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People start hating their jobs at 35 (bloomberg.com)
252 points by haasted on Aug 14, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 239 comments

I think its because through experience people have figured out a lot of unspoken things about what its really like being an employee.

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.

Funny, round about the time I turned 35 I stumbled upon Erik Dietrich's Defining The Corporate Hierarchy [1] blog.

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.

[1] http://www.daedtech.com/defining-the-corporate-hierarchy

> 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.

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?

Well, I look at history and my ancestors, and am grateful that merely 2/3rds of my life is not "part of my purpose". Plus I don't actually hate work, even if it's not what I would be doing of my own accord, nor would I say it's entirely bereft of purpose. It feeds my family, fairly well all things considered, and I work in a part of the industry that is about protecting people and defending them, rather than abusing them psychologically, and that's not something I could do as effectively if I just stomped off and did my own thing. Overall I consider it a fairly good trade for what I get.

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.

I won't know where to find it again, but I came across an article the other day that mentioned that a big reason why modern people have midlife crises is because we live longer.

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.

For most of history, once you reached puberty you had a good chance to reach your 60s or 70s. Of course this presupposes no wars or colonization or industrialization or capitalism, all things that are terrible for your health. But life wasn’t as short, deadly and horrible as the stereotype goes.

@FranzFerdiNaN, who I can't seem to reply to directly, yes, you are right. I might've missed the point of the article I was referring to.

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.

I wouldn't think that's quite it. To be sure, anyone making it to middle age was tougher than the average peasant, but I think it's more that at that point, one would transition from caring for one's children to caring for one's grandchildren, and that takes a completely different mindset.

Like others have said, the purpose is to make money to enjoy the other 1/3.

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.

> 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.

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.

> For me personally, I thought I _had_ to participate in the rat race, but this was a lie.

What do you do now instead? How do you view your work?

Basically, I decided that it was okay to be just a developer.

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.

I consider myself in the pragmatist group.

- 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.

What is your spiritual practice?

Personally, I went down the path of “pragmatist contractor”, working short, 3-6 month gigs and taking most of the year off to do that other stuff that gives my life meaning.

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.

Diplomacy is the art of saying “Good dog” until you get to the rock. I save religiously (~80% of my income) to one day be financially independent. Until that day, you put on a smile and do your job to the best of your ability, not working a moment per day longer than required.

No one is coming to save you but you. Have an exit strategy. Buy your time back for yourself.

I've worked with so many people that satisfy themselves with this lifestyle. Frankly, I'm envious. I simply cannot be happy that way, I've tried, I failed. I cannot live in the suburbs, I probably cannot have a stable family life, I will not commute. Instead I decided to accept that I cannot burry my desire to be on top, doing things others look forward to in the future, I'm trying to find ways to be sustainably excited about constantly being out of my comfort zone with new things.

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.

That’s an entirely legitimate approach, as long as you’re putting enough aside for when the chase isn’t fun anymore, you burn out, etc. That time will come.

Well they're pragmatists, so they'll recognize that pragmatically they need some way to fund their life and accept that as a cost they'll have to pay until they find something more efficient.

Well, my commute is only 10 minutes and I'm not sure how sleep comes into it (sleep is my favorite part of the day!), but I'm definitely a pragmatist at my job.

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.

By realizing that the other 1/3 of our lives are spent on what is meaningful to us. And the 1/3 that is work funds more resources to put towards what is meaningful. I can go buy expensive tools and supplies for my sculpture hobby. I can afford gas and hotels to explore the country. I can go out to eat with my friends and family. And the last 1/3 is sleep... which isn't really a negotiable part of the human existence.

Also, don't discount weekends. You don't really work 1/3 of your life because you get 2/7ths off every week.

Well that 2/3 is spend earning money that allows you to make the 1/3 better. Obviously there's a delicate balance there, but it's not as if they're wasting 2/3 of their lives. A friend of mine works 9-5 in a big corporate company and he loves life - he's paid well (or, well enough), never has to pull long nights or answer e-mails on the weekend. Gets home in time for dinner with the kids and to put them to bed.

