The American Dream Is Dead (Long Live The American Dream!)
Posted by Ryan Neal
The American Dream Is Dead (Long Live The American Dream!)
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
About 6 months ago I had the idea for this Manifesto. I wrote part of it, then scrapped it. I came back to it about 2 months ago and wrote it again. But I scrapped that one as well.
I wasn't trying to achieve perfection, but this topic is important. Finally, I wrote it a third time. And, as I am prone to do, I edited it heavily. The American Dream Is Dead (Long Live The American Dream!) weighs in at just 26 pages.
Although the name and graphics may insinuate otherwise, this is not just about the United States of America. Towards the end of the Manifesto I rename The American Dream into something much more inclusive. I also ask you to make a Declaration to the world. But you'll have to download to know what that is. ;)
You can download The American Dream Is Dead (Long Live The American Dream!) free of charge, no strings attached, no e-mail form to submit, right here:
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Leading up to launching this manifesto I contacted other writers I respect and asked them to answer a question for me. All of these writers either grew up in the USA or are living in the USA. That doesn't seem to jive with my previous statement of inclusion, but I wanted to stay on theme, and that would be the easiest way to do it.
25 Incredible People Answer 1 Powerful Question
The question I asked is: "What does the American Dream mean to you?"
Most of the answers are below. One person's answer is included only inside the Manifesto. That person is Derek Sivers. Yes, that's a teaser to entice you to download the Manifesto. I highly recommend you read what Derek has to say.
I sent 50 e-mails one day using the 5 Sentences Rule. Most of the fantastic people I e-mailed I had never corresponded with previous to this project. Without further ado, here are their incredible answers, listed in the order they were received.
Oh, one more thing: For every one of these responses that you enjoy please visit their Web site, bookmark, and subscribe to the RSS feed.
Joshua Becker writes about minimalism from a family perspective at BecomingMinimalist.com:
To me, the American Dream has always been about experiencing freedom. Freedom to live your life the way you want. Freedom to pursue your passions. Freedom to make a living doing whatever gets you up in the morning.
Unfortunately, too many people have sacrificed that dream for what they thought would bring them happiness - making a lot of money and buying really nice things. In the process, they have burdened themselves with too many possessions and too much debt. And true freedom now alludes them.
Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art Of Non-Conformity, writes about business, travel, and world domination at ChrisGuillebeau.com:
The American dream is essentially an entrepreneurial quest. America itself is an entrepreneurial country, founded in opposition to a foreign government that restricted freedom. Thus, Americans learned to revere independence, ambition, and sacrifice.
Fast forward a couple of centuries, and something changed. The entreprenrial spirit turned to laziness and greed. "Invest your money in the market and you'll get rich. Buy more house than you can afford, and the price will automatically go up. Put your trust in pensions and General Motors." Just like rule by a foreign tyrant king, these beliefs were unsustainable.
Times are hard now, and times are good now. People are unlearning false beliefs and redefining what really matters. Therefore, this is a great time for dreaming, and an even better time for taking action.
You can pursue "the American dream" wherever you are. You can be an entrepreneur no matter who you work for. Bring on the American dream!
Corbett Barr helps small businesses get more traffic to their Web sites at ThinkTraffic.net:
Whatever the American Dream means, I can assure you it's not what's being pursued or lived by most of society. A house in the suburbs, multiple cars, a giant TV, superficial friends, massive consumer debt and a job you can barely tolerate but still spend 50 hours a week at doesn't sound like much of a dream to me. It's more like a numb, directionless nightmare.
The American Dream is still intact and possible, but not many people are really pursuing it. The American Dream has been corrupted over the years by being equated with money and consumerism.
The American Dream is really about happiness and having the freedom to do what you want. It's about being your best self. Finding and living those things takes courage and hard work and the strength to do what's right for you, not simply what your neighbor is doing. You have to really consider what the American Dream is to you, because blindly following the easy path won't get you there.
Nathan Hangen writes about building digital empires at NathanHangen.com:
In many ways, I'd call the American Dream a lie...wait, an impostor. For years I've watched people fall from this dream, never finding a way to regain their footing. My family followed this dream, only to wake up to a nightmare.
