You Can’t Shortcut Your Way Through Life

“Quick and Easy Doesn’t Always Do It”

Shortcuts can be good, they can be lifesavers. They can get you someplace faster when you’re driving, they can retrieve a file or application for you faster on your computer. The old adage,”time is money” comes to mind when thinking about the advantages of shortcuts. If they are medical, they can literally save lives; defibrillators and Narcan are two examples of vital shortcuts back to a healthier situation. 

One shortcut that has sidetracked many a well intended entrepreneur is that silver bullet they search for that will result in the “get rich quick” scenario, that old proverbial “pot of gold at the end of the business rainbow”, that mother lode that just needs to be found and tapped into. Has it ever happened? Sure, or the temptation to find it, the thing that will make us rich without having to work so hard, wouldn’t even be an option. Does it happen often? No… we all may know, or know of, someone who hit it big by winning the lottery but let’s face it, 99.9% of us have not and never will, literally or from a business standpoint. By and large, “blood sweat and tears” is still the fuel for free enterprise.   

I have seen business people, who would have otherwise edified themselves and served others well, waste entire careers by spending so much time looking for that magical, mystical thing that meant that their “ship had come in” (seems like I‘m Mr. Cliche today).  Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m certainly no life coach, but this article is about context in the business arena, and probably a pretty good one for most young business people with the old “fire in the belly to succeed” to read. Often, our current business environment is fixated on data. Data is indeed extremely important, yet the true value it has depends upon what course it allows you to set, based upon the knowledge it provides. So why am I writing about context? Because context brings us all one step closer to wisdom, and data plus knowledge does not automatically equal wisdom. There must be context… therefore, I proceed with my purpose clearly stated.  

You’ve heard it said, “If you’re going to dream, you may as well dream big!” (enough with the cliches already!); I heartily agree with this. In fact, I remember a more recent piano sale that Matt Perez in McAllen Texas told me about which I’d like to share. He was in a post sale conversation with an eighty-plus-year-old piano buyer who finally made her dream come true and purchased a piano… something she always wanted but finally got around to doing! Matt and I were just shooting the bull about sales in general and after he had shared that story with me he said, I guess dreams have no expiration date.” I asked him then and there if I could use that line someday; he said sure, and today is that day. I believe in dreams and have been blessed to have several come true, and until life ends there is no reason why dreams should have an expiration date! One thing I know about dreams is this – if you never dream them, none of them will ever come true. The point of this paragraph? Sometimes it just plain takes time to accomplish some things. It’s a good thing for many that dreams have no expiration, especially not a short lived ones like perishables in the grocery store. Here is another observation to aid proper context: resolve appears to be the thing that aids context enough to take many great ideas and aspirations across the finish line. Follow me into the big business world for a moment and take a gander at the following historical examples…  

Apple was founded in 1977 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.  I was three years out of high school and twenty years old. Twenty years later, in 1997, Steve Jobs took back over the reign and launched the iMac with a strong marketing campaign featuring the “Think Different” slogan. In 2018 they became the first trillion dollar publicly trading company in US history. There were actually some serious setbacks along the way, changes in power and such, and the advent of some competitors, such as Microsoft, that caught up technically on many fronts. That was before the iPhone placed them in a position of dominance, and probably for a good while still to come. We could call Apple a 41 year “overnight success.”  

Speaking of Microsoft…another instant success story – Harvard dropout Bill Gates and his friend Paul Allen formed it in 1975 and their revenue totaled $16,000 that first year. At the close of business this past March, NASDAQ listed its shares as worth $1.034 trillion, a 43 year “overnight success” story.

OK, let’s dumb this down into dollars we can understand better, and leave the tech world and enter the entertainment industry. Willie Nelson has a net worth valued at approximately $25 million after repaying the IRS $32 million he owed in 1992. He retired the debt by dedicating all the revenue from a recording project, entitled “The IRS Tapes” (love it) and a personal property auction. Imagine paying off $32 mill and still having money left over! We will not use Willie as an example of good money management or ethical standards, but another example of how a person with a dream and deep resolve can find a way to achieve success in that thing that they seek to do. Many people don’t know that Willie was a songwriter for $50 a week and penned some monster hits such as the Patsy Cline hit “Crazy”, making pennies compared to the label and artists who performed them. His original success came in the early sixties with many of his hit songs performed by others while he worked in obscurity. After twenty years of living on the fringes of country music artistry, in 1975 Willie had his first commercial hit with the album “the Red Headed Stranger. It was the first of his eighteen albums to date to make him any real money. All of those years of not fitting into the “commercial” Nashville mold finally starting paying off and today, 45 years later, he is considered one of the most unique, creative and authentic forces in country music history… a twenty year “overnight” success who at eighty-seven is still going strong, including having his own XM radio station.  

