Friday, August 20, 2010

That Rand Craze

I'm sure I'm not the only person who's life was substantially impacted by something they read in their youth. For me, two novels by Ayn Rand -- The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged -- did just that.

Prior to reading them, I was sort of floating along in school, not really putting out a lot of effort. Afterwards, I was certain that I wanted to some day be Hank Reardon or Francisco d'Anconia (hope I remembered those names right!). I had a goal and a purpose, and I cleared the decks in preparation to direct most of my energies toward achieving that goal.

Although I was more comfortable with Literature and writing, I set that aside and focused on science and math (truthfully, I always did like science, too). I used the drive created by the goal to shape my efforts and achievements.

Along the way, though, something happened. The drive petered out. Maybe it was a realization that the author of my fantasy, Ayn Rand, wasn't the kind of person she wrote about. Maybe it was the realization that the characters I fell in love with were, at best -- abstractions, or at worst -- fantasies. Maybe it was realizing that the business world did not really work the way it did in her novels. For sure it was realizing that leaders (at least of public corporations) lacked the freedom to act in the way the characters did in her stories.

The funny thing is -- I accomplished a lot along the way, much of it good. I felt I was true to my standards and ideals. But the victories (if you want to call them that) feel hollow.

I wonder how unique my experience is. Certainly others have been strongly motivated by something they read at some stage. Even a few perhaps by Ayn Rand.

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