If you’re a fan of Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, or Atlas Shrugged, you absolutely MUST read My Years with Ayn Rand, by Dr. Nathanial Branden. Dr. Branden was the protege of Ayn Rand, who many people believe was one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. The Passion of Ayn Rand was made into a Hollywood movie about 10 years ago starring Helen Mirren. The movie focused primarily around the love affair between Ms. Rand and her protege, which is typical Hollywood, but this book takes you behind the scenes of this brilliant thinker and shows you the upside and downside of true genius. It’s a lesson in Mental Toughness and Critical Thinking and I can’t put it down. Listen to this post for more in depth details and then go read the book. I bought my copy at Amazon.com  I’ll look forward to your comments.  Steve Siebold

Steve Siebold
Author and Professional Speaker since 1997. Past Chairman of the National Speakers Association's Million Dollar Speakers Group. Author of 11 books with 1.4 million copies in print.

14 thoughts on “My Years with Ayn Rand”

  1. I just recently read an article in the October issue of G.Q. by Andrew Corsello entitled “The Bitch is Back”.

    The article mentions Dr. Branden, how he changed his name from Blumenthal to Branden (Rand combined with Ben, the Hebrew word for “son of”), the sexual relationship Rand and Branden carried on even though they were both married at the time to other people, and the making of ARA’s, or “Ayn Rand Assholes”.

    Whether you subscribe to Ayn Rand’s way of viewing the world or not, or whether you have read any of her books, in my opinion this article is well written and thought provoking.


    Courtney 🙂

  2. I’m contacting Dr. Nathanial Branden in Los Angeles this week and asking him to weigh in on our discussion. Wouldn’t that be fascinating?

  3. I like the basic concept, that is believe in yourself and hard work. As for what this or that historical person did in his or her life it might surely be of interest. But it does not affect the validity of the original presumption: People who trust themselves and the value of thrift always progresses, in one way or another.

  4. Christoph – woud you give a brief explanation of how Mother Teresa inadvertantly – or maybe intentionally via holding her true thoughts and feelings – through what she believed was good work, impovershed not only lots of people of her time but today through the works of what she started that abomination continues.

    This could shed some light on the evil of apparent goodness and in a convoluted way, the goodness that comes out of apparent evil.


  5. I appreciate your comments which validate that I have an objectivity and clarity about what I’m posting, Steve, When a few days passed and no replies came after my first post I posted the second to make a second point and relate it to Ayn Rand and an objective reality different than what I’d call Mother Teresa’s subjective I wrote on in my first post.

    Thirty-five years ago I was unable to complete a Master’s theses, I called my prof who was guiding me, he cussed me out in no uncertain terms saying I had two weeks to finish it or I was finished – no more extentions to get it done and I’d never be able to earn a MA from the university. Looking back I think he saw I was stuck and keeded a swift kick.

    Totally frustrated and stuck, I shredded hundreds of typed pages and starting from scratch with the same piece, Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” took an opposite approach than I had been taking.

    Two weeks later I turned it in, it passed, and a few months later did an oral explication on another piece of writing by another author, and got my degeee.

    All that taught me you can have contradictons and opposites at the same time in your reality or perception moving from one to the other – but it’s not a common way of looking at the world. Add to that multiple interpretations and you get a really challenging perception – that can be good or bad.

    Ayn Rand and Mother Teresa were really each locked into very different specific realities very focused and inclusive in concrete defining terms. One was highly intellectual as you say – an extremely high intellectual IQ – and the other highly emotional and affective and an exttemely high personal spiritual IQ.

    Great provoking powerful thread you started here, Steve.


  6. Mike,
    I think you’re exactly right about Rand/Mother Theresa! Ayn Rand was a genius who put so much emphasis on the critical nature of reason that she forgot about being a decent human being. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people with genius level IQ’s over the years, and I’ve felt sorry for almost all of them. In essence, they’re too smart for their own well being! I’m all for the power of the individual and even the virtue of selfishness. (in the proper context) But what Rand blinded herself to was the need for successful people to give back to a world that needs help. Objectivism goes too far, and I think that’s why it’s been discounted by so many since the 1960’s. Atlas Shrugged is my favorite novel, and I’m a huge Ayn Rand fan, as flawed as she was. But Mother Theresa impacted the world in a such positive way and set an example of what it means to be a great human being. Ayn Rand wrote one or two great novels and created the framework of a philosophy. Mother Theresa changed how the world thinks about service and giving back. Rand isn’t even in the same league.
    As always, thanks for your thoughts, Mike!

  7. Morten and Curtis,
    Thanks for your comments. I’d like to hear more on your position that Nathanial Branden exploited Ayn Rand. In 13 years of research on both parties (including Barbara Branden and James Valliant) I’ve found no evidence that this is true. What I’ve concluded is Ayn Rand was a genius tormented by her own intellect, which is not uncommon. After being rejected romantically by Dr. Branden in 1968, she unleashed her inner demons and used her substantial influence with her followers who would believe anything she said. (exactly what she preached against)
    With some people it worked, but others in her inner circle
    saw it for what it was: a woman scorned. Despite being publicly ridiculed and viciously atacked by Rand, Nathanial Branden moved to Los Angeles and bulit a legacy as the father the of self esteem movement. His books have sold over 4 million copies. I’ve read almost all of them, and they are excellent. When I was booked to speak at the same convention as Dr. Branden in 1996, I was thrilled, because I had just read his book, The Six Pillars of Self Esteem. He gave a brilliant speech. I’ll bet 99% of the audience didn’t even know of his connection to Ms. Rand. My point is Nathanial Branden created his own legacy. Ayn Rand did everything she could to destroy her protege out of spite and hatred, and he still succeeded, and thats what mental toughness is all about.

    I’d love to hear more of what you think on the other side of this argument. I’m not attempting to convince, just debate.
    Thanks again for your thoughts!
    Steve Siebold

  8. Footnote: Ayn Rand would probably have laughed at my assertion that Mother Teresa was mentally tough. Strong willed, she might have agreed with, and deluded with a belief in God driven by her irrational thinking to serve others which became her convoluted way of serving herself. AND in all that the mental and emotional schism produced depression.



  9. I haven’t reread Ayn Rand for a decade other than some essays but I just went to Nathanial Branden’s site and read an interview he did – until Steve posted this I didn’t know of him and likewise, I’m ignorant of any issues or explotation, anything other than what Steve posted and what I just read.

    One thing Branden talks about in the interview is how one’s faith or philosophy – how one’s absolute belief in something that represents a world view – cab create and build self esteem BUT how if it’s put into doubt it can begin to lower and crumble one’s self esteem.

    That seems to be an objective statement about how belief and faith work as causes of effects and outcomes.

    Mother Teresa was a woman of extreme mental toughness and an example of a world view based on faith and belief sustaining her life work even when the darkness of doubt and disbelief was eminent and lasted for years.

    She talked about loving and giving until it hurt terribly to go any further and at that extreme juncture pain would give way to more energy and love and a freeing up of resistence.

    She said: “There is one God to all. Therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should belp a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”

    She also said: “There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God. I follow Christ..”

    And, “It is impossible to walk rapidly and be unhappy.”

    The best of success to everyone.


  10. Mr. and Mrs. Branden exploited Ayn Rand while she was living and continue to do so after her death. They are shameless.

  11. Dr. Brandons book is full of inconsistencies and blatent lies and comes across as little more than a sad characters pathetic cry for redemption.

    You’re better off re-reading Atlas or Fountainhead. Brandon wouldn’t even qualify as one of their many villains.

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