Is there a shortcut to success?

I have a dig bick. You that read wrong. You read that wrong too.

Shocking isn’t it?

Not the message, which after all makes no sense at all, but the fact that we can get it so wrong. The reason, as you have probably guessed, is all down to one simple thing: our brain’s persistent and hard-wired tendency to take short cuts.

What you have just read comes directly from Professor Damian Hughes book, the Winning Mindset, which I read recently. It’s part of a chapter that talks about three traps that prevent you from being the best you.

It got me thinking about how often I have, in the past, fallen into traps, behaved in a way that I was less then proud of, finished working and felt as though I was one sentence ahead of my audience. My biggest trap?


Wanting to do something else, allowing my attention to wander. I know my problem. I get bored really easily, I’m a variety type of guy. That’s why I design and deliver bespoke programmes, specific to clients, rather than repetitive roll out programmes. That’s why I work across multiple industries and multiple levels throughout each structure. The thought of specialising in a subject or sector just doesn’t do it for me, never has.

But, there’s a but here. Shortcuts don’t give you variety. Shortcuts give you poor performance. Our brains are on autopilot, things go in one ear and out of the other. Professor Hughes gives the example of when people are talking to us, but it’s also when we talk to ourselves.

We all have an inner voice. And it’s not the first sign of insanity, don’t worry. You need to worry if you start have a full-blown conversation with yourself! No, we all have an internal commentary. We do it because we want to retain facts, information, remember stuff.

Problem is we start to wander because we start to wonder.

If we’re thinking about a task, we start to think about when we’ve done it before, who with, where were we, was it a nice place, what was the weather and before we know it we’re thinking about that we sat in a train station and it was late and we missed our connection. Our brain literally skips through information. Well mine does, and I’m sure you have been there too.

Remember, as Professor Hughes said, we are hard wired to take shortcuts. So, what can we do about it? How do we stay out of the trap?

Take yourself away from your daily routine – when we are in an environment that is different, we don’t know what to expect, so we tend to be more alert, more deliberate. You want to get ready for a big presentation, then go and plan, prepare and practice for it in a place that you don’t normally go to.

Choose your work – do what you want to do, work on those things that make you feel strong, motivated and inspired, seek them out, volunteer for them, no matter how big or small or whether they are in your job description, find the things that captivate you.

You are what you think – Ralph Waldo Emmerson said’ “You become what you think about.” What do you want to be famous for? What do you want people to say about you? You can create your own brand by thinking in the way you want to be known for. You want to be known for being trustworthy, knowledgeable, credible, authentic, then start thinking that way.

Marcus Buckingham talks about when we think deliberately then our brain creates new synapses, but what is amazing is that it is far easier to create synapsis growth in those areas of the brain where we already have ideas. Brain scientists say it’s like growing new buds on an existing branch rather than new branches.

So, instead of thinking shortcuts give me variety, I’ve realised it makes me ineffective, relying on what I already can do to get me through. If I’m not careful, the way that I’m thinking will become what people say about me, which will be the complete opposite to what I actually get excited and motivated about.

You want success? Then be more deliberate. Sometimes the longest route is the fastest.

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