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Ask HN: As an adult introvertish nerd what makes you happy?
138 points by starlord on Jan 13, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 104 comments
Since I got out of college, I have been trying to hustle through for growth and am finally running a funded startup now as founder/CTO. But last 6-7 years have just gone by damn fast. Always loved learning new stuff, but don't have enough time to really be immersive in anything. Now when I see an interesting problem in math/physics I can hardly give it an actual shot and it makes me very very sad deep down. Developing a strong desire to go back to college if this unhappiness continues, but has that really worked for anyone here?

> PS: I tried the philosophy as per http://www.paulgraham.com/todo.html:

[x] "Don't ignore your dreams" => Doing it. Makes some part of a day to feel good... |

[?] "Don't work too much" => difficult to achieve in combo with above :( |

[?] "Say what you think" => Not easy as an introvert INTP, but learning |

[?] "Cultivate friendships" => Damn difficult to meet genuine folks after college (Would love any suggestions on where to find them... Definitely not facebook :/ ) |

[ ] "Be happy" => Nope. This is just not working...

Even as an introvert it's always people.

After college, before getting married my (now) wife and I had the same problem - but we noticed it wasn't just us: everyone we knew felt lonely. We decided to start getting together with all our friends and acquaintances almost every night after work. We hosted or set it up for about two weeks before it took on a life of its own and we didn't have to be present for each night; our acquaintances (at that point friends because of the magic of "spending time together") started setting stuff up on their own. It lasted for about a year or two, where you could pretty much always count on someone to be around who you'd want to hang with.

Keep in mind that I'm mildly introverted, but my wife is much moreso - and both of us enjoyed this immensely.

You're an introvert, so you probably are intimidated by meeting a large crowd of people you don't know. I know I am. Meetups are hard. Joining a group for an activity is hard. The nice thing about asking the friends/acquaintances you do have (however distant) if they want to make dinner at 5, join you for a drink at 6, or play this new game you got is that you've skipped the hard part about meetups by only meeting people you already know.

Just a reminder introversion is not anti-social.

I'm pretty lonely too, but I have two problems:

1. I don't feel like I have enough energy to do things after work, and I find myself unable to socialize for long periods of time.

2. My friends, or at least friends I know in the real world, are running into number 1, and often have different work schedules anyways.

Modern society feels isolating. When I try to be social, I find many people are disinterested. I myself hardly have any energy to be social even though I feel like it would be good for me. Perhaps general health has something to do with this too, but it sure isn't convenient.

I think the obsession of many modern workplaces with “team stuff” is making things pretty hard for some introverts. If I could work (truly —- i.e. no interruptions at all unlesss something’s on fire) solo for a couple of days a week, I suspect I’d be a whole lot more sociable in the evenings...

Open office designs kill me worse than teamwork. It feels like I'm being bombarded with senses that I have to tune out to be productive but can only do that for a portion of the time.

No work from home option for you? Can't take Tuesday Thursday to get stuff done?

I do to an extent, and certainly appreciate it!

But it’s hard to disconnect completely when everyone else is at work. Having a corporate chat system doesn’t help in this regard, but even without that the interruptions come.

A couple of times last year I ended up doing a fullish day of work at the weekend for some or other urgent project. Now that I find amazingly productive, going on outright invigorating. Not something I really want to make a habit of though (family, plus no shortage of ideas for side projects).

I do dream of true team-of-one jobs...

1. Right, that's why we started it with dinner at first. It was pretty much always grilling something or heading out for chicken wings... 2. A wide catchment is key here. It's not just one or two people to start with, it's an open invite to everyone for a time boxed meal, drink or irritating party game.

It's exhausting at first. Kind of like working out.

Some friends of mine in Boston used to (might still) hold regular "Monday night in" where friends would come by the house and sit on the couches and read, occasionally talking quietly.

That sounds like a social event that I wouldn't dread. :)

Almost every night! wow. Gotta try this.

I started with every night to make it a habit. Afterwards it was simply calling around to find out who had set something up. And when the mood struck I'd head to the Clay studio and spend some quality time with inanimate objects. It was awesome.


Also, there's a passage in Meditation by Marcus Aurelius I think would do you well. To paraphrase, if you turn your full attention to the present task, not worrying about the future, and letting the past go, nothing can stop you from living a good life.

> Always loved learning new stuff, but don't have enough time to really be immersive in anything. Now when I see an interesting problem in math/physics I can hardly give it an actual shot and it makes me very very sad deep down.

I have something for you to do. Take a moment to sit down, and write about the things you knew how to do you first graduated from college, and the things you know how to do now. I'd say from your experiences as a founder and a CTO, you've learned some things that are more valuable than math or physics.

That Oatmeal strip is wonderful - thank you for posting.

Concerning "Be happy".

The easiest way to be happy is to be "present". "Be here now" as the saying goes. Recognize that in this present moment, everything is fine. You are experiencing the incredible miracle of being alive, of having awareness. Relish it. Appreciate it. It's fleeting and then perhaps gone forever (who knows?).

Neurotic thoughts of fear, anxiety, dissatisfaction, embarrassment and whatever else are firstly thoughts, and secondly projections into the future or recreations of the past.

The future and the past don't exist except as concepts. What exists is only the present. When the future "happens" (so to speak), it's in the present that it happens.

