Atlas Shrugged, then and now.

I wasn’t much of a reader or wordsmith until I quit my job and started my own business. It was September 3, 1993, my first day starting my own company.  It was a similar feeling when my wife and I bought our first house. Some American dreams come true. That was 1993 and I was embarking on my goal to control my own destiny. I was married for 13 years at the time and only had two kids. Regarding reading in high school, I’d get a book assignment and would run to Ulbrichs for the Monarch notes. All my National Honor Society Club friends read things in their entirety.

That first day in 1993. My business partner bought me an eclectic mix of books, “Swim with the Sharks”, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, “Siddhartha” and a unique mix with the philosopher Will Durant and his wife and a few history books which made the reading exciting.  All the books had their own unique relevance to what was going on in my life at the time. I had a non-compete to sit out and my walkabout began.

I was pleasantly surprised that these books were so in sync to this “zone” I was in. Armed with a dictionary and a fine point pen, I became an avid reader and autodidact. I’d put question marks next to words I didn’t know and scribble notes in the margins as my mind was curious. I’ll never reach Gore Vidal’s breadth of words but yet I’m sure I’d score better on my English SAT’s current day.

Five years later in 1998, a client was spending a lot of time hiring people from us. Together we staffed her bustling business she was empowered to run and we became close friends. We had an early morning work ethic and would meet early at my office to interview candidates together. We forged a lifelong relationship. She loved the energy of the office. She asked me if I’d like to meet her boss, a rather prominent member of our community and tell my story. How do I turn that down?

My friend hosted a beautiful lunch at a swanky restaurant. What a treat.  I was never one to complain about meeting new people and forging relationships.   I met her boss and told her my story. She asked me if I read and I could confidently say “yes.” She recommended I read “Atlas Shrugged.” Once I got past page 50 I couldn’t put it down. I still have the original book and the crib notes littered throughout the pages.  What I didn’t know then about that book was this.

It was a great time in my life to be introduced to Ayn Rand and her ideology. At the time (1998) I can’t remember a time since a book has had such an impact on my worldview.  My own personal weltanschauung.  When I look back, I think Rand’s words were so striking at first because there was such a sense of invigorating creativity.  Her heroes were strong and unapologetically superior. I was motivated by their vitality.  Since then the book is often mentioned as I continue my journey. Most recently with the crash of FTX, the Enron meltdown post 2002 and the real estate bust in 2007.

Two years ago (2020) I found myself going back to Ayn Rand.  My Kindle notes were in contrast with my notes back from the 1998 read. On my first read of her book in 1998, I was searching for my own identity. Her”objectivism” philosophy was very helpful at the time. I have read all her books since then. 

Time has changed and my needs have changed.  What I know now (2022) is I love to read through Rand to remind myself that the most fundamental and undeniable certainty of all is the self. The self is the root of all accomplishments and thoughts.  I found Rand was a philosopher that values action over contemplation, the possible over the actual. Hess’s Sid Hartha was another great book relating to the self.

Having worked with hundreds of CEOs including second generation businesses, start-up entrepreneurs and their companies for the past 38+ years of my career, I can frankly say that most of my clients care deeply and those who rely on them for jobs.  It may seem like a struggle for some, but it is the way the world is, and as one of my mentors taught me, “people born round don’t die square. Deal with it and make it right.” 

I own my own company and employ people and pay people commensurate with what they bring to the party. They are treated like family. That said, everybody doesn’t get paid the same because everybody doesn’t bring the same thing to the party. There are those that don’t contribute. If one is  willing to sponge off other people for everything they have, they are replaced and the hard earned money goes towards someone who does more to contribute.

I also work for candidates that are treated poorly and aren’t paid what they think they are worth. For them it’s time to get them to another company and to prove they are worth more and get paid accordingly. In order for that to work they actually have to be worth something and be willing to work. There is a symbiotic relationship between those who can create jobs and those that strive to do better.

As I approach the 30 year anniversary of my company I forever value what we have in this country. I came to appreciate Ayn Rand. She lived in a  Communist society.  She saw a world when the people in power had wealth and  prosperity while the masses suffered with shortages of basic necessities.  My mother in law was 13 years old when WW2 ended. She and her family were likely part of the group that had scarce resources and suffered daily after the war. Life in Germany at the time was desolate. She met a serviceman and got out of Germany in 1953. That serviceman died tragically 15 years in. She defined her life on her own.  I think that left an indelible mark on her. Ayn Rand and my mother-in-law share a common experience.  They came to America and forged a new life full of opportunity and freedom. I think that is what resonates with me. A person who said he never had a chance is a person who never took one. Some American dreams do come true.

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