Columnists Features

Danger of complacency and lack of foresight

SPIDER’S WEB with CHEELA CHILALA
I know a man who once worked as a top manager in a parastatal company. While his fellow managers used the tenure of their positions to secure their future, however, the man only thought of the present circumstances – the good salary and allowances, and other fringe benefits. Which is why, when much later his contract would not be renewed, he found himself in the wilderness:  the company benefits were all gone, apart from the car, and he had to vacate the company house. It did not take long before the man sold the car to sustain himself and his family, and – you guessed right – it was only a matter of time before he was reduced to a “nobody” with no assets to show for his many years of work. He wound up chasing after jobs well below his former esteemed status.
This story, though, is not an isolated one. There are many people who were once basking in the privileges and glory of the benefits that go with a good job but who have since fallen from hero to zero, from plenty to lack. There is a variety of reasons why such people wind up on the rocks, but I will talk about two of them: first, lack of foresight, and second, complacency.
Lack of foresight may also be rendered as lack of vision. It is the problem of seeing only the present and its pleasures and successes, forgetting there is such a thing as tomorrow, and that tomorrow may not be as glamorous. One of the ways in which this lack of foresight manifests itself is what I call the “ni va company” mentality: being obsessed with enjoying the benefits of one’s good job to the detriment of one’s ability to plan for the future.
Do you have a good job with wonderful benefits? Do not be fooled. Tomorrow is never the same as today. Use the time you are privileged to be in a good job to save and plan for the future. Prepare for the rainy day as the saying goes. Think strategically. Ed Koch, former mayor of New York city, says, “In action, be primitive; in foresight, a strategist.”
Lack of foresight or vision goes together with lack of strategic thinking. Complacency is also related to lack of foresight. People such as the man I refer to in the story above simply slump into complacency. They sell their soul, so to speak, to the present pleasures and good times to the point of becoming blind to the possibility of misfortune striking them. Complacency has been defined as “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.”
Success and progress are great, and all of us should aspire to attain them. However, success and progress must have a caveat: be careful how you handle success so that it does not become a poisoned chalice. Do not become wasteful with your resources, live now as if you will be a pauper tomorrow. Some successful people live as if success is a permanent status. Do not be complacent in your success. Enjoy your night under the stars of success, but prepare for the morning after.
Andy Grove, the American businessman and author, sounds a pertinent warning: “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”  Paranoid? A negative word, you might say, but all that Grove is saying is that a “paranoid” person is ever alert to both the present and the future. Benjamin E Mays, famous author and educator, adds weight to this line of thinking: “The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency.”
cheelafkc@yahoo.co.uk

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