(and can you really factor sleep in this? No matter what your state of employment everyone needs to sleep)

Because they've taken a look at the alternatives and decided to make the best of a bad situation.

Is it 2/3 though? With the assumptions below it comes out to about 40% of waking time:

- 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

That's the trouble, everyone is different. My commute is only 20 minutes total every day (30 minutes if I ride my bike). I get 36 days of vacation every year (and a 6 week sabbatical every 5 years), plus from memorial day to labor day we only work until noon on Fridays.

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.

This "Defining the Corporate Hierarchy" is a re-hash of the (acknowledged) original, the "Gervais Principle" by Venkatesh Rao. The Gervais Principle is brilliant.

"The Gervais Principle" series home: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/the-gervais-principle/

The Gervais Principle is brilliant, indeed. It manages to explain aspects of the show that lead to its success, whilst also providing an in-depth and raw description of the corporate world.

> They have figured out that the majority of their work, to their surprise is not actually that important or necessary.

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.

I used to (half) joke about another option: (d) it could be cost effective for a company to spend money hiring and wasting excellent talent if it prevents their competitors from doing something genuinely valuable with that talent.

Unlikely. No "talent" would agree to waste their life in such a scenario, worrying about "being found out for not contributing to the bottom line".

That's kinda what makes them a talent — almost a tautology.

I dunno, money talks

For a short while, maybe.

"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.

There could be cases where exceptional talent is kept motivated on exciting cutting edge projects, but those projects don't "contribute to the bottom line", either because the project is canned or doesn't generate enough profits (or cut enough costs) or some other reason. The chances are that these cases wouldn't be an intentional waste of talent, but if you've been around a while you sometimes start to wonder.

If it wasn't c) the company wouldn't exist, even if b) is true.

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.

There's a bunch of additional work required to maintain the product outside of developing it in the first place. The brilliant product developed needs to be refined, marketed etc.. and all of those have support structures in place which sometimes amount to "work". Reports, analysis, collate data etc... integrate with X, all work that may not be what you sell but support the organization to sell what you sell.

It’s B. Usually just can’t get rid of A because of politics. Enjoy the free lunches though.

In my experience it's a combination of b) and c): most of the added value is generated by a surprisingly small number of "heroes" and everyone else is just there to support them. While the random office drone's contribution to the project's success is small, the fact that none of the "heroes" had to bother spending time and effort on that little side task enabled the team as a whole to solve the difficult issues quicker.

These sound more like a list of things you figure out in your 20s so that you can successfully work them to your advantage in your 30s.

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.

Spoken like an HNer who is incredibly lucky to be working in a field that has never-ending demand, and is probably good at their job.

Just a heads up that the majority of people are not in your/our situation with regards to their employment.

Yes, being in an in-demand field makes work life easier. Being good at your job makes work life easier. Typing and drawing on a whiteboard is easier than mopping floors and cleaning toilets.

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.

Maybe the reason these topics keep coming up is that a lot of people feel that they are important aspects of 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.

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.

Indeed. But we're discussing this here, with the audience you describe making up nearly all of us, so I didn't feel the need to add that caveat.

So yeah, go us. Our gig gets better over time, while it appears that others don't.

The employment bubble you describe really only exists in the Bay Area. The majority of users on HN are not in the Bay Area:


People 35 and over, are somewhat likely to have families and find it difficult to relocate.

> The employment bubble you describe really only exists in the Bay Area.

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.

For now. This site is also full of 20-something’s who were never in the workforce during a bear market. As someone who has lived through two, I can tell you that the demand for software engineers is not permanently robust. When the next tech downturn happens you will be grateful to have any job whatsoever. It truly sucks.

A lot of us were around for '08, and while more rare there are still some holdovers from the original .com bust. The exponential growth of the field makes it skew young but you shouldn't assume HN has no wisdom at all on it.

The largest group in the poll was US (not including SF/NY) followed by Europe (not including UK).

From your list that leaves Berlin.

Few other towns have the density and variety of startups that the Bay Area has to be honest.

> 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.

Seattle and almost anywhere in Southern California are also fantastic areas.

