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One year later (eev.ee)
291 points by exolymph on Nov 14, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

Fun read - after finishing that I went back and read the post from a year ago ("I quit the tech industry") that the author is now providing an update on. In it they wrote the following:

"I spent much of April and May increasingly grumpy and withdrawn and on edge. Weekends and evenings have become even less useful, instead being clogged by a sense of paralyzing dread that I’m wasting fleeting time if I’m not doing ten amazing things at once. I’ve foregone trivial maintenance like cleaning junk off my desk because I don’t feel like I have 20 minutes to spare. I stay up hours later than I mean to, not even doing anything, just trying to put off sleeping — because the next thing I experience will be waking up and going back to work.

(I hate dread. What a completely useless emotion. Let’s just stop doing anything, and feel bad about something that hasn’t happened yet, and also feel bad about not doing anything because we’re too busy feeling bad. This will definitely improve anything in any way.)"

I suppose I always knew in the abstract that others felt this way, but reading it from someone else like this was comforting.

I wonder if dread is the right word for it. I've always associated feelings of dread with knowing (or fearing) something is going to happen that will be terrible. You can certainly dread going to your job, but that weird state of limbo--where you do absolutely nothing because you simultaneously are avoiding something but also are feeling guilty for avoiding it--always felt like a different animal to me. Then again, I've never had a good word to describe it, so who knows.

That describes it quite well.

That empty feeling where you have so much to do, but you end up just ticking over without any ambition or drive.

How do I fix?

In Indian metaphysics, this state of mind is called "rajas", which arises from a mind frenzied by self centred desires. It is characterised by desire ridden action which lacks a goal beyond the elevation of the actor.

It is compared and contrasted with tamas (lethargy/sloth) and satva (equanimity and poise).

You should check out the Vedanta Treatise[0] if you're interested further.

Disclaimer: studied Vedanta under the author in India.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Vedanta-Treatise-Eternities-Parthasar...

What was that experience of studying Vedanta like? I'm currently in India trying to learn more about Indian philosophy and spirituality and I don't know where to start.

I spent 3 years at the Vedanta Academy[0]. The experience was life changing, mostly ineffable.

If you pushed me, I'd say that it provided me with a solid set of first principles from which value judgements could be made. It seems like I was 'living randomly' before.

If you're interested, check out this talk[1] by the author. Then if you'd like to visit the Academy you could shoot a mail to visitinfo@vedantaworld.org

[0] www.vedantaworld.org

[1] https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HxSX7WIdt2E

Well, you could check out what is said to be "the only book Steve Jobs had on his iPad (and the one handed out at his memorial service): https://www.amazon.com/Autobiography-Self-Realization-Fellow...

[sorry: don't have link of Amz in India]

I normally make a prioritised list and work through the items on the list. If I do not, I cannot fathom which item to do first and there is so much to keep track of that I forget to do some of the items.

So a list forces me to document what I need to do, and work through it methodically.

This approach works well for me (when I have the motivation to write the list). Breaking each task down into smaller sub-tasks is helpful too. I usually end up with a list of very simple directives that leave little room for thinking (or ruminating).

Having this allows you to concentrate on one thing at a time and avoid 'analysis paralysis', which make you more efficient at some tasks. For example:

Task: 'Clean the house'

1. Grab big garbage bag

2. Go from room to room and put garbage in bag.

3. Put garbage bag in outside bin.

4. Grab large basket.

5. First room: put items that do not belong in room into the basket.

6. Subsequent rooms: Items in basket that belong -> dump somewhere in room. Items that don't belong in room -> in the basket.



Isn't it too exhaustive? I can imagine myself thinking "oh, no, I have to do another enormous list!" every time.

I vary with how I do lists and how extensive they are, but sometimes I do put fairly trivial stupid things on simply because it's easy to cross off, and crossing something off is proof you're past "getting started" and that's often the hardest part.

