Complacency: Safety or Laziness?

Valmik Rao
5 min readApr 12, 2020


When a Homo Sapien first sees a fire, it loves it because of the warmth that it provides, but after touching it realized that it can burn you. This might of been one of the earliest lessons that we learned through evolution.

But never the less, it was a lesson.

The whole concept of learning has come from outcomes, either a good one or a bad one.

Starting a fire = warmth, and light(good outcome)

Touching a fire = hand burns (bad outcome)

It’s like this we slowly learned what to do and what not to do, in the world that we are in. Obviously the lessons are different now, but our brains are still hardwired a certain way.

Humans as a race, are faced with choices in our lives, and we tend to mitigate all risks to remove any chance of losing where we’re at. That’s where this mindset of complacency comes from, the easiest way to mitigate risk would be by being stagnant in life, only making easy, riskless choices.

You might be like, huh nothing sounds wrong about that? well let me stop you right there.

Without risks, we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t have crazy innovation that is extending lifespan, taking us to different planets, or making transportation faster than ever.

If you want to lead the wave of risk-takers and innovators, start with these steps 👇

1. Get Comfortable with Ambiguity

People often stop seeking new knowledge or stop trying to learn because they are uncomfortable with being not so knowledgable about what they are learning. Thus reaching a state of complacency where they stop at a level that most of their peers or people they look up to have reached, and become comfortable with where they’re at.

A good example that we can see almost all the time would be at school. It’s too many times that kids who have a genuine interest in the subject will stop diving deeper just because they’ve covered all the material for their unit test or because that’s how much their classmates have studied.

That’s stupid. Why would you stop going deeper into something that you’re interested in, because everybody else stopped?

In order to overcome this, you need to push beyond everybody else, really internalize that you don’t know everything out there and you never will. Just don’t stop.

2. Build Natural Curiosity

After internalizing that you don’t know everything out there and you never will, the next step to keep this journey going would be building natural curiosity for everything. What do I mean by this?

Natural Curiosity = Self-Guided Curiosity

Self-guided curiosity comes down to you, not your teacher, not the assignments about it. It comes from just going deep in stuff that interests you, this is real life, no one’s going to force you to do anything, just take the first step of roaming in areas that interest you. It doesn’t have to be stressful, or time restrained, just keep on going until the fundamentals click and you understand overarching themes in the field.

Some people I know would respond with, “I’m not interested in anything”, and I know some of you may be in the same case so listen up.

It all comes down to the environment you put yourself in.

If you’re constantly surrounding yourself by people that are cooking enthusiasts, then it’s highly likely that you’ll find more of interest in culinary arts. But you might catch yourself in an environment that you don’t vibe with but are in. You may not be a culinary person, but still,hang out with people that are or go to school with them. Then, it’s not about you having no interests, it's just about going outside of what you know right now by exploring and find your own interests.

3. Surround Yourself with Risky People

In today’s time, there are many well known risky solo brands that are innovating and leading the next generation of discovery, a good example being Elon Musk.

Remember how I was talking about the environment is really important, it shapes your ideas and opinions on the world around you. Well surrounding yourself with people like this, with the two steps above will allow you to start growing at exponential rates because now you start thinking bigger, that then becomes bigger things. How do I know this? Here’s my complacency story 👇

I was going very deep into regenerative medicine, stem cells to be more specific, for a few months and were reaching out to people in the field, attending conferences, and writing articles. I was naturally curious about the topic while also knowing that people have studied this for their entire lives, so what I know is smaller in comparison. It was at the 5-month mark, I started to get complacent…

I thought I knew enough because I was way ahead of my classmates, and started to fill my days with video games and parties. It was amazing! I was having a blast every weekend, and spent 5 hours playing video games. Well if I was having a great time, what changed?

I realized two things, I started getting complacent because of two reasons:

1.) Environment

I started comparing myself to a different environment, which had people that didn’t have the same high standards that I did, nor the ambition.

2.) Being Result-Oriented

This is something that wasn’t mentioned anywhere else in the article because it’s very subjective. Personally, I started to look at it as something I have to finish, rather than focusing on the learning aspect of it. When I did, I would hit these huge slumps after achieving a result, e.g. finishing an article, making a video, or a meeting.

Well, how did I get out of it?

I had one realization, this wasn’t sustainable. After a while, I was going to sleep unsatisfied with what I did during the day, yet I woke up the very next day to repeat the same schedule. After this realization, I started to build discipline in order to build a work habit that’s incorporated every day and broke out of my slump.


  1. Get comfortable with ambiguity (or the unknown)
  • People often stop seeking new things or stop trying to learn because they are uncomfortable with stuff that they don’t know. Thus they reach a state of complacency where they stop at the required learning and settle, but the more comfortable you are knowing that you don’t know everything, the more willing you are to start learning new things.

2. Build natural curiosity

  • After you’ve started to get comfortable with the idea that you don’t know everything, then you’re next step is to start building natural curiosity. How? Just deep dive into things that you are interested in, take your time, take it in. Just let that curiosity roam.

3. Surround yourself with risky people

  • People like Elon, who just have a risky solo brand attached to them are constantly trying to improve everything that surrounds them. The more you surround yourself with people with these types of mindsets, it’ll just rub off on you, and combined with the three traits above, you’re ready to learn.



Valmik Rao

Just a 16-year-old trying to solve the world’s biggest problems…