"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" - says nothing about making a lot of money, but somewhere along the line we made that translation.
Recently I heard someone say that successful people consider money a reward for self-actualization. Said differently, my guess is Warren Buffett would not do much differently if he lost all his money or if he was making the minimum wage. If you happen to cross paths with him please ask and let us know? The American dream is the freedom do do what we are good at, what we enjoy doing, what we look forward to doing, and for most people that does not have to be restricted by net worth. That same "most people", however, now are anxiously chasing pay out, the title and the recognition - constantly managing our identities - and are missing out on doing what we would really enjoy doing. Yes, the latter might mean an adjustment in economic expectations, but the quality of life becomes much higher when one is doing what we love to do then by owning a nice house, nice clothes, a new car and the latest iPhone. If your not convinced look to those who are dying. As they say 20/20 vision is the most acute and perhaps the most objective, and without fail people who are at the end of their life report their regrets of not spending enough time doing what they wanted to do, even at the risk of less money. Let's learn from the wise!
So what about this selfish perspective. This selfish approach turns out to be the most selfless way we can live. When we are doing what we are meant to do, our impact over our lifetime will be much greater on the world then if we conform to spending our time cultivating our image. We will enjoy an optimal experience which will reflect in our work, and our interaction with others, both of which will have unimaginable positive impact on others. There is an expression - "if a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, there will be tornado in Texas". In the same way, maybe you love to build rock gardens and after building one for someone, that person everyday will enjoy seeing that rock garden and their interaction with each person they see that day will be positively effected, and those people in turn will be effected and so on. And the joy you might feel after building that rock garden will reduce the chance of any destructive behavior that may come from stress.
The American Dream is not to make a killing, it is do what we love to do. It doesn't necessarily mean a drastic change of career or job, but simply to find the opportunity to realize our gifted talent within what we ready do. And make no mistake, we all have a gift...an innate talent.
Life, liberty and doing what we enjoy doing...that's the American Dream!