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You are not 'behind' (zackkanter.com)
471 points by mooreds on Sept 3, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 209 comments

For the past 10 years, I only spent about 4 to 8 hours per week on entertainment - All the rest of my time was divided between work and sleep (I only sleep 5 hours per day on weekdays). Financially, I have nothing to show for it unfortunately so I really feel like I'm behind and that I've missed the boat on many things. What makes it particularly difficult is that I was working really hard the whole time - When I read articles about (comparatively) lazy people who feel that they are behind, it makes me upset because it reminds me that I should be feeling worse than I'm actually feeling - Because I actually tried and I could have been having fun or procrastinating instead - I would be happier overall because I could accept my predicament more easily (and my mind wouldn't be burdened with ambition).

If you're behind because you were lazy, you can laugh about it. If you're behind because the stars didn't line up for you (E.g. the carpet got pulled from underneath you several times) then it's hard to laugh about it.

In retrospect, being lazy isn't too bad.

For me personally, "being lazy" is awful because I'm stuck in a constant battle between my personality (which wants to mould to the shape of my couch and watch TV forever) and my mind (which desperately wants to leave a mark on the world). Every day I spend couch potatoing feels like a complete and utter failure of the soul, and it seems like most of my effort is actually spent on trying to bend my personality into the shape I want it to be. If you try and fail, at least you're still left with that invaluable experience! Most accomplished people have a repertoire of failures behind them; most don't seem to have years of dicking around.

I've felt like this my entire life. Turns out for me that it is a symptom of (undiagnosed) ADHD - an execution problem, not a motivational problem. Having gotten that diagnosed, it's a very significant change in my life. To be cliche, the first day of the rest of my life.

For many people, "trying to bend their personality into the shape [they] want it to be" is fruitless, totally counterproductive.

The first thing I had to learn was that in order to change my behavior, I had to change my environment, not my attitudes. My attitudes are fine, indeed, perhaps excessively eager.

It's possible that other people could take something away from that, ADHD or not, it's better to accept and appreciate who you are and the value you bring to the world, and instead seek to make changes to where you are, what is around you, and how you relate through that to the rest of the world.

I think you've got a good point there. A lot of people feel like they want to change, like they need to be a certain person, do certain things, but what they don't realize is that they don't understand themselves well enough. I had a revelation with coming to terms with being introverted and (probably) a touch of autism (undiagnosed, doesn't really matter tbf - what matters more is understanding the symptoms and personality traits). Once you understand those, and realize that's you, you'll start accepting yourself more, and while you won't be a hipster rockstar just yet, you'll be at peace with it more.

I'm going to the doctor. Most days I wake up with so much to do and my mind just crashes and burns. When I am in the zone (couple times a month) I get more done in that zone time than the entire month.

If you ever need advice, commiseration, or just to vent, hit me up, email in my profile here. That goes for anyone reading this, as well.

Ha. I once heard ADHD described by a behavioral scientist as "making a list of chores and putting it up on the fridge so you'll see it every day, and every day you see it but forget the moment you're out of the kitchen" (not verbatim)

Having severe ADHD, coupled with a seemingly unalterable indifferent outlook on life due to manic depressive disorder and childhood trauma has given me a morbid sense of satisfaction in making time to squander my time here on Earth... And intense salf hatred. I just hope I can consolidate these two aspects of my personality in a reasonable timeframe. One half of my role models are all polyglots, men of science and patrons of the arts, and the other half are all dead from speedballing or suicide.

Wait a second. Future me?

Ok, so there's time travel in the future. But why did you come back? Did our goals all fail? Was global warming that bad? What are you trying to alter in the timeline?

Use the code-phrase I'm logging in my private folder on Keybase and get in touch.

(But seriously, damn our lives sound similar. Any advice for dealing with the problem?)

I came back in time to prevent us from ever going back in time. Sounds complicated, and trust me it is. All will become clear soon.

I wish I had some smidgen of life advice, but we're even more fucked up in the future than we are now, I'm afraid.

Jokes aside, what I've been doing is finding fun ways to strengthen my discipline while picking up useful skills. I picked up the Rubik's cube about a year ago, I'm now under a minute and a half and won't stop until I'm under ten seconds. Then I will learn how to balance things on my fingers and other body parts. Then I will learn how to juggle.

No, I'm not training to become a circus clown. Just noticing my weaknesses (visualization, dexterity, coordination, etc) and finding fun ways to mitigate them. The discipline involved in my incremental daily progress will hopefully carry over to other aspects of my life.

I keep a pack of index cards and a pen within arms reach, and make tons of lists and notes and keep them around my monitor so I see them ten hours a day. I try to take care of at least 1-3 things on these lists a day. I condense my daily soul-crushing feelings of loneliness and desperation to between 3-4am.

I have a million and one great ideas and I write them all down, but I only allow myself to focus on 1-2 projects at a time. This creates a small sense of embarrassment, as I love to work through my ideas by discussing them with others even if I don't actually plan on implementing them any time soon, but I worry it comes across to others as me talking about doing all sorts of things that I will never do, simply because I don't bother communicating that I'm just talking through these ideas to find their flaws. But that's ok, eventually I will have things to show for it.

I'm not satisfied with the speed of my progress, but that's ok. If I was, it means I'm not aiming for lofty enough goals. I should never be satisfied with the person I am, because I should never settle for what I have.

Anyway, that's what works for me for now, hope some of it helps.

What you changed in your environment?

(I ask because I had same experience, except now that I am diagnosed I am struggling to find what I am supposed to do... I am kinda spinning in place without going anywhere)

TL;DR - I found this book effective, you should read it instead of listening to me blather below:



The biggest things, broadly, are:

Step 0: Get engaged medically - with diagnosis, collaboration, and medication. ADHD is not something you can manage on your own. It's literally "the disorder of not being able to fix the problems you can clearly see", so you need external feedback and assistance. Doctor(s), therapist, friends, family, co-workers, employer - gotta engage all of them.

Step 1: Figure out where the problems are. This means, before you make any changes, record when things go right / wrong and map out places that need change. (and I know, making ADHD people carefully analyze and wait it out is the most ridiculous thing ever but...)

Step 2: Change your environment and the way you live your life. Automate, externalize, or delegate all nonessential tasks and change your set/setting to accommodate you instead of struggling to behave. If it's not something you do without thought or effort, automate, externalize, or delegate it.

Step 3: Relax! You've made it, time to kick back and... Oh, no, sorry, continue to repeat steps 0-2 on a weekly/monthly/annual basis, largely for the rest of your life. It's a little bit like weight loss - getting there is only about 10% of the battle. Getting consistent about it is the other 90% and that's the part that clearly people with ADHD struggle with the most.

Anyway, it's really key to understand it as a process, a skill, and one that you can improve at over time. Don't let missing things or being unsuccessful get you down, just pick it back up and learn from where you made the problem. Don't blame yourself any more than you'd blame yourself for being colorblind or tall.

More about the changes in step 2:

a) I automate and delegate everything even more heavily than I did before. All bills go on autopayment, anything that can be set up to be routine is. Yard service, cleaning service, whatever it is, if it can take things off my plate, sold. Can't overstate how critical it is to not let your own execution problems trap you. Focus on strengths and accept your weaknesses.

b) Calendaring is absolutely essential. He recommends paper, I do it digitally, whatever works for you. I have things set to remind me, and I use it religiously. I have reminders for any recurring activity - daily, weekly, monthly, if it can't be automated, don't try to remember it, instead use reminders. It also must be with you 100% of the time. Literally chain it to your arm if you need to. Which sounds less ludicrous when you call it a 'smartwatch' but...

c) Externalize everything. Draw pictures, flowcharts, checklists, plans, or sketches; set timers, write notes, make boxes and organizers; put gold stars on a chart; whatever it takes, but you can't rely on your own brain to provide feedback. You need things to be concrete and outside of your own mind.

Most importantly, the things you need have to be at where you perform the task, not in the office. I have 3 whiteboards in my house and they are constantly full with relevant, localized info, plans, lists, schedules, etc. I use painter's tape and markers to label everything. Do not label the cats. They do not like it. I routinely go through ~3 rolls of tape a month.

d) You need your environment to fit you, not the other way around. If you can't focus at work, either make changes to where / how you work or find a new job. If your home/neighborhood/city is the wrong size, shape, or activity level, change it. It's that simple, and that serious. A significant undertaking and one that I'm definitely still working on.

> Do not label the cats. They do not like it.

I feel this is the "take out all the brown M&Ms" moment in your reply. I did laugh a lot though - the timing was unexpected.

