The following article is the second installment in a new series of guest articles on freedom, mindset, recruiting, and education needed to be successful today. These articles are authored by our esteemed colleagues around industry. To read the first installment, click here. Enjoy!
///START GUEST ARTICLE///
As an American citizen—regardless of your race, gender, religion, or any other characteristic that you may believe defines your existence-- you have a privilege by birthright that nobody else on the planet can claim: you are the CEO of your own American Dream. You have the individual agency as a citizen to chart the course of your life, make changes, accumulate wealth, and pursue your personal ambitions. This agency places no glass ceiling on how high you may rise, and no floor on how far you may fall. The power is yours, if you are willing to claim it, to leverage it, and to push it as far as it can go. It is very easy to ignore this legacy gift and rather to succumb to the insidious victimhood mentality that is overtaking our national social and academic narratives. Everyone has a plethora of reasons to fail, and anyone can find a boogeyman to blame. While the thought of being able to transfer responsibility for your personal pain or failure to an intangible yet popularly perceived injustice is an enticing exercise in self-pity, it ultimately contributes to feelings of powerlessness, self-loathing, and metastasizes into an existence limited to the confines of a Plexiglas cage of your own construction. Misery is big business—let’s call it The Misery Industry (TMI). TMI wants you to believe that America is inherently (and systemically) racist, evil, misogynist, and bigoted; therefore, unless you are a privileged person (as defined by TMI…and that definition is very fluid), then you do not enjoy any individual agency (self-determination) and you never will. The best you can hope for is to drag the ‘privileged’ down a few pegs, scrape some freebies, and establish a new, centrally managed equity-based regime. TMI does not offer you individual agency; it offers you an equitable outcome. That equity comes with a glass ceiling and costs you the very freedom you enjoy. I challenge you to hold fast to your optimism, to refuse to surrender your individual agency, and to join millions of other Americans in pursuing your American Dream.
American Culture—the lifeblood of the American Dream—was founded in 1776 with the signing of our seminal Declaration of Independence. Contrary to popular belief, it was not founded in 1492 with the Italian / Spanish discovery of modern day Haiti / Dominican Republic (Columbus); it was not founded in not in 1607 with the first English settlement in modern day Virginia (Jamestown); It was not founded in 1619 (first slaves imported to the US); and finally it was not founded with the first Pilgrim landing one year later in 1620 (Plymouth). While each of these dates were foundational to telling our American story, they were echoes of the Old World that served to demonstrate the failure of our old way of European life; the voyage across the Atlantic was not the departure threshold so much as the failure of adapting European Life to America was. Change was required, and that change was the reason for our thriving as the sole republican superpower in the history of the world: our unique footing in individual liberty and freedom. The failures of our early settlements in socialism, mercantilism, and neo-aristocracy served as a catalyst to the popular jettisoning of Old World baggage during the lead up to July 4, 1776. For hundreds of years, nobody of means came to America: it was the ultimate risk, only worth taking if you had nothing to lose. America was wilderness, violence, harsh, unforgiving weather, the absence of logistics / support, and disease. It was also freedom—distance from the crowns of Europe, bountiful in natural resources, and full of opportunity if you could survive. In coming to America, our forefathers bought in to the American dream with the security of their old lives for the opportunity at a startup in the New World—not everyone succeeded; however, they lived free and were willing to risk what they had on the promise of their own personal fortitude and faith in their God.
The American Dream is in the eyes of the beholder. To me, it means an opportunity to succeed or fail in a country that cherishes individual liberty over all, with no governmental limits in your potential derived from your last name, your lineage, your parents’ education / wealth, or your religion. The American Dream is to live the life of a startup, and for each one of us to be our own CEO. In 2021, the United States is not very friendly to startups. You must contend with unfriendly taxes, reams of regulations, and fickle lending environments to develop startup capital. The very civic education that used to prepare students to take their part in society and to achieve command of their American Dreams no longer accomplishes this goal, but more on that later. To make matters worse, you have to deal with COVID and the new era of “public health” attempting to franchise your personal health and consumer decisions. While the government is a major obstacle, the country added at least 56 new billionaires in 2020—peak COVID—at the height of government economic-killing lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing. It can be done.
