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Why are the heroes in Atlas Shrugged good-looking?

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Cbaoth
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I am about 80% through Atlas Shrugged and it seems that all the "hero" characters in the book especially the big 3 "galt, ragnar and francisco" seem to have suave strong personalities, not to mention the many references to there good looks. In your opinions is this just done to reinforce the Hero image or maybe just how Rand saw competent successful people?

Do you think these are important traits to have in the business world. I am more of a shy, reserved type personality and am thinking this will probably hold me back from rising the ranks?

Thanks,

David

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I agree with Feldblum.

In regard to your second question, being shy and reserved could defintely hold you back from getting better jobs (or simply getting a job out of college) and being generally successful in the business world.

Although I doubted it when I first showed up to business school last year (undergraduate), networking is SO important to getting internships and your first job. By networking here I mean actively seeking out and developing contacts with recruiters and employees at firms that you are interested in working at.

There are a few reasons why networking is so important.

1. You can only learn so much from a company's website about what it is like working there. Meeting people who actually work at a firm will give you real idea of what a specific job is like. From there, you can make an educated decision about whether you even want to consider that specific job.

2. Knowing the recruiters is a great advantage in the interview process coming out of school. If you have talked to a recruiter and have shown enthusiasm about learning about their company, they will remember you, which is basically a foot in the door for an interview.

3. If you know more people, it's more likely that you'll hear about some opportunity. For example, my friend's Dad's company was looking for an intern. He knew I was a business student and got in touch with me. I interviewed, got the job, and had an incredibly rewarding experience.

Also, you may want to tame your shyness for the reason that if you go into business you will be working with other people every single day. You need to be able to communicate effectively with people to solve the problems you'll be confronted with.

However, don't be discouraged. If I were you, I'd do some serious thinking. Perhaps you should think about why you are shy, and then ask why the heroes of Ayn Rand's fiction are not.

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On the other hand, even if you are a quiet shy type, that doesn't necessarily hold you back in business -- depending on what type of business. Shyness makes a sales job difficult, for example, but other types of business are still wide open.

I own my own business, real estate appraisal and investment, which is very project- and information-oriented, rather than people-oriented. I do fine, and enjoy the job very much. (Unfortunately, I learned the hard way, starting off as perhaps the world's worst salesman.)

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I've seen shyness hold people back at every level in the workplace. You have to be a powerful achiever or develop an advocate for your achievements if you're shy and want to get anywhere.

When I was younger I considered myself a shy person, and so I was. I remember people stating they'd already paid for service on my paper route and eating the loss because I was afraid to argue the point. In my first salary job, I remember being afraid to tell my boss that my performance review was going on nine months overdue and missing out on thousands of dollars.

Years later, I was growing a bit tired of my old job and decided to interview at a few other places. At the first interview, I was offered a salary similar to what I was already getting and some very attractive working conditions. As such, during the remaining three interviews I had arranged, I wasn't really concerned about getting the job. My heart was set on the first, so I decided to have a little fun and try boasting about myself at the next as an experiment.

Being assertive and boastful was difficult, and I felt like a nervous fraud, but the result was their accepting a salary offer higher than the last place.

I boasted a bit more at the next interview and they accepted a higher offer still, and at the last I went in with a blatant "hell yeah, I'm great!" attitude, expecting to overdo it and get turned down. Instead, I ended up being offered nearly twice what I was already getting.

I never boasted of anything untrue, and I didn't exaggerate my skills. I only exaggerated my confidence in those skills and of my general sense of self-worth. The odd thing was, I found that having put that out there and having seen it work for me, it felt increasingly natural. By the time I received my last offer, I was buying into it myself.

I took the last job with the much higher pay, and it wasn't long before I was accepting a higher valuation of myself still. Others read the increased confidence and hand me a wider variety of challenging (and fun!) tasks as a result, which gives me more and more chances to show off a bit and further boost my self esteem and through that, further diminish shyness.

Now and then somebody has tried to knock me down a peg or play games of interference and aggression, but the degree to which you learn to see those for what they are is the degree to which you can laugh them off or accept them as fun challenges. In the old days, I would have accepted those as external confirmation of my own poor self worth, which reinforced my shyness.

Now and then I really do overestimate my ability, and I fail spectacularly at something or make an ass of myself. But an honest assessment of what went wrong, figuring out what you could have done to make it right, and looking for steps you can take to prepare for the next time keeps it from assailing your self-esteem.

I quit my last job a few months ago because I wanted to take some time off. The hours are murder and I wanted some time to catch up on reading and my own programming projects. When I laughingly told them they'd have me back when I got bored, they agreed rather than laughing off what I'd meant as a pompous joke. I've already had an offer to return at still-higher pay.