Using the parent's example, 'Clean house' is too big, 'Clean living room' may even be too big. My approach might be something like:

* Living room:

  * Remove garbage

  * Put dirty dishes in kitchen

  * Put stuff that doesn't belong in tote 

  * Put everything that does belong on shelves 

  * Vacuum
I like each thing to be an 'accomplishment' in itself -- however trite -- because there is a meaningful result (even if no one but me cares or notices).

This is what happens for me even with shorter lists.

Or, I try to ease myself into working by starting with a list, but start feeling overwhelmed as the list grows longer.

When this happens, I more often than not end up procrastinating. It usually takes a critical deadline and an unhealthy amount of panic to break the deadlock.

Yeah that didn't work for me either. Try a really short pithy list:

* Take out the trash

Then 5 minutes later, congratulate yourself for getting your entire todo list done. If you are really ambitious, you can make a similarly pithy list for tomorrow, but do not do it until tomorrow; if you're anything like me that will lead to burn-out.

After a week or two, graduate to a list with two items on it. Don't worry about a month from now. You can reevaluate then.

It's helplessness.

> I wonder if dread is the right word for it.

'Anxiety' would be more appropriate.

As is often the case, DNA nailed it, thusly:

"In the end, it was Sunday afternoons he couldn't cope with, and that terrible listlessness that starts to set in at about 2:55 when you know you've taken all the baths you can usefully take that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the newspaper you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o'clock, and you will enter the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul."

>I spent much of April and May increasingly grumpy and withdrawn and on edge. Weekends and evenings have become even less useful, instead being clogged by a sense of paralyzing dread that I’m wasting fleeting time if I’m not doing ten amazing things at once. I’ve foregone trivial maintenance like cleaning junk off my desk because I don’t feel like I have 20 minutes to spare. I stay up hours later than I mean to, not even doing anything, just trying to put off sleeping — because the next thing I experience will be waking up and going back to work.

I'm sorry the author wasn't able to get things done while in the `dread`. I've got an alternative perspective.

I like working on multiple stuff. I see the day job as one of the several projects I work on.

I've worked on projects, squeezing my brain through the longest span it can, on one single project and also the exact opposite - juggling focus spans between a few projects, when one gets too vague.

I'd say the latter worked best for me in terms of

#1. Getting stuff done.

#2. The satisfaction of being productive.

Time management is the key.

#1. Wake up early and start the day early. This would make your daytime extensive enough to accommodate several slots.

#2. Remember Parkinson's law. Put extra concentration while on the day job, so that you can wrap up early. Don't do this with dread. Consider the job as working on one of several projects, with a larger team, than those of your other projects. This has helped me overcome the feeling of helplessness.

#3. Side projects need not be hackathons. One meaningful commit, made everyday will take it a long way. Read http://ejohn.org/blog/write-code-every-day/. So stop worrying about not doing much on a specific day. On the contrast, worry if you haven't been consistent in committing code everyday.

> Wake up early and start the day early

This isn't important if you're a night person. We all sleep roughly 8 hours, it doesn't matter what time you wake up or what time you go to sleep. I find the night to be very peaceful, and I get a lot done.

This was a really cool read. I had seen some eev.ee tweets before but I didn't know that they had a year away from a desk job.

I did something similar. I left my job last year and built https://github.com/quiet which was an incredibly fun project (end plug). I can empathize with eev.ee's fear of building something nobody uses :)

I'd love to see more stories about people quitting and doing something somewhat unconventional.

I remember Quiet! It's really cool, +1 to that :)

I feel the way she does. My highlight from this post:

"At worst, no one ever uses it, and I have nothing to show for the time. Even at best, well… let’s just say the way programmers react to technical work is very different from the way everyone else reacts to creative work."

>the way programmers react to technical work is very different from the way everyone else reacts to creative work.

That's not specific to programmers. I bet technical experts in other fields react similarly to works in their fields. I mean, ask any science PhD if they feel their work is appreciated.

It's not a programming thing, it's a laymen vs experts thing. Laymen are easy to impress. I can practice juggling for an afternoon and impress my friends. Circus professionals will be less impressed.

