The Hidden Years
Today, I want to focus on a season of men’s lives that our culture doesn’t handle well. It’s a long “stretch” of our early adult lives, between the late 20s through to the mid-40s.
We’ve been reading the book “Leadership In Turbulent Times,” in our online mastermind groups. It’s challenged me to think more deeply about the spiritual and emotional states of men. This isn’t meant to exclude women … I’ve just noticed this is very common in the masculine journey.
The season usually starts when a man establishes a career, gets married and starts a family. Depending on the man, it can be a big adjustment.
I’ve talked to my share of men in this stage of life, and most of them struggle to understand why life’s “difficulty level” went 10X, and nobody told them.
Two presidents profiled in this book come to mind. We know a lot about the last five years of Abraham Lincoln’s life, but if you were to study it around his early 30s, you’d be amazed.
At age 32, Lincoln withdrew from a decade in Illinois politics. A recession had set in, and his vision for building the state’s infrastructure had crashed. He called off engagement to his future wife, Mary Todd, because he struggled to earn enough income to support a family. He sank into a deep, dark depression for several years.
Wow, does this sound like the Lincoln we’re told about, who led the Union to victory in the Civil War and freed slaves?
Don’t worry, it gets better. In fact, as time passed, it reads like a success story from one of our mastermind groups. Lincoln found a coach and mentor in his law partner, William Herndon, and a business mastermind as a member of Illinois’ traveling legal circuit.
In those days, lawyers, judges and bailiffs would travel from town to town to hold court and decide cases. Among his peers, Lincoln sharpened his skills discussing, debating and understanding legal issues. He continued with his lifelong passion of reading, learning and thinking about everything under the sun.
By the time he reentered politics in the mid-1850s, Lincoln was much more in command, of himself and his audience.
President Theodore Roosevelt, meanwhile, got sidetracked by the deaths of his mother and his wife on the same day. Eventually, the emotional turmoil became too strong, and Roosevelt made choices that cost him a lot of political capital. He retreated from politics in 1884 and went to spend a couple of years on a ranch he owned in North Dakota.
Roosevelt gathered a group similar to the masterminds online we have today. None of these men were experts in frontier life. They were simply men of character, willing to go along for the ride. They pledged friendship and shared struggle to each other, and their maturing work began.
Roosevelt arrived in North Dakota depressed and melancholy. But he threw himself into the life of a frontier cowboy. Read this commentary from Bill Sewall, one of his companions:
“When he first arrived, he was a frail young man, troubled by bouts of breathlessness and chronic stomach pains. When he got back into the world he was as husky as any man I have ever seen who wasn’t dependent on his arms for his livelihood. He had gained 30 pounds and was clear bone, muscle and grit.”
Roosevelt got knocked down by a horrible turn of events that would give anyone reason to run for the hills. And he ran for a while, but he didn’t stay there. It was a season of preparation for him to take on much larger roles and responsibilities.
In addition to battling career and family obstacles, both Lincoln and Roosevelt struggled with depression and negativity. They were both “exiled” from their careers in politics, and felt the sting of being unable to have an impact on the world around them.
One of the worst blows to a man’s spirit is when he feels like his life and actions don’t matter. Author Morgan Snyder pointed out, mens’ thirties are usually when they discover their lives and choices are both important and unimportant.
Your choices are important, because your life is no longer “just you.” There’s now a wife and children involved. Maybe there are also employees, and every decision you make carries consequences that affect them.
But your choices are also unimportant, because the only “choice” you can make is the one prescribed to us in the Bible: sacrificial love. Younger men accustomed to coming and going as they please find this one difficult. Some of them feel like their wives and the world oppose everything they want to do.
It isn’t very different in the professional world. If you own a business, you struggle to get the market to pay attention and pay for what you provide. If you’re working a job, you might feel undervalued or have a difficult boss. As a Christian life coach, I’ve watched many men go through this season. I don’t miss these parts of it.
The Apple and The Tree
In the Bible, there’s a passage in the book of Zechariah that says, “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.” My counsel to younger men in this stage is to work diligently, in the shadows, with a good attitude.
There’s an initiation going on, to see if you can be faithful with small things. It’s only by showing as much concern over details of a job you hate, that you can get promoted or recruited into one you love.
Only with the help of business coaches or masterminds online, can you keep yourself free from the pitfalls of pride as an entrepreneur. You might end up making a lot of money, but that’s no good if you come home with full pockets to an empty house.
If this is ringing your bell, the time is right for you to stop walking alone and join a mastermind group. We have openings for men, women and young men ages 20-25, and I encourage you to stop by our website and apply today.