“It shouldn’t be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something’s difficult to come by, you’ll do that much more to make sure it’s even harder – or impossible – to lose.”
— Sarah Dessen
There is no shortcut to anywhere worth going. There is no substitute for doing the work. Meditate on this every day: “I will do the work.” As Einstein once said, “Genius is 1% talent and 99% effort.” You must run to be a runner. You must write to be a writer. You must actively attend to your relationships if you want them to flourish.
By all means, find ways to be more efficient. But make no mistake that it takes diligent effort to build something worthwhile. There are certainly some success stories out there about people who excelled rather quickly, but you will usually find they had put in years of related work long before anyone was paying attention to their seemingly rapid success. In other words, their current state of achievement is simply all those years of work coming together flawlessly in the present.
The most effective way to handle what must be done is to do it. Put in the required labor. Don’t sell yourself short by taking shortcuts like these:
1. Taking the easiest route possible.
Someday you will look back on your life and realize that everything worthwhile you’ve ever accomplished initially challenged you. And that is as it should be, because big challenges often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary success.
Every struggle arises for a reason – for experience or a lesson. A great journey is never easy, and no dose of adversity along the way is ever a waste of time if you learn and grow from it.
Remember, an arrow can only be shot by pulling it backwards, and such is life. When life is pulling you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to eventually launch you forward in a positive direction. So keep focusing, and keep aiming!
2. Settling for the way things are by default.
The decision to settle for mediocrity is a real killer. If you settle for just anything, you’ll never know what you’re truly worthy of. There is ample time for you to be who you want to be. Despite the struggles that you might be facing, never give up on yourself. Don’t just take the easy way out and settle for less than what you know you are capable of.
Realize that it’s not always about trying to fix something that’s broken either. Sometimes it’s about starting over and creating something new. Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly. Sometimes growing stronger means growing apart from old habits, relationships, and situations, and finding something different that truly moves you – something that gets you so excited you can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning. That’s what LIVING is all about. Don’t settle. (Angel and I cover this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
3. Leaving everything to chance.
It’s not what you do every once in a while, but what you dedicate yourself to on a daily basis that makes a difference in the end. Having a plan, even a flawed one at first, is better than no plan at all.
Don’t trap yourself, endlessly, in a state where you are unable to ask for directions, even though you’re terribly lost, simply because you don’t know your destination. Figure out what you want. When you get real about the true feelings you crave, you end up surprising yourself with an abundance of new opportunities and possibilities.
Bottom line: One day your life will flash before your eyes. Do your best every day to make sure it’s worth watching. Work towards something that brings meaning to your moments.
4. Following the crowd.
Allen Ginsberg once said, “Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” In other words, in this crazy world that’s trying to make you like everyone else, find the courage to be your incredible self.
Never let what other people expect from you dictate what you expect from yourself. Clarity about your true desires is so liberating because you get to stop proving yourself to everyone, including yourself.
We have all been placed on this earth to discover our own way, and we will never be happy if we live someone else’s idea of life. So stop being ashamed of how you feel. You have the right to feel any emotion that comes to you, and to follow a path that makes you happy. Don’t compare yourself to others, or get discouraged by the success of others. Follow your intuition, never give up on yourself, and stop expecting others to understand your journey, especially if they have not walked your same path. (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
5. Putting things off.
Be frank with yourself. The things you say you will deal with later rarely get done. It’s time to get up and make an immediate difference in your life. You know all those things you’ve been meaning to get done for the past month, year, etc.? Pick one right now and start doing it. Get your hands dirty, challenge your mind, and get sweaty if you have to. Break out of your comforting lull and get involved. If you feel crummy, it’ll make you feel better. If you already feel good, it will make you feel great.
Ultimately, you will not be judged by what you say; you will be judged by what you do. Wake up each morning determined, so you can go to bed satisfied. Have the courage and discipline today to do what is needed instead of simply what is convenient. Or as Pablo Picasso once said, “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
6. Ignoring people instead of forgiving them.
Forgetting people who hurt you is your gift to them; forgiving people who hurt you is your gift to yourself. Always forgive others, not because they necessarily deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace of mind. We are all one, so when we forgive others we forgive ourselves, which is the first step in the healing process. Without forgiveness, the potential for true happiness in your life is limited.
In addition, we often tell ourselves that we’re better off without some people in our lives, and while this can be true, you should also build forgiveness into your character. Keep in mind that some relationships will temporarily split, only to come back together twice as strong as before. Forgiveness alone makes this possible. (Read The Mastery of Love.)
7. Cutting too many corners with your important relationships.
It hurts to love someone and not be loved in return, but what hurts even more is to love someone and never find the time to let them know how you feel. There is no greater sadness than holding on to the loving words and deeds you never delivered to those you love.
