Insight, analysis & opinion from Joe Paduda

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Get uncomfortable.

A recent email exchange with a client crystalized an all-too-common problem in our industry – complacency. 

Truth is, too many of us are not comfortable with being uncomfortable.  That is, we don’t want to be pushed, challenged, prodded, forced to defend our ideas, business practices, long-held beliefs.

When we’re confronted with the possibility that there’s a better way than the way we’ve always done it, we don’t listen – instead, we get defensive and withdraw. Yet we all can point to countless examples where complacency led to utter collapse and defeat.

History is chock-full of examples. Unsinkable ships, unbeatable foes, impossible achievements abound. The Titanic, the Tuskegee Airmen, Agincourt, Trump’s election all remind us to beware of assumptions.

The best part of sport is the victory of the underdog; Harvard’s 1998 women’s hoops knocking off no. 1 seed Stanford , the Amazin’ Mets, the Miracle on Ice in 1980, Texas Western’s NCAA basketball championship over Kentucky in 1966 are all great examples where what was supposed to happen…didn’t.

Yet we all know of companies whose cultures can’t possibly conceive that they aren’t the best, smartest, most experienced and knowledgable and expert in the business. The “If it wasn’t invented here it didn’t need to be invented” mindset prevails, killing off any and all efforts to challenge the status quo.

Like Goliath before David, companies afflicted with a culture of complacency will lose to unheralded competitors. In most cases this will happen because the culture of complacency’s rejection of outside ideas prevents it from seeing what in retrospect is obvious.

Unless you get comfortable with being uncomfortable, you’re at high risk. Each of us need to ask the awkward, difficult questions that make us squirm. Why do we do it this way? If we were competing with us, how would we defeat us? Where are our weak spots, and how can they be exploited?

More broadly, how else could our customers’ needs be met [and do we really understand what those needs are today, and will be tomorrow]? As the world changes, how are we sure we will evolve fast and smart enough to lead, if not keep pace? Why are we so sure of ourselves?

One more thought.  Really good athletes put themselves in distress all the time – because if they aren’t trying to perform perfectly when exhausted, stressed, when their muscles are screaming and lungs are burning, they won’t win.

In a word, they get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s why they succeed.

What does this mean for you?

When was the last time you were uncomfortable, and did you hide from it or use it to get better?

Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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