To be fully present means to not project or recreate, but to simply observe what is, without attachment to any emotion or thought.

In the previous sentence is an implied contradiction which needs to be resolved. To be happy, you have to give up attachment to any outcome (i.e. wanting to be happy).

Meditation is the best way I know how to learn how to detach from your thoughts and emotions and to be fully aware and present in the current moment.

I'm not always happy, but compared to 10-12 years ago, I'm incredibly happy. Meditation, being present, letting go of negative thought patterns (by simply observing them and not attaching to them and thereby loosening their grip) have contributed a great deal to that.

Ok, let me rephrase. With enough experiences I have become cognizant of the fact that I don't always have to be in "happy" mode. In fact just like any piece of harmony, I appreciate all the high notes and low notes life throws at me now with more or less similar outlook.

What I am looking for though is being more content with what I am doing with the time I have here in this lifetime. I believe there could be much better ways of progressing through life than what I am doing right now, hence seeking advice to better refine that pursuit towards perhaps a few more high notes than low notes in life :)

I stopped pigeon holing myself as an introvert.

I quite literally looked at my life, thought about where I wanted to be, and then looked at what traits I'd need to cultivate in order to get there.

One of them was 'how to have a conversation with people' which was hard to learn, and embarrassing to practice, but I got there. I'm not 'extrovert' at it, and it is exhausting, but I'm no wallflower any longer.

Another one was 'how to disagree with someone and not be deferential, passive aggressive, or just plain aggressive about it' this I'm still working on, but I've gotten better at it.

Thankfully, the 'I can do it myself' attitude I had to cultivate as a child, gave me a good foundation of life skills. I can travel alone, attend conferences alone, eat out alone, generally take care of myself. I just needed to add some extra skills to be able to get to the 'happy' point.

Another one was 'how to disagree with someone and not be deferential, passive aggressive, or just plain aggressive about it' this I'm still working on, but I've gotten better at it.

What is the key to getting better at this, in your experience?

My biggest problem is deferring and when I don't do that, I railroad or say 'fuck this, I'm doing it anyway'. None of which is useful or productive.

But for me it boils down to an inferiority problem. What has helped is recognizing that feeling of 'something about this isn't right' and instead of either pushing it down (because I don't want to look stupid) or immediately saying 'hey that's shit but I can't tell you why' I take some time to really think about where that feeling is coming from.

Then, if I find the problem quickly enough, I specifically talk about and explore that, trying to be extremely careful to not use any 'blame' language. Because laying blame is unhelpful and makes people defensive. What I want out of these interactions is the best solution, not to be right.

If I don't find the reason for the feeling quickly enough I try to keep my mouth shut. Just because I've got a feeling that something isn't adding up, doesn't mean it's true.

I relate to this. In my case it's exacerbated by my need to take time to come to conclusions (sometimes even overnight). I need to let things percolate in my subconscious and only then can I determine whether my intuitive reaction was "valid" or was based on a projection or an insecurity. Finding the right words to articulate it to others can take even longer. I have to get better at "placeholder responses" like "I'm interested in that and I want to respond, but I feel like I need some time to get my thoughts together around it."

I was going to ask this too. I resonate with that description and haven't heard it described quite so well before.

Meditating, reading, writing, walking, cooking, cuddling, thinking, accounting, hacking, bathing, cats, getting up early, keeping a tidy home, traveling now and then...

Happiness is quite a strange thing. Maslow-type basic needs is a big part of it. And not being stressed. Like, how often do you feel satisfied to just sit around for a while? Have a bath? Listen to some great music?

I still struggle with social life, especially living in a foreign country. As an introvert I don't get intrinsic pleasure from social interactions, but still, relationships are very rich and interesting.

Board games are a curious example of a way to interact with some (artificial) structure and purpose, where the real motivation is actually interaction itself, and playing. You get to exercise various social habits. Other social contexts are also a bit like this... You can approach them as interesting ways of playing together. Maybe there is such a thing as different preferences regarding competition vs cooperation...

I am single, live alone (with a blind dog I am re-teaching to hike with me), and work as a software developer exclusively remote. I started a meetup to teach aspiring developers that has evolved into a "stitch-and-bitch" where everyone teaches, got a side-hustle teaching and guiding sea kayak trips, and volunteer as a snowboard instructor. I probably sound like a jock, but you would recognize me as a nerd. And I am HAPPY!

0. Quit your job. I know this isn't reasonable for most people, but it was the best move toward happiness I ever made. I just hit ten years without full-time employment. 1. Create a hobby for yourself and become skilled or expert in something outside of work. 2. Start a meetup. The one I started came from working out of the local coffee shop when the baristo asked if I could help him learn html/css/js. 3. Find a side-hustle. I need new challenges, and while software engineering provides loads of those, that is just "tagging up". 4. Volunteer. Give time to your communities. 5. Exercise. Your biz probably keeps your mind sharp, but keeping your body sharp will yield tremendous mental dividends. As a kid, when I complained about doing school work, my mom would tell me to do 100 pushups. 6. Read. For pleasure as well as for work. 7. Meditate.

Going back to school has its appeal, but has financial and opportunity costs. I was an unmotivated student and only performed academically when I took too few or too many classes.

