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Philip Coates

Keys to Success

218 posts in this topic

Oists and the Oist movement tend way too often to be unsuccessful to a high degree in achieving their deepest aspirations.

Some of it you can blame on an unreceptive or 'irrational' culture. But a lot of people succeed despite that. So a lot of blame goes to individual Objectivists and to how the Objectivist movement operates.

David Brooks extracted some life lessons in his column from 'biographical summaries' he had received. Here is one that Objectivists and other ideologically-extreme or out of the mainstream but basically rational or having much to offer individuals and causes could try to figure out how to do a much much better job at:

" Work within institutions or crafts, not outside them. For a time, our culture celebrated the rebel and the outsider.

The most miserable of my correspondents ...were forever in revolt against the world and ended up sourly achieving little."

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A strand of Eastern mysticism holds that the Universe is made up of a benign kind of energy, and that the best policy is to simply "let things happen."

Interestingly, the persons listed in the Brooks column seem to combine this sense of zen with a strong sense of American common sense, and they end up pretty happy--and also successful.

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Where's the data?

Since when does Phil bother with evidence? Or even with defining his terms: how much is “way too often”, and what qualifies as “their deepest aspirations”? Does Phil simply project his own personal shortcomings and failures onto “Objectivists and other ideologically-extreme” people in general? At least he has one data point to reference.

Meanwhile, this advice from David Brooks sounds like it came right out of The Fountainhead. I’m not sure which character might have offered it, anyone have a suggestion? Here’s my vote:

Peter Keating’s mother

It sure worked for Steve Jobs.

Yet another crock of shit.

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Oists and the Oist movement tend way too often to be unsuccessful to a high degree in achieving their deepest aspirations.

Are you able to provide evidence supporting your assertion?

Aside from that: how can you claim to know what a person's (Objectivist or not) deepest aspirations are?

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Oists and the Oist movement tend way too often to be unsuccessful to a high degree in achieving their deepest aspirations. Some of it you can blame on an unreceptive or 'irrational' culture. But a lot of people succeed despite that. So a lot of blame goes to individual Objectivists and to how the Objectivist movement operates. David Brooks extracted some life lessons in his column from 'biographical summaries' he had received. Here is one that Objectivists and other ideologically-extreme or out of the mainstream but basically rational or having much to offer individuals and causes could try to figure out how to do a much much better job at: " Work within institutions or crafts, not outside them. For a time, our culture celebrated the rebel and the outsider. The most miserable of my correspondents ...were forever in revolt against the world and ended up sourly achieving little."

This problem has nothing specifically to do with Objectivism. Most people don't fulfill their highest aspirations, especially in the creative fields of art, music, writing, etc.

Ghs

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> This problem has nothing specifically to do with Objectivism. Most people don't fulfill their highest aspirations, especially in the creative fields of art, music, writing, etc.

I agree. But the "lonerism" and anger at the world and suspicion of cooperation and groups so prevalent in Oists makes what otherwise ought to be highly successful people -- intelligent, with energy, with strong ethical values -- less successful than they of rights really ought to be. And this issue of having allies and support is something which is often shunted aside.

As for the request for "evidence" for my opening post --- or, by the way, for this statement of GHS's: "Most people don't fulfill their highest aspirations, especially in the creative fields of art, music, writing, etc." --- you ought not to demand from your armchair that other people -prove- a general observation like this to you. That would take a book or a transcript of a lifetime of experience.

And then the question is: what would -you take- as clear, unambiguous, cash on the barrelhead proof? Did you need "data" before you would believe there were stinkers out there like Toohey, Keating, James T., etc.?

Instead a post like my original doesn't expect you to be convinced by a few sentences introducing a topic or making a very broad claim. It demands a lot of mental work on the reader's part: You ought to be able, if you are perceptive, to "prove" this cause of lack of success and how widespread it is to yourself by reflection of two kinds: 1. introspection (have you had this kind of lack of success yourself for this reason?) and 2. if you have had enough experience in the circles you move in or people you have known. Which most people who are well out of adolescence have had.

