Shortcuts — Why They Suck

Process is defined as steps taken in order to achieve any given or particular end. Everything in the entire universe is the result of following or going through a process. For example, rocks are shaped by the process of weathering and erosion.

Essentially, processes are very important. And yet, for our survival, our brains are hardwired for instant results. We need, as a species, instant gratification. A caveman needs food now, not three months from now.

This evolutionary aspect of our species, while critical for our primitive survival, is actually a detriment to an individual hoping to thrive in modern society. Working out isn’t instant — you’ll see results over time. Learning a new skill isn’t instant — you need to put in hours of practice to achieve mastery of said skill.

This is frustrating. It goes against everything our brains have evolved to become. To this end, people will often try to find shortcuts. In doing so, they skip important parts of the process, which can lead to silly mistakes.

I suppose it’s best told anecdotally, so here goes. *Clears throat*

My Story with Shortcuts:

10:00 a.m. “I had time,” I thought to myself. In fact, I had a whole hour and fifteen minutes until my next class, and all I needed to do was glue together some 3D prints, which I had done a million — no, a billion — times before. It would take me 10 minutes max, and then I’d be able to chill for the rest of the hour. For once, I could go to sleep. Imagine, a good nap.

Yeah, no. I couldn’t imagine it.

Anyways, I put my computer to sleep, jumped out of my chair, grabbed the un-glued print parts which were, at the time, held together with some rubber bands and duct tape, and threw them in a cardboard box. Taking the box with me, I went to the garage to grab the materials I would need. I grabbed my cyanoacrylate glue and a soldering iron, which I would use lightly in order to fuse 3D prints together.

With all of my stuff in the box, I went to the basement. One the way, I passed the closet where we kept our surgical gloves. I’m supposed to wear them, I knew that. And, it would only take me five seconds to get them… “Nah, I don’t need them”. And so off to the basement I went. More specifically, I went to the bowels of the bowels of the basement — my personal makerspace.

I sat down and took out my glue. Pretty simple — again, I’ve done it multiple times before. I lined up the pieces and carefully, took the cap off of my glue, and slowly applied at the seams. I let it dry, set the glue down, and bam: I’m done. Awesome. Easy. Cool. I’m free! I have time now. Relaxing: here I come. Well, shoot. Just a tiny bit of glue got on my hands. I went to the bathroom across the hall to quickly clean it off, the cold tiled floors stinging my feet, but it didn’t even matter.

After I washed the glue off of my hands, I went back to the random room, and cleaned everything up. I tried to pick up the vial of glue I had left on the table but it wouldn’t budge. Some glue had spilled, and while I was washing my hands, it had set. I probably could have picked it up with my fingers, but I didn’t have gloves, and I didn’t want to have to wash my hands again. So I used my wrists, and yanked it off of the table. In the process, some glue sloshed out, soaking the entire outside of the bottle and my hands in the process.

I brought it to the sink to clean both my hands and the vial. I set the vial next to the sink and began to wash my hands first. As I washed my hands in the warm water, like an idiot, my elbow knocked the vial over. It wobbled, tipped, and then fell. Glue spilled everywhere — all over the countertop, and even into the sink drain.

It even spilled on my sweater. A cotton sweater. A memory flashed in my head. I was skimming the instruction manual for the glue. “Keep away from cotton and wool. Can cause fire.” My sweater began smoking, and, in a panicked state, I threw it off of myself… and onto the countertop, which was still soaked in glue. Fire + fuel equals… More. Fricking. Fire.

Eventually, I put out the fire and cleaned everything up, but not before I wasted my entire hour and was late to my next class.

The point is, I had tried to take a shortcut. If I had worn gloves, I could have just picked up the vial of glue and would have been done. I told myself that I didn’t need gloves. That five seconds saved would still be five seconds saved, but in the end, it cost me a lot longer than the five seconds that I saved. By taking a shortcut, I skipped crucial steps in the process.

Are there best-practices to save time? Sure. Efficiency is one thing. But shortcuts? They’ll only bring pain and frustration and in the end, just aren’t worth it.

Two quotes really sum this up:

“Short cuts make long delays” — JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“There are no shortcuts to places worth going.” — Beverly Sills

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