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Ask HN: Does reading HN ever make you feel like shit?
441 points by photon_off on July 22, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 202 comments
Sometimes when I start reading HN comments I get the overwhelming feeling that I am not even a tiny drop in the giant ocean of talent, knowledge, drive, determination, skill, and genius that collectively contributes to this site. I have my own ideas that I love dearly and work on, the first of which will be released for you all to play around with and break at the end of the week, but I never leave HN without feeling that no matter what I do, it will never be as good as what I've just read about. I have my own skills, I got a BS degree from a decent school in Comp Sci a few years ago, and still I barely work with anything other than LAMP and frontend stuff and frequently find myself having no clue as to what some of the submissions and discussions on this site are about.

It affects me on a more personal level than I'd like to admit, but I'll do anyway as a way to get it out of my system and see what you all think. I'm a lone "founder" of several websites that I finished up to 80%, then left to collect dust, and am now tidying up to display on a resume since I'm essentially out of money. Whenever I come here and read the articles and discussions I feel like my ideas, and myself by extension are absolute shit for several reasons.

1) So many talented people here. I don't know the slightest thing about any other language besides Javascript, PHP, Java (from school), and MySQL. I'm 25. I work on a Windows XP box and use an IDE because I like the code completion. I consider myself damn good at the languages I listed, but I get the impression that people here are damn good at way more than this.

2) HN shows me all these people and ideas that are succeeding. It used to be inspirational, but now it's frightening. I've always been told I'm a smart kid, and that I'll be a millionaire some day, and all of that shit. I see these ideas gaining traction, some of which I could never be able to do myself, some of which I could have done overnight, and I see myself staying still. It's overwhelming.

3) There are people that post here that are so smart. There are people here that can express their ideas so clearly. There are people here that know so much about so many things. And there's me... I'm not really able to contribute much. How am I to believe I'm any good at anything? If you all are to be my competitors, I should just give up now.

At any rate, I'm just curious to see if anybody gets the same feelings of being overwhelmed by the amount of awesomeness that's on this site. Thanks.

You have to consider the number of users. HN now gets 60k unique visitors on weekdays. That's a decent sized stadium full of people. Of course they seem overwhelming collectively, but most individuals are only experts in a few areas.

If it makes you feel any better, my biggest worry about this site is the opposite: that the median awesomeness is decreasing as the number of users increases.

If you want to feel less overwhelmed, try reading the comments starting at the bottom of the page instead of the top.

> If you want to feel less overwhelmed, try reading the comments starting at the bottom of the page instead of the top

This should be a preference. Ego-boosting sort.

I'd also suggest reading The Pragmatic Programmer (http://www.pragprog.com/the-pragmatic-programmer, written by @pragdave) and the The Passionate Programmer (http://pragprog.com/titles/cfcar2/the-passionate-programmer).

People who are passionate about what they do have a tendency to stand out (pg makes a similar argument on Amateur section of http://www.paulgraham.com/opensource.html).

If you are passionate enough about software development aspects, most HN articles will not feel overwhelming, as you will be constantly improving on your craft. But then you will know how much more there is to learn. Just don't feel overwhelmed then.

If you are passionate enough about software development aspects, most HN articles will not feel overwhelming, as you will be constantly improving on your craft. But then you will know how much more there is to learn. Just don't feel overwhelmed then.

I sometimes feel like I'm dragged into too many directions at the same time. Damn interest. But that's it. I love to spin, reading about 3 or 4 frameworks in 2 or 3 languages serially until I feel something like information satisfaction or I'm getting tired.

I think I actually need the diversity of information. Sort of brain stimulation through information overflow. ;)

But it works. Diversity is very good for the brain, i think it's irrelevant in wich form.

And when you're talking about pragprog: http://pragprog.com/titles/ahptl/pragmatic-thinking-and-lear...

My favourite pragprog book so far.

Sort of anti-learning, pro-ego comment reading? :D

On some days you want to be the wind shield. on other days the bug ;)

My wife has the occasional habit of cherry picking the best bits of all of our friends/acquaintances lives, combining them into one and using that as the yardstick as to how we are doing. She'd be the first to admit this btw:)

Has she purchased any Old Spice for you recently, by chance...?

Ha. Here we have the rarest of local species: a Reddit-style one-liner that merits an upvote here.

Like wives tend to want the best qualities of all their friends' husbands all rolled into theirs :)

To be fair, we want the same thing in return, while trying to get by with the minimum effort exerted by the other husbands.

While writing, it occurred to me that this might be the primary effect. There appears to be some sort of counter in my head that counts awesome comments. There is no counter, however, for number of awesome users, or number non-awesome comments. I ignore them without effort. But due to this selection bias, the awesomeness counter gets to such a big number that it's quite overwhelming, and it feels that 100% of comments are awesome.

I suppose I can accept the fact that the majority of people don't represent anything to get flustered about. However, there are people way more talented than me, doing much more important-seeming (that is to say, things that are getting more attention) things, and in general just being more successful than I. I truly mean it when I say "good for them," but it eats away at me. Quarter-life crisis I suppose.

I was on this site as a different name over a year ago and have recently returned. I can tell you that I noticed a pretty significant difference in the quality of users now on this site. There are more low/medium quality comments, and the quips aren't as clever. What's more concerning is the upvote counts on those comments...

That being said, there's no other place I'd rather be.

"However, there are people way more talented than me"

Oh, and one thing that you have to learn to become comfortable with (or at least Zen about)...there is always somebody better at something than me.

What is great about that is that there is always someone to learn from.

Unless you're Jon Skeet.

Admit it, you're awesome too :)

But yes, I've felt like you do.

There are people here that make me feel inadequate as a programmer. I realize that many - if not most of them happen to be people who live & breathe programming, and solving problems and quenching their thirst for knowledge. This means they're world-class programmers, and used to actually using their brains, but it doesn't mean that they're guaranteed to be considerably more intelligent than I am.

Then there are people like patio11, for example. Whenever this guy says anything, it's always brimming with insight & razor-sharp wit. Now, he's kind of a bummer :)

What makes you think you're talented? You say people have always told you you were a smart kid. Do you have any actual achievements to back this up?

I come on here and find that the vast majority of people are well below my intelligence level. I find that this site is basically a bunch of talentless wantrepreneurial pundits. I come on here to test my patience with idiotic circlejerks - praise Apple, bash Facebook, on and on. Most people I know with real talent feel similarly about HN. Heck, I even know YC guys who feel this way about it.

Judging by the rest of your comments on this site you're far too intelligent to be commenting here in the first place, so why keep at it? My hunch is that you find enjoyment in talking about how intelligent you are and making others feel less intelligent then you. That or you have something to prove as a result of being inadequate your entire life, but internally, you just know how brilliant you are and have to shout it from the rooftops while bringing down others.

I'm curious, what have you accomplished that's so great? Do YOU have any achievements to back up your arrogance?

I'd venture to say that you're actually not that intelligent at all. An intelligent person would realize striking a balance between radiating their inner brilliance and being a modest and kind person is necessary in life. You have clearly not yet learned that lesson.

Intelligence won't get you very far when no one wants to work with you because you're a huge dick to everyone around you.

Judging by the rest of your comments on this site you're far too intelligent

What comments are you talking about? The ones I see are either retarded, extremely arrogant (but not intelligent), or about average (relative to other comments on this site). From his previous comments, I would guess hes of average intelligence, for this site, but EXTREMELY arrogant. Not really a desirable combination, if you ask me.

He was being a little bit sarcastic about it. ;)

Well, that does make more sense.

I cannot know whether or not you would qualify my abilities as "talent". The way you've constructed your response leads me to believe that if I told you I won the Nobel Prize in Javascript, you'd list stupid things that Nobel Prize winners have done.

Even if this site is mostly "talentless wantrepreneurial pundits," which has some truth to it, you're not the slightest bit overwhelmed at the amount of high quality information here?

My awesome comment counter just went up by one.

spotting trolls should be an intelligence test

Intelligence has may sides. In my opinion, one of them is being able to handle people. Offending people is rarely a clever thing to do. I'm not talking about criticism here, I'm talking about offending people. Even if someone's super-intelligent in terms of science, being rude to people means that he or she has never managed to learn how to interact with people.

This is an incredibly important skill; I've found that it's a lot easier to enjoy life if people like you or at least don't dislike you.

More often than not, it's these sort of comments that sadden me most when reading HN. I actually expected the OP to be about this very topic.

Although my account isn't very old, I've lurked at HN off and on for quite a while. It is my impression that they are increasing, although maybe I only pay more attention now that I have an account.

Hilarious. So why are you reading let alone commenting? Maybe you're just as thick as the rest of us.

Okay, it's a jerk comment, but I do like that word, "wantreprenuerial". I knew a farmer who raised sheep and sold their wastes as fertilizer. Called himself an "entremanure"

ignoring the tone from galois - what do we think the untalented should do? certainly someone will be in the ops position (including reading hn / awareness of the wider tech industry) without actually being talented.

I'm not sure that 'untalented' is really a significant concept, since being talented is much more a perception than a definite reality. It's like saying someone is uncharismatic. I guess the severity of such claims would depend on who was doing the assessment. Just as valid is 'latent talent' that even the potentially talented person may not be fully aware of until later in their life. Anyway, I think it's nearly safe to assume that anyone who has made it a habit of reading HN, would not have to risk the disappointment of actually being technically untalented.

Ignore post's questioning your talent, If you've been on HN long enough, you'll know where you stand in terms of talent in the LAMP world.

Talking of talent, ping me on duxy786 at google's mail and maybe we can work together!

