James Connor

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Is the "ease of life" worth fighting for in the United States or is better to be in a country that strives for its citizens to work to live.

I have been contemplating about the stress and mental exhaustion that many United States citizens experience while trying to succeed for the "American Dream". When I was a kid, my father let me know how important it is to succeed by going to college, having a career, and working hard. Well, to achieve this concept I seen my involvement with colleges end up in financial debt, career changes to meet the employment demand and the stress that comes with all what I have mentioned above to be almost unrewarding. I feel that the American Dream is a money pit that is endless. Is this the ease of life that is mentally sane for people or are we blind to the fact that we are slaves to a misguided ideology of social status and possessions.

I see people that are happy with being able to pay their bills with no ambition of climbing the corporate ladder. These people want to stay as far away from the lifestyle that I mentioned above and I see them happier and pursuing what they love. Inspiring to the ease of life or pursuit of happiness. So my question again, Is the ease of life worth fighting for in the United States?

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    Nov 13 2013: Hi James, I guess the most exciting lesson I've learned in life is that THERE ARE NO RULES and that there is no black or white that will answer this question.

    A few years ago I took time to look at my life and identify some of the many 'cracks' in it. I lived a very selfish and self consumed life for a number of years, I ripped people off and only entered into relationships that were of benefit to me.

    When I once earned much I was not content then when lost what I had I was equally uncontent.

    I guess the only thing truly worth fighting for in life is to be as significant as you can be for others. If you take time to define who you are (for example are you loving, caring, honest, reliable, giving, integral, creative or sincere), what you get in life is meaningless in comparison to who you can become for others.

    Working is a good thing, however working outside of your passions and innate talents isn't purposeful or contributory.

    Once we define who we are in life, how we express this is both exciting and fulfilling. Nothing worthwhile or significant in life come easy, so I guess that the legacy that people wish to leave behind when they die will determine how easily someone lives or how hard someone works.

    Apologies for this not being a yes or no answer,
  • Nov 12 2013: James,

    I was climbing the corporate ladder and checked what I liked. I went back to the bench to do research and consulting, made enough money to pay for my kids education, my house, and food. We could not take vacations but that did not matter much. You have to make a decision what is important to you, for me my family and working on technical problems rather than management or corporate strategy. I was asked every year if I wanted to move to management. (hated doing employee evaluation)
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      Nov 12 2013: Wow, that's a gutsy call. I completely understand about taking what matters in your life and analyzing what makes you happy, pursuing it and having gratification from your deeds. I m more interested if people thing that if its harder in the United States to go down this path than in other countries. Almost to the point as if it is more of a psychological burden here because of the subliminal messages through TV, movies, ads, and even through everyday life as we see the people who benefit from "corporate structures" versus those who are peaceful but yet struggling. For someone who has life experiences you can definitely read through the crap but for a young person trying to figure out what they want I can see the struggle of decision making because of what is considered the "American Way'. Before I go off on another tangent ha, what do you think.
      • Nov 13 2013: James,

        I can give you my opinion. I have worked in other countries. I found that in certain countries they are as bad as America. Others they are more laid back. I am not sure about people benefiting from the corporate structure, a lot of ulcers and heart attacks.
  • Nov 11 2013: I am not sure what you mean by "ease of life". Life is, and always has been, a struggle. Over the past few hundred years, the struggles have changed, but life is still a struggle.

    What I interpret from your comments is that those pursing the "American Dream" are subject to stress and mental exhaustion. I will agree in part, but I think how much of each depends on how hard you want to push yourself beyond what you need to just barely survive, and the quality of life each person wants to define as survival.

    I agree with your father, going to college and working hard will improve your chances for success, but they are not guarantees of success. The decision to risk some debt on the belief that by going to college you would have more opportunity for success is usually a pretty good bet. However, the risk has increased as a result of a poor job market and the sky-rocketing cost of colleges. In addition to this, not all degrees have the same potential payback over the course of a career.