For sure, I wasn't saying you were wrong in your statement, just pointing out that we are the exception, not the rule, when it comes to the employment landscape right now.

Saying things like "embrace no job security" is something most people simply cannot afford to do.

> 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.

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.

Hey, I mean this in no way disrespectfully, but if you want to land a job you need to show that you're following the rules. I've hired a lot of people at different places over the years so I'm going to try to help you with some unsolicited feedback.

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.

Please take my comment as constructive criticism. I'm sure you have good intentions.

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.

Not the original poster but I didn’t take it that way. It came off as gentle, sincere help for someone probably looking for work. I frequently see people reaching out to people in need of work.

it is indeed patronizing and presumptuous, although i must assume it was well intentioned. i was adding commentary to an internet discussion board, not applying for a job. plus, they just made up a job profile which isn’t accurate, so even if i was hunting for a job here, it could be a distraction. i don’t speak to everyone i meet in person with the assumption that i am applying to a job with them and am quite amicable in life. and to be perfectly honest, the people who hire in the way i described aren’t places i want to work anyway.

Try walking in the employer's shoes: "can this person learn what we need them to learn?" is notoriously difficult to assess. While the risk of making a bad hire is tremendous (deadly for smaller companies), the upside's lukewarm (hypothetical loyalty).

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.

i am not advocating hiring purely on potential. and of course i view it from the employer's point of view as well.

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.

A multiple week long project as part of your interview process for assessing candidates? Genuinely curious, what makes this a better process than others? I don't have a solution, but I imagine the majority top half of applicants will not even bother applying.

I feel these two are somewhat contradictory or inconsistent:

> 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?

There is a differentiation here in important to the company vs. important to the individual.

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."

Yes and no. Maybe a better way of phrasing would be, their effort will never be appropriately compensated.

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.

I think the brainwashing is somewhat voluntary. When fighting for survival is no longer necessary, most people enter a state of perpetual boredom which, at its extremes, becomes depression and anxiety. An economy of ever-flowing distractions is a great way to pass the time while waiting to die.

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.

This is an excellent post, and I agree. It's important to remember, though, that the majority will move with the wind, a small group will be virtuous (almost) no matter what, and a small group will be terrible no matter what. If the system rewards the terrible, the majority will sway that way, and vice versa.

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.

The problem is that what people in the company _as an aggregate_ is valuable, but each job is broken down into pieces that are less and less valuable so that no one person is irreplacable. This is Capitalism 101, and it makes each worker feel like their job is BS, but it keeps the company as a whole safe from a variety of problems.

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.

also in many companies >80% of profits(before payments) go into payments, so not that much exploitation there.

I don't think that's what the word "profit" means.

An example of this is say, cigarette advertising, if you were doing this for a job, you'd sure as hell not want to be ripped off by the company, if you're going to sell your soul to the devil, he'd better be paying you fairly.

I think I snapped somewhere around the age of 28.

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.

Couldn't have put it better. At some point you realize that as far as your company is concerned, you're just human capital. And, most likely when you leave to get a new job, nobody is going to notice all the good work you did, or care who you were. And it's not you that's going to get rich off all that work.

A "human resource".

I always found that term to imply that we're just meat for the meat grinder.

I've berated more than one manager over calling a human being a "resource" in a meeting. Electricity, hardware, furniture, office space, and the like are resources. you might get away with calling people "talent", but not "resource."

> I've berated more than one manager over calling a human being a "resource" in a meeting

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.

This list reminds me that employment simply a trade off, and a fair deal that most are willing to accept with eyes wide open.

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.

> They have figured out that its much more about connections and office politics than hard work.

Just to be fair, developing/maintaining/managing connections and the political side (negociation, argumentation, understanding of the social mechanics, etc) is hard work.

> 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.

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).

See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_the_firm

Also, job security is not perfect, but it sure does exist.

No this is correct.

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.

"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.

"If a firm found a way to keep high end workers for cheap"

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 https://hbr.org/2005/01/managing-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?

It's a power relationship all the way down: companies use their power to fuck employees as much as they can,some succeeding ,sometimes not, while competition does the same for companies.

