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.

Work

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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Love/Friendships

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.

So…

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.

Makayla

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Books personal development

5 Ways to Ensure Success

There are so many ways to better yourself professionally and personally. Reading books written by successful, well-spoken people is certainly one of those ways!

To start off my new career, I decided to read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

The book was incredibly rich with suggestions regarding how to be successful in relationships, business interactions, and everyday communications. At first, I was so nervous to read this book. It seemed daunting to potentially change the way I communicate with people. Also, reading something and realizing, “Man, I’m really not good at X, Y, or Z” is hard, and I wasn’t sure if I was prepared for that.

Even though I had those initial concerns, I am so glad I read this book! It was enlightening, and allowed me to set goals for myself that weren’t too daunting. If you want to ensure that you’re successful in your relationships, business interactions, and everyday communications, take a look at these five points:

Be enthusiastic.

If you want to be successful, you need to be able to win people over to your way of thinking. What better way to do that than sharing your excitement and passion? This requires no manipulation or coercion on your part, it just requires your dedication and confidence in your cause. Enthusiasm makes people pay attention. It motivates them to look into your product, business, or friendship and assume that it is worthwhile. Why else would you be so enthusiastic about it?

I think this point can be especially applicable to those of you trying to start businesses and blogs. My guess is that you’ve noticed how difficult it is to get reach the audience you want, and even when you do, how to keep them interested. You certainly need to do your part and offer a great product or service, but being enthusiastic will get your foot in the door until your product can speak for itself.

Listen and be interested.

I’ve found that the best mentors, friends, and colleagues have a knack for making us feel empowered after having a conversation with them. How do they do that? One thing they undoubtedly do is listen wholeheartedly and actually take interest in what you’re saying. I think we can all agree that when we’re listened to and empathized with we feel valued and important.

I realized the importance of this principle last week when buying a new car. The first dealership we went to had a great car that I was super interested in, but it was a little out of my price range. As I talked with the dealer, he was set on his original price and would not bend at all even though there was a dent in one of the doors and the interior hadn’t been detailed. The next dealer I went to spent time getting to know me and what I was looking for in a car. He suggested multiple cars in my price range and have me both advantages and disadvantages, including how it would be able to drive across the country. This was particularly important to me since I’ll be moving this summer.

Obviously I bought a car from the second dealer, because he listened and took interest in what was important to me.

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Be agreeable.

This is a tough one for me sometimes. Most of us, even if we’re generally kind people, have an unfortunate first instinct… Which is to be disagreeable and defensive. Since this is the case, we need to try our best to think before we speak. Mind-blowing, I know. This can be especially difficult when we have completely different views from the person we’re talking to. Here are a couple tips for staying agreeable

  1. Avoid criticism. This is the exact opposite of being agreeable! When trying to win someone over to your way of thinking, you want them to know that you value them and appreciate the work they do.
  2. Focus on the things you do agree on… and reinforce those points often. Even if you disagree on some points, bringing up the points on which you agree will help you come off as the reasonable person you are.
  3. Don’t be a downer. People want to be happy, so give them a pleasant conversation that leaves them in a better mood than you found them in.

Give Praise.

In addition to being enthusiastic, agreeable, interested, and a great listener, it’s important to give praise to others. Make sure when you give compliments that you’re being sincere. Sincere praise makes people feel valued and reinforces to them that their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated.

This is a great tip for being successful in any kind of communication, even in problematic situations. For example, if you have a family member or employee that consistently has behavior problem of performs poorly, it could be beneficial to praise the things you see them do well. This will give them a desire to improve, because they will see that they can! Praising them every step of the way, even with slight improvements, and remembering not to criticize will improve help you be a more successful communicator.

It’s about them.

This point seems to go without saying, but try not to make the conversation about you. Don’t brag about your accomplishments or vent about your problems. Everyone has accomplishments they want to talk about, and everyone has burdens… And their accomplishments and burdens are much more interesting to them than yours. This may sound harsh, but it’s so true! People will get bored with you very fast if you spend the whole conversation trying to make yourself seem important. Your job, instead, should be to make THEM feel important.

Let me know how these tips go for you! Try to set some specific goals and see if your success in relationships, business interactions, and everyday communications improve. Do you agree with these points? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Makayla

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