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Ask HN: How do you deal with getting older?
108 points by dreifi on Aug 10, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 128 comments
As hackers, do you feel like you can hack life and get more years out of it then the average joe?

Or do you feel lost in a culture that hails 20 year olds that are dreaming up the next big thing?




Honestly, I feel like I've outgrown the whole "dreaming up the next big thing." I know my dreams. I am already following them.

I feel like the younger folk tend to re-invent ideas that have come and gone, and don't do enough research to see what has come before. They spin their wheels figuring out things that us older folk already know. Sure, they do it with newer toolkits than I know, and that is why I keep up on HN - because the newer technologies are where the younger crowd can teach me something.

But I don't feel lost in the culture... I feel disinterested in it.

I also think that being older, with a family, and a full life outside of work, I'm not interested in pursuing wealth the same way that young people are. I have a nest egg, I have a good salary, I also have a wife, children, a small farm that we run, mountains, deserts and oceans to explore, stars to look at, etc.

I am no longer 23 and trying to establish my life. I am 43, have built a life that works for me, and am far more concerned with raising my children than with raising my wealth. To me wealth is binary - you have enough to live your life, or you do not. At the moment, I do.

So can I hack life to get more out of it? I think I already have.


> I also think that being older, with a family, and a full life outside of work, I'm not interested in pursuing wealth the same way that young people are. I have a nest egg, I have a good salary, I also have a wife, children, a small farm that we run, mountains, deserts and oceans to explore, stars to look at, etc.

As a young person (26), what looks like a pursuit for wealth from the outside is just me trying to get to this stability point so I can slow down. :) I don't even live in an area with absurd housing costs and I still feel like that's a distant dream if I keep on keeping on at my dayjob.

Reinventing the wheel? Sounds suspiciously like the process of learning! "Teaching is better than doing is better than being taught."


I agree people reinvent the wheel all the time, but instead of seeing it as something naive people do, I see it as fertile earth that genuinely new things can grow from.

I feel like "young developers reinvent what we already had 30 years ago" kind of ennui gets espoused here on HN a lot. To me, this is less wisdom gleaned from experience and more a preference based on shifting priorities. There's nothing wrong with not being interested in new shiny stuff, but there's also nothing wrong with being interested in it.


> and that is why I keep up on HN - because the newer technologies are where the younger crowd can teach me something.


Thanks for writing this. I was going to write something similar, but you captured this better than I would have anyway.


I'm 35 and overall am feeling at the top of my game. I don't envy the 20 years olds or feel lost. I've learned so much, not just technically but around user and enterprise needs, inter-personal skills, and about myself since I was 18-20 that I absolutely feel better suited for success.

I've started eating right and working out, which has helped both body and mind, and I've developed task and time management techniques that work for me. While I admit my mind might not be 100% as quick as it was when i was 20, I do feel remarkably more productive.

Although to be fair, I'm not in the SV ecosystem, and run my startup (although after 8 years maybe not a startup any longer?) from outside of Boston (a location where a strong business model still beats a profitless pitch deck), so perhaps the environment is one reason I feel the way I do.


> my mind might not be 100% as quick as it was when i was 20

care to elaborate? I'm 34 and I keep hearing that my mind is supposed to slow down but it hasn't yet. I drink 2 cups of coffee a day, don't smoke cigs, am not overweight, try to go for a walk for 30 minutes minimum each day, go to sleep by 9ish and am up by 3 or 4am. I also watch very little TV, read regularly and push myself to learn new stuff on a near constant basis (python > node > c# > cg within the space of the last 4 years, along with pixel art, a bit of 3d art, loads of 3d programming + 2d game programming - all in addition to being a web dev contractor).

The change I've seen in my brain as I've gotten older is that I seem to be learning at an accelerated rate. However there are days when my depression or stress gets the best of me and I have to just take half a day or so to "detox" (binge watch netflix, play video games etc).

I wonder if some of the slow down people feel is artificially induced, or even misperceived (it takes me longer to reply to questions, but that's because I'm considering more answers or sifting through more knowledge that I have).

edit: Alzheimers / other brain related issues are absolutely terrifying to me so I'm interested in understanding what people mean by slowing down specifically... also there's a small part of me that worries I've slowed down and just haven't noticed it yet.


I'm 34 as well, and I'm amazed at some of the things my 20 year old self was able to solve (mostly math and physics related stuff). There's a belief (apparently not yet backed by research) that math skills degrade after 35, as this article discusses and tries to disprove:

http://www.massey.ac.nz/~rmclachl/overthehill.html

However, I don't think it's slowing me down, I'm still capable of learning and producing, and I've learned lots of stuff to "work smarter". I do believe I'm doing myself a disservice by not keeping in shape, and that might be part of my perception of having less energy (but not less enthusiasm).


Very interesting and also terrifying - i'm trying to shift into the indie game space so hearing that my math may get worse than it already is terrifies me. I have a really hard time believing that comprehension of math would decrease with age though. It seems to me that instead people typically stop using it after a certain age and thus their skills deteriorate.


The brain is fully developed by age 25 and starts to lose mass from then until death (see: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19283594). Brains of 90 year olds can be just 60% the size of a young adult. Neurons do not repair well and they (or rather, stem cells) aren't programmed to divide after the skull runs out of room.

I would not worry, though. The brain is very flexible. If you keep your mathematics sharp, you will lose less useful things like old memories instead of skills. Many professionals work in difficult jobs (say surgery) well into their 70s by keeping their skills in use.


Well. Now i'm imagining my brain slowly dissolving like the head on an old beer. That's fun.


Exercise (among other things) has been linked to the growth of new neurons.


wait a minute... my math might be a bit rusty, but 28 samples is rather low isn't it? I'm a bit less worried now.

edit: oops 28, 59 and 6 samples... maybe I really am becoming an idiot. still not much data though.


i hate being a human.


>care to elaborate? I'm 34 and I keep hearing that my mind is supposed to slow down but it hasn't yet.

