I was watching Judge Judy the other day and she said something that stuck with me enough that I’m now telling you. She was talking to a man who was very obviously losing his case. He had taken a dog from his ex-girlfriend who, he acknowledges, had paid him $500 for it. He had no real defense and, in a few minutes, Judy would order him to return the dog and she would go on to the next case and the next set of people. Before she ruled and dismissed him, she gave him some advice.
I don’t remember her exact wording, but it was something along the lines of:
You should say “thanks” and hope the rest of your day goes better.
Judy knows that the defendant signed a contract with her show. This contract stipulates that she will arbitrate the dispute between the plaintiffs and the defendants and they will abide by her ruling. In exchange, the show will fly them to where Judy mediates – Los Angeles. The show will put them up in a hotel and probably pay some sort of per diem. Everyone films. After they wrap, the show pays for the plaintiffs and defendants to fly back home.
I’ve told you about the axis of control idea from stoicism that I really like, right? Split everything in life into the three categories of control.
Category 1 – Everything you have zero control over.
The defendant can’t control the outcome of this case. He has no say on how Judy will rule at this point. For him, it’s a bit of a bummer because he wants to stick it to his ex-girlfriend and keep her dog.
Category 2 – Everything you have complete control over.
The defendant can control his attitude and his reaction to her ruling. He has the final decision on what he says next. Judy has already given him the perfect response. He can say thanks and resolve to enjoy the rest of his trip. Thanks for financing the trip to L.A. Thanks for mediating the dispute fairly. Thank you for your articulation and authority and just general awesomeness.
Instead, he uses his only power — his reaction — and grumbles and mutters to himself “She ain’t getting the dog.”
Judy hears him and orders him to have someone bring the dog to a neutral party now or he’s breaching the contract and the show won’t pay for his flight home. He agrees because, of course he needs them to pay for his flight home.
Category 3 – Everything you have some control over.
If he had enough money, he could pay for his own flight home. Judy would still rule against him, but he could break the contract, keep the dog, defy the order, and laugh cruelly at his ex.
Maybe not the best lesson to leave you with, but having enough money lets you be evil too. It at least gives you the option to be evil.