Giving Work The Finger


I’m currently researching my next book. It’ll be about adding ten years to your productive life. Expanding lifespans in developed countries are tarnished by the physical diseases and decay of affluence. Retirement for many is becoming a shifting goalpost, a political football or an unwelcome concept from last century. Now seems a great time to write about the topic of stretching out the good and productive years. We’re living longer so we may as well live better and make a few more bucks along the way. Or not – on the bucks front anyways. I’m already reading much about how money, above a certain level, doesn’t make that much difference in terms of quality of life. Though below that level, it will diminish the quantity of life you end up with.

A consistent theme throughout the new book will be overlapping and inter-connectedness – a systems approach. Certainly, when you get to the sections on our bodies and how our physical systems work (or don’t), this becomes incredibly evident.

This next bit might be more of a laugh than anything factually helpful but it is a conversation starter. I use it when MCing conferences to get a buzz going and the noise and enthusiasm levels up amongst the audience.

John Manning studied the relationship between our finger lengths and certain health outcomes. Look at the photo below of my hand and how I’ve marked the difference in length between my ring finger (4D) and my index finger (2D.) Check out your own 4D:2D ratio. They’ve been the same your whole life and they’re not going to change. It’s supposed that their relative lengths are a consequence of exposure to differing levels of testosterone in the womb as a foetus.

So what? Manning’s study of Liverpool heart attach victims’ fingers found a high ratio (like mine) has a correlation with lower heart attack risk. It’s good for sport. It’s bad for depression. It’s terrible for autism. Manning himself describes his findings as, “Persuasive but not yet definitive.” Why am I even bothering to finish this paragraph? You’re too busy trying to stretch your fingers or finding a friend to check out their fingers before you tell them why…

About Terry Williams - The Brain-Based Boss

I'm all about engaging people and helping you engage yours to influence behaviour to improve results - at work and at home. Maybe you're a manager, a salesperson, a leader, a parent, a presenter or an event organiser? You need to grab your people's attention, create some rapport, be memorable and influence behaviour change. How can we do that? I'm originally a trainer by trade, turned manager, turned comedian and partway back again. Author of 'THE GUIDE: How to kiss, get a job & other stuff you need to know', I write and speak about how to engage people, be they employees, family or yourself. How can we connect with people’s own internal motivations and help them use their own inner passions to drive towards productivity, success and happiness? And hopefully have a few laughs along the way... As a trainer facilitating learning and development in others, I find myself drawing on my own extensive business experience. I specialise in the delivery of high impact, customised training solutions for organisations that are serious about improving the performance and lives of their people.

Posted on October 28, 2013, in Health And Wellness, Personal Productivity, Workplace Of Choice and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Terry – another interesting blog post. I’d never realised that the relative lengths of people’s fingers differed! Mine are markedly different to yours judging from the picture above, as my index finger is longer than my ring finger on both hands. I thought everyone’s index fingers would be longer, but clearly that isn’t true in your case. Can you really tell things from this? Will you be covering it in your book?

    • Hi Mark. I hadn’t planned to cover it much beyond what I’ve written here. The general theme of the book is that our life and health are 30% genetic luck and 70% lifestyle choices. The finger-length thing is one example of luck. It’s not conclusive but the research indicates the testosterone exposure in the womb might enhance athleticism but mean higher likelihood of depression – for example. Me, I use it as a conversation starter because what’s done is done ‘womb-wise’ and my book will focus on that other 70% over which we actually have some control. We can’t change our finger length but we can reduce our consumption of processed foods etc.

      I don’t even know if the finger thing is a normal distribution? We should start a survey!! Thanks for your comment. Get a conversation going amongst your network on finger relativity…

  2. Thanks for the response, Terry. On the one hand (no pun intended…) it seems remarkable to me that relative finger lengths would have anything to do with testosterone exposure in the womb, particularly given that our relative finger lengths seem so different. On the other, I am admittedly not very athletic and useless at most sports, so this warrants further investigation… I’m going to try it out on the guys at work tomorrow! Out of interest, would you say you were good at sports / athletic or not? The book sounds really interesting – like you say, you can’t change your finger lengths in any event, but you can change your lifestyle.

  3. National League basketball is very impressive, Terry. I tested out the theory on a few colleagues at work last week too and, much to my amazement, am beginning to think it may have some validity. I was surprised to find that all of the other guys had a longer ring finger, to varying degrees, but it did seem to correlate strongly with athleticism. One of the guys had relative finger lengths similar to yours and was a professional rugby player for a time, while the other chap with a much longer ring finger has always played a lot of soccer and captained various teams while at school and university. I was, on the other hand, always one of the last to be picked for any team sports at school (soccer, basketball, rugby, cricket, you name it…). I also tended to be one of the worst at track and field events, often finishing in last place. Now I think I might know why! I can see why you use the theory as a conversation starter as it certainly got people chatting in the office and looking at each others’ hands. Looks like you got a bucketful of testosterone and I didn’t get much!

  4. You might be right there, Terry. I’m usually happy and upbeat and people often compliment me on my sunny disposition! Like most things I’m sure there are pros and cons to being exposed to differing levels of testosterone in the womb. That said, was it not pretty awesome when you read the theory for the first time, looked at your hand and saw that your ring finger totally dwarfs your index finger?

  5. You’re a little bit behind the curve on the digit ratio research, Terry. The University of Florida completed a detailed study into digit ratio using mice a couple of years back and proved conclusively that relative digit length is indeed governed by prenatal exposure to the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen: You might also find John Manning’s response to this research of interest: Taking this study into account, I don’t think you should be suggesting that digit ratio is not factually useful or that Manning does not view his theory as definitive, when he has clearly now found the proof that he was looking for.

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