I've quit my Software Engineering job twice now to spend years of my life doing whatever I want. First time I spent two years driving from Alaska to Argentina  and second time I just spent three years driving right around Africa . Both times I had no job, no boss, no timeline and I did whatever I wanted every single day. Hiking, camping, taking photos, cooking food, learning a new language, writing when I wanted to, etc. etc. I had ultimate freedom, living off my savings.
Without a doubt, the "freedom" life is much harder for me than the "desk job" life for exactly the reasons you listed above. After about six months for me I started to really, really think about the meaning of my life, what direction I want my life to take and a ton of other things that simply don't enter my mind when my life is on autopilot (i.e. going to work every day).
Going to work everyday is easy, because it means you don't have to decide the direction of your own life if you don't want to.
 http://theroadchoseme.com/africa-expedition-overview. & http://instagram.com/theroadchoseme
It also made me realize that most people are happiest when they feel like they’re contributing to society in some way, and traveling non-stop feels like you’re side stepping your role in society rather than making any contributions to it.
Though I do think there’s a ton of value in mini-retirements or sabbaticals of maybe a few months to a year, and travel during those times can play a huge role in helping break up your routine and provide some perspective.
One of the things i like best about traveling is that i have the time and mental energy to engage with the people around me. I eat at restaurants, i go to bars, i listen and share stories, i'll contribute to the local economy and perhaps put a smile on someone's face.
When i am working i suppose you could say i am contributing to society, in the sense that i am helping to build some software that performs a function our customers appreciate. But most of our customers don't live in my community. And even if they did, i'm not really employed to serve those customers, i'm employed to increase growth so that the company will make more money for its investors. Trickle-down theory says that's still a net contribution to society, but it feels very abstract to me.
Meanwhile, when i work i am too exhausted to spend any of the money i earn doing those things that i would when i travel - i don't spend money at local businesses, i don't talk to other people in the community, i just go home and sleep and go back to work again. It's the life most of us are forced into to survive, but i wouldn't really call it contributing to society, or at least not in as direct a way that people do when traveling.
I met a solo traveler waiting for the airport bus in Thailand, and the next week we did a road trip across the country and back together. I met a solo traveler in Hungary on the train that needed accommodation, so they stayed in my living room and we spent a few days traveling. I met a solo traveler in Italy, and the following week we decided to hitchhike to various coastal cities. Their "selfish pursuit" brought me all sorts of value.
It just isn’t an enlightened pursuit. If you want to escape life as a corporate drone or whatever running away isn’t the answer.
'Escape' and 'running away' are roughly synonymous.
What other escapes do you prefer?
You can leave an unfulfilling job for another form of responsibility in life that is more fulfilling.
Endless travel is really just life without responsibility. Having zero responsibility actually does not make most people happy in the long term. It’s an unnatural human state, particularly for grown men, and most will wake up eventually (perhaps once it’s too late) and realize there’s nothing enlightening about a life lived that way.
A lot of us think it’s time to design new values and beliefs.
But many (most?) self-fund their ongoing travel, whether through odd jobs while traveling, savings from a previous stable employment, or "digital nomad" work on the road. In that sense, they're just shifting a portion of their contributions from time period B to time period A, in the same way that spending during retirement works. I don't see how this can be described as "feel[ing] no shared responsibility to contribute to society" any more than someone who spreads their contributions more evenly over time: it's just describing the use of money as a store of value.
I definitely would be happier if i had more free time. But my feeling is that i would also be a more productive member of society. At the very least i know i would engage more in the community. I am currently on day 5 of 12 days annual leave, and i am only just getting to the point where i feel i have the energy to venture out of my apartment. Surely this isn't the most efficient way to "contribute to society"?
But I wonder if this represents a cautionary tale -- someone who took their non-"desk job" and assiduously commoditized their adventures. The 110% workaholism never stopped.
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Or maybe this is what can happen if you don't indulge your wanderlust in your early 20s. The scariest, hardest and most rewarding thing always turns out to be connecting with the people around you. Instead, "Rabbit, Run"...
I don't begrudge them, though. If this person ever needs to go back to work "in the real world", they've kept a brand going that proves they have a work ethic. And if they don't, then presumably at least they've found a way to earn enough cash to maintain the lifestyle they want.
