be tall?
Did Michael Jordan will himself to grow so he could be better at basketball?
Does it even matter what you think? Or just what he thought at the time?
You either believe or you don’t.
Belief becomes reality.
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