An Accountant in Adland: Life hacks are strategies [S1 E5]
by Siwe Thusi (@Siwe_Thusi) ‘There is no greater feeling than beating life at its own game.’
I’ve never really thought about this but, every day, we use hacks to dodge the curveballs that life throws at us — those random situations which require a quick two-step. This is why I’m convinced that every one of us has at least one strategist DNA strand. Because, if you think about it, the life hacks that we use all the time are strategies.
They’re strategies because they’re preceded by an objective motivated by speed, ease and the lowest amount of pain (ok, maybe not that deep). From using a back-route to get home quicker to a putting a wet cellphone in rice to avoid a R5000 bill, you need to think outside the lines and that’s what people struggle with.
Life hacks are defined as “uncommon solutions for common problems” by Annabel Staff and the uncommon part requires anything between creativity to common sense. Let me explain…
I recently decided to get into hiking with a group as a serious pastime. Now, the thing about hiking is that, much like a marathon, it’s a mental thing. Somewhere in between the breathtaking scenery, lungs taking in breath and the silent screams of your ankles is the epiphany that numbers and strategy live everywhere and hack anything.
The cost of Amakhekhe wom’ncwabo (funeral cakes)
It was a crisp 7am Sunday morning and my group was ascending the incline at the Suikerbosrand hiking trail in Gauteng. Probably at the 4km-mark, a voice in the group pierced through our huffing and puffing: “Guys, rough. So, I need someone to bake a bucket of scones/queen cakes for a funeral at 11. I need a number asap.”
AB swings into action: “What is the most cost-effective way to swerve this oversight?” She could phone all the numbers given to her with crossed fingers and hope that the aunt of the friend’s cousin’s cousin even had the ingredients that day. But that’s stress. And the airtime. And those are costly in the three hours left. “The national treasures aren’t going to be ready and baked by then,” I responded. “Just go to a mass retailer like Checkers and buy these by the packet. And empty them out into a bucket.” The response?
“That’s actually brilliant. You’ve literally saved me.”
Now, you must understand the significance of why this was a crisis. In the African context, the nuance of that bucket is that it is the national treasure of a sombre event: the joy between each sip of tea during uncomfortable small talk; a family’s ability to host; a bucket that is locked up in ‘in the vault’ — a specific room in the grieving house where only one person has custodianship of the room key. So, it’s very important to arrive with the goods. That “saved me” was acknowledgement of a life hack that was between community street-cred life or death.
Life hacks allow us to have that internal burst of euphoria. That internal happy dance that lets you know that you’re back in the driving seat, that you’ve got your life in order. It’s important for humans in general to feel that way from time to time.
You see, every time we’re able to get the feeling that we are one step ahead of life and are able to swerve around curveballs using creativity and planning on your toes, you go further with that “I got this” confidence. And isn’t that all that life asks of us?
The strategy of gratitude
Getting to the 10km mark demands the hack of breathing through my nose and out through my mouth because the objective is to finish the hike without dying. Grateful for functioning body parts, omg.
“We have so much to be grateful for.” I don’t think we internalise and break that statement down enough. When we start putting numbers and lists to things, they become more real and more alive.
With every step I took as I descended, I could name a blessing. The number of things to be grateful that I named literally took me to that 10km mark. That descent was 5668 steps of blessing-counting. That’s a crazy and granular way of thinking about life.
We have to be ‘consumers’ of the right things. When your life is all about positivity and the things your value, the things that aren’t so great pale in comparison, because you have hacked the world’s oldest secret: a life operating from abundance. Having that sort of insight— that you already have access to the things that you want — is how you strategically navigate towards more. More things, more money, more creative ideas. This insight is what drives your world-shakers, pioneers, advertising mavericks, the religious and non-religious alike.
The hack here is being able to repeat this type of consciousness until it becomes automatic… much like putting one step in front of the other… and walking.
Siwelile Thusi (@Siwe_Thusi) is a qualified South African chartered-accountant-turned-creative-strategist at FCB Africa and a working photographer. She has three years’ experience in strategic planning on some of South Africa’s big brands in different categories and industries in the ATL space. She contributes the monthly column “An Accountant in Adland” — exploring where, when and how the two ‘disciplines’ overlap… and why they should! — to MarkLives.com.