They have figured out that its much more about connections and office politics than hard work.
They have figured out that there is really no job security, and they could be one layoff wave away from unemployment.
They have figured out that its much more about face time and spending long hours at work rather than actually being productive.
They have figured out that the majority of their work, to their surprise is not actually that important or necessary.
They have figured out that its important not to take too much vacations, because its an opportunity to loose the little work they have to someone else.
They have figured out that they are never going to get payed the true value of their work,and that is almost the definition of being an employee.
They have figured out that its all a system of serventry not too different from the medieval relation between master and servant.
They have figured out that its a system that they are being grinded through and discarded, and that they are condemned for life to making someone else rich, never getting a chance to trully furfill their dreams and ambitions.
All of this takes a lot of time to figure out and piece together, it takes over ten years, and so the age 35 seems about right.
It cynically divides corporate workers into sociopaths at the top who step on other people to get where they are, idealists in the middle who don't realize they're being stepped on and think they'll eventually get to the top through hard work, and then pragmatists at the bottom who come in in the morning, do their work, and find meaning in their lives elsewhere, like family or hobbies.
I found myself much more relaxed at work when I realized that I would be better off as a pragmatist (though YMMV). I have since left the corporate world for a smaller company, and I'm much happier at work now.
How do those pragmatists deal with the fact that, summing job, commute and sleep, over 2/3 of their lives is not part of the purpose?
My great-great-grandparents that I know about were all farmers, using 19th century technology. I'm pretty sure they'd just laugh at the "purpose" you're talking about. Pull the other one, it's got bells on. Now shut up and go milk the cows, ye useless git.
(shudder I'd be so useless in that environment. Not just because I've been raised in my own environment, but because I know what it's like to have celiac in that environment; my grandmother did, and it was not enjoyable.)
Edit: I want to add, I'm not just showboating here for virtue points (which I detest). There are times when I'm a bit down, and remembering these things really does help me. I really do think about them spontaneously sometimes. Gratefulness is something that can take a bit of training, and I say that from the perspective of one who still feels he could stand to be quite a bit better at it, not as one who (believes he) has already accomplished it fully.
Our ancestors worked themselves to death (in the sense that they died before what we'd consider retirement age) and didn't have to worry about finding meaning outside of work.
People today has more free time to ponder things like the meaning of life and has potentially a lot of time after retirement, and I think that is part of what makes people think differently about their careers once they reach 35.
Bear in mind that different people will find meaning in different ways. If you find meaning in participating in the rat race, then by all means go for it.
For me personally, I thought I _had_ to participate in the rat race, but this was a lie.
I saw this scenario play out at my last corporate job:
At that company it was typical for some managers to over-promise on what they can deliver to customers, knowing full well that their developers and QAs would have to work serious overtime to achieve those goals.
Even mentioned before the project started and the first line of code was written they would say something along the line of "this is a very important project. We're going to need you to put in lots of overtime for this".
The developers who were _idealists_ would then overexert themselves: Work until midnight, always be tired and miss out on quality time with friends family. They thought they would get rewarded when promotions are doled out, where in actual fact they were being exploited by the managers.
The managers in the meantime wasn't that concerned with the project or the goals of the company per se. Rather they were concerned with looking good in front of their managers. They were playing the _real game_.
There was always some form of emotional manipulation, like "the team depends on you". When you're an idealist you don't recognize it.
One of the developers had been with the company for 30 years, yet he didn't have a senior position, precisely because he was a pragmatist. He did his work during the day, but never did overtime. Then in the evenings he would go home to his family. Over weekends he would work on his photography hobby. He seemed a lot happier than all the others rushing around.
A younger version of me might've accused him of having a poor work ethic, but older me sees his point.
Well you wouldn't want to promote the most gullible would you?
I think cynical might be a better description than pragmatist. A pragmatic person might see the reward in working hard but a cynical person will see through that. It's a shame cynicism has come to be seen as a negative trait (probably by people who like to manipulate you), a healthy dose of skepticism, cynicism and pessimism has served me well so far in life.
What do you do now instead? How do you view your work?
I realized that I didn't have to be promoted into management. In fact, I think I wouldn't be as happy in my job if I had to do management instead of coding.
I also read a lot about stoicism at the time. I think a lot of young people think success is measured by how much money they have, but I came to the conclusion that I'm happy at this moment.
Burning yourself out at work to earn money has diminishing returns; I'll need to earn a lot more money to be a fraction happier than I am at the moment.
I'm now working at a smaller company. We still have corporate clients, but there is not a lot of politics going on.
- Commute: I work from home, doesn't apply
- Sleep: This is part of life, so is an irrelevant metric
So, that narrows your question to, how do I deal with the fact that I spend 40hrs / week programming. The way I look at it is that the deepest source of meaning in my life comes from my spiritual practice and my family. The job fits into both of these buckets:
- Spiritual: A job well done, or properly understood is a part of most western spiritual practices-- there's a reason that Catholic monks don't just sit around and chant all day. The western monastic life, which is deeply spiritual, always incorporates work.
- Family: Providing for the needs of my wife and children is a key part of that source of meaning.
Of course, it helps that I like programming. I've been doing it for 20 years. Every indication seem to be that I'll enjoy doing it for another 20 years at least, so in that sense, I'm fortunate.
The cool thing about being a developer is that we can live a long time on a quarter of our salary. And the cool thing about contracting is that they pay you twice as much to do it in short bursts than they would to do it full time.
