The Loyalty Advantage

Life is a matching problem. We arrive in the optimal place for ourselves often after a lot of sampling, in our hobbies, in jobs, in romance, in vocation. Cf. RANGE for research on the utility of sampling different things.

While I am strong proponent of sampling, testing, and experience, I wonder if the advantages of loyalty get overlooked when it comes to truth-seeking and matching.

One advantage of loyalty over the course of a long period of time may be that in the course of ups and downs one gains a clearer, more accurate, and more complete view of a thing.

If one first experiences ups, one may overrate an institution, person, etc, and become fanatically loyal or unrealistic or overoptimistic. If one first experiences downs, one may underrate the matter, flee from it, and never get the fuller picture. The fuller picture, however, is the most important thing to gain when trying to find a good match.

Examples: First dates. Social groups.

When one sticks around, a clearer view presents itself. However, in the course of negative experiences there is opportunity cost for loyalty, but that loyalty is also an investment to see the matter through, which in many cases is ultimately valuable even if the negative experience persists.

Examples: Rocky times in a marriage. A risk that isn’t working out.

We can’t get the outside view or an objective view of interior situations. Stubborn stick-to-it-tive-ness allows us to see through a situation long enough to get a fuller picture.

Agnes Callard’s account of Aspiration starts with reasons which are superficial, but ultimately lead to deep inner transformation. However, such transformation is only possible with a type of loyalty and faith that the transformation will come after certain trials. To me, this seems very similar to a loyalty advantage, that is, only time can give one enough experience to judge a thing whose most important characteristics concern your internal experience of it or relation to it.

Of course, this all just begs the question. When should one stick to it, and when should one abandon the sinking ship or the job that’s not the right fit?

On the other hand, loyalty often does not preclude time set aside for exploration, to see what other jobs are out there, to get to know more people, to see what other types of skills one could acquire, or hobbies one could take up.

I think the answer is to judge whether the truth and longevity of the matter matters sufficiently that it is worth extended suffering on behalf of it. A non-answer like this still cashes out in a few guidelines.

  1. Jobs in which you are suffering are generally not worth sticking to. Exceptions include learning skills you really want to learn and the possibility of switching roles within the same company.
  2. Dating/ engagement should last long enough that it goes through a few cycles of negative and positive.
  3. One can overdose on flitting around at the expense of finding the right match (Applied Divinity Studies discusses the optimal dating problem).
  4. When you expect loyalty to a thing result in a positive change to your own character, it worth sticking around.
  5. Loyalty is a long-term strategy. Sometimes it won’t pay off as success, but it might be right call anyway.