Recently I finished reading The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay, PhD and found it to be an interesting, if short read. As you might be able to guess from the title, the book is targeted as those in their twenties and attempts to address things specifically to Millennials which means for those outside the target demographic might find it to be a bit thin. The book is divided in to three sections: “Work”, “Love”, and “The Brain and the Body.”
“Work” focuses on, well, work and it largely focused on encouraging readers to start building their career as opposed to working jobs that are either not challenging or outside of what they wish to do. For those in their early to mid-twenties this could be very useful as it gives a counter balance to the general trend in the media to call Millennials lazy or entitled. One of the later chapters in the “Brain and the body” section actually crosses over nicely into “Work” since it covers what many Millennials struggle with: dealing with the first job and building on the job confidence. Sadly, the section on work was largely a miss for me, but then considering I’m at the point where my career is “established” I’m not in the target audience.
The next section is “Love” which focuses more on anecdotes relating to dating, cohabitation, and avoiding “being in like.” All of it was largely sound advice, although barring issues related to not waiting too long to get married, I’m skeptical that there is really any new ground being broken here. In other-words, some of the advice seems like it has been around for awhile, although some of the stories do provide some good examples of what not to do and what can go wrong.
The last section is “The Brain and the Body” which I actually found to be one of the more interesting sections. The section includes lay explanations of brain development in twenty-somethings, which is still an area of active research (i.e. MIT Young Adult Development Project.) The science is a bit thin, but given the nature of the book, this is to be expected. I actually found the “Calm Yourself” chapter to be especially interesting since it was easy to see how explanations about brain development having a stabilizing effect on moods in revelation to the workplace applied since I was able to recognize the same patterns in myself. The author made some references to The Devil Wears Prada: A Novel by Lauren Weisberger (I only ever saw the movie, it wasn’t bad) and the “first boss from hell” seems to be a common motif that pops up every now and then regardless of the era, so it makes sense that brain development has some to do with the first boss being that bad and learning to deal with them.
“The Brain and the Body” section also included a signification reminder about biological development and the proverbial “biological clock” that puts an upper limit on when having kids is a viable options. As you might suspect the chapter includes the request cautionary tale couple with some information as to the odds of getting pregnant at various ages. Given that people are having children later these days due to careers, the economy, and so forth it is easy to see why it was included.
So as a whole, this book is definitively targeted more at early to middle twenties as opposed to late twenties or older. I joke when I started reading it that the book was more likely to be a review of what I screwed up in my twenties as opposed to viable advice given my being in the late twenties demographic. On the same token, there is some useful information that could be relevant to anyone in relation careers and supervisors might find those same sections useful for reviewing to see if they can give any insight into dealing with younger employees.
As I previously noted, I found this to be a very quick read. The book as a whole only weights in at 240 pages and of that, the actual content only runs 201 pages. The rest is taken up by the notes and acknowledgements. The notes do provide enough information to be a decent jumping off point if you want to do some more reading on some of the items that are mentioned in the text, but they do seem to be padding out the book a bit, although even the formatting of the actual content also likely pads out the page count a bit as well.
Still, it is an interesting enough read that if you were to see it at the library or discounted at a bookseller it might be worth picking up. The ideal target for this book is likely someone that is getting ready to move out, either from home or college in which case it might make a good gift idea.