Living the American Dream
Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Alive and Doing Well
By Mary Jacoby Hastings
The “American Dream” is what drives an individual to achieve something that is in their own view, “extraordinary.” To one person, winning the lottery might be an American dream, but to another having the freedom to realize the benefits and rewards of hard work defines the American dream.
In the struggling economy of the present, there is good reason for many who have spent years pursuing the American dream to consider themselves now living the American nightmare. Take, for instance, the idyllic perception of utopia as owning a comfortable home in the suburbs complete with the well-groomed lawn and friendly, helpful neighbors.
According to a recent study released by the Brookings Institute, the number of those now considered living at or below the poverty level in American suburbia rose 53% since the year 2000. They live quietly behind closed doors, often too embarrassed to mingle with neighbors that might learn of their difficulties. Some disappear in the night because they can no longer pay the mortgage due to a job loss or other circumstances. According to Elizabeth Kneebone, senior research associate at Brookings, by the year 2005, the highest concentration of impoverished American citizens could be found in suburbia, not the inner city.
Despite these alarming statistics and a tight job market, there are those that find ways to keep living their American dream. Denver author Kate Sanks Heartsong epitomizes the traditional American spirit of hard work and perseverance. She wrote what she calls life-enhancing material in her book Deeply We Are One, released to the public in January 2010. This financial analyst, project manager, trainer, accountant and author found herself between jobs in 2011. Sanks Heartsong says that what she is doing now is “reinventing” herself. She is exploring careers she might never have considered and doing so with a positive attitude.
Sanks Heartsong sees opportunities to use her passion to help others. Writing her book was empowering insofar it allowed her to use her determination to successfully coordinate all aspects of self-publishing. She says, “I found that believing in myself and also being very determined to complete the book were quite instrumental in my success.”
Debbie Fitzgerald is co-owner of Fitzgerald-Petersen Communications, a Denver-area public relations agency. Fitzgerald attributes her success to hard work and finding ways to be a standout. Further, she is no stranger to swallowing her pride and taking a few steps back to move her career forward. A former television reporter, Fitzgerald recognized her future was not in television because her heart was not in it; so she took risks that involved as she puts it, “hard, hard work.”
Fitzgerald’s willingness to reassess the direction she wanted to take and the courage to take risks, eventually led her to join forces with a business partner that shared her philosophy, “Work hard and enjoy work!”
Today her company’s expertise and experience are sought by high-profile, internationally recognized companies. In the end, Fitzgerald says her favorite part of being a small business owner in the public relations industry is “marrying clients to community projects that really make a difference in people’s lives.” In the process, Fitzgerald has found a way to live her own American dream.
Marty Dickinson, co-author of Web Marketing All-in-One for Dummies thought he wanted to go into business for himself and do it all himself. Along the way, Dickinson received a wake-up call and faced the reality that he needed the support of skilled people to realize his vision.
Like Fitzgerald, Dickinson’s success did not come overnight. He spent years building a pool of talented individuals that shared a similar vision and wisely invested in his team. Dickinson subscribes to the philosophy, “Pay people well and they’ll stay with you forever and they’ll do whatever it takes to do their job at an amazingly high level … and they will stick around for years to come.”
Dickinson thought his American dream meant “making all the decisions and being in total control to do it all.” His journey led him down a different path as he learned from mistakes along the way and used those lessons to move on to the next attempt. In the process, he developed an understanding that he needed to focus on his own strengths and accept the reality that he did not need to be the master of all things to live his American dream.
Sue Scudder’s path to the American dream was influenced by a near-death experience during life-saving surgery; something which led her to delve into the metaphysical realm. She has produced CDs with music that she composed and arranged. Her book, The Voice Across the Veil, is a culmination of 19 years characterized by extraordinary experiences. Her music and writing led to a career as a holistic practitioner. She describes her roles today as author, musician, holistic health practitioner and facilitator of Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream.
Scudder has enjoyed the freedom to re-invent herself and attributes her success to having “trust, a positive attitude and the knowledge that our thoughts and choices are real.” She advises others to, “Pay attention to everything that happens. An opportunity may be right in front of you and you could miss it.”
In essence the secret to living the American dream is really not so secret after all. In each case, a former financial analyst, former reporter, former music teacher and a would-be “do it yourself” entrepreneur took what might have been perceived as failures and paved their own roads to success. The common thread is the desire of every one of them to persevere and make a positive difference in the lives of others.