In case you're in need of a little more evidence that the American Dream is alive and well, here's this.
An immigrant from the Ukraine just sold his company a couple of days ago to Facebook for $19 billion. You've probably heard all about it for a couple of reasons It involves a tech company that more than a billion people use, it involves billions of dollars and it's got a pretty rich back-story too.
Jan Koum immigrated in the early 1990s to the United States with his mom and grandmother. They lived in Northern California in a two-bedroom apartment where babysitting, cleaning, food stamps and welfare helped them survive.
His interest in computer programming eventually led him to a job at Yahoo! where his future business partner Brian Acton also worked. They worked there for nine years, and then took a year off to travel and play Ultimate Frisbee. When Koum returned to the United States, he applied for jobs at Facebook and Twitter and was turned down by both companies.
In 2009, he got an iPhone and started to develop an idea for an app that would send text messages internationally for free. He trademarked WhatsApp several months later, and now the company has more than 450 million users and is growing its user base by one million people per day.
This is a pretty simplified version of what really happened. What's missing are the months and years of blood, sweat and tears that went into building a multibillion dollar company. But the basic foundation is here. It's the will-do, can-do, never-give-up-attitude that's needed to achieve the American Dream.
And although Jan Koum's dream has turned into a very wealthy reality, it's not all about the money. Living the American Dream is about achieving your own happiness, your own fulfillment -- your own personal success story.
The American Dream dates back to the Declaration of Independence that proclaimed people are endowed with certain inalienable rights like "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." And in 1931, historian James Truslow Adams, the person credited with popularizing the term "American Dream," described it as "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement."
Nobody is more familiar with this ideal better than entrepreneurs. They're on a mission to be happy with their earned success and they're not going to let anything stop them. Research shows that the average entrepreneur makes just under $45,000 per year and fails an average of 3.8 times before succeeding.
But recently, the quest for the American Dream has come under question. A study on the 2013 State of the American Family suggests that for my generation, the millennials, the dream is really more about day-to day control of your life. High unemployment and worries about the economy are making the American Dream seem like more of a pipe dream for some people.
Don't tell this to Jan Koum who handled more than a few potholes on his path to success. His determination and brilliant ideas led him right back to where he started... sort of. He signed his multibillion-dollar deal at the former North County Social Services Office where he once lined up for food stamps.
Who knows, there might even be a little more Ultimate Frisbee in his future.
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