Complacency. The Kill Zone.


I really try and put myself in uncomfortable situations. Complacency is my enemy.

Trent Reznor

A thought came to me this morning while I was drinking my first cup of coffee. My coffee time each day is when I think about the day, what I want to accomplish, and just let my mind wander. It’s my quiet time.

I sit here this morning, enjoying my second cup of coffee. I’m outside on my patio, listening to the birds sing, enjoying Spring weather here in upstate New York, and watching the bees buzz around from dandelion to dandelion. It’s a beautiful afternoon and the cool air promises rain in the forecast. In between the smell of rain, I smell small notes of chlorine; another promise that Spring is here.

Think about the birds and the bees. Even the flowers and dandelions that appear each year. This is an ordinary day for them. What they are doing today is probably no different than what they did yesterday. The birds will fly from branch to branch, occasionally stopping along the edge of the bird feeder that I have found myself increasingly having to fill. The flowers will spend the day blowing in the wind, letting out their fragrance, and continuing to blossom into their full beauty before dying again in the coming months. It’s a wonderful time of year, because that which was dead, has come alive.

While all these things are happening around us, it’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday moments. If I wasn’t sitting outside right now enjoying my coffee, I wouldn’t hear those birds singing their beautiful songs that I cannot understand. I wouldn’t see the new leaves on the trees blowing in the cool breeze, and I wouldn’t have the privilege to observe the bees hard at work doing whatever it is that bees do. No, I would be inside missing out on all this splendor that happens every single day, whether I take the time to see and listen or not.

Let me pose a question. When was the last time you heard birds singing? Sure, you may here them in the morning through a window, but when was the last time you actually stopped and heard them?

Throughout the world, many people are at a standstill. Seems as if COVID-19 has caused all that was once normal, to be completely abnormal. Daily routines have come to a halt for most of mankind, and it really has caused many to return back to the basics. At least for me it has. I have spent a lot of my time, what was once spare time and now most of the time, reading and thinking about life in general. The season of life we are in has forced a lot of people to reevaluate their priorities, returning to that which was foreign to them because of their busy schedules, routines, sports, jobs, or whatever else filled their weekly calendar. We have unwillingly been taken back to what this life should have been all about to begin with; less work, less busy-ness, stress from external sources outside of our control, and taken out of our comfort zone. We have been taken out of our world and life of complacency, and given new opportunities.

I’m reminded of my seventeen year old daughter. Like most teenagers, and adults for that matter, they have no idea how to live simply. They don’t know how to put their phones down for more than hour, checking the screen multiple times to see if they have any incoming notifications, scrolling through social media, or sending out a text message. They have never been in situations where they are forced to just take in the moment and be content. If you talk to families and individuals who don’t seem to be effected by all that’s going on in the world today, most of them will probably reveal to you that they’ve been living these simple lives for years. Those that haven’t been seem to be struggling more than ever, concerned about tomorrow, stressed, worried, confused, anxious, and trying to grasp at a life that will probably never return to what it once was. Why?

Complacency kills. During my time in law enforcement and in the military, we were always taught not to become complacent. In a security situation, complacency could be the one thing that ends up killing you. Complacency could be the difference between noticing a vehicle loaded with explosives, or allowing it to pass by and potentially kill hundreds. The thought, “I’ve searched hundreds of vehicles today and every dump truck was the same. I’m tired, hot, and hungry. I’ll let this one go by unchecked,” could result in catastrophic results. Complacency. How many of us lock our doors at night when we go to sleep? I do. Just because I haven’t had someone break into my house ever since I’ve been old enough to live on my own, doesn’t mean that tonight I will leave the doors unlocked. It could be that one time I leave it unlocked, that some home invader decides my house looks like a great place to stop by for a 2AM visit. Complacency such as that could have devastating effects to myself and my family.

Relationships that have become complacent don’t tend to work out well either. Regardless of the type of relationship, those which grow stagnant usually die. The moment you allow complacency to settle in, you better do something really quick to shake things up.

I like to think of the area of complacency as a kill zone. During my time serving overseas in combat zones, I was an M60 gunner. I was usually placed behind the entry control point (ECP) of a restricted area or onto the camp, forward operating base (FOB), or camp. Between that entry point and my location was the kill zone. There were signs letting all who entered, know they were in the kill zone and deadly force was authorized. My job? Stop any vehicles or individuals who became hostile within that small area. If they got past me, they had access to hundreds or thousands of Americans or coalition forces; many of which were unarmed and unaware. Many of which were carrying about their day like the birds in my yard are doing right now.

What if one day I thought to myself, “Steve, you’ve been sitting in this same spot for the last four months and nothing has ever happened. You’ve watched many of the same vehicles pass by, and some of the drivers even waved to you! Surely this next fourteen hours won’t be any different than all those before it.” So what if I decided to take out a book, take my eyes off what was in front of me, and allow my attention to be drawn to something else?

Now, you may be saying, “Steve, we aren’t in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other combat zone! And I’m not sitting here with a machine gun either.” You may be 100% correct. You’re not and I no longer am either. But that still doesn’t stop you nor I from settling into complacency, and being comfortable in the place where we are currently at.

Shake things up today. My thought this morning as I enjoyed my first cup of coffee was that today is not yesterday. It’s not the day before either. It’s today. While many things may be similar to all the days before it, it’s not the same. Therefore it shouldn’t be approached in the same way. Stay vigilant to those things creeping in to destroy your happiness, or allowing you to become stagnant. Change things up! Do something different! Get away from your routine and don’t allow yourself to get comfortable. Stop and actually listen to the birds sing. Don’t just hear them. Listen to them.

Stay out of the kill zone.

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