- 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.
Work as intensely as you play and play as intensely as you work. For true hackers, the boundaries between "play", "work", "science" and "art" all tend to disappear, or to merge into a high-level creative playfulness. Also, don't be content with a narrow range of skills. Though most hackers self-describe as programmers, they are very likely to be more than competent in several related skills â€” system administration, web design, and PC hardware troubleshooting are common ones. A hacker who's a system administrator, on the other hand, is likely to be quite skilled at script programming and web design. Hackers don't do things by halves; if they invest in a skill at all, they tend to get very good at it.
Finally, a few things not to do.
- Don't use a silly, grandiose user ID or screen name.
- Don't get in flame wars on Usenet (or anywhere else).
- Don't call yourself a â€˜cyberpunkâ€™, and don't waste your time on anybody who does.
- Don't post or email writing that's full of spelling errors and bad grammar.
The problem with screen names or handles deserves some amplification. Concealing your identity behind a handle is a juvenile and silly behavior characteristic of crackers, warez d00dz, and other lower life forms. Hackers don't do this; they're proud of what they do and want it associated with their real names. So if you have a handle, drop it. In the hacker culture it will only mark you as a loser.