Startups rise and fail according to these key factors, prioritized:
- Tenacity: gutting it out and never quitting. Few people are born with this. The best way to learn tenacity is to do very hard things, far outside of your comfort zone that you can and will fail at—sports, projects, hunting, outdoors adventures, and martial arts.
- Organization: planning and running your dream from the strategic, operational and tactical levels. The most organized people are trained to do so, and consider it part of their discipline. Discipline can be thought of most simply as self-regulation in order to achieve a goal. Discipline is empowering in that it your conscious being is able to dictate your actions and support your larger overall goals while your basic and fleeting desires do not rise to the level of compulsion; therefore, the fleeting desires do not have the strength to derail you.
- Focus: majoring in major things; knowing who you are, what you are, and what you are all about. Knowing your mission and ensuring that all of your actions centered on realizing it (and none of them destructive towards it).
- Resource Management: maximizing (and exploiting) your personal constraints in skills, networks, time and money.
- Innovation: recognizing obsolescence and the opportunity for revolution; employing critical thinking.
- Personal Talent: exploiting and nurturing the best abilities, emotional intelligence, intelligence, communication skills, information assimilation and over aptitudes--whether you are born with it, attract it, leverage it, buy it, or grow it.
Organization and Resource Management are skills that almost nobody is born with. Tenacity and Focus can be learned in a youth not spent playing XBox and/or military service. Innovation skills are a normal byproduct of a classical education and a heavy modern STEM focus coupled with an innate sense of curiosity and creativity; they can be nurtured and developed unconventionally later in life through targeting highly skilled mentors. Personal talent is the least important and the one subset that is the hardest to develop beyond what you are born with. It can be leveraged by the experiences of others, purchased through hiring others to do the work for you, or grown at great expense in time and money through academic rigor.
The point is that with a working knowledge / capability in the above, one can achieve their American Dream. These are not far-fetched, unrealistic goals for the average person. This is the backbone of what should be taught in any American education, as it is the backbone of a free existence for any American man / woman. Interestingly, this is not the curricula pushed by TMI within public education and the majority of universities. An unhealthy cocktail of victimhood, systemic biases, self-loathing and revisionist history is instead pushed onto graduates who leave the public schools not being able to manage their income/expenditures at best, and unable to complete the most basic of mathematical computations at worst. The birthright then appears to be a curse as they are thrust into a world that they have not been prepared for, with predictable negative results that they are brainwashed to ascribe to systemic biases. Since the public education system is no longer setting you up for success, you must proactively manage your life and development at a younger age to ensure that you have the tools above to prepare yourself to be the CEO of your American Dream. My solution? A Board of Directors.
In public and private companies that have significant outside investment, Boards of Directors are established to ensure the rights of the investors are represented and protected. These boards also serve to bring outside—and painfully blunt—real time evaluation and feedback on the progress that you are making as the CEO. A board of directors is selected because of their proven success: nobody gets asked to join a board as a growth opportunity. Likewise, choose your board wisely, and demonstrate a return on investment to them both in terms of your personal performance as well as value that you can return to them.
Nobody can take away your position as CEO of your own personal American Dream; it is a birthright of your citizenship. Only you can surrender it. Your skin color, your gender, your lineage—none of these things guarantee your success or failure. How hard you will have to work and what level of success you will reach will vary; however, the ends will be infinitely greater than anything that the government can provide for you, no matter where you start. Your surrender ruins your life, and makes TMI rich.
Next time, we’ll unpack just how that works…
NL is a Lead Engineer at a premier University Affiliated Research Corporation and a former Naval Officer.
///END GUEST ARTICLE///