The Will to Work or “Lethargy”
Ayn Rand: “The virtue of Productiveness is the recognition of the fact that productive work is the process by which man’s mind sustains his life, the process that sets man free of the necessity to adjust himself to his background, as all animals do, and gives him the power to adjust his background to himself. Productive work is the road to a man’s unlimited achievement and calls upon the highest attributes of his character: his creative ability, his ambitiousness, his self-assertiveness, his refusal to bear uncontested disasters, his dedication to the goal of reshaping the earth in the image of his values. ‘Productive work’ does not mean the unfocused performance of the motions of some job. It means the consciously chosen pursuit of a productive career, in any line of rational endeavor, great or modest, on any level of ability. It is not the degree of a man’s ability nor the scale of his work that is ethically relevant here, but the fullest and most purposeful use of his mind.” (Source: Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness, essay: “The Objectivist Ethics.”)
Before I rendered my opinion, I thought I would give you, in full, Ayn Rand’s definition of Productiveness. In my life I have scoured the world for the perfect way to explain my feelings on the subject, and when I read Ayn Rand’s idea, especially that work is the “process by which man’s mind sustains his life”, I had finally found a jumping off point for my ideas.
When we are presented with the idea of Work throughout our lives, most of the populous shrugs and moans at the thought of having to peel themselves off of the couch to earn a meager living, in a “career” they have chosen, by emotional whim, to throw themselves into. They then complain about the “Rich” who have it “so easy” because they have “cushy jobs” and “no worries.” But the fact is those “Rich” people are those who have tailored careers for themselves that are lucrative and fill a rational need for productiveness within them. These “Rich” people did not necessarily start their lives in such plush settings – most had the will to work and a rational need to achieve their life goals.
Most people are too quick to sort life into easily identifiable clichés, instead of realizing that society need not be categorized and sorted. Instead, they should be judging these people on their life story and the path their life has taken, and the decisions they have made. Are those decisions rational or irrational? Emotional or non? Therefore the ideas of “Rich” and “Poor” should become things of the past. We should look at each separate person as their own living entity, without buzz-words and categories attached to them.
So, what of the idea of Work? We must look at it in terms of our own lives. Is it a chore that just “gets us through the day” and provides a meager “paycheck”? Or is it a budding career that is a stepping stone to bigger and better things? Example: How is being a cashier at McDonald’s going to advance your career in Architecture? How is working as a Garbage-man going to help you become a CPA? I do understand that sometimes people take these jobs because of a necessity for money, and that is understandable. But, and I firmly believe this, one can find a job, small as it may be, that connects better to their chosen profession. You need to have the Will and the Drive to find these jobs because, for the most part, they will not be as readily accessible as a job at McDonald’s or Walmart. People now are far too easy to jump at the first open job than search for a job more tailored to their life choices.
I also see people who have things handed to them, on a daily basis: whether that be money, a job or life values is beside the point. To have ANYTHING “handed” to us in life is the end of our own egocentric fight. It means that we have finally given up our values to the point where we are common prostitutes, working for the monetary or emotional “hand-outs” of others. I do not care if it is your family or your friends who hand your these things – it is irrelevant. I would rather turn down a billion dollars, because I know if I took it, it would be the eventual end of my working life. And a life without work, a life without that sense of drive, is not worth living.
That being said, what is the mass cultural opinion of Work? (As much as I hate looking at cultural trends, I am using this to make a point. Bear with me.) Most people, especially younger people, see Work as a Chose. They see it as something that is boring, laborious and a task to be done with the least amount of effort. They see it as something that need not be conquered, but tolerated. They see it as an escape from the gnawing clutches of the psyche. They should be seeing it as a way to achieve their goals in life.
And, if your goal in life is to obtain money, than who’s to say that a job at McDonald’s is not a viable option? But, if you choose money as the sole end to your job, you will find that it will eventually not become a strong enough driving force for you to be motivated in your job. Also, a job at McDonald’s is not as lucrative as being the CEO of a bank. I am just putting that fact out there because, even if your driving force is money, there are many better options to obtain the “almighty dollar.”
I see young people my age every day on Facebook complaining about the fact that their jobs are boring, non-lucrative and simple. Why do they feel the need to complain? Why do they not do something about it? Why do they not get up out of their seats and shout, “I will not live to be mediocre!” The fact is they have become complacent in their rut. They would rather sit at a desk, earning their meager wage, until the day they die than uproot their lives for the better. They would rather sacrifice their own values, their own drive, in favor of a life that favors emotionality and frustration.
How do we go about eradicating this cultural sluggish opinion to Work? We should begin to see, within ourselves, a change – a simple change, but a change nonetheless. We need to start fulfilling our own goals, our own drive and our own happiness, even if that may be in opposition to the cultural norms. We, as individuals, need to accept that work can be creatively satisfying, as well as monetarily satisfying. We can achieve our goals in life, that correspond to our own person value system and our own ethical system, and find a true Career that challenges us and forces us to get up every day, with our minds buzzing with anticipation. We should never become complacent to achieve the ordinary. We should strive to become extraordinary in our own person way, fulfilling our own needs and our own values. We should never tailor a career to fit our parents, our friends or any deity. We, as individuals, should make an independent decision as to what we are meant to do in our lives, based upon our lives as individuals.
The Egoist should never look to a society that changes its whims on a daily basis to prescribe them a career. They should look firmly, and solely, within themselves and find a career that combines our own personal values, our own work ethic and our own creativity. If any of these things are lacking, we will never truly be living a life that fulfills us and drives us towards the ascension of the ego.
So, all of you who are reading this, I ask you to take an assessment of your life: Do you have a career, or at least a job that is helping you claw your way to said career? Are you happy in your job and does it fulfill your values and your ethical system? Do you wake up every morning with a sense of the work that needs to be done or do you wake up with lethargy in your eyes and dread the coming day? I think if you take a quick assessment of your work values, you will become more dedicated to your craft and your value of work.
And if you do not have a career choice, or a job leading to said career, my only question is this: What are you waiting for?