These days, everyone seems to be looking for a shortcut or a “hack.” Apparently, things like “growth hacking,” “social media hacking,” “biohacking” and so on are all the rage. It appears everyone wants to find that magical shortcut that will lead them to getting more output with less effort.

And, of course, hacking “experts” and gurus are on hand to help! The number of seminars, webinars and pitching services focused on the “hack economy” are unprecedented.

Recently, I came across a great post about useful hacks by Morgan Housel, a partner at Collaborative Fund. He wrote about attending a three-hour session with a social media consultant who walked attendees through a slew of social media-related “hacks.” However, although she talked about things like when to post and why to create hashtags, Housel notes that the trainer never actually talked about the most important component: creating good content to post.

As someone who writes a lot, I understand exactly where he’s coming from. Good writing takes time, creativity, patience, determination, perseverance and careful editing. In other words, it’s work.

With this in mind, Housel provided a list of hacks that he finds useful. You can check out the full list within his post, but here are a few of that I really relate to:

Marketing hack: Make a good product that people need.

PR hack: Do something newsworthy.

Writing hack: Write every day for years.

Learning hack: Read a book. When finished, read another.

Work culture hack: Trust people and pay them well.

Investing hack: Give compounding the decades it requires.

Savings hack: Lower your ego and live below your means.

Career hack: Work harder than is expected of you and be nice to people.

Organization hack: Clean up your mess.

Fundraising hack: Make a product lots of people will pay for with decent or better margins.

Scale-to-a-million-users hack: Make a product a million people need.

Making college more affordable hack: Go to an in-state public school and work full time.

The takeaway is, rather than focusing on what you can “hack,” it’s a far better use of time and energy to follow tried and true principles of productivity and achievement. Here are five of my favorites:

1. Follow the 80/20 Rule. 20% of our inputs are responsible for 80% of our outcomes. Therefore, it would stand to reason that the ultimate “hack” is to identify and spend time on what has the potential to provide the greatest outcome. The rest is a distraction.

2. Separate Urgent from Important: One of the most important productivity concepts that goal-oriented individuals understand is the difference between those things that are urgent and those things that are important.

3. Give consistent effort and have patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Things worth doing take time and consistent effort towards the goal.

4. Create a Stop Doing list: To do more of the right things, you need to also stop doing the wrong ones.

5. Last, but not least, if you do something, do it well. Two of my favorite Friday Forward stories are about how world-class photocopies launched the career of one of America’s top venture capitalists and how a plumber showed a client what commitment to excellence looks like.

History is a great teacher, showing us time and again that qualities such as focus, patience, practice and a commitment to excellence will always trump a hack in the long-run.


Quote of The Week

“You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant. It just doesn’t work that way.”


Warren Buffett