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Quitting my job has been the best thing I've done for my career (joshuahu.io)
315 points by jhu247 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 224 comments



I've been in the industry nearly 20 years and I always take breaks between jobs. I've worked for startups, Google, Dropbox, non-profits, etc. Between jobs I've pursued personal growth, traveled extensively, re-tooled my CS skill sets in new directions, gotten healthy, done extensive open source work, and more. I highly recommend it to others in the industry if you have the ability to do so; it's only helped my personal and professional career not hurt it.

Live your own life and don't let others tell you how you're supposed to exist.


I can second this. I always take 3-6 months off between jobs for travel and personal development (given I stayed there ~2 years). I'd say I technically progressed about the same during these periods as I did during the preceding employment (minus the real world experience) because I actually really enjoy it. I have never once gotten a negative response in an interview because of it.


Any tips for companies to take your open sourced work as experience? I've mostly just been thrown the book at doing algorithm puzzles and such... Got rejected for not 'technically competent' despite polished complex app on both the App Store and on Github. It's insulting to the point I want to start cancelling processes with all Unicorns...


> Got rejected for not 'technically competent' despite polished complex app on both the App Store and on Github. It's insulting to the point I want to start cancelling processes with all Unicorns...

Because "how do we know you didn't copy paste it from a tutorial and claim it as yours?"

It is insulting, and frankly discouraging. As if the only one true way to tell whether you know your stuff or not is to check if you can solve some silly riddle/puzzle under the gun.

One solution is to only apply to companies without a broken hiring process, but sadly they're very rare.


Like a few hundred thousand lines of code copied from tutorials into a unique working product. Open sourced with a year worth of commit history.

I'd hire that guy, but maybe that's why I'm looking for employment and not the employer? LOL


> Got rejected for not 'technically competent'

That sounds a bit harsh.

Unless you're going for a role that requires some kind of explicit/specific knowledge - and you're clearly not able to demonstrate any skill in that area - I wouldn't put too much stock in the interview processes of Unicorns actually being indicative of your true skill.

I've been told, during an interview, that I was clearly incompetent and the interviewer terminated the interview. This was because I stumbled on doing a series of whiteboard exercises to solve some obscure brain-teasers.

I ended up getting the job anyway (I had worked with people there, and they vouched for me) and learned that to many of the interviewers, they found great delight in finding the most obscure and weird problems, trick questions and coding challenges.

It didn't help with selecting for competency, and the product the company was shipping wasn't exactly ground breaking or needing of someone who could on the spot solve arcane bullshit.


I demo'ed my work up front. And then did their algorithm puzzles. I don't think I aced them all. I have an answer to them all and demonstrate that I can tackle these kinda problems.

But it seems they want people that have studied for months and probably have seen the problem before, so they can go thru all the possible optimizations and come up with the best answer in 45 minutes. Basically they are hiring an 'Interview Cracking Engineer'. Not a developer...

I thought it used to be that they look at your resume and they ask you questions to confirm that your resume is real. And that's that. Now it's basically just an exam, period...


Same. I had a website that I was fairly proud of that involved DjangoREST and Angular and such, and was basically told "Anyone can do that" when I applied for a junior job. It was horribly demotivating, and I don't know if I've seriously applied for a coding job since, which is sad as I'd love to shift into programming and still do it on my own.


Interviews & job applications are not a fair evaluation of your skills, they're a giant and terrible filter.

Don't let it stop you from continuing to apply for jobs. If you have written a Django/Angular site from scratch you are more than qualified for a junior position.


Thanks. I'm gonna keep working on some of my other projects, and get back to applying to what I find open involving those technologies and others I know. It was just a frustrating thing hearing that and, since I have a steady job (even if I don't particularly enjoy it), it was hard to make myself apply for programming ones after hearing it. Just need to move on and keep doing it.


I think a lot of employees feel that since their company have a great website, a great product, a great business, they conflate it as their own and that 'anybody can do it'. In fact they have only done a tiny portion of anything themselves. It's not until they get thrown out on a blank canvas they'd learn to appreciate how hard it is if all they have is their own pair of hands.

Unfortunately the people interviewing are often going to be life-long employees that are expert of climbing the corp ladder, not so much the entrepreneurs who found and own the business.


On the surface this is an obvious thing to do, but somehow this is not the default (and not only because of monetary reasons, the societal pressure is real). But it is inspiring to know that it is possible and you have found success on this path.


I'm just starting out so I'm really curious how long the breaks you took between jobs were, and if you had the next job lined up before you took your break?

Also off topic but what was it like working for non-profits, and what sort of work did you do?


The breaks were anywhere from one month to a year. I never had the next job lined up before hand.

All my work with non-profits involved doing open source in collaboration with them as a consultant. It was great :)


Recently quite a few articles appeared on HN about escaping the rat race for a while and taking some time off. As someone who has a little savings and who is a bit burnt out I've been toying with the idea myself quite a bit. My biggest fear is that because I have only a vague idea of what I want to do with my time, I will fritter away my sabbatical, not accomplish much and end up pretty much at the same point (but with less money). OTOH maybe my ideas about what I want to do are vague precisely because I don't have much time to flesh them out.


I did this, and unfortunately your fears became reality for me. Like you said, I only had a vague idea of what I wanted to do (including traveling, starting my own company, continuing education, side projects, etc). Almost 2 years into it I ended up just barely dabbling in each. I traveled for a few months, worked on some side projects, and learned some new things, but didn't really do anything "big" or traditionally "worthwhile" with my sabbatical. I look at my friends and colleagues who in this time period have gotten promotions, new jobs, MBAs, etc and I start feel like my time has been wasted. People keep telling me that once I join the workforce again that I will look back fondly on this time, but right now I definitely don't.

The most frustrating thing I have experienced is that society in general is still not accepting of people taking "sabbatical" in their 20s. While about 10% of people think it's cool that I quit my job and am flying by the seat of my pants, the other 90% hear that I'm unemployed and treat me like a pariah. It's been very eye opening to me just how linked your personal identity is to your job. And I don't mean job as in "I am a programmer", but specifically the actual name of the company you are employed by. I've had people be very interested in conversation with me at social events when I talk about work-related things, but when I actually say the words "I don't currently work anywhere and am taking some time off", those same people have literally picked up their drinks and walked away.

It's particularly bad with recruiters now that I'm ready to start looking for a new job again. Even though I left my company on extremely good terms (they literally begged me to stay!), recruiters seem to see that I left [insert major well respected company here] and assume that I must been have fired. Most still seem to think Google et al are some extremely coveted workplaces and can't imagine that someone would willingly leave them. It is a very tough hurdle to get over.


About accomplishment, maybe the thing you wanted out of escaping the rat race was to take a break from feeling like you constantly did have to accomplish something.

As long as there isn't something seriously wrong (such as depression that leads to inability to enjoy pursuits), maybe that is OK. It could be important to be able to accept that you don't always have to accomplish something, and that your life doesn't have to be about maximizing how much you can accomplish. (Which is a different thing than saying it's OK to never accomplish anything or OK to consistently accomplish very little.) You don't recover from burnout or whatever else by driving yourself crazy with worry and guilt over how you aren't living up to some standard.

About the weird reactions, I've been through that after making a similar choice, and I've found that with some people, they are just not even slightly open-minded about it and they are going to judge you instantly. You can't do much about those people.

But with other people, their reaction will depend on how you present it to them. You've just told them you're doing something far outside the social norm, and they're going to be thrown for a loop and wondering why and how to understand it. They don't know if you're a lazy, broke, aimless loser or a person who has a plan and is doing this for some kind of purpose and real benefit to making their life better overall. You're going to get a whole different reaction depending on whether you say "Uhh... so yeah, I'm not working anywhere right now" or "I was fortunate enough to be in a good place financially, and I really wanted to take a year off, so I am". The second one signals that you're in charge, you're content with what you're doing, and your successful enough to give yourself the opportunity.


Thanks for making this comment. You did a good job of putting into words what I have struggled to express to myself. I resonate entirely with your comment, but unfortunately for me, my problem is that it's a lot harder to actually put these things into practice.

>About accomplishment, maybe the thing you wanted out of escaping the rat race was to take a break from feeling like you constantly did have to accomplish something.

100% yes! In fact, when I first left my job, this was exactly what was foremost on my mind and I intentionally took a one-month period where I essentially vacationed and didn't "accomplish" anything. I was very proud of having escaped the rat race, and felt good about it. After that is when I started to "get back into it" and work on side projects, etc. I was still confident that taking time off was a great decision, even if I didn't come out of it with an MBA or a startup.

Unfortunately, ~20 months later, things have changed. I've gotten enough negative reactions in those 20 months, and enough rejected job applications and negative conversations with recruiters regarding my employment gap, that I really start to question (even if only subconsciously) the entire situation I put myself in by quitting. I've started to lose that confidence that I initially had, and once that confidence starts to erode, it's been really hard to get back.


First I want to thank you for your honesty. It is so refreshing to read, in this sea of self-promotion of Medium posts that go around here.

You may want to talk to a coach about this. I'm sure you can find someone specialized in finding jobs. You make it sound like you somehow let yourself down, and if that shimmers through in an interview, you won't leave a good impression. I think you need somebody to help you with finding a good way to frame this time in a better light. Not only for your next application, but also for yourself. What started as time off might have turned into involuntary unemployment, with all the negative weight that this brings.


>I've gotten enough negative reactions in those 20 months, and enough rejected job applications and negative conversations with recruiters regarding my employment gap, that I really start to question (even if only subconsciously) the entire situation I put myself in by quitting.

That's a challenging position to be in. Essentially you're facing what most people with new ideas face. I could tell you that everything will be okay, and that you'll be better off in the future...

Those comments are hollow until this passes, and expecting people in general to empathize is impossible. What I can suggest is to keep at it and re-evaluate periodically. You'll find someone(s) who will understand.


