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August 20, 2014

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9/23/02 Hey, Couch Potato!

When friends visit my home, my goal is to make them comfortable. I want them to be relaxed and have a good time. When I’m sitting around the lake in my shorts and bare feet, that’s comfortable, and it’s good.

Being comfortable in business, however, is NOT good. Last night, I received a call from a friend in crisis. He works for a great company and makes a good living. He tells his friends, “I’m comfortable” — so comfortable, in fact, that he has focused on doing his job 12 hours a day, but he has not focused on building a career. He and his wife have become comfortable with the money he is making, and they are living to those means.

But his comfort is killing him. He recently learned that a subordinate has become a shining star with the senior executives of the company. Suddenly, his job is in jeopardy because this shining star is about to take it. Why? This kid became a star, noticed by management, because he was unwilling to accept the status quo and continually brought in new deals, ideas and possibilities.

All the while, my friend was “doing his job” with his head down. But he wasn’t innovating or growing. As a result, my friend will soon to be out of work. Because he was “comfortable,” he hasn’t been looking for a job and hasn’t explored, networked or built any brand equity outside his company. Now, it’s too late. He’ll soon be another out-of-work schmoe who hadn’t prepared his escape hatch.

When I was young, my goal in life was to have enough money to be “comfortable.” I thought comfort was a good thing then, but now I’m not so sure. I’ve seen people at the top of their game settle into a “comfortable” lifestyle, only to find themselves suddenly unemployed and then settling for a new job at half the pay.

Business has an ever-changing rhythm. Ideas change, people change, concepts change. You may be doing the same things you’ve always done, but by staying the same, you’re really going backward.

Dwight Case always told me to take two classes every year — one class in a subject you believe you know really well, and another in a subject you know absolutely nothing about. I urge you to take Dwight’s advice. Attend seminars, audit college courses, meet new people, and study new things. Read five newspapers a day and 50 magazines a month if you want to stay fresh and current.

Are you fresh, are you innovating, or have you become a business couch potato? Have you gotten to the point where you’ve been with your company for so long that you’re making more money than you really should? Would your company rehire you today? If you were to lose your job today, how marketable are you? When was the last time you did something that made you afraid or uncomfortable?

Is it time for you to slip into something a little less comfortable?


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