The Tao of Roark

by Peter Saint-Andre

Chapter 20: Self-Improvement

Previous: Chapter 19: Collaboration

My most challenging project is myself.

No area of possible achievement involves greater obstacles, difficulties, and resistances than my own soul. Yet no area offers greater potential rewards.

Self-improvement is soul-improvement: being productive of my character. I can improve my mind, my body, my decisions, my emotions; I can pursue excellence that is intellectual, physical, financial, ethical, professional, cultural, spiritual; I can be morally ambitious, I can define and refine my moral compass; when I make mistakes I can realize them, admit them, and correct them; I can seek discipline and control and mastery over myself, I can focus my self-knowledge and personal responsibility into internal action through superior habits of thought and choice and feeling.

Self-improvement is a matter of improving, not remaking. If I seek to improve, I accept myself as the foundation; I see myself as material for action; I build upon what I already am. I do not raze the site upon which I shall build my life; instead I integrate my building with the site, just as Roark did with the homes he designed.

Roark is a law of nature, perfect and complete from his earliest youth. Yet I was not born perfect: every day I must grow and improve in my character. Only slowly and with hard work will I reach the highest point of my completed being. As Baltasar Gracian says in The Art of Worldly Wisdom, I will know that I have achieved the full round of my excellences by the clearness of my thought, the maturity of my judgment, the firmness of my will, and the purity of my taste.

The true result of self-improvement is not self-esteem, because a mere feeling about myself is never primary. No, it is something much harder to achieve: self-value and self-worth.

Next: Chapter 21: Passion

Peter Saint-Andre > Writings > The Tao of Roark