One of the things i wrestle with as i get older is meaning. I don't have a partner and don't want a house or kids. I don't have the killer instinct needed to become a corporate bigwig or an entrepreneur. I keep puttering along as a senior dev, quitting when i have enough cash for a sabbatical, then going back to work somewhere else when the savings run out. I'll never have the means to retire and live my perfect life. I'll just die somewhere, poor and aged out of the profession i never really wanted to do anyway. I suppose that's how most humans go out, but it feels a bit pointless.
I envy people who are very driven and have a clear goal in their lives - whether that goal is to be a rockstar desk jockey, to travel blog the world, or to connect with the people around them. It seems life would be much easier that way. I just kinda drift about, mostly having mediocre or boring days, occasionally having good days, and one day i'll die. It's far from a terrible life, but i can't help but wonder if goal-driven types feel that their lives are more rewarding.
Due to hedonic adaptation, the journey of working toward something is usually more rewarding than reaching any particular destination, especially if you're getting lots of feedback along the way.
Also, I've spoken with literally thousands of entrepreneurs, and most don't have what I'd describe as "killer instinct." Many of them gained a purpose through their business, rather than starting their businesses to satisfy some pre-existing purpose. It's a bit like how people find a new mission in life once they have a child.
What we think impacts what we do, but perhaps less obvious is the fact that what we do impacts how we think. Sometimes the first step is to throw yourself into a situation and then allow the motivation to come.
Finally, I'd say I'm an abnormally driven and goal-oriented person, and even I often think about my inevitable death and the purpose of it all. I think it's just part of being human and thoughtful.
I've come to the conclusion that living a good life is largely about being proactive. We like to think that given enough money and freedom we'll all do things that make us happy, but instead we tend to stagnate. It's easy for anyone to settle into simply letting the days pass: whether you're single or in a relationship, an employee or a founder, traveling or stationary, it doesn't matter. You can get into a routine of simply doing the least effortful thing.
For most of us, being proactive about living your life in a fulfilling way requires effort, the same way work does.
I don't hate my job. It's okay. I'm pretty good at it. The pay is fine. If this is as good as it gets - the joy of seeing someone you're mentoring "get it", the pleasure of getting a complex refactoring done, the accomplishment of shipping a cool feature - then i'm already there.
What i find sad is that it's not viable to spend time on idle things that i enjoy more than that workplace success. For me, my happiest times have been when i was doing nothing productive at all. Watching shows. Reading books. Dancing till dawn. Learning a new language. Cooking something nice. Talking to strangers. Wandering around aimlessly. Playing a computer game. Sitting on a bus to anywhere. Getting drunk apropos of nothing. Those are things i love to do because there is no pressure involved. What makes them satisfying is precisely that they are journeys without a destination. If there's a goal, if there's purpose, then it's exactly like work, so what's the point?
I am not sure that given enough money and freedom everyone would stagnate. That may be true of some, but not of others. Having discussed this with retirees it seems like it is a very individual thing. Some people don't do well with retirement - they get antsy and want to keep occupied, so they join social groups and take part in community events. Others gladly enjoy the chance to live an idle lifestyle. It's unfortunate that those who prefer the latter lifestyle have to work 45 years for it, and (depending on circumstance) may even never get the opportunity to enjoy that time.
We have a significant divide between working and living that I personally hope to erase, or at least minimize, in my own life. I've had some success this year, mostly through being more human and less down-to-business in my interactions with coworkers and colleagues. For example, previously I'd always prioritize speed and efficiency at work, which spelled disaster for experiencing real happiness at work. But recently I've begun to do things like having long, meandering 1-on-1 meetings that feel indistinguishable from casual chats with old friends about life, love, and whatever's interesting. Because why not?
Does having a purpose make something exactly like work? Well, if work is something that can be truly enjoyable, then the question is somewhat pointless. So let's imagine it can't. Then I'd posit that enjoyment depends less on having or not having a purpose, and more on what that purpose is. Trying to rush to hit some metric, or prioritizing speed and efficiency above human connection, or always having standards for success or failure, or doing things alone instead of a group… these approaches likely sap a lot of happiness out of spontaneous endeavors. But I don't think there's anything wrong with a purpose such as, "I'd like to have a lot of fun and make memories with my family over the holiday," and using that to guide you to say yes to some activities that you'd ordinarily ditch in favor of the easier choice to be stagnant and do nothing.
