Book Review: 101 Secrets for Your Twenties

By Paul Angone (Moody Publishers, 2013)

3.5/5 Stars

This little book was a good quick-read that you could peruse (and possibly finish) while lounging on the beach, en route on a road trip, or waiting for an interview. Paul Angone writes in a friendly, conversational tone and structures 101 Secrets with bold headers for each “Secret” that are often self-explanatory; it is easy to read cover-to-cover in a few hours or selectively by header. The Secrets are simplistic-yet-profound life and attitude hacks for the recent graduate and 20-something that fall mainly under the categories of future, job, marriage, faith, and family, although they are not grouped or presented in a coherent order.

It is worth noting that Moody Publishers is a faith-based, Christian publisher and that the Moody Collective imprint specifically targets millennials, so their books are going to be written from that perspective. While at times, Angone speaks directly to this demographic (#26 – Our imperfections, doubts, and questions about faith don’t make us unfaithful freaks- they make us human), his counsel (like the lyrics of the band Switchfoot) is overall very comforting and does not feel preachy; the advice is applicable to anyone who pursues (or wants to pursue) a spiritual or religious practice, and comes dogma and judgment-free.

Some of the secrets are gentle reminders about everyday steps the reader can take to succeed (#34 – Sometimes the most proactive thing you can do is De-Plug), some are more anecdotal and personal to the author (#98 – A Dad’s love is a TIDAL WAVE) and some missed the mark a little or felt excessively colloquial (#30 – Where you fit in the Caffeine-Quadrant below will tell you a Grande-lot about your level of adultness….). What Angone did best was taking simple platitudes, making them more lyrical, and elaborating only as much as necessary:

#23 - Build the brand that is YOU.

#25 – Your 20s will produce more failure than you’ll choose to remember. The key is, when you fail don't begin calling yourself a failure.

#35 – Obsessive Comparison Disorder is the smallpox of our generation.

#67 – Your Parents Are Your Always-Ally.

#73 – The biggest risk of your 20s would be never taking any risks at all.

In some instances, he nailed critical lessons about the transition from academia to the workplace - stuff your parents might try to teach you during a lecture about the "real world" but that is so much easier to accept when it comes up during a friendly conversation with your favorite uncle:

#11 – Lousy Jobs are Twentysomething Rite of Passage.

#15 – A college diploma is NOT your golden-ticket into DreamJobLand.

#36 – Your 20s might be less about finding what you want to do, and more about finding

what you DO NOT want to do.

#43 – The most dangerous job you can have in your 20s is a comfortable one.

#54 – In the working world, very rarely is someone waiting there to teach you how to do your job.

They're expecting you to teach yourself.

Stronger organization by category would have helped this book to feel more comprehensive, coherent and balanced: more advice about family (the one we are born into and the one we create), adapting to new environments, and establishing community would have been welcome, since what he did write on the subjects was helpful. Angone also neglected to explore the practicality and value of networking and developing transferable job skills through alternative ways such as interning and volunteering. Many graduates get caught in the entry-level job Catch-22 of needing experience to get experience., which relates to observations #11 and #15 listed above. Furthermore, the list contained seemingly contradictory advice. For example, #21 (The key to success in your 20s is comparing yourself to everyone, everyday. Then let that anxiety and fear propel you to work harder, faster, and with more motivation...) is the direct opposite of #35 stated above, but then Angone does an a U-turn and says "Or...don't compare yourself to THEM. You're not them. They're not you. Your story doesn't fit in theirs." So which is it? Perhaps Angone should have mentioned that motivation-style often depends on personality type. Whether you're competitive/yang and pulled by external goals or your're introverted/yin and pushed from within, the important thing is knowing yourself and whatever moves you forward rather than keeps you stuck.

The strength—and weakness—of 101 Secrets is that, having come out of Angone’s blog post 21 Secrets for Your 20s from his website, it is essentially a long-form “listicle” of soundbites; like the content featured on the popular journalism-light site Buzzfeed, it is easy to digest but at times leaves something to be desired in terms of substance. That said, while all 101 Secrets were not universally applicable, the ones that rang true were written in such a way that I put down the book feeling like I’d just left a very positive and energizing therapy session… from the comfort of my backyard.