Young Men are in Crisis. What Will It Take for Them to Succeed?
An interview with Lance Cooper, author of the book: What It Takes
Young American men are in trouble. Something is missing and we all see it. They have major problems with commitment and taking responsibility. Many seem to lack ambition.
This is bad news for America. As a nation, we need vital young leadership — in families, in the church, in the community and in public life at all levels.
Young men are also confused about their own masculinity and many worry about ever leading a family, much less anything larger.
We interviewed an expert on this crisis and discussed his new book called “What It Takes, Messages for Men Moved by God.”
Many males today between the ages of 18 and 30 live in a fuzzy low-commitment zone that did not even exist in previous generations. Sociologist Michael Kimmel has called this space “Guyland.”
The author, Lance Cooper, is president of Sales Manage Solutions and has trained thousands of young men (and women) in career achievement, goal-setting and life skills for more than thirty years.
Cooper has authored a number of books and articles on sales coaching and team building, but in this one he tackles the broader problem. What it Takes delves deep into the essence of character development and commitment as it applies to young men.
During the course of the interview Cooper pointed out some disturbing facts:
Many live in “Guyland.”
- Millions of young men, (estimated at 22 Million in 2008), dwell in a new social stratum not seen in the past. Sociologist Michael Kimmel has called this space “Guyland.” Cooper calls it “A Peter Pan world of sports, games, pornography and binge drinking.”
- Young American males stop developing maturity at an age when previous generations matured quickly. In Benjamin Franklin’s generation, young men worked with their fathers on farms or went into apprenticeships at age 13 to 16. In our own previous “Greatest Generation” young males were already working to support their families or serving their country in two world wars by age 18. Even in the 1950’s and ’60’s, most American young men began to make serious commitments around age 18-21. Today that age of maturity is about 28-30 years of age. The result is that they remain boys for years.
- An astonishing 38 percent of these young men had no father available to help guide them. They either grew up in single-mom families or the father was absent through work or his own hobbies and distractions. This resulted in a poorly formed self-identity.
- Young men are often confused about what masculinity really is. They stream media that presents a constant twisted message about men’s (and women’s) roles. Cooper states: “Men have a special role as a man that the culture has basically eliminated … Today, if you ask a man to define what a man is, he can’t — society has pretty much said ‘there isn’t a difference.’”
- Ambition is weak or lacking. “There is nothing there to show a man what to do when he gets up in the morning.” The result is 1) Setting goals is difficult — especially life goals; 2) It is hard to make and keep commitments; and 3) It is hard to succeed beyond a survival level.
What solution to this crisis does What it Takes propose?
Cooper: “First of all, many guys know that something isn’t right.” Living by using just enough talent and ambition to “survive” produces anxiety and frustration. It drives some to start looking for someone to help them understand why their life is not progressing.
Sometimes, he says, “When they look around, they can’t see the model of a real man.” Cooper relates how they may look to men who are strong Christians and who are authentic and have a vital walk with God, yet are not judgmental. When they find such men, they are often coachable. (It was this experience and the founding of a men’s movement from it that led Cooper to write the book.)
For success in life, young men must re-learn the importance of “ambition.” The author defines true ambition as a spiritual virtue. It is not an ambition built around selfishness, but rather humility. It is about developing the gifts that God gives a man to their fullest extent, after honestly (and humbly) assessing them.
Success also entails making sacrifices and enduring and overcoming pain and disappointment. That is something many were never taught how to do correctly. Above all, it involves making strong commitments, taking risks and keeping promises. These are all marks of character.
During the interview, we also discussed some of the current issues regarding America’s young people, from interest in socialism to “the entitlement mentality” and “snowflake” culture. Cooper says that when a young man submits to following God and developing God’s gifts, he gets a different kind of vision for his life.
Life becomes more exciting. His mindset changes. He moves from a “fixed mindset” to a “growth mindset.” (The former is what he is entitled to while the latter is about what he can develop, and how he can succeed and prosper in life.)
The book “What it Takes” traces the journeys of twelve normal American men who journeyed from a life of little or no commitment to a life of spiritual and career success. It has daily Bible readings and devotionals that help guide along the way.
You can listen to edited audio clips from the interview below: