How Much Could a Simple Compromise Hurt?


I had just gotten home from my rush hour commute through the 115 degree summer heat in Phoenix, Arizona. My car rolled across the the gravel in front of my rundown shack by the railroad tracks. I went in and turned on the ailing air conditioner and flipped on the TV to decompress from a soul-sucking day at a job that I hated.

I had no idea what to do for the rest of the day. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t have any plans.

The news called for another monsoon storm that evening. As the clouds rolled in and the rain started falling heavily on my shack, I remember hearing the drops of water hammering against my roof and the windows so hard that I was legitimately concerned that the whole place would collapse. Either that or that it might flood, as a puddle of water started to form around the perimeter of the shack.

How did my life get to this point? This wasn’t the way that I wanted my life to go.

Only a little over a year ago, I was living in a pretty good life. I had a nice job back home in Seattle. I had friends, things to do on the weekend, and a life that I was genuinely happy about (It was also a bonus that I didn’t have to worry about my house falling apart…).

Where did things go so terribly wrong?

As I sat there worrying that my shack would collapse or flood from the downpour, I asked myself this question.

How did I end up here?

It turns out I could trace it all back to one thing that I did. One simple thing that took my life into a nose dive and systematically seemed to be tearing every part of my life into pieces.

And maybe you’re doing this too.

I moved to Phoenix to go to grad school. I originally wanted to go to UC Berkley, but unfortunately, they didn’t quite see things the same way. So, after receiving a rejection letter from Berkley, I picked Arizona State because, well, it wasn’t ranked all that poorly for my academic program (what a great reason to pick a school!).

I worked at a job that I hated because it was the only summer internship I could get that actually paid decent money, even though what the company did went in stark opposition to my own personal beliefs.

I lived in a rundown shack by the railroad tracks because it was the only place I could rent near the ASU campus (all the other apartments were at least a mile or so away, and I didn’t want to pay extra money just for a campus parking permit).

I had no real friends or anyone to spend time with because I spent too much time studying during the school year to actually meet people outside of my very insular and focused program. With all the other students flocking home for summer to reunite with their girlfriends or escape the angry Arizona heat, I had nothing better to do that Friday night other than make sure nothing important was on the floor of my shack (in case that ever-growing puddle outside my door actually spilled over onto the floor).

So what was this thing that was slowly ruining my life?

In case you haven’t guess it yet, it was the fact that I was constantly willing to settle for just a little less than what I really wanted.

ASU and Phoenix weren’t my top choice for a place to live or go to school and working a job I hated was never part of my “master plan.” I never wanted to live in a shack by the railroad tracks. And I certainly never intended for school to overwhelm and eclipse having anything even vaguely resembling a social life.

All of these things were the result of settling for something just a little bit less than what I really wanted.

And this was only after about one year.

Can you imagine what would happen if you lived your entire life this way? Can you imagine the sorts of dead-ends, half-hearted goals, and failed dreams that would litter the path I would travel if I kept this up?

Suddenly, in that moment, I could see the consequences of that kind of life. Working at a “safe” job I hate, being in a lukewarm relationship that was “comfortable,” and living a stifled life filled with unrealized dreams, and goals that I never had the courage to reach toward.


That thought scared me more than what I’d have to tell my landlord if that water level came an inch higher and my shack flooded or even collapsed that night from the wind and rain.

It was in that moment that I decided to never again let myself take the easy route simply because it was the path of least resistance. I would refuse to settle for less than what I really wanted.

And one year after that, I had met a woman I truly loved, started my own business, and moved out of Phoenix to a place that was more my style to rebuild my life again.

I know that life can oftentimes seem difficult. Sometimes it can seem like you’re stuck where you are in your career, your relationship, or anywhere else in life.

But you don’t have to stay in a situation that doesn’t fulfill you. You can always find the courage to reach beyond your comfort zone, and ask for what you really want in life.

Yes, the easy route or the path of least resistance may offer the short term benefit of avoiding challenge, and choosing to fight for what you really want may be a struggle at first. However, making this choice is the difference between actually reaching your dreams and letting them die a slow and quiet death as they get perpetually deferred to the graveyard of “someday.”