No one is coming to save you but you. Have an exit strategy. Buy your time back for yourself.
I've left jobs paying over $1 million / year to do something that barely breaks even to chase this, and ironically it always seems to end up delivering another well paying venture with too much of the things I don't enjoy doing at the other end. It's immensely productive and counter intuitive all at once. I'd love to find something that lasts, but instead I feel destine to cycle over things that initially I love, and eventually despise for what I've turned them into.
Right now outside of my job I am replacing 100 feet of fence on my property. It is hot, sweaty, miserable work. At my job I sit in a very comfortable chair in A/C with snacks close at hand and headphones on doing work that I actually enjoy. My coworkers and boss are super nice. All in all my job is absolute luxury compared to the life of a manual laborer. Monday is my favorite day because I get to go back to work and relax instead of working on projects around the house ;-) Plus, they pay me really well.
Also, don't discount weekends. You don't really work 1/3 of your life because you get 2/7ths off every week.
(and can you really factor sleep in this? No matter what your state of employment everyone needs to sleep)
- 8 hours of work + 2 hours of commute / 5 days per week
- weekend 2 days per week
- 20 days of vacation + 5 public holidays per year
5840 hours of waking time a year.
1845 hours of work time (217 working days * 8.5 hours; 1590 hours in a sabbatical year).
3995 hours left over to potentially do whatever I want.
"The Gervais Principle" series home: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/the-gervais-principle/
I used to keep wondering when I was going to get found out for not contributing to the company's bottom line like the other thousands of employees around me seem to do every day.
But then I realised that everyone else is probably doing exactly the same. And either a) none of us are doing anything valuable b) a small % are the driving force or c) we are greater than the sum of our parts
I hope it's c), feel like it's probably b), but maybe a) really is a real world scenario.
That's kinda what makes them a talent — almost a tautology.
"Excellent talent" means a strong inner drive, it takes something like an obsession to put in the grind to get there. The feeling of contributing and creating and playfulness and attacking new frontiers is non-negotiable. You lose it, you're no longer "excellent talent".
No money can replace that (though life circumstances may force a detour — that's why it's almost a tautology, but not quite).
"Being found out for not contributing"? You know you can do better.
At my company I think it's true that a small % are the driving force, in terms of our central product, but the rest are important in that the company would be dysfunctional to the point of collapse if that small % also had to take care of the ancillary tasks they do.
Also, if you embrace the "no job security" part above and don't sweat your "career" at any given shop, the rest of them stop being things you need to worry about.
Let the other guys stress office politics and fear for their job if they take vacation. You're the guy who knows what this job market is like, and that you have options.
Just a heads up that the majority of people are not in your/our situation with regards to their employment.
I don't know why every time a discussion about work or employment comes up we feel the need to have these tautological discussions about how some people have it easier than others. It's only a matter of time until we get a sub-thread of Europeans discussing how insane it is that Americans don't get 65 days of vacation every year, and a few off-topic healthcare rants then I think the cycle will be complete for this thread.
the same reason that this thread is posted and re-posted at all. both of these things are cultural memes: the people complaining about work and the people relishing work. nothing in any of these threads is ever novel.
So yeah, go us. Our gig gets better over time, while it appears that others don't.
People 35 and over, are somewhat likely to have families and find it difficult to relocate.
There are a lot of places where you get a job in this industry faster than you can say "Software Engineer", so it's definitely not only a Bay Area thing. NY/Berlin/London are just as bad from personal experience and as a rough estimate every city above 1mil population, is probably not too different.
From your list that leaves Berlin.
Few other towns have the density and variety of startups that the Bay Area has to be honest.
This is about ease of finding a job in the field, and startups are not the only employers there.
Saying things like "embrace no job security" is something most people simply cannot afford to do.
as someone currently job hunting, i feel this is overly optimistic. the job market is extremely conservative, so if you have a strange background, be prepared for the long haul. this is extremely stressful as no one seems to care where you have worked or what you have done. they care about what little specific subset of things they care about in a single interview, and have no conception of “can this person learn what we need them to learn” or how to understand what a person already knows. it’s almost as if they treat your resume as some base gpa requirement and throw it out once you pass, because they feel asking silly little one-sided questions to gauge your aptitude in a couple of hours is better than an actual conversation about things.
the way interviewing is done in the software industry is infuriating and makes me want to leave it at times. the cliquish culture is suffocating.
Every comment like this on HN is an opportunity for someone desperate for talent to reach out to you. When you're job hunting make sure you use proper capitalization. Include your email in your profile. Make sure you show that yes, you're struggling, but that you also have some hope. Avoid certainty when ascribing mental state to others.
Here is how I would write your comment:
I'm someone currently job hunting in Boston, with five years of .NET and multi-platform C++, I wonder if you have an overly optimistic view. I've found that, at least here in Boston, the job market is extremely conservative. It seems that if you have a background that's a little different you need to be prepared for the long haul. I'm finding this extremely stressful. When interviewing I find that there is little interest about where I've worked or what I've done.
Interviewers seem to care about a small, specific subset of things that they surface during the interview, and they don't seem to evaluate whether or not I can learn what they need me to learn, or how to understand what I already know. I feel like they treat my resume as some base GPA-like requirement and forget about it once the interview starts. I find myself asked shallow questions to gauge aptitude, rather than engaged in a well-tailored conversation about software and its challenges.