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> this advice from David Brooks sounds like it came right out of...Peter Keating’s mother [ND]

Now that is so context-dropping of the TYPE of cooperation possible that I don't even want to waste time untangling it.

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You ought to be able, if you are perceptive, to "prove" this cause of lack of success and how widespread it is to yourself by reflection of two kinds: 1. introspection (have you had this kind of lack of success yourself for this reason?) and 2. if you have had enough experience in the circles you move in or people you have known. Which most people who are well out of adolescence have had.

Rather than perceptiveness, this test requires two rather different tests to return positive results: 1. You are a loser. 2. The maxim "birds of a feather" is applicable.

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> This problem has nothing specifically to do with Objectivism. Most people don't fulfill their highest aspirations, especially in the creative fields of art, music, writing, etc.<

I agree. But the "lonerism" and anger at the world and suspicion of cooperation and groups so prevalent in Oists makes what otherwise ought to be highly successful people -- intelligent, with energy, with strong ethical values -- less so than otherwise.....

I don't agree with your general characterization of O'ists. On the contrary, many O'ist types are very successful in business -- more so, I would say, than the run-of-the-mill libertarian. The problem is that the business world, despite what many O'ist types seem to believe, frequently does not fulfill creative aspirations. Making a lot of money is fine, but many creative people soon hit a point of radically diminishing returns.

I used to discuss this problem a lot during the seven years that I taught my Fundamentals of Reasoning classes in Hollywood. One principle I stressed is that mistakes in life, especially in regard to career choices -- "wrong turns," I called them -- are usually the cumulative result of many small decisions, not the consequence of a few major decisions. As participants looked back on their lives, wondering how they became embedded in routine jobs they didn't like instead of pursuing their early dreams, most could not point to one or two major decisions. Many small and seemingly trivial decisions are what typically got them started on the wrong path.

I used a standard technique of having participants make a list of their long, medium, and short term goals. This procedure was helpful because it compelled people to integrate their short-term goals -- things they wanted to accomplish within the next few days or weeks -- within a larger life-plan. Too often people with creative aspirations set ambitious long-term goals for themselves without giving serious consideration to what can be done now (i.e., in the immediate future) to set the process in motion. It is a cliché but it is also true that the longest journey begins with a single step.

There are also some other major problems, e.g.: Unlike children, adults are usually not happy with being beginners in a creative field. If a child decides to learn the saxophone (as I did at a young age), he will be delighted when he is able to play his first simple tune -- honks, squeaks, and all. But not so for many adults, who think they should blossom immediately when they decide to take up writing, painting, or whatever.

When I was in third grade, I received a lengthy and beautifully written letter from my great-grandmother. After tracing my descent, generation by generation, from the irascible and peg-legged Peter Stuyvesant (the last Dutch governor of the colony that later became New York), she quoted Thomas Edison to the effect that genius is 2 percent inspiration and 98 percent perspiration. I have never forgotten that pearl of wisdom, but I fear that some O'ist types focus on the inspiration and forget about the other 98 percent.

Ghs

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I'd guess people who bemoan their lack of success see no prospects for success going forward because of age or illness or depression or other such.

--Brant

"Margaret Mitchell: Using introspection, would you please tell the audience why you haven't had much success since 'Gone with the Wind'?--and you, Ayn Rand, it's been quite a comedown in the fiction business for you too, since 'Atlas Shrugged'--why is that?--and you didn't think I'd let you off the hook, did you, Albert Einstein?"

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> this advice from David Brooks sounds like it came right out of...Peter Keating’s mother [ND]

Now that is so context-dropping of the TYPE of cooperation possible that I don't even want to waste time untangling it.

Like the type David Kelley could have tried in the late 80’s? Or John McCaskey more recently? Just what do you have in mind? How should HR have behaved in this scene:

What kind of response were you expecting, posting this on an Objectivist site?

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> This problem has nothing specifically to do with Objectivism. Most people don't fulfill their highest aspirations, especially in the creative fields of art, music, writing, etc.<

I agree. But the "lonerism" and anger at the world and suspicion of cooperation and groups so prevalent in Oists makes what otherwise ought to be highly successful people -- intelligent, with energy, with strong ethical values -- less so than otherwise.....

