Rethink Happy, Virtue

The American Dream: Can it really be achieved?

man in car by ocean

The American Dream is something everyone in the country wants, but can just anyone achieve this dream? I believe the answer is “no.” The standard definition of the American Dream is that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity. How? Through hard work and initiative.

There are many people who think the American Dream should be possible without hard work, and that they should have their dreams fulfilled simply because they live here. This is impossible, and it’s not what the American Dream is all about.

Anyone can achieve the American Dream, but many people think it’s harder now than ever to achieve it. I completely disagree. Take a look at books like The Lean Startup and The $100 Startup as well as several other books that offer ideas for how to get started with a business with very low capital.

The internet has made it easy to get something started. Of course, there is much to making startups a success. Throwing an idea out there isn’t going to take you to millionaire status, but the opportunity is there and readily available today. Although there is no objective measurement, I believe I have achieved the dream. Having built and sold a company for a decent profit probably puts me into the category of having achieved the American Dream.

pyramid_glass_buildingI just invested in another business that could take us back to ground zero if it doesn’t take off. So then what? The American Dream without any faith behind it is honestly a bit shallow. Or, to put it another way, it’s not the most important achievement. Growing in virtue, building a strong marriage and family–this trumps any monetary or business achievement, yet this is rarely emphasized in the media.

There is a danger to chasing the dream, however. The biggest danger is when business success seduces an entrepreneur into thinking it’s more important than faith or family. It’s very tempting to do this. Most entrepreneurs are very competitive, and they will stop at nothing to win, including working as many hours as it takes to get their businesses to grow and be profitable.

Many marriages struggle when one spouse is so intensely focused on something outside the family. The strain can be too much, but not if priorities are clearly listed and decisions are made based on them. Ideally, faith comes first, then spouse, then kids, then everything else. Our time, thoughts, devotion, etc., should all reflect what is most important to us.

I recommend taking a step back on a regular basis to assess where you are at and where you want to go. We should look at our days daily, our weeks weekly, months monthly, etc. Get away from home and the office and spend time objectively looking at the four areas I call 4H:Appointment calendar


  1. Heaven/Hell. This is faith. We are either striving and moving toward heaven or hell. (And yes, hell is real.) This H incorporates our charitable giving, our community service, our attendance at Mass or church on Sundays, and our daily prayer. We should have an appointment set up at least once each day to pray.
  2. Helpers. These are the people in our lives. Again, spouse first, kids second and everyone else after this. Why helpers? Because the people around us are helping us (affecting us) in our relationship with God, and therefore affecting whether we are striving toward Heaven or Hell. Even the people who annoy us affect us because they help us build virtDoug Kisgen's back cover photoue.
  3. Health. Are we eating right and exercising? Taking care of our bodies?
  4. Hard cash. Are we happy in our careers? Do we have a budget and a solid plan for saving for college or retirement? Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is king.

On a daily basis, we should review our day and give thanks for the things that went well, express sincere sorrow for the mistakes we made and make some small resolution for the next day. Weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. are important as well, but that’s another post.

Who is Doug? Doug Kisgen is an author, entrepreneur and personality expert. His primary work? Raising his five kids with his Rethink Happy coverwife of 20+ years in the hill country of Texas. 

For ways to put these ideas into practice, check out Doug’s book, Rethink Happy: An Entrepreneur’s Journey Toward Authentic Joy, available now as an e-book or in paperback!


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