”You learn to live with what you can’t rise above” vs “Achieve X or die trying” +Howard Roark

I remember having a Fountainhead discussion with another book fan. I was insisting that it’s silly and likely impossible to try to fundamentally change yourself, especially just for the heck of it. We’re animals, we have certain traits, and the way our brains are built matters. Yes, you can, for example, try to “cure” yourself of introversion, but why? My conversation partner, a big fan of Rand’s philosophy, said my insistence on impossibility of fundamental change was defeatist, and nothing would ever be invented with that mindset. In this post, I’ll explore what attitude would be best, and try to determine which one Howard Roark had.

1)”You learn to live with what you can’t rise above” – is this good or bad?

On one side, it’s good to learn to cope with whatever life throws at you. You can learn to be happy with less. In fact, you must, or else you will always think of how much better it can be, and it will make you unhappy. To be happy, you must accept the new situation as the new normal. This ability speaks of great self-sufficiency. But on the other side, accepting life can speak of lack of imagination (you can’t imagine it being any different), and it can lead to limited effort to change things you could have changed. In a way, it’s learned helplessness. It keeps you in a shitty situation simply because it’s tolerable.

If you don’t learn to live with what you can’t rise above, you will be very unhappy. But you will also try harder to rise it, and sometimes trying for a long enough time is all it takes. Sometimes the opposite happens – you try all your life, until you’re about to die, and end up realizing what a waste that was.

2) When should we embrace something, and when fight against it with all our might?

I’ve heard the former option being chosen in the fat acceptance movement, perhaps some autism communities.



But it can apply to anything.  It’s one thing to merely accept life and live with what you have. Another is to embrace what you formerly saw as a problem, and to start seeing it as something to be proud of.

Around these parts, fat acceptance is laughed at. They say fat people don’t truly accept themselves, they are just learning to live with what they can’t rise above. To me, it does appear to be the case often.

But even if someone does seem to insist they are truly embracing their fatness, they are asked “Why the hell would you?” Fatness is, after all, unhealthy, and less attractive to the majority of people.

I think this is where the answer to question no. 2 lies. You fight something when it’s a net negative to you, and embrace it when it’s a net positive.

Trouble is, it’s hard to see if something is a net positive or not. For example, think of a somewhat weird, quiet, asocial kid. It’s not good for job opportunities to be too asocial. It’s not good to be weird either, because people get creeped out. I also think we’re programmed to care what society thinks of us. Some care less than others, but we’re social animals. It can be pretty damn hard to stand up to the world. If you stick out, you’re either eaten, or you become a leader/trendsetter.

But on the other hand, this kid can possibly fool people into thinking his weirdness is a sign of genius and amazing creativity. It certain professions it’s almost a plus. Also, it is in a way very relaxing to not feel ashamed of what you are and just be yourself. And if you managed to make the world love you, despite your social unacceptableness, you’ll get the ultimate ego trip. You literally made the world suck your d*#k and fucking like it (quoting Jon Davis, in song “Faget”).

You made your mark on the world, instead of merely living within its rules. And you did it by pure changing of minds, rather than with force.

3)What did Howard Roark do?

I think he did both of those. First of all, he “learned to live with what he couldn’t rise above”

Having social grace was alien for him. So alien that he never seemed to want to learn it. He kept losing jobs due to lack of social skills and not wanting to compromise anything. I wonder why he never even attempted to learn social skills in order to get what he truly wanted. Perhaps he saw it as a road to letting himself be chipped away bit by bit, and losing himself in the process. I honestly don’t think learning persuasion skills is all that terrible for your soul though, he could have tried. But he couldn’t and wouldn’t.

Second, he did follow the philosophy of “I’ll do what my passion demands, or die trying”. And pretty much won.

The only thing he didn’t do is “embrace” himself like the fat acceptance people do. He simply didn’t have those ambitions. He didn’t care about looking super-awesome, he just wanted to do what he was passionate about, architecture.

4)The Solution

I think it’s totally fine to remain yourself, even if that involves handicaps, if you have something else that makes up for it. But that something else has got to be substantial!

The ideal, I think, is to both remain yourself, AND win in this world. Not everyone will like you, but they don’t have to. Still, winning a ton of respect while being yourself and doing what makes you happy is great.

Thinking you can’t become an extravert is not the mindset holding people from inventing cool stuff. In fact I think half the time, using time and effort on becoming an extravert will prevent you from inventing cool stuff. The other half of the time, it does help to invest in more extraversion. Like if your passion is to be a PUA and help other clueless men.

Whatever you do, think about yourself on your deathbed. What would you think then, about what you are doing now? Would you regret this, or will it be just right?

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5 Responses to ”You learn to live with what you can’t rise above” vs “Achieve X or die trying” +Howard Roark

  1. As an introvert, I’m appalled by the idea that anyone would want to ‘cure’ themselves of one of seven personality traits (or any of them, come to that). About half the population is introverted, and are ‘hard-wired’ thus. Even if I could press a button to become extraverted, I wouldn’t. There’s just too many positives about introversion including self-reliance and independent-mindedness. That said, it can be uncomfortable being an introvert in culturally extraverted countries (UK, US, Australia) while I imagine it can be uncomfortable being an extravert in culturally introverted countries (Japan, Scandinavian countries…). In my book ‘The Fraud of the Rings’ I explain why introversion is one of three risk factors in marriage.

    As for what you can change about yourself, and what you can’t, the best book I know of on the subject is this:


    Mike Buchanan

    (and the women who love them)


  2. Eric says:

    Angry Harry said recently that there was too much tendency in our culture to over-analyse the minutiae of our lives. On a deeper level, this is symptomatic of narcissism that’s permeating our culture as well. The Fat Acceptance way of thinking would say: ‘There’s a reason why I’m fat; now accept it as normal.” The end result of this way of thinking (on a collective level) is to reduce all of society to the level of its lowest and least worthwhile members. For example, in the city where I live the street beggars and bums are extremely arrogant and have an incredible sense of entitlement; whereas successful people are shamed and guilt-tripped and told that they are too ‘materialistic.’

    I read a historian recently who said that the ancient Greeks achieved their phenomenal successes because they accepted that all men had a basic nature, which they subdivided into four ‘temperaments’, each having corresponding natures. But the Greeks believed that what really made us human was to rise above the natural plane, and cultivate themselves in a way pleasing to the Gods. It’s noteworthy that the Greek Gods are depicted as superhuman beings; while the barbarians worshipped idols that were like animal-totems. The Greeks tried to rise to their concept of the ideal man while the barbarians remained savages because their ideal wasn’t even human.

    • Emma the Emo says:

      I think there is a tendency to overanalyse every little thing in our lives because we now have too much time on our hands. In the past, we wouldn’t have time for philosophy, we’d be busy surviving and reproducing. We wouldn’t get fat either, or get much existential angst about the meaning of life.

  3. Liz says:

    “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”
    W. C. Fields

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