The American Dream and Work Ethic

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Do you want to reach your goals?” “Don’t you want to say you made it?” These are all questions that I have asked myself and have asked others about the American dream. Although the American dream can mean different things to different people and everyone has their own dreams and aspirations, I think we can agree on one thing that the American dream takes hard work. Nothing is ever handed to anyone you have to have work ethic to achieve the American dream. The American Dream is within sights for many people but one can only achieve the American Dream through a healthy and overbearing work ethic.

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The American dream can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. It can mean a refugee coming to America to find an education, it can mean becoming a millionaire, it can mean having a career that you’re passionate about, it can mean whatever you want. One thing I have noticed is that the American dream takes hard work and dedication. No matter what you perceive as the American dream one thing that stays consistent is the work ethic behind it and knowing what it takes to get to your dream.

Take a fiction character for example, Jay Gatsby. Fitzgerald portrayed Gatsby as this poor boy who grew up with struggles who then turned into this Millionaire who threw lavish parties, has all these materialist things, and was living the dream. Gatsby is the epitome of self-made success and one of the most well-known fictional success stories of all time. Coming from rags to riches, Fitzgerald’s story about The Great Gatsby is a requirement for many school districts and a story that some might not be able to relate to but can look up to.

A real life American dream story that just isn’t in books or movies is the success story of Lebron James. He was born by a single mother who had him at the age of 18 and ended up living on her own with Lebron by the age of 19. They went through struggles of living on food stamps and having assisted help. Before entering the NBA draft right after high school in 2003 he tried before to enter the draft according to CBS News “LeBron James’ junior year of high school, the rising star petitioned the league so he could enter the 2002 NBA Draft at age 17. Alas, James was denied because he hadn’t graduated high school yet.” The hard work and dedication that Lebron has put out there has not only led him to a success career in basketball but he also done endless work with charity according to biography “he established the LeBron James Family Foundation in 2004, along his mother Gloria, to help out children and single-parent families in need.” With his hard work ethic and knowing what he wanted to achieve as his dream, Lebron James is one of the best examples in my eyes as living the American dream.

While the American dream can mean many different things I believe that there are two parts to it. There is the financial stability that everyone is trying to achieve and then there is the part where you have this dream and you can achieve anything. According to Joyce Russell, President of Adecco Staffing US. “Young people today are looking to get themselves in a secure financial position before they turn their attention toward taking on more responsibility, like a family.” He goes on to talk about how from the ages of 18-24 year old’s have this idea that being financially stable is their main priority. They still believe in the American dream but they want to be financially stable first and foremost. According to Joyce Russell “the majority (54%) of 18-24 year-olds who are currently employed so say they “work to live,” compared to only 32% who say they “live to work.” One thing they all have in common though is the hard work ethic it takes to become financially stable to then be able to live out their version of the American dream.

Work ethic is a word that I have been doing a lot of research about. Something I have realized is work ethic can mean something different to everything. Work ethic to me is knowing what you have to do to achieve what you want and not being scared to go the extra mile to achieve it. One of my favorite quotes about work ethic is from “Work ethics include not only how one feels about their job, career or vocation, but also how one does his/her job or responsibilities. This involves attitude, behavior, respect, communication, and interaction; how one gets along with others. Work ethics demonstrate many things about whom and how a person is.” After reading this quote I really put it into perspective, someone that has a hard work ethic doesn’t only show the integrity a person has but it shows that they are willing to put in the work to achieve their dream. With anything in life if you don’t apply yourself how will you ever know how far you can really go?

There has been a lot of debate on if the American dream is still alive or if it is dead. When I think about the American dream I think back to what my Grandpa had once told me he said “the American dream back in the day would be having it all. Having the newest car, appliances, having the best job, and living in the suburbs.” He also explained to me that the American dream is making any and all opportunities attainable for everyone.” I really loved the fact that he emphasized how important it was that everyone had equal opportunity for success, it just came down to how much work they put in.

The American dream is still alive and is still attainable I just think that how society is now is different from back then. Back then the American dream was more about making money and having a family. Now the American dream is all over the spectrum and isn’t just confined into having one set plan or goal. Being financially stable is still a big part of it but the careers that are out there now are endless. One career path I was very interested in was the career path of internet influencers mostly in the YouTube and Instagram community and how they are living the American dream.

The life of an internet influencer is something that most millennials are trying to achieve. We look up to the internet influencers of YouTube and Instagram wanting to achieve what they have achieved and wanting to be everything they are. They have thousands to millions of social media followers and are making a living off of posting pictures on Instagram to doing brand ambassador deals with companies. A family on the YouTube channel I look up to is the ACE Family. Austin McBroom and Catherine Piaz, a young couple who find out they were expecting a baby on the way. With Austin still being in college and Catherine not knowing what to do they turned to YouTube. With being new parents they started a YouTube channel doing pranks, question and answer videos, to vlogging their daily lives. Their YouTube following grew and grew as they kept putting in the hard work and never giving up. According to NailBuzz “they have an estimated net worth of $2.8 million.” With having the financial security they now are living their dream, and they owe it all to the hard work and dedication of their work ethic.

