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The Morality of Achievement

njsinko

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Oct 28, 2015
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This is something I have recently been combing though in my mind. This line of thinking was inspired by Ayn Rand. I have been reading her non-fiction work for years, and recently have started Atlas Shrugged. For those of you who aren't familiar with Rand, I suggest you spend some time googling her.

Anyways, her work has lead me to think about success and motivation in a new way. I always found myself struggling with the question of "Why bother?" when thinking about achievement, especially financially and in the business world. Of course we all understand that it is better to be rich than poor, and that money does, in many ways, afford you to become happier- but that type of a "why" if you will, always left me sort of motivated, but not as motivated as I would like.

So after reading Rand's work I am now looking at achievement and success as a question of morality. Is it immoral to have the ability to achieve great wealth, but for whatever reason, not do it? I am starting to think so.

I believe now that the only moral way to live is to strive for achievement in any way possible. It is immoral to just exist and get by, or do fairly well but not push it as far as possible. Why? Because by doing so you are short-changing humanity. If you do not push as hard as possible for achievement, you are no better than the person who steals from someone else - because essentially this is what you are doing.

Suppose you have the ability (mental or otherwise) to build a company that would in the future hire 100 people. Suppose that you decide that you already have enough with your small internet business, and that you don't want to put yourself through the trouble of growing to that size. Too much stress, too much time, too much effort. And besides, you are doing very well on your own as it is! Why rock the boat?

Now suppose you need to go to those 100 people one by one, and explain to them that although you could build a company which would hire them and pay them a salary that is better than what they are earning now, and they they could eventually have a stock option, and that they would be able to improve their live significantly by coming to work for you... that you have decided not to bother.

I say that is immoral.

Striving for achievement financially and in business is the most moral thing you can do. This is totally contrary to what our schools teach, what politicians preach, and what popular culture would have you believe. They teach that money is the root of all evil, and that its easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.

That way of thinking is completely backwards. Don't be immoral. Achieve!
 

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rogue synthetic

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looking at achievement and success as a question of morality
It would be better if people stopped thinking this way.

Two reasons why:

1. The word "morality" never has a clear meaning when it is used this way. I know what it means to talk about morality when you say that you shouldn't kick homeless people in the street, or when you speak of someone who did a truly courageous and selfless act like saving a bus full of drowning kids or rescuing a baby from a burning building. I have no idea what you could mean to talk about the morality of getting rich. "Moral" seems to be a stand-in for "things I like", "things I recommend", "things that fill me with a sense of power and righteousness".

2. Because the word is ambiguous and mostly psychological in these contexts, "moral" language tends to be used for purposes of self-validation, and it can justify just about anything. Tell a man his two-pack-a-day habit is unhealthy and he'll keep smoking. Connect to his sense of duty and he'll never smoke again. The problem is, this also works for totalitarian governments and other kinds of cult, and even less obviously violent forms of group-think.

This isn't to say you aren't on to something, mind you. Success and achievement can be part of an excellent life. There is something more admirable about a person who can put his talents to work, acquire skills,develop worthwhile personal qualities, and create something in the process. If you just mean something like, "entrepreneurs are like artists in expressing and realizing unique human capabilities, and this is a better way to live than being a Sidewalker addicted to reality TV and video games", then I think you're spot on.

We just don't need to use this language of duties and obligations to get there. It puts people on the wrong track. It comes off as transparently two-faced post hoc rationalization, like you're making an excuse for something that you know is wrong and need to say something clever to justify it to y ourself and others.

Put it this way. Do you need to justify your closest friendships or your roles as a parent or a spouse by talking about your moral duties? I sure hope not. It's just part of how human beings live and thrive.
 

PizzaOnTheRoof

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This is something I have recently been combing though in my mind. This line of thinking was inspired by Ayn Rand. I have been reading her non-fiction work for years, and recently have started Atlas Shrugged. For those of you who aren't familiar with Rand, I suggest you spend some time googling her.

Anyways, her work has lead me to think about success and motivation in a new way. I always found myself struggling with the question of "Why bother?" when thinking about achievement, especially financially and in the business world. Of course we all understand that it is better to be rich than poor, and that money does, in many ways, afford you to become happier- but that type of a "why" if you will, always left me sort of motivated, but not as motivated as I would like.

So after reading Rand's work I am now looking at achievement and success as a question of morality. Is it immoral to have the ability to achieve great wealth, but for whatever reason, not do it? I am starting to think so.

