Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze? 3 Examples of Effort Relative to Reward

Kelly: You wanna be president? Lemme tell you the first rule of politics; Always know if the juice is worth the squeeze. You know what that means? It means you don’t steal my girl unless you’re ready to accept the consequences. The words above were said by Kelly, played by Timothy Olyphant, in the movie “The Girl Next Door”  ( 2004).

​ used this phrase recently when I was asked for advice by an intern regarding an issue related to discrimination in the workplace. It did not occur to me that this phrase is not as common as I assumed. The person whom I was giving the advice very politely asked “what does this mean and why are we talking about juice?

So. what does this idiom actually mean and how do you apply it to your life? 

​It simply means “Is the reward worth the effort?” In the discrimination case above, the consequences for an intern standing up to a powerful organization who has a history of discriminatory practices was not worth the effort. However, there were other ways to vent and make his views and opinions known. For example, using the anonymous tip line or being vocal in the exit interview. The juice may not be as sweet, but it will quench your thirst.

When it comes to making decisions – small or large- one has to weigh the effort against the result. Here are three examples of mental effort relative to reward.

Relationships: this is one area where you have to assess if the effort you place in a relationship is beneficial to your psyche and well being. People who embarrass you, bring you down publicly or don’t respect you and your values may not be worth the juice. No matter how sweet. On the other hand, you may not have a choice when it comes to family members. You are forced to associate with them whether you like it or not. Squeezing every ounce of juice from this relationship maybe too sour to pallet, but it has a necessary long term benefit.

Passion: I tend to invest plenty of emotional energy into supporting my favourite sports teams. I am happy when they win. I am devastated when they loose. The latter should never ever be an emotion I should be feeling for a sports team. After all it is only sport, right. The emotional and mental juice required to support my sports teams are definitely not worth the squeeze. There are far more important emotions to invest your energies. than to support millionaire hitting or chasing a ball.

Everyday life events: The day started off on a sour note. My car would not start on a cold winter day in February. After calling for help and finally getting on the road two hours later, I was cut off by a driver who thought I was driving too slowly. Perhaps, I was. After all I was planning an excuse in my mind for being late to my meeting. Blaming the car was too lame of an excuse. Anyway, as the other car cut me off, I was filled with rage and anger as if someone had violated the most important part of my being. Why should I be angered by a total stranger whom I will probably never see again. The effort to show him the finger and demonstrate my anger was definitely not the mature thing to do. The reward for my behaviour was zero. What was I to gain? There was no juice coming from this orange, no matter how much I squeezed.

Mathew, played by Emile Hirsch in “The Girl Next Door” said it best in this dialogue with Kelly.

Matthew: Being a fucking boy scout. But lately I’ve been seeing it differently. Now I think moral fiber’s about finding that one thing you really care about. That one special thing that means more to you than anything else in the world. And when you find her, you fight for her. You risk it all, you put her in front of everything, your life, all of it. And maybe the stuff you do to help her isn’t so clean. You know what? It doesn’t matter. Because in your heart you know, that the juice is worth the squeeze. That’s what moral fiber’s all about.

When you find those special things worth caring and fighting about, then the juice may be worth the squeeze.