Not sure who your friends are but where I am half the young people are creatives or otherwise not traditionally full time employed and my experience has been people are far more likely to avoid you for being a boring banker/lawyer/accountant in a suit (which I used to be) than unemployed with a good story about what you are doing, which could spark a decent conversation.


I live in Dallas, which is notorious for being pretentious, not very creative, and pretty "corporate", so that probably contributes to the experience I've had.


Hear here.


I don’t know. I’ve had to actively hide my unemployment as well to get people to take me seriously. Even switching to ‘I am a freelancer’ makes you so much more desirable as a conversation partner...


That's actually a great way out of this situation. Recruiters know that there are many gems among freelancers, so working on side projects or on short paid projects should put GP in a whole different category.


What the fuck is a "creative"?


An encompassing term for artists, designers, illustrators and other profession where your job is mainly to get original ideas and implement them.


So does that mean using engineering and math as the basis of building bespoke software is not creative in that sense? Just curious, not criticism - because I always thought of designing the architecture of a large software system, making it work within constraints, codes, making it easy to work on, fit withing design constraints, a beautiful UI, even a new programming language as creative.


As far as I know no. I do agree with you that programming (and many other professions) can be/are creative. Still having the term "creative" as profession does not mean that other professions are un-creative. People like to put people in bins and give them labels, and I suppose that creative is the main ability these professions require.

Maybe one thing that is specific (at least from when I spoke with people employing creatives) is that they have more leeway on what to do.


yes, exactly. Its an offensive term to say the least. Scientist are the ultimate "creatives" as they create fundamental things that all other fields depend on. But somehow they don't describe themselves as "creatives". Calling yourself a "creative" at best doesn't make any sense and at worst makes you look like a jerk.


I'm guessing it's "not like a boring programmer"?


> the other 90% hear that I'm unemployed and treat me like a pariah

Are you sure it's that, or could it be because they find they have trouble relating to someone who is in such a privileged financial position to do nothing for two years, when they themselves may be financially insecure?

People relate through shared struggle and experience. When you say, "I don't work and I don't need to", you've dashed any sense of camaraderie a stranger, or even many friends, might have felt.


It's funny you ask that, because I was just in the middle of writing an addendum to my comment about how people will react to observations I have about my sabbatical due to my "privilege", and "how dare you complain about being financially secure", etc. It's interesting to see just how mean/jealous some people get when they hear that I'm able to financially survive without a current source of income. Like the author did in his first paragraph, it seems that every time I talk about being unemployed I have to caveat it with some "I know I'm privileged etc etc but hear me out..." because otherwise people will summarily dismiss anything I say. You haven't explicitly done so in your comment, but others in this same post have (see bottom of the comments in particular), and I've even had people in real life maliciously accuse me of secretly being a 1%-er (I'm not even close).

To answer your question more directly: I've considered it, and that's probably the case for some of those interactions (see above), but the majority of the ones I'm specifically thinking of are interactions with people that I know for a fact are much better off financially than I and make just as much (if not more) than I do/did.


Even financial peers may nonetheless view your position as privileged, because they may not be able to give up whatever it is you did to be able to leave their job. Perhaps they are burdened with debt, or have a family to support, or may simply lead an expensive lifestyle that is not socially tenable for them to curtail. It could even just be that their partner – or potential partners if they are unattached – would be uncomfortable with them taking a two-year unpaid sabbatical, so even if they wanted to, they couldn't do so in good conscience.

To put it another way – who wouldn't take a two year sabbatical if they could? The fact that it's rare, even among well-paid tech workers, is a good indicator that it's not within the realm of relatability for most.

I also don't think it's necessarily a judgement of privilege. Consider the reverse scenario: a party of people enjoying their sabbaticals, and one person with a desk job. No-one's going to hold a conversation for long with that person, simply because their day-to-day experiences are not relatable. The sabbatical crowd will want to talk about long-term travel, how to stave off boredom, and the interesting startup ideas they're working on. No-one wants to hear this one guy's stories about scrum drama, getting a promotion, and taking their kids to the recent company outing. His stories may be positive or negative, boring or interesting, but no-one else can commiserate with their own current experience. For anything topical you're left with sports and the weather.


Your point is well taken, but when I mentioned people that "I know for a fact are better off financially", I was taking all of those things (debt, family, lifestyle) into account. Again, I'm sure for some interactions, those things apply, but I've had similar interactions with people that have no debt and have no family to support (and in fact, actually receive monetary support from their family/parents).

>To put it another way – who wouldn't take a two year sabbatical if they could?

It seems a lot of people, actually. Again, I can't speak for everyone, but even many of my close friends, who I know a lot about their financial situations and have actually had this conversation with, have even said that they could take time off just as I did and have no financial issues at all, but still would not do it because they feel too pressured by societal expectations to always have a job.

>I also don't think it's necessarily a judgement of privilege. Consider the reverse scenario: a party of people enjoying their sabbaticals, and one person with a desk job. No-one's going to hold a conversation for long with that person, simply because their day-to-day experiences are not relatable. The sabbatical crowd will want to talk about long-term travel, how to stave off boredom, and the interesting startup ideas they're working on. No-one wants to hear this one guy's stories about scrum drama, getting a promotion, and taking their kids to the recent company outing. His stories may be positive or negative, boring or interesting, but no-one else can commiserate with their own current experience. For anything topical you're left with sports and the weather.

There is far more to talk about than just sports/weather and work-related stuff. Even when I was employed, most of my friend group was not in the same industry and we were still able to have lengthy conversations even though most of the group didn't even know what "scrum" is, or never had to worry about a promotion, or never considered startups.

My experience has been that the topics of conversation or ability to commiserate isn't the issue. I've been in situations where I have had lengthy, wonderful conversations with a person where we clearly connect and can relate to each other, but as soon as I drop the "I am currently unemployed" bomb, their entire attitude toward me will change for the worse. (FWIW, I've also been in situations where their attitude has changed for the better, but I find those to be rarer)


I experienced similar when I didn’t have an ability to support myself. I had nothing immediately after college and couldn’t find paying work for nearly 5 years. I had the misfortune to graduate from college at the start of the Great Recession in ground zero of it. Society really does not treat people well. I was constantly made to be aware just how worthless everyone thought I was.

I genuinely wish no one ever had to experience anything similar to what I experienced.


Just to cover the whole gamut of human lameness here, let's also mention the opportunists. Someone looking to meet somebody at a desirable company, to advance their own prospects, would, upon hearing you don't work at any such place, conclude you're of no use to them.

txcwpalpha, some portion of those who "treat you like a pariah" are probably these people. The good news is that such people are of no use to YOU, and you just dodged a bullet.

I don't want to necessarily promote a cynical view of the entire world, because these people are still thankfully a small portion of the total. My bigger point is that a surprising number of people whom I experienced as rude, standoffish, nasty, etc. turned out later to also have been dishonest, hiding something, and/or actively engaged in wrongdoing (be it right there, or in some other part of their lives). Not sure whether the stress of being deceptive leads them to be shitty toward others, or if a shitty worldview leads to both... probably the latter... but in short, shittiness is rarely confined to just the one area of a person's life that concerns social interactions. And rarely does it have anything whatsoever to do with you. It has to do with them - in fact I would say it's a marker, a fog beacon calling out "BEEEEP - this person is shitty in this observable way and probably other currently-unobservable ways - BEEEEP." Just think about it like this: if talking to someone feels like you're talking to a gangster, or like you just went to prison, that's probably because that person belongs there. I highly recommend spending time around some scumbags just to get the flavor.


As someone who has "taken a lot of time off" to spend time _on_ the things I think are important, may I suggest answering the work question with "I'm currently working on _____" or "Right now I'm spending a lot of time on _____". There are a hundred ways to direct the conversation somewhere productive and fun, but "I don't currently work anywhere and am taking some time off" does sound like an embarrassed euphemism for "unemployed." Don't be embarrassed.


I appreciate that advise, it's something I've been trying to do more recently, and I've noticed it does help in conversation.

The funny thing is that, even though my original comment hints at how regretful I am now of being unemployed, it didn't use to be that way. I used to be very proud of having left my job and being unemployed! I thought I had made a great decision and it didn't even occur to me until months later that people would see "taking time off" as an "embarrassed euphemism" rather than something good.


You should be proud. It shows that you have at least some financial discipline and ability to save, which is not something everyone can say.

It really helps to work on something interesting, even if it's very part time, and purely for fun. That might also help with your recruiting woes.

Also, sabbaticals don't seem that uncommon in the Bay Area, at least among people I know. Maybe it's a regional culture difference thing that makes it seem so taboo in your area?


It is sort of the job version of "All the good ones are married." A currently employed individual with talent and a great job is a highly desirable candidate. Everyone else is, at best, a bit suspicious.

However, how you present that info can make a difference.


> those same people have literally picked up their drinks and walked away.

I think it might be attitude personally. I am 26 and have been making it on my own for the last two years, and I think I'm so excited about what I've been doing and sharing it that people always seem curious enough to listen. Be able to hype up what you do! Whatever it is. That's a skill for sure.


> but when I actually say the words "I don't currently work anywhere > and am taking some time off", those same people have literally picked up their drinks and walked away.

To me, this sounds like a good filter. In fact I have been using this sub-consciously with girls when they ask me about my day job. I don't answer with "serial killer", it is screaming "I'm unemployed and unsecure". But rather "I don't really work or have anything right now".

Start getting rid of useless people. The sooner, the better. It is very hard to get rid of people if they are opening discussions so this time they just disappeared away.


Thanks for sharing your experience. Specific information about the downsides of this path is very valuable for me (and others, I guess).


> "I don't currently work anywhere and am taking some time off", those same people have literally picked up their drinks and walked away.

Wow. Really. Fuck them. Whats so great about talking to ppl with office job.


Seriously. What a great filter for people you wouldn't want to grow close to anyway. "If we can't talk about corporate servitude, why talk at all?"

/s, hilarious.


