Is a “shortcut” a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it all depends. There are different kinds of shortcuts. And depending on the situation, a shortcut could be something to embrace, or something to avoid.

Shortcuts To Embrace

There are times when what we learn from others can help us see legitimate progress more quickly than if had to rely solely on trial and error. By learning from both the mistakes and successes of others, we can avoid wasting time going down the wrong paths, and can better focus our attention on the things that make the biggest difference.

This is one kind of shortcut. Not that it makes the distance between A and B shorter, but it helps us not make it more difficult or time consuming than it needs to be. We’re applying the lessons learned from others, and not learning everything the hard way.

Shortcuts To Avoid

There are other times where a “shortcut” entails sacrificing quality in the short-term in order to “get ahead.” Maybe it’s the quality of what we build, or how we study, or our workouts, or our relationships. And in order to make progress, we’re tempted to take “shortcuts” in how we do what we do. But when this happens, the “gains” we get by sacrificing quality often end up being illusionary.

Doing Pushups

Over the past couple months, I’ve been working through the Hundred Pushup program.  In doing pushups, I’ve found that I can knock out way more if I go fast and don’t go all the way down — essentially, if I have bad form.

And although having poor form may help me complete more pushups per set, it is actually helping me get stronger? I have to decide if I care more about how many I “finish” today, even if they aren’t high quality, or if I care more about keeping good form, although it may take longer to progress through the program.

We’ll have to face the same decision in other areas. Will we stick to doing things the right way, although it may take longer? Or will we take “shortcuts” that help us get ahead in the short-term, but do nothing to help us in the long-term?

Which Shortcuts to Take?

If a shortcut means learning from others, instead of needing to learn everything on our own, then yes, let’s take that kind of shortcut. We only have so much time in our lives. So if we can benefit from the lessons others have already spent the time to learn, that’s a wise use of our time.

But if a shortcut means sacrificing quality for the sake of appearance, beware. It may seem to get us ahead faster, but the gains often aren’t real. And the time we spend building up the appearance of progress, while not actually making progress, is not getting us any closer to where we want to go.

Question: In your life, are there any shortcuts you need to avoid? Any you need to take advantage of?