in: Advice, Character, Podcast

• Last updated: July 2, 2023

Podcast #158: The Prime of Life — What It Means to Be an Adult

During the past thirty or so years, the definition of what it means to be an adult has undergone a radical transformation. Where there were once clear markers of adulthood (get a well-paying job, get married, have kids) there are now fuzzy boundaries. It’s not uncommon to find 30-somethings muse, “Am I an adult yet?”

And while we think that our ancestors weren’t plagued with this question, history tells a different story. Steven Mintz, a professor of history at the University of Texas, shows in his book, The Prime of Life: A History of Modern Adulthoodthat what it means to be an adult in the West has been in constant flux since the 1500s. Today on the podcast, Professor Mintz and I discuss how society’s concept of adulthood has changed throughout the centuries and what we can learn from our ancestors about navigating the sometimes uncertain waters of being a grown-up.

Show Highlights

  • Why historians ignore the history of adulthood
  • How the post-WWII idea of adulthood (own a house, be married, have kids by your mid-20s) is an anomaly in the history of adulthood in the West
  • When adulthood started getting a bad rap
  • The tearing down of the wall between adult and youth culture during the 1980s and 1990s
  • How economics guides our conception of adulthood
  • How colleges protract adulthood and extend adolescence
  • How adult friendships have changed throughout history
  • How our approach to work shapes notions of adulthood
  • The angst of adulthood
  • How you know when you’re a grown man
  • And much more!

Prime of Life by Steven Mintz, Book cover.

The Prime of Life is an in-depth, whirlwind tour of the history of every aspect of adult life from love and marriage, to work, to friendship. I certainly learned a lot about how adulthood has changed, as well as got some great insights about how I can live a more complete and full adult life.


Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. I’d say in the past 40, 30 years there’s been a transformation going on in the west, particularly in the United States, about what it means to be a grown up. I’m talking grown man, grown woman, because there used to be these scripts that you would follow. You’d met these certain markers and that would mean you were an adult, but nowadays those scripts have been thrown out the window and it’s sort of confusing for you young people to figure out “Am I a grown up now or am I in this in between phase? Am I adolescent?” It’s really confusing.

My guest today takes us on this whirlwind tour of the history of modern adulthood going all the way back to the 1500s. We can see how adulthood or the concept of adulthood has changed throughout time and perhaps give us some insights on how young people can navigate adulthood in the 21st century. His name is Steven Mintz, he’s a professor of history at the University of Texas. He wrote a book called The Prime of Life, a History of Modern Adulthood. Today on the podcast we’re going to discuss what it means to be an adult, whether working, owning a home, kids, marriage, the gamut. We’re going to talk about it, really interesting discussion. Without further ado Steven Mintz and The Prime of Life.

Steven Mintz, welcome to the show.

Steven Mintz: Thank you for inviting me.

Brett McKay: Your book is The Prime of Life, a History of Adulthood. You mention in the book, and you’re right about this, that there hasn’t really been a history of modern adulthood in the west written. There’s been a lot of books about childhood or adolescence but not adulthood. Why do you think that is? Even though this is a big part of our life, adulthood, we don’t really pay much attention to it.

Steven Mintz: No one says life begins at 40 anymore, at least not without irony. Whether you’re young or you’re middle aged or older, there’s tremendous amount of ambivalence about adulthood because adulthood is associated with slowing down, with being in a rut, with stagnation and above all with stress.

Brett McKay: So no one wants to talk about that.

Steven Mintz: No one wants to be it, at least as it was, quote on quote, traditionally defined. By traditionally defined I mean in the early 20th century.

Brett McKay: Yeah, let’s talk about that because I feel like there’s a lot of hand wringing going on today in the media, books are written about it, about boomerang kids, how young people aren’t transitioning to adulthood. But it seems like this idea that we have of adulthood came from the post world war II era, which was you graduate high school, you go to college and then you buy a house, get married, have kids and you’re an adult. That’s no longer the case, becoming an adult has become much more protracted. But what I think is interesting, in your book you show that this post world war II idea of adulthood, is almost an exception to the rule of how people became adults in modern times in the west. Can you explain what the varying ideas of adulthood have been throughout history before world war II?

Steven Mintz: It’s of course utterly shocking to think that the typical American woman in 1970, we’re not talking about the distant past but 1970, was married by the age of 21. Her husband was typically married by the age of 23. By the middle 20s these young people had 2 or 3 kids, they had a house, they had a job that they were intending to stay in for the rest of their lives. That image of adulthood has become the kind of norm that many today feel we’re deviating from, but of course it’s anything but a timeless norm. The fact is that throughout American history, and really indeed throughout western history, growing up has been a protracted and difficult process. There is nothing unique about how difficult it is to grow up today.

