The US economy has been growing. According to Morningstar, if you are in Healthcare, your industry enjoyed a 20% increase in 2014. Technology and Real Estate grew over 17% and Financial Services grew over 10% in the same period. These are some great numbers and if you work in one of these sectors, take a few moments to congratulate yourself on a job well done.
This also means that if you work as an individual contributor at Sony, Yahoo!, Qualcomm, Basecamp, or a startup 18 months out of Y Combinator and you haven't improved your skills by 17% in 2014, then you are actually a drain on your company's success. Either those around you have to grow more to make up for the difference, or your organization as a whole underperforms the industry.
If you run a team, the same principle holds, only the effects are magnified by the number of your direct reports. Can you point to an area where you saved 17% of your budget, increased productivity by 17%, booked 17% more sales, or improved the capabilities of your team by 17% or more? If your team didn't achieve these levels of growth and you are in the Technology sector, then you are lagging behind - even if you grew by 15% last year, it wasn't enough.
In this era, where everyone in the world is obsessed with improving themselves, take some time to assess whether or not you are improving at a rate that is greater than your industry. Otherwise, your competitors will slowly steal away your customers and market share. Maybe not all at once, say, 5% this year and 7% the next. Being content with your current position, with the expectation that you will still be doing the same work 10 years from now is a delusion. The market is growing and so should you.