Well not everyone is the same, here an excellent article that touches the topic: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/10/20/late-bloomers-2


For reference I drink 1-2 cups of tea most days, sometimes none. Have never smoked, drank, or done drugs.

For me it's a couple areas I notice:

I have a more difficult time remembering names, specific words, etc...

I used to be able to do relatively difficult math problems in my head without actually thinking about it. Now I'm likely to use my phone to calculate three digit+ sums.

I find it harder to get "in the zone".


Maybe it's more to lack of exercising those specific skills? My language and math skills were definitely better during college but then i don't use them as much as I used too? This is something I would genuinely like to get an answer for


I've started coming to the conclusion that as you stuff more stuff into your brain, the longer it takes to get to any bit of information that isn't in continual use. Larger index, non-linear search time.


Sounds like you're a good role model :) .

8 years and going is not a startup though, congratulations on your (small?) business :)


I totally agree that I feel smarter although you cannot tell from a closed loop system. Maybe I am slower but hell I do so many more things better because I know the deadly mistakes I should avoid now. I am also 35.


> I'm 35 and overall am feeling at the top of my game.

Don't you feel you connect the dots easier now than 15 years ago? That's something I notice I get better as time passes


Amazing. For most of us, your career begins about 22 and ends about 72. So at 50 years, the midpoint would be 47. Yet most of the comments below start with, "I'm 35 and...".

Jeez. At 35 you're still just a kid.

I'm 57 and I've definitely seen brain changes. At 20 I could learn 80% of new stuff in one pass. That ended by 35, when I had to take and review notes to learn as well. Now at 57, I simply can't remember minutiae like I once could. Proper nouns are especially tough to recall (famous names especially). I don't retain entire 1000 LOC programs in my head any more.

Learning new computer languages still isn't too tough but breaking new ground in math is. My ability to see multiple perspectives of a new concept all at once is not what it once was. I have to work harder at concentrating and distractions are more disruptive. I really HATE working in an open space without earplugs.

So yes, the brain ages. At age 50 I'll be much more impressed when you claim, "Oh yeah, my brain hasen't lost a step since 20."


I would argue that the issue with math and perspectives isn't so much a decrease in your raw brainpower, more like your brain has become more "specialized" to the things you do very frequently. I'm sure there is a small decrease in raw processing speed, but I expect the largest change is the reduction in flexibility.

As for your reduction in memory/recall, one thing that can help is to learn more diverse information. The connectivity of a network is a function of the diversity of its inputs/outputs, and the more connected a network is, the shorter the average path to any given node (in this case a memory).


> I don't retain entire 1000 LOC programs in my head any more.

> Proper nouns are especially tough to recall (famous names especially).

Well, why should you retain entire 1000 LOC programs in your head? If it's not to make fast navigation through a code base possible at all, that's unimportant information. And is it important to recall these names? You should keep in mind that your brain gets better at prioritizing over the years. And prioritizing can be very effective - since I was 18 I've only memorized names of people I met more than two or even three times.


48, and can confirm what you are saying - learning new names is tough. Things that I could once learn through osmosis require much repetition to retain.


40 year olds today were the first generation to grow up with computers. 10 years ago, 40 year olds were "old" in computer parlance. The myth of the 20 year old hacker will go away over time, as more and more people grow up immersed in technology (and thus possess the necessary skillset).

I would even go so far as to say that our culture's preoccupation with youth presents an opportunity for disruptive ideas/startups, based in "wisdom and experience."


40 year olds are not the first generation. I'm 66, started writing FORTRAN on a CDC 3100 in 1965. 16K memory (that's 16,384), Punched cards, mag tape. Was a blast.


Actually, that would be people in their early 50's. Born in '64, started programming in '77.


This reads like the start of a geek update to the classic Four Yorkshiremen sketch (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1by0-nkKOTs)

  "6502?"
  "Aye"
  "You were lucky.  There were 19 of us all crowded round a
   single Z80 processor with a hexadecimal display..."
  
  ...
  
  "Of course when I say keyboard I mean a 8 high voltage bootstrap
   connectors with rusty razorblades for switches.  But it was 
   a keyboard to us..."


You're not technically wrong, but having access to a computer (let alone a personal/home computer) in 77 was still quite a niche thing for society. I don't think it started becoming a 'thing' until 81-82 at least. Of course, this is my generation, but my own experience is that the numbers bear that out a bit. Having seen schools adopt computer labs in the 80s where they had none in the 70s tells me it was not until that time that more kids were getting access to computers in the first place.

But.. by the 90s-2000s, we saw the decline of the 'program something on this' computer style - turning on an Atari, Commodore or Apple II and you immediately were thrown in to "start typing in code" mode. The rise in accessible technologies seemed to turn the next generations largely in to application consumers, not developers. Probably have the same number of hacker/developers in each generation, but because 10x as many people used technology/computers of some sort, the aura of 'new frontier' seemed to go away some. And yeah, some of that may be because I got older, but I think there was something unique about the late 70s and early 80s with respect to computers/tech and how it affected those young generations lucky enough to have access to those machines...


My father was a mathematician. In graduate school, he didn't do quite as well as expected on his oral exams. As a result, afterward one of his committee members talked to him about possible career alternatives to mathematics. This professor told him "You could go into computing, but you wouldn't really be getting in on the ground floor." This was in the mid-1950s.


I can't write code nearly as fast as I used to. I am much better at writing less code, though. And though it took a while (too long), I've figured out that it's the code you don't write that makes you great. So I'm much more skilled and competent as a 40 yo than I was as a precocious 20 year old.

The biggest change has been values though. My values and my criteria for success are different now than they were when I founded my first business at 22. Now with a family, assets, residual income and a home, I'm far far more interested in being interested than I am in numerical 'success', and much more motivated by social justice. So I definitely don't have the hunger for startup life. I don't feel lost in that culture. I just feel that I've been there, got the t-shirt, and moved beyond, so I don't feel the need to go back for more than the odd visit.

