Apparently, a few years ago a commercials director was at a dinner party with an ad agency CEO.
The CEO had given the director some great scripts and helped make him successful.
The director was a very funny guy, and kept everyone amused.
But at some point he said something the CEO didn’t like.
The CEO couldn’t think of a witty response immediately.
So he poured his glass of wine over the director’s trousers.
Now there are basically two responses at this point.
The director can react emotionally.
He can thump the CEO (unlikely, it could end in a law suit).
He can get up and walk out (bad choice, it looks a sulk).
He can wittily put the CEO down (he looks good but it’s probably the end of the relationship).
He can ask for money to get his trousers dry cleaned (embarrassing, the CEO will probably just toss him a couple of £20 notes).
Or the other choice is to act rationally.
Just laugh it off and carry on with the evening.
Realising that the CEO has given you many expensive commercials in the past.
He’ll probably give you many more in the future.
You can load a few grand onto the next commercial to assuage the insult if you want.
In fact you can load several grand onto every commercial he gives you from now on.
You can get even that way.
That glass of wine ends up costing him tens of thousands of pounds.
That’s if you act rationally.
Or it ends up costing you tens of thousands of pounds if you act emotionally.
See, none of the options are wrong.
But, like everything in life, they each come with consequences
To stay in control of your life, all you have to do is constantly be aware of the consequences of your choices.
Then choose accordingly.
There’s nothing wrong with standing up and thumping the CEO.
As long as you’re prepared to never work for him again.
Plus a possibly costly court case for assault, and expensive damages from the restaurant.
If you’re willing to accept all of that then go ahead and thump him.
But don’t moan about it afterwards.
The director didn’t.
His immediate thought was probably something like “This is really embarrassing. Shall I throw my glass of wine back?”
Followed immediately by “What will that cost me?”
And he weighs the short-term benefits of getting even against the long-term benefits of swallowing the insult.
He decides he’d rather have the big money, thanks.
The trousers cost around £150, he stands to make tens of thousands.
It would be nuts to throw that away.
So he sits and smiles.
He balances an evening’s embarrassment against a lot of money.
That’s street smarts.
There’s nothing wrong with whatever choice you make.
As long as the preferred consequences are factored into your choice.
The only thing wrong is pretending you have no choice over the consequences.
That’s what Sartre calls ‘living inauthentically’.
Pretending you have no choice.
You always have a choice.
Of course, you may not like the choices.
But you always have a choice.
Incidentally, that commercials director now has much more money than that CEO.