What Ayn Rand Can Teach You About CRE
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Ayn Rand is long-winded.
She tends toward beating a concept into her reader and relentlessly emphasizing the stances of both the heroes and antagonists in her stories. She tells you almost every thought of every character in every section of the story. She tells you about character posture, facial expressions, and un-felt emotions. Can you see why each of her masterworks easily eclipse 1000 pages?
Having said that, Rand was probably one of the most brilliant authors of the past hundred years. She had the unnerving ability to take a concept at it’s most basic and follow that thought to its most extreme and ultimate consequence. For example, she takes the idea that “man should live to serve other men” and takes it to its furthest and most damaging consequences. It really is astounding.
She also had a talent for describing the inner thought lives of brilliant men and women. In her pages, she will describe the most secret thoughts of her antagonists and protagonists without making them appear as caricatures. She makes both sides of the argument seem believable while making the heroes out as obviously correct.
She had an amazing grasp for the inner workings of high-industry and an economist’s grasp of the consequences of capitalistic ventures. She convincingly describes the fundamental trials of the architecture, railroad, and steel industries in the early twentieth century American economy.
She was a master philosopher who chose fictional stories as her argumentative medium.
All that, and English was her second language. She was born in Russia and migrated to the US in her adolescence. One of her first jobs was as an extra in a Cecil B DeMille movie.
Anyway, that’s who Ayn Rand was and what she wrote about was objectivism and individualism. Objectivism is the idea that there is an objective morality for humanity to discover. One need only discover it. Individualism has several different extensions, but for our purposes we will take individualism to mean that people put supreme importance in the individual and individual accomplishment rather than societal good or societal accomplishment.
On the surface, these may seem extremely selfish or self-centered themes of philosophy, but Rand has the skilled hand of an artist when it comes to illustrating these philosophies and their most stark consequences. In chapter after chapter she shows the heroes acting “selfishly” when they refuse to compromise or apologize for their achievements. The antagonists are continuously whining about “the greater good” and the “greatest social benefit.” She shows the absurdity of acting based on social obligation or guilt rather than ambition and achievement.
Frankly, its a bit disturbing how similar these social complaints are to today’s political world. This is not a political site, but I would challenge you to read Atlas Shrugged or the Fountainhead and not be reminded of our current political system.
Anyway, what does all this have to do with commercial real estate in Atlanta, GA?
Rand believed in unadulterated capitalism. She was an extreme capitalist who believed that the only truly free economy was the laissez-faire free market economy. Anyone coerced through guilt to produce or create something different than what they would produce in a totally free market has been cheated by the system and should therefore reject the system. She has a remarkable story in Atlas Shrugged about what would happen if all the beggars in the world got to rule all the producers and achievers. It’s actually quite terrifying.
So, for commercial real estate, what would Ms. Rand suggest?
I think she would say “Do what you think is best for yourself and your family. No matter what.”
Now, be careful not to confuse this stance with Hedonism. Hedonism is a philosphy that espouses doing whatever brings you the most pleasure at that moment. That is not what Rand is suggesting. She simply thinks that ambition and accomplishment can only TRULY be driven by striving toward self-advancement.
You could summarize her sentiments as follows:
“I want my family to have wonderful things. Therefore I will create create widgets in order to make money and provide for them.”
Rand would say that you can’t guilt people into greatness. Henry Ford didn’t invent the production line in order to serve a greater good. He did it to improve his company and gain wealth for himself and his family. Ayn would probably argue that every great invention in history stemmed from ambition and accomplishment-for-accomplishment’s-sake, rather than social or moral duty. Your duty is to yourself and your family first, not society.
So, back to CRE, I think Rand would tell you that you should do whatever you think is best for your career and your family. Advance yourself as much as possible and try to achieve extraordinary results. Don’t depend on others to help you or to push you into greatness. Do it on your own merits by pulling yourself up to greatness by whatever means are appropriate. Achievement and accomplishment are noble goals worth reaching for and no one ever became extraordinary because of their social duty.
She would tell you to ignore and even pity all of those people who would make you feel guilty for your success or who would call you greedy because of your drive toward achievement. They will call you selfish or greedy and their opinions are worth next-to-nothing. They are the freeloaders who want the help of the achievers. They cannot achieve anything great for themselves and will therefore try and make you feel guilty for your accomplishments. They want to bring you down to their level. Ms. Rand would tell you to ignore them.
While I do not agree with everything that Rand argues in her two major novels, I do agree with her point on achievement. “Socially conscious” individuals try to make achievers feel guilty for their accomplishments and I can’t help but think of John Galt and Howard Roark (the two novels’ heroes). Galt and Roark wouldn’t care about the guilt-mongers and their psychological abuse. They wouldn’t care about what anyone said about them or did to them. They would keep going and keep achieving. So should you. Aspire to greatness and ignore anyone who tries to get in your way.
I will leave you with one a parallel quote from late philosopher Dr. Suess. He doesn’t summarize all of Rand’s philosophies, but he does eloquently summarize the mentality to beat the guilt-mongers.
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
So here’s a toast to Howard Roark, John Galt, and you. Achievers who were not deterred or even slowed by naysayers, doubters, or the “socially conscious.”