I know I'm venting right now because I'm having an especially hard time, but at time the difficulty I'm having makes me want to leave software. I find it hard to break through what seems to be a cliquish culture and I wish I could find a software firm that celebrated diversity.
I hope this helps. Best of luck with your job search. I know how difficult and desperate it can feel. If you want me to review your CV or cover letter reach out. My email is in my profile.
I found your comment extremely patronizing to the person you're replying to. HN is an informal place where people feel comfortable to speak casually. It's not necessary to have perfect grammar in the comments.
Going through the trouble of rewriting their comment to be more professional implies that the original commenter can't write and needs you to teach them. Nobody asked you for a course on writing.
Also, HN is not primarily a place for finding work. If someone doesn't have an email in their profile, don't assume they are bad at job hunting. Maybe they don't want their comment history associated with their professional life.
The only safe way to see if a person can do the job, is for them to do the job, pretty much.
I'm speaking from painful experience: we also used to hire based on potential. Bad idea (or we just couldn't make it work). Our hiring process is now very close to the actual job, whether the position is junior or senior, and although it can take weeks (a test project), "I could learn this later" doesn't cut it. Too many scars, not enough resources.
you simply can't hire well if you ask what amounts to puzzle questions in interviews. it doesn't address what a person does know. so in my opinion, an interview should be about finding out what a person knows, and in the event that it doesn't overlap with what the employer true needs, then some extrapolation or further digging is needed.
however, even when a person's skills do overlap with the needs (whether the employer knows or it or not), it is my opinion that much of the overlap is often ignored (architecture, organization, perspective, personality, design skills, api philosophy) in favor of the more "hardcore" stuff (algorithms, data structures). we all know that even in the with the most efficient algorithms, software can be a mess if employees lack the former qualities. but software that is well designed can get away with less efficient algorithms except in extreme cases and niche contexts.
tbe problems faced in a software company are rarely of the form "tell me the big-O behavior of this algorithm". rather, it's much more about how to manage large amounts of complexity, reducing complexity, designing flexible architectures, well-defined APIs, etc.
> They have figured out that the majority of their work, to their surprise is not actually that important or necessary.
> They have figured out that they are never going to get payed the true value of their work
If their work is not that important or necessary, isn't its true value also not too high?
As mentioned in other threads, as people mature they often begin to look for meaning in their work beyond pure compensation. As a software engineer, I can produce something that is of value to the company, be compensated fairly for that work but still derive no personal value from the primary results of the work because software, by nature is so ephemeral. The result is so malleable, that what was done yesterday can be scrapped today. There is little permanence. Couple this with an immature industry that actively disdains "old ideas" and it is pretty easy to get drug down into questioning what you are doing.
For those that care about what they do, this situation almost amounts to maintaining an exercise in double-think as a coping mechanism to make it through the day. But I've found that year after year it gets harder and harder to play that internal mental game.
If you are one of the unlucky few who work in an organization that actively works against personal growth and development, then the lasting second order effects of your work, especially in leadership positions (e.g. the growth and development of those around you) may not last either.
I contrast this to the mechanical / electrical engineers who are around the same age who can point to an airplane and say "I designed that part / system 20 years ago; each time I step on the aircraft, I am reminded of the value of my work."
The problem is that much of the economy is pure bullshit, and it takes brainwashing to make the thing run/make people want stuff that is really of no value. So, there are very few jobs that provide real value - other than keeping the hamster wheel moving.
In the meantime, we build up these absurd fantasies of how we're going to be important or do great things as a way of justifying our existence, but neither the economy or society can support infinite heroes, so consumerism becomes rampant. People fight for status and recognition with their possessions, not their achievements. After all, most of us value the achievements of others more highly than we value our own, and we place "real" achievement far higher than we can reach and are never satisfied.
Personally, as it relates to work, my job is boring, largely pointless, and will never amount to anything useful, but I try not to let that affect me. I try to always do my best so I am the judge of my "achievements," not others. I spent a week rewriting a terrible contingency plan for IT systems. It's a formality. No one will ever read it, much less put it into practice, but it's well done and I am proud of it nonetheless. Whether or not the hamster wheel moves is, to me, irrelevant. It can move or not move. I pride myself on performing the same regardless.
So, while you're right, the brainwashing is largely voluntary, and people seem to even enjoy it in the short term, it's up to the "adults" to set a sustainable structure - to not succumb to greed and petty wants. With regard to politics and business, I can't tell you how many times I've heard, 'Where are the adults?'
My situation is similar to yours. My job is fine but only fulfilling in short bursts, where I get to alleviate pain for people. The rest is pure shit. But, my life is pretty great. This morning, I saw four wood storks overlooking a canal in a warehouse district that most would consider an eyesore. It was beautiful.
My current solution is to basically be at a small enough company that I can actually see the impact of my work. Of course, that doesn't pay as well and it leads to other frustrations sometimes.
Went from the "exciting" world of digital agencies to the most administrative public sector job I could find.
Now, at least while I am away from home, I can work on my own projects and learn things, rather than properly wasting away slaving over someone else's completely meaningless pursuit of profits.
I always found that term to imply that we're just meat for the meat grinder.
As long as your organization has an HR department (with that name), that battle has been lost on the organizational level and haranguing individual managers isn't going to accomplish much.
You want a steady paycheck immediately, so you sign up for what you hope will be a sort of friendly "master-slave" relationship where you do a good enough job to not get fired, accept the office politics, accept that someone else gets all the upside, and give up a large chunk of life instead of pursuing your own business, hobbies, spending more time with family, etc.
