10 Things I Learned: Tyler Cowen

That is a short interview with me from Northern Virginia magazine, here is one excerpt:

When did you feel you had “made it”?

Jan. 21, 1962 (his birthday). That was a turning point of sorts for me.

How do you define success?

Learning something new all the time, and staying healthy. Getting paid. Interacting with smart people. Having the chance to pass something along to others.


What do you do after a disappointment?

Bid higher next time.

Give us an idea of your work/life balance philosophy.

Do I even try to do balance? For me they are more or less the same. I know that makes me difficult. But I’ve ended up writing about what were once hobbies, and using so-called “leisure” time to prepare for research, writing, speaking and so on. My social life is pretty closely tied to my work life.

And at the end:

Any advice for those who are going into your field?

Listen also to the advice of people who are not in your field. A lot of budding academics listen too much to their advisor and don’t receive enough feedback and mentoring from a broader set of sources.



Short version: Be a happy, polymathic person like Tyler and enjoy life no matter what. You luck out if that pays off.

If you're the sort who can't simply enjoy life and needs objectively good outcomes, then you're either lucky or seriously screwed.

"Any advice for those who are going into your field?"

Beware : the higher education bubble may burst.

Some of these interviews now look like self parody. Have I been reading MR too long or has Tyler become complacent?

you're overly familiar with his interviews and not the target reader.

Interesting you didn't choose April 1961 or thereabouts.

But you dodged two important questions with humor, Tyler. The one about a turning point in your life and the one about how you deal with disappointment. Where the answers too private for you to tell us?

@chrisare: "Some of these interviews now look like self parody."

...yeah, but that's 'unintentional' self-parody. Takes an oversize ego to do that type interview -- and an even bigger one to promote it on your blog

With these kinds of questions, you can either be factitious or humble. I suspect humble is the better strategy. Factious only works if you are Joe Orton and you have a genius for one-liners. Of course, there's a danger in being too humble: you can come off as phony.

So maybe the best strategy is not to answer such questions at all.

I figured I had it made when, in my twenties, I found my family is worth millions, just being an average upper middle class family in the Washington DC area. Right now are net worth is in the 1%, and you need a net worth (assets minus liabilities) of $9M to get in there. If we can double our net worth in 10 years--and I have some ideas--we'll be seriously rich.

Bonus trivia: 60% of NBA players suffer financial stress within 5 years of retirement, while 78% of NFL players do; NBA baller Allen Iverson went broke after making $154M in wages (he has however $30M in a Reebok-sponsored trust fund that's not accessible until 2030). The boxers Holyfield and Tyson went broke despite making $513M and several hundred million in wages.

Re broke players, in Black culture, it is expected that an athlete or musician who has had wild success support not only mom, dad, and sis, but also extended family (the "fam") and childhood friends (the "crew", "the boys"), sometimes to the financial detriment of the famous individual. White athletes and muscians, who come from a culture that emphasizes the nuclear family, can just tell these hangers-ons to piss off. As African Americans say, "mo money, mo problems".

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