Ok, I have just finished reading The Fountainhead and I am under the influence. So drugged by the philosophy of ethical egotism and objectivism that I am going to take up Atlas Shrugged soon (I went looking for it some time back at Shopper’s Stop in Rajouri Gardens; the buggers had it in the system and not on the rack, to mine and their amusement!).
I am not going to harp about The Fountainhead as already has been said enough, and more than enough read and consumed. Being a marketer I am going to put before some useful lessons that us creative brains can put into use to do justice to our profession, career and our souls (even if it sounds dramatic).
So, here comes the fountain of quotations from my head:
1. Peter Keating: “Do you always have to have a purpose? Do you always have to be so damn serious? Can’t you ever do things without reason, just like everybody else? You’re so serious, so old. Everything’s important with you. Everything’s great, significant in some way, every minute, even when you keep still. Can’t you ever be comfortable–and unimportant?” | Howard Roark: “No.”
Howard Roark, the protagonist and self-believing architect, believes in sense of purposeness and evaluates everything thru the lens of meaning and reason. You cannot do everything without reason, because a task without reason is a task without heart. Every task is undertaken for self-gratification, and without that it loses its meaning.
Every creative task, similarly, needs to have a reason and a clear objective.
2. “He worshipped expertness of any kind. He loved his work passionately and had no tolerance for anything save for other single-track devotions. He was a master in his own filed and felt no sympathy except for mastery. His view of the world was simple: there were the able and there were the incompetent; he was not concerned with the latter.
Another passage that describes Howard Roark, who again illustrates that every task needs to be undertaken with single minded devotion and needs to be supported with a competent workforce. A perfectionist, Howard Roark, emphatically believed in working with the competent (who could match his focus, devotion and obsession) and had to regard for the no-doers.
Every leader, visionary or successful artist surrounds himself with a set of hard working and painstaking people who can relentlessly and tirelessly work towards achievement and making success.
3. “Roark: “I don’t make comparisons. I never think of myself in relation to anyone else. I just refuse to measure myself as part of anything. I’m an utter egotist.”
“I am a man who does not exist for others”.
Once I read somewhere that most companies focus on competition, instead the focus should be on customer. Like Morgan Freeman (aka Red) said in The Shawshank Redemption: “The man is institutionalized”.
That’s the problem with most of the creative artists, marketers and admen; they have been reduced to a bunch of second-handers. When you take someone else’s work as a benchmark, you lose your own originality, your own creation is suppressed by an external work of influence.
4. “[Roark to Keating:] If you want my advice, Peter,” he said at last, “you’ve made a mistake already. By asking me. By asking anyone. Never ask people. Not about your work. Don’t you know what you want? How can you stand it, not to know?”
One of the most stirring quotes from The Fountainhead. Howard Roark, the talented yet struggling architect advices the leading yet mediocre architect Keating to induce self-belief in himself, take his own decisions, and not lean on someone else for support. Roark, a man who has immense self-belief and passion for work, advices Keating to be original be sure about his wants.
5. “Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others. But the creator is the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current. But the creator is the man who goes against the current. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man who stands alone. Men have been taught that the ego is the synonym of evil, and selflessness the ideal virtue. But the creator is the egoist in the absolute sense, and the selfless man is the one who does not think, feel, judge, or act. These are functions of the self.”
Howard Roark, in his defense during the hearing, speaks out before an illustrious audience the characteristics of a creator, of how he sees the world differently and is free from the conventional wisdom, how he is a rebellious in his way of thought, how he is a prisoner to his own way of perceiving and acting.
The creator is born with or develops a unique perception that defies the nonsensical knowledge that has been passed for generations, and the creator is not clouded with the knowledge of the past.
A similar thought was once echoed by the Buddha centuries back: “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
6. “It’s simple to seek substitutes for competence–such easy substitutes:
love, charm, kindness, charity. But there is no substitute for competence.
“That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for
facts, ideas, work. They’re concerned only with people. They don’t ask: ’Is this
true?’ They ask: ’Is this what others think is true?’ Not to judge, but to
repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show.
Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world
without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egotists. You don’t
think through another’s brain and you don’t work through another’s hands. When
you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness. To
stop consciousness is to stop life. Second-handers have no sense of reality.”
Howard Roark, in his final speech, once again draws the line between the creator and the second-hander. I won’t paraphrase it, as the message is clean as water.