I believe in shortcuts.

I don't mean shortcuts that undermine what you're trying to do, like risking your life by rushing through a red light, or compromising your health by taking diet pills to lose weight, or never changing your strings so that your guitar sounds like broken windshield wipers. 

I like shortcuts that result from drilling down to the core essence of what you're trying to accomplish, allowing you to get maximum results from minimum effort and time.

Just get out and walk.Examples? Fill up on as many vegetables as you can possibly stand. Change your guitar strings frequently and you will sound more professional without any additional practice (although you will want to practice more if your guitar sounds great). Slow down - whether driving, practicing music, or having a conversation with your child. Mindfulness will save you lots of time in the long run.

I have been thinking a lot about the educational shortcuts I've discovered. Wanna hear 'em? Here are a few of the more general ones.

  • Read, read, read. Read. Read a ton and you won't need lessons in grammar, vocabulary, or spelling, and your writing will be smooth and natural. Plus, you'll learn a lot about the world (whether you're reading fiction or not). 
  • Learn to touch type.
  • Memorize your math facts. Apparently this isn't done in school anymore, so I have a bunch of smart middle schoolers trying to do pre-algebra without knowing for sure what 9 x 6 equals. Humans only have so much working memory - we need to use it wisely by memorizing what we can.
  • Write essays instead of completing worksheets. Filling in the blanks is a less demanding activity than putting together ideas with complete sentences. Minimizing intellectual effort at school is like going to the gym and having someone else lift the weights for you: pointless! The long way around is actually a short-cut in the long term.
  • Make use of current events. Stuff is happening right now, and not even the teachers know how the story ends. What could be more interesting than that? The New York Times makes a great textbook. Science, anthropology, psychology, history, civics, music, visual art, architecture, mathematics, sports, language arts - it's all there. 
  • Go deep into something that interests you. We think we need to keep kids balanced. Nah. As Derek Sivers says, "Take what you love and let it kill you."

Of course, the biggest shortcut of all is motivation. I've seen music students do three years of work in six weeks once they finally got the bug. 

Learning and growth doesn't have to be difficult and painful. Realizing this is a shortcut in itself.