Meg Jay

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

An author and psychologist whose TED talk, "Why 30 is not the new 20", has over 8 million views.

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Dr. Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist and author who specializes in adult development. She has over 15 years of experience listening to, teaching, researching, writing and speaking about our twenties — the critical period of adult development.

Her forthcoming book, Supernormal: Childhood Adversity and the Amazing Untold Story of Resilience, is a revolutionary and illuminating examination of those who have overcome childhood adversity to become high-functioning adults. Supernormal will transform the way the world thinks about resilience as it shows that “falling up” is both more common and more complex than we acknowledge.

Dr. Jay’s book, The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now, weaves the latest science of the twentysomething years with compelling, behind-closed-doors stories from twentysomethings themselves. It details what psychologists, sociologists, neurologists, economists, and reproductive specialists know about the unique power of the twentysomething years. The Defining Decade was named a Best Book of 2012 by and was nominated for a Books for a Better Life Award. Meg argues that our twenties are the critical period of adult development — and that this group is a critical part of the economy and workforce that needs to be better understood.

Consider these facts about adult development:

  • 80% of life’s defining moments take place by age 35
  • the first 10 years of a career have an exponential impact on ultimate earnings
  • more than half of young adults are married or have met their partner by 30
  • the brain caps off its second and last growth spurt in the 20s
  • personality changes more during your 20s than any other time in life
  • female fertility peaks at age 28

Her TED talk about “Why Your 20s Matter” was named by as one of five bright, inspiring ideas from the 2013 conference in Long Beach, California. chose it as one of 15 TED Talks That Will Change Your Life.

Dr. Jay enjoys speaking:

  • To companies about what business leaders need to know about this key part of the workforce; about what twentysomething workers need and want in their first jobs; about how twentysomething brains think about time, progress and feedback; about the importance of the “first boss” in a young worker’s life; about how talent develops in twentysomethings; about how twentysomethings cope in the workplace; about mentoring that works with this age group.

  • To industries, from finance to advertising to marketing, about understanding the twentysomething consumer; about what twentysomethings really want (but don’t really want to talk about); about how twentysomethings use products in their everyday life.

  • To universities about how the defining decade begins in college; about how students can claim the unique developmental opportunities that lie ahead after graduation; about the habits that the developing twentysomething brain can best develop in school; about how hook-up culture impacts college women and men.

Dr. Jay is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Virginia. She received a doctorate in clinical psychology, and in gender studies, from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Psychology Today, and NPR.



Childhood Adversity and the Amazing Untold Story of Resilience

Meg Jay

Whether it is bullying, the loss of a parent to divorce or death, an alcoholic or mentally ill family member, domestic violence, neglect, or emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, early adversities are experienced by nearly 75% of us.

Yet, often such experiences are kept secret as are our courageous battles to overcome them. Drawing on nearly two decades of work with supernormals and hundreds of scientific studies, Dr. Jay tells the tale of everyday superheroes who have made a life out of dodging bullets and leaping over obstacles, even as they hide in plain sight as students, teachers, doctors, artists, actors, athletes, parents, and more.

These powerful stories, and those of public figures from Andre Agassi to Jay Z, will show readers they are not alone but are, in fact, in good company. Marvelously researched, this extraordinary book narrates the continuing saga that is resilience as it challenges us to consider whether - and how - good wins out in the end.

Twelve (November 14, 2017)

The Defining Decade

Why Your Twenties Matter — And How to Make the Most of Them Now

Meg Jay

Our "thirty-is-the-new-twenty" culture tells us the twentysomething years don't matter. Some say they are a second adolescence. Others call them an emerging adulthood. Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, argues that twentysomethings have been caught in a swirl of hype and misinformation, much of which has trivialized what is actually the most defining decade of adulthood.

Drawing from a decade of work with hundreds of twentysomething clients and students, The Defining Decade weaves the latest science of the twentysomething years with behind-closed-doors stories from twentysomethings themselves. The result is a provocative read that provides the tools necessary to make the most of your twenties, and shows us how work, relationships, personality, social networks, identity, and even the brain can change more during this decade than at any other time in adulthood-if we use the time wisely.

The Defining Decade is a smart, compassionate and constructive book about the years we cannot afford to miss.