That being said, the American Dream still exists, just in a different form. It's not white picket fences and a family of 6, it's the chance to really carve your name into the mountain of the world. With steadfast dedication and a pioneering spirit, you can achieve anything, so long as you don't let the lure of compromise get in your way.
The dream is alive, but it's been hidden for so long that many people aren't sure where to look. Let's show them how to find it.
David Damron writes about living a simple and balanced life at TheMinimalistPath.com:
I feel as though this question is flawed. Why? Because we live in a time where there is no American Dream.
In America's past, societal norms have dictated what the American Dream is to be.
Over the last 20 years though, the chance to develop ones own ideal dream has become more realistic with more and more people taking advantage of such an opportunity.
A country does not dictate your future, your capabilities, your possibilities. A country is solely a destination that you have the opportunity to make your dreams a reality.
I do think that a person can have an American Dream. However, I do not feel it is one thing or one way anymore. I think there are people living in America who have Surf Coaching Dreams, Rocker Dreams, Blogging Dreams, Traveling Dreams, Survival Dreams, and so on. There is the same likelihood of someone having an American dream as an Australian dream...as I did. There may never be a time though, where all people choose their Dream to be that of their country and this will only improve the mindset of mankind.
Dreaming is one of the fascinating aspects of man. Constraining dreams will only lead to a culture that is unhappy with where the dreams have led them. However, opening the barriers placed upon dreams will help mankind become even more innovative, intelligent and interesting.
Let the man dream free ...
Cody McKibben writes about living fearlessly on your own terms at ThrillingHeroics.com:
Honestly, to me I feel like the "American Dream" has been perverted and become a commodity: the white picket fence, 2.5 children, and a big SUV in the driveway. Unfortunately what I see in the States is that most people are trading their freedom—in almost every way possible: to corporations, to their bosses, to the government—in exchange for comfort and for stupid distractions from what's really important. To me, the freedom of the American Dream is represented in a lifestyle where I can truly go wherever I want, when I want, set my own rules, work on projects I care about and create my own income independent of other people telling me how to live my life.
Erica Douglass, who sold a business for $1.1 million at age 26, teaches you how to build an inspired, successful business at Erica.biz:
The American Dream as our grandparents knew it is dead. The era where people worked for one company their entire lives and retired with a comfortable pension (as did my grandfather) is now dead. A new era is arriving, where technology changes quickly and we all have to scramble to keep up.
That means constantly honing your skills and scrambling to stay on top of ever-falling wages. My first web job, in 1996, was submitting web sites to search engines. I was paid by the job, which equated to $12-$15/hour. That job can now be outsourced to other countries for $2/hour or less.
Then I went into tech support. Now, outsourced workers can log into your computer from halfway around the world and guide you through making the required changes. I was paid $12/hour in 1999-- that job can now be outsourced for $6/hour or less.
Scrambling up the ladder, I became a PHP programmer and charged $50/hour freelance. I quit soon after a client asked me why he shouldn't hire someone from India to do the same work (while I was standing in his office talking to him face to face.) PHP programmers now get paid less than half of what I got paid eight years ago.
I went up the ladder again and started my own business. Suddenly, I found myself on the other side of the scale. I hired people at low wages and trained them, and kept prices reasonable for my customers. And I realized: The only thing that can't be outsourced is ingenuity--applying ideas to creatively solve challenges.
Already, in my short 13-year working history, I've had to completely redefine the job that I do six times. This will become the norm; anyone who can't transform who they are and how they think of themselves in a short year or two will face unemployment. We have the choice to become bitter about this transformation, and complain constantly about it, or to work with it and constantly move up the ladder.
At the top of the ladder, we may find ourselves, surprisingly, where we were hundreds of years ago--with the majority of workers being self-employed and solving creative challenges every day.
The American Dream has become undefined. And, for those of us up to the challenge of living in a constantly shifting world, we find ourselves in a time of unprecedented opportunity.
Maren Kate writes about how to start a business that will change your life at EscapingThe9To5.com:
My idea of the American dream goes back to it's roots. America was founded the ideals of freedom and for me that is the reason I get up in the morning. I work hard on my business and my blog so I can build the type of lifestyle that gives me freedom of mobility, income and time. The mistake notion is that the American dream is about material things, but in reality it's all about being able to wander this beautiful nation and our beautiful world, without the fear of persecution or bondage - whether it be by a hostile power or an unrelenting 9 to 5 job.
