Complacency Is The Enemy Of Progress
Updated: Sep 22
There's this really dangerous place you can find yourself in when you become ‘successful’. Now of course, success is all about perception, but let's not go down that particular rabbit hole right now. For the purpose of this article we’ll work on the basis that ‘success’ is the attainment of a major goal or achievement.
In fact, let's presume that the goal achieved is so big that it has the ability to alter the direction of your life…
For most entrepreneurs, reaching a level of success is all about setting ambitions and creating your targets, then working hard (and smart) in the direction of those desired outcomes and not losing sight of them along the way.
But what happens when you do ‘get there’, wherever ‘there’ may be for you?
This might sound like a strange statement, but the attainment of a big win is actually a dangerous place to be for a driven business owner. As the title of the blog suggests, the reason for that is because complacency is the enemy of progress.
And the reason for the complacency is linked to comfort. Ordinarily comfort is no bad thing, in fact you could be forgiven for thinking that comfort is actually a great thing. Who doesn’t like feeling comfy, right. A warm bath, those extra thick slippers, a snuggly dressing gown… all lovely, for sure! But that satisfied, warm glow of contentment - in a lot of cases - means you have less of a reason to get out of that much discussed comfort zone.
You won’t go for that early morning run, you won’t force yourself to make that sales call, you are willing to make excuses about not needing to have that awkward conversation with your MD etc.
I've talked before about why many businesses don't sell for a billion pounds and, simply put, it is usually for two reason;
people are not willing to sit in that excruciating uncomfortable position of turning down the millions first (but that’s a story for another time!)
It's because people get to a point where they're comfortable.
Here’s a real-world example I’ve encountered in the last few weeks, I was recently speaking to a very successful young entrepreneur, and she said “Look, I've got the nice home, I'm driving a Porsche, I've got all the Louis Vuitton that I need, I can go on holiday wherever, I can eat in whatever restaurant I like and I can pay for myself. I'm not relying on anyone for anything. I'm completely self sufficient. So, I'm in a bit of a rut. I've started to take a bit of time off, I'm going on more holidays, spending less time in the office and neglecting my business a little bit. As a result of that, my business has started to go downhill.”
And that's because she's hit that sort of dangerous level of comfort, that level of acceptance, where she's got everything that she initially aspired to have. She's achieved what, as a young girl, she set out to achieve.
In a way you might read this and think “well, good for her”, you know, she's got financial independence, got the house, she's got the time freedom etc. but the way that she framed her situation as a ‘problem’ shows her mindset with regards to how she now feels.
During the call she goes on to ask me how she can move through this self-imposed lull? How does she stop thinking “life's great, I've got everything I need, I don't need anymore” and how does she go to the next level.
And as she raises this question I feel for her, because I have been there and, as I mentioned earlier, it's a very challenging place to be. It's also a place that a lot of entrepreneurs reach on their business and life journey… PLUS, here’s the scary thing, it is a place that a lot of entrepreneurially-minded go-getters never escape from!
So, having now terrified you all about this valley of mediocrity, let me explain how I have escaped the clutches of complacency in my own life.
When you spot that you have reached a plateau (which might take a while to notice by the way!) you need to go back into ‘stealth mode’. Essentially you need to go back into a leaner mode and you need to remind yourself of what it was like when you first started; how you struggled to pay your bills, what it was like to worry about finding the money for the petrol to fill your battered old Mini just to get to the office, how it felt to read the menu from right-to-left because price mattered more than flavour! We’ve all been there right?
When you get back into this ‘hungry’ mode, in your mind’s eye you're effectively trying to recreate the feelings, mentality and actions of your previous lifestyle in order to emulate the drive you created. The drive that enable you to get to where you are right now, from scratch.
Of course, it can be tricky to bluff yourself into thinking you’ll actually go hungry when the fridge is now full, but that's kind of what you need to go back to when you get to a level of complacency.
The way that I have found most effective to do this is to literally put all your money to one side. Other than the minimum you need to pay the necessary bills (and no, you can’t blag yourself that three trips to Gaucho each week is a necessity) move all other money into another bank account. Basically you are resetting your finances. This will help you to go back to the point where you have to make money that month to pay your bills. Forget you've got however much money in a different account, tell yourself that the current account is the only place you can dip into the pay for your life!
The ‘hide your money from yourself’ trick is more than a way of simply making it a tiny bit tougher to instantly access your cash, there is something very grounding about seeing an empty account every time you log on!
Sometimes it serves to make you take that split second to think ‘do I really need that chai soya latte from the artisanal bakery’ (the answer is always no by the way!) and the second benefit is that it makes you very grateful for what you do have. I won’t go into the great debate about the power of gratitude here but, in my experience, I have definitely noticed the positive effects that an increased awareness of your spending creates!
I guess that a great analogy for this would be to think of this exercise like going on a financial diet for a few months and put yourself through the difficulties of a smaller budget to make you realise the benefits that striving for more creates.
I have found that you can also set yourself higher targets when you are in this focused mode of operating. Think of this self-inflicted monetary streamlining as a chance to reset, recalibrate, re-push yourself into an area where you're uncomfortable - and yes, it is good for you, once in a while, to become really uncomfortable.