And the end goal? Some shareholders more happy than others, and some random economic statistic, that's not really related to quality of life.

Firms exist to make money, ie get more value out of your labor than they pay you for.

Sure. But you (think average person, not specifically a valley programmer) probably can't generate as much value on your own as inside the firm, so in part they take the value that they put on the table.

I do think the stress piles on once your obligations overwhelm you outside because so much is dependent on keeping employment. you over commit and feel trapped.

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.

I also think there is something different at work here.

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.

Such a powerless attitude. And these things are presented as if they are objective truths that one day programmers will eventually "figure out" rather than a subjective, and very disempowering, perspective.

I think you might be over generalizing. Not all jobs are like that, surely.

Also, any employee who thought that way would probably never rise far in their company, hence a self fulfilling prophecy.

The question is also if it has to do with the jobs, or work in general. I don't hate my work, I really like job actually. What I dislike is it taking up 37 hours of my week, that's starting to be to much, I got other stuff to do.

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.

They have achieved their early goals and found out that they were fakes implanted by the society. Now they are left in a vacuum surrounded by a bunch of responsibilities.

> They have figured out that its much more about connections and office politics than hard work.

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.

> They have figured out that the majority of their work, to their surprise is not actually that important or necessary.

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?

> Again, spending time with people in a social environment is a meaningful thing to do with one's life.

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.

Well said. It can be very sobering, that’s why I personally have no intentions of quitting the startup / freelance life.

Even owners/founders get discarded these days... It's full on Game of Thrones on all levels.

Well, damn it. Now you've done it. Jeebs, go get the bag, we got a cat loose in here!


and to top it all, They have figured out that they themselves are not much worth anyway, have to settled for whatever is at hands, to survive with the family of four.

Do most of these things really take 10+ years to "figure out" though?

> 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.

>> 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.

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.




I mean you say yourself it's an assumption. And things change, I'm not sure expecting your parents' experience to be your own is reasonable.

I reckon your parents experience is totally reasonable - up to a certain age, they're your first call for any questions you have in life about literally anything. It's not until you've gained enough of your own experiences that you can make a judgement about what they've told you. I'm not sure it should take you up to your mid-thirties to learn these things, but hey, everyone's different.

Of course. I was answering as to why some people might have had the expectation of indefinite employment at some point, which in some places was somewhat justified until recently.

>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.

It's at "almost", it is the definition of being an employee. Marx was right about that.

Employee-owned companies ftw.

I can also give you a different calculation.

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...

They have figured out that …

cant you make them into bullet points for readability?

I can't stress this enough - if you're not happy with life, and you feel like you aren't moving closer to your goals and dreams, make a change!!!

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[1]. 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!

[1] http://theroadchoseme.com/africa-expedition-overview

> I can't stress this enough - if you're not happy with life, and you feel like you aren't moving closer to your goals and dreams, make a change!!!

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.

This is exactly how I used to think. Then I started moving around. A lot.

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 agree about environment conditioning you to some extent; but not necessarily solving underlying, unrelated problems.

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.

I think this is a both/and, rather than either/or scenario. There's no doubt your environment has a massive impact on behavior modification; I agree with everything you wrote.

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.

The other piece to this is that humans are actually pretty bad at self-analysis. Self-reflection is important, but it needs to be coupled with honest discussions with other people to get something approximating an accurate picture.

This is profound. Mark Manson [0] writes about how long-term happiness/tranquility can only be found in saying "No" in our world of infinite choice - in intentionally limiting ourselves and actively choosing to focus on depth rather than breadth in our relationships, careers, travels, etc.

[0] https://markmanson.net/

I discovered this when I moved countries. It sounds so cheesy, but often the problem is within you, it's not an external problem, even if it seems to manifest itself that way.

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.

Well said. All too often those inspirational prompts to chase your dreams feel slightly too unconditional.

If everything you do is temporary, you'll never arrive anywhere.

It's an easy thing to say when you've come out the other end carrying a bag full of survivor bias. The reality is that there's a reason people don't do this very often and it's because there are tangible benefits to things like owning a home and not worrying about how you're going to pay for food. Not to mention the medical care situation in the US, which is outright designed to help trap people in their jobs.