I thought the same thing! And I'm tempted to say that if that was their reaction, I probably wouldn't get along with those people very well anyway. Still, it was very jarring when it happened, because it was clear that it was my statement of unemployment that turned them away.


While about 10% of people think it's cool that I quit my job and am just flying by the seat of my pants, the other 90% hear that I'm unemployed and treat me like a pariah.

The trick for getting around this is to form an LLC and say that you were freelancing. No one will ask questions.

And, after all, it's true. You would have taken money in exchange for services rendered, had a sufficiently-enticing opportunity presented itself. So it's not even a lie.


Because these are all the excuses people give when they were fired and couldn't find another job. Especially after 2 years, when the unemployed person has likely given up on the search.

But seriously, if you enjoyed the job so much, why leave? Why not just take a quick vacation and keep enjoying the job?


>Because these are all the excuses people give when they were fired and couldn't find another job. Especially after 2 years, when the unemployed person has likely given up on the search.

Yea, I'm aware of that, and I don't necessarily blame the recruiters for that, but it does suck for me.

>But seriously, if you enjoyed the job so much, why leave? Why not just take a quick vacation and keep enjoying the job?

I didn't enjoy the job. I worked my ass off doing 60-70 hour weeks in a position I disliked with co-workers I didn't respect because I knew that sticking it out would get me early promotions and bonuses, which is what gave me the financial security to take time off. In doing so I guess I also proved that I am a good employee, which is why my company tried so hard to get me to stay (and has even tried to re-hire me a few times). But I didn't enjoy it, and would only go back as a last resort (unfortunately, because of the reasons mentioned in my original comment re: recruiting, it seems I may have to go with that last resort).

The specific company I worked for is actually known internally for being a place that people commonly work hard for 3-4 years, take the payday, and then quit to go do something else. But externally, it has a reputation of being a great place to work and I've had a lot of recruiters express surprise/disbelief that I would willingly leave it.


> I knew that sticking it out would get me early promotions and bonuses, which is what gave me the financial security to take time off

Nice; good on you for playing the game and walking away with the prize you wanted.


Honestly sounds like Amazon.


Amazon does not have a great reputation.


Well it did at one point, and still does in the eyes of software development employers


"If you can survive there, you can survive anywhere."

Hopefully other employers believe they can provide better work balance.


Why did you work so hard when you hated the job and coworkers so much? Why not find a similar role at a place you enjoyed more? Have you talked to a counselor about workaholism?


>Why did you work so hard when you hated the job and coworkers so much?

I think you might have good intentions with this question, but it seem a bit silly. You could ask the same question to anyone about any job. Why do you think the millions of investment bankers or consultants or lawyers or medical residents work long hours? Why do people work long hours in shitty retail or food service jobs? Why do people work in sweat shops? Not everyone has the opportunity to work somewhere they "enjoy more", but they keep working anyway because at the end of the day we all need a paycheck.

>Why not find a similar role at a place you enjoyed more?

That's precisely what I'm trying to do now. If you mean "why didn't you find a similar enjoyable role to begin with?", because those enjoyable roles don't pay nearly as much, and I wanted to build up a decent-sized savings so that I could take time off, travel, and work on side projects. My "plan" was to spend a few years working hard, build up a nest egg and a resume, and then transition into something more "enjoyable" though lower paying. The first part of that plan went swimmingly, but the transition part has been a little rocky.


> Why do you think the millions of investment bankers or consultants or lawyers or medical residents work long hours?

I thought lawyers worked reasonable hours. The medical industry is it's own special situation. Those investment bankers must be bad at math - for overtime-exempt employees, each extra hour worked past 40 reduces your hourly pay rate by 2.5%.

Retail, fast food, office, IT, software development - all jobs pay 150% pay after 40 hours, and 200% pay after 80 hours. At least in WA State, it's the law for non-exempt employees.

Aren't sweat shops illegal?

You did have the opportunity to work somewhere better. Were you suffering out of a solidarity with the less fortunate?

At least you admit this was your plan from the beginning.


> Those investment bankers must be bad at math - for overtime-exempt employees, each extra hour worked past 40 reduces your hourly pay rate by 2.5%.

It's not about the OT pay working at an IB; it's about the bonus -- which is often a multiplier of your base salary.


> ...must be bad at math - for overtime-exempt employees, each extra hour worked past 40 reduces your hourly pay rate by 2.5%.

Not really. The first one does, then the effect is getting smaller with each hour.


Enjoying the job? Office jobs are not exactly milkshake.


I was in the same place as you. When I started my sabbatical I had some vague ideas, but mainly just planned to drive around the western US and experience the outdoors. After a few weeks I realized I missed thinking about technology, so I started doing the CryptoPals exercises (https://github.com/wskinner/cryptopals). I learned a lot, at my own pace, and didn't come back feeling like I wasted my time.

Those first few weeks of unstructured time were essential. Not framing the time as having to accomplish something is important - I found that my intrinsic motivation came back on its own anyway.


A lot of people confuse the pursuit of entrepreneurship woth just wanting a break. They are two different things. Entrepreneurship means killing yousrefl with more work than in a day job.

If you’re looking to take a break, then just do that like the OP. Take a break and do some light coding only if you want to.

If you want to do entrepreneurship Then you need to cut down the risk when you are going full time. So have some momentum for an idea - Ie you’ve vetted it, built it and charging at least 5 people for it. Something that lessens your risks.

Also make a commitment on a timeframe after which you would quit and start looking for a job. Eg: if I have 0 revenue after 1 year I will quit.


"Entrepreneurship means killing yousrefl with more work than in a day job."

It doesn't have to, a lot of the people I know started their business because they wanted to get away from that culture.


In my experience as someone who started and ran a small business for a few years now- entrepreneurship carries a lot of risks. Financial, social, and emotional. If you have a business background or previous professional experience with a valid business model - in that you can just execute building a profitable business from the get go and delegate the parts needed - you're set. But if you don't have capital or experience delegating, it can be a very painful process because you are now responsible for everything from hiring/management, operations, finance, product, etc.


I feel like not being sure what you would do with your time if you weren't working is one of the surest signs you're really truly burnt out. For the intellectually curious, the world has an endless supply of fascinations to explore. For the civic minded, there's countless causes and people who could use your help. For the pleasure seekers, there's a rainbow of experiences left to live. And what better time then when you're young and healthy.

Consider broader definitions of "accomplishment" and "wealth" than "job" and "paycheck."

I speak from experience on this. A few months into a year-long sabbatical my brain had rewired itself and the burnout healed. I started finding enjoyment in the small quiet moments again. 4 years later, I can say that the sabbatical was the best career move, the best financial decision, and the best personal decision I have ever made. It led me to a new home, a new career, and much new wisdom.


I'm intrigued by your sign of burnout. I have over 100 hours of vacation time left that I need to use before 2018 ends. I've been indecisive on how to use it. I don't know if it's because I'm a workaholic, unimaginative or burnt out. I feel like not knowing what to do with free time could be a sign of any three, I don't know how you would figure out which though.


I only realized in retrospect that it was burnout. I "felt fine" at the time. I remembered being passionate about things in college but it seemed like I was just too busy for that kind of thing anymore. Sometimes I'd sit and think, "hmm, strange that nothing seems to excite me anymore, maybe that's just what getting older feels like."

I knew I felt weary, but everyone around me seemed to feel the same. I was honestly surprised when the color came back. I was almost too busy to notice it was missing.

Now that I know how my own burnout symptoms manifest, I can keep an eye on my stress and work-life balance to make sure I don't get so far gone again.


Just sleep and read books, it simply can't go wrong. Books and bedtime help more ideas come. Do lots of cooking if enjoyable.


> I have only a vague idea of what I want to do with my time, I will fritter away my sabbatical, not accomplish much and end up pretty much at the same point (but with less money).

This is what I did for 2-3 years.

I slept in everyday, went to the gym or for a run, rode my bike around, read books, went to movies, watched TV, shopped for groceries, cooked most of my meals, went on dates, and pretty much never left town.

Eventually I only had like 6 or so months of expenses in the bank and got another job.

Wasn't a waste to me, I loved it.


How did you get back into the job world? I'm in a similar situation and wondering how to spin my time off (which I've loved).


This was back in 2012 that I started working again. I just looked at Craigslist and got lucky when I saw an ad that was the intersection of my previous 2 positions. Applied there, got it, and stayed for a bit more than 3 years.

My background is writing/marketing though so it’s not like my skills were particularly out of date.


That sounds like a healthy life. To bad things aren't setup for the majority of people to have time to care for themselves.


In my experience having done this a few times, I find that while I'm working I can't come up with new ideas because I'm too mentally exhausted or just don't have time.

Usually I take a week or two letting myself experience calm and boredom, and then reading what others are doing inspires some ideas.

Usually I then write myself mini proposals like you'd do for your boss or a grant, clarifying what I think I know, what I think might work and why it works be interesting, how the problem I'm considering is done best now, and how I'd go about developing that problem into a project.

It takes maybe a day or three per proposal, but saves months of chasing bad ideas like a new electronic device that solve a technical problem in a cool new way (but does it worse than the current solution.

It just takes a different amount of time and introspection and recovery for each person. There are so many ways to live a good life, and many are better than what we thought we wanted in high school or college. Don't be afraid to explore things that seem silly, no one is watching and it's the only way to learn.

But boredom while alone is critical. Perhaps the most important part to redeveloping curiosity and processing what we think we want is silence.


I've been in that boat. My situation ended up being similar to what you're worried about— wasn't able to develop any idea or business substantially. My advice from my limited experience is: if you want to go it alone enough, you should be able to create at least a very simple version 0.1 before you strike it out on your own. We often think work is what's holding us back, but lack of disclipine and direction could be just as limiting.


I've found lack of direction to be my biggest issue. I've got a job that, thankfully, gives me a decent work-life balance (if not a great pay to go along with it), but I just can't bring myself to do anything during my time off because I don't know what to do.

