I’ve ordered at least 20 books in the past 2 weeks that I plan to read throughout this year. The first one I’ve read is Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now. As a early 20-something, I was fairly excited to read this book based on the 4.5/5 stars reviews on Amazon.
Overall, it was an OK read. However, I couldn’t quite relate to a lot of the stories and I was a little disappointed that the author did not have concrete action steps or exercises for readers to think about as they read through her material. It was kind of the same 20-something zeitgeist phenomenon that’s been rehashed in the media recently and I found she did not really offer any new insights. Perhaps I had too high expectations going into reading this book — without trying to offend anyone, how many Starbucks-barista-type, college-educated, living-at-home-with-parents, saddled with student loan debt stories can people talk about?
Not that surprising that this book is definitely for a certain demographic: mid to upper middle class, college educated, predominantly white, with a touch of naïveté. If you are thinking of working at a coffee shop because that seems non-corporate, or going backpacking in Europe in order to “find yourself,” or putting off marriage or children until you’ve finished grad school, then this book is probably for you.
However, what did I find interesting?
(1) Strength of weak ties: the unique value of people we do not know well. If weak ties do favors for us, they start to like us and then they become even more likely to grant us additional favors in the future. Behavior can also shape attitudes — if we do a favor for someone, we come to believe we like that person. To me, this is akin to natural networking and I admit the author did a good job of covering this topic. That is, reaching out to people outside your social circle, since most people’s circles are narrow and homogeneous (and become more so with age). It’s the connections you least expect that lead to the most interesting jobs — and relationships.
(2) Ticking marriage clock? The average age for first marriage is 26 for women and 28 for men. This was personally somewhat alarming. Note a recent NYT article that came out a couple days ago on the price of marriage in China and the notion that single, unmarried women over 28 are “leftover” women. Yikes.
Also, for women — don’t wait too far into your 30’s to have kids as you become less fertile and invitro treatments get more expensive and less reliable.
(3) Cohabitation effect: Couples who “live together first” are actually less satisfied with their marriages and more likely to divorce than couples who do not (this is not true if couples are engaged prior to cohabitation). Lesson here? Don’t cohabitate with someone as a test of future marriage, because this strategy increases the chances of divorce due to “consumer lock-in” (the tendency to stay together because you’ve already invested so much time, share common friends/pets/furniture, are approaching the “age 30 deadline”, etc.).
(4) Make the most of your life now: High school and our 20’s are not only the time when we have our most self-defining experiences, but also when we have our most self-defining memories.
(5) Similarity and compatibility: Choose someone with a similar personality. The more similar two people are, the more they are able to understand each other. Similarity is the essence of compatibility. Duh moment here. Opposites actually do not attract — then again, I learned this already in Psychology 101 in college. Also, don’t date down.
The author referenced the Big Five personality traits, something I had not come across before: (1) Openness, (2) Conscientiousness, (3) Extraversion, (4) Agreeableness and (5) Neuroticism. More information is available from Wikipedia.
I’d give the book a C+, not because I could not personally relate to everything she said, but other than five stories or so, she really did not offer any concrete, actionable steps and takeaways for readers to follow. I think this is definitely an interesting topic to read about outside of the Internet blogosphere, especially as a recent phenomenon. If you have some time to kill in Barnes and Noble, definitely take a look at the book; it’s a pretty quick read. However, based on its subpar value proposition I mentioned above, I don’t personally recommend buying the book.
I’m actually reading 20 Something Manifesto: Quarter-Lifers Speak Out About Who They Are, What They Want, and How to Get It right now — not even 20 pages in, and I absolutely love it! 10x better than Defining Decade; a review will be forthcoming.