The American Dream Is Dead (Long Live The American Dream!)

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

–> The American Dream Is Dead (Long Live The American Dream!) <–
(Right Click and Save As to save it to your computer)

If you are having trouble reading this Manifesto download the free Adobe Reader by clicking here.


Adrian Janowski

Hi Karol.

It was a pleasure to read the manifest. Simple, powerfull and with lot of momentum. What I can give – just spread the word about this document – I hope this helps a little ;).


Thank you Adrian! Yes, please spread the word. :)

Raam Dev

Hey Karol,

Congrats on putting together this awesome book — the layout and design look fantastic!

Like yourself, I rediscovered what “freedom” meant sometime in 2008 after I lost three multi-family investment properties to the mortgage crisis of 2007; I was 25 years old.

Now live as a minimalist digital nomad, traveling with one backpack, 25 possessions, and an entire planet to call “home”. Witnessing poverty, suffering, and the extreme imbalance of abundance in places like India, Vietnam, and Nepal totally turned around my sense of purpose and direction. It made me realize how much abundance we all have and how little we’re doing to share it with the world — how little we’re doing to make such abundance sustainable.

I think part of recreating what the American Dream means is realizing that we’re all, as you say in the book, citizens of the world (I won’t give away your surprise renaming of The American Dream :) ).

As such, we’re all equally responsible to share this dream and help make it a reality for not just ourselves, but everyone else. Those of us who are more able have even a greater responsibility to help and share our wealth of abundance, whether it’s financial abundance or an abundance of knowledge. We all need to be responsible for learning, loving, sharing, and being compassionate.


Thank you Raam. :)

I’m with you all the way. And you put this so well –> “We all need to be responsible for learning, loving, sharing, and being compassionate.”

Jon Case

Thank you for this. I have been waiting for this ebook to come out. Now I intend to sit down and give it a good read!


:) Thanks Jon!

Bob T

Wow! What a document! And the links you provided to the other blogs are gold! Thank you so much for this.


Glad you’re into it Bob. :)


This post is a big comment section from great bloggers on your manifesto. Nice that you gathered all these points of view to present.

Awesome that you are making this subject be discussed about everywhere on the blogosphere.


Thanks Marilia! I attempted something a bit different with this launch. :) I like how it has worked out.

Randy Aldrich

this. is. awesome.

First (super-ficial) feedback:

I think you’re missing a link in here:

“3 T-shirts, 1 pair of pants; full list here” (page 21)


Thanks Randy! Will get that fixed on the next update. :)

Jean Sarauer

Karol, I’m a Universal dreamer all the way. I want the best of everything for all citizens of the world. Blogging has knocked down the walls for me and I see how we’re all so alike despite our diverse cultures.

I’ve enjoyed location-independent work for the last several years and live simply in a modest home, growing much of my own food, and using what I have. This allows me to live my dream, which is waking up each day and being free to do what I want, when I want.


That’s awesome Jean!

“we’re all so alike despite our diverse cultures” <– exactly :)

Srinivas Rao

Thanks so much for including me in your manifesto. It’s an honor to included among such great company. I’m looking forward to spending some time later today going through the whole thing and reading all the responses.


You’re welcome and thank you Srini! :)



Honored to be featured in this post. Thanks so much for the opportunity.

Just started my day by reading the manifesto and it’s really, really good. I’ll be promoting it in a post on my blog soon.

Off to send it to my brother, I know he’ll dig this as well.



Kick ass! Thanks Nate. I hope your readers and your brother are into it!


I’m going to go with a scholarly introduction to the meaning of it all and then some….!


hehe ;)

Justin P Lambert

I’m definitely in the market for a new Universal Dream! Thanks, Karol, for the inspiration. I’m running the financial gauntlet right now while trying to keep my head up and my sights on a brighter future. I’m hoping that my family and I learn from our experience shooting for this broken dream as we start planning for our real goals.

Thanks again!


