Why 30 is not the new 20 | Meg Jay | Summary and Q&A

May 13, 2013
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Why 30 is not the new 20 | Meg Jay


In this TED Talk, Meg Jay discusses the importance of the twenties as a critical period for development and offers advice for making the most of this time.

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Key Insights

  • 👥 Twentysomethings have a critical period of adult development that should not be trivialized or neglected.
  • 💼 80% of life's defining moments occur by age 35, highlighting the importance of the choices and experiences made in one's 20s.
  • 👶 Personality changes more during one's 20s than at any other time in life, emphasizing the opportunity for personal growth and change.
  • 👥 Twentysomethings should focus on gaining identity capital and investing in experiences that add value to their sense of self.
  • 🌐 Weak ties and connections outside of one's immediate social circle are crucial for expanding opportunities and finding success professionally and personally.
  • 👰 The time to work on one's long-term goals, relationships, and family life is in one's 20s, rather than waiting until later in life.
  • 💔 Neglecting the developmental opportunities in one's 20s can lead to increased pressure and difficulties in the thirties and beyond.
  • 👥 Twentysomethings have the power to shape their lives and make intentional choices that will set them up for success, happiness, and fulfillment.


Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast When I was in my 20s, I saw my very first psychotherapy client. I was a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology at Berkeley. She was a 26-year-old woman named Alex. Now Alex walked into her first session wearing jeans and a big slouchy top, and she dropped onto the couch in my office and kicked off her fla... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the main message of the video?

The main message of the video is that the twenties are a critical period of adult development and should not be wasted or trivialized.

Q: What is the significance of the twenties?

The twenties are a time when important life decisions and experiences occur, such as career choices, relationship decisions, and personal growth. It is a time when individuals have the opportunity to shape their future.

Q: How does the speaker suggest twentysomethings should approach their twenties?

The speaker suggests that twentysomethings should focus on building identity capital by investing in activities that add value to who they are. They should also expand their social network beyond their inner circle to benefit from weak ties and new opportunities. Additionally, twentysomethings should be intentional in choosing their personal relationships and not settle for less.

Q: What are the consequences of neglecting the developmental opportunities of the twenties?

Neglecting the developmental opportunities of the twenties can lead to high pressure and stress in the thirties and forties. It can result in difficulties in establishing a desired career, starting a family, or pursuing personal goals. The speaker emphasizes the importance of taking advantage of the twenties to avoid feelings of regret and missed opportunities later in life.


In this speech, Meg Jay discusses the importance of taking ownership of one's twenties. She argues that the concept of "30 is the new 20" is misguided and that the choices made during this decade have a significant impact on one's future. She emphasizes the need to build identity capital, make meaningful connections, and actively choose one's path in life. Through anecdotes and examples, Jay highlights the potential for growth and transformation during this critical period of adulthood.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did Meg Jay feel when she saw her first psychotherapy client?

When Meg Jay saw her very first psychotherapy client, she felt relieved because the client, a twentysomething named Alex, wanted to talk about her love life rather than having more serious issues like arson.

Q: How did Meg Jay view the 20s initially?

Initially, Meg Jay viewed the 20s as a time of carefree exploration and a developmental downtime. She believed that twentysomethings like Alex and herself had plenty of time to figure things out.

Q: What made Meg Jay realize the significance of the 20s?

Meg Jay had an "Aha!" moment when her supervisor pushed her to explore Alex's love life further. It was then she realized that the 20s are not just a period of benign neglect but a developmental sweet spot that has real consequences for the future.

Q: How many twentysomethings are there in the United States?

There are currently 50 million twentysomethings in the United States, which accounts for around 15 percent of the population. Meg Jay also notes that everyone goes through their 20s before entering adulthood.

Q: Why does Meg Jay specialize in working with twentysomethings?

Meg Jay believes that every twentysomething deserves to know the valuable insights and knowledge from various fields like psychology, sociology, neurology, and fertility specialists. She believes that claiming one's 20s is transformative and can greatly impact work, love, happiness, and even the world.

Q: What percentage of life's defining moments take place by age 35?

According to Meg Jay, 80 percent of life's most defining moments occur by age 35. This means that the decisions, experiences, and "Aha!" moments that shape one's life will mostly happen during the 20s and early 30s.

Q: How does the first 10 years of a career impact one's earning potential?

Research mentioned by Meg Jay indicates that the first 10 years of a career have an exponential impact on one's earning potential. This emphasizes the importance of starting a career early and making the most of those initial years.

Q: What age range is considered the peak of female fertility?

Female fertility peaks at around age 28, according to Meg Jay. After age 35, fertility becomes trickier, and it is essential for women to educate themselves about their bodies and reproductive options during their 20s.

Q: What comparison does Meg Jay make between child development and adult development?

Meg Jay highlights that while there is significant emphasis on the critical period of development during the first five years of a child's life, there is less discussion about adult development. She argues that the 20s are a critical period of adult development, which can shape and define a person's future.

Q: How does Meg Jay feel society has trivialized the 20s?

Meg Jay believes that society has trivialized the significance of the 20s by discussing it as an extended adolescence or by using silly nicknames like "twixters" and "kidults." She argues that this undermines the importance of this developmental period and prevents twentysomethings from realizing the potential impact of their choices.

Q: What advice did Meg Jay give to Emma, her client?

Meg Jay advises Emma, her client, to focus on building identity capital by engaging in activities that add value to her sense of self and potential future endeavors. She also encourages Emma to expand her social circle beyond her close friends by nurturing weak ties. Lastly, Meg Jay advises Emma to be intentional in picking her family, choosing a partner, and creating a life that aligns with her vision and goals.


The 20s are not a developmental downtime but rather a critical period of adult development. By claiming one's 20s and making intentional choices, individuals can shape their futures in profound ways. Building identity capital, nurturing weak ties, and consciously choosing one's family are key strategies for success during this transformative decade. It is essential to recognize that the decisions, experiences, and relationships formed during the 20s can have a lasting impact on work, love, happiness, and overall life satisfaction.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Twentysomethings often disregard the importance of their 20s, but this is a critical period for adult development and decision-making that can impact their future.

  • The choices made and experiences had in your 20s have a significant impact on your life, such as career success, relationships, and fertility.

  • Twentysomethings should focus on building identity capital, expanding their networks, and making intentional choices in order to make the most of this defining decade.

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