Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work. – (Thomas Edison)
This saying by Thomas Edison is a good reminder of why people believe the “American dream” is or has been dead. We often hear of people who have made millions in America and have started with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and a few dollars in their pockets. This belief has been around for centuries and is reinforced with every new success story we hear of immigrants who had very little when they started and today enjoy a very luxurious lifestyle because of what they refer to as the, “Land of opportunity.”
When I was 14 years old, I came to this country because my mother believed that this same opportunity existed here, and perhaps when I made my first million by the age of 27, she might have thought it was a great choice. But, even then, I had yet to feel satisfied with my accomplishments, and I still felt more opportunity existed for me, opportunity which involved more than just making another million dollars.
It took me a while to figure it out, and to understand what the American dream really was. It wasn’t until I turned 25, and I was well on my way to fortune, that I realized the American Dream was so much more than just making a few dollars in this country, but was actually about what I today call freedom of opportunity.
After having lived and observed many working class citizens in various countries and various environments, I came to realize that opportunities are all around us, and that America certainly is not the only place that allows people to make a living or make a positive impact on their own lives.
If the theory in my book holds true, then we are ultimately the byproduct of our observations and the outcome of our actions, which leads me to believe the reason some people do succeed in this country, and others don’t, is because of the significant amount of immigrants who have come here, succeeded and opened up the minds of those observing them.
It is their actions which have impacted our belief system, and as a result, it is their actions that have also changed the society’s perspective that the American dream is the ability to get rich quicker than in other places.
If you consider the fact that the majority of today’s success is measured based upon its monetary value, you can also understand why the misconception that people who have made the most are the most successful people in the world. The true meaning of opportunity has changed for most, and when they are unfortunately exposed to money as the only measure of success, it is only normal that they associate money with the only reward of opportunity.
The point is that the American dream today is referred to as the opportunity to make money even if you had none to start with, or the opportunity to make money even if you have no means to seek a formal education which you would not have access to in other places around the world.
Despite the fact that today’s definition of the American dream may sound appealing to most because the core focus of everything we have learned to do involves money, it certainly is far from the reality of what the American dream really is.
If you think about Edison’s perspective and how we perceive it today, it certainly applies just as much as it did then. Think about all your friends and those around you who are simply waiting for their opportunity, Think about those friends you have in college who only want to finish their studies and have fun, only to find themselves unemployed by the time they graduate, without mentioning the six figures of debt they usually accumulate.
Why do you feel they think there is no such thing as an American dream? They feel that way because in today’s new global economy, the true perception of the American dream has changed significantly. It has changed from the freedom of opportunity to what I consider the world’s biggest scam.
It has changed because we have associated the American dream this past decade with the opportunity to make money, rather than the opportunity to try to work hard and see the result of such work be prosperous.
As much as the world believes the opportunity to make millions in America exists, it certainly misses the point that millions are not made by sitting there and hoping that the universe will throw you an easy one, but rather by getting off your ass working for a minimum wage, and perhaps one day finding your way to the top of an organization or maybe founding and being the CEO of your very own.
Even though today, 10-15 years of work may not seem like much of a dream or opportunity but rather only hard work. I can promise you that looking back at your life in 10 years, you will think differently of the opportunity you had and will understand the true meaning of the American dream and how it is still very much alive, even if it started by working a minimum wage job at McDonald’s, which as much as we might feel is below us today, is the same opportunity that people with PhD’s in other countries do not even have.
Looking back, this opportunity was no different since I, myself, accepted a job to work as a telemarketer at the age of 14. Many believed this decision to be a mistake and a significant waste of time, but it helped define not only my ability to make over a million by the age of 27, but also pushed me to understand the power that we hold within ourselves to do anything we put our minds to.
It wouldn’t have been without this belief that I was able to run a bank at the age of 18 or that I could have started several successful seven-figure businesses in my life, all without a formal education. All of the ways I have done that were shared with you in my best selling book Third Circle Theory.
While it may be true that the American dream may look different today than it did 40 years ago, it is still very much alive, although it has changed a lot in the past five years alone. In today’s world, opportunity no longer looks like employment in the conventional sense, especially since a formal education has no guarantee of employment.
Today’s climate has shifted the sub-meaning of the American dream from employment to the ability to try and really is defined based on our access to information, resources and goods. This can be considered education as well, just not formal in nature. It may sound very vague and discouraging, as the path to success has become more aligned with entrepreneurship and innovating rather than working a great job like in the old days.