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Independence is the commitment to thinking for ourselves. We live by reason, by thinking, and this is a function of the individual mind. We are the masters of our own destiny, and to be in command we must rely on the judgement of our own rational minds.

Independence does not mean seclusion or complete self-reliance. We derive enormous benefits from interacting with others: for example, through learning and trade. But before we can trade, we must judge whether the trade is worthwhile; and before we can learn, we must judge whether the teacher is qualified. We must therefore rely on the judgement of our own minds before we can benefit from interaction with others.

The virtue of Independence means that we do not blindly follow tradition, but that we try to improve on it. In fact independence is essential for innovation, for the innovator by definition goes where others have not thought to go before. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of independence was Lawrence Hargrave, a brilliant inventor whose work did much to hasten the development of powered flight. His attempts at flight - he constructed 18 machines in total - were ridiculed by academics, and he commented in 1892: 'The people of Sydney who can speak of my work without a smile are very scarce'[1]. To persist in the face of such scorn is the epitome of independence.

Of course there have been many others who have followed their vision when others have denied its feasibility. Steve Jobs persisted even though he was told by scientists and businessmen that his product could not work[2]. Michael Dell’s idea of direct marketing of high quality, low cost computers was “scoffed at by the big boys”[3]. Billionaire Ted Turner said “I just love it when people say I can’t do something. There is nothing that makes me feel better because all my life people have said that I wasn’t going to make it.”[4]

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Footnotes:

[1] Octave Chanute, Aeroplanes : Part XV ( September 1893) extracted in www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/hargrave.html from http://invention.psychology.msstate.edu

[2] G. Landrum, Profiles in Genius (Prometheus Books, 1993) Chapter 6 referenced in Locke, E.A., The Prime Movers – Traits of the Great Wealth Creators (Amacom 2000) p. 30

[3] E. A. Locke, op cit p. 30

[4] R. Goldberg and G. Goldberg, “Citizen Turner”, Playboy, June 1995 quoted in D. Greiner and T. Kinni, Ayn Rand and Business (Texere Publishing 2001) p. 78

 

 
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