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3 Reasons That Your 20's are Your Defining Decade

20s defining decade Your twenty-something years are critical for your success for three reasons:

  • Biologically: Your brain will go through its final growth spurt and rewire itself for adulthood. You want to make the changes NOW that will reward you for the rest of your life.
  • Professionally: What you do in your 20’s will begin to shape your professional brand, track record, knowledge and experiences. The downstream benefits of being an over-achiever are massive. You have no time to waste.
  • Financially: How you manage your campus to career financial inflection point is critical in two ways: 
  1. Avoid money problems, particularly with debt as you start off. As Warren Buffet said, “It is way easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble, financially.”
  2. Use compound interest for massive downstream advantage. What you invest for the long term might be some of the more modest sums annually but will have the biggest effect over time due to compounding.

I just read an amazing book: The Defining Decade – Why your twenties matter and how to make the most out of them now, by Meg Jay PhD. Her body of work and this book is amazing. I highly recommend it.

At minimum, get a taste for her body of work here today, then join nearly 9m people and check out her Ted Talk. The following is from the opening of her book:

"In a study of life span development, researchers at Boston University and the University of Michigan examined dozens of life stories written by prominent, successful people toward the end of their lives.  They were interested in autobiographically consequential experiences for the circumstances and people that had the strongest influence on how life unfolded thereafter.  While important events took place from birth until death, those that determined the years ahead were most heavily concentrated during the 20 something years."

“It would make sense that as we leave home, enter college and become more independent that there is a burst of self-creation. A time of what we will determine and who we will become. It might even seem like life is one long stretch of autobiographically consequential experiences. That the older we get, the more we direct our young lives.This is not true."

“In our 30’s consequential experiences start to slow. School will be over or nearly so. We will have invested time in careers or made the choice not to.  We, or our friends, may be in relationships and have started families.  We may own homes or have other responsibilities that make it difficult to change directions."

"With about 80% of life’s most significant events taking place by age 35.  As 30 something’s and beyond we largely either continue with, or correct for, the moves we made during our 20 something years."

"The deceptive irony is that our 20 something years may not feel all that consequential.  It is easy to imagine that life’s significant experiences begin with big moments and exciting encounters, but this is not how it happens."

"Researchers in this same study found that most of the substantial and lasting events, those that lead to career success, family fortune, personal bliss or lack thereof, developed across days or week or months, with little immediate dramatic effect.  The importance of these experiences was not necessarily clear at the time, but in retrospect, the subjects recognized that these events had sharply defined their futures."

"To a great extent, our lives are decided by far reaching 20 something moments we may not realize are happening at all."

You need to take command of your twenties for many reasons. Don’t look at your friends in order to compare yourself. Remember, the opposite of success is not failure, but conformity. Dream big to the point that your dreams and ambitions frighten you, then don’t let go, and embark on amazingly exceptional trajectory.

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