Regaining American Exceptionalism

The following piece caught my eye while reading Forbes Online.  We’ve always been a believer in the principal that anyone in this country is able to accomplish anything they put their mind to and work towards.   With the author’s and Forbes’ permission, we reprint it here.  To read the complete BLOG entry on forbes.com, the link is: http://tinyurl.com/3bc36ok

  It is sad, but the persevering, winning attitude that has made Americans what we are is on the decline in our society.  The earlier generations of Americans from the Revolutionary War, to the Civil War times, to WWII Era Americans had a sense of pride, a sense of winning—at all costs.  That may be why, especially in the case of the latter, that they have been called the “Greatest Generation.” It may be no coincidence that as that generation has begun to fade from our society, the sense of winning and pride, has faded as well…

What has replaced it and is becoming more prevalent are a sense of entitlement, mediocrity and an extreme fear of failure.  This is evidenced by the fact that more and more we see instances of not awarding grades in school, not keeping score in athletic contests, celebrating finishing 4th and lower, and not even deciding winners (and losers) at all.

While this may say sound like a clever way to help boost self-esteem and many times boosting self-esteem has been used as the excuse for the rewarding mediocrity, it may in fact be contributing to and conditioning us to strive for lower standards, mediocre results and find still more excuses for why people cannot—or more importantly—will not, work to reach their true potential.

In many ways, Excuses have replaced the spirit in the American people.

Too often these days, it is easier to get what you want (or at least feel like it emotionally) by becoming a victim rather than taking the risks and leaving your comfort-zone, to actually achieve more, and strive for something better.

Failure is rejected in our society.  Instead it should be embraced and recognized as a rite of passage to a higher-level of achievement.  The worst part of this is that low achievement really is becoming the new norm for many in American society.

It has become socially acceptable to “play the role” of the victim.

Notice that I said, “play the role.”  I did not say that people are victims, because 99% of the time they are not.  They have a lot of control over their situation, but are unwilling to do what they know must be done…the extra work and sacrifice. As stated previously, it is now easier and has become socially acceptable to just “play the role” of the victim.  So what are the clues that someone is “playing the role” of the victim?

In his book, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, T. Harv Eker narrowed them to down to three:

  1. Justifying: People will rationalize and justify their situation or why they are not where they want to be any way they can.
  2. Blame: People will blame everyone and everything…except themselves, for why they are where they are.
  3. Complaining: They complain and focus on the negativity in their lives and that is what they get from it…negative results.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that we see all three of these exhibited by the leaders of our country—thus making them seem to be “OK.”  They are not “OK!”

But…the funny thing is that if you asked someone to name a “successful victim,” they most likely would have no answer.  Yet, many people, some in high places, believe they can become successful through playing the victim role!

The psychology of Americans using excuses as a way to shirk responsibilities is growing in our society.  Consider the commonly heard phrases (excuses): “You can’t fight the tide,” “It is what it is,” “We will just have to deal with it, and the granddaddy of them all: “Don’t blame me, it’s not my fault.”

Well, there is still a group of Americans out here that believes we can change this mentality and it starts with one person at a time, beginning with you—and me.  We can influence our destiny—and we do, every day, buy our actions and inactions, or decisions and indecision.

So, how do you change—more importantly—help others to change so that we can bring back the American characteristics that made us exceptional?

Requirements for the Rebirth of American Exceptionalism

Leadership: It all starts with the right leadership…and a dose of tough love.  We cannot let the “victim mentality” become a victim identity” for those that we can influence.  We must recognize the three victim clues and stop them immediately, even if we find ourselves tempted to use one of them.  This will be painful to not only us, and also to those we are trying to help, but it is a necessity.

Entrepreneurship: The success of America and the Greatest Generation was built on entrepreneurship, hard work and sacrifices required to find success.  In only the 20th century did working for someone on a mass scale become the norm.  What most people fail to realize is that we are all unique in our ability to function as an entrepreneur in some area(s) of our lives.  Whether we own a business, start a small business on the side while working elsewhere, or champion a cause about which we feel deeply; we all have an ability to tap into our innate entrepreneurial spirit.  This spirit—a uniquely American, can-do spirit—must be recognized and reinforced over and over.

