Decoding the hacker attitude, with Shashank Chourey


The story of Shashank Chourey, the millionaire hacker, has been well documented by YourStory. How he dropped out of college, began cracking websites and by 2009 was jobless, without a college degree and Rs 5000 in his pocket. Today, he runs a hundred million rupees company that deals in Internet Marketing, Web Application, and Mobile Application Development.

Shashank's personality is intimately connected with his own passion - hacking - where he learnt some valuable lessons that have helped him start up. This does not mean being a hacker is the way to success. Rather, it shows that taking passions seriously and integrating their teachings into working life fuels success.

YourStory had an interesting chat with Shashank recently, on lessons from hacking that helped him.

Hacking is everywhere

Hacking is like looking at a problem through a kaleidoscopic lens. Simply put, this means that there is no pre-established path to learn and operate. Acknowledging the complexity of information and de-constructing it, is the only way to fully understand the unknown.

“Have you ever tried something again and again in different ways to get to something you wanted? Have you ever opened up a device to see how it works, and then made adjustments to see whether it worked differently? That is hacking.”

Hacking is an attitude.

“Hackers get deeply into how things work to the point that they know how to take control of them and change them into something else. This lets them re-think even big ideas because they can really dig to the bottom of how things function.”

“You are hacking whenever you deeply examine how something really works in

order to manipulate it, often creatively, into doing what you want.”

For instance, recently, when Shashank met a venture capitalist, he asked the latter what he expected from a good project. He wanted to take the investor’s idea, examine it in its single parts, and provide the best solution to meet requirements. In other words, he was hacking.

Redefining failure

Being a hacker requires you to wipe off every preconception and seemingly obvious assumption when facing new situations. Hackers are also not afraid to make the same mistake twice just to see if this always has the same result every time.

“Hackers see failure neither as a lack of success, nor a waste of time; every failure is connected with a process that explains it, and there is a lot to learn from that.”

In the outside world, this means less fear to face new challenges, and a greater interest in understanding how to take advantage of mistakes. This attitude fuels energy to keep going.

Fraud and cheating are issues Shashank has dealt with more than once. Since the early times of his venture, he has dealt with untrustworthy employees and people who tried to take advantage of his ideas or money. When he came to Bangalore few weeks ago for a recruiting session, the agents in charge of showing him the new office stole 10% of the sum he was supposed to pay. Still, with due limits, Shashank trusts people a lot and learns much more through his bad experiences than closing up for fear of cheating.

Being one with your passion and letting it set the rules of the game

When Shashank found himself with Rs 5000 in hand after quitting a job where he was not being paid, his greatest source of strength was his passion. But he also knew that If he wanted to earn something out of hacking, he had to follow the strict discipline that it involved.

“When hacking, you can never be careless. You always have to make sure from where you're penetrating, remember the traces you are leaving, be on the alert for the security systems and track the server. It does no matter how intelligent you are, or how many times you have hacked before. The person providing security may well be better than you. Discipline always has to be maintained for living another day to do the same job again.”

Shashank funded his business following the same discipline. Now, it is hard to distinguish between the hacker and the entrepreneur. Upon his own admission, he says “It's very hard to work with me, I demand everything to be perfect and when this is not the case I become furious.” The osmotic diffusion of principles and values from hacking to business resulted in a single solution that can be called success.

Hold on to curiosity and creativity

“The very big thing about hacking is that it is something you cannot teach: it is a discipline that you learn exclusively by doing. Things constantly evolve, and there is no one fixed solution for any problem.”

A direct corollary of this is that hackers are curious. Getting on the other side of the system thrills their natural instinct, but every time they want to do it they need to learn how to get through.

Creativity is the obvious next step and, by definition, creativity is dynamic.

“Most of the techniques that you're able to read or study are already well exposed, and obviously the guys on the other side have patched their system, and they are no more vulnerable to that.”

“So you always have to design your own technique, to get to what you want, a server, a web page, an email server or ID, or whatever! As you keep on doing it, your mind is all set to think in a broader prospect, you are able to think out of the box, you are able to think the other way around and you are more motivated every time you gain a success.”

Don't try this at home

After talking to Shashank, it was clear to us that the secret is being honest with yourself, and embracing values and behaviours that only a very personal passion can disclose. Shashank values and respects hacking so much, that that has become indiscernible from his personality. You should not hack government websites, you should not drop out of college, you should not follow Shashank's path. You should let the change you want to see in the world be driven by your own personal passion.


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