Meg Jay, PhD
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Meg Jay, PhD

80 percent of life’s most defining moments take place by age 35

Author of The Defining Decade and Supernormal, Clinical Psychologist, Associate Professor of Education and Human Development

Expertise In:

  • Communication
  • Courage
  • Inspiring Lives
  • Mental Health
  • Motivation

Audience & Industry

  • Associations
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Corporations
  • Non-Profits
  • Women's Events

Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist and thought-leader who specializes in young adults. Why? Because that is where the action is according her TED talk “Why 30 Is Not the New 20,” which has more than 10 million views.

There are 75 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 35, and Jay makes the case for taking their work lives, love lives, and emotional lives seriously. The author of ‘The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now’ and ‘Supernormal: The Secret World of the Family Hero,’ she has elevated what it means to be a twenty-something and what it means to have grown up with hard times.

Jay has had the pleasure of speaking to audiences including TED, Goldman Sachs, University of Chicago, Merrill Lynch, Cosmopolitan, Aspen Institute, The New Yorker, Yale University, MTV, Young Presidents Organization, How To Academy, U.S. Government Office of Personnel Management, Family Action Network, and Sundance.

Jay earned a doctorate in clinical psychology, and in gender studies, from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has appeared in numerous media outlets including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, O Magazine, and on BBC, NPR, and TED. She is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of education and human development at the University of Virginia. She maintains a private practice in Charlottesville, Va.

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Meg Jay, PhD's Speech Topics


Did you know that 80 percent of life’s most defining moments take place before age 35? That the brain changes more in our 20s than at any other time in adulthood? That personality changes more in our 20s than at any other time in life? That the first ten years of work have an exponential impact on success? That over half of us are married or dating or living with our future partner by the age of 30?

With authority, humor, and compassion, Meg Jay argues that our “30-is-the-new-20” culture trivializes what is actually the most transformative period of our adult lives. In this inspiring and practical talk, she makes clear just how much our 20s do matter and how you – or your twentysomething students, workers, or children – can make the most of them now.

• Why “Who am I?” is a question best answered not with a protracted identity crisis, but with one or two good pieces of something called identity capital

• How joining the world of work can make us feel better, not worse

• Why it’s the people we hardly know, and not our closest friends, who will change our lives for the better

• How the twentysomething brain gives us our best chance to change who we are

• Why living together may not be the best way to test a relationship

• How we pick our families and not just our friends

‘The Defining Decade’ is a talk – and a developmental sweet spot –you don’t want to miss.


Did you know that 75 percent of all mental health problems emerge by the age of 25? Or that, on average, people wait eight years before they seek help?

In this eye-opening talk, Meg Jay argues there is a mental health crisis is afoot in young America – and it is a crisis not just of proportion but of perception, too. Record numbers of young adults are struggling with symptoms of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse problems, and more. Yet, as a culture, we tend not to take the problems of young adults seriously.

While the media might point to “helicopter parents” or “narcissistic kids,” Jay shines a light on the fact that 21st-Century twentysomethings are living with a staggering, unprecedented amount of uncertainty, both in their personal lives and in the larger world around them. She shows us how this uncertainty is experienced in our brains and bodies as a significant source of danger and stress.

Given that uncertainty is certainly here to stay, Jay argues that if we take young adult struggles seriously sooner – and learn to live courageously during what may feel like our most dangerous years – then millions of women and men will be healthier and happier people, partners, parents, and workers.


Whether it is bullying, the loss of a parent to divorce or death, alcoholism or substance abuse in the home, a mentally ill parent or sibling, domestic violence or neglect, or emotional, physical or sexual abuse, 75 percent of us experience at least one significant adversity by the age of 20.

In this compelling and compassionate conversation, Meg Jay reveals the secret world of the family hero: those who soar to unexpected heights after growing up with hard times. These are “the strong ones” in families, the everyday superheroes who have made a life out of dodging bullets and leaping over obstacles, even as they hide in plain sight as students, entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, artists, lawyers, actors, athletes, parents, and more. Naturally, we are amazed by those who rise above their pasts, yet as we have focused on “How do they do it?” we have forgotten also to ask, “How does it feel?”What fear does to the brain, how this results in keeping secrets, and what secrets do to our health over time

  • How chronic stress leaves our fight-or-flight mechanisms switched on, how this contributes to determination and courage, and how this affects our health over time, too
  • How, as children, family heroes escape danger without leaving their homes or neighborhoods, and how, as adults, they use second-chance opportunities to get away for good
  • Why fighting for justice is good for us, and why putting down the cape is sometimes necessary too
  • Why love might be the strongest superpower of all, and why relationships can be the most difficult places to be brave

Hearing ‘Supernormal’ will change the way you think about yourself and those you love.