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Teen girl finishes round-the-world sail in Sydney

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WOW What an achievement. When I was 16...

Round-the-world

Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail around the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted when she cruised into Sydney Harbour in her pink, 34-foot yacht to a rock-star welcome. She successfully maneuvered her boat through raging storms, 40-foot waves and seven knockdowns during the 23,000 nautical mile journey that critics thought she wouldn't survive.

"Amazingly, I just enjoyed it much, much more than I ever thought I would and handled the challenges better than I thought," Watson said. "You don't actually have a choice — you're in the middle of a storm, you're being knocked down — you can't fall apart."

After standing on land for the first time in 210 days, the teen said she's eager to learn how to drive a car, to eat fresh fruit and salad after months of packaged meals, get a full night's sleep instead of catnaps and shake off her sea legs with a long walk on the beach.

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"People don't think you're capable of these things — they don't realize what young people, what 16-year-olds and girls are capable of," she told the crowd. "It's amazing, when you take away those expectations, what you can do."

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And though Rudd dubbed her "Australia's newest hero," Watson disagreed.

"I don't consider myself a hero," she said. "I'm an ordinary girl who believed in her dream."

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Quite an acheivement and worthy of praise. I just get tired of seeing people constantly stating, "I'm not heroic" or something similar. If a person that stands true to their code in the face of extremely difficult tasks is not heroic then I do not know what is heroic. "Thank you, I appreciate the kind words" would be a worthy response. Humility, what a disgusting idea.

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"People don't think you're capable of these things — they don't realize what young people, what 16-year-olds and girls are capable of," she told the crowd. "It's amazing, when you take away those expectations, what you can do."...

And though Rudd dubbed her "Australia's newest hero," Watson disagreed.

"I don't consider myself a hero," she said. "I'm an ordinary girl who believed in her dream."

Quite an acheivement and worthy of praise. I just get tired of seeing people constantly stating, "I'm not heroic" or something similar. If a person that stands true to their code in the face of extremely difficult tasks is not heroic then I do not know what is heroic. "Thank you, I appreciate the kind words" would be a worthy response. Humility, what a disgusting idea.

She didn't deny the degree of her accomplishment. She was stressing that human beings with normal faculties have the capacity to do great things for themselves when they choose to follow their dreams. What mattered to her is what she did, not what people call it.

"Don't be astonished, Miss Taggart," said Dr. Akston, smiling, "and don't make the mistake of thinking that these three pupils of mine are some sort of superhuman creatures. They're something much greater and more astounding than that: they're normal men—a thing the world has never seen—and their feat is that they managed to survive as such. It does take an exceptional mind and a still more exceptional integrity to remain untouched by the brain-destroying influences of the world's doctrines, the accumulated evil of centuries—to remain human, since the human is the rational."

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She didn't deny the degree of her accomplishment. She was stressing that human beings with normal faculties have the capacity to do great things for themselves when they choose to follow their dreams. What mattered to her is what she did, not what people call it.

I did not state that she denied the achievement of her actions. I stated that she denied her actions as being heroic.

"Discard the protective rags of that vice which you call a virtue: humility—learn to value yourself, which means: to fight for your happiness—and when you learn that pride is the sum of all virtues, you will learn to live like a man." [Ayn Rand, Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, 179]

"The man-worshipers, in my sense of the term, are those who see man’s highest potential and strive to actualize it. . . . [Man-worshipers are] those dedicated to the exaltation of man’s self-esteem and the sacredness of his happiness on earth." [Ayn Rand, “Introduction to The Fountainhead,” The Objectivist, March 1968, 4.]

"The virtue of Pride can best be described by the term: “moral ambitiousness.” It means that one must earn the right to hold oneself as one’s own highest value by achieving one’s own moral perfection—which one achieves by never accepting any code of irrational virtues impossible to practice and by never failing to practice the virtues one knows to be rational—by never accepting an unearned guilt and never earning any, or, if one has earned it, never leaving it uncorrected—by never resigning oneself passively to any flaws in one’s character—by never placing any concern, wish, fear or mood of the moment above the reality of one’s own self-esteem. And, above all, it means one’s rejection of the role of a sacrificial animal, the rejection of any doctrine that preaches self-immolation as a moral virtue or duty." [Ayn Rand “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 27.]