If you want to optimize for recognition from your laymen friends, there's a sweet spot where your work is both legible to laymen and advanced enough that it looks like magic. Games fall in that category. (Consumer software generally does.)

But if you go too far past that, or pick an arcane sub-field, your work is only legible at all to other experts, who understand how magic works, and who think they could have done it twice better in half the time.

tl;dr if you want to impress people, build really nice bikesheds, not highly optimized, cost efficient electric turbines.

Really enjoyed the article. It touches on some key points for me, like not having enough time (oh what a special snowflake I am).

I enjoy life the most when I am not beholden to anyone else's schedule, and can take the time to notice the small good/bad things happening to me every day without getting stressed (this is after all what fills most of my life, and forcibly suppressing it, saying only productive time counts, adds a lot of tension) . I feel like this is very taxing and difficult to do after a long day at the office, but I know my quality of life would greatly increase if I could either see life in this way, or have more time available to fall into this rhythm.

Not really "quitting tech" as in working on some different industry, but more like story about how the guy stopped working as an employee/in a traditional job. He cashed his stock options from Yelp and lives on that, but still is working on many projects that I would call tech (games etc).

"quitting tech" usually means severing ties with the valley.

working in tech anywhere else in the world is nowhere near what it's like working in tech in the valley.

Never having worked "in tech" (as in the valley) but in tech outside, I feel like it's not very interesting reading about someone who working in the valley not working in the valley anymore.

It would be many times more interesting reading about someone actually quitting tech as in moving away from the technology sector (not the silicon valley one, the anywhere else one)

I have visited valley, have friends working there and work from other country, and I disagree. Working life is not that different. I think in valley you also have variety of companies of all kinds.

It's true, no other tech hub can hold a candle to the traffic in Silicon Valley - let alone the cost of housing!

I persuaded Eevee to live stream while making some DOOM maps. It was very fun to watch.

Thanks Eevee! :)

That sounds interesting. Are the recorded videos up anywhere?

I've come already a long time ago to the conclusion that writing libraries (as opposed to writing applications) is a task best reserved for those who are:

a) too stupid to understand how crap their library interface/implementations are

b) super smart and can get it right the first time

c) people with endless time to work on their libs (and then recode their apps that dependend on their libs)

These days I'm trying very hard to avoid the compulsive disorder of library writing and just write applications.

It might seem highly critical, but the things he worked on seemed rather dull to me. I suppose if i did the same what i would choose to do may be dull to others too.

That's what I liked best about the post. I've noticed that often the stuff I enjoy most is stuff where I'm free from thinking what the 'use' is or what other people would think of the end result.

Usually this would happen by accident. I'd feel 'inspired' to make a quick photoshop joke only to end up spending hours making it convincing, or I'd write a quick little script to alert me of bitcoin rate changes and end up doing much more than that.

Something similar is the case with articles or books. Some of the most enjoyable reading I've done was the result of 'stumbling' across something that captured my interest, whereas I often feel a strong barrier to get to reading stuff I feel I should read. This all seems, to some degree, independent of the actual content.

I've been trying to allow more of that playfulness in my life and cultivate it, but I still find that 'tricking' myself into it is usually the best way to get started because if I don't, the 'what is the use?' and 'will other people like/care for/admire this?' questions shut me down.

Brett Victor and the XKCD dude are big inspirations for me in this regard. And Richard Feynman.

If I were to quit my job, the things I would turn my attention to would be insufferably, oppressively boring to almost everyone.

I would probably try to do a startup. I guess that isn't quite the same as quitting though, just replacing.

Can't identify with that person at all.

Some adult guy preferring to draw pokemon avatars and doing some small things without value over more or less challenging things.

I prefer working on stuff which make sense in some way and i don't get much enjoyment out of little strange things i do/did. I deleted also a lot of stuff because they were bad/worthless. Blog articles, images, 2 small games, small code repositories.

But at the end everyone decides for themselves what meaning they give there lives.

A normal/good paying job is a least for me quite relevant: Family, nice house and having enough money when i retire. Sounds boring, probably is but i gave up my illusion of becoming a great indie game developer or <other dream>.

