REVIEW: ‘The Defining Decade’ is a must-read for recent grads

Cover for "The Defining Decade" (Courtesy photo by

“The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now” is a must read for young adults.

The author, Dr. Meg Jay, is a clinical psychologist who has made it her personal mission to let everyone in their twenties, whom she refers to as “twentysomethings,” know that 30 is not the new 20.

I found it to be the perfect book to read immediately following graduation, with the reality of the real world finally setting in.

This book will resonate anyone that is in their 20s who wants to take advantage of the time they have right now to create the best future for themselves.

In three sections, Jay explains what she has learned in her time as a psychologist about work, love, the brain and the body.

Jay introduces the concept of gaining “identity capital” in the first chapter. She defines it as our collection of personal assets.

“Some identity capital goes on a resume, such as degrees, jobs, test scores and clubs,” Jay writes. “Other identity capital is more personal, such as how we speak, where we come from, how we solve problems and how we look.”

Learning this concept is beneficial, she explained, because gaining identity capital is currency for purchasing more.

The issue that I have with the concept of identity capital is that it doesn’t leave room for spirituality. Identity capital is gained and advanced on one’s own merit. Some people believe in a higher power with a greater plan. Identity capital enforces a mindset that says, “what I can create for myself is all that I will have for myself.”

The next concept Jay introduces is the concept of weak ties. This refers to people whom we don’t know as well, but have the potential to create opportunities we wouldn’t receive otherwise from our inner circle.

This is excellent advice and it encouraged me to gain confidence in networking because meeting new people leads to new opportunities.

Jay also encourages twentysomethings to pick their families with the same freedom that they have to pick their friends. She encourages readers to settle down with partners that have similar interests to minimize conflict and disagreements. We have the privilege to choose what our future generations will look like.

“Eighty percent of life’s defining moments take place by age 35,” Jay writes.

A year after the book was released, Jay gave a TED talk and summed up the book’s mantra as: “30 is not the 20, so claim your adulthood, get some identity capital, use your weak ties and pick your family. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do.”

I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to take hold of their own success, and learn about the fears and struggles that everyone faces in these pivotal years. This book is a powerful reminder that we have the power to create the life that we want for ourselves, with the time that we have right now.

Mykia Carrell is a senior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this review are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to