If you ever played video games, you’re familiar with cheat codes. This one was probably my favorite. It worked on most of my original Nintendo games.

Sometimes it made the game easier. Sometimes it made my character stronger. Sometimes it just made cool stuff happen.

It was just a game. There wasn’t any harm, and it made the experience more enjoyable. But my “cheating” was always limited to video games.

In school, I was taught that building on (and using) the knowledge of others was wrong. We were taught to solve problems “the long way,” and in the most important tests, we couldn’t rely on anyone or anything for advice.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, except that those modes of thinking don’t apply well to the real world. If you stick to those scripts, your life’s peak will be in high school or college.

Outside of schooling, I can’t think of a single time where it was required that I tackle a challenge 100% on my own. In fact, the opposite is true: those that succeed use leverage the best. They draw on the best networks, they apply the best tools, and they take shortcuts when they can.

All of us use some of them. We get a calculator to do math quickly. We store phone numbers in a directory so we don’t have to remember them. We use microwaves to cook our food more quickly. We don’t insist on doing things the long way just because.

When it comes to work and productivity (those areas that school teaches us about), those old scripts are ingrained in our thinking. We “do work” much the same way it has been done for decades. After all, anything different amounts to “cheating,” and that’s bad.

I’m here to tell you that there are cheat codes for real life too, and the most successful people are very adept at using them.

If you want to be in that category, you better start using them too.

(Certainly, morals and ethics still apply. I’m referring to the “that’s the way it’s always been done’s,” the “just because’s,” and the “family traditions” like cutting the ends off the holiday ham.)

That sentence scares you. I know; it did me too – for years. It means that we’ve been programmed wrong. We must learn to play by a different set of rules.

Real life is a lot like those video games we played as kids. To compete, we’ve got to be just as good at finding – and applying – the cheat codes.

Sometimes they make the game easier.

– Get an MBA without going to college, tropical-style, unconventionally, or in one book.

– Use technology to have a personal assistant for free. (Or hire a virtual one.)

– Hack job requirements to get what you want without formal credentials.

– Use Frequent Flyer Master from Unconventional Guides (affiliate) to get free plane tickets.

– Follow a roadmap to build a business in a weekend.

Sometimes they make us stronger, faster, or smarter.

– Eat Paleo to feel better, lose weight, look younger, and avoid all sorts of diseases.

Take a short nap mid-day to maintain your focus throughout the afternoon.

Use the magic potion of exercise to think better and improve your mood.

– Get a second brain with Evernote.

– Use speed-reading to read 300% faster.

Sometimes they just make cool stuff happen.

Embrace uncertainty and anxiety to unlock your creative genius.

Leverage your weaknesses to start new habits.

– Lead people differently and watch them soar. (More like humans, less like robots.)

– Apply GTD to eliminate stress. (It even has it’s own secret weapon.)

– Use a standing desk and different shoes to eliminates aches and pains.

These are just a few I’ve discovered. More than anything, I want to encourage you to consider thinking about “cheating” differently.

Is it possible that we arbitrarily avoid very healthy shortcuts because they go against the “rules” we’ve been taught? What do you think?