Edwin Locke is a renowned psychologist internationally recognized for his research on goal setting. He is Dean’s Professor (Emeritus) of Leadership and Motivation at the R.H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park. Locke is also a writer and lecturer for the Ayn Rand Institute and is interested in the application of the philosophy of Objectivism to behavioral sciences.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I was brought up upper middle class and was required to attend church. I rejected religion by the time I was 18. My parents sent me to good schools with high standards, and my mother did me a great service by encouraging me to read from an early age. She also urged me to be honest.
What is something you wish you would’ve realised earlier in your life?
More about the nature of emotions –a topic I only learned to understand later based on Rand.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
My recommendations are not based on random others in my field. I recommend doing something you really love, doing it well, and using your own independent judgment. Learning from others is important but one always has to decide if others are right or not, that is, to decide which others should be taken seriously.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
I never had any dark periods. I had minor setbacks but nothing major. I always had a sense of purpose and progress.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Before reading Rand in the 1960’s I had no philosophy and had rejected religion. Everyone needs a philosophy to set the foundation for making sense of the world and making choices in every realm of life– see Rand’s “Philosophy: Who Needs It?”
What is your morning routine?
No specific routine. Depends on many circumstances.
What habit or behaviour that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
All my life I have avoided procrastination and focused on continuous learning. 20 years after retirement, I still write and publish because I love it and am good at it. My latest book is: The Illusion of Determinism: Why Free Will is Real and Causal
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Set goals that are important and personally meaningful. Use short-term goals to guide you toward longer-term goals. Engage in continuous learning. Treasure your romantic partner. Never conform to the mob. Never accept unearned guilt (e.g., I never mistreated a minority person and helped all students to learn things that could help their careers).
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“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.” – Ayn Rand
BTW: this principle includes the concept of romantic love as involving mutual egoism (See Locke and Kenner’s book “The Selfish Path to Romance.” It took me a long time to understand romance.)