Awesome Justin. First step is realizing the old Dream is dead. Nothing wrong with planning a new Dream. :)


Hi Karol!
I’m working toward my Universal Dream. It’s a process but at least I’m doing it instead of sitting back and bitching like so many others.
“There is no magic pill.” I tell people that every day!
Thanks for the fantastic manifesto. I’ve already shared it on my facebook :)


Thank you Sarah! Thanks for working towards your Universal Dream and thanks for spreading the word that there’s no magic pill. :)


Thank you so much for this, I am looking forward to read it later tonight over a cup of tea! ;)


You’re welcome Marthe! Mmm, just had some cinnamon rooibos. :)

Josh Hanagarne

Karol, thanks for including me in such a wonderful project. That’s a fascinating read you’ve got up there. I’m honored to be in such fine company.


You’re welcome Josh! Thank you for being part of it. :)


Awesome manifesto, I just read it and love the fact that many people around are concerned to make a declaration to The Universal Dream.

My declaration is that we educate our kids focused on universal values and forget about patriotism, for this is the first seed of prejudice.

We need to start spreading more the word on relevant education. It´s not a matter of opinion and culture rights, it´s a matter of serving the basic needs to nurture our minds and bodies and our home, the planet Earth.


That is fantastic Marilia! Thank you. :)

Mark L

I can’t believe this. I just drafted a post with the same theme(before I read this). Very cool to think I am not alone in this way of thinking.
The American Dream is a lie.


:) Thanks Mark. It seems to be a more common thought amongst many people these days. :)


Congrats on the book. I haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, but I just right clicked and downloaded it so I will be reading it within a few minutes! From reading the comments above, I’m sure it’s good and I’m glad you were able to pump out something many people seem to be enjoying.


Thanks Reggie! Looking forward to your comments after you read it! :)

Chris Guillebeau

Nice job dude. Keep living the dream! (Some sort of dream, that is.)


Thanks Chris! :)

Kenny Eller

Bro, freaking awesome! Awesome! Everything you wrote makes so much sense. Boy, I know I’ve gotten caught up in the “dream” for sure. I, like you (pre 08), always have wanted the nice things. I laughed when reading about the shoes, because I had a similiar story as a kid. In those days, the shoes did matter…or at least we thought they did.

Your way of thinking has always been refreshing, clean, and very much appreciated.

Keep it up my brotha, this truly is a must read.

OK, time to send to the fam:-)


Thanks Kenny. I think most people who grew up less than middle-class (or even middle-class for that matter) can identify with the shoes thing. That’s why I loved what Stephon Marbury and Ben Wallace did with those $15 shoes. It’s not how much they cost, it’s what you do with them.

Tyler Tervooren

Thanks for thinking of me for your project, Karol. Burning through the manifesto this evening and looking forward to it. :)


Thanks for contributing Tyler! Looking forward to your thoughts!

Smitten by Britain

I would argue that Americans will never truly experience the American dream until we have universal health care. One cannot live in America without considering how they will pay for medical care. You can follow your dream as long as you make enough money to cover your medical expenses or that dream includes a job that has health coverage, or you never get sick. Good luck with the last one!


No such thing as luck. ;)


Before I say what I have to say, let me first say I totally support universal health care and think we as Americans should have a system like Canada has. I don’t think what we got recently out of Congress went far enough.

BUT — I disagree with what Smitten is saying. Because focusing on universal health care is just the same as focusing on the American Dream being about consumerism. It’s not what the Dream was ever about really. And by that I mean the fundamental purpose that founded the birth of country, was NOT about universal health care or about 2.5 cars and a big house or any of that.

I think we should have universal health care so long as we’re willing to pay the taxes that support it (I am). If you want taxes cut, then you don’t really want universal health care.

But at the end of the day, I think we went wrong with the American Dream when we started letting them tell us it was about the house and the white picket fence and the cars. It died when we started being referred to as “THE AMERICAN CONSUMER” and somehow got ourselves on the hook for supporting the economic wellbeing of other countries through our seemingly voracious appetite for more and more and cheaper stuff. I’m so flippin tired of being called “the American CONSUMER” instead of “the American CITIZEN”. So it’s been cancerous since the 50s.

