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You Don't Need to Quit Your Job to Make (stephsmith.io)
519 points by stephsmithio 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 365 comments



> With approximately 16 hours of the day allocated to work and sleep, every individual has approximately 8 hours to allocate to “me time” and if used appropriately, a lot can be achieved in that nearly 3000 hours each year.

Really if you are going to go to the extreme of not eating, showering, maintaining your health, zero human relationships, zero rest or time for recovering from illness, then I assume you'd go the next step and just quit the job too to unlock the other 2000 hours. After all if you don't need those other things why do you need a job at all? If you are that extreme you probably can save a years salary then live on a mate's sofa etc.

Edit: Later on she does mention her time budgeting and it isn't this extreme, but I get annoyed with the statements that claim you have 8 free hours a day, implying that you should be working your ass off for those 8.


Another 2 get taken for eating/commuting if you live close to work, let's say you spend another 1-2 per day taking care of your school-aged children, so now you're down to 20-30 hours a week. Let's say you spend another 5 of those doing social things, that's 15-25 hours a week. Subtract another 5 to deal with errands... 10-20. Some more of that will likely go towards your spouse.

That means you get something closer to 500-1000 hours a year. Perhaps you can get more if you carefully prune.

That's enough to do stuff, not enough to accomplish a second career.


And after you finish all of that you absolutely want to spend those last few hours sitting down and resting. You will quickly burn out if you spend every minute busy.


Unless the work is a rest time. Not every job is demanding and if one turns of emotional reactions to workday situations then one will have more energy for later activities.


That's funny, it almost sounds like you're suggesting it's common to have a job that's more relaxing and restful than actual leisure time.


it's not only that - everything else will be competing for those 10-20 hours (e.g.: gigs for extra money, learning, teaching, life-administrativia, personal growth, burnout, ...).


Just don't let it become an excuse.

Put another way, your life might be complicated, but more improvement does require digging a bit deeper than the status quo, so it's still up to you to find or make time/energy to work on things.

I'm in no place to tell you how much time or how to manage it, but you do get out of your time what you put in, and there isn't a shortcut for that.


I have school aged and younger children and recently came to the realization that I am not willing to sacrifice time with them or my spouse for side projects, so I am content with the 4-8 hours a week I have to myself to work on projects until they are a bit older.


Yeah, that was my thought as well, I have a very tight schedule which allows me only around 9~10 hours a week to dedicate to my startup.

Mo - Fri:

  . Wake up at 5:30 go to the gym (6 to 7.30)

  . 7.30 - 9.00 : Shower, breakfast, get ready to work

    9. - 9.30 : Commute to work

  . 9.30 - 6.00pm : Work

  . 6.00 - 6.30pm : Commute to home

  . 6.30 - 9.00pm : Tue/Wed: Startup,  MWF: Wife

  . 9.00 - 10.00pm: Dinner, prepare to sleep 


  ... repeat

Saturdays: 9.00 - 2.00pm . Startup

So 5 hours on saturday + 5 hours on Weekdays = 10hrs in total. I wish I had more time.


> Wake up at 5:30 go to the gym (6 to 7.30)

Can you go to the gym on alternate days? Sometimes, I don't go to the gym for the entire week; instead, work out at home for 20-30 mins - doing bodyweight exercises


A good tip for saving time is to workout in your lunch hour if it's possible. I go running in my lunch hour as it has a high time:reward ratio which free's up a lot of time in the evenings or mornings.


This is a sustainable schedule. I have almost an identical schedule, but swap out startup with grad school work. You can do this without getting too burnt out for a while IMO. The days where you work after work are tough, though...


and frankly that's a killer schedule already...


how are you showering at 7:30 if you are leaving gym at 7:30. is ur gym in ur home?,


Some gyms have showers. Lifetime, etc.


some gyms have showers? some don't?


[flagged]


> 1.5 hours to take a shower, eat breakfast, and get ready for work? Are you flying to Columbia for the beans every morning?

No, he's probably like a me and a good half of the population that doesn't naturally wake up early, so when we're forced to, we're very groggy, and it takes a while to get up to speed.

If you're waking at 5am and don't find it taxing, you probably don't have anything to compare this to, hence your inability to empathize.


Unrelated to the main topic, I used to wake up groggy as well. Was a total mess for the first two hours of the day, the most you’d get out of me would be grunts. Then I quit coffee and everything changed.

Coffee’s power to modulate your mood is wildly underrated. Try going without for a month and you will hardly recognize yourself.


+100 to that

I quit coffee 10 years ago. Until then I used to drink 1.5 litres of coffee (0.5 for breakfast, 0.5 after lunch, 0.5 at 6pm).

(Addicted-to-caffeine) People cannot understand that coffee is an anchor and not a sail. After the two weeks of mild headaches (deprivation/body cleaning up) I 'wake up' 5mins after I open my eyes in the morning.


Ive stopped drinking coffee a year ago. My brain is dead for the first few hours at the morning. Im a night-kind-of-person, quitting coffee did not help as its tied to each and every person differently.

TL;DR there is no single magic solution


I drink a lot of coffee but don't really feel groggy in the morning. I did have a period where I did though; I suspect that may have been down to a nutritional deficiency of sorts.


Oh, OK. Silly me.


> 1.5 hours at the gym? Do you construct the equipment whilst there?

I usually spend 1-2 hours every day in the gym. It's usually ~15 mins warming up, ~20-25 mins lifting, ~20 mins of some type of HIIT, ~20 mins of some endurance or sprint training (depending on the cycle), ~20 mins of skill work (olympic lifting or gymnastics), ~10-15 mins of stretching/rolling out.

That's not an obnoxious timeframe.


That's a great level of training. I guess if you're focused on your health, and building on it a lot, by doing nearly two hours of training per day, 365 days per year, then it makes sense it takes so long... it's almost as if you're trying to improve in some regard by planning out your time and focusing on that goal and allocating time to it daily.


I should clarify, this is about 5-6 days. I realize I said everyday but meant that generally. I'm very consistent M-F, and typically Saturdays unless I'm travelling. I always rest on Sunday.


No criticism, honest question: how do you recover? I go to the gym 3 times a week at high intensity, as much as I can manage, but afterwards my body simply feels "broken" for a day (in a good way) as my muscles were damaged during lifting ("Muskelkater" in German, muscle hangover haha). I need food and rest to recover before my next trip to the gym.


Hey! I think part of it is that I've worked up to this level over several years and have just always been very active. I get 8 hours of sleep every night and eat a relatively healthy diet - that is I hit my recommended proteins and fats, I don't overeat often, and I generally avoid processed foods.

I think it was mostly just building up to this point of adapting to the schedule. Also, unless I'm training explicitly for some type of competition, I try to not go more than 80% of my max heart rate during most workouts, usually sticking around 70-75%, so I'm not dying everyday.

For lifting, I generally follow a program pretty similar to 5-3-1, which doesn't really have you max out very often (it's extremely gradual, but I've made noticeable lift gains over time).

If I really feel like crap, I just take a rest day or do some mobility work.


Thanks for the answer!


I'm not sure 0900 means what you think it means...

6p to 9a: Commute home, read, work on fiction, spend time with wife

9a to 5a: Sleep negative 4 hours

And, assuming you mean 9p, I personally need way more than 3 hours from the exit of the workplace to relax and sleep, esp with trying to have a family dinner and get kids bathed and to bed. Even single I'd need more wind-down time, and before kids I'd need more togetherness time with my partner.


I think 2100 is what was intended.


You seem to have zero time scheduled for "sit on couch and do nothing". I would have mentally broken down after only a few weeks on your schedule.


Some people don't want to sit on the couch and do nothing. It's something that a lot of people do, perhaps way too much, but I wouldn't consider it a requirement or given in a particular day.


> 1800-2100: Commute home, read, work on fiction, spend time with wife

Should I read standing up? :P


So you have an amazing 15 minute commute, to two separate offices! Who could be so lucky? Don't eat dinner? When's the last time you ate a vegetable or solid foods? Full time is 6.75 billable a day I guess...but it sounds like you a phoning it in.


[flagged]


We have labor laws too here (europe), and they allow weekly work times of more than 40 hours, more than 8 hours per day.

> If you're incapable of negotiating a good rate and contract, that's on you.

Its either them. Or it could be that the job market isnt particularely well looking, or economy beeing on a down swing.


I'm not sure how you reconcile appreciating labor laws with belittling a fellow worker less skilled (or less able due to their circumstances) at negotiating with their employers.


I am in the UK and I aim for ore than that as utilization rate


I never got the same conclusion you did from the article.

Steph stated that even just an hour a day over 365 days will drastically improve your business and or life. That means 3-4 hours per day focused on a few key priorities will provide exponential growth in the areas those priorities cover (and perhaps overs.) That's one of the primary take homes from this article, in my opinion.

I think perhaps you read: burn those eight hours constantly, when Steph never stated that. She even goes as far to explain that "Netflix and Chill" is still a thing, but it's low on the list of time allocated activities.


This is also more like one or two hours for people with kids (which is a lot of people).


I was going to agree because I thought you said 1-2 hours/week. There is no way most parents have 1-2 hours free time every day.


I'm a parent and I've got about 1 hour of free time a day, between the time the kids go to bed and I go to bed. As much as I would like to I cannot bring myself to make in this time.


And that's okay, you are allowed to relax and not spend your whole day trying to improve and optimize and squeeze the productivity out of yourself. There's gonna be more relaxed days ahead, when the kids are bigger.


Probably depends on the age, but with a 7 month old I have approximately 5:30-6:30am and 8:30-9:30pm.


And even more if on is committed to more meaningful interactions with their child(ren),and, like, walking the dog and whatnot.


That’s 356 hours per year. You can do a lot in that many hours.


Depends almost entirely on how they are spread out. It takes at least 30-45 minutes to get into a task that requires deep thought and concentration.

Even for tasks that don't require deep thought, there is prep work.

Working out? Gotta commute to the gym or at least get changed. Gotta make sure you're not hungry but not full at the same time. Gotta make sure you're hydrated. Gotta make sure you have music ready to go.

Woodworking project? Don't even get me started on that one.

Whoops, you just lost 75% of your 'free time'.

I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but a lot of projects require a lot of prep work and people vastly underestimate the amount of prep work required. At least anything that's complex and sufficiently rewarding to warrant working 365 hours on.

Basically 365 free hours != 365 hours of working on your project.


There are ways to reduce on that 40-45 minutes and bring it down to 5-15 minutes.

Some comments from a previous thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14528393


Thanks so much for this! Bookmarked for some cool tricks!


Completely agree. And unless one is sufficiently privileged to have the space to leave setups as is, one needs to factor in cleanup/storage.


After wake up routine, school run, a full day of work, the few hours the kids are up after work and the bed time routine? That 2 hours a night I'm half-dead exhausted.