> the medical care situation in the US, which is outright designed to help trap people in their jobs.

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!

Theoretically. In practical reality there are quite a lot of obstacles, none of which can't be overcome mind you, but then there's considerations for the other people in your life you'd have to leave behind, the flaws of the country you'd be moving to, etc.

It's risk/reward, like almost everything else. Don't be surprised when people rationally choose a lower risk path.

Its also about what you value most; Being happy about everyday, or material things.

For some people its material things like a house, car etc. and thats okay.

How old were you at that time? Did you have to leave any dependents behind?

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 agree with your advice!

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.

Sounds nice, but what about your family? Relatives that might need your attention?

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.

I think the entire point of this is to drop what you perceive to be your obligations and to focus on yourself.

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.

Most people I've met in big American cities have come there from a home far away and not brought their relatives. They are then tied to that new place and can't easily spend much time back where they came from.

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.

It's up to you to figure out how to make yourself happy.

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.

> what about your family? Relatives that might need your attention?

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.

do you remember the SNL skit "Debbie Downer"?

So I should stop supporting my old parents by paying for their rent/expenses and move somewhere else because I'm currently not following my dreams?

Some people don't have the luxury of being selfish.


> if you're not happy with life, and you feel like you aren't moving closer to your goals and dreams

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.'

If you have the privilege of being able to do this, it's a great thing to do. As others have mentioned, not everybody has the privilege. People have families, or no cash, etc. etc.

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.

Do you worry about coming out of the other end of these travels - by choice or circumstance - and not having the stability/financial cushion that maintaining a steady job would have afforded you?

No. I've made a conscious decision not to live life in fear, and not make decisions based on fear.

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.

Sounds like this could be survivorship bias, in a very literal sense.

Could be. But also talking about all these other hypothetical adventurous people who are now broke and starving feed into our fears. I wonder if it just feels right to assume most people regret such decision because it matches what we worry about.

Do you have any data to back up that sentiment?

No. I'm not aware of anyone doing a randomized controlled trial on going adventuring. I'm just pointing out that people who died naturally won't be able to tell their stories, so we're disproportionately likely to hear from the ones for whom it worked out ok.

For one person choosing adventure there must be at least ten watching him/her closely succeed/fail so in our current superconnected world I would assume not so happy stories are still preserved somewhere.

Very cool that you made it work for you. I'm in a situation where on a daily basis I feel total Bliss and extreme depression.

I write resumes for a living and coach on job search strategy (former recruiter as well), so I talk to several people a day who dislike their jobs enough to be looking for new ones.

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.

If you develop these thoughts further, let us know. I'd read them.

For me it was at 24, about 2 years after I started working. The first two years were exciting vanity-filled ride, because I was proving that to myself and others that I was really capable. I got quickly promoted to a project manager role (that was in a time and organization where PMs weren't just bureucrats, the role was exciting). Delivering my first project was hell of a ride (coffee and red-bull powered one), but after that, I saw that I'm just going to have to repeat that experience for the next 40 years. I gave my notice soon afterwards, and since then I look for jobs with best salary to effort ratio. Also, there are some kinds of jobs (management, enterprise architect), that are so annoying that I don't know how much I would have to be paid to do them again.

At your age (if it’s mid 20s) money should be around the bottom of the priolist, later in life that may not be an option

I'm nearing my fourties now. I have saved 27 years' worth of living expenses, assuming my current lifestyle (or longer, if I at some point decide to downgrade). Recently, I have given my notice. I want to finally try something else.

Financial independence and early retirement?

With 27 years of living expenses if you invest wisely and don't get unlucky, you shouldn't ever have to work again.

I don't like the "don't get unlucky" part. It would really suck if I indeed got unlucky around the age of 60 or 70, and then had to support myself working as a janitor till I die. In other words, I tend to be risk-awerse.

"Unlucky" in my book would be if you died before having the chance to use any of your hard-earned savings ;)

Why? Making money early saves you years of struggle later and gives you option that nobody else has through their 30s, after which starting new things becomes physically more difficult. Missing out on what everybody else is doing in their 20s, is by definition not something particularly novel. If money is a tool to buy us time, then making them early when u re most motivated and capable is the right strategy imho.