To me the American Dream has always been about freedom, and the ability to invent and reinvent yourself. The ability to innovate and push the edge of the envelope. The ability to have a place where you can believe and live how you want and leave others alone to do the same.

I don’t think this version of the American Dream has ever really existed either, but we’re getting better with it — In some ways. With lots of room to improve. But I think that’s what it’s always been intended to be, even when we haven’t realized it. And even at the beginning, I don’t think they fully realized it.

Sherry Brizendine

Karol, Thank you for this free compelling manifesto! The dreams for opportunity, freedom, comfort, and prosperity are universal. I agree with you that experiential financial goals will bring you more happiness. Your approach for this creation was so unique, and every part of this has been a pleasure to experience.


Thank you Sherry! I’m glad it was a pleasure to experience. :)


Here’s Carlin’s take on the American Dream.


Carlin rules, but I want to know what you think. :)


Yes, yes, and yes! I very much resonate with this on so many levels. I am too tired now, but may write a tome here tomorrow. ;) May I suggest on thing? You have a sentence – “No matter your race, creed, location, political views, or eduction, The American Dream applies to you.” May I suggest adding the word gender to your manifesto? It was, after all, only 90 years ago this month that women won the right to vote on their American dream.


Thanks Elizabeth! Looking forward to your tome. By not explicitly stating gender it is implied and inclusive of all. :)


This is a very nice manifesto.

What is missing, IMHO, is that “the dream” should be compatible with others’ and not detrimental. I mean, if you are pursuing your dream, and that makes people suffer (either directly or indirectly), maybe you should either change your strategy or change your dream.

Egoism, lack of compassion and altruism might mess up your new definition of “american dream”. And I think that rejecting egoism, gaining compassion and altruism is a precondition for a serene pursuing of an authentic dream.


Who ever said it’s not compatible with others? The beauty of The Universal Dream is you get to define it, not me. ;)


I just meant that something that is not compatible with others should not even taken into account as a “dream to realize”.

It seems to me that many people wants to realize things that are detrimental for the collectivity (directly or indirectly). This should be stopped. Only things that are inspired by altruism and compassion should be considered a universal dream. At least, that’s how I define it ;)


This is a very powerful manifesto.

I agree with you; the American Dream IS dead. That big house, those 2 cars, all that stuff–all it does is make you a prisoner.

I used to want this dream, worked my ass off for it. When I was still a teenager I felt so horrible that I had not achieved what others considered success I would lie and pretend that I was “so much more” than what I really was. Here I was barely scraping by, more concerned over Xmas presents than my next meal because I was ashamed I had not “made it” like those around me.

My friends and I came up with presents that year for everyone, and we were the talk of the town as a result. That was the lowest point of my life, stealing to keep up an image that was totally fake.

As I grew older I realized that the ones “living” the dream are miserable! Listening to them is frightening as they worry and fret about this bill or that repair, watching them spin their wheels dragging their 2.5 kids to football practice every night while they pass out watching whatever late show is popular just to do it all again.

I have been called lazy for not wanting that life. I call myself smart.

I’ve shared a link to your manifesto on my site with a call for comments. I honestly think everyone should read this.



Wow, Annie, this is quite serendipitous! I was just on your site yesterday and I couldn’t find a way to contact you so I gave up. I will contact you soon. :)

Thank you for your comments about the Manifesto and thank you for sharing it on your blog! I call you smart as well. :)


I guess I need to make a contact button then! Don’t want to miss any emails! I look forward to hearing from you! :)


Initially when I saw the title, I was like ‘But I ain’t an American’.
Glad that I downloaded it and read on.
Thanks for the book, I enjoy freedom! (who don’t?) and will continue to enjoy it and help more people to find their freedom too!


:) Thank you alwaysLovely. Glad you downloaded and read it to find out the secret. ;)


I really enjoyed this and it’s given me some extra motivation, thanks!


Awesome! Thanks Garry!

