In a survey conducted on the TED website after the presentation of the research for the 'Demise of Guys,' young men noted the top 4 reasons they felt that young men were not motivated:
1. Conflicting messages from media, institutions, parents and peers about acceptable male behavior (63%)
2. No clear direction/Lack of Goal Setting (59%)
3. Digital Entertainment (i.e. video games and pornography) (56%)
4. Pressure to perform combined with fear of failing causes young men not to bother trying in the first place (53%)
There is not one reader of this blog that does not know a young man with immense potential but minuscule motivation. I grew up seeing the signs across Chicago and Atlanta that a "mind is a terrible thing to waste." The reality of our situation today is that many female minds are not wasted, but many male minds are. For the next 4 weeks, I want to explore and address these top four reasons why young men are not motivated, as noted by young men themselves.
Conflicting messages naturally lead to confusion. Confusion leads to indecisiveness and virtual paralysis. Then why should we be surprised to discover that guys are on the demise? Most men are confused as to what is expected of them. We are told to be gentlemen but yet chivalry suggests that women are weaker and is subsequently spawned. I recall during my undergraduate years at Eastern Michigan University a circumstance that illustrates this well.
While walking with a female classmate, who was shaping up to be a very good friend and academic peer motivator, we approached a set of closed double doors. As we drew nearer, I sped my step up a bit to reach the door first in order to open it for her and be the "gentlemen" I was also counseled to be. As I held the door, her eyes burned with indignation as she quipped, "I don't need you to open my door for me." I quietly replied, "It's no problem, I really don't mind." She became more adamant that I should walk on and she would open the door herself. As I walked through that door and watched it creak slowly closed behind me, the click of its closure seemed to not only separate us physically, but on a personal and emotional level. I felt my own anger emerge as I thought to myself, "Fine! Open your own doors!" and slam the door shut. Thankfully I did not behave according to my feelings.
Institutionally, think of the contrasts. We are offered condoms for free from hospitals but always reminded the statistical stigma that men think about sex 3-5x more than women and that we are all dogs. We are told that masturbation is normal for any adolescent but then we are shamedwhen we become husbands and fathers for being addicted to pornography. We are constantly bombarded with the acceptable notions of "open relationships," only to flip the channel and watch a governor or celebrity lambasted for unfaithfulness to his wife.
It is clear, that both our fathers and society have failed us. They have failed to pass on the heritage of manhood and powerful narratives to inspire us to higher heights than ever achieved hitherto. It has now devolved upon us as men to define ourselves. My father told me a saying he once heard in the navy, "If you look around and see no one you're willing to follow, then you're the leader." Thus, conflicting messages about acceptable male behavior should make us motivated men. Motivated by the lack of a clearly defined standard and thus becoming trailblazers amidst our own time. Motivated by the power that rests in our hands to repair a breach and raise the standard of many generations. There is no doubt that male heroes have existed, for we have holidays to celebrate their lives and contributions to the movement of society and the world. Should we inherit their stories only to accomplish less than them? Our inheritance should make us motivated men.
Let's first begin by taking inventory of men in the history of the world and our own lives. Men who have demonstrated character, conviction, and commanded respect. Imitation is always the first step to learning. Let us question the assumptions that underlie the presentations of masculinity though the media, institutions or our peers. Lastly, let us commit to no excuses. If you are a confused man, there is no sense blaming others for a problem that you, yourself, can solve. Let's take ownership. Let's man up!