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The Defining Decade summary

Meg Jay

Why Your 20s Matter – and How to Make the Most of Them Now

4 (162 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

The Defining Decade by Meg Jay is a guide for twenty-somethings on how to navigate the challenges and opportunities of their crucial developmental years.
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    The Defining Decade
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    The jobs we have in our twentysomething years help us to earn personal assets and individual resources.

    Even if you’ve been grinding away since you left school or college, it’s unlikely you’ll have the job of your dreams by the time you’re in your 20s.

    Given that situation, imagine you were faced with the choice of, say, working in a coffee shop or taking a more unusual job, like translating comic books. Which would you choose?

    If you chose the comic-book translator job, you’re on the right track. Experience in unusual jobs constitutes our identity capital – our collection of personal assets – and this matters a great deal to prospective employers.

    Of course, identity capital does include such conventional things as college degrees, jobs, test scores and so on. But it also includes more personal things, like the way we speak and our problem-solving abilities. We can only expand this identity capital by exposing ourselves to new experiences and opportunities.

    Also, an unusual job – like comic-book translator or canoe instructor for troubled teens – often opens doors to better jobs, as employers today are more interested in your unique experience than your formal qualifications.

    So, when trying to decide which short-term job to take, choose the one that appears to offer the greatest identity capital.

    However, you have to also consider that a long stretch of underemployment – say, working as a dog walker when you’ve got a PhD – can lead to depression. Moreover, future prospective employers might view this long period as one of inactivity.

    In fact, as one study showed, twentysomethings who were underemployed for as little as nine months tended to be more depressed and less motivated than even their unemployed peers. In other words, accepting underemployment can result in you abandoning your goals and feeling unworthy of better employment.

    But, from an employer’s perspective, a stretch of unemployment is no better than one of underemployment, because they – like many people – tend to associate being jobless with heavy drinking and depression.

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    What is The Defining Decade about?

    Drawing on a wealth of personal stories and fascinating facts, The Defining Decade (2012) argues that, contrary to popular belief, 30 is not the new 20. Author Meg Jay uses her vast experience as a professional psychologist to advise twentysomethings on such issues as choosing a partner, starting a family, picking a career, and generally making the most of one’s 20s. Jay also argues that the years between 20 and 30 are the time to establish serious goals and, because the adult brain is at its most pliable then, to begin to take steps toward reaching them.

    The Defining Decade Review

    The Defining Decade (2012) by Meg Jay offers valuable insights for twenty-somethings on how to make the most of their formative years. Here's why this book is a must-read:

    • It emphasizes the importance of the twenties as a critical period for personal and professional growth.
    • The book offers practical advice on topics like careers, relationships, and mental health, making it a comprehensive guide.
    • Its real-life examples and relatable stories resonate with readers, making it an engaging and eye-opening read.

    Unlock your full potential in your twenties with The Defining Decade.

    Best quote from The Defining Decade

    To a great extent, our lives are decided by far-reaching twentysomething moments we may not realize are happening at all.

    —Meg Jay
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    Who should read The Defining Decade?

    • Twentysomethings looking for guidance
    • Parents who want to understand the troubles of their twentysomething children
    • Employers who want to know how to motivate their young professionals

    About the Author

    Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist and author who specializes in adult development, with a particular focus on twentysomethings. Jay has had her work published in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and USA Today, and has appeared as a guest on NPR. Her 2013 TED talk “Why 30 Is Not the New 20” is one of the most viewed TED talks of 2013.

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    The Defining Decade FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Defining Decade?

    The main message of The Defining Decade is to guide twenty-somethings in navigating their crucial developmental years.

    How long does it take to read The Defining Decade?

    The estimated reading time for The Defining Decade is around 6-8 hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in 15 minutes.

    Is The Defining Decade a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Defining Decade is a valuable guide for twenty-somethings to make the most of their formative years.

    Who is the author of The Defining Decade?

    The author of The Defining Decade is Meg Jay.

    How many chapters are in The Defining Decade?

    The Defining Decade by Meg Jay has ten chapters:

    1. Identity Capital
    2. Weak Ties
    3. The Unthought Known
    4. Dating Down
    5. Cohabitation
    6. Being in Like
    7. The Customized Life
    8. The Big Picture
    9. The Brain and the Body
    10. Forward Thinking

    How many pages are in The Defining Decade?

    The Defining Decade has approximately 272 pages.

    When was The Defining Decade published?

    The Defining Decade was published in 2012.

    What to read after The Defining Decade?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Defining Decade, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • The Career Playbook by James M. Citrin
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    • The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
    • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
    • Things No One Else Can Teach Us by Humble the Poet
    • Slow Productivity by Cal Newport
    • The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene