Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Why do we work so hard? (1843magazine.com)
377 points by wslh on March 13, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 197 comments

This will sound moralistic, and I don't mean it that way, but I think this relates to our general lack of clear values as a society. With religion absent in many people's lives, not much has stepped in to take up the slack and say "what really matters is being a good person" or "what really matters is wisdom" or "what really matters is family". So we're left with the messages we ARE getting, which are from a combination of advertising (what really matters is having a lot of money/nice things), Hollywood (what really matters is being good at shit) and the news cycle (which focuses on careers and especially major careers). "Mom gets home from work and has a fun late afternoon with her kids, spending no money and getting nothing much done" isn't a story we ever see upheld as a great, positive way to spend our time. So we pursue the things we do see people praising and talking about - promotions, money, milestones, important-ness.

Nah, it's that folks who get their values from other folks are the only ones who bother to tell other folks how well they're doing at achieving their externally-gifted values. If your goal is to make a lot of money but you decided that was just your goal, why bother to tell anyone you've achieved it? (Indeed, it can be very counterproductive to tell other people.) If your goal is to be a good husband & father, then what does it matter what anyone besides your wife & kids think of you?

As a result, external discourse is filled with people crowing about how well they achieved this or that milestone, all of which is desirable only because other people think it's desirable. But then, the only people who care are the ones looking to others for their values.

There are plenty of people whose values are plenty clear, arrived at through some deep reflection about what they personally want. But then, since it's what they personally want, why would anyone else care?

Interesting thoughts. To me, it has always seemed like, if I had something figured out, that had made me happy, i would WANT to share it, if it could help others. When people find a diet or an exercise regimen that works for them, they love to talk about it. I don't think it purely comes down to boasting. I agree that people with deeper wisdom will often be less eager to boast or force their values on others. But I also think there are some people who, in the spirit of helpfulness, are sharing positive values - they just don't have the megaphone that movies, ads, and pundits have.

That works great until you realize that other people often have different value systems. What you're super proud of may be deeply offensive to another person. Just think about how saying "I'm a Googler, and proud of the work I do" might go over for a CS student vs. how it goes ever for the journalist who's struggling to make a living because Google has commoditized the news business.

In practice, what usually happens is people end up self-organizing into small communities of like-minded people. Within the community, values are very homogenous, and people can feel safe that they have a good pulse on what will be offensive vs. what won't be. But when one community meets another, they're often shocked at how barbaric the rest of humanity can be. (Just look at the Trump vs. Sanders melee that played out in Chicago last night.)

And the more differentiated and more nuanced someone's views are, the less they fit into any one community. There are plenty of people whose personal relationships are entirely personal because they're at the point where no one group is going to give them that feeling of belonging.

I think it's interesting you're describing values systems in terms of particular jobs. Like, I work as a writer, and I do value the work that I do, but I don't think of that as my values - my values are: sound, well-researched information; kindness; humor; creativity; taking care of important resources; starting good conversations... It is difficult to believe that any of those values are "deeply offensive"to anyone - and if a person finds them offensive, I do want to change that person's mind. I agree that values are often associated with a community, but i think the work of speaking across community lines to find common values is deeply important - particularly in a far-flung democracy. In your Sanders vs. Trump example, I think actually a lot of the underlying values are the same - dignity for workers, safety for families... if we were all better at speaking about our underlying values, we would have an easier time understanding each other.

Devil is always in the details. At a high level, we're all human, and we all want life, liberty, connection, meaning, and the pursuit of happiness. It's just that means very different things for different people, and as folks get older, they tend to define meaning for themselves in ever more specific terms. The more specific you get, the more likely your definition will come into conflict with anothers'.

I don't much socialize with the people I work with. The people I do socialize with are not from within my industry.

This. I keep bugging my friends and relatives to learn programming - I make way more than the local average, and I work from home, whenever I want. I don't tell them about it because I want to brag; I do it because, to quote Miles Vorkosigan, "if I can do it, you can do it". I want them to do better, they're my friends.

The point is that they're definition of "doing better" isn't necessarily the same as yours. Maybe their idea of a good job isn't one that pays well and allows a flexible schedule, it's one that's low stress: they show up, go through the straightforward motions that they do every day, and go home. If they're interested in something intellectually stimulating, they prefer to do it on their own time, without the risk of your entire income relying on it. That's just one example.

It's natural to want your loved ones to be successful, and it's human to assume that your notion of success is universal, but it's wise to realize that it's not.

That said, it wouldn't be at all surprising if your friends would be better off if they got a job more like yours. The goals of high income and flexible schedule are quite popular.

Yeah... it's not that they like their current job (the people I talk to mostly don't). It's that they seem to have this fixation with "it's too difficult"... my brother helps drug addict teenagers and he thinks programming is too difficult! It's driving me nuts.

The mystique of "impossible" difficulty is a curious phenomenon of human thought.

I am a programmer and I love to code. I definitely think creating Stock Market trading algorithms is difficult. In the absence of conscious exertion of the will to have faith in myself, I can easily slip down the slope of believing it to be impossible. Perhaps, "it's impossible" is used as a shorthand by people to state "it's impossible for me to expend the energy learning to do that".

Perhaps what your brother is really trying to say is: "I think programming is going to take too much of my time and energy spent in acquiring the skill to do competently and professionally. This time and energy is better spent in analysing and helping heal the emotional landscapes of troubled young humans - because that is what appeals to my value system stronger. I wish you luck."

I believe this is actually more benign and respectable than the people who think they are rockstar coders but commit toxic-waste laden mud into git repositories sometimes :-) Much respect to your brother and everyone else who follows their passion instead of what popular opinion or the media tells them is the "best thing" to do.

It's a little confusing view about bugging them to learn programming and you mention making more. Lately on HN, the general view of our community seems to programming is a fairly low rent blue collar position and all the salaries will be driven down to the third; it's weird fore to see that and also the "everybodyish should learn to program" view. In a way, it kind of speaks to this glorification of work in this article .... what's really the point engrossing one's self, in very unhealthy way by looks of the sons of these comments, a "professional" and complex field when it is barreling toward a "blue collar" status ? If that's even the case, I dunno.

Programming is not by any means a "fairly low rent blue-collar position".

It has a very odd wage curve, though, where the vast majority of your salary increases will come in the first 5 years of your career, and the technologies that you became an expert in will be obsolete within 5-10 years. If you don't retrain, you'll be very much obsolete. That's behind most of the complaints on Hacker News; these were people who tasted glory once, and then fell off the technology curve into irrelevance and don't want to hop back on it.

Any profession where you can make $300-400K/year as an employee with ~5 years of experience, or over half a million as a consultant, would be considered fantastically lucrative by most of the world.

These $300k+ salaries you speak of are no more common than any other field where maybe 1/1000 makes this. HN is quite heavy with Silicon Valley coders at Google, Facebook, etc.