You have created an illusion for yourself around time, an illusion that it is moving quickly and that you don't have any. You don't have any because you don't TAKE IT. Is there anything you always wanted to do? Go do it! Tell your team that you are taking an afternoon off every week to pursue X.

I always liked the notion not of "human being" but rather "human becoming".

How do you deal with financial stress? There's a study that says that financial stress has a big impact on one's health and can even lower one's IQ by 13 points.


First, I never under-bid on a contract, except once in exchange for equity that seems to be panning out. Know your value and values. Stick to them.

When I quit full-time employment at a major US university, my first contracts brought in far more than I had been earning. A former colleague there used to quip, "half a day's work for half a day's pay". Still, I had about six months of mortgage payments and other living expenses saved before I took the (abrupt) leap.

I took some part time gigs minding friends' art galleries to cover groceries and to get me out of the house. I've added side-hustles as a way to improve my communication skills and get me into other communities.

When I quit, I made the transition from project management to software engineering. I taught myself python and javascript. I learned how to do stuff with Django. I contributed to open-source projects, first improving documentation, then code. Those activities increased my sense of self-worth and reduced stress.

And I cut way back on expenses. I eliminated dining out and drinking. One of the perks of my side hustle is deep discounts on clothing and gear required for the job.

To manage the stress, I started hiking every day. (Actually, that wasn't the reason, but a side effect. The reason was to help a roommate lose 50 pounds, then the next roommate another 50 pounds. Bringing in roommates also offset some of the costs of living.) Removing four hours of daily commute let me hike an hour a day and still have three bonus hours that I could devote to other stress-relieving strategies such as reading or meditating.

Financial stress is just stress, as far as I'm concerned. I had one major financial obligation, a mortgage three years old at the time right as the financial crisis hit in 2008. If things had gotten very bad, I probably would have short-sold my house, moved in with friends or family, and/or found a lower-cost community to call home. And nothing but stubbornness and a desire to work on my terms prevented me from seeking regular employment.

If I had a partner and/or kids, the calculus would have been different. Another breadwinner would have smoothed the finances. Kids might have prevented a move entirely, though I'm not certain. My dad lost his engineering job when I was seven. He took on contracting work until one of the contractees hired him as SVP of engineering.

An ex just visited for a month with her boyfriend. He lost his job as an EMT in Alaska because of structural changes in state employment. We spent a lot of time talking about what we really need to survive. He says they can live happily in Anchorage on about 18k/year. (Health insurance there for them costs 1/10 of what it costs where I am.)

Just because you have financial security at your current gig today doesn't mean next month's check is going to clear. The boss works for you, you don't work for the boss.

To answer original question, the things that make ME happy. Which might be pretty different from you even if we are both nerdy introverts:

- My dogs

- Laughing at my favorite youtubers' new videos

- Reading (at home, at coffee shops, at work)

- My loved ones

- Helping others

- Becoming a better person

- Writing

Response to body text:

- Things that you enjoy such as hobbies change over time, but with some effort you can always go back and do them again. Find out what you like and do it.

- College could be a great choice for you, but unfortunately there is little guarantee it could make you genuinely happy. Speak with other people who are in programs that you might want to try - really get to know them. See if they are happy or have a lifestyle you want to have.

- Is there anything you can do to get more time? Are you consulting a lot - do you need to? If all your time is taken up by your primary employment - are you delegating enough at the CTO level? Hire smart people and let them take the ropes while you guide them and give yourself a more time away from work.

I think part from the dog, the lists overlap fairly well more or less. I don't own a dog, but like playing with them whenever i get the chance. Also loved ones are fewer than I would have liked. Trying to help out enough people and yes it does help a lot, but also takes up a lot of time. There's always a tradeoff I guess. :)

While your last response statement is quite on point with what i feel i should do as well, but it's quite difficult to execute unfortunately. Have tried delegation, but the results have been not upto the mark and personal ego has taken a hit as a result quite often :|

Maybe you should develop a new hobby called management, hiring and mentoring - and read some books about it.

> Response to body text:

Haha you sound like an HTTP response. Welcome fellow nerd...

I started playing tennis and I loved it. It's non-contact, you have to be thinking all the time and it's outside (often in the sun). I am happy when I play (or even watch) tennis.

Then (warning, plug ahead) I started a D3.js project (to keep skills fresh) to visualize data about tennis strings and rackets[1] to understand them better, ...

... which devolved in keeping my rackets/strings on that same app, which later open to others ...

... which devolved in starting a flex tennis league in my region (SF Bay Area)[2], ...

... which devolved into starting a small business to automate tedious and time consuming tasks at small racket-sport shops (and maybe others in the future)[3].

I'm so happy with projects that get a life of their own!

Watching comedy and writing comedy also makes me happy.

[1] https://www.racketlogger.com/racket-explorer [2] https://www.racketlogger.com/leagues [3] https://shops.racketlogger.com/

I feel like your word "devolved" would be better served by "evolved" :)

Haha, yeah. It has not born much fruit yet, so it still feels like a bit of a loss, except I did learn a lot by doing.

Meditation is what did it for me, I've always been kind of introspective. It's also interesting what you can do with... nothing at all, really. You can enter the meditation and come out of it a different person, that's a short-term result. But committed meditation practice is changing my character in the long run. In the meantime, the short-term results show what is possible to achieve (and it's more than you'd think, you can do a lot with just you on your own).