To face the fear of taking on difficult situations such as sailing around the world and dealing with all the task that go with that endeavor is a heroic act. And to also demonstrate that she could achieve the task because she had the courage/self-confidence to stand up and fight for her values and happiness is worthy of being called heroic. The young girl contradicts herself when she stands up for what she thinks she can accomplish but thinks that her efforts of fighting for her values and happiness is not heroic.

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Ewv (and others), I am not stating that this girl is not worthy of praise as I think she is. What I am attempting to state is that one need not fire a gun to be considered a hero. All one has to do to be considered heroic is stand and fight for their moral code, which in other words means their life and happiness. This girl seems to have done just that and she acknowledged that her accomplishment is worthy of praise. But I think she should also recognize that her accomplishment is worthy of being called heroic.

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Ewv (and others), I am not stating that this girl is not worthy of praise as I think she is. What I am attempting to state is that one need not fire a gun to be considered a hero. All one has to do to be considered heroic is stand and fight for their moral code, which in other words means their life and happiness. This girl seems to have done just that and she acknowledged that her accomplishment is worthy of praise. But I think she should also recognize that her accomplishment is worthy of being called heroic.

That is for others to judge, not her. Normally, when someone accomplishes something difficult, he only thinks in terms of his goal, what he had to do to achieve it, and the fact that he did, all within the context of what he as a 'normal' person could and should have done, accepting all that as natural.

Making judgments, like 'heroism', in comparison with other people and their more routine actions, is for others to do. I wouldn't criticize her for not wanting to be called a hero. Far better that she was concerned with her own personal goals than comparing herself with other people or thinking of her approach to life as anything other than what should be regarded as the normal. That isn't 'humility'.

Here is an example of an extreme case in World War II, discussed previously on the Forum here.

In World War II (as in other emergency situations) it was very common that people did things all the time that were heroic, but they didn't feel like "heroes" -- they did what they thought they had to (and knew a lot of others who did more and didn't come back). A radio operator, Henry Erwin was given the only Medal of Honor (the highest possible) in the Twentieth Bomber Command for what he did in a raid over Japan in 1945. A flare bomb malfunctioned and exploded at 1300 degrees inside the plane, searing Erwin's nose and ear off and otherwise burning him badly. Thick black smoke was filling the plane and the pilot lost control, quickly dropping from 1,000 to 300 feet. He was able to regain control only after Erwin, in great pain from the explosion in his face, had the presence of mind to grab the bomb in his cramped quarters and struggle to work his way forward in the plane where he yelled to the co-pilot to open the window, then threw the burning, smoking bomb out. Because of his actions they made it back, and after Erwin was brought back from near death and given the award, he responded: "They made a fuss about my being a hero. It didn't occur to me at the time. I knew the flare was burning, and I just had to get it out of there."

That summarizes how any of us feel when we do something right that is important: we do it because we automatically want to do the right thing and do what needs to be done; any "credit" for it comes later and is secondary -- what matters most is doing well what is necessary, and that is still what matters while we go on to the next step (which is what "living" is) even while others are still talking about what happened in the past. Sometimes "loneliness" comes when people praise you for what you did without their ever recognizing what you are and why you did it, or what else it took and how much they still don't understand. That is something that can make you feel awkward about the praise -- you still aren't understood and it's the understanding and not the praise as such that you want.

The girl who sailed around the world didn't want praise. She only wants people to understand how it was an important personal goal for her, and that, as a normal person, she was able to achieve it despite the difficulties. She isn't concerned with 'heroism', which can only be someone else's evaluation.

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I generally think of heroism as action involving integrity in regard to one's values. More specifically when one is forced to make a choice at great cost rather than taking the easy way out. For example, risking one's life to save the life of a valued person involves the choice of values. To risk one's life to save a value is not the easy way out. It is that integrity that is heroic.

Certainly Jessica carried out an outstanding feat worth of praise, and it was a commitment to her values, but the choice was not forced on her. To me heroism involves action and reaction to unchosen situations, rather than pursuit of values per se. One can say that any seeking of value is heroic, but that covers too broad a spectrum, and makes no distinction between wide classes of actions.