The 99.9% of the rest of developers are making $90k in the Midwest up to $150k in high cost areas on the coasts.

Yes this is certainly better than most other jobs, but considering a developer will hit the inflation rate raises by about 30, while other professions like doctors and lawyers tend to continue seeing large raises, I really don't feel software is a great gig, all things considered.

Mid thirties and I'm already seeing my first decades's go-to languages and frameworks becoming obsolete (Java, MVC, single RDMS, etc). Taking the massive amount of time to learn the new ones will not increase my pay one bit, but just give me another few years of employment.

It was great at 28 making $90k while most my peers were still in grad school and / or making $40k in crappy positions. But now a lot them are getting into mgmt, making partner, have a good book of customers, and have caught up. Even a few Fed and state workers I know with liberal arts degrees are hitting six figures with the gov't, along with job stability, pensions, and guaranteed raises. Meanwhile we get more H1Bs and offshoring.

Not everybody is an American :)

There are two issues here:

1. The average salary in my area is $300 a month, after taxes. The only reason I'm not making $10K is because I'm lazy, and I prefer to play games. $2K after taxes (again, working from home) is something that's so easy I honestly feel I hadn't been working at all at the end of the month. $4K is almost as easy. I've done $8K but I didn't watch TV or play games.

2. Maybe even more importantly, I do not fear the future. I recently rejected a $8K / month job because I didn't like the project. I remember being afraid of losing my job as recently as three years ago, but it's like in a story about someone else. I have clients who send me emails every month about this or that issue - it takes me a day or two to solve it, and I charge them $300 to $500. Again - this is the average here; in fact, it's what my sister makes - and she works 8 hours a day, standing up, talking to customers, using a computer with Windows 95 on it. THIS is why I keep bugging everybody.

Well I don't think that's what the complaints have been about. I'm not sure if the complaints are even true but is definitely a more common view on HN these days. It's less what you say and I think more "people in X will do all this for an annual salary of about $1,000" so that's the end of the game now.

As far as the "pace of technology change;" I don't really see that. I don't count the rather comedic constant wheel reinvention in the JavaScript community really counts as really "technology change" or even think the Web mvc framework du jour rises to that level. So, ok let's look at general cs, what I see is fairly incremental changes in distributed systems, file systems, and so on. Ok let's consider the machine learning craze, but this has been a utilization of 50 year old methods in a much more distributed fashion -- the people who wrote the Statistical Learning textbook in the 70s probably don't think of this is as mega technological change, maybe more like "well, this is finally popular." So I dunno.

Because there's a bit of a feedback loop with success. If others see you as being successful or impressive (on whatever axis they care about), this attracts them to you, and having a more admirers increases your social power and influence, which gives you more opportunities and better chances of success in your future efforts.

This also explains patio11's formula for career success, which is basically:

10 Make something awesome

20 Tell people about it

30 GOTO 10

Dude, this doesn't sound like fun at all. "Social power and influence" to what end? With whom are you getting this power and influence? Are these relationships even genuine?

> "this attracts them to you, and having a more admirers increases your social power and influence, which gives you more opportunities and better chances of success in your future efforts."

Reminds me of those "social climber" jokes about kids in high school. I guess if you've taken measure of yourself and found it matches up with the company you keep, there's nothing for anyone else to say.

Perhaps my explanation didn't adequately convey the subtlety of this phenomenon.

I am not saying that successful people are all social climbers. I am just saying that successful people naturally attract the support of people who want to learn from and take part in their success, and this greater popularity in turn increases their chances for future success. It's what you might call a virtuous cycle, or a snowball effect.

If you are successful at something, it is perfectly rational to want others to know it.

This isn't a secret, most people are aware of people whose "friends" are simply those who have skills or knowledge they want. In the context of what's important in life though, this drive for status and financial success might require examination. Especially when the people around you will disappear when there is nothing left to gain. If those are the majority of relationships in your life, it would be easy to lose sight of all the other awesome things in life aside from status and money. More importantly, you might realize the age-old problems with solely pursuing those things.

"You can't get everyone to genuinely like you, unless you're a snake, but then it's just an illusion. If you're lucky, (in this day and age) those you don't get along with will be polite.

Having all the money in the world is pointless if no one else has anything left to trade.

That's true but only matters if you have a value system that includes social power and influence among its values.

Someone whose core values are "I was there for my family whenever they needed me" is not going to care how many admirers they have. Someone whose core values are "I will respect and learn from other peoples' differences and not try to convert them to my way of thinking" is actively failing if they end up recruiting disciples.

patio11's value system is not the one nostrademons was talking about...

> As a result, external discourse is filled with people crowing about how well they achieved this or that milestone, all of which is desirable only because other people think it's desirable.

That's spot on and I wouldn't mind it if that was related to acts of creation.

> If your goal is to be a good husband & father, then what does it matter what anyone besides your wife & kids think of you?

Well, other people can still interfere with your goal. For example, they might throw you in jail.

> What our modern society needs are some new myths, legends, stories and rituals that we can all identify with in our more cosmopolitan world. Without such identification we could end up like a rudderless ship in the ocean, not knowing who we are, or where we are going. Isn’t that something that our leaders, whether in business or politics, should be concerned with?

Bill Moyers on Joseph Campbell (http://blog.iese.edu/leggett/2012/02/27/the-power-of-myth-by...)

The problem is that the myths that sell aren't the ones we should identify with.

Maybe what our modern society needs is to orient its moral compass around reality rather than myths.

> With religion absent in many people's lives, not much has stepped in to take up the slack

Given the obsession with hard (in fact over-) work in the English-speaking world and European north tends to be commonly treated as an artifact of the "Protestant work ethic" this seems pretty off-base.

Islam's view on work is balanced. Simply it's a mean to live financially independent, not a life purpose. This idea can be seen in the commitment to the five must-be-on-time prayers during the day. No work should cause the prayers to be postponed.

Ironically, through the last century, there is a "modern" Islamic speech that preaches "hard work ethics" (the western way) among other western values. It will be funny if the west starts to morally rethink their life style, while the Islamic world is about to complete the low-morale modernization process.

That "balance" doesn't seem to be contributing much to the economies of Muslim-majority countries, and their living standards, though, does it?

Except for those nations sitting on abundant oil reserves, the Muslim world is chaotic, unproductive and has terrible human rights / freedom of expression.

You have to be very careful to tease out correlation from causation here. In the Middle Ages the Islamic world was significantly ahead of the West in these regards. For a bunch of historical reasons (ineffectiveness of Ottoman Empire for several hundred years, World War I) most of the Islamic world is indeed behind first-world countries.

But that's also like blaming Christianity for the problems in Central America or Central Africa. Religion is only a small factor.

That is probably one of the reason but not conciously for most in north EU. So religion is absent in their lives just some of the habits instilled by centuries of teachings die hard.

