I am Ron White, two-time USA Memory Champion. I would like to share with you some lessons on discipline and compromise I have learned while working with my friend and former Navy SEAL, T.C. Cummings.

Politicians use the word “compromise” when talking about working together to come up with a plan that will be agreeable to all concerned. Mediators try to get people to compromise in order to come up with a solution amicable to all sides. Navy SEALs see compromise as not an option. As T.C. Cummings tells us in our “Mind of a SEAL” workshops, to a SEAL compromise means ‘You are no longer successful.’

In the military, when your position is compromised that means the enemy knows where you are. Your position has been located and you no longer have the advantage of surprise.

To a SEAL compromise means they are settling for less than what they want. SEALs DO NOT SETTLE. It is making a concession to mediocrity, and he is too honorable to compromise with his principles. “When we compromise we are no longer in the driver’s seat,” says T.C. “Someone outside has chosen who we want to be.”

That is not to say that there can’t be cooperation. You don’t cooperate, however, to the point where you are asked to compromise what you feel is right. It is possible to be successful without compromising or making concessions that go against your principles, through cooperation.

What is the difference between compromise and cooperation, you ask? With compromise you have to give up something in order to come to an agreement. It results in someone winning and someone losing. Neither side gets all that they want.  Compromise means that you work together so both parties are content with the end result. Two things that should never be compromised are your personal values, and human needs.  Cooperation, on the other hand, is working together for the same objectives, and there is no compromise.

Take Native American tribes in the United States for example. After long and hard fights they have earned, and been granted, sovereignty (legal control) over their own land. Compromise would go against their values and human needs. They are highly unlikely to relinquish this control, not matter what benefits they may be offered. On the other hand, they may lease a portion of their land for an agreed upon sum that will be mutually beneficial to all parties. That is cooperation.

At work, if someone asks you for help and it is above and beyond your normal job description you can choose to be a team player and cooperate. If they are just using you then you have every right to refuse. You do no have to be a victim, and anything that goes against your moral compass is perfectly fine to refuse.



“Mind of a U.S. Navy SEAL” workshop

Wisdom Commons – Self-Discipline: http://www.wisdomcommons.org/virtue/115-self-discipline/lifestories

Beyond Intractability – Compromise: http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/compromise/