As a parent, it is hard enough to stay ahead of my children’s simmering resentment. If they get a clear grasp of the statistics behind my headline, I’ll never make up the lost ground.
Is It Really That Bad?
Obesity rates are at epidemic levels and increasing at a faster rate among the young. The misguided and corrupt advice on nutrition provided by corporate interests and those who serve as their surrogates (like the USDA) combined with the lack of access to resources and honest information on nutrition and food politics means there is little hope for change.
Recent studies show that the “emotional health” of college students is at a 25-year low. Anyone who really knows college students knows that the free trade at colleges in Adderall and Ritalin is only the tip of the iceberg. Academic and social pressure increase at an even faster rate than the number of students who enter college needing remediation. Depression is projected to be the 2nd leading cause of disability by the year 2020.
Job prospects are worse than at any time since the Great Depression. Eight million jobs have disappeared in the past three years with no sign that they will reappear as companies park their money on the sidelines and send whatever roles they can overseas. People continue to delude themselves that the charter school movement will fire the silver bullet that will make our kids competitive in an international marketplace. The tremendous increase in income disparity over just the last few years means that we have built an economic system that no longer values real economic contribution, talent, hard work, or entrepreneurialism.
Some kids may escape the trifecta – particularly when it comes to the “poor” part for the children of the Billionaire Boys Club (thank you, Joe D’Angelo for the reference!). This demographic also has the resources to pursue appropriate nutrition. It also helps that body image and shame are taught by their parents as part of the syllabus of entitlement. Now, the crazy part…. that’s a different story.
For Anyone Who Cares
I have a few humble suggestions for anyone who wants to lean into the wind and maybe salvage something in the coming years. I’ve got a mixed audience so this is for young people and for those who care about them. The points are kind of general but some people will get it and hey, I am around for anyone wanting to go more in depth.
Young people will first need to cultivate the quality of courage. This may have to be done “on the job.” It’s a quality that can be developed. The more you have in the bank, the more resilient you will be.
It really is true that “it’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you feel about what happens that matters.” Whether it’s growing muscles, getting a tan, developing callouses, or maintaining your integrity – stress should be welcomed. Don’t ask for things to be easier; seek to make yourself better and more skilled. Here are a few other suggestions:
- redefine success
- make yourself useful (see Robert Heinlein on the problem of specialization)
- get clear on your values
- look for ways to start and strengthen community; be open to looking for it in places where it might not normally exist
- develop a growth mindset (see the work of Carol Dweck)
- build your decision-making muscle
- decide what you will tolerate
- embrace this unique opportunity to be defined by your humanity instead of your role
- understand that biography is not destiny
- be careful who you allow to populate your private universe
- take responsibility for your physical health (I’ve been shocked at the lies and misinformation I discovered we are being told about nutrition)
- Choose your focus carefully – even in the small things
- You determine the meaning of anything you focus on
- Be the proof that strangers do care
- Develop an entrepreneurial mindset even if you’re stuck in a cubicle
- Look for opportunities for growth in everything you do
- Seek connection
- Give yourself to something greater than yourself
Following this path won’t get you the private jet share, the $4 million house (notice I didn’t say “home”), the 2 or 3 luxury vehicles, or the fancy vacations. You will: gain peace of mind, serve as a model for the next generation, attract a better class of people, live with integrity, have a clear conscience, be a leader, value simplicity, be closer to the Truth, live the way God intended for us to live. In any event, it’s better than dying a quiet life of insignificance or, worse, selling out.