I agree with the drift of this but would not describe myself as being exhausted for those 2 hours. More like just unwilling to anything not personally regenerative.


My health isn't the best and my 3 children are young. My own fault really but working on that.

It's more a mental fatigue. I can't say I'm physically exhausted.


I don't know the breakdown of your schedule.

But, would it be possible to immediately go to bed at the end of the day and then get up two hours early?


The point is, you have limited mental and physical energy. Shifting your schedule around just means you have less energy to devote to whatever you end your day with (which, in the case of kids, is not a good idea).


I was attempting to say this above, more or less.


Tried this. My children are young. If I go downstairs, they will hear and think it's time to get up. How am I to demand they go back to bed when their role model isn't?


Tell them if they want to get up that early like you then they need to crank out some production-level code.


To me, it feels odd when people with children comment that they don't have the same amount of time. It was a choice: children or have more free time. People with kids often seem upset by the results of their choices.

It would be like me complaining that I'll end up dying alone. Well, duh, self -- you chose to not have kids so you could experience other things.


Yea, that's not always how it works. There are a lot of things that factor in to what happens with kids, including the age of a person when the kid happens. It's also not something you can go back on, or just ditch.

And people with kids deserve to comment that they don't have that time because if everyone used the 20 something single white male with no kids, no responsibilities, and minimal routine for anything but work, sleep, and a free 8 hours a day, human society would collapse in to a even bigger cesspool of poverty.

Having children is necessary, and important, for our society. It should be fully supported. Not the subject of derision by people with your attitude.


> It should be fully supported.

It is fully supported – with tax breaks, and taxpayer-funded education, and paid maternity leave, all of which childless people subsidise but don't benefit from.

It's also still your choice to have kids.


Tax breaks are minimal. Everyone should have a right to an excellent publicly funded education system (and they generally do, not just the childless), and paid maternity leave is absolutely necessary.

And you're clearly unaware of how much of a gross oversimplification it being a "choice" is.


I don't think that is what is meant. The comment isn't about financial support. It's about poor, disparaging attitude to people who choose to have kids. As though it's a fault.

Nobody complained of little time because of kids. But that assumption was made. It's insulting to suggest I somehow regret having kids due to little time when those kids have become my reason for being. The suggestion I regret my kids for want of hobby time is on one of the biggest insults anyone could make.

That's not to say I believe the comment was malicious or even intended to insult. It's very difficult to understand the huge upheaval in priorities that take over by instinct when you have children unless you've made the decision yourself. For some, it's understandbly too big a sacrifice and that's ok! It is, as you say, a choice.

As an aside, I don't think it's right to boil everything down to financial terms and incentives. If I thought that way, I wouldn't have had one child let alone three. They cost a lot of bloody money.


It's absolutely about financial support as well as everything else. If everyone thought about it in a purely financial way, you'd be forced to have children.


I would argue that having children stems from an innate, selfish desire of people's genetics to propagate themselves, and has nothing to do with benefitting society. Is it even clear that children benefit society? Is it an overall good thing to continue to propagate our society?

My attitude is not derisive towards parents. I had parents myself, and I respect their choices. My objection is that parents seem to want to have their cake and eat it too, and then don't acknowledge the significant societal subsidies already in place.

If you had kids, it will be harder to start a side business. That was a trade off the parent chose to make. I choose to have more free time and opportunity.


There is hardly anything significant about the current subsidies in place, especially with respect to the other subsidies that exist already. Tech is one of the biggest recipients of subsidies as it is.


It's already fully supported and encouraged by government and by religion, even when it doesn't make sense.


The article states that "every individual has approximately 8 hours [per day] to allocate to 'me time'" which is clearly not the case for many. It seems reasonable to point this out in discussion.


The article also includes "relationships" in "me time", and mentions that you can't do more than about three things seriously. Kids are one such project that people commit to, and not even necessarily because they are martyrs who benevolently aim to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. It's a choice. It's something that people want to do, and something that requires many years of commitment.

I think it's entirely appropriate to view having kids as a long-term hobby for the purposes of this discussion.


You dont commit to a hobby and you have no responsibility towards it. You ditch it at will or postpone it. The hobby wont be harmed and you wont go to jail for seriously harming the hobby. You wont cause lifelong issues to hobby if you neglect it. You wont cause trouble to your partner if you dont care sufficiently about hobby. However, whenever you dont do something with kids, you are directly cause less time to your partner.

It does not matter at all whether the kid was choice or not at the beginning.


You also can't easily stop working on your side business if you have paying customers that rely on your product for their livelihoods. Dropping your responsibility on a volunteer charity organization board isn't something you can just ditch in a heartbeat without hurting other people. Both of those would clearly count as "me time" in the context of this article.

Chose to have a relationship for 5 or 10 years, your partner moved in and built their life around you? You won't go to jail for deciding that you'd like to allocate the third slot differently now, but it won't generally come without causing a considerable amount of harm. Also counts as "me time" here.

Sure, kids are a long-term commitment, and the consequences are more drastic if you suck at it. That's not the point though - the point is that how you plan out (or fail to plan, or had your partner plan) your non-work time makes a major impact on what you can get done during that time. Had kids, out of choice or for lack of birth control? Say goodbye to the third slot, maybe more, don't get it back for maybe 20 years or so. You had a choice at some point.


Counting sound business and charity with strong commitments as hobby me time where you rest is ridiculous too. Both are work for any practical planning relax vs strength purpose.

They are not hobby time nor me time by any reasonable definition. Charity can be me time, if you can stop when you feel like it is not refreshing you anymore.

The talk about choice in the past is weasel expression. It makes it easy to sound as if people had choice right now, today, when they clearly are not having that choice (at least if you want to stay at least a bit ethical which I admit is a choice too).

It is more about what some people want to believe about world then about what world is.


How do you feel about student loan debt, specifically about someone saying, "I can't do XYZ because I am so broke from loan debt."

In terms of accountability, things we choose to undertake and are then responsible for, it absolutely matters whether or not things were a choice.


Whether choice or not, if the debt exists now and you are broke, well you really can't XYZ due to being broke. In terms of evaluating situation as is now, the facts of situation matter and not whether you are guilty or not.

Also "accountability" here serves only to allow rest of us to use feel good euphemisms, pretend that situations is more fine then it is and make it so people in those situations don't talk openly about issues they are encountering. If people can't "XYZ due to debt they are accountable for", then they can't XYZ. Them having some guilt there does not render statement untrue.


I'm not complaining. I love my children and wouldn't change it for the world. The parent comment stated I've got so many hours I could be using to be productive. I was stating why that isn't the case.

When they're older, I'll have more time. Whilst they're young, I'm enjoying being a present father.


I love these comments on Hacker News - Someone briefly skims the title and the first couple sections, and then makes some snarky comment about how unrealistic the article is. For some reason, these comments are almost always the most upvoted as well. You do have 8 hours of free time a day, and the whole point of the article is learning how to most effectively utilize those things. The article even has a name for all the things that get in the way like laundery, dinner, relationships, etc.


Guilty as charged. I’m embarrassed by how many upvotes it got. I was hoping it’d get buried as I have a better comment in this thread.

But.....

There is a lesson for writers to think about different kinds of readers, and read your post from different reader archetypes point of view.


I'm also a maker and I'm currently working on a zine series. I commute 1.5 hours a day and take a lunch break, bringing my total "at work" hours to 10.5. It's difficult to stay focused but most days it works out, at least for a few hours. I go in and out of creative periods.

I learned to program by typing someone else's code. My zine series is designed to teach you as you create computer art.

https://gum.co/splashofcode/hn


> implying that you should be working your ass off for those 8.

TFA is saying you have a budget of 8 hours to allocate. The article explicitly states that relationships often consume a large chunk of that budget. It is descriptive, not prescriptive.


Pretty sure if you're that extreme you don't have any mates.


If you consider that a permanent lifestyle, then sure, it's a bit extreme. But if you want to make something and don't have the budget to risk going full time, you have to sacrifice certain things.

This idea that you get to do stuff that others don't (and expect any outcome of significance) while acting like "normal" people do is mind boggling.

If you want more than you have, in any form, you better get comfortable sacrificing: time, relationships, etc.


I love this > This idea that you get to do stuff that others don't (and expect any outcome of significance) while acting like "normal" people do is mind boggling.


> If you want more than you have, in any form, you better get comfortable sacrificing: time, relationships, etc.

True. Something has to give. But it doesn't have to be drastic.


I had managed to make this transistion from permanent employement to contractor + enterpreuner 'on my own'. After I made the decision and the transition had started I felt the need to educate myself futher. So halfway I read many books on work/life/business/self-help and the two that (imho) helped more on this direction were:

1) What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

2) The 4-Hour Workweek


What were your key takeaways from 4-hour Workweek?

Personally, I dropped reading it when it switched from generic motivational pep talk to praising virtual assistants.


Also she says she doesn't commute. Good on you mate, but most of the workforce doesn't have that luxury. I spend about 1 hour per day commuting which is on the low end for a lot of people. Then like you say comes all the other aspects, like spending 30m-1 hour getting ready for work in the morning.


Yup; an 8 hour work day is effectively 10 just with commuting included. In my case I've spent a long time commuting with the train, which would have given me like 20 minutes each way to work or do my own stuff - but for me that's too short, there's a big chance I would get too distracted and miss my stop, and I preferred just winding down for a bit during that time.

Then there's mandatory things like getting ready in the morning and dinner etc in the evening. That time is constricted even further if you have a family. If you're lucky you have 4 hours, if you're really lucky you still have energy during that time to work on stuff.


yeah, the whole 8 hours trifecta thing neglects a lot of round corners


It is true that 8 hours me time is unrealistic for most grown ups with families. I still think that the thrust of her argument is valid. It would disingenuous to say that because we can't do what she's done we can't do anything at all.


I don't care about any of the things you mention so you're basically telling me to kill myself already since my life is meaningless? All I care about is working and building companies.


The year I graduated from college, this used to be my schedule (I lived right next to my workplace):

8:30 AM - wake up

9:00 AM - go to work at corporate job

9:30 AM - arrive at work at corporate job

5:00 PM - stop working, go home

5:30 PM - arrive at home, run 3-4 miles

6:00 PM - start working on startup

2:00 AM - fight fires, go to sleep

Despite burning out a couple of times, I eventually got to the point where I could quit my job and work on my startup full-time. This didn't end up working out in the end, so it was a huge a waste of time (several YEARS).

At the end of the day, figure out whether your startup and your cofounders are worth the opportunity cost. Engineers can make a lot of money in this market working at FAANG (with a similar financial outcome as an acquihire exit for top talent).

