Over the last decade there has been a fundamental shift in the way we look at our business, and increasingly, how we present it to others. We’re seeing the business less as an income and more as an asset. “MLM success” used to buy a big house and a Rolls. Now it buys retirement.

This is not a slight shift: it is radical and fundamental, because it strikes to the core of how we perceive our identity, and in the process, we have matured to the point of honoring more realistic expectations.

In the 1960s, the JFK White House radically shifted our national identity by focusing us on a new goal: putting a man on the moon. Early MLM was like that—a financial Apollo program. I once attended an event where the woman at the front of the room told the audience, “Why am I here? To get filthy, stinking rich.” Everyone nodded and grinned.

Did she? Of course not. Most never did. But that didn’t matter. Most Americans never walked on the moon, either—but a few did, and the achievement defined us. When Neil Armstrong trod the moon’s surface, we all walked it with him. And when Dexter Yager or Jeff Roberti walked across the stage with a million-dollar check, it validated the dream.

That’s one big check for a Diamond—one giant check for Diamondkind.

But no more. Today the goal has changed.

The snapshot moment that defined our coming of age was the famous February 1992 issue of Success that featured Richard Brooke on the cover with the headline, “We create millionaires!” But by the late nineties, John Fogg was saying, “Enough about millionaires—let’s talk about creating thousandaires.” Then Tom (“Big Al”) Schreiter wrote a little piece about a guy in his group who applied his measly $300 monthly check to prepaying his mortgage and ended up leveraging it into a sizable asset. The article made people squirm. In those days, nobody told stories about $300 checks. A “little” check was an embarrassment.

Then Randolph Byrd wrote “The $300 Solution,” pointing out that while people might be drawn to the business by the dream of big money, what keeps them here is the reality of little money.

As both Robert Kiyosaki and David Bach have pointed out, joining a network marketing company is a brilliant career move—but not because of the big money. Because of the little money and what you can do with it. A few hundred dollars in monthly residual, sensibly leveraged, could buy you a glorious retirement.

And for hundreds of thousands of us, that is a very big dream indeed.

JOHN DAVID MANN is Editor in Chief of Networking Times.