This should not be a surprise to anyone, but I suppose its easy to be overly optimistic as a young person and become frustrated when reality sinks in.
Just to be fair, developing/maintaining/managing connections and the political side (negociation, argumentation, understanding of the social mechanics, etc) is hard work.
A little bit too cynical for my taste. You make it sound as if companies serve no purpose other than extracting value from the employee to the company. Your work value inside the company is higher than the value of the work per se; the order that the firm institutes has a value for society, minimizing information, decision and transaction costs. That is why firms exist, and not only markets; a gig economy in which everyone is free to sell their work is worse. You could even argue that the power relations that the firm embodies for you end up also appearing in a market, without the securities of a job relationship (see Uber drivers and the like).
Also, job security is not perfect, but it sure does exist.
It’s about the mythical alpha.
You can get the 1950s average unit of work out of a person, and maybe get 100 gidgets made in a day.
Or you can figure out how to optimize the assembly line and reduce pee breaks and get the most out of those things you have to pay to employ.
So now in the 2000s, you make 5000 widgets a day, employ fewer people and have identified more places where you can reduce costs to improve shareholder value.
All the fancy lunches at the googleplex and so on, they’re a way to differentiate and keep expensive workers at work.
If a firm found a way to keep high end workers for cheap, then they should do that because that’s their job - to optimize and get the benefits of those optimization’s to shareholders.
In short be a shareholder, not a worker.
This. In 2018 with our current economy, I think this is essential. Unfortunately there are some who won't be able to save and invest much.
What is a "firm"? Most executives in a company optimize for they own benefit, not for yours, not for the "firms".
There is a famous article frm HBR. How to manage your boss
(paywalled but I am sure you can find it for free on the net).
You have to make your boss happy. In some cases this may be done by an outstanding performance. In most cases it is done by being a good talker, walking overtime, look busy, give him a blow job under the table, whatever. But it is rarely connected with your real job performance. And again, how to measure performance? Performance for the company or performance for your superior?
And the end goal? Some shareholders more happy than others, and some random economic statistic, that's not really related to quality of life.
Still one issue I did not account for was too much idle time while at home. I found that once I had something to do or more things I wanted to do that stress of the job lessened.
There are known stages in life at which you will think about who you are and where you want to go to.
"Early Adulthood" is one of those stages starting around your 20th and ends around your 35th year.
After this the "Midlife" stage starts. This is the stage most people start thinking about the deeper meaning of life.
Also, any employee who thought that way would probably never rise far in their company, hence a self fulfilling prophecy.
When I was young it didn't seem to matter than much, I had plenty of time on my hands. As you get older, time moves to fast, and there's to little of it.
Maintaining relationships with different kinds of people is work. It's hard and meaningful work.
> They have figured out that there is really no job security, and they could be one layoff wave away from unemployment.
There most definitely is job security. Some people have lots of it, some have very little. There is no 100% job security, if that's what you were hoping for.
> They have figured out that its much more about face time and spending long hours at work rather than actually being productive.
Again, spending time with people in a social environment is a meaningful thing to do with one's life.
It's not surprising that the majority of the product / code is not that important or necessary. If you are a good teammate, you might be an important or necessary part in your teammates daily lives.
> They have figured out that its important not to take too much vacations, because its an opportunity to loose the little work they have to someone else.
"many", "lose", "it's". I'm pretty close with my teammates, and I've never heard of any of them giving up any of their vacation time to get respect from our boss.
> They have figured out that they are never going to get payed the true value of their work, and that is almost the definition of being an employee.
I think that you if you'll try to give a definition of what you call "true value", it could be reduced to an absurdity.
> They have figured out that its all a system of serventry not too different from the medieval relation between master and servant.
I wish every person that said that would get to spend a couple of weeks as an actual slave, and would then report on their impressions.
> They have figured out that its a system that they are being grinded through and discarded, and that they are condemned for life to making someone else rich, never getting a chance to trully fulfill their dreams and ambitions.
Anyone wants to take on this one?
Totally agree on that one, but I would rather that social environment is not overlapping with all sorts of economic power dynamics. I would much rather hang out at cafes and public places and spend time outside economic contexts based on shared interests such as literature, art, music etc.
> its much more about connections and office politics than hard work
Whether or not it's "much more" depends as much on your employer and your field as anything else, but nobody should reasonably expect that employment is a pure meritocracy where your work product is judged in a vacuum irrespective of how much people enjoy working with you or how much objective (and subjective) value you can bring to the business.
> there is really no job security, and they could be one layoff wave away from unemployment
Why would there be? Nobody I know is signing employment contracts or working in Civil Service positions.
> its much more about face time and spending long hours at work rather than actually being productive
This is entirely dependent on employer. We have a handful of developers who spend maybe 25 hours a week physically in the office but they are as productive as anyone else.
> the majority of their work, to their surprise is not actually that important or necessary
This will depend heavily on industry, employer, project, and seniority. If you're an entry level dev and not particularly skilled in what you're doing yet and new to the industry you're going to spend a lot of time learning which will pay dividends 15 years later but is not objectively important to the specific project you happen to be working on.
> its important not to take too much vacations, because its an opportunity to loose the little work they have to someone else
I have never seen or heard this in any of my jobs, with the exception that a lot of the folks recently from India that I've worked with seem to take it as a point of pride that they let a huge chunk of their PTO expire every year. But I think that might be cultural as none of the Indians that I work with currently who have been here for a while (5+ years) do that, they use all their vacation every year just like everyone else.