The people you take for granted today may turn out to be the only ones you need tomorrow. So make plenty of time for those who truly matter. The best gift you can give them is the purity of your full attention. Just be present with them and pay attention to the little things, because when you really miss someone, you miss the little things the most, like just laughing together.
The journey begins when we are born. The destination is death. So the journey is far superior to the destination. Don’t sell yourself short! Make your journey worthwhile every single day, because the distance we each get to travel is a mystery.
Getting where you want to go in life is not about finding a shortcut, it’s about putting in the required time and effort. You have to set goals and fulfill your commitments, even when no one would notice but you, and know in your heart why doing so matters.
What would you add to this post? When have you cut yourself short by trying to take a shortcut in life? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.
Photo by: Vinoth Chandar
Lately, just as you say, I’ve started to feel like life isn’t about the destination, it’s about how you get there. Which is why I have completely given up dreams of fame and fortune and tried to focus on what’s right for me from day to day.
I think one shortcut a lot of people take is that they never take the time to get to know themselves. It’s easier to just lose themselves in media like TV and Movies instead of taking the time to explore things they really like. Things that excite them enough to do even when they’re tired and just home from work.
I guess you could say that it’s part of settling, but that’s how I feel anyway.
Great advice; you hit the nail on the head. This is perfect guidance for anyone trying to do anything meaningful with their lives.
The first two are the shortcuts I struggle with most. Thank you as always for the positive push I need.
The premise of this post reminds me of this quote by J.R.R. Tolkien: “Short cuts make long delays.”
It’s so true that we often cut ourselves short, and make our lives more difficult, by taking supposed shortcuts in life. I always have trouble with wanting instantaneous gratification – it’s only been lately that I have been catching myself and correcting my thinking (a big thanks to your book and other books you’ve recommended in the past year).
Ryan Biddulph says
Hi Marc and Angel,
Beautiful blog 🙂 Putting things off is a killer. Things fester. Get worse and worse and worse, until one day you get so fed up, you move into action on that impulse you felt 4 years ago.
Do not wait until all hell breaks lose. Act now. Aggressively pursue your dreams. Go for it. Now exists. So use it.
Christy King says
Excellent post as always. This probably falls into category 4, but I’d add specifically trying to keep up with the Joneses. Getting the job you thought you wanted or that your parents wanted for you because of the attendant prestige and pay scale.
Rachel // One Beautiful Life says
This is great list! I wholeheartedly agree that there are no shortcuts to success and it takes a whole lot of hard work. I would also add the shortcut of settling for less than you deserve or want and this comes with being honest with yourself. If you can’t be true and honest with yourself about what you want then this is only going to lead you to unhappiness.
Marc and Angel,
Always love the articles and insight. I just purchased the paperback book and look forward to reading it soon! Keep up the great work!
I’m guilty of all of these except for following the crowd. I also tried doing tasks my way instead of considering the point of views of others. That ends now.
Good words here! I’d add the value of facing your fears and pretending they weren’t there. If we constantly deny them, we’ll consistently make choices to avoid feeling that way and miss out on living wholeheartedly in relationships and marketplace opportunities. I want to make decisions that shape my life based on my values, not my fears. Thanks for the post to get me thinking!
Not only Marc and Angel, but all the commentators on this site are incredible. Everybody whose been writing here have in one way or other added to my world. I am saying a Big thanks to you all. What I will add is we need to take ourselves seriously, and strive to make a difference, cause we are an important part of this world.
Love from Nigeria.
Mark Whittington says
Ragnar, awesome…ha #1 reminds me of a Matt Johnson line, from ‘Soul Mining;’ “The path of least resistance leads to the garbage heap of despair.” – youtube.com/watch?v=dz50N2_tCCg
arpit goel says
There is a fine line when it comes to following your heart, not getting bothered by what others think and getting carried away.
Convictions can sweep us off our feet and destroy us. So having a reliable companion – sister, friend, brother, parents etc. – is important, as they can guide if we are led astray.
Above all though, believing in ourselves is important in whatever we do.
Carolyn Sullivan says
This is truely awesome. Although I know about forgiveness… the way it was worded really spoke to me. I may have to copy and save this post… to read daily!
However all of your points here are important! Thank you!
tara dillard says
I know this for sure about working in a garden, If you’re working in your garden and it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong.
Often that knowledge arrives years later.
Garden & Be Well, XO Tara
Michelle Russell says
Personally, I find #2 an interesting challenge because, while it’s very important not to settle in life, I’m a very Type-A person who can also easily get caught up in the attitude that you should *always* be pushing and striving for a better situation.