So yeah, maybe I'm getting over the hill in some ways. But that's not a bad thing. I don't feel out-competed, I just feel like experience and perspective have made me change what I value, both in code and in business (and other bits of life: in relationships, in vacations, in hobbies, etc).


  I am much better at writing less code, though.
In other words, your thinking is organised.

Organisation is a skill you learn through experience. No other way. You can attempt to teach a newcomer about the virtues of refactoring (basically tidying up the kitchen after you've baked your masterpiece) but I can assure you, the mind at early stages of doing new things is less interested in tidying up the process than it is about seeing the exciting outcome.

That's by nature.


There's an (spanish) old saying that goes: The devil knows more because he's old than he does because he's the devil. (Or Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo.) HTH.


Old sayings are so much better than young sayings.


Agreed. In fact this sounded a lot better than "YOLO".


Generally I wrinkle slightly more each year, moan about my joints seizing up and grow more cynical.

On a more serious note I am becoming better at what I do because I understand much more of pretty much everything in far greater depth than I used to. And while I perhaps don't have the stamina or raw LoC output ability of a 21 year old any more, I can usually achieve tasks much faster because I know what I'm doing and I make fewer mistakes.

I'm definitely much more cynical about flavour of the week languages and frameworks though. And I find it very funny that things get reinvented every few years as a new generation decides some thing is too cumbersome (often SQL or DMBSs) and needs to be thrown out, only to be slowly reinvented as all the edge cases that lead to the abstraction are discovered...

And I'm only 36.

Career-wise, no discrimination noticed yet.


This... I have the same observation and coincidentially we have the same age :)


I'm just a tiny bit older, and I thought I noticed some age discrimination last year. Do you both still have all your scalp hair?


I do still have my scalp hair :) but I have some friends that are bald since early twenties so I don't think it is a major thing.

I don't and ever have worked in USA so it might be a cultural thing though.


For the time being! Just started to notice a bit more grey though.


12 years older than you, and can confirm all the things you said in your post above.

I am worried about age discrimination, so I am planning my exit from IT.


When I was young I told my friends that if they saw me in 20 years married and not playing music full time to go ahead and punch me in the face. I honestly thought that I would feel exactly the same at 40 that I did at 20.

At that age I probably would have looked at my older self and thought that I had lost my passion, had sold out, become uncool, etc. It didn't occur to me that I would still remember everything that I knew at 20, plus have another 20 years to figure out what actually is important to me and become twice as confident and comfortable with myself.

I felt way more "lost" when I was 20 than I did at 40. I don't think I've necessarily figured it all out. But, as much fun as I had when I was young, I like my life more now.


[flagged]


The point is that his life isn't boring - his priorities changed.


(Unfortunately I can't reply to the parent since it got flagged)

To add to what hluska wrote - Imagine your 5 year old self, thinking that when you are 20 your dream job will be riding on a garbage truck. You will spend every dime of your income on candy and Pokemon figures. You will live in a treehouse in your parents back yard, and girls (or guys) are yucky. Those things may all be awesome. At 20 you might even do some of them for a laugh, but they're certainly not life goals anymore. At 5 years old, you simply couldn't conceive of what would be significant at 20.

Everything that I wanted at 20 I did - to excess. I exceeded every goal that ever occurred to my 20 year old self. I did it to the point where I grew bored. New things became more exciting. I continued to grow. If I was still running with my 20-year-old self's plan - I would honestly consider myself a failure.


I am less driven by the prospect of becoming an old expensive programmer, and more concerned about missing out on gaining management experience. I have conversed with many programmers who express concern that they have no management aspirations, and yet the longer they remain pure programmers, they find they have fewer options as they age, instead, as one might imagine, more.

Maybe it's because it's harder to convince a 40-year old programmer to work bullshit hours for a few slices of free pizza.


As someone about to turn 40, it's creepy reading comment after comment here and seeing A LOT to agree with.

Less lines of code per hour than when I was young: CHECK

More productive than when I was young: CHECK

Not reinventing wheels anymore: CHECK

Recognizing all the wheels I reinvented when I was young thinking I was so clever: CHECK

Keeping up with new languages/tools/frameworks: CHECK

Skepticism at the people who think this new language/tool/framework is going to CHANGE EVERYTHING: CHECK

Paying more attention to my health: CHECK

Hobbies outside of work: CHECK

A couple of things I disagree with though.

Employment opportunity:

I definitely am starting to see evidence of ageism. Job hopping is more difficult, and the quality/appeal of available jobs is no longer what it used to be. It's much harder to get the attention of recruiters now than it was 15 years ago, and I feel I'm at a negotiating disadvantage vs. younger people who have no problem sleeping at their desks and subsisting on noodles and Mountain Dew alone. Quite honestly, 90% of job postings I read are utterly uninteresting to a 40 year old. Sometimes the company or product is boring, uncompelling, or something I've already worked on. Sometimes the culture reeks of bro-grammer. Or it's full of dog-whistle words that tell me I'll be working 80 hour weeks and not be compensated well for it.

Financial position:

Software engineering has not been very financially rewarding. I guess you can always find someone and say, boy they're doing much better than I. I seem to be permanently behind the people I knew who went into more lucrative careers. I feel like I'm much less well established at 40 than my parents (who made shit as school teachers) were when they were 40. The clock is ticking and I feel it's going to run out before I'm able to retire. Time feels like a predator, stalking me and waiting to devour me as punishment for not making/saving enough.


I can't find a single thing to disagree with.

Though my financial position might be worse, due to ill-timed property purchases. Basically, the majority of my net worth was in real estate in 2007. I have had to move multiple times to find sufficiently remunerative work for a small family. So I'm just treading water now. I have been busting my ass for 16 years now, with literally nothing to show for it. Everything I have ever gained has been taken back, by circumstances beyond my control.

So when I see those Baby Boomers, retiring with nice, big nest eggs from working 40 years at the same company, I just start to seethe in rage. They are the ones who started pulling all the ladders up after climbing them.

