Lately I’ve been hearing this kind of crap:
I call BS. The American Dream is not dead; its bastardized, mutant, entitled misinterpretation is.
First, let’s make sure we know what the hell we’re talking about. The American Dream (that’s not dead) is the idea that if you’re really smart and really hard working, the life you lead in the future can be dramatically better than the life you had in the past. The American Dream says that opportunities exist; if you find them quicker and leverage them better than the next guy, you’ll make some money and your dad might finally be proud of you. The American Dream says that the employee can become the boss, the tenant can become the landlord, and the janitor can become the head custodian.
Here’s what died: The guarantee that there’s a secure job out there waiting for you with a benevolent boss who will give you predictable raises so that the life you lead in the future can be slightly better than the life you had in the past. What’s gone is the expectation that you can go to work for one company and do the same work for 30 to 40 years, and that this company will pay your salary, provide your health insurance, and underwrite your pension. This isn’t the American Dream. At best it’s a description of the middle class from our grandparents’ generation. At worst it’s an epidemic of entitlement. Whatever it is, it’s dead, and I pee on its grave¹.
People are saying the American Dream is dead because income disparity is increasing and the middle class is thinning worse than Prince William. The hallowing out off the middle class is due to the current rapid rate of technological change. Technological change is taking away the comfortable, predictable middle class lifestyle. Wake the #$%& up! The American Dream isn’t about being comfortable and predictable. The American Dream is about busting your ass, seizing opportunities, and innovating new products and services.
CPAs are not immune. Most people today graduating with an accounting degree assume that they will get an internship, land a job, fail the CPA exam, pass the CPA exam, and then either move up the ranks in the firm and stay there forever or move into industry and stay there forever. Unfortunately, a huge chunk of the services we provide are in danger of being automated, outsourced, or simplified. Just because you have your license and a job doesn’t mean that you’re set for life. Comfortable and predictable are dead. Even for CPAs.
So here’s how you cope:
Regardless of what you’re doing now, you need to be pursuing what’s next.
Assume that the carpet will be pulled out from under you in the near future.
Disrupt yourself before you get disrupted.
Push yourself to the cutting edge.
Invest in people and relationships.
Prepare yourself for change because luck favors the prepared.
The American dream isn’t dead. It’s just not a given, and it never was.
¹I’m peeing on it out of contempt, not because I drank a 52 oz. Diet Coke. The 52 oz. Diet Coke was just a delicious and refreshing means of expressing my contempt.
Greg was born in Akron, Ohio, in the shadow of the Firestone tire factory. He began to swim competitively when he was eight, swimming for the Mountlake Terrace Lemmings. He graduated in 1995 from the University of Washington with a math degree. He chose math for the ladies. After serving ten-years as an 8th grade math teacher, he decided it was time for a career change, mainly because he “couldn’t stand those little bastards.” He began his accounting career with a local CPA firm in Orem, Utah, where he consistently failed the QuickBooks ProAdvisor advanced certification exam. Greg currently works as the Controller for the Utah Valley Physicians Plaza. He lives in Provo, Utah, with his wife and two kids. He enjoys eating maple bars, drinking Diet Pepsi, and swearing.