Monday, May 5, 2008

If Success Breeds Complacency...You Can Keep It

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently attended a conference for work. And as with all conferences, I came back with a Steno pad full of ideas and, my favorite, inspirational quotes.

I love me some inspirational quotes. I scribble them on sticky notes, tape them to my computer monitor, write them on cards and in emails to my friends, and insert them into articles I write for trade magazines. Walking into my office is like walking into a haven of self-affirmation. I feel like they help motivate me and keep me focused on the positive impact I have on my own life, and they remind me that I am ultimately part of something bigger than myself.

So when I hear a good quote, I remember it. One in particular kept rearing its head at me last week and even made its way to the dry-erase board in my office: Success breeds complacency. It references our human nature of never trying anything new until we are certain that we will succeed, and therefore never feeling the sting of defeat or crushing misery of failure. And as a result, we never challenge ourselves to do more. So, our success is our demise, because it makes it so easy to accept the status quo.

I immediately saw the application to my personal life. I have not had much success in my goal of reaching my MGP. I've been at it for more than 15 years and have only recently begun to gain some ground. So I would like the opportunity to experience complacency once in a while.

But all of this deep thinking has made me wonder...if success breeds complacency, does failure have the opposite effect?

It definitely does for me. Last week, neither success nor complacency were part of the equation when I had my body fat tested. After six weeks of training, I had lost a crushing 0.5% of body fat. As I looked at the number and let reality wash over me, I realized that I wasn't even angry. I wasn't at my usual level of fury. I wasn't even the slightest bit confused. It was the first time that I took failure in stride and accepted it like a grown-up. I got into my car, ate my protein bar, and drove home. I thought to myself, if success breeds complacency, failure breeds me.

I spent the rest of the day in contemplation. I went over the past six weeks and wondered where I went wrong. I searched for the tiniest crack, the one point of weakness. I ultimately decided that focusing on the past was not going to get me anywhere, and I resolved to not look back any longer. Lesson learned: I am not in charge. I get it. Let's move on.

When I was a kid, there was a bridge near my house that was under construction. One rainy morning, the paper showed a picture of a lone runner jogging in the rain through the construction, over the bridge. The runner was my dad. I knew my dad went running every day (even on Christmas, which amazed me as a kid and still does now) but I didn't know that he did it despite all odds. That picture inspired me on so many levels. Not only did it represent working towards a goal despite obstacles, it showed my dad as someone with drive and resolve. It fueled in me the determination to be the same.

So, if success breeds complacency, and complacency breeds me, what do I breed? I thought about this as I ran this morning, and couldn't decide. I need more time to think about that. For now, I am thinking about that 0.5%, and how I never want to see that again. It might be in the past, but it won't be in my future.

If success breeds complacency, you can keep it. It's time to get hard-core.


EDP said...

OK, this one was deep! There's a great set of New Balance commercials where a voiceover says something like, "You give running your all, day in, day out, and what do you get in return?" It acknowledges that you can bust your ass on a regular basis, but success (whatever that means) is not a given each time. Sometimes it will suck, and sometimes you won't get what you think you deserve. But what separates the girls from the women is sticking with it anyway, and being honest about the effort you're making. I think you know what camp you're in. :-)

Sghoul said...

I have to say, this is why I am not into excersize. Inspirational stuff does NOT work on me. Often it has the opposite affect. When I did try and work out, the attempts to push me harder only made me wanna quit.

I think you just have that keep going. I tend to reach a point where I say "This is not worth the effort, I could get way more out of putting my time elsewhere."

But I am glad it works for you :)