I think it was heinlein who wrote that you can break intelligent people into two categories. One sort knows (s)he is better than average but is concerned with levels of intelligence, how smart they are and is susceptible to flattery. Another sort knows they are intelligent enough not to worry about it, knows that other things are the limiting factors in their life and perhaps even feels like a bit of a freak.

also I've seen enough from this username that I think, troll???????????????????????????

<i>However, there are people way more talented than me, doing much more important-seeming (that is to say, things that are getting more attention) things, and in general just being more successful than I. </i>

Yes, Pinky, and there always will be. There's always a faster gunfighter.

Also remember that in the comments you'll get a heavy selection bias. I, for example, comment more heavily on kernel development, virtual machine R&D, HPC, and RDBMS engines 'cause that's what I work on ;)

I, for example, comment more heavily on kernel development, virtual machine R&D, HPC, and RDBMS engines 'cause that's what I work on

See, its comments like this that make the OP and others feel bad :)

"If it makes you feel any better, my biggest worry about this site is the opposite: that the median awesomeness is decreasing as the number of users increases."

I'd rather trade ten smart people for one person who ships.

Amen. I know a guy who is an extremely talented programmer, but for a number of reasons currently has a very poor work ethic. While he is able to be considerably more productive than a number of his lesser clued co-workers, he isn't.

And why do you think that is? I've seen too many situations where the reward for being more productive than lesser-clued co-workers was a greater share of grief and stress.

Well in his case it's because he's obsessed with finding the shortest possible solutions to the more difficult levels in the puzzle game Fish Fillets. He's recently rewritten the game's undo/redo system to help him in this.

Sometimes people, even smart people, are unproductive for the usual reasons -- they're lazy/unmotivated or simply just goofing off.

Those smart people can also give you more ideas for things to ship.

I think HN has enough upvote/downvote data for all its users such that it could be feeding us articles based on our voting history and the voting history of people similar to us (non-trivial problem, of course).

I think it's possible to build a news-site that feeds, say the OP, a news feed that he is 'comfortable with'.

In a more general sense, news sites like HN that use up/down are 'dumb' in the sense that they make a crude (but reasonable) approximation to what each individual wants via a simple[1] summation of what the group wants.

[1] unless I'm mistaken

I wouldn't feel comfortable with this, as it would destroy the amount of discovery I do on HN.

Not all of the articles are within my technical experience, and some I only barely understand, but I find some seriously mind-blowing things out there.

To the OP...yes. I'm constantly impressed with those who have not only the knowledge and skills, but the sheer drive to build and run a successful startup. Even if I had some crazy-awesome idea that had almost no chance of failure (just as an example), the notion of just...picking up and doing my own thing is a very scary thing to do. I've been job with income stability for so long that the idea of going it on my own scares the hell out of me.

I think reddit tried to do exactly that a while ago and didn't have much luck. It may have been smaller than HN at the time, but I think they kept trying for quite a while.

Interesting, do you, or anyone else know why they didn't succeed?

Maybe user-created groups (i.e., subreddits) was simpler and effective.

You should also remember that a lot of the time, you're reading about efforts that take teams of extremely bright individuals to make successful. Sure, there's the occasional lone gunman out there, but two brains are almost always better than one.

In fact, in my own experience, I have found it is very difficult for one person (me) to be amazing at all the different things needed to make an idea successful. I'm pretty amazing, but not superman! ;)

I just typed up a reply and realized pg's suggestion of reading bottom-to-top is an excellent idea.

It's like only reading Nobel-prize-winning publications and then complaining you feel dumb...

>>my biggest worry about this site is the opposite: that the median awesomeness is decreasing as the number of users increases.

if it worries you so much, why don't you try to make it less popular? eg. by blocking all popular search engines.

how about hacker news gold, with a special restricted-access area only? ;)

a bit more seriously, are there any plans to increase the number of karma-locked features? if people knew that there were more benefits to contributing high quality content/submissions/comments, they might put a bit more time and effort into contributing them.

"if people knew that there were more benefits to contributing high quality content/submissions/comments, they might put a bit more time and effort into contributing them."

I find that I carefully word what I write on HN by default. That is the 'culture' of the site. I don't think the median HN reader needs further encouragement to write well. Of course, there are raging dicks everywhere, and people being people will sometimes go off on a tangent. If there was a 'quality of comments' scale, YouTube would probably be near the bottom (just go onto some sorry excuse for a music video and read some spam and inspired fan comments), and HN near the top.

> I don't think the median HN reader needs further encouragement to write well.

perhaps, for now. but if PG's concerns are valid, then it may be the case that this will change. alternatively, consider it a functional way to reinforce the culture.

I doubt the comments here would ever descend to near YouTube levels. For one, trolls on this site are mercilessly modded into the negative, and quickly. The last time I tried to make a snarky comment just for the sake of snark, it got downmodded so fast that I just deleted it. This same comment would probably have hundreds of thumbs up on YouTube by now.

I changed all of my videos to moderated comments on YouTube, and I still receive completely inane ones every day, along with "thumbs up if ____" comments. These, again, would be modded into oblivion here.

Maybe I'm one of the unwelcome newbies that are changing this site for the worse (as I'm not involved in a startup), but I don't think this culture has anything to fear as far as quality dilution goes. Noisy, sure, but still high quality.

More likely they would just spam submissions and vote-bait comments in the hope of gaining enough karma.

I like not having to worry about karma because it means I can speak my mind, instead of simply commenting the popular responses in hope of karma.

thats already happening, more or less. except the culture here is to flag things out of line, and they usually get dealt with. if they're not out of line, then why would it matter?

They get dealt with now, sure, I'm just asking if giving people more incentives to karma whore will have the effect you desire (better submissions/comments; instead of more me-too karma farming comments).

Also to add to what pg said - http://sushrutbidwai.com/?p=232

Remember the tools that you had at your disposal and some one else. Dont get overwhelmed by what others have achieved or seems to have achieved.

One of your problems is that you are judging yourself by your natural abilities. I think this a trap that a lot of smart people fall into, perhaps being used to being the kid who always gets the gold star. There are studies that show that children who are praised for being "smart" stop working hard, because that threatens their self-image. Children who are praised for working hard go on to greater successes.

But back to HN. Recall that people post here, in part, to feel good about themselves and appear smart to others. It may be that the real heroes are not here. They are off doing stuff, not yammering about it.

I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of successful web startup people (a different group from say, pg or other YC alumni). I can tell you that the only thing they have in common is that they Keep Doing Stuff. No matter what, Keep Doing Stuff. They often have very low tolerance for naysayers and armchair critics. This isn't so much iron determination (well it is, in part) but mostly because they are motivated by the intrinsic rewards of building and exploring. In other words: they are just trying to have fun.

Their initial prototypes are ugly and naive. They don't care because it does something they wanted. They use a language that others deride as a toy. They don't care because it gets the job done fast. At launch, the whole thing is held together with tinkertoys and chewing gum. They still don't care as long as it's making people happy. Then scaling problems happen. Then they hunker down and make even more spectacular mistakes.

And you know what? Then one day they look back on at all they've done, and the system is humming beautifully and they're experts in multiple fields. And O'Reilly starts bugging them to write a book about how they did it all so effortlessly.

Meanwhile those guys on HN are still whining about how it would have been so much better with a functional language and a NoSQL data store.


P.S. This is not an argument for doing anything sloppily. It's just that you have to be laser-focused on results. It's a paradox; you have to be capable of rolling out something of heart-breaking beauty but also have no concern for things that ultimately don't affect success. It's been my experience that the version 1.0 of anything really creative looks like a piece of junk. And it takes a very sharp eye to see that it's doing something new and important. I guess this is why not everybody is a successful investor.

That's one problem with reading too much into people's commentary and ideas here. It's been through so many filters.

Who knows how long they spent refining that comment?

Seeing the end product is always more impressive than the beginning.

At least personally, if something I did is "good", it's because its been through a couple of iterations, you can bet it was ugly as sin first time round.

The problem is that you often don't get to see the intermediate steps.

Prototype -> MAGIC HAPPENS -> Polished Product

The MAGIC HAPPENS portion is what I find really interesting, you can learn a lot about how people think if you get to see how they refine their ideas over time.

And it's all sweat equity. Always. Don't let people try to bullshit you that it's not. If I've learned one thing from many people smarter and more successful than I am, its that they're always doing something moving them to their goals, and they never give up no matter how many times they fail.

There's also that horrible effect that your own ideas, however creative, original and interesting, can start to feel trite, shallow and old after a little while. Because, guess what, they've been floating around your head longer than anyone's, and you keep seeing them, picking over them, looking for weak points.

Whereas someone else's idea that they've been knocking around for a few months will seem breathtakingly new and fresh, and as if it had popped forth fully formed from their head yesterday.

The difference here is simply whose head you're in.

This can be a very serious problem for writers -- if you spend years writing a novel, by the time it's finally coming together, you want to rewrite all of the early stuff just because it seems so overused by now....

"Who knows how long they spent refining that comment?"

"The best writing is rewriting." - E. B. White


> One of your problems is that you are judging yourself by your natural abilities.

This is really a huge point. It reminds me of this piece:


"The concern is that by focusing on self-esteem and confidence building, parents and teachers may be giving real goals and achievement short shrift. The article cites a recent study in which eighth graders in Korea and the United States were asked whether they were good at math. Among the American students, 39 percent said they were excellent at math, compared to just 6 percent of the Korean eighth graders. But the reality was somewhat different. The Korean kids scored far better in math than the over-confident American students."

