The Roaring Twenties: How we’re all royally screwing it up

I recently read a book by May Jay, Ph.D. entitled, “The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter – and how to make the most of them now.” In it she discusses how a vast majority of twentysomethings are wasting away their twenties because they think that the “thirty-is-the-new-twenty” culture tells us these years don’t matter and that they are to be thrown away. That they are years to be played with – to throw around.

If you don’t have time to read the book, Dr. Jay gave a Ted Talk that is a quick peek into what the book entails, in the talk she gave 3 pieces of advice for how twentysomethings can re-claim adulthood in the defining decade of their lives:

  1. Get something Identity Capital. Do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that adds value to what you want to do next.
  2. The Urban Tribe is overrated. Look outside your innercircle for next big thing. Look to your weak ties for your next job, your next love – this is not cheating the system… this is using the system.
  3. The time to start picking your family IS now… The time to work on your marriage is before you have one.

The book itself is divided into three sections: Work, Love, and The Brain and the Body

Work talks about increasing your “identity capital”, the value of milking your weak ties, the unhelpful prevalence of Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat/general social media comparisons, and seeing a career as the first step in a unique, customized life versus settling down (hey – maybe you can even make blogging a career!).

Love goes into the importance of taking dating seriously in your 20s, compatibility with possible in-laws, how to make sure living together isn’t harmful (e.g., it shouldn’t be something you slip into but something that you do with you after serious thought and consideration) and, obviously, at the heart of the section – choosing the right partner.

The Brain and Body is sort of a miscellaneous collection of pieces centered on how your brain, body and mind works. This section also covered a lot of neuroscience research I wasn’t aware of. For example, your brain undergoes a radical period of reconfiguration in your 20s, which means now is the best opportunity for learning skills. Or, the frontal cortex that controls a lot of our mature responses such as regulating emotions is still developing for most people in their 20s. Besides the physical brain, Dr. Jay also talks about the mind such as learning how to calm yourself down, how to develop confidence (rather than believing it’s fixed), and that you can radically alter how you feel by changing parts of your life.

The final chapter before the epilogue talks about mapping your years to see how limited your time truly is. It seems common for many young people to talk about getting their career in order or going to graduate school eventually, getting married and having kids but not all at the same time. Except, when you’re 25 or 27 saying this, you’ll realize that you’re actually quickly running out of time.

By far my favorite thing that I enjoyed learning from the book was The Big Five. The Big Five refers to the five factors that describe how people interact with the world: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism. Just by reading about the Big Five and considering your own behavior, it is pretty easy to tell whether whether you fall on the high end or the low end, or somewhere in the middle, of the five dimensions.

I suggest you pick up the book, read it – create your timeline. The future isn’t written, there are no guarantees. Claim your life and get to work today.

You are deciding it all – right now, everyday.


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