"Just try faking it" seems like an unwelcome suggestion to any Objectivist, but self esteem and assertiveness are driven by your perception. And putting your own perceptions to the test can lead you to some crucial successes that raise self-esteem tremendously. It takes a bit of courage, but I've met very few people who broadcast a self worth that was anywhere near as high as their real worth.

A couple weeks ago I decided to listen to Nathaniel Branden's Six Pillars of Self Esteem audio book for an objectivist take (or almost-objectivist depending who you ask) on self-esteem and he has a similar message, acknowledging that what you believe of your self worth and how you present your self worth affect each other mutually. I know Branden has had a bit of a falling out with the Objectivists, but he's got quite a bit to say even so.

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Do you think these are important traits to have in the business world. I am more of a shy, reserved type personality and am thinking this will probably hold me back from rising the ranks?

I know plenty of shy and/or geeky guys who have become major successes in business. Think Bill Gates.

The secret of success is to become COMPETENT and the best way to do that is find something you love to do and put your whole self into it. You'll be happy in the doing and achieve all you can.

Happiness and achievement will do wonders for your self-confidence.

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Hi Betsy,

I do know some shy people who are fairly successful. But if I were to look at someone like Bill Gates, I think he would be very competent socially and not afraid to back his ideas. I guess there is a difference between being and introvert and being socially awkward?

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I not a business-man but I would like to develop something Betsy said. I would say COMPETENT and CONFIDENT. Doing something you love, becoming better and better also knowing your worth. If you know your stuff, if you studied the file others just glanced at, show it, make it known. If in a meeting you have a personal opinion and can back it up with facts, say it, don't be mute. You don't have to be in the spotlight to have succes, however, people have to know your strenghts.

If you don't have many social skills you can develop them, like I do by joining the local Toastmasters, or you can compensate by developping your othter talents.

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If you don't have many social skills you can develop them,

Absolutely!

Social skills are skills that can be learned just like computer programming. In fact, I knew one one formerly awkward and socially inept young computer programmer who, within a year, became a self-confident and adept dinner companion, political activist, and budding entrepreneur. Amazed at the transformation, I asked him how he did it.

He told me that he had been studying modern etiquette books by Miss Manners (Judith Martin) with all the intensity he applied to learning Ayn Rand, computer networking, and music. Since then, I have recommended Miss Manners books to many people and it really helps them learn to handle social situations.

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He told me that he had been studying modern etiquette books by Miss Manners (Judith Martin) with all the intensity he applied to learning Ayn Rand, computer networking, and music.  Since then, I have recommended Miss Manners books to many people and it really helps them learn to handle social situations.

Thanks for the advice, Betsy. My social skills are rather coarse as well. Do you have any particular books you would recommend?

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Thanks for the advice, Betsy.  My social skills are rather coarse as well.  Do you have any particular books you would recommend?

I checked Amazon.com and Judith Martin has written several more "Miss Manners" books since the last time I looked. All of them are clear, sensible, and entertaining enough to give you a solid understanding of what to do in just about any social situation.

Here are the ones I would recommend to start with:

Miss Manners' Basic Training : The Right Thing to Say

Miss Manners' Basic Training: Communication

Miss Manners' Basic Training: Eating

Common Courtesy: In Which Miss Manners Solves the Problem That Baffled Mr. Jefferson

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One thing that bothered me in my first reading of Atlas Shrugged, was the degree to which Dr. Robert Stadler actually reminded me of Howard Roark.

Both Stadler and Roark are single minded in pursuit of their passions -- the persuit of pure architecture, and the persuit of pure architecture. Money is of no concern to either of them. Both of them are willing to sacrifice or eschew nearly anything that would detract from the purity of their art. Their differences come down almost entirely to 'politics'. But neither of them is a politician, or a social scientist, or a philosopher, or an author. I would say that Stadler's lean toward collectivism, versus Roark's individualism come down to a slight difference in self-awareness of each's motive power.

It seems to me that many of the decisions that Robert Stadler makes that turn out to be disasterous, are decisions Howard Roark may have made, if he were in a similar situation. For example, Stadler repeatedly ignores efforts unrelated to pure science, which leads to the eventual construction of the sonic death ray. Howard Roark consistently ignores efforts unrelated to purity in architecture, such as joining architectural organizations (or even being aware of them in one case).

Both Roark and Stadler do everything in their power, to preserve the ability to follow their bliss in its purest form. In Stadler's case, this involves giving support to a government project he doesn't believe in, with obvious negative consequences.

It always struck me that the main difference between Stadler and Roark really was a matter of political philosophy. And since neither of their 'work' was in any way related to policital philosophy, it seems interesting that this difference largely defines one as an ideal, and one as an embodiment of evil.