And this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

I wonder if they are all linked? If I'm told my entire life I'm bright and talented, won't I assume that to be true? Learning something, the hard work required, means lots and lots and lots of failure. Failure is an excellent teacher if you are listening. Staying in your comfort zone, where you receive constant praise may create an environment of false input. You may be the best at something in your immediate family, or in your peer group, but there's always somebody who's better at that same thing. And they usually got there through blood sweat and tears.

Wonderful post. I'm not quite sure I understand the part where working hard might threaten my self-image. Is it because if I try my hardest and fail it would destroy my self-image? I can see how that might be the case. Does the study mention ways to fix this?

As for the rest of your post, it was great. Inspirational in the right ways. Thanks.

This was the article that popularized that research about praising children:


Money quote:

> [...] The test was difficult, designed for kids two years ahead of their grade level. Predictably, everyone failed. But again, the two groups of children, divided at random at the study’s start, responded differently. Those praised for their effort on the first test assumed they simply hadn’t focused hard enough on this test. “They got very involved, willing to try every solution to the puzzles,” Dweck recalled. “Many of them remarked, unprovoked, ‘This is my favorite test.’ ” Not so for those praised for their smarts. They assumed their failure was evidence that they weren’t really smart at all. “Just watching them, you could see the strain. They were sweating and miserable.”

Sound familiar?

Anyway... I'm glad if my experience or insights help, but the truth is, I'm not one of those devil-may-care trailblazers. At least, not as often as I would like. I'm more usually the naysayer who wants to rewrite it in a functional language. ;) I haven't even gotten as far as you have when it comes to creating my own way in the world.

Yes, it sounds familiar. I think I am too frequently self appraising and not as frequently doing, well, whatever the happy kids were doing. Just going with the flow, I suppose?

I find that when ever I am working on something new or difficult, I feel stupid. The act of working on it reveals my ignorance and makes me confront the fact that I am not as smart as I think I am.

Great post. I've found that HN has an interesting contrast between the techy, computer science, programmer types, and the just build shit that works, take shortcuts, ship a product that solves people's problems types.

And I actually really value discussions from both types.

It's the old interplay between science and engineering. One of the things HN is great for is creating a productive space for this type of cognitive transfer to happen in a useful and non-destructive way. It's actually pretty rare, I've seen many places that attempt to transition science into engineering and fail miserably.

I believe I've read these points multiple times from multiple sources, but this one post puts them together rather effectively. I'll be printing this out and sticking this on my wall (as well as keeping this in my Notes app) so I can review it regularly. Thanks.

I sympathize with your feelings. Coming to HN can instantly humble anyone who previously believed (s)he is smart, talented, destined for greatness, etc. when you see what truly brilliant people are like. I know it gave me a good reality check and sense of my relative knowledge compared to all the potential things to learn.

But you've taken the wrong lessons out of it. Don't view it as a community of people better and smarter than you, see it as a wealth of knowledge like a library.

Don't view the people here as your competition. View them as people with something to teach you.

Intelligence is not a zero-sum game. No one will prevent your success because they are "smarter" than you. The more educated, energized, and ethical people in the world, the better for us all. Take what HN has to offer and apply it to what makes you happy and what will bring you fulfillment and success.

Good! This is a good thing! You're feeling sick to your stomach that you're not living up to your potential - good that you come here to post this. Most people fight this feeling down with distraction, intoxication, or otherwise tuning out.

You're doing something about it. This is fantastic. If you want, email me a reasonably short email and tell me what your goals and projects are, I'll recommend you some reading and give you some advice. Spend 5-10 minutes thinking about your core life goals before writing me, and feel free to put in a couple specific projects as well. I'd be happy to be of service, I admire people who confront themselves and reality.

I love when I get that sick to my stomach feeling, it means I'm about to do some great things. Don't fight it. Drop me a line if you like, my email is in my profile.

> If you want, email me a reasonably short email and tell me what your goals and projects are, I'll recommend you some reading and give you some advice.

Or post to the group; there's plenty of people here able to give sound advise.

lionhearted: out of curiosity, did OP prompt you to write your most recent blog entry?

On the contrary, no community I've ever known in my life has ever made me feel so empowered.

The "real world" is packed with people who will belittle and disregard your achievements and abilities, you will be told again and again that people like you will simply be replaced by counterparts in a third world country willing to do what you do for sixteen hours a day at five dollars per hour. This comes from fear and ignorance but is so universal amongst the general populace that you can start wondering if they might be onto something.

A community like this is concrete evidence that they are dead wrong; That what we do matters, and that it is not wrong to take pleasure and pride in it. It betrays the attempts to sideline the work and misdirect attention to the importance of politics and salesmanship, neither of which have any spoils to be arguing over or peddling respectively in the absence of the essential process of making wealth and not just money.

Most of all it makes me not hate the world like I used to, because it shows me what humans can be and not what they seem to be when I stand in a random room in meatspace and take a look around.

Indeed, I scrolled down hoping to find this sentiment. HN is one of the few venues I know where I can find worthwhile discussion. If anything, it combats my general misanthropy that everyone is stupid around me--at least here I learn something rather than feel like I have to correct another bad common misconception.

On that note, does anyone know any other good news/discussion sites similar to HN?

I would suggest competng with yourself rather than other people. I cannot write a fuzzer in C, have conversations in French, or buy a house with my petty cash. Many here can do these things. I can, however, totally paste the 25 year old me in web app programming, marketing, etc. Start pasting yesterday's you today.

Just remember, however many smart people there are on HN, there are just as many people who are very nice and more than willing to share what they know. And thats my favorite thing about HN; if I ever have a question about something (that I read here or otherwise), I know that I can come and ask and get an answer. If you ever have any questions about something you read, I'd strongly encourage you to ask it as well.

Or in general, really. Not just on HN. Learning and asking questions isn't something that should be scary.

As for your three points:

1. Those are three useful languages to know. Especially Javascript. Don't be so quick to put down what you do know; someone else will always know more than you. Good for them. Ask them a question, learn something from them.

My personal belief is that you have to like what you do to be good at it. And people like to talk about things they like. So, don't be surprised if someone is willing to talk to you about your question :)

2. I don't mean to be harsh, but it sounds like the only thing stopping you from having a bunch of neat ideas to show off is, well, you. It sounds like you've started a few ideas. Why not finish them up as well?

A very good friend of mine is fond of saying (something along the lines of): "If you pretend to be something long enough, you'll eventually find that you've become what you were pretending to be." If you have 80% done (or even 50%), thats a start. Keep going and you'll wind up with something to show for it. Then you'll find that you've turned into one of those people that you aspired to be like.

3. Everyone had to start somewhere. Some people started earlier and others later. Some people can pick certain things up quicker than others. Thats no reason to be so harsh on yourself. And not everyone is working on the same idea.

And even within the same idea, there's always going to be plenty of room for multiple companies. YC has funded companies in the same area before. There's hundreds of Twitter clients out there. Don't ever let "Well, someone else is doing this..." stop you.

"Don't ever let "Well, someone else is doing this..." stop you."

I take this as confirmation that my idea has some merit. It someone else is building it, it must be a real problem/pain point in people's lives.

I independently thought of a semi-decent concept (IMO) and googled similar terms, to discover that there were startups out there with near identical ideas, and already well along the path of execution. I console myself that at one stage Google was taking on Yahoo! and Microsoft when everyone thought search was done (i.e. an unsexy, overlooked field).

"Learning and asking questions isn't something that should be scary"

That can't be emphasized enough - I worked for one professor for a few years who was very smart (he was an expert in non-linear control systems), but who was always saying to people "sorry, could you repeat that, I didn't understand what you just said".

Never let your ego get in the way of asking a question - the chances are that if someone says something that you don't understand the problem is with their explanation rather than your capability to understand (especially in any business context).

you are 25. is this your first 'big pond' experience?

I mean, yeah, it's hard. When I was 20, I got an opportunity to work with some of the best people in my business. (I got the guy who hired me to write a preface to my book... In it, he calls me a 'dumbass kid' which pretty much sums up the situation.)

I did okay at the job until the company crashed (In about 2001, you see) as the pressure went up, I couldn't deal with it. I felt like I was not remotely qualified to work there, or really in the industry at all, and that I was the reason why the company was doing so poorly. I ended up quitting, and taking several months off to road trip. This, of course, ended when I ran out of money, and when I found that working at a coffee shop was more likely to require a degree, it seemed, than getting another SysAdmin gig. I ended up getting a job at a local ASP, and not doing any thing else notable until I started my own company a few years later.

In retrospect, I handled the situation all wrong. The company survived, and if I toughed it out, I would probably be another 3 years ahead in my career right now, and I'd be much closer to the incredibly awesome contacts I made there.

But, the point is, there are always going to be people who are better than you are, and if you can work around those people, do so. you will learn a lot. On the other hand, going from a small pond where you get to be the big fish to the big pond, where there will always be people with whom you simply will never be able to compete, is, well, quite an emotional shock.

If you are a healthy person, you will eventually come to accept and appreciate people who are better than you without getting the feeling that your ego just got kicked in the nads. On the other hand, if this is your first 'big pond' experience, the blow to the ego is very common and generally something that should be expected. You can get over it.

Do you ever watch Formula One? You know that guy who always finishes at the end of pack that everyone laughs at? He's the (~)20th fastest driver on this planet. Imagine how he feels.

EDIT: People are getting hung up on the specifics here, so let me expand a bit: If you are, say, the 20th best at anything then how you feel about yourself depends on where you look. If you only look forward you'll be thinking "good greif, there are NINETEEN people in front of me, I suck!". If you only look behind you'll think you're the greatest. Just look at all the billions behind you.

