Dr. Louis Binstock once said, “Too often the shortcut, the line of least resistance, is responsible for evanescent and unsatisfactory success.” Allow me to translate: “A shortcut is the longest distance between two points.”

We’re all guilty of taking shortcuts now and again, whether it’s not signaling to change lanes or using a chair instead of a ladder to reach something on a high shelf. It’s only the dose which makes a thing poison.

Shortcuts are attractive. You’re busy, I’m busy and everyone we know is busy. Most of the time, we want maximum productivity with minimum effort or expense. That’s the definition of efficient. Notice that it’s focused on the process, the effort or the expense – the doing of the thing.

Would we not be better off to focus our attention, thoughts and energies on the results – the outcome of the thing: success, in whatever endeavor, rather that the process? Effectiveness, differentiated from efficiency, is success in producing a desired result.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Isn’t there an easier way?” Why not?  In the Old West movies the good guys would “Head ‘em off at the pass!” as in, “The sheriff and his posse hurried out to head the bank robbers off at the pass.” It meant to take a shortcut to intercept someone. Well, it worked great on the silver screen in the Westerns, but we live in real life where things are a little different.

Shortcuts hurt you — not help you. Here are a few key things to consider:

Taking a shortcut is a red flag that my priorities are wrong.

Is the process really more important than the result? What does that say about the result? Is it worth my time, however short, and attention, however brief?

Shortcuts conflict with the exaggerated effort needed to make a difference.

The idea that you can create value without a passionate investment of mind, body, and soul just doesn’t make sense.  You can’t get more from your life and pour more into someone else’s life by doing less.

A shortcut might be just a lie.

This one falls into the “I’ve got this” category. That’s where we tell ourselves, and others, that we know more and can do more than is actually true. Bravado is speaking, and we are hoping. It means we want to blow past all that messy complexity, sweating the details, doing the work, and – gasp! – thinking. Who knows, we might get lucky.

A shortcut could mean you’re fixated on the wrong prize.

Most of us dream too small.  We take our future and shrink it down into a small container that the critics and naysayers can’t reach. Similarly, our vision horizon is often too short. We want a little something now versus a larger something later. “Let’s just get this done” is more about getting it finished than getting it right, or best. It could also be about first instead of best. First is one of those extrinsic rewards that easily distracts us. Unless it’s an Olympic gold medal, the value of first has a short half-life. You can sell anything in our culture if you package it right; but when it loses its novelty, out it goes.

“The problem with making an extrinsic reward the only destination that matters is that some people will choose the quickest route there, even if it means taking the low road. Indeed, most of the scandals and misbehavior that have seemed endemic to modern life involve shortcuts.” – Dan Pink, Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us

A shortcut is like a short circuit in our thinking.

…Everyone is in a hurry. We’re impatient for results. We have adopted the mindset of a tourist in that we assume that if something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently, that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once. Only the high points matter. Our attention spans have been recalibrated by thirty-second commercials. Our sense of depth has been altered by tweets and text messages. It’s hard to sustain interest and engagement. It’s all too easy to think to something and not through something. We ask the “What if…” question but forgo the “What then…” question.

Results matter. Worthy ideas take time. Life and business can get complex or complicated. Don’t be misled, distracted, detoured or disillusioned along the way.

Think of it this way, “A shortcut isn’t and quick fixes aren’t and don’t.”

In Other Words…

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” ― Beverly Sills

“A lot of people want a shortcut. I find the best shortcut is the long way, which is basically two words: work hard.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

“But shortcuts are dangerous; we cannot delude ourselves that our knowledge is further along than it actually is.” ― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow: The Psychology Of Engagement With Everyday Life

“Success is the result of hard work, busting your ass every day for years on end without cutting corners or taking shortcuts.” ― Ronda Rousey, My Fight/Your Fight

“Effort is one of the things that gives meaning to life. Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you and you are willing to work for it. It would be an impoverished existence if you were not willing to value things and commit yourself to working toward them.” – Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success

In The Word…

“Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” – Genesis 6:22