I'm getting a jump on my New Year Resolutions by reading How to Become a Hacker by Eric Raymond. From this beautiful essay comes a list of things every hacker (or sysadmin) should know how to do well:
- Learn to write your native language well. Though it's a common stereotype that programmers can't write, a surprising number of hackers (including all the most accomplished ones I know of) are very able writers.
- Read science fiction. Go to science fiction conventions (a good way to meet hackers and proto-hackers).
- Train in a martial-arts form. The kind of mental discipline required for martial arts seems to be similar in important ways to what hackers do. The most popular forms among hackers are definitely Asian empty-hand arts such as Tae Kwon Do, various forms of Karate, Kung Fu, Aikido, or Ju Jitsu. Western fencing and Asian sword arts also have visible followings. In places where it's legal, pistol shooting has been rising in popularity since the late 1990s. The most hackerly martial arts are those which emphasize mental discipline, relaxed awareness, and control, rather than raw strength, athleticism, or physical toughness.
- Study an actual meditation discipline. The perennial favorite among hackers is Zen (importantly, it is possible to benefit from Zen without acquiring a religion or discarding one you already have). Other styles may work as well, but be careful to choose one that doesn't require you to believe crazy things.
- Develop an analytical ear for music. Learn to appreciate peculiar kinds of music. Learn to play some musical instrument well, or how to sing.
- Develop your appreciation of puns and wordplay.
Eric's vision of building a better hacker (or sysadmin) is an excellent way to start your list of New Year Resolutions. Personally I would love to see more hacker/warrior monks on the street in 2010.