If you're dissatisfied with life as it's ordinarily lived on a deeper level, maybe it's something that speaks to you as well. Long-term change takes a lot of practice and effort, though, but it's meaningful effort (at least to me).

This might be seen as pedantic and focusing on too strict a definition of happiness, but thinking about it in the way I describe below has helped me.

What works for me is focusing on what is meaningful and paying less attention to being happy. Happiness is a fleeting emotion - or if you want to define happiness as a state of being rather than an emotion, it's still fleeting. It can even be an inappropriate response to much of life. Would it be appropriate to be sad for weeks or months if you lost a loved one such as a close family member or pet? Sure. Rather than trying to avoid the sadness and replace it with happiness, you can just try to find a way to make the experience meaningful to you. Changing the question about what I'm seeking in life has been really useful. What I'm seeking is not happiness. Emotions give us such a rich and authentic experience of life. Why seek out just one? What we should be seeking out are healthy ways of living through whatever emotion or state of being is appropriate to the situation.

I know "introvert" is an important part of many people's identity, so I don't want to bash that, but this article[0] and some long talks with someone who didn't believe that "introvert" was a thing definitely increased my overall happiness.

TL;DR most people think of introvert/extrovert on one dimension, but in fact some people are both (happy alone, happy in groups) and others are neither (unhappy alone, unhappy in groups). So it makes more sense to think of it as two dimensions (some nice charts in article to visualise this).

Since reading this article I've tried to become more "extrovertable".

Not for everyone - for many it might be best to focus on a single dimension, but it's helped me thinking about it in 2 dimensions and explicitly practicing becoming better at both "skills".

[0] https://www.inc.com/joshua-spodek/there-are-no-such-things-a...

Part of the issue is that many people don't really understand what introvert/extrovert really means. It's not about being happy alone or in groups, at all. It's about the "energy" you have, the opposite side is being tired as if you were riding roller coasters for hours. Extroverts "recharge" while socializing while introverts lose energy with (most kinds of) company, no matter how much they're enjoying it.

Knowing this, I think it's pretty obvious introverts can learn and appear as extroverts, but eventually they hit a point where they have to say "bye" and be alone doing nothing productive for a while.

Did you read the article? It discusses energy at length.

Yes but I found the definition I gave much more helpful to explain to people as an starting point, in one sentence or two. It helps dispel the relationship with happiness, (in)ability to change and other false dichotomies.

OK but you're skipping over the central point that the energy drain disappears as a person grows more "skilled" in extroversion. You're welcome to disagree, but your comment is closer to ignoring the entire debate than addressing it :)

I'm not sure that's true. There are alternative possibilities: That one learns to predict (some kinds of) people. That one's obsessed with a series of topics that gets oneself bored when not being able to discuss, etc. There's many, many small reasons an introvert's energy is depleted, that is not just "being with people".

As an anecdotal data point, I was very introvert and I did learn to "be extrovert" and many people wouldn't notice at all, but at the end of the day I need to be alone, sometimes for days to recover and be productive again.

Even though it's anecdotal I think we can't generalize and say "introversion doesn't exist". There's a lot of factors involved. Stuff may be even more complex when dealing with an ASD.

I understand from where you are coming from. But the very point that it takes a lot of effort to be "extrovertable" is an issue. I have tried this and on the weekends where i "extroverted" myself, I feel pretty exhausted by Sunday night and dread the Monday mornings.

Perhaps, I might lie in that "unhappy everywhere" group... but I think I was pretty happy in college around the bunch of other like-minded friends. It's just that those happiness activity metrics might not best match with society's generally accepted metrics. But now that I am more aligned to general things "happy" people do, I usually find myself more aloof and unhappy along with usually tired feeling with all the "extroversion". Have practiced enough for years (especially being a founder of a company now), but it's still pretty tiring :(

Also mostly the happiness experienced in such situations is often temporary and bonds formed are feeble, as I can't keep up the "extroversion" for too long and soon become boring for a lot of people, so I am actually trying to move away from that now :)

Yes! Thank you! I hesitate to commit to prolonged social situations because I know that if I hit the wall and run out of "extroversion energy" I will certainly "become boring" unless I magically find someone with whom communication is magically easy, a situation that is exceedingly rare.

I would rather people experience me as "elsewhere" than "boring" and I especially dislike when I internalize others' perception and start seeing myself as boring, too.

It's all so complicated.

Yeah the fact that society values the extroversion skill more, even to the point where alcohol abusers are "cooler" than people sitting alone working for years on end to solve society's problems, is pretty shitty.

Anyway, it's a topic that interests me a lot, so feel free to connect (twitter, email in my profile) if you want to chat about it.

Sorry, but that article's really annoying.

He accuses people of misunderstanding the terms "introversion" and "extroversion" but does the same thing himself by associating them with the stereotypical behavior that we commonly think of rather than the underlying neurological differences. Those differences are real (dopamine vs acetylcholine, different blood flow patterns in the brain) and appear to be linked to genetics [1] [2]. Yes, the terminology both in common use and within Psychology is imprecise and often misapplied, but that doesn't mean that there aren't actual differences.

