How to Make it in America

I am sure you know that it is not easy to make it in America. Making it (whatever it means for you) requires a lot of work and determination. It also requires bravery and courage.

For someone like me, making it in the land of opportunity was not just about hard work and determination. It was about sacrifice. It was about experiencing changes, and sometimes not good. It was about betraying a part of who you were in order to become who you wanted to be.

I discovered that there was a world of difference between stupidity and naiveté. I also learned that not everything was just “yes” or “no” in life. Sometimes a “maybe” offered a greater clarity and deeper insight into life, work and money.

Our lives are filled with small lessons that matter the most, even though they seem ordinary at first. But if you take some distance and look back, you will see the chain of smaller events those lessons unleashed.

The following is what I learned on the road to making it in America.

Lesson 1: Face your fears because you will have a lot of them. 

Recognize, acknowledge and embrace them. Don’t let those shivers, those unexplainable creeps stop you from moving forward. Clear them. Fight them. Suppress them. Ignore them. Do something!

I had my own dark fears. No, not the type that makes you squeal in the middle of the night like a terrified piglet. The other kind. Emotional. For a year or so after my glorious arrival to the states, my biggest apprehension was of my accent. I was afraid to talk to people because I was ashamed of it. So, I kept my mouth shut. Most of the time. I missed out on many opportunities because of this quite deep and foolish, in retrospect, phobia.

Lesson 2: Embrace economic mobility. 

I think no other country in the world offers economic mobility in a way that America does. You can chase your dream all over the country, and sometimes, you can even catch it. People have opportunities as long as they don’t mind moving in pursuit of a new job, education, or just in pursuit of happiness.

Lesson 3: Create your own (not Warren Buffet’s) notion of success. 

You have to know what you, and only you want. If you are not sure, you might end up floating through life aimlessly. You can have a dream to become the next Warren Buffet. There is nothing wrong with it as long as it is your dream, and not someone else’s expectations of you.

Lesson 4: Make sure you know what you need to do when you get up in the morning without having to be told, directed or persuaded by someone else. 

You have to stick to your plan, assuming you have one. Have a mind of your own. Just because someone is older, more experienced, more educated, more knowledgable, it does not mean that that person knows what you need to do to achieve your dream.

Lesson 5: Lose some friends. 

Sometimes your friends and you go in different directions, pursuing different dreams, achieving different goals, becoming different people. It is totally okay. It might hurt. It might disappoint, but it is all for the better.

Lesson 6: Gain and preserve some monopoly of knowledge. 

Do you want to be a team player? Of course you do, because you were conditioned into thinking that playing nice and being a part of a team will get you further in life. It is a wonderful but unrealistic notion in a cutthroat competitive world.

I’d say – choose a profession that you can be good at, learn everything you can and do not share your knowledge. Be a smart team player, the one who always knows a little bit more than everyone else. Knowledge is power, remember?

Lesson 7: Know your limits.

We all have our limits. If we try to overreach, overachieve or overdo, we might collapse under the burden of disappointments, burnout and depression.

Anything else?

24 thoughts on “How to Make it in America”

  1. Friday Twitter bait. could not agree more! Especially when it comes to losing friends. If you start off on the lower rungs of the ladder it’s only logical that you lose a few folks who aren’t willing to climb as hard and fast.

    1. Hahaha! I love to bait people on Twitter.
      My social circle changed a lot during my years in the US. Only a few people remained the same. All the rest, gone.

  2. Got one… Try something new. So many things are different here than anywhere else. Trying new things, even something as small as new foods, can help broaden your horizon.

    1. Yes! However, sadly, a lot of people are afraid to try anything new. People in general are afraid of changes that that “new” might bring. 🙂

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  4. I’d add …when you see trouble coming, don’t go on a date with it or marry it! For me, it started with a kiss…candle-lit dinners… then a credit card shopping spree…until I became a fully fledged member of the debt set.
    You need to know how to make it on your own. Feeling comfortable in your skin and trusting yourself is paramount!

    1. Always depend on yourself only. It is the most important thing. If you can make it on your own, you can conquer the world.

  5. Great article. I’ve lived American dream starting with $20 when I came to America. I’ve gone through intense struggle in the first 10 years, but now I am reaping the reward financially. You don’t have to be genius or a degree from an Ivy League school to be a millionaire. I can attest to that fact myself.

    1. I cam with $200 in my pocket when I landed in the US. 🙂 I, actually, don’t believe in Ivy League schools. I agree with you that Ivy League is no guarantee that you will succeed in life.

  6. Great list, Aloysa..

    I think you need to have a skill (or preferably, skills) that can be counted on to be in need.. Even if your current job doesnt work out– you can find countless other opportunities.

  7. I think so many of us don’t realize just how lucky we are to be living in America (or Canada), and having the OPPORTUNITY to do anything we want. The sky is the limit… all we have to do is dream of it, want it, and do it.

    1. Yes, we have a lot of opportunities. We have choices. We just should not take it all for granted.

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  13. I agree that it is not as easy to make it in America as so many people claim it to be. However from an immigrant’s perspective (like me), I feel it would be much more difficult in many other countries!

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