Neal Gorenflo

Great project, and a topic close to my heart and one we write about at Shareable Magazine. A big part of the new dream is a shift in thinking and doing from me to we. People are realizing that to get what they want, it helps a lot and is even mandatory in some cases to work with others. In fact, this drive to work with others is a long-time feature of the American character, according to a new book on the topic, Made in America. So I’m inclined to call this shift to social thinking and doing a revival rather than something entirely new.

Thanks for the free e-book. I’m going to share it with our community.


Awesome Neal! That’s a good point and I like that line of thinking. The lessons of helping others get what they want so we get what we want are timeless. Dale Carnegie is the earliest mainstream person I can think of that espoused that way of life. Looking forward to seeing what the Shareable community has to say about the Manifesto! :)

Axel Jack Metayer

Thanks Karol, great manifesto inspiring. After talking 6 month about one of my projects (making videos on youtube) I finally made the first step yesterday (buying myself a good camcorder). I could afford it and i’ll just start. Thanks!


That’s fantastic Axel! Congrats on taking action!

Neal Gorenflo


Interesting you mentioned Dale Carnegie. I actually took a couple Dale Carnegie classes when I was working my way through college.

There’s actually a long line of success gurus who espoused collective strategies going back to Ben Franklin, who started his famous Philadephia-based Junto mutual improvement club in 1727.

As social beings, we actually need each other to become who we want to become. One cool thing about minimalists is that we’re committed to helping each other succeed. We know that we must free ourselves first, then work to free others. As Desmond Tutu has said, “The fundamental law of human beings is interdependence. A person is a person through other persons.”



Good point RE: Ben Franklin! Timeless lessons. :)

“One cool thing about minimalists is that we’re committed to helping each other succeed.” <– right on, I love the community. Not sure it’s normal for most communities to rock so hard. :)

Neal Gorenflo

Yeah, it’s totally amazing how helpful the community has been to Shareable. It’s an embarrassment of riches. They’ve embraced the sharing aspect of minimalism, that sharing can help you live with less and live better.

In particular, Leo of ZenHabits, Tammy of Rowdy Kittens, Everett at Far Beyond the Stars, and Naomi at Simpler Living have been amazing supporters of Shareable.

I’m looking forward to more involvement and collaboration with the community. And open to ideas to help strengthen the movement.

Steve Thomas

Karol, this is so what I have been thinking lately! I could almost say the net sentence before I read it. The American “bad” Dream is coming to a close and with the help; of everyone with half a brain or half a heart, the Universal Dream will be a reality!


:) That’s awesome, thanks Steve!


What an amazing project! So great to read others’ takes on what it means – - If everyone were so enlightened to the universal “dream” perhaps we’d all be a bit happier.


Thank you Kristin! :)


Great work Karol, love it!


Thank you Trent!

Meg - Minimalist Woman

I am of your parents’ generation, and have personally observed the American Dream from what it was in the 50′s, to the changes in the 60′s and 70′s, and its coarsening in the 80′s and 90′s. And of course, I’m caught in the crumbling of the American Dream in the past ten years.

What crumbled? Security. The American Dream was not only about being who and what we wanted to be, it was about having security, too. In fact, I would say that it was more about the ability to achieve financial and personal security than it was about becoming the best or the first at something. The great silent majority of Americans just want to be left alone to get on with their burrowing toward security. Every so often one or several amongst us has a vision of something grander, and those are the ones to take advantage of the freedoms available here to achieve it. But they are not the majority, any more than they would be in any other country.

The majority are those who stuck with the family business, or who took “safe” jobs with pensions and insurance, and actually lived life pretty cautiously. They played by the rules, whatever the rules were. And tons of them have been royally screwed–pension plans dissolved by companies shutting down or going bankrupt, insurance coverage lost for the same reasons or, if kept, insufficient to provide enough care, real estate values tanking, interest rates too low to provide much to live on for those who did manage to sock away some savings.

In the 50′s and 60′s, a guy who was a salesclerk in, say, a Sears store, could earn enough money to buy a house, a car, for his wife to stay at home and have a few kids, to take a family road trip once a year, and to set aside something for retirement–no credit card necessary. That tells you the relative value between work and necessities back then, something that seems incredible now. Those of us who opt to work a more humane schedule than the multi-job one required to maintain what had been a typical lifestyle are giving up the lifestyle. But just because we put a different value on our time does not mean America does. The price of a loaf of bread remains the same.

