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Ask HN: What inspires you to persevere through adversity?
401 points by samblr on Jan 22, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 231 comments
What are some of the things you 'surround' yourself to keep going even after repeated failures. Failing can be related to any task in life - startup/job/relationships. What are some of things which inspire you and help you pull yourself back to chug along the track again.

edit : + things you say no/avoid while persevering.

I realized a while ago that inspiration isn't very helpful for getting you through adversity. Inspiration gets you going, but grit and discipline ultimately help you push through.

I'm going to go against the grain of most of what's being said in this thread and say that the best way to get through adversity is to discard a goal-based mentality entirely, in favor of a system-based mentality. Figure out the stuff you have to do every day. Get disciplined about doing that stuff. The 'small wins' you get from just executing the loop over and over again build up a lot of momentum over time.

I started with making my bed as soon as I got up every day, and just built on that. When there's something new I want to do, I set up a system for it. When the system isn't working, I change the system. Rather than deciding whether I wanted to do something or not before doing it, I'd just do it, then reflect afterward if that made things better or worse.

This approach got me through some really really bad times, helped me get fit, got me through tough, stressful workloads, calmed me down in times of chaos and helped me make the right long-term choices. I'm overall happier.

Here's some resources:

- http://www.slideshare.net/Scottadams925/goals-are-for-losers... - https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091...

edit: oh and one other thing I got out of this approach. People absolutely can change, it just takes a lot longer than people usually put on. I'm a different person from who I was ~4 years ago, mostly in a positive way.

This is right.

Business is a suffering contest. Life ends in death.

There are beautiful things in both, but more times than not, despite all signals and urges to stop or give up, you must will yourself to keep moving your feet.

Those few who do give themselves the best chance to overcome adversity.

Relevant. Watch Jordan Peterson's talk on "The Necessity of Virtue", goes deep into psychology, philosophy, history, to deliver the point that: life is suffering, not in a pessimistic way, but by recognizing your "being" has limitations. This gives meaning to this adversity, because its far too easy to sink into a state of resentment and "why me". I'm currently dealing with adversity in terms of losing a job right now and this really shone a light forward for me, resonating much deeper than any self-help material I've come across.

I respect your comment and the one you responded to. Being an old school nerd, only the toughest survived with a love of technology back then. I recall a stream of bullying and it either makes or breaks you. However, being a nerd is no longer the same as it was back then.

What frustrates me today is how the media (collectively) have revised the history books and promote some fairly extreme bullying (see the verge's article on Matt Taylor as an example of some extreme and unjustified bullying of Matt based on his gender).

I believe overcoming adversity is recognising you are not a victim and recognising there is something bigger than you. You are not a gender, you are not a skin colour, you are not a religion or an age group. If you can rise above these things, you are a huge step to overcoming adversity. You stop looking down on others and yourself.

I can't help but feel our society is further from this goal than I have ever seen in my lifetime. While it doesn't impact me personally, it disappoints me at how much we've regressed in even the last 10 years.

>Being an old school nerd, only the toughest survived with a love of technology back then.

Ah yes, only the toughest survive. Tech nerds are so tough that they get offended when somebody doesn't like their shirt.

>What frustrates me today is how the media (collectively) have revised the history books and promote some fairly extreme bullying (see the verge's article on Matt Taylor as an example of some extreme and unjustified bullying of Matt based on his gender).

They were complaining that he was wearing a shirt with scantily clad women on it? How is that gender-based harassment? Furthermore, how does it constitute revising history?

>You are not a gender, you are not a skin colour, you are not a religion or an age group. If you can rise above these things, you are a huge step to overcoming adversity. You stop looking down on others and yourself.

Unless you are in the category of people with the highest level of privilege in our society, you are not allowed to forget these aspects of your identity. The police, public restrooms, inaccessible buildings, and other people will relentlessly remind you of your abnormality and victimize you.

>Ah yes, only the toughest survive. Tech nerds are so tough that they get offended when somebody doesn't like their shirt.

No, you would know it was due to real, physical bullying back then. Not "someone said something I don't like on the internet", but injuring someone and/or degrading them publically due to them loving technology.

Oh, while we're at public degradation. >They were complaining that he was wearing a shirt with scantily clad women on it? How is that gender-based harassment?

He was wearing a shirt his female friend made for him. She wasn't harassed for making it, he was - because he is a white male in a science field, the social justice warriors of the internet decided he is a target for abuse and public degradation, that a shirt is a reason women aren't getting into science. They decided he is a "misogynist" and a "sexist pigdog". That's abuse. That's bullying.

>Unless you are in the category of people with the highest level of privilege in our society, you are not allowed to forget these aspects of your identity. The police, public restrooms, inaccessible buildings, and other people will relentlessly remind you of your abnormality and victimize you.

Really? And let me guess, that would be a straight white male. You're doing a good job of reminding people of their abnormality and victimizing them.

>No, you would know it was due to real, physical bullying back then. Not "someone said something I don't like on the internet", but injuring someone and/or degrading them publically due to them loving technology.

When exactly is "back then" though? I went through school about ten years ago and was beaten up for nerdiness all the time, why people think they can leverage this into a lifetime of misogyny is beyond me. Everyone takes shit in grade school, kids are mean.

>He was wearing a shirt his female friend made for him.

That doesn't make it not sexist.

>She wasn't harassed for making it, he was - because he is a white male in a science field

No, she wasn't harassed because she wasn't wearing it.

>the social justice warriors of the internet decided he is a target for abuse and public degradation, that a shirt is a reason women aren't getting into science. They decided he is a "misogynist" and a "sexist pigdog". That's abuse. That's bullying.

It's too bad a man was called a misogynist on the internet, it must have really hurt his feelings. I thought people like you think SJWs need to grow a thicker skin? Resilience is a two-way street, pal. If you expect us to be tolerant of your abuse, you'd better be tolerant of ours.

>And let me guess, that would be a straight white male.

Good boy! Here's your cookie.

>You're doing a good job of reminding people of their abnormality and victimizing them.

There's a certain kind of conservative who seems to think that any discrepancies in equality in modern western culture are due to individual failings of will because we made sexism and racism illegal like, last century, dude. I don't need to remind people of their abnormality, it's impossible for them to ignore.

I know because I'm neither straight nor a male. (though I am most certainly white) Far before anybody could tell me I was oppressed, I experienced oppression. In particular people in grade school beat me up for expressing femininity, because it is considered unacceptable for men to act feminine in our culture. Telling me I'm not a victim while I'm lying in a puddle of my own schoolwork mixed with other peoples' spit getting the shit kicked out of me doesn't make you clever or objective, it makes you a sadistic asshole.

on the other hand if one can be so disillusioned then it is the greatest gift, their entire brain cycles can be spent on the things that matter. But its hard to achieve the illusion.

Gosh, this was great. Have an upvote.

> started with making my bed as soon as I got up every day

This is exactly the advice from Admiral Mc Raven at the university of Texas commencement ceremony. He recalls it as one of the most important lessons he got from its navy SEAL training: https://news.utexas.edu/2014/05/16/mcraven-urges-graduates-t...

Thanks for sharing that. It was an awesome read!

I also had to comment. That was awesome.

I'll echo the same. I decided some time ago that I disliked some aspects of my personality, especially shyness and sadness. I made a choice to systematically practice the habits of someone who was outgoing and happy. Now I am, mostly. Sometimes I still need to remind myself that change is possible.

Could you share some of the choices you made?

Sure. I made talking to strangers like a game -- see how long you can get someone to talk. It's easiest to get started by joining a group which looks like it's having fun and talking in a large, but loose circle. It's nerve-wracking initially, so remind yourself that you'll probably never see these people again. After a while, I built a repertoire of things to say and I enjoy when I see people enjoying my stories. It's like being a stand-up comic. Practice practice practice. Eventually you'll be able to improvise.

About being happy, to me it's a matter of considering what plausible futures might be. I get stressed a lot about little things. To relax I think past the immediate imagined disaster and what its consequences might be. Usually the consequences aren't that bad. You can always make more money and you can always meet new people. Health/safety is the only thing that's not worth risking.

A psychiatrist prescribed Zoloft to me a while back, but I found diet, exercise, and meditation (in the sense I described above, not traditional counting breaths, etc.) to be more effective.

I dislike modern psychology's labels as if there's some threshold that separates normal people from abnormal. We're all on a spectrum of various personality characteristics, with no boundaries on that spectrum.

The funny thing is, my wife now says I'm one of the least stressed people she knows. It makes me think of when the Hulk says, "the secret is I'm always angry." I appear relaxed because I'm always stressed and keeping a lid on it.

Medication like Zoloft helped a ton for me with these things

As a Brit, such statements just blow my mind. Giving a random stranger on the internet medical advice - and for a branded drug at that.

"you may want to see a doctor, sometimes these things need medicated" seems like reasonable, responsible advice. But handing out specific drug recommendations - WTF?!

I experienced the same thing when my American cousins were over last summer. Unsolicited and highly dangerous medical advice tossed out like a TV show recommendation.

EDIT: I realise I do not actually know the nationality of the previous poster, and that their statement referred solely to themselves, yet I still feel it is dangerous and will leave the original message intact.

As you note in your edit, your comment's parent likely wasn't intended to be normative. It was instead, I think, intended to normalize psychiatric medication.

I have a huge problem with the way some of these drugs are over-prescribed. But I have an even bigger problem with stigmatizing people who are availing themselves of a resource that might be of help to them.

Yes this is true. I don't see much stigma for people receiving medication, but there is a taboo here on your average Joe giving symptom->drug suggestions

their statement referred solely to themselves

This is important, and why it is ok to say it IMO, and I'm glad GP did. It's an honest and real response.

All he said was that it helped him...

Also I don't see why being a Brit would make a difference, I'm an Australian and hearing that a drug helped someone isn't that mindblowing to me.

On top of that, he'd have to convince a doctor to actually obtain the drug.

That was noted in the edit.

It just isn't the culture here to talk about specific medications. People are more likely to focus on the condition, and urge someone to go get checked out (often to 'demand a consultant' but I've never seen somebody explicitly or implicitly told to request a specific drug).

Must be something with the "magic pill for everything" PR that is popular in USA. Goes hand in hand with non existing public healthcare, so "market can handle that".

It's not just PR, it's a common American way of thinking.

From branded medications to diet books, "health" foods, and trends ad nauseam, there's a pervasive culture of cure-all objects and systems.

Then again, we don't have fine physical understanding of most mind disorders or the medications we use to treat them so if your doctor is effectively throwing darts at a board then why not internet strangers?