It is a question of semantics and I certainly agree with the sentiment that she is a little hero. I think there is room for a different word to express what she did, a word that recognises her achievement yet distinguishes it from the usual catastrophic choice of values forced on true heroes. Certainly she has given me a lot more confidence in young people. I salute her.

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I generally think of heroism as action involving integrity in regard to one's values. More specifically when one is forced to make a choice at great cost rather than taking the easy way out. For example, risking one's life to save the life of a valued person involves the choice of values. To risk one's life to save a value is not the easy way out. It is that integrity that is heroic.

Certainly Jessica carried out an outstanding feat worth of praise, and it was a commitment to her values, but the choice was not forced on her. To me heroism involves action and reaction to unchosen situations, rather than pursuit of values per se. One can say that any seeking of value is heroic, but that covers too broad a spectrum, and makes no distinction between wide classes of actions.

It is a question of semantics and I certainly agree with the sentiment that she is a little hero. I think there is room for a different word to express what she did, a word that recognises her achievement yet distinguishes it from the usual catastrophic choice of values forced on true heroes. Certainly she has given me a lot more confidence in young people. I salute her.

I'm not quite sure what you refer to as "unchosen" situations. She chose to sail around the world, and I'm sure she would have been perfectly happy with calm sees and and nice 15 mph breeze for the entire trip. What she got was "she successfully maneuvered her boat through raging storms, 40-foot waves and seven knockdowns during the 23,000 nautical mile journey that critics thought she wouldn't survive." What she got was "You don't actually have a choice — you're in the middle of a storm, you're being knocked down — you can't fall apart."

You might say "well, those are consequences of choosing to sail." Well, all situations are results of the choice to live, seek value, and prosper. So what exactly do you see as an unchosen situation?

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A hero is defined as a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities. It takes a certain amount of courage (or stupidity) to set out on a round-the-world sailing expedition at the age of 16 by oneself. But one does not rationally set out to primarily be considered a hero, they set out to achieve their goals/values of which being heroic comes as a secondary consequence. And when others recognize someone's efforts/deeds as full of courage, which means heroic, and that person denies their claim (if the claim is rational) then they are spitting in the face of their own achivements and the good people that agree with that person's virtues and values.

Another similar event that happens quite a bit today is when a person states thank you to someone and recieves the return reply "no problem." When a person recognizes another person's efforts as being worthy of commenting on by explicitly stating "thank you" the original person is recognizing the good in the other person. If the person receiving the complement of "thank you" agree with the person's reasons for giving the compliment (which means the virtues) they should accept the compliment with "your welcome" or something similar that gives a recognition of simliar virtues and values. When a person gives the response "no problem" they are denying their efforts as being worthy of praise and denying the virtues needed to achieve values.

How many people would like it if they kept saying "my actions are not worthy of being called heroic" or stating that it is "no problem" when it comes to their pay or promotion? In other words try telling your boss that "I do not see my actions as worthy of any special treatment" and see how long you keep getting the raises and promotions as you keep denying you have done anything special.

I also offer as a reply to Arnold that life demands taking risk, risk of the unknown, and those that use virtues as their guide to achieve their goals/values by taking risk are worthy of being called heroic. The bigger the risk and effort the higher on the scale of heroism they will be admired or considered. In other words, the your sailor under discussion is heroic, but not nearly as heroic as George Washington.

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I generally think of heroism as action involving integrity in regard to one's values. More specifically when one is forced to make a choice at great cost rather than taking the easy way out. For example, risking one's life to save the life of a valued person involves the choice of values. To risk one's life to save a value is not the easy way out. It is that integrity that is heroic.

Certainly Jessica carried out an outstanding feat worth of praise, and it was a commitment to her values, but the choice was not forced on her. To me heroism involves action and reaction to unchosen situations, rather than pursuit of values per se. One can say that any seeking of value is heroic, but that covers too broad a spectrum, and makes no distinction between wide classes of actions.

It is a question of semantics and I certainly agree with the sentiment that she is a little hero. I think there is room for a different word to express what she did, a word that recognises her achievement yet distinguishes it from the usual catastrophic choice of values forced on true heroes. Certainly she has given me a lot more confidence in young people. I salute her.