Material goods have been increasingly designed for obsolescence, whether they are made in America or elsewhere. Things need replacing repeatedly, not just for fashion reasons. I sometimes think advertising is done to distract us from the essential shoddiness of the item we are intended to want to replace, whether it is a pair of shoes or a kitchen faucet. It certainly keeps the buying cycle going. Our GNP is generated by crap. And in turn it’s polluting the planet. Those of us opting out of buying stuff all the time are still going to be forced to replace essentials like the shoes and the faucets, and our castaways are still likely to end up in a landfill.

The idea of personal freedom has long been embodied by the phrase “The American Dream.” But I hesitate to promote it because America is not a democracy nor a republic, it’s a capitalist society. Our government is essentially owned and run by corporations–decisions are made in the best interests of Big Money, not of the average Joe American. It is still possible to achieve success here; not everyone who achieves some sort of security loses it. But if you look at yourself, at me, at many of the others who have commented here, we’ve thrown out a big chunk of what had been the ideal of the American Dream–the stuff–in order to preserve what is left–the freedom. In the long term, though, the freedom alone is not enough.

I don’t think we should kid ourselves that the idea of the American Dream was solely about freedom, and not about the money. You do need money to survive in this country where medical care is so expensive, where the net of social services has so many big holes, where the regulation of corporations and banks is a big joke. Without the security of basic medical care and social services (and I mean help for anything from drug addiction to tuition to catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina), and safe banks and pensions, there is no real freedom for most of us. Those insecurities can prevent great dreams from being realized at all, even the dream of just being an average person helping someone less fortunate. You’d be amazed at how many people who were once regular donors and supporters of charities are now on the receiving end. Things have gotten that bad.

A New American Dream for me is one with universal health care, enforced regulation of the entities which control our money and our resources, and civil rights and acceptance for all people. I haven’t the slightest idea how we can achieve it, unless masses of us manage to go off the grid as consumers and bring corporations to their knees. That would be the ultimate campaign finance reform: controlling the money. In that way, our votes would mean something, enabling our elected officials make the changes that would give us the freedom to just be. Maybe then even more of us would have the chance to follow our big dreams.

Steve Thomas

I think you are right Meg, for the most part. I am of the age as well and understand what you are saying. the only part I would differ with is when you talk about a capitalist society.

Capitalism, Socialism, Communism are just systems. They are neither good or evil in and of themselves. They are only as bad or good as those behind them. They each have some inherent qualities. Communism inherently causes laziness. Why try when you will never pull ahead. You can never make things better for yourself because it would be against the main idea.

Capitalism inherently rewards the greedy. Our economy is in the state it is in because of this greed. Not just on the part of CEO’s but all of us. It takes some effort to control this greed.

Meg - Minimalist Woman

Steve, you are correct. I should have specified Unregulated Capitalism. While the consumer has unquestionably contributed to the problem, the unregulated greed of corporations and its effect on our political structure is the far bigger contributor.

Cradle-to-grave marketing has contributed to consumer greed. We are marketed stuff and in ways unheard of, say, in England, because it isn’t sufficiently regulated. Every day there are unsubstantiated claims made for medicines and cleaning products and grooming products in full-on visually striking ways. Marketers sell us solutions to problems that they’ve convinced us we have. And we let them. And we let them do it to our children. We are oblivious to our own greed, the greed systematically cultivated by even greedier corporations.

(Somebody please get me off of this damned soapbox!!!!!) :)


I think that regulation would not be enough.
The big problem is the “growth dogma” that is at the foundation of the capitalistic system and that led us to where we are.

By giving up the “growth dogma” we would end up in something that resembles a socialistic system where wealth is eventually split up equally to all the member of the society.

This would mean to stop producing things just for the sake of producing. For example Apple would be in “stand-by” for years instead of producing a new iPod model every 6 months.

