“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” – Abraham Lincoln
America and the western world is in a very ironic predicament. On one hand we have more men going through the process by which they have been told they can be successful in life — grade school to college — and yet we find more men returning to their parents after graduating. However, failing to launch is not just about college to career, it is about ambition and aspiration, or the lack thereof, in many areas of life and has become a particular area of concern for men.
While there are many symptoms of “Failure to Launch” I believe there is a common root which very few have addressed. Here are some thoughts from one man to another.
What are the Symptoms?
The term “Failure to Launch” is typically used to describe the “boomerang kids” which return home after college. While there can be periods in the economy when the job market for the given college major is no longer available after graduation, the failing to launch we are seeing has become an unhealthy trend and affects a number of areas in life, and, it is not just and issue for 20-somethings.
Moving Back in with Parents
As already noted, this is one of the first signs of failing to launch. Coming back home while transitioning to a job is no big deal, but when we move back in with our parents with no clear time line, or motivation, for getting out on our own, this is a problem.
No Career Path
It is one thing to have a job and another to have a career. A career is a profession in which you want to grow in and up the ladder as you mature. A job is just something to pay the bills. Guys without a mind towards a profession for which they can pursue and grow — be it blue-collar, white-collar, or no-collar — are generally not future oriented, but rather living in the now.
Lack of Aspiration and Motivation
As men, we should be setting forth goals in our lives. Goals in marriage, having a family, maturing as men, and bow hunting, etc. That is aspiration. Motivation plays a part in both setting and achieving the goals. We are seeing an unmanly lack in both areas.
Inability to Commit in Relationships
This is a big one. Men are failing to commit to marriage in droves, and women are allowing it to happen. Don’t get me wrong. If you aren’t ready to get married, don’t force it. But if you aren’t ready to get married, don’t get in a relationship that is just going to drag out indefinitely. More on this below.
Listless and Lethargic
This may be the defining characteristic of those failing to launch. It isn’t that they don’t have the opportunities to move forward, it is that they really don’t care to move forward or move in general. The idea of work, especially of starting at the bottom and working their way up, makes them weak in the knees. Comfort seems to rule their lives, and unfortunately, comfort comes all too easily.
How Did We Get Here?
How is it that we have more opportunity to succeed in every natural talent imaginable yet have more men coming back home to live with mom and dad? Back in the day, if art was your God-given talent and passion, you would be hard pressed to find a serious career in that field. Now, however, art, music, baking, blue-collar or white, there is something for everyone and each field has room to grow.
I think there are a few main reasons we are seeing this trend.
We Have Been Taught that Happiness is the Goal of Life
There are questions a boy ought to be encouraged to ask and be given an earnest answer: “Why am I here? What is this life all about? What good am I to do?” Yet, in the most recent generations, kids have not been encouraged to ask these questions. And when they do, how do parents and teachers answer? If they say, “You were created by a loving God, to love Him and your neighbor as yourself,” that may forever impress some ‘nonsense‘ upon the naïve mind. Yet, if they say “You are a cosmic accident and life has no true meaning,” they recognize that may come off a bit too nihilistic and thus may depress the child. So they say, “Some people believe this and some believe that…” and the rest of the child’s life is spent looking for an answer for which companies are all to eager to confidently rejoin, “Happiness. That is what you are after. And we have it.”
Up until and through college, or from boyhood to manhood, a boy’s steps are guided. “Happiness is this way,” he is told and so off he goes. But when he gets out on his own the pressure mounts considerably. Happiness, his life’s purpose and meaning, is bound up in some serious decisions he has to make: What job will he have? Is this the right girl to marry? Is it the right time to become a father? Further complicating the situation, the larger decisions often mean sacrificing current pleasures with no guarantee as to when they might be able to be enjoyed again. He is bound by fear; intimidated by his own comprehension of his lack of manhood and the weight of the decisions before him.
Life is Too Easy at Home
It used to be that life at home was a bit uncomfortable past a certain age. People shared a phone, television, refrigerator, cars, not to mention you were still bound by the rules of the house. However, technology has progressed to such a degree that people can live very separate lives under the same roof. Without the pressure of a growing family, there is little pressure at home to push children out the door.
How We Get Our Ambition Back?
“Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.” – Orison Swett Marden, American Inspirational Author, 1848-1924
Answer the High Call of Manful Living
The first step in developing ambition is to answer the questions, “What am I here for? What is this life all about?” I firmly believe this is a question common to all mankind, deeply rooted in our humanity just as a bird’s instinct to fly south for the winter. It stands to reason, then, that if we did not create the question, we cannot provide the answer; it must come from outside of ourselves, from the Creator not from the created. Thankfully, we have an answer:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8, The Bible, ESV
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13, The Bible, ESV
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31, The Bible, ESV
The answers we find in the Bible are different than many have come to on their own. They take the focus off of ourselves and our personal happiness and puts the focus on God and others. The pressure, therefore, is no longer on making the right decisions which lead to personal fulfillment and happiness, rather, it is simply a matter of moving forward towards some good with the hope and expectations of great things.
Get Out of the House, Commit, Take a Leap of Faith
If you are a parent reading this, stop making it easy for your kids to stay in your life! If you are a man-aged boy that is living with his parents, grow up and get on with your life! Commit to that girl or call it off until you are ready to be the man who will commit! Find a job where some good can be done and get after it! Finding what you love to do or what you absolutely hate doing is still progress. If you are not moving forward with your life, you are wasting it. Don’t let the rust of a listless life come upon you!
“There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.” – Orison Swett Marden, American Inspirational Author, 1848-1924
Live the adventurous life! Dream. Imagine. Don’t wait for it to come to you and don’t settle for what you have been sold and continue to buy. Take up the High Calling and go and live your life.