I see that sort of message a great deal in the "Lifestyle design" communities.

A lot of the nomad-entrepreneur / lifestyle-design / ISV / four-hour-work-week culture values time with family, for example, very highly, and is actively working toward prioritising that over work.

It's one of the reasons I like that culture. It's also one of the reasons I like HN, because there's a significant minority of those folk here.

Interestingly, this ties into your comment further down the thread:

"To me, it has always seemed like, if I had something figured out, that had made me happy, i would WANT to share it, if it could help others."

A lot of people in the above communities do exactly that - but they tend to subsequently get decried as con artists, snake oil salesmen, or whatever, by people who believe they're selling an impossible dream.

Of course, there are also some genuine snake-oil salesmen out there. But I've generally found the population is lower than is commonly assumed.

Doesn't sound moralistic at all. It sounds like an appeal to analysis of sources of information. I don't see how you can go wrong.

We went from Eisenhower to Kennedy in a few years.

I think this, and the fact that people move too much are largely the whole story. See also Peter Whybrow for more on this.

>>>the fact that people move to much


I'm really curious about what you mean by this. Would you please elaborate?

I don't want to speak for ArkyBeagle but I think, when young adults move, they often move for work - so you show up in a city where what you're there to do is work, the people you know are through work, you don't have the balanced social structure of family, friends, and work, so you don't end up spending healthy time relaxing with family and friends, you just... work. That's my guess.

That is better than I could have summarized it. I would say that for children, it may be even harder.

Then again, I moved a child from what seemed a very good but isolated (for her) situation and she developed much more of a network after the move.

I am echoing Peter Whybrow from the BookTV presentation of his book "The Well-Tuned Brain".

Moving disrupts your (organic, on the ground) social network.

OTOH the US has been driven by the Protestant work ethic for centuries. Many religions praise hard work and not just savoring the fruits of life, so an inverse correlation between faith and devotion to labor seems unlikely.

it doesn't sound moralistic. I think you make great points and they're entirely plausible for many people.

>This will sound moralistic, and I don't mean it that way

It's truly sad that the culture of people in computing reading this forum, which reflects the nation and west as a whole, is so disconnected from God that you feel the need to disclaim the profession of morality or religion.

> It's truly sad

No, actually it's one of the few truly hopeful and uplifting things. Why would that be sad?

No, what's truly sad is that I'm too old to have any shot at being a god. So it goes.

On the contrary, I find it uplifting to witness people so disconnected from God.

I moved to SF in 2008 as a poor college grad. Since then, I've spent all of my time in startups. It's an unhealthy addiction and it's going to kill me.

I was the third engineer at Eventbrite, and I spent years working many extra hours. After 4 years, it felt like I worked 10 years.

I quit and moved to Europe to try to leave the startup scene, but a month later, I found myself the CTO of a startup in London. The addiction continued. Eventually I found myself back in SF. I'm on my 3rd CTO role now. We're about to raise a series B.

More than I'd like to admit, I want to stop this madness and just enjoy life. Hang out with my family. Perhaps move to Denver or Austin to maintain some semblance of tech life, but get out of the madness. I've been looking at houses in Denver for over a year. And it depresses me.

I know that it can't happen. I know that I'll be working like this until my health prohibits me.

There's a term for this called "revealed preferences." If you keep saying "I wish I could work sane hours" but actually keep making decisions to work insane hours, chances are you actually really just want to work insane hours.

I spent a lot of time being confused by this, listening to perfectly healthy young people with good paying jobs and no attachments telling me "I wish I could just drop everything and go traveling for months on end like you do" and then just sort of trailing off. "But You Can!!!" I always wanted to shout back. You just don't actually want to do that. Or you would. What that person really wanted was what they had: a stable comfortable job and a nice car and apartment, practicing for the day when they had a wife, kids, lease & mortgage to solidify that reality of "can't go traveling". Sounds pretty comfy, actually. If only they could come to grips with what they wanted and be happy with it.

It might be worth stepping back and looking at what you actually want. You just might find it's what you already have.

"Revealed preferences" used to be called "unconscious compulsions."

The phrasing is revealing, because "revealed preferences" suggests that your actions are somehow in alignment with your true core values, while "unconscious compulsions" suggests that your actions are destructive to your true core values, and you could consider doing some psychological work to realign them.

Psychology suggests the latter view is more realistic, especially if you're not getting any genuine fulfilment from a situation.

It also suggests that unconscious compulsions can be the result of external influences, particularly in childhood, and may not be true preferences at all.

These people may also be stuck in a local optimum, though. There are plenty of examples of people that finally do drop everything and go traveling or make some other deep change in their life, and end up much happier. But making that kind of decisions is not easy.

People can want more than just one thing. It might be fairer to say that they want all the things they say they want. But they want this other thing the most, and since this other thing isn't compatible with the others (can't travel the world and also be CTO) it wins.

I think that's fun to say but isn't really. The reason people don't drop everything and travel is not because they really don't want to, they have other fears and obligations. Perhaps some of those fears are not as justified as the person thinks and perhaps the barriers are more illusory than the person thinks but I don't think it is that really just prefer working for "The Man."

There is a danger to armchair psychological terms but it is extraordinarily fun to use them. :)

Similar story here, been doing the crazy startup founder hours for half a decade now, haven't really lived much outside of the office in that time. Feeling also trapped: if I drop out, then I'm somewhat giving up on all of the people who over the years I had to convince to join me in a vision that I'm becoming tired of. It'd very likely lead to the collapse of a source of fulfillment, purpose and income for many people, but at the same time I suppose I have only one life and don't have to be a martyr.

What's something someone with a strong entrepreneurial, technical and managerial background (and very good pedigree) can do for maybe 20 hours a week and still pay the bills? I would love to drop out of the race for a few years and smell the roses.

What's something someone with a strong entrepreneurial, technical and managerial background can do for maybe 20 hours a week?

Exactly what you're doing now. But only 20 hours a week of it.

You can spend today having the talks you need to have to make this happen, then start your first sane work week tomorrow.

There's a documentary ("Some kind of monster") on Metallica's creative process for the St Anger album. It shows James Hetfield (arguably the band's leader) wanting to have a more balanced schedule, and adapting the band's process to fit to it. The result was a very mediocre album.

> What's something someone with a strong entrepreneurial, technical and managerial background (and very good pedigree) can do for maybe 20 hours a week and still pay the bills? I would love to drop out of the race for a few years and smell the roses.

Consulting. Small business. Almost anything really.

How hard is it to make some $5k per month if you have a skill that you can charge $100+/hour for! About a week and a half of work per month.

Plus taxes.

All else being equal, you should consider stopping the madness, it will probably better for everyone long term than more and more years on the same path.

Of course it could happen - there's nothing inherent that keeps you from downshifting and enjoying your life more. Even if you're truly addicted to work, addictions can be beaten.

I have to admit I find articles like this completely perplexing. As soon as I achieved a little bit of professional success, I dropped full-time work like a hot rock, and I don't miss it at all.

What do you do now? Part time contracting?

I'm at a place where I don't really need to work full time either, but I haven't figured out a plan for getting out of it.

Not the GP, but I took a bunch of time off work, traveled with my wife for a while and then hacked on fun things until I found one I could make into a product. I'm now living off a bootstrapped product, and I couldn't be happier.

Would also love to hear the answer to this.

The vast, vast majority of people cannot simply "drop" full-time work. If I dropped full-time work, I'd have to move myself any my family away from the Bay Area, where all our connections and friends are. That's kind of an unacceptable lifestyle change for my family.

How did you escape the cycle? Or are you living off of a big exit?

Ditto here but it took me a lot longer than I expected it would.

I was like that and it did catch up with me when I was doing that for around 11 years. I still work in startups but no longer the crazy hours and to my continued surprise: we get everything done still while no one works crazy hours.

It's 2016 and I feel like I'm going to become like this. I have a case of insomnia and drive to just work. I'm soon to graduate and the idea of working at a large company seemed nice after I applied, but when the offer was there I had to turn it down because I didn't want to be comfortable. I feel like start ups have so much to offer in terms of personal growth and I don't want to miss it.

Let's chat by email. Maybe talking to another CTO who is running a post-Series A startup and who is roughly your age with a similar background (and who has the exact same concerns) will let us figure out a plan out of the madness.


The way I see it, this is great. Start up success means you get to live a lifetime of working in X many years instead of Y like everyone outside of tech, where Y >> X. You have the freedom to direct that energy towards family, yourself, and charity when you want to call it quits. Most people don't get that luxury. You also have the freedom to look back at a short, but intense career of (hopefully) successful products that you were a core part of. Even fewer get to experience that.

Don't assume your health will be good forever.

Id bet E(X) >> E(Y) though.

I think the OP perfectly reasons through your situation.

Perhaps the real madness would be trying to change something that is obviously very important to some part of your soul.

Have you been able to "cash out" enough to do what you want?

Technically no. Eventbrite still hasn't gone public.

If you're interested in selling a few shares now, then I would recommend EquityZen. The process is very simple.

Well having done a few conference and course registrations through it, it works very well. Just don't let it turn into a Ticketmaster.

Fwiw I grew up in Colorado and love it so much but live in Bay Area now. I too am trying to get to back to Denver. If you want to start a company there let me know! :-)

I'm in the Denver area. I just left a startup here to become an independent consultant. There's a really solid tech community in Denver/Boulder.

Maybe you could stick CTOing but slack off a bit as the company becomes prosperous?

This is the core of the problem: 'slack off' is actually 'having a life' but you yourself and everyone in the ratmill finds it slacking off. Maybe you are lucky and will realize that this is crazy before your health catches up.

That's not me.

Maybe it should be?

Don't see it as 'slacking off' though. See it as establishing a mature work/life balance.

The problem is that as a startup founder/CTO type the way you work sets the pace and culture for your entire company. And not everyone will be cool with that approach. You could miss out on experienced, senior people who just want to work normal hours and not feel like they're letting the side down.

I don't know you, but you get my respect for that statement.

Funny how that works. I'm a soon to be college grad, born in Denver (currently in Boulder,) looking to move to SF and get into the start up life. Want to switch places?

BTW: I love Denver, just want to see what's up with SF.

A sense of purpose is a burning fire. Stroke it as best you can. Take care of your health, but also your beckoning. You sound like you're on your happiest path. :)

Why is "looking at houses in Denver" depressing?

To me, it represents a slower pace of life.

EDIT: trust me, I'm not bored.

Is big city life that fulfilling? For me all the high end cuisine and art galleries started to blur into each other. It was like constant stimulation, very sugary, and I got burnt out. So I quit my job, moved into my truck and will just ski/climb/hike for a year.

I moved from cities to a mountain village where 40 people live at the high point of the year. Best thing I ever did. I still like some cities but the different pace made realize we are just winding ourselves up needlessly. It is indeed an addiction which you do not need to achieve what you want (exceptions aside ofcourse).

But..isn't that what you just said you wanted?

Are you sure it isn't just boring, vs. depressing? Maybe if you find a hobby or side project, it'll counter the boredom.

You might be thinking about it the wrong way. It might be a slower pace of work, but certainly not a slower pace of life as that will always be what you make it. I think the problem here is what you've defined as life.

A slower pace of life allows a person to focus more, in my opinion. I've lived in SV but I live in Tahoe now and get way more done programming from the mountains.

Slower pace from where exactly? SFBA?

I couldn't disagree more, if that's indeed what you're saying.

NYC, yes. SF - absolutely not.

Here's a crazy idea: stop overworking. Being a CTO doesn't mean you have to work long hours.

In fact, I'd go as far as to say that he has a responsibility as a CTO to maintain a clear, balanced head to delegate and make decisions and working long, hard hours is the antithesis to that.

You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?" "I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.


“I think that New York [City] is the new model for the New Concentration Camp where the camp has been built by the inmates themselves where the inmates ARE the guards and they have this pride in this thing they’ve built. They’ve built their own prison and so they exist in a state of schizophrenia where they are both guards and prisoners and as a result, they no longer have – having been lobotomized – the capacity to leave the prison they’ve made or to even see it as a prison.” - My Dinner With Andre

If you remove literally every single property that makes a prison a prison, then New York is just like a prison. Got it.

If you need to model large numbers of other people as suffering from severe mental health issues to make your world view fit, chances are it's your world view that's wrong. But that's no fun.

Reminds me of Wonko The Sane from a Douglas Adams book. He built his house as an inside out asylum to contain the entire outside world.

This is a good quote, but I'd argue the author could work this way for years and not make himself a chain. He seems more concerned with whether we could do better.

I enjoy designing RF/Microwave hardware and I am paid well to do it. I plan on doing it till I keel over. I have a state of the art lab at work, and a nice lab at home. I'm passionate about electronics and really wouldn't know what else to do.

RF/Microwave hardware isn't work, it's sorcery. You just enjoy being a wizard.

If you're too good at that, DoD gets annoyed. One of the great suppressed inventions: Airadar.[1] A phased array radar with a conformal antenna for light aircraft. In 1973. Worked fine, and was reviewed in Flying magazine. The USAF was very unhappy, because it was better and much smaller than military radars of the period, which were still "dish in the nose" mechanically scanned devices.

[1] https://books.google.com/books?id=NWzlTqj0gQ4C&pg=PA66&lpg=P...

All those professors in undergrad brushed it off as "black magic".

All really boils down to problem solving and intellectual stimulation. I suppose any job that has that is good.

And expensive equipment :-)

You said "state of the art," too, so I fully expect that the price is well into "call us" territory. Speaking of which, I need to go enter my name into today's Agilent drawing...

Spherical near field antenna scanner, mm wave equipment, Keysight 50 GHz PNA with pulsed X-parameters, Keysight UXA spectrum analyzer, load pull tuners, etc; all good stuff.

If you experience a burglary in the next couple of days it wasn't me.

You have just described what is easily fifty thousand USD worth of equipment.

I think you mean 500K$ usd, used.

At that point, there isn't much difference in terms of affordability for your average person.

I think you underestimate how much those of us struck RF fever (a lifelong affliction with no cure) are willing to spend on the hobby. Some common price points I've seen in home labs: $15k oscilloscopes, $10k signal generators, $6k logic analyzers, etc. $50k would be a high-end home lab, but home-lab territory nonetheless. It's affordable on an engineer's salary -- many of us semi-regularly spend more on things like nice cars and "living in SF."

$500k, OTOH, isn't, unless you're particularly well off for an engineer. So you need to find an employer to purchase the toys for you. Looks like madengr has done well on that front :-)

Fair enough. Just sour grapes I suppose. Heh. I would love to have such a well equipped lab... as is I have to make do with simulation.

That is awesome, I've always been super impressed with the technical depth I've seen in engineers that work in this field.

Excellent article; at 3,860 words, it's a bit long, but recommended.

Here's a much shorter response, with more pathos:

"Oh. And if your reading this while sitting in some darkened studio or edit suite agonizing over whether housewife A should pick up the soap powder with her left hand or her right, do yourself a favour. Power down. Lock up and go home and kiss your wife and kids."

-- Linds Redding, "A Short Lesson in Perspective"

Read the whole thing: http://www.lindsredding.com/2012/03/11/a-overdue-lesson-in-p...

It's too long because he likes to write, lives to write, and writes to live.

All the more reason it should have been shorter.

Reminds me of the famous Blaise Pascal quote: "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time." (also attributed to Mark Twain, T.S. Eliot and others)

You know, I get accused a great deal of being too long winded. But long experience tells me that shortening it too much means I am not going to actually be understood. So, perhaps he has reasons other than Blow-Hard-itis for thinking that all those words were actually necessary.

Competition. It's not that we really have to work that hard to produce a product or service. It's that we have to work really hard to beat the other people trying to do the same thing.

Increased productivity doesn't help, because everybody is still running flat out to compete, at a higher level.

Don't you like rabbit holes? Chasing the weird or subtle or ill-defined phenomena that no one else cares about and will probably lead nowhere but just smells so damn good?

Many of us are like Jack Russells in that way ;)

Nobody really needs the product, but if it is good enough it will nonetheless grant us a part of the pie much larger than welfare. It's the service economy. All parts of the service sector that go beyond the much smaller one you would see in an old fashioned industrial economy could well be considered a naturally occurring redistribution model.

The only reason I work hard is to surround myself with people I respect.

When I find myself pushed into situations where irritating people have crept into the mix, and no one seems to be willing or able to do anything about that, I look for an exit.

Boss' nephews. Obnoxious assholes who constantly talk about getting laid. Bitchy careerist ladies who constantly demand bullshit, and seem to foment panic with every breath they can muster. Narcissistic retards dumb as a bag of hammers, but smug to the core about everything they do, which usually turns out to be sitting on their asses all day, looking up trivia about sports. Weirdos who can't seem to bathe themselves, even though they're like 40 years old?

I work hard to separate myself from these people.

Try to respect more people. Like the Petit Prince of Saint Exupery who can see through "boxes". That's one thing I loved learning in my life. And I'm a founder. Attitude works as a manager, not as a founder. You also need to understand the ins and outs of people, not just where they are today.

I was sharing a flat in Australia with a waiter from Thai origins. He used to make sentences without a verb. He couldn't articulate an argument. Things in life were either "bad" or "the best" for him. Every movie was his favourite movie. He can't read the price of butter. I call that illiterate.

But the guy was born without a mother. He was in a countryside boarding school. At 17 he found a grant for a cook school in Australia. He starved for 2 years but he co-owned a restaurant when he was 21. We met at age 24, he was a waiter at Sofitel for $700-1000pw. He tried Architecture, but went on with a bachelor in media. He's travelled half of Asia and Europe. He beats me sometimes on the history of France.

Let me repeat: The guy was born in the countryside in Thailand and he's currently making it in Syndey, where land prices go through the roof because it's a sunny place with beaches, low pollution, excellent schools, the second best development index IN THE WORLD according to UN (after Norway), and more freedom than in US. And he'll graduate at the end of the semester. He's done much better than my colleagues in my developed country.

But he's little people. A waiter. For people who can't see through.

You don't need hard work to be surrounded by respectable people. Just reverse the problem. You need to find the people around you who are respectable, and to do that you need to listen to their story.

And finding respect in simple things is really good for work hours and happiness.

Yeah, I really can't understand this point of view. I find most people interesting, however different they may be. I'm lucky to be surrounded by talented people but I don't see it as a new stratum of goodness, people are shitty or great on every level.

On the contrary I dislike negative people who can't see anything good in what surround them and have a cynical view of the world. I don't think I would have liked working with you.

Things are always more bearable when not forced. The same is true for having to stand in the presence of awful people who are saddled with awful circumstances, and suffer both them and the circumstantial misery simultaneously.

Jail, and places similar to jail, where presence and schedule are compulsory, are neither fun nor interesting. Such places bring out the worst in people. I don't feel a shred of guilt or shame for being negative.

Do you maybe just hate most of humanity?

It's kind of hard not to. I'm deeply suspicious of people who don't.

Have you tried empathy? Most people are just, y'know, doing their things. They have likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.

Some of them are actually pretty terrible, but I don't think that's a universal quality of humanity.

Agreed, hence all the hard work to find the good ones!

Hah, are you me? They say a cynic is merely a jaded idealist, and it's hard to disagree.

Exactly how I feel. Now let the hating continue.

Yeah, that's kind of true, I found myself seriously considering going to lawschool, sick of programming, when I finally realized that all I really wanted was to work with competent people.

All entities are broken. Make your peace with that. Don't be angry when people are awful or things/systems don't work. Be pleasantly surprised when anything works.

I'm not preaching universal love. I'm advocating pruned expectations.

Is it working out?

Well, the trade exchanging one Boss' Nephew for one Smelly Weirdo is actually turning out to be an improvement.

That's a trade we all should make in a heart beat.

You should have posted your comment after the second paragraph.

I wish I wanted to work a lot. I just kind of force myself to do it, even if it's something I'm excited about.

Same. Then again, I'm not where I want to be. Looking at all the workaholics in this thread I'm simultaneously intrigued and weirded out.

I'm also weirded out. Who wants to work? How can you not have as a life goal to not work? It sucks for the most part!

As for Marx and Keynes and others, thinking about what people will do if they're freed of labour, have you SEEN youtube? People are not lacking ideas on things to do, quite the opposite!

My work is my life's dream. I did it for years as a hobby making no $ (losing money really) and worked terrible tech jobs I hated until I could switch the two.

Now I work 80 hours per week but it feels like 5. So it's not work to me.

So I guess your profile hasn't been updated in a while?

And what is it that you're are doing now? Must be really awesome if it's still enjoyable after 80 hours.

It sure as hell isn't Data Science. Well I guess I do some of that at my job. But now it's for fun.

I work in sports science now. It's great.

Telling people that living as they wish "sucks" doesn't make you right about them, it makes you a bigot.

The parent didn't say that. The comment was an expression of confoundedness ("I'm also weirded out ..."), not condemnation.

For me, I never actively sought out working a lot, it just happened: I managed to get into a position where something I'm good at is really useful to other people, and in return (besides cash and appreciation) they let me do even more of what I'm good at, as well as actively support my development in areas I could become very good at, but aren't yet (in return for to even more cash and appreciation).

Retrospectively, I pretty actively engineered my path into this position, even if there never was a very conscious plan. Plenty of small improvements, plenty of listening to my gut, plenty of being wrong and then trying to learn from that. But yeah, that's easy enough to say in retrospect, not something 10-years-ago me would have found very actionable.

> "Of all things, hard work has become a virtue instead of the curse it was always advertised to be by our remote ancestors... The necessity to work is a neurotic symptom. It is a crutch. It is an attempt to make oneself feel valuable even though there is no particular need for one’s working."

— C. B. Chisholm

Work is a good excuse around which to build your life. The excuse approaches perfection in occupations such as programming which is getting paid for what would basically be your hobby. And―as any excuse―it is, as lovingly ever-favoured by your mind, easily used to avoid facing things in life, and edges in yourself. Staying busy is the opposite of having enough. It is doing versus being. When you do, you're trying to achieve something. When you be, you're liable to realise that you aren't missing anything, and that the keys to your life are found within yourself. People need both flavours but work rarely offers the latter.

Because in a poor economy the most job desperate set ceilings for themselves they dare not touch. I know people who produce millions in profit a year, on 50-60k salary with any bonus over 3k for xmas is unheard of. Disparate power between employee and employer. I personally the problem is people dont understand the correct process of negotiating a contract.

In essence, making people desperate makes robots that are handy, but the lack of reward incentive creates demonstratably worse worke product.

What about getting laid? It's no secret that women tend to find rich men attractive. Or men with a high social status. I wonder how many men work hard because of this?

Voila. This and securing food. Both being delayed or sublimed.

I worked hard -- or, long -- because I had a shit personal life and neighbors who made it miserable to be at home. And, I was taught early and thoroughly that there was nothing I could do about such things.

Let me tell you, it is a terrible way to live.

Working hard and smartly and with fun, which I occasionally got to do, was something different and immensely satisfying.

But, if you are "working hard" because life sucks. Get your life in order. The sooner the better, not just for you, but ultimately, for your career.

Anyone who says you can't. Or that you have to "pay some sort of dues"? Fuck them.

As I overheard in the cafe, the other day -- my paraphrase may not be as snappy as the original: There's one choice where the outcome is 100% certain: Not choosing. Making no choice, taking no action, no chance.

The young-ish fellow was advising another young fellow on whether to ask a girl out.

As someone who's ended up spending his life alone -- and, is that "not by choice", or, per the above, precisely by choice. Let me tell you, there is no more important choice.

Family, friends, lovers, work and interests that matter (however, and, big or small). There is no more important choice. "Work hard" on those.

It really depends. Most times you just need the money. Sometimes you have nothing better to do. Many times you just keep doing it because you are used to doing it. A few times is your dream job and you just can't stop doing it. Work is more than economics, is not a function of money. Work is action. My father is a 73 'retired' professional and scholar, now serving as a congressman, and already thinking what to do next. Action is life and you should never stop it: work til you drop.

Another question would be: why do we keep working so hard for money when technology could already solve many of our needs?

Whenever I read topics like this I always think of Office Space.

Bob Porter: Looks like you've been missing a lot of work lately.

Peter Gibbons: I wouldn't say I've been missing it, Bob.

Don't you wanna express yourself?


Some people thrive on "solving puzzles", which is sort of what engineering is.

For better or worse, there are an infinite number of puzzles to solve.

The troubling thing, at least for me, is that as I get older I realize that most puzzles one encounters as a software engineer are related to non-problems.

When I was fresh out of college I would jump at any such puzzle that was presented to me and would not sleep until I had solved it. I never stopped to think about the larger picture where that puzzle was embedded in, and if it actually required solving or if a more pragmatic solution was at hand and would lead to the same outcome.

Now that I have some years of experience in the industry, I realize that 80% of the "puzzles" I face at work are bullshit. They are usually complicated situations generated by organic and uncontrolled growth in codebase complexity that lead to horrible scenarios requiring a lot of brain power to solve. The thing is, if things had been more properly thought out, those situations would have not occurred in the first place, because the code would have a lot more sound architecture. But because it was allowed to grow without thought and refactoring, it now offers many "puzzles" that the younger people in the team don't even question at a more fundamental level.

Sorry for the cynicism but it's honestly the way I feel about most of the work I do these days. Too much in terms of stability, maintainability and soundness is sacrificed for performance and for pushing things out the door asap.

After the first two paragraphs i was deeply convinced that you were questioning the products those puzzles were part of, not just the way those puzzles got in there.

The cynic in me likes to widen the scope one step further, then those figurative 80% are the fraction of software created that is basically "twitter for pets" (or some transitive dependency thereof, technologically or via business). It's easy to focus on one of the many exciting puzzles hidden inside a "twitter for pets", but if you take a step back (and yes, that's one of the perils of age), well, twitter for pets.

> They are usually complicated situations generated by organic and uncontrolled growth in codebase complexity that lead to horrible scenarios requiring a lot of brain power to solve.

Agreed. The deeper I get into the software field, the more it feels like choreography.

Every line of code added needs to be maintained and makes adding future code more difficult. As our job is to build software, we are too eager to increase technical debt without knowing it. Always ask "how can we avoid building it?"

When you realize it really does need to be built and it is the highest priority, think about how it can be built while keeping cruft down. You can still be fast while keeping the codebase clean but it requires constant refactoring and review and a common understanding between team members.

That's pretty much my personal approach to writing code (with special devotion to the "how can we avoid building it" part). I wish everyone I worked with had the same attitude.

Yes, I'm not old but I am easily distracted when I'm having to solve problems created by the imperfection of human minds and aren't part of "the universe", by nature.

Of course, as I type this, I come to the shaking realisation that Humans are also a component of the Universe. I need to reevaluate my emotions.