I also agree with you that not everyone would stagnate given time and money, by the way. I didn't mean to imply that. Only that many of us do stagnate instead of being as proactive as we should/could be to get the happiness or the lifestyle that we desire.
This, in a nutshell, is why I plan to never retire. "Retirement" for me is finding a business that holds my attention enough to want to do it for the rest of my life. Right now it has to fit into the interstitial bits of time between "day job" and "family time" and "sleep."
BTW: I love your podcast!
A few years back, I took a ~yearlong backpacking trip which gave me a lot of exposure to travel bloggers, both personally and when doing research for my travels. The impression I got from many of them was that they didn't consider the blogging work, but rather a natural outgrowth of the journaling practice that many people do privately anyway, for the ostensible personal benefits. Once they had already gone through the work of framing and articulating their experiences, polishing it and sharing it with others wasn't a lot of marginal work (and added an extra layer of fun).
I'm sure there are people who treat it like a daily grind, but my impression is that, for most travel bloggers, it grows pretty naturally out of something they were doing anyway.
That said, the longing has not gone away. I just know it to be a siren song.
Or, to put it in different terms, they fly free until they turn 2. Get at it.
One thing about traveling in general while children are young is that they become accustomed to it. Getting on a plane this weekend was a nothingburger for us, because it was like our 18th time going into the clouds. Same with 3 hour road trips, it becomes another facet of life
I myself took this past summer off to travel the western US. I started to have similar thoughts. It was very hard to go back to work after returning. Not because I didn't want to work (I did), but because of what you said, I realized it was so easy to fall into patterns and let your career direct everything.
I realized when I was traveling every day that I was the one directing, and it wasn't always easy. I had to deal with new things every day, sometimes great, sometimes difficult, but it really pushed me both mentally and physically. It was the best thing I ever did for myself.
One positive about returning to work though is I care a lot less about my career path. It allows me to be more open and honest at work. I don't fear not getting a promotion or losing my job. I also don't care as much about being "right". That helps my stress level a lot. But it also helps that I'm planning my next adventure as well (6 months in western Canada).
*clarification: I mean it earnestly, as I have not done anything that you have.
It's on me, and that is equal measures exciting and (some days) terrifying.
I lost my Mum to cancer earlier this year, and she was exactly 30 years older than me. If I live to the same age as her I only have 30 summers left for all the hiking and camping and exploring I want to do. I only have 30 winters left for all the snowboarding and winter fun I want to have. Most important of all I only have 30 years left to spend time with family, friends, community, food, laughs and good times.
I have a lot that I want to cram into those 30 years, and I'm going to be my own pilot to make damn sure it happens.
In my humble opinion, as it applies to me and me alone:
Earning money is the worst of all false gods to chase. We in the western world have lost our path, and it's making us miserable. I met thousands of people in Africa that are happier and more joyous than virtually everyone I've ever met in Canada, Australia or the US.
Money is not the path the happiness, and I don't ever want to fall into that. I only ever want to earn enough money for food and shelter, and every minute otherwise I don't want to be at work making someone else rich. I want to spend those remaining 30 years enjoying myself and bringing happiness to those in my life, not earning money thinking it will somehow get me there in an abstract way.
But, what do I know? I'm only 37 after all. I have a lot to learn.
I don’t disagree with your point.
IMO earning money isn’t the problem. The key is the balance between earning enough money to not struggle to do the things I enjoy, but not letting work and responsibility become the only thing in my life, blocking me from the things I enjoy.
But I will concede that western society has placed an emphasis on consumerism and we evidently all need more stuff. Consumerism is killing our planet as well as making us spend more and save less.
I’m similar in age to you, and despite my privilege, life can seem pretty pointless without time to self-direct, enjoy our interests and not be consumed by our jobs without a break.
Also, losing people close to you can change your perspective on what you spend your time doing. If I only have 20 summers left, I wouldn’t want to spend them working. But I still have to eat and pay rent for that amount of time, and working is the way I pay for it.
