How do you find the balance between being ambitious and being complacent?
Complacent to me means “pleased with oneself or one’s merits,
advantages, situation, etc. often without awareness of some potential
danger or defect”. If I am complacent, it does not stop me from desiring
more. It does not stop me from going for it. However, I do not feel to
be any lesser of a person or achiever if I chose not to go for more.
Similarly, I do not have any attachments to what I have in defining me
as a person or achiever and so losing some of it does not reduce my self
worth. What are your associations with being complacent?
Ambition is often confused with the mentality of “winning isn’t everything, it is the ONLY THING”. My life’s experience leaves me with the observation that when I am
driven to achieve with that mindset, nothing is ever enough. I keep
pushing and getting more, having less time to celebrate the achievement.
This also leaves me no time to do the basics I enjoy which includes
sitting and doing nothing. We do not give ourselves time today to do
nothing, to just be. Our mind is always in constant search and thinking
and we are forever in pursuit.
I love asking other people about their experiences and what got them
there, for my own learning. I ask those I perceive as having succeeded
and those I perceive as having failed as I find their experiences both
very insightful. These are people that have started their own businesses
or people that are employed and climbing the corporate ladder. I also
have the benefit of observing people I have known for a long time move
from average to extremely successful.
What comes up a lot is how most entrepreneurs tell me they do not have the
same fun now as they did when they started their business. One would
think this is crazy as now their business is in full swing and they have
taken away the uncertainties they had when they started. More often
than not, they had more fun in the beginning as it was a smaller
business and they did not have to worry about as much as they do now.
With growth came more staff, and the concomitant responsibilities. You find
yourself surrounded by the people who believe in you and supported your
growth so naturally you have a vested interest in their success and
livelihood too. With growth came more clients who rely on your services.
If you have the joy of having clients that believe in what you are
doing (as opposed to clients who just use your services), you also don’t
want to let them down. Added to this is an attachment to the business
that has been created. As it gets bigger, there is a feeling of anxiety
that grows as suddenly you have so much more to lose.
The results are similar when looking at people that are employed, so
entrepreneurs do not have the monopoly on this thought process. Someone
who was great at doing their job is then rewarded for being the best in
the team by being made the manager of the team. The lucky ones turn out
to be great managers, but end up doing less of what their strengths have
them wired to do. While they manage the team well, they do not self
actualise as they are doing less of what they truly love doing. The
unlucky ones are when the person does not turn out to be a good manager.
Being a disaster in their new role, everybody loses as the new manager
is not effective or happy, their former peers are miserable having this
terrible manager and the gap left behind in the old job is also not
filled with someone delivering the same performance as the predecessor.
The mistake is hard to reverse as even when recognised by everyone, not
many have the guts to go back to what was working. The result is the
promoted individual promoting themselves out of the business.
We all know that growth does not go up in a straight line. In the pursuit
of growth companies will have cut backs, retrenching staff that in some
form or other are needed later when the growth is back and people are
needed to deliver it. People on the other hand having a desire to change
careers as part of their growth, are not willing to go backwards to
facilitate the opportunity of the new career materialising as they are
committed to a certain lifestyle. You have to choose the growth if it is
going to create shareholder value in the case of a business, or
personal value in the case of the employee. Growth for its own sake can
be deceptive and enslave you to a position that contradicts your
ultimate reason for your having chosen where you were. Understand what
it is that you do VALUE.
Know what you mean when you want growth and be sure that it is going to
serve you, as otherwise you will end up being the servant in the
relationship i.e. you serving it as opposed to it serving you. Do not
confuse stagnating with depreciating in value. Do not confuse stagnating
with becoming dull or old and stale. It is okay to be satisfied, that
will not hurt you. What will hurt you is doing nothing when you feel
that things are deteriorating and not working as they should. We are
primarily driven by two emotions; Greed and Fear. You must be a master
of all your emotions. Sometimes it’s okay to be pleased with oneself and
one’s merits. Just be, it may actually serve you. If you pursue growth
because of either greed or fear, you will never be satisfied as whatever
you achieve will not be enough.

Views: 102

Comment by Ambrish Kochikar on October 26, 2010 at 12:19pm
Thabo, that was a great post and made for really good reading!

In elementary school I was taught that there are 3 basic signs of life: respiration, growth and reproduction. If we analyze a business from that defition and assume that it is a living entity (after all, who would want their business to be called a dead or dormant one), where does it take us?

It's important to breathe: that could lazily translate into taking inputs, processing them and turning them into an output. This is what your business does or your business is. Your big idea, whatever your raison d'etre.

It's important to reproduce: again, simply translating that idea into building a great service around a killer idea and reproducing the process with perfection each time, creating the same level of service and being consistently good or average or whatever definition your customer is happy with and willing to pay for.

It's important to grow: i.e. either grow as in mature as a business idea and take full form, or as a professional grow more capable of providing the best advice or service to your client, or grow (as you point to in your post) by numbers, company size, volumes and profits.

Depending upon your definition of what constitutes growth, you will, either as a professional, or as an entrepreneur or established business owner will drive your energies towards realizing that definition. Your inner desire for accomplishment and your need for creating a legacy will ultimately drive you to pick one of those definitions and run with it.
Comment by Thabo on October 27, 2010 at 4:28am
@Ambrish I agree with your points. 100% spot on that it is important to grow. It is not a must though and that is the mindset we operate with. There is this eternal fear that if you do not grow you will lose everything, which results in many decisions that are chasing growth at all costs. My reflection was more at when the costs exceed the benefit of the growth, then you have to wonder why do it? Thanks for sharing your thoughts, your comments are valid.


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