I mean, I'm not going to lie and say that I didn't learn that empirically. But I am totally glad you caught it and had a chuckle.

I'd just like to point out, as a person who was not diagnosed with any particular kind of disorder (and boy, did my family try to make that happen when I wouldn't change my interests to meet their expectations,) that all of this advice is good advice for anyone. Everyone.

It may be more critical for someone with ADHD, but, even so, it's an outline of habits common to effective people. And frankly much of it is a great expression of what it means to be human (change your environment, delegate your efforts, planning and scheming, etc.)

Absolutely true, certainly executive functions are energetically "expensive", and very tiring to exercise continuously, regardless of neurological quirks. People also often have a lot more trouble with executive functioning than they think - as an example, checklists vastly improve the performance of even virtuoso experts at complex tasks.

I see...

So my project wasn't just me being complete nuts.

My parents put my computers near them after I moved back with them.

I kept insisting I needed one where I wanted... After sevearal months arguing and not getting anything done, I managed to get help to build a desk (I didn't have money to buy one...) bought computer chassis (computer was without one) on a junkyard, and setup it where I wanted.

This was recent, so I didn't started to get things done with it yet, but at same time the whole undertaking was feeling like I was just wasting time for no reason, like if I was procastinating, that maybe I should just try to get things done anyway in my parents office and deal with the noise and interruptions...

Nope! I'm with you, noise and interruptions are totally fatal. Things other people think are fine drive me crazy, or worse, are exciting and interesting and ooh shiny look at the time, it's 9pm already. If I didn't work on the internet, I would turn off the internet while I was trying to focus :)

I fantasize about having a job that doesn't involve me sitting on a computer nearly 100% of the time for the same reason.

edit: formatting

I get that too sometimes. Watching woodworking videos on youtube is very satisfying. Not something I'd do myself quickly (I'm comfortable with the money I'm making at the moment), but I can imagine it's a very soothing line of work. The videos are often very quiet and focused too, much like software development in the zone - and unlike software developers, artisans are generally left alone with their craft and how they want to work is respected more.

Me too. I have a very "maker" spirit and I really love the woodworking and the metalworking videos on youtube. In addition I love car restoration and build videos too. Unfortunately for me I don't have the resources to do any of the above at the side although I am thinking of working on my car and doing the small little things instead of the mechanic.

Here's another book recommendation for handling adult ADHD.


I got lucky and made some money in spite of my undiagnosed case. But my ignorance allowed me to make some bad life choices when it came to choosing the wrong spouse, and now we're divorced with 2 kids.

This is amazing, thank you. I feel this way every day - I have a lot of motivation and every day not actively working to learn or make something feels like a waste. It feels like I just spent the day in some kind of lazy heavy fog with nothing to show for it. To be honest I highly doubt I have ADHD, but I think this advice might help me regardless and I'll consider seeing a therapist to help with this.

You've got a very strong point.

The role of environment is severely underrated. Not just in our failures, but in our successes as well.

Motivation runs dry, but environment can be set up to work in your favour.

For example, if you sold your couch and TV, you wouldn't watch TV first thing after getting home or on weekends.

This isn't to say that you'll magically become more productive, but to just illustrate how changing the environment can have a profound effect on your habits and therefore, your life.

After realising I had succumb to the quick-fire, quick-fix attitude of phones and social media, I used my now shortened attention span against itself by putting barriers between me and those quick fixes.

If I want to check my phone I have to go get it and wait for it to turn on. If I want to check distracting sites on my computer, I'll have to log in first. They're small, but normally what happens is I will start to slip out of focus, by habit I will punch in the distracting site, realise I need to log in and go "Oh yeah, not now" and then get back to work. It's like a focus cue for when my brain goes on auto-pilot. I find I check far less often now because my brain knows there's no reward there.


Objective physiological and neurological differences in brain structure?

A huge body of scientific evidence.

It's real.

Many years ago I was like you, and then I discovered this nifty life hack:

Whenever I am in slouch mode, quick come up with the quickest home chore I haven't done. Vacuuming? Washing dishes? Cleaning dining table?

The quicker the chore could be done, the better. And as you about to finish it, come up with the 2nd one. After the 3rd time, your mind is awake and ready to do productive things, like a side project, etc.

It's like bicycle for your mind, the first couple strokes are always difficult.

I'm very similar to you and grappled with the same issues.

What really changed for me was reading some Hindu philosophy. I'm Indian and Hindu by birth but have been agnostic pretty much all my life.

I looked into the philosophical component of Hinduism out of curiosity.

The heart of Hindu philosophy is in the Gita. The core idea of Gita is to "do your duty regardless of the results"

This is a belief I've now come to embrace wholeheartedly.

I've stopped bothering with the results. I've stopped bothering with what others are doing.

I only focus on what I CAN do - my duty - and forget about the rest.

Relinquishing control has been a great thing

Feeling behind is worthless, I agree with the article, though do it more than I'd like.

The way I "quit" TV, and sugar, for that matter was to get them out of my day-to-day habit. For me that meant getting them out of the house. Sell the TV and dump cable if it is standing between you and your goals. Personally did that after a long period of travel after finding I did not miss it once.

With sugar, I stopped buying anything at the grocery with significant carbs. If I need a treat I turn to premium dark chocolate.

I still might partake a bit of either while out on the weekend but that is it. Now trying to push alcohol and caffeine to the same category but finding them more difficult.

What's so great about TV? If you want to do something then do it. Otherwise you didn't want to do it in the first place.

People contain multitudes. "You" aren't a single entity which wants or doesn't want things. There is such thing as internal conflict.

The two of you are saying the same thing with different definitions.

Personally disagree

Wanting to do something vs doing something else are two different things. I want to be rich but I'd rather watch TV.

I think accepting that you enjoy watching TV or other passive means of entertainment is more important than beating yourself up over not doing something more productive.

>What makes it particularly difficult is that I was working really hard the whole time

If working hard made a difference by itself, tons of minimum wage workers will be rich by now...

>In retrospect, being lazy isn't too bad.

Money isn't everything, especially "success" in the BS way the US rat race defines it. You don't need millions, heck not even one million. 99% of the world, and most of the US live their liveσ without ever having one in the bank anyway.

Find something you love, whether it's work related or something you find fun, and enjoy it. And/or enjoy the company of people, family, etc.

In an economy where at the early 30's people are too afraid of being unemployed this is the stupid advice. Without financial independence everything is a luxury.

You probably need at least one million to avoid poverty conditions in retirement.

Or you know, a country with actual pension plans, like most of Western Europe at least.

Oh, plenty of people have government pensions. It's just that when city & state governments made those promises, they were lying. It is the will of the people of Illinois, for example, not to pay retired government workers what they're owed, and we'll see that enacted shortly. Social Security will similarly implode when the total needs of Boomers surpass the total income-producing capability of Millenials in the next couple of decades.

Having a pension is not in any way, shape, or form an excuse to not have private retirement savings. Other people can and do routinely decide to render pensions worthless, and there's nothing you can do about it.

If you aren't the sole signer on the account where it's held, the money isn't yours. If anyone has the ability to pilfer it for their own purposes, they will, and you should act accordingly.

Accepting a pension in lieu of additional income is a staggeringly bad idea that no one should ever under any circumstances dream of considering. You wouldn't accept salary in a way that can be retroactively withdrawn, you shouldn't accept retirement savings that way either. As long as we live in a world where Republicans are allowed to exist, trusting a government to pay you is phenomenally stupid.

It's extremely good news that the US has mostly discarded the idea of giving out pensions.

Or you know you could setup a pension system where this hardly happens if at all by ringfencing the funds, allowing limited risk exposure and making sure the plans are well-funded. Countries in Western Europe indeed have managed to do this.

Modern Western European pension systems are largely post-WW2 so haven't been around that long. Sure based on performance so far, there are fair reasons to think you'll be able to extract a liveable pension in say 2050, but it's not really guaranteed.

As an example, the Dutch "pension fund for government and education" aims to have 128% coverage. They still haven't fully recovered from the 2008 crisis, because they currently still have only 102,5% coverage.

Which countries are you talking about? Finland certainly doesn't implement mandatory govt pensions well.

Do you mean like in uk where you get 159.55£ per week after you worked for at least 35 years and you are at least 68 (if they don't postpone it again) ? I hope that I don't have to explain what kind of life you can do in London with that ridiculous amount.

640/month is probably more than a lot of working people have left over after they've paid rent/mortgage, childcare, commuting costs. Not that it's an exorbitant lifestyle, but it's "moderately" comfortable (assuming you own your own home and qwualofy for all the relevant support).