Josh Hanagarne writes about getting stronger, getting smarter, and living better every day at WorldsStrongestLibrarian.com:
To me, The American Dream means that I can ask any question I want, and pursue that question to its conclusion. America is a country of great progress and innovation, but nothing happens without curiosity. I believe that most successes and failures are either the result of someone asking enough questions, or failing to ask questions when it mattered.
Whatever good things have come to me have usually come because I can think what I want, say what I want, and ask what I want. And I know I'll never have to stop asking.
Michael Martine is a blog coach and consultant who writes about boosting your bottom line at RemarkaBlogger.com:
The old American Dream of the nuclear family with a house and a car and a retirement package is indeed dead. Partly, it was killed by corporations that made money by continually nudging that dream out of our reach over the years (in doing so, they sucked the life and the hope out of it). This wasn't a conscious decision, it's just the natural progression of the marketplace.
Partly, it was killed by reality: it was, after all, a dream. And now it's an outdated, unrealistic dream. But is there a New American Dream? I think there is, and technology is the chiefest part of it. Through the internet, I can realize a self-made business that supports me and my extremely untraditional family. Self-sufficiency combined with community online and face-to-face where we live to have the life we want is the New American Dream to me.
Leo Babauta, chosen by Time magazine as one of the top 25 bloggers of 2010, writes about simplicity and minimalism at ZenHabits.net:
The American Dream, in my mind, has always been to work hard and create a good life for your family -- and if you do it well enough, to become rich. The good life often means a big house in the suburbs with two really nice cars, but it can also mean a luxury loft in a city or a vacation home in Florida or on an island, or traveling the world on vacations. This is the kind of thing you often see on television for the last few decades.
I'm not sure if the dream has changed recently -- I don't watch enough television to get a good sense of this. My feeling is there is a growing number of people, like myself, who have eschewed the dream for a simpler life. One where you need less: a smaller home, a smaller car (or no car at all), fewer possessions, less shopping, less luxury. A simpler life means less stress, less work, more time for yourself and your loved ones and doing the things that really matter to you.
This may not be a shared dream across America, but it is one that lots of people are starting to have. And those who don't long for a simpler life are starting to find cracks in the old dream: big houses and cars are really expensive and can be a huge burden if the economy falters and your income plunges. Maintaining that lifestyle is difficult. Living in excess can lead to debt, obesity, and environmental disaster. These people haven't realized that the simpler life is an answer to all these problems, but they might someday. I hope so.
Andy Hayes, published author, travel writer, tourism marketing expert, and small business speaker, made his choice and picked a dream travel job over white picket fences. Learn more at AndyHayes.com:
The American Dream is Dead. Kind of.
That dream was old fashioned, outmoded concept. The term brainwash comes to mind.
What if you want a brown picket fence, or what if you don’t want a fence at all. Does that mean Your Dream can’t come true?
Yes, yes, I know that the American Dream is an ideal, a conceptual goal, something to strive for. But its strength is also its weakness: by corralling everyone into the idea of a single destiny, we’ve forced people into thinking there are no other options.
You have options. But if you want to travel the world as a pilot, if you want to be a best-selling author, if you want to fly to the moon: go off and do it. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find your way around excuses, roadblocks, and the inevitable forks in the road.
I can’t tell you what Your Dream is. But you have the right to choose. And you owe it to yourself to decide for yourself what you want, not just blindly accept what somebody else tells you is Your Dream.
Tyler Tervooren, Professor of Riskology, writes about taking risks at TylerTervooren.com:
The American dream, to me, is the same as it's always been – to experience personal freedom in a way that it can't be experienced anywhere else in the world. Over time, the conventional ideas around what sort of "things" constitute "freedom" has shifted and changed to give people something to strive for like cars, houses, short vacations, and security, but those have always been the "carrot on a stick." They're points to hit the next time we have to make small talk.
I'd rather pick up my life and move at the drop of a hat than be tied to a mortgage that's underwater. I'd rather ride my bike to save for a mountain climbing expedition than work an extra 20 hours a week to pay for a status symbol that I drive around the block. I'd rather run my own business with no guarantee of income than spend my life working on unimportant projects for a steady paycheck.
