There is a reason why many people succeed ONCE and that's it - never again. Why is it so hard to succeed again and again and again? Achieving success is hard but succeeding repeatedly is harder because of a human trait called complacency. Often, those who achieve success – land that big customer, make the first million or hundred million or get that big promotion – become complacent. Remember the times you backed off, slacked off or goofed off when you ‘achieved’ something? That’s complacency. It is an intrinsic flaw that prevents people from pushing for greater achievement. And that, often leads to mediocrity, decline or failure.
Complacency strikes in two instances – when you are beginning something and when you have accomplished something. When you begin, you may be giddy about the degree, capital, technology or team you have and presume success. When you have accomplished something, you presume continued success because of ‘whatever’.
Complacency is human. That happens when we believe that whatever we have at this moment – money, happiness, marital bliss, good grades, happy employees, raving customers, eager suppliers, friendly regulations, etc. – will continue forever. But, if you use your rational mind, you know that these are temporary. Your money could be gone next week, you could have something horrific happen in your company or community, your spouse could leave you, your kid could fail an exam, a key employee could quit, you could lose your biggest customer, suppliers could fire you and regulations can change.
But our ‘lazy brain’ acts as if things will be rosy (or bad) forever. There are three kinds of people – the first group that becomes complacent with success is doomed to precipitous falls; the second group that believe bad times will last forever is doomed to poverty and mediocrity; and the third group of smart ones who use their rational brain to assess their good states and bad states and figure out how to ensure good times last and bad times don’t.
Complacency can strike rich and poor people, at big and small companies, at private and public companies, solopreneurs and Fortune 1000 executives, inexperienced and experienced business people as well as unsuccessful and successful business people.
Complacency generally starts out small – postponing action, slacking off, trying less hard and such – and can get uncontrollably big if left uncorrected. You know when you are complacent and it is common sense that you must fight it and act to achieve more. But, as we know, many people prefer to ignore the obvious and fail to take common sense actions.
Complacency is not a luxury that achievers can afford.
Complacency is like a wild animal. You can never stop watching out for i as it can strike anybody at any time. There are only three things I have found to combat complacency – humility, curiosity and an interest to learn. If you accept you don’t know ‘everything’, are curious about the world around you and are interested in learning, you can never be complacent – at least, not for long!