The piece depicts an episode from the book during which Roark turns down a commission because the clients are asking him to violate his aesthetic principles. He turns it down despite desperately needing the money, and when he is asked why he must be so “selfless,” he responds “that is the most selfish thing you‘ve ever seen a man do.”
See, Roark understands that a man’s self interest is not determined solely by the immediate moment, but over a lifetime. To compromise on one’s values and principles now lays the foundations for consequences down the road. You cannot have your cake and eat it too, as Rand might say.
Reading this scene in high school was particularly impactful. When I look back over my life, some of the most important moments were those when I said no despite all the pressure to do otherwise. I said no to more football even though I was the starting quarterback because I knew my goals were elsewhere. I said no to college though I was a Dean’s List student and everyone said I needed to be there because my goals were elsewhere. I said no to many high paying offers to leave Praxis from other companies. And when the time came, I said no to my great job at a great company so I could start my own.
And now I have so much of what I want in life and when I look around at others, I often see that their inability to stand by a principle or a value is the only difference.
Learn to say no.