    I believe that part of the American Dream is to have the freedom of choice to live where you want, work where you want, and seek your own balance between life-style, risk, stress level, and work ethic. As you point out, your physical and mental health need to be part of the equation. Similarly, if you have a family, your struggle for survival includes them until they can survive on their own.

    How you choose to use your life to pursue happiness is up to you. You get to define what makes you happy. For most it is independence, self-reliance, and the ability to pay the bills and feel like you are not a burden on anyone, mostly in control of your own destiny. For some the American Dream involves a purpose or goal that improves the quality of life for their families, for their nation, or for mankind in general. Maybe it is art, maybe it is science, maybe it is the accumulation of wealth with more stress and hard work so your family has a better life style or insurance from bad times.
  • Nov 17 2013: Wealth offers opportunity, garners respect, elicits ego responses. but the American dream was never a never ending money pit. Money is an illusion that we will kill each other for.
    A nicely built 3-4 bed 1.5-2.5 bath home with a big (1-2 acre) yard, with a white picket fence, 2 to 3 well mannered loving children and a nice family dog. A father who could buy his home in 15 years, with the decent salary he made, and also have a nest egg for retirement, and a bit put away for each of the kids for college or vocational school. That was the American dream. A loving family one could be proud of. An investment in a home you may one day pass down to your own kids or sell and buy a condo in a place you and the wife always talked about after the kids went to sleep. A family with dental, vision and healthcare for each member, and nutritious food, and clean fresh nice clothes to wear on Sundays when you visited the grand parents.
    THAT was the American dream. Somehow the yard got smaller, the house poorly built & less spacious. The mortgage elongated itself from 15 to 30 years & the interest rate hiked itself up almost unnoticed. The mother works & is always absent b/c she is a single parent. Even married families still needed mom's job to help make ends meet & feed the kids hot dog slices, cold canned beans & bread with butter simulated spread. Insurance companies cheated sick people out of the care they needed to stay alive, and the PIP insurance became HMO, which was barely a step up from walking straight into an ER with no insurance or money and just hoping you get lucky. The American dream became warped so much without our realizing it was greed of banks, insurance companies, ect. robbing us of the right to feel safe and happy, until all we could imagine was a load of money; just to live what is now called an upper middle class life. Sad.

    How did America become a nation of workaholics, and now a nation of despairing unemployed? We already know the answer to that.
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    Nov 12 2013: What you mention is not something "made in America" but true to everywhere.
    You as an individual have to decide what you want in life and be authentic to yourself.
    If you want to climb the career ladder then you know what you have to do and you know that it will mean certain sacrifices before finally achieving your goal.
    On the other hand, you also can opt for a simple life. I think nobody is pushing you into either direction, not in the US, not anywhere else.
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      Nov 13 2013: Your right. When it is an option to take A or B, yes no one is behind the wheel it is either A or B. The question that I was asking is it harder here in the United States to strive for a lifestyle that does not fit the "standard" lifestyle or what is the "American Dream". I m seeing many people aim their response towards a decision I m requiring opinions for. I am not. The question again is the "Ease Of Life" from a society viewpoint not my own.
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        Nov 13 2013: James, why do you care about society's POV. You should do what you feel is best for you.
        Don't care about the American Dream, but about your dream(s) whatever they might be.
        But back to your question. I don't think there is a "standard lifestyle", neither in the US nor anywhere else. Also, not everybody is living the American Dream. The ones that live the American Dream are probably a minority anyway ;-)
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    Nov 11 2013: Hi James,
    I'm guessing that by "ease of life" you mean mainly being at ease with oneself, (part of which relates to lifestyle choices).
    If climbing the corporate ladder is not your thing, my advice would be don't bother, and seek an alternative closer to your heart. What currently passes for the 'American dream' is stratospheric in terms of expectations. "Money can't buy you love". But I'm sure there is a path you can make through life which is meaningful and important to you; and which will pay the bills at an acceptable level.
    I recommend Ken Robinson's talk(s) on TED, and his book "Finding your Element" which came out this year, and which I am currently reading.
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      Nov 12 2013: Thanks Joshua. I m going to look into this book.
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    Nov 11 2013: Most people I know think in terms of preparing for a gratifying and meaningful life and then leading a life that includes making a difference and pursuing interests. There are some creative people, though, with a creed of wanting to "die empty," which is to say to live a life of adventure, trying to make things happen, and creative experiment. They love their choice to "work" extremely hard.

