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Complacency and the perfect marshmallow

Cy Whitling

As children we didn't know what complacency was and we very rarely succumbed to it. We lived life and tried to roast the perfect marshmallow and loved it all. We never settled, we fought boredom instead of embracing it. We lived our happy little lives unencumbered with the dreary, inevitable despair that is that word. 

Complacency is not failure, complacency is the inability to learn from that failure. Complacency is the absence of reaction, engagement, movement and contribution. Complacency is not contentment, it is the ultimate anti-contentment, the biggest obstacle to true contentment. To be content we must at some level fail, accept that failure, learn from it and succeed. To be complacent all we need to do is fail and then avoid any situation that could potentially lead to further failure.

Complacency hinders the cycle of failure that leads to success. Complacency addresses failure by accepting it. This sentiment is the enemy of growth, knowledge and success. Robert F. Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Winston Churchill agrees, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

So what stands between us and the motivational posters? Why do we so often settle for failure and stop growing? It’s part of man’s imperfect nature that we take the path of least resistance. Complacency with failure is that path.

Complacency is the path most traveled. Complacency is the belief that we can succeed, that we can be happy, without failing. Complacency is the easy way out, the natural choice, the obvious decision.

So how do we fight that, how do we avoid the unavoidable? We can’t simply fight complacency by being successful or working hard or making a lot of money. Instead, the only real way to fight complacency is to strive for true contentment, the kind of contentment that comes with confidence, the kind of contentment that comes from failure.

Only by failing over and over and over again can we succeed. Only by learning from our failures and taking our motivation from them can we be content. Contentment doesn't mean you have won or that you are successful or that you have the “right” job or that you make enough money. Contentment means that you love life, that you love your neighbors and that you are always pushing, working, running, always moving “Further up and Further in.”

Contentment means that you are glad to be sitting at the campfire, you are not afraid of adversity or failure and you would not trade your place for anything. Complacency is sitting at home, complaining about the long drive, the painful hike, the cold tent and the high sugar content of S’mores. Contentment is cooking the perfect marshmallow and isn't going to settle with a burnt one.

Cook the perfect marshmallow.