I don't think it's just software. Everyone born after the Baby Boomers is worse off than their parents were at the same age. That generation just isn't giving the same as they got, because they are such a large economic force, they could get whatever they want. All I can say is that they had better fix up the nursing homes while they still have the power to do so. Gen X and Millennial won't have time to take care of them while still looking for new jobs every 2-5 years.


I'm right there with you on every point and I'm only 32.

Job hopping is more difficult, and the quality/appeal of available jobs is no longer what it used to be.

I've been thinking about this lately and I've come to the conclusion that most programming jobs aren't technically challenging to me at this point in my life. As I learn more and get older, I also look for greater challenges to overcome. The best paying jobs in the industry (and in the HN hiring thread) are all about making the same things I made in 2001, just with different technologies.

The above conclusions have forced me to start thinking about what's next. Is it really starting my own business? If I'm going to take the time to learn business development, marketing and sales, is programming really the most lucrative use of my time?


> Software engineering has not been very financially rewarding

What other lucrative careers do you mean? Law/Medicine? Anyone with their own firm will make more money, including software engineers.

Are you not saving enough?


I'm 25 and feels lost in a culture that hails 20 year olds that are dreaming up the next big thing.

I don't think age is the important thing here, I have worked with people of all ages (15-70 or so) that I look up to and learned a lot from. Experience is important, and it is hard to have experienced a lot of things if you are 20.

On a semi-related note, all my best bosses have been parents, having kids seem to teach you something about the value of time.


>> On a semi-related note, all my best bosses have been parents, having kids seem to teach you something about the value of time.

I once talked to an old (60) guy who was writing code down the aisle from me. He said he tried management, but didn't want to mediate disputes between children - he had his own at home. I thought his experience was probably unusual, but I've asked a number of managers since then, and they all agree that's an unfortunately large part of the job. I don't see it because they keep it away from the team - as it should be. But then when I got my first crack at "having a small team" I saw exactly the same thing. So yes, tech skills are important but parenting can also be a relevant background ;-)


The same way you deal with getting older in any other profession, you learn to accept that there will always be people better, faster, and younger than you, embrace the fact that you suck, but still persevere in pushing forward at your own best pace. You strip away the pride (i.e. the feeling that you somehow deserve / need to win, to be the next big thing, to change the world, to be loved / respected by everyone, to do better than your old high school classmates, and to do it all in your teens and twenties) that covers the youthfully inexperienced. And you accept that the most you can do is put yourself on the path that you can enjoy and that you hope is right and commit to walking down it clad in nothing more than simple stupid faith that eventually you can get it to work.

Non-purple TL;DR: I deal with it by abandoning any sense of pride / shame I might've had.


Your comment seems to bridge two things: hacking life and staying relevant in technology. For the former, I'm 42 and doing just fine. I try to keep up with the latest trends though I don't buy into everything just to keep my sanity. I write as much code as I can. I've learned though that someone who listens with empathy and attempts to understand a business' problems will always be relevant.

For the former, I read a lot on diet, nutrition and exercise. I believe in 50 years, we will look back at the time when our diets were largely based on sugary carbohydrates and wonder what the hell we were thinking. I experiment with fasting. I do different kinds of exercises. We don't have total control over our health but so many of us make regular poor decisions that even tiny improvements have to help. Of course, I could walk out in front of a bus tomorrow but attempting to improve each day goes a long way.

From a health perspective, I subscribe to Nassim Taleb's idea of reduction instead of addition. High cholesterol? Don't start taking statins, start eliminating things like sugar and processed carbs and wheat. High blood pressure? Don't add blood pressure medicine, try exercising regularly, don't smoke, eat vegetables. Etc, etc.

Long story longer, if all you do technology and health wise is exactly what everyone else has always done or always told you to do, you'll get what everyone else has always gotten. True, experimenting and hacking may not help at all but there is plenty of evidence out there that walking a different path can get you different results.


Why do you have to be 20 to be doing something interesting? Also why is it assumed that every new innovation that some 20 year old ivy league drop comes up with is good for our society and our culture? To me most start ups are just superfluous, these apps and such are created just to make our lives slightly more convenient in most cases, they rarely improve the human condition or outlook. Go ahead and glorify the startup culture but I have more respect for the grizzled old devs that have created the foundation we stand on today and the people moving things forward incrementally.


You don't. Many successful startups are started by people over 30 (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235357).


Friend of mine just got hired at Apple to work on HealthKit and he's over 40. I don't understand why everyone is so preoccupied with their age.


SV has been funding the Mom 2.0 bubble where 20 yr olds provide Mom services to other wealthy urban 20 yr olds for a generally rather large fee. Look at startups that boil down to "Mom can you drive me to the mall" "Mom can you get me a sandwich" "Mom can you do the laundry" "Mom can you adjust the thermostat" "Mom can I crash in your livingroom overnight when I'm in town" "Mom can you mail me a monthly care package" etc. Not all startups in the current bubble are Mom 2.0 but enough are to make it a cultural thing.

Anyway the point of extreme youth focus in the Mom 2.0 bubble is it makes sense when you're 20 and urban and rich and have never lived away from home (aka mom 1.0), but once you're 40 and you have become the Mom (err, Dad, or whatever), then it's kind of a hard sell and you're just not going to fit in with the biz model.

There is also a mythology that kids will lock on to branding for their entire life, so the most popular group to sell to is kids. It doesn't work, of course, but its a very popular mythology and highly politically incorrect to question it. If it actually worked of course, I'd spend my lunch hour driving my Segway around to play Pog games in between gaming sessions on the Colecovision or something like that.


I'm 35 and I'm not at all complaining. Career wise, I've not only learned more technically but it seems like I'm learning better/faster these days than 10+ years ago. On a personal note, it's nice to know I'm established with a decent amount in my savings and retirement.

With friends, most of my friends are younger but it's nice to be able to partner with them and go through life shoulder to shoulder. It's nice to know that I have the means to be able to help people too, that alone gives me much satisfaction and contentment.