This whole time I’ve noticed that the American dream is really whatever you make it be and everyone has a different outlook on it. According to Public Agenda “Nearly 3 in 10 Americans (28 percent) said the American Dream is the opportunity for people from modest beginnings to live a secure, middle-class life. Only 9 percent said the American Dream is the opportunity for people to from modest beginnings achieve great wealth and fame. Just over half—51 percent—said the American Dream represents both of these ideas.” This just goes to show that the American dream really is whatever you can fathom, it doesn’t have to be one thing I can be many things but none of those things will ever be achieved with giving little to no effort. Also according to Public Agenda they stated that ‘a strong work ethic: Almost 9 in 10 respondents say that a strong work ethic is “absolutely essential” to achieving the Dream (86 percent of Democrats say this; 91 percent of Republicans).” Even with having different political backgrounds the percentages of Democrats and Republicans is so high on both sides, I really think that it says something.

With knowing that the American dream takes hard work there is also the fact that some people are living the American dream but never put in any effort. A common name for someone who seems to have it all financially talking are called a “trust fund baby” The definition of a trust fund baby is “a person, typically a young adult, who is independently wealthy and does not need to work to earn a living.” Hard work into having that money might not have been made from the kids but usually their parents and grandparents are the ones who put in the hard work to be able to set up the trust fund for their children. Coming from a family where there is no trust fund and you’re responsibly for your own success I find it hard to rely on anyone else but myself.

When I was doing some research on why some can put in minimum work and still do well for themselves and live out their American dream I came across an article from Forbes and It was about a couple who were putting 80 hours of work into their week and still feeling like they could barely get by. Now her and her husband own their own business, work around 30 hours a week, have traveled to 19 countries, and are living out their dream. During the reading I was questioning how can they be that successful and not be putting in hardly any work? According to Carey Bentley “There is a poisonous mindset that all top performers suffer from. That mindset is that you need to work hard and put in a lot of hours to be successful. And it’s just not true!” She also went on to explain that “some folks are working one hour and getting paid a million bucks. Others grind themselves into the dust and barely get by.” When thinking about what she said I thought about how so many people can relate to her and what she is saying more than this crazy American dream that we all thrive for. More people are going to relate to her explaining how you put in hours and hours of work and are barely making the means to survive rather than relating to how a millionaire made it to the American dream.

When thinking about how much of your work ethic is responsible for how much of your America dream is achieved, there is no set number of hours needed. When doing my research and trying to find points to argue I came across a book; Building Workforce Competencies in Career and Technical Education. Chapter 12 of this books talks about the 21st century work ethic and how it is has changed from the past. According to Brewer, Ernest, and Gregory C. Petty. “The nature of work and the manner for which young people develop a healthy work ethic is changing. Changes in the global nature of jobs, diversity In the workplace, unemployment, and possibly even changes in personalities of individuals themselves are creating work ethic havoc.” This just goes to show that with the work ethic changing so is the American dream, what it once was isn’t what it is now. Just like anything else In life it has to change and evolve to become better overtime.

From gathering all my research and making assumptions on how the American dream and worth ethic go hand in hand I realized that there are so many versions of what one thinks the American dream is and everyone has a different viewpoint of how much time and effort goes into your dream. One thing I can say for sure is that the American dream is very much alive. The American dream is in no way shape or form dead. If anything I believe the American dream is more attainable now than ever before, due to the fact that there is more opportunities and endless careers in today’s society than there ever was before. The American dream has a different definition to everyone but whatever your American dream may consist of just know that anything is possible with a healthy work ethic and determination.

Work Cited:

1. CBS News. “Battle of the MVPS: King James vs. Steph.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 2 June 2016,

2. CBS News. “Battle of the MVPS: King James vs. Steph.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 2 June 2016,

3. Asghar, Rob. “Young Adults 18-24 Define Their American Dream: Stability Now, Family TBD.”

4. Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 1 May 2014,

5. “What Are Work Ethics.”, ethics-faq.htm.

6. “How Much Money The ACE Family Makes On YouTube – Net Worth.” Naibuzz, 3 July 2018,

7. Agenda, Public. “Hard Work Is Essential for Achieving the American Dream, But Is It Enough? Americans Are Divided According to a New Survey.”

8. Discipline Problems, Unruly Behavior Seriously Threatening Student Achievement,

9. Bentley, Carey. “Your Strong Work Ethic Is Killing You — Here’s Why.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 9 Mar. 2018, strong-work-ethic-is-killing-you-heres-why/#482beebc62bf.

10. Brewer, Ernest, and Gregory C. Petty. “Perspectives of a healthy work ethic in a 21st-century international community.” Building Workforce Competencies in Career and Technical Education (2008): 233

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