Or you could make disciplined by the books financial decisions throughout your 20s and 30s have it easier when you're in your 40s and 50s because you're not trying to quickly save for retirement.

What would you suggest to optimise for instead?

Seek to carve out a niche in something that you truly enjoy, even if you like what you do, it (probably) takes time to turn that into something that you also can excel at as well.

When young with little in terms of responsibilities you can really push the envelope, you can also afford a couple of false starts.

That sounds quite wise.

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.

About work and happiness : the more I think about the reality of being a full time employee, the more I start to believe part-time is actually the right way to work and be happy.

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

Boy, I wish I could find part time work that paid even a quarter of what I make supposedly working full time. The reality of course is that I'm at most actually working 15-25% of that time and the rest I'm just piloting a desk and being available for people to pick my brain.

Then there's the health care issue to consider, at least for US residents.

> The reality of course is that I'm at most actually working 15-25% of that time and the rest I'm just piloting a desk and being available for people to pick my brain

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.

Sure, if your company isn't actively hostile to the idea like the one I work at is. Lot of places are very butts-in-seats focused.

Don't let the healthcare issue scare you. I've been on high-deductible Marketplace plans for the past few years, having gone through a pregnancy and delivery with complications, among a few other health concerns.

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.

I recently reduced my weekly hours and am now working only 4 days a week. its so much better.

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

I'm about to ask for the friday off, I'd even pass on the promised 5% raise if neecessary. As a rather young project/product manager I'm a bit worried about carreer prospects though.

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.

In Switzerland it's the norm that you can decide how much you want to work on an 80-100% scale (sometimes even 60%). Your vacation days etc. Adjust accordingly.

Just to be fair... according to the article, only 1 in 6 British workers over 35 say they are "unhappy" with their job.

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've started to wonder if we're hitting a stage in society where we need to embrace the "mid-life crisis" as a normal stage of development, rather than as a problem.

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.

I mean, the article says that 1 in 6 does. I’d say that is pretty ok if anything.

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.

Yeah that's something to keep in mind - there should be an equivalent, positive article saying 5 in 6 people above 35 are happy with their job. That's a really good number!

This is much more likely to happen if you didn't manage your career well because you were caught up in 'more important' things that you thought would add greater meaning to life. If that greater meaning has evaporated (or never showed up), it can be a world of hurt.

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.

Contracting has been the answer for me.

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.

At the age of 34 I opted out of having 'a job', set up a company of my own and now contract and consult. I change who I'm working for every few months to a year.

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.

Plus in my case it freed up a ridiculous amount of time to do other stuff and plans i had.

What kind of consulting if you don't mind me asking?

A lot of what I do is contracting, basically just short-term software engineering. But I have done some consulting on development processes and tooling (for god's sake use a standard build system), and have done some small amounts around embedded systems SDKs.

Most of the contracts bring me in as a 'consultant' but the work is software engineering.

I´m interesting in transitioning into something similar, did you write how you learned or how you transitioned somewhere? Was it thanks to your network or did you start out cold?

There's too much negative focus on why work is bad here to recognise that it's both give and take. It's not just that work no longer excites, it's that you want to do other things.

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.

> Two years ago, at age 34, she switched careers and learned how to code.

Oh dear.

Yeah, that stood out to me too. Out of the frying pan, into the fire...

People here offer many good explanations, but I would like to offer a very simple one.

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.

I'm 38 and have been a freelance developer for ~20 years and I'm still really into what I do.

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 started with 28, maybe earlier, but 28 was when I finally snapped, haha.

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.

What do you mean by “personal growth”? Is that a soft way of asking for a promotion?

Are you still freelancing?

Yes, I found out that I don't work as well with "bosses" as I work with "customers" :D

Good for you! What kind of freelancing and how long? I know of many who burned out, and I'm borderline there myself since I hadn't developed a passive lead stream.

I only work about 6-8 months a year.