Even if you own your home you need to pay the service charge. In my house is ~1800/year = 150£/month. The council tax is pretty cheap for my house, it's only ~100£/month. Other bills let's say 100£/month. To eat at home, unless you want to eat sh#t, it's 400£/month. Total: ~750£ So if you don't do absolutely anything at all apart from surviving and eating at home you are already spending 110£ more than your pension. And this is if you already have an house. I would not call a final income of MINUS 110£ moderately comfortable.

If you're genuinely spending £400 pcm on just food then you really need to sort your budgeting out. Especially in retirement, when you've way more time to cook big meals and freeze stuff.

400 / 2 people / 30 days = 6.6£ a day. Can you please share the secret on budgeting out? I think that if you don't want to eat shit 6.6£ a day is the bare minimum I really can't see how can you spend less. You have something like 3£ for lunch, 3£ for dinner and 60p for breakfast.

I checked my shopping for this week, we spent 54.35 on food for two for the week (well, 6 dinners, and 7 breakfast/lunches). We also had £6.10 of that on toiletries this week, so 48.25 on food. Our breakdown is: £20 on dinner for 6 nights, £10 on lunches for both of us for 7 days, and breakfast is £12 for 7 days. There's a bit of a crossover between the breakfast and lunches in there, as there's yogurt, fruit, beans and bread in there, that servers as parts of two meals. We also have £7 on snacks/luxuries (chocolate)

Not everyone pays a service charge (or factoring fee). My building doesn't have one

I pay council tax of 120/month. 400 a month is far too high for 2 people - according to the ons [0] the average for a family of 4 is 56.80 (which seems a little on the low side to me, but is definitely enough for 2 people) - we spend a little less than that on breakfast/lunch/ 7 days, and dinner 6 nights for 2, and that includes our non food shopping expenses (e.g. toiletries, cleaning products).

Not to mention, if you're feeding two people, then the second person in the house presumably has an income. Presuming a pension, that now means your income is 1280/month. Remember that you get free travel, discount on heating (which reduces your £100/month bills)

A family of 4 does all the grocery shopping with 56.80£ per month in London? I can't really imagine what they're eating with 47p a day. From the prices that I see around they can probably afford 1/2 pint of milk a day and not even a yoghurt. I am quite curious what they eat for lunch and dinner. I like to eat properly, for sure I don't buy the cheapest shit that you can find. Fresh fish at least once a week, some sirloin steak, chicken, cheese, vegetables, fruits, some proper beer. My wife won't have a pension so it would be only my pension for 2 people.

I don't know m, in only quoting the statistic from the ONS - https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/personal... (apologies I forgot to put it in the last post). Alcohol is separate to food spending. I posted a breakdown of my shopping this week below. You don't have to eat the most expensive meat or drink the most expensive beer or wine to eat and drink well. On the point of 47p and a pint of milk - I don't know any families of four that buy their milk by the pint. They buy it by 4 pints, which in my local supermarket is 1.00 for 4 pints. Similarly, not everyone is buying their eggs organic by the half dozen, changes are a family of four is soending 1.60 on 15 free range eggs instead

Based on your comments in this thread, I can only assume that you like to indulge, and part of that indulgence is in price (seriously, 400 quid a month is exorbitant for 2 people), and that's perfectly fine. What's not ok is projecting your inability to live without sirloin steak, fresh fish, imported cheese on to everyone. You come across like an elitist snob.

Hardly any country in Europe has a decent pension plan. The Netherlands has one, Australia, and I guess Norway.

France for sure, and I suppose Germany.

You can live indefinitely on way less a million. :)


MMM is about voluntary acceptance of a poverty lifestyle. I don't disagree that you can live indefinitely on very little, if you are willing to adopt extreme asceticism.

In what way is it a poverty lifestyle? It's about maximising the quality of life to money ratio.

>>99% of the world, and most of the US live their liveσ without ever having one in the bank anyway.

Sure, but if you want to have real influence, you need lots of money. We are talking about things like owning media conglomerates and shaping the way the world thinks and behaves.

That to me is a lot more interesting than having your own tiny slice of the pie and going through the motions until you die.

>Sure, but if you want to have real influence, you need lots of money.

Real influence for what? Power over people?

You can change the lives of people around you without "real influence" that comes from money. Not even need to do volunteer in some organization or whatever. Can start by being around for relatives and friends in need. Or some neighbor that has some problem -- perhaps they're old and nobody ever visits them, or can't afford even a basic medical procedure. Even political influence, if that's what was talked about, can be attained with almost no money at all -- just sticking to your ideas, telling people about them, organizing others to help, etc.

>We are talking about things like owning media conglomerates and shaping the way the world thinks and behaves.

Are we? Who the duck cares about "owning media conglomerates" -- if it wasn't for the money it implicitly also means that is?

TFA's author talks about feeling behind in his work/life progress, and the parent comment in this thread as well. How did that escalate to "owning media conglomerates"?

The idea that "owning media conglomerates" is really an actual important goal to achieve in life lest you just "run through the motions", is incredibly dismissive not billions of loving, caring, happy, heroic, etc people living totally normal lives. And even if it was valid, that just leaves around 100-200 positions in the world. Heck, 10,000 if you like. The rest 7 billion - 10,000 just go "through the motions", really?

Besides, the kind of people that do own "media conglomerates" were either already the scum of the earth to begin with, making their way up by being in bed with power etc, or become that in the process.

I really like what you said, and feel the same. I wish more people felt the same way.

>The idea that "owning media conglomerates" is really an actual important goal to achieve in life lest you just "run through the motions", is incredibly dismissive not billions of loving, caring, happy, heroic, etc people living totally normal lives. And even if it was valid, that just leaves around 100-200 positions in the world. Heck, 10,000 if you like. The rest 7 billion - 10,000 just go "through the motions", really?

Ah, but you see, those people have Good and Neutral alignments. Lawful Evil requires a butt-ton of work.

I still think it's overrated. Let's take Trump for example - he has both money and power (arguably more than mainstream media since he won in spite of them). Do you think he's happy? He doesn't seem to be. Would even more money and power make him happier? I doubt it.

I think Musk is a better example. Money is just a medium for him to change the world for the better. I'm sure being rich makes Musk happy, only because it enables him to make a difference.

Strange how if someone were to post here saying "I've made tons of money and accumulated enormous power, but some days I'm just not happy" they would be hit with a wave of empathetic responses.

But then those same empathetic people will speculate, "I can tell <famous person> is totally unhappy -- idiot!"

I think they're both pretty happy. Musk is doing what he wants to do. Trump is doing what he thought he wanted to do.

Driven but I wouldn't call either of them happy.

Personally I think these types of people are abnormal and their "success" isn't something I aspire to.

If Musk was trying to change the world for the better, he wouldn't have done that thing with the worker's childbirth leave.

Yes, I think POTUS Donny is happy.

Upvoted. Sure, you're painting yourself as a mustache-twirling villain, but at least you're honest about it!

You have invested your time in some ways; others have invested theirs in other ways.

Lazy is a very loaded term - I'm hesitant to subscribe to the notion that keeping up with Game of Thrones is any less an investment of time. As examples of the value of such an investment, you can then discuss it with your friends and coworkers, facilitating social cohesion and acceptance. You can use it a tool to encourage you to take a step back, and look at other things you are doing from a different perspective.

Sleep is another investment, the value of which has been much-discussed here and elsewhere. I'd encourage you to invest in it.

Perhaps your investments have been commercially focused - this is no bad thing. You will have learned directly about the work you have been doing, people's behaviour around you and yourself. You have learned some of what you are capable of - working so hard in impressive in itself, this is a capability you can understand and rely on later! You will have gained a reputation with some of the people you have been working with. If you are still on good terms with any of them, you can use this to better understand yourself, and you can seek recommendations from them.

That said, not all investments work out. I'm sorry your investment has not brought you what you expected.

Please try to focus on what you have learned and gained, and keep actively choosing your investments. You're almost certainly doing fine, and if not, please ask for help.

> That said, not all investments work out. [...] Please try to focus on what you have learned and gained, and keep actively choosing your investments.

This, critically. The extrapolation of "most successful people have a long string of failures behind them" is that, from any point in time before your success, it looks like you're wasting your time.

The important thing then is to try and evaluate whether you're actually wasting your time or early but on the right path.

Many things are useful here. Evaluating incremental micro-goals: what are the things that will help you attain your larger goals and are your current actions checking these off? Soliciting feedback from trusted peers: recognizing that success usually looks a little crazy (otherwise, someone else would be doing it), do they believe you're on a plausibly successful path or have any feedback in changes you could make? Attending more meetings where people like you are sharing their successes and failures: thereby avoiding comparing yourself to the 100 one-in-a-millions we read about here on HN?

