I was experimenting with word associations. They only work when you don’t censor your own thoughts. So right after ‘pain’ came ‘love’.
I don’t know whether I should congratulate myself for being honest or feel embarrassed about my cynicism. Either way, I got to thinking more about the relationship between the two.
‘Skin in the game’ is an ethical concept coined by Nassim Taleb. An example: he cites how engineers thousands of years ago were made to sit with their families under bridges they had built to ensure it was built to the highest standard.
A modern example of it’s absence can be found in the banking industry. Bankers receive a bonus for good performance but when the bank collapses they are not penalised. They can access the upside without exposure to the downside.
This is the opposite of skin in the game, which advocates no benefit without exposure to risk. Meaning, if you’re going to gain from success, you must also suffer from failure.
Those with skin in the game at the highest level (Nassim calls it “soul in the game”) are those who take risks for what they believe in.
When we love someone, we open ourselves up to another. The upside of love is incredible. It is something that has been celebrated and honoured for centuries. But the downside of love is painful in equal measure. The worst pains ever inflicted are meted out by those we love.
When it comes to ethics, heroes are those who had skin in the game, the ones who took risks for what they believed in.
It’s not easy to be a hero nowadays. Gone are the days when we can pick up a sword, strap on a shield and go to fight for the protection of our family and country. But glory is not only found on the field of battle.
To love is glorious, heroic. Because when we love, we not only experience incomparable joy, we make ourselves vulnerable to the most terrible of risks.