The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter

Each month, I discuss a personal or professional development book on this blog. Last month the we discussed 5 Ways to Ensure Success in Business, Relationships, and Everyday Communication; influenced by Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

The book I’d like to discuss this month is The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter – and how to make the most of them now by Meg Jay, PhD.

So in the interest of transparency, I am in my twenties (22). But to be honest, I think this book can be enlightening to anyone who isn’t entirely sure about the path they’re on… Which I assume is most of us! And if I’ve learned anything from this book, it’s that everyone wants to grow, live up to their potential, and be the person they’re supposed to be.

This book is broken into three sections and each section has several sub-sections:

  1. Work
  2. Love
  3. The brain and the body

I will use the same format to outline the themes I found. There may be some overlap, simply because our lives are complicated and interconnected.


To me, the most encouraging piece of advice in this section was, “Don’t be afraid to reach out.” From experience I’ve found that applying to jobs that you aren’t quite qualified for makes you feel pretty junky. However, have you thought about what would happen if you actually get that job? Take an extra twenty minutes and fill out that application, even if you think there’s no chance you’ll get it. As Meg points out, “the worst they can do is say no,” and the best is life changing.

I know this point is true from experience! I had my resume up on a job search website and it was picked up by a recruiter for an investment banking firm in the city. She asked me if I’d like to come in for an interview. A little something about me, I graduated with a degree in human development and am currently studying gerontology… and have no finance experience whatsoever.

The author puts a huge emphasis on “the strength of weak ties.” You all know the basic idea, even if you haven’t heard that term. It’s essentially when someone says, “I got a job at Microsoft because my dad’s college roommate works there.” Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Ugh, I really hate networking. I want to get a job on my own.” I get it.

But stop thinking that way.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help from weak ties, and Meg Jay would agree with me. Why? Because once you get that job, you still need to hold your own and prove yourself. Be the kind of person that is grateful for the opportunity and proves that you do belong there.

If you’re someone that has no idea what they want to do with their life *coughMEcough*, try your best to keep your doors open and keep progressing and adding to your resume and life experiences, because when the perfect opportunity comes along, you want to be able to snag it with confidence.

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This section was originally labeled “Love,” but I think adding friendships to this category is important. At first it was difficult for me to glean advice or information from this section, because I am happily married to a man that I adore! It was only after I started taking Jay’s information into the context of other relationships that aren’t romantic, that I was able to digest the information in a helpful way.

She mentions that “An identity or career can’t be built on what you don’t want.” I think this holds true for relationships as well. If you’re going into a relationship or friendship knowing that it’s not what you want in the end, then what are you doing? You’re wasting time and energy. Even if you’re only in your twenties, put your effort into something or someone that will help you progress as a person and reach your goals.

This next point is something I see many people my age struggling with: having a tribe. Social media has us constantly comparing each other, and sometimes it seems like everyone else has “people” to hang with, go on trips with, or party with. It’s simply not true. What you’re seeing is someone else’s best, and I bet you’re comparing their best to your worst. No one feels satisfied with their social life 100% of the time.

If this is an area where you struggle, I invite you to read this book. Examine the areas of your life where you’re unsatisfied with your relationships. It’s a great way to put things in perspective and gain some tools to get out of your funk.

The Brain and the Body

Confession time: feeling overwhelmed is approximately 98% of my life. Luckily, I’m convinced that I’m not alone in that. This book helped me realize that we can’t control anything except how we interpret situations and how we respond. Jay points out that we often get stuck in a fixed mindset. We think that everyone around us has always been competent and confident in what they’re doing. In reality, they started out like us.

And you know how they became confident and competent? They said yes to something. They made a decision. The author addresses a common problem among young adults, which is “If you don’t say yes to something, your life will be unremarkable and limited.” As children, we’re told that we can be anything we want, do anything we put our mind to… Well, that’s not necessarily true. I don’t have the reflexes or problem solving skills to be a fighter pilot. No matter how much I wanted that or worked for it, it’s a path that isn’t attainable for me. And that’s okay! There are other things that I’m better suited for, and I can find it by developing my natural talents and not stressing about the paths that are closed to me.


How do we make the most of our twenties? Recognize that we’re all seeds, but we aren’t all acorns. Some of us will grow into oaks, but some will be maples, palms, or elms. Recognize that your path won’t look like anyone else’s. Say YES to something, work hard even when you feel like it isn’t worth it, and be the kind of person you want to be.


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32 thoughts on “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter

    1. I’m so glad you like it! I post once a week (usually on Mondays) with plans of posting more often. I’m in the process of collaborating with some really creative and bright people, so I’m really excited for upcoming content. Thanks so much for commenting!

    1. You totally should! It’s such a great read. I feel like the author talks about all of the things I worry about on a daily basis haha

  1. I appreciate your drive and determination. I’m no longer in my twenties, but in some ways my twenties brought me into mild successes early in my thirties. That being said I wish I could have my twenties back to do it better. I really do admire your drive and determination at a relatively young age. It seems you have wisdom beyond your age. Keep up the good work!

    1. That is so kind! How would you have done your twenties better, if you could go back? Thanks so much for reading, it’s so great to hear from people who have been where I am right now and can talk about it!

      1. Well, you seem like you have a much better idea of where you want to be in life than I did at that age. If I could rewind time I wouldn’t change anything major. The biggest thing that I would change would be to really get focused and not waste as much time. I never wrote goals down in my twenties. I never realized there would be a shortage in time to accomplish big goals. Now that I have my wife, my 3 year old boy, 2 year old girl, my career, and the MBA courses on top of that, I realize that I should have used my time in my 20’s more wisely. I get small windows of time for improvement, and I try to make the most of them, but it pails in comparison to what I could have learned if I started learning more when I was 10 years younger. Honestly, that’s the reason why I started my blog and website so that others don’t make the mistakes I made. Again, you likely aren’t making the same mistakes as far as I can tell. Outstanding work and keep it up!

        Robert Krickberg

    1. That is awesome! It really is worth reading. The author hits on topics that are definitely on my mind a lot (and I image I’m not alone in thinking about those things!).

  2. Wow this is DEFINITELY going on my reading list. As a person in my twenties I can relate to a lot of these points! I’m glad you could find such a great book for this generation!

    1. I’m so glad it’s relatable! Sometimes I feel totally alone in thinking about these things. I think it’s really important to reach out to others and share our experiences. The author of this book makes it easier to talk about the things that we’re all going through in our twenties!

    1. Oh my gosh, that is an amazing goal! Have you been keeping up with it so far? And this book could totally be read in a week. It’s quick and inspiring.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I think a lot of people our age are in the same boat. It’s great to hear what others are going through, and finding resources like this book that can help us through it!

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