In One Thousand Miles, I suggested there would be no shortcuts. The point is to run one thousand miles; cutting that short would defeat the purpose. That is of course only part of the story.
Merriam-Webster defines shortcuts primarily like this:
1: a route more direct than the one ordinarily taken
2: a method or means of doing something more directly and quickly than and often not so thoroughly as by ordinary procedureMerriam-Webster
Broadly, it is about getting from here to there more quickly. That does apply to those one thousand miles.
Going the distance
If running a specific distance is the point, then the shortcut cannot involve cutting short that distance, because then using the shortcut would prevent us from achieving the goal. Distance comes in different forms, likewise shortcuts have different uses.
So when I think of shortcuts in the context of this specific goal, I think about how I can save time. I probably will not begin running vastly faster, but there are other things that can be done to help get there faster:
- Manage food/hydration prior to heading out deliberately to reduce the likelihood of needing a bathroom break during the run.
- Deliberately work on improving my ability to recover well and hopefully increasingly quickly.
- Bring appropriate food and proper gear on longer runs — but also skip either, when I realize I am fine without.
Clearly some things appear like shortcuts, since they save a little time initially, but then they prove detrimental and perhaps cost more time. Second-order consequences matter. Examples might include:
- Pushing training too hard, too soon.
- Skipping warm-ups or cool-downs.
- Never stretching.
- Skipping proper hydration or nutrition.
I still believe deeply in the deliberate choice of struggle – and running can make for an excellent laboratory for that – but clearly, some paths will be quicker to traverse than others.
When it comes to shortcuts, context is obviously important.
There is a goal to accomplish, a there to get to, but there is usually more to it – objectives, criteria that have to be met as part of it.
Your goal may be to finish the race, but your additional criteria include things like not breaking local laws, not compromising your personal code of ethics, not sustaining serious injury along the way, being able to do future races, being a good human being to the people you encounter along the way, and so forth.
Great shortcuts fit well within the constraints of the known goals and objectives.
Shortcuts play a big role in thinking – for better or worse.
Biases and logical fallacies often do present shortcuts, in that they can unduly simplify a situation and lead us to a solution or particular perspective – often a false or unhelpful one – quickly.
On the other hand, heuristics, mental models and other thinking tools can also provide us with very helpful shortcuts to see and understand more clearly, faster. And of course the very notion of learning from others – mentors, teachers, books – is a shortcut of sorts: We do not have to reinvent a chosen field of discourse from scratch by ourselves.
Shortcuts have a universal appeal.
When we exclaim No Shortcuts!, we likely do not categorically mean that in an absolute sense. Rather, we assert a version of put in the time! or do the work!. If you want to run from here to there, you have to do the running.
Be clear what can be shortened. We do not want to skip the wrong steps.