The nice thing is, 35 seems to be a starting point for me. I've got a long way to go and I'm re-evaluating my options. I used to think that getting older meant that I would regret not having accomplished the goals I had in my youth but now, I see it as refining my goals and I'm walking into things with far more experience and knowledge which means more than just "getting it done" but "getting it done, well."


"The nice thing is, 35 seems to be a starting point for me."

Nice. I'm 34, almost 35, and I feel the same way. I'm actually seriously thinking about starting a business now whereas in my twenties, I was more interested in leisure activities. Definitely seems like a much better time to start something than when I was younger.


To me, it seems lots of the "big ideas" dreamed up by the 20-year-olds seem to only cater to the 20-year-olds. I'm upper 30's, lots of kids, married a long time. Too much of the new stuff doesn't interest me. Maybe I'm just bored of it all.

I felt a little more comfortable doing what I do when I was younger, but mostly because I had tons of energy, no fear, and little to lose. Responsibility has made me move much slower. Plus, I've made mistakes, learned from them, and now fear the thought of new problems.

Also, I used to think about business 24/7. Sleep 4 hours a night. Work because I loved it so much. I couldn't keep up with the new ideas, and I had to implement them ALL or I was a mess!

Now... I need 7 hours of sleep, and I have a little fishing boat parked next to the house. I'd rather be out on the lake with my wife, or the kids, and a pole. These are the moments that make my life feel full. If I don't make the "next big thing"... I'm good.


> As hackers, do you feel like you can hack life and get more years out of it then the average joe?

Hackers we'll die earlier, obese and with mobility problems, and probably sitting, while trying to hack "life". :)

I'm not a big fan of the whole "hack life" mentality. We aren't used to deal with complex systems, such as organisms or life. Despite the echo chamber we live in, the systems we deal with are simple; way simpler than life, and deterministic. Every time we think we "hacked life", we're just ignoring the complexity of the problem at hand (just think about the "hack nutrition" ideas around...).


Man, what a weird question. I'm 61; been programming since 1968 (Ferranti Atlas -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_%28computer%29 -- the first machine with a whole bunch of stuff). What have I learned?:

* Software isn't eating the world. Software is the world. * Software has very little to do with the next 'disrupting X'. That is just VC twaddle trying to pull one over on the rest of us. Do not mistake floozy business models for solid value add.

If you want to 'hack life' then solve really hard problems (or play really hard music - your choice). Do not fixate on 20 year olds and their next big thing. Finding and solving big problems will juice your Amygdala, and said juicing will ensure a happy life hack above and beyond 'the average Joe'. Though quite why that is such an important goal is beyond me (do you really want to be the "last man standing"?).


> As hackers, do you feel like you can hack life and get more years out of it then the average joe?

Yeah, sun screen, good diet, meditation and exercise.

> Or do you feel lost in a culture that hails 20 year olds that are dreaming up the next big thing?

I feel there's a rift.

The market is more competitive and requires people to go to school longer to stay on edge.

For me, it seem you trade your social life, kinda, for a secured or better future prospect by chasing the money instead of enjoyment of life. So the rift I'm seeing is that there are younger people that are poor but more genuine in characters and sociable. I find myself stuck being jealous, not envious mind you, but at the same time working on this aspect of myself. I'm also using my money to buy experiences such as trying new things and creating opportunity to experience things.

As I am closer to 30, soon to be 30 this year, I find myself less risky and more conservative in actions. In term of I now rather have a secure job with better work balance life than a startup job with lots of overtime.

The next big thing for me is not the big thing anymore.

It's what is good enough to bring in passive income with minimum amount of upkeep.

It's not, oh I want to be the next google, but more of I want to create a service that people want -- at the same that enable me to work little so I can enjoy more.

Sometime I feel lost or rather frustrated, the young kid in their 20s adopt bleeding edge technology recklessly and they move on to new job and somebody are stuck with maintaining their mess. Google have Mesos or Kubernetes or Big data, we need it too!

If you young people are reading, please adopt boring technology. Or research more throughly, I guess taking a risk in adoption can pay out, RoR senior are making bank. I chose the PHP route...


"Hack life"...please, just stop with this. Can we coin a new phrase?


"live to the fullest"

or maybe just..."live"

so often it seems like we're so preoccupied with 'hacking' our lives that we forget to live them at all...


True. The phrases 'mistaking the map for the territory' and 'eating the menu rather than the dinner' spring to mind.


survive


are you just surviving? lighten up...live a little.


I'm surprised nobody mentioned "life engineering".

In our echo chamber, engineering is the mother of all disciplines; the other day I noticed someone using "interaction engineer" referring to a supposed UX position. :)


How about programming?


How do I handle getting older? I'm dealing with it by becoming a bad-ass. Age doesn't matter in the face of extreme competence. I used to just kind of wing-it and shoot from the hip, that attitude leads to problems.

Now, if I am seriously about doing something, I pull out all the stops to be the absolute best. I approach my interests like a scientist; I keep detailed notes, meticulously measure and track progress, and come up with experiments to expand my knowledge. I have an attitude of constant improvement, so I'm always looking for new things to try and new ways to excel.

I have absolutely zero worries about a midlife crisis or any sort of malaise associated with growing older. I'm killing it, and I know that as circumstances change I'll be able to change and adapt with them to stay on top of my game.


I've been writing code since 1965 (yes, fifty years), run my own company, and I can still support my family doing it. Best damn job in the world.


best damn comment too. very encouraging to hear someone has been at it for this long. Only 13 or 14 years for me thus far.


I try to maintain my mental vitality by limiting nostalgia and intentionally seeking out new things.

For example, I do this thing periodically with my music collection where I create a playlist of only music made in the past 5 years. If that playlist is too sparse, I go looking for more.

A lot of what's bad about aging strikes me as almost an ideology. The cynicism of age is an ideology. It's like a belief system where you adopt a retrograde view of time -- things are getting worse, they were better in the old days, etc. This isn't how time actually works. Things evolve over time. Some things get better, some get worse, but mostly there's just change.