There's no point in thinking this way and it just creates more stress. Think of work as something you do for yourself. There's no shame in earning a living to then pursue your passions. Don't worry about or compare yourself to others.
It's not like the economy is zero-sum anyway.
I really just need enough to survive, and more free to time to actually pursue my passions and dreams. I think that's the true way to live.
My coworkers are obsessed with working as hard as they can, putting it all into their 401k so they can retire in 30 years. What an awful way to think about life.
"I'm only a slave for 40 years then I can do what I want".
No, do what you want now!
I found it difficult until recently to make decisions about career and money, mostly because of the way status and security are attached to them.
Giving that up has been really hard, but as I’ve learned to live with less security, my happiness and freedom have increased to the point where I’m happier than I’ve been since I was a kid.
Oof, that is a very uncomfortable statement for me to ponder upon. For the last couple of years, I have been focused on saving, saving, saving. Your comment makes me think about whether that's wise. Thanks for sharing that bit of wisdom.
Making a good amount of money and then giving it away to causes that can meaningful help others is a highly underrated pursuit.
Aimlessly traveling is not happiness. I predict you’ll learn that lesson soon.
Moloch is pretty bad, but Gnon is worse. uwu
How do you expect to live out those 30 years without working consistently? Do you have means of enough passive income ?
There's nothing out there that I know that gives you a consistent 6% return and the stock market is a fickle mistress. 2007 to 2009, VTI dropped over 50%. That 1% reduction in drawdown isn't going to be of much help much when your $1M turned into $500K, you'll need a job.
But you stopped working for a while, so now your resume makes you less desirable than the competition and exactly when you need more income (at the bottom of the recession) the job market is at its worst. Likely it took you a few years to get that $1M and age discrimination is rampant in IT, further decreasing your odds of finding that job.
I think realistically, you need a significantly lower drawdown, more likely in the order of 2% or less to weather economic downturns. Without subsidized healthcare, that's going to be very hard to do with $1M, but I think it's doable with $2M.
I think you are right $1m is becoming shallow these days, but that doesnt change the significance of my statement
Index and real estate funds pay actual dividends, which you didn’t mention, outside of just relying on rising share prices.
There are some slightly more advanced ways to generate income like selling options premiums that can generate income when prices are relatively flat.
It isn’t crystal clear, but it looks like they went in on someone with a shipping container.
I just view it the other way around. I don't think I'm leaving behind security now, I think I'm choosing to live my life now rather than wait for the possibility of living it later.
No worries, I totally understand where you're coming from. I don't disagree with you either - sticking to the beaten path can be very easy, especially in countries that are more developed and have lots of tourists. It can certainly get very difficult and adventurous if you wish.
From your comment I take it you've never been to West Africa. Driving across Nigeria, Mali, the DRC, Angola most certainly is an adventure, even in 2019. When I went looking for it I was right in it up to my neck, often wondering if I'd bitten off more than I can chew. I crossed a border where the border guard who had been working there for three years had never seen a foreigner in his life. Plenty of times kids ran away from me because they had never seen a white person. Yes, even today you can go and do that, in West Africa, if you go remote enough.
I got malaria twice. I rolled my Jeep. I got stuck in the mud alone. I drove through water that came over the hood many times. It was 100F and 99% humidity for months on end, even at night I was pouring sweat trying to sleep.
It's easily the hardest and most rewarding thing I've ever done in my life, and to be honest I wonder if I'll never find that level of being truly alive ever again.
If you genuinely want to know what I'm talking about, here's a video of me driving across the DRC, easily the 5 biggest days of adventure in my life. I'm happy to answer any questions you have about the DRC crossing, or anything else for that matter.
Do you think you'll find an answer, rationally speaking (that is, using the tools of reason and logic)? Notably, Godel's incompleteness theorems suggest these tools may be insufficient. More specifically, if you try to rationally "justify" what you ought to be doing, you will always be able to - legitimately! - impugn its logical foundation.
This suggests that consciously reasoning about what someone's fundamental purpose is may not be the best way to go about things. Rather, just as how we make most decisions, an intuitive and heuristical approach may be better. In other words, "do what feels right."
