Compromise Can FulfillEveryone’s Needs

Mike Whalen

I grew up in Detroit. Which is to say, I had two career paths. My grandfather would tell us, “you can either wear a white collar or blue.” From his Motorcity-minded logic, you could be a person who built cars, or the person managing those builders. One drove a truck, the other a Cadillac. Simple. Easy to digest. The challenging question of “what do I want to be when I grow up” was decoded by a wiser, sage adult whose opinion I trusted and respected. But, I’m a rebel at heart, and tend to challenge authority. 

When information is overly simplified or unintentionally limited, it is known as a false dichotomy. The “you can have this or that” formula is great for indecisive children, but potentially disastrous in the real world. This binary thinking not only fosters irrational decision making, but also stifles creativity and overlooks crucial alternatives.

Consider negotiating a pay raise with your boss. You proclaim “give me more money or I quit.”  It’s likely that security will help you collect your personal belongings as they escort you off the property. But, if you expand your definition of “compensation” beyond the myopic view of money you bring home, there are other options. Some millennials are forgoing 401k matches and requesting student loan payment matches. Others are enjoying cost-savings by working from home and even a hybrid schedule. Embracing unconventional options instead of the all-or-nothing stance can yield valuable outcomes.

Pressing issues like climate change often fall victim to this black-and-white rhetoric. “In the fight against climate change you’re either with us or against us!” ignores the simple and easy ways individuals can contribute. People can adopt eco-friendly practices without adopting a zero-waste policy. Drivers concerned with lithium and cobalt mining practices can elect to drive a fuel efficient car rather than a gas guzzling monstrosity. Perhaps an aspiring vegetarian doesn’t need to go cold turkey (pun intended), but could start by eating one vegetarian meal a day or abstain from red meat for the week. Winning the war on climate will occur gradually, through a series of conscious choices and small wins.

Sometimes your surroundings can limit your choices. In monochromatic Detroit, I was limited to the auto industry. But here in colorful Colorado my options are limitless, like a kaleidoscope of choice. In the west the color of your collar doesn’t matter. Out here, I can be a rancher, or a ski bum or both on powder days! In the end, I found my calling in public services and spreadsheets, forging my own identity beyond societal constraints. And in my journey, I hope my grandfather was proud of me… even though I drive a Jeep. 

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