I think the key is a healthy combination of looking forward for motivation ("Just 19 more to go!") and behind for perspective.

Flawed analogy (see replies), but amen nonetheless. My kids are on the neighborhood swim team, and are among the worst swimmers on it. When they get down about doing poorly, I remind them that they're better swimmers than the huge portion of the neighborhood who aren't even on the swim team, and that it shows (and builds) character to keep trying your hardest and working to improve even if you're among the worst on the team.

He may not be the 20th fastest driver. F1 is determined greatly by the car the driver is given. He may be the best driver (which I think would hurt even more).

Kubica and Nico Rosberg are good examples of this. Both used to race against Lewis Hamilton in lower levels of motorsport and both used to beat him. However neither Kubica or Nico have been given a truely championship winning car yet to prove themselves.

Yes, F1 is 80% car, and 20% driver.

That is why I follow Moto GP. I would dare to say that it's down to 80% rider, and 20% machine. I find it lots more exciting. To get you started: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfPM77TsGaA

In f1 a driver down the back of the pack may actually be a very good driver just without the car to support it. Just have to look at Mark Webber when he started out at Minardi he defiantly wasn't racing up the front but now with Red Bull he is always a strong chance.

That's EXACTLY how i feel, except i'm almost 29, live in an "undeveloped" country in eastern Europe with barely any opportunities and even though i'm the lone sysadmin of over 20 servers in one of the largest media groups around i feel like i suck badly compared to my peers. So you're not alone :|

I'm late to this party, so I'll give you two quick pointers: "You and Your Research" by Richard Hamming [0], and "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" [1]

Read both in their entirety.

You will gain a new perspective on those who make great achievements. They experience the same self-doubt you do! Feynman notes in dismay that other researchers at Los Alamos effortlessly solved problems mentally after he'd spend days working out the solution. He also mentions when he starts in academia, he was overwhelmed by an academic paper being discussed at a conference because he didn't understand it. Richard Hamming notes a few extra pressures, specifically the pressure to solve great problems instead of small problems, and how this pressure ruins your work

Both books have similar lessons. Feynman says it implicitly, and Hamming says it explicitly: Keep modern, work with others, understand the twists and turns of your field, think about the future, and solve the small problems. You can't force yourself to do great things, but you can stack the deck in your favor.

[0] http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/YouAndYourResearch.html

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Surely-Feynman-Adventures-Curious-Char...

I'm even later to the party so I'll just cite Ira Glass:


All of us who do creative work... we get into it because we have good taste. And it's like there's a gap... for the first couple years that you're making stuff, what you're making isn't so good. But your taste is still killer... it's good enough that you can tell that what you're making is kind of a disappointment to you...

A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people, at that point, they quit. And the thing I would say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years [like this].... the most important thing you can do is to do a lot of work. It's only by going through a volume of work that you are going to catch up and close that gap.

Et cetera.

Somewhat to my chagrin, this video never gets old.

I'm actually really afraid of closing the gap. What if I get to the point that I'm really pleased with what I've made. That's the end. I can't grow past that point and likely, what I make still sucks on the grand scale.

Thanks for the link to the "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" book. I just bought a used copy for $7. I'm running out of good stuff to read, and I love getting good book recommendations from people. Hopefully it'll be a great read.

I actually had this problem when I was reading through Steve Yegge's blogs. Here was this guy who had done so much, had so many great insights, and was routinely pushing himself to do better. It was very inspiring, but also kind of scary: how can I ever be that awesome?

It took me about a year to realize that his blogs are collectively almost a decade of work by him, his collective wisdom and insight, which wasn't even started until he had been out of college for at least 5 years. I was getting a compressed version of his long-term work.

Like robryan says in another comment: the collective knowledge of HN is vast and deep indeed, but most of these people have been hacking for years or decades. Just keep at it, and try to realize that creating useful things is not a zero-sum game.

I used to think like that, especially when I hung out on LessWrong (http://lesswrong.com). Then I decided my aim in life is not to be the best at everything as an individual. My aim in life is to do great and useful things, on my own or with help from others.

Once I started seeing things in that way, it became really exciting to find so many people, much more intelligent and talented than me. I can learn from them, hire them, partner with them, work for them or even compete with them. I can leverage (for lack of a better word) their awesomeness in some way or the other for a goal higher than just personal achievements.

Look at the last post on lesswrong.com, they seem to agree :)

If that's any consolation, you are not alone. I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about strategies for advancing past mediocrity. Here are some general principles that I apply regardless of your background and past accomplishments:

1) Learn by doing and trying, not by thinking. Aimless reflection and introspection are bottomless pits that can suck up enormous amount of time that could be put to far more productive uses. If you have a choice between reading a book on a programming language and going through a tutorial that forces you to try examples, go through the tutorial. Immediate, tactile learning is better than abstract success stories which paper over important ingredients for success.

2) Social networking is key. Grow by connecting yourself to communities of peers, mentors, gurus, etc that you can actually rely on and that you can benefit from. If HN is making you depressed, stop reading it. Instead establish meaningful professional and personal connections with people that are supportive. The value of your circle is often overlooked. I am a firm believer that the quality of the people you know is the great predictor of your overall happiness and achievement.

3) Focus on the things you need to know. The number of programming languages you know doesn't matter. It is a meaningless metric. What matters is how comfortable you are with the tools that help you get _your_ job done. This is related to point 1). Having mastery and proficiency of something that you use daily is far more important than having the breadth of knowledge and mastery of exotic languages.

4) Stack your skills. Time is short so the best way to advance is to leverage maximum of what you _already_ know. In other words, don't jump around and shift gears all the time. Think of a long term goal(s) and try to segment the path toward that goal such that you can (a) complete each segment without getting distracted, (b) get feedback after each segment (c) learn something in each segment that you can use in the next. It doesn't have to be one project. In fact it's better if a sequence of projects, so you can adjust your course along the way.

5) Don't stop. Giving up is an attractive option. Our society has many different ways to cushion your fall, which can make quitting tempting and virtually painless. If you want to achieve something, idleness is definitely _not ok_.

Update: edited for style and grammar.

I get this to but I think sometimes we are getting overwhelmed by the collective knowledge of hacker news rather than individuals. Granted there are a lot of exceptionally talented people posting here but you will probably find that the really great technical comments are coming from people who spend a lot of time on what specific topic they are commenting on and would have areas your great at but they have little knowledge or experience.

Also there are people that have been in the area a lot longer, so me being 21 wasn't around programming during the late 90's tech bubble or before. They have had a lot more time to try a lot of different things.

It's good though to have the median above your own level, allowing you to learn but faster then if you were one of the smartest people here.

My work evenly splits between biomedicine and software development. I have spent lots of time around really smart scientists who were trying to do things like develop cures for cancer or new antibiotics. One of the things I learned early on in science is to get used to feeling like the dumbest guy in the room. There is a whole world of information out there and no one person knows it all. You just can't.

That said, what I learned over time was that the best way to make yourself smarter was to hang around people smarter and/or more experienced than you are. The hallmark of truly intelligent people is their ability to recognize they don't know everything. If you do this and you make an effort to learn and build your skills, some day you wake up and realize you are an "expert" in some area you have worked in for 10 years. 

I worked with a very talented programmer a lot early in my career. One time I was feeling down about ever being able to code like him. He looked at me and said, "You know, I wasn't born knowing this stuff." I hear his voice every time I get discouraged.

I like to go through some old stuff from when I first started, most of my 3 line Hello World stuff, or returning form contents. Then even though I'm not working at Google, I've come a long way.

The gapingvoid comic line comes to mind: Never compare your inside to someone else's outside.

I did a text search on this page to see if anyone had already posted this. Such an important truth, so well put.

Here's the fix: don't compare yourself to others - compare your today's self to your tomorrow's self (ie: grow your own abilites instead).

I really suggest reading "Nonviolent Communication" (http://www.amazon.com/Nonviolent-Communication-Language-Mars...), which gives a lot of insight on these topics.

The way I look at it, I'm just glad that there people somewhat like me who are doing, working on, and talking about smart things, and some of them who are succeeding. You have to realize, the kind of people that hangout on this site are fairly similar: they have entrepreneurial aspirations (and drive -- or they would be reading more fun/non-practical news sites like Reddit and Digg), most of them can design or code or both, and most of them are actually working on something.

60k unique visitors does sound like a lot, but it's not a drop in the hat of the amount of people that read Reddit or Digg or TechCrunch. So in a way, I actually feel good about this being a site that is smaller and more focused than those other ones, which really are the true depressants, so to say. Nobody on HN is out here to flame anyone, and most of them are thoughtful, intelligent people -- the kind I want to be with.

What I'm trying to say is, if you find HN frightening, the world is beyond anything you can imagine. There are people who are smarter than you, work harder than you, in better/more happening places than you, and naturally more rewarded than you. So then, being on HN gives me some comfort in knowing that there are people who are sort of like me, and who are also navigating the same world I am. Instead of comparing myself to these people, I'm just glad that they exist.

Hear hear.

Like somebody wise once said, you should always surround yourself with people smarter than yourself in order to grow.

If you can't do it in the real world because of your geography or the quality of your physical peers, Hacker news is the best place to hang around, particularly if you're a comput(er/ing) enthusiast.

I know squat about most things, but I know a lot about a few things. When I'm here I can comment on the things I know something about, and express confusion and willingness to learn about the others.

You're 25 - you can't know everything.

