Being A Successful Young Man In the 21st Century
We’re a little over a decade into the new millennium, and so far, it’s off to a rough start. Perpetual warfare and an economic downturn will likely be what historians remember from this generation. Unemployment is at levels not seen since the Great Depression and inflation rates continue to climb steadily. The future of America will undoubtedly be different from the one our parents and grandparents grew up in. Social Security isn’t going to be a foregone conclusion anymore, and the age of retirement is likely to increase.
With these conditions in mind, it doesn’t help that so many people are looking for work. It used to be go to college, get a degree, and your employment was all but guaranteed for the next couple of decades (if not the rest of your career). Unfortunately, the paradigm is shifting. The pieces of paper you get from a university are inflating as quickly as the U.S. dollar. A bachelor’s degree has rapidly become the equivalent of a high-school diploma.
The perspective from the post-school, 20-something American male is one that needs to be reconciled. On the one hand, many of us have aspirations of fulfilling the same roles as the patriarchs before us; to own a home & raise a family. Expectations from outside our group reinforce these ideals. On the other, we have to compete for what little work prospective employers are still offering, and doing so often means living a life from one pay-day to the next. We barely have time to think about grocery shopping, much less a future child’s college fund.
From the standpoint of an employer, the masses all look the same. There’s little to separate the quality workers from the flakes because we all live in the same economic climate. I say this because I was stuck in the unemployment rut for the better part of 4 years. I’ve been fortunate to land a job where I make roughly $35,000 a year with full-benefits working only 40-45 hours a week. I’m certainly not rich, and I don’t intend this to be a blueprint of how to make a 6-figure income. What I hope to do is reach the guys out there who are in the same shoes I was in. Guys with a work ethic who just aren’t quite sure how to stand out.
1. Take Care of Yourself
It’s my belief that health & vitality does much more to transcend relationships than what people give it credit for. It’s not that it’s hard to be healthy (certainly, the work on this site is dedicated to showing how being healthy is easy), but most people don’t possess the care and/or wherewithal to be healthy. If you show up to an interview with good posture, clear skin, and a healthy body composition, it immediately conveys a few attributes. First, it shows self-worth & confidence. Second, it portrays a work-ethic, and third, it means you’re less likely to become a liability (get sick or injured and end up missing work).
A healthy lifestyle based around quality movement & healthy eating is the way to go. No grooming products can do as much for you as building a quality base in wellness. Stay hydrated, eat your fruits & vegetables, walk more, & start a basic strength-training program.
2. Present Yourself Well
This feeds back into taking care of yourself from the start, but making sure you’re presented well reinforces the qualities a healthy lifestyle establishes. What this doesn’t mean is going out and wasting a whole bunch of money on every grooming product under the sun or the most expensive sets of clothes you can find. Be yourself, and let your presentation reflect your personality. But, don’t let it reflect your personality on your bad days. Instead, let it convey your best side; be confident in your presentation in every setting you find yourself in.
Having a healthy, functional body is one of the best starts. In addition, buy clothes that fit properly. Most men are in the habit of buying clothes 1 or 2 sizes too large (probably out of ego), and this can lead to a sloppy appearance, even if that suit cost you $600. Find a quality clothing manufacturer that you like and find the sizes that fit you properly. (Most of the leading men in Hollywood don’t wear above a medium for reference.) You can still feel free to wear t-shirts & jeans when you’re just hanging with your buds, but get well-made items with proper fit (the ladies will notice too).
If you think you can’t afford nice clothes, save your money until holiday seasons come around. All the major department stores have substantial sales at these times of year, so it’s easy to find stuff for 50%, 60%, or 70% off (I’ve never paid more than $75 for a sport coat or jacket).
As young men, we have a myriad of both head & facial hair styles to explore, most of which can be worn with confidence in any setting from a board meeting, a first date, & a Superbowl party. Figure out which you like best. Whatever you’re comfortable with, make sure to stay on top of your grooming. Even if you wear facial hair, pull your razor or trimmer out every 1 or 2 days and fine tune it. Make a point of visiting your barber on a regular basis as well, or if you’re like me, learn to cut your own hair and save the money.
Where lifestyle practices establish an individual’s value, one’s wardrobe & grooming take the extra step to portray it. Just like you’re worth the time to stay healthy & fit, you’re also worth the money to keep quality clothes & hygiene.
3. Develop Your Skills
I think one of the big problems that keeps people from moving ahead in times like these is that they aren’t bold. Everybody’s concerned with just getting by (and rightly so), but it tends to limit one’s pursuit of their talents and passions because they feel they’re a luxury. I disagree. The people who are looking for jobs are looking in the general sector, the areas that require no special abilities. Because of this inundation, the general sector has no room.
However, what this means otherwise is that jobs that require special abilities are open, and that there is a lack of people to fill them. Whatever it is you love to do, do it. If you can afford to pursue it academically, great, but even if you can’t, do it for its own sake. If you couple dedication to your craft with a quality presentation of both your work & yourself, somebody’s going to notice.
Instead of being looked upon as fodder like the masses, you’ll develop your own social fingerprint that’s unique to your skill set.
4. Put Yourself Out There
Don’t wait for people to come to you. Instead develop your eye to spot opportunities. The best definition of luck I’ve ever heard is, “when preparation meets opportunity.” So if you’ve been putting effort into your well-being as well as your skills, create your own opportunities for people to see you shine. Somebody’s bound to notice. Even if it means no immediate monetary gain, you’ll be building relationships with people, and no better recommendation comes than word-of-mouth.
If you’re doing what you love, you’ll enjoy doing it whether you get paid or not; let your passion come through in each opportunity you have to practice your abilities. Everybody recognizes passion, and people will reward you for it in whatever way they’re able to. For some, it may be just a “thank you”. Others, it might be a paycheck. Appreciate their generosity equally.
5. Stay Humble
It’s important to know what you’re capable of on any given day (and to be confident in it), but at the same time, there’s probably another person who’s able to do what you do better than you. Where many become threatened with competition, those who succeed continually strive to get better. The people out there who have a skill set more developed than yours are your mentors, and it’s up to you to seek out the knowledge they have to offer you.
6. Speak Well
Choice-of-words cannot be underestimated. The more you’re able to articulate your thoughts accurately, the better you can communicate with those around you. In regards to your abilities, articulation shows that you have grasp on what you do beyond the general standard.
7. Be Happy (And Show It)
One thing that feeling good and having fun always leads to is happiness. Carry it with you so others can see it. A lot of people have reason to be distressed with the economy the way it is, and apathy just doesn’t come across well in an interview. Seeing someone who’s happy means you’re seeing someone who’s not confound to the circumstances the rest of the world places on them. It means they’re in control of their lives, and that takes effort and responsibility.
Nothing conveys happiness like a smile. If you’re genuinely happy, you probably won’t even have to try. But even on the days where things aren’t going as well as they could, put a smile on. It’ll make your interactions throughout the day more positive (and maybe one of those could be the start of your career or with your future spouse).
Until next time…
Keep it strong, keep it vegan.