7 Deadly Sins of Entrepreneurship, Part 3: Complacency

It’s been awhile since I wrote about the first two deadly sins of entrepreneurship (impatience and indecisiveness) so I figured it was time to address the third part of this series: complacency.

What is complacency? In basic terms, it’s the satisfaction with a current condition or situation.  Feeling content with the way things are.  How is this a sin?  I’ll explain.  The truth is, this may be the deadliest sin of all, depending on who you are and what your goals entail.

What’s Wrong With Being Happy?

It’s a valid question.  In everything we do, the ultimate goal is usually to be happy and satisfied.  Accomplishing your goals and realizing your dreams will obviously make you happy.  However, the inverse is not necessarily true:  Just because you’re happy or satisfied does not mean you’ve accomplished your goals and realized your dreams.

In fact, you can be a complete and utter failure, but still be happy at any given moment.  I’m happy when I’m watching TV or taking a nap, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that you can have those things with virtually no accomplishments in life.  This seems like an appropriate spot to quote from the classic comedy “Office Space“:

Lawrence: Well, what about you now? what would you do [with a million dollars]?
Peter Gibbons: Nothing.
Lawrence: Nothing, huh?
Peter Gibbons: I would relax… I would sit on my ass all day… I would do nothing.
Lawrence: Well, you don’t need a million dollars to do nothing, man. Take a look at my cousin: he’s broke, don’t do shit.

Maybe we take our basic standard of living for granted, but that’s a topic that’s outside the scope of this blog.

The problem with being satisfied is that it’s not motivating.  Success could motivate you to seek out more success, but being happy and satisfied doesn’t necessarily give you the drive to do more.  More specifically, being satisfied with your progress toward a goal can sometimes impede future progress.  Complacency may be the silent entrepreneurial killer, because it’s disguised as something that really doesn’t seem all that bad.

A Realistic Example

This being a blog in the “make money online” niche, I’m sure it’s read by a lot of people who want to quit their jobs and start their own business or otherwise find a way to make a living online (or simply supplement their income online).

To find a realistic example of complacency, I need to look no further than my own life.  My motivation to do work outside of my 9 to 5 job is directly correlated with my unhappiness of the job.  In other words, when I’m happy or satisfied with my job, I’m less motivated to work hard and build up my own business.  As it stands, I enjoy my job right now, so it’s more of a struggle to push myself to work when I get home from work (if that makes sense).

There are even better examples of the opposite scenario, where people have been fired/laid off from their jobs and it jump-started their wildly successful businesses – see examples here (Pat Flynn) and here (Chris Gurthrie).  They were forced to remove satisfaction or stability from their lives, which lit a fire that continues to spread today.

Success Isn’t Always a Killer

Obviously, being successful can excite you and drive you to bigger and better things.  That’s a different motivator altogether, and I still distinguish that from being complacent or merely “satisfied.”

Success is relative – it wouldn’t surprise me if the most successful people actually didn’t feel completely successful throughout their growing list of achievements.  Although an outsider may view someone with $1 million as “successful” (because they compare the person to themselves), the $1 million person is probably thinking, “why don’t I have $10 million?” or “how can I get to the next million?”

The important thing is, despite what others perceive as success, these individuals are never completely satisfied, and that’s what drives them forward. It’s not all about greed, either (ironically, one of the original “deadly sins”).  There are numerous ways to measure success beyond dollars and cents.

But Wait…I Like Being Happy…

It’s a weird dilemma.  You want to be successful, because success will make you happy and satisfied.  However, being happy and satisfied may prevent you from achieving further success.  There has be a solution to this, right?

There’s no groundbreaking, magical solution.  In fact, it’s quite simple: set good goals.

You’ve been told this a thousand times, and I would be beating a dead horse if I went into all the details about setting good goals, because there are literally thousands of places you can look online for tips on how to set good goals.  Almost every lifestyle design/internet marketing/entrepreneurship blogger has written at least one post about goals, including me.