> they are never going to get [paid] the true value of their work,and that is almost the definition of being an employee
Well a business doesn't exist if it pays out 100% of profit to every employee. It's actually pretty easy to be a contract developer so if someone wants to handle all the administrative nonsense in order to squeeze out a few more thousand dollars a year they can do so. I've been underpaid and overpaid (overpaid is certainly better) but nobody's ever tricked me into earning less. Negotiation is a thing, if you can prove there is an extra $30k in value in a position/promotion, prove it. If it makes business sense to pay more for talent, start a business and do it. If it actually makes a difference, you'll have a competitive advantage.
> its all a system of serventry not too different from the medieval relation between master and servant
This is objectively false and weakens all of your other arguments (some of which are reasonable).
> its a system that they are being grinded through and discarded, and that they are condemned for life to making someone else rich, never getting a chance to [truly] [fulfill] their dreams and ambitions
If anyone ever told you that the purpose of employment is for you to "truly fulfill your dreams and ambitions" they're an idiot, a liar, or both.
>Why would there be? Nobody I know is signing employment contracts or working in Civil Service positions.
Probably not true in the US, but in Europe many a 35yo has grown up under the general assumption "get a good degree, get a job at a good company, and you are set for life", simply because it was their parents' experience.
In some countries, even in the private sector, getting fired was made very hard by local laws, until recent years.
It's at "almost", it is the definition of being an employee. Marx was right about that.
Employee-owned companies ftw.
1. Working hours. I know people in Europe that have 35 or 37h per week guaranteed. 40 hours is normal in the US and most of the time you work much longer. 1 hour lunch break is obligatory. It is too long, I can not eat for one hour if I bring my own lunch. It is too short to go the the gym too.
2. Travel. Sometimes I had to travel a lot. You board the plane Friday evening, you are back home Saturday at 5pm and Monday you start again at 8:30 pm
3. Commuting. It is difficult to live close to work. Basically 1 hour commute each way is guaranteed. And while this is no time on my companies clock, it is on mine.
So you easily get 60 hours a week.
Depending where you live, you pay 30-50% taxes, 20% sales tax in Europe etc.
If you move abroad and work from your laptop, the whole game can change. Working hours, commute, taxes, purchasing power...
cant you make them into bullet points for readability?
I realized that sitting at my desk for 30 years to pay for a house was not what I wanted to do, so I quit my job and have been driving around Africa for 2 years.
I dreamed for years of being a travel writer and photographer, and I am making that dream come true! I now write for five magazines on a regular basis, and I just published my first book, with a few more in the pipeline. I have waaaaaay less money than before, but I'm happier than I have ever been in my life.
I am constantly meeting people who had a similar realization and are now living their dreams - volunteering, working on their passions or just traveling for a while while they figure it out.
Life is too short to spend 40+ hours a week not loving what you're doing!
I generally agree with this feeling, but with some caveats.
Change for the sake of change is at best a temporary solution. You get some excitement because of the new situation (new job, new country, new partner), but if you don't first identify what isn't working before changing it, you may not actually find a long-term solution.
As the saying goes, "wherever you go, there you are". Sometimes what you need to change is inside yourself. Otherwise you just take your old problems with you to your new country.
Now I think that our environment determines our behavior and our mental life to such a huge degree that it's embarrassing and uncomfortable to grasp the full extent of it. New career, new you. New friends, new you. New country, new you. New language, new you.
The thing is, most people experience a very slowly changing environment for long enough that they start to think they only change slowly. Rapid changes in environment lead to rapid changes in self, which can feel a little like being inverted.
Having glimpsed how some of this works, I now try to carefully arrange my environment to make sure it'll produce the behaviors I desire.
Some small examples:
Goal: I want to walk more.
Solution: There has to be somewhere pleasant and interesting to walk directly out my door.
Goal: I want to eat more meals at home.
Solution: My eating table should be close to the kitchen, but in a comfortable and desirable place to sit, like a patio overlooking the back garden.
Goal: I want to read more.
Solution: Leave my laptop and phone locked in the trunk of my car. Cover the coffee table with books.
I've lived in 4 different countries in the last 8 years so I've also been moving quite a bit, even between continents, and I have "reinvented" myself in every new country and job, and absorbed new ways of living as well. But it took me this long and this many countries to realise that some of the issues I had were relationship issues, not country or job issues, which is why I took them with me across countries and jobs.
While I agree with what you're saying, this is why I believe that trying to fix a general sense of unhappiness or unfulfilment by going through drastic changes may be an overreaction if you don't understand what you're trying to fix in the first place.
However, the key here is that you first identified a specific problem that you wanted to solve. From there, you created an environment that exploited our (for lack of a better term) inherent laziness and brought about desired behaviors because it was the path of least resistance.
I think often people change their environment without first undergoing the uncomfortable but integral process of self-reflection to determine what needs to change. Then, when their lives aren't magically better, they are disappointed.
We are all constantly changing; our environment and our actions are a vicious circle that produce this change. But from what I've seen, the vast majority of people don't direct those changes through conscious thoughts & behavior, so they take on both the good and bad characteristics of their environment (profession, city, friends, culture, etc.) and then are surprised at the result.
Anyway, I moved countries in an attempt to run from my problems, only to find exactly the same problems in my new home. It took me some time to realise that they were internal problems. Moving countries doesn't magically solve everything.
