Freshly out of college. Excited to begin with the new job. Switching jobs. New City. Random people.
20s is a time when one is absolutely a free soul. A time when most of the people start taking decisions for themselves. Decisions affecting their work, love, family – or to be precise, LIFE. An age which marks passion as a hazy picture and life remains a big puzzle waiting to be figured out piece by piece. Amidst all the uncertainties, 20s, without doubt is also the golden period when one can take all the risks, and give in completely for their interests.
Finding one’s interests, although can be really frustrating. Often, it takes immense courage and determination to go after what you really want to do and give your all to it. To give your 200% without worrying about the benefits and when I say benefits, I mean the ones which the world wants you to see – money, fame and above all- approval of the society.
“What would happen if I quit my high earning job and start working on something which really interests me?”
This question has crossed so many minds out there but not many would have gathered the guts to go ahead. I myself am still struggling with this question for quite some time and perhaps that is the reason why this book hit at the right spot and why I am writing this post.
The answer to the above question is not a difficult one. It really wont take long for you to figure out what you would like to do but to go about and actually implement it would definitely take a while. Why? Because there is one thing which would always raise a false alarm, before you even start: “What would happen if I fail? What would people say?”
This follow up thought, about what people would think, should be none of our business but it is so deeply imbibed in our present society that we scarcely notice the presence. We seek for approval, (unnecessarily and all the time), try to mould our actions as how others would approve of it, and in turn surrender our self interests which primarily and ethically should be our first priority.
Ayn Rand in The Fountainhead took upon the task to explain that we as human beings have a right to be happy, and to be happy one needs to place self before others. But for centuries, in the name of altruism, community and self-sacrifice we have been denying ourselves of this basic right. We know what we need to be happy, but we sacrifice the one thing which gives us happiness for the sake of other – our work, our thoughts and our soul. We get manipulated and give away our ability to think and question.
The book made me imagine a world where everyone focuses on their own work, and they choose not just anything. They assign themselves to a meaning which gives them satisfaction, to work which they love to do, so much so that they lose themselves in it. They give it their best, and ultimately derive happiness from their work. They question when their integrity is challenged rather than giving into demands which give hollow satisfactions and in turn be able to preserve their souls. There will be so much to love. To revere. So much more to life. A utopian scenario indeed.
And amidst the fictional thoughts I would like to introduce the protagonist of Ayn Rand’s story, Howard Roark. An architect who will make you hate him, out of envy, because he is so damn good at his work. His work is the only thing he lives for and more than his excellence, it is his commitment, his unshakeable integrity and his only one business clause- to be able to work in his own way, which will make him enviable even more.
You will hate him for being so perfect, so happy and so contended with himself. You will hate him for being able to handle every impossible situation so damn smoothly. You will hate him for making stone cold decisions like it is a passing thing. You will hate him because he will force you to question your inner self. You will hate him till the point you realize you haven’t really admired anyone to that extent. And suddenly you will realize that perhaps you haven’t admired anyone this much because you never even thought such a person could exist.
And when you reach that point, you will calm down and begin to understand yourself. You will go deep inside shattering all the dubiousness you have been letting in till now and do what would then seem the obvious thing- ask questions to yourself. Questions that have lingered and sometimes haunted you. Questions that seemed unanswerable. Questions that had to be asked way back but they never seemed relevant enough. Questions which make you answer things that matter. Questions about what you really want to do in life. Questions which will give answers that will lead you to happiness. Not the momentary shallow happiness, but the real one. And suddenly life will seem a tad bit easier than you thought.
And that is why you should read this masterpiece in your 20s. The time when you have just started working. The time when you have gained the confidence to put yourself out in the world. The time when you must know what you are doing and why you are doing it. The time when you set your heart and mind right for one thing that would solely define you as a person- your WORK. It is most important now because the way you shape yourself, especially when it comes to work, would make you ready for what comes up next. These 615 pages will definitely teach you more about life than any of the short 10 pointers post where people tell you about things they should have done in their 20s. Trust me, it is worth all your time.