It seems like we can’t get on the internet these days without being inundated with opportunities to “hack” something together: “6 Steps to Growth Hacking Your Business”, “15 Hacks That Will Change Your Life”, the list goes on and on. But I’m here to say that while this is a seemingly innocuous phrase, its business ramifications have been less positive.
For anyone who has been living under a rock, the past few years have seen the phrase “life hack” come to life. What is a life hack exactly? According to my trusty dictionary (whatever Google told me), here is the official definition:
By definition, this doesn’t seem too bad. However, in modern business, particularly in the tech industry, “hacking” has become a more cheeky way to say “shortcut”. As people build companies, when they are in startup mode, they are fighting for their lives. Often times, they don’t have the initial resources to solve many of their problems. This is where you see “hacking” begin. To substitute for a lack of resources, employees come up with creative ways to solve their problems. It’s good, old fashioned ingenuity.
But, in today’s modern business climate, you’re starting to see businesses and individuals with plenty of resources resort to “hacking” just to save a few dollars or save a few hours. While it solves the initial problem, it doesn’t present the opportunity to build a foundation for the future. If you don’t believe me, here is the dictionary definition for the word “hack”
Notice that the essence of hacking is a technique that is used to take away from something as opposed to adding to something.
Think about your individual career, did you just watch a few TED talks and become a master of your craft or did you go to school, learn on the job, speak with experts and read more over the course of a few years? Again, hacking is never bad when you need to solve a short term problem, but to use a house analogy, hacking as a long term solution is akin to building the foundation of your house out of a series of popsicle sticks. Is it easier than making concrete? Of course. Is it cheaper? You bet. But will it keep your house from falling over/sinking into the underworld? Don’t bet on it, my friend.
When you think about the most successful people and businesses, you’ll see one thing in common –every action they took was an effort to build something that lasted for an extremely long time. If successful businesses represent corporate works of art, it is equivalent to a sculptor making a sculpture out of marble. Marble is a beautiful material. A sculptor doesn’t just hack away at the marble and sell the pieces. That’s useless. Instead, they take the time to chisel and sculpt something beautiful. What does that even mean? It means that if you spend the time, perfect your technique, and make something that stands out, your career and your life will be the equivalent of this.