This would mean the end of the “fashion” phenomenon in all the domains, and the end of “programmed obsolescence”.

This would mean that a shop, no matter what size it is, would send its clients to another shop when it has cashed the amount of money needed to cover the expenses for the day (salaries for the employees, rent, bills).

I don’t know if a regulated capitalism would be compatible with this.

Bill Boyd

Hi Karol,

As an older US Citizen, the thing I would point out is an opinion of mine regarding the “missing element” I have always observed in descriptions of the “American Dream.”

The American Dream is founded on ideas…the 6 great ideas delineated by philosophers throughout recorded history. Truth, Goodness, Beauty – Ideas we judge by. Liberty, Justice, Happiness – ideas we strive and fight for. The Great Ideas of Being and Doing.

All other national dreams are founded on “tribal, ethnic or ideological superiority.”

Truth, Goodness, Liberty and Justice are communal/objective ideas. Beauty and Happiness are individual/subjective ideas.

The American Dream is the vision that all mankind can live within a community founded on Truth, Goodness, Liberty and Justice in order that all individuals might create beauty and strive for happiness.

You who call yourselves “minimalists” have not likely been born into a family constrained by the abject physical, emotional and intellectual poverty administered by a dictator found covering the vast majority of the globe. It is easy to be a “minimalist” if you are born into a community founded on the American Dream…even if evil capitalists were also given Liberty.

You who call yourselves Zen masters have not likely been born into a family regimented under Mohammedan Sharia constraints as implemented by the whims of an ayatollah . That Justice would have eliminated you before you had a chance to post on this blog. It’s easy to be a zen master if you were born into a community founded on the American Dream.

You who call yourselves progressive liberals were likely not born into a family constrained by the ideology of Marx as implemented Mao, Stalin, Castro or any other heinous criminal operating the constraints of the community. That definition of The Good would have judged you subversive and also eliminated your voice. It’s easy to be progressive and liberal if you were born into a community founded on the American Dream.

You who call yourselves conservative entrepreneurs likely were not born into a family constrained by an idea of Truth that was based on a literal interpretation of some book written by a so-called “know-it-all” many hundreds of years ago. The scientific process has thoroughly debunked any notion that Truth is “knowable.” It is easy to be a conservative entrepreneur if you were born into a community founded on the American Dream.

So now you must be thinking – “What’s the ‘Missing Element?’”

Where is the continual “Prayer of thanks-giving” that should be shouted from the soul, heart and mind of each one of you who has the opportunity to create beauty and pursue happiness because you were blessed to be born into a community founded on and constrained by the American Dream?

This lack of gratitude is so conspicuous as to be appalling in it general omission.

The American Dream will die unless those of you in the next generation appreciate and thoroughly understand Truth and Goodness and fight for Liberty and Justice. Use your financial freedom in those efforts, and you will be deserving of Beauty and Happiness.

Spoken with warm concern.


“It is easy to be a “minimalist" if you are born into a community founded on the American Dream…” So you’re saying you didn’t read the Manifesto?

“The American Dream will die unless those of you in the next generation…” Why does the “burden” have to fall squarely on the next generation’s shoulders? Why can’t all of us make it happen?

Bill Boyd

Hey Karol,

Yes, I read the Manifesto and enjoyed it very much. You are wise beyond your years. I also love what you and your associates are attempting. And I really appreciate your insights and money-making abilities.

The burden always falls on the next generation. My generation can no longer fight with youthful vigor for Liberty and Justice, but we do understand Truth and Goodness, and gladly support you with our wisdom and concern.

Why does your generation have to fight and die by the hundreds in a war effort to halt the spread of the “Mohammedan Dream” and preserve the “American Dream?”

Why did my generation have to fight and die by the thousands in a war effort to halt the spread of the “Marxist Dream” and preserve the “American Dream?”

Why did my father’s generation have to fight and die by the hundreds of thousands in a war effort to halt the spread of the “National Socialist(NAZI)” and “Rising Sun” Dreams and preserve the “American Dream?”