Though, that's not to say discipline isn't an issue as well. I've had several ideas, and never really followed through because of lack of discipline/not seeing how it's going to help me earn money, etc.


Do nothing, live. There will come a time when you get passionate just go with it.


It's a serious risk. If I'm ever in this situation again, I think I will have an idea, and possibly even a very bare-bones prototype before I quit my job.

Also, if you're going to use this opportunity to learn a new language/framework/etc, I'd dip the toes in the water now.


I’m in the same boat. However the thing to realize is that you’ll be better off even if you fail, you’ll have a lot of new skills. You’ll also have time to network.

I quit my job to work on a project (http://ngrid.io). I’m close to being done but in the process I’ve met a lot of people and I have three job offers lined up without interviewing.


The trick is always to go TO somewhere not FROM somewhere.


Sure, but finding a worthwhile direction in which to go (and not just another soul-sucking job not much different from your current one) takes time and energy and these can be in low supply because of full-time responsibilities and burnout.


I think the idea of taking a month-3 month vacation is a better goal, or perhaps a year to do a masters. I've seen people quit to learn and experiment with stuff but its difficult - better to get a job where you can learn stuff.


I will fritter away my sabbatical, not accomplish much and end up pretty much at the same point (but with less money).

The best part of doing this myself was to become comfortable with this. At the end of it, you feel more free than most people. Or at least I did.

Becoming ok with not being defined by money or accomplishments is one of the nicer parts of growing older. You can finally relax and shed some of the angst from youth.

Everyone needs money, but ultimately if you live a simple life with simple tastes then you can still afford some gadgets to satisfy your hacking spirit.

It takes at least a year just to decompress, and then another year to become comfortable with not having anything to show for your time. That is the growth.


A "gap" seems to be almost like a crime no tech worker should dare do. I have seen otherwise rational coworkers reject resumes only for having a "gap". Most want to relax, but the same people also punish those who do just that. I thought it was a quirk of the society I live in, but from comments here, it looks like it's the norm in all countries.


This is the kind of mindset that discourages people from taking healthy risks. There are any number of legitimate ways to explain a gap, such as, "No, I was not actually playing video games and surfing reddit the entire time! I actually wanted to invest more time in ____. Can I share with you what I learned?"

Disclaimer: my CV has often been a horrendous mess of 3-6 month "gaps" (during which time I learned many of my most valuable life lessons) and it never cost me more than a month of training myself up, networking, and interviewing.

Another disclaimer: I've always been of the habit of saving my money so that long gaps feel stress-free and I don't have to take the first job I'm offered.


You can easily eliminate every gap up to 12 months and some gaps up to 23 months simply by omitting months on your resume. Quit job A in January and joined job B in December of the next year? 2011-2013 at Job A, 2014-Present at Job B! Solved!


Exactly. If pressured on interview to detail months then have a good fractal story. People love stories. First mention is one sentence; if listener is interested then you go into more detail.


I don't think I get your point, could you elaborate on what you mean?


First sentence: "I took some time off to travel."

If they ask for details, then list all the places you went, and then if they're curious about any individual one give them more details about what you did there. If they don't ask for any details about travel, then they don't care, and you're not wasting time with irrelevant information by going into detail on travel from the beginning.


It's a risk. If a hiring company searches in your butthole for gaps in employment you're likely better off not working there anyway. There are plenty of other companies who won't do that...


Alternatively, just write that you were a consultant / freelancer, and actually work as one for like a month of a year (even for free for a non-profit if necessary).


doesn't work when your company looks at your salary/paychecks.

yes, they've been collecting this since the 70's/80's.


>"No, I was not actually playing video games and surfing reddit the entire time! I actually wanted to invest more time in ____. Can I share with you what I learned?"

I consider this a self-reflective question on the interviewer's part. If your interview can't sniff out the gap in their experience, then there are two possibilities.

A) The most likely one: your interview sucks and you're not as good as you think you are

B) The gap doesn't matter.


I can't say I've found this to be that strong of a thing. Even big companies don't seem to mind my gap.

I'm frankly confused as to why a resume gap would be relevant to anyone. If anything, my resume gap cleared up my head and I've dabbled in some things I don't usually touch so it made me a better employee, if we want to use that language.

This just seems like a cultural holdover and one we could eliminate with more people taking breaks.


It varies.

I took six months off after being fired(!) (four months truly off, ~6 weeks prepping, looking for new role and interviewing). During my time off, I traveled, got healthy after years of neglect, created a couple of mildly interesting side projects, read oodles, and generally was just a man about town.

I told recruiters in month one that I was taking some time off but that I'd love to speak to them around month four. When the time came, I still had very good choices and landed a fairly coveted position.

I did have one particular worry that I guess aligns with what you're saying. I felt that if the three or four good companies I'd hit snooze on in month one all fell through and I had the explain the six month gap after the fact rather than prior to, the onus would have been on me to prove that I hadn't just been applying everywhere for six months with no takers.


I haven’t found this to be true. All I’ve seen is that people ask “what were you up to” and if you say “I wanted to take a sabattical and now I’m fully recharged and really excited to get back to work,” people’s reaction is “wow that’s awesome!” And it’s not a knock against you.


Not sure I understand what's wrong with a gap. At worst it's a red flag if a company refuses to hire you for that, and you dodge a bullet.

What I see a lot around me are people quitting their job to join the new one on the following week. I never understood that either. Besides retirement it's probably the only time in their life where they can take long holidays.


In my own experience in SV, companies just want good engineers. If you have good experience and good projects recruiters will still find you, despite having a gap.


We give our employees time to take sabbaticals. One person took 6 weeks and hiked the El Camino trail in Spain. We actually have to encourage people to take time off :)


6 weeks isnt a sabbatical. Thats a normal vacation in europe.


Interesting. I guess most Americans would call a sabbatical longer than that too, but it is a decent, hard disconnect from work well beyond a typical vacation. I don’t think I have taken that long off in 20 years.


Sabbatical is 1 year or more. 6 weeks is a vacation. You should also look up an article about bragging that was on HN few days ago.


Good article on bragging. I do it some of the time and without any shame. Part of being a business owner is promoting it with honesty. It blurs the line with bragging IMO. I do try to avoid it on HN, but pride, etc. I almost never share IRL, most people will not understand the context or effort or sacrifices required, and, a lot of it is luck too, so bragging obviously is self servicing to some extent. Thanks for pointing it out though, genuinely, it is good to think about. I think this fell under item (6) of the article.


6 weeks isn't a normal vacation. 20 to 30 days vacation allowance (excluding public holidays) is the norm in the private sector and while in theory you could use 30 days to take 6 weeks off, you'd have nothing for the rest of the year. 2 weeks is a normal big vacation, over summer, often in August.

Overlap it with public holidays, and you can get 17 or 18 days off in a row for 10 vacation days - 10 weekdays, three weekends and a public holiday or two. But it's usually better to plan a public holiday somewhere in the middle because of the extra traffic.

As terminology though it's not a sabbatical either. 6 weeks off sounds more like a gap between jobs with gardening leave or travel or some other project that wouldn't fit in a work vacation.


Normal in the sense that they get vacation time last, unlike in the USA (outside of the middle class+ bubble).


We found a unicorn!

Jokes aside, that's a really admirable - and in my experience, rare - thing you're doing. Your employees are really lucky.


Thanks. Our business is well set up for it and it makes sense. I think more businesses can do it than they think. We all need hard reset now and again. It doesn’t take six weeks. Probably more like 2, but it is super important.


6 weeks is a long vacation, not a sabbatical. Those would be 6 months plus. I say this not to be pedantic but because I worry about the concept of a sabbatical being watered down before it becomes more commonplace.


I view 1-1.5 year jumping as more of a risk. At the level of maturity that I'm at it's actually more of a mental health concern than it is anything else. I encourage people to move fast but I also know from my own patterns that the fast moves are a sign of depression.

This guy has a biography online about what he did so screw that. Just post a link to this article if you re-enter the work force. But you'll have something to put there anyway.


You were pursuing a passion project. You were getting to a point in your life where it might not be feasible to pursue it, and you'd regret it if you didn't, so you know what? You went for it. Anybody who doesn't respect that, you probably don't want to work for anyway.


Just fill the gap with something relatively interesting and your ok. You will of course need to keep your skills in practice though.


I recommend quitting your job even if you don't have anything lined up. Read those books you wanted to read. Contribute to open source (people contact me with consulting work thanks to this). Learn new frameworks. You'll figure out something. Go network. I sometimes contact maintainers of open source projects I contribute to. This is the best networking advice anyone can give you. 1337 h4xx0rz don't go to meetups. However they are very willing to talk to people who help them with their projects. These are the people you should be meeting.

Take time off (I definitely needed it, my anxiety was through the roof, my sleep schedule was really fucked up). The days just seemed to be slipping away. Work was both stressful and boring. I'm actually pretty happy these days which is something I haven't felt in a long time.

I've convinced two friends to do the same, they are both very thankful.

My skills are 10x what they used to be. There is a lot of non-linear gains from working 10 hours a day at your pace, on shit you care about. There are days where in 2 days I do stuff that might have taken me 2 weeks previously.

My confidence as a programmer has also really improved. Like few things are truly impossible given enough time.

The thing to remember is that even if your thing doesn't work out, you'll be in a better position.

Hit me up if you want to talk about your plans, my email is in my profile.

Check out the project I'm working on if you feel like it http://ngrid.io.


I built these 2 and they didn't quite work out business-wise...

https://tastory.co https://swiftlightning.io

3 months in a job search to end this retirement funds burn... Still haven't gotten a single offer. Rejected post-interviews by Triplebyte, Google, Blockchain.info, Snapchat thus far. Plenty of mid interview ghosting by startups. And with technically only 1.5 years doing iOS, plenty of companies didn't even pick-up my resume...

