One way of explaining it is:
It feels good to achieve things (if they are pro-life… which can be hard to evaluate), and doing something groundbreaking is the pinnacle of achievement.
This sentence falsely implies that I have integrated Objectivism more than I actually have. It’s more of a statement about what things I think it would feel good to achieve for the ideal man, whom I aspire to be.
For me personally, there are definitely some things that I’m pretty sure are pro-life but also don’t feel good to do (and vice versa).
edit: and also some things where I’m just not sure whether or not they are good
Do you think tons of people should be similarly ambitious, or just a few?
I think everyone is capable of great things, so in some sense I think that basically everyone should be similarly ambitious.
There are a few exceptions, like if you know you’re going to die tomorrow then you should probably not be trying to do something groundbreaking (though even then, you should still be ambitious wrt how to spend your last moments).
What’s the difference between you and them?
me and who? unambitious people?
In a word, the difference is: philosophy.
I can think of a lot of philosophical beliefs that could cause people to be unambitious, and I don’t share those beliefs. Some examples of those anti-ambition beliefs:
- the belief that there is no free will
- people believing bigoted myths about the race (or sex etc) to which they belong
- subjectivism: we can’t know anything anyway so why bother
- people believing that smarts are determined genetically and that they simply aren’t smart enough to be better than average
- a lot of religions to one extent or another say it is sinful or pointless to pursue earthly values
- Environmentalism and Marxism say (roughly) that material success means you’re exploiting the earth or the proletariat respectively
- an extremely common theme in popular movies/books is for there to be a character who is outwardly successful but inwardly miserable, and (unlike in FH) the explanation is given is that success and happiness are incompatible
I think you’re giving reasons for why you choose to be ambitious and others don’t. So are you thinking that choosing to be ambitious, as against not choosing it, is a major differentiator?
I was viewing it as the only differentiator (barring weird cases like the man who is going to die tomorrow). That seemed obvious and not worth justifying: if someone believes that being ambitious is good, then they will just become ambitious… right? oh.
I was being rationalistic again.
A person could be intellectually convinced that it’s good to be ambitious, while nonetheless also having a lot of ideas that implicitly believe anti-ambition philosophy.
The next question (edit: the next question I should ask myself) is: to what extent could that person be me? Do I really know that this is true:
Many people are ambitious but fail. Do you agree?
Yes, I definitely agree with that. I have always known that.
So why should lots more people be ambitious when, for many of them, that will result in failure?
A thought like that is what made me write the qualifier
in my claim
A less qualified version of that claim would be:
Everyone is capable of great things, so basically everyone should be as ambitious as I am in their long-term goals.
It’s really hard to know which long term goals will or will not result in failure, and (a la BoI) you should assume it’s possible to achieve those goals unless you can explain why it’s not possible. You have plenty of time to change your long-term goals if they turn out to be unachievable or undesirable, so there’s not much of a downside to being ambitious in the long-run. The upside to being ambitious is that ambitious long-term goals are really desirable ends, and so they motivate short-term achievement. That’s why I think ~everyone should err on the side of shooting for the moon in the long run.
Which short-term goals are or are not rational will depend a lot more on a person’s specific situation. Most people should not be trying to do something groundbreaking in the short-run. Good short-term goals are, in particular, ones which are not likely to result in failure. I think I would still tend to say that people should set ambitious short-term goals, but what counts as an ambitious or unambitious short-term goal depends on the person.