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Looking For Shortcuts To Success? You Need To Read This.

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Looking For Shortcuts To Success? You Need To Read This.

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?

Yes, please!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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