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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