Are Shortcuts that bad?

The universal knowledge that is spewed by all that are around the young and those aspiring for greatness is the importance of working hard and avoiding shortcuts, no exceptions. This I imagine is to breed discipline, perseverance and can do attitude that will harbor well for their future. It is mostly universally ignored however if the state of our society is anything to go by.

The universal truth of this preaching is unquestioned. . .until now by me anyway. Judging from the extensive university exposure I have had the pleasure of having, Shortcuts save your life and if you can’t cheat then you are doomed to be used, unappreciated and generally miserable of your surroundings. Granted those who study copious volumes of the recommended text and understand all the taught concepts relevant or not will  may wind up more knowledgable and better off than their coasting colleagues. This is assuming that the guy not very interested in the  class some how done under the surveying degree programme did nothing better with his time. He/she probably got wasted, figured out what women really wanted(or rather what they respond best to) and the complex yet predictable world of liars, drunkards, junkies and con men. All invaluable skills in navigating the actual world outside the campus halls. So who actually leaves better prepared for life?

Ofcourse it is possible to juggle the two lifestyles and come out on top both academically and street smart wise but jack of all trades is a master f none. And besides being street smart will ensure your academics are tip-top seeing as University is just another jungle. Different animals and rules but a jungle none the less.

The thing with rules, laws and regulations is that their greatest strength is also their greatest weakness. They are slaves to detail, precedent and tradition. A very detailed law has many restrictions but just as many loopholes and interpretations. Copious laws and regulations are not a deterrent to a determined wrong-doer but an invitation because wherever there is complexity, there is reduced understanding , different interpretation and opportunity o manipulate. Look at the Bible. Everyone has their own version of what every verse of every chapter of every book means.Crazy is an understatement.

The likes of Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook guy, support the idea of making things that work however crude they are and working on improving them later. basically he is talking about prototyping but essentially on a production scale. Code hard and fast, get something working, ship, improve and iterate.

In my opinion this glorifies and validates shortcut taking. Make the product in the fastest cheapest way possible, improve and iterate till you have the best possible. Come to think of it this is what the most valuable company on the planet (Apple Inc) does. Launch a product with most features missing, launch sequels as you slowly improve design, fix flaws and add better features to the older chassis. As Seth Godin preaches, refining a product till you are satisfied with it before launching it is a recipe for disaster. At your first launch, you should be ashamed by what you are calling your product.

Engineering is all about looking for, refining and making shortcuts. Want to move goods thousands of miles? Build a thing that rolls on rails to carry them and fit an engine at the front to pull it. Efficient, useful and that’s right a shortcut. I think we should glorify the guys who find shortcuts to doing things because more often than not it is the most efficient way of carrying out the said tasks.

What do you think?