And gosh are these processes super slow. Maybe cuz I'm interviewing mostly remote from Vancouver BC with mostly US firms...


ngrid looks pretty cool! I've spent some time looking for something like this - combining structural editing with music. I'm not adept with music theory or production techniques, so I find many of the traditional tools do not work for me. I put my email in the form and I'd love to hear more about it.


Yeah I hate all the daws. They are good for editing audio not editing music in the note space.

Current music theory is kinda terrible. I’ve developed something that I like to think supersedes it and I’m beyond pumped to show it to the world. But it’s hard so it’s taking some time.


> I recommend quitting your job even if you don't have anything lined up.

Devil's advocate: career breaks can be toxic to your getting hired. I recall once reading that it can be comparable to a criminal record.


That’s 100 percent not true.


If you want to re-enter the workforce without any ill effect from the break - it really helps if you do something!

If your going to travel, travel. Travel around the world, drive the pan-american highway. Travel can be cheap as long as you can save up enough for transport to a cheap country: Go to mexico, learn spanish. Go to India, live on a mountaintop. Its actually fun to keep in the loop tech wise from a random location somewhere! And the hiring manager in two years time will be jealous, not suspicious.

If you really want to work (during your only long holiday for the next 30 years!), then make that your focus. Make the side project happen, join an accelerator, make it a full time job - because it will be if its successful. If its to learn a new field (carpentry, art, mechanic) then take the time to be become an apprentice, don't just google youtube videos.

Do something fun. Take a few chances. And I can pretty much guarantee you wont regret it at all.


I've been treating my sabbatical time post graduation as basically summer vacation and honestly, it's been pretty nice. For the past 4 years, I've been researching, in school, or working an internship, so I haven't had a period of time to just be carefree for quite sometime.

I'm very happy right now, but mostly that's because I have a roommate who's unemployed right now, so most of the time I'm not alone in the house and have another person to go on adventures with, as well as have most of my network of college friends and friends still in college around.

On the con side, I've discovered that unstructured working at home descends quickly into distraction and browsing HN too much. I think I might try setting time each day where I go to a coffeeshop and work on coding projects, creative writing, and reading, as the change of scenery might help change my focus modal.

Finally, I recognize that I'm incredibly privileged to be able to do this. Having well-payed internships and a 1%'er family is giving me an opportunity for relaxation and travel that most Americans lack. I'm planning on spending more of my hiatus time volunteering for local causes for what I wish I could say is the goodness of my heart, but is honestly out of guilt and boredom.


> I wish I could say is the goodness of my heart, but is honestly out of guilt and boredom.

It's good to be self-aware enough to recognise this. If you're privileged enough to be able to afford yourself a sabbatical or if you belong to the 1% the best use of your time if you want to give back probably isn't to volunteer for a local cause.

At best it's only a drop in the ocean. At worst it's a self-serving effort to absolve yourself from the 'sin' of privilege.

If you're well off one way to help is Effective Altruism ( https://www.effectivealtruism.org/ ), particularly the pledge to give: https://app.effectivealtruism.org/pledge

That isn't to say that helping others around you by putting in time and effort isn't a worthwhile, rewarding endeavour but one probably shouldn't trick oneself into believing that by doing so one automatically has made a considerable difference.


1%'er you say? You've piqued my interest, mind sharing what your family did to get there?

Can anyone guess how many 1%'ers are on HN?


By household income any couple with google type jobs should be 1%. It is obviously going to be high. What is the interest for there?


Not the asker, but I am always interested in how people come to be wealthy, mostly because it's almost always interesting. Even "worked at google" is interesting because I am personally from a region with no tech unicorns, so it's novel to me.


Not 1%, but it tends to be some element of luck, risk taking, and a lot of hard work. Luck can be such a huge factor. Some times a lot of all three.


I agree but would like to add to that it's true, for the generation that built the principle. Another generation may build out that initial wealth or business. Usually by gen3 or 4 it's gone. At a point unless it's massive wealth (I'm thinking billionaires), there's a clueless generation raised that has no idea how lucky they're the descendants of that initial generation that worked hard and smart during good times, and loses it.

That part is key. It's really a combo of working hard in some way during strong economic times. You can do it in a down market but it's much more difficult. Building generational wealth in the 1950s was much easier than in the 1850s or than it will be in the 2050s, for example. If this isn't true, I'd like to institute a 100% inheritance tax and see how well someone like Meghan McCain or Paris Hilton fares against the rest of us.

My credentials in this.. my family did the exact story described here. Post-WW2 American family that built out an excavating company into a multimillion dollar empire that now includes a chain of banks and other side businesses. My wife's family, same thing but in the textile industry in Latin America. We were both tossed out, because our families are full of psychopaths and horrendous behavior, and we're actually decent folk who won't murder you for a larger inheritance (yes, it's happened in our families). So we never received any assistance, in fact, far less than even a normal, loving family of meager means would give their kids. She's out of her father's will because he blames her for his divorce, a 13 year old daughter at the time of his infidelity, and I'm expecting my brother and aunt to rob my parents blind. We have our own small side businesses but I'm currently hunting for a fulltime job and my wife is a public school teacher. From what I've seen in my life so far, I've never seen money do any good for anyone outside of basic needs. Maybe in the hands of a really wise, smart individual but that's tough to find and a fool is born every minute.


Very interesting story, thanks for sharing your story, that's what makes HN so special.


(You work hard -> get lucky -> take risks) => (fail, succeed); repeat

Working hard part is important and is before. Because if you get lucky first, you will lose it all and likely won't know what areas to take risks in.


My guess is that most HN'ers are 1%'ers. Those who are not are on the way to get there. The 1% is not really special and doesn't take much money/effort to get there. The 0.1% would be more interesting.


The minimum income to be in the 1% in the United States is $421,926. That seems highly optimistic to say that most HN'ers are in that category or ever will be.


You mean in income? I would love to get there. I am based near Amsterdam and willing to relocate.

Specialties: web dev, ios, coding bootcamps


You might not in the top 1% of devs but probably in the top 1% of your country. Also by being near Amsterdam you are already in the top 1% of the world.


My dad was a psychaitrist with a private practice for the longest time.

Sounds like a good time for an impromptu poll?


Everyone on here is a 1%er.


You are probably mostly correct if you are basing that on income relative to the rest of the world. See http://www.globalrichlist.com/


This sounds petty, but thanks for sharing. Quite shocking and eye-opening (although I don't think it's fair to compare income directly like that).


Thanks for sharing @Cursuviam. The unstructured working part is something that I've grappled with for a long time!


If there's a hackerspace near you, it might work better than a coffeeshop as a place to get out of the house and focus on work. Having other geeks around helps me. (As long as they're not working on loud projects that day!)


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K


When I feel burned out, I take a contract position with a BigCo. The pay is still good, the problems are still relevant, and the slower pace is quite restorative. Plus it leaves merely a scar on your resume instead of a gap.


One thing I realized more recently is the value of building your nest egg early. Sure, you have many years down the road to earn money, but the later you earn it, the less time that money will be working for you. Put it away early, don't touch it, and it quietly grows. Burn down your reserves now, and you get no benefit of all the upcoming years of interest (or ROI, etc).


On the other hand, marginal tax rates are a thing. If you take six months off (across a year boundary), you might be only losing 55% of your salary or so, not the entire thing. (That is your marginal rate is much higher than effective)

Say you get 5% real returns in stocks after taxes on distributions. After 15 years, you've lost about 10 months of salary at your effective rate.

Having to work 4 extra months 15 years in the future to take 6 months off now seems like a reasonable trade. (It's a 3.5% annual discount rate on the future).

PS: if you get into a situation where you have an income surge one year (say an IPO), it's a no brainier to do this. The tax rate differences on income now vs future can be high enough to match all stock returns.


Yes you can wait a while to do something like this but a lot can happen in the intervening years - marriage, kids, house, medical issues, aging parents, etc that can hinder your ability to take time off and explore things you are interested in. If you've ever wanted to try something like this I would suggesting doing it young.

I'm currently doing a smaller version of what Joshua describes and had to get approval from manager to get unpaid time off from work. His response: I wish I could have done the same thing. He later even admitted that he was living vicariously through me!

That being said, do save as much as you can as early as you can. Just don't let saving get in the way of living your life


in NZ (and Aus i guess) we call this an OE (Overseas Experience) and it is incredibly common for someone in their 20's to up sticks and bugger off to the UK (and others) for several months or years.

They/we aren't, for the most part, privileged - they land in London with 50 quid, buy an A-Z at the airport and doss with friends under the kitchen table till they land a job doing whatever. Save and party until summer and then a long af van trip around Europe seeing the sights. Rinse and repeat if you've got the stomach for it. Variations exist.

The leaving your country part is the important part. Even if it's English speaking you'd be surprised at the resilience you need to just get s* done arriving somewhere at midnight with no idea where you're going to sleep.

Being punished for 'gaps' in your CV is a cultural thing. There are no gaps in your life, just... life.


Very true. You also see it happening the other way around now, with people from Germany and the UK coming to NZ/AU to do an OE of there own.


I am currently doing something like this. I quit my job to embark in a the most ambitious project of my life and so far it's been quite the experience.

One thing that I've discovered working on my own is the value of solitude. When I'm really alone, I can talk to myself out loud and I've found that it allows me to think 10X clearer. Maybe it's just me, but externalizing my thoughts without bothering about what others think it's great for creativity.


Many paradigms of life don't apply if you are a citizen of a developing country with billion people in it and you happen to be the first person in the history of your family who doesn't work as an agricultural labourer on a landlords field.


Does anyone else see articles like this and think about how much money in retirement they're foregoing? By not maxing out 401k & IRA deposits each year in your 20s you're missing out on significant gains from compound interest later in life. A sabbatical like this makes sense to me when you're comfortable with the trajectory of your retirement. The other situation is where significant mental health issues that can't be sorted out by adjusting schedule & lifestyle around work are going to negatively impact your career anyways. It could be worth it to take the loss on retirement account deposits to sort things out.