He dismisses the "energy" interpretation as a simple matter of fatigue from undeveloped skills. I haven't seen any research that supports that or indicates that individuals can change their fundamental reaction to external/internal stimulus through practice and effort. Ie, an introvert can learn to work a crowd and present as an extrovert, but afterwards they will be exhausted compared to a true extrovert.

I do agree that the positive external traits that we typically associate with each (sociability, friendliness, assertiveness vs ability to focus on solo tasks without becoming bored) are enabled by skills that anyone can learn no matter where they are on the introversion/extroversion spectrum and people shouldn't give up just because they find it hard. But an introvert will have a fundamentally harder time developing the social skills and will need to recuperate afterwards (and same for an extrovert with solo skills). I don't think it's productive or helpful to encourage the "just toughen up, buttercup" dismissive approach.

1: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0926641005... 2: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/32/50/18087.short

Video games, no doubt about it now. Tried to give them up to "be productive", backfired hard. Led to interesting times both in a good and a bad way. Who knew suppressing yourself and your desires leads to nothing good. Ended up scaling back on expectations and rediscovering the joy of wandering free on- and offline. Indulging my weird little cravings. Not trying too hard. Ended up with what I was putting all that effort for anyway (a job above the API). Not sure if it was worth it, but liked the journey anyway.

I figure my experience is relevant here. I graduated college in 2014 with a degree in finance and went straight to work in the machine that is corporate America. I had a "good" job and life was fairly easy. However, after a year or so I eventually became bored with that lifestyle.

I've always been a self-learner with a desire for knowledge and a challenge. I started looking around to go back to uni, this time something STEM related. I figured why not study abroad as I like to travel and the price to go to uni overseas was much more attractive. I saved enough money while working to allow me to go back to uni comfortably.

I chose to study physics in Germany, and by far it has been the best decision I've ever made. I'm about 1/2 done with my studies now and I'm quite pleased. We take one experimental physics, one theoretical physics, and one math class per semester along with an elective. I'm learning some of the most fascinating stuff, math and physics are truly beautiful.

If you have any desire at all to learn math/physics, then I highly recommend going back to uni to do so. The best part about doing it today though is that there are endless resources online to teach yourself outside of the class (or even just for fun if you don't want to go back to uni). MIT has their OCW program which puts excellent lectures and materials out there for all to access (I've used their resources quite a bit, thanks MIT!). There's also tons of other stuff out there like Khan Academy, Susskind's lectures on YouTube, etc. that really make it easy to learn from the comfort of your home.

TL;DR: If you want to go study physics, go study physics.

I am glad it is working out great for you. In fact this scenario is more or less what I have in mind when I think about going back to college for higher studies. Never could let go of the first love of life (yeah it wasn't a girl, it was Physics :| )

I graduated a little earlier when MIT OCW was the only online resource of good quality, and did try to learn enough about a lot of things. Suffered slightly lower grades, but came as a well equipped generalist to pursue almost anything... But real world mechanics have left much to be desired frankly from the nice picture painted all through school and college of how life would be. And while this option is really enticing for me, the other comment on how writing generic grant proposals can be an equally soul-sucking exercise does bring in an element of doubt...

But thanks for sharing this. If you don't mind sharing, what university are you at or you would recommend for Physics/quantum-computing-related programs?

I study at Universität Leipzig, in their international physics studies program. It's a fairly rigorous program and you are expected to learn a lot on your own outside of class, which is actually how I prefer it. I can definitely recommend it if you are the kind of person who can learn yourself. I see the classes as more of a guide of what to study and you expand on that yourself outside of class.

I'm getting another bachelors as I didn't feel that my finance degree taught me enough to jump into a physics masters (and I was right, there's a lot to be learned in undergrad math and physics). In undergrad you won't necessarily get into specialized stuff like quantum computing, but you will take the basic experimental and theoretical QM courses that can help prepare for something like that in a masters program. So I'm not sure I can recommend anything on that yet.

MIT has a few excellent courses on quantum physics. They have two versions of their 8.04 taught by two different professors and I highly recommend both. Then they have their advanced quantum physics 8.05 out there as well, which I also highly recommend. If you have the discipline to do the problem sets then you will learn quite a bit.

Can you talk a little more about your experience studying in Germany? What is the application process like? If you went to school in the US how is the experience same/different? My wife is German and should we live there I would like to do some more college too

Sure! The whole process was a lot, but manageable.

First comes the application process. When you find a uni you're interested in studying at you'll have to send in the required paperwork (for me it was high school/college transcripts and diploma along with the application form) to an organization called uni-assist. All documents have to be authenticated (called an apostille), which for me entailed taking my notarized school records to the sec of state building in my state to have them stamped with an official seal certifying they are indeed legit.

After your documents are sent you wait for uni assist to classify them and say whether or not you have the minimum requirements to study at the uni and if you meet the requirements they forward your documents to the uni for admission evaluation.

If you're admitted now comes the fun part of trying to find a place to live and get everything sorted out for actually moving over there. As an American it was nice to be able to go to DE on my passport without needing a visa (can do so for 90 days), this simplified things a lot as some people from other countries might be required to obtain a visa beforehand which is just another hurdle to jump over. So as an American I was able to come here and get most other things sorted out first then go apply for my residence permit.