Furthermore in that earlier world adulthood was not frowned upon, adulthood was something aspired to. Hard as it is to believe, people wanted to look older not younger in the past. They associated adulthood not with settling down but rather with maturity, responsibility, worldliness, knowing-ness. In other words what I’ll call the Cary Grant version or the Katharine Hepburn version of adulthood, something to aspire to not something to recoil from.

Brett McKay: What happened? What sort of cultural, sociological, I’m sure economic changes, it’s very complex but why did our view of adulthood as something to aspire too, transitioned to something like “Man, I’m going to go get plastic surgery, I’m going to get rid of the crows fit and I’m going to get a tummy tuck and I’m going to buy the Ferrari.” What happened?

Steven Mintz: Partly for very good reasons, that is the image of adulthood increasingly became a kind of straight jacket. What I mean by that is individuals were finding it more and more difficult to live lives that they themselves found to be fulfilling. This was of course particularly true for women. Women who married at the age of 19 or 20 had 3 children by the time they were 25, this was the generation that divorced at extremely high rates. They found that life constraining.

But there’s something else going on and that’s really the triumph of youth culture. It’s hard to remember but up until the late 1950s or early 1960s adult culture dominated American tastes, Nat King Cole or Pat Boone were still at the top of the charts at the end of the 1950s, but what happened of course because we all experienced this is that youth culture became much more attractive and utterly displaced that more traditional adult culture, which anyway adults were retreating from in the face of television suburban living and the like.

Brett McKay: Interesting, that’s why today you’ll have parents and children who have the same musical taste, they’ll both love rock bands for example.

Steven Mintz: Which is extraordinarily shocking to me. I was born in 1953 and my father, who participated in world war II, that experience seemed immensely remote from me.

Brett McKay: That was like the …

Steven Mintz: Where my children are way further from the Vietnam war and yet I expect them to be aware of it.

Brett McKay: Yeah. That theme, that breakdown between generations was the theme of a lot of movies in the 1950s, right? Like Rebel Without a Cause where you have the angsty James Dean, “It’s breaking me up, you don’t understand me.” That’s what it was like but it’s not so much like that anymore.

Steven Mintz: I think you’re exactly right but the psychological consequences are think are interesting. That is, it’s become more difficult for young people to cut the umbilical cord and truly establish and independent identity. If your culture is quote on quote derivative of your parents culture, if your parents are in constant touch with you, which in many ways is a good thing but it’s complicated of course psychologically, how do you develop an independent identity where you do it often in transgressive ways that aren’t positive.

Some of the transgressions are pretty minor, tattooing, body piercing and the like. Some of the transgressions are a little more significant, of which the challenges of growing up, of assuming financial responsibility for one self for example have become more difficult.

Brett McKay: I thought it was interesting, in your first chapter you discuss the life stages, that we’ve tried to break down life into different stages. You talk about some famous people who didn’t have what we call the traditional transition in adulthood where they left mom and dad, started life on their own and that was it. There were a lot of famous boomerang kids even in the 19th century. I guess one of them was Henry David Thoreau, was one. He left his parents’ house then came back. Was the reason why we transitioned to this idea of you graduate high school, you graduate college, you’re on your own, was it because of economics really? That you could get a job that could support you and a person, and before world war II and now it’s much more harder to land a job quickly that can sustain you and another family?

Steven Mintz: Let me offer a somewhat different perspective. We in many ways have juvenilized the young. What I mean about that, that seems contradictory, right? They have sex younger, they’re more likely to take drugs or to drink. How could it that we’ve juvenilized them? We expect children to stay home till the age of 18, this was scarcely true in the past. Kids left home, came back, left home, came back. Let me give a couple of examples. Mark Twain’s father died when he was 12, he then went to work, he worked in St. Louis, he worked in Washington DC, he worked in New York City, he worked in Keokuk Iowa. All by the age of 18. It would be hard to imagine a parent allowing anything like that.

Or take Herman Melville, by the age of 21, his father went insane when he was 12, he left home. He worked as a cabin boy on a whaling ship. He jumped ship, he was captured by cannibals, he somehow escaped, he made his way home at the age of 21. These are extraordinary experiences. When Melville writes in Moby Dick that “A whaling ship was my Harvard and my Yale college” he’s not kidding. That is at ages when we expect kids to be in a protected, secure environment in close touch with their parents, kids showed remarkable independence. Now that independence was punctuated by return home which had its own psychological consequences, but they assumed that young people had a certain kind of fortitude and independence that we do not assume today.

