It must have been a little more than a decade ago when I first read Tim Ferriss’ claim that you can become an expert, by internet standards, on just about any topic if you read three books.

Tim Ferriss is probably the greatest source of life-hacks that I know of. His tricks for learning foreign languages are some of the best shortcuts I’ve ever seen. And he’s not wrong that if you want to write about something with authority on the internet, reading about three books will arm you with plenty of knowledge and context to draw your own audience.

These are great hacks for playing at a higher level than most of the people who start something at the same time you do. In other words, it’s a way to stand out from the crowd.

Many people confuse hacks for shortcuts, and worse: some people confuse those who stand out from the crowd for experts. And at least in the context of expertise, I don’t believe in shortcuts.

Experience is what creates expertise, and experience takes (among other things) time.

The closest thing to a shortcut is good advice. When someone who has a lot of experience, and knows a lot about what you’re trying to do, and does their best to give you some specific piece of advice based on their experience, that has the potential to be a shortcut. But you still have to take the advice and do something with it.