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Joe Szynkowski: Welcome to the American Dream 2.0

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For the past few weeks, I have been helping a company revamp its brand from the ground up. The business offers a technology program aimed at helping franchisees recruit and retain top hourly talent.

The company’s founder and chief executive officer has a powerful story. He dropped out of high school when he was 14 to help support his single mom. He worked 13 hourly jobs over the course of the next decade before eventually earning degrees from Cornell and Harvard.

His goal is now to help hourly workers find better, more sustainable employment options.

What a time to be in that space.

COVID-19 has upended the job market with more people working from home, choosing their own schedules, and exploring freelance opportunities. Professionals are turning down more traditional, in-office roles for the chance to take back control of their work lives.


Because they believe in the American Dream 2.0.

What is the American Dream?

The term “American Dream” was coined by James Truslow Adams in 1931.

Now regarded as our national ethos, Adams’ saying goes like this: “Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement, regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.”

The legitimacy of the American Dream has been questioned by researchers and political spokespeople as the country’s equity gap only continues to widen. “How can the American Dream be a realistic goal when only enjoyed by a small percentage,” they argue.

But researchers and political spokespeople are missing something.

Money isn’t everything.

We’re not all solely focused on the financial benefits of working. I know low-paid social workers and teachers who are 1,000 percent happier with their lives than executives earning $500,000 per year with millions of dollars in stock options.

Prosperity means something different than it did 100 years ago. Professionals are looking to learn new skills, call their own shots, work with great people, and ensure security for their families.

The American Dream 2.0

Let’s break down the original dream and give it a 2022 spin.

“Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone…

Love this. Wouldn’t change a word.

“…with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement…”

Let’s add “and how they treat others.” Three leaders this week used the word “authentic” when I asked them to describe their management style.

People who are truly achieving career success and happiness are no longer aggressively climbing over people to reach the top. They are winning through collaboration and partnership with others.

“…regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.”

This is the most unrealistic aspect of the original dream. Unfortunately, there are too many variables – where you’re born, who your parents are, what school you go to – that will always influence overall work opportunities.

What if the aforementioned company founder hadn’t been handed so many barriers on his way to success?

As people trying to improve their families and professional position, what’s the fun in a zero-barrier journey? What do we learn?

It should be your goal to embrace, overcome, and learn from barriers.

After all, what is the American Dream without a little hard work along the way?

Joe Szynkowski is the happy founder and owner of The UpWrite Group, a small local firm that has offered corporate communications, personal branding, public relations, and ghostwriting services since 2008. Email for more information.


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