If everything you do is temporary, you'll never arrive anywhere.
But I want to remind that a life-changing decision does not need to involve changing continents and continuous traveling. It can be just a career change. Not all 40-hours workweeks are the same.
I started my career in the social sector, doing fundraising for NGOs. Then, after 6 years, I quit to found my own startup. 2 years between a couple of tries that failed. Then I went to work in Marketing at a startup for another 2 years. Then I quit to study software development fulltime, so for the last year, I am a frontend developer.
Each of these changes came as soon as I realized I was not happy with my job/field. Each of them made me happier. But all of them were still 40 hours of work while living with my family or wife.
Absolutely! so start working on something right now to free yourself from that. I left a perfectly good first-world country and permanently moved to another one because I liked the quality of life better - you can too!
It's risk/reward, like almost everything else. Don't be surprised when people rationally choose a lower risk path.
For some people its material things like a house, car etc. and thats okay.
I did the same thing in my 20's, now, with family and kids, a large change like that would be much harder to pull off.
I love examples like this one, but unfortunatelly they can't be applied to a general guy.
Though I have to agree that you have to go for a change one way or the other. Some people can do this almost right now, some will have to do some kind of preparations which can take quite some time too.
PS: not to metion that economical\social conditions can be an issue too.
You first have to identify what you see as your obligations, and to query them. This can be the keeping up with the Joneses, buying stuff for your partner/kids or being around family. In some cases what you think of as your obligations really aren't, your partner would rather spend time with you happy than get a bunch of stuff from you.
Sometimes what you think of as an obligation is something you really do have to do, like looking after your kids, or if some other family needs care. Though I like to think of these as responsibilities rather than obligations, something I've actively chosen rather than something that I've been lumped with.
I think this critical look at these pressures, and what really should be informing your life is key to being able to re-orient yourself to something that can make you happier.
I absolutely agree that it's the privileged few who are able to go to California to seek fame & fortune and who can take life on the African safari road.
Personally, I would rather spend time drawing and designing things - as opposed to driving throughout Africa.
Everyone's circumstances are different. Some people get dealt a more difficult hand, but most people, through just making better choices, can improve their lives.
Absolutely, they're important, and by switching to doing something that makes me happier and healthier, I'm able to have a more positive impact on them and also have more time to spend with them. After all time is all we have to spend together, and I'd much rather spend it teaching my nephew to play guitar than sitting at a desk job I don't really enjoy. Because I'm a travel writer and photographer now I can "work remotely" and spend lots of time with family.
> Some will have to do some kind of preparations which can take quite some time too.
Of course! Anything worth doing requires hard work, and will probably take significant time.
Some people don't have the luxury of being selfish.
Anyway, I quit my job and moved to Australia last year, because I felt like I wasn't going anywhere with my life. Best decision I ever made. I'm aware that it's a privilege to be able to do this. I didn't have any cash, but was able to use my credit card to survive until I found a job, aware that if it all fell to pieces, I could just fly home and stay with my parents. I'm lucky that I could do this. If I didn't have that safety net, I don't think I would've made that jump.
I'm very lucky in life that I don't have to make sacrifices for the sake of others, and I'm aware that we aren't all so lucky.
I like many aspects of this post, but I find your opening problematic, because you can be perfectly happy without moving closer to your goals and dreams. In fact, you don't need dreams or goals to be happy, and they're actually the source of unhappiness for many people.
It reminds me of anecdote from Allen Watts about westerners traveling to see Buddhist monks in the search for enlightenment. When the monks would offer simple solutions (you just need to change your perspective and understand what's what), the westerners wouldn't believe it, so the monks would construct arduous tasks so that the westerners felt worthy of enlightenment.
But, to the meat of your post, it's a good point. There's no sense in being miserable. If you are, try something else. If you're still miserable, try something else, etc., etc.. Of course, this is easier when you have resources, and people with mental-health issues should include treatment in their 'something else.'
Having spent 2 years driving from AK to Argentina and now 2 years in Africa, I know more strongly than ever that I'm not interested in a "stable" or "guaranteed" future. It takes away so much spontaneity and adventure from life, and those are things I'm not willing to give up. Without them, I personally don't think life is worth living.
Interestingly I have recently met a bunch of people in Mozambique/Zimbabwe/Zambia who went to university or otherwise lived in London/USA/Australia for a few years. As soon as possible they returned to live in Africa. Quote "I don't want to just exist, I want to live."
Just the other week I met a 92 y/o lady who knows all about adventure. In 1950 her Dad loaded his wife, two daughters and the family dog into an old truck and drove from London to Zambia. The adventures they had on that journey far outweigh anything I have seen or experienced. He randomly made his home there, and she had endless stories of sitting on the porch watching elephants and a million other things. In her lifetime she hand raised a hippo that lived in her house for 19 years, raised a chimp that slept in her bed, and now runs an orphanage/foundation for well over 100 chimps.
When we're open to it, we can find a life of adventure that is extremely fulfilling, and I want that life.
Do you have any data to back up that sentiment?
In your 20s everything is new and most people are learning all the time, and wages are consistently increasing. Often you are working to pay off debt, doing things you'd rather not be doing because you have to. You're too busy hustling to realize whether or not you are doing what you truly want to do.
There comes a time where wages tend to plateau - in tech I think 35-45 is probably about the right window for that plateau to happen.