This is controversial: Your startup should AT LEAST get accepted into YC -- that's the litmus test. If it can't even get past those relatively beatable odds, then it's certainly NOT worth it (YC acceptance de-risks things by a factor of 10 just purely based on statistics -- the partners are very smart, they are almost always right with their decision-making in terms of almost never having any false negatives -- but they still have 9/10 false positives, just statistically speaking). So if you DO get accepted into YC, draw the line at the one-year mark and make it firm. Return all the investors' money at that mark, and do something else (i.e. go work for Google).

That's how you know you are not one of the 9/10 failures that still somehow make it into YC. It's a good initial filter in that if you get rejected, you know right away that what you are currently doing is definitely NOT worth your time (and if you disagree, you are likely susceptible to Dunning-Kruger or self-bias -- you really should have been able to convince the partners that you were worth funding over the large pile of crappy applicants, otherwise, the HIGHLY likely scenario is that you do not realize yet why you will fail). For startup funding, the distribution itself is Pareto -- even the second best accelerator has a 10x lower rate of success (and often their successes ended up getting accepted to YC after-the-fact anyways). The VERY BEST investors' opinions are a good barometer for measuring startup success (BUT only if YOU are the founder -- otherwise, the reward portion of the risk-reward curve is below the Pareto Front).

If you can land a FAANG position, you'd have to start a unicorn on your own for it to be worth it (especially if you take in VC funding), so calibrate your success based on that. You can also adjust your risk-reward curve by joining late stage pre-IPO rocketships instead (Wealthfront has a list). Figure out where all the smart engineers are (they cluster) -- that's the winner you should pick. Even running a lifestyle business that generates similar income still probably isn't worth your time as a top engineer because of liquid stock appreciation from FAANG. Real talk: If you can't get accepted into FAANG, then you are in WAY over your head with starting your own unicorn (but doing a lifestyle business as a sole proprietor is probably financially optimal for you).

The absolute worst thing to do with your time is join someone else's early-stage startup with a significantly reduced salary as employee #1 for sweat equity (despite it being a fraction of what the founders have) and build their entire tech stack yourself. This isn't even close to being on the Pareto Front. Don't sell yourself short.

Also, you'll hear the story of that ONE exception who beat all of the odds. But you're a rational person, don't buy into that delusion.

This logic can be nicely collapsed into a probabilistic decision tree.


TL;DR you should be good enough to get into YC and get a job at a FANG, otherwise you have no business doing a startup.

That’s a very dark / elitist / defeatist view for aspiring founders. Many successful business were started by folks that don’t share your background, can’t make it to YC and we’re not superstar programmers. With enough support, any mildly interesting business idea can thrive (see TechStars with their 80%+ survival rate), so while getting into YC increases your odds massively, being a signal of your worthiness as an entrepreneur is a much more fuzzy matter.


A lifestyle business may or may not be worth your time. Small businesses are great, but they don't reap the benefits of scaling massively in quick timeframes like tech unicorns do.

You want to start a unicorn. That's why you are risking your time and your money (and even your health). That's what every investor who gambles away their own money on YOU wants you to do. And look at the qualifications of the successful unicorn startup founders: Stanford PhDs, published mathematicians, 160 IQ -- these types could pass the FAANG bar without even sneezing (they are adding another letter to FAANG!) -- and YC would have invested in all of them (why would PG want to miss the next Google?). As improbable and out-of-reach the YC/FAANG bar might seem to the everyday HN reader, these gateways are child's play for the actual heavy hitters.

Founding a startup is all-or-nothing, and the economy only has room for so many billionaires and triple-digit millionaires. You have to be the absolute best of the best. Just by the numbers, you have to maximize your chances of success, and statistically speaking, the bar is right where it is for a reason.

"Survival" is easy in the startup world. Success is near-impossible hard. It's a poor metric because any founder can live off Soylent and ramen indefinitely clinging onto a nonproductive company that isn't growing (it is all but dead), while ignoring the enormous opportunity cost he or she is personally incurring. Survival in this context really means continuing a hockey-stick trajectory.

You can make single-digit and even double-digit millions over your lifetime doing other things with your time that are less risky and more productive than trying to found a tech startup, even with these qualifications.


> As improbable and out-of-reach the YC/FAANG bar might seem to the everyday HN reader

That's even more condescending than the previous one - and not the point I was bringing up. The majority of successes are based on product innovation, a new business model, market disruption, strategy, growing a niche. Not tech.

All major capitals around the world have hundreds of thousands of millionaires. London alone has more than 350k. With some luck your description might fit 0.01% of the world's successful entrepreneurs.


And my point is that trying to start a company as a FAANG-level engineer is very often not worth the opportunity cost unless you're receiving certain signals (YC, hockey-stick trajectory).

Most millionaires aren't entrepreneurs. As a world-class engineer, you can become a millionaire by working for 5 years at Google/finance/big-4 with very little risk. And giving that up to start your own business is really only worth it for founding a breakout trajectory/unicorn startup. People tend to bias themselves and their abilities, but they need to take a realistic look at the profiles of those successful unicorn founders and use that as a yardstick to evaluate their own potential to avoid wasting their time and money.

And I agree with you that tech is necessary but not sufficient for starting a successful unicorn (the line between "tech" and what you describe as "product innovation" is very blurry). This is Hacker News, after all. Tech-focused investments is their thesis.


> All major capitals around the world have hundreds of thousands of millionaires. London alone has more than 350k.

5% of Londoners are millionaires!?


3.9% since current population is 8.8m. NY is not far behind.

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/cities-boasting-the-most...

Bear in mind that these days having a million doesn't make you rich like it used to, or even able to retire much earlier. The line for super-rich is currently drawn at $30M, then there's only ~4.5k people who qualify in London.


I suspect house price inflation goes a long way to explaining that.


I’m surprised nobody has mentioned an arbitrage sort of approach to starting a business. If you work at a FANG in the US, why not hire developers in another part of the world to build out your vision for you?


Because you often need REALLY skilled developers (top 1%) to make the early tech for what you need to build when you're doing a successful startup. These developers aren't going to be cheap. You also can't outsource starting a company. You'll need to manage and PM everything as a founder. There's also a lot more to running a company than just writing code.


> Because you often need REALLY skilled developers (top 1%) to make the early tech for what you need to build when you're doing a successful startup.

Rubbish. You need an idea and to start validating it, learning and iterating, with feedback from your customers.


You also need that, and I was addressing the point that someone can’t build a unicorn tech company with a bargain basement remote development team. Look at the MVPs for Google, Dropbox, Apple, even Facebook and ask yourself whether you could replace the founding team of rockstar engineers with some contractors from Timbuktu who do not share the same passion, qualifications, or in-person presence.

It's surprising how poorly the Eric Ries mentality applies in practice to the top success stories of the Valley. How many pre-validated customers wanted the Apple I (a hodgepodge circuit board)? Who would've told you they needed to use something like Facebook? Who needs an "operating system" for a niche "personal" computer? Starting a top tech company by definition can't be formulaic. It's more about the vision -- and only people with better "eyesight" can see and realize the future.


You don't outsource your key competence Hr legal Payroll yes.


You forget kids and family


I have gotten really serious at trying to start a business this year.

I devote Monday through Thursday to working on my business. After work I take an hour to an hour and a half break. Then I work for five to six hours, then thirty minutes break before bed.

Friday through Sunday, I devote to writing, resting, or other things. Honestly it's mostly resting, because I'm way beyond burnt out.

The thing is I'm spent after my work day. I'm making more errors at night, causing more rework and frustration. I was also concerned about layoffs/loss of job. So I was dipping time into job searching.

That's not even getting into the existential what am I doing with my life. I'm early 30s and wasting the bulk of my youth trying to start a company. It's depressing to me to be locked to my computer for 13 to 14 hours a day. I love working on my business idea. But I have music I want to work on, novels, etc. Places I want to see.

This past weekend I went to a weekend startup accelerator. It has been years since I felt like that. My brain was firing on all cylinders, and I was working on a team. The past several years of my career. Have been death marches, and projects that are cancelled mid stream, and I'm flying solo. This is why I want to start a business, but I'm just so exhausted all the time.

I have done the quit and take a few months off in the past. Those were the happiest I've been in my career. But something has yanked me back to a full time job, because I need money asap.

Then the last portion as someone else mentioned. The inane invention assignment clauses. My last role took ownership of everything past, present, and future I thought. Irregardless of medium. My current role tried that, but I got an addendum to the contract. I had a past employer try and sue me because we left on bad terms, and they drowned me in legal fees.

Sure you don't need to quit. But if you want your sanity, and some legal peace of mind it's the best thing.


I don't have a business, but I have been working on a side project for almost 5 years after hours, I commit about 20 hours a week to it. At the beginning I tried what I called 'super days' that sound a lot like yours. What I found is that while I was 'working' those 5-6 hours at night I was not very productive mostly due to mental exhaustion. Then on 'off days' I was way too exhausted to do anything, and I never fully recovered. For my project (creative in nature) this caused crippling Creative Productivity Anxiety and depression.

About 1.5 years into the project I broke my foot (long story) which meant I had to change things, then I had a kid about a year later, which caused me to change again. Both of those were really good developments

What I found is that a far better schedule for me was to spread things out. Now I still put in about 20 hours a week, but it is in the form of 1.5 hours at night on week nights and 6 hours on Saturday and 6 hours on Sunday. The Saturday and Sunday time is generally split three ways (morning before family wakes up, kid's nap time, evening after kid goes to sleep) I feel like I get more work done because I have the mental ability to actually work for each of those pieces of time.

Schedule may look different for you, hobbies, family, etc. But I would definitely suggest with exploring smaller pieces of Second Work, especially on week days.


With kids, I've adopted a similar way of working on my projects. During the week I really only have ~1.5 hours a day of focused time that I can spend on my projects. I've found a great system that help a lot with that:

1. Plan specifics and next-steps while watching the kids. This is not to say you should ignore them or anything. An hour of dedicated play with the kids is usually followed by an hour of them playing with each other or doing something independent quietly (super important skills for them to learn IMO). When they are watching Sesame Street or playing with each other I have a note-taking app and Google Docs on my phone. I can plan next steps, write content, manage the project's social media, etc. from basically anywhere while still keeping an eye on the kids. I also make and maintain a TODO list broken down into bite-sized tasks in the note taking app (the default notes app that comes with Android). Using a phone in this way is more rewarding than surfing Reddit/HN anyways, and it will fundamentally change your relationship with your phone for the better.

2. Since most planning is already done (see step 1), when I have dedicated time to work on the project I already have a list of bite-sized tasks I can accomplish. Doing even one tiny task a day adds up way more quickly than you would believe. e.g. I do furniture, so on one day I photograph a completed chair, another day I cut fabric for cushions, etc. Maintained over the long-term, this adds up to a ton of progress without burnout. My guiding philosophy for this is "consistency + effort = improvement".