If we don't die from an acute event or illness, we can expect to live somewhere around 75 years. How many of those years do most people take full advantage of?

My heroes are people like Fred Beckey [0], who keep living fully through all their years. I've watched most people in my family stop living fully around their 40's and 50's, mostly associated with the focus on raising kids. But it's also an effect of not wanting to face the challenges of the world; I've watched many older family members retreat into their own homes, and venture out into the world less and less often out of fear of a changing world.

How do you live fully through all your years? Keep doing the things you love, especially the things that require you to be mentally and physically active. Don't give up everything for your kids. Learn new things, mentally and physically. I started learning to drive a boat on the ocean at 41 last summer, and it was deeply humbling but deeply renewing. I'm planning to pick up a musical instrument sometime in the next few years.

It's not about living longer, it's about living fully with the years we have.

[0] - http://www.thecleanestline.com/2013/01/happy-90th-birthday-t...


I'm 37. I keep getting new jobs on new technologies, but I don't think that really helps me see the larger problems. I'm a lot better at doing things than the 20 year olds I know are, even if they have some technical skills I haven't yet mastered.

What I have had luck with is in hanging out with people both older and younger than me. I am in a band with guys in their mid 60s (except the drummer, who is in his 70s... and his old band got together and was able to open up for the flaming lips this last may... how cool is that!!!).

These folks are older than my parents, but you can see how much longer you're going to live when you know that hey, people in their 70s are often still working on the same kinds of things that I work on.

It helped me realize that not only do I still (possibly) have another a whole other lifetime ahead of me to do a bunch of things that I wanted to do, but I can actually make progress even slowly if I work on things a bit every day...

it is a lot easier to spend a bit of time getting to really know a scale on the piano when you realize you still might have another 40 years to enjoy your fluency with it.

If you plan to keep getting better at things throughout your life and know that you may have the time to enjoy using a bunch of skills you acquire slowly, then that last half of a life appears to contain just as many possibilities as the first half.


> do you feel like you can hack life and get more years out of it then the average joe?

The biggest thing I've learned about all that, is the importance of eating right, staying active, and paying attention to your health. Oh, don't get me wrong... everybody KNOWS that stuff, and at least pays lip service to it. I did, for a long time. Then I had a heart attack at 41. Now I know, on a very visceral level, the importance of this stuff. And I've read and learned a lot about health topics, diet, etc. So I hope I will be able to live longer now that I understand (I think) a lot more about how to eat well, and now that I've renewed my commitment to getting outdoors and being active (which mostly means bicycle riding for me, but also running and hiking occasionally as well).

> Or do you feel lost in a culture that hails 20 year olds that are dreaming up the next big thing?

I don't see it that way anyway. There's a bit of a stereotype about the "college kid in his dorm starting a startup" but I think that's a fairly recent invention. And nobody I know thinks that entrepreneurship / startups / hacking / etc. are the exclusive province of 20-somethings.

Anyway, I'm just going to do what I do, and I'm not terribly worried about what everybody else is doing. Although I agree with what codingdave says about keeping up with newer technologies. Yeah, I'm 42 and yeah I am most comfortable with "old" tech like Java and C++, but I spend some time on Javascript and Scala and Clojure and the like as well.


Avoid cultures that hail 20 year olds dreaming up the next big thing. Outside of a few (toxic) pockets, those cultures are in the minority in my experience.


Q1: Exercise, eat well, do cool things. This month, I will consult for several high-profile customers, act in a film, judge a BBQ competition, hang out with my offroading buddies, go offroading, visit friends and family, and possibly tinker with my Jeep.

Of course, it ain't all cool: I will also clean up cat shit stains in the basement (older cat having problems), deal with troublesome weeds in the backyard, pay way more than I want to to have the garage slab fixed, and get caught up on my accounting (I've been a bit slack this year).

Qs2&3: False dichotomies, poorly phrased questions. I will be 50 in just over a month. I live my life, not anyone else's.

I don't look at what others are doing and think "cool", I think about what I like doing, what I think is cool, and, provided that I can afford it financially, emotionally, intellectually, and physically, or that the loss/gain in any of those areas is acceptable, I do it.

End of story. You don't deal with getting older. You live. You keep living. You live the life you want to live. The dealing takes care of itself.


How do I deal with it? Very badly.

When I first started in the software field, I didn't expect that it would come to resemble a brothel. But now it does, and I don't feel all that young and pretty any more.

Everybody is dreaming up the next big thing. The 20-year-old dreamers are just the ones that sell their dreams most cheaply. This whole industry seems like a continuation of the cool kid cliques in high school pretending to be the nerds' friends, so that they will continue doing all the homework. We're getting some money out of it, but no respect.

So I'm not really very motivated to "get more years out of it". The years I have had haven't been all that great. As Lord Farquad said in Shrek, "It's rude enough being alive when no one wants you, but showing up uninvited [to someone else's party]?"

So, yeah, I guess I deal with aging by shriveling up and getting bitter. The world will never lack for exploitable 20-year-olds, and I'll never be the one to get to them early enough, or with enough capital, to profit from one.


"...I didn't expect that it would come to resemble a brothel." Truer words were never spoken.


I'm 38, and have been working as a professional programmer for 18 years, since I was 20. Here's what works for me:

- Fitness: Eat reasonably and stay in good physical condition (I box and run). I enjoy food but eating in moderation is important as you age.

- Other interests: I've worked as a professional musician since I was 18, a parallel career. After 20 years of working as a guitarist, I've recently embarked on learning upright bass. it's wonderful, and mind opening.

- Varied career: I've been very fortunate to have played a lot of different roles, doing all kinds of development, management, etc. It's easy to get stuck in a rut and not challenge yourself with new experiences, don't let this happen.

- Self awareness: I have a natural inclination to work on things I'm not good at, but have also learned over the years to play to my strengths. This is one of the great advantages of getting older.