Brett McKay: You talk about this in your book as well, about how college has changed in the past 30, 20 years. Where it’s become much more encompassing, basically you transition from one set parents to parents that are college bureaucrats essentially.

Steven Mintz: We think of college as a transitional space, it’s a coming of age experience for many young people. Nowhere is this more evident than in drinking. We, at least legally, bar drinking prior to the age of 21 so college becomes the place where many kids learn to drink and over drink. It’s an interesting environment. I grew up in the generation that overthrew what used to be called parietals, a word that doesn’t exist anymore. These were rules like 3 feet on the floor if a woman was in your dorm room, or that the dorm room door had to be open the size of a waste basket at all times. It’s almost impossible for students today to imagine that there was a world like that, where women had to check into their dorm at night and that there were curfews for women, there were not for men. It’s an extraordinary story about how that got overthrown. What an irony that parents who themselves threw off all kinds of constraints are placing new constraints on their own kids.

Brett McKay: Yeah, why do you think that is? Is it just that maybe the parents saw what the freedom was like and they said “That’s not that great, I remember the dumb things that I did when I was a kid and I don’t want my kid to do that”?

Steven Mintz: I think that’s part of it but the big thing is that parenting in general has become much more anxiety ridden. The anxieties begin even before a child is born. We have the capability in pregnancy of testing for over 700 conditions. We can treat a handful of those conditions. The effect of this is to scare prospective parents to death. Then after the child is born, we have fears that date from the 1970s of all kinds of horrible things that can happen to your kid. Stranger abduction, abuse in daycare centers or even in churches. All of this creates an atmosphere of anxiety, and that has then been reinforced by an increasingly entrepreneurial, competitive economy. An economy where many parents feel that if they don’t give their own child a leg up, their kid will fail in the race to success. There is a view, I think, among many parents today that their child is a project to be perfected and other people’s children are problems that need to be dealt with.

Brett McKay: I’m wondering, maybe there hasn’t been research done on this, but the result of that, what you said earlier is that we’re juvenilizing adults or young adults in a way because of this.

Steven Mintz: This of course makes it much more difficult to develop the kind independence that this society demands, but also that’s necessary for the kind of maturation that people need to go through. It is not easy to throw away all the supports of life, not easy to throw away the roadmap and rule book and to chart one’s own destiny but that’s what somebody needs to do. If parents are always there to cushion the blows how can you develop that kind of radical independence that this society really does require? It often comes in traumatic ways, where kids who have not been accustomed to failure or stress experience it in devastating ways.

Brett McKay: Yeah, you’re seeing some of the consequences today of increased suicide, depression, anxiety amongst young people. I’m sure a lot of that has been contributed by their parents being overprotective of them and micromanaging their life so they can get a leg up.

Steven Mintz: One of the great ironies in medical history is the reason that polio became a terrible problem in the 1950s was that parents were cleaning their house more than ever in the past. Polio had always been prevalent but when you get it when you’re extremely young, in infancy or very early childhood, it doesn’t leave any lasting effects in general. But when it’s delayed it has horrible consequences. I would suggest that this is a kind of analogy, that increasing independence at an early age has good consequences at later ages. Let me give one more example, in many quote on quote underdeveloped societies kids do chores at extraordinarily young ages, 2 or 3. The children are often terrible at those chores but parents have them do those chores because they know kids at that age want to help out and if they do it at that age, they will help out later.

We wait and then we have to force kids to do chores which they do only in the most resistant manner possible. We wind up and we’re trying to help them, we’re trying to protect them, we’re trying to free them but sometimes things work out exactly the opposite of what we hope. You said something earlier that I want to elaborate on briefly. By almost every measure kids are better off today. Their crime rates are down, smoking’s down, test scores are up, graduation rates are up. They’re better of in almost every way, except the ways that matter. We have depression beginning at much earlier ages. We have kids showing signs of stress, debilitating stress at very early ages. We have growing numbers of kids who seem to have difficulties in interpersonal relationships. You could be better off in the ways we can easily count and still be worse off in the ways that really matter.

Brett McKay: I’m curious if you came across this in your research, do you think there is going to be a generational backlash? What I mean by that is kids my age, I guess I’m not a kid I’m 32 years old, coming up on 33, I have my own kids, but millennials who were raised by baby boomer parents who were helicopter and really micromanage their life, do you think these millennials who are starting to have kids are going to swing in the opposite direction and be a little more free, not as micromanaging with their kid’s life?

