Q: While working construction in LA, you once had to talk down a guy with a gun. What went through your mind?
A: If you don’t have that much to lose, you don’t really worry about that. Now that I have a nice house and some cars and a family, the notion of being in a situation like that is horrifying. But if you’re heading downtown to get some free government cheese, then going back to watch your black-and-white TV, and you’re an alcoholic, you don’t wanna get shot, but it’s almost a lateral move.
This idea of the inherent freedom in having nothing to lose reminded me of something that Hervey Cleckley said in his book Mask of Sanity:
By some incomprehensible and untempting piece of folly or buffoonery, he eventually cuts short any activity in which he is succeeding, no matter whether it is crime or honest endeavor. At the behest of trivial impulses he repeatedly addresses himself directly to folly. In the more seriously affected examples, it is impossible for wealthy, influential, and devoted relatives to place the psychopath in any position, however ingeniously it may be chosen,where he will not succeed eventually in failing with spectacular and bizarre splendor. Considering a longitudinal section of his life, his behavior gives such an impression of gratuitous folly and nonsensical activity in such massive accumulation that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that here is the product of true madness - of madness in a sense quite as real as that conveyed to the imaginative layman by the terrible word lunatic.With the further consideration that all this skein of apparent madness has been wovenby a person of (technically) unimpaired and superior intellectual powers and universally regarded as sane, the surmise intrudes that we are confronted by a serious and unusual type of genuine abnormality.
I started thinking, maybe this nothing-to-lose principle is one of the reasons that sociopaths traditionally self destruct after a certain degree of success, in addition to other more obvious things like need for stimulation. Maybe they don't like success because it means they have more to lose, and so less freedom in a way. Interestingly, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has suggested that companies who have made it big on innovative technology typically fall behind because they are unwilling to take the same sorts of risks that characterized their initial successes.