Twelve; Reprint edition (April 2, 2013)
Twelve; 1 edition (April 17, 2012)


Life after graduation — Old Gold&Black | Wake Forest University's Student Newspaper


"A clinical psychologist issues a four-alarm call for the 50 million 20-somethings in America.... A cogent argument for growing up and a handy guidebook on how to get there."
Kirkus Reviews

"I strongly recommend The Defining Decade for anyone in their 20s trying to figure out their life's direction. You'll learn how to search productively, how to avoid being indulgent, and how to turn good opportunities into great ones." — Po Bronson, author of What Should I Do With My Life?, co-author of Nurtureshock

"Before reading The Defining Decade I didn't know enough about the importance of our twenties to be concerned that I could mess it all up. Now that I do, I could worry myself into paralysis, or, as Meg Jay suggests, grab life by the helm — even if I still have no idea in hell where I'm going. Without a doubt, The Defining Decade will leave you eager to embark on what I now see can be the most exciting odyssey of one's life."
— Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, editor of My Little Red Book

The Defining Decade is the book twentysomethings have been waiting for. It will not tell you what you should do with your life, but it will inspire, motivate, and educate you to figure it out.
— Rachel Simmons, author of The Good Girl

The Defining Decade is eye-opening, important, and a pleasure to read. I highly recommend it.
— Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus

Meg Jay brings a sharp intellect, expertise on the life cycle, and extensive clinical experience to this powerful book. Age and time, she argues, are not malleable, even if people live longer and our culture believes that everything is possible. Reading this book will benefit clinicians, cultural commentators, and twentysomethings themselves.
— Nancy Chodorow, author of Individualizing Gender and Sexuality: Theory and Practice

This fascinating, engaging book makes a convincing case that the twenties are the most transformative period of people's lives, and even better, shows readers how to get off the couch and live that decade well. It should be read by all young adults, their friends, their parents, their grandparents, their bosses, their siblings . . . really, by just about everyone!
— Timothy D. Wilson, author of Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change

Expecting to experience the joy of freedom and self-discovery, many young men and women find instead confusion, loneliness, and anomie. Jay is just the sort of guide that these twentysomethings and their parents need: sensitive, thoughtful, and wise.
— Kay Hymowitz, author of Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys

"The Defining Decade is a rare gem: a fresh, original contribution to the study of adult development that's also a pleasurable, almost effortless read."
— Daphne de Marneffe, PhD, author of Maternal Desire: On Children, Love, and the Inner Life

"Blending the latest social science research with real life accounts of twentysomething clients and students, Jay provides valuable and compelling insights and direction for twentysomethings, their parents, and parents of future twentysomethings."
— Leslie C. Bell, PhD, author of Hard to Get: 20-Something Women and the Paradox of Sexual Freedom

The Defining Decade is a must read for the twentysomething who is looking to build a meaningful, fulfilling, and rich life. Dr. Jay clearly illustrates some of the biggest mistakes we can make in our twenties. But more important she gives advice about how to make decisions that will set twentysomethings up for success in the workplace and intimate relationships in their thirties and beyond.
— C. J. Pascoe, author of Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School

The Defining Decade does an excellent job of conveying the latest social science on twentysomething relationships and helping young adults to understand why these relationships can be so confusing and challenging...Young adults looking for insights about love, life, and marriage should turn to Dr. Meg Jay's engaging and insightful new book.
— W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia

Meg Jay masterfully blends cutting-edge research and life stories of psychotherapy clients to make a compelling case that this age period is crucial for launching love and work. You will learn a lot from this book and it will spur you to seize control of your future now.
— Avril Thorne, University of California, Santa Cruz

Listen to me closely. If you know someone already in or entering the third decade of life, or their parents, or their therapist, you must give them this book. Meg Jay slams a cultural corrective on our desk. Pay attention. The twenties are the defining decade of human life where the foundation of every future is laid...No one should turn thirty without having read this book.
— J. Anderson Thomson Jr., MD; staff psychiatrist, University of Virginia, department of Student Health; co-author, Facing Bipolar: The Young Adult's Guide to Facing Bipolar Disorder

"[A] well-researched mix of generational sociology, psychotherapy, career counseling, and relationship advice a practical treatise for a much-maligned demographic."
Publishers Weekly


Meg tailors each presentation to the needs of her audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest her range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

The Defining Decade

Employing twentysomethings

Living an intentional life

Women, Wealth and Wisdom

The Road to Sustainable Wealth: Strategies of Successful Families.


Why 30 is not the new 20 | TED

Twentysomethings Financial Planning: Forward Thinking in an Uncertain Age | Fidelity


An American university:
UNIVERSAL and GRATEFUL appreciation for Dr. Jay’s presence, thoughtful comments, and great talk! She zeroed in on a message that hit home with many in the crowd. We offered this as a free event for the public, and an audience of 1008 attended. The benefactors of “my” institute were present (and thrilled), our University President who loves Dr. Jay was able to have some great private time with her, our students/staff/professors really enjoyed the talk.

On a personal note, Dr. Jay was unbelievably easy to work with and a dynamite partner in this endeavor. The pleasure was all mine, as I benefited from about two hours of one-on-one time with Dr. Jay. Her message has a simple sophistication but understandable complexity to it. I would compare Dr. Jay’s talk at [the university] last night to good exercise — leaving the crowd feeling both stretched and strengthened.

I am confident that [we] would eagerly welcome Dr. Jay for a return visit, perhaps after the publication of her second book.