Throughout my time in the workforce in high school and college I took on a variety of roles. From a stock boy at McWhorters, to a Starbucks barista, and eventually a manager at restaurant called Mike’s Cafe in Menlo Park. All of these jobs gave me great insights in to what hard work is like, the value of a dollar, and many more lessons I could go on about for 10 more pages. However, the job that I learned the most at was when I worked for the football team at the University of Arizona.

I was fortunate enough to secure a job, fresh out of high school, working behind the scenes for Coach Mike Stoops and his staff. Being on the inside of a Division-I football program was the job of a lifetime but came with many challenges, mostly trying to balance school and work. As time passed, I started to get into a routine, became closer to the players, coaching staff, and everyone else involved in the program. But then one day came when my boss saw something he didn’t like. I was getting TOO comfortable. Chatting it up with players during practice, hanging around in coaches’ offices, working out in the Mckale weight room, etc. Now keep in mind my boss did not have the best of deliveries and he was very difficult to get along with at times. But, at the end of the day, his message was received and it made sense. It made me realize that I had let myself get too comfortable at my job. My actual job and responsibilities were playing second fiddle to fun and socializing. He made me realize a few reasons why this was not a good idea to get too comfortable and these are things I think about all the time in any position I ever hold.

1) Everybody Is Watching Your Every Move, Even When You Don’t Think So

This doesn’t necessarily mean someone is literally watching you at all times, but when you are involved with a large organization there are people around all the time – and those people talk. I learned this very quickly as my boss would know about all kinds of events and “drama” that took place well outside of our workplace.

“I heard this guy skipped class yesterday and he was seen having lunch with you. What do you know about that?” he would ask. After I picked my jaw up off the floor out of shock I would try to come up with an answer. But it was at that point that I realized I thought I could do whatever I wanted outside of the workplace and it wouldn’t matter. That was not the case. Every move you make, no matter what job it is, will represent you and the company or organization you work for. If you get too comfortable and do something that effects that reputation, you may not find yourself employed for much longer!

2) Comfort Leads to Laziness, Which Leads to Poor Production

If you don’t understand this concept, you may be one of the lazy ones yourself. It’s very simple. When you start to get too comfortable, your performance lacks, and you start to do just enough to get by. No hustle anymore, no going the extra mile, just a general lack of enthusiasm ensues. When that’s the case, overall production suffers. When this happens it also happens to be very contagious. If others see your lack of effort and general “comfortable” attitude, they too will begin to mimic your behavior.

“If that guy/girl doesn’t have to work hard, why should I?” You would much rather have a stiff competition for who wants to work harder than the other way around. It should be more along the lines of “Damn, he/she is working their butt off. I better pick it up today!” That is the kind of attitude and culture you want to create. Attitudes are contagious and if you can push yourself to do more, others will likely follow suit!

3) Everyone is Replaceable, No Matter Who You Are

This is by far and away the toughest one for people to comprehend and it took me years to understand this principle. It doesn’t matter if you are a Head Coach of the team or just the guy handing out waters, there is ALWAYS someone to replace you. Take a look at your LinkedIn right now. There are people constantly changing jobs, looking for jobs, hiring new jobs, etc. If you decide to get too comfortable at your job and the boss doesn’t like it, they can get rid of you just like that. It doesn’t matter if the VP likes you or if you have some connection to someone in HR, if you don’t provide value and your cost outweighs your benefit, I can promise your organization will find a way to replace you.

“This is exactly why we do cross-training Colin, so when you’re gone we can have someone right behind you to take your spot!” Those words never rang so true until it got to my senior year. I wasn’t going to be around the next year, so what were they going to do? Well realistically I wasn’t extraordinarily better at hiking footballs or running down kicks than the next guy. It was at that point that I realized, the show will go on with or without me. You have to have that mentality in the workplace, no matter how valuable you think you are. Companies will still sell, food will still be served, drinks will still be made. EVERYONE is replaceable, even if some are easier to replace than others.

So as I continue to learn and grow in my career, this simple principle of “never get too comfortable” stays very close to my heart. It pushes me every day to work harder and make sure I am giving 110%. It is absolutely okay to still have fun, socialize, and be a likable team member, but just remember that those are things they most likely did not hire you for.