Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WORK-LIFE BALANCE / DEC. 08, 2015
version 8, draft 8

Can You Take a Shortcut to Success?

We live in a world full of instant gratification. We can check our voice messages, text messages, and emails immediately. If we miss a show on TV, we can watch it whenever we feel like it the next day. In a world full of shortcuts to information and communication, you might think it’d be possible to take a shortcut to becoming rich and successful, too.

See Also: Top 10 Tips for Achieving Ultimate Career Success

But the truth is, you can’t. Well, okay, you could win the lottery and never have to worry about money ever again. Aside from that, though, there really is no easy way to experience true success.

For the purpose of this article, let’s use Merriam-Webster’s definition of success: “the correct or desired result of an attempt.” The key part of this definition is the last part: “of an attempt.” In other words, if you’re not really trying, you haven’t truly succeeded. Of course, the very nature of taking a shortcut is the idea that you’ll ultimately put less effort into an attempt than is actually warranted. By definition, when you take a shortcut, you aren’t actually making a full attempt, and therefore cannot possibly succeed.

But enough about the technicalities behind the definition of “success.” There are so many other reasons why taking shortcuts actually minimizes your chances of succeeding in your career.

Shortcuts Rely on Luck

I mentioned winning the lottery in the intro, which, obviously, takes a whole lot of luck to do. And, when you think about it, winning the lottery is a shortcut in itself; you’re relying on a billion-to-1 shot at winning an amount of money anyone else would have to work their entire life to achieve.

But even if you’re not playing the lottery, any time you take a shortcut you’re relying on luck. You may have heard the saying “fake it ‘til you make it,” which insinuates it’s okay to put in a less-than-stellar effort at work as long as nobody realizes you’re phoning it in. However, you’re relying on other people to not notice your laziness or ineptitude. You may have “lucked out” and gotten away with it for a while, but your facade will catch up with you sooner or later.

You Don’t Learn

I don’t want to get all sentimental and use the old cliche about life being about the journey, not the destination, but it’s true. If you constantly take shortcuts through life, you’ll never learn anything. Like I said earlier, you’re bound to get caught up soon enough. The Peter principle states that workers get promoted to their highest level of incompetence. In other words, people often rush through the ranks of a company, only to find out they have no idea how to perform at the level they’ve been promoted to. This phenomenon most often occurs when employees are promoted due to nepotism or favoritism; they rely on the shortcut of knowing someone in a position of power to get promoted rather than their own abilities, and because of this, end up being exposed as a fraud.

You Sell Yourself Short

Most people assume those who take shortcuts are just lazy. While it may be the case that these people don’t have the drive to do their best, there’s also another explanation that falls under the radar: they don’t want to experience failure, but are afraid of their own inability to perform. To these people, it’s best to cheat a little as long as things get done and no one else recognizes their incompetence. Their other option, of course, is to put their full effort into a task and run the risk of failure. Although it may be pretty tempting to take the easy way out, again, it’ll come back to haunt you in the long run.

Someone Picks up Your Slack

Although the business world is, for the most part, results-oriented, there are definitely moments in which a company’s processes are analyzed under a microscope by auditors or consultants to assess its productivity. Those who have been taking shortcuts all year, for whatever reason, will likely have skipped many steps along the way when completing reports, presentations, and other business-related materials. When the time comes to explain how everything got done, someone who knows what they’re doing, is going to need to step in. Obviously, this takes away time and energy that could be spent being more productive, and ends up hurting the company as a whole.

Shortcuts Can Take Longer

Going along with the last point, shortcuts sometimes actually end up taking longer, and requiring more effort from everyone involved. Think of the typical sitcom setup where the husband “knows a shortcut” to the family’s destination and ends up getting lost along the way. If he had just gone the way they had planned, they would have gotten where they needed to be without the hassle of calling for help. The same can be said for shortcuts in life. As I’ve mentioned numerous times by now, if you skip steps along the path to success, you’re going to end up not knowing what you’re doing at some point. In the case of the friend who gets promoted before he’s ready, he’ll likely spend his first two weeks in the new position asking for help. Not only does this mean his tasks end up taking longer to accomplish, but since his superior has to take time away from his work, he ends up falling behind as well. On the other hand, when a person is promoted because he’s fully competent, he’ll walk into a new position ready to hit the ground running with little to no help from anyone else.

Shortcuts are Costly

Obviously, if a shortcut ends up costing you more time than it’s worth, it’ll cost you in other ways, too. Again thinking of the sitcom husband who gets lost using a “shortcut,”; not only will he end up spending more time getting back on track, but he’ll also spend more money on gas along the way. While taking a shortcut in your career might not cost you monetarily, it will end up costing your company money in many ways. Any time you cause a holdup in the flow of productivity, you’re passively costing your company money. If you take a “shortcut” that causes you to have to go back and start from scratch, in a roundabout way you’re actually stealing money from your company. If it happens too often, you run the risk of not only losing your job, but also facing legal action for misusing company time.

Shortcuts Aren’t Effective in the Long Run

It should be clear by now that shortcuts will eventually come back to bite you hard. Constantly using shortcuts to get through life is like putting a bandaid on a severe gash that clearly needs stitches: it might work for the time being, but the detrimental effects of doing so will pile up, until it really hurts you.

See Also: 10 Unbelievable Success Stories

If I’m being honest, there are definitely people who skate by in life by taking every shortcut possible and reaping all the benefits of a job well done. But I take solace knowing that these people end up working harder to hide their incompetence than they would if they were to simply put in the appropriate effort needed to succeed. Not only that, but these people live in constant fear of being exposed as a fraud. When you work hard throughout your entire life, you might have to actually do more than those who take the easy way out, but at least you can sleep soundly every night when you go to bed.

What do you think? Is it better to take a shortcut to success? Let us know below…

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