There have been plenty of times when I’ve burned out because I unthinkingly followed this tendency when it would have been better for me to chill out first and think about my options.
Conversely, there have been times (more recently–I’m finally learning this!) when I’ve stopped before plunging into a frenzy of striving and considered whether or not it would be good for me. Sometimes this has led me to decide that **for the moment** it’s better for me to settle for the way things are so that I can marshal my resources for later effort.
And I think that’s the key here. In the long term, we should never settle for life’s default options. But sometimes I think we can gain energy, perspective, or both by making a tactical decision to “choose to be okay” with things as they are for a while.
That’s really, really hard, though, when you know what you want and don’t have it yet. 😉
Another winner (aren’t they all?) The biggest problem with shortcuts for me is that I’m missing out on so much and I want to breathe it all in, it’s such a beautiful journey.
You have the right to feel any emotion that comes to you, and to follow a path that makes you happy (#4) is so true as long as we do not harm ourselves or others along the way.
Venkataraman KS says
Thanks for the very good article. Kris has rightly added the point relating to facing the fear squarely.
Brilliant post. Loved reading, but applying is my cross to bear. I hope to read this everyday and meditate on the work. I want to forgive, but the betrayal pierces me hourly. I want to live from faith not fear. I am proud I am getting to know myself better. Thank u for sharing and writing. I know it means a lot to many…
Joe Scherrer says
Enjoyed the list Marc. One I would add is “Trying to harvest before you prepare the fields and plant”
There have been times when I have gotten too enamored by the potential results or outcome and lost focus on the essential prep work needed to produce those results.
In other words, there is usually a process that needs to be established and followed before the outcome you want is produced.
Skipping steps or trying to accelerate the process to get right to the results most times leads to disappointment.
Work the process: plow the field, plant the crops, tend the fields…then reap the harvest.
Melissa Webster says
“It shouldn’t be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something’s difficult to come by, you’ll do that much more to make sure it’s even harder – or impossible – to lose.” – Sarah Dessen
It’s this exactly. Thank you.
I have never believed in taking shortcuts. I am a very meticulous person and I so much believe that diligence always pays off – it may time and can be frustrating atimes, but the rewards are worth it in the end.
David Rapp says
The US Army was testing battlefield tactics versus civilians in paintball. The civilians tore them to pieces. Why? They adapted better, faster and more readily than the troops who followed training and plans to a T. Lesson: improvise, adapt and overcome beats plans, tactics and strategies.
The hardest person to forgive is myself, for things I have done and, even more so, what I did not do. That is my greatest personal failure, and there is no lesson it, except to warn others.
Chase your dreams while you are young, with every year comes LESS time to do it in.
Love #4, don’t follow the crowd. I’m from New Zealand and we have a lot of sheep in NZ (literally!) so I love this analogy… it’s kinda my mantra: “It’s take no courage to be a sheep, and it takes boldness and balls to walk with a lionheart!”
Sheep end up in a crowded paddock, feeling suppressed and wondering what life is about. Lions forge ahead, blazing a trail and providing for themselves. Even if there is the odd battle along the way, they live a full life.
It’s not easy to follow our own compass, it throws up all sorts of inner and outer challenges, but I love how you point out that it’s incredibly liberating. So true. Thanks for sharing this post.
Larry Hochman says
Hi Marc and Angel,
I agree with almost everything you’ve written here. Anything worth having is worth putting in the effort. I somewhat disagree with the quote at the beginning of this post…:”It’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth.”
To equate effort and change with fight and struggle is tricky. Many times I’ve stayed up all night on projects that thrilled me, and hit many roadblocks in the process. But even in the challenges, the dominant energy was just that…challenge. And thrill, like a really cool puzzle to be solved. It frustrates and bedevils. But the dominant emotion underneath is well being and fun…not struggle.
If you put desperation and negativity into the quest for something different, that’s what you’ll come out with. The energy of well being that underpins who we really are…THAT’S the kind of “struggle” I enjoy!
Thank you so much guys 🙂
This post really boosts me to achieve my current goal.
Another shortcut not to take is trying to get your body in shape by skipping the workouts and healthy diets and hurting yourself with pills and fads and surgery. The secret is self-discipline and hard, beautiful work in the gym, on a bike, on the trails or road… in the ocean or pool…and the wonderful thing is that after you get started, you wouldn’t dream of taking the shortcuts, because the hard work and incredible healthy food IS the pleasure! It becomes addictive and exciting and your body becomes fit, healthy, stronger and more beautiful! And this habits reverse the aging process enough to help you avoid the pitfalls of spending big $ on fake beauty products for your face, cellulite, sagging skin… the downtime and recovery from ‘quick fix’ surgeries will cause you other problems that will make you feel worse and do worse for you and your body/face in the long run and short term. I say,”save your money for your workout gear or a new bike and look and feel fitter and younger and happier!”