This is nothing special about America. Every culture has its own brand of cure-all objects and systems. In fact, China has significantly more home remedies and cure-all objects (that generally have zero scientific evidence).

Everyone in this thread trying to say general ignorance is something Americans have a monopoly on is silly. It's a human condition, nothing to do with country.

It's definitely part of the human condition, but its also much more prevalent in the USA and as you note China.

Many wealthy European countries have a much more suspicious attitude to health vendors. Then again we often ban their advertisements.

Now if they would only let you self-prescribe drugs we'd be all set.

> The 'small wins' you get from just executing the loop over and over again build up a lot of momentum over time.

I've been building on the Web and Internet non-stop since the early 1990s, and that's the only method I've found that works consistently to stave off giving up when things inevitably get really hard. One of the fastest ways to giving up, is to fail to tackle one giant task, and have it grind you up and burn large amounts of time; when you spot that happening, it's critical to switch to smaller tasks / goals that you can knock out quickly, so as to get any modicum of progress going again.

My experience confirms this approach. When I relied on passion as my compass, I had lots of good times, no doubt, but a lot of other boring-but-important stuff didn't get done. When I decided that how I feel about something in the moment doesn't necessarily matter that much, that's when I started succeeding, first in small and then big ways. And besides, soon you become passionate about the things you're doing, that used to be boring. So you end up having both, rather than just the one.

In short, I guess it's about getting over yourself, to find a new part of yourself that you didn't know about.

This is very close to Buddhist philosophy. Shorter goals means your mind is closer to living in the now. Which in reality is the only time it's possible to live in. But if your mind isn't with you in the now, then you aren't fully enjoying it. It would go futher and say that after making plans to do the dishes, the joy now comes from doing the dishes. Not in having them done, which only lasts a fraction of an instant. The past can't sustain you. But the present does. The feel of the warm water on your hands. The sound of the water running. The smell of soap suds. That's what life is made up of.

Agree 100%. It is what worked for me. Get up early every day, brew and enjoy fresh coffee and HackerNews + Dilbert as the first things I read. And do the dishes immediately after every meal. Each thing is small but needs focus to be done properly, and I get great satisfaction from seeing clean dishes, clean kitchen.

I extended this by doing yoga. Apart from the well known health benefits, the total concentration, even in the painful parts, gives the mind diversion and that is as good as if not better than rest. The cumulative affect is one is refreshed.

So for me the yoga and the discipline from a few small things as helped me work through mild depression, shitty (although mostly self-created) relationship crashes, and lack of motivation.

To put it all simply: learn to enjoy the small things done well every day.

Great comments, especially about implementing grit & discipline.

If I may ask, initially did you have any means to implement a system from scratch (i.e. no passion, and no motivation) to consistently performing and developing that into a habit? That would be the heart of discussion here (to be aware of audience diversity here). It has to start from an emotional pain, or an emotional need to get to a specific short-term goal in the first place.

E.g. working out. One starts with a short-term goal of running on treadmill with the intention to lose a few lbs, or to develop some better sleep. And then, gives up after the goal is achieved; some give up unable to follow-through. Then, you get frustrated about not following through the following year, continuing to be mediocre. And then, you develop a better momentum, better sense of following-through, and better discipline, only to give up after a little bit longer (excuses can be formidable). And then...you develop enough persistence, enough discipline, enough grit, just to make it into a habit. Once you turn that into a habit, you just don't care for goals, excuses or motivations.

But I found that incredibly hard to achieve (over the years). At least, this was my path. When I was put in a stringent disciplined system in 20s, I resisted. I always wanted to break such patterns, routines & rules because I thought they hinder creativity. Now, I am at a full-circle back to implementing such a system of grit & discipline.

Given these, if I were to start something new today e.g. Taekwondo, I would implement grit, discipline and just following-through. But I won't have goals, or I don't care for passion either.

Matt Cutt's "Try something new for 30 days" TED talk did help:


Thank you, fantastic comment. It reminds of this quote -

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

I am guilty of procastination, analysis and obsessive research my whole life. Its not going to help if you spend a month finding out the perfect diet or perfect vacation and then realize you could've done something instead - perfection is an unattainable goal.

Solid advice! Would you mind sharing some of the systems you've implemented?

Well the very first one was literally just 'make your bed as soon as you get up'. I read that idea somewhere else as a way to get a small win right away which I really needed because my startup wasn't doing so great - so I tried it and it worked. This had surprisingly large benefits. I didn't get up and start scrolling through my social media right away. I had a nice neat bed to get into at the end of the day. I couldn't just pile mess on top of the bed and leave it like that.

So the next thing was 'drink a glass of water after you've made the bed'. I read somewhere that lethargy after waking up was to do with dehydration overnight, so I drank the glass of water. I don't know if it made me less lethargic or not, but it did make me wander out of my room and into the kitchen to get the glass, and made me feel like I'd started my day.

So then it was 'ten pushups'. Then after a little while it was 'another ten pushups before bed'. Then it was 'run 5k every 3rd day' then every 2nd, then 10k if it was a weekend day. At some point I'd also added in going to the gym, because I noticed I'd been jogging past one on my route, so now I just ran to the gym. Routines to build on routines. I never set myself a goal like 'lose 10kg' or 'Squat 100kg' but in the end I did. It was hard to get over not really wanting to run, but when I kind of internalized that it didn't matter whether I wanted to or not, I just got to doing stuff. And of course it's kind of hard to feel bad about going running after you've done it, so it made sense to just keep doing it.

For work stuff, the first thing I did was 'before going to bed, write on an index card every task you need to get done tomorrow'. So I did that. Small thing, big improvements - first thing was that now I had an index card on my desk first thing that I had to deal with, so I had to read it before opening up my PC and just surfing around. Next thing was because I had the card there on my desk, I glanced at it every now and then and asked myself 'well did I do any of that in the last hour?'. And finally when I wrote the next index card, I had a little list of the tiny wins I'd made that day. Plus the index cards stack up over time so there's this physical reminder on the corner of my desk that I've done all this stuff, and the next day is just a tiny part of that. Now as a bonus I'm mindful about my work. I didn't set out to 'have 8 productive hours a day', I just made the little index cards over and over. But I get a productive 8 hour day most days.

Well I had the index cards now, so I have a record of what I've been up to, so I might as well do summaries - and that's how I started journaling regularly. When the stack gets x high, review the stack, write down what your thoughts are, repeat.

Now I look at stuff in terms of the systems I'd have to adopt to do it, and figure out how I can fit them in. I'd love to learn the guitar and work on a bunch of personal projects, and by figuring out the daily stuff I have to do I can see whether it makes sense to do it now or some other time, because it kind of naturally squares with priorities.

I've lost some of those habits since I moved for grad school, but I'm working on reestablishing them in the same methodical way. I'm still working on making my systems a little more resilient to that kind of disruption. One thing I did add to my system though is 'Saturday is a personal day, always, no email, no phone, unless it's a hair-on-fire thing in which case Sunday is a personal day'.

YMMV but the point to evolve this stuff organically.

It seems whenever I do anything successful it always started as a small thing. No grand plans, just a small task or two done over and over until it's much larger.

It seems like good lives are built the same way as good companies: one small task at a time compounded over years.

I hate exercise but I know I have to do it. I'm 40 now, and I'm reasonably active - I cycle (a short way) to work, I walk a decent amount, but still. I need my heart to beat properly, often.

So this year, I've started swimming. There's a pool near me, proper 50m size.

Week 1: do 1 lap, 2-3 times that week. My girlfriend laughed at me. "1 lap?!". Yeah, 1 lap. It's just about going there and doing it.

Week 2: 2 laps.

You get the idea. By easing myself in to this, by making it a steady little habit, I'm hoping to be doing 52 laps by the end of the year. That's 2.5kms. That's not bad.

It was hard to get over not really wanting to run, but when I kind of internalized that it didn't matter whether I wanted to or not, I just got to doing stuff.

This is a fantastic approach.

I do something similar. I have a few rules for myself right now. Mostly:

* Work on my book[1] every day.

* Exercise twice a week.

* Run every weekend.

* Then a few ones around what I eat.

I allow myself to tune those rules over time to better optimize what I'm going for, however I don't let myself change a rule right when it's in play. If it's Sunday afternoon and I haven't run yet, I don't get to decide if I'm going to change my running schedule. Past me set that rule, and present me must follow it.

After I run, I can consider tweaking it. But, then, of course, I find that after I've run, I feel pretty good about it and end up sticking with the rule.

[1]: http://www.craftinginterpreters.com/

Oh hey I've been following your book so far, pretty neat!

I really identify with this myself. One of my main learning points about myself is that fretting and prevaricating about work and life is usually worse than just getting on with it.

So true! (Edit: speaking for myself :) )Absolutely. Thank you for putting it so cogently!!

Yes, it's really powerful. Back in the days before kids when I rode to work, I never allowed myself to even ask whether today I was riding to work or catching the bus. Instead, I just bought an awesome riding jacket and just rode EVERY SINGLE DAY. Rain, hail or shine I simply rode - plenty of times I was the only cyclist pedalling away during some ridiculously torrential rain. I even told my wife to stop asking if I wanted a lift, because I didn't even want that option to enter my mind.

Thanks for this! I use a similar system for meditation and yoga, I find that combining it with an app that keeps a tally of how many days in a row you've done it is really rewarding. It makes me do these things even when I don't feel like it cause I don't want to break the streak I have going.

Yes! I second this.

I started using Insight Timer and am now meditating every single day for the first time.

You mentioned grad school. It's even more of a struggle to keep those habits after you start working. With some kinds of jobs, anyway. Stay strong.

I actually found it a lot easier when I was full-time employed because my schedule was automatically so structured. Morning standup, weekly meetings, ship dates.

Having been between work and grad school and back, my personal experience is that systems are easier to maintain during work. Grad schools is automatically less structured and easier to get into a funk if you don't focus right.

I've had several travel jobs. Flghts and hotels are very disruptive. I also worked part-time in grad school, so I guess that gave me structure.

Can you elaborate on how you internalized that it didn't matter whether you wanted to do something or not?

That's something I could really use.

It took a few tries, and I started off easy with the bed making, then building on that. It's not so hard to make yourself make your bed or drink some water. Then when I'd gotten a couple of those down as a regular thing, it was just a bit of reflection - 'well I didn't really feel like making the bed or walking to the kitchen all those days, but now that I do it it doesn't really matter if I want to. I guess eventually push-ups will work the same'

Turns out pretty much everything works the same. Maybe the trick is that I didn't really do anything that wasn't incremental, just a day at a time, but you just kind of keep going with the momentum.

Now I tend to just do that reflexively because it's just worked so many times in so many different areas.

