To that end, the fix is simple: surround myself with people that I love. Friends and family.
Easier said then done, especially in our modern world, which is why I suspect this comes up frequently.
It's been REALLY positive. Just last night, we had a huge family thread going sharing our family pasta sauce recipes. It.... made me really happy! Now at the somewhat-annual extended family get-together, we'll have something in common to talk about.
I know it's definitely not a substitute for face-to-face interaction, but in letting go of my prejudices just a little, I've found a nice bit of additional joy in my life and hopefully made other people smile at the same time.
I wish we could have all the good without the bad, but I suppose that's what makes this field so insanely hard.
Its UI makes far more sense for consumption IMO.
One place to find service opportunities is https://www.justserve.org/ . There's an app too. It's worth a look.
But obviously I don't want to be content with that.
But in the long term, I wonder if you as a group will be able to discover movable bricks that you wouldn’t have seen or cared about on your own.
And maybe those bricks are both more valuable to move and more likely to successfully get to their destination, because you’re doing so as a group not as an individual.
Living on the beach with the people you love sounds pretty fantastic to me.
What's the end goal? Amass more wealth? Build a legacy?
Grass is always greener...
Happy people don't make great art.
Why can't happy people make great art? Do we also think that sober people can't write great novels, or people who survive past age 27 can't make great music? I can think of countless counterexamples to all of these. Just because there were miserable great artists in the past doesn't necessarily mean you have to be miserable to be a great artist.
This is kinda just a myth as far as I can tell. There is a often romanticized relationship between art and suffering, because sure, some art is created as a way to relieve suffering. But it's by no means mandatory, and at one point I've even been in the spot (like many many others) of being afraid to get help for mental health issues because of what it might do to the work I was creating. This is how the myth does harm. The longer people "trade" health for art, the more they put themselves at risk in service of this misguided idea. It's no exaggeration to say that people have died as a result of believing that treating their depression would diminish their art. A person in that situation has to win every day of their lives, while depression only has to win once.
I've expanded that into a philosophy about 'Software eats the world": the only way that doesn't end up in a dystopian hellscape is if Software Developers go out and meet the World. Dive into hobbies. Get good enough at them to be a Product Owner. Make software that supports that hobby.
You'll also have something to talk to people about at parties other than what you do for a living.
I think this is true of practically everything that we don't personally make a profession of. A few tens of hours doing carpentry, fiddling with plumbing, or hooking up electronics, and you'll seem super handy to someone with no experience. What passes for expert-level in a lot of arenas is more like what an actual expert would consider passing familiarity, but passing familiarity is enough to feel good and to be really helpful to your community in a lot of circumstances.
I agree completely about hobbies. I think I read somewhere long ago that we ended up with a zillion apps for ordering food because that's the kind of thing that college kids think about. If we all learn a lot more about a lot of things, we'll end up with a much more interesting tech-ecosystem.
There's a ton of (replicated) psychology research that supports this thesis: the early hours of skill acquisition are very effective/efficient in terms of improvement-per-hour-invested. 20-50 hours is enough to see very substantial improvements in any skill, even if you have no prior knowledge or experience.
I wish more people focused on the early process of skill acquisition: that's what most of us will experience for most of our lives/careers.
Learning and practicing skills in many different areas is underrated: if you think of skills from an ROI perspective, spending a little time to get a lot better at a portfolio of useful things has a crazy high return.
I like to say that my long history of studying the art of studying helps me get over that hump quickly. But you’d have to ask other people if I have or I’m full of it.
Also check out this guy who documents his progress playing table tennis everyday for a year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4y21uwFUgkE. I'm nowhere near his level but I can tell he got pretty good.
I learnt piano for years (from relatively late, ~12-17yo), and could follow a piece of written music but never just play.
My son, who at 14 has just started lessons could already play and can work out a piece by ear with essential only a few hours. He can play something you'd recognise, I can't unless I have the music.
He has 'natural aptitude', IMO gained genetically from his mother and through environmental exposure to music. Your 1000 hours would work for him, with this skill, I feel; but not for me.
There are other simpler restrictions. In my middle ages I've started karate, no one has a hope of mistaking me for an expert karateka unless I also address general fitness.
