The eye-catching headline read, “Young Entrepreneurs are Redefining the American Dream.” The article, posted to Entrepreneur.com earlier this week, discusses a fascinating shift in values among the young mavens creating the future.
But first, a reminder of the American Dream that was. When Elon Musk had his first payday from the sale of now-unfamiliar Zip2 in 1999, he celebrated the windfall in quite the flashy way: purchasing a million-dollar car, then having CNN cameras roll as it was delivered.
Looking on as the car was unloaded, Musk said, “My values may have changed, but I’m not aware that my values have changed.”
His girlfriend’s words were a bit more self-aware: “I’m worried we’re going to become spoiled brats.”
If spending was the litmus test of success in the 1990’s, that test is changing significantly. Today’s shiny trophy? Freedom.
Stuff is out. Freedom is in.
What freedom means to a young person flies in the face of much of yesterday’s American Dream. It’s not a house. (Those, millennials say, tie you down.) Nor is it a fulltime job with benefits. (Those “chain you to a desk.”) So what’s left to attain? The entrepreneurial dream, of course. Being your own boss, making your own decisions, working from anywhere, and traveling at your leisure. As a parent, you’re likely thinking that those are pipe dreams. You may be right, but there’s a way to instill the character you hope to raise without squashing your child’s ambitions.
Parenting is tricky.
If you’ve been dreaming of a nice stable job for your children, you may be waiting a while. The “New American Dream” may challenge the core tenets of your beliefs about success. But not all of that is bad. For example, we could all put a bit less value on things that depreciate and even disintegrate over time. But responsibility is still vital. And instilling a sense of diligence in your child not only applies to their dream of freedom but is essential for attaining it.
The world’s most successful entrepreneurs may drive fancy cars from time to time, but they’re anything but free from responsibility. Even the car-loving Elon Musk famously slept under his desk for the few hours he wasn’t coding in his early days. He almost missed his brother’s wedding during Tesla’s early days.
The secret to parenting a generation of freedom-seekers? Show them how freedom is actually attained. The initiative required to launch a business, and determination required to grow it are values we can all agree are timeless.
P.S. Curious about what happened to Elon Musk’s McLaren? Driving with Peter Thiel in 2000, Musk learned about the fleeting value of stuff the hard way: he wrecked it. And it was uninsured.
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