I appreciate that the author acknowledged his privilege (both economically and his support system) and that he said it’s not intended to be prescriptive (except that even with that disclaimer, the takeaway is still prescriptive — otherwise why write it this way?), but so many people — even from similarly privileged backgrounds — can’t do something like this, and I would argue shouldn’t.

If you graduate with lots of student loans, aren’t making a salary that makes it easy to save (which is common even for high earners in expensive cities), and don’t have a network to get reliable freelance/contract work (assuming what you do could be freelanced/contracted out — engineering can but some jobs/skillsets are much harder to do, especially if you’re in your 20s), this is the sort of thing that might be good for your mental and physical well-being, but could end up causing more stresses in the future.

As others have said, fair or not, having gaps on a resume can be problematic (and ageism in tech is a real thing) when trying to reseek employment. At the very least, re-entering the workforce at the same level (assuming you left at “senior” or a mid-level equivalent) might be tough. I suppose if you were a junior dev or just starting out, it would be easier to come back at the same level — but rob may not have the same burnout in that case.

That said, I do think it’s very valuable to recognize what you want and what you don’t want out of life and a career. And that might mean not being in the rat race in your 20s and it might mean realizing you don’t aspire to have the lifestyle that comes with being a well-paid tech worker if it means you have no work/life balance and are slowly killing yourself.

I used to dream about just quitting my job and taking a sabbatical. I was too scared that after the break was over, I wouldn’t be able to find employment the same way. Maybe that was unfounded, but that was my fear.

I wound up switching careers and even though I make more money, I have a better work/life balance and I no longer dream of quitting. And for what it’s worth, the extra money is nice — but if I made what I made before and had the same lifestyle I have now, it would be worth it. I’d even take a pay cut.


Which career did you switch to?


Good article, I did this several years ago (or rather I quit, got a part time contract job, then went full sabbatical).

Definitely agree with the negatives, the procrastination and loneliness is very real when you're on your own. I tried to make my own app and started getting depressed when I associated its failure with my own (since who else do you have to blame).

Still don't regret it though, I think it actually helped my career by forcing me to learn parts of running a business and programming I never would have done otherwise. But it's not all roses for sure.


I've taken a couple breaks in between jobs, and I've come to realize that I have my very best work-life balance while unemployed. It's uncanny.

I work hard on my community projects, and then actually go out and socialize when I'm tired of working. Sometimes that's every night, but sometimes (if I'm feeling invigorated by a task), I will work nonstop for a week, before I need a social recharge.

Obviously, that is a single person's perspective of it, but I feel like it would be comparable if I'd been in a relationship :)


Same here. The 1-2 months I usually take off between jobs is always super productive. I do a lot of reading, write blog posts, hack out stuff.


So you quit before you search for a new job? Most job offers I see are ASAP.


I just tell the next company that I will join on date X. I don't care about their ASAPs.


If you've seen Europeans backpacking around Asia, Australians in Europe or Canadians in South America, its a common thing - with people from countries with a firm safety net. Its a pity Americans dont get that same security and have to work work work.


It's less about the safety net and more about re-entering your career at a similar level. In Germany you'd be hard pressed to explain why you took two years off of your career and now want to come back.

Re Europeans traveling around Asia - Europeans tend to graduate university later than Americans and then embark on one or more internships before diving into their work contracts. It's not uncommon to take a break between those transitional periods to travel for a bit. But it is uncommon to leave your permanent contract to travel Asia for two years.


I've backpacked around all of those places and can tell you there's no shortage of Americans backpacking in Europe, Asia and South America. It's nothing to do with a safety net, if you want to travel you just save up for it like you do anything else.


I'll be really honest. I haven't done it ever and I regret it. I AM planning what I call a monk year now. I also interview people that have done it so I've been on the other side.

Conclusion: It's really all about a plan first, discipline about the plan's boundaries and self-confidence when you present your achievements after. Else you may be viewed as a lazy hedonist.

E.g., My PLAN is to take year to train for an Ironman. That's about 4h a day on average. I'd also eat well, stretch and keep up with the ancillaries of such hard training to prevent injuries. Then I'd be studying 4 online courses à day in whatever I want. My goal would be to finish a few nanodegrees and a few specializations on Coursera. Courses would be about 5h per day. Every day, non-stop. At the end, I would have done one Ironman AND add a whole lot of skill to my arsenal. It's not cheap - calculated it to be about $40K so far with a mortgage and rent to pay but I'm working on creative ways to lessen this. Last but not least, I have three non-profit projects I want to do. One huge dream, one medium, one small. If I went to an interview à year after this starts having been disciplined enough to accomplish even 75% the above, I'm pretty sure not even the hardest interviewer would be skeptical.

Basically, I view the monk year as the year where I still grind. But I grind to add value to yours truly NOT the corporation.


So how did it benefit his career?


My thoughts exactly. Good article, well thought out, etc but the title is very bad. Jury is still out on impact to his career.


I'm pretty much coming to the end of mine now. Except I feel burnt out from the sabbatical whereas I generally always felt pretty good at work.

I read a shit tonne this last 8 months and have noticed a big upgrade in my worldview. I shipped a couple of projects on my own which I'm proud of too.

I grew immensely from the experience and a whole bunch of things I always toyed with the idea while working I actually got to try out and see how I really felt about them and not how I thought I was going to feel.

The recruiters being suspicious about the time off thing is something I wasn't suspecting but I did get that vibe. I made a point to network the whole time I was taking off and have been invited to visit a small company I'm pretty excited about after an hour chatting to the CTO. Political savvy was one of my unexpected skills at my last job, so I feel like so long as I can get in a room I can get a job (provided I'm actually interested and think the company would be a good fit).

So many lessons learned. Perhaps both good and bad.


I shipped 2 projects that I feel are highly polished. Been almost 3 months in the job market cuz i have since ran low on funds. Being in Vancouver it's just extra tough. The Unicorns doesn't care one bit of your side projects. The smaller guys just doesn't have the resource to relocate. Let alone getting in the same room with them for interviews (aka. fly you over).

So far very disillusioned. Seems like if the projects didn't become million dollar businesses, then it's algorithm puzzles or working at McDonalds. Shipped products doesn't matter one bit...


I think side projects can make a difference if it's relevant to the business that your applying for. For example, in college I did a lot of Amateur Radio and was part of a club there. I did a lot of Amateur Radio related things, building circuits, programming microcontrollers, etc. This helped me get a job at a Radio company working on SDRs. However, I think a lot of my ability to get that job was because I networked a lot with the recruiters.

Side projects aren't the be all end all to gainful employment. You need to use your network to build relationships and engage with people you know that can help you get employed.


For me it's about creating a personal connection and telling a good story. I dunno I just have a belief in my ability to do that from past experience.

This is new territory for me though, so we'll see.

I'm not in the US on, so I don't play the whole unicorn game. I imagine that's a whole different ball game.


Unfortunately more and more companies are going the 'we don't care about your resume, we just want you to do algorithm puzzles'. way. Triplebyte, as listed on the Hackernews job board, is especially proud that they don't look at your resume and measure you only on the few things they deem important. Basically you can be good at a hundred things. But they measure you on ten things and don't care about any of the others, relevant or not. So if you so happen only have 6 things out of the 10, you are out, even if you have clearly demonstrated that you are capable of 100 things, and learning those 100 things in short order.

I would say I learned more in the 2 years than I did 10 years as a Firmware Engineer. But if I stayed my course just lurking in my old job I'd have been a Firmware lead. I can't even get an intermediate development job now...


Just came here to say that I think protecting your CV at all costs from any kind of "gap" is some of the most overrated career advice out there. Take risks, show some self-direction and self-respect. Companies and colleagues will help you, but only you can steer the ship of your career trajectory. Follow the currents underneath you at your own risk.


After my graduation, I planned to have some months off to work on hobby stuff, and build a small portfolio with programming projects. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to finish my thesis in time (which is my own fault, but at my university it was also business as usual to take more time than planned for your master thesis). I already had a job and didn't have any time off between my thesis and working (in fact, I started working before I even graduated).

I should have spent some more time on job hunting, in retrospect. At my current job as a consultant I am back-end code-monkeying in a large team where most developers don't have a technical background - it's not very challenging from a technical perspective (even though I like the working environment in other aspects). My current employer pushes me to get certified for some front-end technologies, which I don't find interesting (and have no value for the gig I'm currently assigned to).

My true interest are OSes, drivers, optimization, FPGA's, electronics, compilers, assembly, microcontrollers, graphics... But I can't seem to find a job in that field, mostly because I don't have work experience in those fields. I also have a tendency to be very humble about my experience, which I think is a good thing in general, but I think sometimes people wrongly classify me as 'very junior'. On top of that, everybody seems to be looking for C# programmers, but the pay seems to be a bit lower in more technical fields. I don't care that much about my salary, but right now I am the one with literally the best background (4 academic studies), and the lowest income (basically every time I talk about it with someone, he/she goes "hm, that's pretty low"). I have had some good offers (about 15% more than I currently earn), but they came with a traineeship which seemed not very challenging and would force me to stay with that company for 2 years.

A very common scenario I end up in is that I'm talking to a very enthousiastic HR person ("I think you're a very good fit for our company!"), but the offer ends up very low ("Well, you're a junior after all.").

I am thinking about quitting my current job to brush up some skills (mainly Python, Vulkan, OpenGL, and some OS API stuff) and build a portfolio, but I'm too afraid to be unproductive and end up in a worse situation than before (about 1 year of working experience and a giant gap in my CV after that). Has anyone been in a similar situation? Any advice?


This sounds very unfamiliar based on my experience with the US job market, but does match with some experience of the European one.. Which country are you in? Maybe that would make for better advice.


Good observation. I'm in the Netherlands.


Given that you have a degree, would you consider going to the US for a year or two of work? While the Bay Area isn't for everyone, in my experience the environment is very driven by competence as opposed to tenure. For me, returning to Europe after working there also opened a lot of opportunities.

