Get All Access for $5/mo

An Entrepreneur's American Dream in 5 Quotes Today, it's more about working for yourself than white picket fences.

By John Rampton Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The concept of the American Dream hasn't actually been around all that long. James Truslow Adams, writer and historian, coined the phrase in the 1931 book, The Epic of America. According to Adams, the dream is of:

"...a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement...regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."

Related: How a Former Denny's Waitress Amassed an Empire of Over 75 Denny's Locations

Adams's book was published eight years before the beginning of World War II, but it wasn't until the war ended that his idea really took off -- but the meaning shifted. In the 1950s, the American Dream was all about home ownership (thanks to the GI Bill) and white picket fences.

Today, for many Americans, it means owning your own business. Being an entrepreneur. Working for yourself.

Here, a few famous quotes about the American Dream -- in all its varieties -- to help the big dreamers keep moving forward.

"A college degree is the key to realizing the American Dream, well worth the financial sacrifice because it is supposed to open the door to a world of opportunity."

The key words in Dan Rather's quote are "supposed to." While some entrepreneurs partially credit their college degrees to their successes, others may never get their degrees.

"Our workforce and our entire economy are strongest when we embrace diversity to its fullest, and that means opening doors of opportunity to everyone and recognizing that the American Dream excludes no one."

Diversity, mentioned in Thomas Perez's quote, is key in both building your financial portfolio and your business -- it doesn't have to mean racial, socio-economic, gender or ethnic diversity alone.

"The negative side of the American Dream comes when people pursue success at any cost, which in turn destroys the vision and the dream."

Azar Nafisi is right, but success at any cost can also destroy lives and relationships outside of business. If an entrepreneur sacrifices their family, passions, hobbies and health to make that dream come true, is it worth it? In the end, most people will say no.

Related: Why Americans Love Small Business

"People are so busy dreaming the American Dream, fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be, that they're all asleep at the switch. Consequently we are living in the Age of Human Error."

Very few people are 100 percent doers or 100 percent dreamers -- most of us fall somewhere on the spectrum. However, when you entertain only the dreamer side, as in Florence King's quote, that dream will never come to fruition.

"You see, without hard work and responsibility, there is no American Dream. Hard work lays the foundation. Our solidarity makes work pay, for all of us. For the greater good. That's what our vision of shared prosperity is all about."

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts or guarantees when it comes to entrepreneurship, as pointed out in Richard Trumka's quote. Hard work is a requirement, and yet it remains one of the most difficult to stick with.

Don't let the "dream" aspect of your own American Dream overtake. Goals are good, but they're just the blueprint. Without action and doses of reality, your American "Dream" will stay just that.

Related: Papa John's Founder: 'I Am the American Dream'

John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Starting a Business

How to Find the Right Programmers: A Brief Guideline for Startup Founders

For startup founders under a plethora of challenges like timing, investors and changing market demand, it is extremely hard to hire programmers who can deliver.

Side Hustle

This Mom Started a Side Hustle on Facebook — Now It Averages $14,000 a Month and She Can 'Work From a Resort in the Maldives'

Heather Freeman was searching for a way to make some extra cash — and her cousin gave her a great idea.

Starting a Business

He Turned His High School Science Fair Project Into a Product That Solves a $390 Billion Problem: 'This Has Not Been Done Before'

Vasya Tremsin was just 18 years old when he came up with the idea for outdoor fire sensor company Torch Sensors.

Business News

Why Does Taylor Swift Keep Stopping Her Shows Mid-Song? It's Actually a Great Lesson in Leadership.

Taylor Swift has paused nearly half of her shows while on the European leg of her Eras tour, and the reason is something leaders can learn from.

Side Hustle

This 26-Year-Old's Side Hustle That 'Anybody Can Do' Grew to Earn $170,000 a Month. Here's What Happened When I Tested It.

Stephen Alvarez was working at a dental supply company and following his passion for cars on the side — then an Instagram ad changed everything.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.