This system also works great for people with long commutes (assuming you're not driving)!


> them playing with each other or doing something independent quietly (super important skills for them to learn IMO)

+100 for this. Our kids just don't. Maybe 5 min, and then "mom! dad!". And we drop everything and go relieve them of their duty to entertain themselves. I feel like this is a failing on our part as parents. And it makes everything worse for everyone.

I'm curious if you have any practical measures you've followed to get past this.


Every time they do this, assign a bug to them.


Everyone will have different experiences with this, but I wonder how old your kids are? We didn't really experience a lot of the self-entertainment until our kids were 5 and 3 - at that point they began being able to cooperate and play well enough with each other that they could get engrossed (either in parallel or together) and allow us to focus primarily on non-kid-stuff.


6 and 3 now. And yeah it is getting better though we still have a way to go.


Not sure it's the right thing(tm) to do but I generally make it "worse" for both of them if they ask me to solve their fights. E.g. if they fight and shout "Mom! Dad!" I'll tell them "Great that you're not playing any more, here are some chores that need doing".


All kids are different. Within a reason, there is no "failing" as each combination is unique and there is no way to compare or run A/B test to say that one particular way is "failure" and one is "success"


IME, once they learn to read (and assuming you can instill or kindle [pun not consciously intended, but left] a love of reading), that problem will more than solve itself.


How is the side project going after 5 years? How many more years do you see it taking?


You sound like someone who wants to do a lot of different, separate things, and probably puts pressure on themselves: even when working hard on your business you’re asking “why haven’t I completed that music yet!” Etc

It may help to think of your life as “epochs” or “seasons”. Sometimes you’re in a work period, or in a startup epoch. Another time you’re in a travelling season. It’s easier to split your interests over time than to parallelise in the present. The season idea can be greatly reassuring - “oh, I’m not doing enough music now, but that’s because I’m in a work period. Focus on work, do that, that’s enough. Spare time - rest, recuperate, so I can do better work tomorrow.”


This is actually a really interesting concept.

I think there are certainly some benefits of focusing on one thing or epoch, but I do wonder if most of my energy going toward one thing would make me no longer enjoy that particular thing. Regardless, I like the concept and how it perhaps pertains to people's continuous change/growth.


I recently got serious about writing fiction (still mainly for myself, though) and I did notice that I tended to be quite burned out after work, especially toward the end of the week. I was irritated that The Man was getting my best hours, which mostly seemed to happen in the morning.

So, I got one of those wake-up lamps and started getting up very early (4-5). I get plenty of time to wake up and then concentrate on my own thing with zero distractions before I head to work at 9-ish.

I have never been a morning person but this arrangement has made me feel more personally fulfilled and happier at work too because I'm not worried about getting home and then having to write, or saving my mental energy for my own purposes.

The only problem is I tend to get sleepy around 9 or so, but I can stay up when I want to and if anything it means I drink less and get more sleep.


What time do you go to bed typically if you're waking up at 4-5?


830-930 ish.

I'm not a hard-working, sleep-deprived entrepreneur. I just have a hobby that requires clarity, presence, and focus for me to be happy with the results, and I've found that the morning is the best time for that state of mind.


Your story seems similar to a number of other people I know or have met. Here are my thoughts (hope you find them useful/valuable in some way):

(1) Get your diet and sleep taken care of. Nothing fancy. Just find something in both areas (diet and sleep) that improves your energy levels and is easy to maintain.

(2) You are working long hours at your current job. Try taking short ~2-5 min. breaks every ~20-30 minutes and attempt a longer break (~10-15 mins.) about every two hours. Your breaks can be as simple as staring at your screen or at your desk and daydreaming. The point is to get your mind off the current task for just a little bit and then step back into your workflow. Ironically, I have found that taking those short ~2-5 min. breaks has often been diffcult because I feel like I can just keep going and my energy levels won't be affected. Rid yourself of that feeling if it comes up. The short breaks have given me a lot more energy daily, weekly, etc.

(3) Find someone to bounce ideas off of for whatever business you are working on. Doesn't need to be a co-founder or a mentor or whatever. Just find someone to talk with about the project you are excited about working on.

(4) Make finding your first customer a top priority. There will be a wealth of benefits (tangible and intangible) for you when you get that first sale; when someone gives you real money in exchange for something you built. If you've already made some sales, then plan and execute on furthering sales and getting more traction (self-evident). I can't stress enough, though, the importance of getting your first customer if you haven't already.

(5) Filter everything for what is relevant, so as to optimize time spent and energy expended. One of the best pieces of advice that was given to me came from my undergrad thesis advisor. I was 21, and up until that point in life typically read all or most of the books I ever started reading. It felt unnatural and awkward to not complete a book, because not doing so seemed like I would miss something important or that I was doing an intellectual disservice to the author.

Together with my advisor, I had selected ~35 books that would form the basis of my research. I still remember sitting excitedly in his office with the books stacked beside his desk, as I looked forward to diving into the research. He told me (paraphrasing), "Look, there is absolutely no need to read all of the material in any of these books. Flip through them to find the portions relevant to your project and disregard the rest."

That was a freeing moment for me, and one which eventually led to a heightened ability to nearly always sift for only what is relevant (regardless of domain, function, project, deliverable, task, etc.).


> The inane invention assignment clauses

This damn clause is the bane of my existence. It is the main thing stopping me from pursuing a side project because even if the project succeeds, I won’t own the rights to it anyway.

I’ll probably ask my employer to approve some side projects as independent work and have them excluded from their ownership, but I feel like even asking that question paints me as someone who isn’t dedicated to my full time job. I’ve been at my current company for less than a year so I’ll probably wait a bit longer before submitting the request.


I just put a line through it and my initials and signed it and handed it to my boss, he flipped through and signed and that was the end of it.

I don't have any commercial projects outside of work but the idea that an employer can claim ownership of something that comes out of my head into my machine in my time is bonkers.

If you want to own the other 8 awake hours of my life after the first 8 you have to double my pay.

I've done that on my last 3 employment contracts and no-one has ever even commented.


Yep, there is no reason to ever accept this clause. On the off-chance a company objects to you removing it, you don't want to work for them anyway.


If they pushed back on it I'd ask for a raise in salary due to the opportunity cost of not been able to do things on the side.

A broad exclusive license to and ownership of every line of code I write shouldn't be free after all.


Don't do it all by yourself. It's better to own 10% of something big then 100% of nothing.


>But I have music I want to work on, novels, etc. Places I want to see.

I'd like to do all of those (and have made some movies and music beyond software work), but one has to ask: does the world really need (or could use) more music, novels, and SaaS?

And why would it need mine? Do I have a 1 in 10 million unique take on those things and unique talent? Or am I piling to the rest of the noise?

At some point I think for most the motivation is not some primal urge / can't do without (else they'd be doing it already as their first focus), but just "it would be fancy to write a book/make a movie/release an album".


> And why would it need mine? Do I have a 1 in 10 million unique take on those things and unique talent? Or am I piling to the rest of the noise?

The results may not be super profound, but the process of creation is self-actualizing and good for the mind.


That's the hobby part though. We were discussing the "wanna leave my job / do that other stuff" part.

And while I can understand music, is novels and movies something people routinely non-professionally as a hobby for "self-actualization"? Those are more wannabe lifestyles.


When asked what surprised him about humanity the most, the Dalai Lama replied:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”


On the flip side, if no one was anxious and everyone was perfectly enjoying the present, it could be that no one would ever bother to even invent the wheel.


On the flip side's flip side, if people weren't so anxious about carving their life out, it could be that we'd have plenty more Edison's and da Vinci's inventing great things for the fun of it.


On the flip side's flip side's flip side, if people weren't anxious about making money and building a future all those fun ideas might not have gotten monopolized for use


I bet the person who invented the wheel did it whilst idling one sunny day.


I highly doubt a single person created the wheel out of nothing. The idea of a circle is part of our innate biology we are hard wired to recognize or create circular shapes.

Most likely several people tried to create the wheel and ideas on what to do with a circular shape were thought of, some cross pollination from physics resulted in it being used for transportation.

So I’d argue it was not done on a sunny day but mostly as an obsession just like most every other game changing idea


The wheel is trivial and obviously anyone could come up with the idea. The reason wheels weren't used universally from the dawn of time is that axels had to be invented first. In order to invent a cart that can support enough weight to be more useful than a donkey, you first need to invent metallurgy.


The simplest form of a wheel is a wooden log. The prototypes were readily available and supplied by nature.

Now to make an actual wheel, with spokes and mostly 'hollow' inside and to put it on an axle - would have required better tools, so the wheel was probably created/invented quite naturally alongside the advances in metallurgy.


The wheel is a natural invention. Just let something (not necessarily very round) roll off a snowy hill, and see what happens.


The wheel isn't the hard part. The hard part is the axle bearings.


It just came to him one day as he was stuck in traffic.


They may have gotten the idea while idling, but it still took work to design and test prototypes. This would obviously be more true for the many more advanced inventions that have come since.


> On the flip side, if no one was anxious and everyone was perfectly enjoying the present, it could be that no one would ever bother to even invent the wheel.

I don't think the idea is that people should stop investing in the future but that they should enjoy the path to get there as well.

The idea that you should just be unhappy but it will all be worth it once X happens is not good for your well being. Life can be hard and even stressful but that doesn't preclude you from being happy or fulfilled. For example, if you are working your butt off, you can feel happy that you did so.

I started piano at 20 years old which is really old compared to most serious pianists. I practice 4 hours a day despite working full time. I know that it is entirely possible I will never reach the level as the greatest pianists but I try anyway. I think the fact that I am not depending on being great to be happy makes it easier for me to keep going because each week I feel improvement and I know I worked hard and that makes me happy.


"I am not depending on being great to be happy" - spot on!


In our society, I fear that our fear is not that no one would bother to invent the wheel, but rather that no one will buy our automatically-renewing annual subscription to the wheel.


I think there can be a balance. Even compared to when I grew up in the 70s everything seems more accelerated now to the point of overwhelming. I think we can have progress without going crazy.


Exactly.

I've done a bit of Buddhist study my self and it wasn't for me. It was as if it was telling me to sit still and just relax. Well, I'm keen on relaxing and such, but there's also problems to be solved.

So enjoy the present, be in the moment, but don't neglect the future (or your health) as if it's not going to come.


> Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.

> After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.

-- Zen Proverb


That’s a bit rich coming from Tenzin Gyatso — a man who lived in utter opulence as the leader of an elite priest-class and ruled over serfs who would be tortured if they didn’t do as they were told.


Can you provide some source?