In short, worry about whether your current trajectory has the highest likelihood of success you can achieve. Not whether you're already successful.

(And allow for a variety of end states that are successful. To some, a loving family is the highest success. And that's a valid choice.)

The only person you are ever in competition with is yourself. Our 'competitors' are just the measurements against which we compare and test ourselves.

Think of your life as a sand castle. Sure, others have nicer ones (or worse ones), but in the end they will all be swept away by the tide. The existence of other castles in no way diminishes the value of your own. All that matters is that you are happy with the castle are building, because that's the only person you are building the castle for. Life is a game, but it does not have a high score screen at the end.

(Or, to sound more down-to-earth: no use crying over spilled milk.)

I prefer:

  We do what we must because we can.
  For the good of all of us
  Except the ones who are dead.

  But there's no sense crying over every mistake.
  You just keep on trying till you run out of cake.
  And the science gets done and you make a neat gun.
  For the people who are still alive.

The point being, it shouldn't be about comparing castles, it should be about making everyone's castles ever better (until eventually, at some point, we discover concrete and the castles will no longer get swept away by the tide).

(And for those not knowing the context, the "gun" in the song is a tool, not a weapon.)

Sounds like our real competitor is entropy.

Did you just make up the sand castle analogy?

To the best of my knowledge, yes. It's possible I once overheard/read it somewhere, and have forgotten the source, but it lingered in my brain somewhere.

In addition, with 100 billion+ people existing throughout the entirety of the human race, it's unlikely I was the first to think of anything I've ever thought.

It's a genuinely great analogy though, and your particular version is excellent. There's a reason similar sayings have echoed through history.

  "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them,
  I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, 
  and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

  And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, 
  shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, 
  and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."

  Matthew 7:24-27 KJV

(100 billion people) * (the amount of thoughts a person has their life) is quite large, but I think nowhere near the amount of permutations of thoughts and emotions to go with them someone can reasonably have. I bet your thoughts are more unique than you think.

But the thoughts people think aren't evenly distributed -- they primarily center around the same things.

It reminds of the Jimi Hendrix song 'Castles made of sand'. Not exactly the same but definitely some common ground.


If your worried about money, is suggest getting a job at a decent company (reading between the lines it sounds like you've put your time in ventures) and having a financial plan. A small dose of austerity and planning can make you a millionaire in a short time, with relatively little risk. It won't be more money than you know what to do with, but you'll be comfortable enough to retire and then be as lazy as you want. Or you'll have the financial security to pursue a venture comfortably.

The great thing about living frugally is you can actually have a great lifestyle while doing it. For example, I could re-create a fancy $10 breakfast sandwich from a local coffee shop in 10 minutes and for less than $1 per sandwich. You can eat like a king for a fraction of what eating out costs, and you'll probably get better quality.

If you're in the bay area, you should probably get out unless you're being paid enough to make it worth it (most aren't).

In ten years you can have far more security, money, and free time than the average person can even think of. And its really not that hard. For a techie, living paycheck to paycheck is very much a choice.

Nah, I want "fuck you money" so that work becomes optional. I want to work on what I want, not what someone else wants. I want to work because I want to, not because I have to.

Retirement isn't good enough. By the time you retire you are in your 60s, which is too late for me.

You can reach financial independence in your 30s if you work for a big tech company for 10 years and watch your spending. I think that's what your parent comment was referring to.

Or you could waste a decade chasing fuck-you money, not get it, and be left in the same financial position but ten years older.

The default outcome for startup founders is not "filthy rich" but rather "older and poorer".

I have a failed startup in my past too and when it failed some people tried to tell me I deserved the extra debt I now carried because I decided to take on so much risk. I never saw it that way - for me, I was trying to escape prison. Escaping the rat race while young enough to enjoy it is not some luxury like a Tesla or a second home I want to posses, its my life! It's like being in jail, every day I feel like I'm being enslaved - after all if I stop doing what other people tell me (my job), eventually burly men with guns (cops) will come round and just take it anyway. From this point of view there isn't much difference between being well off & employed and being poor & employed.

If you try to break out and get thrown in solitary then sure, I guess you're worse off, but either way you're still trapped. What's really funny is that when your attempt fails it's the other prisoners who want to cut you down for trying & want to see you punished the most.

I don't think the parent was referring to making money via start ups. Just get a decently paid engineering job and live frugally.

>Nah,I want ...

nxc18 offered pretty good advice, I'm not sure what your alternative is?

No one really wants to work

I would like to spend all day doing fun, personal projects. But I've tried having all day to spend on fun personal projects, and it turns out spend the time "goofing off". (Not "enjoying life" goofing off, but "dopamine cycle on Facebook" goofing off.)

I like work because it has me doing stuff that's similar to what I want to do in my free time, but provides the necessary incentives to actually do it each day.

My job isn't perfect, but it has me doing productive, rewarding, mostly-interesting stuff with a bunch of smart people whom I like and can learn from.

It's worse than my dream life for my dream self, but it's better than my dream life for my actual self. I may not be behind, but I still like to feel like I'm moving forward, and work does that for me.

On the other hand, I did quite enjoy my ~1 month of working four-hour days a few years back, so there's probably a better balance than I have right now.

I think everyone's incentive is to work as little as possible (work is straining). But a culture of shame has everyone instead claiming that's not true (and lost for what is)

Exercising is straining, but I'm planning on doing a 60 mile bike ride tomorrow, purely for the enjoyment of it.

Meaningful work and a sense of accomplishment doesn't seem like it's caused by a culture of shame. I can get that from a hobby (painting, writing, programming, carpentry), or I can get it from a job (painting, writing, programming, carpentry). In either case, it seems normal beyond the boundaries of culture to derive satisfaction from this.

It might be a lot harder to derive satisfaction from hobbies with no "productive" output (my long bike ride, hiking in the woods) due to a culture insisting on productivity, but I don't think it's true that the productive ones would be valued less than non-productive ones if not for enculturation.

I enjoy work. I love having a task to put my mind to and solving problems.

What I don't like is the routine, having to be at work at 8:00 AM M-F or otherwise losing my livelihood.

It's the requirement and forced interaction that bothers me.

So you don't really like to work either.

> If you're in the bay area, you should probably get out unless you're being paid enough to make it worth it (most aren't).


The number of twenty (or even thirty) -somethings I've met who have been trying to make it in the bay area for years and still don't have more than a few month's worth of expenses saved up worries me. Y'all are in an incredibly vulnerable position, and it's not going to get easier to make wages the older you get.

Are you sure that your self reported data is right ? I tried for the past 3 years to focus just on my work, I cut down fun, relationships, friendships completely to focus on my work alone. And I have almost nothing much to show for it. Looking back on those 3 years, I did some work for the first year, but later on I was just depressed and even though I was "working" all the time, it was not intense work. I was mostly feeling sad / bitter and that affected my productivity.

I think a balance is important. It makes logical sense to cut down on fun and emotions to get more work done, but the human brain needs social relationships and fun to produce peak output. At least that is how my brain works

May be being a bit more lazy will help you be more creative and make the stars line up better for you. I am not being snarky here, be a bit more lazy, the brain needs fun and emotions.

Don't value the means based on the outcome. Every experience in life is life itself. Take care of what you spend your time doing. If you enjoy the moment then the outcomes are stepping stones to the next thing, whatever that may be.

You should not feel worse than you are actually feeling, there should be no mandatory feelings. Bad feelings over your extended effort sounds to me like wanting additional unfair punishment. In any case, lazy people feel guilt which you have no reason to feel.

Through, putting enough time away for sleep or needed rest/socialization is not being lazy. People are more effective when they sleep enough, meetings are shorter when people coming in don't feel lonely and so on and so forth. I mean, being lazy is bad, but spending some time watching a show, reading book or keeping friends does not make you lazy.

And I mean, I am pretty sure you learned something from the experience. If you try another project/business, your chances of success go up due to what you learned. If you would watched tv whole time, you would learned precisely zero.

Luck is a huge common factor in all of the big success stories I see, but you do still have to make a moonshot to get lucky with one.

I'm sure a lot of garage computer engineers in the '80s have a few boxes of boards that could well have been the Next Big Thing, if only X/Y/Z.

Whilst the luck element is true, I think people place to much emphasis on it, in reality, pretty much every person that "got lucky" had been working hard at whatever it was they "got lucky" in for a while. It's just exposure, I guess if I was making a bad analogy, it's kinda like spreading the board with chips on a roulette table, yeah you got lucky, but you set yourself up for it. Same applies in life. The difference between the winners and losers (All IMO) is that the "losers" only laid down one or two, the "winners" spread the board.

