I changed careers and philosophies after reading Atlas Shrugged. I read it when I was 28 years old. At that time I was asking questions such as “What is my purpose in life?” and “Why don’t I sell all I have and give the money to the poor?” At the time I was active in the Methodist church and I could not make sense out of what was being preached. For example, I could not understand why it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to heavenI That was my mindset.
My purpose in life is to achieve my own happiness.
Reading Atlas Shrugged was a non-stop weekend. Wow! I immediately read all of Ayn Rand’s other writings. All these light bulbs went on in my brain, and I found an answer to my question. My purpose in life is to achieve my own happiness, in the context, of course, that I don’t initiate force or fraud against others. I should follow my passion, rather than serve others—nation, neighborhood, humanity, God. I should do what turns me on rather than what others think I should do.
So, I asked myself, “What turns me on?” Well, scratch the surface on my forehead and all these numbers fall out. I am a mathematician; I have been since I was a kid. I used to count how many steps it took to walk to school. I calculated how many bricks there were in the high school building.
At the time of reading Atlas Shrugged, I was an engineer. I said to myself, “If mathematics is what turns me on, why don’t I do it full time?” That was the logic that drove my decision to change careers.
My wife and I had just bought a nice house and just had our first son, and I was an up-and-coming engineer. And I said “I’m going back to school in mathematics,” and never looked back. We sold the house and moved and I ultimately got a degree in statistics. That was one of my best-ever decisions.
In my new statistics career (and related work in compensation), employers and clients told me they saw the fire in my eyes when I talked about statistics, and that they wanted to work with someone whose passion was so evident. Atlas Shrugged, by providing the moral foundation and sanction to do what I really love to do in all areas of my life, continues to be instrumental in helping me lead a productive and fulfilling life.