The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – And How to Make the Most of Them Now

How being twenty has changed

  • People used to get married and have kids in their twenties, but in a few decades it changed to become the period of wandering becoming an adult
  • We switch jobs more often
  • More people are unemployed
  • Many don’t know what to do with their lives


  • Create a coherent story for your life! (You can use it for job interviews & getting into graduate school)

Get more weak ties

  • Strong ties: The people closest to us, who is often similar to us
  • Weak ties: The people we barely know, who are more likely to be different from us
    • They expand our network dramatically, because they know many people our strong ties don’t know
    • They challenge our thoughts and assumptions

Identity captial

  • When we do something long enough, it becomes part of our identity
  • Researchers who studies how people resolve their identity crisis, found that a balance between exploration and commitment (so they still build identity capital) is optimal.

Build career capital (Rather than just pursuing money)

  • Learn in your 20’s, earn in your 30’s

Reaching your potential vs. searching for glory

  • Reaching your potential:
    • Where your unique gifts and limitations fit with the world around you!
  • Searching for glory = dreaming too big
    • Giving more attention to what is ideal, compared to what is real
    • You know you are searching for glory, when you are filled with “should’s”, rather than desires.
      • Goals come from the inside, while should’s come from the outside!
      • You can also be filled with “should not” (e.g. I should not get an ordinary office job like everybody else)
    • Many of our ideals may stem from all people self-advertising on Facebook (not showing the negative part of their lives)

Explore your “unthought knowns”?

  • Unthought known = Something that you know deep down that you want
    • Why do we stay confused about it and don’t make the choice to do it?
      • When we choose, we open ourselves up to hard work, failure & working towards something which is uncertain, so it’s feels easier to not know, not to choose, not to do.
  • “What would you do if you won the lottery?” is a stupid question, because it ignores talent and money.
    • Instead ask: “What would I do if I did NOT win the lottery?”

Choose something (don’t optimize for optionality)

  • To experience the snowball effect


Finding the right one

  • Similar people are more satisfied and less likely to divorce
    • Online dating sites can match by personality
    • Being high in neuroticism is even worse than having very different personalities


  • Most twentysomethings will be married within 10 years
  • Marrying later protects against divorce, but only until the age of 25
  • When you chose who to marry, you chose your second family!
  • Things that stress a marriage
    • Paying mortgage
    • Trying to get pregnant
    • Waking up because of kids
    • Sharing financials

Deliberately cultivate a romantic relationship

  • We pay more attention to career decisions than who to marry, even though career decisions are more reversible!
  • The age thirty deadline: Most people think “I’d better not be alone by 30”
  • Don’t jump around too much
  • Stress test relationships

Living together

  • Couples who live together before engagement/getting married are less satisfied and more likely to divorce
    • Possibly because of lock-in: All the initial investments and switching costs lock them in!

Getting children late

  • Older sperm may be associated with neurocognitive problems (autism, schizofrenia, dyslexia and lower intelligence)
  • Some are afraid they might die before their children grow old
  • Fertility peaks in the twenties for women, half as effective after 30, quater after 35 and eight after 40
    • 2 reasons
      1. Lower quality eggs that has a harder time getting implanted and marturing
      2. Less effective endocrine system (regulates hormones that tells the body how to handle pregnancy), so miscarriage is more likely!
        • 1/4 experience miscarriage after 35. 1/2 experience miscarriage after 40.
    • With natural sex a woman has a 20-25% chance of getting pregnant around each ovulation, until she is about 35, so it takes 4-5 months to get pregnant
      • 5% chance at 40, 3% chance at 41 and 2% chance at 42.

The brain and the body

  • The rational forward thinking part of our brain is first fully matured when 20-30
  • In the first 18 months of our lives we overproduce neurons when having to learn language, and we do it again in our adolescence when having to learn to deal with the uncertainty of adult life (Our twenties is the capstone of our adolescence), so this is one of the most important periods for change!

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