Gus Lubin at *Business Insider* reviews *The Complacent Class*

by on February 25, 2017 at 2:21 pm in Books, Uncategorized, Web/Tech | Permalink

Here is the review, here is one bit:

“Matchers gain, strivers lose,” he [Cowen] writes in a new book, “The Complacent Class.”

Matchers, aka enthusiasts, are people who are motivated by personal interests, whether that’s record collecting, hiking, cooking, or obsessing about “Game of Thrones.” “The enthusiasts are not trying to come out ahead of everyone else; rather, they seek to have some of their niche preferences fulfilled for the sake of their own internally directed happiness,” Cowen writes.

Strivers, on the other hand, are motivated by beating others. “These are the people who strive to have the biggest office, bed the most mates, earn the most money, or climb whatever the relevant status ladder might be,” Cowen writes.

It’s not hard to see how recent trends have favored matchers. This group has benefitted from technology — from Tinder to Spotify to Google — that makes it easier for them to pursue their interests and find other people who share them. Meanwhile, strivers are suffering, faced with more competition than ever and a greater awareness of how many people around the world are beating them.

An excellent piece.

1 prior_test2 February 25, 2017 at 2:26 pm

So, is average over or not? Complacent strivers would undoubtedly like to know, while matchers could care less.

2 The Other Jim February 25, 2017 at 2:37 pm

So…. “follow your heart,” in other words.

I guess that kind of pithyness would not make for a good book.

You are foolish to knock strivers, given that virtually everything you have is a result of the strivers who came before you. But your goal is to sell books, not improve the world. “Get off your ass and try harder” is not something that coastal urban elites want to read in books they’ve paid for, after all.

3 Just Another MR Commentor February 25, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Tyler changes his opinions every other book

4 Pshrnk February 25, 2017 at 3:30 pm

To say the world changes is not knocking strivers.

Mr. T: I pity the strivers

5 Milo Fan February 25, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Don’t think that’s the point of the book, though I haven’t read it yet.

6 B. Reynolds February 25, 2017 at 6:58 pm

Is that what you got from the review?

7 The Original February 26, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Everything that came before is from strivers? Thomas Edison, Bill Gates and Andrew Carnegie were primarily concerned with status?

8 Thiago Ribeiro February 25, 2017 at 3:09 pm

It is clear that America is a failing, decedant state just like Brazil

9 robert February 26, 2017 at 10:40 am

Thiago: do us all a favor and get lost, would you?

10 Pshrnk February 25, 2017 at 3:28 pm
11 Dick the Butcher February 25, 2017 at 7:17 pm

Ecclesiastes 1: 2 – 5: “Vanity of vanities, said the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labor which he takes under the sun?
One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides for ever.
The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastes to his place where he arose.”

Ecclesiastes 1:9: “What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.”

12 Ray Lopez February 25, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Why would strivers even try? You’re just going to be matched (copied) by the matchers.

CNTRL + F + “Patents” = no hits. Did TC even mention patents once in his latest book? Probably not.

Average is not over in IP law reform. It’s not even started. 200 years from now somebody will read the comments of this blog and recognize me as a proto-productivity pioneer…sigh, I might be long dead by then, unless I can cryogenicly freeze my head like Dr. Hansen.

13 JP February 25, 2017 at 8:24 pm

Maybe you should freeze your head now. Why take the chance that no one will read your comments in 200 years. Better safe than sorry…

14 Jim February 25, 2017 at 4:37 pm

I haven’t read the book yet, so pardon me if this is an obvious question. However, I guess I’m sort of confused by the way this book goes together with your last book (“Average Is Over”). In your last book, you talked quite a bit about how only a small portion of the population would be able to meaningfully contribute in the future due to the increasingly complex nature of economic behaviours in which humans can add value. In this book, you seem to be disparaging the “complacency” of large swathes of the population. Why should this complacency be a problem though? Your last book would seem to suggest that, complacent or not, large chunks of the population will become superfluous. So is less striving really all that bad? Really, this is a problem of the upper class.

There is also a broader point I guess I’d like to make, which has to do with whether “complacency” is a rational reaction. Most of the population is not gonna benefit from technological progress in the short run. Lots of people are going to have to deal with chronic unemployment, stagnating wages, etc. Why would people strive when that effort is unlikely to produce tangible rewards? Why strive when it’s almost certainly going to bring misery?

