Deepcuts - Breaking Out of the Shortcut Trap

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My wife and I run or hike together almost every day.

One of the trails near our home is a former golf course. Even though the trail is paved (it's the old golf cart paths), we love that it's a little challenging and that it's fairly safe when there's been flooding in the area, which is often enough. It's not an ideal hike, but it does the trick after a week of rain.

There are a few spots on the trail where you can tell people have cut through to avoid going up and down a steep hill that loops around a corner. 

I never noticed them until recently. When I noticed one that directly cuts across a steep, steep curve, I thought to myself, "Why would someone take a shortcut here?"

Then I realized, "Ohhhhh, they're just trying to get to the end. Destination, not journey. Got it."

Most people take shortcuts thinking they lead somewhere good.

Shortcuts are everywhere now.

Everything is a "hack." It's hard to scroll through any news site without seeing some clickbaity title promising a new weight loss hack or sex hack or get-rich-quick hack. 

If I had a dollar for every Facebook ad I saw pitching some sort of shortcut to success, I'd have as many dollars as the people pitching crap like:

  • "The 7-Step Funnel That Makes You Millions!"
  • "Hey Married Businessmen, Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It!"
  • "Write Your Bestselling Book in 7 Days!"

And I get it! They're alluring. The idea of instant success and instant fulfillment is intoxicating.

Being a possibility geek, I also acknowledge these things are all possible. I've known people who have done these things. Knowing that it's all possible makes it even more alluring.

None of these things, though, are possible through the shortcut alone.

They require the creation and cultivation of depth.

  • Want a 7-Step, 7-Figure Funnel? You've got to create an intimate understanding of your product/service, your market, your voice, and the generative language of drawing people in with an offer and having them salivate at the prospect of what you're offering. In other words, there's some mastery involved, and some of that is self-mastery.
  • Improve your marriage without talking about it? Again, this is more a symptom of mastery (on the part of both partners, not just one) than the road to it. I speak from experience here. This is the result of both partners doing some very intentional growth work, then learning to come together in it. Otherwise, we're talking about a temporary improvement.
  • Write a decent book in 7 days (let alone a bestseller)? You'll need to cultivate a deep knowledge of your voice, your process, and your style. Not to mention knowing your subject if you're writing nonfiction or knowing some of the intricacies of writing fiction.

These shortcuts all do a couple things:

  1. They create the illusion that success or happiness or whatever thing we're craving comes from outside of us. "Hey, buy my thing, and you'll get everything you ever wanted! THEN you'll feel successful/happy!" Which, in turn, keeps us on the hamster wheel of finding the next thing that's going to lead to The Promised Land.
  2. They hide the real shortcuts: the things I like to call Deepcuts.

Wait...what are Deepcuts?

Deepcuts are like shortcuts, but better because a) you actually grow while you're creating them, and b) they translate positively to the rest of our lives.

Accelerated growth? Check. 

Dramatic change in results? Check.

Sense of ease? Check. 

They happen when you develop a close relationship with whatever you're doing and cultivate your own inner knowledge or depth into the process.

A recent example in my life is running. I started trail running over the summer and was struggling to get beyond the 1.5 mile mark without stopping. Most days, I'd need to stop at about the first half-mile, coughing like I was getting ready for a smoke break, before I'd run another half-mile and do it all over again.

Then, when I came back from vacation a few weeks ago, things started to improve dramatically out of the blue. I went from hacking-and-wheezing half-miler to running a 5k without stopping on Day One of my return.

I'd taken about 10 days off from running. No training at all. I ate fish tacos (the fried kind, not that healthy crap some people want to pass off as a fish taco) and chips and buffalo wings while I was on vacation.

So what happened?

When I came back from vacation, I set the intention of noticing what was happening when I ran and trusting my instinct on how to adjust where I needed to.

That meant noticing everything. If there was a little pain, checking in to exactly where it is and seeing how it developed over the next few minutes. How was my breath? What did it sound like when my feet would strike the ground? Is there any extra tension I'm carrying in my body?

I'd stopped looking forward to the end of the run, seeing the time, hoping that my striving had resulted in a personal best effort, that I'd willed my way to some arbitrarily predetermined growth marker.

At the end of my Day Two run, Kristin asked me how I felt, and I said, "I think I might have a couple miles left in me." That was the first time that had ever occurred to me.

The next day, I added a couple more miles without any stops - that brought me to 5 miles. for those keeping track, that's 10 times where I was at a couple weeks before. Everyone loves to talk about 10x - this made it real.

My runs keep getting longer and faster, and along the way I've begun to see the ways I leak energy or unplug from my own presence on the trail: running with music (added layer of input that has my attention), wearing sunglasses (an extra, not-always-necessary filter), and habitual water consumption (rather than when my body needs it).

This isn't just some one-off deal, either. Everything I've ever put myself into - pool, poker, coaching, finance, backgammon, Monopoly, and everything else - that's how growth happens. And I've seen it hold up for some of my counterparts and competitors out in the world, and for my own clients as well.

Mindful. Intimate. Connected.


Creating Your Own Deepcuts

There isn't a shortcut or some cookie-cutter template to creating Deepcuts. That's the point, right? 

Creating Deepcuts isn't linear at all. It's messy. So this isn't even a map. Treat it like a compass. 

  • Approach whatever you're doing with presence and mindfulness. Pay close attention to everything that's happening - especially within you. Notice the intricacies of the craft. Notice your own response - thoughts, emotions, and physical responses - to the process and outcomes.
  • Give yourself space to experiment. Try things you think will work. Try things you think won't. Allow yourself to be surprised.
  • Take in wisdom. Pick up new knowledge. Work them into your practice.
  • When you're feeling frustrated or plateaued, take time off from the pursuit of improvement. Let it all simmer.
  • Come back refreshed. Integrate new insights that came up during your time off. Let yourself detach from outcomes, and let yourself be aware of them.

Write me and let me know where you'd love to create a Deepcut in your life.

Love, MFH

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