I personally think age has less to do with this 'culture'. It is mostly your attitude towards new things that surface and whether you're willing to accept the change.

Personally, I've lost interest in the past 4-5 years where there have been significant changes.


I feel like my programming career gets better and better with age - I really have not felt the discrimination that others have (or worry about). I just keep on keeping on and make it a focus to spend 5-10 hours a week improving my skills and staying current.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said it better than I can:

  For age is opportunity no less
  Than youth itself, though in another dress,
  And as the evening twilight fades away
  The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.


> As hackers, do you feel like you can hack life and get more years out of it then the average joe?

I dunno what this is supposed to mean. I have known tons of older guys who really know their shit and have been programmers their entire career. I'll be 37 next month and feel like I'm not only more knowledgeable and on top of things than I've ever been, but also far more professional in how I conduct myself than I was when I was younger.

And based on the 20-somethings I"ve interviewed, I have zero fear that young people are going to make me obsolete.

> Or do you feel lost in a culture that hails 20 year olds that are dreaming up the next big thing?

No because being an entrepreneur has never been my goal in life. My dad had a computer company in the 80s, and our family suffered greatly when it went under. I have always prioritized stable income over a shot at becoming a millionaire/billionaire. The company I work for now was actually started by a friend of mine over 10 years ago, and has made him rich and made me comfortable.

If I were going to quit my job to do a start up, yeah I might get passed up in favor of young people by investors, but if they truly only passed me up for another company just because they were younger a) I could sue them and b) they wouldn't be the right partners anyway.

I think if you want to stay in this industry in later years, you should set yourself up to be in a comfortable position for you, whatever that means. If that means you do your start up when you're young and make a solid business out of it, or if that means you get yourself the skills needed to be highly in demand and well paid when you're older, you should plan for where you want to be.


I'm 48 and I've been developing software professionally since I was 21 years old. I think I'm every bit as sharp as I used to be, and probably somewhat more productive overall due to my experience. My only fears are degraded eyesight (I have to wear reading glasses now), and age discrimination. Don't believe the hype.


That cultural description is only true in so far as you believe it.


Yes. By definition, hackers are not bound by rules others impose on them, and I don't think a person's age necessarily makes any difference to having that mentality. Although age affects people in other ways. As people mature, priorities shift, and this can affect how a person perceives the world or their place in society, and this in turn could affect a person's willingness to push the boundaries.

So there's definitely a bias towards people who are younger and have less to lose, but it's not like any hard limits exist.


I'm 40 and I think I might be the only person who really just doesn't give a shit?

I mean, I feel a bit different, sure - but do I really feel much different to when I was 20? Not really. You do some things, then you do some other things, life continues. Maybe if you stop thinking so much about it you'll feel better.


I'm 37. I have been dreaming up the next big thing for 30+ years. That includes today and yesterday. Your question implies that 20 year olds have fresher ideas than myself. This is absolutely false.

Ageism is a real problem, just like racism and classism.

"Get more years out of it.. or .. feel lost..", what does that mean? Your question is ageist.

I was never really part of any culture since I generally don't integrate socially.

After a certain age, your brain chemistry or neural balance or something changes so that you have a much clearer worldview. Maybe just from thinking over and studying basic things for so long. On the other hand, I do feel that I can incorporate new information into my worldview easier than most people, including kids.

As far as 'hacking life', I think there is a limit to what exercise and diet and other 'hacks' can do for aging. Certainly of course some drugs can increase performance for both old and young. Whether there are downsides to those drugs I am not sure. However, I do believe that comprehensive approaches like SENS (as opposed to popular quick-fix ideas) to attacking root causes of aging will probably eventually yield strong results.

As far as technology selection, most younger people are actually using an outdated frame of reference that they adopted from either a few years prior when they picked up a particular technology, or from older developers that they copy on the basis of authority.

The trick to understanding and embracing the leading edge and inventing the next thing is not being young. It is having good comprehension of technology, being open, not deferring to authority or sunk costs, and being willing and able to rebuild your foundations when premises fall.

The other trick to being the next big thing is popularity (which is often quite disconnected from novelty), and for that it helps to be young and pretty, but older people can win the social network popularity contests and are good promoters also.


There's an old story, the punchline of which is an invoice that reads something like this:

Pushing button: $1 Knowing which button to push: $9999

After almost 25 years in IT, the meaning is more clear than ever. Skills are great, but experience is invaluable. For better or worse, experience comes with age.

I've been pretty lucky in my career so far. I've not gotten rich by any means, but I've been steadily employed and, with a couple of exceptions, have enjoyed the work I do. I've also had the opportunity to work with some very smart people in various fields, both young and old, and have taken every opportunity to learn from them. Hack life? No. Just live it and learn from it. The only thing the average 20-something has over me is more time to learn.


Granted, I'm only 30, so take my anecdotal experience as an older person with a grain of salt, but I've found that getting older isn't so hard as everyone seems to get nicer in their 30s. Life's easier when people are nicer.


My body decays faster than the rate at which I change my unhealthy habits.

I have too much experience now to know that many ideas & projects will be expensive or impossible ... kids don't have that limitation.


Just make sure you get better as you get older and make sure to cultivate relationships based upon mutual respect. Work should be guaranteed provided our economy is strong enough to sustain it.


Each year: bigger fonts, more Advil. :)


Your network matters more than you think it does. You can hire smart kids to work for you for relatively cheap (this is how it always has worked). Ignore the celebrification of the industry.


The older get the more original the ideas I seem to have.

Strangely the older I get the more unoriginal and older the ideas the younger people seem to think up.. maybe its their inexperience.. but they always seem to be wasting more and more time until its a zero sum game or they give up and just have kids.. then stop doing anything.

It might explain the 10 percent phenom, only a very few people get more original with age.. the rest just degenerate and give up.


I don't think of getting older as something to "deal with". Maybe if you were a pro athlete, that would be an OK way to look at it. But as a programmer/thinker/business person, I get better everyday. And so do my peers based on my observations.