    When your father urged you to work hard, what dream do you think he actually had for you? I would have guessed he wanted you to be ready to take care of your own needs and that of a family, maybe, rather than that he wanted you to work 24/7 to achieve luxury. How did you interpret his advice? Is he still alive to ask for clarification?
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      Nov 11 2013: I acknowledge the people that work towards their ambitions. I think when it all comes together we all want to pursue a goal that has substance and integrity for ourselves. What my dilemma is, we live in a country full of opportunity to succeed in so many different ways. In these "ways" we find ourselves maturing towards that goal or being interrupted or discouraged with our lives, which in many cases are afflictions that will come from our society. Such as, if a student that is not well of in our country going to college has financial hard ship with paying tuition, books, board, etc but maintains a gpa that is above the average, why are the assistance for this student not fulfilling enough to provide for this educational path...and if there is a scholarship why is it that we have such a threshold on finances but yet some of our taxes goes towards programs that are futile and do not prosper for society to grow. I just think about things like that and if the emphasis on creating or discovering your career or benefits towards society is misguided here in the United States versus other countries. If so what are those other countries? Can we learn from their models or culture?
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        Nov 11 2013: Are you basically saying that not enough financial aid is available for all students with above average gpas to pursue their greatest interests and that public funds should be reallocated to make that the priority?
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          Nov 12 2013: No, just using that as an example to speculate or examine if we are really putting are "best foot forward" when it comes to giving opportunity to students to succeed without the overbearing of stress that could be brought to a minimum if we had an emphasis on keeping students in schools, universities and so on for the pursuit of higher education to prosper in our society. As I said before the "ease of life" not to be confused with an easy life, is what I was wondering if we can honestly say we practice hear in the United States. Its obtainable but it is almost frowned upon when you take the side of making life practical for the people rather than a social quest to obtain status and recognition.
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        Nov 12 2013: I believe I understand your question but am questioning one common premise in it that I think bears more critical examination. There would in almost any setting, I believe, be almost universal agreement that a life governed by the pursuit of social status via luxurious possessions is often both stressful and quite unfullfiling. Martin Seligman in his TED talk is one who presents research identifying the most important predictors of a happy and fulfilling life.

        What bears closer examination, I think, is the common assumption that a large majority of people, particularly in America, are governed by this relentless pursuit.

        I would ask you only to consider whether that is really the message you have been hearing in school, family, or your community, or whether what you are hearing is that you should prepare yourself to be able to have an interesting life in which you can basically be self-sufficient.

        I have never taken any sort of business course, but I have worked in lots of places and gone to school and taught school, and I have simply never seen anyone urge anyone to build a path aimed at social status and accumulation of possessions.

        I expect some people have given or gotten that message from mentors and peers, but I have seen no evidence that it is at all prevalent in our time. Again, I would be interested in seeing evidence as to the frequency of this message.from those advising students, as your query specifically asks about what we may be telling or doing for students and young people in this area.

        I am pretty sure undergraduate financial aid is in no way tied to what you study.
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    Nov 11 2013: @Fritzie....Oh yes, my father is alive. I interpret what he was saying was that he didn't want me to be a "bum" in our society. He wanted me to succeed so that I wouldn't be a burden to the family or himself. Its understandable to want that for your child (from my father's perspective).
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      Nov 12 2013: This doesn't sound like he was pushing you to aspire to social status and possessions.

      It sounds like he wanted his son to be self-sufficient.

      I think that is what most parents want for their children and, in fact, what most people want for themselves- to be able to take care of themselves and their loved ones while leading an interesting and meaningful life.
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        Nov 12 2013: Well maybe the way I used my father as an example in my statement was interpret as a I wasn't sure what he was trying to say. I understood his message, I wasn't really trying to open an interpretation on that context but I appreciate the insight.