Celebrating the American Dream
One of the beautiful things about construction is the relatively low barrier to entry.
In our world, you don’t have to get into Harvard to build a good life. You don’t have to wrack up six figures in student loans, or have ancestors who came over on the Mayflower, or get transferred across the country every three years in hopes of finally making it to the upper rungs of management. You just have to work hard and make good choices.
The other day, as I was reading the Wall Street Journal, I was reminded of just how important this is.
Increasingly, people are losing sight of the American dream: After decades of talk about rising income inequality, and the competition for top colleges, and hand wringing over healthcare and student loan debt, people are beginning to lose the forrest for the trees. And, ironically, it’s the very people who’ve been given the most advantages who are suffering from the worst of this.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
America isn’t perfect.
No country is.
We’re a nation made up of very real, very fallible humans, and there are plenty of areas where we could improve. But we also do provide an enormous amount of opportunity to those who know where to look.
Every day, I look at spreadsheets detailing employee compensation.
I see Todds and Blakes and Elizabeths right alongside Shamikas and Miguels and Tiffanieys. I have conversations about prep school football, and the majesty of Waffle House, and taco recipes that come straight from the barrios. I meet people who come from a heck of a lot more privilege than my suburban upbringing ever offered, and I meet people who’ve been through things that I can’t even begin to imagine rising out of.
And, if I were to make a scatter plot of all of that data–to track the relationship between who succeeds and who doesn’t–I’d end up with something close to a Jackson Pollack painting than a tidy line.
When you have a low barrier to entry like we do, opportunity isn’t determined by the school you graduated from, or the color of your skin, or what country club your parents belonged to. It’s about showing up every day, and plugging away even when times are hard. It’s about good financial management, and knowing when to say ‘no’ to that great deal on a ski boat, and yes, sometimes a bit of dumb luck.
It’s important to recognize the inequalities in our society. It’s important to be conscious of the fact that some people are given more opportunity than others, and to do what we can to ensure that America lives up to its ideas as a meritocracy. But it’s also important to remind people of the opportunity out there, and to remember that in this great country, much of life is what you make of it.