Is the American Dream still alive today? Can people still rise from poverty to wealth?
Many are saying no.
They’re pessimistic about the future.
They don’t see a way forward.
They’ve given up.
For the first time in a long time, they believe the American Dream is dead.
I get it.
Costs are rising. The grocery bill keeps getting bigger, and you have the same number of mouths to feed. Gas prices keep going up and incomes are stagnant.
People are frustrated. This isn’t what the American Dream is supposed to be.
But if the American Dream is dead, how is it that some are still achieving it? How is it, that some have found a way? This is a question that CNN wanted an answer to last week, when they interviewed myself and others who have achieved the American Dream.
Although we all defined the American Dream differently, I was struck by the similarities of our stories in the article. The humble beginnings. The early struggles. But most importantly, the determination to have a better life.
So, is the American Dream still alive? The answer: It depends.
This isn’t the first time this country has been in a mess. In just the 20th century alone, the US was in two world wars and many other military conflicts; suffered through the Great Depression; experienced more than a dozen recessions and financial panics; witnessed oil shocks and a flu epidemic; and even the resignation of a disgraced president.
You might think it would have been impossible for someone to achieve the American Dream during a century marked by such terrible events. But many did.
In the middle of the 1973-75 recession, a college dropout named Bill Gates started a small computer company. That business failed. But it was Gates’ insistence on success that led him to create Microsoft and grow it into a multi-billion dollar company and also become one of the wealthiest people in the world.
General Electric was founded in the depression of 1873 by inventor Thomas Edison. The depression saw half of the nation’s railroads declare bankruptcy and half of the country’s iron furnaces shut down. It was during these dire times that Edison opened a small laboratory in 1876 that would later become General Electric. Today, GE has more than 300,000 employees and a cash hoard of more than $88 billion. All this from a man that teacher’s had labeled “too stupid to learn anything.”
Revlon, one of the best-known cosmetic companies in the world, was founded in 1932 during the Great Depression. Brothers Charles and Joseph Revlon introduced their nail polish to the world, and created a multi-million-dollar business in only six years. As a frame of reference, during those same six years, unemployment in the U.S averaged 23 percent. Today’s unemployment is 6.3 percent.
What was true for Gates, Edison, and the Revlon brothers in the middle of those bad economic times, is still true today – that the future rests in your hands. It always has.
Because you have an incredible power. You have the power to take initiative. This means you are able to choose the kind of life that you want to live. That is what allows you to be the captain of your ship.
What can make this choice hard is a person’s reluctance to let go of the old, so that there is space for the new. The problem in our county is not the economy or that there’s a shortage of wealth. No. The problem is a shortage of people thinking correctly about wealth. Old habits. Old mindsets. Old excuses. They get in the way of achieving the American Dream.
It is a time of reckoning.
Some will say “It’s not the right time. When the economy improves, I’ll start.”
Some will say “This is not what I’m known for. I might fail and look stupid.”
Some will say “I tried before and it didn’t work.”
Some will say “I don’t know how.”
Some will say “I can never afford to live there.”
These type of statements close down the mind. They eliminate possibilities. For people who think like this, the American Dream is dead.
You see, the American Dream belongs to people who open up their minds. It belongs to the bold. It belongs to those who ask themselves how.
How can I build something here?
How can I pull myself out of low income?
How can I become financially free?
You are as rich as you demand to be. You are as free as you demand to be. For people who will demand it, the American Dream is alive! Ask yourself how. How can you achieve the American Dream?
P.S. What does the American Dream mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.