Depends. If you don't try your change of that extremely rich outcome is 0%.

If you do try really hard, its maybe a 20% chance.

The question you have to ask is that 20% chance worth not being able to do other things with my time.

Well at least you don't have to regret that you failed because you didn't try hard enough. Plus, I'm sure you learned a lot along the way even if things didn't work out. I hope that you found your work fulfilling if not entertaining; if not, perhaps there's something wrong.

Nevertheless for all you know the knowledge you've gained so far will help you achieve the success you desire in the future.

> Financially, I have nothing to show

Was this because individual projects or endeavors were not successful, or the companies you invested time in were not?

Also, the results of the last 10 years can help determine the approach of the next 10. Until you are too old or sick to move, there is always time for R&R.

(Disclaimer: I'm approaching 50 and always feel behind)

Both; I've always had a side project over the years while I was working for startups as well. I must have gone through at least 12 startups (in addition to 3 of my own side projects; each taking up about 3 years of my spare time).

All the startups I joined sounded promising but the tech environment in Australia was really tough back then (still is, I think).

I did manage to get a small number of shares in a startup which appears to be doing relatively well now but no exit yet (it's also the startup which I worked for the longest; 2 years)... All the other ones just failed. I really understand first-hand what it means when people say that 9 out of 10 startups fail. When I think that my experience of success/failure is probably 'normal' it really freaks me out how bad the odds are (versus what the media makes them look like).

The lesson I learned is that it appears to be completely random. It's just about being in the right place at the right time; the best you can do is just change companies a lot until you join one that's obviously going up like a rocket and try to get some shares.

I've met a few founders who got very lucky and they don't have the slightest clue how weird/unlikely their success is; they live in a different, much simpler world than me.

The test of true entrepreneur is being able to build multiple companies.

All of your prep/efforts could be worthwhile, you just haven't found your opportunity yet. The path to wherever you want to go might not be linear.

Being unremarkable is easier to accept if you tried and failed than if you know you never really tried at all and you squandered the chance.

That totally sucks. I feel you, man. In a similar boat.

In April I left google to teach people how to code. I teach for free and I focus primarily on low income adults who are making less than 30k / year in the bay area.

Throughout their lives, my students have felt that they were 'behind' and they are not good enough. This mindset creates adults with low self esteem, which then prevents them from learning. Many times, they nod their head in understanding when they really meant (I have no idea what is going on, but I'll burn the midnight oil and learn it on the Internet after the class). This mindset is incredibly destructive and forces people to memorize things instead of taking the time to understand things.

Recently, we have switched to a curriculum where everyone learns at their own pace. The ones who are ahead are tasked with teaching and helping others. The ones who are slower will teach the next batch of students and take their time to really learn the material. This works for us.

It's interesting that you bring up learning pace as such a strong signal. Most of the material I've read focusing on learning types and effectiveness seems to gloss over the speed that one learns (which I imagine must vary with material) and a great deal of coursework is very rigid with regards to schedules.

I wonder, ignoring for a moment the practicalities of this, if a freeform educational system, allowing students to "rank up" at their own pace, might be worth persuing. What's the benefit of forcing slower students to rush through their work, and requiring that faster students move only as fast as the rest of their class allows?

I suspect a lot of students don't have the discipline to cope without a schedule and hard deadlines.

> The ones who are slower will teach the next batch of students

Could you expand on the reasoning behind this?

Presumably, they are not teaching material that they are still struggling with. Are they teaching the previous material, which they have understood?

If you are having students teach each other, I would have thought that quicker-to-learn students would be better candidates to teach the material.

The best teachers are the ones who had to learn the most. People who just "get it" are bad teachers because they didn't have to go through a process to understand.

I think, from a different perspective, teaching things can help you to understand them more deeply - so if there are areas they are still unclear on, the next set of students can help ask the right questions so they can learn.

I notice this myself when I'm teaching people things - in many cases I erroneously come off as "the expert" in things even when I mostly gained expertise in it by responding to the very questions that people are asking.

That's not always the case, but the notion of "unconscious competence" is relevant here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_competence

"Unconscious competence" is particularly rife in the functional programming community. An inability to explain does not necessarily mean you just "got it", but if you've understood it, you can't necessarily explain it.

That's an interesting observation. This hasn't been my experience. I think it may partially also just be misunderstanding, though. There are obviously more than just 2 groups of students: those that get it with no studying and those that struggle with the material.

I'll agree with you that the top part of the distribution that "just get it" are not going to be the best teachers. But, I doubt the bottom portion are either. Rather, students in the middle, who struggled to understand the material, but ultimately came to a good understanding are the best group.

Granted, I'm just speculating and leaning on my own experiences. So, I really am interested to hear otherwise.

How does one join your program? :)

Currently, only through referrals (from current students) and we find people through our local library (We volunteer there every Saturday to help people learn how to code. When we have openings we invite them to join)

Personally (I'm 36) I like the 'pressure' I receive all the time, from all over the place, like the ones mentioned in the article: why don't I have a six-pack, why am I not more 'perfect' with my g/f, why am I not working on my startup, why haven't I made a billion yet, why is Elon Musk so f---ing more productive, and so on. It shows me that more can be done, I could do more, it pushes me to do more. I realize it would be more comfortable to not have all these pushy signals around, but comfortable is sth I want to be when I'm 50+ or 60+, not right now.

Sure you can ignore 'six pack' but you can't really igore is looming obsolesce in IT once you hit you 40's and 50's, you can't ignore is dwindling (biological) motivation and drive to learn and innovate. Ageism is real.

Thats what really worries me, sure I like coding and learning now but what happens to me in my late 40's and 50's when I have to care for my parents and kids at the same time while tying to not become a IT dinosaur.

It's strange, I work in engineering, and all the most talented and highest paid people are in their 40s and 50s. I guess ageism in the Valley is real, but it seems most prevelant in web-related companies. At some point in your career, working in a start-up of beer-chugging bros or in an office that looks like an elementary school loses its luster, and you find better opportunities.

Not sure why you're getting downvoted, I empathize with this notion.

I think at all ages you have to leverage what you have. When you're young, you have a lot of energy, so you learn a lot and work a lot.

When you're older, hopefully you have a lot of money and a lot of experience, so you can (i) use the money to retire or pick what to work on, or bootstrap your own startup (ii) use the experience to become an Engineering Manager, Technical Product Manager, etc. That's _if_ you don't feel safe as an individual contributor, which is imo reasonable in areas where seniority has a short half-life (eg. front-end / web tech seems to be like this).

I'll turn 40 next year and I've worked for about 23 years in IT. I've figured out that getting some fundamentals in place has served me well so far, and I have been fortunate to play many roles in the IT space (including some non-technical ones like sales). I intend to keep learning more fundamentals and learning new things.

Well, Elon Musk is so wealthy has no excuse for not being (or at least looking) productive.

Reading this made me realize that my regret usually targets the previous hours or day. Generally, if I look at the last month or year or decade, I'm impressed with what I've accomplished. And yet I'm always disappointed with my immediate past. I think this short-term regret may be the reaction mass I'm igniting to propel me forward.

To borrow a phrase from finnthehuman above, this short-term regret is the fire lit under my ass. I think I'd better ignore Zack's article and keep feeding it. It drives my overall happiness.

"We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction."

- Bill Gates

> Generally, if I look at the last month or year or decade, I'm impressed with what I've accomplished.

This is important for measuring personal progress. I like to think about it like a stock chart. Would I ever measure a company's performance just by looking at the 1 day or 5 day view? Nope. I need a bigger picture to get a better idea of the overall trend. I think measuring yourself on areas of improvement is no different. Some days will be great and some won't. But how are you trending across months/years? Apply to learning art, exercising, etc.

I didn't have any regrets until I sat and watched cryptocoin for 6 years and did nothing about it.

If you had gotten in 6 years ago, you'd probably regret selling it all 4 or 5 years ago. Or perhaps you'd regret not selling, if the bubble pops tomorrow. Hindsight is 20/20.

On the other hand, I don't regret not gambling on Bitcoin in the last six years. It's an interesting technology but the price is driven by pure speculation rather than any significant demand.

meh, I got in 2012 and still regret not putting in more, spending too much time mining (rather than just investing), not having enough resources to make as much of a difference to my future, getting into Ethereum only this year, keeping other weirdo coins that are worth nothing now, etc.

If you got in 6 years ago, you might just have a different set of regrets and blessings.