You can do some stuff - get on and do it.

You come here and find people who know more than you do - learn from them.

Don't be over-whelmed - everyone here has their weaknesses, it's just that you usually don't get to see them.

I don't get that feeling from HN, but I get the exact feeling you describe when (trying to) read MathOverflow.com. For some reason the level of math being discussed there has quickly risen to such a rarefied atmosphere that I although go there out of interest and a desire to learn, I come away feeling I can't keep up.

MathOverflow's explicit purpose is to discuss research-level mathematics. First sentence of the FAQ: "MathOverflow's primary goal is for users to ask and answer research level math questions, the sorts of questions you come across when you're writing or reading articles or graduate level books." The discussion is really geared towards people doing research, or trying to. I'm a math grad student, and I find much of it hard to follow. It isn't really the place to go to learn math.

There is a need then for a stackoverflow-based site for practical or less research-level math, for questions like, "How do I do this Laplace transform?" or "How do I do this difficult integral?"

Agreed, if there isn't one already. artofproblemsolving.com might fit the bill, for example.

http://math.stackexchange.com/ is now in beta. From the FAQ: "Mathematics - Stack Exchange is for people studying math at any level & professionals in related fields."

If you continue though at some point you will encounter math at a lower level and now seem like an expert at that much more than before because you pushed yourself to understand more of the boundaries of human math understanding.

"although I go there out of interest and a desire to learn, I come away feeling I can't keep up"

That's the exact experience.

I just discovered Hacker News a few days ago, and I visit several times a day. I've learned so much over just these few days. It's definitely overwhelming, and you do get that feel of insignificancy after a little while. But I've come up with one rock I can lean on:

Don't compare yourself to the masses. Seeing so much awesomeness can be overwhelming, but you're just one person, after all.

I'm having some trouble with a project of my own, because it's such new ground for me. Reading HN can be a little scary, because it does seem like these people are doing something I'm not. Well, I can't say it's not true, but Rome wasn't built in a day.

(Also, can I just say how weird it feels to give advice? I hardly feel like I'm qualified! I figure you might get something out of it, though, and I've always liked Wikipedia's "Be bold" sentiment.)

You are comparing yourself to the entire HN community: a young man against thousands of years of collective experience.

I suspect the reason why you do this is because you give your "talent" more value than you should.

You wrote this:

> HN shows me all these people and ideas that are succeeding. It used to be inspirational, but now it's frightening.

> I've always been told I'm a smart kid, and that I'll be a millionaire some day, and all of that shit.

You can snap out of it, but you need to change your mindset about intelligence, learning, and mastering a trade.

Please consider reading this essay of mine. I think it may be helpful: http://programmingzen.com/2010/07/04/the-pursuit-of-excellen...

I used to feel like that. I felt constantly inferior. Eventually, I stopped feeling inferior and started feeling like I was associating with peers. I suspect that this had to do with a combination of me actually getting some experience (so that I can now actually contribute to discussions about certain technical things without sounding like a fool), and realizing that every single uber-competent person was an utter noob at one point.

I used to stress over never being able to contribute to OSS projects because I felt like I was drowning when I tried to, and a bunch of other stuff.

Give it time, keep hacking, and you'll be contributing amongst a field of your peers before you realize it :)

When I was a kid, I would try to watch television and my dad - who is great, but he can be a passive aggressive prick when he wants to be — would say something like "go ahead and watch the 'boob tube' but just remember that those people have already made their millions."

I would sigh and go back to the 486-33 and keep hacking away at whatever I was building in Visual Basic. I resented it at the time, but I bought my first drums with money I made coding when I was 11 and I was making good money as a freelancer by 16.

My advice to you, should you choose to listen to me, is that you can read Hacker News all you want, but just remember that we've already made our millions.

Work ethic leads to better performance than IQ in college students: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=789312

Example of what can happen when the workload exceeds one's raw intelligence and exposes the limitations of work ethic: http://lwn.net/Articles/393694/

And another HN post provides evidence that working harder will contribute to your happiness: http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2010/07/were-happier...

The simple fact is you are plugging yourself into where some very bright people are communing (namely, HN) and that shows that you recognize value. You seem to also be able to assess yourself. That is good. At least you know where you are starting from. Focus on the positive. What you set your mind on tends to be what you get more of in your life. Don't worry about how smart everyone else is. Results are the only things that matter at the end of the day. So set your mind on what you want (a goal) and work harder than you did the previous day/week/month/year to get there. Constantly be learning (by coming here, you will.) Learn how to learn better, faster, easier. Learn how to work faster, cheaper, more productively. "Hack" your mind/heart and apply your life to the expression of your mind/heart and you will see more results. (Notice the absence of moral guidance there. I don't want to start a flame war only indicate a system and a pattern.)

Enough self-help guidance. I wish you well.

No, not really. I actually feel underwhelmed quite frequently e.g. the reddit "fundraising" story two weeks ago. Don't get me wrong there are some advanced topics being discussed sometimes. But most of the time it's either opinion or layman's level non-technology topics.

But I also don't have a strictly CS background. I generally try not to express myself negatively though, but instead value the good parts and recognize that YC/HN is what it is.

I've only felt as overwhelmed by HN as any other point in life where I'm impressed at others. I recall being a kid and just starting to read, and reading a book of jokes, and wondering how in the world someone could possibly be clever enough to make all of those great jokes. Every other situation has basically been a repeat of that. So while I often get the feeling of "that idea is so simple, why didn't I think of it" or "I could have done something like that," more and more I recognize that it's just a matter of right place/right time to get the idea, to be motivated to take it seriously, and to execute on it.

Learning is easier than product creation, IMHO. A product involves an ongoing dialogue with a customer of some kind(even if it's free), while a skill is just something you have and can demonstrate every so often, so you can go at your own pace and not worry so much about "the guy at the other end."

The only thing bad about learning is when you hit a peak so high that you run out of other people at or above your level to talk with. It's an incredibly lonely feeling.

The biggest problem I have is opening thousands of tabs, finding great articles, bookmarking them for later and then not reading them.

I had this problem. I solved it by upping the threshold at which an article hits my "To Read" list.

In reference to point 2 and 'I've always been told I'm a smart kid and that I'll be a millionaire one day'

It's worth reading this recent thread and the comments. http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/crywg/dear_reddit...

The post is entitled 'Dear reddit, did you believe that one day you'd all be millionaires, rockstars and moviestars?' - taken from the quote in Fight Club. It raises some interesting points about how we are brought up to believe the dream is achievable and often it takes a lot more hard work than we originally perceive.

I personally wouldn't compare myself to anyone else. I've worked with some of the smartest guys I know from a technical point of view, but they have lacked in other areas such as ideas and execution.

(Often the best technical people neglect important things like marketing, design and user experience - expecting the 'amazing product' to equal success).

All the time, my friend, all the time. But it's much better to compare yourselves to these geniuses at HN and be threatened/inspired to do better than compare yourself to a bunch of average people and feel good about it.

HN and PG's essays are the best things that a student / aspiring entrepreneur could experience. I learn new stuff everyday. HN rocks.

The one thing I've learned doing this PhD is that progress IS other people. If you're the only one doing research on a topic, you'll never get anywhere. Similarly, if you launch an awesome website and nobody comes, you're in the same problem.

The wonderful thing about the hacker community and especially ycombinator is the openness and mutual support we offer each other. We create, and we create more with other people. And rather than fighting over what's there we just make more.

So your best bet is to identify your place and roll in this community. Understanding other facets of the R&D economy can only help you, but use this knowledge to figure out how you can contribute the most. The other people here are not your competitors, they are your friends, employers, employees, and colleagues. They raise the bar on you but give you a way to get there-- they're the most important people in the world.

"If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Newton

If you really want to feel like shit imagine this: you're a guy who went to a chain art school and spent most of his career updating mom & pop websites and tweaking Wordpress, and you're sitting in a board room in San Francisco full of execs, engineers & multimillionaire entreprenuers who went to Stanford or NYU or Harvard and trying to BS your way into making them think you're capable of working on their project. Imagine how you squirm when they ask you questions about processing some algorithm or conversion metrics and you have no freakin clue what they're talking about.

Welcome to my world. At least on HN you don't have to see the condescending look on their faces when they think to themselves 'who let this idiot in here?'. Its MUCH worse in the real world.

Hey there,

On the contrary, I feel rather inspired by the audience of Hacker News. Reading stories about how people have done it, the mistakes they've learnt and their advice has given me renewed confidence in myself to go out and do it. Typically people who are successful are normally those we see on tv but reading the success stories and just how brilliant people there are on here, it's a true inspiration. HN is probably my most favourite place on the web hands down. Thanks to all of you! It keeps me humbled - never ever think that I am fantastic at something or even if I am, there are other people out there that can do just as well and I should never ever brag or boast about it. HN keeps me grounded and keeps me driving. I love it.

I have the same feelings of being overwhelmed myself sometimes and I also feel envy for the people who are regularly working with the latest technologies.

At one time I was working for a company where we were constantly developing new systems for clients ranging from websites to large scale corporate applications. It seemed that we were learning new languages and systems every month and working on all sorts of platforms. It was hard work, but it was also a great deal of fun.

The last few years I’ve been spending about 90% of my time developing embedded software and very rarely use any languages beyond C, C++ and Assembly.

I try to read up on the latest developments as much as I can but I do often think that I’m falling further and further behind the older I get :)

I would have to say that yes, everyday I visit this site and feel like a big pile of sh#t. My reasons are:

1) I am fascinated by the stuff programmers do. I do not program, have tried to learn, but I am impatient. I will never code, so I feel like shit.

