Quitting the Rat Race is the American Dream. Over breakfast this morning, I had an interesting discussion with Bagel about entrepreneurship and working in America. As I’ve mentioned before, Bagel is not American– she hails from Bageltopia. And Bageltopians possess a significantly different cultural value system compared with Americans. For Bageltopians, the prime good in respectable society –the highest one can aspire to achieve– is to work at one of the Big Three companies in the country. I don’t know what the exact math works out to, but the Big Three in Bageltopia accounts for something like 50% of GDP, I bet. It’d be like the Google, Facebook, Apple of Silicon Valley (or Microsoft and Amazon of Seattle; or in a previous era– the GM, Ford, Chrysler of Detroit). Anyway, the entire corporate landscape in Bageltopia is dominated by these three companies and every year, new college graduates fall over themselves applying and trying to win prestigious admission via a very intense selection progress (a lot of standardized testing! Scantron bubble sheets!). While we certainly have more famous companies in America, I was telling Bagel that here in this country, in America, we much more admire and respect the small business owner or entrepreneur or artist.
Additionally, what’s really super-weird to me is that in Bageltopia, Bagel was telling me, society actually looks down on small business owners and artists. The thinking there is that the only reason one would work for themselves is only because you’re not able to find gainful employment with one of the big companies. Thus, self-employment, being an artist or small business owner, is actually a kind of scarlet letter and hot branding of failure and epic social shame of unthinkable and immeasurable magnitude. (You think I’m being hyperbolic but I’m really not! People really believe this in other parts of the world! I do not kid you!)
Obviously, this is only my opinion, but I feel in America, one of the quintessential dreams of making money is actually the opposite of joining a Big Famous Company. Sure, there are plenty of folks who aspire for those kinda sinecures. But even better than that is making your own company and working for yourself. To not have to report The Man every day and punch the clock. But to be The Man. In America, we all wish we could quit the Rat Race and escape the daily grind– not join it! The dream is to open a small auto shop or café around the corner and be constantly raking in the moolah even if you’re not on the job! Or write a book or Christmas song/jingle and then earn royalties on that work in perpetuity (ie. forever). You could be vacationing in Fiji or backpacking across the Andes and still have the money pouring in every month. To Americans, I feel this is our American Dream.