Back in the days the only thing you could hack were computers.
Thanks to super smart marketers who came up with a lot of word mumbo jumbo you can now hack pretty much everything.
You can hack your education.
Your personal growth.
Your business’s growth.
Heck, you can even hack yourself (read more here).
At it’s core the term growth hacking assumes that something can be achieved a lot faster than the norm.
It pretty much goes hand in hand with overnight success.
And that’s why it has become so popular.
We live in such a fast paced world where many people started to believe that it’s not worth it anymore to put in hard work, effort and a lot of time to become successful. To understand the underlying systems.
At some point we all somehow started to firmly believe in overnight success.
We believe in being able to trick the system without even knowing what the system is really all about.
And that’s where this entire growth hacking movement is trying to trick us.
That’s where all of these TV shows are trying to trick us.
TV shows and growth hacks want to make us believe that you simply show up, sing a few lines and then you’ll instantly become famous. An overnight success.
What these shows (and growth hacking) are trying to hide is the hard work that happened before. Before the over night success kicked in, which in reality took years and years of preparation.
What happened during the years of struggle, during the years of hardship, of constant disappointment and failure is usually not being talked about.
It simply doesn’t sell as well.
But history has shown us over and over again that it’s almost impossible to change a system or trick a system if you don’t know the underlying rules of the system. If you’ve never even tried to understand the rules. If you’ve been reluctant learning its rules.
Only once you know the rules of the game will you be able to find loopholes. Will you be able to exploit it. To game it. To ultimately change it for the better.
That’s the only constant you’ll be able to find among some of the most successful people out there. Among shakers. Movers. Geniuses. Innovators.
And people that ultimately changed our lives.
Mahatma Gandhi studied law and was a lawyer for many years, before he was able to initiate change. The only way he was able to change the system was because he knew the system. He studied it for many years. He was part of it for many years.
And it still took him many years to change it.
Bobby Fisher, a grand chess master from the US disappeared for many years. When he came back he spoke Russian (Russians were dominating chess back then) and learned more than 100,000 chess moves by heart.
He learned the underlying system to be able to beat the system.
Bill Gates spent hours and hours on one of the most advanced computer systems before anybody else had access to it. He had years and years to understand the underlying systems before anybody else even had access to these things.
Steve Jobs was fired from his own company before he started revolutionizing the world. Then he started two more companies before he joined Apple again to build the devices we now use every day.
He knew exactly how the underlying systems worked.
Even one of the most famous growth hacking stories of these days, the story of how AirBnB found a way to automatically post their apartments on Craigslist leaves out a very important fact.
It completely leaves out the fact that the AirBnB founders were traveling across the United States by car, train or airplane to figure out how to convince people to rent out their apartments to strangers. And then how to convince people to rent these apartments (from strangers).
They were talking individually to each and every apartment owner to figure out how and if their model might work. And that took many months (maybe years I don’t remember).
Only once they understood how the underlying system worked, were they able to put their growth hack to work.
If they didn’t do that critical step upfront, understanding the underlying system, AirBnB would probably not exist these days.
All of this to say that the term growth hacking is very, very misleading.
It’s a term that wants to trick us into believing that it’s going to be easy. That there are shortcuts. That there’s an easy way to overnight success.
But there are no shortcuts.
The only way to game, trick or improve a system is to learn the underlying system first.
Only then will you ever have a chance to “hack” whatever you want.
And that’s what I learned from Mahatma Gandhi and many other incredible movers, shakers and innovators..
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Photo by Thierry Ehrmann