It’s no secret. The notion of the idyllic “American Dream” has changed over the past few years – and really, the shift has been happening slowly over the last two decades. One-time certainties like job security, retirement, and even social security, are now in question for millions of Americans.
For our parents and their parents, the path was a bit more clear cut – you studied hard and got a good education, landed a job with a large corporation, worked loyally for 30 years, collected a pension, and rode off into the sunset. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.
If we fast-forward to the Gen Xers and the Millennials, they have entered the workforce well aware of the new reality – they know they’re going to have to jump from employer to employer and fight hard to keep their jobs. They’ll also likely be responsible for building up their own retirement savings.
And what about the Boomers? Those who have been caught somewhere in the middle of this shift? Up until a few years ago, they may have been coasting along with the promise of a cushy retirement visible in the near distance. Then, the Great Recession hit and everything changed. For millions of American workers, job security became unsecure at best.
Without a doubt, we’ve all witnessed many friends and colleagues fall victim to downsizing – perhaps you’re one of them. And if you’re not yet on the chopping block…is it just a matter of time? These fears and concerns are legitimate, but you don’t have to let them take control.
In my book Be Your Best Boss: Reinvent Yourself from Employee to Entrepreneur, I discuss how you can reinvent your own version of the American dream. As it turns out, most people will find that their route to personal happiness and financial success involves becoming an entrepreneur. To many, that 12-letter word sounds lofty and intimidating, but it’s actually more within reach than you may think.
Entrepreneurs don’t want to work for a cold, uncaring organization. They want to work for someone who gives a damn. Someone who will truly have his or her best interest at heart. Eventually, they realize that they themselves are the best boss they’ll ever have, and you, too, will likely come to that same conclusion.
So before you get too upset about the fact that things aren’t the way they used to be, I want to shed some light on the new American dream. It’s very common for nostalgia to kick in when we look back on our past, but if you take a moment to think about it, corporate America never really treated us that well.
We didn’t have control over our working lives and schedules. Our earnings didn’t necessarily correspond to our efforts. And having the freedom to pursue ideas that mattered to us wasn’t common. On the other hand, becoming a business owner is a liberating experience. It’s about having the kind of freedom that comes with financial independence, decision making, legacy building, and control over your family’s future.
So go ahead, start imaging yourself as a business owner. The next step is to turn that vision into a reality. When it comes to taking that “leap” into entrepreneurship, you may be more prepared than you think. The time you’ve spent in the corporate world has likely served you well, allowing you to accumulate technical and people skills that put you in a great position for running your own business.
You have developed a realistic, long-term view of work and are an independent thinker – you know how to go with your gut and make tough decisions. Beyond that, you can add the following attributes to your resume: the ability to play on a team, experience serving as a role model and delegating tasks, along with making money and budgeting. The bottom line is that you have the potential to succeed outside the corporate world.
Let me leave you with this thought: As an entrepreneur, your passion can serve your future, your family, your community, and your lifestyle – not some employer who could care less about your wants, needs, or goals. You deserve to live the new American dream! So instead of letting the fear of failure stop you, let the passion for the future you’ve envisioned drive you.
William R. (Bill) Seagraves is the author of Be Your Best Boss: Reinvent Yourself From Employee to Entrepreneur. Himself a serial entrepreneur, Bill coaches mid-career Americans on the best route to successful entrepreneurship.