More on Ayn Rand's Influence on me, and why I work so hard.

October 22nd, 2009

Over at Volokh, it is Ayn Rand Day, as David Bernstein discusses the influence of Ayn Rand on his life. He writes:

Second, Rand, with her celebration of man’s potential and achievement, has inspired many people to strive to fulfill their potential, including me.  Rand didn’t influence my political views very much; I was already a libertarian when I read her work, and had already read Friedman, Hayek, Nozick, Rothbard, Sowell, and many others.  But she did help change my outlook on life.

I was always a very successful student, but always a very lazy one.  When I arrived in college, my basic career goal was to find an easy but reasonably well-paying job, and do the minimum necessary to maintain it.  I indeed wound up finding a job, in academia, that allows many people to do this.  But in the meantime, reading Rand, along I’m sure with less obvious influences that I can’t identify easily, led me to want to be an achiever, not just a time-server. The glow of Rand’s writing eventually wore off, but I found that I really enjoyed being a scholar, working hard at it, and being good at it.  As a result, I’ve worked much harder in my career than I ever did in high school or college.  And the feeling of satisfaction I get when I work hard and publish something I think worthwhile is far great than I ever got from my effortless A average in college.

I had a very similar experience, but slightly different. I always worked hard. As long as I can remember I studied more than most, I engaged in sundry entrepreneurial endeavours, and I always sought to separate myself from others based on sweat on the brow and mental exertions.

My first year of Law School, I worked 40 hours a week and attended evening classes. My second year of Law School I worked about 30 hours a week (don’t tell the ABA), maxed out at 17 credits, was on Law Review and VP of Mason’s Federalist Society.  My third year I cut back to 25 hours a week, maxed out at 17 credits, Articles Editor on Law Review, published an article in the Santa Clara Law Review, and VP of Fed Soc. As a law clerk, I work more hours than most of my fellow clerk friends, and spend many hours every night working on my scholarship and writing.

But why work so hard? After reading Rand, I realized that hard work was an essential aspect of who I am.

One of my favorite quotes in Atlas Shrugged turns Descartes on his head. It is not, “I think therefore I am.” It is, “I am therefore, I think.”

An essential aspect of who I am is my ability to think and reason. And the natural extension of my thoughts and reasoning, are my work. I love what I do, and I do what I love. For me, working hard is not toil or work in the colloquial sense. I loathe watching television, or other mind-numbing activities. Wasting time is an anathema to my life. I enjoy pushing my mind to its limits, and working as hard as I can at all times.

For this reason, I owe Rand a great debt.  And I suspect many other hard workers and minds of our society owe Rand a thank you as well.