I don't agree with your general characterization of O'ists. On the contrary, many O'ist types are very successful in business -- more so, I would say, than the run-of-the-mill libertarian. The problem is that the business world, despite what many O'ist types seem to believe, frequently does not fulfill creative aspirations. Making a lot of money is fine, but many creative people soon hit a point of radically diminishing returns.

I used to discuss this problem a lot during the seven years that I taught my Fundamentals of Reasoning classes in Hollywood. One principle I stressed is that mistakes in life, especially in regard to career choices -- "wrong turns," I called them -- are usually the cumulative result of many small decisions, not the consequence of a few major decisions. As participants looked back on their lives, wondering how they became embedded in routine jobs they didn't like instead of pursuing their early dreams, most could not point to one or two major decisions. Many small and seemingly trivial decisions are what typically got them started on the wrong path.

I used a standard technique of having participants make a list of their long, medium, and short term goals. This procedure was helpful because it compelled people to integrate their short-term goals -- things they wanted to accomplish within the next few days or weeks -- within a larger life-plan. Too often people with creative aspirations set ambitious long-term goals for themselves without giving serious consideration to what can be done now (i.e., in the immediate future) to set the process in motion. It is a cliché but it is also true that the longest journey begins with a single step.

There are also some other major problems, e.g.: Unlike children, adults are usually not happy with being beginners in a creative field. If a child decides to learn the saxophone (as I did at a young age), he will be delighted when he is able to play his first simple tune -- honks, squeaks, and all. But not so for many adults, who think they should blossom immediately when they decide to take up writing, painting, or whatever.

When I was in third grade, I received a lengthy and beautifully written letter from my great-grandmother. After tracing my descent, generation by generation, from the irascible and peg-legged Peter Stuyvesant (the last Dutch governor of the colony that later became New York), she quoted Thomas Edison to the effect that genius is 2 percent inspiration and 98 percent perspiration. I have never forgotten that pearl of wisdom, but I fear that some O'ist types focus on the inspiration and forget about the other 98 percent.

Ghs

Great post, George. While I agree Edison sweated a lot Tesla was an entirely different and greater type of creative animal. But everytime you try to get your hands on genius it slips away. For instance, Beethoven seemingly sweated bullets but Mozart did not (?). From what little I know Beethoven was an even greater genius--but Mozart died young. Genius is sui generis. And is genius always genius because of brainpower or the nature of an accomplishment? For instance, the invention and use of the wheel. A major component of genius might be courage (or obliviousness to danger or intellectual and/or social mores), another flexibility, plus creativity and even only comparatively modest brainpower. What is genius or who is a genius are subjective labels handed out in admiration much like the President hands out the Medal of Freedom. My Father was an IQ genius who was for a very short period of time in college a creative genius who then gave it away not knowing what he had had and had lost leaving him with over 50-60 IQ points on many "certifiable" geniuses like James Watson or William Shockley and nothing else.

--Brant

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> this advice from David Brooks sounds like it came right out of...Peter Keating’s mother [ND]

Now that is so context-dropping of the TYPE of cooperation possible that I don't even want to waste time untangling it.

Like the type David Kelley could have tried in the late 80’s? Or John McCaskey more recently? Just what do you have in mind? How should HR have behaved in this scene:

What kind of response were you expecting, posting this on an Objectivist site?

Sigh. If only Gary had been twenty years younger in this scene--and the whole movie.

--Brant

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Relevant to this discussion is my favorite aphorism by Nietzsche, from Twilight of the Idols:

Formula of my happiness: A Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal...

When I become discouraged, I frequently read aphorisms by Nietzsche and Schopenhauer -- two of the greatest masters of this genre -- to recharge my psychological batteries. Yes, I know -- Schopenhauer, O'ists tell us, is anti-mind and anti-life. Though greatly exaggerated, this judgment contains some truth, and that is why reading Schopenhauer, the great pessimist, he can be so effective. When I am feeling depressed and pessimistic, and then read Schopenhauer, I typically laugh and conclude, "Well, things are not that bad."