>Until 1959, when China cracked down on Tibetan rebels and the Dalai Lama fled to northern India, around 98% of the population was enslaved in serfdom. Drepung monastery, on the outskirts of Lhasa, was one of the world's largest landowners with 185 manors, 25,000 serfs, 300 pastures, and 16,000 herdsmen. High-ranking lamas and secular landowners imposed crippling taxes, forced boys into monastic slavery and pilfered most of the country's wealth – torturing disobedient serfs by gouging out their eyes or severing their hamstrings.

Sauce: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/feb/10/tibet-...

This was just the first google result for 'dalai lama slaves' (no quotes). The West wants to think that Tibet is the the good guy, since China is _obviously_ the bad guy, but it turns out that history doesn't have good guys and bad guys; it has humans, and humans at the top of large-scale traditional hierarchies tend to be cruel to humans at the bottom of those hierarchies. So it goes.


Here's one of the comments from the guardian under that article:

buddhabuddha 12 Feb 2009 2:55

0 1 As Cheese Commando pointed out in the very first comment in this string, Sorrel Neiss did indeed used to work for China Daily in Beijing -- China's English language Pravda.

Ho hum though -- plurality of opinion and all that: we wouldn't want to sink to Beijing's level and censor her, right? (We can correct her though on those waaaay wayward notions of China's hospitals in Tibet, etc.)

As the Dalai Lama himself concedes, Tibet was indeed quite a dark and savage place; many other places in Asia, Africa and Europe were also dark and savage at the same time -- including of course China.

Indeed, the Dalai Lama was on the point of instituting a series of social and governmental reforms in Tibet -- who knows if they would or wouldn't have worked -- when the Chinese People's Liberation Army invaded.

Just so's ya know.


Pretty sure the Tibet was invaded before the Dalai Lama even had a chance to show what sort of ruler he would have been. The only people who speak negatively of him are Chinese.


Yeah, but according to the Dalai Lama, he's the same guy as his predecessors.


Does that mean he'll keep getting wiser as he lives more lives?



do you know if he ever addressed this part of the country's history publicly?


Not to my knowledge, but then I know very little about this topic.


I like that quote, but at least according to wikiquote it may be misattributed - https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Tenzin_Gyatso,_14th_Dalai_Lama...


I didn’t know that, even so it perfectly summarizes some people lives.


Many people strive to achieve which leads to a greater satisfaction than anything else. Of course it all sounds bad when you completely take away accomplishments and fulfilment.


I'm beginning to think (after nearly 30 years of failing) that succeeding as a maker may involve something larger than ourselves.

I think that we have major, structural, institutional problems throughout our society and culture that prevent any individual from accomplishing much of anything over the course of a lifetime that is outside the mainstream status quo of participating in a nuclear family.

I think a possible way out of this predicament is shining a light on the smallest of things that prevent us from moving forward.

For example, any student debt at all is a major setback. So our choice is either to not go to school or to work a lot and pay it back fast. This is a false dichotomy. If you flip the problem on its head, you see that this was orchestrated by the owner class to keep people locked into the system (any increase in ignorance being an inconvenience or even politically convenient).

The layout of our cities highly encourages car ownership, another huge cost. The fossil fuel industry gets billion dollar subsidies while renewables do not. We no longer have the room in population centers to grow our own food. We don't have the disposable income to build robots to automate something like that. Even dating requires cashflow.

Everywhere we look, at every level, we are blocked. So I think something more useful than borrowing the hours and minutes of our leisure time for risky ventures might be to form a vision of how we'd like our society to be. Name each problem and attack it head on.

I don't mean to downplay the article because it has very good points about self-discipline. But I would very much like to see us all start succeeding, because if we try to do it alone, we will fail.


Much of Europe has free universities, walkable cities with good public transport, and culture and climate where a date can just be a picnic on the beach or in the woods.

Europe is not notably more full of successful makers than the US.

(As for growing food - it would take you a lot more time to grow enough to feed yourself than it would to earn enough to buy the food you need to feed yourself)


Europe does seem to create a different class of 'maker'; consider Linus Torvalds and Fabrice Bellard, both notable for their immense contributions to open source software. Who in the US is creating on that scale and not doing it for their employer or some other payout?


That's a slightly amusing post given the gigantic open source contributions that US makers have had.

First let's get the obvious out of the way: you have to earn money somehow to live. Linus Torvalds hasn't spent the last 20 years living in a ditch. He monetized his work on Linux to his own benefit, as any sane person would do.

Prominent US examples of makers/creators in that mold: Dennis Ritchie, Ken Thompson, Michael Stonebraker, Brian Behlendorf, Bill Joy, Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn, Brendan Eich, John Resig, Ian Murdock, Richard Stallman, Brad Fitzpatrick, Keith Bostic, Paul Vixie, Jon Postel, Eric Allman, Larry Wall, Marc Ewing, Ray Tomlinson, Alan Kay, Robert Metcalfe, Douglas Engelbart, Donald Knuth, Thomas Kurtz, Larry Tesler, John McCarthy.

One would have to include the contributions by Leonard Kleinrock and Lawrence Roberts. They were critical to making the Internet happen.

Blake Ross and Dave Hyatt broke the IE monopoly with Firefox, an enormous contribution. Dave also has several other relevant contributions.

Matt Mullenweg was instrumental in the creation of WordPress (and the WordPress Foundation), which runs 1/4 to 1/3 of all sites.

John Carmack open sourced the id engines, which was a particularly abnormal thing to do at the time. Especially given their commercial value and the fact that id was in competition with countless other developers to lead the way on cutting edge 3D tech. His open technical contributions to the industry are immense, possibly larger than anybody else in gaming history.

Jimmy Wales created Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation. There have been few greater positive contributions in the history of the Web than Wikimedia.

These examples keep going.

Linus Torvalds also happens to have spent the last two decades living in the US and is an American citizen. Only five years after he began work on Linux, he moved to the US. Out of the ~28 year history of Linux, for 22 of those Linus has worked on it in the US.

By your own premise, the best maker you offered up, prefers being in the US and has spent the vast majority of his adult life building in the US.


Many of these people are academics, doing it as their professional work--academics do seem to have that same kind of European giving mentality. Most of the others were paid by a company to do their work.

Stallman though I will grant you. Even with his academic 'support' he is clearly giving heart and soul without any desire for compensation.


most of your examples paid for college REALLY REALLY easily. gimme an example of someone who applied for loans, then proceeded to zoom off into the heady world of open source and makership


I have noticed there is a crazy amount of open source and related stuff coming out of Europe. There really does seem to be a culture of giving freely in europe that isn't seen as much in America unless it has some kind of business justification.

I have heard that openstreetmap in Europe has flawless coverage but in America its fairly bad.


> I have heard that openstreetmap in Europe has flawless coverage but in America its fairly bad.

It's not quite that simple. OSM in Germany is very good, but Google Maps is still popular. OSM in many other European countries is pretty good, and better than Google maps, but in those places Google Maps is still very popular in general. OSM in some other European countries is rubbish.


This is an extremely valuable point that that I think most entrepreneurs don't appreciate enough.

If you think about any large project you know - say a business - they are highly networked systems. They have partnerships and vendors and customers and employees and investors and external deadlines and internal deadlines.

In other words, they become deeply embedded in a "fabric" of connections. Once you become part of the ecosystem - and people rely on you - it becomes harder to just quit.

I have always thought that if you want to build a business, build a network (and not just one of people). Integrate with as many entities as possible. Have them share a vested interested in your success; have them depend on you and vice versa. The more you dig into the system, the harder you are to get out. This prevents startups from dying.

The idea here is to create a complex adaptive system - it adapts no matter what you throw at it. These are established by creating a highly networked systems (ie. creating relationships) with other adaptive entities who are aligned with your goals. The more of these you create, the harder it will be to get rid of you (this is true even if your startup is not particularly good). Again, the goal here is to become embedded in the network.

I've written about this topic (more abstractly) here: https://alexpetralia.github.io/2018/06/11/NL-2018-06-11.html


I heard this advice from various people over the years. It's not bad advice, but it's missing some details

This advice only works if your side project and your day job aren't equally intense ie. if you're programing for your day job and your side project involves more programming, you will burn out. You can pretend that you relax with even more programming, but your body will disagree.

To make this work beyond a few months or a year as a programmer, you will either need to do an easier side project where ideally you're not doing the programming; or better yet you will need a very easy day job that doesn't use up the bulk of your daily creativity and problem solving stamina. Yes, it is a finite resource. The true ideal situation is being able to work on your personal projects during down time at your day job...

Also as someone else already mentioned, read your employment contract. Outside of places like California, the IP portions of that contract are draconian ie. your employer will own any idea that you generate whether it is on the job during office hours, or in your sleep or free time at home. This is even more important to keep in mind if you work remotely even just part of the time.


> if you're programing for your day job and your side project involves more programming, you will burn out.

Then as stated in the article, only work on the side project for an hour a day over 365 days. Time is on your side and it's OK if it takes a year to get to an MVP. Look at Stardew Valley, for example.

> better yet you will need a very easy day job that doesn't use up the bulk of your daily creativity and problem solving stamina. Yes, it is a finite resource.

This is a fair point. That being said you can always focus on side projects that aren't related to the day job (and in some cases that might have to be the case contractually.) For example I'm a DevOp by day, but my business is moving into VR.


> Then as stated in the article, only work on the side project for an hour a day over 365 days. Time is on your side and it's OK if it takes a year to get to an MVP. Look at Stardew Valley, for example.

That's actually not true. According to the GQ interview:

"It took him four and a half years to design, program, animate, draw, compose, record, and write everything in the game, working 12-hour days, seven days a week."

Stardew Valley is the antithesis to the article. Eric Barone worked full time on the game while his girlfriend supported him.

https://www.gq.com/story/stardew-valley-eric-barone-profile

imo if you're programming, it'll take a lot longer to finish anything if you're only doing it in 1 hour daily increments vs a few hours in a single day a week. Flow is important. That's not counting the mental stamina that's been drained by the day job.

The other scenario that can happen is that your performance at your day job will suffer, if you continue programming after your typical 10-14 hour programmer work shift.


You misunderstand me.

I never said it took him 12 months to complete the game. I never stated he worked on the game on the side. My point is simply that it's OK for something simple to take a long time; it's OK to work on something over a long period of time, on the side or otherwise.

If you want to make something and it takes five years: OK. If you want to make something and it takes five months: OK. The point is: do it, and do it by managing time better and staying focused.


Stardew Valley is a weird example because the guy spent four and a half years working 12-hour days and did _everything_ themselves.. not sure that's the comparison you want here. (and their family/girlfriend supported them, they did work as a theatre usher occasionally apparently, but their "day job" was largely the game above even normal standards)


> Stardew Valley is a weird example because the guy spent four and a half years working 12-hour days and did _everything_ themselves.. not sure that's the comparison you want here

That's exactly the comparison I want: he took his time and demonstrated that it can be done give the time available to us. If you can only give six hours, then I guess it would take eight years. There's also another lesson to be learnt here: don't do everything form scratch :P

> and their family/girlfriend supported them

I'd replace a girlfriend that doesn't support me; I'd disconnect from a family who doesn't support me.


