One of the best life lessons I’ve ever learned is if you want to live a great life avoid taking shortcuts.

Shortcuts often set you back, make you jaded, cost you energy (which is more important than time), and leave you worse off than when you started.

When you take shortcuts you leave yourself shortchanged.

Doing things the hard way brings you closer to your goals. You learn what does and doesn’t work. With skin in the game, you learn what’s actually important and where to find ROI.

If you want to be successful and increase the odds of your success, do the legwork. Most of the people you compete against won’t. The number of people who work on mastery is relatively few.

While you’re taking things one step at a time and mastering fundamentals, other people will try to leapfrog you. Most of these people will end up like the proverbial boiling frog. You on the other hand will be ready for success, to apply your skills and build on your past, instead of churning skills and reinventing yourself.

It'll be difficult sometimes to know whether you’re working on the right things.

Use what’s worked for you in the past to determine what you think might work in the future. Constrain your ideas and plans to things that are close to what you’ve already done to ensure you can execute on them and map out what might go wrong or fail within your process.

You'll know you’re working on the wrong things when you’re consistently working on “what to do” without knowing why you should. Bad action items often make sense when they’re looked at individually, but they don't have clear followup tasks and results that tie back into achieving your original goals.

You’ll know you’re working on the right things when your work focuses on learning why and how to do the things you think you need to do to achieve your goals. Good action items alway help you understand execution risks and gain context.

Every once in a while you'll need to reassess your situation. You need to find peace and calm to look at your own situation from an honest perspective. From there you make useful decisions: decide whether your efforts produce results worth investing more in, decide what you should work on, and answer holistic strategy questions, such as how can you best measure your results and do the KPIs you started off with still make sense.

When you do things the hard way, aka make an effort and avoid taking shortcuts, you make your path to success a lot easier. It can take a while to get there, but it’s a destination that’s worth the work.