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, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is founder of the online invoicing company Due. John is best known as an entrepreneur and connector. He was recently named #3 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine and has been one of the Top 10 Most Influential PPC Experts in the World for the past three years. He currently advises several companies in the San Francisco Bay area.

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

Editor's Pick


How to Spot the Perfect Executive for Your Company

Hiring senior talent to run a team is a crucial moment in the story and trajectory of a company. Whether you need to hire senior talent now or are looking to gather insights for the future, it's important to be prepared for a gap in a crucial leadership position.

Business News

How to Be a Billionaire By 25, According to a College Dropout Turned CEO Worth $1.6 Billion

Austin Russell became the world's youngest self-made billionaire in 2020 at age 25.

Growing a Business

How a Local Greek Restaurant Seized Opportunities and Won a New Food Network Competition

After starting as a food truck in 2014, Think Greek has evolved into an award-winning restaurant by creating innovative menu items and taking advantage of opportunities that extend its audience reach.

Starting a Business

Your Business Will Never Succeed If You Overlook This Key Step

A comprehensive guide for startups to achieve and maintain product-market fit through thorough market research, iterative product development and strategic scaling while prioritizing customer feedback and agility.

Side Hustle

This Former Disney Princess Lived 'Paycheck to Paycheck' Before Starting a Side Hustle at Home — Now She Makes $250,000 a Year

Victoria Carroll's income was "sporadic" until a friend encouraged her to take her talents to Fiverr in 2018.

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.