I would like to expand on atroyn's reply: Every choice you ever make is self-reinforcing.

If you choose to do the "right" thing or the "wrong" thing in any given moment, that will reinforce your tendency to either persevere or to give up, in the future.

So while some moments of decision may seem more important than others (with obvious / immediate consequences), these moments are in fact all supremely important.

Over time these decisions solidify into habits and character traits. Ultimately, they will determine your fate in life.

Thank you for this thoughtful, detailed reply! I learned something.

Reading through what you said, it reminded me about how the Learning how to Learn Course [1] tackles procrastination. Basically the way I understood it (hopefully I did it right), if you focus on the product (ie. the final goal), our brain activates the pain sensors which make us look for other activities that will be more fun to do. The suggestion is to focus on the process (or system) that will eventually get you to the goal, using small periods of focused attention that can be individually rewarded (like spending some time doing relaxing and/or fun activities after focusing on the task).

[1] https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn

I agree. Goals are too laden in the rejection/acceptance/guilt mindset. Better to have a system that works.

There is also video version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJVxkr9eE9A

And a book! _How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big_ [1]. It's an easy, mostly funny read, with "discipline > motivation" at the center of it.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/How-Fail-Almost-Everything-Still/dp/1...

Wise words. I definitely think yours is a good approach.

This is such a pragmatic and straight forward approach. I loved reading it. It did help me. Thanks!

"Most things are forgotten over time. Even the war itself, the life-and-death struggle people went through, is now like something from the distant past. We're so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn."

- Kafka on the Shore, Murakami

Under immensely troubling times - not as bad as war or famine, but much worse than a startup or relationship failure - these books kept me going:

  - The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday
  - Mastery by Robert Greene
  - Courage Under Fire by James B Stockdale
  - Gratitude by Oliver Sacks
  - Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

My parents worked their nuts off to pay for my education and provide security for the family - my dear old late dad woke up at 4am EVERY SINGLE DAY of the year, except Christmas Day, to work for me, basically. There's no way I'm giving up on anything.

I have a ridiculously easy life compared to them, and because of them. That's my main motivation, apart from my own young family.

And I surround myself mostly with talented friends who work their nuts off too. Failures are no big deal, unless you don't learn something.

Not your fault, but your comment made me subtly sad that I haven't repaid the same sacrifice and commitment from my family with as much as they deserved. They too worked very hard to provide and give a good life for me, and through naivety, youth, inexperience, laziness - I pissed a large portion of it away.

I try to do better now, but I think I'll always carry some personal guilt over that. I can't fix the past, but I can work harder and try to correct some of my mistakes.

edit I neglected to note that you mentioned your dad to have passed. Take reassurance in that a brief comment on the internet, I think you've done him proud.

It's a debt that's generally paid forward, not back. You still have a shot.

You're right, of course. And that's what I will try to do with current and future opportunities and choices. I appreciate the perspective and encouragement.

Thanks for the sentiment - much appreciated. I feel like I've pissed away decades through all the things you describe, but in reality, they're just paths or routes to where you, me, we are now. The other poster pointed out quite rightly that this is a debt paid forward - so just figure it out from here, right?

That's a good point of view to take. If I hadn't made some of mistakes, I also may not have learned some valuable lessons - about myself and others.

Most parents know this about their children, that their sacrifices may go unappreciated in full until their kids pass some ill-defined maturity/life milestones.

They did it for you anyway, and doubtless on the whole, gladly. As another poster noted, you can pay it forward. That's likely what your parents did.

I suspect you're right. I realize that I'm very lucky to have parents as good as I do, and just hope I can do as much for others in my future as they did for me. Including them, if and when they ever need it.

I relate, and I think I did okay with what I was given, but I think I could've done better. However, the thing that's helped me the most is to learn from the mistake once, and then leave it all behind. It has always been easier said than done of course, but it's gotten easier over time; I hope you allow yourself the latitude to do the same.

I have tried to do similarly, although I do sometimes have a habit of carrying guilt a long time - and it can occasionally have the side effect of getting in the way of fully moving past mistakes and into doing better. It's something to work on.

You hit home brother. It's 1 AM right where I am right now and at this moment of time, I'm sort of filled with regrets. I'm such a failure when I think about it. Never in my life was I able to leverage anything compared to the people I know who come from totally opposite background struggle.

Like I am like you said, 'ridiculously easy life' 100% like this, why am I not doing what I want to do? Where is the struggle? Why don't I work my butt off?

Can the undergraduate major I did to be blamed? Is it really too late for me 25 year old to get into software development scene? What's stopping me?

Yes I don't have the opportunities like i would had in the US where many of my high school classmates went turns out one of them is working at "Glassdoor #1 company to work for " as Account executive. But even living in a third world country, warm bed, hot water, running electricity, warm meal, no rent, high end PC, I'm easily about 99 percent of the people here. What's stopping me? Why don't I take these things to my advantage and work towards something which been back of my mind for the last 3 years!

> Is it really too late for me 25 year old to get into software development scene? What's stopping me?

Aside from maybe 2 basic courses in college. I never took any other cs classes before I went back to college at 27. First time in college(mechanical engineer) I barely broke 3.0 gpa because I was a slacker, when I went back I had a 3.9 because I got my life on track. Later got my Masters at 30. Now work at Microsoft earning almost 3x as much as I did before and significantly happier with where I am and headed in life. I know a friend who just did same thing but started at 28. He was a business major the first time. Now he is at Google with a masters in CS as well.

It's legit never too late. I personally know of a dozen people who started at older age than you or even me.

Totally, it's never too late! The main thing is whether you want to. If you really want to program computers, as I did, nothing is going stand in your way. The only question is, what do you most want to develop? The only question for others is, 'Are you any good?' so you only have to get good enough, at which point the phone starts ringing.

Man, 25! That's when I just about actually started becoming an adult. You've not lost any time. And the fact that you are reflecting on your life now is a good start.

You have your entire adult life ahead of you. Take a little time to identify what you want to achieve over the next 2 years. Define realistic goals. Then, map out a step by step path to them. Get to work.

Take comfort in the fact that success is about a lot of little steps over time.. not one big step in an instant.

Its never too late. :)

The only option if you want to succeed is to keep trying.

A while ago I went to China. After visiting Hong Kong, where I had a few friends who lived there to help me out, and the city itself is fairly westernized and friendly to foreigners, I flew directly into Xi'an.

Xi'an is where the Terra Cotta warriors are, but despite those being a fairly large tourist attraction, the city itself is very...Chinese. Very few people speak English, and for myself who had never been alone in such a foreign place before it was bewildering. I finally understood the concept of "culture shock".

I was only planning to be there for one day, and I wasted most of the morning trying to get a train ticket to Shanghai. It was getting late and I couldn't figure out how to actually get to the place where you could see the Terra Cotta warriors. I'm a naturally shy person and the idea of flagging down a stranger who didn't speak my language and trying to gesticulate and get my point across was terrifying.

Still, what it came down to, was that in all likelihood I was never going to be here again in my life. And did I really fly halfway around the frigging world just to get there and NOT go see the damn Terra Cotta warriors? There was no way I could let that happen.

So, ultimately, I just got over it, walked up to the first friendly looking person I could find, pointed to the Terra Cotta warriors section in my guidebook (where the name was written in Mandarin) and made some inquisitive noises. He ended up pointing me towards where I could catch the bus, so I got there with plenty of time to see them and make it back to catch my train.

I know as far as "adversity" goes it's pretty lame, but it was a big deal for me. What inspired me to persevere was the simple fact that, really, it was the only way to get what I wanted. That's what it comes down to. Do you want the thing you're going after more than you want to avoid the obstacles in the way? If you do, you'll keep going.

I went to Japan a few years back. Almost no one speaks any practical English in Japan. So I was like "Well, after wanting to go for years and years, I'm finally here. It's a different country, home is a planet's breadth away, and no one speaks my language. If I want anything, I can ask for it in shitty Japanese and be thought a fool, or I can repeat English phrases as if that would help any and remove all doubt."

I did gain considerable experience with the language, and I found a way to do or obtain anything I wanted (sometimes by asking for an English speaker to help me).

My mom still wonders how I did it -- find my way in a completely foreign country where the language and customs are so thorought different. I keep telling her, it's just a matter of having the gumption to do it. Knowing Japanese helps, but learning as I went (as I was forced to do) helped me more.

> What inspired me to persevere was the simple fact that, really, it was the only way to get what I wanted. That's what it comes down to. Do you want the thing you're going after more than you want to avoid the obstacles in the way? If you do, you'll keep going.

This is how I go about life no matter what the obstacle.

From quitting smoking to making it rich (I've done one of these so far...)

"Just do it." It's a pretty simple, definitely hard though & certainly worth it.

> I just got over it, walked up to the first friendly looking person I could find,

One thing I started doing was to find the least friendly looking person and ask them. Great way to break stereotypes based on looks! Or (in a public place), ask the guy who looks like a gangster. Of course, in a foreign country, you also want to ask the person most likely to speak the language you speak.

I'm trying to learn Mandarin, and I think it gives you _a lot_ of adversity. There is nothing fun in rote learning, but there is also really no way around it when it comes to new languages. A friend of mine speaks it fluently now, and you'll be moderately surprised by his path to success: religiously practicing his routines.

It is good that you recognized a triumph, remember it, and share it with justified pride. The bombastic triumphs depicted in entertainment can desensitize us to the subtle triumphs in real life.

Having seen far worse adversity in the past, I see the opportunities I have today as a reward I should consume as thoroughly as possible. I've watched my parents struggle as entrepreneurs in the middle of rural Bulgaria. I worked my behind off to be able to excel in school, move to the US, learn how to build anything I want through tech, get my citizenship, move to Silicon Valley, build the relationships I have, and become financially independent enough to build things I know matter to the world. God knows what may happen tomorrow? Every single minute matters. Every single effort, and problem solved, and obstacle overcome, and person served, and relationship strengthened, and insight gained matter. If I can't work I will learn, if I can't learn I will sleep and recover my body, so I can work and learn better tomorrow. I've worked too hard to miss this moment.

What else can you do? If you have a target or want to achieve something, the only option available is to try again.

What helps me is knowing that I have people who care deeply for me,and who I care for just as much.

I could quit, but, given all my blessings and the support I have, I wouldn't be able to face myself if I quit.

I've had / survived some very difficult times (borderline starvation, seen my partner pass away due to cancer, been subject to significant violence and have been the source of similar violence..), so I don't think I'm being facetious.

What keeps me going is my friends and family. And ironically, given all my experience(s), an enduring faith in humanity, that, over time, the future will always be better than the present.

