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Psychologist Gena Gorlin Discusses the Motivations of Founders

What’s the psychology of ambitious creators and startup founders? How can one build that in one’s own life?

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In a recent ARI Roundtable interview, Dr. Gena Gorlin, a licensed psychologist, entrepreneur coach, and faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin, discussed the psychology of ambitious creators and startup founders. Dr. Gorlin, who writes a Substack newsletter on a subject titled “Building the Builders,” talked about her insights into what motivates some of the world’s most ambitious people and what we all can learn from this about reaching our full potential.

Among other topics, the conversation explored how Ayn Rand’s ideas have influenced Dr. Gorlin’s work on the intersection of philosophy and psychology in the realm of creative work. Making use of Rand’s powerful framework, she is able to bring a new level of clarity and conceptualization to commonly held false dichotomies. For example, she explained how Rand’s rejection of “duty”-based ethics helped her untangle the false dichotomy between strict, demanding “drill sergeant” and loose, relaxed “Zen master” approaches to work, which is an obstacle for many ambitious people. Dr. Gorlin related how her decision to work as a coach for founders was influenced by her experiences getting to know entrepreneurs who are part of the Objectivist community and by Rand’s insights about the centrality of productive work to a flourishing life.  

Dr. Gorlin noted that her involvement with the community of intellectuals around ARI has served as a source of inspiration and helped her formulate and refine her ideas. Dr. Gorlin’s research and writing on these issues is supported by the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship, which provides grants for scholarly work by intellectuals influenced by Rand’s philosophy.

Dr. Gorlin’s discussion of the mindset behind ambitious, productive work was informative and inspirational. You can now watch a recording of her interview, as a taste of one of the valuable perks that come with ARI membership.

ARI’s online donor roundtable events offer the opportunity to hear how people are implementing Ayn Rand’s ideas in their lives and work. These monthly events, exclusively for ARI members, feature unique content and inspiring guest interviews, as well as the opportunity to socialize in breakout rooms hosted by ARI staff.   


If you value the ideas presented here, please become an ARI Member today.

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Ibis Slade

Ibis Slade is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute and a content creator. He focuses on American intellectual and moral history.

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