I agree, Arnold. We would not say that Columbus was heroic for sailing to the unknown west if, instead, he could have taken a plane. Likewise, a man who chooses to climb to the top of a mountain, when he could otherwise take a helicopter, is not heroic. He might exercise great skill in facing extreme difficulties, but his overall act is not heroic, while the man who built the helicopter might well have made an heroic effort in the buiding of it. Or, from another angle, a person who is terrified of flying, but has to travel five thousand miles quickly to see a dying loved one, might be considered, in a small way, to be heroic for getting on a plane.

Does Jessica deserve admiration for what she did? I have no idea. I don't know why she did it. Suppose I find out she did it only because she thought it was a good way of putting off a decision about what to do with her life, and two weeks later she takes off on another long, "keeping busy" trip. Is she then heroic?

I don't mean to sound like I assume the worst. I don't. I assume the best, but I don't know it.

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I don't mean to sound like I assume the worst. I don't. I assume the best, but I don't know it.

Why not investigate and find out, and then make a judgment? Why would you assume an irrational motivation at all until you know that there is one?

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I don't mean to sound like I assume the worst. I don't. I assume the best, but I don't know it.

Why not investigate and find out, and then make a judgment? Why would you assume an irrational motivation at all until you know that there is one?

You are right, Paul. I will now do so.

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I don't mean to sound like I assume the worst. I don't. I assume the best, but I don't know it.

Why not investigate and find out, and then make a judgment? Why would you assume an irrational motivation at all until you know that there is one?

You are right, Paul. I will now do so.

What I gather from the news story is that Jessica was happily doing what she wanted to do, which was my initial impression of your original post. I see she was overwhelmed by the attention she was getting, and perhaps that was a partial reason for not accepting the "hero" designation---not wanting to receive even more attention. at this point, however, I have to start supposing. For I just don't know why she refused that designation. What I do know is that the term "hero" has been flung around rather loosely in the recent past (I remember an instance where a tree-hugger was deemed a hero). Also, I do not know what kind of person or action Jessica considers heroic. In her mind she might be heroic in holding to her own idea of heroic, against the common ideas of other people. She might consider herself more genuinely heroic in doing that than in sailing around the world by herself. But I see no reason to think that she is putting on a false humility.

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I don't mean to sound like I assume the worst. I don't. I assume the best, but I don't know it.

Why not investigate and find out, and then make a judgment? Why would you assume an irrational motivation at all until you know that there is one?

You are right, Paul. I will now do so.

What I gather from the news story is that Jessica was happily doing what she wanted to do, which was my initial impression of your original post. I see she was overwhelmed by the attention she was getting, and perhaps that was a partial reason for not accepting the "hero" designation---not wanting to receive even more attention. at this point, however, I have to start supposing. For I just don't know why she refused that designation. What I do know is that the term "hero" has been flung around rather loosely in the recent past (I remember an instance where a tree-hugger was deemed a hero). Also, I do not know what kind of person or action Jessica considers heroic. In her mind she might be heroic in holding to her own idea of heroic, against the common ideas of other people. She might consider herself more genuinely heroic in doing that than in sailing around the world by herself. But I see no reason to think that she is putting on a false humility.

Sorry, I did not mean for that last sentence to apply to anything YOU have said. I think it was Ray who stated that there might be a case of false humility.

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I generally think of heroism as action involving integrity in regard to one's values. More specifically when one is forced to make a choice at great cost rather than taking the easy way out. For example, risking one's life to save the life of a valued person involves the choice of values. To risk one's life to save a value is not the easy way out. It is that integrity that is heroic.

Certainly Jessica carried out an outstanding feat worth of praise, and it was a commitment to her values, but the choice was not forced on her. To me heroism involves action and reaction to unchosen situations, rather than pursuit of values per se. One can say that any seeking of value is heroic, but that covers too broad a spectrum, and makes no distinction between wide classes of actions.

It is a question of semantics and I certainly agree with the sentiment that she is a little hero. I think there is room for a different word to express what she did, a word that recognises her achievement yet distinguishes it from the usual catastrophic choice of values forced on true heroes. Certainly she has given me a lot more confidence in young people. I salute her.

