American Dream

Normally if people ask me if I’m an optimist or pessimist, I say that I am a realist. Events lately have taught me that that is a lie I’ve been telling myself.

Earlier this year I listened to Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, and I was struck by his definition of the American Dream:

Keep your head down
Follow instructions
Show up on time
Work hard
Suck it up
…you will be rewarded.

That was not my American Dream. His version is so sad and depressing! Who on Earth would be inspired by that?!?!? I was always taught that the American Dream means that people can rise above their circumstances … and I am still a firm believer in that.

I am a closeted optimist! I can do what I set out to do if I work my butt off. No, not 100% of my dreams can come true. Not everyone can be President – there are lots of people vying for that office and only person can hold it at a time – but a career in politics (whether it be reporting it, local positions, or government worker) is possible. Heck, I was elected to a very low level local position, and politics isn’t my thing!

What I’m saying is … what exactly am I trying to say? I believe, no I know, that my future is still at least partially under my control. I can sit and coast and settle, or I can strive to be a better me. I’ll admit it: I’ve drank the Kool-Aid.

If I work at it, I will achieve what I want. Maybe not to the image that I have when I begin down the path, but I know new and improved opportunities will come my way if I’m on the look out for them and prepared to jump when they arrive.

Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending” Carl Bard

So yes, I guess I really am an optimist, and not so much in the closet any more. Without hope, what is there?

6 thoughts on “American Dream”

    1. It was easier to get through in the audio format. I think it was supposed to be inspiring in the “Who Moved My Cheese” mold, but the part I mentioned was the only thing I walked away with, probably because it was so contrary to my mindset.

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  1. I’m with you Tammy – I don’t buy into that put your head down, follow instructions, suck it up……yuck. We, Americans, keep our heads up and tend to be dreamers, and because we live in this country, moreso than anywhere else, I think, we believe we can reach our goals. Follow instructions? Eh. We do, to a point, but not, in my opinion, like Asian cultures. At least in their school systems – they’re very regimented. Suck it up? yes, we suck it up – but being tough isn’t a bad thing. I’m drinking the Kool-Aid too.

    And personally – being President of this country is nothing I would EVER want to be. No thank you. I couldn’t take the bickering and I couldn’t shake that many hands.

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    1. So glad to know that I’m not alone in thinking that Seth Godin’s version is not THE American Dream. I have never doubted that if I tried hard I could achieve great things, and I’m more than willing to suck it up if the end goal is worth it.

      I agree with you: Being President would be horrible! I won’t want that level of responsibility … or kissing up to people. No thank you!

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  2. Sadly, I think many of us feel the weight of the sentiment expressed. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the only path. The men and women I call my friends are not sheep, and nor am I. And I hope, nor are the single-minded, self-motivated, and creative young men I’ve raised to think for themselves – but as part of a larger community.

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    1. It doesn’t surprise me that Big Little Wolf did not raise (or surround herself with) sheep!

      Thank you for bringing community into the discussion. While most of us were brought up thinking that our destiny was in our own hands, I’m sure we also were taught how to be good friends and a good citizen, which is giving back. There are things we can control, but so many of the opportunities we are presented with are the results of those with whom we associate.

      That made me think of a different business group, Never Eat Alone, where he emphasizes the need to share access to one’s network, without any expectation of return. “Pay it forward” seems like a much better life mantra.

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