To paraphrase Churchill, "you can always count on humanity to do the right thing after it has tried everything else"

>"To paraphrase Churchill, "you can always count on humanity to do the right thing after it has tried everything else"

The quote is actually:

"Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted all other possibilities."

But of course the same sentiment can be generalized for any group. Even though Churchill is credited there is no actual record or evidence of him ever saying this. And he likely never did.

I'm not trying to nitpick, but as big Churchill fan I only found this out fairly recently and so thought I would mention it :)


> But of course the same sentiment can be generalized for any group.

I wonder whether this is a fair statement, as the original quote can be interpreted to mean that the group in question has terrible efficiency and/or is unreliable until their hand is forced.

I just meant you can insert any group you were looking to make a back-handed compliment about.

I see. I interpreted your OC to say it was more positive.

The parent post speaks of his/her starvation and a partner dying. You make a pedantic comment on his/her paraphrase. You are both insensitive, and you do not know what "paraphrase" means. Also, being a fan of a racist imperialist is sort of an awkward thing to confess to.

Wow, are you self-righteous and judgemental!

I am a fan of Winston Churchill the war-time Prime Minister that stood up to Hitler and helped save Britain and Europe from the Nazis. There is no shame in that. Does that mean I agree with everyone of his personal views? No of course not.

Where do you get off passing judgement, being the moral police, and projecting onto others like that?

Paraphrasing and attributing a quote to a specific individual are two entirely different things. Paraphrasing is approximating the quote, not who said it. It sounds like you might not understand what paraphrase means.

This is a discussion on Hacker News where discourse often unfolds in different and tangential directions.

I even stated my intention was not to nitpick but that I thought it was interesting as its such an oft-citied and well-known quote with its own uncertain history(provided in the link)

I made a moral judgement, which IMHO is not the same as being judgemental or "the moral police". If, as you say, discourse on HN often unfolds in tangential directions, surely moral tangents like mine are as permissible as historical ones like yours?

I didn't pass judgement on anyone or any thing.

You did however. You called me insensitive and a fan of racist imperialism. And no, thats not acceptable or fair. It's just lame.

And the fact that you continue using your own twisted perception of something as justification for your uncalled for remarks is lamer still. Grow up.

You are right that I passed judgement on you - I found your post offensive and insensitive. It is fair that I call you out on it. The fact that you continue to defend your insensitivity speaks volumes.

"Evolution forged the entirety of sentient life on this planet using only one tool ... The mistake"

If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough.

The search space for successful strategies is vast, you must experience failure in order to determine direction to success.

If I'm seeking inspiration, I look to a higher power - Bill Gates, Poe, Arxiv Papers, GitHub. Find inspiration in observing what is greater than yourself

I'm not sure that failure is the word you want - I would call them setbacks. Failure suggests finality, it is the point where you are out of options and have to change goals. Overcoming failure means how to restart on a new goal after giving up on the last one. Overcoming setbacks means how to stay focused on a goal despite interference and things not happening as you hope.

My simplest answer is to pick the right goal. You know its the right goal when you can envisage countless possible setbacks but it would seem absurd that they could cause you to abandon your goal. Give up on reaching the Olympics because you run out of money, have a bout of flu, or a parent dies? It should feel like a non-sequitur. Your goal needs rise above the inevitable twists and turns of life - it should not just be a "fair weather" goal you would drop when clouds pile in.

Your interest in the goal should be deep. It should not be for the moment it can be said it is done but for the transformation that achieving that goal brings. You must not simply want to reach a finish line, you have to want the life that comes after crossing that finishing line. If life after reaching a goal is little different or you are indifferent to that life, it is a weak goal, it won't sustain you through the hard times.

you need to like the life you'll live to get there. most olympians like training above all else, just like great entreprenours like working above all else.

I would say that there has to be some type of incremental reward but expecting to like life all the time is not the right mental place to be in. IMHO it is a huge cause of failure because it makes you so fragile to setbacks. It filters out far too many important journeys that will include brutally tough times. Such journeys can only be "liked" in the rear-view mirror when it includes the contrast with the good-times and relief/pride of overcoming the bad. If you do not expect to enjoy the journey but still commit to the destination, you have a better mindset to get there.

Pro-athletes are probably a bad example for anything other than being pro-athletes. I have got the impression from some of the interviews with swimmers and tennis players that they utterly loathe training with a passion especially when their way of life is was designed for them by their parents before they ever had any self-direction.

I completely disagree that working above all else is the hallmark of great entrepreneurs.

I don't know many lazy successful people (there are a few, though!)

Maybe not 'the', but 'a'?

What do you think "the hallmark" is?

There's a difference between enjoying your job and not having any desires to do anything else. The former is normal and healthy, the latter is (imo) not a good strategy for working efficiently. I love my job but I don't think I'd be better at it if I poured 100+ hours/week into it. I'd probably just feel burnt out and unproductive.

Maybe so. Probably so. Most people. But I'm having a difficult reaching the bottom of the binary declarations up-stream. Commenter #1 said, essentially, "Loving work the most is key". Commenter #2 responded (I summarize): "Nuh uh."

I don't think anyone said anything about 100+ hours/week. I was hoping that commenter #2 might appear and give us some deep insights, but that appears to have been a bridge too far...

I don't have a 9~5 working for the man, but there is very little that happens during my waking hours that I wouldn't classify as related to work. I'm fortunate that this is not one task, so it doesn't weigh on me like fighting with a C compiler while sitting under florescent lights in a cube farm might. That's kind of work is fine - I like that too - but I couldn't do it for more than about 70-80 hours/week.

For athletes, the most important part is recovery. They only spend 3-4 hours per day "working", the rest is spent traveling, preparing, eating and sleeping. The key is good recovery, to be fully energized and focused at "working" sessions, for maximum quality (and productivity). It also helps if you have a coach, a manager and a private chef. And I think the same also applies if you want to be a successful entrepreneur: Quality over quantity. You have to love it though, because it's often hard work, and painful.

Any suggestions?

A short collection of sayings by the stoic philosopher Epictetus called The Enchiridion.

There's a free copy at http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/epicench.html


"Remember that you are an actor in a drama, of such a kind as the author pleases to make it. If short, of a short one; if long, of a long one. If it is his pleasure you should act a poor man, a cripple, a governor, or a private person, see that you act it naturally. For this is your business, to act well the character assigned you; to choose it is another's."

Very happy to find this here. I'm a practicing Stoic, but largely in "stealth-mode", meaning I don't talk to people, other than my wife, about it. Stoicism is a wonderful philosophy for overcoming adversity and, beyond that, finding a deep and persistent joy in life.

It has some interesting similarities to Buddhism but is, in my opinion, much more suitable for engineers. There is a strong emphasis put on logic and understanding the world around you through science. While ancient stoics did base some parts of the philosophy on religion, it is no where near an essential part of the philosophy, whereas buddhism is slightly more difficult (though far from impossible) to decouple from mysticism.

Epictetus is a great source, as are the writings of Marcus Aurelius and Seneca (the younger).

I keep a small list of Marcus Aurelius quotes pinned up by my monitor.

A few that work for me:

"Marcus Aurelius: Be a boxer, not a gladiator, in the way you act on your principles. The gladiator takes up his sword only to put it down again, but the boxer is never without his fist and has only to clench it."

"Remember how long you have procrastinated, and how consistently you have failed to put to good use your suspended sentence from the gods. It is about time you realized the nature of the universe. Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it."

"Every hour be firmly resolved, as becomes a Roman and a man, to accomplish the work at hand with fitting and unaffected dignity, goodwill, freedom, and justice. Banish from your thoughts all other considerations. This is possible if you perform each act as if it were your last, rejecting every frivolous distraction, every denial of the rule of reason, every pretentious gesture, vain show, and whining complaint against the decrees of fate."

"Stop jumping off the track. You don’t have time to reread your diaries, or the lives of the ancient Greeks and Romans, or the passages from their writings that you’ve collected for your old age. Throw off vain hope and sprint to the finish. If you care about yourself at all, come to your own aid while there’s still time."

"Be like a rocky promontory against which the restless surf continually pounds; it stands fast while the churning sea is lulled to sleep at its feet. I hear you say, ‘How unlucky that this should happen to me!’ Not at all! Say instead, “How lucky that I am not broken by what has happened and am not afraid of what is about to happen. The same blow might have struck anyone, but not many would have absorbed it without capitulation or complaint. "

"How at this moment am I using my mind? This is a question worth asking all the time. So is this: ‘How do my words and deeds measure up to the ruling reason within me? And who owns this mind of mine anyway? An infant? A boy? A woman? A tyrant? A dumb animal? A wild beast?’"

"How shameful and absurd it is for the spirit to surrender when the body is able to fight on!"

"Everything – horse, vine, anything – exists for a purpose. Is it any wonder? Even Helios the sun-god will say, “I have a job to do,” and the rest of the gods will say the same. So what will you say? “I’m here to have a good time?” The very thought is beneath contempt."

"Attend to the matter at hand, whether it be an object, an action, a moral principle, or the meaning of what is being said. You get what you deserve because you would rather become good tomorrow than do good today."

"In the make-up of a rational being, I can see no virtue incompatible with justice, but I do find a virtue at odds with pleasure: self-control."

And a bit of a longer one:

“In the morning, when you can’t get out of bed, tell yourself: “I’m getting up to do the work only a man can do. How can I possibly hesitate or complain when I’m about to accomplish the task for which I was born? Was I made for lying warm in bed under a pile of blankets? ‘But I enjoy it here’. Was it for enjoyment you were born? Are you designed to act or to be acted upon? Look at the plants, sparrows, ants, spiders and bees, all busy at their work, the work of welding the world. Why should you hesitate to do your part, the part of a man, by obeying the law of your own nature? ‘Yes, but nature allows for rest, too.’ True, but rest – like eating and drinking – has natural limits. Do you disregard those limits as well? I suppose you do, although when it comes to working you are quick to look for limits and do as little as possible. You must dislike yourself. Otherwise, you’d like your nature and the limits it imposes. At the same time, you’d recognize that enjoyment is meant to be found in work too and that those who enjoy their work become totally absorbed in it, often forgetting to eat and drink and seek other forms of enjoyment. Do you think less of your life’s work than the sculptor does his sculpting, the dancer his dancing, the miser h is money, or the star his stardom? They gladly forgo food and sleep to pursue their ends. To you, does the work of building a better society seem less important, less deserving of your devotion?”

That last one is literally the one thing that gets me out of bad some days: "Was I made for lying warm in bed under a pile of blankets?"

On many days I think yes, and I have no problems admitting this (especially during winter).

