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Shortcuts to Success

Shortcuts to your destination are not always what they seem. You can end up going in the opposite direction to where you want to be.  Make sure you take the right shortcut to success in your business, studies and life by avoiding the wrong shortcuts. This article explores the difference between the two.

How often have you been advised to take a shortcut to a specific destination only to find that the shortcut actually takes you longer to get to where you want to be? I have lost count of how many times it has happened to me. It is not only annoying and frustrating when it happens, but it also consumes precious time that is needed elsewhere. Rarely, by taking a shortcut, have I arrived at my destination any earlier than I would have if I had taken my usual route. This is not to say that I have not come across an effective shortcut during my lifetime, because I have. It is all about recognising what constitutes an effective shortcut.

Shortcuts are seldom what they seem. They promise much but in reality some shortcuts deliver very little and can get you into a lot of trouble. Take by way of example a student studying towards an exam.

Studying is about understanding concepts and how to build or create them. As a learner, the student must build multiple layers of understanding before he or she is ready to test their learning against a predefined body of knowledge. Only when the student has put in the required time and effort will they be able to complete their exam to a level that allows them to be recognised as having authority over their chosen subject or discipline. 

A student who opts to forgo the study process by cheating may have taken a shortcut to initial success, but in real terms they have no authority over the subject for which they want to be recognised by their peers. In reality, the shortcut has failed to deliver on its promise.

So how do we recognise a good shortcut from a bad one? Well, it is relatively easy to recognise the bad shortcut. Any shortcut in life that requires cheating or a criminal act is definitely not going to get you anywhere beyond ridicule or even worse, prison servitude.

Society takes a dim view on those who step outside societal norms to achieve their goals.  The media is full of fallen politicians, businessmen and women, rogue bankers and the common crook to see what society thinks of those who take irresponsible shortcuts to their chosen destination.

Cheating and crime benefits no one. The long term costs to society are measured in diverted resources, expensive penal systems and a general degradation of humanity. Cheating and crime are two shortcuts that must be avoided if a person is to be successful.

Just as it is easy to recognise a bad shortcut so it is easy to recognise a good shortcut. For example, any shortcut which requires endeavour and does not involve cheating or crime is generally a shortcut that will get you to where you want to be.

Let us return to the student analogy for a moment to find an example of how a good shortcut can produce excellent and lasting results.

As students, we have all sat staring at a blank piece of paper or computer screen wracking our brains about what to write for our course work essay. The seconds, minutes and even hours tick by and yet not a word has made it on to the paper or the computer screen. With each passing second are frustration and anxiety builds to the point where we need to escape from our inability to formulate ideas into a coherent text. Does it sound familiar?  I know that it happened to me more than once during my student career; that is until I came across the concept of mind mapping.

I was in the university library one day feeling rather disconsolate about my lack of ability when it came to putting my ideas down on paper. It was at that point I noticed one of my peers reading a book on mind mapping. Naturally, being intrigued, and by way of procrastination, I asked my fellow student what the book was about. Being the kindly fellow that he was, he told me. And with that, the light bulb came on. I had found what I thought, and indeed turned out to be, a shortcut to solving my essay writing problem.

Although pictorial diagrams for recording concepts and knowledge have been around for centuries, the modern mind map, created by Tony Buzan, drew on the idea that the mind scans in a non linear way rather than left to right and top to bottom.

Throughout my early education I had always been taught to write notes, and lots of them, in a way that was not conducive to efficient study. I was a product of a sixties education and Tony Buzan’s mind mapping concept had yet to hit the teaching profession.  My late discovery of mind mapping promised much, and, as I was about to discover, it would deliver results too.

After reading through every book or article on mind mapping that I could get hold of, I decided to put the concept to the test. I took one of my course essays and built a mind map around it. In no time at all I had an essay outline in pictures of clouds filled with words all connected to a central idea. I used different coloured pens and pencils to give the mind map added dimension. I had never had so much fun with my studies until that day. I was surprised by the extent of the knowledge I had obtained during my studies.

The essay I wrote based on my first mind map got me an A plus on a topic where I normally got a B minus. I was ecstatic by the outcome of my first experiment in mind mapping, and the beauty of it all was that it took me less time than it normally did to write an essay.

As result of my experiment with mind mapping, I extended their use to note taken during lectures and seminars. I no longer wrote copious notes on any subject. Instead I drew pictures. Today, I use the same mind mapping techniques in my teaching practice that I used during my university days. The result is better preparation and the delivery of knowledge rich and fun lessons. My students certainly benefit from my use of the mind mapping concept, and I encourage them to experiment with their own ideas on the subject.

Mind mapping is by far the best shortcut I have ever come across during my working life. It still requires a lot of endeavour, but the time to produce good results has been halved.  I am sure readers of this article have had similar experiences with their own good shortcuts, and I would certainly like to hear about them. Just in the same way that my student colleague from all those years ago shared his knowledge of a good shortcutFeature Articles, so I would encourage others to do the same.

You can share your ideas and thoughts on approaches to success at

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The author is a lecturer in business and communications studies and has lectured and worked with businessmen and women across Europe and the Middle East. The author is also one of the co-founders of Key Factor, a language training company based in Odessa, Ukraine.  You can read more of the authors work at


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