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The Midweek Motivator – Complacency

Each Success Only Buys A Ticket To A More Difficult Challenge So many opportunities, so much competition in any field of recognized endeavor ultimately leads us to the proverbial fork in the road: onward with unending resolve, or complacency-the last hurdle any organization, team, or individual must overcome before achieving greatness.

My dad once referred to it as the “success disease.” Great call coach. We see it take flight when a person or an organization is feeling good-too good-about who we are and what we’ve accomplished.

This can manifest in innocent coasting after a great quarter of performance, or it can take a more destructive path seen in the recent spate of self-sabotage by a growing number of NFL athletes (the Antonio Brown syndrome) or a wealthy politician indicted for senseless money-for-favors.

“Complacent” is not necessarily a passive word but often an active adjective. Twenty years ago the sports business showcased a great example of “complacency” in Major League Baseball when the savviest of sports media people observed baseball was able to negotiate a gargantuan contract for television play-by-play rights, giving them an excuse to complacently sit back and ignore what was then, one of the most serious problems in that sport: the nonsensical patchwork geographic makeup of team divisions, long in need of realignment.

Why should that matter? Because all sports, including major league and collegiate conferences’ makeup thrive on regional feuds. At that time baseball was pretty short on rivalries.

What good did it do to have some team from across the country regularly walking the streets of Los Angeles when no one recognized their players? Complacency fueled by mega-money was hurting baseball.

Eventually the sport wised-up and re-tuned, based on America’s natural geography. The NFL did the same. It made no sense for an eastern team to play in the West Division. And there’s college football in 2019, full of hubris, riding on assumption.

Thus we have teams like Rutgers and Maryland ensconced in the Big Ten. What tradition or rivalry does a team from Iowa bring to College Park, MD or for Rutgers playing in Lincoln, Nebraska?

And can you envision someone in Minneapolis saying, “I hate those Scarlet Knights… can’t wait to get to the game.” These are large examples of complacent financial assumption based on a belief that teams only need to play someone else and TV revenue will follow. Perhaps, but the reality of “ratings” will in the end determine whether these incremental moves made from financial criteria and little more, can in fact result in a positive fan experience. 

The late leadership guru Bob Townsend said it best: “If you don’t do it for the right reasons and excellently, don’t do it at all. Because if what you’re doing isn’t excellent, it won’t be profitable or fun, and if you’re not in it for both returns, what the hell are you doing there?”  

Complacently avoiding a solution to a difficult problem is not discretion, but lethargy. Any leader that doesn’t kick the complacent butt of his or her department, their team, or themselves when it’s required may end up kicking sand on the beach.