A question from someone largely ignorant of Stoicism, generated by the last clause in your quote from The Enchiridion:

How does a Stoic change his/her lot in life, given that Stoicism assigns choice of that lot to an externality? Or does that question lack meaning within Stoicism?

Your lot is that you were born a human being, on planet Earth, in this time. You cannot change that. You are, however, fully in control of your thoughts and actions, and can live in the present and make your time as aware, useful and meaningful as possible. If you do that, you will be better in the future and your future self will be grateful to your present self.

I don't believe that 'you' (the reader) are the intended 'author' of the play in that quote. It's not that you get to write your own role, it's that it's your job to play the role you were given, and someone else's job to give you that role.

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

If the outcome you're working towards is sufficiently worthy, and you can feel yourself making even just a little bit of progress toward that outcome every day and every week, then you can get by just fine.

+1 to this... It's also the heart of Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning [0]. This will keep you going even under the worst of circumstances.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man's_Search_for_Meaning

I'd say anger. Close second, denial. I am aware that these two aspects are at the very bottom of the generally accepted lists but they have been and still are my only way outs. Anger provides the juice, denial a sense of limitless optimism. I think that without a minimum of these two, we shrivel and die. That said, I consider myself lucky that, due to my psychological structure, anger is not turned against myself (i.e. depression) and that denial never fully violates reality (e.g. delusion). This combination has always generated enough energy and creativity to pull me out of stagnation. When anger runs out, because I'm tired mostly, I practice "wu-wei", do nothing. Failure doesn't exist for me: it is but a phase of improving. The meme "failure is not an option", pisses me off because I believe in just the opposite: failure is the only option. When I decide to make my bed first thing in the morning, as cleverly suggested by atroyn, it is out of anger. "I will not be negated". Same thing when I push through a rep that I don't want to do (at my age, pretty much every single one of them). Denial is, I believe, vastly under-rated. It sits along the path to the solution of any problem. It is the essence of out-of-the-box thinking. It is also what prevents us to think about our death all the time.

I've been depressed on and off for as long as I can remember.

These days I know it pretty well and basically manage it out of habit and experience.

This doesn't prevent events from pushing me into a depressive episode, but it does mean I know what steps I need to take to get through and get out. Because in the depths of suicidal depression, I know in my bones that it's pointless, meaningless etc. But I know in my head that this is just a feeling, no matter how real it feels, and that it won't last forever.

I did a talk about living with depression and ADHD last year, which might be of interest[0].

[0] http://original.livestream.com/pivotallabs/video?clipId=pla_...

Might be a long shot, but I often find I link my body state to my mind state unconsciously. Meaning if my body is struggling because of lack of attention in some area, the mind interprets itself as being depressed/sad/angry. I know when I look after my body - striving to drink a min of 3L of water a day, limiting sugar, getting up and away from the computer when I can, doing simple exercises throughout the day (yoga, presssups, pullups) - all leads to a much improved body state which in turn makes huge differences in my mood. This in turn increases productivity, outlook on life and so on.

It's a marathon though, and you have to keep it up. The body doesn't exactly make it's feelings clear either! Anyway not trying to simplify your problem, best of luck.

Yes, the brain is absolutely embedded in the body, and part of my self-management is regular sleep, exercising and so on. I cover this in the talk I linked.

For me, these prevent or ameliorate some, but not all, of my depressive episodes. I must periodically rely on medication to protect myself from myself.

I draw this distinction because people with depression are commonly given advice by well-meaning associates that exercise, diet and sleep will fix their depression.

For severe depression it probably won't, and in many cases, severely depressed people are not able to pick up even minor changes without what feels like a great deal of effort.

In general, if you think you have depression, you should seek professional attention. For most people it is highly treatable.

I just remember God does not exist, and thus my failures are not due to an hidden goal.

Then I breath.

I remember that keeping faith is about accepting failures : there is no win if there is no risks.

Fear and anxiety kills the spirit. I know they are direct consequences of failures, and I accept them. It does not mean I let fear rule my life.

Then, I remember our wold is about luck. So, I plan my next try at doing something, and I look back at my failures to see what valuables lessons I learned.

Basically they boil down to: work hard, keep it simple, and don't get tricked again in investing your time/money/energy/emotions in stuff that don't make you feel good. Love your self and who you are not a cool picture built for being accepted by others. Life is no popularity contest.

Failures taught me I can rise again. Success taught me it is all about luck. Failures and success taught me that the only way to potentially win is to try again.

And why do I try that much? Because, well, it is in my Nature, and the more the competition is unfair like nowadays, the more it makes me want to defy the odds because I am bored.

I don't know what your motivations are, I just know mine.

But failures should have taught you a great load of things you can use to understand your true self and empower it.

Failures are so valuable I regret not having failed when I was younger. There is a curse in being lucky, I am glad my curse was lifted.

Having a constant that stays with you in good times and bad has helped me. Could be a person, a piece of music, a book, a video/tv series/movie or just a long a walk.

Following stoicism helps. I read the book listed below that explains it well. My main takeaway from that book was that it is much easier to be happy if one stops caring about two things - External validation and Instant Gratification.

"One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life." - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5617966-a-guide-to-the-g...

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26043368-the-gita-for-ch... answers questions like 'How can one win a war when it involves killing ones own family?' with teachings like 'Do your duty with single minded focus and great sincerity, without worrying about the results of the work'

I'm from India. Glad you quoted from gita. There is another succinct version, loosely translated as "the essence of gita". I scoured for a relevant English version and found something here which might be relevant - http://www.indiastudychannel.com/resources/52974-English-tra...

For me, it's fear, fear of being dependent upon an economic/labor system that does not favor labor. If you are not an owner, and make a living selling your time, you are threatened by both outsourcing and automation.

As a programmer / engineer / whatever label you want to give, it is a little easier for us to adjust to changing labor conditions because our careers, as long as not overly specialized, require constant learning.

But I'd prefer not to live a life competing with people all over the globe, or being blindsided by some tech that can execute a majority of my responsibilities as an employee.

For me, some of the things are:

* purpose - if I am up to something meaningful, that carries me through dips

* team - I don't like letting people down, so having a team I care about matters

* habits - things like my Sunday run to the ocean keep my life going automatically, meaning setbacks feel less like catastrophes

* friends - everybody has failures; friends support me through mine and tell me about theirs, which helps with perspective

* seeing feelings as transient - a meditation practice has helped me recognize that feelings come and go, and to breathe through them

I have a few North Stars that keep me going:

* "Be a light" I can bring joy to other people in the world, and that there is still so much more to do.

* "Bask in the light of loved ones" The love of friends and family, even when I feel like I've let them down.

* "Don't be so hard on yourself" A self-love that allows me to forgive myself for my many fuck-ups. Not always without regret and never without reflection and learning, but eventually I do get there.

* "Don't stop dreaming" A deep-seated desire to help all fellow humans reach their fullest potential; to express themselves with their fullest freedom. This one is the most abstract, the "farthest" of my North Stars; it's so faint I'm sometimes not sure it actually exist. Perhaps this is the closest I come to that thing called "faith".

If you are a man, you don't have a choice but to persevere. Society doesn't care about you if you are a poor, unsuccessful man.

Sad Truth.

Fuck yeah PMA

A learning mindset.

When you treat each experience in life as a learning experience, it becomes much easier to persevere.

Another very useful skill, it not running away from pain or failure. This is not to say 'learn from your failures', but 'let the pain and anguish sink in'. Remember this pain, realize it is there and what caused it. Next time you encounter fear or hardships, the intuitive memory of the past pain - the one you didn't run away from or tried to suppress - will help you. I know it helped (and helps) me many, many times.

Absurdism. Shake your head and laugh at the absurd struggles we endure as humans and subvert the inevitability and absurdity of it by persisting anyway. Continuing to show up and push is the ultimate satirical act of defiance against the human condition.

That's Camus right?

Yes, though I came upon it myself the hard way... adolescent angst.

Interesting you ask, I just finished hearing NPR's Hidden Brain podcast. The podcast's advice is to do a wayfind to find your way. Define 3 ideal life paths, analyse all 3 and pick the best one to follow. If what you picked does not work then try again. Do this until you find your way forward.

Here's a link: "Episode 56: Getting Unstuck" http://one.npr.org/?sharedMediaId=507930318:507930414

I found the information in the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, by Mark Manson, to be quite useful in overcoming adversity.

While the title is a bit on the nose, Manson's premise is basically that we need to identify what is important in our life, and then eliminate our worrying about all the trivial things we run into every day.

For me, this was my family and religion (yes, religion). I realized that as long as my wife and kids were there, and I had someplace to dump my personal issues (religion), my job really didn't matter much, since my skills are transferable elsewhere. I didn't quit my job, but I certainly don't rank it in the top-ten important things to worry about, like I used to.

Seeing as my job is about 90% of the adversity I face in life, just making that mental change resulted in a tremendous amount of joy and satisfaction.

Inner scorecard. The things you named, and to which we usually pay attention, are all external and involve a lot of external circumstances over which you have no control. However, if you do the right things, improve yourself every day, you're already a success.

I love this speech by Coach Wooden and highly recommend watching: https://www.ted.com/talks/john_wooden_on_the_difference_betw...

PS. Also, having kids is a huge motivator. You realize that you are a living role model to them and what you do and how you behave will influence them for their entire life. And as you want to show your kids the best of humanity and positive qualities, you simple have no choice but to show them in yourself !

I usually find that I feel that failure "feels" very unfair if I failed when giving it my all. I find I face two choices then, give up, focus on what went wrong, get depressed and drop out. Or feel indignant anger, learn from what went right and try again.

Maybe not the healthiest way to do it, but I've never been one of those positive can do types -- or at least cultivating that kind of mindset never seems to carry the day for me. Operating out of anger and trying to make the world fair seems to be what gets the best results for me.

However, it may not work for others, wanting to see fair outcomes is a very deep seated compulsion for me, so I can latch onto that to drive motivation.

Giving up usually doesn't help. Just taking time to identify the root causes often leads to a simple and better solution.

Unfortunately, I am rarely able to convince others to follow along.

My company is extremely successful and our spectacular failures (often discussed on HN) pales in comparison to our success. I worked for several groups that lost multi-billion dollar markets because they were unwilling to make simple and obvious changes. For example, don't focus on our success and claim victory; look at our failures and make corrective actions. Seems pretty simple but maybe due to the innovator's dilemma, no one seems to care.

Learned optimism - or at least this blog post - https://github.com/raganwald/presentations/blob/master/optim... Changed my whole outlook.