What feels right may materialize as a family, as charity, as building a business, or even building a career. My point is that all of these can be challenged as "deferring existential questions" - again legitimately - because they cannot be justified rationally. (All of these, equally, can be criticized in hindsight as being "wrong": wrong marriage decision, wrong way to raise children, wrong work-life balance, wrong charitable/activist cause.)
As a result, I don't think the criticism that a career - even an all-consuming one (as a family may be) - is somehow less justified. This is not to invite pure relativism: some things do seem to be more meaningful than others.
But! It is precisely that this "seems to be" is intuitive, and not rational, which constitutes the foundation of our belief. And so if a career-focus seems "intuitive", then I think it's meaningful enough.
EDIT: One other thing to note is that people who are fairly content with their lives don't often ponder _why_ their life is meaningful. They've specified a priori assumptions for what makes it meaningful (e.g. charitable giving, helping others), or intuitively feel what is meaningful (e.g. family, friends, happiness), and that is that. It's precisely the people who end up endlessly questioning these assumptions - facing the meaning of their life head on - that seem to be most depressed. This is because it's an intellectual deadend - it cannot be deduced rationally. One way, then, to answer this existential question is to simply defer: don't question, do what feels right, and avoid what doesn't.
Something inside us, wild and free, wants to be happy, and we stand in its way.
Can you expand on this?
I experienced some things in meditation, consistent with Buddhist cannon.
I encountered a “judge” mechanism, that manifested as an emotion. It “knew everything” (makes sense, it was basically me pointing the finger at me) and it wasnt interested in talking things out. It wants to be happy, and it blames me for its unhappiness. It was a terrifying feeling, very painful.
I believe non-meditators experience this during death, and that “wild part” of us comes back to have one last conversation, and a settling of debts.
Ive spent some time doing vipassana, exploring my inner world -
I also read a lot of carl jung, and come from a family of non religious mental health practitioners. So i dont consider myself clueless, or particularly naive or impressionable.
After that intro ... i experienced some deeply disturbing things: bodily convulsions and pains, which subsided after some time too, and were experienced on an emotional level (meditation shuts/slows down thinking mechanisms, to stop generating mind chatter) -
when the silence increases inside our head, mind chatter disappears but something else takes its place .. emotions, deep intense emotions start to rise - its during those moments of deep mind silence that some pretty bad feelings start to arise inside me, of something deeply unhappy about how im living my life, because it wants to be happy, and i am in this body, is its tool. it wasn't just angry, it was full of grief, and so scared to the point of terror.
Again, it wasn't a discussion, i got the feeling it a prt lf me that wasnt interested in talking things out (it knows everything about me already, its me) it was a deep emotion of intense meaning, and terror and loneliness.
I didn't give my feelings significance before, im also still an atheist - but i now think/believe that being human has a truth we are blind to, and some of these truths are experienced at death, so if you lived a life against your “conscience” - if you ask me, id say it will hold you responsible for its happiness. (I havnt experienced the other part where its happy about what i do, in a way it was a corrective self-bitchslap. Life is still ongoing - so its not all terrible, yet)
The older I get, the more I find that almost everyone battles through the questions of who they are and what they are doing with their lives. Most people question their values and purpose. I disagree wholeheartedly that content people don't ponder their lives. On the contrary, they are content because they are past that phase of life, and content because they are living a well-considered path. We are not deferring anything - we completed the process, made our choices, and are living them.
The irrational or rational mind compares the experiences of others as a measure for their own happiness when they feel that something is not right.
Going by what feels right works as long as there is positive reinforcement otherwise it will have a negative side effect on life.
Some people aren't for example aware of choices others have made in their life because they don't focus on them, those choices lead them to happiness or better standing ground but for others, those choices that aren't in their control leading to a very negative event may disproportionately affect them and questioning.
You can't control for your initial years or childhood and That I think has the biggest impact on whether you will come across solving it.
It feels right to cry out in misery but rational or irrational mind would think it might be pointless if for however long you cry, no one comes to help or nothing improves.
I don't know what is considered rational or irrational thing to do given anything may seem rational for someone in specific circumstances and irrational for bystander. Is there such a thing as objective rationality that can be verified?
The preferences aren't stable, because we and others have influence on the meaning of life. You get some choice! Others can affect the meaning of your life. Hopefully for the better.