Although, they may seem just outside your grasp, you may be surprised how quickly you can achieve them if you’re willing to push yourself a little harder and never settle for less than what you know you want.

Photo by Sebastian Anthony

28 thoughts on “How Much Could a Simple Compromise Hurt?”

  1. Clay.

    This was absolutely inspirational for me. Negotiating downward (as I like to call it) is a gradual process and yet I bet everyone that reads this, has done it once, twice, or a lifetime!

    What a great wake-up call.

    Thanks and happy new year to you in your reclaimed sizzling life.

    1. @Susie, Thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s a very subtle thing you have to keep watching yourself for.

      I try to do my best, but even still I find myself thinking things like “Well, maybe I just set my sights too high.”

      Sure, you might be too ambitious sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for less, just realize that it might take more time/work/whatever to get where you want to go :)

    1. @David, I like that! Instead of settling for less, why not decide to settle for MORE and enlarge your vision?

      (I hope you don’t mind, but I might steal that…)

  2. Clay, I understand where you are coming from. 13 years ago, I moved to Oahu, Hawaii because of its natural beauty and weather. After all those years, of living in a town where I made lower wages than I could have had on the mainland, and living in a very rundown apartment, I moved to Phoenix. I couldn’t be happier. I still love Hawaii, but now I’ll just love it from a distance.

    1. @Robert, I’ve never been to Hawaii, but I’d imagine it to be a lot better than Phoenix. To each their own, but I’d take the beach over the rail road tracks at 10th and Ash in Tempe, AZ any day :)

      But I’m glad that you’ve found a way to live in a place that you love and pursue a live that you love :)

      All the Best,

  3. hey clay, really inspiring post you have here.

    I can totally relate with the idea of not allowing yourself to be stuck in a situation that doesn’t fulfill you.

    I’m at a cross roads in my life where I am supported by people that perceive my life going in the ‘normal’ direction with a regular job and so on.

    but I don’t want that life.

    It’s posts like yours Clay, that inspire me to fight for what I truly believe in.

    Just want to say thanks.

    Take Care Clay and Happy New year to you

    1. @Brandon, I can relate to that, definitely. Just remember that when everything is said and done, you must live your life for you rather than others. Otherwise, in my experience, you’ll just end up resenting them.

      Let’s make next year our best year yet!

  4. Hello Clay,

    I really enjoyed reading your article. I totally feel you because I am in the same situation as the one you describe above. Actually I was in a situation that didn’t fulfill me, in a job I hated and in a city where I didn’t appreciate the every day life. I quit everything as you did.
    Now my life is difficult, indeed. But as you say, I found the power to go beyond my comfort zone and break my own rules.

    I choose to fight for what I really want. The race is long but I don’t give up. Our life is a result of our choices and I made mine (as you did).

    As far as my life project: Working online, build my life on a Greek Island, travel and be free to dream; That is my crazy dream…but I am obviously not fully there!

    Thank you for sharing with us.


    1. @Lenia, Thanks for sharing your story! Life on a Greek island sounds pretty nice, but I don’t know how “crazy” it really is. I don’t know about Greece, but you can get a pretty nice thatch roof bungalow on a Thai beach for about $25 per day.

      What I love about dreams is that as soon as we reach one, we can create a space for a new one to take it’s place. Be sure to enjoy the journey as you work towards Malta, Santorini, or wherever you may have your sights set :)

      1. Hi Clay!
        Thank you for your advice! It is very kind. I will definitely try to enjoy the journey!

        Just to explain you: I believe that my project is crazy because Greece is in a big mess because of the financial crisis.
        I lived and worked in Paris for the past 5 years and I took the risk to quit everything. I travelled around the world for 6 months and now I live in Chios, an Island of the Aegean Sea and I try to build my company on line :)

        Thanks again for your great article!


  5. Such a great story! It is very easy to let those little compromises add up. Glad to hear things are better and you’re living life to the fullest.

