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Success: Taking Lessons from Ants By Jeff Herring

Q. I've always tried to work hard enough to provide for my family and be content. The problem is, when I'm content, I get complacent, and everything starts to fall apart. How do I keep going and avoid getting complacent?

A. There's nothing wrong with feeling content. It's something that we all strive for in life.

The problem comes, as you have so well stated, when we drift from contentment into complacency. Let me give you an example of the results of complacency, and then how to overcome it.

The dangers of complacency

I recently heard Clay Shiver, former FSU All-American center and former center for the NFL Dallas Cowboys, speak about complacency.

When he got to the NFL, Shiver, who played center, was the only starter on the offense who wasn't an All-Pro player. The team also had won three out of the last four Super Bowls.

The year he started, the Cowboys posted a record of 6 wins and 10 losses. Shiver said he thought the reason for such a bad season was that the team had gotten complacent, had lost its hunger. He remembered being in the huddle where two All-Pro Super Bowl champions talked about how they couldn't wait until the season was over so they could go on a fancy trip. They lost the next five games.

That's the best example of complacency I think I could offer you. I can sum up the cure in just one word. Ready? Ants. That's right, a-n-t-s, ants. One of the benefits of having kids is you get to watch their favorite videos hundreds of times. In the movie "Bug's Life" the ants teach us at least five strategies for dealing with complacency.

1. Ants never, ever give up. Put something in front of them, and they will get around it, over it, under it or through it. If one way doesn't work, they will try another. If that way does not work, they will try still another way. And so on until they find a way around the obstacle.

2. Ants are always getting ready for what's next. They don't ever rest on their laurels. In the summer, they are thinking about the winter and getting ready for it.

3. Ants are creatively industrious and resourceful. Ants don't complain about not having the right tools to do what needs to be done. They take what is available right in front of them and find a way to make it work.

4. Ants are always hopeful. In the winter, when they are holed up in their little ant mound, they are using what they stored up all summer and know that as cold as it is, summer is coming, and they are getting ready for it.

5. Ants don't seem to believe in the concept of enough. They store up all that they can for the winter. You have seen the acronym on restaurant signs AYCE. I used to think that must be some kind of special brand of food. It took me forever to figure out that it stands for All You Can Eat.

Instead of focusing on All You Can Eat, I think we would do better to focus on what the ants do, AYCD, which stands for All You Can Do.

If you constantly follow these five tips, you will consistently beat complacency. Think of it as being content and always hungry to make things better.

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