I'm not quite sure what you refer to as "unchosen" situations. She chose to sail around the world, and I'm sure she would have been perfectly happy with calm sees and and nice 15 mph breeze for the entire trip. What she got was "she successfully maneuvered her boat through raging storms, 40-foot waves and seven knockdowns during the 23,000 nautical mile journey that critics thought she wouldn't survive." What she got was "You don't actually have a choice — you're in the middle of a storm, you're being knocked down — you can't fall apart."

You might say "well, those are consequences of choosing to sail." Well, all situations are results of the choice to live, seek value, and prosper. So what exactly do you see as an unchosen situation?

Just to be clear, my point is not to deny the achievements of Jessica Watson; my admiration for her is as much as for any hero. My point is semantic only. That one word - 'hero,' covers such a wide range that it can end up equating modest achievement with exposing oneself to extreme pain, on principle. An example of this is the film 'The Winslow Boy'. Here a father pays with his health and wealth to preserve the honour of his son. He did not choose the situation, and the most he could gain was what he originally had, while potentially losing everything. The easy way out was demonstrated by his son, while his daughter shared his heroism.

I see a difference between someone striving to gain values (which is noble) and someone fighting to maintain his values when the easy way out is an option. The latter involves decisions made after duress, and being presented with options where there is an easy way out. Fighting a storm has no options; there is no easy way out - there is no choice. Heroics involve choices under duress, about which value to give up rather than which one to pursue.

As I said, my point is not to discuss Jessica's achievement, but the appropriate use of a word.

Pursuing values is noble, but to label every such pursuit as heroic dilutes the meaning of the word. Where does one draw the line? I think 'noble' is a more appropriate word here.

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Just to be clear, my point is not to deny the achievements of Jessica Watson; my admiration for her is as much as for any hero. My point is semantic only. That one word - 'hero,' covers such a wide range that it can end up equating modest achievement with exposing oneself to extreme pain, on principle. An example of this is the film 'The Winslow Boy'. Here a father pays with his health and wealth to preserve the honour of his son. He did not choose the situation, and the most he could gain was what he originally had, while potentially losing everything. The easy way out was demonstrated by his son, while his daughter shared his heroism.

I see a difference between someone striving to gain values (which is noble) and someone fighting to maintain his values when the easy way out is an option. The latter involves decisions made after duress, and being presented with options where there is an easy way out. Fighting a storm has no options; there is no easy way out - there is no choice. Heroics involve choices under duress, about which value to give up rather than which one to pursue.

As I said, my point is not to discuss Jessica's achievement, but the appropriate use of a word.

Pursuing values is noble, but to label every such pursuit as heroic dilutes the meaning of the word. Where does one draw the line? I think 'noble' is a more appropriate word here.

I'd just say that I agree with ewv on this point. Very few people would evaluate their own actions as being heroic at the time they were taking them. They just do what seems natural to them (if their values are first-hand) given the situation. Whether an action is heroic is a judgment that others apply to the situation depending upon the context.

Ray raised the issue of accepting vs. rejecting the accolades of others to the extent that she was denying her actions as heroic. I'm not sure that's what she was doing. She was just stating that she does not experience her actions as those of a hero.

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Ray raised the issue of accepting vs. rejecting the accolades of others to the extent that she was denying her actions as heroic. I'm not sure that's what she was doing. She was just stating that she does not experience her actions as those of a hero.

"My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."

Although Jessica Watson was not being productive in an Objectivist sense she was achieving her own happienss and most emphatically used her rational faculty to overcome the difficulties that arose while she was at sea. I do acknowledge that she probably holds a different perspective on what being a hero entails and hence why she might have denied her actions as being heroic. My primary condemnation was not of her statements, but of the general situation of people denying their efforts as not worthy of praise or in other words, acting with humility.

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I read about this as well, I thought it was awesome. I think it's also worth mentioning that to gain the permission of her father to do this she must have demonstrated quite a history of competence and clear judgment. Not just any 16 year old can achieve that level of independence and trust from a parent.

