There’s No Such Thing As A Shortcut

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a huge fan of Tim Ferriss. Tim calls himself a human guinea pig, and is constantly looking for hacks in every area of life, from work to health to learning.

If you’re unfamiliar with Tim’s work, a book like ‘The 4-Hour Body’ contains advice on everything from medical tourism to running ultra marathons. Throughout, his aim is to find the most efficient and effective way to achieve a stated goal, and this can often be done with a surprisingly small amount of work.

It’s amazing that for a few pounds, any of us can benefit from the concepts Ferriss discusses – but there’s an important pitfall to avoid. It’s very easy to forget about the years of research that went into the book – both from the author, and the years of experience that the other contributors have accumulated. Things sound so simple that we forget how much work has already been done on our behalf.

I think it’s important to be careful with the words we use here, as they can have a huge impact on the way we frame complicated ideas. I’m all for what Shane Parrish calls taking “the best of what other people have already figured out”, but we mustn’t start thinking there are shortcuts. Yes, there are unquestionably more efficient and effective ways of doing almost everything, and we are foolish if we dismiss these ideas – but when we take advantage of them, we also need to remember how much hard work went into figuring out what we are seeing as a ‘shortcut’.

Too often, the hunt for a shortcut is an excuse for not putting in the work.

If someone else has already done the work, then happy days – take advantage! But when we are the ones forging a new path, there aren’t any shortcuts – we just need to do the work.

Where are you looking for shortcuts?


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