The truth of my IT career is this: most systems I've built for clients were Version 2.0 of a system that was left to stagnate for 12 years. This means that for 12 years -
  • Talented IT people let their skills get out of date, as maintaining the system got easier. Not less busy - just less challenging.
  • Smart business users got used to living with pain - bugs, workarounds, "that's just how it is." They forgot to challenge and propose new ideas.
  • Customers got used to a certain low level of service.

It's not my intention to belittle, it's only to illuminate. How do good, smart, conscientious, hard working people with the best intentions end up in a bad situation?

It's human nature to get comfortable in set patterns of thinking. It's one of the oldest traps:
success --> contentment --> inertia --> failure

It happens in relationships too - once the rush of the initial courtship is over, we settle into a comfortable pattern of behavior and just stay there. Until something external throws us off kilter. Financial stress, illness, a child. All of a sudden we find ourselves ill-equipped to deal with this new situation with our old bag of tricks.

Through falling over and over into this trap, I've learnt just one key lesson:

Fight stagnation. Take risks. Pay attention.

Without new challenges, even the best job or relationship starts to rot. Taking new risks is what keeps us sharp, keeps us getting up in the morning and going back unto the breach. If I don't, I will eventually pay the price:
  • Ignore your health and you will be imprisoned within a limited functioning body
  • Ignore your skills and you'll eventually become un-hirable (a fate worse than getting fired)
  • Ignore your relationships and you will lose them
  • Ignore your spirituality (whatever that means to you) and you have no anchor during the tough times, no purpose to wake up for
  • Ignore your own self and you will end up depressed, dependent or addicted

Taking things for granted, not paying constant attention, is catastrophic in the long run.

In the next post, I'll examine things I've done to avoid stagnation.