Complacency is defined as self-satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of possible deficiencies or dangers. In The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream, Tyler Cowen argues that more Americans are living comfortably and contently with what life has handed them. By sheltering ourselves from the new and different, it’s hard to see what is lost by standing still. But if you look at the data, we’re seeing a shift in the fabric of American society—from losses in new startups and economic growth to more instances of segregation and inequality. It’s not too late to change course and re-embrace the restlessness that has long defined America.
Are you part of the complacent class? Take the quiz to find out. (Please note: Hitting the “back” button during the quiz could result in an error message).
Here are a few small steps you can take toward a less complacent life. Pick 3!
- Get off of social media for a month. Don’t even announce that you’re doing it. Just do it.
- Have a civil conversation with someone you typically disagree with on social or political issues. Take the time to figure out what drives them and where their ideas come from.
- (If you’re single) Ask out a stranger in real life. In case we’ve all forgotten how to do this, walk up to someone at a bar, start a conversation, and go from there.
- Delete the four most frequently used apps from your phone for a week.
- Stop listening to music or podcasts while you’re in public and interact with your physical surroundings.
- Go to lunch with someone in your office from a different department.
- Go to the movie theater, without looking in advance, and choose a movie that you wouldn’t normally see.
- Explore a music genre you are not familiar with until you find three songs you really like.
- Talk to your Uber driver… about something other than Uber.
- (Bonus) Grocery shop exclusively at a specialty grocery store for a month, such as an Asian food market.
- Write an article defending the opposite political view of what you believe. Try to be as convincing as possible!
- Take an online or evening class that has nothing to do with your career or existing talents.
- Next time you get upset about a political or social injustice, do something about it. Volunteer, protest, or donate to a cause.
- Use Google in funny ways. Be creative about what that means.
- Identify the quirkiest thing about yourself and double down on that trait. Find similarly eccentric people in person or online.
- Think of a product or service that should exist but doesn’t. Share ideas with friends and family at a minimum and get feedback.
- Imagine your dream job. Look for it. Apply for it even if you think you aren’t qualified. What’s the worst that could happen?
- Schedule a conversation with your boss about your future and new opportunities. If you aren’t getting what you think you have earned, ask for it.
- Judge a book by its cover: use tinder for books or go to a bookstore and pick a book based solely on its cover.
- Make a decision based on a coin flip.
- Stop using yelp or other go-to restaurant review sites for a month. For that matter, avoid eating at chain restaurants for a month.
- Start a savings account so you can one day buy or rent the home of your dreams. Or at least have enough money to couch-surf all over the world.
- Stop using delivery-service apps of all shapes and sizes for a month.
- Try to get to a location 20 or more min away (as the car drives) without your GPS.
- Leave your phone at home once a week.
- Pick a city 50-ish miles away from you. Take a day trip. Park in the middle of town and explore.
- Make time to travel to new places outside of your comfort zone
- (Bonus) Pick a city that you’ve never lived in that interests you and apply for a job there.
You can also find more suggestions in Bloomberg’s debate between Tyler and Noah Smith.
Why did you ask these particular questions?
Tyler Cowen describes American complacency in the book through the lens of several different social and economic indicators. The quiz draws from the most notable examples from each chapter in the book including America’s “matching” culture, how much Americans move or travel, progress in the workplace, political engagement, adventurousness, segregation, and innovation.
What does this quiz tell me?
The quiz asks you 27 questions to provide a complete picture of complacency or ambition based on trends that contribute to complacency outlined in the book. Based on your answers, it will tell you whether you exhibit behaviors that make you one of four possibilities: complacent, comfortable, a striver, or a trailblazer.
How did I get my score?
Each question has a set of possible answers weighted from high to low on levels of complacency relative to one another. Depending on how you answered each question, you earned points toward a total combined score. A few of the more pointed questions were weighted slightly greater than the rest, and the three demographic questions at the end did not count toward your score. Your total score falls within a range of four distinct categories alluded to above.
- Tier 1: You are a trailblazer—You do not accept the status quo as the best outcome in life. Your ambitions will help America get out of its rut.
- Tier 2: You are a striver —You embrace newness, but you need to strive harder to break the mold.
- Tier 3: You are comfortable—You are interested in trying new things but not enough to create real change.
- Tier 4: You are complacent—You need to get off the couch, step outside, and see what you’re missing.
I have a question about how a specific question was scored. How can I find the answer?
By reading The Complacent Class, you will have a good idea of what Tyler Cowen defines as “complacent” and which of the four buckets your answer likely falls into for each question. We do not publish the scoring for each question because we would like people to be truthful in how they answer without trying to get a specific score. What’s the fun in that? If you have specific questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The quiz is geared toward Americans. Is there a version for an international audience?
By popular demand, we have created a global version of the quiz.
Buy the Book!
For more information on Tyler Cowen’s new book or to purchase a copy for yourself, please visit complacentclass.com.