9 Shortcuts That Take Us Nowhere


I used a sharp-beyond-belief CutCo brand pearl-handle serrated knife to bang on and loosen the top of a jar of canned peaches. I removed the lid, thinking Mmm … delicious! That’s when I made a really big mistake.

Not because I’m dumb. I’m actually an Ivy League grad, though I admit to having majored in low B’s.

Not because I’m lazy. I may be slowing down at 57, but I’m no sloth.

Not because I historically have made a ton of mistakes. My life “track record” isn’t all that bad.

Actually, I committed this grievous error because I fell into an all-too-human trap:

I succumbed to the temptation of a shortcut.

You see, after opening the peach jar and realizing my mouth was already salivating, I just couldn’t possibly take the time to reach over to the silverware drawer to my left to grab a spoon or fork. I mean, that would’ve taken like 3-4 seconds!

Instead, I stabbed a peach slice with the sharp-beyond-belief knife and pushed the tasty fruit into my mouth.

Then, I withdrew the knife from my mouth causing its serrated blade to … never mind, you don’t want the details. All you need to know is minutes later Karen delivered me to the emergency room where I spent the next two hours of my evening receiving 5 stitches inside my mouth. 

Five stitches in the mouth that I make a living with as a speaker!

Over the next few business days I had engagements lined up in Hays, Kansas; Boston; and Oklahoma City. I did them all, but it wasn’t much fun.

Shortcuts. They’re rarely productive and can be dangerous.

Yet people are tempted by them in so many ways, in so many areas of life. Here are 9:

1. That “U” turn to save five minutes was a great idea until the cop issued a $127 ticket.

2. Rather than patiently “learning the ropes” and growing in the job, the young person, two months employed, asks, “Why can’t I have my manager’s job?”

3. Homework is too hard; studying takes too long. Cheating is faster.

4. The consultant says the team training will take a full day, yet the client responds, “But, we’re special! And busy! Can’t we get it done in 2 hours?”

5. Building wealth by spending fewer dollars than we earn takes too long, but those lottery tickets could do the trick!

6. Physical fitness is our goal, but instead of walking around the block on Day One, we jog three miles—and wind up hurt.

7. Walking more and eating less to lose weight will take f-o-r-e-v-e-r so let’s try the trendy “no sugar/no fat/no carbs” diet plan instead.

8. Executives want change, but rather than developing their people management/leadership skills, they throw the latest and greatest best-selling book at staff.

9. The hurried parent cleans the child’s room because, “It’s just faster this way” and “I can do it better!” (Learn about accountable parenting in Parenting the QBQ Way)

Maybe you’ve heard it said, “There are no shortcuts!” Actually, there are shortcuts—they’re just not worth taking.

Of our 9 shortcuts, which have you committed? Your organization? Can you round out our list by providing #10? Share below!

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11 Responses

    1. Daniel, I remember when the folks in my community only had to dial 5 digits to reach someone, of course with a dial phone that spun around. You wouldn’t DARE not answer the phone when it rang and you had NO clue who was on the other end. I am sorry to admit that I have moments when I wish I could just send my 88-year-old mom a text. We do need to get better at verbal relationships. Nice #10!!

  1. re: #4 – We give our clients a 3-part choice; their training can be Good, Fast, or Cheap. They can have any two but never all three. Good + fast is expensive; good + cheap takes time; fast + cheap is never good. It gives them the opportunity to really think about what results they want, as well as ensuring that they will be responsible for the outcome.

  2. My brother had this to say. “…they throw the latest and greatest best-selling book at staff.”
    I can’t tell you how many times this has happen over my career with the bank and even one time to have a test on the book that was given. You should have seen us on the airplane, everyone trying to read the book on the 2 hour flight and nobody finished it.

  3. John,

    Your excellent blog on “9 Shortcuts That Take Us Nowhere” reminds me of the Scripture in Matthew 7:

    Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
    “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. ”

    Similarly, wide & broad is the road of shortcuts that leads most to destruction. Narrow is the road, however, to invest time, change habits, and make a difference; unfortunately, only few find this narrow road.

    You are a blessing to me,

    Bruce Tenenbaum
    Pittsburgh, PA

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