I'm not sure when I came to believe my core set of values, however I have them now. And looking back they appear to have been with me all along, endlessly driving me forward to where I am at this present moment.
I believe we all have a core set of values. I believe that at many points in our lives those values are challenged.
I believe that for some, compromising their core values becomes easier than bearing the emotional or physical cost of sticking to what they know and believe.
Sadly, once you begin to compromise, you begin to lose yourself.
Piece by piece who you know yourself to be begins to fade.
You lose the ability to hear your inner voice.
Until one day you look in the mirror and no longer recognize the person you've become.
On that day you have a choice – you can continue to compromise and fall deeper and deeper into the hole you've created, or you can begin to climb out.
But climbing is hard.
You desperately grasp at walls slick with self-doubt, mired in the words of others who tell you what's impossible, constantly washed over by an ocean of venomous prose your ego creates to keep you sliding back into the dark, over and over again.
But there are those who refuse to give up, who refuse to give in. Though the mud may try to cloud their vision, they continue to wipe it away and soldier forth on their inward journey.
For the journey is not without, but within.
This is the journey for life.
Compromise is a funny thing. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Compromise is what led me to drugs and alcohol when I was a teen, to seek acceptance by those I had been taught not to associate with.
Compromise is what led me to be a black out drinker and drug addict until I joined Alcoholics Anonymous before I was 21.
Because I compromised, I completely lost who I was, and what I believed in.
But compromise is a choice.
Not compromising has kept me sober and happy for more than 18 years.
Not compromising has allowed me to spend highly formative years with both my daughters, so I can be with them as they grow and blossom.
Not compromising has kept me on a path of self-discovery, doing a lot of deep inner work, and seeking help from others when I know I am unable to see in myself what I can so easily see in others.
My choice not to compromise has created its own set of consequences.
In the past four years I've had four jobs. I left the last because I refused to be treated poorly by someone who was visibly harming those around him, including me. I got to a point where I had lost all confidence in myself and my abilities. I refused to allow that to continue simply for a paycheck and health insurance. Before quitting I spoke at length about it with my wife, and sought the counsel of a Buddhist monk I hold in high regard. In the end I made my choice, and am again happily self-employed.
Self-employment is not the easiest path, but it's definitely the best one for me.
I don't fit into a 9-5 work schedule. I want to be home when my kids get back from school, so I can enjoy the feeling of seeing their faces light up and then run and embrace me. I wake up at 4:30am and being working, spend the morning with my family once they wake up, and then spend most of the day working. Some days I work 12 or 14 hours (or more), and some days I work 2.
Over the past 18 years I've acquired a lot of skills. I'm in the fourth iteration of my business; I've run a two-day tech conference twice; I started a popular data science meetup; I created and ran a non-profit; I interviewed more than 200 entrepreneurs via video for a side-project; I've spoken nationally and internationally on software development and software development methodologies; I wrote a book and am co-authoring a second; I lived in Thailand with my family for a year-and-a-half; I've spoken at many conferences and meetups; I taught machine learning at a multi-billion dollar company; I've consulted for Inc.500 and Fortune 50 companies. I've done a lot.
I've tasted fantastic success and bitter defeat. And I've learned a lot along the way.
Not compromising has had its ups and downs, but in the end as I write this and reflect, it's had way more ups.
So here I sit typing away. And I laugh to myself because I wasn't going to write this blog post. In fact, just thinking about hitting publish on this one, which I will because I told someone I would, scares the shit out of me.
It scares me because there's this little voice inside my head telling me what if…
What if people read this and they no longer hire me? What if my business fails? How will I provide for my family? If I have to get a job what can I tell a potential employer when I've published this?
What if people take my need for self-employment as a stand against working as an employee, though I don't mean that at all.
What if people read about all the things I've done, and think I'm some unstable wack job who can't hold down a job and therefore has to work for himself?
But what if none of that is true?
What if my ego is generating these thoughts to keep me from achieving the great things I know I can achieve, from helping the people I can truly help, and from living the life I'm meant to live?
What if my fear is nothing more a self-generated illusion attempting to lead me back to compromise on the ideals and values I hold so dear?
Anything's possible I suppose.
But what I do know is even though it scares the shit out of me, today I'm not going to compromise and I'm going to publish this post. And if you've gotten this far then you're either the type of person who doesn't compromise, or you're sick and tired of doing so.
The good news is we have a choice, and it's a choice we get to make every day we're alive.
My question for you my friend is this – what is your choice today?