You were saying "1 hour a day!" and then mentioned a guy who didn't work anything close to full time at a paying job for nearly 5 years to work 12 hours 7 days a week on something that _might_ pay on release..


And you've misunderstood what I said.

He worked on something over a long period of time knowing simply that it's OK for something to take time to complete. He understood the challenges ahead and planned his days accordingly.

The point of the Steph's article isn't to only think inside of eight hours, but to think about time management, patience, focus, and other key aspects as a whole, to get the better picture of the path forward.

It doesn't matter if it takes four months or forty years to make a project: it's making it that counts.


With the quality of his work and the proven market for his niche (Harvest moon) he was all bug guaranteed a good release.

The unknowns where how much time it would take a single developer to make such an ambitious project and the degree of the payoff.


> That's exactly the comparison I want

It actually runs counter to your point and aligns with mine better. His day job as an usher was not mentally draining compared to his work on Stardew Valley


> If you can only give six hours, then I guess it would take eight years.

And with an hour a day it would have taken fifty years...


Sounds like Toptal has some good employment agreements. One restriction keeping people from making, side hustles, etc. are the onerous rules that larger tech companies place on their employees. There are agreements around non-competition, intellectual property ownership, conflict of interest, and other little gotchas. These can be very broad since modern tech companies sprawl across a lot of industries, so even if your specific role is far from the side hustle you want to do, your company might be quite close to it and therefore that is a conflict of interest.

I've actually had the situation where I was blocked from getting paid for tutoring on Codementor.io because it was "getting paid on the side to use skills and know-how that is part of his job".

Of course, this probably doesn't apply for things like bike shops or other types of maker activities that aren't technical. It also probably doesn't apply for pro bono things like open-source contributions.

[EDIT]: added "probably doesn't apply" since it seems like in some cases it can cause problems.


I worked for a Fortune 100 company whose backbone was intellectual property (involved in 100,000+ products) and as you might imagine, their view of what constituted "intellectual property" and any reasonable human being's view were quite different.

During onboarding someone asked about building a table and selling the plans and were told that "they would definitely need to talk to legal".


I've run in to places that wanted to pull "all your intellectual property belong to us", but I don't really think they really wanted this. I think they just want the right of first refusal. If I developed something illegal, then said "well... my employer owns it technically because I did this during working hours" they definitely would try to wriggle out of that IP.


Half the reason for these agreements is because they generally do want all your intellectual property: it means that there's less risk of one of their entrepreneurial employees quitting and starting a competitor, even in an ostensibly unrelated sector.


I don't think they really want to be legally liable for everything I make outside work, even though they might say that.


its "related to your job" not everything eg if your in a band at the weekend an say write your countries next Eurovision song that's not theirs


"Employee agrees that any and all intellectual properties, including, but not limited to, all ideas, concepts, themes, inventions, designs, improvements and discoveries conceived, developed or written by Employee, either individually or jointly in collaboration with others during the term of this Agreement, shall belong to and be the sole and exclusive property of the Company."

That's pretty broad. This doesn't even say "relating to your job", just "intellectual properties... conceived, developed or written by Employee... during the term of this Agreement".


That sounds like it wouldn't be upheld as to broad even in the worst US state.


I started working a company with this kind of attitude. I had them not only adjust the contract to only protect their existing IP from theft by me, but also had the General Manager sign a letter stating I was able to continue working on my side business.

Most businesses need you more than you need them. Choose wisely and negotiate.


Is this really a thing in the U.S.? Genuinely curious as I've worked for a major telecom company in Europe, and the the IP ownership belonged to the company only for stuff done during work hours and/or done using company's equipment.


All companies I have worked for over a certain size have come with non-negotiable [1] IP assignment agreements that effectively said the company owns everything you do, at work or at home, on work equipment or on personal equipment. It’s universal as far as I’ve seen.

1: Yes, I have tried the cute “cross out that section yourself and initial it” trick. The response from legal was a stern, unambiguous “Sign it unmodified or GTFO!”


Wow, that is disturbing...


Interesting that they blocked tutoring which I suspect is not enforceable unless you actually worked for an educational company.


There's this typical entrepreneur story-line that everyone loves to tell. VC-backed entrepreneur that went "all in", quit their job, and produced a unicorn. TechCrunch loves this stuff.

I feel like this is so misleading and makes people feel like they need to quit their jobs in order to be successful in making side projects or businesses. In general, I feel like we need to eliminate dichotomies in life.

So I wrote from another point of view: one that I am currently living, working FT and building side projects. In many ways I think it's: 1) Doable 2) Perhaps the most healthy and thoughtful approach.

Interested to hear other people's thoughts. Do you really need to quit your job to build a successful business?


I'm currently going through the beginning stages of this and I'm finding it incredibly difficult to focus and build something while also having a full time dev job that of course requires over 40hrs of work, plus time spent commuting everyday.

It's really about not being financially independent that keeps me at my job but I can't see why you'd stay at your current job if you can afford to quit and focus entirely on your new venture.

To me it doesn't feel like a healthy option to be essentially working a part time job on top of your normal job while also trying to maintain balance in your life, there simply isn't enough time for it all.

Maybe this is crazy, but it almost feels like getting fired with a severance (something most of the big companies do, but not something you'd get from a startup I'd imagine) would be a blessing in disguise because you'd have a steady stream of income for a couple months allowing you to focus 100% on getting off the ground.

Of course if it doesn't take off then you'll have egg on your face and be in a much much worse position.

edit: It looks like most people are talking about doing this to build a unicorn billion dollar business, but I'm talking just generally I guess in regards to starting a new business.


This definitely strikes a chord with me. I feel that if it's just one person working on a side project then there is less pressure to deliver. On the other hand, when one is working with other people (in our case, I'm the sole developer) on creating a new business it becomes extremely exhausting to manage a full-time job, a new business, staying fit and still having time for social engagements. Fortunately, I have been able to take some time off from full-time work and spend more time on our new business and already feel so much more productive.


The crux is how you define success. There's a reason business is so cut-throat and usually amoral—it's hard to make a scalable business. If you want this kind of outlier success as an entrepreneur you need to go all-in.

On the other hand, keeping a day job and modest lifestyle enables a broader range of success where you build stuff on your own terms that maybe makes a few bucks or improves someone's life, but without the pressure to go big. The vast majority of ideas can't become massive corporations, but a lot of them might change the world in a much more positive way if you can find a way to take money out of the equation.


I think there are two kinds of entrepreneurs. One is those trying to replace their current job with a hobby they are passionate about and makes them roughly the same amount of money as their current job. Two is those that want to replace their current job with a new one that is 100x more monetarily lucrative than their current one. Your blog caters more to type one entrepreneurs whereas the TechCrunch glorified stories cater to type two entrepreneurs.


I much prefer the old trope of starting in your garage. But I don’t know if VCs killed that or overconsumption just filled up all the garages.


If you can afford a garage in the Bay Area, you can't afford to run a startup because you're too busy paying your mortgage ;)


Or you can just sell the house and live like a king in Patagonia...


Not really. Remember DHH started and built Basecamp 1.0 and rails while still working on his consultancy business 40 hours a week.

Not every company needs to be next Fb/Google/Amazon. Nothing wrong with having revenue in millions and not billions if you are profitable.


> Remember DHH started and built Basecamp 1.0 and rails while still working on his consultancy business 40 hours a week.

I don't want to assume anything, but from what you've said, it seems like scaling his time up and down as needed would've been very easy.

People with hardset 35 - 40 hour / week jobs where they aren't their own boss can't really scale time commitments that easily.

Otherwise, I definitely agree.


Apparently he only worked one hour a day on it after working hours everyday. And by one hour, he meant proper one hour, without any distractions.


Yes exactly. DHH is a great example. I feel like the only metric of success these days is unicorn or not. Again, a harmful dichotomy.


Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that are legally not allowed to make in their free time because the company they work for owns the rights to things they make, even if made fully using their own time. Or the company may forbid working on open source projects under fears of developers sharing ideas that said company believes they're entitled to.

Until the law is changed so that companies don't own things developers make like that, there are many people that lose the motivation to make things in their free time.


I’m an entrepreneur, 2 employees. I may be running to my loss in theory, but by all means I help employees starting their side projects. It is much better to give them ideas for things where you know it won’t collide, and they come back knowing React and SQL.

It has worked so far. A previous one has left for consulting gigs, after a few months trying his gigs under my umbrella company. That was the best « smooth transition », he saw for himself, I got a ~20% cut, and now he’s dying under paperwork to create his own company (we live in France, which explains why it would have been even harder for him to create his company when he was unsure he liked it), and I have set a nice example of « promoting » which helps me recruit.

Employees are not owned. They were where I was 10 years ago. People change jobs. It’s part of the success of a career. They go through our companies but I’m tired of employers acting like their employees don’t exist after the end of their period or as if they owned property.


The last time I was job hunting (in Texas), I brought a copy of California Labor Code section 2870 with me and made it clear that this needed to be part of my employment contract.

If job hunting isn't realistic for you, at the very least you should have a serious conversation with your boss. The next time you are up for a promotion or a raise, hand them a copy of 2870 and say "that's nice, but this is what I really want".

Print it out. Bring it up in your 1-on-1's. At the very least, make sure your boss isn't surprised as to the reason why you eventually jump ship.

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySectio...


I have freely ignored these agreements in the past without any consequence. Once I got a "talking to" by a VP about my level of commitment. I also had one employment agreement claim I was not allowed to have any sort of side business. I disagreed, and actually sold services to my current employer while I was there. Many employers don't even know what is in their own contacts. It's boiler plate.


Who assumes the risk in this scenario? Hint: It's not the company you work for.


This was in the past and there was not much risk. These days I freely disclose my outside endeavors before the offer is signed. It’s never been a problem.


This sounds like an easy way to get sued if legal notices what you’re doing.


First, they have to notice. Second, they have to care. Your activity would need to be above a certain threshold to make it worth suing you over.


Strongly disagree with the arguments made in this paper.

In my opinion this post is fundamentally biased due to the author professional situation. From what I understand she currently works « remotely » meaning she doesn’t spend 2H commuting per day. Hence she seems to be a « lead xxx » at toptal. That’s great for her. I’ve worked for many large corporations , every where I went « lead » means you are generally not in « touch » with the operational reality of what the job is about.

So often as a lead your job is basically to keep a spreadsheet with people reporting to you because supposedly you understand what they do and can solve their issues if they have some.

Maintaining a spreadsheet is fairly easy, on the other hand solving 10 years legacy code without any sort of documentation is a competely different topic.

