This is a guest post by Zeus

Why don’t shortcuts work for the important things?

Why are real friendships, productive professional relationships, well-run businesses, life callings, marriage, and parenting so inconveniently and persistently demanding?

These things require substance, depth, and commitment—time, care, effort, creativity, thoughtfulness, genuine devotion over the long term.

Sure, we use convenient short cuts for all these things if we want to stay sane. We arrange car pools, use tools like Hootsuite, and send emails instead of calling.

But these shortcuts can’t replace daily attention and love we must put in to build the foundations of our most important life projects and experiments.

Running a web business is no different. Foundations and fundamentals need real personal investment over time if we want them to work.

That’s why it’s so important to love what you’re doing. Labors of love balance the demands of building a business with real, lasting joy.

When the Going gets Rough

There’s another important reason to love what you do: When things get rough, you’ll need a sturdy foundation to support you. And things will get rough—technical problems, lack of email sign-ups (even from friends), a stellar guest post that gets a less than stellar response. Labors of love can soften the sharp corners of building a business.

Passionate persistence + learning from your mistakes + labor of love = success.

Success rewards the committed, the mindful, and the joyful. As long as you remember that “failures” are really just opportunities for learning!

Shortcuts are Just Tools

There are plenty of shortcuts out there, some that even promise to do the hard, fundamental work for you. Don’t believe them.


Prize-winning tomatoes take more than a bit of Miracle-Gro(R)

Cultivating a business is like tending a garden. You can’t just shake on some Miracle-Gro® and expect to produce State Fair champion tomatoes. There’s water, there’s weeding, there’s the day-to-day care that makes for healthy, strong growth.

Can you add a shortcut or two to enhance these practices? Perhaps.

But too often, giving in to the temptation to take a short cut as your ticket to a successful business can backfire. I ran into this when I ordered some information products from Income Diary. In asking for my refund after reviewing their products, I left this remark:

“I appreciate your attempt to equip web entrepreneurs with tools to help their marketing. Your approach, however, shares one common mistake with just about everything out there. It assumes that people have unlimited time and the wherewithal to go through material, consolidate it and then integrate the best, most relevant parts into their business.”

I’m a learning designer and innovator. I make my money helping people learn to do things much faster (8x or more) than conventional methods. I guide my students to extract the meaningful parts of something so they can learn what they have to know.

Outside of my mentoring with Tea, I’ve found very few people even trying to do this with web products and tutorials. There seem to be two ways to disseminating information: 1) Via fire-hose — and a flood of data it would take thousands of hours to wade through (where you have to do all the work), or 2) Simple formula — something that takes almost no time and promises to do all the work for you.

I’ve found the best way  is somewhere in between.

Focusing on Fundamentals

I’ve found few uses for shortcuts at this point in the development of my business. Instead, I’m committed to focusing on what matters most—building relationships, producing good content, getting people on my email list, developing my craft and my identity (aka branding), and taking time to “tend the garden” of my growing website.

I’m learning my craft (especially the tech side); researching related material that’s already out there; commenting on related sites and posts; and sending emails to people I admire and who complement my values and my approach.

I’m generating some buzz around my friends and soliciting sign-ups for my website, and I am following up. (You’d be surprised at how many friends miss even a personal single-email plea to check out your site and subscribe.)

Effort like this does reward you, believe it or not. What I’ve realized is that I have a lot of good will out there, people I’ve worked with and helped, people who like my way of thinking. I just have to provide a consistent (and compelling) avenue for them to benefit from what I offer.

The big lesson? There are no shortcuts to building relationships!

Breaking Through

I’ll end on an up-note about a story of one such breakthrough. Last month, I was very impressed by an article on choosing “disruptive innovation,” (i.e. challenging yourself to learn new vocations), by Whitney Johnson and Juan C. Mendez. This article mirrored my experience and provided a nice explanation for the kind of learning I’ve found work’s best.

The comments to the post were smart, so I offered a few comments and questions of my own. I received a great answer from another reader, Janice Presser. Whitney Johnson herself tweeted my question and subsequent dialogue to her followers.

I did some research and found another article by Whitney Johnson urging Mitt Romney to get in touch with his feminine side.

Here was Ms. Johnson, a Mormon and Romney voter, trying to promote a more equitable embrace of women’s values. I loved the juxtaposition, but was unable to post a comment to this one. So, what did I do? I wrote her a personal email. I told her I liked her article in the subject line (so she’d notice it), and then explained briefly that my response was neither “fawning nor ideological but attempt(ed) to engage” her ideas.

My intuitions were correct, Johnson walked her talk. She replied how much she liked my comments and responded to each of them. I encouraged her to go to my website for my latest article on how hyper-positivity might harm learning.

Here was her response:

“I loved this post of yours. You write beautifully. I have learned from you. So glad we are connected, Whitney”

That made me feel like a million bucks. Our shared principles and personal convictions around being open to change, and the importance of learning helped us connect even though we come from different political affiliations and cultural backgrounds.

The Essence of Business is Connection

True connection between two or more people brings change and value to the world. It’s about people learning from each other and building trust so they can work together. When you admire someone and learn from them, you want to support them and see them succeed.

After I relayed this story to Tea, we went off on long conversation about developing connections. In a world of noisy information, quality interaction, fundamental relationships, and personal connections are the drivers of successful business and the solid ground you can stand on when the going gets rough.


A Word from Tea

Each client I work with comes to me with a different level of confidence, skill and available resources. But one thing is almost universal: the desire for shortcuts.

We’re human. We’ve only got 24 hours in a day. And we live in an age of instant-gratification. Why wouldn’t we look for shortcuts?

And don’t get me wrong — I’m all for working smarter, not harder. But some things just can’t be automated. And one of those is real conversations.

But you already know this. We ALL know this. It’s just easy to forget when you keep hearing from “experts” that promise they’ve got the plug-and-play formula for building a fan base that’s 10,000 wide. We want that to be true. But where building a business of true meaning and joy are concerned, quality always wins over quantity.

What about you? Have you tried to automate something that didn’t quite work out the way you’d hoped? Or maybe you DID find a shortcut that doesn’t lessen the value of what you bring to the world? Share with us in a comment. We’d love to hear your stories.