From Skin in the Game:
Let us now close by sampling a few ideas that exist in both ancient lore and are sort of reconfirmed by modern psychology. These are sampled organically, meaning they are not the result of research but of what spontaneously comes to mind (remember this book is called Skin in the Game), then verified in the texts.
Cognitive dissonance (a psychological theory by Leon Festinger about sour grapes, by which people, in order to avoid inconsistent beliefs, rationalize that, say, the grapes they can’t reach got to be sour). It is seen first in Aesop, of course, repackaged by La Fontaine. But its roots look even more ancient, with the Assyrian Ahiqar of Nineveh.
Loss aversion (a psychological theory by which a loss is more painful than a gain is pleasant): in Livy’s Annals (XXX, 21) Men feel the good less intensely than the bad. *6 Nearly all the letters of Seneca have some element of loss aversion.
Negative advice (via negativa): We know the wrong better than what’s right; recall the superiority of the Silver over the Golden Rule. The good is not as good as the absence of bad, *7 Ennius, repeated by Cicero.
Skin in the game (literally): We start with the Yiddish proverb: You can’t chew with somebody else’s teeth. “Your fingernail can best scratch your itch,” *8 picked up by Scaliger circa 1614 in Proverborum Arabicorum .
Antifragility: There are tens of ancient sayings. Let us just mention Cicero. When our souls are mollified, a bee can sting. See also Machiavelli and Rousseau for its application to political systems.
Time discounting: “A bird in the hand is better than ten on the tree.” *9 (Levantine proverb); (*My note: e.g. The marshmallow experiment, or delayed gratification).
Madness of crowds: Nietzsche: Madness is rare in individuals, but in groups, parties, nations, it is the rule. (This counts as ancient wisdom since Nietzsche was a classicist; I’ve seen many such references in Plato.)
Less is more: Truth is lost with too much altercation, *10 in Publilius Syrus. But of course the expression “less is more” is in an 1855 poem by Robert Browning.
Overconfidence: “I lost money because of my excessive confidence,” *11 Erasmus inspired by Theognis of Megara (Confident, I lost everything; defiant, I saved everything) and Epicharmus of Kos (Remain sober and remember to watch out).
The Paradox of progress, and the paradox of choice: There is a familiar story of a New York banker vacationing in Greece, who, from talking to a fisherman and scrutinizing the fisherman’s business, comes up with a scheme to help the fisherman make it a big business. The fisherman asked him what the benefits were; the banker answered that he could make a pile of money in New York and come back to vacation in Greece; something that seemed ludicrous to the fisherman, who was already there doing the kind of things bankers do when they go on vacation in Greece.
The story was well known in antiquity, under a more elegant form, as retold by Montaigne (my translation): When King Pyrrhus tried to cross into Italy, Cynéas, his wise adviser, tried to make him feel the vanity of such action. “To what end are you going into such enterprise?” he asked. Pyrrhus answered, “To make myself the master of Italy.” Cynéas: “And so?” Pyrrhus: “To get to Gaul, then Spain.” Cynéas: “Then?” Pyrrhus: “To conquer Africa, then…come rest at ease.” Cynéas: “But you are already there; why take more risks?” Montaigne then cites the well-known passage in Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura (V, 1431) on how human nature knows no upper bound, as if to punish itself.