Young adults need to hit the books hard. And not just academic books. Reading, studying, exercising, or improving a relationship is critical, especially for those of us in our 20s or 30s. Why? University of Virginia clinical psychologist Meg Jay argues that “the first years of adulthood are the most important time in a young person’s life …. ‘We know that 80 percent of life’s most defining moments happen by age 35. We know that 70 percent of lifetime wage growth happens in the first 10 years of a career. We know that more than half of Americans are married or living with or dating their future partner by 30. Our personalities change more in our 20s than any other time’” (as cited in Heinritza 4%). So, we need to educate ourselves early. We need to grow into lifelong learners fast. We need to unlock clues for personal development quickly.
For most of us, the 20s to 30s can set the direction for the rest of our lives. I know a 20-year old. She dropped out of high school, took up toxins, didn’t stick with her job, and lost her true love. But she’s a beautiful soul with unlimited potential. Sadly, struggling youth are not uncommon. According to Ms. Jay, “there are 50 million twenty-somethings in the United States, most of whom are living with a staggering, unprecedented amount of uncertainty. Many have no idea what they will be doing, where they will be living, or who they will be within 2 or 10 years” (as cited in Heinritza 5%).
I wasted my early 20s as a high school dropout in dead end jobs. But I dreamt of one day attending university or becoming a music star. Instead, I spent my early 20s making paintings I rarely finished due to a lack of art ed. As well, I spent my early 20s teaching myself piano by hammering keys for hours—without a music instructor.
Let’s face it, we need an education. I believe it takes a hundred books to find one gem. But those hundred books build on one another—before the gem finally reveals itself.
Author Jason Heinritza says, “Here’s the reality: If college students spent just one hour a day growing as a person instead of partying, sleeping, watching TV, or playing video games, our society would be filled with more leaders and fewer followers” (6%). He states, “By age 20, I understood the importance of reading books and going to seminars” (6%).
He then asks, “What would investing five hours a week of reading, studying, exercising, or improving a relationship do for your life?” (11%). He further queries, “What if you spent 20 minutes a day listening to uplifting, life-improving material? …. That adds up to 121 hours a year. What do you think would happen to you after hearing 121 hours of material about improving relationships, health, and becoming a better person? How different would your life be?” (12%).
But becoming an effective lifelong learner is tricky. I keep insisting, you must dig for the gems. For instance, Western psychology and education embrace neither spirituality—nor the soul. During graduate studies, I wanted a theory that embraced a higher power, but I couldn’t find such a thing. The communications theory my supervisor wanted me to study said that meaning was created through human interactions. There was no room for a higher truth, one independent of human interactions. And today I see so many “soulless” notions leak into bookstores. So, find the gems that better your life.
If you’re in your 20s and 30s, top off your tomorrow by not wasting today.