And as a software dev it’s almost expected that you’ll do that at least a few times for some problem domains.
The plus for most of these is that you can actually use your creations by yourself and have a great source of gifts for friends and family.
Those are all pretty low-tec-examples, but of course you could also look into diy electronics, game programming etc. For some those aren't optimal because they resemble work too much.
I would personally avoid hobbies that tend to devolve into collecting kit, e.g. photography. IMO Great activites are those where the fun part is the creative task itself, and which involve manual exertion (assuming you are a desk worker).
- Car maintenance
- Painting miniatures
- Home Brewing
I currently don't have time to engage in all of them on a regular basis, but tend to cycle through them throughout the year :)
I'd also add social/multiplayer stuff (although many of these things might be improved by sharing) like team sports, a band, board games.
I took a motorcycle course over one weekend. Took the license test another weekend. Bought a bike and filled out paperwork during the week (registration & insurance). Rode almost every day for the first month, practiced maneuvers (finding the friction zone, quick stopping w/o skidding) I wasn't comfortable with in a parking lot.
Now I'm comfortable riding almost everywhere. All told, it took one weekend of high effort (motorcycle class), medium effort for one week (1-2 hours daily of either: riding, reading a motorcycle riding book, filling out paperwork, researching/coordinating/buying the bike), and low effort for the rest of the month (15 - 60 minutes of riding -- FUN).
Only took a month of effort to acquire a lifelong skill
Graphical arts, digital and analog (which covers everything from painting with all different types of paints to mixed media, large format, small format, from the side of a building to the size of a grain of rice)
These are all mostly looks-based, but you can also make things that do things, make electronics, restore old electronics, go antiquing for vinyl players, go antiquing for anything else.
Join a choir, join a band, join a barbershop quartet, go to the Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival and listen to sea shanties.
The list goes on.
And I can never tell if my coworkers don’t have cool hobbies or the urge to bring them up has been beaten out of them.
Cooking is an interesting one because I try to learn various cuisines reasonably well and some of the dishes from places like Indonesia are very complex.
All of these have the point in common that they cannot be rushed so they force a mentality of taking it slow, which I think helps with the time anxiety as well.
archery, bowling, pool, mountain biking, ice hockey, inline hockey, floorball, ultimate frisbee, sailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, rock climbing, shooting, reloading, hunting, home improvement (has a lot of sub areas), games programming, tae kwon do, kung fu, krav maga, jiu jitsu, paint ball, role playing games, online games, being helpful on forums, scuba diving, piano, golf, camping, chinese, poker, chess, settlers of cataan, cooking.
These are all activities that I have done for at least 6 months on a regular basis.
There are many things Ive only done a few times but will definitely do in the future (surfing, snowboarding, drone flying, 3d printing,etc)
At this moment I mainly mountain bike, kitesurf, krav maga, and bjj. In the winter I will snowboard and on my next beach vacation I will hopefully surf.
I'm also into photography, graphic design, videography, fishing, surfing, and backpacking. My wife's paints.
Just to get started: instruments/music, foreign languages, cultural events, theatre/art/design, local volunteering, civic engagement/politics, outdoor activities, cycling/sports/yoga/gym, pets, travel, investing and finance, continued education (moocs/math/history/etc), meditation, ham radio, tabletop/video/retro gaming, books/writing/blogging, gardening, woodworking, cooking. Even "programming" things totally outside your field (little overlap with your day-job) can make for a good hobby if that's your thing.
Some are more fun than others to talk about to other people but that's not the point. I find whenever I'm feeling burnt out or stressed my problem is usually that I'm focused too much on work and not getting satisfaction from the rest of life. Hobbies can make up the rest of life.
My favorite example, William Stein (https://wstein.org/). Math/CS Professor at UW - absolutely kills it on a skateboard.
Finding this hobby has given me pretty great happiness this year. I suffer from a fair bit of existential time anxiety, and anxiety over having too many consumptive "hobbies". Diving isn't exactly a constructive hobby, but it's opened up a new avenue of happiness that isn't strictly input/output for me.
