Ever heard someone say that: C’mon, what’ve you got to lose? It’s usually used when someone is trying to convince someone else to do something, go somewhere, etc.
I’m a podcast aficionado. Typically, it takes me anywhere from 10-20 minutes to walk from my residence hall (where I work) to class. In comparison to my friends’ schedules, I tend to find myself walking to class alone. Occasionally, I put on some Broadway shortness, but most of the time, I lend my ears to podcasts. They are never short of giving me new perspectives on the world.
[Later on this month I will try to have a list of my favorite podcasts out!]
Alex, a friend of mine, recently learned of my affinity for podcasts. She is a finance major and thinks of numbers in the same passionate way I think of words. Recently, Alex recommended the podcast Planet Money, as we were discussing my interest in developing some sense of financial literacy. It’s an intellectual aspect of the world that currently feels foreign to me. Alex thought this might be an easy way to merge new information into my regular routine. I loved that!
Planet Money is one of the many different series run by NPR, so I felt confident I was going to enjoy it. I am already subscribed to a few of their channels.
The first episode I listened to was #513: Dear Economist, I Need A Date. It’s only 20 minutes, so if you have the time, I recommend giving it a listen.
The episode centered around the numerical data that fuels online dating sites. Overall, the podcast was utterly fascinating (if you are a fan of This American Life, this is relatively similar). Halfway through the episode, the economists solicited questions about dating and relationships in general. That’s when one economic term was brought up that stuck with me in particular: Loss Aversion.
[Bear with me- I’m an English major, trying to make sense of economics. If I butcher it completely, feel free to correct me.]
By definition, loss aversion is, “refers to people’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains: it’s better to not lose $5 than to find $5” [source].
In the context of the podcast episode, the idea of loss aversion came to mind for one of the economist’s answering questions after a listener called in with a dilemma. The listener wanted advice about his love life, or, lack thereof.
The listener was a high school senior anticipating his school’s upcoming prom, but he’d never been on a date before. The listener prematurely felt disheartened- he’d never asked someone out before, therefore he assumed it would inevitably be a disaster when he did so. He mentally set himself up for failure. He felt he was “behind.”
Now, this is when the economist chimed in. First, he soothed the listener’s mind, calming his worries. The listener couldn’t have been older than 18 or 19-years old. In the grand scheme of life, the economist reminded the listener that he had maybe missed out on 3 or 4 years of dating, if that. And even then, it’s not like those are the prime years of dating either. Relationships occurring such a transitional period of life are often messy, overdramatic and cluttered. (though not all- you go those of you who are high school sweethearts!)
So, says the economist to the economist, it’s looking good for you- better than you thought!
Then the economist makes his way to loss aversion.
Previously, the listener has had no success in dating. Thus far, he should have no preconceived expectations of what asking someone out will be like for him.
He has nothing to lose.
Yes, of course it is natural to fear the unknown. That makes sense. It is normal to worry about the outcome of asking someone out- the listener is putting his heart on the line. He’s using courage to allow his vulnerability to shine through. There is no doubt he is going to experience those elusive butterflies fluttering around in his stomach.
But he’s got to remember loss aversion.
The possible outcomes:
- Option A: The listener asks a person to the prom. He or she says yes. Great! He now has a date.
- Option B: The listener asks a person to the prom. He or she says no. Now, the listener is back to where he started.
Let’s roll will Option B for a moment. The listener does not have a date, and he’s “back to where he started.” But is he really? I don’t think so. He’s still grown in confidence. He’s now obtained the experience to reflect back on when he chooses to broach a similar situation in the future. Asking someone out is no longer an unknown.
The listener still gained something.
I found myself smiling at all of this. It’s a simple enough concept, but it brings my unsettled mind such peace.
Second guessing my decisions and choices is a bad habit of mine, specifically when it comes to new circumstances, so I felt like this podcast was indirectly speaking at me. As I reflect on these past few months and even years, I see just how often loss aversion has impacted my life.
