The Old American Dream is Dead

Once upon a time, the American Dream was to go to college, enter the ranks of Corporate America, settle down, buy a house, raise your kids, send them off to college, and retire in your 60’s. Somewhere along the way, the American Dream became the American Headache as student loans from going to college and debt from homes, cars, and credit cards bogged down your retirement plans – pushing retirement further and further out on the timeline. The result was many Americans working beyond their planned retirement ages or simply being unprepared for retirement.

Corporate America didn’t help. By encouraging you to stash away your earnings into generic Wall Street investments like 401(k) ‘s that swallowed up much of your supposed nest egg in the form of management fees, you were never able to create the type of wealth that would allow you to retire comfortably – let alone early.



An empty calendar Is the new American Dream. The empty calendar is the new measure of success – not the expensive degrees, big houses with mortgages, or the fancy cars. The person who doesn’t have to answer to anything or anyone is living the dream – not the person who sets their alarm so they can sit in traffic for a couple of hours to punch a time clock and come back two hours in the opposite direction only to do it again the next day.

The person who punches the clock has their calendar filled for them. This person’s only discretion is what doctor to take their kids to on their sick days and how to spend their 2-3 weeks of vacation a year. The rest of the time is spent at work or thinking about work on their days off.

The person living the new American Dream – the one with an empty calendar – fills that calendar with their priorities and not the priorities of the hospitals, law firms, or corporations they work for. Instead of filling their calendars with meetings with clients, customers, or colleagues, the financially independent person fills their calendars with what matters to them – their family, their communities, charities, volunteer service, their passions, their loves, etc.


  • Your day gig will not cut it. You need to think about side gigs – ventures that will bring in additional income – income that will buy back your time. By side gig, I’m not talking about a side job. There are only so many hours in a day. I’m talking about side sources of income – income you can make in your sleep.
  • Spend less. Use your resources for building, not tearing down.
  • Allocate your budget to assets that grow your wealth, not deplete it.
  • Invest in passive income streams that will allow you to make money while you sleep.
  • Reinvest your passive income to create additional income streams until your investments generate enough income that your day gig will become dispensable. In other words, you don’t have to work anymore if you don’t want to.
  • Leverage the resources of others (i.e., employees, vendors, experts, etc.) that will allow you to free up your physical and mental labor to do the things you want.
  • Eliminate the myth that unless you’re working your fingers to the bone, you can never be successful. There is nothing wrong with replacing working harder with working smarter.
  • Say “No!” to investments that drain significant personal time and energy but produce little ROI. It’s possible to let someone else contribute human capital while you contribute financial capital for both of your mutual benefit.
  • Eliminate idle activities that neither contribute to personal or financial growth, like logging excessive screen time.
  • Schedule family time and other priorities. Like in Field of Dreams, where “if you build it, they will come,” starting with the end in mind (family, passions, worthy causes, etc.) will lead you to develop the right habits and undertake the activities that will guide you towards achieving your goals.


If your calendar is dictated by something or someone other than you and is full of activities that neither bring you happiness, joy, or contentment, then maybe it’s time to reassess. Perhaps it’s time to turn the page and make new choices so that you can fill your calendar with entries that are a priority to YOU and not to your company, boss, or otherwise. It’s time for you to take control of your own calendar.


Habits hard-wired by decades of indoctrination can be hard to break, but it’s not impossible. It will just take effort and unconventional thinking.

Here are some of my unconventional tips:

  • Be generous (not necessarily with money). Be free with your time, your wisdom, your compliments, and your focus. Listen without an expectation of being heard or without a need to respond. People will be drawn to you for who you are and not what you do or where you live.
  • Be Positive. By taking a positive approach to your interactions with others, you’ll be surprised by the opportunities that open up because of the type of people you will attract – people who will want to impart their own wisdom with you.
  • Leave the hustler mentality behind. Not everything has to be a hustle. This transactional mindset where we’re only willing to talk or meet with people if we can get something out of it can prevent us from coming across the most meaningful opportunities. Having conversations with acquaintances or even strangers with ZERO expectations often leads to incredible opportunities you may not see while you have them. Instead of asking what’s in it for you, ask yourself what’s in it for the other person. Ask how you can help. The other person will remember your interaction for the way you treated them and not what you discussed.

Focus on becoming a better person, and you will discover that people will quietly remember you when opportunities arise behind closed doors because they will want to share with you. You may not see it at the time of your initial interaction (by design), but you WILL down the road as all those positive interactions will eventually lead you back to the road of opportunity and prosperity.

Forget the old American Dream. It will never bring fulfillment. Instead, focus on the new American Dream – one where you’re in control of your time and your priorities.



Mike Ayala has owned and operated mobile home parks since 2007, and has been active in construction and management since he was 15 years old. He graduated from the Associated Builders and Contractors 4-year project management program at age 22 and then became a licensed instructor. He is also the host of the Investing for Freedom podcast.