In Education: Hacking ladder of success

Today I share my thoughts on three parts of Shane Snow's book called Smart Cuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.

In Education Grant Frend

In Education Grant Frend

That ladder of success that has been a typical paradigm in our world has changed in many industries.

While the ladder used to be climbed step by step, it is now possible to skip steps on the ladder, or even hop off one ladder and onto another.

Shane Snow, author of Smart Cuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success, writes: “traditional paths are not just slow; they’re no longer viable if we want to compete and innovate.”

Our young people have the opportunity to hack their futures, circumventing old structures that were often focused mainly on logged time.

Today I share my thoughts on three parts of Snow’s book.

• Find a mentor: Many people can spend thousands of hours learning a skill. But what if rather than practicing or learning alone, they found a mentor who could significantly reduce the amount of time needed to master that skill?

Snow also cites data that shows “those who train with successful people who’ve ‘been there’ tend to achieve success faster.’

This doesn’t mean achieving success or mastering a skill is easier. It is always hard work that matters. However, finding a mentor is one way to hack your future and move up the ladder.

I’ve coached many students to reach out to a mentor in the community. Many don’t take the advice. However, of those who have, many have come back to tell me the mentor was happy to say ‘yes.’

• The ‘F’ word: One of the most important factors in the growth of an individual or company is the F word: feedback.

Feedback helps us to reflect on our past performance, while setting goals for future performance. Too often our feedback to young people is not specific enough. For example, ‘good job’ or ‘well done’ are often used phrases in athletics and in school. There is nothing in either of those phrases that promotes reflection or growth.

Our feedback must acknowledge specifics and provide points to think about moving forward so success can be built upon.

Further, there are fantastic opportunities for feedback leading to growth when we fail. It is imperative that failures are carefully examined.

Property Brother Drew Scott told THSS students that one of the best things he did was always ask for feedback when he was told ‘no.’ This shows people you are mature and able to take a potentially negative experience and turn it into a positive one.

• Superconnectors: Snow asks, “which is easier, making friends with a thousand people one by one or making friends with someone who already has a thousand friends? Which is faster, going door to door with a message or broadcasting the message to a million homes at once?”

Snow calls this idea ‘superconnecting,’ or tapping into hubs with many spokes. To share a personal example, I have a developed a keen interest in design thinking. Design permeates everything we do and make: think of the interface of your phone, or the comfort of the chair you are sitting in, or the experience you have grocery shopping. Everything is designed by someone, for a certain user or user group. I use design to look at many different aspects of education. I have been fortunate to reach out to some superconnectors in the design and education fields who have provided me access to experts who I didn’t even know existed.

The traditional ladder of success will continue to be shaped by changes in our economy and workforce. What used to be mainly a linear journey is now a journey that can be hacked.


– Grant Frend is principal at Thomas Haney secondary.