October 17, 2014

On the way out of the building after work one evening, I noticed a nice quote about creativity, a topic I have been tracking. The quote read:

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve.

Nice idea, right? My confusion with the quote, however, was with the source: Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Virtue of Selfishness. I understood from reading Atlas Shrugged that Ayn believed in laissez-faire capitalism, and so this must, in her mind, lead to creativity. But Ayn took her philosophy to its end game with The Virtue of Selfishness, positing that ultimate progress comes from key leaders who focus not on the needs of the many and not on the needs of their partners and constituents, but on their own self-interests (i.e. selfishness). However, Ayn’s full quote is:

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not the desire to beat others.

Really, Ayn? I believe this quote, but did you? How does this jive with your idea that true progress is found in selfishness? If we are selfish (and we are!) then what do we care if our achievements arrive at the expense of others?  

This led me to a discussion one evening with my son about Blake Shelton on The Voice. One of the things that aggravates me most about his behavior on the show, besides his cussing, is how he walks down the line of judges, pointing and saying, “Ah Ha” at each of them when he has acquired a very good singer to his team. Whether he is being playful, or playing the role of the cheerful villain, he is clearly demonstrating that his creative motivation to achieve includes the desire to beat others—to win because of their loss. If his “team” is just “Blake’s Boo’s” then his methods are not unsound—until they get to the Knockout Rounds! But I submit that his “team” is the entirety of The Voice and all the best talent that they can get. And clearly his antics show a culturally-driven acceptance of the virtue of selfishness.

I then watched a press conference with Peyton Manning. If you follow the NFL, you may have heard that Peyton Manning stands on the brink of the all-time touchdown pass record. As I write this, he is just two TD passes away from the record. Read more…