The national minimum wage in the US is $7.25 an hour. That’s roughly the price of a 6-pack of paper towels. Think about that: If you make minimum wage, an hour of your time is what you spend to clean up spills and wipe your hands. Even if you make double that, 2 hours of your time is worth 12 rolls of paper towels. While your boss may love you, the company isn’t structured to pay you in anything different from paper towels and clothes and… things. A job where you’re only rewarded in things isn’t a job you love and will eventually drain you. As poor people can’t afford the infusion of energy that comes with days off or vacations, this isn’t sustainable. Below are four reasons why no matter what a stripper tells you, chasing your dreams is the sustainable choice.
Entrepreneurship allows you to structure your life yourself and be paid in more than things.
Provided your personal definition of wealth isn’t the same of society’s, you don’t have to work as much to acquire things you don’t want. This gives you more time to invest in the things that matter to you. Of course, there’s a huge time investment up front to get your hustle off the ground. Once that’s done, you set your own agenda. When you don’t choose yourself and invest in your own dreams first, you’re always working according to someone else’s agenda. Our dominant system isn’t set up to freely allow you to move beyond your current station in life. It’s expensive to be poor and if you don’t choose yourself, there’s a good chance you’ll never escape the cycle of poverty.
2. Ambitious dreamers banding together to do creates wealth.
Particularly when you’re poor is when you don’t need to be buying into the dominant paradigms about wealth and power. Poor people have always gotten by best in capitalist societies when they band together for survival. When they do that, what you find is that they thrive in short order. Poor people suffer when separated and kept from pooling their resources.
This can best be seen by comparing minority communities where intra-community dollar circulation is high to others: Chinatowns, Koreatowns, Japantowns and the like. Compare that to the current wealth disparity of Blacks today versus the thriving Black communities of yesteryear: Greenwood, Rosewood, Black Wall Street.
What all of these communities have in common is that they didn’t wait for white people or rich people to share power. At a point they stopped demanding it. They defined it for themselves, continued operating within the dominant structures and created their own power for each other and with each other. By banding together, marginalized and ostracized groups can accomplish in one generation things that would previously have taken three.
3. Entrepreneurship creates more resilient people.
Have you ever watched a cockroach fight for survival? If you have, then you know the ridiculous lengths they’ll go to, to preserve themselves. Humans have overcome even more than cockroaches to be here. Cockroaches either live or die. Not only are human embattled against environmental toxins and a poisoned food supply, daily; we also do battle with exclusion, others’ criticism and our own negative self-talk. The entrepreneurial journey forces you to confront the latter and to work through it, in order to succeed. Unlike the rat race, it’s a journey that strengthens you.
Turning pro requires interdependence: working together, turning toward people in times of frustration, depending on others. While entrepreneurship can be a lonely freedom to endure, it can also be one of the most meaningful ways to connect with other people. Whether it’s moments of joy while collaborating or when people come through for you, or moments of disappointment when they don’t, the entrepreneurial journey can bring you closer to others and yourself — if you let it.
Both self-reliance and increased gratitude for others are invaluable intangibles that society doesn’t encourage you to pursue. Once experienced — no matter how monetarily poor a person is — it becomes nearly impossible to convince them that things are important. It becomes nearly impossible to get them to be another battery in a machine. No more working twice as hard to get half as far. No more fighting for scraps. The connection experienced while chasing your dream positively changes you.
Right now the American dream isn’t even a far-fetched fantasy for poor people. Predatory lending, shift work and resegregation in education (among other things) have become the perfect trifecta to ensure to keep people in poverty. [The kids go to shitty schools with PTA meetings parents can’t get off to make. Shift work negatively affects their health and to make up for the decreased productivity in low-paying jobs, the parents turn to payday loans. Repeat cycle. No one ever escapes.]
The strengthened communities that result from artists and entrepreneurs fulfilling their purposes is a win for everyone involved. The individual hustler can “make it” without stepping all over anyone, the people they’ve brought along for the ride and encountered along the way become a chosen family that shares the responsibilities of strengthening individuals, communities and families… not to mention the increased joy and peace shared by everyone.
This is revolutionary. No amount of legislation or culture warring can equalize the playing field as much as a people who seize power for themselves. In a different time, seizing power would have meant violent revolution. Today it means redefining wealth, power and connection and pursuing them. Chasing your dreams is how you do that. At a time when poor people are losing left, right and center, what more is there to lose?