Compromise is important. To build anything successful will require compromise. What’s more, compromise can be a strong forcing function in the overall success of a project.
But compromise can be taken too far.
What happens when you compromise too much? What happens if you start compromising for the wrong reasons?
What if you compromise so much, and so often, that it becomes less compromise and more automatic deferral of your stances, beliefs, and core values?
How will you feel after 1, 10, or 100+ small compromises against what matters most to you?
“Be unapologetically dedicated to… what matters most”
Too Much of a Good Thing
When you start to compromise on your values, on your core beliefs, you begin to erode the foundations of what makes you who you are.
Over time, you may not recognize where you are or how you arrived. You may find that your actions no longer align with what you claim to be of utmost importance.
It’s a subtle, and slippery slope.
“When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else … you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Large, obvious deviations from your values are easy to spot. However, what about the smaller ones? What about the 100’s of small choices you make every day which, on their own may seem harmless, but when accumulated over days, months, and years can drastically alter the trajectory of your teams, your projects, or your life?
You may choose speed to market over quality “just this once.”
You may choose to skip your morning run “just this once.”
Perhaps you choose one more month at a company at odds with your values because the pay is good.
Or maybe you choose not to thoroughly explain something to the junior member of your team because you “don’t have the time.”
That is the trap. Those are the compromises that may sneak up on you if you let them. Small deferrals, one at a time, that add up and lead to outcomes in direct opposition to what is important to you
Eventually, quality is no longer an important aspect of your product lifecycle
You forget what it means to live a healthy & active lifestyle
Years, and opportunities, and a fulfilling career pass you by
You miss the opportunities to mentor, and shape the career & possibly life of those around you
So, how do you know where to draw the line? How do you evaluate these daily decisions and avoid the trap of over-compromise?
Determine what is important to you, and hold on to it. Be unapologetically dedicated to quality, your health, your end user; whatever your focus is, use that as your north start and never lose sight of it.
Don’t immediately compromise on something of which you feel deeply convicted.
If you’re compromising with yourself, take the time to really reflect on your choices. Be honest: are you choosing what you want right now, or what you want most? Will this compromise move you closer or further away from a life lived in alignment with your core values?
If you regularly make these detrimental compromises in your life, seek to understand why you are failing to meet your own expectations. Recognize the pattern, understand it, and make a positive change. Modify your schedule, find someone to hold you accountable, or surround yourself with others with similar values.
“Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, ‘No, you move’.” — Sharon Carter, Captain America Civil War
When having a disagreement, if you believe something is right, make that known. Don’t give up on what you believe in.
If you feel strongly, do what it takes. Explain your position; defend your position; reword it; modify your argument to appeal to different personalities. Don’t give up on something you believe in simply to avoid conflict.
This is where those so called “soft skills” come in handy. Understanding personalities, motivations, and natural talents can help shape your argument. They can help you appeal to others in the way that will resonate most and help them best understand where you are coming from.
Ultimately, you will still have to compromise at times. You may not be in a position to choose the final outcome. A discussion might not go your way. You may not be able to sway things the way you had hoped, but you will at least know you were true to your values.
You may discover than an alternative solution or choice is, in fact, more ideal and yet still in alignment with your beliefs. This is when compromise is at it’s best; setting aside differences towards a greater ultimate outcome.
Alternatively, you may find that your opinions, choices, and recommendations are not heeded despite your best efforts. If you’re later proven right, you can take satisfaction in knowing you stood for what you believe in and were shown to be correct.
If you were mistaken, be honest with yourself. Evaluate your position, reassess that belief/decision/action, but also recognize and appreciate the courage it takes to stand up for something you believe in.
Maybe it’s your health, or your family.
Maybe it’s a desire to provide the best experience possible to your end user.
You may want to build the most effective team possible, create a high-qualify product, or impact the world on a global scale.
Whatever is truly most important to you, don’t compromise it. Don’t let your surroundings, team, circumstances take it away from you. Be mindful of these beliefs throughout your day, and filter your thoughts, interactions, and decisions through that lens.
Make compromises that align with your values. Make compromises that move you closer to your goals and the life you imagine for yourself.
But, don’t compromise on the things that matter most.