The Unamerican dream by Carlos Hidalgo

I first had the idea of writing The UnAmerican Dream at the end of 2016. When I shared this idea with a friend of mine, he told me he felt it sounded like an “angry book”.  To be honest, if I had started the writing process then, I am certain it would have been just that, an angry manifesto.

It was in 2016 when the life I was living and the work pace I had been keeping caught up with me and I crashed and burned. 

All that I had wanted since co-founding my first company in 2005, all of the hours working, all of the travel, the growth of my ego and my obsession with proving that I was a success came crashing down around me. But it was not supposed to be this way. No entrepreneur or driven professional begins their journey with visions of of a flame out. Rather the opposite. We have visions of success, growth, wealth and the list goes on. But my story, like those of so many I have spoken to since the end of 2016 are much different and I believed I had to write about it as those conversations made me realize I am far from being alone.

My first entrepreneurial venture was from all appearances a success. What started out as two guys working together with the hopes of having more time at home, quickly turned into a growing business. We became known in our industry, we were a multiple time Inc 5000 winner, and our agency was regularly landing brand name Fortune 500 clients. Additionally, I was gaining notoriety in our industry and my ego could not get enough of it. I was sought after by conferences to speak, my articles were being published in mainstream media and my first book in 2015 was an Amazon #1 New Release within the first week. This was indeed “The American Dream”, or was it?

the unamerican dream
Buy the UnAmerican Dream at Amazon

My desire and need to be successful became the thing that drove me. This is not uncommon when we tie our worth and identity to our professions. However, nothing was fulfilling . . . the more that was achieved, the more I wanted. And in the process I grew increasingly miserable and narcissistic. As one friend told me, I lost sight of my true self and it came at a steep cost.

At the end of 2016 this mania that consumed me, for what I falsely believed was success, took its toll on my relationships. Afterall, we cannot create time; and for too many years I had neglected the purposeful cultivation of my relationship with my wife and kids and there was virtually nothing left.  

As I stood at the brink of a divorce, never thinking my wife and I would be separated, I made a choice. I left the business I helped start more than a decade prior.  I had no backup plan, no life savings and no big buy-out, and no assurances that this would even lead to a reconciliation with my wife, but I knew I had to put this chapter of my life and my false self behind me and begin a new journey. 

Taking the leap

In early 2017, I announced my departure from the company via a LinkedIn post and in that post confessed the relational cost I paid during my tenure. The response from my colleagues were extremely encouraging and supportive. However, what I did not expect was the numerous phone calls, texts and emails I received from fellow entrepreneurs and business owners asking if we could talk. As I began to engage in these discussions, I heard stories that were similar to mine – marriages on the rocks, lack of happiness and fulfillment, tales of being miserable, a loss of self. While in some odd way it was comforting to know I was not alone, it was also alarming to realize this was indeed not uncommon.

The unAmerican Dream
The American Dream is to buy a big house with a white picket fence, but what is the real cost?

Part of my journey to The UnAmerican Dream was working to get back to my true self and one of the best ways I know to do that is to write, so I did. I can honestly say there was no anger that went into the pages of the book and it was written with one desire, to help.  

Sharing my story

I wrote The UnAmerican Dream in hopes that if there are those out there like me (and I know there are), that they will learn from my mistakes and avoid some of the pain that I caused. I also hope it helps those who aspire to be executives and entrepreneurs.  I hope they realize that there is no glory in the toxic hustle culture and success is measured by far more than the growth of your business and more so by being true to who you are and the depth of your relationships. I also want to book to help us all see a different perspective of workaholism, which is why I asked my wife to lend her thoughts in her own chapter as there is always an impact to our actions and absence.

This is why I wrote The UnAmerican Dream and I deeply hope it fulfills its purpose.

Follow Carlos on Twitter @cahidalgo