“You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant. It just doesn’t work that way.” – Warren Buffett
Someone hired a social media consultant at an old employer. During a three-hour session she walked us through hashtags, what time of day you should post on Twitter, how threading posts increases engagement, and a slew of other hacks.
She was nice. But she never mentioned the most effective social media trick: Write good stuff that people want to read.
That’s because writing good stuff isn’t a hack. It’s hard. It takes time and creativity. It can’t be manufactured. It works, with a near 100% success rate. But it is the social media equivalent of burpees.
That story is pervasive. Diets, finances, marketing. Everyone wants a shortcut. It’s always been this way, but I suspect it’s getting worse as technology inflates our benchmark of how fast results should happen.
Hacks are appealing because they look like paths to prizes without the effort. Which, in the real world, rarely exists.
A few of the only useful hacks I know:
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 [compound interest] the decades it requires.
Networking hack: Email people you admire and ask them out to coffee.
Savings hack: Lower your ego and live below your means.
Career hack: Work harder than is expected of you and be nice to people.
Relationship hack: Deserve to be loved.
Organization hack: Clean up your mess.
Diet hack: Burn more calories than you consume.
Fitness hack: Sweat and lift heavy stuff.
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.
Product hack: Solve a legitimate problem.
Making college more affordable hack: Go to an in-state public school and work full time.
Productivity hack: Realize the consequences of being unproductive.
There’s a scene in Lawrence of Arabia where one man puts out a match with his fingers, and doesn’t flinch. Another man watching tries to do the same, and yells in pain.
“It hurts! What’s the trick?” he asks.
“The trick is not minding that it hurts,” the first man says.
Another useful hack.
Partner at The Collaborative Fund
Morgan Housel is also a former columnist at The Motley Fool and The Wall Street Journal.
He is a two-time winner of the Best in Business award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and a two-time finalist for the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. He was selected by the Columbia Journalism Review for the Best Business Writing 2012 anthology. In 2013 he was a finalist for the Scripps Howard Award. .
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