15 Ray Lopez February 25, 2017 at 6:30 pm

+1, I’ve been shouting this from the rooftops since day one. Invention is hard, and innovators get copied, and often are not the first to the patent law office anyway (rumor has it a now nearly unknown Frenchman beat Alexander Graham Bell to the US patent office by a day with a Bell-type telephone, but Bell bribed somebody to backdate his patent application; not sure if this is really true, but the anecdote rings true from what I’ve seen about simultaneous invention).

Rational people thus don’t even bother with becoming strivers. Only odd-balls like Elon Musk do, and geeks who love to invent for free. It’s much cheaper and easier and more profitable to be a matcher. Another reason for improved patent laws of the Ray Lopez variety, where all worthy inventors, even the ones that fail, get a prize.

16 The Original February 26, 2017 at 12:47 pm

I’d say the odball billionaires are matchers. Hedge fund managers are strivers, but Steve Jobs was going to do what he was going to do regardless of status.

17 Just Another MR Commentor February 26, 2017 at 3:19 am

Yeah that’s ALWAYS even the central contradiction in Tyler’s entire world view

18 Just Another MR Commentor February 26, 2017 at 3:22 am

Tyler has a world view that on the one hand suggest hard work and effort are not even remotely sufficient but on the other hand he’s socially conservative and is wedded to the romantic old “keep your head to the grindstone” morals of the past. It’s a major contradiction he refuses to acknowledge.

19 Lurker February 26, 2017 at 6:09 am

I used to work in IT. After awhile, I could no longer keep up.

For a modest hit to my ego, I can now sit back and just consume the technology, for even more modest prices.

I will gladly let someone else worry about how all those zeros and ones get strung together…

20 Troll me February 28, 2017 at 4:00 pm

I think it is quite normal that only a very small share of the population is working at the cutting edge, or in areas with potential to expand the cutting edge.

21 Pipsterate February 25, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Interesting review, but it called your last book “Average if Over” instead of “Average Is Over”, which I believe is a typo. I have emailed Business Insider to bring their attention to this.

22 Dan Hanson February 25, 2017 at 5:13 pm

I have not read the book yet, but It sounds like some of you are equating strivers with ‘hard go-getters’. While matchers are just people who would rather play with ther hobbies than work. To me, it means much more than that – strivers are motivated by beating other people, while matchers are motivated by internal desire to understand, build, experience, etc.

Think of it this way – a book author who is a striver may be motivated to make a book that hits the top of the best seller list, or which makes a zillion dollars, so which shows the lemon in the office next door that you are smarter than he is. A matcher who writes booms might instead be motivated by a burning need to share insights he has learned about something,

I’m reminded of Pournelle’s Iron Rule of Bureaucracy, which states that every large organization has two types of people in it. The first is motivated to do the job the bureaucracy was created for in the first place, while the second is motivated to climb the bureaucratic ladder, or to protect his or her turf, or to make sure blame doesn’t land on him when things go south to protect his standing, or in general to serve the needs of the bureaucracy rather than the things the bureaucracy was created for in the first place. The Iron Law states that given enough time, the second class of people will always win. Anyone who has spent time in the bowels of a bureaucracy has seen this dynamic in play.

In terms of Cowen’s thesis, the matchers would be those people who joined the bureaucracy because they are interested in doing the job, while the strivers would be those who see the bureaucacy as a tool for personal advancement and not much more.

And here’s an Ayn Rand example, just to annoy everyone: In ‘The Fountainhead’, Howard Rourke was a matcher. He was an architect because he had a burning need to design the best buildings he could. But his chief rival Peter Keating was a striver – a mediocre architect who went into the field to make money, to impress others, and to climb the ladders of power and fame.

23 RustySynapses February 25, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Yes, that was what I took from it – it’s not necessarily how hard you work, it’s why you work and whether you’re likely to be satisfied with the results. Personally, some of the highest achieving people I’ve known were matchers. I’m more in the “figure out how to love what you do” versus “do what you love” camp, but for the people who do what they love and it works out, you can see why they would be the most successful (and rewarded in all ways) of all.

24 B. Reynolds February 25, 2017 at 7:18 pm

Ha! Yes, I was thinking the exact same thing. Rand’s heroes are definitely matchers (I think the enthusiasts term works better). People who get Rand completely wrong in the most retarded way do so because they are trying to force Rand’s heroes into the role of the striver. No striver would work in a granite quarry.

The Aristocracy of Pull is all about the strivers.