I keep finding that no matter how much I want to be an optimist I cannot. The problem I have with it is that it feels as if I'm deluding myself whenever I try to be optimistic about anything and I can't hold it for any significant amount of time, perhaps I get too carried away when I become "optimistic".

Maybe it's just me but would you have any tips to overcome or at least come to terms with this mentality?

I read a quote somewhere "remember in the dark, what you saw in the light" - what I do is list the reasons why I believe in a plan or something, and when the doubts come, I validate it against the list of reasons. If the doubts actually invalidate the reason, it is a valid case for concern, but more often than not, its just me forgetting the reasons I first believed in something. This works when I start a project too - a list of reasons why I need to complete that..

IIRC that's what the researchers found also- gains were short-lived.

This will sound lame but for me it's always been routine. Being able to work a full day when my personal life feels like it's falling apart has done wonders in distracting me to when my emotions calm down to the point where I can make more mature decisions later on when I feel cooled off.

I have tried to set the things that I care about in my life up such that failures are interesting. What I mean is the places that I focus most of my time (my company, writing software, surfing) are those in which failures (ideally) imply learning. Since I like learning things, this is enjoyable. Hence "persevering" (fixing my mistakes, learning not to make them again) is fun, and thereby easy.

This hasn't always proved possible for me. You mention relationships: I haven't ever found a way to make failing in those fun.

In the specific case where adversity = pain, I'm almost embarrassed to admit I fall back on a line from Firefly: "This is just a moment in time. Step aside and let it happen." Because whatever you're going through now, it will be buried safely in the past pretty soon.

Some things that have worked for me:

1. A wise mentor once told me never to get all my satisfaction from one source. If I give everything to my job when it's going well, my job can take everything away when it turns bad. Keeping several balls in the air means that at any given time at least one of them is likely to be spinning well. For me at the moment it's developing software, making music and keeping fit. 2. Habits have saved me more than once in times of crisis. There are a lot of decisions I never need to make because they're already habitual. I don't find this makes life boring; rather, it frees me to focus on the important. 3. When things are tough, I buy some deferred gratification. This could be seats at a concert in three months time, a ticket in next week's lottery or arranging to meet friends for a coffee on the weekend. 4. When things get grim, I cut alcohol completely from my diet. A drink or two may seem a temporary escape from the pressures of the situation but, for me at least, alcohol is a poor ally in adversity. 5. Under extreme pressure I've observed that I usually start by looking for a way out of the situation, become depressed when I can't find one, and eventually discover the inner determination to master the problem. I remind myself of this pattern when I see trouble coming.

I learn from my failures and victories. My very large failures could only happen because there was a large victory in the first place. Nine foot tall and bullet proof becomes the bigger they are, the bigger they fall.

I know that I'm not, statistically speaking, entirely possible. I'm "supposed" to be dead, in prison, on drugs, homeless, and a missing parent, on welfare, and pretty much every other not-great thing I could be.

When someone sits in front of me and judges me unfairly, I can be upset with them and feel like I need to work harder to fit in with them, or I can simply be happy that they will never understand the person they are talking to, and for that, I should be grateful for their naivety and for the fact that I accomplished enough to even talk to them in the first place. I can choose to go home and be angry, or I can choose to go home and continue working and seek out people that matter. It's all about mindset: talking to this person, in isolation, was a failure, but the fact that I got to sit in that chair is the culmination of all of my prior hard wok and victories.

If there is one thing I've learned over and over again, adversity is only as permanent as you want it to be. This doesn't mean your dream job is just around the corner; it means that no matter how low you go, you can always do one thing better to improve every single day, and that adds up. Consider your options, learn to walk tall and walk away from bad moments, and understand that the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Physical health and enjoying the day. If you don't have that, you can and will -- sooner or later -- chuck all the rest.

Seriously. Make sure you have enough enjoyment in today. That is your starting point.

(E.g. Fresh scents on a walk. Startling at the sound of a goose's wingsweep, overhead. A good cup of coffee. A good, perhaps even spontaneous -- or, especially, spontaneous -- conversation. Enough sleep and exercise.

Not big, "I should" goals. Here and now.)

Adversity is an illusion, relatively.

I'm known as a relatively unflappable person who excels under pressure, but that's not entirely true. The reality is that after spending a few years in my teens couch surfing and sleeping under park benches, supporting myself with off-book babysitting and other more dubious gigs, I just have a very different definition of "adversity".

Got food and shelter? It's not a disaster, just an interesting challenge.

Having kids helps. You feel this sort of obligation to stay positive and stay enough above water (financially, emotionally, etc) to support them.

I wonder how differently I might approach things had I never started a family.

Go outside and look at the night sky, if you can. Gazing into that vast beautiful unknown, at the same stars that our ancestors saw when they looked up, is awe inspiring.

And knowing that we have it better than they ever did - despite our challenges - is humbling.

It cuts out any notion that you 'deserve' anything and reminds you that setbacks don't matter. Just keep going.

- Understanding what caused the failure

- Understanding your limitations

- Thinking "How can you not make the same mistake again"

- Understanding that for every public success there are tens or hundreds of failures that have not come to light

It's 10 times more painful to spend my time on anything I don't truly believe in. I tend to think the default state of existence is discontentness, and so we're always going to be upset over something at one point or another. In my experience, there is more piece of mind with struggling against important issues than trivial ones.

I think you are asking about setbacks, not adversity. If so, having a list of examples showing that most achievements (science, engineering, sports, etc.) are the end node of a long list of failures. Those failures are just not just publicised that often.

Setbacks are normal. The only way to avoid sequences of them is not to try new, ambitious things

If you're on a "failing trajectory" but there's work in front of you, block out everything except for the work. If you can't handle that, then take a break and then get back at it. If it's something you really don't want to fail at, then there's probably something about it that you really love. Try to discover that again, without worrying about the untold future. If you focus in every moment, then you WILL make progress -- if only bit by bit.

Don't compare yourself to other people, but recognize that you're probably incredibly lucky to have any opportunity to fail at in the first place. Think about your accomplishments and setbacks as a set of experiences that will only ever help you in the future -- not as liabilities on paper.

Finally, don't complain. It's difficult at first, but it'll help keep you away from self-pity.

Your comment reminded me of Karma Yoga, the practice of taking action without attachment to the outcome.

It used to be to show off what I could do (which was a big high), then after my wife died unexpectedly (She was 36 and I was 35), I've only done stuff to help my co-employee's to their jobs (which is a high, but i'm most lack luster in my attitude in wanting to get it done). Depression is a bitch.

Much easier if you plan for it.

When starting a project, one of the inevitable outcome is failure so it's worth thinking about what would happen in that case. I.e. plan for the good but also the bad.

Also, it's important to look at the longer goal. You can either succeed or fail, but make sure it gets you closer to that goal.

    My hope is built on nothing less,
    than Jesus blood and righteousness!
    I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
    but wholly lean on Jesus name!
    On Christ the solid rock I stand,
    all other ground is sinking sand.
    All other ground is sinking sand!

To me Perseverance means to BE what you DO. It's incredibly hard to give up who you are, your identity, isn't it? So once you truly do and you become what you do, to persevere is the only option.

But is a coin of two sides, that's why you can see people that are so attached to what they do that they find impossible to give up things, even when it doesn't make sense to continue.

To me I'm afraid of the opposite that you are asking to persevere when I shouldn't. What I do to deal with this concern is to try to be aware of how I'm attached to what I'm doing, re-evaluate time to time, and think if I'm with the right people in the journey, if I'm enjoining it and if I believe on what I'm doing. All these kind of questions.

Life isn't solvable, only livable. Some later "successes" require previous "failures". It's part of the whole life.

Some "successes" may lead to "failures" too.

All successes lead to failures, and all failures lead to successes. No one moment in life can be completely disjointed from any other. The only finality is when life ends, and even that can be philosophically extended through the effect one has on those to come.

True dat!

Yep, exactly.

I would love to say that my motivator is some great inspiration or having a system. I'd love to say it's some greater purpose. The truth of the matter is that while those exist, my chief motivator is the fear of admitting failure to myself.

Remembering the alternative: never making mistakes, therefore never learning from mistakes and when you do finally come up against a problem that's beyond you, you fall all the more harder. There's no greater teacher than a mistake. The brain is more malleable in the presence of pain -- use it to reprogram yourself based on what you've learned from the mistake.

Another thing I vaguely remember reading here on HN: you probably make 10-12 major decisions in your adult life. Nobody get's a 100% right. So everyone has a quota of two or three major screw-ups in life. Treat it that way, push it to the past and move on.

"You may wait but time will not"

Additionally failure is a big part of the learning process, and each failure brings you closer to success because you now have a life experience that you can use to shape your future choices.

Probably to leave a mark on the world and to make life better for those I care about. To avoid poverty and lack of options.

In addition to inspiration, managing one's emotions certainly can help.

One thing I always tell myself is that if the current struggle doesn't work out, there are always family members whose basement I could live in. So a failure in one struggle is not an existential threat. That makes it less stressful to keep going.

I also try to focus on doing one thing at a time and the physical actions required. Be in the moment and you are out of your head. Progress is taking one step at a time.

[Learned helplessness vs perseverence; in dogs, rats and humans]

Seligman called these differences our explanatory style. Some people were naturally inclined to believe that bad things will keep happening to us and that they are our fault. Some were naturally inclined toward the opposite—bad things are happening now, but they’ll stop and they’re not our fault. The former were those who were prone to depression; the latter were those who tended to bounce back. Seligman believed that humans, like dogs, could be taught to become more resilient, a phenomenon he called learned optimism. … In 1984, he published a review of the evidence. First, he and his colleagues had found that the way people explained bad events to themselves really did link closely to depression risk. It was true in students, in people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, in children, and, predictably, in depressed patients. And, importantly, training people to change their explanatory habits—to more narrow, external, and transient—seemed to help them overcome existing depression and, in some cases, prevent its onset even when other risk factors were high.


I remember that I love what I do, and stay positive. The Marines call it "Positive Mental Attitude". The left my last employer(a start up) after they hadn't paid for a month in May, and fell pretty hard into drug addiction(meth + benzos). Since I cleaned up, I've only done a little consulting and writing, so getting another job without fulltime work has meant jobs I would have turned down a year ago aren't even getting back to me. Do I care? Yea, I do. But I can't go back, I can only move forward. Life is long, and what ever mess I'm moving out of, time is on my side. What's really helped me is making a stupidly simple plan. When situations are stressful, its hard to really make decisions, so rely on a plan to get where you need to go. This way, you can focus on doing small things everyday, and worry less when taking "big picture" risks. For me, I do a few things everyday: go to an AA meeting/write or program for my book/apply to a job or two/read hacker news/talk to friends and family.