For me it currently is archery, underwater hockey, running, volunteering (as swimming instructor), keeping a (planted, tropical) fish tank, learning a new language (a local Filipino dialect), electronics (home automation).
In the (in some cases distant) past (yet could come make a come back): drums, guitar, drawing, writing, photography, origami, snowboarding, reading.
I work as a(n independent) software dev by day. So programming is my job, but it is also my all time (well, since 8) favourite hobby.
I like to think that brogrammers were trying to solve this very problem. But they failed by going too aggressively the opposite direction.
Aw, come on, one of those is not like the others.
I’ve been studying in a domain that doesn’t intellectualize things and that was really a hard row to hoe. But now that I have around a thousand hours I’m finding learning other intuition-based fields is quite a bit easier.
* I'm too old to learn how to surf
* My relationship with my child is too far gone to improve
* It's pointless for me to save for retirement at my age
* The environment is fucked no matter what I do
These are all time anxiety type dilemmas that real people get hung up on that have nothing to do with impressing the world or building the next big thing.
If we are completely present in the now and doing what feel rights. There is no room for all these negative thoughts.
It is the kind of swapping of cause and effect that many neurotypical people fall into when conversing with those who are suffering. All of the behaviors and habits you describe are largely the result of healthy mental states, not the cause (there can be feedback loops that make the distinction fuzzy, but those feedback loops are very fragile and require constant maintenance).
I'm sure its well intentioned, but it's just not going to be very useful advice.
If you're asking more personally, I identify with a lot of the same struggles as outlined in the article and here in the comments, but I stop short of feeling the excessive anxiety. Instead I'm just paralyzed by inaction and have low energy for pursuing any ambition.
I'm currently in the process of ruling out all other possible health factors first (ADHD, hormonal imbalances, sleep deficiencies, metabolic issues), but if those end up being exhausted I'll probably explore Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Training myself to have healthier mappings between emotions <-> thoughts <-> behaviors seems to me like the best approach. And then maybe I'll be capable of applying the sort of "just do what you feel like" advice you provided above.
I guess that's... normal? Most people don't have ambitions, they're just content with getting through life in a relatively painless way. The ambitious people are the exception, not the rule.
Etcetera. AFAICS what this article is getting at is simply "do more of what you enjoy"
Not to say there aren't people who do truly want to do that and find that a good use of their time (like if they work a stressful job and only want to relax and zone out during their free time). But a lot of people find themselves endlessly procrastinating or doing things which brings them very little joy and yet which they can't seem to break away from. Same goes for drug addiction, and any other addiction, really.
It’s like saying: I’m out on a hike, and I think I see a mountain lion. But most human-cat encounters are with housecats, so I can safely assume this is probably a housecat.
No. You need to look at specifics and find a classifier regime which is appropriate for the information available to you.
Absent all other information, the logical thing is not to say “I’m probably not doing anything worthwhile” the logical thing is to say “I don’t know how worthwhile this is”.
In a way I was right. I'm 40 now and the things that seemed of extreme importance in my 20s are mostly gone now. In retrospect it's not that I wouldn't be able to do those things, but maybe I feared that I wouldn't want to.
Anyway, I feel much better about myself now. I would not trade this peace of mind for the raw energy of the 20s.
I had the same feeling in my 20s.
I'm now in my 30s, and the biggest regret I have in life is that I lost a relationship because I needed to "accomplish something before I ran out of time". Even though I had no absolutely idea what that "something" actually was.
It's a horrible, depressing realization.
To anyone reading this - please, please don't jeopardise a relationship because you feel unsettled or anxious about the future. You can backtrack from most mistakes in life, but a broken relationship is not one of them.
It's based on the premise that you know with some certainty what would have happened had you taken the opposite choice. That premise is false, you have no idea what would have happened if you had done things differently. Your life could be terrible, your life could be better. You have no way of knowing.
I believe the best treatment for it is to make sure you find satisfaction in your current situation. If you have that, then you never regret previous decisions. At least that's how it works for me!
You allude to it here:
> It's based on the premise that you know with some certainty what would have happened had you taken the opposite choice. That premise is false, you have no idea what would have happened if you had done things differently.
