What Is The American Dream And How Achievable Is It Today?
How many times have you heard someone tell the story of their family coming to America with nothing in their pocket, only to now lead a successful company?
How about stories of people that were born into extreme poverty who found the courage and motivation to rise above their circumstances? There are millions of stories like this; in fact, many CEOs have similar stories!
These stories represent the American dream. We’ve all heard that term tossed around, but how many of us truly understand what it means? Do you?
Let’s look at the American dream, whether it’s achievable today, and what makes those that live it tick.
What Is The American Dream
During the birth of America, the founders wanted to design a system in which a citizen could succeed on their own merits. They wanted a system that rewarded hard work and perseverance.
America has always been a beacon of light to the rest of the world because of the country’s belief in the equality of opportunity. This equality gives people a chance at upward mobility, but it’s also something that many people don’t understand.
The American dream doesn’t guarantee an equal outcome for everyone. It doesn’t provide a guarantee that you’ll drive a Lamborghini, live in a beachside house, and make $500,000 dollars a year by working at home. It does, however, guarantee that you’ll have a chance to do those things.
You still have to put in the work. You have to work hard and continuously work on improving yourself.
The American dream centers on you and what you’re willing to do to succeed.
So what is the American dream? It’s the idea that if you’re willing to work hard and put forth the effort, you can succeed. It’s the personification of the Quote by Virgil “fortune favors the bold.”
Is The American Dream Still Achievable? Ask Christopher Gardner
You’ve probably heard people say that the American dream is a dead idea. These naysayers will point to personal experience as evidence.
The truth, however, is that the American dream is not only alive and well, but it’s easier than ever before to achieve.
Consider the following story of Christopher Gardner.
Gardner’s mother was a single mom that was in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend, forcing Christopher from his home at an early age. He found himself in a foster family after his mother tried to kill her boyfriend by burning down their home.
Gardner would go on to join the Navy before getting married and having a child while working as a medical supply salesman.
One day, he saw a man in a suit and tie that drove a Ferrari, and Gardner decided to talk to the man. He asked him how he was able to afford those things and what he did for a living.
The man, Bob Bridges, told Gardner that he worked as a stockbroker and offered to help him interview for training programs with New York’s largest brokerage houses. Gardner got into a training program at E.F. Hutton, but the man who hired him lost his job, closing the training program.
Meanwhile, Gardner struggled financially and amassed over $1,000 in parking fines. He spent time in jail, only to return home and discover that his wife had left him.
At this point, Gardner could have had that same negative attitude. He could have declared that the American dream no longer existed and gave up.
Instead, he doubled down on the ideas of hard work and perseverance. He earned a position at Dean Witter’s training program, passed the licensing exam, and got a job working for Bear Stearns in San Francisco.
After paying for daycare for his son, he barely had any money left over and found himself homeless with a child.
He finally got into a homeless shelter, saved up his money, and was able to provide for his family. Not once did he complain or contemplate giving up. Instead, he worked harder, having faith that his dedication would pay off.
Later, he started his own firm out of the apartment he was now able to afford. His firm grew and he was able to sell it for millions of dollars. Christopher’s story became an inspirational tale for many. Will Smith portrayed Christopher in the movie The Pursuit of Happiness.
What Can We Learn From Christopher’s Story?
The first thing you should take away from this story is that the Ameican ideals of hard work and dedication should always guide you. In all of human history, there has never been a nation where a story such as Christopher’s could happen on such a regular basis.
Gardner could have given up, and most people wouldn’t have blamed him.
However, those people aren’t Christopher, and they never will be. The American dream has no room for excuses and self-pity. It only works for those that develop a plan and stick to it with the rugged determination and grit of a pit bull.
Next, Christopher’s story shows us that we should surround ourselves with successful people.
If you ever find yourself in a room where you’re the smartest and most successful person, you’re wasting your time. What are those people going to do for you? Nothing.
You have to seek out successful people if you want to become one yourself. You can’t sit back and wait for them to come to you. Actively pursue them. Connect with them, ask them questions, and listen.
Success is more than what’s in your bank account; it’s a mindset. It’s a mentality that you can learn.
When Christopher saw Bob Bridges, he could have bemoaned someone else’s success.
He could have told himself that it wasn’t fair that he’s struggling while Bob is driving a Ferrari and living in a penthouse. Instead, he decided to emulate the behaviors that allowed Bob to enjoy those things.
Instead of feeling envy, he respected the work that Bob had put into his success.
In return, Bob respected that Christopher was willing to put in the work necessary to improve his life. Successful people aren’t the enemy.
They are the ones that know how to achieve the American dream. They know that they have a responsibility to help others rise above the challenges in their life. It takes strength and dedication to reach out to them and learn.
Finally, Christopher teaches us that you have to take chances if you want to succeed. If you’re afraid of failure, you’ll never reach your full potential.
Christopher could have gotten his apartment in San Francisco, continued to work for Bear Stearns and rested on his laurels. Instead, he took a chance without fear and now enjoys the fruits of his labor.
What’s stopping you from doing the same?
Most people will answer this question with the same answer: money.
It’s an easy answer to give. You hear it all the time: to make money, you need money. It’s a great way to absolve yourself of any responsibility, isn’t it?
The abdication of responsibility might make you feel good, but it isn’t going to make you successful. If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this:
You’ll never experience the American dream if you spend your time searching for excuses and not success.
Do you think that Jeff Bezos looked for excuses when he started Amazon out of a garage? What about when Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started HP with only $538?
They had a vision and a plan, and they knew that they were willing to put in the work to make that vision a reality. That’s the American dream personified; hard work and motivation lead to upward mobility.
No matter what situation you’re born into, you can improve your lot in life.
How Can You Live The American Dream Today?
Since you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume that you have access to the internet. That means that you already have an advantage that Christopher didn’t. You have access to the entire world at your fingertips.
You can look for mentors online. You can listen to podcasts, take free online classes, and teach yourself anything you need to know.
Your success story is out there, waiting for you to write it. The only question now is, will you? Do you have the determination, grit, and desire to pick up the pen and paper?
You can find mentors online as well. You can connect with successful people that can give you their secrets, advice, and knowledge.
Will you stop looking for excuses and start looking for success? Will you be one of the few determined to live the American dream, or will you be one of the many that stand on the sidelines and wonder why you aren’t living your best life?
You can make the decision to become your best self today!