Steven Mintz: John Edwards the failed presidential candidate, disgraced presidential candidate, spoke of 2 Americas. Increasingly we’re seeing 2 Americas with very different life trajectories and it’s very much rooted in education and class. It is not an accident that 80% of the kids in the Ivy league have 2 parents who’ve never been divorced, which is wholly unlike the rest of society. We have a more affluent, better educated population that leads a much more stable lifestyle and that has lots of resources to shower on its children and has sufficient money to deal with the work family tensions that beset everybody.

Then we have another very large segment of the population that lives amid a kind of swirl of relationships, that has a lot of instability in their lives, that live paycheck to paycheck but sometimes that paycheck’s not there. We’re increasingly seeing these 2 routes through adulthood. It’s scary because as a society we know how much this society has depended on a stable family network to help us when we’re old. If you don’t have that who’s going to take care of you?

Brett McKay: Yeah. That’s a great point. Basically today we have 2 trajectories…all depends on social class, or economic class.

Steven Mintz: Let me give you an example that I know well, which involves higher education. In higher education all the benefits flow to having a bachelor’s degree and increasingly having a master’s degree or some other professional degree. The benefits only come if you have a degree, but of all the kids who enter college only a little less than 60% will ever get a college degree. It’s much, much worse at community colleges where the overwhelming majority of students who enter a community college will never get an associate’s degree. All these kids are getting is debt. Now there’s been a lot of talk about debt but debt can be a good investment, all of us go into debt to buy a house, often to buy a car because we view it as a investment in our future. College debt is a real problem, not for people who graduate from name brand institutions, they’ll be able to pay off their debts. The Obamas didn’t do so poorly. But it’s the people who never got a degree, they never got the benefits. Even if their college debt is relatively low, they’re going to be hard pressed to repay it.

Brett McKay: That’s going to have consequences not only for them but also for our country as a whole.

Steven Mintz: Absolutely. I am a historian and I’m a college professor, but I’m also an academic administrator. The job I’ve been given, the task I’ve been assigned in what’s really the second largest public university system in the country is affordability, access and student success. We need to get more students educated it will be good for them and it will be good for society.

Brett McKay: Let’s shift topics here a bit and let’s talk about friendship, because it’s something that we don’t think too much about when we think about adulthood because the survey say that most adults don’t have very many friends. I think one is what it is. But at a previous time adulthood was a time when you had your most relationships and people, even men included, had lots of friends, maybe 3 or 4.

Steven Mintz: We watch friends on TV and in real life we have lots and lots of casual acquaintances and we have lots and lots of work colleagues. Now increasingly we’ve seen a gender divide in friendship. That is women are much more likely than men to engage in intimate conversation with a small number of close intimates and men who’s lives tend to be much more work centric tend to have a lot of work connections that don’t provide the kind of friendship that we used to associate with friendship. My father recently died at the age of 95. When he was 94 he had 4 high school buddies that he grown up with in Detroit and were still alive and still in communication at the age of 94. Today they’re all dead unfortunately.

These people had shared a whole lifetime of experiences, they lived in proximity, they were able to communicate whenever they wanted to and that is much harder to do these days. Our friendship networks are spread nationally or internationally. People are busy. It’s hard to figure out how to communicate. Email is okay but it doesn’t convey tone very well and anyway people don’t tend to write those lengthy letters that Victorians loved to write. People find it difficult to sustain the kinds of friendships with deep disclosure and sharing of feeling and providing day to day help and guidance that friendship used to mean. Now friendship can take many forms and there is a form of male friendship that involved bantering and joking that’s a fantastic form of friendship but friendship ultimately I think, and I say this with great hesitance but I think, requires face to face time and that it really can’t be totally replaced by Facebook and other forms of social media. Those are wonderful for keeping fossil friendships alive but at some point you better activate those friendships or their not real.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I thought that was interesting too that another reason why friendship has gotten harder in the modern world is we’ve become more family focused. Man in particular are encouraged to spend more time with their families and say their grandfather or great grandfathers who might have gone a couple of nights a week to go play poker with the boys or go to a lodge night. Now men are encouraged to stay home and spend time with their family.

