We continue our analysis of John Galt’s Speech in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, from pages 935-936.

Sales: The Most Virtuous Profession

Ayn Rand writes:

  “The symbol of all relationships among such men, the moral symbol of respect for human beings, is the trader.

We, who live by values, not by loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit.

A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved.

A trader does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does he ask to be loved for his flaws.

A trader does not squander his body as fodder or his soul as alms. Just as he does not give his work except in trade for material values, so he does not give the values of his spirit—his love, his friendship, his esteem—except in payment and in trade for human virtues, in payment for his own selfish pleasure, which he receives from men he can respect.

The mystic parasites who have, throughout the ages, reviled the traders and held them in contempt, while honoring the beggars and the looters, have known the secret motive of their sneers: a trader is the entity they dread—a man of justice.

All of Atlas Shrugged’s heroes are business leaders. They all operate vast enterprises vital to the success of society. They bear the weight of responsibility, so they can continue to grow as individuals and take their enterprises to the next level.

Dagny opens the John Galt line almost 2 decades into her career. Hank Rearden releases Rearden Metal to the public after over 10 years of research. They never stop becoming better. They are always pushing their capacity to self-lead to new heights, and in doing so, are able to lead better in the business world.

Success in business is a function of personal character. We must be virtuous to succeed. Only those who are consistently honest, hard-working, conscientious, receptive to feedback, empathetic, courageous, wise, just, careful, energetic, creative, and curious will win in the long-term. We must be committed to learning and growing, or someone younger and hungrier will surpass you.

Improving your personal character is good for the world. Everyone around you benefits from you showing up as a healthier, wiser, smarter version of yourself. The world is desperate for healthy functioning leaders. Millions are jaded towards humanity because they’ve never encountered one, ever.

Sales is the profession with the highest ROI on self-improvement. Nothing else comes even remotely close.

Ayn Rand uses the word “trade” – I’m going to narrow that down to something relatable. Trade is abstract; it includes barter, sales, gifting, etc. Sales is specific and something we do every day.

If you wish to become good at sales, you must practice empathetic listening. You must understand people’s pain and suffering, care genuinely, and point them to a solution. Sales is about solving problems for other people, and profiting from it. The better you are are at solving people’s problems, the more money you make. It’s that simple.

Sales does not require sacrificing your conscience or values. Success in sales requires alignment with your values. You do not have to sell products you don’t believe in to succeed. You will never be truly successful in sales unless you believe your product has the capacity to help people. If you yourself are not sold, you should stop selling immediately.

You will only serve as an inauthentic force of self-destruction and self-erasure selling that which you don’t believe in – and as an authentic force of generative problem solving selling that which you do believe in.

One of the greatest rewards of self-improvement is the ability to be selective in who you surround yourself with.

Average consciousness on Earth today is being “asleep”. People are coping with life’s problems with drugs, wasting away on TV / social media, following a design for living that someone else invented for them, propagandized with little remaining capacity to think originally – you get the picture. It’s bleak.

But as you climb out of the dungeon of average consciousness, a whole new world emerges. Situations and circumstances mysteriously change around you. New possibilities, people, ideas, inspirations, events, and experiences flood into your consciousness. The world seems new again, as is your ability to navigate it successfully.

You find people who are on the same journey of waking up. They see you and you see them. After a certain point, these people make up the bulk of your relationships. When you’ve reached this point, you can be selective in who you allow into your life.

A moat protects a castle from invaders, because the castle contains a vast treasure. Your life is that treasure, and the castle you build to protect it is your character and virtue. Your moat is the company you keep – friends and allies who are wise perhaps in ways you’re not, who care about you deeply, who point out your blind spots when you need it most.

Trade is only possible when two parties have potential value to exchange. Trade in friendship, trade in love, trade in business partnership – all trade requires reciprocal value. So we must become valuable. It is within our power to do so. There are obstacles which stand in our way, but we must ignore them. We must seek those who themselves wish to become valuable, and be with them. They are fellow travelers on the same path. Without them, we’ll perish on our journey.

Together, we can build castles which stand the test of time.