Why there are no shortcuts in life that are worth taking in the long run


Kevin Mangelschots

Have you ever wondered why the people who work hard, smart, and put in the hours are always the ones who become successful and attain their dreams? Whereas people trying to get rich quickly by taking cutoffs almost always fail?

It’s because there are no shortcuts in life. At least not many that are sustainable in the long run.

Let me explain why hard work and perseverance are both required to succeed.

Illustration of the quote, “there are no shortcuts to any place worth going” written on a yellowish background.

There’s no shortcut to success. Failures are needed to improve. And being afraid of failing will prevent one from taking opportunities and undertaking challenges. This in turn leads to stagnation and the inability to learn new things that can and will benefit us down the road.

Most folks want to reach success the easy and fast way. But trying to take shortcuts and doing things the easy way typically leads to failure instead of prosperity.

Most individuals want to take things easy because they are lazy. They’re afraid of working hard and devoting themselves to something. They would much rather watch Netflix and YouTube instead of doing physically and/or mentally intensive labor. That’s exactly why taking shortcuts is such an attractive option to them.

Even if someone manages to somehow become successful due to taking shortcuts, they are unlikely to continue flourishing for very long, since they don’t have all the necessary skills to maintain that status and position.

Picture of a man performing a snatch with a barbell in a gym with a black floor.

Take weightlifting for example. Let’s say you want to build a muscular body. The right way is to study weightlifting. What the correct form is, what exercises are most effective at building muscles, how many times you should work out each week, and so on.

A possible shortcut could be taking steroids. They might allow you to gain more muscle mass at a significantly faster pace than a natural lifter could. But taking steroids will damage your health and will eventually cause health problems down the road due to hormone imbalances, growth of organs, heart issues, and so on.

So even though it might be ‘beneficial’ to take a shortcut by allowing you to reach your goals quicker at first, they will most likely end up being detrimental eventually. In extreme cases, they can even turn out to cost you the muscles that you’ve gained thanks to the steroids due to hormone imbalances and other health-related issues.

So to summarize, there is no shortcut to success. Shortcuts might give you some short-term benefits and advantages. Nevertheless, valuable things take time and effort to achieve. And very few worthwhile things are attained easily without those same qualities. There are no substitutes for hard work, intelligence, and putting in the hours of work. Practice does make perfect.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What does, “there are no shortcuts in life” mean?

Illustration of the quote, “there is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs” written on a grayish background with stairs.

There are no shortcuts in life, which means that we will have to put in the time and effort to develop the competence that’s needed to become prospering. There’s no shortcut to success indeed.

It conveys that we must be willing, and are inevitably going to fail and that these failures are needed as an incentive to learn new things that allow us to become more proficient and flourishing over time.

This means that there’s no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs. The stairs in this case are effort, hard work, discipline, and working intelligently.

Examples of shortcuts in life

Image of a man making a selfie while skiing.

There’s a case to be made that there are shortcuts in life. Nevertheless, these ‘shortcuts’ are not always a viable long-term strategy. There’s no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.

Shortcut example 1: Good looking person gets the job

Take a very good-looking person getting a job, for example.

That good-looking individual might get hired based solely on his appearance, which is a shortcut in itself, since he doesn’t need to display his abilities to get hired. You would be surprised how much this happens in the real world too. First impressions, which are heavily influenced by looks, are important indeed.

However, sooner or later, he will need to display his competence if the company values having people around who can carry their own weight. If that’s the case, then that same beautiful individual will be worse off since his beauty, which was his shortcut in the first place, will make him lose his job.

Thus, the shortcut has made their life harder in the end. Not to mention that they will have to put in more time and effort to become competent than they would have if they never took that shortcut in the first place. That cutoff effectively became a detour.

Example 2: Cheating in school to pass

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Cheating can allow you to pass in school with minimal effort.

And while you might feel clever cheating (I know I did in high school), it ends up hurting you later on in life.

Because you were cheating, you didn’t have to develop the skills that are necessary to pass examinations, such as working hard, foregoing instant gratification for long-term gratification, discipline, and so on. You’ve effectively taken a shortcut that ends up hurting you more than helping you.

Let’s say you end up graduating from high school and going to college to get a bachelor’s degree. Well, now you’re suddenly at a great disadvantage compared to your peers, since you never had to learn how to study. Personally, I had to learn how to apply myself in college. And let me tell you, that wasn’t easy, and I had to figure it out FAST to pass.

The person in this example, which could very well be me, would’ve been much better off applying themselves early on in life to acquire the skills that are necessary to succeed in the future.

Who said, “There is no shortcut to success?”

Illustration of a man scratching their head while holding a yellow question mark.

The quote, “there is no shortcut to success”, was first said by the England-born, Canadian journalist, Malcolm Gladwell.

Aside from being a journalist, he is also a public speaker and author.

He was born on 3 September 1963.

Why should you not take shortcuts in life?

You should not take shortcuts in life because you miss out on learning essential skills, all the while spending so much time searching for a shortcut that you could have spent that time and effort much more efficiently.

Just think how many vital abilities and life lessons you could’ve learned if you decided to put all that time and hard work into learning the skills you should’ve learned and acquired in the first place.

Not only would you probably have reached your goals quicker, but it’s also likely that you would’ve had an easier time maintaining your success than you would be taking a shortcut in the first place.

People taking crosscuts are also more inclined to get careless and arrogant than people who had to work hard and persevere through the hardships to become flourishing.


Image of the word, “conclusions” written on a black backboard with white chalk.

There is no shortcut to success, at least none that are worth taking in the long term.

Because eventually, most cutoffs will end up being detrimental, and actually detouring you to the point where you end up spending more time to become competent than you would have to become a capable individual in the first place.

There’s no substitute for hard work, becoming competent, discipline, and working intelligently.

Call to action

Rather than trying to cheat the system and looking for shortcuts, invest your time and energy wisely.

Try to become as competent, smart, disciplined, and hardworking as possible by practicing good habits all the while cutting negative habits such as smoking, being lazy, and the constant need for instant gratification out of your life.

The sooner you start applying this beneficial approach in your life, the better, since you’ll be able to benefit from these positive attributes for longer.