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 was 23 when I lost all taste for ordinary work. After being borderline homeless to making 300k in 3 months in affiliating marketing, the though of office work made it unbearable. Little did I know the new found good life would crash around me and I'd have to do the unthinkable - work in an office. The next 4 years were the most miserable years of my life. I was saved by a remote job, followed by another remote gig which ultimately ended in a layoff. The whole experience has made it impossible for me to ever return to an office. Instead, I now struggle as a freelancer / wannabe consultant.

You didn’t invest any of that 300k? I feel like if you even put 100k of that into something like a reit you probably could have just retired and done whatever you wanted.

100k isn't even close to enough to retire on, at least in the US or other Western countries (assuming a standard middle-class standard of living, of course).

Perhaps because people are fathers and mothers around that age?

35 is probably the age where you have accepted the fact that you are just a cog in the machine, and the output will benefit someone other than yourself. For years leading up to it you already know youre just trading your life's precious hours away for money - which seems to have less and less purchasing power by the year. Once you realize the job is just a means of keeping yourself going, the perpetual cycle dawns on you as a sea of misery and despair. Friends fall by the sidelines, opinions shaped into concrete paths, the 35 year old you finds it difficult to see meaning in the never-ending cycle of slavery that we call work.

We as software engineers make a damn good amount of money for literally sitting down all day and basically bossing computers around. It is not slavery.

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).

Software engineers / developers live in their own bubbles. It takes a certain amount of willfulness to want to get into that type of work, so it is no wonder a handful (or more than a handful) of well paid engineers actually enjoy their work. Of course that goes for other professions but I imagine the majority of the population does not live in your reality.

Is the hate of the job just general hate for any job? If that is the case, it won't matter what profession you choose if someone doesn't like the way humans have structured society.

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.

Assumption: everyone here is a software engineer

So just anecdotal but I've definitely realized the cog in the machine bit since like age 24, and honestly I still think life is pretty great, definitely not a sea of misery and despair.

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 ).

I’ve hit this realization at 30. But exactly this.

Sounds like you have never had a job outside the office. Go dig ditches for a construction company for six months and you'll run back to your 9-5 "slavery".

A part of me misses blue collar work. I'm a software engineer now and love my job but I'm often mentally exhausted, have less time to think, and find it much harder to stay in good physical condition. Besides, in a lot of meaningful ways, it isn't so different. I work for a great company but that doesn't change the fact that I'm giving up a certain amount of practical free will and allowing others to profit off of my work. It's not slavery but it doesn't always feel so great. I've never understood the mentality you're exhibiting. Someone else has it worse so nobody should complain? That's nonsense. Everyone should strive for better. Whether they're at the bottom or the top. That has always been the way of humanity.

There is no mention of 9-5 in the parent comment. What made you get so aggressive at the statement above?

I am nearing that age, but the displeasure started several years ago. I find myself a bit trapped with a a place where I am marrying 2 specialties that tend to go together, and that in theory should be an ideal job. But hte people, politics, and lack of genearl teamwork have left a sour taste. And it's not like I am ready to give up the money I save (I make a bit more because of the industry but still a lot less then others in this field). And since I am on an immigration visa, it's not as easy for me to hop around from place to place. A bit lost at what to do. Its not as if I am not following my heart because I think I am, I just do not like the environment, nor will it be any better at another unknown place.

I'm the same - only just pre-30 but already tired by being the "expert" at what I do (I've tried repeatedly saying that "knowing a bit more about something than other staff here" is a shitty bar for "expert" status and they should get rid of me and replace me with someone who's genuinely good at it, and interested in it, alas, nothing).

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.

I start hating my job every three years or so. Then I get a new one making more money.

That's quite exactly what it has been for me in the past 5 years. Now I'm approaching the age of 35 and asking myself whether there is a single job that makes for most of my working life at all.

The desire to have such a job grows as things around me (family, friends) start to be more steady.

Don't you have troubles finding work? I review resumes at times and I don't expect someone to be married to a company. But three years is a warning sign. Companies fail, there was a bad culture. But job hopping is a reason to not want to hire someone.