I believe now that the only moral way to live is to strive for achievement in any way possible. It is immoral to just exist and get by, or do fairly well but not push it as far as possible. Why? Because by doing so you are short-changing humanity. If you do not push as hard as possible for achievement, you are no better than the person who steals from someone else - because essentially this is what you are doing.

Suppose you have the ability (mental or otherwise) to build a company that would in the future hire 100 people. Suppose that you decide that you already have enough with your small internet business, and that you don't want to put yourself through the trouble of growing to that size. Too much stress, too much time, too much effort. And besides, you are doing very well on your own as it is! Why rock the boat?

Now suppose you need to go to those 100 people one by one, and explain to them that although you could build a company which would hire them and pay them a salary that is better than what they are earning now, and they they could eventually have a stock option, and that they would be able to improve their live significantly by coming to work for you... that you have decided not to bother.

I say that is immoral.

Striving for achievement financially and in business is the most moral thing you can do. This is totally contrary to what our schools teach, what politicians preach, and what popular culture would have you believe. They teach that money is the root of all evil, and that its easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.

That way of thinking is completely backwards. Don't be immoral. Achieve!
It's not immoral to just exist. You're not shortchanging anyone. The world doesn't owe you anything, nor do you owe the world anything.

I shouldn't have to feel guilty for not putting in the time, financial risk, and delay starting a family to grow a big enough company to hire 100 people. I don't know these people and they don't know me, therefore we don't owe each other anything.

Sure it would be nice if everyone tried to achieve massive success, but it's certainly not immoral to want to simply live life on your terms.

Your drive for success must come from within, not from some "aha!" moment out of a book, or mental gymnastics to get there. If you feel deeply that you not achieving your full potential is immoral, then that is your why, not mine.
 

ApparentHorizon

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If you do not push as hard as possible for achievement, you are no better than the person who steals from someone else
If I sit on my couch all day, I'm the equivalent of punching you in the mouth.

Suppose you have the ability (mental or otherwise) to build a company that would in the future hire 100 people. Suppose that you decide that you already have enough with your small internet business, and that you don't want to put yourself through the trouble of growing to that size. Too much stress, too much time, too much effort. And besides, you are doing very well on your own as it is! Why rock the boat?
There are 100,000,000,000 + million galaxies in the universe. Each with 100 million suns, and each with ~5 planets capable of inhabiting life.

You are a spec of dust on a rock floating around the sun at ~800mph

What you or Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett, does is all insignificant.

The world doesn't owe you anything, and you don't owe the word anything.

Even your own mother, only passed on 50% of her DNA. She only gives 1/2 of a crap about you.
 

GoGetter24

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That Ayn Rand stuff is Dogmatism Extreme. I get why they'd overreact to socialist stuff, but they just took it too far. Attracts some unbelievable narcissist and even psychopath types. Ayn Rand herself was a textbook case of it, romanticizing that serial killer, making the hero of The Fountainhead a rapist against the author's character (Dominique), openly cuckolding her husband. As good as her books were, she was no moral paragon, nor were her crew. Far from it. Pretty effed in the head to be honest.

So take it all with a big pinch of salt.
 

WJK

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We all have a bunch of skills. Which one becomes the moral imperative under your conclusion?

Over my lifetime, I've had many people think I should do different things that I was good at -- but I didn't want to do them.

One example -- When I finished law school, everyone around me thought I had to pass the bar. Then join or set up a practice. I already had a large expert witness practice in real estate matters. I could have easily stepped into legal practice.

BUT, I went to school for the education rather than to change careers. I loved my fieldwork, playing with big boys, testifying and sparring with my client's & opposing attorneys.

Was I immoral not to use my education the way it was designed? Society would have considered it step up on the success ladder. My cash flow would have improved some. I chose to be less successful on their scale. But, I was a lot happier with my life and that had value to me. And it is enough.
 
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njsinko

njsinko

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Oct 28, 2015
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All great replies to my post. I guess one thing I will clarify as far as living on your own terms vs helping others is that your accountability should only be to yourself.

I feel that the immorality comes from short changing yourself by not pursuing things you want to do/ are capable of doing and doing well. I think the idea of short changing others and short changing humanity would come as a by-product of short changing yourself.

Maybe it would be better phrased as "Lack of action or laziness out of the desire for a short term reward INSTEAD of delayed gratification and action in pursuit of a greater reward in the future may be immoral."
 

Ayanle Farah

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if that's your why and you truly feel like you will take action from it then I don't want to say anything that might disrupt it.

Go for it.
 

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