I have the corresponding regret of wishing I got in six years ago instead of four years ago. Not that I'm doing bad now, by any means. It's just a relative success kind of thing.

You are still incredibly early to the space. Most people in the world don't hold any crypto nor do they even know what it is.

Many famous investors and entrepreneurs who came to Silicon Valley in the early 1990s thought they had "missed it." Everything up until now is a sunk cost. Operate accordingly.

This is narrowly tailored advice presented more broadly than to the context it's useful for. And it's not the best way forward in that case, either.

If someone needs a fire lit under their ass to get going, a sense of falling behind their expectations for themselves can be a perfectly useful motivating factor.

Of course it can become all-consuming if that's all they've got as a life planning system. It's a setup that will inevitably trigger the brain's way of telling them there is a contradiction between desires and perceived actions. Regret doesn't have to be stressful, but this guarantees it is.

Throwing it away for a self-evaluation system that nullifies regrets is jumping to another extreme. Best case scenario is lying to yourself long enough to let your actual value system catch up. Or maybe it'll make someone lazy and complacent in a way that they're content with and much later come to regret that too, or maybe it will lead to the clichéd cycle of a "fresh start" every few months.

Building and maintaining a system of motivation, discipline and self-evaluation that lets someone live their life while working towards their goals productively for decades requires good mental hygiene, a topic with suspiciously few quality resources.

"It is a sobering thought, for example, that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years." — Tom Lehrer

This feeling of behindness for me comes in the form of thinking that I have squandered my potential compared to someone my age who didn't mess up. I should have graduated in 2011, and could've been saving up significantly as a senior/staff/etc engineer at a BigCorp in Seattle/SF making a nice low 6 figure comp and be on my way to buying property with my SO. But instead I graduated 3 years late, worked at a string of failed startups and only began my career now making 50k USD in Canada. Yes, maybe those experiences met something, but I felt that I've been too much of a drifter, and am paying for that lack of focus and career climbing now.

suggestion: surround yourself with people who constantly challenge you to do better. Everyone has times that they feel are "lost" but the time you need to remind yourself of is the moment that you realised you weren't doing what you wanted to be doing, or that something needed to change.

It wasn't until I started to spend time with people who I knew would ask hard questions and challenge me to keep going that I started to actually get shit done. Happy to chat if that'd help, but don't worry about time – my experience is that failed startups mean someone has a far broader level of experience than even they think they have.

And I'm one of those 27yo's who many people think have "made it" but still have the same sense of crippling "should I have done that differently" / "I squandered my youth" fear. It never goes away.

A lot of people who get seduced to work in startupville should heed this guy. The cost is not only the difference in pay for the years you are working in startups but the fact that career progression inside a bigcorp is forgone (and that itself is worth a lot)

Not really. It's harder to make your talent noticed in a big company. A software engineer's power is in producing software that is unexpectedly useful. In a big company that talent is often crushed under the weight of expected results.

I dunno. I haven't met a bigcorp yet (including government) where you couldn't join in the middle of the ladder with a sufficiently impressive resume, and working at interesting startups on tech that a bigcorp might want to use is definitely a way to do so.

The article as a whole is nonsensical.

It is a little bit correct when it says that regret is not a useful reaction to a past you're unhappy with, but even that by itself is misleading. Regret is a useful emotion that helps you shape future actions. What is not useful is paralyzing regret, or any flavor of regret that keeps you wallowing in the past.

When he says "you are not behind", that is mostly wrong. If you're 25 and aren't yet doing anything individual and attemptedly groundbreaking with your life, you probably are behind, if that kind of thing is your goal. Sticking your head in the sand is not going to make this better. Being complacent and saying it's fine, I am only 25, no wait 26, no wait 27 until you are 40 isn't going to help either.

There is a reason the human mind is able to conjure phantasmal pictures of "where we should be" -- because that is useful. If you choose to ignore that in order to have a shallow feel-good time in the short term, you do so to your own detriment.

All that said, if you are genuinely content with where you are today, then everything is fine and you don't need externally-imposed images to tell you where you "should" be. This advice is only for people who deep-down want to build interesting new things.

My last comment is ... this seems like an excerpt from a self-help book written by someone who perhaps should gain further life experience before writing a self-help book. When you decide to write a self-help book you take upon yourself a substantial ethical burden, because if you give the wrong advice, you can affect many peoples' lives in a negative way. So you should make sure you really know what you are talking about.

>>If you're 25 and aren't yet doing anything individual and attemptedly groundbreaking with your life, you probably are behind, if that kind of thing is your goal.

I think this is the biggest take away. Feeling "behind" is always relative your goal. The feeling is also influenced by a "success bias" in which the examples/role models you see or hear about are the successful ones. Yes, compared to where Bill Gates was at your same age you're probably behind - but what about the other countless number of people your age with similar goals? How do you stack up to them? That should be your real metric rather than the 1 in a million success stories.

I agree in that regret is a useful emotion. But only as, as you said, a tool for evaluation and recalculation. Personally I believe it is better to make decisions based on asking your self "if I do/don't do x, will I be closer or further from my goals?" rather than making decisions based on "oh man if I only did x or y 10 years ago I would be where I want to be".

I think it can nicely be summed up with: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

also - I know it's become a bit of a meme at this point, but "pivoting" or changing your goals isn't as bad of a thing as people make it out to be. I don't find there is anything wrong with re-evaluating and changing future goals based on progress and failure. I find it's better to change your goal based on a previous failure rather than give up completely or become stuck in the paralyzing regret phase.

> but what about the other countless number of people your age with similar goals? How do you stack up to them? That should be your real metric rather than the 1 in a million success stories.

I disagree with that. Most people are not successful, so if your target is the average, you are aiming at a data point that represents lack of success. It is important to understand that most successful people are not normal, and the higher the level of success, the less normal they are.

> "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."


Oh man, I wish I knew how to better deal with that paralyzing regret. I'm turning 29 in a few months, and I've been spending the last ~5 years almost entirely trying (and usually failing) to work on major personal projects, solo. Sometimes I tally up all the months where I effectively did nothing and gape in horror. Usually I'm fine, but on some days, after seeing all the 25-year-old creators peddling their incredible companies, art, games, etc. on HN and Reddit — which in turn took them 5-10 years prior to that to get good enough to make — I fall into a nearly catatonic despair. When will I have time to learn all that stuff? Was it really worth giving up 5 years of my social and professional life just to chase some stupid dream? Emotionally, I often feel like a 80 year old man, seeing no real future in front of me.

Common advice is "learn to be happy with what you have", but that will never work if your dream is to do something Great, for future generations to remember -- to not throw away your shot.

What noticeably cheers me up is reading about all the people who started doing interesting things only in their 30's and forward, or those who reinvented themselves at some point in their lives and went on to be famous only on their second (or third) wind. I wish we had more of their stories instead of the endless parade of young genius entrepreneurs. Learning about the breadth and diversity of human experience is always such a pleasure, and it helps me remember that shaping your life and personality to meet your intellectual goals can be a grueling, decades-long process.

(Incidentally, reading Show Stopper! about the NT kernel was really great for this: although Dave Cutler was clearly a very accomplished engineer at the start of the book, he was in his 40's and experienced mostly in "archaic" technology when Microsoft decided to hire him. This wasn't at all the focus of the book, but it was wonderful to witness the power of a competent mind so quickly and confidently adapting to new technologies and problem domains!)

I recognize a lot of myself from a few years ago in that (and I'm 32) and the main things that changed me in no particular order were:

* Adopting a more deliberately Stoicism-inspired philosophy - whether or not I'm succeeding at my goal there will be another struggle waiting after that, so there isn't really an endpoint here other than my death or permanent incapacity. * Buying into feedback loops over goal-and-achievement systems. Feedback is more important to doing good work than any other thing - if you don't have it then you don't know if it's any good. But also, it's easy to miss what forms of feedback are available and sometimes it's as simple as critically thinking about whether or not an expected result happened(e.g. write software, add a feature: did it actually do what you expected?) * Got a lot of money. I did this through crypto. I had no expectations about it, it was just a way of putting another iron in the fire. The amount of physical effort put in was, of course, clicking a few buttons, typing a few passwords. But the mental/emotional effort of "why bother" and "why study this" - that is why you aren't seeing everyone on the street talk about it(yet). I had to make a firm decision to get in for anything to happen. And there's a lot of random chance to that, just as with my game projects, which have hardly gone anywhere in years of trying. And now that I have the money my mind is rearranging things so that I will further devalue my work on games in a monetary sense.

