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Arrogance, Over-confidence or Complacency?

August 07, 2012

Over a week ago, I remember seeing a highly confident group of #TeamKenya athletes at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, about to take off for the London Olympics. In fact, they were so over optimistic that when asked, the national coach confidently (almost to the point of sounding arrogant) stated that his team was so ready that this time round, there would be more than 10 gold medals and three times the total of medals to be expected by Kenya. He repeated the same thing again when Mike Okinyi of Citizen Tv asked him how he thought #TeamKenya would perform, the very same day the ladies 10,000M was to take place; to him he was ready for an all Kenyan win.

Several days later, after participating in quite a number of events, we have less than ten medals in the bag, and as of 6th of August, only one of them was gold, and from the look of things, things are thick! But we still haven’t learnt, have we? We are still fronting the Kenyan arrogance as I am calling it, masqueraded as “self-confidence” and optimism. No offense to anyone, but the Kenyan journalists are leading the pack in this arrogance, seeing that even after the defeats we have conceded, they are still talking of “an all Kenyan win” in the remaining events. Please don’t get me wrong; I love my country, I am in full support of #TeamKenya but I don’t share in the overated over-confidence! 

Clearly, things are not the same way they were in Daegu or even 4 years ago during the Beijing Olympics. For instance, how is it that the 29-year-old Mohamed Farah, a British Somali, bagged the gold for the 10,000M while he trains in our backyard in Iten like all our athletes? What is it he was doing right that our athletes did not, especially considering these guys have been born and brought up within this region? Well, you will argue that this particular challenge has eluded our Kenyan athletes for several years, but is that the case really? The truth is, the other Olympians have been training hard to beat the Kenyans, but the Kenyans were complacent enough to think that the success they had in the past would automatically catapult them to the Gold medals. Shock on us all!

In my view, we Kenyans and our athletes have become so over-confident in our ability to sustain the long distance races that we thought our past glory will definitely carry us through this year’s Olympics, and as a result, complacency set in. While we were busy playing the over-confident card, our opponents were busy training harder than us, devising new techniques of ensuring they take us by surprise and down-playing their abilities all as part of their strategies to oust the Kenyan team…. And unfortunately, to some extent they have managed to do this. 

I believe #TeamKenya has done the best they could have done, at least for those who have gone for their races so far. Even if they had tried harder, they could not have done anything extra because that is the much they were prepared for. You see, when you become complacent you do not see the need to go an extra mile because in your mind, you think that since you did it before, it will be easy to do it again. The moment one starts thinking like this, then you become a loser even before you start the race. Never let your past successes overshadow the possibilities of your future.

This complacency syndrome is not just with our Olympians. It is a trap we human beings fall into, every so often. For instance, if you are an employee, let's take a walk down memory lane......Do you remember that time you were tarmacking looking for that job? Do you remember how you vowed severally that if God ever gave you a job you’d work 25 hours a day if need be to make sure you deliver? A couple of years later, how are you doing in that department? Chances are likely that 75% of you reading this post today are even ashamed of responding to this question. Why? Because you know you’ve become complacent; you have proved your worth to your employer and so now you feel you owe him nothing, in fact, you think he owes you and so as a result, you keep holding back on what you ought to be doing. Well watch out because there’s someone out there eyeing your position, and chances are likely that he will have fresher ideas, will be ready to work harder than you and will even be cheaper for the company when it comes to meeting his overheads. He'll probably come in with better ideas of how to cut costs without compromising the quality of service offerd by the company. So, question is, what reason will your boss have to keep your complacent self in the company?

It’s not just at the Olympics or in the office where we have seen complacency. This destructive syndrome is affecting a lot of relationships too. Couples no longer do the things they used to do together before they got married, for the simple reason that each got the Gold medal they were competing for: their life partner. This is the craziest thought one could ever have when it comes to relationships because as we know, relationships are not easy. If you do not find ways of spicing things up for each other, then chances are very high that the number one position you thought you had will be taken by someone else… in the name of "chips funga or sausage funga". In whatever you do in your relationships, always remember that "its always easy to get to the top; the work is in maintaining that position..."

As we ponder on this issue, I’d like to quote a speech Barack Obama made in Arizona State in 2009:

“I’ve come to embrace the notion that I haven’t done enough in y life. I’ve come to confirm that one’s title, even a title like president of the United States, says very little about how well one’s life has been led. No matter how much you’ve done, or how successful you’ve been, there’s always more to do, always more to learn, and always more to achieve.”

As you go about your day, your week, your month, your year, your life, keep in mind one thing “A man’s work is in danger of deteriorating when he thinks he has found the one best formula for doing it. If he thinks that, he is likely to feel that all he needs is merely to go on repeating himself… so long as a person is searching for better ways of doing his work, he is fairly safe…” Eugene O’Neill.

Avoid complacency like the plague, otherwise we will all be the walking dead!

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When I watched those races I was totally embarrassed by the hype that #Kenya House, the Media and #Team Kenya threw in our faces. The team wasn't ready.... watching the races live you could see that they were putting in effort beyond their ability... This I deduced was because of various reasons.1. When you're the best, you have to compete against your personal best, not #2. I agree with you, it's hard to get to the top, but it's even harder to stay there. Whatever we do, whether it's sports or life or work, we do not compete with anyone else but ourselves when we get to the 'top'. 2. I also think the team went through exactly what you wrote - complacency - and yup, pride usually comes right before a serious fall. 3. I heard a silly story and I had laughed it off, but after watching these games there might be some truth in it. You see, we Kenyans (myself included) sometimes - or more often than not - put chapa before the cart. It's always 'what's in it for me' when we're asked to do something. And the Olympics don't pay. Add that up to the politics and mismanagement of KAA, treating athletes miserably back home despite their fame overseas and what do you get?? A disgruntled under-motivated team.

Thanks Nyakio for your candid feedback; I just wish everyone else would see things the same way, and use this as a mirror to sort themselves out, me included.

What an article. I love the straight-forwardness, and the relation of the situation to our personal lives. Really, it' hard to see the thin lines between. May God humble us always so that we may go extra mile even after we have achieved success at one point...

Thanks Karimi for your comment and appreciation. I pray for humbleness too.

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