Who Stole the American Dream by Burke Hedges: Book Review

I just finished re-reading the book Who Stole the American Dream by Burke Hedges. I first read the book in 2003, while I was an Amway distributor. Since then, I have re-read the book several times. It’s one of my top two or three favorite books to give to my prospects.

Who Stole the American Dream: Book Review

Who Stole the American Dream is simple, to the point, easy to read, and easy to understand. It is 142-pages long and takes just a couple of hours to read. It was first published in January 1992. As of date, there are more than 500,000 copies in print.

Overall, I give it 4 of 5 stars and think every network marketer should read it. I own the InterNet edition, which was published by InterNet, one of the largest Amway Motivational Organizations.

This book is a great resource to share with your prospects. It can help open their eyes to the possibilities of network marketing. It’s also a great read for new and experienced network marketers.

Who Stole the American Dream provides an in depth review on pyramid schemes, to include lotteries, chain letters, the airplane game, and other ponzi schemes. Burke Hedges also reviews legal pyramid schemes such as social security, charities, Wall Street, and more.

What’s funny is when you compare the legal and illegal schemes, there isn’t much difference (just who’s running them, LOL). He also reviews what network marketing is, why it works so well, and why you should consider joining a network marketing company.

One aspect of the book I really enjoyed was how Burke Hedges shared his experience about working as a laborer building boats, working as a waiter, and then owning a regular business.

He explains that he made a million dollars with his traditional small business, but it cost him $1.2 million to make that million dollars. He also provides plenty of real world success stories of people who have achieved financial independence via network marketing.

One of the most enlightening things about his book is the “common misconceptions” of network marketing. He reviews why many people are misinformed about our industry, and why so many traditional businesses hate MLM.

Burke Hedges quotes

Top Burke Hedges Quotes from the Book

Here are some of my favorite Burke Hedges quotes from Who Stole the American Dream? Each quote is in bold and italics. After each quote I will share my own two cents on it.

# 1: Did you know that 90 percent of all small businesses fail in the first year… and 80 percent of the survivors close their doors in the next five? And 80 percent of those never see year 10?

If you decided to start your own business, the odds of achieving success are stacked against you. All businesses have risk. Most businesses fail, regardless of the industry. When people talk to you about the high failure rate in MLM, make sure you let them know that the failure rates apply to every type of business, not just MLM. And just because something has a high failure rate does not mean it’s not a good opportunity for the right person.

# 2: They say the mind is like a parachute – it doesn’t work unless it is open.

To succeed in life, you need an open mind. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different to happen. Open your mind to new ideas and new ways of making money. Only then will you notice what you have been missing all along. Just because something is new or foreign to you doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea.

# 3: We all want freedom and security for ourselves and our families. We want more money than we have now. We want wealth and happiness. Basically, we want what we don’t have.

Most people want what they don’t have. However, most people aren’t willing to change, so they will never get what they really want and desire. Desire is the starting point to all success. If you want what you don’t have you must be willing to do things you haven’t done before.

# 4: In any multi-level structure the power comes from the bottom.

Network marketing is a team sport. People become successful because of their team. No one is successful in this industry all by themselves. Most of your organization will just be product users, retail customers, and part-timers. Treat these people well. Without them you won’t have a long-term business.

# 5: There’s nothing wrong with something having a pyramid structure.

Every business and organization in the world has a pyramid structure. It is simply a practical way to structure an organization. When people complain that MLM is a pyramid make sure they know that their church, their job, and their favorite charities are also structured like pyramids. I personally think of MLM as a reverse pyramid where everyone starts at the bottom but has an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY to work their way up to the top. That’s not the case in the traditional business world.

# 6: An illegal pyramid scheme is a money-making scam where the people at the bottom put money in, but the value doesn’t flow back down to them.

If your business isn’t a good deal for the “little guy” your company won’t be around long. Nearly 99% of your team will be customers, part-timers, and some-timers. Everyone, even retail customers, must receive a good value for the money they spend and have an equal opportunity for success.

# 7: College is not the best training for a career unless it’s specialized training to become a doctor, engineer, accountant or the like.

Most people are taught to get good grades, go to college and get a job with a big corporation (or the government) with great benefits. We all know how that is working out for most people in today’s world. Specialized knowledge is what you really want if you want to make it big in life. You must do that through a college or university for certain professions, but it isn’t necessary for every profession. Developing your specialized knowledge in MLM can make you very wealthy. To succeed in MLM, you must educate yourself. I like to call it MLM University.

# 8: Today it takes two incomes for us to achieve the standard of living our parents had with one paycheck. And that’s a stretch.

Surviving financially in today’s world is difficult. Taxes and inflation are at record highs and most families need two incomes just to live a modest lifestyle. I think this will continue to get worse in the years to come. Most people need a Plan B, good tax advantages, and a vehicle that gives them an unlimited opportunity. Network marketing offers these things.

# 9: Most small business entrepreneurs don’t own their own businesses – they own their own jobs!

Unless your business has leverage (through people, money, or systems) your business is nothing more than an overworked, underpaid, and glorified job! Just ask any small business owner and they will tell you the same thing. The real role of the entrepreneur is to create a business that does NOT require them to do the work, but they still get paid. Simply put, if YOU are the business, you don’t own a business: you own a job.

