I just re-read “Who Stole the American Dream?” by Burke Hedges. It is an excellent read that really still resonates with me. If you haven’t already read it, you can get a copy here:
In very short summary, the book describes how the American Dream has been taken away from individuals by a society that creates dependency through promotion of College and “careers”, where “getting on” by getting into massive debt to get a career to pay off that debt over 40 years plainly make no sense in the world we live in today.
As I was re-reading the book, I came to a realization that while the American Dream may have been stolen from people, that fact is, millions of people have simply chosen to give their American Dream away!
I talk to so many people whose American Dream is to “get by”. Many of these people I knew to be entrepreneurs before, but have been so ground down by the economic events since around 2007 that “doing enough to cover the bills” or “I just need 10 hours overtime or one deal to pay the rent” is their American Dream.
How utterly depressing! What is the American Dream today then? Surely it cannot be “getting by”!
Like Burke Hedges I am a massive believer in self-reliance and self-empowerment. I totally believe in a “safety net” in a civilized society, but the fact is that 150 million Americans receive some form of Government benefit. That’s almost half the population! That is a net of ludicrous proportions.
I am a proud American Citizen with origins elsewhere. The America I came to was not one of “settling for less” or “getting by”. I was delighted to come here because I have always believed America was a state of mind rather than just a geographic boundary.
The American state of mind that resonated so much with me was one of never settling for less, dreaming big and achieving more and living to your fullest potential. Doing anything less was almost a criminal waste!
I would encourage anyone then to shake off the shackles of “self talk” or conversation that revolves around “getting by”, “just being realistic”, or “settling” for something because that is absolutely not the American Dream.
This quote from President John F Kennedy embodies everything I have loved about the American state of mind:
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“We choose to go to the Moon! … We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win”
If everyone was “realistic”, there would be no electricity or light, there would be no planes or trains. We would not have gone to the moon. “Being realistic” dooms people to the dark ages.
It is a criminal waste of life to do just enough to cover the bills, to take a job because it pays a bit more towards benefits, because it adds $100/month to a pension if you stay in it for 5 years – whatever form such limiting beliefs manifest themselves.
Getting by might seem the easier path and perhaps in the short term it is. Sometimes it is harder to go out on a limb, to be “unrealistic”, to create new and expanded dreams and goals and drive towards them. That however IS the American Dream and for those fortunate enough to be born in this Country or become Citizens here, not pursuing the American Dream is a criminal waste.
Millions around the globe have the “American state of mind” regardless of their nationality and are pursuing “The American Dream”.
The American Dream can of course manifest itself in many ways from athletic or scientific accomplishment to musical, literary, artistic or other pursuit. For Burke Hedges, myself and millions of others, entrepreneurship and self-reliance is the means by which we keep and expand our American Dream. If that sounds like something you would like to explore then let’s talk.