It isn’t false, note the “some”. You can have some certainty about hypotheticals. Experience and pattern matching are powerful tools.
But don’t let that get in the way of the exalted and commendable goal of accepting the past for what it is :)
Maybe you know things now that you didn't know when you made the decision. Or the circumstances which you hoped wouldn't come true as a result of your decision did come true so you got the lower probability sub-optimal outcome rather than a better one. Or maybe future you is different to past you and has different priorities which you didn't predict.
Either way, you can only make decisions on the information you have and with the judgement mechanisms you have learnt at that time.
With that in mind, regretting a well thought out decision that you now think was sub-optimal still seems odd to me!
And you're right, finding satisfaction on your chosen path is really the only way to deal with these types of emotions.
But all that being said, I'll fight tooth and nail to stop my kids from making the same mistake I did.
You believe they were mistakes now, with hindsight, for your life, but how do you know whether the same choices that you think were bad for you, might be wonderful for your kids?
I think of it like this: we all have many possible paths to take in life. But we only travel one.
I would be telling myself: How can I commit to a lifelong project like children? How can I decide what career path to choose, when there are so many options and I can only pick one? How can I work out, when its basically signing up to humiliate yourself? How can I take these _risks_?
In my experience, anxiety pretends that it's useful. It feels motivational -- like you are motivated to work out, because of your anxiety about being frail.
But contrary to how it feels, anxiety can have the opposite effect. You want it too much, that becomes dangerous, because you're afraid of trying and failing.
If that sounds familiar at all, my advice (since all HN comments have to have advice, right?) is to distance yourself from those goals and aspirations. Perform the Stoic exercise of meditating on the worst-case scenario. Let yourself make mistakes and look stupid. Just do it because you should, and damn the outcome.
It's not merely a personal risk in the sense that somebody else will bear the costs of failure. I tend to think people should generally feel more anxious about the incomprehensibly huge responsibility of making a person, not less.
Interesting perspective. I hadn't thought about this, but it rings true at first glance. Thank you for sharing.
When I was younger I was very passionate about some topics and ideas, to the point that I could get angry when arguing with someone. Now I rarely get angry, much less about an opinion or an abstract idea.
I've come to the realization that so much is temporary and inconsequential. Nothing is really as good or as bad as it seems, at least for me.
I'm a kind of morbid person by nature, but the more time goes on the more I realize that awareness of my mortality is helpful for getting me off my ass to get things done. Not necessarily work, just life in general. I wanted to live abroad "someday" and finally tried it when I was 30 (in the nick of time, it turns out). I wanted to start a company, and see now how it would've been 50 times harder to do it with a child than without. In my 20's I always thought I'd get around to going on X trip, maybe asking out Y girl, etc. and instead wasted 9 years in the same town doing not much of anything. Fortunately, the last 9 years have had a lot more going on.
Wealthy patrons would comission art to act as a memento of their own fragility/mortality.
As a hacker doing mostly odd jobs and remote volunteer work for not-for-profits, I'm often consumed by the idea of whether I'll be able to "put my name on the day" when the head hits the pillow.
I have had a regular 0900-1700 job before, and it was nice to have the external validation thing to fall back on, the time-card that proves you showed up at least, or the mere fact that you're holding the job etc.
> Define what “time well spent” means to you
This is a great piece of advice. One source of metrics I found helpful to abandon is educational mobile apps / web programs etc that involve any sort of gamification. For example, I wasn't enjoying learning Japanese during the times I was redoing a lesson I didn't need to redo simply in order to make the education app make a fanfare sound and tell me that I had achieved my "daily x out of x points" ... I think measuring in time spent and effort exerted is a lot healthier, even if its complete inability to be quantified can be extremely frustrating!
That said, its a balancing act, and you cant spend all your time trying new things.
But I'm guessing you already know all of that. At this point its probably more about moving your own metric and zeroing in on what you want to do.
Do cats "put in a good effort"? Rabbits? Gazelles? Grasses? Fish?
Even before that, time anxiety stems from the idea that we're put here to do X thing or achieve Y thing, and not e.g. just enjoy life.