If an O'ist type can read and appreciate Schopenhauer without passing negative judgments every few minutes to stimulate the appropriate feelings of disgust and smug superiority, then I would say that we have an O'ist who has managed to remove the pole from his ass without invasive surgery. 8-)

Ghs

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When I become discouraged, I frequently read aphorisms by Nietzsche and Schopenhauer

I’m more likely to turn to P.G. Wodehouse or Voltaire. Try this, starting at 1:38:00

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5f65v5BbWw

For instance, Beethoven seemingly sweated bullets but Mozart did not (?).

“It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.”

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When I become discouraged, I frequently read aphorisms by Nietzsche and Schopenhauer
I’m more likely to turn to P.G. Wodehouse or Voltaire.

I like Voltaire as well, but I've never read Wodehouse. Do you have some favorite Wodehouse aphorisms that you would like to post?

Let us not forget the incomparable W.C. Fields, another one of my favorites and one of the best aphorists of the 20th century. I may have posted this video a long time ago, but if I did it is worth watching again.

Ghs

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From time to time over the years, I have written aphoristic summaries of my views on complex subjects. I typically spent quite a bit of time on each aphorism in an effort to compress my thoughts as much as possible. I have found this to be a very useful mental exercise.

The following aphorisms were in a 1999 file titled "Tidbits." These were written while I still had hopes, however unrealistic, of finishing my magnum opus, The Disciplines of Liberty -- a book that might have been as long, complex, and original as Human Action. I strongly recommend this exercise for people who wish to clarify their thinking. The aphoristic format demands close attention to every word and sentence.

I know I have a lot more stuff like this lurking in old files, but this will do for now. I alternated between regular and italic font in order to separate the different aphorisms. I made no effort to be clever or humorous -- only succinct.

Tidbits (1999)

Reasoning is purposeful mental activity; purpose entails desire. The desire of a believer that causes him to reason about his theory is not the same kind of desire as that of the historian who studies the believer. The competent historian can reconstruct a sequence of mental events; the brilliant historian can recreate the events themselves internally, in his own mind, and experience the ideas themselves. Only a brilliant historian can truly understand a brilliant believer.

Karl Mannheim, in presenting his "sociology of knowledge," asserts that knowledge is socially conditioned. This doctrine, whatever its precise meaning may be, needn't detain the philosopher in his search for truth. The philosopher asks whether a belief is true, not how it came to be. In matters of belief the philosopher investigates reasons, not causes.

If the sociologist insists that social conditioning renders objective knowledge impossible, we need to inquire as to the how and why of his own beliefs, particularly his belief in social conditioning. Is this a socially conditioned belief? If the answer is no, then not all beliefs are socially conditioned, which makes the theory false. If the answer is yes, then we proceed to our next question: Can the sociologist acquire objective knowledge? If the answer is no, then the sociologist cannot rationally defend his beliefs, including his belief in social conditioning. If the answer is yes, then the sociologist can claim truth for his own theory, but so can everyone else.

Thus does the philosopher continue unmolested on his cognitive quest.

Adam Smith used the principle of spontaneous order to explain complex historical events. This is an invisible chain, a connecting link, that satisfies our desire to understand.

To say that everyone acts from self interest is a barren truth, because we cannot possibly know the unique configuration of ideas and values that constitutes the subjective meaning of self -interest for each person. Likewise, any theory that grants privileged status to "economic motives" will be true only if it is trivial. Economic behavior refers to the allocation and exchange of scarce resources -- but this describes every human action. Every action entails allocating scarce resources (time and labor) in order to exchange a condition we value less for a condition we value more. The content of each economic exchange will vary according to the unpredictable and subjective valuations of each person, so a theory of "economic motives" can never move beyond the truisms of common sense.

Ghs

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Let us not forget the incomparable W.C. Fields, another one of my favorites and one of the best aphorists of the 20th century. I may have posted this video a long time ago, but if I did it is worth watching again.

