Image: Birmingham Museums Trust/Unsplash

There’s a time and place for shortcuts, but here’s a call to actually doing the work. It’s the opposite of a shortcut; it’s a longcut. From the etymology of this word, longcut is when a shortcut backfires. It’s counterproductive, and takes unintentionally long. 

There are fewer explorations into deliberate longcuts. It’s rare, but I really appreciate when this happens. Travelling along a longer, more scenic, route. Deciding to do something important or enjoyable yourself instead of delegating it. Choosing to join a company at a lower title or job role in order to spend more time learning with less pressure.

The decision to actually not take shortcuts—to longcut—is where a lot of the work that ends up really resonating in terms of impact, experience, ROI, etc. Paradoxically, these little, or big, longcuts accumulate into advantages that no shortcuts can create.

Longcutting, in Action

Early in his career, Robert Caro heeded a wise editor’s advice to him to write slower. This slower writing would afford him the time he needed to actually think. He has since spent decades writing his multi-volume biography on Lyndon B. Johnson, singlehandedly turning through hundreds of thousands of pages to verify—with his own two eyes—facts and to get closer to the true version of events that were long thought to have died with the LBJ. 

The idea to outsource this probably came to him really early on—but he decided not to do it. Instead, he took many longcuts. For example, he spent years of his and his wife’s lives in Johnson City to get to know the people better and to potentially meet people who knew LBJ. Needless to say, if you read the biographies, you’ll see that it paid off.

Let Time Be the Magic Ingredient

Shortcuts remain valuable—as automating unnecessary, important, administrative tasks for example. But I hope we continue to preserve the value of longcuts. Life isn’t meant to be optimized to death, it’s meant to be lived.

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