Why Shortcuts Lead To Dead Ends & Success Takes Longer Than You Think

Our western industrialised brains want to believe other people’s success systems will work, but they don’t. There’s only one thing that…

Image of a yellow sign that says “ead end” mounted on a blue wall, for article by Larry G. Maguire

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Our western industrialised brains want to believe other people’s success systems will work, but they don’t. There’s only one thing that does.

I received an email the other day that promised me “success hacks”. I just needed to follow their system of shortcuts, of quick fixes, and I’d be on the way to the realisation of my dreams.

“Ooh, wonderful!” I said to myself with enthusiasm. “Finally, the solution I’ve been looking for. God knows I’ve tried so many. Maybe this one will work”.

Or maybe not.

The email was from a website whose material I once found interesting and perhaps valuable. These days, their stuff usually ends up in the spam folder. And because I’m a little wiser now than I was when I signed up initially, their emails generally stay there.

To be honest, I don’t check my spam folders often, and so they are deleted without me even being aware. But this one made it through, into my inbox and under my nose.

So I opened it.

Here’s what it said;

Screenshot of an email that promised me a shortcut to success

Screenshot of the email I received

In the interest of giving these guys the benefit of the doubt, I went through the sign-up process. But despite entering my details twice, I didn’t get the “hacks” they promised.


Regardless, the email and the general thrust of the content served a purpose. It illustrated the widespread popular belief in the validity of success hacks that in recent times, I have attempted to counter in my writing.

The belief that hacks can provide a shortcut to happiness is born from the story smart marketing departments have told us. Corporations know more about what makes you and me tick than we do ourselves, and we’ve been sold on their false narrative. It’s based on short-term thinking, greed, manipulation, and the need to control, and we have become addicted to their promise.

This idea, the one we are so apt to adopt, says that we can achieve happiness, become fulfilled and find meaning in life through some shortcut, some system or hack or other. It says we can fool the universal accounting system, the one that Inventor and design architect Richard Buckminster Fuller wrote about, and achieve all our heart’s desires.

It says that somehow we can outsmart the momentum of the universal creative force Taoists call Ziran — that which comes of itself.

And it is folly.

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The Tao says, when we detach from the need for results to be a particular way, when we become patient and dedicated to the work, favourable results will come of their own accord, not through force, but with purposeful action. The principle of Purposeful Accident of which I have been writing for some time now follows this Taoist idea.

Purposeful Accident says we must create, make and do whatever pleases us first, primarily for the sake of it. Ulterior motivations, success hacks and quick-fix promises of success will never get us there. They merely take us down roads with dead-ends and perpetuate our discontent.

In many ways, the pursuit of particular premeditated results is a waste of time and life because they never satisfy. As Abraham Maslow wrote in Toward A Psychology of Being; “man is an eternally wanting animal”. In this eternal wanting, we’ve become addicted to the high of short-term fulfilment. Dopamine is the drug of choice and our only option to find what we’re looking for is to detox.

We must choose something more wholesome. We must choose work that engages our curiosity and go to that place for long periods without distraction. Because it is only in the right-now engagement in the process, a process which is only apparent after the work is complete, that we can realise the happiness and fulfilment we crave.

Yet we pursue shortcuts. Then in time, paradoxically, the fruitless pursuit shows its value.

“The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.” — William Blake, Poet.

Perpetual Unhappiness & Discontent

Now, I understand there is a market for this shit; success hacks, quick fixes and the like. It seems that everyone wants the solution, and everyone wants it today. But the reality is that nobody wants to put in the time to acquire the level of experience and expertise necessary. We believe absolutely in linear time and don’t want to dedicate ourselves to attain it.

We are dissatisfied and unhappy where we are you see, and we’re desperate for someone to show us how to fix it all. We want to know when and where the big win is coming. We prefer a secure, predictable future where everything will be bright and shiny — no darkness, no failure — we want a single-sided coin. So if the clever men in red ties can give us the promise of a better future, and show us a way to get there quick smart, we’ll buy it from them.

We fall for it every time.

With this in mind, I did a quick Google search on happiness and here’s what I found…

There are on average 5,400 searches worldwide per month for the search term: “how to find happiness”.

For the search term: “how to be happy” there is an extraordinary 110,000 searches per month.

Now, the people conducting these searches might not all be unhappy; there may be other reasons. But it seems from my ad-hoc 10-minute research, and surveys like the World Happiness Report 2017, that for most of the population of our planet, happiness is elusive, and that comes despite material affluence.

What seems apparent is that circumstances and events, wealth and economic stability are primary influences on what we define as happiness. Our happiness is based on things outside us, and even that being as we would like it, we still are unhappy!

How can we ever be truly happy if we are reliant on events being a particular way or materialistic measures of worth being up to expectation?

Isn’t this what the American dream, peddled by powerful industrialists in the aftermath of the 1930’s depression promised the American people?

Isn’t this what corporations still peddle today the world over?

So how’s that all working out? (rhetorical question)

With all these people searching for happiness, clicking links to quick-fix solutions and seeking answers outside themselves, I wonder if we are making it all. What I mean is, these sugar fix solutions surely wouldn’t exist if there were not eager fools like me and you willing to lap it up.

Maybe William Blake is correct when he said; “The fool who persists in his folly will become wise”. I hope so, but the evidence would suggest that we aren’t really learning very much. We keep making the same mistakes and perpetuating our problems.

That said, I realise that all anyone ever wants is to be happy. I wish that for myself too. But I can’t help but feel we are looking in the wrong places. Nonetheless, if success hacks are your bag then off you go, more power to you. I hope you get what you’re after.

However, anyone who pursues solutions to problems via quick-fixes and hacks will sooner or later realise that they solve nothing. The simple truth of the matter is that they exacerbate our problems.

It also serves us to understand that tomorrow never gets here, so there’s little point wishing for a better future because right now is all we have. It’s all we ever experience. So we either get busy making our lot better now, or we don’t.

We need to accept that the answers to our problems, the happiness and fulfilment we crave, don’t lie somewhere else. On the contrary, to be engaged entirely in something here and now, purely for the sake of it is where happiness and fulfilment lie. And it can be achieved by short-term thinking or focus on external material things.

It is ordinary everyday tasks that bring about happiness. Merely washing dishes or peeling spuds can be a route to feeling happy if only we could see they are not things we need to escape from. We need to quit treating life as an inconvenience.

Forget about success hacks and shortcuts; they don’t work and never will. They’ll lead you down the garden path toward dead ends, and you know it.

So next time you get a marketing mail from someone offering you the route to happiness or promising a solution to your lack of creative success…

Don’t even read it.

Delete it.

These emails are designed to keep you searching because without you continuing the search, they have no business.

Besides, you have what you’re looking for already.

Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. Every morning you’ll find me sharing a new thought on life, art, work, creativity, the self and the nature of reality on The Reflectionist. I also write on The Creative Mind. If you like what I’m creating, join my email list to receive the weekly Sunday Letters

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