AW

The Danger of Complacency

In Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons on January 20, 2010 at 11:14 am

For some inexplicable reason, human nature dictates that those on top think that they will always be there.  Most people believed that the stock market would continue to rise, even though history has shown that not to be the case.  Almost everyone thought that investing in real estate was a relatively safe bet, rationalizing that (unlike stocks), real estate was a tangible asset and people always need a place to live.  While this is true to a degree, the fact of the matter is that the belief that something will continue to happen just because it has in the past is nothing more than complacency, fueled (often times) by irrational exuberance.

Last night, the Senate seat that was held by Ted Kennedy for nearly half a century in the traditionally Democratic state of Massachusetts, was won by Republican, Scott Brown.  It was called an upset because a Republican won the election, but as a casual observer, it didn’t seem like an upset to me.  For several weeks, the only name that I heard mentioned was Scott Brown.  In fact, I only found out last night that he beat a woman whose last name is Coakley.  She ended up being such an afterthought in this election that her name doesn’t even appear in this ABC News article…

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/01/20/2796925.htm?section=world

After Googling “Scott Brown Election Results,” I found an interesting article http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/01/20/2796925.htm?section=world that highlights the fact that Scott Brown used Google and social networking to help win the election.  I also found out that Ms. Coakley’s first name is Martha, which is something that I would have known had she not been so complacent, thinking that she had the election won simply because she is a Democrat in a Democratic state.  Ironically, Scott Brown used many of the same methods that Barak Obama used to win the presidential election.

This particular show of complacency is simply the latest one to take place in the public eye.  Every day, the news is littered with examples of crumbling empires that were once thought to be impenetrable (Enron, Lehman Brothers, etc.).  We’ve all seen how complacency nearly brought the world’s entire banking system to its knees.  Complacency has caused the newspaper industry to endure such a colossal tumble that it is impossible to imagine them ever returning to the prominence that they once held.

In my own career, I witnessed a permanent shift in the music industry as the major record labels summarily dismissed file-sharing and downloads as a realistic way for people to consume music.  I have seen magazines (who thought that they had no competition in their niche) treat their readers as an afterthought by raising subscription and newsstand prices.  And then turning around and raising advertising prices in spite of the fact that new competition was arising in one form or another on a regular basis.  I saw the real estate industry forever-changed by the Internet, which has empowered consumers by providing them with information that was once closely-guarded, and difficult to obtain without the help of a real estate professional.

It is truly amazing to see how often history repeats itself because of complacency, and yet the lesson never seems to stick.  Life has a way of creeping up on us while we’re not paying attention.  Change happens whether we want to believe that it will or not.  The past is not a guarantee of what is to come in the future.  The thing about being on top is that there is no place to go but down.  The only way to stay on top is to avoid falling into the trap that is – complacency!

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  1. Well written, Adam. In business how often is complacency described as “lack of focus?”

    Probably the best concept we can teach our kids is that they have to earn “it” everyday.

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