I write on and off on hackers (see http://bit.ly/VWxSvP) and even some poetry on them (http://bit.ly/11RznQl) . During meetups, conferences, online discussions I run into them, I have interviewed them , and I have trained some of them (in analytics). Based on this decade long experience of observing hackers, and two decade long experience of hanging out with them- some thoughts on making you a better hacker, and a happier hacker even if you are a hacker activist or a hacker in enterprise software.
1) Everybody can be a hacker, but you need to know the basic attitude first. Not every Python or Java coder is a hacker. Coding is not hacking. More details here- http://decisionstats.com/2012/02/12/how-to-learn-to-be-a-hacker-easily/
2) Use tools like Coursera, Udacity, Codeacdemy to learn new languages. Even if you dont have the natural gift for memorizing syntax, some of it helps. (I forget syntax quite often. I google)
3) Learn tools like Metasploit if you want to learn the lucrative and romantic art of exploits hacking (http://www.offensive-security.com/metasploit-unleashed/Main_Page). The demand for information security is going to be huge. hackers with jobs are happy hackers.
4) Develop a serious downtime hobby.
Lets face it- your body was not designed to sit in front of a computer for 8 hours. But being a hacker will mean that commitment and maybe more.
You need a healthy hobby to take care of your mental thoughts to relax and slow down. Like cartoons. Like art. Like Poetry. Like Volunteer work. Preferably something that makes you laugh atleast twice a day. ( I like these http://decisionstats.com/2010/12/29/geek-cartoons/
5) Meet people. This keeps you healthy. Meet at least one friend for a long relaxed lunch once a week.
6) Take care of signs of depression. Both medicine and therapy help. But I have observed more insomnia and depression in hackers and writers because of the lifestyle (8 hours with a computer). I am done crying for kids who take away their potential from this planet because of inadequate follow through with the therapists.
7) If you break the law, accept that you will be caught. Everyone gets caught. Plan for that event before getting caught. Plan for minimal evidence that can be caught. Try and not break the law. If you get caught you will be punished. Plan for the punishment when you plan the hack, not when you get caught.
Even Gandhi broke the law. He turned out just fine. You are not Gandhi. Not all of you, anyways.
There is a lot of money on being a good hacker activist – as there is always an evil tyrannical regime out there, and always a Department of Defense looking to hire great hackers in the new era of cyber war. If you cant beat them join them. Biggest hacking challenge for this generation- Free Uncensored Internet for the Chinese people.
8) Hack hard. Hack well. Society depends on you more than it realizes today. Martin Luther King was a hacker – he used his speeches. Gandhi hacked the British Empire. Some hackers indirectly and unwittingly brought about more regime changes in the Middle East than 2 trillion worth of treasure.
Choose your tool appropriately. It can be Twitter. It can be Python. Enjoy the feeling that comes with a good hack. These memories will lift you up in your not so great hack days.
9) Smile. Put happy pictures as wall paper once a week. Listen to one sweet happy number once a day. It is silly but fun.
10) Make money through jobs, free lance contracts now and then. Richer hackers are happier hackers.
- Why hire a hacker? (net-security.org)