Why did his father’s generation have to fight and die by the millions in order to halt the spread of the “European World Enslavement Dream” and preserve the “American Dream?”

Sadly, it is not the “Universal Dream” to allow all the world’s people to live in a place where the 6 great ideas reign supreme. It is in fact the “American Dream.”

And the fact is, the “American Dream” is dying. It is dying because too many in your generation take Liberty and Justice for granted, and too many in your generation do not understand Truth and Goodness. As a result you are not able to judge well and beautify, and you are not willing to fight well and spread happiness.

My main point was the “missing element.” You did not address that but were somewhat offended by the statement regarding the ease of being a minimalist.

The fact is that minimalism as a macro-economic foundation will not work and should not be advocated as an economic foundation for a “Universal Dream.” Universal poverty would be the result, and that ain’t cool.

Minimalism is a micro-economic idea that can work for a few individuals with no family or communal responsibilities. It is made possible by a remarkable communication and manufacturing system (created by our evil government and corporations?) that requires the sustenance of the “American Dream.” (This statement in no way excuses the administrators of these institutions who have committed heinous acts – they should be justly jailed. Nor does it excuse other elements of these institutions for encouraging time-wasting struggles for narcissism.)

And of course, I still don’t quite see the deeply-felt thanks and appreciation for the remarkable gifts we were given as a launching platform from which to pursue the “American Dream.”

Go to Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Western China, Libya and Somalia for your next 5 places to work from. Then head on over to any of the other countries still pursuing the “Mohammedan Dream” or the “Marxist Dream.” They all want their dreams to be the “Universal Dream.” Try to spread your gospel to their governing administrators. It will be very easy there to live minimally far beyond the stars.

Spoken with warm concern.


Bill — I understand what you’re saying.

You’re saying that each generation successively has to protect the continued and growing access to the freedoms we all want. That we have to be mindful to the current threats that would take it away and respond. And — heaven forbid — if we need to fight to protect it it falls on the current generation to do so.

I agree in principal. I also think American capitalist politics has partly created the current “Mohammedan Dream” that scares the rest of us. Yet one more way we’ve really shot ourselves in the foot.


Also — one more thing spoken as a 40-something. I often feel sandwiched between those older than me who enjoyed a particular sort of lifestyle generated out of the post-WWII boom and those younger than me who grew up taking the Internet for granted.

And on behalf of people my age and younger, I have to point out. When I hear things such as “too many in your generation take Liberty and Justice for granted, and too many in your generation do not understand Truth and Goodness. As a result you are not able to judge well and beautify, and you are not willing to fight well and spread happiness.”

— who exactly should take responsibility for passing (or not passing) that knowledge on to us?

Who was watching out for the best interests of TODAY’S generations before this mess was made, and how are we going to best care for the future generations when nobody — including the older generations — seem to understand how lack of responsibility has gotten us here today? This is a decades-old problem and today’s generations cannot bear this all by ourselves.


Let me clarify — I am somebody who in the late 80s did what had worked well for a few decades — I moved heaven and hell to go to college (and paid for it largely by myself). Then I gave away all of my 20s and part of my 30s working full time and going to graduate school at night, and trying to build a career the old-fashioned way, and trying opt for security.

Somewhere in there — mid 80s to mid 90s, people older than I was let laws be passed culminating in NAFTA that has vastly changed the nature of the job landscape. It changed reality very significantly for me and for many. It took away my secure, well-paying career and turned it into something that I am still in, but every year grows more tenuous as there is more and more pressure to pay somebody in India far less and let me go. Or worse, take a pay cut closer to India levels.

My time and money is already spent on training up for a world that was signed away, and I never actually got to the part where I travelled, bought the big house, etc. The rules changed while I wasn’t looking because I was trying to do all the right things and I was putting my sweat equity into getting a career established.

I envy those younger than me who maybe didn’t invest as much of themselves before the rules got changed on them, and so they are freer to adapt hopefully.

And I’m angry that people older than me didn’t fight harder to protect the well-being of your younger siblings and children and our ability to live the Dream. I’m grateful you fought Marxism and Nazism, but when did you fight back against Consumerism?