Dreams are Costly

The Cost of Pursuing a Dream- Character


Dreams are never easily achieved. Those who pursue dreams find they must make uncomfortable sacrifices in order to reach their goals. Some of these sacrifices are consciously made, like deciding to become more frugal or to work late nights instead of spending time with family. Other sacrifices aren't made consciously. More often than not, in pursuing a dream, people sacrifice character (character meaning integrity, morality, etc). This point is proven by Jay Gatsby's romance in the book The Great Gatsby, the attitudes of financiers in the economic district of Wall Street, and the content of Gordon Gekko's speech, "Greed is Good."

Dreams are costly- one must be prepared for the consequences of pursuit.

The Great Gatsby

Jay Gatsby

In the book The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby's dream is to be with Daisy Buchanan. After meeting her as a teenager the summer he spent stationed in her town as a lieutenant in the army, Gatsby was lovestruck. Not only was she beautiful and wealthy, her air of innocence was attractive to him. After being called to fight overseas, Gatsby traveled back to the United States in search of Daisy. Five years he searched for her. As he waited he work to acquire significant amounts of wealth so as to impress her. Unfortunately, once Gatsby found Daisy, it was too late. She had married another man (Tom Buchanan). Gatsby though was not deterred. He threw elaborate parties to win her attention, he invited her to his house to win her affection, and he stayed up late into the night staring at the light from her house across the bay. Daisy renewed her interest in Gatsby and they began a passionate affair. In the end, Daisy stopped the trysts and went back to her husband. Gatsby was left alone.

Throughout his pursuit of Daisy, Gatsby disregards his moral character. He involves himself in profitable, illegal activity in the bond market. This wealth is used to fund extravagant parties, buy expensive cars, and purchase classy clothes. This is all done to woo Daisy. Secondly, Gatsby begins a passionate affair with her- he completely disregards her marital covenant with Tom Buchanan. It is clear that Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy Buchanan experiences a loss of moral character.

Jay Gatsby- Textual Evidence

"...the phone rang that afternoon and Long Distance said Chicago was calling...'Young Parke's in trouble,' [Slagle] said rapidly. 'They picked him up when he handed the bonds over the counter. They got a circular from New York giving 'em the numbers just five minutes before. What d'you know about that, hey? You never can tell in these hick towns...'" (Fitzgerald 166).

This quote shows that Gatsby was involved in illegal activity. One of his work partners was arrested while doing dealings for Gatsby. These illegal actions provided large amounts of money meant to gain Daisy's favor.

"The next day Gatsby called me on the phone. 'Going away?' I inquired. 'No, old sport.' 'I hear you fired all your servants.' 'I wanted someone who wouldn't gossip. Daisy comes by quite often-in the afternoons.'" (Fitzgerald 114).

This quote shows the Gatsby was involved romantically with Daisy. They spent a great deal of time together behind Tom Buchanan's back implying that Gatsby and Daisy were involved in an adulterous affair.

These quotes both show the degradation of Gatsby's moral character in his pursuit of Daisy.

The Inside Job

Wall Street- Cocaine Use and Prostitution

The Inside Job was created in 2010 to awaken the world to the reality that Wall Street has become seriously corrupt. This corruption is a result of excess- leaders of companies like Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs are paid ridiculously high wages for their services. With this money they buy large houses, expensive apartments, flashy cars, boats/yachts, etc. For example, Richard Fuld, the CEO of Lehman Brothers, earns enough to own "a 14 million dollar waterfront home in Florida," a vacation home in Sun Valley Idaho, and an art collection filled with "million dollar paintings." Men like Fuld buy material items like these to make them happy. Once material possessions no longer satisfy them, they turn to drugs and prostitution. Jonathan Alpert, therapist to "high-level Wall-Street executives," admits to seeing "a lot of cocaine use" and "a lot of use of prostitution" amongst his clients. Alpert explains that clients feel pressured to involve themselves in these types of behaviors because they feel it will help them "get promoted" or "get recognized" (Inside Job WWW).
Because the Wall-Street financial district is so competitive, members of firms like Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs try to improve their positions by involving in illegal activities such as taking cocaine and hiring prostitutes. This is all in an attempt to gain more money and receive job promotions.

Bankers and financiers in Wall Street drop all concern for morality and ethicality in order to pursue the dream of becoming richer and more influential within their company. The moral character of these men is seriously degraded- they have a "blatant disregard for the effect their actions will have on society" (Inside Job WWW). Due to the atmosphere of greed and excess on Wall-Street, workers sacrifice moral integrity-therefore character-in pursuit of their dreams.

