Nature or Nurture? How Tom Petty Developed His Strengths

How does strength begin?

In the documentary Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down a Dream, Tom Petty helps us see how his strengths developed. He talked about being inspired by 50s rock and roll as a kid, and about meeting Elvis (his Uncle was working on the film Follow That Dream). And he talked about seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show and immediately knowing what he wanted to be when he grew up.

In a Billboard interview he also said, “Maybe because my mother read a lot of me when I was a young guy. When I was two and three years old, she read a lot of nursery rhymes and things that were poetry. And I’m told that I had a really good memory, that I could memorize them all very young. My mom had a lot to do with making me aware of words, so that’s never been that hard for me.”

So strengths are nurtured right? Elvis, the Beatles, Mom, poetry, it all adds up.

But wait a moment, here’s another quote from that Billboard interview: Tom Petty

“It’s just something I was born with, mostly. A lot of areas that are hard for somebody else are really quite simple for me. I don’t know why that is.”

So it’s nature right?

According to strengths research, both statements are true – barring extraordinarily horrendous youthful lives, we’re 50/50 nature and nurture. If it’s both nature AND nurture, we’d be well suited to pay attention to our nature and how we nurture it. What passions have been with you since childhood? And how will you nurture your strengths today? What is your ‘Elvis/Beatles/Mom?


Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities:

StrengthsFinder – Gallup’s online assessment of unique top five strengths. Learn your team’s strengths and learn how to put them into action.
Strengths At Work – Gallup research says less than 20 percent of us have the opportunity to do what we do best everyday. Learn how to put your strengths in play for consistent, near-perfect performance.
At Your Best – Explore how to give your best and play to your strengths for sustained individual success.
Strong Management – Strengths based training for managers to help their people be at their best.

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