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Death By Complacency

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neal Donald Walsch

We all have one: A comfort zone. That place where we feel cozy, comfortable and safe. Our little cocoon where we don’t have to experience the discomfort of the unfamiliar. Where “good enough” is good enough. Where we can just relax, enjoy the same old routines, environments, relationships, experiences and skills that got us to where we are today. Because if it got me here, it’s good enough to keep me safe, right? Wrong. Very wrong. Death by complacency is real.Just like the frog in the boiling water, complacency kills. It kills careers, it kills relationships, it kills bright futures and … it kills frogs.

If you don’t know what I’ve referring to, there is a fable that says that if you drop a frog in a boiling pot of water, it will jump out immediately to survive. However, if you place it in a pot of lukewarm water and very slowly heat it up, the frog will get used to the temperature change and not realize that it has a problem until it is too late. (Please don’t do this at home! This is only an analogy!)  The lesson, however, is true and powerful. When we become complacent in our comfort zones and we don’t notice the environment around us changing, we might think we are surviving, even thriving when we are, in fact, slowly dying.

How Would you Define Complacency?

Maybe you think you know what complacency means, but a quick search in the various dictionaries reveal some scary definitions.

  • A feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.

  • Self-satisfaction … accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.

  • A feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect.

  • A feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder.

My summary might look something like this: A smug, non-critical  self-satisfaction and false sense of security that prevents your from challenging yourself and makes you unaware of your own deficiencies and external threats.  Wow! That sounds pretty brutal.

Well, that doesn’t sound like me.

You think ? Unfortunately most of us have a tendency to be much more lenient in our self-evaluation than we are in evaluating others, let me ask you a few questions.

  • What was the last self-improvement book you read? How long ago was that?

  • When was the last class you took to improve your skills or learn a new skill?

  • How long have you been at your current job?

  • When was the last time you did a self assessment or asked for feedback from your circle of friends, colleagues or family?

  • When was the last time you worked with a mentor or a coach?

  • When was the last time your put in some extra effort in your relationship to ensure its health?

  • And speaking of health, what are you doing to ensure you are staying healthy?

You see, you might think you’re pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, but pushing yourself past complacency is actually hard work. It takes extra effort, time and money and those are resources we’re not always willing to spend. So we fall back to comfort and settle into the comfy couch where the water is nice and warm …

How to Avoid Being Eaten by a Bear

Global competition, instant gratification and customer expectations has created a new world and a new workplace where the following truths exist:

  • Good enough is not good enough any more. Excellence is barely good enough.

  • Consistent high performance is table stakes.

  • The only constant is change. And the acceleration of change is exponential.

  • Slow product (and people) evolution is dead. High speed revolution and disruption is now the norm.

  • Comfort with risk is at an all time high. More people and companies are becoming very comfortable with risking big, failing fast and failing forward.

What does this all have to do with getting eaten by a bear?  Think about it this way. When you’re in a group of people being chased by a bear, do you have to out run the bear or do you only have to out run the slowest person in the group?  Sorry, a little dark humor, but a good lesson nonetheless.  This is the essence of the threat of complacency:  If you are not growing yourself, your career or your skills faster than the world around you, you are being out-paced by your competition and you are slowly becoming “bear food”. Your are in danger of getting killed by complacency.

In her video titled “Why Reinvention? Why Now? (which I highly recommend watching), Dr. Nadya Zhexembayeva from describes how the cycle of businesses, products and careers have shrunk from 75 years before the 1980’s to 15 years in the early 1990’s to the current staggeringly short 7 years. That means if you’re not reinventing yourself or your business every 3.5 years, you are on the downslope of the cycle and on your way down to obsolescence. Scary, isn’t it ?

Practical Tips and ToDo’s

It is always a pet peeve of mine when books or articles tell to improve something without telling you have to do it. So here goes. Here are 5 practical ways to start the process of self-improvement and out pacing your competition.

  • Read the book “What Got you Here Won’t Get you There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful” by Marshall Goldsmith.  Don’t feel like reading it? .. hhmm … are those bear footsteps I hear?

  • Change your mindset. So much of self-improvement starts with a change in mindset. Get your “Why” right and the “How” becomes much easier. Commit to pushing yourself just 10% outside your comfort zone every day and adopt the ABG Mindset. ABG – Always Be Growing. Read my article on the 3 Ways to Change your Mindset for success.

  • Identify the one or two areas of your life where you have not invested any resources toward growth and find ways to grow those areas by taking a class, reading a book, getting a coach or a mentor or doing some online research.

  • Study your competition. What are they doing to change, grow or reinvent themselves. You don’t necessarily have to copy what they’re doing, but it will give you great insights into how they are staying ahead of the pack.

  • Don’t stop at success. In the new world, constant reinvention and constant growth is  essential. Growth should become a habit. Your competition doesn’t sit back and admire their successes. They push forward, harder than ever.

In the current environment, you are either driving change, or you are being driven by it.  Don’t let complacency rob you of your potential and your future. Don’t get eaten by the bear.

Run hard, run smart and live your life to the max.

Good luck!

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