Not sure what industry you’re in, but three years doesn’t translate as ‘job hopping’ to me. If anything, 2 years is an average ‘acceptable’ job length.

Personally I find it a short term stint considering it probably takes upwards of 5-6 months to get upto speed and be genuinely productive.

Really? I've always heard 2y or more at each place is the line of no suspicion, and from more conservative sources than HN. Interesting.

The last two times I was actively recruited.

I'm 34 and love working more than I ever have. Though I work at a really cool startup and feel really connected to my team. It's not perfect, we have a few issues, but overall I feel good about the work I do.

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 extraordinarily lucky to be in a profession where the opposite is true. Although it was demoralizing during my first four years or so to see my superiors leave hours before me and my colleagues, work quickly became both more qualitatively rewarding and more quantitatively reasonable.

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.

Which profession are you in?

It's not the profession, it's how you feel about it and the hand you've been dealt regarding your colleagues (superiors or not). There's definitely no perfect profession.

Wow, for once I was an early adopter! I started around like age 22, hardened at 30, and started rage quitting at 35.

I didn't actually like my job again until age 38 when I found the right employer, because I got picky.

I know switching to consulting (and finding a lot of success in it) has made me 3x happier. I never would have risked the switch if family issues didn't force me to.

What kind of consulting? How did you find success in it?

Marketing consulting, reaching out to my whole network and doing really good work after 9 years experience. It also tripled my annual income.

Cool, where did you learn?

I found many good technical education sites, but only HubSpot for marketing stuff.

This article is pretty great, not written by me: https://brianbalfour.com/essays/customer-acquisition

Lol, it says there is no certification for this type of stuff, but then quoting HubSpot people who do exactly that :D

This seems counter intuitive to me. All through your 20s, you're working your way up through the bottom of some crappy bigco, paying your dues and getting experience under your belt so that you can jump to better jobs later.

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.

What you are missing is that rate of improvement often matters as much or more to happiness than absolute quality. In your 20s, it is easy to make rapid career progress. By the mid 30s, most people's careers have plateaued or are progressing much more slowly.

You make a lot of realisations about the nature of work along the way. I imagine it's less that people hate their job specifically and just that they are tired of the grind in general. You can love your job and still not want to be at it for 40 hours a week.

"and pretty much steer your destiny as you choose"

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.

Why move to management then? Software Developer is the best gig imaginable right now, in pretty much any dimension you can measure.

- 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?

> Senior level pay is pushing $500k for employees, ( and higher for consulting)

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.

So to be clear, in response to me asking why a developer in this market would intentionally put himself into a disadvantageous situation, you have chosen to list off a bunch more disadvantageous situations a developer could put himself into.

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?

Which people?

> 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.

52 and loving my job. I get to do all sorts of fun technical stuff and get paid well. I don't care that I'm just a cog.

I wonder if mid-30's could be a point of going either direction?

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.

I recently went to a workshop demo for working with clay by a potter who'd been working his craft for 40 years. He was spinning the wheel and someone said it looked fun and asked if he still enjoyed it after all those years.

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.

There are a few things I'd like to know about the survey:

- 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.

Really? I started hating jobs at 25, honestly.

I'm 39, I've been at this job for almost 5 years and still don't hate it

I recommend the book "Fire Your Boss" for anyone that has a job :)

I find two books with that title on Amazon, which do you mean? Both perhaps? :-)

The one by Stephen Pollan and Mark Levine, I haven't read the other one.

Thats soooo much an understatement, been hating my jobs since i have them

Wait, I thought it was supposed to be Millennials that are spoiled and do nothing but complain about their jobs...

The older millenials are over 35 now...

Millennials are not so young anymore these days you know

Newsflash, don't form your entire world view as a function of things you read in the news.

I'm 35, can confirm.

I guess I was precocious then. My hate began at 25.

This is me and I'm 34. It started a year ago, so there's some truth to the article.

Are most corruption charges in developing countries are well on people over 30? Just curious, i don't have the data.

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.

It's the "How can I quit my job today" mindset. Each person has a different subset of options, based on their socioeconomic state:

- 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.

thats stupid. most people hate their job before that.

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