When I was in high school and the ensuring years shortly thereafter, the only reference to hacking I heard was meant to describe the result of an unpracticed golf swing.  Hence, most who played golf that I knew were hackers.  Unless you have a somewhat tight handicap, you hack once in a while.  Sometime, more than once in a while.

I had the good fortune, or perhaps the misfortune, of working for a company (out of my first year of college) who made golf clubs.  I think I was their second employee.  For a couple of months, the production engineer, a golf pro, and I set up the production lines for both woods and irons.  Looking back, it was very naive and unscientific they way we went about the process.  In between all the setting up, the golf pro seemed to enjoy teaching me the finer points of golfing, including the swing.  As we didn’t make left-handed clubs, and being a left-hander, I had to switch and learn right.  And that’s no pun because I learned right, but it wasn’t so right.

The golf club company lasted all but two years.  We had over 60 employees when I left for greener pastures (and they closed down shortly thereafter).  The GM focused only on production output and kept showing us charts — where we were and where we needed to be.  He was always cursing because we were never where we should have been on his chart.  We finally got there, but the clubs that were shipped stared being returned because the club heads sailed further down the fairway than the ball.  OMG, they were coming apart.  The GM was a business hacker.  He wasn’t a golfer and knew nothing of the sport or the clubs.  He knew about and cared only about charts and output.  But since he hired me and I was a college dropout (at the time), I just listened and hacked along, even though it made no logical sense.  I was there to follow orders given by ‘pros.’

During those couple of years, I was grateful to have learned enough of the golf swing where I was at least, a decent hacker.  That doesn’t mean a decent golfer, by no means.  Only a decent hacker.

Year later when I lived in San Francisco, I was fortunate to have been turned onto a pro instructor.  He wasn’t just a pro instructor, he was a pro instructor who instructed pros.  The lessons were in Carmel and he video tapped them.  He was so technical that after several lessons, I remained challenged with the chipping swing stage.  I told him I was invited to play in a (casual) tournament soon, what should I do?  He told me in all seriousness that I should chip my way through the course.  And unless and until I got the basic mechanics of the chip swing down, which could take thousands of practice balls, I had no business taking a fuller swing.  In other words, I’d be hacking.  Well, I didn’t do what he said.  How could I have teed up with three peers and chipped down the fairway?  My ego got the best of me.  I hacked.  And so did they.  But at least I was a harmless hacker.  And, a happy hacker.

Those earlier years at the golf club company also taught me something about business hacking.  Being able to witness a newly born business with real opportunities going from birth through the childhood stage and then seeing the crap hacked out of it.  It never had the chance to reach adolescence, forget maturity.  Smart guys hacked it to death.  Just as well, it enabled me to leave the production world of golf clubs and enter the world of packing and shipping sophisticated military weapons to various parts of the world.  Another hack for another time.

Now, of course, hacking has an entirely new meaning in our e-world.  There are new breeds of hackers for each new generation.  Except that we use the word hacking when we really mean theft, or hacker for thief.  Being an e-hacker or computer hacker is nothing more than having the code knowledge to steal.  A common criminal of the e-world.  No doubt that hacking computers takes more practice than hacking (at) golf balls.  So I guess it’s all about good hacking.

If a state has enemies, hacking may be crucial to protecting its sovereign borders and its people — good hacking.  Individual or group hacking for personal gain — bad hacking.

Some businesses take off and get to the early adolescent stage by pure muster, determination, and grit of the creator, who may even spend some time hacking at parts of the business.  Nourishment to the core might help it sustain a certain about of hacking.  But even mature companies, resistant to hacks over time can become susceptible to deep rooted hacking at the core.  We’ve seen tons of examples such as, Enron, Arthur Anderson, World-com, Lehman Bros, Bear Sterns, and scads of banks, car, steel and lots of other companies older than the readers of this blog.  You can start out being a pro, but without continuous nurturing and adapting (and oversight), time can turn us into hackers.

I saw that skf just had his second root canal in two months.  A little over two months ago, he felt something was not right in a lower molar so he went to a NYC dentist for a check and scan.  After the scan, the dentist said that it looked like nothing, not to worry.  So skf sent the scan to Colombia where he periodically sees two dentists, one for normal dentistry and the other for specialty work, i.e., surgery and root canals.  Both of them looking at the same scan saw something suspicious that they said required a more in depth look.  The had him take what amounted to an oral cat scan which indeed showed two abscesses.  One which was more urgent than the other.

With all due respect to the NYC dentist, (I hear) he looks like he’s been practicing for about a half a century and has a kind of “been there done that” attitude.  While his intentions may have been good, his time in practice turned him into a part-time hacker.

In any profession, but particularly the medical, if constant training and learning isn’t proportional to evolution of both life and progress, then hacking becomes a byproduct.  It’s not intentional, but it’s a byproduct nonetheless.  Had skf not double checked his work, that hacking incident would have done harm.

The other night when I went to dinner with the group described in the last post, I was confronted with a new type of hacking.  I suppose I wasn’t aware of it because mostly I’m eating on my own.  Depending on the moisture content of the food, it could and often does get stuck in the throat.  To get it down, I’ve got to hack it back up and swallow again.  It’s kind of gross.  But what do you do when you have food stuck in the throat.  It happens all the time.  The restaurant was loud enough that it was hard even conversing with the person on the other side of the table without shouting.  The woman on the other side of me kept asking me questions until a rice dish came and I tried eating.  I thought with the noise that my hacking was subtle so I wasn’t quite sure why she ended up leaving to find another place to sit.  Was it my hacking?  Was I really hacking so loud?  Couldn’t be.  I was very focused in covering my hacking action, looking down and pretending it was a cough (with my hand over my mouth).  I stopped after two spoons half-full and bowed out of the dinner early.  It clearly wasn’t good hacking and I wasn’t happy about it.

And some might even say that these blog posts are examples of hacking.  Hacking at writing.  And they would be correct.  But as long as the hacking isn’t hurting anyone, we could chalk it up in the “non-harmful hack” category.

Point is, if we must hack, and sometimes we must, it helps to 1) be aware we are hacking, 2) keep the act of hacking in the non-harmful category, and 3) if the hack is harmful or not good, then take immediate counter measures.

Happy hacking.

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