A Success Sequence for Men

I recently heard the term “Success Sequence” which is a promising path that helps young adults avoid poverty. The term has been around for a few years and suggests a series of certain time-honored life events that lead to a more successful adult life. The most common sequence is to first obtain at least a high school education, then find a full-time job, followed by waiting until at least age 21 to marry and have children. Of American adults who follow this sequence, just 3 percent are in poverty. Flipped around, that means 97% are not poor by the time they reach their prime young adult years (ages 28-34). Now that is a great success rate!

The Success Sequence is widely attributed to social policy experts, Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, who popularized the term in their 2009 book, Creating an Opportunity Society. The authors defined these five rules that lead to success (though most research combines 3, 4 & 5 into the third compound rule) :

  1. Graduate high school.
  2. Get a full-time job.
  3. Marry before having children.
  4. Wait until at least age 21 to marry.
  5. Wait until at least age 21 to have children.

Some researchers propose changes and refinements to the definition. Some comment this is not about reducing poverty but beefs with cultural norms. Others posit the delay-marriage and delay-parenting rules don’t mesh with today’s worldviews about when to marry and the impact of divorce. Others believe that full-time work alone does almost all the work of the success sequence.

In my opinion, these miss the point: Single parenthood makes it very hard to work full-time. The statistics don’t lie: Fathers Still Matter. Recent statistics also show that boys and men are underperforming (see Warren Farrell’s The Boy Crisis and Richard Reeves’ Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It.) Success comes to all when men become better fathers.

So let’s get out and teach other men how to step into their responsibilities as fathers. Let’s also teach them how to be better men. The facts prove that men need deeper, more authentic friendships. This may even be another part of the success sequence. Men with better friends can help reverse the negative effects of fatherlessness and eliminate the “toxic masculinity” that taints what it means to be a good man today.  


Wisdom for Men is my opinion on topics that help men become better. The sources used are not fact-checked but support my theory that men are better with deeper, more authentic friendships. This GodBuddy theory is based on biblical principles but applies to all men, regardless of their beliefs. Better friendships can help solve the crisis of male friendship…and the world needs better men. It needs more men who desire to be more like Jesus, our ultimate role model.

[Feature Image from Success Sequence: Improving Your Odds by John Farrell]

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