By 35 you might be lucky enough to have figured out what you'd rather be doing, and at that age some people probably feel trapped in their career and may lack the confidence to retool. So now you have flattened wages and know what you'd like to do, but either lack the courage or feel helpless to make any changes. That can be a pretty upsetting realization for people at that stage in life.
I've seen many people make major successful career changes at 35 and older. You certainly aren't stuck at that age, but the retooling process requires a strategy that might be anywhere from 3 months to 2 years depending on your starting point.
If you hate your job, start planning for what's next as soon as you make that realization.
With 27 years of living expenses if you invest wisely and don't get unlucky, you shouldn't ever have to work again.
When young with little in terms of responsibilities you can really push the envelope, you can also afford a couple of false starts.
Incidentally, has anyone ever managed to get more money for actually delivering a working product?
I sort of like creating things, but get frustrated that other people profit from my work or even claim it as their own.
I see little reason to spend something like 70% of waking hours commuting and working for someone else's profits if you can afford to do less. I've become pragmatic and realized the company I'm I work in is just a tool I use to make money while trying to extract valuable experience for my future. The rest doesn't matter
Then there's the health care issue to consider, at least for US residents.
Working remote can solve this, I've realized. One day I was stuck at home so I told my supervisor I would work at home for the day. I ended up doing my work in few hours, and was free the rest of the time since I was free from the "stay at desk" requirement.
As long as you have the cushion to cover the high deductible (~$6000), there's probably not much to worry about. I had the same deductible at a previous employer, so the current situation feels identical to me.
People are dumbfounded when i tell them, they do not understand that free time is more important to me than money. as long as i can live comfortably and use my new free time i will trade money for time. end goal is 2 days a week - no idea if thats possible, but 3 days is a must.
if you can do it financially and with your job situation i can only recommend it. i still giggle like a little girl every friday because i dont have to go to work
A day doesn't sound like much, but a work-day/weekend ratio of 60/40 is so much better than 70/30 I bet.
That seems remarkably low, but I think an important life lesson that many learn is that one should not let "the job" determine well-being, satisfaction with life and happiness. I learned THAT in my 40's.
I personally would love if we had better systems in place to help people shift careers when they felt that their current one wasn't what they wanted. It seems to me that asking a 20 year old which career they are going to love for the next ~40 years is a bit absurd.
That some people get disillusioned as they get older is probably normal. That most still are happy with work seems nice - there’s a lot of crappy jobs out there.
I realized recently I was trapped in a dead end tech support role and would never grow beyond it, because the job was taking up too much time & energy for me to have enough left over to develop my software development (or any other) skills. I was making decent money, but my household had become addicted to spending it all. If I had managed my finances better and been able to say 'no' more, that might have helped some, but since I didn't, my burnout was accelerated.
Now I struggle against losing all hope that I will ever have either a well paid or a fulfilling career again. But at least quitting the job that was clearly only a faster way to dig my own grave helped my mental health a bit.
I don't (often) get that bored. There isn't time for the cynicism to develop, I feel like my skills are valued, I bring home a ton more cash, and if I dislike the way my client operates or tries to put controls on my working patterns, I walk.
I know I am extraordinarily privileged, and I don't know how long this can last, but six years have passed and I feel better than ever about my career. Or my lack of it.
Most of the contracts bring me in as a 'consultant' but the work is software engineering.
Reply to me if you have:
- worked many hours overtime without any recognition or remuneration
- been caught up in office politics
- felt unsatisfied with your job
- felt like you could achieve more if the company listened to your advice
- wanted a change of role without sacrificing your career
12 years ago I started contracting in data warehousing and analytics. I've alternated between permanent and contracting over the years.
At 38 I'm contracting for a huge multinational company, working on exciting big data challenges and never been happier...it's literally my dream job.
Between my day job and side project I work around 16 hours per day, but I love what I do. Fortunately I have a supportive wife and kids.
Prior to this I managed a few teams at a big company and struggled to stay motivated.
Contracting is not for everyone, but if you are passionate about what you do and like to work hard knowing there is an end in sight, it is well remunerated and keeps you in touch with the market without the HR responsibilities.
I enjoy what I do now more than 10 years ago.
I suppose it comes down to enjoying what you do to the point where it doesn't feel like a job vs "having a job".
I worked 7 for the same company, while studying and a few years after I finished my degree.
It was a small chaotic company, they were a startup that found a hand full of big corps to pay for the day-to-day expenses, but it never really grew up and never got product market fit.
After a big re-write of the product, with much overtime on my side, I asked my manager what my personal growth options are in the company.
Well, there weren't any.
So I quit a month later and did a sabbatical in 2014.
After that I tried freelancing and tried different things, always asking myself "Is this what I want?"
It helped me at least to filter out what I don't want and I'm much happier.
Mostly greenfield projects that take multiple months for startups. ("We need an MVP, but have no idea about technology, so do what you see fit")
I'm 33. I have a 2 year old who demands time. I have a dog that I would like to spend time with. I have a shotgun and enjoy target shooting and wish I had more time to enjoy. I have couple of bikes and wish I had more time to ride them. I picked up woodworking just before my 2yo arrived and I wish I had more time to learn more.
Every year I pick up another something I want more time to do but therefore every year I have to spread that time a little thinner. Time I have to spend working is the obvious target to blame.
I'm certainly not saying that every work environment is great, or that some people get the work/life/expenses balance catastrophically wrong, but you can improve your experience of work by making sure you're still learning, expanding and don't fall into the typical ruts.