That's my American Dream. Of course, it doesn't have to be yours. In fact, I hope that your dream looks quite a lot different from mine. Otherwise, it would just be another carrot on a stick.
Srinivas Rao writes about riding the waves of Personal Development at TheSkoolOfLife.com:
The American Dream is really a thing of the past. In my mind, the American dream is based on something that somebody has created for you. It's about trying to fit square pegs into round holes. Somewhere along the away somebody decided that if people worked towards white picket fences, retirement accounts, and a little bit more, then people would always work towards that. The truth is the American Dream perpetuates the social matrix. That's why I'm spending my life in pursuit of a much more noble cause, something I call The Human Dream. The Human Dream to me is about living life on your own terms and doing nothing based on the approval of others. It's ultimately the path that I believe will lead to life long fulfillmen.
Nate Damm is going to walk across America beginning March of 2011. He writes about cool lessons learned on the path to living a more awesome life at TheWayThatYouWander.com:
To me, the American Dream means that you don't have to follow "The American Dream." Confusing, I know. But, the "American Dream" of old meant go to college, graduate, find a job, buy a house and car, have kids, work for 40+ years and then retire when you're too old and have too many responsibilities to actually do anything. The beauty of this NEW American Dream is that you have the ability to do anything you want, whenever you want. There are ways to harness technology, create your own income without the need for an office or single location and truly live the life you dream of. Of course, if your dream is to follow the American Dream of old, that's great! But the ability to choose is there, and that's what it's all about
Adam Baker writes about getting out of debt, selling your crap, and doing what you love at ManVsDebt.com:
To me, the American Dream is no longer about white picket fences, well-branded cars, or achieving a specific status. It's now about living intentionally.
For generations in years past, the old American Dream was motivating. It lifted spirits and inspired people from all over the world. However, the last few generations (including ours) have taken the concept for granted. We've ditched the ideals represented in the journey and, instead, just think we deserve the trivial details of the destination.
This entitlement attitude leads many to years of consumer debt, piles of unused consumerist crap, and mortgages that trap them in jobs they hate. We've shattered the concept that inspired millions of our grandparents.
In my opinion, the best way to reverse this trend is to ensure you are living intentionally. Ensure you are the one dictating the direction of your life.
For Courtney and I, this means an aggressive commitment to fighting consumerism, dedication to paying off our debt, and allowing each other to pursue work and hobbies that we love. There's no perfect formula and it's not all rainbows and sunshine.
But, you know what? It beats the alternative. In our eyes, there's no better way to keep the American Dream alive.
Jonathan Mead writes about living on your own terms and discovering your passions at IlluminatedMind.net:
There is no American Dream. There never was. Well, at least not in the way you think.
See, the dream was never real because it wasn't YOUR dream. It was just a good idea that a lot of people bought into, a kind of wholesale panacea for a class of people that wanted something more. But instead of looking in, they looked outside. To someone else, to another person's idea of what would make them happy.
But that won't be you. You won't achieve someone else's dream and find it was just a con, a distraction to keep you from what really matters... following your own path.
It's not easy to follow your path, the one that's waiting inside of you. The territory is uncharted. It's blurry and full of brush and obscured by trees. It's not the well-traveled path.
So, the question is, will you take the first step
Raam Dev travels the world and writes about laying the groundwork for sustainable abundance at RaamDev.com:
The American Dream meant individuals had the freedom to create their own future; it meant they had the power to forge a long-lasting legacy regardless of their religion, social status, education, or current financial standing. But that dream was lost when they decided to hand over that power and freedom in return for comforts and easy access to simple pleasures.
We now have a new opportunity to rekindle the American Dream on a global scale -- to make the American Dream a Global Dream. New technology has given us unprecedented access to knowledge and resources never before available. As children of this new era we have the responsibility to take this opportunity to create a future that generations after us will be proud of.
We're all free individuals when we make the choice to become free from our own preconceived notions of how the world is supposed to work. We're all powerful individuals when we choose to be creative, to use the resources available to us, and to keep an open mind. We all live the American Dream when we choose to free ourselves from the clutches of consumerism, materialism, and ignorance; when we choose to have respect for life and a passionate drive to live life to its greatest potential.