I also saw you writing that European companies are very driven by specific technologies. I do not think this is true. Sometimes companies will write "5 years of React" but what they are actually looking for is an experienced frontend developer.

What you should show is your ability to solve problems and learn independently. A company that does not believe a skilled frontend developer can learn another framework quickly (or don't want to give you the time to do so) is probably not a place you want to work.


> Given that you have a degree, would you consider going to the US for a year or two of work?

I'd consider it, for the right job. I haven't looked for jobs in the US, and I would prefer a job in the Netherlands, but it's a possibility.

> I also saw you writing that European companies are very driven by specific technologies. I do not think this is true. Sometimes companies will write "5 years of React" but what they are actually looking for is an experienced frontend developer.

Possibly. From my perspective, it is hard to tell the difference, since I don't have a lot of professional experience.


I have trouble leveraging my portfolio for much to be honest. And they are fully functioning published app. Graphic design, marketing material, front-end back-end all that jazz...

Studying 'Cracking the Coding Interview' like everyone else. Nobody cares about specific technology either it seems like these days... Including Triplebyte. Sick of it.


Thanks for sharing.

Are you from the US? It is not in line with my experience. Employers here (in the Netherlands) care very much about experience with specific technologies. It is common that job offers demand a couple of years experience with very specific frameworks, libraries or programming languages, even for entry-level jobs. Anything having to do with data science is also out of question (even though I have a math background), since I didn't study data science and have no work experience (never mind that I am interested in data science and read stuff in my spare time).

This sucks if you want to switch jobs, because it dramatically limits your options.


I would like to share my thoughts on this, as I consider that my experience is comparable with meuk's. I've graduated this summer with a master's degree in security in an Eastern European country and I am currently looking for a job.

Before master's, I worked as a full stack developer (1 year) and for a data science startup (8 months) which did not get off the ground. It seems that managers ask about short stints even for junior positions and one manager asked me "so you weren't working for the past 2 years?". On sites like https://www.honeypot.io/, a platform representative told me that I should write in my profile why I left the jobs after such a short time.

Regarding job ads, most of them are for specific languages and frameworks (Java developer, Python developer, Spring Developer, Django Developer) and very few have a generic title such as Software Engineer. Companies like to cram both language nuts and bolts questions and CTCI questions in 1 hour.

During recent interviews, I have received questions such as: "In Java you have this try-catch-finally code, in what scenarios the finally block does not get executed?". "How do Python generators work under the hood?" "You have a Python class, when the __init__ method is called, does the object already exists?" "In Python, what is with statement and why it is used?"

Btw, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lmCu8wz8ro is a great presentation about Python features.


> Project managing my life

Actually I started setting up a Redmine to pursue more complex goals that are usually not related to work.

In the past I also used classical todo lists on a sheet of paper or Asana for some time. But I gave up both, what I observed happens after using this 'tool' after a while: indeed a lot gets done, it's even fulfilling check an item, especially on paper. So after a year or so, the things on the list end up being more and more difficult to do. The only easy tasks are the recently added ones but the list becomes more and more static.

Problem with todo lists is that they are the end product of some ideas that happen at random times. But you lose the idea behind it, so a proper project management tool is worth it. (In fact when you look at how Asana developed over time, it converges into something like that...)


Redmine seems like a very big tool for just one person though, with issues trackers and all.

Something like trello seems more the scale.

Personally I just wish it had TeX support. Does anyone know a good, personal project management tool that allows writing sections in latex?


Have you tried, or considered trying org-mode?

I found that once I got over the hurdle of learning emacs, the friction in managing tasks once you have learned the tool is nearly nil.

Further, it definitely supports embedded latex fragments, exporting to pdf, etc.


Im doing pretty much the same thing since the beginning of the year. the absolute biggest thing thats helped me is meditating for 1-2 hours a day. when you don't have distractions and you have meditated for that long - you get laser like focus, super clear thinking, and ability to absorb and synthesize way more information. funny the article mentions self actualization - I did not start of with that goal in mind and starting to meditate introduced me to a lot of literature around religion - and you start looking at your life in a completely different way.


I've managed to get myself into what some might consider an ideal situation: a half-time job at BigCo. It means my work at BigCo is more interesting and condensed, and of course it means I have all the time in the world for side projects. BigCo total comp is so incredible that half of it still pays the bills in ExpensiveCity.

Except all the challenges echoed by others in the comments are real: overcoming procrastination and doing focused work. Actually the former I can manage, the latter is harder. All I have to show for side project time is a long list of smaller projects, I can't manage to take one of them and build/polish it into something significant. Somehow having the choice 100 fun project makes devoting time to just 1 super hard.

Maybe half-time off to some extend is worse for procrastination than full-time, since I can always fall back on my work at BigCo as a sign of progress in my life.

This situation should be ideal, I know the path I should take, the opportunity is there for the taking, but so far have not managed.


Do your side projects have customers? I’ve found that there is no motivator like someone else’s support tickets or deadlines. Put another way, it is easier to find motivation when the needs of your project are immediately helpful to someone else, rather than theoretically helpful. Just a thought.


I can imagine that would motivate, yes, but for me the point of side projects is to explore things that are less commercial, more researchy.. things BigCo wouldn't pay me to do. And to do something commercial while at BigCo would require quite some paperwork for BigCo to agree. And it is not like I need to be doing commercial work on the side for financial reasons.


Thanks to the author for this piece, it was a nice and inspiring reading.

I cannot help but feel related to the author himself. My career, short in tech terms (2+ years at current job, similar durarion at previous job) has reached a stagnant phase, where motivation and professional growth almost do not exist.

As a consequence I'm thinking of switching jobs, but have no idea where should I aim for, for what kind of role and industry I would like to work for...Right now I'm lost regarding jobs lookup.

Maybe I should take a sabbatical period to think things over, but it's quite a leap forward, mostly economically.


Reading most of these comments, and the article itself, I can't help but think that the rat race is just replaced with another race as it seems imperative to work on something for a lot of you that have written here which I find curious, even though I can relate and understand it.

At the moment, career wise, om not in a position to go down in hours but that is what I'll explore in the future. A 6 hour workday, working remotely more often and/or trying to split my workday up by going to the gym during work hours. This is tough though with meetings and all that.


Nice writeup. It's very valuable that you took the time to share a unique experience with everyone.

I've also done a 1.5 year sabbatical, and I can relate. It's both very challenging (to pull off successfully) but also can be very rewarding.


What do you guys think of the idea of companies giving their employees the option of taking (up to) one year long unpaid sabbaticals?

It would cost the company next to nothing, and it would be a preferable alternative to the employee quitting due to stress or burnout.

For the employee it significantly lowers their risk of unemployment. They can either 1. go to a better company, or 2. return to their old company.

In the case of US companies, there's also the added benefit of the possibility of the employee and employer coming to a mutually beneficial arrangement on maintaining the employee's healthcare plan during the sabbatical.


In what world would that cost the company "next to nothing"??? That person isn't going to be working for a year. The company either needs to hire someone else to replace them, which is an expensive process, or lose the productivity for that position for a year.


I apologize if my suggestion was stupid. I'm just trying to get a discussion started here, that's all.

It would cost the company next to nothing, in my view, because the steps the company has to take is almost exactly the same:

1. Employee quits. Company immediately looks for a replacement. One year down the road, when the company is expanding, they have to look for another worker.

2. Employee goes on sabbatical. Company immediately looks for a replacement. One year down the road, when the company is expanding, they first contact the sabbatical guy if they want to come back, and if not they have to look for another worker.

In scenario 1, the company pays for the cost of two hirings with 100% certainty. In scenario 2, worst case the company pays for the cost of two hirings; best case the company only pays for one.


I have been without job for a while now ,and I won't mind to getting back. It has not worked out as I would have love.


What you've written is incredibly mature, well-articulated, and insightful. I hope you succeed in your solo endeavors!


Where does it say it was good for his career?


Ya dude I feel ya. MZ was a sweatshop!

Did the same - took a sabbatical. The main thing is to come up with a cool story of what you did.


The right to useful unemployment.


Why is everybody so hung up on how it'll affect your career? As if everything in life must be rationalized by its impact on your career.

Maybe he creates a successful business and never has to work for anyone else again, maybe not. Either way the author will have had the valuable experience of not only trying to build a business, but also living life on his own terms - something that we give up (often without realizing it) when we sell ourselves to the corporate world.

I'm 10 months into my sabbatical and have spent the last 8 months living in countries/continents I'd never been to, learned about different cultures, improved my Spanish (now trying to learn Russian), met a ton of people, and grown enormously as a person.

Career-wise and financially was this a good decision? Probably not (at this point at least). But I wouldn't trade any of this for the world. Had I spent another year living in the same damn city doing the same work that I was bored to death of, I might've jumped off a bridge or something (not really, but in hindsight I was depressed without really realizing it).

I will now shift gears towards working on my own project(s). If it works out - great, I will be living my dream. If it doesn't work out - no problem, I'll figure it out - even if I have to return to the U.S. and find a job again. On my deathbed I'm not going to regret taking a year off to travel the world when I could've spent that year continuing to work a job I was no longer passionate about.

One of the things I've completely internalized from my travels is that I have no interest in the corporate rat race. I don't care about "career ramifications" because that's not a ladder I want to devote my life to climbing. Last night I hung out with a 21 year old from the hostel who's making $6k/month from online businesses working 1 hour/day, and has spent the last 1.5 years living abroad (I never met these kind of people when I was working my 9-5). That is my dream - not being a tech lead at Google (I don't need $6k/month either, $1.5k/month and I'm good).

In essence, the sabbatical drove home the point that I had been climbing the wrong ladder. So even if I have to eventually go back to the job market, I will be targeting totally different jobs, and my mindset towards work, money, and life in general is totally different. Before I was living in a permanent state of delayed gratification, saving money with no clear vision for what I was saving it for. Now I have a better idea of what I want out of life. Or maybe I just have more confidence to go out and chase what I want when in the past I would've simply fantasized about it.