25 Shane M February 25, 2017 at 10:02 pm

When I read the part about matchers and internal motivation I immediately thought of Warren Buffett’s comments on internal motivation or “inner scorecard” as he calls it. He’s done very well from himself, but I mostly don’t think he was driven by the thrill of beating people – rather he was internally motivated to build his company, build it the right way, and do right by his shareholders. Unsure how the striver vs. matcher comparison works in context of Buffett. Since he’s had great success that might incline us to say he’s a striver, but it seems he is better described as a matcher who’s doing what he loves.

26 Mabuse February 28, 2017 at 5:58 am

I think that it was always obvious that Buffet was always psychologically different from most of the investment industry, and I think that this dichotomy describes it well. Finance is a sector full of strivers who only work in finance because of the potential to make a lot of money, while Buffet is a matcher (I too prefer the term enthusiast) whose personal passion happened to be investing, so following his passion just happened to make him a lot of money.

27 TMC February 25, 2017 at 11:42 pm

“I have not read the book yet, but It sounds like some of you are equating strivers with ‘hard go-getters’. ”

‘hard go-getters’ is the definition of strivers. Dictionary: . To exert much effort or energy; endeavor. 2. To struggle or fight forcefully; contend: strive against injustice.

This definition Tyler uses suggests a zero sum game – opposite of what an actual striver would believe.

28 ChrisA February 26, 2017 at 3:16 am

My guess is there isn’t two types of people, these are really just tendencies in all of us. Events make these tendencies either dominant or hidden. In simple terms, if you experience lots of success (either due to luck or talent) in competitions, then you are likely to favor competition. If on the other hand your experiences are less successful perhaps you prefer less competition and more cooperation type experiences. This is known as the fundamental attribution error by the way, a well known psychology theory where we seek to explain behaviour by inherent characteristics rather than driven more by environment.

In my own life I am sometimes intensely competitive, and sometimes very relaxed and willing to partake in cooperative type activities depending on what the particular activity is.

29 dearieme February 25, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Is the past tense “strove”? I believe it must be. What a woody word.

30 Dick the Butcher February 25, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Did a web search. I prefer “strove.” As with dive/dove. Then again, “striven” sounds better in the past perfect tense. From the web: “Strived and strove both work as the past tense of strive. Both forms are many centuries old, and both appear regularly throughout the English-speaking world, so you …”

31 dearieme February 26, 2017 at 8:03 am

You may have missed the allusion in “woody”. It’s a mark of approval, though I like “striven” too.

32 anon February 25, 2017 at 5:24 pm

I was not aware of this thread through The Complacent Class. I certainly try to find simple pleasures rather than status competition.

We went to Sattdown today. I have not had jerk chicken often, but I think this was pretty good. Steve S lives over that way, I wonder how often he pops in?

So, are matchers supposed to be a force for stagnation? I’ve done a few startups, an unsuccessful private offering, and finally a rather nice IPO. YMMV.

33 anon February 26, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Upon reflection, it is possible that I strove to a certain level before pulling the switch.

34 Millenial February 25, 2017 at 6:05 pm

“[Millennials] are not actually indifferent or lazy or lacking in enthusiasm — quite the contrary — but more and more of their passions take forms other than those of the old climb-the-social-ladder variety,” Cowen writes. “Millennials might therefore appear to be lacking to the older generations who don’t quite get the new terms of competition and satisfaction. In reality, the Millennials are doing pretty well with respect to the options the world has given them, and they are helping move that world toward more contentment and also less interest in grand projects or topping previous records of achievement.”

I’m interested in reading the book to see what Tyler’s evidence is, but right now I’m skeptical. Take education. We’re the most “educated” generation in history. It hasn’t made us any smarter than prior generations, but it at least requires some investment of time and money. And I’m not just talking about the community college crowd. There’s more PhD’s, more Masters degrees, ect, because of credential inflation.

35 Troll me February 28, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Do you think credentials are actually inflated, or perhaps it’s just that oversupply makes them look cheap and thus less valuable?

I think everyone knows that a PhD from Oxford is still quite valuable (specifically not talking about signalling, especially since you’re talking about “inflation”), and I think the existence of PhD certification from Townsville Universities does not deflate its value.

36 Peter D February 25, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Zero-sum games are for losers.

37 Hazel Meade February 27, 2017 at 10:55 am

I’ve seen a lot of younger people (millenials to gen-x) create wealth by forming new ways of cooperating. How else to you explain the “sharing economy”?
If you’re always thinking zero-sum, you’re not going to come up with ideas like co-working spaces, or Zipcar, or Kickstarter which are fundamentally about sharing resources you aren’t using at the moment with people who might “beat you” in the race to have the biggest house.