Dan Andrews, genius niche marketer and world traveler, writes and podcasts about creating a lifestyle business at LifeStyleBusinessPodcast.com:
I think the truth is the American dream doesn't really mean anything to me without a context. If the American dream means you can create your own destiny, its one of the most important ideas that exists and Americans are in the enviable position of being attached to it. Many of attributes that made American soil so rich for those looking to create lives has conspired to come together in an even bigger way on the internet-- cheap land, access to capital, less government control, and democratization. Not everyone wants to control their own destiny. There are millions who frown upon it. For those who do, the opportunity has never been greater.
Bud Hennekes writes about personal development and plugging into your identity at PlugInID.com:
The American dream is about doing more with less. The American dream is about doing the impossible when all odds are against you. The American dream is about falling down, brushing yourself off, and accomplishing what you were set out to do. The American is dream is about being true to your values at all cost. It's about taking responsibility for our lives and taking strides to make the world a better place. It's about sacrifice and belief that you can make a difference no matter how large. The American dream is a life long commitment to excellence.
Not everyone lives the American dream but those who do know for sure what life is all about
Laura Roeder teaches you how to create fame by using social media to build a raving fanbase that buys everything you offer at LauraRoeder.com:
To me the American Dream is claiming your own identity, beyond the one that you were born to. The American Dream means shedding the life your parents had or the life you were "supposed" to have and questioning what you really want to achieve and experience. America now has a reputation of being gluttonous, of being over-the-top, and I think that's a part of the larger experience of pushing boundaries for better or for worse. America is a place of radical change and transformation, where we can move from President Bush to President Obama in one election cycle. As a country we're constantly exploring and growing, cycling through trends at faster and faster rates. The American Dream is a constant journey for more, even when the end destination is sometimes less. It's the active pursuit of crafting your own life.
Chris Brogan, co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller Trust Agents, teaches how human business works beyond social media at ChrisBrogan.com:
The American Dream means two things: one is the facade and the other is the real opportunity. See, like with all things, along the way, advertisers came in and took over the message to better suit the needs of their clients. It's okay. I'd have done the same thing, if I were them. But that dream, the facade, is the same thing as the Matrix, a system to keep us locked to our seats.
On the other side, the American dream means that we can be whatever we want to be. We have the same level playing field, if only we believe that and do something with it.
Everett Bogue writes about how living a minimalist lifestyle can allow you to live and work anywhere at FarBeyondTheStars.com:
The American Dream was always a lie, it just took us awhile to figure that out.
For the last 50 years we woke up, flipped on the TV, and saw what they wanted us to believe.
If we'd just buy one more car, got a bigger house, or upgraded our surround sound system, we'd finally be happy. We watched hundreds of sitcom families shopping for new designer digs and we thought to ourselves 'I deserve that too.'
Then we went out and bought so much more than we could ever afford. And you know what? That was just fine for the corporations, because they made money. And the banks, because they made money. So they loaned you all of the money you ever wanted to buy whatever it was you saw on TV.
Was it fine for you? No, because now you're stuck in debt and living the sedentary lifestyle.
When you have it all, you can't be free too.
Every item that you add to your inventory of useless junk in your closet or the 2nd half of your two-car garage actually contradicts your ability to achieve the true American Dream. Which if you've made it this far into Karol Gajda's new manifesto, you know very well is freedom.
How do you achieve the new American Dream? Realize that buying more isn't the answer. Burn your TV (or throw it out the window.)
Stand up from your couch and never sit down again, because this freedom is real, and you can't buy it at Walmart.
Declare independence and start to realize that how you experience the world is the real dream.
Elizabeth Potts Weinsten writes about living your truth and creating a business that is a natural expression of who you are at ElizabethPW.com:
My american dream is that I have the freedom to be myself, to speak my truth freely without fear of censor, and to design a life that may be idiosyncratic but fits me and my loved ones.
Thank you for reading this far and thank you to all the wonderful contributors above.
There will be more updates on this topic (and an additional post about The Dream with contributions from people around the world) soon. Don't miss the updates: subscribe to the Ridiculously Extraordinary RSS feed here.
And again: Download The American Dream Is Dead (Long Live The American Dream!) Manifesto free of charge, no strings attached, no e-mail form to submit, below.
This Manifesto includes my essay about The American Dream and a contribution from the always insightful Derek Sivers.
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