Ann and I were walking some trails in the Pine Barrens a few years ago.
We decided to take a shortcut. Okay, I decided to take a shortcut. Ann wasn’t completely on board but we were newly-ish in a relationship and still trying to play it cool.
There was a warning that the trail was under construction but looking past the sign it seemed fine. A little unkempt but the map showed it being about half the distance.
So we took it.
Over the next half mile or so, the trail narrowed and the brush got thicker. It had narrowed so slowly that we (I) hadn’t thought to turn back until the trail was barely discernible and we were really in the thick of it.
It got a bit swampy at parts. At a point it was thick enough that we were stopping every few minutes to determine where the trail was supposed to be and which way back to it had the least thick brush, mud, and bugs.
Our shoes got wet. Our legs and arms a little scratched up.
Ann was being a good sport, but I could tell she was not pleased.
I started running ahead to try to make out where the would-be trail went next. Making sure to stay upbeat on the outside for the sake of Ann’s morale but about a mile in I remember thinking, “I wonder if the Pine Barrens have quicksand, copperheads,” I’d check my phone to make sure we had cell service, you know, just in case.
We ended up being fine. But taking the shortcut was definitely not worth the fear and uncertainty that it brought.
When you get it right, it’s a smart, strategic decision that pays off.
But when you get it wrong, it’s a shortcut that caused more problems than it was worth.
The difference is that when you make smart, strategic decisions, you have the information you need to do so. Those are the harder, more disciplined decisions to make.
Shortcuts, on the other hand, are gambles at best. If they were just the “fastest way,” they wouldn’t be called shortcuts.
No one courageously takes a shortcut.