Nix The Shortcuts!

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!”

—J. Wellington Wimpy from “Popeye”

One day many years ago, my father-in-law, then in his early 70s, was helping me build a fence in the backyard to keep our kids from wreaking havoc on the neighborhood. The man could work a team of mules into the ground! He was also not much for small talk; however, we started discussing my work. At the time, I was in a management position but extremely anxious to move up.

My father-in-law had been a colonel in the Air Force and was a grizzled World War II vet and later an insurance company executive. He had a heart of gold, swore like a sailor, went to church most every day and was a wonderful, if gruff, father. He was one of my greatest heroes.

His response to my anxiety over getting ahead was something like, “You’re just a young pup. What’s your ***damn hurry?!” Although deflated, it had some positive impact on me. I still had lots to learn and was perhaps pulling a “Wimpy.”

Although leaders frequently engage me to help them find a shortcut of some sort—to more effective leadership, to a better strategy, to a more highly functioning team—we rarely find a solution that involves little work.

Shortcuts to wealth are generally illegal. Shortcuts to leadership are typically manipulative. Shortcuts to brilliant strategy are rare.

I’m often able to help people expedite their success, but never without some hard work, changed behavior or altered belief system. There are, however, hard-won paths to success to find, and there are activities that’ll get you there.

Here are 3 suggestions that may accelerate your success.

1 Don’t think about how to skip steps or cheat the system, rather think about how to work harder, faster and smarter. Preparation and focus beat conniving and shortcuts. Don’t try to learn lessons from someone who was born on third base thinking that they hit a triple.

2 Think quality. Use the best coaches, read the best books (e.g. Drucker, Bennis and time honored classics, not newly spun myths about winning) find the best mentors, and work for solid companies.

3 Add value. Those who move up in organizations without adding real value are chocolate bunnies—sweet on the outside yet hollow on the inside. Don’t be one. It’ll eventually catch up with you.

Luck can play a role in success, but no can of spinach will make you Popeye, and you have to pay for your hamburgers today!

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