Gordon Gekko- Wall Street

Gordon Gekko- Address to Teldar Paper Stockholders

In Gordon Gekko's address to Teldar Paper stockholders he explains that business cannot be successful without greediness. Gekko makes this point by comparing old business with new business. In old business, company leaders handled their own money by investing their fortunes into the making of their company. Leaders were, therefore, more careful because "it was their money at stake." In new, modern day business, leaders of companies do not deal with their own money and therefore "have no stake in the company." Because they handle the money of stockholders, they have the freedom to do whatever they please without experiencing the consequences. Gekko therefore states that stockholders have to be selfish, they have to be greedy. They must act only out of self interest or else businesses will squander their money (Gekko WWW).

Although Gekko speaks reasonably, the implication is that business and morality should not be mixed. Gekko's speech implies that without lowering one's moral standards, business will never be successful. He explains that in order to pursue wealth and success in business, one must disregard moral character. By doing this-by creating in one's self a sense of greed and selfishness-success is inevitable. The pursuit of success requires the sacrifice of moral character (Gekko WWW).

The Exceptions

Pursuing Unselfish Goals Increases character

The examples above represent instances where the goals pursued are selfish in nature. Jay Gatsby's dream is to be with Daisy Buchanan-this has the potential to ruin Daisy's marriage. Because he only cares about making himself happy, his dream is selfish. As for bankers on Wall Street, their pursuit of wealth and stature is one that, in the end, helps only themselves. Greedy desire is selfish. And lastly, Gordon Gekko encourages the stockholders of Teldar Paper company to protect their money by giving into greed and selfishness. In each of these situations, loss of moral character is a result of self-centeredness.

Moral character is not lost when the dreams pursued has an unselfish nature. Both Barbara Ehrenreich, author of the acclaimed novel Nickel and Dimed, and Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, did not pursue selfish dreams. Ehrenreich wanted to explore the difficulties living life on minimum wage while Mycoskie wanted to provide shoes to all those in need around the world. It is through pursuing these selfless dreams that both have experienced an increase in character. Ehrenreich learned to be more sympathetic towards the less fortunate, and Mycoskie learned to appreciate the concept of giving. This shows the growth of moral integrity/character within both Ehrenreich and Mycoskie.

Barbara Ehrenreich- Nickel and Dimed

Minimum Wage Living

Barbara Ehreneich, having been inspired by "the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform" ("any job equals a better life"), decided to take on a completely new life. This new life required a serious transformation on her behalf- she moved to new places, took new jobs, bought new clothes, etc. Ehreneich assumed the life of a minimum wage worker. In her book Nickel and Dimed, Ehrenreich discusses the differences between her old, luxurious lifestyle and her new, frugal lifestyle (Ehreneich WWW).

Her goal was to experience the difficulties of faced by minimum wage workers- this was an unselfish goal. In her pursuit she discovers that America is full of "tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity." She develops a greater appreciation for the "exhausting mental and physical effort" it takes to live on such meager wages (Ehreneich WWW). By exploring this side of American life, Ehreneich character is seriously improved. As she experiences the hardships of minimum wage living, her character is strengthened. Not only does she become more appreciative of the luxuries of her previous life, she becomes more sympathetic towards those less fortunate.

Blake Mycoskie- TOMS

TOMS- One for One

Blake Mycoskie has always had a knack for business. Before creating the company TOMS, Mycoskie started five other businesses that he later sold for profit, including a laundry service on the campus of Southern Methodist University and an online education program. Blake Mycoskie has been incredibly successful as a entrepreneur (Mycoskie WWW).

In an interview with pastor Darren Whitehead at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, Mycoskie describes his inspiration behind the creation of TOMS. He explains that while he was on vacation in Argentina, he encountered "a group doing volunteer work" in Buenos Aires. This group was collecting "slightly used pairs of shoes from wealthy families" in the city- "what they called a shoe drive." After collection they took the shoes to children "who needed them outside the city." Mycoskie was "touched" by these actions, but he felt the organization of the group-from a business standpoint-could be seriously improved. They didn't have "a very sustainable model" because of they were completely dependent on donations. After seeing the work of this group, Mycoskie knew he wanted to help the effort, but he "didn't want to start a charity". Instead, he had the idea to create a for-profit shoe company in which he could employ the "one for one" method. This is the idea that for every pair of shoes sold, a pair of shoes is given to a someone in need. This model has been so successful that by 2010 TOMS had given over 1 million shoes to those in need (Mycoskie WWW).

After seeing the success of this model, Mycoskie added another branch to the company- TOMS eyewear (sunglasses). He has employed the same "one for one" concept within this area of the company; for every piece of TOMS eyewear sold, TOMS provides glasses to those with deteriorated eyesight.
Throughout his travels across the globe, Mycoskie has developed a love of giving. In pursuing the goal to provide shoes to those in need, he has developed an appreciation for helping others. By making the goal of his business about the improvement of others' lives, his character has been strengthened. He learned to combat the selfishness of business in order to help those in need. Mycoskie's newfound awareness of global need has increased his moral character.