Melissa P says
This reminds me of one of my fav quotes, “there are 2 great days in your life, the day you were born and the day you find out why”. Thank you for allowing your journey be about helping others on theirs. Another powerful blog entry and great advice to live by 🙂
This is beautiful. Thank you for another inspiring article.
Marc Chernoff says
@Ragnar: Excellent point. Far too many of us fall into the habit of consuming too much media, instead of creating something special with our time. I was once very guilty in this area.
@J.J.: I love that quote. Thanks for reminding me of it.
@Christy King: Yeah, the thinking trap of wanting to compete with others is a terrible distraction to many people I care deeply about. A good point, as always.
@AD: THANK YOU so much for supporting our work.
@Kris//KrisHopes: “I want to make decisions that shape my life based on my values, not my fears.” – Perfectly stated. That’s what I aspire to do every day.
@tara dillard: I love your garden metaphor. Thanks for sharing.
@Michelle Russell: Interesting insight. Oftentimes when you say “no,” you are really saying “yes” to YOU. Take the time to truly understand your resources and options and then take action. Thank you for the different perspective.
@Joe Scherrer: “Work the process: plow the field, plant the crops, tend the fields…then reap the harvest.” No shortcut there….
@David Rapp: We tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on others. Every day is a new beginning; every day is a fresh start… today is the day to move forward. As always, thanks for the input.
@Catherine: I couldn’t agree more! Great addition to the list.
@All: Once again, I feel honored and humbled by your kind words and beautiful insights. Thank you for continuing to inspire us to write. Your comments are our fuel as we research and explore these ideas further for upcoming posts.
“Things work out best for the people who make the best of the way things work out” Life throws you curve balls, plain and simple. Whether it’s not fitting in with the popular kids in school, having your heart broke by someone who meant a lot to you, missing out on that perfect job or losing a parent to cancer…. life goes on. We all have dreams, we all have disappointments, but we also all have new discoveries. This may seem a little off topic from the seven shortcuts outlined above, but I bring it up because I think a common reason for an individual to take the easiest route, put things off or leave everything to chance is because of past hurts and fear of failure. Well, feel the fear and do it anyway. Start small with baby steps and set attainable goals; then build off of those victories and learn from any set-backs. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a life worth living. Also, keep a sense a humor along the way… after all, life’s a garden, dig it!
It’s an important reminder laid out very beautifully. Indeed, there are no shortcuts to live life. Life is not easy, but it’s all worth it. Thank you for your wonderful thoughts.
I am truly inspired… I keep struggling and thinking about all the things that are happening for a better purpose, and I try to keep in mind as much as I can that true happiness is not actually at the end or success of each goal but it is already here in now along the journey. So no matter what the end is, success or failure, happiness will always be a part of the journey as a whole… it is up to us to open our eyes and hearts and experience it.
Minfil Joseph S. Cabral says
I feel refreshed on those aforementioned 7 shortcuts we usually take. I am very eager now to enjoy each day of my life to seize every moment. Every step of the way will definitely leave a mark on my way up. I will not give up on myself, I will find my niche, instead. Soon… I”ll get there to what I have been aspiring.
I think it’s important to get in tune with your feelings. Moments of clear inspiration really show us the most important messages we need to act on. Often when we’re about to leave our comfort zone we feel resistance. In my opinion, this resistance is an indicator that I need to push through in order to grow, just like with a workout. Sometimes the resistance can come in the form of negative thoughts and limiting beliefs. Becoming aware of those tendencies of the mind is crucial to not let yourself get carried away by it.
Jonathan Shaw says
You omitted perhaps an obvious one. Taking drugs as a shortcut to nirvana.
I greatly agree I spent the last two years of my life finding shortcuts to the dissatisfactions of my life. Expecting for something a little better, however I always ended up settling for less then what I had because I didn’t look at the big picture. This article really helped me realize I’m not alone in the mistakes of taking shortcuts. Planning and establishing goals is better then running from from situations.
elizalde canieso says
Thanks for reminding me. I remember now, indeed, that in a journey, it’s not the arrival or the destination that actually matters. It’s the travel.
Number one has been the biggest challenge for me. I thought I was the master of getting things done super fast and getting ahead of the game. Then one day I woke up and realized there was no game, it was all an illusion. Now whenever I am stuck at the fork in the road I take the pathway with most resistance and challenges because that is what life is all about.
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
Yes sir! Will do!