The residence permit requires several things:

1. You be enrolled in a German uni

2. You have health insurance

3. You have a minimum of x euros in what is called a Sperrkonto (blocked bank account, only y euros can be withdrawn per month, I think you have to have a little under 9k euros in there to show you can sustain yourself which will get you a 2 years residence permit)

4. You have a place to live registered with the city (Meldebestätigung I think it's called, this document is extremely important for opening a bank account, getting health insurance, etc.)

5. The correct forms filled out and maybe something else I'm forgetting

So the order I recommend doing things in is:

1. Find a temporary place to live first, check wg-gesucht.de so that you can get the Meldebestätigung

2. Go open a bank account (requires Meldebestätigung)

3. Get everything sorted with the uni, registration etc. and might even need the registration certificate to show for getting student health insurance

4. Get health insurance (requires Meldebestätigung and a bank account)

5. Finally after all that is done go to the Auslanderbehörde and get a residence permit

The uni should provide assistance for getting all of this done and I highly suggest taking advantage of that.

My first uni experience was in the US at a large state university. In my experience the German system is fairly different, but in a good way. My degree is only 3 years as opposed to 4 like in the US because I don't have to take any core classes like I did in the US (history, art, other topics that I found to be a tuition money grab). It's just math, physics, and some electives which are math/physics related or a German class.

The unis here are state funded and you only have to pay some administrative fees which for me is roughly 200 euros/semester - much better than the $4-5k that I paid in the US for tuition and such. Not having as much funding I see it as somewhat of a good thing since the uni can't waste money on useless stuff like a football team or other crap that doesn't belong at an academic institute (just my opinion). It feels more serious, but that could just because I'm older and I take it more seriously. Overall though I really like it and it has been a great experience.

where in germany?


You need to get out of your comfort zone and try new activities / things until you discover something that resonates with who you are.

If you're in the valley, go jump at Skydive Monterey Bay. Sign up for a rock climbing clinic at Castle Rock. Go to wine tastings. Or data science meetups. Or founder events.

As an introvert myself - you will never achieve happiness unless you expand your horizons and open yourself up to serendipity.

Be comfortable being you, and take steps to be "more you". Acting in an unnatural way to fit social conventions is a lot of work and often a waste of time unless it's to achieve a short-term goal (e.g. get funding, land a customer, find a partner).

Find time to tackle those interesting problems, even if it's outside of a formal academic environment. Get blogging, vlogging, maybe socialize online more if you're short of time. Doing the things you naturally want to do will re-energize you significantly as an INT* (I'm an INTJ) - if that's work, SO BE IT and ignore anyone who complains about being a "workaholic".

Also, if you are not a people person, don't feel pressured to become one. I have felt this pressure for years and am finally starting to realize it's "OK" for me to prefer my own company. Contrary to many other comments here, you do not necessarily have to force yourself out to social events if you know they ultimately don't work for you (but if they do, go for it!)

The first paragraph, I call this "integrity"! Maintain integrity.

I am a true introvert and nerd at heart but I fake being an extrovert really well. Fortunately I got married and had kids young, so loneliness is not even a possibility for me now. My wife is a huge extrovert and expert on human behavior so she has helped me a lot. As for what really makes me happy, learning something new (usually compsci related) always seems to excite me. Also I love cooking, writing and recording music, or calligraphy and art, stuff like that. I have no problem performing music in front of large audiences but if I had to make a speech, I'd choke.

Truth be told, I hate parties and large crowds and people in general piss me off, but I think it's bot a bad idea to fake extrovertedness. People are generally unaware they of the difference.

"Cultivate friendships" >>> The secret is you have to leave your house and be at the same place routinely

example: get a dog, go to dog-park at the same time every day.

"The Great Good Place" teaches us that in order for a space to be social it needs to be in walking distance and cheap enough to go there every day, examples French Bistro, German Beergarden, American greasy diner, Coffeehouse. Depending on where you live you might not have access to such a place, consider moving close to one.

The military teaches us that friendships are forged in suffering, so do some group fitness bootcampy thing, like crossfit or similar.

To get love, give love. Volunteer your time in some fashion.

We are social creatures.

Copy and paste of something I posted a while ago to someone asking a similar question: >I am extremely introverted, but one of the social activities I've found that actually DOESN'T drain me is going to game nights at my local game stores. Most stores have something going on every night, ranging from standard issue board games to RPGs to miniatures tabletop games. It's amazingly easy to make friends when you're all engrossed in whatever setting you're gaming in!

I pick up litter from my local beach.

:) I like washing utensils, it's very peaceful watching the stream of water clean them away... But it's temporary. I was looking for more of a longer-term over-arching stuff.

That's fair. I mean, I do it every weekend and lead a team of people who do the same, but point taken.

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

> Damn difficult to meet genuine folks after college (Would love any suggestions on where to find them... Definitely not facebook :/ )

This may not be very popular advice around these parts, but it works. Go to the local pub, have a few beers and talk to people. Cultivate an interest in televised sports or whatever else people like to talk about (can't stay I've ever been a huge sports fan, but like a lot of things, the more you know about it, the more interesting it becomes).

Pretty rare that you will meet someone there who becomes a really close friend, but alcohol will make you more comfortable around people, you'll cultivate better social and conversation skills, and some of this will rub off on the rest of your life positively as well.