Let me give you a few examples:
- Before Ian and I started dating, I resisted heavily. After all, we were coworkers. Not only that, we oversee the same residents. We live on the same floor. He’s literally my closest coworker. If something went wrong and our relationship had gone sour, can you imagine how awful the year would have been working together? It was a risk that I honestly wasn’t ready to take. Thank goodness Ian persisted because if it had been up to me, we would still be just coworkers. My life would be incredibly dull. He convinced me to take the leap, and I don’t think I could ever articulate how well worth it it’s been. It was worth the risk.
- Before I jumped into full recovery, I was terrified. Settling into an eating disorder, or even quasi recovery, is so much easier than quitting exercise and eating more food to gain weight. It just is. It is fatal to the body, but if you’ve suffered from an eating disorder, you know exactly where I’m going with this. Restricting is a comfort, it’s a coping mechanism. Giving it up for the chance to mentally relieve yourself forever of your mental illness, while it sounds enticing to an extent, is such foreign territory that your mind doesn’t dare let you try. It took pure exhaustion, frustration, and heartbreak before I ventured into full recovery. Yet, here I am, over three years later from making that decision, and I am happier than I have ever been. It was worth the risk.
- Before I took on the double major, I had so many doubts in myself. I didn’t think I could handle the workload. I didn’t think tacking on the Religious Studies degree would do me any good professionally (and truthfully, it might not- oh well!). I just knew that I had this passion in me for the secular study of the major and minor religions of the world. I went back and forth on it for weeks, before it was one night when I stayed up until 11:00 pm on a school night (that’s late for me #grandma) reading my Islam textbook. I was reading a textbook for a fun. Granted, I’m an English major, and I love reading, but that took it to a new level. I just knew it was something I was meant to pursue. I’ve never looked back. Sure, I am always drowning in homework, but I would not give up the study of religion for that. It was worth the risk.
- Before I went to Spain this past summer, petrified was the perfect word to describe me. Previously, I’d traveled outside of the country, but never to Europe and never without my family. Now, I was moving for the summer with twenty-five other students who I didn’t meet until I was sitting at the gate waiting to board at 6:30 in the morning. The first night there, I sobbed like a baby in the shower. I remember doing the math in my head about how many more days I had to “get through” before I could go home. Talk about unknowns. I had never really drank before going to Spain. There was no way I could calorie count anything there (thank goodness!). I had hardly any control over what I did. Then I basically said “f— it,” and I gave in. Well let me tell you, Spain changed my life. I would not be the person I am today without those experiences and friendships I made there. I’d be so much more uptight, so much more sheltered, so much more arrogant had I never gone to Spain. It made me more mindful of the global community we are all apart of, and my time abroad just made me an overall better person- one who relaxes and listens and explores. It was worth the risk.
These next few months rapidly approach me, bringing with them a new living arrangement, a new job, and my final year of my undergraduate studies at college. I have no clue where all of that will take me, so my natural instinct is to push back.
When I begin to worry or overthink, I am now going to put on this brand new economist cap of mine and think of loss aversion.
I will ask myself two questions:
- What have I got to lose?
- Is it worth the risk?
Nothing is to be gained from a stagnant life. Happiness. Contentment. Growth. They all come from new experiences and stepping out of our comfort zones.
Ships are not meant to stay docked in port.
Animals aren’t meant to live in cages.
Books aren’t meant to acquire dust sitting on shelves.
Humans aren’t meant to live their lives in fear.
Fear is good for us. It drives us to strengthen our moral. Fear allows us to learn. Fear forces us to consider our potential losses and our potential gains. Fear forces us to become a version of ourselves we derive confidence from.
In the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
There is something to be gained, even in heartbreak. Take advantage of every experience in this life. Every victory. Every loss. Every heartbreak. Every struggle. Every obstacle. Every lesson. Every chance. There is something to gain.
The next time an opportunity arises, think of the worst possible outcome. If it’s survivable- if it’s something you can grow from, consider the gains from that loss. Consider the success of the loss. Is there something to lose? Is it worth the risk?
Then go for it.
- When was the last time you took a risk? Did it pay off? What was the outcome?
- Do you prefer numbers or words?
- Have you ever thought one way about something, only to have someone convince you otherwise and feel grateful for it?
- Are you more emotional or logic when making decisions?
Happy Friday lovely humans! Hope you have a splendid weekend!