Help Yourself and Others to Become Resourceful: Along with tapping into our individual entrepreneurial spirit, we must always look for ways to make ourselves more resourceful.  Today many people wait for someone else to take care of things for them.  That is why, as I write, this over 50% of Americans receive some form of public support/assistance.  This quickly becomes debilitating to a person and causes them to undervalue their potential. 

America initially prospered because Americans had to be resourceful; they had to “find a way,” no matter what.  Nowadays, with too many things so easily available and the government willing to help us in exchange for a little more of our freedom each and every day, this American resourcefulness has begun to fade.  We must remember and teach others not to give up so easily, but to use their mind and talents to “find a way or make a way.”

The proliferation of Internet access and instant gratification has worsened this tendency.  So much information is instantly, and readily available to help you find anything we need to succeed.  However the Internet is both a blessing and curse.  It has conditioned us to get whatever we want, right now, whether it is good for us or not, and if we can’t, just give up.

At the same time, the Internet offers us an amazing opportunity to be more resourceful than at any other time in our history.  It is our responsibility to realize the difference and use the Internet to improve ourselves, what we can do, and not as a waste of time on mindless distractions.

Teach Others to Seek Failure—and Learn from it: We must seek out the lessons learned from failures, upon which to build our future successes.  There is nothing wrong with failing.  It means we did something, we took a risk, we got out of our comfort zone.  It is in failing that we can grow and learn the most.  At the same time failure helps to teach us, and demands that we be more resourceful, so that we can find the ways to overcome obstacles and avoid new failures.

Do Not Accept Excuses: We must neither accept excuses, nor provide excuses, for not achieving what we seek—or for falling short.  We must learn to have faith in ourselves and resolve to try again.  We must accept responsibility at all times for our actions and results, and teach others to do the same.  If we truly want to be in control of our own destiny, we must take responsibility for it.

We Must Celebrate the Individual: Americans used to be called “Rugged Individualists.”  We must learn to celebrate that characteristic again.  We must celebrate the ability of the individual, not of the collective, because it is through individuals that truly great things happen.  There is no such thing as “collective salvation,” because each person finds salvation in his or her own way. 

By salvation, I mean a person’s own form of success, happiness, and fulfillment.  It does not come from a group.  Even if our success is as part of a team effort, we are each unique and can never be defined by a label bestowed upon us by others or by being forced into a group or class.  Remember this at all times.

The six characteristics above are simple, but are essential to what we are and can become.  Many have forgotten them over time, but they are always there.  Our job is not only to remember them to guide our daily lives, but to help bring them out in others and foster them every chance we get.

By doing this both individually and with others around us, on each and every day, I believe that we will start to see the changes that we all are looking for so desperately and desire so much.

I know deep down that everyone wants to see themselves—and America—be incredibly successful.  Each of us longs to imagine living in our shining house, in that shining city, high atop that shining hill.  Each of us has the power to create that reality for ourselves and for our country, both now and in the future.  Here’s to our journey and to the future—Regaining American Exceptionalism!

About David M Lukas

Dave M. Lukas is a successful entrepreneur, investor, speaker, and author, who has built 5 profitable companies at a very youthful age.   He is also the author of a forth coming book, The Ten Year Career:  The Fast Track Guide to Retiring Young, Wealthy, and Fulfilled,” available late in 2011.  At an early age, Dave studied the history of the most successful people, countries, organizations, and governments.  He has a passion for helping bring out the best in everyone he works with.  He feels deeply that our society can learn from those that have come before us and made the necessary sacrifices that have given us so much today.  He is an advocate for entrepreneurialism, the ability of the individual to have their own chance to succeed, and freedom.  Dave can be reached for comment at dlukas@lcs-group.com

 

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