I actually am very prone to taking "the easy way out" rather than suffering through adversity. People see me as suffering through a lot of adversity, and there are no doubt ways in which that is true. But it is almost always the path of least resistance that I seek, even though it frequently does not look that way to outsiders.

Life is hard enough without intentionally making it harder.

The thought of regressing to the kind of life I had as a kid: I'd go a hell of a long way for that not to happen. Having some handicapped children, who are wonderful but resource intensive. The fact that I am so fortunate as to live in a world where to get ahead all I have to do is work my ass off--I live in a stable country that still rewards grit a lot of the time. Fear.

1. I do not remember who said this: "Remember the bad days when going is good and remember the good days when going is bad"

2. "This too shall pass", https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_too_shall_pass Nothing is permanent, the good days and the bad days

I think it's about letting go of the thought pattern of, "well, if this final effort doesn't work, then it's all over."

Now, that might be true for more limited contexts, but when applied to big things like "your life", what a damaging mentality to adopt.

In my twenties in particular, I had several periods of adversity, and there was nothing poetic about it. Fatalism, cynicism, inspiration, motivation, none of that had any meaning really. The only thing that mattered was just sheer dumb doggedness. Sometimes you persist even when there's absolutely no reason to. Do it anyway, because fuck you. That's what it felt like honestly. Doesn't make sense to continue, but fuck you.

And then it gets better, and then you have a good talk with your past self ("wow, look - it worked out even when it seemed impossible that it ever would - remember that") so your future self has something to fall back on in future times of adversity. Resilience.

1. 'Day dreaming'. I'm not sure what's the scientific term for this is, but fantasizing about a better future, a better you, better circumstances etc., can give you a fresh outlook. Need to remember that this is just a means to an end, and not "the end" itself !

2. Thinking of how your "ideal self" or your "real life hero" would've handled the situation. Would he duck for cover ? Would he have thrown and given up ? Would he have backed out to survive the day (eventually to fight another day) ? This kinda helps in bringing in a fresh perspective to the situation. It no longer looks like a pain, more like a challenge/problem that needs to be faced/solved !

Being aware of my own happiness. A while back I realized that true happiness y not a way, a goal, but it is something that every one has. So I realized that I was already happy. Then I found out that I express my happiness by the choices I made every day. That no matter how hard everything seems, from my own happiness I can choose from different options, even those from I'm not aware of. Then I read it from Buddhism, and I found also found out that the meaning of life is to be happy and be useful to others... since then I try to express my happiness by being helpful to others.

I know that it is sound like new-age-hippie stuff, but this idea has worked for me. I hope it helps.

I approach it the same way rocket engineers did:

    Well now I know another way not to do it
And I am a big stoic fan, the only adversity I face is that I wish to control me. I choose to not let it control me and realize that I can overcome or learn what I need to.

The key to things is discipline, spend a certain amount of time focusing each day, commit to it in small batches at first and continue each day. If you go off the rails, give yourself permission to resume the next day without beating yourself up over it.

Beyond that there really isn't anything more to it. Basically be a stubborn son of a bitch to yourself and commit to doing it. The only way to fail is not to try.

Is choosing not to control oneself part of Stoicism? Would like to read about that...

I might be forgetting but not that I recall directly. My only issue is I also approach all this with a bit of buddhism as well.

The general gist of both Stoicism and Buddhism are generally the same in principle. The only things that can control us are what we allow to control us.

That doesn't really mean that we have free will or the ability to control our world. More we have the ability to change how we interpret the world we live in.

And if you approach adversity as a bad thing, you're already losing from a thought perspective. You have to look at adversity as a friend, gently nudging you along to an easier path. Or a friend that needs to be bulldozed over or through to get to the goal. Or perhaps avoided entirely.

Looking at adversity that way what you realize is the only control you have is how you respond to it.

I recommend reading Epictetus, the eponymous Marcus Aurelius, any other early stoic philosopher. Note, take some of what they say with a mountain of salt. Their views on things like the overall universe are... a product of their time.

For more things I'd say also read The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. And read up on Buddhism possibly with more modern views in the theravada traditions. Feel free to ignore any of the things that make no sense, even the buddha himself said to abandon any practices that turned out wrong.

I approach all of this philosophy in the style of Bruce Lee, take what works from wherever you find it. Leave what doesn't aside.

Good luck in your journey!

I left a job in the US after being tricked into joining an elaborate hoax in the Middle East (Doha Qatar to be specific.) They purported to do ML research, had a real office (incredible), high end equipment, even some former C-level CROs from US firms.

Once I moved over (after giving up my previous job, school districts, etc), it was clear the entire operation was a sham -- the $7Billion endowment was non-existent, most workers had side-jobs (during the day!) and there was no ML research at all to speak of.

I persevere knowing that the golden land called the United States of America still awaits me. Just need to wait out the schoolyear.

For me, it's distilled down to what do I want my legacy to be - do I want to say I did something, or that I got most of the way there, but then I quit?

I would rather do and fail than do, give up & be assured of failure. At least with the former, I can be proud of my effort, and not have any shame over quitting. You're going to fail at something - might as well face it and fail with dignity when it happens, or succeed through the effort. The importance is building for the long haul, and not forgetting that.

- When you have no motivation: just do some sport. - When you fail think about worst case scenario: for any small epsilon > 0, your fail < epsilon compared to death.

I just keep reminding myself that for almost everything, the only way to fail is to give up. If I haven't given up yet, I haven't failed.

Reminding myself that perseverance is the only thing that works.

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." -- Calvin Coolidge

"keep going even after repeated failures"

Lessons from the Kobayashi Maru scenario. [0] It's a fictional scenario from a TV show and used in leadership training circles to test the reaction of candidates to ^no win^ situations.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kobayashi_Maru

Stoic teachings - when I'm facing dark times and feel I'm in dangerous territory psychologically...instinctively fall back of stoic mindsets in those situations. (e.g. "This too shall pass").

And yes I realise that quote isn't stoic per se - that's a simplified illustration of my point. Going into more detail - Meditations by M Aurelius.

Here's my list in no particular order:

- Support: Find quality friends that are positive, creative, and understanding. (Eliminate the doubters super quick, cultivate a great network)

- Mindfulness: Remind yourself of the little triumphs and how far you've come. Create a list in a doc as you grow, you'll be surprised. Perform a retrospective once every couple of months.

- Gratefulness: Remind yourself that those accomplishments probably weren't possible without your network, give thanks to them privately and publicly. I do this in my retrospective.

- Silliness: Life and time are finite. You should be willing to sacrifice what you want to accomplish what you want, because... well nothing matters in the end. We're all little pieces of meat walking around on a rock flying through space. The sheer probability of existence is simultaneously a miracle and a joke.

- Love: You reap what you sow. Be up front with what you want, who you are, and don't compromise. From there pay into it with as much love and compassion as you possibly can.

- The Big Questions: What are we here for? What does it all mean? Just think of life as a game where you work hard because maybe there is something in the end that will make the journey all worth it. (Some people can float through life, I'm not one of them.)

- Outlets: Find reasonable outlets, whether it's art (my personal favorite is oil painting and making music), or working out, or dancing. Try something new when you can.

- Partners: Absolutely 100% don't stop until you've found a co-founder that you trust, respect, and offers a set of complimentary skills. Literally exhaust every channel (no matter how stupid) you can until you find this person. Managing your own psychology is hard, but having someone help give you a kick in the pants with an alternative point of view is sometimes a lifesaver.

- Self: There are going to be a lot of 'voices' that have an opinion about your life. They can be online or off. Remember that you're the only person that has to live with you, and in the end you're what matters most. To have a happy life, make yourself happy, but make sure that happiness magnifies the positive energy inside others as well. Stay true to your vision, and let that guide you.

- Inspiration: I have some personal things that I find comfort in. I like looking at inspirational posts on instagram, nice cars, inspirational videos on youtube. These serve to help pep me up sometimes. I like to imagine having the nice things that might be a result of my hard work, but the older I get the less material items matter and the more relationships and compounding the good in the world matters.

Also if anyone is in San Francisco and wants to grab a coffee, take a walk, and chat about life, the universe, and everything -- hit me up. :)

[Forgive any spelling/grammar errors. I'm tired and about to sleep.]

I get past these kinds of things by knowing that change is always out there. Nothing stays the same so eventually it gets better.

I think in the first place you have to be very clear about what it is you want to achieve in your career or your relationships, and more importantly why.

Why you want what you want and why you won´t settle for anything else.

Once you have that cristal clear you just got to know that failure is not final nor definite, but rather an opportunity to try again.

A depurated sense of will sprung from a cultivated naivette and protected capcity of awe, but having learnt to want only reachable things drawing aside mere hypotetical desires. That and living as a permanent act of choice, replete of responsibility, a song of my share of freedom, no matter the dire options.

Persevering can be good, but sometimes failing can also be good. For example, if you've been trying to push a product for a number of years and the market doesn't take it up, then at some point you need to give up, or otherwise you'll spend the rest of your life chasing an impossible dream.

What else am I supposed to do, curl up and die? <- a note on my tone: I say this with a shrug, not a sneer. And yes, it's reductive, but that's because that's what I personally have found that the question ultimately reduces to.

God and the Bible

Personally: Sheer Bloody-mindedness & a 'Well Fuck This!' attitude.

It's really the best part of life because with each failure, the goal becomes more meaningful. The only way to be miserable through repeated failure is to expect that everything you do will work out.

Man, thank god for having found hacker news. The amount of incredible and worthwhile material that I constantly find here has been incredibly helpful to me to grow as a person. Cheers to everyone.

Probably not the most popular opinion on HN but, in my case, religion.

I'm beginning to see that religion is a way to find answers to life's difficulties. But in the past I found it so hard to filter the wisdom from the noise. There's just so many charlatans that want to scare you into their view of what religion is. I've learnt that reading with a critical eye is the best way to learn from all the wisdom that has been past forward through books.

For me, I think Ive usually founds this to be (slightly) the wrong question. Inspiration has been about being in a state of mind to find, recognise or just decide it's there.

Working on projects that is very useful for other groups of people rather than yourself. When you think less about yourself you get paralyzed less and move forward.

For me, failure is just a railroad switch on a railway of life. It can be a bumpy turn, but most of the time everything ends just fine.

2 things

1) Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHWUCX6osgM

2) Reminding myself of my blessings in life. Most of us have many things to be thankful for, even in our worst moments

Whatever you do, do not seek sympathy from others. It can be very comforting to vent your frustration to people and get their sympathy, but it does absolutely nothing for situation and only enforces your despair.

