Gain and Loss

I'm leaving all my original insightful posts on and just putting everything else here. This is a recap, so this consolidation and reorganization of the "Gain and Loss" series is going on this blog instead. It's a major portion of my worldview, so if you want to understand how I think, you've got to understand the gain and loss paradigm.

People tend to be either gain oriented or loss oriented. Gain orientation means you look at everything thinking about what you stand to gain from it. Loss orientation means you look at everything thinking about what you stand to lose from it. Gain orientation doesn't mean "absolute disregard for loss", nor does loss orientation mean "absolute disregard for gain". It's just an orientation.

Gain orientation is future-orientation. It's about what you don't have that you want, it's about a better condition in the future. Loss orientation is past-orientation. It's about what you have had until now, and not risking it.

Gain orientation possesses an entrepreneurial boldness. It's being unafraid to take risks when it is possible to gain a reward. Loss orientation, by contrast, is centered around a lazy fearfulness. It's being afraid of losing something and looking for either "something for nothing" or "guaranteed little bit of something for guaranteed little bit of something", the two poles where the best opportunities do not lie (and where most people get fucked over).

Gain orientation is active. You won't get something in the future if you don't do something now. Loss orientation is inactive. You probably won't lose what you've got now if you don't do anything to risk it.

Gain orientation is rational. You can calculate the risks and rewards and rationally come to a conclusion that some course of action is a good idea. Loss orientation is emotive. You fear loss, and allow this fear to limit your will to think rationally and objectively about things.

Everybody is a mixed combination of the two. There are thresholds, points beyond which one's normal orientation becomes reversed, gain orientation to a point, after which one becomes loss oriented, or vice versa. There is a degree of field-specificity; someone bold in matters of relationships may be timid in matters of finance, for instance, or vice versa. But most people fall under one or the other.

Gain orientation is empowering. And it's full appreciation requires the acceptance of other empowering ideas. Part of becoming gain oriented is minimizing the fear of the unknown, and not only through doing your research, but though fully appreciating and integrating the idea that there is nothing beyond your ability to comprehend, and even if something does go wrong, it's not the randomness of a roll of the dice that made you fail, but a real factor that it is within your power to avoid or negate in any future attempts. When nothing is unknowable, the fear of the unknown is replaced with curiosity, the deterrent to action is replaced with incentive. Loss orientation deals more with probabilities of occurances than with what actually manifests, as if the reality were really totally out of their control, and usually, totally beyond their understanding.

Loss orientation is pervasive in modern society.

Much of this loss orientation is about a loss of some valued identity as such. Racism, nationalism, sexism, most forms of collectivism, and to some extent, religion, are about preserving a feature of one's distinct identity, that, for whatever silly reason, the valuer values. Effeminate males and gays and transgenders threaten the identity of masculinity and "maleness", and the people that hate that sort of thing highly value masculinity (and probably their identity as masculine). Making enemies to preserve a feature of one's identity as such is a loss oriented way of thinking. Cultural identity and tradition are part of this. People often consider their traditions to be part of their culture, and their culture to be part of their identity.

Loss orientation is amazingly obvious in government. What is the most compelling reason why people believe government is necessary? Fear. Loss orientation. Overcoming this fear is the biggest barrier to anarchism for most people. Anarchy is unknown to them, and thus it is feared. Government rhetoric is entirely oriented toward loss. It is the statists who are saying "Vote for the lesser of two evils", but the anarchists who are saying that "a better world is possible". And how does government operate with other governments? Fear. How does government operate with it's own agents? Fear. How does the government teach students in public schools? Through fear of being wrong, through punishment for being wrong, through appeals to that loss oriented part of the mind and through punishment to that bold, outspoken element in everyone that wants to speak out and be exceptional and break the government mold.

Working at a formal "job" for low pay because you're guaranteed to be paid instead of working freely, becoming perpetual wage labor when entrepreneurship is within reach, is loss oriented. Getting into debt for the sake of keeping up the the Joneses is loss oriented. "Normality" as a value is loss oriented.

Everything that encourages mediocrity and ignorance and self-limiting attitudes is loss oriented.

This is why I'm such a freak to most people. I'm aware of my own degrees of gain and loss orientation, and capable of forcing myself to overcome it when necessary. I can force myself to go against cultural momentum when the direction of that momentum is wrong.

Absolutely, apply this idea to yourself. Evaluate yourself in this light. Evaluate others in this light. Don't lie to yourself about it and tell yourself you're gain oriented when you're not, that's loss oriented.

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