This is a well know issues in modern societies , where the higher you go in the hierarchy the less people are actually working and the more are actually doing bureaucracy and the more you are disconnected from reality.

I don’t see how an engineer in a service company working 40-50 hours per week can have any sort of motivation during his weekends to create something new while he just gave every bits of his brain for 5 days straight trying to fix someone else’s bugs , issues and legacy code.

This is an example of course, but I’m sure many people on HN are on this situation. They just stay at this job because it pays theirs bills or they can’t anything better but they just wish they had their own business doing something completely different.

Reading this type of article somewhat buggers me. I guess a « content writer » can probably work on a side project on his free time but what about the lower worker class ? What about the higher class like surgeons , lawyers etc..

These peoples often already work on the weekends to complete the work they were assigned... now they should also start a company on the side ?

Some job are more demanding than others , this is why some people must quit if they want to succeed.


Thanks for the feedback and while I can understand your point to some degree, I am not a << content writer >>, or someone that sits in a spreadsheet watching other people work. I was part of my team before leading it and continue to be an individual contributor.

I too have encountered leaders who operate in the way you described, but I think it's actually a really unfortunate viewpoint to have of leaders overall.

One of the key points of the article is that you do have more time than you think. This amount of time varies per person based on their life, but I would argue that everyone does have at least 30 minutes per day that they could re-allocate to something more effective.


I think your article has some valid points. But I think time available is not the only thing in the equation, as a few other commenters have pointed out. For example, I also work remotely, but I've found myself suffering from burnout lately because of hectic schedules. This has been a mentally draining experience, and as a result I've not been able to even begin thinking about side projects, let alone work on them. I do have more time available to myself than when I used to work in an office, but the time available to me now is worth way less than when I was working in an office because of my current job's intensity.


Strongly agree with you.

Some of the most successful people I know spent a few years in 'coast mode' jobs. Where they received large salaries to maintain spreadsheets of other workers and fake work meetings. These roles offered them ample downtime to study, plan, research, network and invest in personal growth projects without having to sacrifice much leisure time.

Granted the article has some fundamental tips, the author seems to be biased in one of these situations.


This is the ironic trap of maker-type people. We want fulfilling jobs making stuff, but they are also tiring on the brain, leaving little bandwidth at the end of the day to make your own stuff. But if we could just take a cushy job, and learn the requisite BS to get and sustain such a job, then maybe we'd be better off!


This is so true. Media advertises people who just jump from one task to another with full energy showing them as all-rounders who can do it all with their multi tasking. Truth is that most of the tasks are bullshit tasks which are some silly spreadsheet edits etc.

Try doing some real programming and it becomes very tiring after the days end. Having any energy to do something after work becomes incredibly difficult.


So the advice isn't for everyone. Is that your point? That's a poor point.


> every individual has approximately 8 hours to allocate to “me time”

8 hours of "me time" means:

- you spend no time getting ready

- you work part-time or work remotely and have no commute

- you don't cook and multitask while you eat

- you never take breaks

- you don't exercise

- you either don't live with a family/special other/pet or spend no time with them

The median human being doesn't live like this.


+ doing chores around the house

+ grocery shopping

+ speaking to / visiting friends and family

+ appointments

+ paying bills, getting insurance quotes, remortgage paperwork, etc

+ budgeting and managing personal finances

For me, I'd rephrase it as:

every individual could scrape a minimum of 1 hour to allocate to “me time”.

So that's what I work with.


I see people fail at this a lot. Often it isn't a matter budgeting time appropriately, but a matter of focus.

I have two jobs. I am normally a full time developer with a major bank and a part time officer in the Army, though right now I am full time Army. I also have a spouse and two teenage children. Yet, I still manage a couple of moderately large open source applications.

The most important realization is that not every minute of your day is actively occupied just because it is budgeted. You have empty time here and there, and sometimes a huge ton of it. Use it. If I am not actively engaged at work I think of my open source projects. If I cannot work on my open source projects at work, due to policy restrictions or security barriers, then I work on self-education. Right now I cannot work on my software at my military job, so instead I am reading educational material and studying for PMP so that I can focus on writing software outside the office.

A huge mistake I have made recently is sacrificing exercise for increased personal software writing time in the morning. When I first made this decision a few months ago it made sense, because I was supremely focused on shipping the next major version of one of my apps. I used this extra time wisely and was able to push my app out the door. That was 6 weeks ago. Now that extra time in the morning is largely wasted and I am gaining weight. I still have more software to write, but I have lost the necessary focus to use this extra time wisely. It is easier to be well focused when you are in better shape, high energy, and are living at a high state of wellness.


If you are happy making sacrifices in your life like cutting out relationships then all the more power to you, but I personally find it kind of crazy that we've reached a place where people think that their business idea is so important that they are willing to sacrifice basic human needs like social relationships etc to try and strike rich.


A few fallacies as I see them in this article.

One is that everyone, like the author, is starting from a 'clean slate'. This is an extremely privileged position. Almost no one in this country is completely out of debt AND mentally/physically healthy AND able to 'choose' to not commute to work.

Another is that everyone has, or can afford, an appropriate 'makerspace' in their place of residence.

Finally, this article simply takes the 8 hour workday for granted, rather than asking the extremely obvious question: Yes, Robert Owen did coin the phrase "Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest", in 1817. With labor productivity skyrocketing since then, why have we not reduced this, even to 6 hours?


This post is entirely premised on being single and not having kids.


Yeah, that's the first thing I thought of when I read that everyone has 8 hours a day of "me" time. Nope, no we don't.

630a - 8a: get myself ready, get kids ready

8a - 630p: commute and work (yes, the author does say she eliminated her commute, but this isn't feasible for everyone)

630p - 8p: dinner, get kids to bed

8p - ~9p: dishes, general cleanup, pay bills, etc...things most adults have to do to live

9p - 1030p: 1.5 hours of "me" time if we're going for 8 hours of sleep...no, more like...

9p - 12a: really the only window I have to live. often spent doing more work and really, usually too brain dead to start a side project. again, adulting and parenting are hard and energy intensive. Netflix sounds really good at this point.

1030p - 630a: 8 hours of sleep (haha - i'm really trying to live somewhat of a life so 1130/12 is a more regular bedtime)

I've been considering the 10p bedtime/5a wake up so I can do side projects in the morning, but this still only adds 1.5 hours of time for a total of 3 hours a day.


>I've been considering the 10p bedtime/5a wake up so I can do side projects in the morning, but this still only adds 1.5 hours of time for a total of 3 hours a day.

Do it.

3 hours per day, 5 days a week for an entire year is 720 hours. It's a marathon, not a sprint. And it's not like you need to always do it. Try it out, see if it is for you, worst case you cross the idea off your list.


My only important personal goal this year is to spend 500 hours working on personal goals. Pretty conservative pace (1 hour on 4 weekdays and 6 hours on the weekend), but sticking to anything consistently for an entire year would be a huge personal achievement.


This is awesome. A lot can be accomplished with 500 hours and yes, perhaps the best achievement is sticking to that goal consistently.


Irony of ironies, I'm actually coming to understand the importance of having "tickets", a backlog, and revisiting progress on a bi-weekly basis (sprints)


On the flipside, the single best thing you can do for your mental health and quality of life is to get more sleep.


Yes, exactly. Life is a marathon and if you put in consistent effort you'll make it to the "finish line". Perhaps slower than some others who had more time to move more quickly or with significant breaks, but you’ll get there.

Maybe a polarizing opinion, but if you put yourself in a box that “doesn’t have enough time” just because you have a commute, are a parent, [insert other excuse here], then it’s the equivalent of sitting at the start line and watching everyone, even the walkers, tread ahead. It's okay if that's what you want, but it is a choice.


Well said, live is a marathon not a sprint.


That's pretty much how my schedule works out too. The only thing is, by the time I get my kids to bed around 9 or so, I'm so exhausted, mentally and physically, that investing time in my side business is just not gonna happen.

I would guess in an average week, I have about 5 quality hours where I do not have an obligation to someone or something else and am able to spend it as I see fit.


That's pretty close to my routine as well, and by the end of the day I was a lot of the time too tired to put much (if any) effort into my side project.

As a New Years Resolution, I've been getting up at 5:30 each morning to get 1.5 hours to do my own thing in the mornings, and so far it's been going well. I would still like more time, but constantly getting small amounts done is a great motivator.

I also start a new job in a few weeks that is 4 days a week so I can spend a full day each week on my project. I'll take a small financial hit, but I'm hoping that will be enough to get something worth shipping out the door. If it all goes up in flames, I can always go back to full time without having risked too much.


Thats a more realistic breakdown. So thinking out loud, this means that maybe one needs to think and figure out the "what to do" ahead of time, while during other mundane activities, to the point of very clear tasks. And then do the tasks during the 1.5 "me" time.

Just a suggestion. It has worked for me before, but I am with you in general. Most days in the 1.5 hr "me" time that I have, Netflix/Hulu on the couch/chair with an IPA sounds pretty great at that point :)


I have a very similar schedule. I use 5am to 630pm to work on my side project. Sure, I only get 1.5 hours a day but it works for me, and over the past 4 years I've made enough progress to keep me happy. My primary motivator is the joy of working on my own idea, but hope to launch this in the next 2 years. (I'm working on an app.)


This is my schedule exactly. Cutting coffee made it so much easier to just crash out at 10, which shifts “me” time to the morning when I’m more in the mood to be productive.


Outsource some of the work you do while you work and commute. Say, outsource 3-4 hours a day, pick up 1-2 hours as you can. Then your project moves 4-6 hrs a day. I do this, using my income for someone else to build by muse.


That's what I do as well. My most productive hours are in the morning, so that's why I give them to my personal-job rather than my professional-job.


I'm single and don't have kids and it still doesn't apply. I have to commute, shower, cook, buy groceries, clean etc.

I'm all about self improvement, side-projects, etc, but his numbers start with the bullshit assumption that someone who spends 8 hours at work is instantly free as soon as the clock strikes 5.


>start with the bullshit assumption that someone who spends 8 hours at work is instantly free as soon as the clock strikes 5

This is one of the things I noticed as well. About a year ago I started commuting via commuter rail (Boston), and my side project productivity sky rocketed.

I'm guaranteed a seat, and room to put my laptop on my lap for two 1 hour intervals, 5 days a week.

This is an option not many people have, especially in the US.

Previously I've commuted by driving (obviously can't get much coding done then), and subway (too crowded to pull out a laptop). By the time I got home, I'd have already worked at least 8 hours, and spent 2 miserable hours commuting. I was tired, hungry, and hadn't gotten any side project work done.

Now at least I can get 2 good hours in every day, and that productivity momentum sometimes will carry in to the evening now as well, since I'm already in the thick-of-it when I get home. But even if it doesn't I'm working 10 hours/week on something I enjoy, and can easily see steady progress in it. It doesn't even matter how much time I'm able to make for myself when at home now.


