Words & Sports

Don’t Let Complacency End Your Game

Complacency–it’s a habit, a frame of mind, a way we set ourselves up for loss without even realizing it. Remember the 2004 USA Olympic men’s basketball team? It was a huge disappointment. This was the year in which a star-studded team coached by Larry Brown let complacency get the better of them. The team had the talent and great leadership, but they still lost their first game to Puerto Rico 92-73!

Complacency” is defined as “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like.” Former NBA head coach Pat Riley called it “a disease sitting on your shoulder, just waiting for you to let your guard down.” By the time you realize you’ve become complacent, it’s often too late to avoid the consequences—lost games or injuries on the playing field, lost opportunities or bankrupted companies in business.

Remember Kodak? The name was almost synonymous with photography. Through technical innovation and business savvy, the company dominated its industry for over a century. Kodak even developed the first digital camera back in the 1970’s. But instead of taking advantage of the new product, they shelved it. For decades, the company kept their focus on traditional photographic film while their competitors developed their own digital cameras and gobbled up market share. By the time Kodak tried to catch up, it was too late. In January 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy and many of their patents and divisions were sold off to their competition.

Ultimately, for the business entrepreneur or leader, complacency will lead to disaster. Without clarity in your vision and drive in your step, you will lose your stride and stumble—and your competition will be running ahead of you. Will you be able to get your stride back? Will you be able to catch up and regain the lead? It didn’t happen in the 2004 Olympics—the men’s basketball team lost two more games and finished with a bronze. For reference, the last time the USA Olympic men’s basketball team finished with anything less than gold was back in 1988 and nearly a decade later the sense of disappointment was still felt as player David Robinson recounted their bronze legacy.

Now by definition, you are unaware of complacency until it is too late. This is why you MUST be proactive. Surround yourself with a team—colleagues, friends, and family–who will call you out if you begin the downward spiral towards a legacy of complacency. If you listen and refocus yourself in time, not only will you save yourself from self-destruction, but your renewed sense of urgency might just drive you to heights not yet seen.


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3 Key Points:

1) Complacency usually isn’t noticed by the person or business it is affecting.

2) When complacency hits, it can be devastating and your competition will take notice and advantage.

3) You must be proactive. Surround yourself with trusted people whom you will listen to.



  • Loss to the Soviet Union – Only 3 times has the USA received less than Gold, with the 1972 Olympics being the first and most controversial. Great article!
  • Ten Years Later –  Great article that revisits the 2004 Olympic loss 
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