This is usually a conversation I reserve for my closest friends. The ones who won’t go running when I tell them that Atlas Shrugged is one of my favorite books. Instead they just snarl and say “WHY?”
Guys, I know this book is associated with horrible things like capitalism, Paul Ryan, and egotism… but I am here to say: Most people read this book wrong.
I’m not a very political person… but I do like to think of myself as a moral, caring, and generous person. I’m also painfully self aware and constantly trying to improve the person I am so that I can be better for the people I love. It’s a long road.
I feel like I’m begging for your forgiveness before I even start which is kind of ridiculous, but I also feel it is necessary to say that I picked this book up not knowing anything about it. I had no idea that Rand was viewed as a political nut or that there was any controversy surrounding this book. I just wanted a good story. It wasn’t until after I read it and met a friend at a coffee shop where I got the first of many snarls (accompanied by “Why would you read THAT book?”) that I realized I might want to keep quiet about my love for this book.
If you’re not familiar with the story, it follows Dagny Taggart, a railroad executive and her brother James, the president of the railroad. Dagny is a woman living in the sixties who runs a railroad in a time where women didn’t run railroads. Her brother sits high up in constant fear of losing his position, which makes sense since that’s pretty much all he has. Meanwhile, his sister Dagny is innovative, self reliant, and confident in her own mind.
“She was fifteen when it occurred to her for the first time that women did not run railroads and that people might object. To hell with that, she thought—and never worried about it again.”
Right away, I felt I wanted to be a Dagny. I wanted to be someone who wasn’t afraid to take risk or work hard. I wanted to be someone who built something of value. Someone who contributes and creates.
“He had never been afraid of burdens, because he had known his ability to carry them.”
As the country is run by the James’, the Dagnys’ of the world start disappearing. The giants in various industries who were amazing at what they did started to simply vanish, leaving their empires to collapse and the rest of the world to pick up their pieces. Meanwhile, these industry giants show up as a fry cook in a local diner, or mechanics at the car repair shop. But they’re not just any run of the mill cooks/mechanics. They’re the absolute best at what they do. Because of the inner quality of these people, they take so much pride in their work, that it’s not so much what they do, but how well they can do it.
“What greater wealth is there than to own your life and to spend it on growing? Every living thing must grow. It can’t stand still. It must grow or perish.”
The characters in this story are split between hardworking, exceptional creators and mediocre, “just trying to keep the status quo” parasites. And that’s where most people get lost. Because ALL OF US ARE BOTH. The world ISN’T split up into giant creators and complacent freeloaders. We are all a mix of both and then some. There isn’t anyone alive who is 100% good or 100% bad. We’ve learned this already, right? The goal isn’t to be perfect, the goal is to be better. So when a fictional story comes along that uses extremes to make a point, we shouldn’t expect it to fit into the real world.
And that’s how I recommend reading this book. In a way that improves you as a person. Read it to be motivated on a personal level. Read it to feel like you can create something huge too. Not to be selfish or to sit on some proverbial throne, but because you live in this world and you want to contribute to it! I don’t read this book thinking, “Man… everyone else should really step up their game.” I read this book thinking, “I can do so much.” I read this book thinking, “I am perfectly adequate to stand on my own two feet.” I read this book thinking, “When I stand on my own two feet, I can empower others to want to do the same.” It inspires confidence and fearlessness and resilient strength and motivation.
“No matter what night preceded it, she had never known a morning when she did not feel the rise of a quiet excitement that became a tightening energy in her body and a hunger for action in her mind—because this was the beginning of day and it was a day of her life.”
Can you read this book and walk away thinking, “I’m never giving to charity again and taxes are morally wrong!”? Yes, you can. Easily. But I don’t believe that’s the message people today should take away. I believe the message is that you are full of power and strength and amazing ideas and you should live your life with confidence and joyous energy. I believe the message is that whatever you are, be the best one. It’s not about them, it’s about you. What do you want for yourself?
As I was writing this post, I realized it was going to be scheduled to publish on New Year’s Eve. I love new beginnings. I love them because they’re full of possibility and this book makes me want to create real things from the dream of possibility. So… how fitting… that this will post on the day we say goodbye to 2018 to start 2019. What will this year look like for you? Let’s quit more of the same and living to make ends meet. Let’s instead live to exceed our wildest expectations and be the absolute best at anything we pick up.
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.”
Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the 100 days. To submit a question, please click here! If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com
|Denise Karis is a film & digital hybrid wedding photographer based in Phoenix who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris|