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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
This also explains patio11's formula for career success, which is basically:
10 Make something awesome
20 Tell people about it
30 GOTO 10
> "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.
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.
"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.
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.
That's spot on and I wouldn't mind it if that was related to acts of creation.
Well, other people can still interfere with your goal. For example, they might throw you in jail.
Bill Moyers on Joseph Campbell (http://blog.iese.edu/leggett/2012/02/27/the-power-of-myth-by...)
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.
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.
Except for those nations sitting on abundant oil reserves, the Muslim world is chaotic, unproductive and has terrible human rights / freedom of expression.
But that's also like blaming Christianity for the problems in Central America or Central Africa. Religion is only a small factor.
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.
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.
I'm really curious about what you mean by this. Would you please elaborate?
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.
Moving disrupts your (organic, on the ground) social network.
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.
No, actually it's one of the few truly hopeful and uplifting things. Why would that be sad?
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.
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.
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.
There is a danger to armchair psychological terms but it is extraordinarily fun to use them. :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Perhaps the real madness would be trying to change something that is obviously very important to some part of your soul.
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.
BTW: I love Denver, just want to see what's up with SF.
EDIT: trust me, I'm not bored.
I couldn't disagree more, if that's indeed what you're saying.
NYC, yes. SF - absolutely not.
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.
All really boils down to problem solving and intellectual stimulation. I suppose any job that has that is good.
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...
$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 :-)
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:
Increased productivity doesn't help, because everybody is still running flat out to compete, at a higher level.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some of them are actually pretty terrible, but I don't think that's a universal quality of humanity.
I'm not preaching universal love. I'm advocating pruned expectations.
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!
Now I work 80 hours per week but it feels like 5. So it's not work to me.
And what is it that you're are doing now? Must be really awesome if it's still enjoyable after 80 hours.
I work in sports science now. It's great.
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.
— C. B. Chisholm
In essence, making people desperate makes robots that are handy, but the lack of reward incentive creates demonstratably worse worke product.
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.
Another question would be: why do we keep working so hard for money when technology could already solve many of our needs?
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.
For better or worse, there are an infinite number of puzzles to solve.
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.
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.
Agreed. The deeper I get into the software field, the more it feels like choreography.
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.
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.
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 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.
Purpose, autonomy, work/life balance: pick 2
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...
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
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.
Programming often feels like a series of little victories to me, and it's much harder to achieve that outside of work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?