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It always struck me that the main difference between Stadler and Roark really was a matter of political philosophy. And since neither of their 'work' was in any way related to policital philosophy, it seems interesting that this difference largely defines one as an ideal, and one as an embodiment of evil.
They differ at a deeper level than politics. The essence of Roark's character is the virtue of independence: the acceptance of the fact that one must form one's own judgments and live by the work of one's own mind.

The essence of Stadler's character is a form of dependence -- it is the notion that the work of one's mind need not necessarily have anything to do with supporting one's life, that one can demand to live at the expense of others.

Roark is a creator who insists on the right to live or die by his own effort. Stadler is a parasite who insists on the right to live at the expense of others.

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I'm somewhat reserved and I've functioned effectively in the business world for over ten years. But I've also become less reserved over time, and have made efforts to be more outgoing and to speak publicly at times. In undergrad and grad business school, I took courses which required presentations, and improved somewhat due to that. In my work I have made numerous presentations to full rooms (some small some large.) I was even interviewed on national TV, briefly, a couple month ago. The best defense against nervousness is to be confident that you know your subject matter. Still, I'm an analyst and most of my communication is written. There are certain functions that require more gregariousness, some less.

To Whyz:

I disagree with your analysis of Roark and Stadler. Their main difference wasn't political philosophy. In my opinion, their differences were much more fundamental, derived from metaphysical worldviews. Roark was interested in the world, and had reverence for mankind. Stadler was fundamentally uninterested in the world around him (he was interested in ideas primarily in an escapist, Platonic way) and was disgusted by mankind.

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They differ at a deeper level than politics.  The essence of Roark's character is the virtue of independence: the acceptance of the fact that one must form one's own judgments and live by the work of one's own mind. 

The essence of Stadler's character is a form of dependence -- it is the notion that the work of one's mind need not necessarily have anything to do with supporting one's life, that one can demand to live at the expense of others.

Roark is a creator who insists on the right to live or die by his own effort.  Stadler is a parasite who insists on the right to live at the expense of others.

If we study the specifics of this distinction, it still seems to boil down to subtleties of political philosophy.

I understand, for example, how Hank Rearden's brother is genuinely not working to support his life. Or how Jim Taggert coasts on his sister's abilities. But unless I missed something Stadler does work very hard. His particular work happens to be tweaking out the mysteries of the universe.

But the argument that there is value in this isn't hard to make. Basic science understanding often has lead to products and discoveries that have benefited everyone, including private business. The basic knowledge uncovered arguably enriches lives by lending a more complete, intricate knowledge of how the universe works - at the very least this has, say, entertainment value of some kind.

Some companies today do invest heavily in almost pure research. Microsoft for example, dabbles in some completely pure research, into physics and complexity theory, for example. Its somewhat rare, but it happens. I imagine at least some private donations to pure research are driven by the curiosity to know the answers of the pure research in themsevles, etc. etc.

So it seems to come down to this - if Stadler were working for a private company that did research for private clients for reasons of curiosity or potential future distant profit, it would be hard to create a moral distinction between this and Roark's work.

So if this truly is the only distinction - working for the government versus private work, then it does seem to be a matter of political philosophy -- beliefs about the appropriate role of government, the degree to which government programs are dictated by people's votes and pocketbooks, and the degree to which pure science lends itself to being measured as a value to the people who pay for it. Basically, all these questions come down to political philosophy, in my mind.

(If Stadler were simply lazy in his position, and used politics to keep himself there, that would be very different, of course, but that was not my understanding when I read AS. The most I picked up was that he had perhaps grown a little tired of his work -- which is not objectivist-like, certainly, but not evil in itself, I would think.)

Ayn Rand wants us to hate Stadler, I believe -- something about his death seemed designed to be his justice in AS. But given how similar he was to the protagonist of her previous novel, I felt much more sympathy at his death.

Perhaps I missed some important detail about Stadler?

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I didn't read the Fountainhead yet but just finished AS. Seems to me Stadler thinks the end justifies the means. Somehow, he wanted to make a claim on Galt's life, wanting him to be his intellectual heir instead of a applied scientist.

Stadler is very passionate about his work, his mission in life, but doesn't want to take charge of it. Others, especially that faceless blob called society, have to accomodate for his passion. Everything becomes a means for his quest. He is like an cruel alchemist looking for the philosopher's stone. If some sacrifices have to be made in the proces, so be it. Especially since those sacrificed don't understand the meaning of the philosophers stone, so there's no big loss.

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But the argument that there is value in this isn't hard to make. Basic science understanding often has lead to products and discoveries that have benefited everyone, including private business. The basic knowledge uncovered arguably enriches lives by lending a more complete, intricate knowledge of how the universe works - at the very least this has, say, entertainment value of some kind.
Stadler, however, made the opposite argument. He argued that it was proper for the State Science Institute to block the use of Rearden Metal in order to protect the institute's existence.