A lot of "striver porn" - worrying about productivity and getting ahead and making Right Decisions - stops making sense post-success. If you end up with the success, great, but I wouldn't try to impose a narrative arc on it. The actual factors involved are just mindboggling. The feedback loops, on the other hand, those are something you can improve from nearly any life status. And they tend to vastly differ from productivity tropes because they're about optimizing a whole cross-section of life, not just quantifiable output. E.g. if you do less but your stress level is lower, do you end up ahead on health later?

Huh. I was gonna type a lot of this, but you've saved me the trouble.

I did want to signal boost the stoicism part, though. There are a lot of good mental health practices available in modern stoicism that tend to appeal highly to nerds and other logical types. I can't recommend the following book enough: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0195374614/ref=pd_aw_sim_14_1...

I reread it every couple years and it has definitely helped a lot with my feelings of loss and "wasted time."

Oh, and getting older. It's incredible how much more mellow I feel at 37 than at 27.

>Common advice is "learn to be happy with what you have", but that will never work if your dream is to do something Great, for future generations to remember -- to not throw away your shot. reading about all the people who started doing interesting things only in their 30's and forward, or those who reinvented themselves at some point in their lives and went on to be famous only on their second (or third) wind.

You've mentioned fame and being remembered by others. Is your main desire to do things or to be celebrated for having done things? Which one of those scenarios appears in your mind when you fantasize about your future? The answer to this question can sometimes be the difference between a miserable life and a happy one.

stop wishing you would do something great, and do something, period. nobody talks about their crappy first or second attempts, because they almost always are not worth talking about.

Yes, I'm learning that lesson more and more as time goes on. I just wish I could look at the calendar of my life and be able to emotionally deal with the 3-4 years of "lost time".

You are still one year ahead of me. Turning 30 in a few months and all the work over all this time has little to show for it.

It's a bit depressing how many currently billion dollar ideas I've had myself over that time too. Makes you feel that given different circumstances it could've been you.

Just like that Van Gogh dude who just started seriously drawing at 25.

Way behind he was.

And don't get me started on that slouch Cezanne . What with becoming a master in his 60s and all that.

Also people who do a PhD in the physical sciences (just restricting it because I don't know how long other PhDs generally take) without doing anything groundbreaking by their 4th year are behind. Which I guess is true as long as there are Terence Taos around.

And Henri Rousseau, who only started painting in his 40s! Largely self-taught, too.

And how happy was Van Gogh?

> Being complacent and saying it's fine, I am only 25, no wait 26, no wait 27 until you are 40 isn't going to help either.

I don't think I read it that way. There are many reasons why someone was not able to or capable of doing something at age 25; finances, experience, whatever. Maybe you just didn't discover the thing you were passionate enough to follow. Maybe you had to care for an ailing family member for 10-15 years, should they not still not follow their own path?

The age at which you discover passion is irrespective of deciding to follow it. And you act like 40 is the end of the road, when in fact for many 40 is just the beginning of when they are financially secure enough to strike out on their own.

People should stop focusing so much on age, and if there was any good message in this article, that's it. Forget about what you haven't done, stop comparing yourself to others, and follow your own path.

Tesla was digging ditches for competitors at 27. Was digging ditches a waste of his talent? Yes. Would he have been capable of giving his name to a car company without that experience? How would we know?

(In comparison, fellow eccentric Howard Hughes had his entire public career - aviation records, hit movies, plane designs, business moves, social life, by the same age Musk is now).

It's worth noting that Hughes started out with a 1 million dollar inheritance from his parents. He managed to convert that to a 2 billion dollar fortune.

Tesla on the other hand was always struggling for money (much of that could be attributed to poor management of what he had).

I'll be honest, the post originally came off as fluffy, though not enough to say anything about it, but your comment made me reread it.

I really don't think you guys disagree that much. You're talking about different perspectives (not behind yourself vs not behind others) and a different focus (you on regret, him on forgiveness). Otherwise you both have some great wisdom in what you've said, don't think it's necessary to put him down so thoroughly.

Like all advice, this is good for some people and bad for others. I've heard a whole lot of advice to slow down, make sure you don't burn out, and don't miss life. And for people who are putting tons of pressure on themselves to achieve, this is excellent advice.

For me personally I've had a lot more free time than most people because I've worked part time freelance for the last few years, and I could probably reach my goals faster if I "kick it into gear" a bit. As I think Derek Sivers said, advice often reflects the state of the giver of said advice more than anything.

It's probably also worth noting that a lot of these stories of teen geniuses and young billionaires and what not are ones you're hearing about because they're noteworthy and unusual. That's what gets them media coverage, what inspires people to constantly discuss them on social media and why so many people are discussing them in general.

Most people won't end up in that situation (as a prodigy who'll change the world before they're 30), and that's perfectly fine. Go ahead and put in more effort if you think you're not doing as well as you could be, but also remember that one in a billion success stories are outliers rather than the norm. Remember that what's in the news is there because it's unusual. Man bites dog stories are obviously going to be more common than the other way around, despite the other one being a few thousand times more likely.

TLDR: Don't compare yourself to extreme outliers, at least if you don't want to feel like a complete failure.

For the love God, why is the opacity set to 0 on the text? So that JS can be used to fade in the text... Why would you do this? You're just annoying people who do have JS enabled with annoying animations and barring people who don't have JS enabled from reading your content. It's not even that JS is used to dynamically fetch the content, all the content is right there in the HTML, it's just deliberately hidden with CSS.

There's a school of design thought that the FOUT (flash of unstyled text) is worse than delayed text loading so they hide the text and reveal it once the web font is loaded). Browsers even put in a default delay before using the fallback font to appease this point of view, but hacks to enforce it even on slow connections still exist from time to time.


(Personally I think it's insane, especially when many of these sites have ads which reshuffle content much more violently than any FOUT. Also now you have hacks to enforce the old behaviour: https://css-tricks.com/fout-foit-foft/ )

I don't think of it as insanity so much as a kindness -- they're generously signaling up front that they consider their content less valuable than their font choices.

This helps me value the content accordingly.

> For the love God, why is the opacity set to 0 on the text? So that JS can be used to fade in the text...


How long was I supposed to wait for this fade-in? I skim/read the HN comments, went back and the body was still blank.

"Too cute to read."

>How long was I supposed to wait for this fade-in?

It never did for me. I was able to read the article only after suspending my ad blocker (uBlock Origin).

If you're using Firefox, the "Reader View" button fixes many sites like this.

Aha, so that's why mine was totally blank (the text never appeared). I had to turn off my ad blocker to read it.

I am totally driven by laziness. The only useful things I ever did with computers were about making less work for me or people I liked. The rest was just pissing about. I never judged myself about it and have never understood why it's such a big deal. Get into a job the purpose of which is to reduce work, and then whine about too much work pressure? Anyone reading this is probably one of the .1 percent most privileged people who ever lived in all the history of the planet. Where did these evaluative norms come from? (Yer, it's kinda obv.)

Stumbling across some philosophy stuff about "thick concepts" led me to the answer I wanted.

Articles like this make me uncomfortable, in part because of the huge sum of work I put into making sure I'm abreast of major developments in my field, and learn new fields.

I did this because I am behind (my Christian School was just awful for the most part, physics was God's love and math was for liars and moneylenders), and I'll probably never, ever catch up.

But still, I am trying to improve. But sometimes I talk to folks who don't work as hard at my tradecraft. They make fun of other folks who do. They try and shape the field to suit their lazy "this didn't outright fail so it's success" mindset.

Odds are, if you're a programmer you ARE behind. The field moves fast, no one does post-graduate teaching. Conferences are hit or miss and taught by the same folks. You need to work hard to fix it.

I definitely feel you, as I also went to Christian school for my whole academic career and decided I didn't believe right at the end.

Some thoughts,

The people who are making a strong effort like you seem to be, but that think they aren't very good still, probably actually are quite good. I'd ask what you feel like you are behind of. There will always be someone ahead and (what we might forget) tons of people behind you.

I look at my own life - I am pretty bad with women as a nearly 30 year old because I was raised in a strange puritanical culture and never learned how to woo effectively, but I also am currently working on starting my business full time which I couldn't have done with a family. I also was never taught evolution in school, but now I've become interested in it and by reading many books on the subject probably know quite a bit more about it than most people even if they did learn about it in school.

Everything is a tradeoff. I wish you the best!

How do you attempt to fix being behind? Books, blog posts?

Sadly I can't really give you any advice other than to introspect carefully and try to work out what works for you.

There are tons of videos about learning to learn and I've watched a few. Their message is as obvious as it is vague.

