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

A group of young friends gather and use their cellphones in front of a bar while a couple kisses to the left of the frame in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco, California at night, October 8, 2016. In 2014, Cow Hollow was rated the most Millennial-friendly neighborhood of San Francisco.

By Alan Eason Published on March 25, 2017

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.

The Solution

What solution to this crisis does What it Takes propose?


Lance Cooper

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:




What It Takes: Messages for men moved by God.


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  • Triple T

    This is the result of the toxic combination of not having your father around and having the ridiculous notion that men and women are exactly the same forced on you from an early age. I’m not surprised.

    • Kevin Carr

      I agree. I would also add a lack of teaching and modeling of virtue,honor, and the fact that we have taken God out of the culture. Also a culture where feminist have told men they were somehow wrong and bad just by being men.

    • GPS Daddy

      There is another factor I know has had an impact and that is the impact of men who have been in war have on their children raising them.

  • Ken Abbott

    Third-wave feminism is virulently anti-male and this attitude infects the educational system right down to grade school and younger. Boys are not allowed to be boys but are behaviorally turned into “girls” to suit the preferences of the educational establishment. Later in life, the culture is so confusing to young men who can’t tell if they’re acting appropriately or “inappropriately” and are often gun-shy about risking a relationship with a young woman; it’s far easier to withdraw and obtain sexual gratification from images that can’t make rape accusations.

    • Kevin Carr

      Yes said it quite well, unfortunately very true.

  • missy

    you are so correct. This is a battle and if we look around and admit it, a lot of us are troubled with many of the new cultural norms called societal progress bombarding and impacting America. We see a tidal wave of many troubled, sheltered and for the most part privileged young male millennials in the prime of life who are in bondage and desperately trying to cope in their own way with purpose as a ‘real man’ or ‘man up’ to whatever that identity means in a bewildering and breathtaking world of mixed cultural messages that strive to define exactly to tell them what a male (or person) is, was (or is not). No wonder a large number of them are immature, maladjusted, confused, given up hope and have retreated into a mode of tribal group survival for fun and games with the rest of the boys (it’s easier and there is safety in numbers). The pressure, confusion, and fallout they face is real, just look at the many headlines from other Stream articles reporting the latest news headlines today e.g. men aren’t essential, LGBTQ can be capable and good parents – who needs a man?, it’s okay for a man to compete in sports as a woman, marriage between a man and a woman isn’t necessary, etc. No man or manmade bandaid has all the answers to ‘fix’ all the tragic consequences of what we have permitted in our apathetic culture to ‘fix’ these guys…only God can and my prayers go out to all of them for continued courage and truth to help them find their way to fulfill their life purpose.

  • GPS Daddy

    We are living in an age where the clearly obvious is thrown out without a second thought. In addition to this how previous generations understood life is seen as backwards and archaic. It seems that only the negative is seem from those that preceded those currently alive. Our scientific knowledge has yielded very little true knowledge.

  • eddiestardust

    When contemporary culture says “You don’t have the right to an American job but foreigners have a right to those jobs” what do you think will happen?

  • Jim Walker

    When we want to give our kids a better life, we are actually destroying our future.
    There has to be restrictions to what the kids want. The importance of self control, the “its more blessed to give than to receive” etc…
    Imagine when one generation give their kids a better life than they had, this new generation continues the same, and presto, we have now have kids fed with instant gratification. I can’t imagine how will their kids behave…

  • blackfeather

    they would do better without the “demasculinazation” that goes on every day by ads on tv and femenist man haters. “Just give dad the remote”…notice in most ads the “guy” or “boyfriend” or “husband” doesn’t “get” what the product is or how it works…the “kids” or the “female” has the answer and “knowledge” to the “problem” that is presented in the beginning of the “ad”….

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