2) I see info on some real cool startups, and think I will never be involved in one. I do not have any great ideas, do not know any smart, cool people and can kiss that experience goodbye.

3) I am in IT, but it is at the Class A level, not the major leagues. I feel I will be stuck in the helpdesk forever, and it scares me.

So I feel like sh#t every day, because I read HN everyday. But when I do not read it, I forget about it and feel better. Well, maybe it is the porn sites I visit that make me fell better.

I suggest you pick a direction and keep pushing. There's a particular set of projects I sometimes look at, and I find them overwhelming. I think, "This guy is way ahead of me", or "This guy is way smarter than I am". But here's the thing—they are projects I did myself:

* This guy is way ahead of me: http://railstutorial.org/book

* This guy is way smarter than I am: http://thesis.library.caltech.edu/1940/

I only feel overwhelmed because, in a single moment, I'm looking at the cumulative effect of months or years of effort.

Pick a direction, and just keep pushing.

1) There will always be someone better or smarter or versed in more languages than you. Probably a lot of them, in fact, and they will probably be a lot better. You just have to learn to accept that.

2) You are young; not everyone here is as young as you are. Some of the people you see as rivaling yourself could in fact be your elders, who are naturally a step ahead of you, and whose place you will assume in the future

3) Big fish. Little pond. Happens to me all the damn time. Fortunately I realized a while back anytime I find I'm the big fish, that means it's time for me to get out of my little pond and find the really big fish.

I fear that what you're feeling is a dark side of the net's otherwise positive aspects. (It's not just HN.)

The net lets us see all the great output from the most talented writers, thinkers, doers of their fields -- including people who we could imagine to be our peer group. But what we see is not an accurate sample -- it's dominated by the most remarkable, outliers by both skill and luck. (That is, there's massive survivorship bias; see Taleb's Fooled by Randomness.) Still, if we choose to look, it's in our face every hour of every day, in our news feeds, our Twitter streams, our Facebook statuses.

(Compare also: the quality of social networks whereby for almost everyone, your friends will have more friends than you [1]; the Matthew Effect, whereby small changes in initial endowment of power/fame/success can compound [2]; and how viewing top athletes can actually decrease someone's coordination in following challenges [3].)

In the plant and insect world, sometimes as one organism thrives, it sends off chemical signals that suppress the growth of its siblings/peers/neighbors, in an effect called allelopathy.

Information about others' great works and successes, transmitted by the net, may sometimes serve as a sort of memetic negative allelopathy. The message is: this territory is taken; you can't reach the sunshine here; try another place/strategy (or even just wither so your distant relatives can thrive). This can be be the subtext even if that's not the conscious intent of those relaying the information. Indeed, the reports may be intended as motivational, and sometimes be, while at other times being discouraging.

What to do? Not yet certain, but awareness that this mechanism is in play may help. You can recognize that what you're reading is not representative, and that comparing yourself against prominent outliers -- or even worse, vague composites of outliers who are each the best in one dimension -- is unrealistic and mentally unhealthy.

Actual progress for yourself may require detaching from the firehose a bit, picking a narrower focus. (HN's eclectic topic matter can be inherently defocusing.)

And remind yourself that despite various reptilian-hindbrain impulses, most interesting creative activity today is far from zero-sum. The outliers can win, and you can win too (even if you don't achieve outlier-sized success). Their success can expand your options, and they may wind up being your collaborators (formally or informally by simply participating in a mutual superstructure) moreso than your 'competitors'.

[1] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundament...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_effect

[3] Can't find the reference at the moment, but the study I recall showed people video of a top soccer player, and subsequently they performed worse on tasks requiring physical coordination.

Excellent post. Thanks.

Something I remember reading in the pragmatic programmer's "Practices of an Agile Developer" is that it's better to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. That way you are always learning and always striving to improve. The analogy they use is that you always want to be the "worst" player in a band. Once you're the best, it's time to move on so you don't become comfortable and stagnant. So my advice is to become comfortable with this feeling that so many people are better at something than you (I feel the same way!). That's a good thing! It should push you to keep learning and improving.

Everytime I start to feel like that, I remember a truthful joke:

Q. What do they call the guy who graduated last at medical school? A. Doctor.

Don't discount what you can achieve. It may be intellegence, inspiration, persperation, or luck. At last weeks RubyMidwest, the last lecture of the weekend was a guy who just started taking on new challenges and went from working as a kitchen staff to being a independent contract developer. He did it by pushing his own limit in small bits. If you are just doing the same thing every day, you aren't building skill or learning. Find something that makes you uncomfortable and do it.

You make claims like "I am not even a tiny drop in the giant ocean of talent" and "I will never be as good," but that's just pure mental melodrama. The actual, real-world observation you've made is this: "There are people here who have done things that I haven't."

That's all. It's just about doing things. In many of these cases, you've chosen not to do these things. So you only really know three languages? Has somebody threatened to shoot you if you learn Ruby?

Most of your supposed "inferiority" is just the fact that they've chosen to do some work and you haven't.

Does the opposite for me. I deal with such an endless sea of doofuses every day, it brightens my whole outlook to see that there is such a large number of driven, talented people in the world.

You need to remember that people go through ups and downs in their lives. Some years, months, weeks are more productive and successful than others. Some people have all their success early and then struggle later in life. Others are late bloomers.

My point is this: don't get discouraged by all the great stuff you see on HN, thinking that you don't have your best years ahead of you. You can be as articulate, and insightful, and successful as many of the people you admire here.

Being able to recognize areas you're motivated to improve upon is an incredibly valuable skill. Just in this post I see the following:

1) You have side projects and experiments that have interesting enough ideas behind them that you think they may be worth pursuing beyond 80%. 2) You think you should be familiar with more than Javascript, PHP, Java, and MySQL. 3) You are not completely happy only being comfortable in a Windows XP environment with whatever IDE you are using.

Each of these items has a clear next step. (1) Think about your projects, pick your favorite one, look at the code and do something minor. (2) Poke around and do some light research (if you haven't already) on other dev stacks, play around until you find yourself genuinely interested in one. (3) Install Ubuntu in a virtual machine (VirtualBox is free and works well) or dual boot. Google vim and emacs and pick one to start playing with.

If you feel like you are falling behind you can use that as an opportunity to figure out what you're unhappy with specifically and do simple things to take a small step forward. You can't do everything all at once, and the people here that are impressive to the point of it being intimidating got where they are by diligently making incremental progress over some time.

What the OP is doing is similar to a fatal flaw that messes up many companies. If everyone is your customer/market, then nobody is your customer/market. You can't market to everyone, and you can't focus on everything at the same time. You must say 'yes' to some and 'no' to others, working a niche in order to have a successful business. Similarly, in programming and pretty much all of life, you must say 'no' to most things and be selective about the domains for which you say 'yes'. I have more degrees and certifications than any human being should ever have, but I know what I can do and stay away from what is just plain beyond me - kernel dev, embedded s/w, and the like. Those guys are rocket scientists to me, and I respect them for it. But I would be deluding myself and them if I tried to hang with them as one of their ilk. There are different clans. You have to figure out what yours is/are and say 'no' to the rest. And that 'no' should not be a completely exclusory 'no' but rather a moving of that topic to the fringe of your focus. Like a dart board, you pick what you're about and focus on that as the middle. The priority of everything else should be relative to that.

There is this great article on Make Magazine called "Why Those Kids from Podunk Are Keeping You Down" And it says something in the lines, "So they made something cooler than yours, so what? It wasn't you anyways".

And I belive its true, most Successful guys are just "lucky" (paraphrasing Sarah Lacy's book "Once you are Lucky, twice you are good") so there is no point in comparing yourself to them, you should use them as inspiration and not exacly as role models.

For example, I really liked this Dustin Moskowitz (Facebook co-founder) answer when asked about the Social Network Movie:

"It is interesting to see my past rewritten in a way that emphasizes things that didn't matter [...] A lot of exciting things happened in 2004, but mostly we just worked a lot and stressed out about things"


So at my 27 years old, I may not be Mark Zuckerberg or even the more cooler and loved Matt Mullenweg, but I know that reading about them and how they think make me think different too; that somehow by entreprenurship there is a way to change this world and though it's really hard, I know that now I can't stop trying.

1) You cared enough to mention WinXP and an IDE. Why bring this up, unless you realize there are alternatives. If it really bothers you that much, delete WinXP and your IDE, and jump into the deep end; install $BetterOS and learn $BetterEditor. (And spend the requisite time setting up $BetterEditor to do code-completion.)

Realize that it also doesn't really matter, as long as your code is good, you can code on Win98 for all I care.

2) In my mind, smart is worth zero. Motivation is everything. (And I'm telling myself that as much as I'm telling you.)

What are your ideas? Better yet, what are your ideas that you could do overnight? Do one a week! Realize that there's very much a survivor bias - you don't pause to consider the ideas that you never heard of that went anywhere because, well, you never heard of them.

It's frightening and inspirational, but take it as motivation to stop standing still!

3) Well done on a successful posting. You've written a navel-gazing AskHN post that got you 200+ karma. (Read: the community has given you a good amount of karma, a community-based metric of how much something belongs to said community, and it was for your thoughts (as opposed to posting the latest TechCrunch/Wired/Ars/etc post from the rss feed before someone else got to it).)

