Are the Roaring Twenties Still the Defining Decade

Most of us believe that there is a certain age by which a person needs to achieve life’s most important goals. This belief is rooted in the fact that it is the 20s that define whether you will succeed or not.

But is it true that if you fail to make it in your 20s, then you are doomed? Are the 20s still the defining decade?

The 20s is a crucial period which you must use to build skills that will benefit you for the rest of your life. During this period, most young people are free from the demands of education and the influence of others. Additionally, other demands like family are not yet present, giving one ample time to explore life and pursue personal goals.

Let’s explore both the sides of the coin...

A. Why It Is Not the 20s Anymore

Let's first dissect points in favor of the twenties.

1. We Have More Time

The number of people getting into old age is rising steadily. In the USA, estimates show that there are 35 million people over the age of 65 while in 1900, there were only 3.1 million. This figure is expected to rise to 70 million by 2030.

Proving that we indeed live longer, statistics show that being 65 in 2000, you were expected to live for another 18 years. In 1900, however, at that same age, you were only expected to live another 12 years.


This means we now have more time to pursue our life’s goals. If you don’t succeed in your 20s, you can in your 30s or 40s. And you will still have plenty of time to enjoy your achievements.

Gary Vaynerchuk explains it better in this video that getting old does not mean you are finished:

2. It's The Era Of Knowledge Workers

In the past, most jobs required to be done manually. However, technology has changed all this and machines do the hard work. Currently, most jobs require sitting behind a desk.

Furthermore, we now work much less, averaging at 34 hours per week. Before 1900, however, people in most industries were working for 60 - 70 hours per week.

So even if you spend your 20s without a job, you can be sure that your declining physical health will not be a factor in getting a job in your 30s or 40s. This is an era of knowledge workers, not manufacturing jobs.

3. Family Is Usually Not a Priority

We now delay having families. And there are lots of reasons for this. One has to do with the fact that we now stay in school longer than before.


Research shows that 70% of women born between 1957 and 1964 were mothers by age 30. And that 83% of them had two children by the time there were in their late 40s. But this is no longer the case. Young people are waiting longer to start having families.

4. Parental Support Extending for Longer

Most young people live with their parents after graduation as they look for work. And most parents are compelled to support their children soon after graduation.

A Pew Research Center analysis showed that for the first time in 130 years, most Millennials, nearly a third of them, are living with their parents. All this means postponing marriage and other life’s big milestones.

B. Claiming Your 20s

However, the argument above does not mean you should let your 20s slip by thinking you have another 10 years to waste. You will regret it after your 20s are over.

Karen Lamb Author

A year from now you may wish you had started today.

1. Face Life With a Purpose

Don’t get into a relationship because you want to pass the time, start looking for your soul mate now. Don’t wait until you are 30 to get your dream job, start looking for that job now. Don’t wait until you are old to start a business, start that business now.

This does not guarantee you will find that lover or job now. And it does not guarantee the business will be a success. What is guaranteed, however, is that you will build skills and learn important lessons.

You will know what to look for in a lover. You will know what to do to get a job. And you will discover the kind of work you enjoy. You will also know what to do to make a business a success. All this knowledge will benefit you in the long-term. They may not help you achieve your dream, but they will get you closer to that dream.

Psychologist Meg Jay says, in her book titled The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter, that 80% of life’s most defining moments happen before age 35. She says by age 35, most have settled on a job or career path. By that same age, most have found a partner who they want to spend their lives with. And by that same age, most are financially stable.

Research from Britain agrees with her. It shows that most people meet their soul mates at 27.


So if you say you will wait until you are 30 to get serious about your life, you are fooling yourself. You risk having most of the defining moments happen later in life or not at all.

2. Use Your Freedom While You Still Have It

As one gets old, demands start mounting. This reduces your options. As a result, you will be forced to settle for anything that comes your way. This means marrying anyone who happens to be there. Accepting any job because that’s the one that will put food on your table today.

If you had been productive in your 20s, you would have had the freedom to choose.

Young people are encouraged to change jobs or careers until they find one they think suits them. If they make a mistake, switching to another job is not so difficult. Having time on their side means they can recover from any mistakes.


When you are 35, changing a job is not so easy. Thinking of how you will take care of your family while unemployed will scare you.

3. You Have Little Time to Make the Most of Your Body

If you wait until you are 30 to start looking for someone to marry, you are putting your chances of having a baby at risk.

Research shows that female fertility drops with age. And this starts sooner than most of us were made to believe. At 27, women are 10% less fertile than when they are 19-26. This study was done by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina and the University of Padua in Italy, involving some 872 healthy couples.

4. You Won’t Change Much After Your 20s

Research shows that personality change slows down as one is nearing his 30s. So if you spend the 20s indulging in reckless behaviors, you may be stuck with an adolescent personality in adulthood.

C. How Not to Pressure Yourself in Your 20s

Still, you may feel the pressure of wanting to achieve all you can while in your 20s. Unfortunately, this may keep you from developing lifelong skills and abilities that may help you later in life.

For example, you do not need to buy a house in your 20s if you can’t. That does not mean you are a failure as long as you spend the 20s figuring how to purchase a house in your 30s or 40s.

As research has shown, success can come at any time. Take these famous examples for instance:

● Martha Stewart worked as a model then as a stock blocker before she found her business at age 41.

● Samuel Jackson, despite appearing in several movies, found real success when he was 46.

● Sam Walton had several small stores before he opened Walmart in 1962, while he was 44.

● Harland David Sanders had several odd jobs before he opened Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 62.

What matters most is that you keep trying to succeed.

You must forget the notion that we lose creativity or intelligence with age. Of course, this happens, but not as early as most of us think. Previous studies showed that reasoning and knowledge peak at 26, but this study proves that this happens much later. It shows that reasoning, verbal ability, and verbal memory do not peak until in the 50s.


Other studies show that doing basic math and a larger vocabulary also peak in the 50s.

So age is less of a driver to success. Experience, determination, and persistence are most important. Experience usually comes with age. If you don’t have it, you can find it by surrounding yourself with others who do.

Colin Powell Former US National Security Advisor

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.

Further research shows that the average age of a successful startup with over $1MM in revenue is 39.

The problem these days is that the media promotes stories of a small percentage of successful young entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.


Many twenty-somethings believe this decade is about fun, thinking one has to get serious when in their 30s. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is dangerous – you risk losing the most productive decade in your life.

So try to use this period properly. Pursue the things that matter most to you and don’t sit around thinking a better time will come. If you succeed while still in this decade, then that is good for you. And if you fail, you should still be glad knowing you learned important lessons to help you for the rest of your life.

With that, I would like to hear from you. What do you think about the twenties? Do you believe that success can only happen in this decade?

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