Exercise moderation of course. But my only regret is that I didn't become a bit of a barfly sooner, it provides instant social connections and even business contacts. For instance a few months ago I had a chat with an HR consultant at a bar. We hit it off, it turned out he enjoyed helping startups, and now he gives me free advice on hiring, performance management, and other things whenever I ask.

Honestly, I have absolutely no interest in feigning interest in televised sports to make friends, and luckily this is definitely not necessary.

Here in Europe I quickly tell people I don't watch football and don't care about the teams or match results.

If that's a deal breaker for someone, then they're not friendship material.

Instead of going to the pub, I'd rather recommend hobbies that you can share with people. I've made good friends via martial arts, guitar lessons, shared oriental drumming lessons, tech meetups, FLOSS sprints, conferences etc.

Note, all these things (including going to the pub) require you to get out of your comfort zone and into the "real world". Such is life.

I will agree with this. I would prefer to find a fit rather than fit in.

And this does not mean being obstinate, but rather pursuing only what I find interesting rather than what most people find interesting.

> Go to the local pub, have a few beers and talk to people.

You could genericize this to: Go to a place where people meet for some $ACTIVITY, participate in what they do there, and talk to people.

Now assign some agreeable value to $ACTIVITY.

I am deeply introverted and I forced myself to go to meetups very often until I got over it being uncomfortable. It took a long time until I found/made my current "friend group" but you will find those people you click with eventually. For me, the key was finding a single really good friend who had a lot of other friends she introduced me to.

> ...don't have enough time to really be immersive in anything

I understand you're running a company and on an absolute basis your time is limited. That said, all of us are guilty of "never having any time" when really it should be described as never making time. You have to get over the concept of being too busy for everything else and actually make time for something you want to do.

If that means learning some mathematical problem, schedule an hour at night to sit at home (or location of choosing), ignore your email/Slack/etc., and learn. If instead it involves meeting people, go to networking events, introduce yourself to people, and generally go out of your way to be active. Just MAKE the time, don't complain about not having it.

For what it's worth, intramural sports teams are an effective way to meet people if it seems impossible. Also, Meetup/etc. groups for something related to a shared passion (e.g. photography).

So, I also self-identify as an intervertish nerd, and also have trouble meeting interesting people.

What worked best so far is to have some hobbies (programming, table tennis), and meet people through that.

I also meet people through other channels (parents of my kid's friends, for example), but the ratio of interesting-to-me people is much lower there.

Sitting in my man cave [1] working on my projects [2].

[1] https://opyate.com/posts/2016/10/17/my-new-home-office.html

[2] See my profile

Do you think going back to college will truly resolve that?

I suspect it may merely delay it for a while, as you will run into the same issues after you're done with your studies.

My advice would be to consider working fewer hours, if possible, so you have more time to pursue those other interests of yours.

I agree and I am skeptical on college front as well, hence seeking advice on how it turned out for others who might have wandered on similar trajectories in life.

It's just that due to various financial constraints and a myopic view of world, I never really considered research as a career. But now as I have become more aware of how world works, i find that to be a bad move in me 20s.

I like learning, problem-solving and in general building new stuff, and this doesn't always intersect with best financial outcomes except in research-as-a-career option I believe.

But, yes thanks for your advice. Already working on this a bit.

I have many friends who took the academic route. They drink more, not in a good way. Experiences vary but I've observed sad people who do not enjoy writing grants and do not get to do the research they always wanted despite going to elite universities for their PhD's.

Adulthood kind of sucks - everywhere.

:) Always suspected that the British tv got the grim reality right rather than the hopeful American ones I have watched more often.

But on a serious note, thanks for sharing this. I sort of had forgotten about this part while my mind was painting a more rosy picture of that career option.

Reg. last point:

I think there is a little dissatisfaction deep down in all of us. i.e there is a little yin in our yang and vice-versa.

But i often wondered why is that, the answer i found is thats whats help move us forward, that little unstability. I donno maybe its life's design.

The more you think about it, more you will like this idea and see positive relaxed in tough situations.

But, that little deep pain is really bad on arrival. Meditations and mind tools works great for me, in these situations.

something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PkrhH-bkpk

If you always liked learning stuff but don't have any time, find out how to get more time. Time is the only truly finite resource so getting more is always worthwhile.

As far as happiness is concerned, I'd read the paper causes and correlates of happiness. Make sure you address the most significant areas. If you already do, you might just have a low generic setpoint. Unfortunately genetics have a lot to do with intrinsic happiness. Not much you can do the beyond medication.

And far as social interaction goes, your best bet is to find a pre-existing social group with a shared interest. Building a community is hard but thankfully plenty of other people have already put in the hard work.

Yep, you can always figure out a way to make money, but you can never make time. There's probably a clear song lyric in there somewhere but I can't see it yet.

You can ALWAYS make time. It's a matter of whether you're disciplined enough to do so.

"Be happy" as phrased is putting the cart before the horse.

Your emotions define what you do. You'll have a different reaction to a situation if you are happy vs angry when it happens. It's not something that can be helped. The best attempt you can make at "Be happy" is to do things that make you happy, whether or not it actually works. If your emotions define what you do, the hard part is to get off your butt and try to do those things. It requires an emotional transition, which isn't something that can be forced, but when it happens you need to take advantage.