So you're working on a startup, and, despite your convictions that it's the right thing, the best thing to do, there's will always be an air of uncertainty. An unproven business plan, a failed-before business model, a different pricing structure, a questionably useful product; some question with no right answer. A competitor in a similar market is great! It validates some part of your startup. You should relish competition, from this crowd specifically, because it means YOUR idea is a GOOD one that someone else who isn't you has decided to pursue it in a serious fashion. (That said, leave my customers alone :p )


Yes, I do get overwhelmed occasionally that others are doing better than I, but that should be motivation to do better, do more. I frequently find myself thinking "Psh, that app is so lame, I could do better in my sleep." To which my retort is "Sure, but what did you do last night? Sleep? ...yeah".

Do the idea that you have floating around, write down what your MVP is, cut that down to a proof of concept that you could finish the engineering essence of in a day and do that. Stop feeling overwhelmed and get to work. Feel guilty for not working as hard as you could on everything, and work harder. While you're working harder, define your own tiny metric of initial success... If only one person visits, if only 1 persons reads this, if only. Be happy with what you have, but work hard to do even better.

No. I think it's awesome. I think the more smart people in the room, trying to do stuff, the better.

You talk about talent and intelligence - both important. But I've learnt that most people - 90% - never actually try. They talk like they want to succeed, but deep down they don't. They won't quit their contractor job. They won't even try. What kind of life is that?

I like you, feel overwhelmed with grief after Reading HN at times. Many times I have had great idea's, but lack programming skills (sys admin with asterisk knowledge) that I have not been able to execute them quick enough using oDesk developers etc that they have gone in to other peoples portfolio with great success, leaving me feeling pretty useless.

My problem is, I get basic php, I can work with mysql just about, but can't design/CSS or get JavaScript!

I keep saying, it can't be that difficult, but just don't get it when I try!

Since I found HN, 6 months ago, I have spoke to some great people, been given very good advise. I have even started a project with iPhone app using outsourced developers but it's slow (try telling a Latvian how to orient a photo depening on type). I long to be a great programmer, I would love to have even LAMP skills (could do with your talent, get in touch if you want to work together).

One thing I do know, I'll make it, why? Cos all the cool talented talented programmers here reply.

This is similar to the very same issues that I struggle with from time to time. I have found, however, that the best way to counter such feelings is to change your mindset. While easier said than done, changing your mindset to a more positive one will do wonders while allowing you to accept the fact that, while you won't be the very best, you are indeed capable of getting close. It boils down to putting on metaphorical 'blinders'. Don't worry so much about what others are doing, but worry about what you're doing. Get passionate about what you do or a project that you are working on. If your projects or ideas consume your mind there's no place for worry.

I've also found that talking to others about your ideas that may not totally understand the tech world and explaining to them in terms they'll understand will help in boosting morale. Often times, people will see with fresh eyes what others (such as those of us here) would overlook otherwise.

Didn't someone once say something about ten percent inspiration, and 90 percent perspiration...?

Intelligence alone doesn't make for greatness. Besides, no matter how clever* you are there will always be someone cleverer than you out there - don't compare yourself to others, no wonder you feel down about it!

The universe is an immense and varied place, we are but a speck within it. Amongst us are many clever and great people, but I guarantee you, there are far more problems out there that need solving, and things that need discovering than all the clever people that ever lived on this earth will have the ability or patience to solve. Just keep your eyes and ears peeled for when it comes your way - you'll know when because you'll have just the right combination of skills and traits to solve it - grab it by both hands, and give it all you got!

* You can substitute "cleverer", for "faster", "stronger", "richer", whatever and it still applies.

Someone asked a similar question on Stack Overflow a while back: http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/12259/should-i-be-di...

This was the top answer, by Paul Tomblin:

"The secret to happiness as a developer is not to know everything, but to be prepared to learn a lot about a particular niche. I don't know the answers to 90% of the questions here, but I do pretty well with the ones I do know. (And I've been a developer for 25+ years)

"And then some day, you'll be like me, nearly 50 years old, and looking at all these questions and think "am I too old to learn all this new stuff?" In my case, I snap out of that funk by assigning myself a new side project involving a new technology. Last time I felt this way, I learned Perl and built some web sites using Fast::CGI. This time I'm doing an iPhone application."

If you are damn good with javascript, you already have my respect. And I am not just trying to make you feel better.

I don't know the slightest thing about any other language besides Javascript, PHP, Java (from school), and MySQL.

It sounds like you need to get uncomfortable more often: explore new things outside your realm and expertise. Human beings tend to get stuck in ruts and do the same routines they are comfortable with.

We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I suggest diving into a language or framework you've never used and just stumble around for a while. I find that this is when I learn the most, and many times, colliding my existing knowledge base with something totally foreign sparks new and original ideas I may not have had before.

Also, don't compare yourself with everyone else (easier said than done). We are all knowledge workers here. Everyone is on their own quest. It is not a zero sum game with other hacker news members.

Always improve yourself with respect to yourself, not other people.

I often see the same thing you do, but honestly it makes me feel better, not worse. Let me explain.

I've had a lot of successes (and failures) in my life. Some I've earned with a lot of hard work and failed attempts, and some just came from my "natural talent and ability" (that's a load of BS by the way). Can you guess which successes were far and away the most satisfying? Hint: it's the successes I had to kill myself trying to get.

Moral of the story? Don't ever feel bad when you recognize a difficult path lay in front of you. Don't feel bad when you see room for improvement in yourself. You have direction and purpose. And when you get there, the reward will be that much more satisfying for it.

You have a shot at success if you work hard for it. You have a shot at success and happiness if you work really hard for it.

Yes, but I don't care.

Please come to the video game industry :) There is always need of someone that knows MySQL, LAMP, etc.

Please come to the video game industry :) There is always need of someone that knows MySQL, LAMP, etc.

That's actually news to me... interesting. So there's still a lot of demand for web sites/apps created in support of games, or are these technologies being used in less obvious and more embedded ways?

We use MySQL for example for logging a lot of stuff coming out of the game - for example texture usage, error messages, where people were shooting mostly, anything.

Also MySQL, SQLIte are being used for the caching on the server, and caching locally of the converted data.

PHP has been used for getting few internal sites, but I can't tell much.

So these technologies are not used in the actual games (at least ours), but are used in the internal tools to make them.

Very interesting. Anything like this that you know is needed in NY?

I don't know, I'm working at Treyarch, which is in Los Angeles, but our company (Activision) has studio in New Jersey (or New York).

But I think any big enough game developer studio would be happy to employ someone with such knowledge. From my narrow (have been for 10 years in the same studio) view - we often need people that do know MySQL, SQL in general, and other things that are not generally needed directly in game development - drivers, monitors (file, network, etc.), web servers, etc.

Just imagine if every PRINT() in your game actually dumps all that info in some server, and does not slow down you. You can do a lot of with that info - it can log what level you are playing, when, who is playing, which build, various settings, what you've killed, what textures were used, etc. Later there might be tool pulling that data and analyzing it.

Cool. Thanks for the answer!

I've spent a lot of time on parenting lists for people with very smart kids. Since intelligence is at least partly genetic, the members of those lists tend to be pretty smart. For most of them, those lists were the first time they really encountered substantial numbers of people who disagreed with them for good reasons rather than out of "stupidity" (for lack of a more PC word). Especially in the early days, it lent itself to lots of fighting and identity crises. Sounds to me like that is similar to what you are going through.

I personally like feeling like a drop in the ocean of HN. I've had lots of negative experiences with being a "big fish in a little pond". For me, being "nobody" here is wonderful.

I agree. This is true outside of HN as well IF you look at the aggregate smartness/knowledge of experts and compare that aggregate to your smartness/knowledge. Its incorrect to do such a comparison. If you look at the experts whose smartness you subconsciously aggregate, they are each not as smart in every one of the areas that others are smarter at. Sean Ellis is awesome as growing a startup who has achieved product/market fit, but not at achieving product/market fit (in his own words). Sean could say/feel the same. But instead he continues to be better at what he does. That, I believe, is the way to go. Master the areas that you are good at/can get good at, and learn the rest from others.

We're all just drops in an ocean of talented people. Work hard, work constantly, learn always, learn from everything, practice, practice, practice, get a hobby that's not development work, exercise regularly, read classic literature, learn some philosophy, business, math, art....basically follow the model of the Renaissance man, but molded for today's world, don't be afraid of failure (learn always), hate failure, start at the bottom and work your way up so you can learn everything about how the world works, be an opportunist, don't be afraid to step a bit outside of your comfort zone.

Hey, you're just 25, try and relax a little.

I just feel more inspired. Imagine all the failed startups that this site collectively represents. There are so many people here who went for their dream, failed, and got back to it which eventually led to the success-stories that we get to enjoy.

There is no single person that can be an expert in every area. But widening your views just beyond one simple tool/technology is always beneficial, and thats what I primarily read this site for. I read this site for the "aha" moments. Also consider the amount of people that don't care enough to even think about the subject you talk about. Just by wanting more your getting ahead of them.

This is something I struggle with as well, but I think it's your response that matters more than the feelings of inadequacy you might have when comparing yourself to the very best parts of any community.

Does your perceived lack of talent drive you to learn and become better? Are you actively looking for opportunities and inspiration to drive you forward? Or are you simply idling on a web page re-living other people's accomplishments?

It's a thin, dangerous line. Some people idle, some people drive forward. I wouldn't suggest that either is the 'right' thing to do (I think it's morally ambiguous) but my desire is to drive.

> I have my own ideas that I love dearly and work on, the first of which will be released for you all to play around with and break at the end of the week, but I never leave HN without feeling that no matter what I do, it will never be as good as what I've just read about.

