The Success Funnel
America is known as the “land of opportunity.” It is thought that anyone can come to America and achieve the American Dream and be successful; however, it is not as easy as it sounds. Anyone coming to America should know that the American dream is not a guarantee. Besides the hard work it takes to achieve success there is also a tremendous amount of competition. Everyone coming to America has this same goal and not everyone will be able to obtain it. Becoming an American does not automatically mean success but it does mean a promise of opportunity to advance yourself.
Throughout history, opportunity has always been the foundation of America. It is the reason that most people take the chance to leave their home and come here. People have always been drawn to come to America because of the opportunities here that are not available in other parts of the world. America was accepting of anyone and willing to give everyone a chance.
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
America invites all to have opportunity and gives people hope for something better than what they have. For some, it was the only place where they had a chance: “There was nothing to go back to, or there was certain death” (Gordon). America was the only place that offered them a chance for anything at all; it is a place of hope.
America offers a variety of opportunities. One amazing thing offered in America is an education. Non citizens will even move to this country for a period of time to receive the education that is available here: “These are people that desire to seek out all of America's opportunities and are using college as their first stop" (Andrea Rousseau). An American college education can open many doors not just in this country but all around the world. America is so diverse that getting an education here means you will be able to learn from many different perspectives: "I have been able to hear and attempt to understand the viewpoints of many different Americans" (Andrea Rousseau), which is a unique to this nation. Another opportunity in America is freedom. For one, freedom allows you to live the life you want: “"You only live once. Americans make their own choices and live the life they really want, no matter the age, no matter what others think" (Xinyu Chang). Freedom, in this way, also provides happiness. You can get a satisfaction from life that you may not be able to achieve elsewhere.
Sadly, everyone who comes to America will not take these opportunities. Although everyone will strive for them, it is not possible for everyone to achieve them. This is because competition is at the heart of American success. Throughout history competition was a part of being American. “More than sixteen million immigrants came through that room [at Ellis Island]; approximately 250,000 were rejected” (Gordon). There was even competition just to be let into America. This competition to simply become an American still continues to this day: "[Becoming an American] was going to be decided by some interviewer"(Mahin). So many immigrants want to come to this country for the opportunities offered here but there is limited space. This competition means there is no promise of success; certainly not everyone will be a “winner.”
America only promises these opportunities to a certain degree. While almost everyone will have his or her complete freedom, not everyone will earn another level of success, like a college education. This is because success in America functions in a funnel; most people can get up to a level of some success and happiness in America but only a certain number can achieve more. There are less opportunities available with each level of success and therefore, less people will be able to obtain that next level. Even with the hard work people are told it takes, still this does not promise success: "The American Dream is not something everyone gets just because. It is earned and sometimes it takes multiple generations to achieve it" (Tom). You can work hard for years and still not manage to get to that level of success you were hoping for. However, sometimes one generations struggle does pay off for the next generation: “hands as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane so my brother and I could have books and shoes” (Blanco). The effort and strife put in by an older generation can help propel that family to the next level of success. But the struggle to gain more will be even harder on this generation because there are fewer opportunities available to them. If you are lucky enough to have your ancestors earn you that pass to a level of opportunity in America, there is tremendous pressure to make something of it: "They made it, it's my turn. I am burdened, I must do everything of fail!" (Nick Wei). If the next generation does not do something with the shot they have been given and beat out all the competition, the years of sacrifice and hard work may seem like a waste. While complete prosperity at the highest level is possible, it is available to very few. Everyone is given the opportunity at the beginning to be the ones that get there but the “success funnel” that is created through competition makes it very unlikely that it will be you.
Arthur Schlesinger has once said, “The point of America was not to preserve old cultures but to forge a new, American culture.” He believes that unity is at the heart of America. Through unity, we create the strongest nation possible. Yes it is necessarily true that unity keeps America strong. However, there is only a strong unity on the exterior and it is just seen by outsiders. It is really the case, as I have been suggesting, that from the inside America is full of competition to obtain success and the American Dream. This unity only exists within when there are no opportunities for upgrading. This unity that Schlesinger believes is at the heart of America is very fragile and can easily be broken by those willing to do so in the name of beating a fellow American out for an advance in life. The unity is we appear to have in America cannot withstand peoples’ ambitions to achieve the next level of success with the few opportunities they are given.
Competition is America is ubiquitous. While those who come here may be optimistic and work hard; they may not be successful. In order for you to be successful as possible, you are required to take advantage of the opportunities you are given to the fullest extent. In doing so, those who you are competing with may be hurt. In America, some are left behind when reaching for that next level of success but this is part of the “success funnel.”