Granted, I don't recognize pop culture references much but, aside from that, and needing to sit for a minute before getting out of bed in the morning, not much has changed.


Aging well in terms of skills, experience and exposure to the best practices and the flow of technologies may be rewarding when teams decide strategies: been there, done that is a way to spot and hopefully avoid common mistakes. That said, reinventing the wheel is a learning process itself and success is more often singular than the result of a plan.


Running. I logged 1600+ miles in 2014. I'll be closer to 2000 in 2015. I'm 48. Started running again (I ran some in high school and a little after college) when I turned 40. I weigh less than I did in high school. It keeps me motivated. Keeps me sharp.


Although IQ is a debated subject there are many researches claiming that the ability to solve complex problems peaks at about 30 and remains like that until 64. Speed declines. I am good with that because I am not taking part at hackathons.


It's inevitable. Why worry about it?

There's nothing about age that prevents you from understanding or coming up with the next big thing. Keep your mind open and eyes open for stuff that's happening in whatever field you're interested.


Do 20 year olds feel lost when their next big thing is a derivative work from the 70s[0]?

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJDv-zdhzMY


Just picking a nit here... The 'Mother of all Demos' is from the end of 1968, so the '60s. I've been about 2 months old when that happened. :)


Old age is the single most surprising thing that happens to a person.

But I don't think getting hailed is the driver for success. What you accomplish is a lot more important. And age definitely does not prevent that.


I'm 48 and I do feel that I can get more years out of life because I'm more aware and focused on making it happen. I've been fortune that I grew up playing hockey and developed an almost religious belief in the power of working out. It's the best way to stay sharp mentally, feel better physically, and stave of the effects of aging as best we can right now. We are also supremely lucky because our knowledge in this space has increased hugely; my parents had no clue about eating right, or working out, or any of that. My father at 48 looked like you would expect a 48 year old to look like; living in colorado, which is a hyper healthy state full of cross-fitters, runners and olympians trainers, it's striking how young older folks look. I often get mistaken for late 30's, and growing up it would be unthinkable that someone my age could play against 20-something Division 1 college players and be affect. I do this regularly, and I'm grateful I'm able to do it still.

I'm also a big believer in vitamins and supplements, but I know that's a major point of contention (I regularly get razzed by my surgeon buddy at hockey about spending money to color my piss). I disagree though, and I'll spare the lecture on why I believe so because ultimately it comes down to whether or not it helps you personally. I've posted in the past about the positive effects of fish-oil, ubiquinol w/ PQQ and Resveratrol in particular.

Bottom line, it depends on your goals. Mine is to live a 1000 years or so. I started telling my friends this about 20 years back, I think I'd just read K. Eric Drexler's Engines of Creation and probably one of Kaku's physics books and the written to me was clearly on the wall - progress would work in my favor, if I worked hard to keep myself in great shape, I just might make it far enough in life to see these cascading breakthrough's that will eventually propel man's lifespan into the hundreds and beyond. I do realize this is a long shot, but at the same time have nothing to lose by using this to drive my workout and health.

Regarding the 20 something culture... be careful on that... it's natural it seems as one gets older to lament how things have changed, how the 'young folks' are different and the world is changing. In reality we've changed, they are mostly the same, just as angst driven, excited for the future and full of hope and promise and probably a bit too optimistic. This is great, really, don't let it get you down and try to remember/embrace that way of thinking.

I just started a blog on all this stuff, only a bit of content so far but I plan to write a few pieces a week: https://existentialquandary.wordpress.com


Live long enough to live forever(ish)... my goal as well - I missed soaking up knowledge when I was younger and trying to catch up now.

In terms of diet, you might also be interested in Thrive Foods by Brendan Brazier - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0738215112/


Thanks I had not seen that before.


I'm 34 and I believe I'm dreaming up the next big thing.

Many entrepreneurs become succesful at an older age... the famous Coronel Sanders became succesful in his 60s !!

In the tech field, Jeff Bezos started Amazon in his 30s.


I'm working on a time machine. This is how I'm dealing with it.


Isn't any such a question really asks "how do you deal with the fact you'll die quite soon"?


I just turned 50. Get off my lawn.


one day at a time ;)

but seriously, that's how i do it. i never worry about the future, it'll be right. and if it's not it's not, no point worrying about what might be


I wonder how many people on this thread actively workout?


I take it one day at a time


Being 55 in Austin can be a real downer if you let it. I missed the last two bubbles thanks to being in the semiconductor business.

The good news: I avoided most of the insanity. A nest egg, a paid-off house (no mortgage for 6 years), my wife & dogs, my health, and the ability to occasionally travel for pleasure. We put away ~25% of our earnings every month. I go to the gym 4-5 times per week and sweat my ass off.

I've seen more than my share of layoffs so I spend every bleeping moment learning other technologies. I won't be able to call myself a full-stack dev or a data scientist, but I know enough to get the simple stuff done. It will keep me in coffee and banh mi sandwiches when I tell my employer to stuff it.

As for "work fast and break things" culture: I know that 90% of this is fueled by the media. Don't buy the hype. Just be a good human being and ensure that your salary > costs.

I'm rapidly approaching the day that I won't have to wake up and read YC's bullshit. I'll be on a mountainside with my dogs and my wife. Good effing riddance.


I'm jealous of you having a paid off house in Austin right now as I'm sure your property value has risen significantly in the last few years.

I just graduated UT with a CS and got a nice job, but now is the time to buy a house and unfortunately that probably isn't going to happen for a little while.


It'll happen. It took me 10 years of not-so-glamourous jobs before I felt ready to buy. Don't sweat it. (Pun not intended.)


Good location, good money management, good life plan. Congrats.


Appreciate it. Made my share of mistakes, but still standing.


Same here.


in Austin, you sweat your ass off checking the mail!


congratulations on a life well lived. :)


Get off my lawn!


Acceptance.


Come on man, let me give you a hug. You seem to need it. Do you feel better now?




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