Must-Read Book For Students Ages 18–29

This Meg Jay Book is Changing Lives

The 20s are a critically important time of life. Young men and women who maximize their 20s tend to have far better lives than those who don’t.

I know this, because I’ve read the book The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay.

The Defining Decade

A lot of 20-somethings read this book after graduating from college. But I say: Why wait? If your kid’s a high school senior, order this book right now and give your son or daughter a huge head start on building a happy, fulfilled life.

Believe me—this book can be a game changer for any student in his or her late teens or 20s.

Take a look at the back cover of this book, and then below I’ll share with you some quotes from my favorite chapter. The quotes that had me leaping out of my chair to find a pen for underlining. The quotes that made me think: “Oh—I want every one of my clients at to know this years before they ever meet me!”


My favorite chapter

I thought that every single chapter in this book was critically important for 20-somethings, but my favorite for the students I help was the chapter titled “Outside In.”

In this chapter the author calls 20-somethings to build professional confidence by 1) starting early on identifying the kind of work they’re naturally good at, and then 2) working hard to practice that.

This supports the argument I’m constantly making to college students.

I’m constantly sending students this message: “Your college classroom experience is just a tiny first step. You must get out into the real world and use that information and training in every way you can. Volunteer in your career field. Seek out multiple paid internships. Do all the work you can assisting people who currently have the job you’d like to have some day. Start very early on and keep at it! That’s how you build professional confidence. That’s how you build the kind of workplace value that makes future employers say: “This is an outstanding, capable person, and we could not do what we do without her.”

Some of my favorite quotes from this chapter:

“Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus 10,000 times is skill.” – Shinichi Suzuki

“Inaction breeds fear and doubt. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

Direct quotes from Dr. Meg Jay:

“People feel less anxious—and more confident—on the inside when they can point to things they have done well on the outside. Fake confidence comes from stuffing our self-doubt. Empty confidence comes from parental platitudes on our lunch hour. Real confidence comes from mastery experiences, which are actual, lived moments of success, especially when things seem difficult.”

“. . .twentysomethings who hide out in underemployment, especially those who are hiding out because of a lack of confidence, are not serving themselves. For work success to lead to confidence, the job has to be challenging and it must require effort. It has to be done without too much help. And it cannot go well every single day.”

We learn from the work of research psychologist K. Anders Ericsson that “People who are especially good at something may have some innate inclination, or some particular talent, but they have also spent about 10,000 hours practicing or doing that thing.”

I (Jeannie) tell students: “Do not waste these very precious years. Start working on the accumulation of your 10,000 hours of expertise building at age 16, 18, or 20—and get a multi-year head start on everyone else you’ll be competing with for great jobs in your 30s.”

Listen to Dr. Meg Jay’s TED talk here.

You’ll be joining over ten million others around the world who’ve benefited from it since 2013.

See the list of the top 9 books I most love students and parents to read here.

My advice for parents:

If your 18–29-year-old child doesn’t yet own The Defining Decade, order it now. Then perhaps schedule a lazy “reading” Saturday into your family calendar. Make sure everyone has a great book, and then have the family turn off the TV and other electronics and lay around and read for a day.

Before you do that, though, think: Who do you know who’s currently parenting kids ages 18–29? SHARE this post with them now on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

As Dr. Meg Jay says:

“Your twenties matter. Eighty percent of life’s most defining moments take place by age thirty-five. Two-thirds of lifetime wage growth happens in the first 10 years of a career. More than half of us are married, or dating, or living with our future partner, by age 30. Personality changes more during our twenties than at any time before or after. The brain caps off its last growth spurt in the twenties.”

Is your son or daughter in college—or thinking about enrolling?

Students of all ages can build academic confidence and ability by taking my 1/2-day seminar THE STRATEGIC COLLEGE STUDENT: How to Get Higher Grades While Studying Less Than Most Other People. Learn all about it here.

You can see students ages 12–26 raving about this class here.

Find out when I’m next teaching this class live by subscribing to my free weekly email newsletter here.

Get a quick preview of one of my most popular college study strategies here.

If your young adult sons and daughters don’t yet know “what they want to do with their lives,” get immediate help by reading the article I’ve written here.

Learn my 12 biggest strategies for getting grad school paid for here.

Let’s help young adults all around the world to thrive.

There’s no part of parenting more important than setting your kid up for successful college and career life.

For clear, step-by-step help getting your kids through college debt-free and into jobs they love afterward, get your copy of my book as well:

You can get 10-minute, fast-paced video instruction on how to use this book most efficiently at

You can see more than 100 reviews of it on Amazon at:

(Tell your friends.)

You can see why financial advising professionals love LAUNCHhere.

You can see the top 9 questions parents are asking me about LAUNCHhere.

Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.

And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.

Take a step on this right now. Get regular, inspiring help from me—every Monday morning.

Subscribe to my free weekly email newsletter here.

Do you have specific questions for me about debt-free college and career for your kids?

It’s my members that get most direct access to me. Doors to my membership open each year for just 5 days in March, and 5 days in September. Space is limited. Join the Waiting List here.

What about you? What do you know now that you wish you had known in your 20s?

What advice do you have for kids ages 18–29? Comment below, or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook and let’s talk about it there.

Who is Jeannie Burlowski?

Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26 and their parents and grandparents. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazine, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.

This article was originally posted on this blog on May 18th, 2017. It was updated on November 12th, 2020.