> Now that I have some years of experience in the industry, I realize that 80% of the "puzzles" I face at work are bullshit.

Amen, brother. Just four years of work experience here, but I can totally confirm that. The actual product is built in a week, then it's multiple months of "this department over there needs a special case implemented pronto".

I've been having a lot of frustrating conversations with my father the last several months around these issues. He is far from an intellectual and holds the 'protestant work ethic' in high regard. He is retiring in the next few months and work to him has always been this crappy thing he does every day to allow him do the things he loves (gardening, farming, camping, construction projects on his property).

I have never looked at work that way and I even quit my last job partially due to moral qualms I had helping a company I didn't believe in. He seems to think all I want is money, but that is the third priority for me following challenging work and contributing to a company that makes the world better. My father has never been all about money, but he never would have gone to work for anything but money.

He was even offered to interview for his boss's boss's job last year (C-suite in a conglomerate), but turned them down because he was over the rat race. Anecdotally, they told him they would 'overlook his lack of an MBA since he had 30+ years of experience' to which he replied 'that's good, since I don't even have an undergraduate degree.' So I suppose it's never been about money, so much as what the money enables him to do outside of work.

He continues to urge me to take a job, any job and just be happy with what any manager does to me as long as I get a paycheck. He was baffled when I quit a decent job to be unemployed. I can see his points and I often wonder if I am doing it wrong. He purchased a home in his late 20's after getting married, had 5 kids, very involved with his church, and has always had personal projects he spent his weekends working on. Even if I didn't go to college, those things would still be out of reach for me.

I wonder if my generation has just been instilled with different values or have we just been prevented from having the fruits of our values (homes, kids, etc)? Are we (I) just trying to fill the void because the truly wonderful things in life are more out of reach than they were for the Boomers? I really wonder how my father would fare if he was born in the same generation as me.

This is what I've realized lately about job satisfaction:

Purpose, autonomy, work/life balance: pick 2

Classic engineering trade-off. I'm by nature a back room boy so I trade some autonomy.

Earth is a small rocky ball among billions in the void. We don't know why we are here and what happens next. Stick your head into a mission (work, religion, family, whatever you like) and don't think about that.

There's several issues intertwined here. The easy ones are those market forces I experienced at the relative bottom of the pay-scale and at the smaller end of the company scale: you're asked to work harder and more hours because it makes more money/profits for your employer to get you to work as long as possible for as little as possible.

However, I think there's two more aspects I think I can contribute.

Firstly: some kind of social identity. I've worked in a fair number of fields and a fair number of jobs, so being attached to a job or thinking of "myself as a particular profession" seems quite alien. But a fair number of my colleagues saw/see themselves as possessing a particular identity, and work/professions defined that for them. We have a very powerful social indoctrination that you are your job: we have titles, little boxes for "profession" on forms, and many people have internalized the messages that "you are what you are employed as", and that you need this external direction/identity to tell you what to do (I don't want to retire, what would I do with myself?!), and that their social identity is formed through their work/networks. Its a bit of a self-fullfilling prophecy, because as we move away from community oriented networks, people's social networks do become defined by where they work. Even if you manage to get out of the ratrace, you discover that your friends are still in it, so they don't have time to spend with you and you can't identify with some of their everyday struggles if you aren't going through it also. I should also note that people who gained this identity through work took retrenchment and change the hardest psychologically, and its easy upon reflection to understand why.

The second aspect though is this: generating the impression of work. I don't know whether its base human psychology (I think there are good arguments from anthropology that it isn't) or a culture-bound phenomenon, but I believe two things: that most humans still have a fundamentally reptilian-brain/cargo-cult psychology that is pretty close to the marxian concept of a labor theory of value, and that in modern large-scale professional life, metrics able to easily tie a worker or professional's inputs to outputs/profits accurately aren't commonly available.

So there is a social/cultural aspect here: how do most people judge how much you're bringing to the workplace? If you're not working in a widget factory, most people's have a heavily weighted proxy to just look at "how busy you look".

Would any CEO, politician, or professional in our culture, ever, justify themselves in taking their salaries by saying everything was running smoothly, and their job was to sit there, like a good taoist-esque ruler, just sitting and facing the horizon and not interrupt? The very idea is absurd, even though we must admit, I think rationally, that in some situations at the very least, that may be the most reasonable course of action. No, instead we justify such by "hours work put in" because it seems to be both a good cultural proxy, and I suspect because, even if its pretty bad, at least its a good cultural value to motivate the lower-downs into being good workers.

But it is of course, on an intellectual level, obscene and ridiculous. And it results in the promotion and workplace culture that I've experienced now at a lot of firms and professional workplaces.

Fresh out of university (economics), I was under the belief that government was generally wasteful. And I worked there, and I saw that it was, and it is, and all was good :)

But I didn't know true waste until I worked for the larger private corporations. We'd hire 15 men, 10 consultants, 4 managers, and support staff to do in 2 years what I could probably do with a skilled team of 4 in my area in government in 12 months. Am i being a little bit hyperbolic, maybe...

When I worked in government, the 2-3 staff would tell you something was bullshit, bitch, take a long lunch break, but get something done...maybe not everything, but something. They weren't salespeople.

In private sector professional firms, people will just lie and say everything they do is productive and a success. Its a hustle, its a sale. They'll come in to the office and rather than eat with their families at home, they'll eat breakfast at work while still not doing anything. They'll go to conferences and say "how great we are!". They'll come up with as many jobs and tasks as they can, and the efficiency of what they do is totally irrelevant. They still play solitaire on their computers. They get tonnes of people to proofread documents n times with n meetings (before eventually switching back to the original version). They'll restructure before restructuring back. They'll fire. They'll hire. It doesn't matter, just do STUFF.

The philosophy is just spend all the money you have and get your staff to do STUFF, expand your empire as much as possible, make everyone work, be seen to work, take credit for everything good, disown everything bad.

To them, long hours wasn't/isn't inefficient or a sign of intellectual failing, its a sign of how awesome you are, and you come in early and you stay back late not because you're doing anything (indeed, amongst the honest ones, there is a haunting realisation that your job, or at least the hours you're putting into it, maybe isn't actually producing anything, or might even be creating more work...), but because its a culturally-structurally reinforcing meme.

I'm not saying that all this culture is universal amongst us, or our workplaces, or our societies. But its there, and I think its all having a pretty powerful impact on our relationship with work, labor, and status...

I completely agree with you.

This notion that work is life sounds absolutely insane to me. I love programming, but I also love spending time with my wife, playing games, learning new things, traveling, writing and a whole lot of other things.

The worst part of the status quo is that it doesn't matter whether or not I'm an workaholic, I have to work to do a little bit of what I love.

We don't have time to do everything. But we have to limit ourselves to love our work only because there's almost no time to do anything else!