Ghs

W.C. Fields was bad-ass, but he was damned clever about it. If one is going to be foul, let him be foul in a witty fashion.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I like Voltaire as well, but I've never read Wodehouse. Do you have some favorite Wodehouse aphorisms that you would like to post?

I can’t think of a good aphorism offhand, it’s all about the dialogue and clever turns of phrase that he uses. Here’s one, the initial description of Roderick Spode, who is based on Oswald Moseley (leader of the British Fascists pre-WW2):

“It was as if Nature had intended to make a gorilla and had changed its mind at the last moment.”

You can pretty well start anywhere in one of the classic books, and within a page there’s going to be a big laugh, whether coming from the dialogue or the prose.

http://en.wikiquote....Wodehouse,_P._G.

According to this, he’s the originator of the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson”, hmm didn’t know that.

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> You're turning out thread topics like Frito Lay makes potato chips...Why do you expect anybody to do all this freaking work? You aren't our teacher and we aren't your students.

Aww.

Poor baby.

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> " Work within institutions or crafts, not outside them. For a time, our culture celebrated the rebel and the outsider. The most miserable of my correspondents ...were forever in revolt against the world and ended up sourly achieving little." [David Brooks]

One reason so many Objectivism-influened types resist this pretty obvious good advice (and come up with the silly idea that it is the same as being a Keating or social metaphysics or abandoning one's principles to be accepted) is that they had to use Objectivism, the model of Roark's stubborn lonerism, the man against the majority role models to help them in a long personal struggle to assert their own independence and integrity against social pressure.

And so the advice to 'get social', find allies, get in good with them sounds to them like a betrayal or abandonment of a source of hard-won pride for them. It isn't the same, if you stop and think about it but it -sounds like- what they had to fight very hard not to succumb to. Or to get out of.

For those of us who didn't have that particular struggle** for independence, i wonder if it may be easier to try to 'get along' to 'win friends and influence people' without compromising or betraying our values or beliefs or original ideas.

**We probably had other struggles but difficulty under social 'pressure' was not our problem.

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> " Work within institutions or crafts, not outside them. For a time, our culture celebrated the rebel and the outsider. The most miserable of my correspondents ...were forever in revolt against the world and ended up sourly achieving little." [David Brooks]

One reason so many Objectivism-influened types resist this pretty obvious good advice (and come up with the silly idea that it is the same as being a Keating or social metaphysics or abandoning one's principles to be accepted) is that they had to use Objectivism, the model of Roark's stubborn lonerism, the man against the majority role models to help them in a long personal struggle to assert their own independence and integrity against social pressure.

And so the advice to 'get social', find allies, get in good with them sounds to them like a betrayal or abandonment of a source of hard-won pride for them. It isn't the same, if you stop and think about it but it -sounds like- what they had to fight very hard not to succumb to. Or to get out of.

For those of us who didn't have that particular struggle** for independence, i wonder if it may be easier to try to 'get along' to 'win friends and influence people' without compromising or betraying our values or beliefs or original ideas.

**We probably had other struggles but difficulty under social 'pressure' was not our problem.

Phil: I think you make very good points above. Somewhat related, I think it also matters which of Rand's novels were read first, and what age they were read. For those who read The Fountainhead first, at a tender age in their psychological existence, my guess is your point is spot on quite a bit of the time with life-long Objectivists.

Orange Hair Syndrome is a hard condition to kick, I think. [Actually, I know.]

For those more influenced by AS, either by order of reading or by temperament, I would speculate, on the basis of very little data, mind you, that this problem is less pervasive.

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"Orange Hair Syndrome". Cute. I like that. :smile: You may have a point there about which book made an initial deep impression. The theme of Fountainhead centers around independence, while the theme of 'the role of the mind in man's existence' is much wider covering a wider array of issues and attitudes and actions. If someone is too centered just on independence as what it means to be rational, they can turn loner, anti-social, etc. There is somewhere a quote "every loneliness is a pinnacle" which I've always despised and considered dumb. If taken -literally- rather than symbolically or literarily.

This all leads to wider questions about whether or not the theme of Atlas is adequately described and what being a 'man of reason' involves.

That's a big one and deserves a separate thread.

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