# 10: There’s neither security nor freedom in having a job.

Profits are better than wages. I learned that from Jim Rohn. There is no such thing as job security (even if you work for the government). Your odds of getting wealthy through a job are pretty low. Even worse, if you ever lose your ability to work (or no longer wish to work), you are screwed! Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being an employee. Just realize it won’t give the financial security or freedom you really want.

burke hedges bankruptcy quotes

# 11: The A students are working for the C students.

The people who do well in life aren’t always the people with the best grades. The people who do well are the mavericks who refuse to conform to what society wants them to be. It’s the folks who don’t follow traditional advice or conventional wisdom that normally do well in life. I once heard that A students end up teaching and B students work for C students. I think that is about right.

# 12: Everything that distributes goods and services is a pyramid. What matters is whether or not value flows down through the levels of the pyramid in direct proportion to the dollars that flow back up.

Everything you buy in the store or online is distributed through a pyramid model, normally from the manufacturer to the jobber to the warehouse to the company selling the goods to you. MLM Companies distribute their products and services through a pyramid model and there is nothing abnormal or wrong about that.

# 13: I’d rather run a profitable business in an unconventional industry than an unprofitable business in a conventional industry.

Making money with the business should be the #1 priority of every business owner. The industry you choose isn’t what matters most. What matters most is whether or not your business puts profits in your pockets. As long as your industry is legal, moral, and ethical, not much else matters.

# 14: If you want to catch major flack in this world, go out and do something in a new and better way – then duck! Nay-sayers are everywhere.

Whenever you try and accomplish something worthwhile in life, people will hate on you, and try to bring you down to their level. It just comes with being successful. Don’t worry about what others think about what you are doing. Chances are they are only thinking about themselves anyway. Finally, if you don’t have critics, you probably aren’t doing much in life.

# 15: 80 percent of the cost of getting a product to consumers today is the result of marketing expenses.

Marketing is the most expensive part of the traditional distribution model. For most businesses, acquiring a new customer is their biggest expense (other than their employees). What makes network marketing so exciting is we are paid to grow our business by word of mouth. And the money our company would normally spend on marketing is now paid to us via commissions.

# 16: Success in our business depends on a lot of people doing a little bit each.

If you want to make it big in MLM, just remember that your success boils down to finding a lot of people who each do a little bit AND a few people who do a lot. 90 percent or more of your team will just be product users, about five percent will be retailers, another five percent will be part-timers, and out of those ten percent, a few serious people will be 100% committed to the business.

# 17: You will never create real and lasting wealth trading time for money.

Unless your business has leverage you are nothing more than a hamster on a hamster wheel. You can leverage yourself through money, systems, and/or people. The problem with trading hours for money is that you must keep working to get paid and if you ever lose your ability to work, your income stops.

# 18: How many self-employed people do you know who can take off for a month and come back to a bigger paycheck than when they left?

Most people who own a business are a slave to their business. In essence, their business owns them. The day they stop working is the day their income dries up. Ultimately, you want a business that doesn’t rely 100% on you to run it. Network marketing offers that.

# 19: The media has no love for an industry that doesn’t have any major advertising bills to pay… and never will!

One of the primary reasons the media hates our industry is because we don’t pay them anything in the form of advertising, whereas most traditional businesses do.

# 20: 80 percent of all bankruptcies would be prevented if people had as little as an extra $250 per month!

Most people focus on the big money in MLM, but at the end of the day anyone can earn an extra 0 to 0 per month in MLM, if they try. For most people, that extra income will have a big difference in their lifestyle and quality of life. I call this the little money in MLM.

who stole the american dreamAbout the Book

The first edition of the book was published on December 24, 1992. It features 142-pages and was published by the International Network Training Institute. The ISBN is 978-0963266705. This book has lots of great reviews on Amazon and is a must read. Order the book on Amazon here. 

Burke Hedges has other books you should read as well. Some of my personal favorites include:

About Burke Hedges

Burke Hedges is a successful author, trainer, consultant, and speaker in the MLM Industry. He’s published several books and is a successful distributor in his own right. He is a true ambassador to our industry.

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Final Thoughts

In my opinion, Who Stole the American Dream by Burke Hedges is a must read for any novice or experienced network marketer. It is a great book to give to your new team members or prospects.

The book is a quick read, about 2-3 hours, and is jam-packed with great information about the network marketing industry. It talks about the many advantages to starting your own MLM business, and what you need to do to succeed. Overall, I give it 4 of 5 stars. If you haven’t read his book yet, you should.

What are your thoughts? Have you read the book? If so, did you like it? Also, what is your favorite quote from Who Stole the American Dream? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.

Suggested Reading:
  1. The # 1 MLM Book of All Time
  2. Think & Grow Rich
  3. The E-Myth Revisited
  4. Top 27 Amway Diamonds of All Time
  5. Top 10 Herbalife Tips
chuck holmes


Chuck Holmes
Network Marketing Professional (since 2002)
Author, Blogger, & Entrepreneur

P.S. Level up your life today! FREE resources to help you improve your health, finances, business, and relationships. I'll even give you FREE leads and a free business plan template. Learn more.

4 thoughts on “Who Stole the American Dream by Burke Hedges: Book Review”

  1. I am interested in reading “Who Stole the American Dream” by Burke Hedges, because I am curious to learn more about the vital information printed in this article about this book. I am really interested in seeing how the author explains how legal and illegal pyramid schemes work, and how they are similar in nature. This book seems as it would be a valuable resource to add to my book collection in the near future.

  2. Wow, definitely a timely read given the economic circumstances across the globe today. I don’t know how closely you followed the most recent Presidential primaries in the US but there was a lot of controversy regarding characterizing Social Security as a pyramid scheme by the talking heads in the media, but it seemed an apt description to me! I’ll definitely be picking this up to learn more about the legal versus illegal setups, as well as getting some more insights (and hopefully rebuttals) on the common misconceptions.

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