The Philosophy of Achievement

Ayn Rand

Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had thought his brothers to light. He was considered an evil doer which have dealt with a demon mankind dreaded. But thereafter, man had fire to keep them warm, to keep their food, and to light their caves. He had left them a gift they had not conceived and he had lifted darkness off the earth. Centuries later, the first man invented the wheel. He was probably torn on the rack he had thought his brothers to build. He was considered a transgressor who ventured into a forbidden territory. But thereafter man could travel past any horizon. He had left them a gift they had not conceived and he had opened up the roads of the world.

That man, the unsubmissive and first stands in the opening chapter of every legend mankind had recorded about its beginning. Prometheus was chained to a rock and torn by vultures – because he had stolen the fires of the Gods. Adam was condemned to suffer because he had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Whatever the legend, somewhere in the shadow of its memory, mankind knew that his glory began with one and that one paid for his courage.

Throughout the centuries, there were men that took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed and the response they received – hatred. The great creators – the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors – stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anaesthesia was considered sinful. But the man of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they sufferred, and they paid. But they won.

No creator was prompted by the desire to serve his brothers. For his brothers rejected the gift he offered and that gift destroyed the slothful routine of their lifes. His truth was his only motive. His own truth and his own work to achieve it in his own way. A symphony, a book, an engine, a philosophy, an airplane, or a building – that was his goal and his life. Not those who heard, read, operated, believed, flew, or inhabited the thing he had created. The creation, not its users. The creation, not the benefit others derived from it. The creation which gave form to his truth. He held his truth above all things and against all men.

His vision, his strength, his courage came from his own spirit. A man’s spirit, is his self. That entity which is his consciousness. To think, to feel, to judge, to act are functions of the ego.

The creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power – that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount of energy, a lifeforce, a Prime Mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He had lived for himself.

And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things that were the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.

Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on Earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force. Man has no claw, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle. He must plant his food or hunt it. To plant, he needs the process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons and to make weapons – a process of thought. From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man – the function of his reasoning mind.

But the mind is an attribute of an individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of man is only a compromise or an average drawn among many individual thoughts. It is a secondary consequence. The primary act – the process of reason – must be performed by each man alone. We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot digest it in a collective stomach. No man can use his lungs to breath for another man. No man can use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared and transferred.

We inherit the products of the thought of other men. We inherit the wheel. We make a cart. The cart becomes an automobile. The automobile becomes an airplane. But all through the process, what we receive from others is only the end product of their thinking. The moving force is the creative faculty which takes this product as material, uses it and originates the next step. This creative faculty cannot be given or received, shared or borrowed. It belongs to single individual men. That which it creates is the property of the creator. Man learn from one another. But all learning is only the exchange of material. No man can give another the capacity to think. Yet that capacity is our only means of survival. Nothing is given to men.

~ Ayn Rand

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  1. […] Eternity in an Hour placed an observative post today on The Philosophy of AchievementHere’s a quick excerptAyn RandThousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had thought his brothers to light. He was considered an evil doer which have dealt with a demon mankind dreaded. But thereafter, man had fire to keep them warm, to keep their food, and to light their caves. He had left them a gift they had not conceived and he had lifted darkness off the earth. Centuries later, the first man invented the wheel. He was probably torn on the rack he had […]

  2. […] Posted by jamesesz on March 21, 2009 The Philosophy of Achievement […]



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