“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”
This popular quote from Coach John Wooden summarized the key component of his continuous success. He commented on the idea in an interview in 2005:
“Some people change when they acquire power, authority and material possessions. A person with character won’t change. Character is what you really are inside. Some people have great individual ability, whether it’s physical or mental. They may reach great financial success. But if they don’t have character, they won’t stay there very long. They’ll go down fast and you’ll find the road down is much faster than the road up.”
We’ve worked hard to achieve success. We’ve struggled through hard times, we’ve met challenges head on, and we’ve fought the hard battles. We’ve finally reached the pinnacle of success. But this is where we are about to face our toughest challenge yet –– complacency. Achieving success is hard; staying successful is even harder.
Are you in danger of becoming complacent? Here are nine warning signs that signal trouble ahead for you or your business. If you:
Take success for granted. Some entrepreneurs become complacent and coast along. They fool themselves into believing that their comfortable lead can’t be lost.
Lose focus. Some business starters abandon the actions, ideas and things that made them successful. They drift away from what they know and do best.
Fail to learn. Some of us are so busy celebrating success we fail to notice that the world around us is changing –– and then the world does change, think Covid-19. If we aren’t able to learn a new way to do business, we may be dead in the water.
Stop listening. Some of us let success go to our head. We think we know everything –– and if we have no one with the courage to tell us otherwise, this will lead to tears.
Fight for attention. Some entrepreneurs forget that success is a team effort and try to undermine team members input. This easily causes ill will, negativity and resentment among all the team members.
Go on defense. Some business owners go on defense thinking the “game” is already won. They react to situations rather than pursuing opportunities.
Lose sense of pride. Some of us get caught up in the day to running of the business, legislation and red tape and could easily lose passion and get careless.
Believe in a sense of entitlement. Some entrepreneurs believe past success guarantees future success. They want the rewards without the hard work.
Ignore the customer. You know a business is complacent when it piles up costs that don’t add customer value; when it develops policy changes for employee convenience rather than for customer benefit; when it spends more time in staff meetings than in front of customers.
Wherever you find success you’ll find complacency. We have the ability to control our situation –– if we have the will and desire. It is essential that we keep focussed on the core value of our business and stay tuned into the action, ideas and things that keep us in our groove.
As Benjamin E. Mays said, “The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.”
Coach John Wooden felt that complacency was the key character flaw that led to a lack of continued success. He summed up his perspective in his book Wooden on Leadership:
“The infection of success is often fatal. Most people work harder on the way to the top than when they arrive. If you’re fortunate enough to get there, do not be swayed. You can’t make up for poor effort today by working harder tomorrow.”
Continuous success has two areas where complacency cannot exist: work effort and a desire to improve. Improvement only happens when we continue to learn. The humble leader listens, learns and is eager to learn more.
Here’s to our ongoing success with a reminder to focus on our customers’ needs and continuous improvement. We may be first now, but the truth is next “new thing” is on the way.