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The shortest distance.

Everyone loves a shortcut. There's something about finding an easier way to get from Point A to Point B that makes you feel like you're "in the know" and somehow better than the rest of the hoi polloi. You aren't just traveling anymore--you're an intrepid explorer discovering new territory and the untold riches that likely await people with your special kind of daring. It's possible I'm being a little dramatic, but you get the idea.

Of course, shortcuts aren't without their own risks, but that is what makes them so exciting. To quote the movie Road Trip, "It's supposed to be a challenge--that's why they call it a shortcut. If it was easy, it would just be 'the way.'"

It's probably no coincidence that kids are the shortcut masters. After all, at a certain age, kids have no fear. When you are young and full of energy it is easy to adopt a "why go around something when you can go over it?" kind of philosophy, even if what you're going over could lead to disaster.

Case in point: when I was a kid, I never thought twice about hopping two chain-link fences to get to my friend's house rather than walk the extra blocks to go around. That is, until I slipped, fell and sliced my arm open on one of the barbs and had to get a whole bunch of stitches. I still climbed fences, but I was a lot more cautious after that. Stitches hurt.

Probably the king of all shortcuts, though, is the Panama Canal--the ultimate manifestation of the "why go around?" philosophy. Even a century after its completion, it remains an astounding achievement. Like any good shortcut, its construction was no cakewalk and, as Jared Wade explains in this month's cover story, its new expansion is proving just as challenging. Given the canal's vital role in global shipping and its impact on the entire global economy, however, this is a necessary undertaking, no matter the risk. Because an interesting thing happens to shortcuts once they become as important as the Panama Canal: eventually, they actually do become the way.

Morgan O'Rourke, editor in chief

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Title Annotation:Preface
Author:O'Rourke, Morgan
Publication:Risk Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2015
Words:359
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