He viewed Dagny and Rearden as "greedy dollar chasers". He asked Dagny how she could stand to associate with "those people", meaning other industrialists. In other words, he viewed those who sought to live on earth as morally inferior.

Stadler pushed for the creation of the State Science Institute for the specific purpose of seperating scientific research from the demands of earning a living. This is more than a mere decision to work in government versus working in private industry. It reveals his second-handedness, it reveals his intense resentment at any implication that he should be required to compete with other minds.

Roark never thought of himself in relation to others. He had no concern for their opinions or evaluation of him. Stadler, on the other hand, desperately needed and demanded an unconditional respect from others, to help him fake a sense of self-respect that he lacked.

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See Andy Bernstein's summary here:

http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/LitNot...pageNum-40.html

The chapter title "The Man Who Belonged On Earth" provides your key to understanding Stadler's most fundamental problem. I think that the title had a double meaning referring to both Stadler and Galt in different contexts.

As I said before the 2 key elements to Stadler = Platonic disconnect of mind from reality, and people are fundamentally bad.

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Stadler, however, made the opposite argument.  He argued that it was proper for the State Science Institute to block the use of Rearden Metal in order to protect the institute's existence.

He viewed Dagny and Rearden as "greedy dollar chasers".  He asked Dagny how she could stand to associate with "those people", meaning other industrialists.  In other words, he viewed those who sought to live on earth as morally inferior.

Stadler pushed for the creation of the State Science Institute for the specific purpose of seperating scientific research from the demands of earning a living.  This is more than a mere decision to work in government versus working in private industry. It reveals his second-handedness,  it reveals his intense resentment at any implication that he should be required to compete with other minds.

Roark never thought of himself in relation to others.  He had no concern for their opinions or evaluation of him.  Stadler, on the other hand, desperately needed and demanded an unconditional respect from others, to help him fake a sense of self-respect that he lacked.

I am starting to appreciate the distinctions between Stadler and Roark, but let me press the point...

Some people reduce objectivism to 'selfishness' + egotism. Stadler's blocking of Rearden Metal was both. And yes, Stadler looked down on industrialists as greedy dollar chasers, but remember Howard Roark lived very sparsely. Howard never compromised his singular purpose for money, even when he truly needed it. And if he thought of it, he might have similar disdain for an architect of similar talent to his own, who compromised his art for money. Roark certainly had no love for money, and no respect for people who compromised their work for money or acceptance. And Stadler's creation of the state science institute reflects an extroardinary egotism -- a singular belief in his own worth.

Anyway, yes, I'm sort of playing devil's advocate here. A simplistic reading of Stadler and Roark makes them seem similar -- their differences are something important I want to fully digest, before I can be sure I 'grok' Objectivism.

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If you cannot distinguish between fundamental and non-fundamental similarities and differences, after plenty of advice and directions, that's your problem to deal with, not ours. Maybe you need to study Objectivism before you can fully understand Ayn Rand's characters.

Stadler was certainly not egoistic in the Objectivist sense. Perhaps in the neitzschian sense.

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Stadler and Roark were both smart enough to see that the State Science Institute was the kind of institution that erodes, undermines, and destroys man's rights. Stadler just didn't care.

It's not about money or not money... it's about the fact that Stadler KNEW he was supporting tyranny. That's something Roark would NEVER do.

Hope that helps.

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  • 3 weeks later...
As I recall Stadler always said, "What can you do when you are dealing with people?"  This would probably be his justification for not caring.

After considering this question at length, I believe there is basically one central idea that separates Stadler from Roark. Stadler wants what he hasn't earned. He wants respect and power and freedom for himself, but in a context where he gets this unconditionally, without effort.

From this one central flaw, so many others follow. The passive acceptance of tyranny, the defence of death ray project, the implicit support of government control of Rearden Metal, etc.

Stadler is a man of conflict, because at some level he does seem to understand the truth. He is disturbed and mentally torn by the anti-science drivel that is printed essentially under his name. Rearden even recognizes him as someone who had it right once, but had lost something over time.

It was suggested that this line of thinking stems from epistemological separation of reason from reality. I think that's basically right, and gets to an even deeper level of Stadler's psyche -- it was stated just a little too abstractly for me to grasp the importance of it at first reading. It also makes more sense after reading discussions of Objectivist's refuting Kant on the same grounds.

Anyway, I wanted to mention though, that I think some of the distinctions we would like to make about Stadler turn out to be weak if we compare them to Objectivist characters. For example, we would like to say that Stadler's main evil is in believing people are fundamentally 'bad' seem a little flacid. It's hard to make a sharp contrast between Stadler's disdain for people, and Roark's aloofness, for example.

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