That speech is also on my motivational list

Remembering my past wins / partial wins and building on top of them.

And don't tell me that you don't have them. Everybody has them.

No one is exempt from trials & tribulations.Yet joy comes to those that maintain. Be blessed knowing this to shall pass.

You think you're talking about staying on top of your goals, but you're actually talking about self-esteem.

Fulfilling tasks gives you a socially-understood purpose and a sense of security within your social environment. Failing at them leaves you exposed to other's judgment or your own.

Inspirations and motivations can allow us to dust ourselves off. At least for a while. We retell our minds that it's not over yet, we've not yet failed and can keep moving towards our goals. At least I learned. I'm just not winning ...yet. Growth Mindset.

They are guard rails so that we can correct our behaviour and not lay around feeling humiliated.

However, while internally we can save face, can we do so externally? One might tell themselves they are persevering but to others they might be flailing. You need good marketing. And if it keeps happening perhaps a behavioural compass tuned better to your abilities.

Whatever you might achieve, realise that this is only your self trying to maintain favourable relations with the outside world. The best protection against that being self-respect, respect of others and consciousness of this relation.

It just dawned on me that I probably have theory for this, because I am bad at it in practice.


I didn't respond to the question of how to keep going at whatever you're doing, because the practical considerations outside of what I said are basic. To be seen as 'determined' and full of 'grit' simply do one hard day's work and then repeat it continually unabating. And, get a good night's sleep. And, try to be more skilled than your competition. Etc.

Actually there are a few ways to hack motivation. The easiest is to simplify or localise a task, but the deeper and more fundamental way is by internalising 'I do not need a concoction of extrinsic motivations to do things, I will just start now and not stop'. I am not sure how to teach other's how to jump-start that belief, but I suspect you'll be able to work it out.

The honest truth is that it's a bit like 'going through the pain barrier' in that there is no barrier that you'll pass through and no longer feel pain. You'll merely be exposed to the pain of 'motivatedness' enough that you'll learn to live with it. Does that sound bad? Well ...it is. Continual pain is a sure-sign that you're trying to do something that you're not meant to do. I think you'll find that you'd be much happier if you avoided adversity, however the important thing to remember is that you have a choice here.

Life comes with its ups & downs..It's the decision we make that assures us of a positive outcome.

In the end, you only have yourself. Go to an open field and realize that no one is holding you back. :)

If you don't persevere you achieve nothing. That fact alone is often enough to keep me going.

If you stop, you let the negative force win. Our default mode is to always be doing something.

I just tell myself there is no other choice this has to be done so failure is not an option.

Easier to write a reply on here than walk the walk, take HN comments and advice about what others claim with a grain of salt.

First, I recommend anyone asking this take a moment to do a double-check on your mental health. At least for depression and insanity. Looking in the mirror like this is not as bad as a prostate exam but it does take longer...

1) Depression. If you think you might be suffering from depression or any mental disorder or don't know enough to decide, please go seek professional help. If you are unsure what this means or think the odds low, consider going to see a professional and getting a diagnosis anyway at least it rules things out.

2) Insanity. I mean this in sense attributed to Einstein of "doing something over and over again and expecting the same result".

There is no "keep going" or getting back on "the track" after a failure. If you have failed then it's over - it requires "starting anew". The track you will be on is new too even if it points at the same goal as the old one.

Now, if you're talking about pushing through setbacks and obstacles but not a real failure, there is a difference. In HN-YC-gobbledygook; are you in a "trough of sorrow" or back on your mom's couch after bankrupting your company and you're browsing Craigslist job ads/casual encounters posts? Big difference between setbacks and failures.

If it's failure. I don't celebrate it. But I would be stoked about the gap of time between a failure and starting anew. This gap of time gives one a chance to pause and figure out what happened. Plus it's time to fix what you can about yourself and how you operate or realize it's better to move to something else you are better at. Call it the "trough of who the fuck cares but I ain't making that mistake again"...

This step involves thinking about: were things your fault? Were they someone else's fault? Was the failure just bad luck? Really? There should be no repeated failures of the same kind. That is insanity. Don't keep doing stuff if you haven't analyzed and fixed things that caused it. This involves thinking about if failures could have been anticipated and avoided...

If failures are just genuinely just bad luck, not a deficiency of ability on your part nor a failure that could have been avoided beforehand, there is nothing to do. Good luck happens and bad luck happens. But you know this. Be mentally prepared beforehand for whichever way the dice fall. I know of no gambler who walks into a casino with $100, knowing his odds and walks out depressed when he loses the $100. I know many people who walk into a casino not knowing their odds, having looked up the rules of craps 5 minutes beforehand on their phone and fully expecting to win - then being shocked and upset when they lose $500.

No one else's inspirations can inspire you. Figure out a goal you want and what achieving it involves.

If you can't figure a goal that inspires you, then that is your goal. Finding a goal is your goal. Frankly that is fucking super exciting too; getting to treasure hunt and discover something that is new and inspiring, something you will really want and want to work towards sounds very exciting. Best of luck.

I recommend reading Nassim Taleb's book "AntiFragile"

The knowledge that my ancestors have been through a lot worse.

Take it one day at a time and surround yourself with experts.

I don't want to be average. I want to change the world.


support from family members, I find this to be greatest inspiration for me to get through any adversity.

If you stop, you're gonna die. If you won't die if you stop, then maybe it's not really all that big of a deal.



Guys, nobody in this thread has given the advice to give up! If you were a scientist who travelled back in time in an accident from 2117 when humanity created a black hole, and you have a solid physics degree and don't really have anything to do except 1) become rich and influential and 2), make sure that a certain very specific experiment isn't repeated, or, for example, personally finance that it first be tried on Alpha Centauri (4 light years away), so everyone can see that Alpha Centauri disappears in a black hole (about which your probe sends back data), so they won't try it on Earth, then you will be in the following position: You will know about lots of inventions from the next one hundred years. You don't really have anything to do, you don't care about preserving any timeline or anything like that.

Obviously you're not exactly an engineer, so you can't make any inventions from the next hundred years in your garage - you just know generally how they work.

A sane course of action under these constraints would be to get identity papers somehow (after all, you're stateless), get a patent on a future invention that you understand well-enough to describe clearly, then get financing for it and build it.

You're an educated and very high-IQ person with degrees, so after minor set-backs around getting jobs and papers, you get set up, very clearly and eloquently describe your invention (in a patent filing), wait for it to be granted, and now you are free to get money from anyone. You send the patent papers to 150 vc's without a response, which you consider odd. You send them to a further 500 people in a position to help but still get no response.

You go to your alma mater, of course you don't recognize any faculty, it's from before your time, and they ask you if you have a prototype - you say no, you're not an engineer. They ask you how you know it would work. You hem and haw and say,it's all written down very clearly. They suggest you build a prototype. This is actually beyond your skills - you're a theoretical physicist not an engineer.

This is very frustrating for you.

This is when you post "what inspires you to persevere through adversity."

But the answer is that you should realize that the 2017 idea-stage funding climate is not sufficient to fund you. It doesn't matter if your idea patent can be the basis for a $20 billion company, which is enough to finance your Alpha Centauri demonstration.

You're stuck. You know very well what will happen if you don't intervene (though actually, you're not certain - the physics here isn't clear, whether the same timeline is likely to repeat.)

At any rate you GIVE UP trying to fund your patent. Instead you decide that you will finance it yourself by doing something completely different. You do remember that around 2025 or 2026 there is a huge bubble followed by an unfathomable crash, and you had actually just read - before your travel - the biography of a founder in that era who quickly built dynastic wealth. Since you are very smart and just need funding for your prototype, and anyway you have sixty years to get rich, there's no hurry, you decide to find him and be one of the first ten founders. You tell him some simple inventions from the future in just a few words, and to your great surprise he is completely on board and instantly agrees that they are all viable, he straight-up gives you 50% equity in his company, you start pulling 120 hour weeks and seven and a half years later you have exited with $20 billion and start doing your space stuff. (You muse that this was all thanks to working on whatever HE wanted, even though it had nothing to do with anything you knew about - you started with ZERO knowledge of 2017 web tech. All that knowledge of one hundred years of technical development paled in comparison to a name you recalled offhand - thereby proving the old adage, it's not WHAT you know, it's WHO you know.)

Anyway, a few years later your space research shocks the world - oh, also you read something about telomeres - you can't BELIEVE you forgot about that, you've always hated and hardly paid any attention to biology but you remembered you actually know enough to slow aging by 90% especially in the skin, and back in your time all babies were given telomere extension shots, which has been going on since shortly before your birth in 2090. Since you're a billionaire with a lot of time on your hands you read up on it, order a small animal and then human experiment, and long story short you give about 8 billion people longer, happier lives by inventing something in 2030 that was slated for 2085, even though you didn't even care.

Oh, and as for your original first patented invention, on a lark you wonder if anyone would finance it now that you have $20 billion, you have the spiffy prototype built, hold a big VC meeting on a private island where anyone who's anyone shows up with three partners - and still nobody has any interest whatsoever. As great at it is, whatever it is, it turns out it's not fundable. The world's just not ready for it.

Moral of the story: sometimes you should just give up, and the sooner you give up, the sooner you can start making some kind of progress.

The moral of the story seems to be to stick in your core competencies and de-serendipitous discovery for a couple decades.

If you're a theoretical physicist in 2117 you have a pretty good idea of what was figured out in 2020 and you can front that and collect your Nobel prize in physics and most importantly its funding.

Meanwhile most of the modern world is built out of creative concepts. Huh we can create seemingly arbitrary organic chemicals what happens when ones with free double bonds get triggered into single bonding with neighbors, nobody never thought of anything that crazy and its a bazillion dollar industry now. Uranium, well, it turns glass artistically yellow otherwise pretty boring. Silicon, well, it makes a nice metallurgical addition to steel and aluminum and is "easily" purified to ridiculous levels but otherwise not terribly noteworthy. And then there's things that don't amount to anything, multiverse, strings, skip all that stuff to gain progress. Electric cars were not a "thing" for their first century, but their second is looking pretty interesting.

pure spite

Personally I look towards people I admire; especially times they screwed up. For example, right now Donald Trump is somebody that's very inspiring to me, because I consider him a great and admirable man, who has also made many mistakes over time. I admire his ability to pick himself back up and keep going.

You will probably have other people you admire; look for times they made mistakes. What's important is realizing everybody makes mistakes all the time. In the end, what makes a great person is their ability to pick themselves up and keep going. Never stagnate.

The God Emperor himself. Can you think of any other modern day hero who went through more than he did to get elected?

Struggling and failing is how you eventually become strong and capable of succeeding at higher and higher levels.


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