There are 7 billion people in the world. For nearly all these people, for every skill they have, there is someone else better than them at it. I suggest you not worry about it. You probably aren't the best in the world at anything; you probably nevertheless are capable of making important contributions to things.

I try to run my own race. I generally see HN as a place to assess what moves I can make giving my ability and background. I talk about it in my Queen Theory blog post: http://chegra.posterous.com/the-queen-theory

For me it's a pleasure to see so many people doing awesome things, cause it implies I can too.

To put some numbers behind it, having an IQ greater than 120 does nothing to improve someones chances of winning a Nobel prize. I think it's the same thing here, it's a matter of just choosing something to work on.

1) It takes time to get "damn good" at programming languages. Take it one step at a time and do your best to stay enthusiastic about your work. Always have that vision

2) Do not fear the competition. Eliminate that fear by any means necessary, It is only a hindrance to your progress. 2A) Also: Better diet = Less stress = Less fear,= More Productivity = Happier you

3) Programming requires a certain personality and a lot of hard work but it pays off if you don't burn out. For me, expressing my ideas comes easier and easier the more blogging/posting/updating I do.

For me, as a non-english-speaking reader, who wants to know trends in these information-overwhelming and daily-innovating tech society, HN gives valuable source of news, blogs, even sometimes kind of tech 101.

Sometimes I feel like I am an only alien in the middle of natives, but think about your school days. You didn't know everything you should know, if you had finished your grade.

I'm happy everday reading and learning any tiny bit of new things posted on HN. I hope someday I can comment more and even post my own writing.

Sometimes I feel all these people are so much more hardworking than me, which is a sad thought, but also a healthy 'kick your own ass' type thought. As regards people having talents and achievements that I may never be able to match, that in itself does't bug me because a) as a consumer I'll probably benefit from their innovations, and b) if you're anything like me you secretly think that you are pretty f*cking smart and if they can do it, just proves you can, broadly speaking. ;)

Look, here's the thing--we're not all your competitors. The existence of other bright people is more or less orthogonal to your success. Even then, they're probably a net positive because you have other people to learn from.

Your success or failure is up to your own actions. Worrying about other people is like learning a foreign language and worrying about all those native speakers out there. They're occasionally disheartening in their easy mastery but it's ultimately a completely pointless exercise.

i feel like shit for 15 or so seconds, and then an overwhelming sense of motivation pours over me and makes me want to go out and make something that I too can proudly share on HN

I feel the exact same way. Somehow I've been able to get over it and it makes what I'm doing much more fun. One thing that I've done that's really helped is creating something that many people find value in and enjoy using. I know what I've created could have been done much more elegantly by most of the people here but I just keep building on what I've done fueled by the growing user base and positive feedback. Awesome learning experience and confidence booster.

Yes, but for the opposite reason. I usually walk away wondering why I wasted my time here when I could have been learning something or, even better, creating something.

There is rarely a time when I walk away from HN without having learned something, which is why I continue to visit.

That's great, I'm genuinely happy for you.

This may very well be my own failing. I learn the most when either I sit down, alone, and struggle with a book, programming task, math problem, etc. or when I talk through something in person with someone else. Sometimes the links here occasion such engagement, but I've rarely found the discussion to.

Wow, I've been feeling like this for the past month or so.

I'm glad(should i be?) that someone felt the same way. I love reading HN but some days, I really dread typing HN's URL and visiting the site since I know fully well that I haven't done anything significant recently.

Reading the awesome posts here kinda demotivates me as there is a lot of pressure to run a startup, make it successful, and to get FU money.

Btw, I know fully well the things I need to do, I'm just ranting, thats all.

Other posters have replied with some valuable things to keep in mind.

I'll add that you need to remember there is probably a difference in age between yourself and that of the person (experience and thus knowledge is partly a function of age of course) who posted some mind-blowingly interesting and esoteric bit of information (I'm regularly amazed by the broad range of knowledge by the HNers)

Yes indeed, and it acts as great barrier fore me, even to comment here, but I am luck as those questions are asked again by other HN folks.

I really like how on HN the content of the comments is emphasized -- no colorful avatars or signatures or any of that stuff.

I wonder if that maybe helps add to...like subconsciously, all the comments appear the same so you start feeling like HN is this big thing that 'knows everything' without realizing how many different people are contributing their knowledge of whatever area.

Just strive to the best you can be. No matter how good you are, there is almost always someone, somewhere, that knows more or is more experienced at something. If those people are within this community and willing to share their knowledge through comments, it is a great opportunity to learn and get better. I've learned so much since following HN.

In life, people are going to be faster, smarter, more well rounded then you. Thats one of the sureties in life, the best thing about that is that there is always room to improve and get better if that is your desire. So you shouldn't let it discourage you, you should just look at it as an opportunity for self improvement.

I felt the same way until i read a post from a HN user about "being mediocre and it's OK". Not being a rocket scientist doesn't mean i can't build great stuff too, i'll just never do something like this :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9u0qlIoSSkQ

The only proof that we've gained the talents we need is that we have achieved the goals we've set. We are all like you.

I'm was in the same place as you and have recently evaded this feeling by distracting myself with other projects. (I bet I'm the best boat restorer in the discussion now! I kid.)

I'm curious though; how do you feel now that you've gotten the communities feedback on the matter?

I'm also wondering if this is something that others are interested in knowing.

If you are great at javascript and php and want to get in on the ground-level of http://infusedindustries.com, then send me an email. Email me brian (at) infusedindustries (dot) com. We're currently looking for someone like you (or who you say you are!)

Right now this is the bottom comment which it is recommended by others that one should read first. Bill Gates is one of the richest men and he would feel he had inferior talent reading the comments on HN. (Well, he might not feel it but it might be an objective opinion.)

People that have all this "talent" is nothing more than a drive for something - the talent in x, y, z is a side effect. My drive is for a distributed, vm based operating system and a language to go with it, subsequently I'm versed in mathematics, computer science, etc.

I used to feel like you. Then I thought feeling like that was useless and continued minding my own business Who cares if some people are better than you?, there is no competition. Keep working in what you love enjoying the moment, that is success.

Everyone feels this way in every profession every where... doctors at medical conferences, race car drivers at racing events, movie stars at red-carpet events.

This is why team-work is so important, because individually none of us can really hack it.

don't make the mistake of conflating status with success. remember that status is zero-sum (other programmers succeeding is you failing) while the economy is positive sum (humans create wealth). There's room for all of us to win.

You are a great contributor, speaking out for so many. Stick around much longer, you will find yourself stepping up towards your goals. Much hard work and and faith in yourself are two very important things you need. Good luck!

Recently I saw a poster by a wierd but beautifull Dutch organisation called Loesje, translated it said:

"It was a day like this one that Marco Polo set sail to China.

What are your plans for today?"

IMHO it's not about where you are today, it's about where you might be tomorrow.

Everyone has some failing, no matter how high they rise.

The nice thing about being humble enough to admit it is that you can seek out people who are strong where you're weak and ask for help and advice in that area.

Remember, it generally takes 10 years (of hard work) to master anything.

Not that you would want to, but if you fancy being even more humbled, try reading the top questions from http://mathoverflow.net/

Never judge your insides by other people's outsides.

You're right. This is a very humbling place, but also inspiring.

Never judge your insides based on anyone else's outsides.

All this awesomeness makes me only more motivated, want me to be part of it more and more!

wealth is not a zero-sum game.

if you want to balance this feeling why don't you watch some reality shows? I do watch a couple of hours of them each 6 months, it really helps.

I feel the exact same way most of the time...

All you can do is keep fighting.

Psychological research studies have shown that if you tell a kid that he's "smart," he's less likely to take risks because he's afraid of not succeeding & losing the "smart" label.

Sounds like you're suffering the grown-up version of that. You're worried about the "smart" label and not the, say, persistence, hard-worker, stick-to-it label.

If you are interested in finishing something, I highly recommend read the posts on http://www.justfuckingship.com/ - you'll probably find them right up your alley.

Take heart, by the way. Finishing and shipping is a skill, like any other, you have to do it a lot to get good at it, but it's totally learnable. As is entrepreneurship.

Oh, and take all these people here as a challenge, not a reason. You aren't competing with them. You're the only person who will ever be "you." Let their accomplishments at being the best of who they can be inspire you to be the best of who you can be.

Sounds a little woo, but it works.

You can assume two things of insightful comments from successful HN members:

1) they are older than you, or put more time in than you, thereby had more time to learn success systems, gain experience and accomplish things.

2) they are acquiring wisdom and success in various aspects of their lives and leveraging those wins in the business arena.

Start moving in different directions and get some easy wins wherever you can find them. These wins may seen small to you but be an Everest for someone else. Also, recalibrate what success and talent mean to you. Explore different definitions of it. Your perception of yourself and the HN community may not be the most accurate one.

Most important of all, seek out wisdom. A lot of what you think is relevant is only relative and transitory.

I've personally explored the topic before and wrote Three Steps To Obtaining (More) Wisdom: http://zerotosuperhero.posterous.com/3-steps-to-obtaining-mo...

The same mantra - launch (yourself) early (fast) and evolve (practice!). ^_^ Just do it.

The goal is to develop a proper habits (of focusing and concentration) and increase self-esteem through them. Practice makes you "perfect".

Most of those people just started early and spent more time practicing. ^_^

I have to answer no on this one. Not out of lacking humbleness or having too high thoughts of myself, but for the fact that I just don't compare myself to other people, regardless of whether they are "better" or "worse" than me.


I'm not sure why you got downvoted. It's a perfectly sane opinion.

iFart made a lot of money, too, I think.

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