Steven Mintz: It’s interesting that this remains the case. Women are much likely to be, for example, in book clubs or other kinds of activities like yoga than men, even though the male bread winner conception of gender roles is broken down many men continue to hold to that vision. It’s evident in a variety of ways and there’s reasons why people do it, men earn much higher incomes than women, partly because they work longer hours in very stressful fields. They still view their job as the key to the family’s financial success, but that comes at a cost.

Brett McKay: The cost is no friends.

Steven Mintz: Ironically if you put too many burdens on a lonely life raft, that life raft will sink. For most men they say that their closest intimate is their spouse, their partner. If you place all the weight on that relationship, it’s more than that relationship can bare. I think reviving friendship, reclaiming friendship is not just a good thing in the abstract, it will actually produce better intimate relationships in the long run.

Brett McKay: Yeah, it seems like it’s great for everything. It’s great for you, your emotional needs, it’s great for your relationship. I feel like there was a time when friendships, like you said, provided a support, a social support whenever you’re sick or you needed help. You didn’t have to go to a therapist, you didn’t have to go rely on paid services, sort of someone to mow your lawn, your friends would come over and do that for you. We don’t have that anymore so we have to go out to the market place to get these services that we once would get from family and friends.

Steven Mintz: Precisely, more people of course will die from loneliness than will die of cancer. We may call it something else but there is no question that the social isolation that our society has contributes to a lot of problems with our psychological and even our physical well being. One thing that’s weird about our society is we don’t recognize friendship, there is no obituary which mentions who friends are, but we also legally castigate friendship. In the 18th century nobody saw nepotism as a bad thing. Networks were how people got jobs in general.

We’ve eliminated nepotism for good reasons but one message that we’re sending is that friendship should never be instrumental, they shouldn’t actually do things for you. They should provide psychological support and comfort. They should provide laughter in your life and sociability but they shouldn’t actually do anything for you. But friendships historically did lots of things for people and in the real world that we exist in we all know that having a great LinkedIn is a great way to get your kid a job or to find a new job if you’re looking. On one level we deny that this exists and on a different level we do everything in our power to take advantage and leverage that network.

Brett McKay: Another part of adulthood that looms large, we spend most of adult life doing this, is our work. I thought your chapter on the history of work in regards to adulthood is fascinating. How has it changed in the past 100 years? How do we view our work now that’s different than how, say our grandfathers or maybe great grandfathers may have viewed their work?

Steven Mintz: If you ask someone who they are, they are their job. People do not answer in terms of their religion, they do not answer in terms of their ethnicity in general, they do not answer in terms of their family. They answer in terms of what they do. Our jobs are incredibly important to us. They are the source of our very identity. This becomes evident when you see Americans today take fewer vacation days than ever, at least in the modern period that is the last 100 years. Americans only takes 16 days of vacation a year. This is extraordinary. It’s as if we live to work, which Europeans have long accused us of doing. What’s interesting to me is that American history has a long tradition of alienation towards work. Long before Karl Marx Americans were talking about wage slavery, they were talking about the dehumanization of work.

If you read Herman Melville you’ll see tales that talk about the mindlessness of work, this is a long time ago. But what’s striking to me is that the language of alienation from work seems to have disappeared from American society. The kind of notion that work shouldn’t be all your life is about has dissipated. This is scary. It’s not a product of some corporate plot to brainwash people to work harder, clearly this was self chosen by Americans to embrace work. It’s not just of course men who’ve embraced but women as well. Many, many Americans find retirement the most difficult transition of all because everything that was meaningful in their life was tied up with work, including their sociability. It’s scary that we’ve lost the old view, take this job and shove it, the kind of view popularized not so long ago in movies like Nine to Five and we act as if you can find some meaning of life exclusively in your work.

Brett McKay: Yeah, that’s interesting because I see that a lot, especially in the online world where you can find coaches, life coaches, programs you can take where the whole goal is to help you find your life’s calling. Basically it’s you life’s work, and how you can make money simply doing the thing you love.

Steven Mintz: But the problem with … Freud once said that the meaning of life lies in 2 things, love and work. But he’s wrong, of course, because the well rounded life actually has way more than that in it. It’s hard I think these days to see that, to see that there are other worlds that are worth spending time and energy on. We’ve become narrow, we’ve become focused, we’re incredibly productive and then one has to ask, for what?

Brett McKay: Yeah. I ask myself that a lot. You mentioned earlier about the angst of parenthood, but adulthood itself is feels with lots of angst. I think we’re all familiar with the midlife crisis, but now you’re even hearing reports that there’s a quarter life crisis, of people in their 20s who are experiencing this anxiety about … Yeah, it’s an existential crisis. What causes that angst in adulthood and why is it starting earlier and earlier?