Some people think working 80/week is good, I don't mind them. But if I want to travel, to afford even simple things, 40+ hours of week of work is inevitable

And the bottom line is, most of us only work to make the top 1% even richer

Much of the busywork comes from a lack of comparison between ones' decision processes and randomness. Doing so would be temporarily depressing, but in the long run quite liberating.

It has been discussed many times why work makes us happy and the most compelling is flow: https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?la...

It was also covered in the documentary "Happy".

I actually was thinking the article would discuss more in detail this or even just put a citation (he cited Keynes and Marx) but instead it went on a long personal anecdotal comparison after comparison.

I also was hoping the author would discuss the developing trend of people working from home and how that relates but.. nope.

IMO the article was too long for my liking. A fairly disappointing read.

The answer can be found in this excellent analysis of modern economics by E.F Schumacher from 1973:


It's easy to spend a few hours on work (especially in the computing field) and feel a sense of accomplishment; not so much with life.

Programming often feels like a series of little victories to me, and it's much harder to achieve that outside of work.

Alexis De Tocqueville had some thoughts relevant to this: https://youtu.be/Rzr3AOtFA8o

Very interesting, thanks for sharing!

I'm curious: why did The Economist choose the name 1843 for its magazine? The About page doesn't say. Anybody know the significance of that year? Thanks.

I imagine it's related to the fact that their first issue was published on 1 August 1843.

Thanks! That must be it.

I don't want to be a serf.

Working is the only way I know of for me to accumulate capital in order to become financially independent.

The more I do, the faster I accumulate capital, the more years of my life I'll spend able to do what I want to do.

It doesn't feel like a choice to me. The alternative is to live a mediocre life and always have one eye on my "responsibility" towards my capitalist overlords.

One thing that would help is if our governments, all governments, would stop spending money they don't have, and therefore stop devaluing currencies. When the Fed "buys" $4T in mortgages to relieve banks from holding any risk, where do they get all that money? They don't - they just "print" it, by clicking on a computer. And in the process, they devalue everyone's wealth.

Take a look at this chart: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/12/14/a-brief-history-of...

Yes, things are not quite as volatile since 1930, but also note that there is only inflation, whereas before, there was deflation to balance out the inflation. I know everyone says deflation is the devil. I'm not so sure about that.

Devil's advocate here, definitely not an economist either, but why is devaluing everyone's wealth a bad thing?

Sure, individually it sucks for one's pile of money to be worth less than it was yesterday but it incentivizes one to figure out solutions to inflation - real-estate, stocks, bonds, assets, work more, etc. Also leads people to produce more and not allow a resting-on-the-laurels situation. Overall, big picture wise, the species needs to grow to survive - to obtain the technology to expand outside of Earth. Stagnancy is a deadend death.

Note, I also did not agree with a bailout.

There are a lot of hard work being done that is personally rewarding (money and fame) and either meaningless or destructive in a broader sense (ecological destruction, social destruction, unethical activites, fraud). Lehman brothers were very successful and was greatly rewarded before the financial crash.

Good article. I've moved a bit from the five-year-old daughter's position to the "thinking about identity, community, purpose – the things that provide meaning and motivation" stuff. Still working on it.

PG noted that getting rich is largely about running errands. In fact most of what society regards as 'work' is like this. What one needs is a hard problem to work on.

Read more Bukowski books, who knows maybe slowly you will heal yourself from this addiction. Also a great read How to Be Idle/Tom Hodgkinson

I like the explanation, but I don't like the idea of telling everybody that things where different in the past. When most people were farmers they also worked more than 12 hours a day, since you need to take care of such a big place. When most people were factory workers people also worked more than 12 hours because the boss thought it would make him more money if you worked more (and with simple, mechanical work that's actually true). The kind of work changed, as well as the reason. But we always worked too much.

And there is one reason he didn't mention: When you don't work so much, you need to figure out what to do with your time. You can't watch movies all day. Nobody can do that for a long time. So you need to think hard about other reasonable things to do. And thinking is painful and scary.

Things were different in the past. Most people's lives involved far more leisure than today, for long stretches of the medieval period. source: http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/rauch/worktime/hours_w...

You don't need to read papers. There are still preindustrial villages in many countries on this planet. And I can tell you from being to some in China that these people work more. Yes they have longer food breaks, but they also have much shorter sleep breaks at least than I can physically manage (5-6 hours, with 30 minutes for shower and going to work). And they don't have leasure breaks like watching two hours of tv before going to bed. The tv is always running in the background but only the elderly and little children sit directly in front of it.

The suggestion to ignore academic studies of the lives of people in medieval Europe because they contradict your experience of villages in 21st century China does not make sense.

I don't. I stopped after I realised that with my skills and experience I can get a job any time.

They want to keep us busy!

"They are asking about a job. I am thinking about identity, community, purpose – the things that provide meaning and motivation. I am talking about my life."

Wow, leaving aside the complete "first world problem" approach that makes this relevant for like maybe 1% of the world population at best, this guy didn't just drink the Kool Aid, he's literally douching with it.

Get Work Done Syndrome is truely a modern notion entirely absent from the laissez faire peasant farmers of yonderyear who tilled soil in return for a long glass of summer wine at the end and maybe a 20 minute long smoke of fine tobacco. Modern notions of work involve McDramas taking place in every western household where first world problems really are a truely despotic problem indeed. Master slave relationships engender this and it leads to a domestic tilling of the soil in the fields of suburbia, working for McJobs with a McPay. The kind of real work; that of some spiritual understanding, or mastering the body, or doing shadow work of the mind; 'Dumping all your ailments on a plate for those to ponder' is entirely absent in the west, where it is assumed that only those more credentialed shall offer answers, and none else. The East might have these problems just not as severe, and I worry about the encroachment of americanisation into the Eastern mindset and rich tradition and approach to existential crises.

>Get Work Done Syndrome is truely a modern notion entirely absent from the laissez faire peasant farmers of yonderyear who tilled soil in return for a long glass of summer wine at the end and maybe a 20 minute long smoke of fine tobacco.

You mean, tilled soil for endless hours in the spring, fall, and parts of summer, in return for a glass of summer wine at the end, a 20 minute smoke of tobacco (shorter than a lunch break), a broken back, regular starvation, and infant mortality?

Actually, by the medieval period farming was mostly till the soil at planting and occasional de-weeding in the mix. The rest of the time was filled with tending animals or doing something else like fixing the roof and the like. It's why many labor saving devices were created in fact (water wheel for running milling stones comes to mind). Farming wasn't all that hard until you get into the beginnings of the industrial revolution since most farming was subsistence prior to that. When the industrial revolution got kicked off in the UK that's when the Lords started forcing more people into the cities, thus making a massive labor shortage in agriculture which made it a hard job (few vs many hands in the task). I'm not saying it wasn't labor intensive, but it wasn't like the average peasant farming household was erecting Cheop's pyramid every season.

Sarcasm detection level: final boss.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact