The Ayn Rand Book that Winked at Me

Posted on April 12, 2014 in Business Essentials

How do you pack for a trip down memory lane?

For Proust, all it took was the smell of some coffee and pastry. For me, it was today’s tweet from @Brenna_E on @mashable regarding a “Giant Shout-Out to Ayn Rand.”

In high school, a friend of mine was forced to digest Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, which she detested for each of the 974 pages.  I vowed, at that tender age, never to saddle myself with such a wordy, quasi-philosophical tome.

But 10 years is a long time to keep such a promise.  Surprisingly, I found myself devouring Rand’s The Fountainhead while in law school.  I justified it as a way to take a break from (avoid?) my fed tax class. I had also been selected to join a moot court team … so I suppose I wanted an excuse to procrastinate on writing my legal brief.  The trials and tribulations of Howard Roark caught my imagination. Especially his development of Monadnock Valley.  Roark had been hired–a la The Producers— in the hopes that he would fail; the project turned out to be a smashing success.

Fast forward three months, and my Boston University Law moot court team had made it to the final round of our competition. Frankly, that we made it past the first round was an absolute miracle. The previous year’s team was knocked out of the competition very early. (Plus, they had several straight-A students on the team).  The competition took place in Chicago, so we were outside of our natural turf. All of the other teams had a phalanx of coaches and trainers and moot court prep staff–like they were boxers with an entourage. Our team was a rag-tag group of three “orphans.” No coach, no trainer, no cheerleaders; just three law students hoping to make good.

Because we had made the final round, we were entitled to attend the celebration rubber-chicken dinner at Chicago’s Union League Club.  The competition winners would be announced during the meal (as if that weren’t enough to either make you sick or lose your appetite altogether).

As my teammates and I walked the unfamiliar streets to get to the dinner, I felt something within me say “Look up.” Having been so focused on “when we win or wouldn’t we?” I was paying absolute no attention to the architecture of Chicago’s downtown. I stopped for a moment, to look at a building across the street. It had an imposing, stone façade. And carved across the doorway in thick, black letters was the word “MONADNOCK.”

My team went on to win First Place and Best Brief at the competition. (Oh, you should have seen the tears from the other competitors!) Us, the Boston University Law school orphans–we walked away with the prizes. Like Howard Roark, we were not expected to do well. We weren’t the smartest kids in our class. We weren’t from the Midwest. We didn’t have outside support. (Even BU’s Moot Court Director was skeptical of our chances.)

But, against all odds, we stole the show. 🙂  Call it our “Monadnock Moment.”

What’s yours?

 

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