Seeing the movie “The Fountainhead” for the first time was thrilling. The central character of architect Howard Roark is an almost aggressively individualistic, self-directed, self-contained artist, played with assured brio by Gary Cooper. As usual in his films, a heroic mensch.
The movie gave me a stronger sense of hope it was possible to be an outsider and still confident and authentically unique.
What reminded me of the film and some of the philosophy of its source book author, Ayn Rand, was a comment by Daniel Pink in an interview with Seth Godin (more on that below): “…her iconic characters — for instance, Howard Roark — were motivated by internal desires like autonomy, mastery, and purpose.”
Here is some of the dialogue from the video clip of the trial scene in The Fountainhead.
Roark had agreed to design an upscale homes project, in exchange for complete anonymity and with an agreement that his design would not be changed. The architect who made the agreement and put his name on the project, goes ahead and changes the design, and Roark dynamites the building “to prevent the subversion of his vision.” [Wikipedia]
[From the movie:] Howard Roark: delivering the closing statements of his own defense:
Thousands of years ago the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light, but he left them a gift they had not conceived of, and he lifted darkness off the earth.
Through out the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision. The great creators, the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors, stood alone against the men of their time.
Every new thought was opposed. Every new invention was denounced. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered, and they paid – but they won.
No creator was prompted by a desire to please his brothers. His brothers hated the gift he offered.
His truth was his only motive. His work was his only goal. His work, not those who used it, his creation, not the benefits others derived from it.
The creation which gave form to his truth. He held his truth above all things, and against all men. He went ahead whether others agreed with him or not.
With his integrity as his only banner. He served nothing, and no one. He lived for himself.
And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.
Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. But the mind is an attribute of the individual, there is no such thing as a collective brain. The man who thinks must think and act on his own.
The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot not be subordinated to the needs, opinions, or wishes of others.
It is not an object of sacrifice. The creator stands on his own judgment. [From imdb.com]
Daniel Pink and Seth Godin talk about motivation and creativity
GODIN: Your book Drive really got me excited. First, it’s a great book. Second, it brings up a complementary point I totally missed! The essence of the lesson, as I hear it, is that art, initiative and creativity aren’t things we do to get a reward. They are intrinsic rewards in and of themselves. Do I have that right?
PINK: Amen, Seth. Too many people harbor the misguided belief that humans are motivated solely by biological urges and by carrots-and-sticks. Those two drives matter, of course. But we’ve neglected that humans also have a *third* drive — to direct our own lives, to get better at stuff, to make a contribution.
Here’s an example. This weekend somebody’s going to be practicing the clarinet — even though it won’t get him a mate (the first drive) or make him any money (the second drive.) Why is he doing that? Because it’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s meaningful. Because the act is its own reward.
GODIN: As you put it on the first page of Drive, this is a mind-blowing revelation that has been almost completely overlooked by our command-and-control factory system. In the world we grew up with, if there isn’t an extrinsic motivator (a prize, a payment or at the very least, a pat on the head) then why bother? What do you think Ayn Rand would say?
PINK: First, don’t forget that Ayn Rand herself was a novelist and screenwriter — a creator. Beyond that, I think she’d be aghast at my saying the market isn’t perfect all the time. But I think she’d see that her iconic characters — for instance, Howard Roark — were motivated by internal desires like autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
From Pink’s blog post Are you indispensable?
Seth Godin has commented, “Once you decide to do work that matters, to be generous, to make a difference and to connect and lead, it’s hard to go back to being a cog in the machine, focusing on compliance. I’m not saying you should quit your job, but I am arguing that you should quit complying with your perception of the status quo.”
From Linchpin – An interview with Seth Godin on creativity and resistance By Chad Engle.
Here is Seth Godin talking about being a Linchpin – from interview by David Meerman Scott.
Drive by Daniel Pink
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink — “A look at how right-brain skills such as design, empathy, story telling and play are crucial to succeeding in an increasingly globalized economy.”
Audiobook: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? By Seth Godin, Narrated by Seth Godin
Print book: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
Portrait of Gary Cooper from Hurrell’s Hollywood Portraits