Fighting Complacency

I few days ago, I encountered a blog post by Jin Yang entitled ‘Complacency‘.  In it, Jin writes about his early years growing up in China, and then moving to the US only to discover that life was way easier than imagined:

I still remember the end of my elementary years. My school days were from 6am – 6pm. After I got home it was a brief dinner and then I studied until I went to bed. Everyday. Winter and summer breaks were short, also burdened with homework. During the final preparation for the middle school entry exam, I studied so hard the corners of my text book pages became translucent…  The magnet middle school I applied for required a minimum of 247 points (out of 250). I scored 247.

Two months into the first semester in middle school I came to the U.S. to visit my mother. I ended up staying permanently. How could I not? School here was a cakewalk. Everyday was a vacation to me. I didn’t have to come to school at 6am to clean up the class room, there were janitors doing that. (Maybe they didn’t pass their middle school placement test, I used to think)…

There was no need to be in the top of the class. There were no entry exams to get in high school, not even to enter college. There were no relatives or family friends that I had to impress. I didn’t learn anything new in math until I was a junior in high school; I was coasting off what I had learned in China…. I was being complacent and I was totally OK with it.

Upto this point in time, Jin’s story may be very different from your’s.  But, as the years go by, the lines begin to merge…

… Then I got married and had kids. Life became comfortably routine. For a couple of years, I didn’t learn anything new at all. I felt even though my skills weren’t exactly up to date anymore, they were “adequate enough” to do my job. One thing about being complacent is that you give yourself excuses and sometimes you can even fool yourself. Deep down, I knew I had enough free time to learn new things if I didn’t watch TV or play games. I knew I wasn’t the only one who was being lazy. As one gets deeper into this thing called “life,” responsibilities creep up, and the urge to learn new things gets dimmer.

That got me thinking.  I have observed this sense of “complacency” with countless friends and family members.  We grow up, we get busy with our lives, and before we realize, we get complacent.  As Jin pointed out, it’s so easy to make excuses and to fool yourself, to keep the illusion going.  But, deep down, we know it’s not the best we can do.

That computer whiz who used to be the neighbourhood’s envy, that teenage girl who enjoyed creating art, that little boy who could break the telephone apart and put it back together… One by one, slowly and steadily, we stop doing the things we enjoyed the most… We stop learning… We stop living.

It’s easy to say that we live busy lives and are not able to spare time, but time is a function of interest. 

I have two hyper-active kids, an aged mother who doesn’t keep too well, a commute that stretches well over two hours and a fairly demanding work environment.  I still make the time to stay in touch with over a hundred XML feeds (courtesy Netvibes), author four different blogs and tweet 2-3 times a day.  And, like Jin, “Everyday, I learn something new on the web, via blogs, twitter, coworkers or readers like you.”

So, I’m not buying the argument that we don’t have time for the things that matter to us.  You can fight complacency.  And win.

Join the Conversation


  1. Hi Naveen, thank you for linking to my post, I’m honored.

    Sounds like we have some things in common. I have 3 young kids, my commute is 1.5hr each way. I think ultimately, you have to love what you do. I don’t mean necessarily the job(as in employment), but the field. I can’t convince a coworker to read blogs if he doesn’t like web design and simply do it for a check.

    I think having a strong passion for something, is the best way to fight complacency.


  2. Editor’s Reply :

    Thank you for writing in, Jin! And, thanks for a great post on complacency.

    Your point on loving what you do is valid, but when I wrote about it on my blog, I didn’t mean it just in the work context. I also wanted to remind folks about the stuff they really liked to do on a personal level as well.

    In the end, it does matter what each of us is passionate about. But it is so easy to make excuses and not nurture those passions, as we go through Life…

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.