I had a friend only a few years older than me who was so devoted to being comfortable that it killed him. He was diagnosed with Type two diabetes in his 40s. And shortly after that, with congestive heart failure, he needed to change his lifestyle, but he didn't want to give up the foods he loved. And he didn't like the aches and pains in his back and legs when he exercised. So he indulged himself. He didn't make himself uncomfortable.
And he died several years ago, barely into his 60s. I was going to say that's an extreme example. But is it really don't we all do things that put comfort over well-being? I know I do. This drive for comfort is an impulse we need to resist. And it's particularly true for business owners. The Chinese have a saying wealth will not last beyond the third generation. The idea is that the first generation builds the wealth, the second generation maintains the wealth, and the third generation spends it.
There may be some truth to that, but what I want to reflect on today is generations one and two. Those motivated to build wealth want something better than what they already have. So there is discomfort present and building wealth requires risk, which also involves discomfort. Entrepreneurs aren't just crazy ideas people. There are people who are comfortable with taking risk. They are comfortable with being uncomfortable. Maintaining wealth typically involves the opposite. Maintenance suggests risk avoidance and staying within comfort zones.
What if the third generation isn't inherently a bunch of wastrels? What if third generations are simply the ones left with? What happens when too much comfort has been indulged because too much status quo leads to decline? It's scary to learn new things, not because new things are fundamentally scary, but because we have to get uncomfortable, work new muscles and develop new neural pathways. It's scary to change our businesses. What if we're wrong? What if we don't succeed?
What will other people think? These are all very uncomfortable thoughts. So even though we know that staying the same won't bring improvement, we do it because it's more comfortable than changing. Business is changing rapidly and dramatically. Business owners must learn new skills, new technologies, new operating behaviors and new ways of advertising and marketing. Retail must find new ways to engage and keep customers. And all this learning is uncomfortable. But indulging the need to be comfortable could lead to the demise of your business.
And that's not very comfortable at all, is it?