I'm good in my job after all.

Woman, actually, apparently. And given that she's in a fairly stable poly relationship (from what I can tell), I think she has a lot of what she's looking for re family and security.

Worst case scenario, she can probably find a job in the future - she's certainly well-known enough and has a fair amount of connections.

Personally, I get value out of her writings and creations.

Apples and oranges I guess. I'm good at my job, but I would rather quit to draw avatars, make games, and doing things that could change something without the prerequisite of making money. "Value" is a deeply personal thing, isn't it?

I really identify with that person.

I do believe that a lot of people would prefer that but as long as we are in a socity were we need money, we don't do it and we can't.

But besides that, i do also believe that those people creating the good stuff, are not the avg person just doing it for fun. A lot of people can draw, take really good pictures, make movies and games but most of it is not good enough.

I'm sure that i'm not one of those and it gives me at least pleasure to build something substantial like a house.

You seem to have pretty strong opinions about how other people should live their lives.

How is that working out for you?

> Some adult guy preferring to draw pokemon avatars and doing some small things without value over more or less challenging things.

That is a bit disdainful. It has at the very least value for him. Isn't it the most important?

Yes of course. He postet his opinion online and i did the same.

That's the only reason why i postet how i see it.

Basically the author didn't earn any money aside from the money from Patreon?

Earning money on Patreon doesn't mean you're doing good things, but only that you know how to sell your own image as a brand. Am I correct?

The Dwarf Fortress authors set up their Patreon[1] a while ago, haven't updated it much since, and is giving them 4K per month, so... I guess that if you want to throw some money regularly at some project it's one of your best options, regardless of the author's ability to sell the brand.

[1]: https://www.patreon.com/bay12games

That's well within what they were making in donations per month prior to using Patreon, though. They already had the support, they just added another interface.

Yeah, and they were doing that well before automatic online monthly payments were a thing!! People actually took some minutes every month to send them money.

But, to the point, it's not like you could accuse the Zach bros of "selling their own image as a brand". They just have this thing they are making, a healthy relationship with the community (but nothing histrionic like your average youtuber), and people just gives them money because they want them to continue making that thing.

I don't know if those two things are mutually exclusive.

It also doesn't mean you aren't doing good things. A statement like that would require additional evidence.

I don't want to sound like a douchebag, but isn't the post basically saying that short-term gratification and procrastination feels nicer, so that's what he focused on? Not that I am any better, but that's not something I'm proud of.

Classic case of Career FOMO https://rachsmith.com/2016/career-fomo

Maybe, but I feel like that's abstracting it a little too far. There's nuance in both articles that a simple grass-is-greener mentality evaluation misses. For example, the author states feeling a prolonged sense of dread/exhaustion with regards to work. That's not a fear of missing out. That's an error state. Something is wrong, and needs to be addressed.

I nominate this for the most useless headline ever to make the HN front page. Should have been: "One-year followup after quitting my job" or something like that.

What is this blog about exactly? I don't wanna read his whole life's story. I do like the name of the website though.

A while back she wrote about quitting Yelp[0], and 9-5 jobs in general, because it sucked to spend 5 out of 7 days of the week working on things that, in the end, wasn't making them happy.

Ever since, I think she's been living solely off of Patreon, writing blog posts about things that are interesting. A great blog overall, and a nice/funny person


It's a personal blog, with posts on tech and other things.

Also, it's her life story.

Really? The only gendered reference I can find on the site is from 2012 and self-describes as a dude.

This one I guess:


Dude (or 'bloke' in UK English). However, it's clear that in Eevee's mind gender is irrelevant.

I totally agree with this. Gender isn't a black and white painting, it's a rainbowed coloured explosion on a digital canvas and we're all individual pixels within it.

On Twitter it says "she/etc" (but perhaps it really doesn't matter): https://twitter.com/eevee

I'm sure it doesn't matter, I just had a mental-model that eevee was a he, and hadn't seen anything to counter that!

even I vaguely remember reading something eevee being a dude

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