But if you’re looking for tips here, I’ll give you a few brief ones:

  • Set BOTH realistic and “stretch” goals - You need to be able to dream big while tackling reality at the same time.
  • You need to be hungry for your goals – Anyone can set a goal to “earn $100,000 this year” or “build a successful business,” but to have even a remote chance of accomplishing your goals, you need to be HUNGRY for them.  You need to really want to achieve them.
  • Divide and conquer – Goals are usually not written in bite-sized chunks, and if you try to swallow the whole thing, you’ll choke to death (okay, that’s a bit extreme).  Even your less significant goals are probably too big to tackle with one swift motion, so you’ll need to find a way to break it down into action steps.  Start with making a daily “to-do” list.
  • Keep setting goals, even as you fail to achieve them – Your life is dynamic, and your goals should be too.  A goal you set earlier this year may not be practical anymore, or you may not care about it anymore.  Don’t chase goals you don’t care about.  If your desires change, alter your goals to reflect it.  There’s nothing worse than chasing a goal that isn’t appealing.

By staying on top of your goals and always keeping them in mind, you’ll hopefully never be complacent, because there will always be something out there that you have yet to achieve.

What do you think?

None of this is an exact science, so I’m curious to hear what you think about complacency and how to combat it.

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27 Responses to “7 Deadly Sins of Entrepreneurship, Part 3: Complacency”

  1. Love Office Space :)

    Being happy in what you do is crucial in anything.

    Money is just ONE avenue to enrich your life which COULD make you happy. Its not guaranteed.

    Have a great weekend everyone!
    Ralph recently posted… The Shoestring Guide for Facebook Fans

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Very true – I think money can enable you to do things that make you happy, or at the very least, keeps you from a lack of money, which is more likely to make you unhappy. Either way though, money doesn’t always equal happiness.

    Thanks for the comment Ralph!

    [Reply]

  2. “Peter Gibbons: I would relax… I would sit on my ass all day… I would do nothing.
    Lawrence: Well, you don’t need a million dollars to do nothing, man. Take a look at my cousin: he’s broke, don’t do shit.”

    Peter Gibbons: And I would laugh at anyone that would say that I should do something.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    :)

    [Reply]

  3. I get this a lot Eric,

    There are some months where I say, eh, I’ve got all my bills covered so there’s no real need to work really hard but I have to slap myself because I’m being contempt with my work rather than challenging myself to take it to the next level.

    I try to do something new every month that will add to my assets. Some things fail while others really pick up. If I was only satisfied with one website than I miss out on a lot of the opportunities to go outside the box and try the cool things that can eventually come back to the main blog, ya know?

    There are times to be contempt with what you’ve got but one area that this shouldn’t apply to is your drive and question for knowledge and action.
    Murray Lunn recently posted… How to Start a Niche Online Business: Building your Online Platform

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Murray. It does seem like people tend to work better when there’s a fire burning beneath them, but it’s difficult light that fire yourself.

    The key is finding other motivators and targets (i.e. goals) and making sure to keep them clear in your mind. The rest hopefully falls into place…

    [Reply]

  4. I’m thinking you need to find some balance. Strive for something more but still keep relaxed and enjoy life. Keeping the same drive you used to have at the start of your business is not the way to go, it’s going to break you down eventually.
    Amit recently posted… OSHA Forklift Certification

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Agreed, you don’t want to kill yourself by overworking. Work hard, play hard, as they say. I work my 9 to 5 job to pay the bills, and everything else is a bonus. This probably isn’t the right way to look at it, but it allows me to have balance and not sacrifice enjoyment and relaxation for a few bucks.

    Obviously, you do need to make some sacrifices, but you need to pick your spots and not be at either extreme.

    [Reply]

  5. If you really want to become successful, being satisfied is not on your list. Every successful person I know, never stop dreaming after they reach there goal. To be honest I am one of those people you just easily get satisfied and stop after reaching my goal. Then I learned that if you want to be on top keep pushing and once your there just push a little so you will stay there the rest of your life.
    Maria Cheska recently posted… How to win the lottery guaranteed

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment Maria, I agree!

    [Reply]

  6. Thanks for the post, this is a very good point. I constantly deal with complacency. It is much easier than achieving, especially when I try to excuse it with being content with what I have. The reality is that when there is complacency, I am not giving it all that I have. I’m simply holding back. I, therefore, have no reason to be content. Thanks again.
    Robinson Mertilus recently posted… Everyone Needs an Emergency Fund

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    No problem, thanks for the comment. :)

    [Reply]

  7. I think it’s always important to be doing something, Eric. Unfortunately, a combination of many things caused me to become rather complacent, at least in my online endeavors….not to make excuses, but, with my military schedule and prepping my Soldiers for Iraq, I just haven’t had the time for much. We’ve talked alot offline, so I know you’re quite familiar with some of the things I’ve faced. I really hope 2011 is a great year for the 4hr workweek, though….I love what you’re doing here, and, just so long as I have an internet connection over there, I’ll be sure to check in occasionally while I’m overseas. Keep up the good work, man….
    Howie recently posted… Why I Disagree with Pat Flynn and Yaro Starak….and, Where Do We Go From Here?

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks a lot Howie, I always appreciate the support you’ve given me.

    [Reply]

  8. I get frustrated with myself really quickly when I’m not working towards something (or engaged in planned down-time). I think the point you touched on about “being satisfied” is the crucial one: If you’re satisfied, no action is going to occur.

    I think this is a great series of articles and can’t wait for the rest!
    AJ recently posted… The Great Passive Income Lie

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks AJ! (Nice to hear from you too, I think it’s been awhile!)

    [Reply]

  9. I don’t know why I keep leaving replies improperly on your blog Eric…guess I’m a bit rusty ^_^
    AJ recently posted… The Great Passive Income Lie

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    No worries!

    [Reply]

  10. The motivation is definitely a big deal, and I agree that in many ways complacency can be one of the most insidious because it’s so easy to be satisfied with too little work or just float by and end up in a situation where you’re not making progress and not truly happy with where you’re at.
    Master Dayton recently posted… Freelance Writing Advice: Jumping at Opportunity

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    …And hopefully that unhappiness will refuel the motivation. :)

    [Reply]

  11. Hi…This can help people aware of their sins…Thanks for the post here…
    Clark Minn recently posted… 5 Abdominal Exercises to Lose Belly Fat

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment Clark!

    [Reply]

  12. Great article and tips, but sometimes complacency is good. I personal constantly feel the need to change, edit and improve my blogs, I become so obsessed sometimes that I manage to screw thing up because of this. Staying focused and “hungry” is great but don’t over do it, at least that’s what I think. Nothing better comes from excess, of any kind.
    Cristian Balau recently posted… Idea Development

    [Reply]

  13. interesting article and perspective on complacency. IMHO complacency in itself is not a bad thing, complacency that starts to bother one becomes the issue. sometimes complacency gives us a chance to rest back, reflect and rejuvinate. like anything else, change has a time and place.
    Sunil from The Extra Money Blog recently posted… The Perfect Recipe to a Healthy Financial Life

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  14. Money isn’t the reason to make you happy, money is only the tool to make you happy…
    melody recently posted… Young Driver Insurance – The Best Strategy to Save You Money!

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  15. I’m happy and satisfied with my life but I’m not totally contented with it. But I still have bigger dreams ahead of me. The only problem with me is though I certainly know that I want more, I used to be contented with what I currently have at the moment. As a result, I’m more focused on the present time than achieving my future goals.
    Maria Pavel recently posted… How to Become a CNA in Canada

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  16. It’s all about balance which sounds easier then it is. You have always make the most of where you are at and focus on the postive things in your life! It is too easy to get sucked in to all the negitive things around you.

    [Reply]

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