High value man

What it mean to be a "high value man" today, and flaws with that term.

written by oz chen

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what does high value man mean

Where does the term “high value man” come from?

Out of seemingly nowhere, “high value man” is now a staple term in conversations about relationships, dating and masculinity. Since 2015, high value man and high value woman started trending as search terms, with more searches for the prior.

Which leads me to ask…what exactly does high value man mean? 
Is just a rebranding of the gross “alpha male” ?

My first exposure to high value was through a bunch of dating advice books. There was this concept called DHV, meaning demonstrate high value. The idea is that for men to attract their desired mate, they have to put their best foot forward, whether that is showcasing their confidence, their abilities, or their wealth.

The idea goes: “the more value I provide – whether through financial or social resources – the more attractive I am to others.”

Around 2021, Youtuber Kevin Samuels re-popularized the term with his Youtube videos on modern dating and what it means to be a high value male.

He espoused 6 qualities that make a high value man:

  1. Make at least $10k/month, adjusted for Atlanta dollars (local to Kevin Samuels)
  2. Consistently make this money and build your career for 3-5 years
  3. Be accepted in the company of other high value men
  4. Have a network of other high value men
  5. Visibility and clout
  6. Utility (usefulness to others)

Think this list sounds arbitrary? So do I.

What if you make $9K/month? Are you low value until you make $1K/month more?
Where is the mention of emotional stability?
What about health and fitness?

Here’s an example of a dating profile that went viral for all the wrong reasons:

This seems more like a game of men projecting their values on other men.

If you’re not high value, then are you low value? Can one be “medium value?” Let’s get more specific.

The true meaning of high value

Let’s say a CEO spends all day in a business he hates, and secretly wants to be a writer.
On the outside people will think the CEO is a high value man because of perceived status.
On the inside, he might feel like a low value man for spending zero time on things that actually matter to him.

The reputation we have with ourselves matters most.

Values are just what matters. It’s subjective, so values are just what matters to you.
So I propose this meaning of a “high value person” :

High value people spend time on things of high importance…to them.

In any given day, we can choose high value or low value activities. Maybe the most important thing you need to do is send out an important email. But instead you do some low value activities such as doom scrolling through social media. (And by you, I mean me.)

The danger of becoming a low value person occurs when the majority of one’s time is spent on low value behaviors, thoughts and beliefs.

It is far easier today to do low value things. Low value, distracting activities abound, are widely accessible, and compete with high value behaviors for your time. It becomes much harder to fight for your attention and to carve out something meaningful in this age of distraction.

Studies have shown that men are more impulsive, distractable, and prone to addictive behaviors. So it’s even easier for men to fall victim to low value activities.

All of which paints a challenging picture for the modern man.

It’s economically harder to be a high value man today

It’s quite possible for a woman working in fast food or retail to date a corporate executive.

Conversely, a man working a low wage job will rarely find himself in the company of a female executive.

As TLC crooned in their 1999 hit song, women don’t want no scrubs.

And yet, women have been out-graduating men and young women in particular have been outearning men in many major cities. One of the most-cited papers on gender asymmetry finds that “the highly-credentialed alpha female still prefers a mate above her pay grade.”

For men, being “high value” in the dating marketplace has become more difficult relative to women now.

Let’s look at some numbers from Zippia and BLS data.

  • Around 18% of all U.S. earners make at least six figures
  • The median household income in 2023 was about $44000
  • 9% more men earn $100k per year than women in the US.

Does this mean that less than 1 out of 5 American men are high value?
Does this mean that for high value women earning $100K+, only 9% of men meet their standards?

Do women really want “high value men?”

I believe that high value is just a proxy word for other things, like high status.

Society rewards that which is “higher.” High self esteem. High confidence. High class.

If a job asks if you’re a high performer, of course you say you are. No one comes in saying “Hey I’d like a job and I’m a low performer.” In the same way no one wants “low value.”

Modern dating incentivizes speed and quick judgment. Because women tend to value status and stability while men value looks (at least in the consumerist marketplace of dating apps), the strategy of showcasing higher status makes sense.

Two guys being equal, the one posing with a sports car may seem higher status than the one with a Honda. That’s visible status. And yet, wealth is largely invisible. If someone drives a Ferrari, you assume that they are loaded. That’s visible status. But it could be that they are in debt or bankrupt—totally invisible. In fact, the majority of millionaires drive boring, modest cars like Toyotas.

Meanwhile, women experience a myriad of societal pressures including child-rearing, beauty and age.
Women are often expected to be more kind and agreeable.
Each gender feels its unique pressures.

So maybe the whole phenomena around “high value” is just another way to express that expectations in mating and dating have gone up.

Happiness = reality – expectations

I often think of Esther Perel’s viral 2018 SXSW talk, a cutting observation about modern relationship expectations:

We still want all the same things that traditional marriage was about: we want family life, some of us; we want companionship; we want economic support; we want social status but now I want you also to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot and all for the long haul and the long haul keeps getting longer.

What we have created in a romantic ambition is one person to give us once an entire village used to provide.

To this end, maybe the term high value is just a substitute for “can you meet my needs?”
And that looks like an ever-growing set of needs, per Perel’s observations.

Call it Lovestyle inflation—just like lifestyle inflation, but this is when we need more and more from our partners to make us happy.

Is there a way out of this conundrum? Opt out of the game altogether, or play a different one?

How to be high value in the modern age

The most important thing to do with values is to define them. Only then can you accurately navigate what is higher or lower value to you. With that said, there is always opportunity for anyone to improve.

The average person thinks they’re above average, which on average, could not be true. (Say that 3 times fast)

But there is a lot to gain from being just above average in areas you focus on.

Naturally, people gravitate towards easy things, so if you choose hard things, then your life will get easier.

In this sense, a high value person does not avoid doing hard work.

This orientation also challenges the consumerist culture—I think every high value person attempts to produce more they consume. Whether that’s sharing your knowledge or volunteering your time or literally producing things for others’ consumption.

High value men raise others up

Consumerism can create the context of a transactional give-and-take model. Going beyond that, I think high value people contribute to others beyond their status or money.

Every time I interact with a high value person, I don’t feel like they’re trying to get something from me—it often feels like the opposite, where I’m left thinking wow, that was a great conversation!

To reference Esther Perel again, her episode If He’s A “High Value Man”, What Am I? is a conversation with a woman whose “high value man” makes her feel unworthy. In that dynamic, seems as if she should feel lucky to have him—not the other way around.

High value men do not make the people around them feel lower value—he raises everyone to a higher level.

As the phrase goes, “a civilization is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”

I hope you found value in reading this.

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