> About a year ago I started commuting via commuter rail (Boston), and my side project productivity sky rocketed. > > I'm guaranteed a seat, and room to put my laptop on my lap for two 1 hour intervals, 5 days a week.

> This is an option not many people have, especially in the US.

Yeah. Those of in the Bay Area are stuck with CalTrain. You're not guaranteed a train (passengers are regularly "bumped", or denied boarding and told to wait for the next train, particularly bikers), let alone a seat; the trains are just incredibly oversubscribed / underprovisioned.

Also, IIRC, doesn't the MBTA commuter rail also offer free WiFi? CalTrain does not, and cell reception along the CalTrain corridor is flaky at best and outright terrible in some spots (San Antonio — Palo Alto…)

(The T, and the commuter rail, are compartively well run, IMO, and one of, if not the best, public transit systems in the nation.)

Does MA have anything close to CA's legal requirements that employers don't own employee's work when done on their own time with their own equipment?[1] (I.e., does your employer require you to sell your soul to them?)

[1]: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySectio...


Way true. I wrote the second half of my novel on my iPhone on the train to and from work. (First half written during the mandatory three month paid “garden leave” when I resigned before I could start the second job).


Wow - I can barely write an email or short reply such as this on my iPhone. Respect.


Similarly, I thought I would be okay commuting by car for a bigger paycheck. A company matched my spoiled demands, and I got a nice fat paycheck.

But still sitting in traffic ~2 hours a day was completely non-monetizable for me, and at the time monetization potential was important to me and this was a total waste.

Now of course, people in the bay area were telling me "wow a 40 minute commute you are so lucky", as many do 1.5-3 hour commutes one way, or they work longer than 8 hours to avoid traffic - for the same salary they would get if they worked less than 8 hours/day for these companies.

But I don't compare myself to them, to the average, its a non-factor for my goals, and I do have luxury of not being subscribed to a commute and was able to quickly remedy the situation. At the expense of no longer working at that job at that high salary.


You could interpret that, though, to mean building the lifestyle so that either your commute is easier, a job that you can control the hours better, or simpler living. For example, if you're riding commuter rail to work, that could potentially free up some time to maybe plan things, etc...

I'm pretty sure there's plenty of jobs/careers that this type of thinking wouldn't work at, but to counter that, there's also plenty more where it would.


But I agree with the sentiment. Maybe more like four hours/day, assuming you've simplified the rest of your life.


> I'm single and don't have kids and it still doesn't apply. I have to commute, shower, cook, buy groceries, clean etc.

Not once were you told during the article that all eight hours have to be dedicated to working, i.e. wake and grab your laptop and start hacking.

Obviously the author is more intelligent than that and understands people need to poo, get ill, or sometimes want to hit the cinema. That's made clear in the article also.

I think your conclusion misses the point that you're meant to take that eight hours and use what you can of it to focus on goals. That's why Steph points out that just one hour of work towards a goal over 365 days has a compounding, exponential result.

It's also not a solution for everyone. Take it or leave it.



> his numbers

Her. Not just men are becoming makers. :)


WTF is this downvoted for? Right up top of the article it explicitly calls out that the author is a woman, yet someone here can’t even be arsed to get it right? Then the person who calls it out is downvoted?!

Shame, HN.


Thank you.


Or not having a relationship or even much of a social life. I've gone through periods when I was single, spent much of my "me time" working on side projects, some of which shipped and made a little money and another one that got funded. Both OP and one of your replies say this is a "choice", which is true. You can have kids and choose to try to spend less time with them if you are not their primary caregiver. You can not spend time commuting or work on side projects during commute if you aren't driving if you choose and get the right job, etc. I think at some point for most people spending time with your kids or partner is more value than fucking around with side projects and "trying to start a business" that doesn't go anywhere. Sometimes you have to build something, and I think in that case you can figure out a way to do it, but just as often its aimlessly building vague ideas that don't ship or go anywhere. Burn out and mental fatigue are also real risks if you push this too far. Although side projects are fun, essentially working two or one and a half jobs for a long period of time (work, eat, work, sleep, repeat) with no real down time or social life will probably burn you out.

edit: That said, I still suggest you don't quit your day job. With the caveat of you should quit your day job if you have savings\runway\revenue\funding to do so, and you'll be ok with your project going nowhere and returning back to a regular day job after that runway expires.


People who choose to have kids are making a commitment to a long-term maker project, so that makes sense.


Kids are tiny adults in progress, not your personal maker project. They should be afforded as much autonomy as possible, where your only role is to keep them safe and healthy until they can reach an age where they can do so themselves. If anything it's more like having an employer that you do work for free, or even out of your own pocket.


Keeping them safe and healthy takes time. But, there are other things too. Teaching them to be good people, spending time with them to provide them with company and love (their friends aren't available round the clock). Bring up children is like being a small business owner. You nurture them so that they become solid, independent people when they grow up. The ROI is not money, but happiness, which is the ultimate goal of money.


Kids vary dramatically in terms of what they need from parents. For some, a high degree of autonomy is appropriate. For others, very much not so.


> They should be afforded as much autonomy as possible, where your only role is to keep them safe and healthy until they can reach an age where they can do so themselves.

You don't believe in upbringing?


I don’t see how what they propose is contrary to an upbringing. The goal of parenting is to raise a self-sufficient adult. The sooner you empower them to be autonomous the better they will be.


Even adults need mentors


What I said doesn't contradict what you said.


Sure, which is good information - if you want to keep that "extra 8 hours," don't have kids.

But surely the basic principles of organization and removing distraction can also be applied to those with kids? Kids are time consuming but not all-consuming, I suppose unless you don't have a partner to help out.


They're not all-consuming, but they provide enough distraction that it's difficult to have long periods of focus to make things.


Kids are a pretty big thing you make yourself with 1 cofounder and a couple team members tbh. Few other maker projects last as long. 18 years is a lot to invest in an MVP


Yeah, I get at most 5 hrs/day of "me time", and I'm just a 20 minute drive from my office with heavy traffic. 5 minutes if the roads are clear. Granted, I spend hours on HN, reading articles, sometimes even short books, and sneak a YT video every once in a while during work. I get paid like crap for not so trivial work, so might as well use that time to strive for something better, lol.


And not having a commute or the obligation to do groceries, etc. No mental fatigue, etc.


No. You can have kids and still create things, even new businesses. It really is about choice, and good time management. Too often people don't have enough time, but when you really look at what they do, you see where they do have enough time, where they really do make choices. I say this having founded a startup before I was married, and having started a business after having kids, 15 years apart.

It's about the choices you make.


I think throwaway-1283 isn't necessarily wrong, the author herself said as much -- she chose to forego a relationship for now and focus on side projects. Kids take even more time than just a relationship.

Not as a challenge to you, but just out of curiosity, how old were your kids when you started the latter business? I have an infant now and it's hard to imagine having time at all to do anything outside of work. There just isn't that sort of time. When I was "just" in a relationship or married, I didn't have any problems putting time and energy into both founding a startup and even engage in side projects (even as I work on my startup). Having a baby is a whole new story. I imagine things will get better as kid grows older -- probably better at school age, and then even better at high school/college age. But it'll be a long time. Maybe 15 years later like you said.


Their must-have time demands and wrecking-your-house tendencies don't seem to start to trend significantly downward until age 5 or so. Believe it or not they get much worse before they get better on those fronts, after the infant stage. Sleeping-through-the-night (call it 3 to 6 months) through ~18 months is a pretty great time. 18m to ~4yrs, depending on the kid, is... hellish.

I got a lot of reading done when my kids were infants. Way more than I do now, which is almost none. There's a good long span when you can just read them whatever, since they don't know WTF is going on anyway. Great time to knock a few titles off your own to-read list (yes for the record I did also read them plenty of picture books and such).


> Not as a challenge to you, but just out of curiosity, how old were your kids when you started the latter business? I

After they started school. The wife started looking at turning a hobby into a business. A couple pivots along the journey, and it wasn't until last year that we hit on something solid (so about 4 years later, so obviously an "overnight" success). It's still a lot of work, and it's by no means guaranteed, but it's off to a great start.

It's also turning into something else we can build.

What does this require? A desire to make it happen. My wife is the one who deserves the credit. We are here because of her desire to build something. But it's that balance between kids in school and working after they go to bed, and still finding a way to balance work and life. Again, it comes down to choices.

One more minor note, both of our kids have autism, and one is non-verbal, so it's not like they are self-sufficient (the younger one is moreso).

And yes, having a baby is going to impact you right now. It's fine. Use this time to enjoy life. =)


My wife and I have a newborn too, and I'm working on both an open-source project and a potential business. Most of the time, after work, I come home and take care of the baby for a bit to give my wife some rest. I basically put the baby in a sling and go about my day. I read her a little book, and play with her for about an hour. But otherwise, the rest of that time I use to work on my projects.

Children are wonderful, but they do not need your constant, undivided attention. I actually think it's better right now with a newborn. Once she starts walking and crawling. She'll need more monitoring.


There is a spectrum of how engaged you are with your kids as a parent and it would be hard to have a full time job, a side job, and then also be a highly engaged parent.

Also I think it would be even more difficult as a mother.


You are 100% wrong. And your insult is obvious and not welcome here.


A few months ago we had a story here in HN claiming that parents spend more time with their kids now, or at least want to spend more time with them. Not to mention nowadays both parents take care of the kids - a few decades ago outside of dinner and going out on the weekend fathers didn't do much else. Maybe that's why you feel this way.

I have friends whose parents switched careers by studying or working late, and I know some junior developers who are parents who taught themselves to code. So obviously just because you have kids doesn't mean you can't do anything else with your free time. You just have to make choices with your time management, I guess. But I don't know, I don't have kids :-)


It's certainly possible, but as you say "You just have to make choices with your time management". You end up sacrificing what little free time you have to more work. If that's the most important thing to you then you do it, but for most it is not.

I only have one child. I get about 2.5 hours / day to myself (after his bed time, he's only five.) I could certainly spend that time programming, but at this point it's just not what I want to do. I'd rather learn something else or just be a lazy bum.

You can't have your cake and eat it too. It's all doable; my mother worked and went to law school with two children. But it's hard, and most people who say they want to do X but don't have time simply don't want to make the sacrifices doing X would require. People do the same with all sorts of things. Exercise is a big one. "No time" really means "I don't want to spend 30 minutes working out."

We all find time for the things that are important to us.


Or you can also outsource some of the work you do while you work and commute.Outsource 3-4 hours a day, pick up 2-4 hours if you can. Then your project moves 5-8 hrs a day. I do this, using my income for someone else to build by muse.


Yeah, an elephant in the room really. The post just implicitly assumes that.


Most things out of Silicon Valley seem to be based on that premise.


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