Shortcuts can be great. Instead of doing something that takes a long time, we can often take part in shortcut activities that lead us to the same result in a shorter period of time. Instead of walking on a long, winding footpath to a front door, we could cut through the lawn and get there faster. A straight line, “as the crow flies”, can be better than taking the long road.
One example I’ve been thinking about lately has been using shortcuts to learn from others, instead of learning from personal experience and trial and error. Learning vicariously has its merits, to be sure. It can be learning from others’ mistakes, but it can also entail modeling successful behavior.
As I look at my own life, I take pride in what I’ve been able to do. Keep in mind that I haven’t done anything that I would say is extraordinary, as I’m just a regular guy. But still, I’ve worked hard and am constantly trying to improve and get better while having fun with everything along the way.
Nevertheless, in most areas of life, I know people within my circle of friends that have done something much better than me. Maybe the same person hasn’t done better in every area of life, but possibly in one or a few areas. While “success” can be subjective, I like to at least try to be realistic in being able to acknowledge to myself that I can learn from others who have reached some goals that I haven’t (yet, anyway).
So, in certain situations, I think “what would he (or she) do?”
- If I’m dealing with a specific professional situation, I might think about how someone I know has successfully handled it in the past.
- If I have to make a big presentation, I’ll think about one person in particular who was a great presenter and used great public speaking skills to help career growth. How would she have handled such a presentation? Given that this is not an area in which I’m naturally super talented, asking this question gets me to think about how I could approach things and learn from her successful approach.
- When looking at how to grow net worth, I’ll think about one of my friends in particular. He started with nothing, and has built up a really good financial situation by some good habits. I think about what drove his success, and try to identify one or two things he’s done differently than I have.
- If I’m trying to get back in shape – actually there’s no “if”, as this is actually what I’m trying to do – I’ll think about some things that one of my friends has done to stay in great shape. Those little things he’s done every day/week, over time, have allowed him to be in phenomenal health for someone his age.
In other words, I think we if we want to succeed at specific tasks or reach certain goals, we should pay close attention to how those who have succeeded actually went about making it happen. This means not stubbornly holding onto “my way” of doing things, but accepting that the way we may regularly approach something may be less effective than how another person would do it.
Admittedly, I’ve been one to take occassionally pride in the “my way” approach. However, I’m now embracing the idea that it’s way more profitable to directly examine how another person has achieved great success with a given endeavor, and try to model it.
While personal experience can be invaluable, sometimes shortcuts can be efficient and effective 🙂
My Questions for You
Do you ever try to learn from and model an approach of anybody you know, for a given task or goal?
If so, what do you try to emulate?
Do you agree with the notion that it’s sometimes a more profitable shortcut to learn from others successes (and failures) than investing your own time and effort to get the same wisdom?