7 Traits All Successful Life Hackers Have In Common

April 8, 2015

by Ravi Raman

I used to dislike the term “Like Hacking”. If you don’t know what it means, you can defer to Wikipedia:

Life hacking refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life.

It is arguably a modern appropriation of cutting the Gordian Knot – in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem in an inspired, ingenious manner.

Then I started to understanding what Life Hacking is really about. It’s not just about novelty methods for managing email or devising clever ways to be more productive.

Life Hacking is about figuring out how to design the optimal life. For each person the goal of the optimal life may differ.

For me, Life Hacking is about figuring out the optimal way to be happy, and support others in being happy. This is the purpose of life to me.

The Dalai Lama agrees that the purpose of life is to be happy. He also is quick to point out the biggest challenge we have in life: answering the question “What is happiness?”.

Meditate on that one!

In this spirit, I have taken a look at people who I view as being the best of the best in the world at Life Hacking. Some of them may not be people you consider Life Hackers, but I sure do!

These are people like the Dalai Lama, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Deepak Chopra. They have been committed to living an efficient life that is in tune with their life purpose.

What traits do they have in common? What can we learn from them?

Traits of Successful Life Hackers

1) Avoid group think

Group think is perilous. It can spell disaster to corporations and individuals alike. Herd mentality works just fine…until it doesn’t.

Life is full of sharp turns left and right and the best Life Hackers are able to see when to change course. They are willing to be leaders and not just be lead.

2) Apply the scientific method

There is a reason we all learned the scientific method in grade school – because it works! The best Life Hackers are hypothesis-driven. They come up with an idea. Test it. Collect data. Examine the results. Conduct a post-mortem. Share what you learn.

Life Hackers continue experiments to perfect the process they are working on.

Applying the scientific method can be quick. You just need to reflect on what you are doing, and consider how to improve. Take notes so you can review progress over the course of weeks, months or years.

3) Habit driven

Willpower is a finite resource. The biggest lasting changes someone can make are the result of good habits that get built over time.

Even Patanjali, the great Indian yogi, laid out a specific protocol to achieve inner peace and release from suffering. It was a routine designed for daily practice. It was intended for infusion throughout one’s life. This practice was called “Yoga”.

While Yoga practice takes some willpower to start and establish a routine, over time it becomes an automatic thing. A habit. This is why Patanjali ‘s teaching was all about establishing Yoga practice as a routine.

This is the power of daily routines. They become habits. Habits don’t need significant willpower to maintain. Like a flywheel getting up to speed, once it is rocking, it keeps going and going! You can learn how to develop good habits by reading this blog, and by checking out S.J. Scott’s great work.

4) Willing to be wrong

The rate of innovation is increasing. This makes it paramount that a Life Hacker examine her approach and be willing to be wrong. At some point, better approaches will be discovered or an existing approach will be shown to have a deliterious affect. In either case, an ability to accept defeat, learn from it and move forward – is paramount.

Tony Robbins catches serious flak for changing his approach over time, particularly his approach to optimal health and diet. However, if he never changed his approach, would he really be able to stay relevant given scientific breakthroughs and shifting social norms?

5) Curious about everything

Perhaps the ultimate Life Hackers are children. They are learning everything for the first time. They don’t have a lot of distractions going on to keep them from pursuing their primary goal: being happy!

Children are curious about EVERYTHING. The world’s great inventors are also curious about EVERYTHING. They are constantly thinking about how to refine a discipline and make things better.

6) Masters at Pareto’s Principle

We have a finite amount of time on this planet. Spend it well.

Good thing Vilfredo Pareto left us a principle that can help us do more in less time.

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the Power Law the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

The principle applies to any task, whether it is cooking an elaborate meal or planning a complex project at work. Examine whatever it is you are doing, and see what is driving the majority of benefits.

Focus all your time and energy on the high value areas, and ignore the rest. For added results, further apply the Pareto Principle many times to the same problem area to get to the few things that drive the lion’s share of the result.

Tim Ferriss is a master at applying the Pareto Principle. He has used it to discover how to make money money by working less, become physically strong and learn complex skills in short amounts of time.

Ramit is also masterful at applying it to earn more while working less.

Billy has some other examples of applying Pareto’s Principle throughout many areas of life.

7) Cultivate a higher purpose

Something that is not discussed at all in other Life Hacking oriented articles and blogs, is the whole point of Life Hacking to begin with.

My belief is that the purpose of Life Hacking is to connect to your life purpose in the most efficient manner possible.

Life Hackers that stay focused on novelty productivity hacks and ways to quantify themselves – will exhaust themselves like a hampster running a wheel.

Life Hacking needs to lead to something bigger than just getting things done and having a quantified self. Those things that need to get done must have significant value and connect to a HIGHER PURPOSE.

Tony Robbins speaks a lot about this point in his teaching. To Tony, “Living is giving.” All his life’s work is designed so he has the means necessary to be able to give back at massive scale.

So hack away at your life. Just make sure you are blazing a trail that leads to a place you want to go to!


Read on 📚

What I’ve learned this year (2022 edition)

What I’ve learned this year (2022 edition)

John Dewey, an education reformer and philosopher, is well-known for his understanding that learning doesn't come from experience. It comes from reflecting on experience. Being December as I write this, there is a certain nostalgia in the air as the year comes to a...

Bad news and the power of suspending judgment

Bad news and the power of suspending judgment

Michael slipped on a patch of ice getting into a friends car and fell. A self-proclaimed "klutz," taking a tumble wasn't out of the ordinary. This time, embarrassment wasn't the problem. A lingering pain in his wrist meant something serious was going on. An MRI would...

The Friendly Universe Hypothesis

The Friendly Universe Hypothesis

Is the universe friendly, wicked or ambivalent? I posed this question on LinkedIn a while ago and it provoked reactions, some shared in DMs or email, that ranged from "yes yes yes!!!" to "WTF? The universe doesn't give a s@#t about anyone". Responses showed that most...

The Value Of Sabbaticals In A Workaholic World

The Value Of Sabbaticals In A Workaholic World

This very week 7 years ago was momentous for me. After 13 years at Microsoft I took my first prolonged break from work. It was a true "sabbatical" which according to Google is defined as a sustained period of paid leave for every seven years worked. I was overdue by...

What is Coaching?

What is Coaching?

What is Coaching and who can benefit from it? A simple definition of coaching is set forth by the largest coaching industry and professional organization, the International Coaching Federation (ICF): ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a...

The Truth About Getting More Out Of Less

The Truth About Getting More Out Of Less

What does it take to achieve more? For most of my life, I’ve lived with an underlying assumption that to produce more, I must do more. If I wish to make more money, I must work more. If I want to be better at a sport, I must practice more. If I want to improve the...