Steven Mintz: When there was a clearly define roadmap through adulthood, when there were clearly defined gender norms and clearly defined expectations, what me worry? As Alfred E. Neuman would say. But when there aren’t, when there’s no well defined navigational tool, no GPS that tells us that we’re on track, when we live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with consumer delights, how can you ever feel happy where you are? The grass always will appear greener someplace else and you will feel that things could be better than they are. Maybe they could be, the fact is that many people are now able to reinvent themselves multiple times and move onward and become truly the author of their own life course. Who am I to say that there’s anything wrong with that, each of us has to determine that for ourselves, but the price we pay for that freedom is anxiety.

Brett McKay: I guess that’s what Kierkegaard, the existentialist, would say.

Steven Mintz: Absolutely.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I think you also mention in your book as well is that modernity has given us with the technology and science that we have has given us sometimes a false sense of control over life. When things don’t turn out the way that we think they should turn out it’s upsetting, because you think I should have control over this but you don’t.

Steven Mintz: Yeah. There are 2 cultures I would argue. There’s a culture of chance and a culture of control. If you are poor you’re much more likely to embrace the culture of chance, you will be much more likely to play the lottery or to gamble because maybe luck will come your way. But for many well educated adults, they inhabit the culture of control. After all they made their own way in life and they’re going to do everything in their power to make sure that their kids are successful and don’t suffer downward mobility. But a culture of control is in many ways an illusion. Illness or accident can strike any time, it can strike randomly and unexpectedly.

One of the shocks that I’ve had growing up is discovering the number of people who’ve died who I was close to. We sort of think for good reason that people live a long time right now, that most people will live into their 70s or 80s and yet about 1 in 6 men and 1 in 9 women will die between the age of 20 and 65, which is way higher I think than most of us assume. They did not die because they were bad people, they did not die because they had bad lifestyles, they died by chance and misfortune for the most part. That’s a scary world to live in. It should remind us a bit of the world of our ancestors where they had much less control than we do today, but it also means that need all kinds of support systems because sometime the bell will ring for thee.

Brett McKay: Steven this has been a fascinating discussion. Before we end one last question, because I get this question a lot from our podcast listeners, and the guys who read the website. The question is, how do I know I’m a man? You have guys in their 30s who will say “I still feel like I’m 18 years old.” With this breakdown of traditional markers of adulthood, how do we know when we’ve become an adult? Is it a psychological thing? What is it that we can know that we’re an adult?

Steven Mintz: First I think when we’re financially independent. You have to be able to support yourself and if you can’t do that, then I think you’re not really an adult. You’re a dependent. Then the second thing is the assumption of responsibilities for other people. Almost all adults bear a lot of responsibility for children, for a partner, a significant other, often for siblings, increasingly for older parents. This can be a tremendous burden. It’s a burden that few of us were really prepared for, so it comes a bit as a shock but it’s one of those things that defines adulthood. Then I’ll add something else to the mix, true adulthood ultimately comes with failure. All of us have when we’re young infinite expectations for our future success, the world truly does seem to be our oyster and after all at our college graduation we’re told that we’re the most promising generation on Earth and that anything is possible. As you grow older you discover it’s not true.

Options narrow and the chances to do anything at all in your life disappear. It’s how we cope with that that determines what kind of adult we are. Are we someone who eschews these responsibilities? Are we someone who does not want to take up the burden of maturity? Or are we someone who will embrace that and yet at the same time will maintain a kind of playfulness and humor and youthfulness no matter what their age? There’s to paths we can go down, we can become morose and depressed and whine and complain or, we can thrive on the freedom that we have and take advantage of the dependencies, the inter-dependencies that we’ve woven and make them meaningful. If you want to have a happy adulthood there’s no choice which path you need to take.

Brett McKay: Very good. Steven Mintz this has been a fascinating discussion, thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure.

Steven Mintz: You’re welcome, it’s been a joy to talk to you.

Brett McKay: My guest today was Steven Mintz, he’s the author of the book The Prime of Life, you can find that on That wraps another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. For more manly tips and advice make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at It’s the holiday season, if you haven’t already checked our Art of Manliness we just released a new wallet, one of a kind, can’t get anywhere else called the detective’s wallet. We’ve got deals going on, free shipping for orders over $100, go check that out. Your purchases in The Art of Manliness store support The Art of Manliness podcast as well as the content we produce on As always thanks so much for your support and until next time this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.

Related Posts