38 Troll me February 28, 2017 at 4:12 pm

The sharing economy is generally a way for the unemployed (etc.) to cash in some value from their deprecitating assets in a situation of precisely zero labour rights or job continuity protections.

“Sharing economy” is BS. “Gig economy”? A little more accurate.

If you want to know what “sharing” is, perhaps check out something more like, and not AirBNB.

39 steveslr February 25, 2017 at 9:57 pm

Some strivers, e.g., Mark Zuckerberg, have done rather well for themselves.

Back in the 1970s, it was assumed that the Age of Monopolies was long gone.

But now it’s back.

40 thfmr February 25, 2017 at 9:59 pm

It’s true: only ten percent of people can be in the top ten percent anymore.

Yay, participation trophies for everyone!

41 Shane M February 25, 2017 at 10:11 pm

I wonder if the fragmentation of attention and culture that came with the internet also makes it harder for strivers to feel like they’ve won? If you crave attention and recognition it’s likely harder now when large portions of the population have no idea you even exist due to fragmentation of attention. (If there are thousands of hills to climb does it mean less to get to the top?)

42 Roger Miller February 25, 2017 at 11:48 pm

A great piece … thanks again. You are a gifted thinker and I thank you for your leadership and courage. In addition to being a fan of your blogs, I’m also a proud father to all three of my kids, including Daniel (38), Jen (36) and Shawn (35). I thank you for your efforts to make this and their future worlds better.

43 Robert McGregor February 26, 2017 at 12:05 am

Hillary is a Striver; Bernie is a Matcher. Trump is a Striver, but . . . ?

44 Dan Lavatan-Jeltz February 26, 2017 at 3:07 am

If this is true, I don’t think Tyler understands how people think. First of all, if a strive is failing that can motivate him or her to improve as there are a bunch of other people doing better making it obvious how easy it is. For example, I know all the current hedge fund managers are complete idiots and that I can beat them, when otherwise I would assume there aren’t any due to an efficient market hypothesis. Second, if you are doing well having a Total Perspective Vortex is very useful, just look what it did for Zaph.

Finally, if you are not in competition you have no reason to talk with anyone ever. The whole point of hiking is to walk far enough you don’t even have to look at them.

For that matter Tinder is not useful technology and should not be described as such even as a joke but if it were it would probably be used by the one person determined to have the most mates.

45 Troll me February 28, 2017 at 4:55 pm

If you think you’re better than all the top fund managers, probably you’ve just been lucky so far and are lining up for a disaster.

46 Mark February 26, 2017 at 1:20 pm

I guess I am unhelpful evidence for your thesis. I am definitely a striver, but I benefited hugely from the internet’s effect. First, it created much more access to data that I was better suited to absorb and organize than those I competed against. But second, I really benefited from the diminishment in need for face-to-face contact as I really did not have an advantage in that contest, neither in looks nor personality, but had a big leg up in the more neutral context of finding and processing impersonal data.

47 Hazel Meade February 27, 2017 at 12:04 am

Is it possible to be a striving matcher? Some of us are competing to have the most unique and varied life experiences, not to own the biggest house.
I think I’ll vacation at an Ashram next summer, so I can go back and brag about all the Yoga I did. And after that, I want to float in an isolation tank.

48 Troll me February 28, 2017 at 4:58 pm

The risk in there is that you live your life checking off boxes and not living the experiences.

During various travels, I’ve mets lots of people of the type who will say things like “I did country A, I did country B, then I did all the country Cs…”.

Why spend all your time at the airport and in between hotel stays? Spend some time somewhere. Then spend some time somewhere else.

49 carlospln February 27, 2017 at 7:45 am
50 Plucky February 27, 2017 at 6:37 pm

There’s a different axis on which “strivers” also “suffer”- The complete collapse of anything resembling common culture or common values into everyone’s interest niche means that even if you do strive successfully and do climb what you deem to be the relevant status ladder, much of the world will respond with either yawns or even hostility, since everyone else operates on a status hierarchy that’s different from, and possibly completely incompatible with, yours. If the motivation for “striving” is at root the yearning for validation, then the “striver” is going to be unsatisfied no matter what because there’s no common agreement on what ought and ought not be validated.

51 4chan-guy February 28, 2017 at 4:48 am

Not enough baseless people classifications.

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