Winning isn’t always about hard work. Smart people take shortcuts all the time in life. They just don’t “look” like life shortcuts.

Here are my top 20 life shortcuts. Use these and you’ll get better results in life, faster.

1. KNOW WHAT TO SKIP. When you get a thorny challenge, ask yourself if you actually need to do that at all. In some cases, it’s not a real need and can be dropped. In others, you may find a side goal that’s a better choice.

2. EFFICIENCY. Everyone is obsessed with efficiency (4HWW, 80/20, 7-minute abs), but winners actually do the opposite — they seek out hard work and learn to love it.

3. ALWAYS BET ON YOURSELF. If you won’t, who else will?


4. BECOME AN “INSTANT” EXPERT. To dive into a subject, read 5–10 books on that topic. Then you can see the key ideas, the common threads, and the mental models.

5. IF YOU GET TIRED WALKING UP A HILL, RUN. The momentum makes it easier.

6. If something takes less than 5 minutes, just do it now rather than making a plan to do it later.

7. “AM I BEING AN ASSHOLE?” In other words, am I pointing out problems or am I finding solutions?

8. WINNERS FOCUS ON ACTION, NOT CONSUMPTION. It’s like dancing. You don’t learn to dance by sitting at the bar creepily analyzing people’s moves—you actually have to get up and give it a try.

9. “Would I pay for this?” Next time you are binge-watching something or screwing around on social media, ask yourself “is this something I enjoy so much I would spend money on it?” If not, find something you would.

10. TRYING TO HIT HOME RUNS. The best know that nothing is guaranteed to work, and so instead of trying to hit a home run every time, they just take a lot of swings.


11. BUILD SYSTEMS, NOT GOALS. When you set a goal, you can fail to achieve it. But with a system, you always win. (Credit: Scott Adams). This is one of the greatest life shortcuts.

12. If the only thing you have energy for is to play on your phone or watch TV, SLEEP.

13. CUT YOUR DEADLINES IN HALF. Every time you have something to do and you catch yourself saying, “I’m going to do that by next month,” instead ask yourself, “why can’t I do that in half the time?”

14. Power naps…they really do help!

15. THE VERY BEST MAKE IT LOOK EASY. But it’s not. We learned this when we tried to launch a podcast like This American Life and we failed.

16. STACK YOUR PASSIONS. When you combine 2+ fields that you love, you can be average at both but be the best in the world at their intersection. (Like personal finance + psychology.)

17. Always try something 3 times before deciding whether or not it’s something that you like/dislike.

18. SCRAPE THE MEAT OFF THE BONE. If I find someone I trust, I want to learn everything I can from them. I want to scrape as much meat off the bone as possible (this applies doubly when eating hot wings). They’ve seen things I haven’t seen yet…and they want to help.

19. PERFECTION IS HIGHLY OVERRATED. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or goof (aka make mistakes). Smart people do too.

20. GET IMPATIENT WITH YOURSELF. You’re probably impatient with other people, so get impatient with yourself. Whatever’s on your mind, do it now. You have nothing to lose except for your own time.

Real success comes from following a system, not a random assortment of good ideas.

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