There’re no shortcuts

October 7th, 2012

You’ve probably heard it said before, “There’re no shortcuts in life.”

It’s usually directed at people who are impatient at doing something, trying to get rich quick, for example. Or trying to learn to play the guitar.

Yet my whole life has been directed towards just that goal – of finding shortcuts in life.

When I was in high school, I spent almost as much time trying to find shortcuts to exam success as I did on actual studying.

And when I was learning the guitar, I spent an equal amount of time trying to find some hidden underlying secret to techniques as I did on actually practicing them.

The truth is, I hate wasting time.

Why take a longer way when there’s a shorter way?

In a sense, it’s not shortcuts I’m talking about; it’s taking the shortest possible route to doing something. But to some people, it might as well be shortcuts, because they will always take the longest possible route.

For instance, take two points in a city.

You’ll be surprised at how many people will actually take a longer route between the two points. They will opt for main thoroughfares when taking a side street would be shorter.

It comes down to life philosophy.

And my life philosophy has always been to apply life’s finite resources in the most efficient and productive ways possible.

In this philosophy, I have been guided by two things.

First, a healthy dose of skepticism.

Distrust anyone who claims to have the answers to your problems, because anyone can claim to be an expert in their field.

And nothing wastes more time then being stuck with someone who doesn’t know what he/she is doing. It’s like going on a jungle trek with a guide who doesn’t know the way.

The second point is to actively seek out the real experts. We’ve already established that anyone can claim to be an expert in their field.

Well, how do you separate the real from the cons?

From what they do.

Do they and can they actually do what they preach?

And once I find the experts in the field, I become their biggest fan.

I read everything about them, I watch them and dissect everything they say and do, to try to find out if they have any special tricks or techniques to make playing easier.

It was what I did with two of my greatest heroes – Glenn Gould and John Williams

The former, I have close to every CD he’s ever recorded and own almost every book, interview, and everything else that’s been written by or about him.

And John Williams?

I spent so much of my teenage years listening to him, I actually had recurring dreams of meeting him. And I spent a whole year after my jazz hiatus, trying to decode what he did – analyzing his fingerings and his technique –  trying to unearth some basic underlying principle in his approach to guitar playing.

What’s the point of all of this?

To make playing guitar easier.

Again, no point killing yourself when there’s an easier way to play something.

So if someone were to tell you there’re no shortcuts in life, it just reveals their total ignorance.

Life is full of shortcuts.

In fact, if you want to maximize your productivity and effectiveness, you owe it to yourself to find those shortcuts.

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2 Responses to “There’re no shortcuts”

  1. Miguel de Maria Says:

    Philip, thanks for the post. Sometimes the hardest thing is to take the shortcut, when you have been told for so long that the long way is the only one. For example, if you neglect ami alternation even if im alternation does not really work for you. I have been listening to Glenn Gould’s Inventions and Sinfonias a lot lately. Not sure if it gets any better than that!

    Miguel de Maria

  2. Philip Hii Says:

    There’s definitely a cultural stigma attached to shortcuts, people think it’s just taking the easy way out, but to me, it’s more about being efficient. Again, no point killing yourself when there’s an easier way to do something. Have you heard GG’s Mozart? Absolutely mind blowing.

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