While the notion is ancient, many cultures don't really have time anxiety to any degree to write home about. It's more common in the US than in Europe, for example, and perhaps goes with the "winners and losers" view of society as some kind of race.
gah, this has been torturing me for the past year, as I discover more and more what I wish I was doing. I'm only 21 right now, so a lot of my anxiety may be unfounded, but so many things I want to do require major risks, opportunity cost, or more importantly monetary costs. I want to stop worrying about the what-if's, but it just seems so much more complicated than that
This is my current best try at translating a deep and very strong and very vague physiological sensation that prevents people (me) from doing almost anything of importance.
the article is as close as I've seen to something useful on this issue. partly due to avoiding even confronting the issue. Presenting an audit process to modify behavior and increase time spent in important ways +10 value.
Not so much now. Especially because time is subjectively faster. Months seem like weeks used to.
But there is an advantage. Now it's a convenient excuse to avoid doing whatever I don't want to. I'm far less constrained by what others expect of me.
Tech entrepreneurs are disproportionately clustered at 20-34. The probability of making a major scientific discovery starts declining at 40. Poets peak in their early 40s, and novelists not much longer after that. Mathematicians and physicists may on average peak as early as their late 20s.
Anyway as someone in their mid-30s, who would still like to accomplish a lot more than what I have so far, this has been bothering me a lot lately. I'm happy to hear any perspective that others have here.
Do you have a source for this? The article you linked to quotes one 2014 HBR article and then walks it back, saying, "all studies in this area have found that the majority of successful start-ups have founders under age 50".
And there was also this more recent HBR article "The Average Age of a Successful Startup Founder Is 45":
"... it appears that advancing age is a powerful feature, not a bug, for starting the most successful firms."
None of these are indicative of cognitive decline (especially tech entrepreneurs, which as an aside it is a myth that it is dominated by the young -- https://hbr.org/2018/07/research-the-average-age-of-a-succes...). As people have a family, have responsibilities, etc, the drive to excel in a broader sense declines. Impressing the community, making a name, etc, just has far less of a motivating effect.
You could say the same thing from a "career" perspective if your role is as a salaryman under someone else: the drive to spend your life for someone else's gain diminishes.
The people who are born today will probably be good at something else. I guess they would feel that 'tech' is boring because it's something that was invented by old guys.
Also, the age distributions aren't caused by mental decline, but rather opportunity decline. Younger folks have more free time and opportunity to try something risky. People tend to settle down at some point in their lives.
And what also helps me to retain and to strengthen this connection is simply love. Basically, to replace the negative thoughts, ambitions, etc. with truly positive values and things, to start caring about the people around, doing something good for the others without expecting anything in exchange and many other good things, which I'd never thought of before.
The books here have helped me to make the first step back then and are still helping me to stay on this way:
Hope they help someone else as well.
During my 20s, it grew (and I guess to all of the Y-generation when thinking of my friends).
It is interesting investigate the levels of time anxiety with different ages and different environment.
-- lately I had an increase of time anxiety, close to my 30s and big changes in my personal life :)
So thank you for the article, it makes me want to investigate it more with myself.
He didn't get started on his version McDonalds until he was 64, an age that many people would be about to retire.
I'm not a great fan of McDonalds food but if you can start a company like that at 64 you can start anything at any age.
If I spend my years in momentary pleasure, I fear I will regret not tackling more ambitious projects. What could I have achieved if I was willing to suffer through activities that are not solely "activities you really enjoy?"
I feel like that's kind of the point. The answer is: you will never know. Of course it's easier said than done but I think in the long run it's much better to cherish the present instead of fearing the future. What if you suffer for years and even then the question does not disappear?
Related to time anxiety, Oliver Burkeman pointed out the paradox of "making good use of time". Taken too far, it turns time into an instrumental goal. You never really enjoy it; you're always just investing time in a future that never comes. And you suffer time anxiety.
- Winston Churchill
The worst part is that I came close a few years ago but couldnt rally my partners to continue past the research phase...
However more recently ive been calming myself by just focusing on the present
Good idea. Time for me to close HN now.
Seriously... I spend (waste?) way too much time here.
Question is how do you convince your mind of this reality.