This year, we have a presidential candidate who seemingly wants to punish people for achieving the American Dream. But that’s only the latest in a series of actions that have neutered us.
For over 200 years, Americans started, ran, and lived on the idea of small business. Main Street USA wasn’t McDonalds and Burger King and Walmart. It was Ted’s Hot Dogs, Talking Leaves Books, and the 5&10.
Today, traditional main street is pretty much gone, swallowed by cheep imports, mega-chains, and greed.
Also often missing is the entrepreneurial spirit that launched them however.
Walmart was once a small store, struggling to compete with the local Woolworths. McDonalds used to be just a pair of brothers selling burgers, fries and shakes.
Today, colleges turn out thousands of well educated employees. People trained to be workers, but workers for someone else. They are trained to believe in the myth of “get a good job, get a paycheck, live Monday through Friday working 9-5” and no longer believe in their own ability to chart their own path and earn a living income on their own merits. They are trained to believe that all they ear is what their employer puts in their paycheck each week. Author Burke Hedges in his book “Who Stole The American Dream?” details a great deal of the lies we are told that have locked so many people into the “JOB”, living paycheck to paycheck working for someone else. While he advocates the network marketing system as the means to escape it, there are other options equally viable.
It is ironic to see immigrants come here, having no preconceived notions other than “America is the Land of Opportunity”, start businesses, put in incredible effort and create successful businesses. Pay attention the next time you eat at that Chinese take out place or Irish coffee house. New arrivals, often poor and struggling, making both ends meet while native born Americans complain about their job and lament how life with only 200 cable channels is so unfair.
But times are changing. As we enter increasingly uncertain times, as major institutions collapse, and unease covers the land, more and more Americans are rediscovering their strengths and birthright, and launch new businesses. As the chains cut back and shutter their doors, old employees are using what they know and launching new and exciting ventures. An old McDonalds becomes a new gourmet burger place, serving higher priced but better quality burgers. Where a Picture People mall store once was, now sits many an independent photo studio, often staffed by many of the same people, but now owners not just workers.
When I started out on my own, I struggled. I still do from time to time. Each time I hear “Why don’t you get a job?”. People are well meaning, but unfortunately there is no security nor freedom in a job. The American Dream was never about “I want to work 50 years for someone else, spending most of my time on the job, only seeing my family on the weekend, so that I can retire when I’m old and try to live on 1/2 of what I barely made it by on before.”
No, the American Dream is one of Freedom, Independence, and Prosperity.
Historian and writer James Truslow Adams first coined the phrase “American Dream” in his 1931 book Epic of America:
“The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
What is your Dream? What’s stopping you, really stopping you from taking the steps towards reclaiming your birthright?