Tal Tsfany is president and CEO of the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), cofounder of the Ayn Rand Center Israel, and author of Sophie (a children’s book about which I interviewed him in the Summer 2018 issue of TOS). I recently spoke with Tal about his work at ARI to date and his plans for the future of the organization. —CB
Craig Biddle: Thanks for joining me today, Tal. I know TOS readers are interested in your work at the Ayn Rand Institute.
Tal Tsfany: Happy to be talking to you and to share with TOS readers what is happening at ARI.
Biddle: Having been CEO there since last June, what about the organization has surprised you positively? And what has surprised you negatively?
Tsfany: I have learned a lot in the past eight months or so. I am bringing a business, goal-oriented mind-set that I think enhances our ability to focus, define priorities, and then execute on the chosen projects. I’ve learned how complicated it is to promote a philosophical mission, as opposed to a product. It’s a whole different ball game. When you define things in business terms, things are concrete and actionable. But when your mission is educating a culture or changing people’s minds in a very deep way, over time, maybe even on a very long timescale, then the challenge requires a different approach.
I’ve learned to appreciate the complexity of the mission and how to break it down to manageable, achievable milestones. And I’m happy about how ARI’s team is able to continuously clarify and concretize it into specific projects—both on content creation and distribution and also on long-term, foundational, technological projects. We’ve also built robust reporting mechanisms allowing us to closely monitor our progress on defined metrics.
The best thing I’ve learned about ARI is that it’s filled with smart, passionate people. This really is what they want to do day in and day out. It’s the kind of passion you find with entrepreneurs in business—a true passion and commitment to the organization’s vision and mission. Another great thing I’ve learned is that ARI is surrounded by thousands of intelligent, dedicated, benevolent, and positive people who really want to advance this mission—in all kinds of ways, from donating, to giving advice, to participating in workshops, to volunteering or offering their areas of expertise to help the Institute. It is a joy to meet so many fellow partners in the journey of spreading Objectivism.
I wouldn’t say anything surprised me negatively about ARI. But I do encounter some viewpoints in the community that are focusing on very specific aspects of the mission, trying to promote it as the one single dimension we should focus on. I think it would be better if they took a wider view of all of the things that need to come together for us to help a large number of individuals learn about Objectivism and embrace reason, individualism, and capitalism.
Biddle: What has been your main focus since you began working there? And in what ways, if any, has that changed? . . .