1. Set concrete learnig goals. Keep those goals small and reasonable.

2. Reinforce your learning with practical work.

3. Pace yourself. Take a week off every 3 or whatever works. If you burn out you'll lose more time. Similarly, learning is an expensive activity and if you're not well you can't do it effectively, so think about your health.

Books are good if you do the exercises alongside each chapter. Blog posts are also useful if you need a breakdown of a specific technical subject. However the best way to improve, in my opinion, is to play in your mind with mental models of whatever you're studying. Thus, if you wanted to be a great programmer, I think you should build up mental models of many reputable open source software projects and play with those mental models. That basically builds up your neurons to quickly recognize patterns in new software situations.

It's like music. Play a lot, listen a lot, and you'll build up a mental library of riffs and sounds that you can use to build a song or phrase. If you play with software a lot then you'll see those patterns and become a better composer, and you'll also be comfortable answering questions about optimization, architecture etc.

But not huge on blog posts. Not engaging enough.

"Don't waste time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself." -Mary Schmich

"Comparison is the thief of joy"

Theodore Roosevelt

>So turn your eyes forward and focus on what you can change: the future.

And now you start feeling bad about it not happening tomorrow. Better advice is to feel who you are, not who you're going to be, because the latter is simply a change after applied force, but the former is the force itself. Talking to my succesful friends I realized they're no more happy nor sad than me or themselves in the past. Success doesn't make relationships better, even worse. Success doesn't answer any fundamental questions you have, because it is about acceptance, not about the force that reasonably stops you every time you attempt to be "nice player". Not researching/admitting your inner true state is just a colorful way to a personal exhaust, such loved by those who convert people to wealth which they also don't need.

Above said doesn't apply to those who are "succesful" by design and maybe some groups out of my (pretty narrow) focus.

Really what has sort of stuck with me that is analogous is Alan Watts talks on living. Particularly about life being a dance.


Yeah it's a little pop culture but the way he talks about things is very accessible.

You shouldn't freak out over being "behind" in life. But you shouldn't be complacent either. If you start acting on it today, in 6 months you no longer be behind. So don't beat yourself up over where you are today. But do step up and move forward.

This will matter much more later in life, when the reasons for being behind aren't laziness, but other life events. Accidents, injuries, getting derailed if you have children and go without sleep for what feels like 5 years. The normal trials and tribulations of life that everyone goes through. And then when they are over, having to get back on track. Getting in the habit of just stepping up, dusting yourself off, and getting going again is a good habit to make as soon as possible.

The fear of regret can be quite motivating, but regret itself is unremittingly demotivating. Isn't that strange?

Perhaps the best mindset is to always forgive yourself for past mistakes and believe that you can accomplish everything that you want - but only if you get to work right now. After all, if you don't, you'll regret it.

Almost right. I would say that telling yourself you're behind, and telling yourself you're right where you're intended to be, are both flavors of the same thing, which is telling yourself a story about the truth. You don't need the story, you only need the bare minimalist truth itself. You did what you did. You didn't do what you didn't do. Now pick another thing and do it. When it's done you can tackle the next one.

Apropos of nothing,

"Zack Kanter, Boulder, CO-based entrepreneur, speaker, futurist, and writer, CEO of Proforged, amateur chef, all-around nerd."

I don't think that's the Proforged (http://proforged.com/) that makes suspension parts.

Or maybe it is. https://github.com/Proforged

That's him. Though he doesn't seem to have updated his personal website, he's now CEO/Founder of Stedi: http://www.stedi.com/

Yup. I imagine that running Proforged caused him to want to simplify EDI.

The way I can feel really good about my life is this (actually very similar to what OP says):

- Accept this very moment, and all the moments before this one as unchangeable. Since any additional decision or action will take place in the future, this moment is the only possible state of the world I currently live in. Fate/environment/god/entropy/myself (whatever one believes in) led me here, and it could not have happened in any other way, or it would have.

- What I can have an effect on is the future (as the article says) - I can STRIVE to make a certain improvement or reach a goal.

- Whether or not I reach a goal is almost always not entirely dependent on me, and is therefore uncertain, and it would not make sense to expect it 100% to happen. So I don't fully rely on it, and have a Plan B and maybe C available. Fate/environment/god/entropy always has the last word on my reaching a goal, and since I cannot change that, I also have to accept it.

Not accepting unchangeable situations is IMO a major source of suffering. Finding out what I can or can not, or maybe should not change is an ongoing struggle.

HN needs more posts and conversations like this one. I'm grateful to each person that contributed to it.

I spent 10 years in a bootstrapped startup, I'm definitely behind. I should've stopped after 3 years.

"Regret is just a horrible attempt at time travel that ends with you feeling like crap."

What a great analogy!

The entire content of this blog does not load unless I disable uBlock, I just get an empty white box.

Works fine for me with uBlock

In short, it is better to identify and drop things that would hang in your mind from actions you did. Sleep is the natural way to get rid of hangings. If it is worse and you cannot sleep, then meditation is a good way, though not a easy way.

This reminds me that I should be working instead of reading HN. It's Sunday evening and family is asleep, you now got around one hour where you can either do house chores, relax, or work on something. One life, one hour, make it count.

This is very Stoic in its philosophy. If you agree with it, you may enjoy reading 'Meditions', a collection of writings from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, from aprox. 170 C.E. which explore many Stoic ideas.

Employers and gatekeepers in general disagree.

The greatest advice I got from someone was to never compare yourself to someone's highlighted reel. That changed my life.

> why the hell it so easy to watch six seasons of Game of Thrones in two weeks but I can’t even get myself to write one fucking page of a book

Wow. Literally read this while watching an episode of Game of Thrones, and I just started two weeks ago, and I'm in the middle of the sixth season.

Passive entertainment is like eating sugar. I don't think it needs much explanation why it's easier to consume it than something else.

I love this story about Charlie Munger which can be found here:


In the past five years, I've started and sold a company. Bought a house on a golf course, purchased expensive foreign cars and went on insane trips all over the world.

Last year, my wife woke up one morning and told me that she no longer wanted to be married (that's a story for another time). Got divorced and lost almost everything except the stock that I still own in the acquiring company that may never have an exit. The house, the cars and the trips vanished.

I guess my take away from this is that life is a series of ebbs and flows and it's our responsibility to gain greater self-awareness each day that we wake up. If you feel like you're behind then that is actually an amazing step in the right direction. Ask yourself why you're you're feeling behind and work through those emotions with yourself.(Literally talk out loud to yourself. It's weird but it works)

Are you biased because your former co-founder still has his house and a new baby? Are you biased because your closest friend just took his company public?

What I noticed about myself is that envy tends to create the anxiety that leads to feeling behind and the inadequacies associated with that emotion.

If you understand and even accept those emotions then you can reverse it by playing devils advocate to your feeling of insecurity (everyone needs a little self-love) then you start to be grateful for the things that you are doing well and doubling down on those strengths.

Although, I find him at times to be utterly unbearable. Gary Vaynerchuk does has some very sage advice for anyone feeling behind. His content about playing the long game has had the greatest effect on me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsB9U9kSXUc

I struggle with debilitating depression but I've created mental models that enable me to get out of bed on those days and get to work. I'm hyper-aware of my state of mind and when I'm feeling depressed or sorry for myself I let myself become aware of it and work through it instead of falling into the recursive emotion that is feeling depressed about being depressed which leads to feeling even more depressed.

Once those issues are ironed out then I do my best to break up my day into very small tasks that I can accomplish in order to keep the serotonin levels high.

Today for instance, I needed to finish some financial modeling for the new company that I started but I had serious FOMO because it's labor day weekend and everyone's at the beach. I recognized it so I took a pen and paper to the beach and did some work at the beach.

Now I've created some momentum for my self-esteem and I'll end up having an exceptionally productive Sunday. ; )

Thanks for sharing your experience and links. I too am going through a similar experience and this is helpful.

Nice perspective from Gary V. Thanks for sharing.

Dwelling in the past is a waste of time, but so is living in the future... Focus on what you can do now. Today. Otherwise, it becomes too easy to put things off for Future You to deal with...

Substituting regrets with desires doesn’t make you happy either.

> This is an excerpt of a book I’m writing.


Remember, if you are not one up, you are one down. - S. Potter.

Beautiful. We also need an intellectual vaccine: there is a cultural war going on where one of the powerful sides is an industry of hysteria-based pretended self-victimhood. Many fell into this epidemic hysteria that is pathologic to the core.

Thankfully, this is all just dust, so no worries.

very nice article. Uplifting. So many times people feel otherwise because they are compelled to think this way ...

When you realize and accept this, you can start focusing on your future and stop whining abut your past.

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