Book I’m Reading This Week…

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Random House; New York. Copyright 2018.  Click the title to go to Amazon to read reviews or purchase the book.

You may be hearing about this book for a few more weeks since I just began reading it yesterday and I am a very intentional reader.  (That’s a prideful way of saying that I’m a slow reader! LOL).  Taleb thinks before he writes. I like that. Too many books today are written by writers who are thinking while they’re writing.  Blah!  Blah!  Blah!

My understanding thus far of having skin in the game is rather simplistic:  If I’m living with “skin in the game,” then I will be willing to accept the consequences for my thoughts, motives, words, actions, and reactions in relationship with other people.  Taleb calls this “symmetry” — it’s appropriate balance; rather than “asymmetry” — which is inappropriate imbalance.  (There’s more to “skin in the game living” than this to Taleb, but this is what has caught my attention thus far!)

Whether my outcomes are good or bad, I’ll stop blaming everyone else for my problems, while I give no one else credit for my successes!  I’m to blame for my negative outcomes in life, AND if I happen to find success, I must include the others in my life who’ve aided and supported me in my celebration.  Honesty requires it!  Having skin in the game is all about responsibility and reciprocity.

Three statements Taleb makes in his Introduction and Prologue kept me reading to find out more.  The first is this, “…one debases a principle by endlessly justifying it.  Somehow this statement fits with me as an evangelical Christian spiritual leader, and I’ll venture that it fits you in ways too.  I’ll let you know how as I read more and God gives me insight.

The second is, “…you never give money to organized charities unless they operate in a highly distributive manner (what is called Uberized in modern lingo)…”  When I read this as a posed question of Taleb’s, I experienced a flush of gratitude to God!  You see, it was God’s leading that directed us, in the early days of our church, to become a very “distributive” church. 

In our year twenty months in existence as a church, we’ve given away over 40% of what we take up.  We give it back to people in our church and community who are in need.  From helping with utility bills to contributing to the funeral expenses incurred by the families of deceased loved ones, to buying study Bibles for new Christians; we take Christ’s life of generosity seriously and want to model it to one another and to others. 

We give it back to Tri-State Bible College who is preparing young women and men for lives of ministry in and to the church.  We give it back to Life House who is making a huge difference in the lives of women and men racked with addiction.  We’ve given it back to Trinity Episcopal and Celebration Church who are helping feed the hungry folks in our community. 

Don’t praise me the Pastor who set this standard.  Don’t praise the other leaders of our church for accepting it as an important value. 

Praise God only!  For He’s the one who led us to be a church that is “distributive” to the needs of others!  Just thank Him that we were listening!

Finally, the third concept that grabbed my attention is not so much a statement as it is a reality.  He refers to the ancient Greek maxim, “pathemata mathemata” or “guide your learning through pain.” 

These days it seems like everyone blames others for their pain, and therefore, they never grow from it.  Yet when we live with “skin in the game” (with responsibility in reciprocity), we grow from the pain that our missteps and sins have brought into our own lives. 

You’ll have to admit; we grow more during times of pain than we do during times of pleasure.  You’ll also have to admit that:

  • We pray for God to never allow these times of pain into our lives, and
  • We never voluntarily choose pain.  Even though we know we’ll grow, become more complete, and be more aware of God’s presence; we still reject pain and reject God’s presence in those times of pain.

We need to live with some, “skin in the game!”