Have you ever known someone who seemed to have everything come to them easily?
Maybe they were born into wealth with a super-star face. Athletic. Charming. With just the raise of an eyebrow and a flash of perfect teeth, it all falls in their lap.
Meanwhile, you battle like a Lord of the Rings montage for every scrap of progress in your life.
Nothing is handed to you. Oh, no. In fact, it sometimes feels like the universe takes a thrill in creating obstacles so you have to go the long way around.
You would give anything for a break. Winning lottery ticket? Fortune from the death of a long-lost relative? Genie lamp?
Shortcuts do exist, and some people hit the jackpot.
So why do I suggest they don’t? I’ll give you seven reasons why shortcuts to success do not exist. Then you decide for yourself.
1. The Ski Lift Reason
There is a difference between feeling successful and reaching a benchmark that appears to mark success.
I have climbed mountains, and I have ridden ski lifts. There is a distinctly different feeling when I reach the peak.
The thrill of reaching the peak of a mountain on your own two feet, sweat streaming, heart racing, lungs burning—it’s surreal. Looking down on all around you, you know you earned that view. You battled for it. You could have stopped and turned around at any point, but you hung in there. The journey changed something inside of you. You know now that you are capable of so much more. “If I can do that, what else can I do?”
The only thing I know I can do after ridding a ski lift is that I can sit in a chair. Sure, it’s fun. I still get to see the lovely scenery. But beside the dismount, I feel no accomplishment. I didn’t overcome anything. Reaching the peak is not a success when I arrive on a ski lift.
Same mountain peak. Completely different feeling.
Success is a feeling, not an event. You might be able to take shortcuts to the benchmark, but the shortcut diminishes the feeling.
2. The Butterfly Reason
Shortcuts reduce your strength to create more success.
There was a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. A child watching the struggle decided to help the butterfly. He cut open the cocoon so the butterfly was free. He then watched as the butterfly flapped about.
The child’s grandmother came along and asked what happened. When the child proudly told her how he helped, the grandmother nodded and then sighed. She pulled the boy into her lap and said, “Butterflies need to struggle. When they squeeze out of their cocoons, it pushes fluid into their wings for the first time. This makes their wings strong. Your butterfly didn’t struggle so it will never be able to fly.”
When we are in the middle of our struggles, we wish someone would come along and cut us out of our cocoons. The struggling, though, does the same thing for us as it does to the butterfly. It makes us stronger.
Success that comes from struggle generates strength that serves you throughout your life.
3. Dumbo’s Reason
When “success” happens by fluke or shortcut, you never learn how to re-create it.
In Dumbo, Timothy tells Dumbo that he can fly because he has a magic feather. When Dumbo loses the feather, he is paralyzed. He doesn’t how to fly without the shortcut.
Our brains are constantly looking for patterns. When we know we are working hard and making progress, we will continue to repeat these patterns.
When shortcuts are responsible for our seeming success, we have no idea how to repeat those patterns again. It actually degrades our confidence and our strength. Then, when larger challenges come along, we panic. If all you have is a magic feather, you have nothing substantial to rely on when you really need it.
Success that comes from hard work, though, arms you with knowledge and strategies to take on bigger challenges and fly even higher.
4. The Impostor Reason
When you arrive at the peak on a ski lift to find a group of people who hiked to the top, you have a hard time connecting with them. They’re swapping stories and patting each other on the back. “Yeah, and what about that huge log over the trail with the bees nest right next to it! That was crazy! How did you get around it?”
And you’ve got nothing to share. What are you going to say?
People who arrive at success by their own hard work and ingenuity have earned their sense of pride.
Eventually, if you arrive at success by shortcuts, it will be harder and harder to hang. You won’t have the stories, strategies and strength that will make you an insider.
You will feel like an impostor.
You won’t stay on the top of the mountain for long.
5. Odysseus’s Reason
The road to real success is paved by failure.
Remember good ol’ Odysseus from high school English. Oh, The Odyssey, that long, long Greek poem. It is epic, literally.
This dude is trying sail home after a fighting in The Trojan War for 10 years. The journey back home leads him on a roller coaster ride from failure to success and back again. It takes another 10 years, but he finally reaches home again.
So, what’s Homer’s point?
Success is not one moment or one achievement. It is a series of struggles, fought again and again, that change who we are. The lessons learned on the journey are far more valuable than arriving at the desired destination. Take a shortcut to the destination and you miss everything you could have learned.
6. The Habitual Reason
Successful people develop habits based on what they learned from past failures. They develop their own systems that consistently work for them.
These habits become so normal that they don’t even think about it.
Like Odysseus, the long struggles are an incubation process that builds a success machine.
The mantras & sayings, vocal qualities, posture, ways of waking, creating, questioning, organizing, networking: these are learned from repetition.
Shortcuts miss all the practice that make your success habits second-nature.
7. Michael J. Fox’s Reason
Ever see The Secret of My Success? It’s a classic 80s movie starring Michael J. as a young business man who finds a shortcut to success. But what’s his secret? Sneaking, lying, covering tracks, and general slapstick shenanigans. Spoiler alert: in the end, it all falls apart. Our boy learns that all the trappings of success mean nothing without honesty and love. Awww, shucks.
One reason Michael J. Fox’s real life story has touched so many people is what he teaches about success.
This guy had it all. Every outward signifier of success flowing as far as the eye could see. Then at age 30, he developed the symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of early onset Parkinson’s disease. A symbol of youth has the disease of the “old.”
How does he respond?
He realizes that he needs to become a new symbol. No longer is he the “shortcut taker.” He becomes the role model of the long-haul.
There are no shortcuts to success in a marathon. Every step is a struggle. Every success is earned and every failure is a lesson for doing better next time.
Real success in life comes from knowing who you are, having confidence that you can face our fears, and stepping up to the plate courageously with love and integrity.
There are no shortcuts in these moments of truth.
So what do you think? Will you decide to take shortcuts? In the end, it is not so much whether shortcuts exist or not. It’s what you want to feel when you reach the peaks and when you put your head on the pillow each night.