Let’s see, when Elvis auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry, they told him to go back to driving a truck. The Beatles toiled in total obscurity playing strip joints, get this, a set every four hours around the clock for years, until they got any traction in the music biz. Oprah Winfrey was born in abject poverty in Mississippi; Halle Berry lived in a homeless shelter and Jim Carrey lived in a van. 

Here’s a really good one: The 1952 classic self-help book entitled “The Power of Positive Thinking” was dug out of the waste paper basket by Norman Vincent Peal’s wife and sent to the publisher, who accepted it after her husband, the author, had given up on it.    

All of the aforementioned became wealthy, but none of their “rags to riches” stories were accomplished inside of days, weeks or months; in every case it took years. Some took more years than others, but dues were paid to the “school of hard knocks” (another cliche snuck in) before they reached their respective goals.

And what about the limitations placed upon us all by time and our mortality? Don’t we need to get everything done ASAP because we have limited time on this rock called Earth? Well yes, time will eventually run out for us all in this lifetime but history is chock full of people who refused to let their age determine whether or not something they wanted to accomplish got done. Here are some inspirational examples documented from a talented author named Matthew Kelly:

Roger Federer was thirty-six years old when he won the Australian Open – his twentieth Grand Slam event.

Mother Teresa was forty when she founded the Missionaries of Mercy.

Jack Nicklaus was forty-six when he shot a 65 and won the Masters.

Henry Ford was fifty when he started his first assembly line.

Ray Kroc was fifty-two when he started McDonalds.

Oscar Hammerstein II was sixty-four when he wrote the lyrics for “The Sound of Music.”

Nelson Mandela was seventy-five when he was elected the president of South Africa.

Peter Roget wrote the first thesaurus when he was seventy-three.

Grandma Moses created her first painting at age seventy-six.

John Glenn was seventy-seven when he traveled into space. 

Ben Franklin was seventy-nine when he invented bi-focals.

Frank Lloyd Wright was ninety-one when he completed his work on the Guggenheim Museum.

Dimitrion Yordanidis was ninety-one when he ran a marathon in Athens.

Ichijirou Araya was one hundred when he climbed Mount Fuji. 

So obviously, although we warn against the “get rich quick” syndrome, we are not about limiting accomplishments or limitations in general, just simply providing some context. Based upon the ages of those whose accomplishments are listed above, waiting to arrive at an important goal can be a very rewarding thing that signifies the vitally of a person in their quest. 

Context is the thing that can allow you to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Does it seem to you that this article is a patchwork of quotes? Does it seem like it lends itself to a lot of conventional wisdom? Oh, there’s that word again…wisdom. Wisdom is that barometer that allows you to be balanced in your approach to your goals, understand that there is always groundwork before you build, and enjoy the process. Think about it this way; if you only enjoy the destination, you have cheated yourself out of a lot of days of enjoying the trip along the way.  

Yes, some shortcuts are the way to go and in our business world today, automations are very welcome marketing shortcuts. Having something go out on your behalf, that you don’t have to do manually while you are going about some other type of business, is a phenomenal shortcut. I learned this phrase from my younger partner years ago, “automation is liberation.” Taking advantage of intelligent shortcuts on the way to your larger goal makes all the sense in the world. Just be wary of adopting a mindset that has you shy away from some of life’s “heavy lifting, blood, sweat and tears.” The successful people mentioned in this article had to live through a lot to make their dreams come true. A balanced approach to business and life is always the most healthy and, often, the most profitable way to roll. The benefits to such an approach can be felt financially, emotionally and spiritually.  

Context is aided by progress. Focusing on the progress and not simply the goal makes life more manageable and, might I say, palatable? Progress and context are first cousins and items Albert Einstein spoke of when he wrote this memorable saying, “Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving.”

He could possibly have been on his bike, taking a shortcut to somewhere when he came up with that, right?           

Jack Klinefelter
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