Considering you are a middle-aged person spending a majority of your social time pissing in the ear of people half your age online, I don't know if you should be talking about potential. Must be a humbling feeling knowing that your "best" days aren't ahead of you and have already past you by, huh? Sure sounded like it when you told me stories about what you are doing with your life that you felt so bad about that you didn't want others on here to know.
At any case: Your version of the "American Dream" and mine are probably quite different. As it is for most people. That is how it sticks around, because it can re-invent itself. It may be a central ethos in American culture, but it is highly transient and the concept of what it means has greatly changed through the course of history in this country. Never really bought into the myth, but it is obvious you did. Big houses, business endeavors, big trucks, materialism and ownership, being all about yourself. You are pretty much like everyone else. Boring.
At its core, the old protestant belief and fables of going from rages to riches -- emphasizing individualism is highly contestable. I could begin to talk about coercive and mimetic isomorphism, elite theory, marginalization, mobility, etc. but it would be a waste of my time because we would get into areas that require high intellect that you would be unable to participate in because you are not an educated person and lack the critical thinking skills necessary to engage in such talks.
I am a firm believer in having your own dreams, sets of goals and lists of things to accomplish. Fortunately, I was raised well enough to not get in competition with the Jones' and am smart enough to avoid the pitfalls socially and economically that plague this society. Very pleased with my life experiences so far and am stoked for what is to come. I know I will get to where I am going . . .
and I definitely know I won't be a miserable middle-aged malcontent such as yourself demonstrating your behavior 20 to 30 years down the road.