At the end of the day I'd rather try and fail then have lived a safe boring life slaving away in some job I don't care about being depressed and wishing I had the balls to live life on my own terms and go after the life I want.


I'm happy for you but this is a super privileged viewpoint that most people can't really learn from. I'd be happy too if I could just take a year off and do whatever I want. Most people can't do things like traveling to different cities and trying out a new place for 3 months. It's just unrealistic and only reflects and incredibly tiny population.

More importantly: has it really been the best thing you've done for your career? It sounds like you've had a great time but we don't know how this materially affected your career.

What about your sabbatical has made your career better now that you've done it? All I've seen is that you've open sourced a Hugo theme, read a few books, and you worked on a side project. Sounds like something plenty of people do with 40 hour workweeks.


Appreciate the feedback @acconrad. I understand that I'm extremely fortunate, and I try to point that out in the introduction of my article. Like @whack commented, I'm sharing my personal experience---both the good and the bad---and all the better if there's an element to it that a reader can relate to.

As for your other point, does the best thing for a career have to make it _materially_ better? For me personally, the time off and self-reflection has been a better learning experience than if I hadn't quit, especially the ideas regarding agency and productivity, and these are things that will stay with me into whatever I do next.

I don't doubt that people with 40 hour workweeks can do the little that I've done, but if you see the goals that I set out for myself these were just a minor aspect of what I wanted to accomplish.


The jury's still out on if this was good for your career. The title is borderline clickbait due to this word choice.

I don't doubt taking a sabbatical was good for you in various ways, but your career is probably not one of them as of now.

I've taken numerous lengthy sabbaticals, and find them the only way to maintain anything resembling a fair work:life balance. But I am under no delusions of them being good for my career, they're practically explicitly anti-career - I deliberately walk away from the competition for extended periods of time. I've just chosen to not care, because I prioritize other aspects of my life differently than one who lives to work.


You both seem to be making the exact same point from different directions. Being a burnt out husk is terrible for your career and work performance. You both feel like the sabbaticals are restoring the life side of the work-life balance. Therefore taking a break is actually enhancing your career. Just like sleeping at night helps you accomplish more during the day.


Sabbaticals are beneficial in all sorts of ways, and it's possible those benefits may confer benefits to your profession.

It is not safe to assume those potential benefits will outweigh the substantial negatives of not participating in the competition while your peers continue without you.


I have a similar mindset and experience as you. American society is ridiculous in how rigid it is on this aspect. I essentially need to quit to get the balance I truly desire. I have no issues working for 6 months all day everyday totally dedicated and focused but then I need about 3 months to recharge. Trying to become sort of a “supertemp” but it’s not that easy. I am about to quit again, have been working for 8 months, 60 hr weeks, saved $25k and am going to do whatever I want for awhile. I am a top performer but I work in 6 month spurts of focus. I need that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, focusing me and my efforts to the freedom that awaits.


If you apply a regret minimization framework to this decision, I’m 100% sure a focused sabbatical is better than working a lame job where the next year is the same as the last.


You severely need a splash of the real world.


Crabs in a bucket


> I'm happy for you but this is a super privileged viewpoint that most people can't really learn from. I'd be happy too if I could just take a year off and do whatever I want. Most people can't do things like traveling to different cities and trying out a new place for 3 months. It's just unrealistic and only reflects and incredibly tiny population.

To be fair, he says the exact same thing in his opening paragraphs. I think there's value in people sharing their experiences, even if it isn't directly applicable to 99% of the population.

I agree with your other points though. It sounds like he's happy with his decisions for personal-fulfillment reasons. He didn't do a good job of explaining how it advanced his career.


Agree re not explaining how it advanced his career. I did something similar about 10y ago. Was burned out so skied all spring, hiked and went abroad during summer, did a small amount of contract dev then gradually decided it was time to get back to real work. Don't necessarily think it helped my career nor was I expecting it to. Had to explain to recruiters and companies the gap in my resume which not everyone could relate to ... but ... so what. I had a lot of fun.


Thanks for the feedback, @whack.

Saying that it's the "best thing I've done in my life" is way too dramatic, but at this point in my career it has been the best thing I've done because of how much I've grown personally.

I don't consider myself a good writer so your point is very helpful.


(Hacker News is a threaded discussion forum, y'all! The addressee is structurally implicit.)


@acconrad This response feels unjustifiably bitter and negative. Joshua acknowledges his privilege in the second paragraph. His privilege neither invalidates his experience or makes it useless to share. While I too would be interested to know how the time off materially affected his career, I suspect that this hasn't fully revealed itself to Joshua yet.

Despite the misleading title, I still enjoyed the read.


HN is not exactly most people it's very easy to get remote gig or save up money that would let you travel in Asia for a year. I bet if it was a priority for you you could too.


I think a more accurate title could simply be "not working for a year is fun"... and then the immediate reaction is "no kidding".


Just due to fatigue (perhaps CFS not sure) I've taken 6 weeks off between jobs this year and last. The fatigue is probably why I'm getting crushed by these jobs.

Watched all if breaking bad, did stuff like that. No achievements. Its nice to just rest. With kids there is still a lot to do. It feels like no job + kids is enough to keep me fulfilled if I had unlimited money.


Ha, that would've been better!


Snark aside, it is good to take a step back and re-evaluate life priorities. And also importantly, to be more mindful of work life balance... and if you're in a position to do so, advocate for more positive balance between the two at your next workplace.


>I'm happy for you but this is a super privileged viewpoint that most people can't really learn from. I'd be happy too if I could just take a year off and do whatever I want. Most people can't do things like traveling to different cities and trying out a new place for 3 months.

Most people 18-25 can.

First, tons of people at those ages actively burn tons of money on BS like a useless college degree (and not even the kind that lands you an actual job). Not doing anything would be an improvement for them (and cost less).

Second, you can do that with no money at all (tons of people do it on $5 a day style, or getting some work where they travel to pay for the costs, or just using one of the several of networks where you can exchange places for free, etc.). I know lots of people at that age that work for a few months and live off that for the rest -- and I'm not talking about making a full yearly wage on those months, they just live on little. When you're young a futon and a few pieces of stuff will do. (I actually know older people living like that too -- in cultures where not following some career and making do with little is not considered "white trash" or "hippie", e.g. in the countryside in Europe and so on).

Also, you seem to be harshly criticizing the author and what he done in this span, but how are your choices working for you? Not great from what we read in your comment.


"tons of people do it on $5 a day style"

Fallback is important though; that is the "if I run out of money, seriously, then what do I do?"

There's a huge different between a $5/day lifestyle and a fallback to your parents basement vs a $5/day lifestyle and a fallback to, well, I guess I'll be living on the street.

The difference in cognitive load and stress between the two is staggering. Having a fallback is a very privileged position to be in.

Most entrepreneurs don't want to admit they can fallback to a parent's basement somewhere as it kind of kills their image.


>The difference in cognitive load and stress between the two is staggering. Having a fallback is a very privileged position to be in.

I dunno, in many cases I know (or used to know, not so young myself anymore) the fallback was either "back with the parents for a while to sort things out", "find some place to rent with/without a roommate(s) and get a job" (which could be waiting tables too). Nobody really has any "fallback" in the sense of money in the bank or family fortune.

So not much privilege required. As said, when you're young and without spouse/kids.


No, most 18-25 years old can't. For starter, 25 years old without college tend to have kids already. Some have other relatives that they have to help to.

Those without college degree have scrappy jobs if they have them and those with degrees as you said are in debt. Worst off are those with college debt but who did not finished college.

Nevertheless, young people without degrees can't really reasonably abandon their life.


> Nevertheless, young people without degrees can't really reasonably abandon their life.

Maybe in America. But when I was in Spain this summer, I met some Aussies who do seasonal summer work then go blow it all on word trips yearly. Said it was decently common among a certain crowd of people.


Yep, it's quite common. And as you say (and I mention above re: temp jobs etc too), it's a "certain crowd of people" not in terms of money, but because of having the mindset to do it.


Yeah, young people do seasonal work in America too then decide not to get a job when their work runs out. I knew a few people that did that, all had a fall back, most lived in the parents basement.


> tons of people do it on $5 a day style

How? That's $150 a month, I'm not sure if you can even find a place to live with that money.


Traveling the world there are several places where $150 a month is more than the locals make. And even where they aren't, there's things like free-camping, getting a place with several friends together, and so on.

Even in a first world country with $1500+/month average wage, getting by on holidays with €150-€200 is something a lot of younger friends do, if anything because they have to (not many saved from poorly paying and scarce regular jobs anyway). If you bunch up a few together, or just go camping, it's quite cheap.


The world or south east Asia? Even Eastern Europe is going to be tough on $5/day.


Asia, Africa, Latin America, even parts of Europe.

For comparison, in Greece there are tons of young (and older) people actually working full time for ~ €400/month.

(Before the crisis, in say 2006-2010 those were called the "€700 euro generation" for making around that amount per month, then considered very low).

Here's a similar case in Spain: "“We’re not mileuristas. We are just poor. I wish I could earn €1,000, but my generation is earning between €700 and €800 a month,” he says, adding that he personally takes home around €450 a month for a 20-hour week, and describes himself as underemployed."

https://elpais.com/elpais/2015/05/14/inenglish/1431604981_25...


On the plus side, learning to disregard resentful negative people is an important life skill and parent is helping teach it.

It's far better to be positive. For example a good friend of mine founded a successful crypto shop. At the time, I thought the idea was stupid. However I didn't say that, I told him I wanted him to succeed and I was happy to listen to him describing what he wanted to do and how he was going to do it. Now our friendship is even closer and he's doing great. While it's unlikely given his personality, if I had been negative I might have talked him out of a big success and that isn't what good people do.




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