Although Jessica Watson was not being productive in an Objectivist sense

What do you mean by this? It's not as if she was lounging on a cruise ship, she had to exercise supreme skill, dedication and independent judgment throughout the trip to support herself and achieve her goal. Her boat wasn't going to sail itself.

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I read about this as well, I thought it was awesome. I think it's also worth mentioning that to gain the permission of her father to do this she must have demonstrated quite a history of competence and clear judgment. Not just any 16 year old can achieve that level of independence and trust from a parent.
Although Jessica Watson was not being productive in an Objectivist sense

What do you mean by this? It's not as if she was lounging on a cruise ship, she had to exercise supreme skill, dedication and independent judgment throughout the trip to support herself and achieve her goal. Her boat wasn't going to sail itself.

She did not produce the income that it takes to buy the sailboat and stock it full of the goods that are demanded to take a trip that last 2/3s of a year.

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She did not produce the income that it takes to buy the sailboat and stock it full of the goods that are demanded to take a trip that last 2/3s of a year.

As I said, the boat wasn't going to sail itself. It having been given to her, and the food having been purchased on her behalf, does not negate the very real work she did over those months. She was certainly more productive and achieved more than her peers taking orders at fast food joints.

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She did not produce the income that it takes to buy the sailboat and stock it full of the goods that are demanded to take a trip that last 2/3s of a year.

As I said, the boat wasn't going to sail itself. It having been given to her, and the food having been purchased on her behalf, does not negate the very real work she did over those months. She was certainly more productive and achieved more than her peers taking orders at fast food joints.

I question this last statement. If my purpose was to earn money to go to college, or even trade school, to pursue a career, taking time off to sail for 8 months would not be "more productive". It would merely put starting my beloved career further off. It's not as if you can spend time studying as you sail. Now, it may be that the greater sense of self-reliance that this trip produced in Jessica may actually work to speed her up in the pursuit of other value-producing goals. But to say she was "more productive' than someone holding down a job is mistaken.

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She did not produce the income that it takes to buy the sailboat and stock it full of the goods that are demanded to take a trip that last 2/3s of a year.

As I said, the boat wasn't going to sail itself. It having been given to her, and the food having been purchased on her behalf, does not negate the very real work she did over those months. She was certainly more productive and achieved more than her peers taking orders at fast food joints.

I am not negating the effort that she put forth, but that does not make that effort into productivity.

"Productive work is the central purpose of a rational man’s life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values. Reason is the source, the precondition of his productive work—pride is the result." [Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 25.]

In other words, for one to be productive they must engage in the process of creating material values. So, unless she is going to make sailing her central purpose in life, she was doing nothing more than performing a recreational activity just like a recreational fisherman does.

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In other words, for one to be productive they must engage in the process of creating material values. So, unless she is going to make sailing her central purpose in life, she was doing nothing more than performing a recreational activity just like a recreational fisherman does.

She did, actually, create monetary value, via the sponsorship programmes that funded the trip.

This was monetary value transferred to her (which she chose to use to sail around the world), as well as advertising value transferred to the sponsors (and to the Australian nation, who is now seen in a positive light around the globe). She can now use her fame for further marketing and advertising promotions and to fund further adventures. I actually found this very impressive when prior to her trip I watched her preparation - the girl sure knew how to sell.

So, even according to material measures of value, she did create more wealth for both herself and her sponsors (by "selling the dream" she had created) than her equivalent sitting at McDonald's taking orders.

And most importantly, she did it all privately. No government funding there. All voluntary exchanges of value.

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"Productive work is the central purpose of a rational man’s life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values. Reason is the source, the precondition of his productive work—pride is the result." [Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 25.]

In other words, for one to be productive they must engage in the process of creating material values.

Which does not necessarily mean monetary values. A stay at home mother who approaches that activity with the same level of discipline as she would apply to a different full time profession is an example of productivity even though she is not creating monetary values.

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What this girl accomplished requires great strength in many areas, physical and psychological. If one can do that at 16 - one can do anything. She is one amazing young woman!

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What this girl accomplished requires great strength in many areas, physical and psychological. If one can do that at 16 - one can do anything. She is one amazing young woman!

Agreed. The sight of an achievement, as Miss Rand pointed out, is a thing of tremendous value. This young lady is an inspiration.

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