After seeing the book 'Impro' by Keith Johnstone recommended on HN, I read it and decided to try improvisational theater. It improved my connection to my body a lot, and as a consequence, changed my feeling of presence in the world.

Now I don't do impro as much, but I found a group of people - mostly older folks - who come together once a week and just dance. After years of dancing together in one room I still don't really know them, since it is not a social encounter.

But the feeling of being expressive through movement is one of a kind, and I feel out of place without it.

If you want to meet lots of new people and mostly techy/nerdy ones, go learn some partner dancing. You may be thinking it's not for introverts, or people without skills, but you'd be wrong. (I was both when I started) As long as you enjoy some danceable music, and live in a city, you can probably find a place to learn. You'll end up going to some evening events very shortly and talking to lots of random people in a friendly atmosphere. Close contact with people did change my introvert mind quite a bit as well.

+1 on social dancing. There are explicit rules about the interaction, which makes it less exhausting than freeform chat.

Is your problem that your are missing out socially or that you are missing interesting problems?

Missing out socially can be solved by regularly doing hobbies. Or connecting with people. Maybe you could also consider doing more customer-facing tasks. Some of the most interesting conversations I have are held with customers, because there I can easily connect to other founders.

If you are bored at work, you should maybe switch positions to a more technical field or set yourself a goal to cash at at the next opportunity and switch jobs.

I find if you are introverted and lack the energy to possibly go out. Gaming online with friends is satisfying. You can easily make new friends on any gaming community or play with existing ones. I play with a group of about 5 friends every night. If we are not actually playing the same game we still join a chat party to socialize. Civ or Hearts of Iron are great strategic games you can play.

I joined a running club. Met smart goofy inspiring people. It really has turned into a social thing for me more than a physical thing but some of the people are very experienced and provide great actionable advice that has improved my running to places I’d never thought I’d get. I also learn about alternative life styles and prioritiziations in life. It’s great

Also INTP, also run a company, also work too much. What makes me happy? Mostly travel and my kid, but also the satisfaction of achieving success at complex goals. And food, sometimes. I know this amount of work is unsustainable and accept that I will work too hard for awhile and relax more later. It's OK.

Been thinking the same thing lately. I'm in my last year of law school and it seems to me that life as I know is changing. I always liked to program, fiddle with computers, read about some obscure computer history but it seems like I've grown quite a bit.

I do not have nearly as much life experience as you do, but my plan for now is to 1) sleep well 2) eat well 3) try to work under my burn rate 4) socialize. I hope that if I stick to this goals things will change and I will at least be able to keep my sanity.

I remember the days when I was working on my Forth interpreter when I thought I could always make myself occupied and happy no matter what my life circumstances are. But now I understand I was being too naive.

The one thing that kinda works is trying to pursue romantic relationships. It's hard for an introvert I know, but if you treat it as a personal side project, things start to lighten up :). Another advice I could give is to spend some money, if you're earning well. I don't know, get a sports car or an expensive cappuccino machine.

I become happy when my pull requests are merged. I become unhappy when my pull requests are rejected.

Funk, soul, and hip-hop make me happy. Turn off rock: it is derivative and depressing. So called alt-rock should be crushed under a, uh, rock. Jazz is great, but not full of joy, as is classical music. Folk has the same issues as rock plus an insufferable homogeneity.

I take it with a grain of salt, but there's a lot of interesting thoughts on the question here: https://theancientwisdomproject.com/

What about taking up BJJ for a few hours a week? Low impact, gets you exercising if you’re not already and gives you a lot of social contact and the potential for new friendships. As a sport it seems disproportionally popular among nerds.

For me its a hobby that I can build on and can put aside, like hitting pause on a VCR player, without it loosing progress.

I'm rebuilding a retro Amiga BBS that I used to run back in the 90's.

Get a proper hobby. I would suggest miniquad/fpv. Check YouTube for Mr Steele to see what i‘m talking about. Its a wonderful balance to everything else.

My GF and her son, Programming, my work colleagues and Chess.

I live a quiet life and I enjoy it, I don't aim for happiness that is ephemeral but I enjoy contentment.

Riding a bicycle.

You don't think, you just pedal. Then when you are done and have to go back to thinking, you think better.

Find people easily = do group sports eg. Cycling with others. It happens in every City here in Belgium

music, true friends and cannabis

Smoking weed and contemplating stuff helps a lot.

Long walks on the beach

You do not gain sufficient happiness from your startup's financial success?

Try horse back riding

Won't be able to answer, as I am just 16 :D

:) I will take the risk of passing an unsolicited advice: Explore all but do engage deeply in at least a few of your interests. Leads to a much more fulfilling(in hindsight) college life in midst of all the distractions you shall encounter ahead.

> As an adult introvertish nerd, what makes you happy?

LTC Fire Emblem and Javascript code golf.

I love doing board games. You are in company but you have rules that guide the interaction. Board games are especially fun if you are playing together against the game.

Edit: As others have noted meditation can be helpful. This may help you realize what you really need in your current situation. But it is not a silver bullet. I personally recommend doing this in company once in a while and keeping a safety distance to "preachers of principles".

I really hope that you find your way.

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