    1. @Deborah, Thanks! Yes, life is definitely a lot better now, though there is a new set of challenges these days. Life is a constant challenge to expand your goals and dream bigger dreams :)

  6. When I read this title I wasnt sure if I wanted to read this post but something told me to read it anyways. Wow was this what I needed to read today, it’s amazing how we can get so caught up in doing the things we think we “have” to opposed to making the things we “want” a reality. I’ve just barely started down the path to creating the life I want opposed to doing what I need to do. When you do what makes you happy everything else will fall into place. So focus on that :-)

    Alishia Willardson,  Author of:
    “Live The Life You Love: You Deserve It and Relationships”

    1. @Alishia, Ha ha! I guess I need to work on better titles for articles :)

      Anyway, thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you decided to read this post. Yes! So many people (myself included) have a habit of settling for what is “realistic.” It’s only through stretching out boundaries though that we can reach outside what we think is possible and attain a better life.

  7. You covered such an important topic here. Sometimes we give up on what we really want far too easily…as if we don’t see the big picture of what it means to just cave in to circumstances.

    There are times when we do need to accept something less than our #1, but I don’t believe in going out without a fight. A “no” answer doesn’t have to be accepted immediately with a low-hanging head. We can exhaust all of our options to turn that no into a yes. Alternatively,we can go for an option that we feel equally good about. Settling for something that leaves me feeling empty-handed is just not an option these days.

    Thanks so much for sharing your personal experience.

    1. @Nea, Thanks for your comment. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has become so stubborn as to keep pushing on despite the initial “no” that life may give us.

  8. This is such an inspirational post. It is so easy to choose the easy route in life only to look up years later with regret. This story is a great example of what challenging yourself can lead to.

    I found myself in the same place a couple of years ago. It does take courage to step up and go against the grain but it’s well worth it in the end!

    1. @Crystal, Yes, challenging yourself may seem like the most frightening thing in the world at the time, but he alternative of accepting a limitation is far worse in my experience.

      I’m glad we’ve both taken action to move our lives in a positive direction :)

  9. I’m totally at this place in my life right now. I’ve been so focused on my career and making money that I let all my relationships and friendships deteriorate. I rarely see my apartment or get to spend all the money I’m working so hard to get. I’m not living up to my potential and I’ve let a lot of areas slide.

    Finding balance in life is what it’s all about, and this is a great reminder to never compromise or choose the easy route. Whether it’s overachieving and losing perspective or underachieving and losing purpose, we all need to refocus our lives.

    1. @Carrie, Yeah, I’ve been there before too. Working way too much. I worked about 70-80 hours a week at my old job. It was incredibly draining and it threw my whole life out of balance.

      Whenever you find yourself doing too much of one thing, be sure to check in with your heart and see if it’s really what you want to be doing.

  10. We have all, at one time or the other wasted precious time. I can look back through the years and even though I was one of those who took chances and did pretty well for a country girl; I wasted what I had been given by living only in the moment. So, it works both ways. If you obtain good things, a better job, more money, more class, more whatever….remember that you may need some of that for the future; so guard it well. Always remember where you came from. It takes a lot of Will Power to accomplish anything, but one important aspect you need; is balance.

    Thank you for sharing your story…enjoyed.

  11. Sorry to hear about the experience. BUt it reminds me, to this day I’m happy I didn’t compromise and go to INSEAD when it took me, and a few other schools in the US didn’t
    something didn’t feel right
    But I compromised and stayed in a job for 7 years because of the money
    Compromise no more
    I got sick to the bones from not being happy with my choice
    Finally making a change
    thanks for the reminder, we should never compromise who we are on the inside

  12. This is such an amazing post. I have been feeling like this lately, just taking a job because it is there and settling for less because it is easier. And I never even realized I was doing it until now.

    Very inspirational.

  13. Hi Clay

    I didn’t know how i response to a thing very quickly and choose the easy way and fall in the pit and when i realise there is no way out.

    Can this be stopped or I able to regain myself to lead a better life.

  14. Clay..

    Amazing Post here.!. I can totally relate to it. I’m in such a position right now. I have two options of a career, and I know which one I want.But, it’s gonna be such a rough road leading to it, it’s almost scary. It’s nice to know that other people have been through the same phases in life and I have a bi more courage now to go down that path.

    My dad always says; ” When there are two choices in life, always make the difficult one.”

    I never understood the true sense of these words, but it is time that I step up and change my life.!.


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