Similarly if work is all you have, you've got nothing to work for. Find a balance.
I enjoy what I do and am making decent money doing it. If I won the lottery with FU money, yeah, I'd be done working for others.
I think around 35 is when you may see through any illusions employers have with buying into their grand mission statements or whatever to get you to work more for them with no more reward. You realize working for someone else is what the gig is and accept that.
When I get home from work sometimes I want to continue on the problem I was working on all day. Most of the time I stop myself and do other things I enjoy - relaxing things, hobbies, etc. Sometimes I will work on work stuff but that is up to me (unless it is some outage or emergency type thing).
One option is to go work a different job for a day like volunteering for Habitat for Humanity building houses. It puts things into perspective about how physically easy working with software is when compared.
I can enjoy the lifestyle my work provides even if I see the work as 'meaningless' ( I don't, or only insofar as everything is meaningless ).
People always want hope that they have other options. And as you get older, other options (to learn another job, for instance) diminish. So we get unhappy that we are stuck, and start to hate that situation.
Other people might kill for my job, but honestly, it doesn't excite or engage me, and each day is literally just a march to get home and play with building my own stuff.
I've worked in cyclical industries (education and yearly hiring cycles) pretty much since leaving university - I'd advise people to avoid these if you can unless you love redoing the same work time and time again (but with enough enforced differences so you actually do have to do it all again). The "Start > Push > Reset" cycle is inherently demotivating to me.
Ideally, find something that compounds - where your work contributes to some kind of growth - rather than resets to zero again.
The desire to have such a job grows as things around me (family, friends) start to be more steady.
I do feel drastically different as an employee though. I am starting to feel a real sense of ownership over my own actions. Not sure how to word that properly, but I no longer see my bosses as "owning" me in the way I used to. I never thought that explicitly, but I behaved as if they had complete control over me.
If I were in a job I hated, I'd have far less tolerance for it at this age. Life is too short.
I feel like the article's suggestions are a little trite. Just make work friends and find a personal project at work! I suspect that a good number of people feeling ennui feel that way due to a lack of autonomy. If my hunch is correct, it seems unlikely they'll be able to just choose a personal project at work.
I didn't actually like my job again until age 38 when I found the right employer, because I got picky.
I found many good technical education sites, but only HubSpot for marketing stuff.
By your mid 30s, at least in our industry, you can get to a position where you can choose a nice gig at a good company, and pretty much steer your destiny as you choose.
So it's surprising that you'd hate your job more then than when you were younger.
Generally no - every rung up the ladder gets about 500% more competitive, and even worse, it's political competition.
Middle management is the worst kind of work beyond raw labour.
When you're young, usually you're learning, doing 'actual work' and you can make no mistakes really.
If you have a protected executive job, and can handle politics, there can be stability there.
Bug upper manager and Director ... my god - you still have to show hard results, and you're not always in position to do it. It's thankless. You don't even get to make the big decisions.
- Senior level pay is pushing $500k for employees, ( and higher for consulting)
- Pretty much any gig can be remote
- Hottest job market in history
- Lots of fun work to be found if you don't want to go the BigCo track
So yeah, why fight all that stuff you list on that path when you can stay in individual contributor and have it easy?
At a handful of elite, highly-competitive companies.
> Pretty much any gig can be remote
The defense, health care, finance, and embedded sectors would beg to differ. Also, can be remote often does not equal "allowed to* be remote.
> Hottest job market in history
"In history" is too strong, but it is definitely a hot market (in most areas).
> Lots of fun work to be found if you don't want to go the BigCo track
If you choose this your first bullet doesn't apply.
I’m willing to concede that one can find a second tier company willing to pay sub-market rates for boring work in a cubicle, if one chose.
But again, I’ll ask why you would do that to yourself when there are such better options?
> Two years ago, at age 34, she switched careers and learned how to code. “Your 30s are both personally and professionally a time when people take stock and make a change,” she said.
I left a job I hated to start a robot business at 31. It failed due to lack of financing, so I returned to tech support and system engineering. I've worked my way into a career with many job options and paths of varying levels of excitement and stress.
At 34 I discovered a career passion around serving others, whereas previously the orientation was mostly toward myself.
Nothing changed in my daily work, just a perspective.
He told us he's gone through several waves of enjoying and disliking throwing pots. He started off enjoying it. Then he stopped enjoying it for many years and just did it because it was his livelihood and the best way to support himself. Then one day, he had no idea why, while he was throwing a pot he had a moment where he noticed his hands and started enjoying it again for many years. He told us this has happened to him a few times and that he currently enjoys throwing pots.
- What were the jobs in the survey? Were they all office jobs?
- What was the gender split in the survey? The anecdotes in the article were all female.
Hypothesis is that, once people hate their job, they might want to acquire money instantly and quit.
I know this is a sensitive topic but i just want a some facts because here people seem to trust young people less for some reason, i don't know why.
- Concieve a child and carry to term, then raise.
- Start your own business.
- Sell your house and live on the street / forest.
- Become a farmer.
- Win a lottery / Bitcoin bubble / IPO skyrocket / other windfall.
- Move in with your parents / children.
- Commit crimes.
- Create pornography (enter a new industry).
- Start an online store / list items on eBay or Amazon.
- Move to Alaska, build a cabin, and live off the land.
Sometimes a person will find themselves fixated on the most realistic option for their scenario, turning one of these into a plan of action, discussing with coworkers, and trying to make it even more realistic.