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Do you want to be right, or do you want to be free? (Choose “free.”)

I was in small claims court. What a headache. A big, fat, karmic snafu over a sour business deal.

We were in mediation. The Other Guy sat on one side of the Mediator Man, I sat on the other. We drank water out of styrofoam cups.

I walked into that boardroom certain of two things: I was right about who owed who what, and I was not caving in.

I stated it clearly at the beginning of the meeting when the mediator asked me what I had to say to open the meeting. “I haven’t come here to negotiate,” I said. 100% certain, over my dead body, no-way-in-hell. Locked DOWN.

The Other Guy and I each shared our perceived facts, some data — all with restrained emotion. We were polite and professional. He wasn’t a jerk, I wasn’t overly chilly. (Because, you know… There was a time in our lives when we shared meals and wine with our families, stories, and plans for the future.) We both made some attempts at humour to lighten the mood.

Mediator Man then calls for a break to meet with each of us privately….

BINDERS & FREEDOM

“So what do you want to do?” Mediator asked me.

Nothing. I’m not doing anything about this. He can suck it, because he’s wrong, and I’m right. And you know it. And I know that you know that I know it.” We laughed. After all I’d been through with business failure and success, I could take this in stride.

“Let me explain what’s involved from this point forward if you decide not to negotiate,” said Mediator Man.

And MM went on to describe how The System worked: It’d be another six months before the claim file was reviewed, there’d be another meeting with a court judge, and then a court date would be set for about eight months after that. Long … drawn out … litigious …. hell.

I raised my eyebrow. “So I have to come to this building again?” I asked.

“Yep. And you’ll have to prepare documents from the last five years,” he answered.

“FIVE years?!” I burst out. “Jesus Christ. Is this a scare tactic or are you for real?”

“For real.” Mediator nodded. “And you’ll have to do it in triplicate — a binder for The Other Guy, a binder for the judge, and a binder for you.”

“That’s three binders, eh?” I confirmed. I hate binders.

“Three binders,” nodded Mediator Man.

“He’s wrong. And I’m right.” I confirmed.

It would be totally out of bounds for him to agree with me, but Mediator Man nodded, slightly but affirmatively. I felt somewhat victorious with his subtle affirmation. I didn’t care if he was doing it to appease me.

I took a good, long pause. Last sip out of the styrofoam cup.

“Well I don’t have time for three binders. I’ve got a life to live, books to write. Fuck the binders. Bring The Other Guy back in, I’ll make a deal.”

I turned on a dime, and it felt great. Total rush. I felt like I’d scored a touchdown for Team Sanity. I high-fived Mediator Man, who was visibly amazed and relieved.

I offered The Other Guy a quarter of what he was asking for. He took it. End of story.

When freedom is your intention, you'll be more agile in life.tweet

You’ll pay small prices to get huge returns.
You’ll eat some ego to expand your possibilities.
You’ll be home in time for dinner.