Do You Believe in Shortcuts?

By: Jen Shoop

While at Tatte a few weeks ago, I found a little card that read: “Who said good things come to only those who wait?”

I had a visceral reaction. The balance of my life’s work has taught me the exact opposite. That is, nothing happens overnight. Good things are worth waiting for. There are no shortcuts. I was thinking primarily of dating Mr. Magpie for seven years before he proposed, despite being “ready” to be asked much earlier. Of waiting, in agony, to get pregnant with my daughter. Of the general stamina and patience required of two pregnancies. Of the fact that I did not get into any graduate schools when I first applied, but I tried again a year later with more success, and though I’m now grateful for the lag (and attendant “real world experience”), my God — experience is a cruel teacher. Of the time I was actively recruited by a start-up when I was desperate to get out of a job, and then — after countless rounds of interviews over multiple months and a covert trip out to San Francisco during which I felt raked over the coals — the company decided not to offer me the position, and instead, unethically told my boss that I’d been in consideration, which in turn led to a stern dressing-down and I still had to wait it out until something else materialized, but it was much better, and worth the heartache and stress. Of the hours I poured into re-designing my site, and the bugs and issues that still required my attention for months to come. Of the years and years of consistent trying and moonlighting and keeping-my-head-down that eventually led me to make a living off of writing.

So, forgive me if I bristle at the thought that I’ve been misplaying my hand, or missing the short-cuts, or not exercising a bias toward action.

Then again, is that my bruised ego talking? The human way in which we extrapolate from the parochialities of our own lives? I must routinely remind myself that data is not the plural of anecdote.

And so I polled my Instagram Magpies: Do you believe there are shortcuts worth taking? I was surprised to learn that over close to half of you believe there are.

Tell me more!

A few shared their experiences:

“I leaned into a job opportunity that I was not ready for instead of waiting to have all the right credentials.”

“I outsource or automate as many low-value tasks as I can.”

“I don’t do it all at home, at work, in life. I do two or three things well and don’t even worry about the rest.”

These are definitely “shortcuts” I can get behind. But are they “shortcuts” after all? Shortcuts and hacks bring to mind scotch-tape and easy roads out. As in, I don’t have the time to properly paint the entire house, so I’m just going to paint the part you can see through the front window and most people won’t know. The aforementioned — taking the job before you’re ready, outsourcing tasks that don’t feel meaningful — seem to me manifestations of focus and drive, not a will to “cheat” to get ahead. Maybe I’m mincing words? Maybe I have the wrong interpretation of shortcuts? It’s just that — every time I’ve tuned in to read about a “life-hack” or “growth-hacking” exercise, I find it’s all about window-dressing, or dodging the meaningful work that might be painful in the short term but that ends up giving you perspective.

Recently, though, I mixed up cocktails for a crowd and found myself squeezing about 20 limes in advance. One Magpie wrote: “You need to buy the Santa Cruz stuff! Tastes just like fresh-squeezed.” Another wrote: “Sub in grapefruit next time — less to squeeze.” It occurred to me in that moment that maybe I have been cringing in the face of “shortcuts” for no good reason. Maybe there are quicker ways through that can yield just as strong results, with less time or self-sacrifice.

What do you think?

Are there shortcuts worth taking? Please share!


+Every phase is a good phase.


+Do you have “emergency music” in your home?

Shopping Break.

+In the above photo, wearing this Zara caftan which is JUST THE BEST. One of my favorite Zara finds in recent years. Really soft/easy to wear, with a great loose fit. I get compliments on it constantly! I wore with canvas Vibi Venezias.

+Mr. Magpie just bought SIX new cookbooks. I’m especially excited about what comes from this one (Israeli) and this one (Chinese).

+A great everyday top with white jeans.

+Hill House just discounted a bunch of their items, including my Delphine Skirt (LOVE the fit, and the patterns are so fun — just throw on a basic white tee and you’re set! Take your true size; you can see me in mine here) and their classic Ellie nap dress (size down in this style) in select patterns, which are already selling out lickity-split while discounted.

+Chic striped sweater for $59.

+An actual perfect dress for a big meeting / “I need to look pulled together and polished” type situation.

+Awhile ago I raved about this fabulous vitamin-packed skin oil from small business Thomas Grove. I am still using it and loving it. It was a part of my daily skincare routine when it was really cold and dry out, but now I alternate with a few other oils. It’s gorgeous and deeply hydrating. The founder (another Jennifer!), reached out to offer us 15% off with code JENNIFERSHOOP15.

+How CUTE is this denim dress?! And — another great everyday dress.

+A sweet toddler girl swimsuit from Gap.

+Great home organization gear. I actually just repurchased several of these. How is it that I still have miles to go in my pantry? It seems like every time I open the door, I find new things to corral and organize.

+This lamp is in my cart for my son’s new bedside table.

+This adorable girl’s dress was just re-stocked after selling out in a flash. Perfect for FOJ, and all summer long.

+Spectacular summer wedding guest option. Another great one (and this one’s under $150).

+Cute acrylic pitcher for serving up cocktails or coolers outdoors this summer.

+You know my feelings on gauze dresses…and this one is well-priced!

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8 thoughts on “Do You Believe in Shortcuts?

  1. Waiting, to me, implies passivity – I don’t think any of your examples indicate passive waiting though! I am *so* impatient and hate waiting, but can recognize the value in having done so in my past – waited and learned – but always in an active manner. I’m sure I could say more but I probably need to think about it (also, its late and I’m tired).

    1. I completely agree with this distinction — that there is a difference between “waiting for life to happen to you” versus “planting the seeds that take time to grow.”


  2. I read this quote as much more a call to tenacity in pursuit of dreams, rather than waiting for them to happen. Maybe a hunger to accomplish? Not waiting for something to happen to you or for conditions to be perfect, but relentlessly chasing it. Hamilton’s Wait for It comes to mind. (Hamilton doesn’t hesitate, he exhibits no restraint. He takes and he takes and he takes. And he keeps winning anyway.) I do agree with your thoughts on shortcuts for sure, but I read this card as encouraging the active pursuit of your dreams. Which, coincidentally, your essay above also reflects. Thank you for this interesting prompt, I love mulling these thoughts throughout my day. Feels like a tiny delight to have a robust debate with myself, all to myself, no matter what the kids are saying in the back seat 🙂

    1. This is SO interesting – I can read the card that way, too! Carpe diem!

      Thanks for sharing this. So love the image of you engrossed in internal debate as you navigate carpool drop-off!


  3. Any notions I had about shortcuts in life were swiftly dispatched after I had to relearn to walk after my first hip surgery. Unbelievably humbling to not be able to take even one step after just 3 weeks in crutches! But I had the goal of regaining enough of my gait to be able to walk into the hospital and into the OR for surgery #2 on my own, and I achieved that. There was no rushing the process, there were no hacks. Just hard work, determination, and the belief that each day would be an improvement on the previous.

    1. Oof – I can totally imagine how humbling that was, and how much hard work went into your recovery and process of re-learning to walk. Wow. I’m rooting you on.


  4. I might have to get that gauze dress! J Crew (or maybe J Crew Factory) has a gauze dress that I was interested in, but I was worried it would be too shapeless. I like that the Gap dress has a belt.

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