We continue our analysis of John Galt’s Speech in Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand writes that the 3 primary values that guide man’s life are reason, purpose, and self-esteem.

Those values are supported by 7 cardinal virtues: productiveness, rationality, integrity, independence, honesty, justice, and pride.

Defining Productiveness

Ayn Rand writes:

Productiveness is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the fact that you choose to live

that productive work is the process by which man’s consciousness controls his existence, a constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one’s purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the image of one’s values

that all work is creative work if done by a thinking mind, and no work is creative if done by a blank who repeats in uncritical stupor a routine he has learned from others—

that your work is yours to choose, and the choice is as wide as your mind, that nothing more is possible to you and nothing less is human—

that to cheat your way into a job bigger than your mind can handle is to become a fear-corroded ape on borrowed motions and borrowed time, and to settle down into a job that requires less than your mind’s full capacity is to cut your motor and sentence yourself to another kind of motion: decay

that your work is the process of achieving your values, and to lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live

that your body is a machine, but your mind is its driver, and you must drive as far as your mind will take you, with achievement as the goal of your road—

that the man who has no purpose is a machine that coasts downhill at the mercy of any boulder to crash in the first chance ditch, that the man who stifles his mind is a stalled machine slowly going to rust, that the man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap, and the man who makes another man his goal is a hitchhiker no driver should ever pick up—

that your work is the purpose of your life, and you must speed past any killer who assumes the right to stop you, that any value you might find outside your work, any other loyalty or love, can be only travelers you choose to share your journey and must be travelers going on their own power in the same direction.

It’s our nature to be creative and productive. Whether you approach the world secularly or religiously, this is true. You have the responsibility to create value with the mind and body you’re gifted at birth. There is no other way to achieve fulfillment, than by using your mind and body to bend the world to purposes that fulfill you.

Happiness isn’t guaranteed, it’s earned.
Wealth isn’t a right, it’s created.
Emotional stability isn’t a default state, it’s earned.

And on the flip side:

Entropy won’t ignore you; it must be combated.
Complacency will starve you; it must be thwarted.
Power will corrupt you; it must be responsibly wielded.

In Objectivist morality, that which furthers man’s life is Good. Productiveness further’s man’s life, and is therefore Good. And I’d imagine even those with a Christian sense of morality could agree (hence the Protestant work ethic).

We are only limited in our capacity to be productive by our mind. Our mindset dictates the kinds of opportunities we seek out, feel receptive to, and act upon. If I believe I am capable of learning anything, an opportunity which requires gaining new skills does not daunt me. I will eagerly and hungrily devour the knowledge required to succeed in my new endeavors. However, if I believe I’m only good at a couple things and don’t like to learn, I’ll be stifled and stuck in the same monotonous life for years to come.

It is foolish and short-sighted to attempt to sneak into positions of authority and prestige without first becoming the kind of man who is worthy of wielding authority and prestige.

I’ve seen incompetent CEO’s, VP’s, and Managers. None of them deserved the title. In a dysfunctional company, incompetence from the top necessarily bleeds down the chain of hiring and casts a blight on the organization. Smart, hard-working people are weeded out, and weak, lazy schmoozers are welcomed in.

Eventually, the marketplace rewards incompetence with going out of business or getting fired. But such people usually prey upon others for years, snaking in and out of companies for just long enough to polish their resume for the next.

It makes them soul-dead. Being a human being and a parasite is almost a contradiction in terms. But some humans are not motivated by a will to live and thrive. Parasitical humans are motivated by a will to survive by sapping the vitality of others. Such is the nature of any complex system of organisms – productive hosts end up feeding parasites.

Equally as dangerous and repugnant is to accept work below your means, without damn good reason. This is not a universal law by any means. Even Ayn Rand’s characters like Howard Roark take menial labor jobs below their creative genius. Manual labor and part-time gigs can be refreshing reminders that while your body is working your mind can rest. And working your body only energizes your mind with time.

But if you’ve got an IQ of 135, but you’re a grocery store bagger full-time, there’s a problem. A tragic problem. Such a person is seeking self-annihilation of their own virtues. Something tragic has happened to them where they don’t feel safe or worthy to express or admit their intelligence. So they live in constant contradiction to their own nature as intelligent, productive, creative forces int he universe. Instead, they pursue menial, fruitless, wasteful endeavors that eat away at their souls.

I know such people. They are not happy.

Your work is the purpose of your life.

We must make it reflect the glory of who we are, what gifts we bring to the world, and our power to wield them responsibly.