When we go out to eat, J knows that if he orders a burger and fries that 15% of his meal is mine. He calls it burger tax. Burger tax is the essence of compromise: good things don’t take time, they take sacrifice. The C word is forever stealing fries from most joyful things in life: relationships, kids, success. The people who look like they have un-compromised lives are those who a/ are good at Instagram and b/ do not believe in compromise in the first place. The reality is that compromise exists whether you believe in it or not. It just depends on how good you are at tricking yourself.
Tim Ferriss is a great example of a really good tricker. Whether he truly believes in a 4 hour work week himself, he’s managed to convince everyone else of the possiblity. What Ferriss has done is re-define the concept of work, disguising tasks generally considered as work into things that you want to do (but are actually still work). In the same way Tim Ferriss thinks (or claims to think) he never works,
I like to think that
I am a good compromise escaper.
As much as I envy those who let the universe flow them around while they are blindfolded with daises (love you, Stevie), the illusion of control is what actually makes me feel calm. Compromise is very threatening for those who like playing Captain. It means giving something up even if you are gaining something else. Maybe it’s doing your husband’s laundry because he paid the power bill. Maybe it’s being gracious about working the odd late night because you value your job. Maybe you are 4-years-old and have to share your toys so you have friends to play with in the first place.
And yet. When think about it, I have not escaped compromise at all. I have given up some of the most important things in my life to make room for other important things. In order to avoid compromise, I’ve actually compromised a lot. If you are realizing this about yourself too, don’t be sad. This is great news. It means you have successfully tricked yourself into thinking that you don’t have a compromised life, when in fact, you’ve conditioned yourself to focus on what you have gained instead of what you have lost.
New York City is full of people who are excellent at turning sacrifices into opportunities.
We all pay horrendous amounts in rent, work constantly, are often separated from our families, endure extreme climates (never one for drama, but it does get pretty cold), and have to act 50% tougher than we truly are to avoid being trampled by the herd. We are our own strange species in a pretty unforgiving environment. And while we moan about what we sacrifice to be here, we all agree it’s worth it. That the opportunity outweighs the negatives. Which is funny, really, considering that only a fraction of us would claim to have ‘made it’ (but don’t admit that goal out loud: accepting the present is far more chic if not more difficult). Most of us are hustling, getting by, scrambling from one thing to the next with miraculous energy and haphazard faith.
In New York City or elsewhere, the trick to accepting compromise is convincing yourself that whatever you lose is overshadowed by what you will gain. And focusing on that until what you are giving up becomes the norm. It might still feel like an effort at times, but you gradually adapt to your own self-inflicted circumstance. Sometimes this means looking really hard for something positive in a shitty situation. Sometimes it doesn’t even exist yet - as in the case of New York City; where we thrive on the promise of opportunity even if it isn’t in our hot little hands.
Hope is what enables us to accept the compromise our reality demands.
Sacrifice is often perceived as the antidote to happiness. But it really makes no difference. Happiness is a self-imposed creation, which is why there are miserable billionares and grateful poor people. It doesn’t matter how amazing your life is. It matters how well you can convince yourself of this, even if you are a few fries short.