To say life is meaningless is wrong to me. Because we experience these profound moments of meaning on occasion. Either positive or negative. So to me, these moments of meaning are my guide. This means deep friendships, being there for people, contributing to society, trying to become a better / stronger person, and just trying to enjoy myself most of the time.
If 40 out of 50 people end up in poverty in my neighborhood, then chances are I will given how similar metrics for ending in poverty is.
Of course it's not always good but not sure where I can draw a line when I feel 'something' is not satisfying.
You can compare it to people who are unaware that they are depressed or have mental issues after pressure to accept it and reinforced narrative that everyone goes through it surrounding them.
Some comparison is needed :/ and it is too hard for someone who feels mostly the same when achieving something valued by society vs achieving nothing. Enjoying the journey is cool and all but it's a trap if all your motivation or enjoyment comes from self praise and you are not dependent on external stimuli for it. Being too critical of your self can be addicting itself but I haven't really find a way to balance things out and I doubt I ever will unless I change the fundamental blocks of who I have been so far.
That is a disturbingly challenging thing to do and seems more effort than being a druggie and early death :3
I wish the voice in my head had a turn off button ugh. It's always a second person commenting on everything it sees.
> If 40 out of 50 people end up in poverty in my neighborhood, then chances are I will given how similar metrics for ending in poverty is.
This isn't the case at all. Most people don't prioritise wealth generation. They prioritise things like staying close to family, maintaining old friendships, not moving, working in a specific field or on specific problems they enjoy, etc.
If you actually go out there and seek it, yeah, it's hard, but the odds aren't anywhere near as stacked as you're making out.
The odds are mostly stacked against you in the sense of things like health issues, or passports, etc. Growing up simply with not much money isn't that hard to get out of.
And I think I set a reasonable expectation. That is one thing I am afraid of doing the most, setting expectations high that you would never reach for myself or others. I don't find any balance here. I don't have any metrics to compare or find a reasonable solution to what I should expect of others or whether at all. Do I expect my family to be reasonable or not? Do I expect my environment to be friendly or not?
If overestimate, disappointment. If you underestimate, trap of trust issues and general existential crisis of why bother.
I just decided I want an average first world life quality eventually but THAT is hard. Eh, getting average quality of life removing the wealth as a metric here is hard.
I guess I could call it cultural, environmental or social disintegration?
Different magnitude of situation, but I felt the same way about my hometown. It wasn't really about money, though it felt that way at the time - I just needed to find my people, and they weren't there.
I might be misunderstanding but are you saying that upwards class mobility is easy, specifically from the lowest end?
I am specifically talking about, as I say, "growing up without much money". A poor individual getting from the bottom, or close to it, up to a solid income (say 80th percentile). From there, the wealth is a matter of financial discipline. Some of the 'class' might come, but life is not an act, and Tarquin will always differ.
At least where I'm from (UK), it's a trivial problem in the sense that an equation might be trivial to solve, for an individual. The ingredients are there; an individual must apply themselves to the task at hand.
If you are healthy and of reasonable intelligence, obtain a degree from a good university, and apply those skills to a job, it's quite hard to fail at that catastrophically.
In a collective sense it is impossible, at least the way that society is currently set up. A lot of people have to not be on top.
What confuses people a lot is that they look at these statistical averages and assume that because most of the poor remain poor (and most of the rich remain rich - wealth is sticky), the same likelihoods apply to them.
But if you're actually trying to get out of that situation (most people honestly aren't - they might say they are, but it's not their #1 priority) you're not in that same cohort and you can quite easily be more competitive than those brought up in middle income families.
This is all based on my experience in Britain. In the US it's probably different.
If you're born in a poor _country_ then you probably need to get out first, and I imagine the whole passport visa situation is rather a challenge.
If you're born with severe disabilities, and poor, you could well be shit out of luck. So it goes.
Is meaningful the same as happy? What I think is there are a great deal of unhappy people who attempt to make it as if their thinking and point of the way they feel is representative of what others are like or even should be. Many of these people have either things going right in their life (job, relationships, money) and are still not happy (maybe because they suffer from depression). Or they have addictions they can't shake and are not happy. Or they are simply trying to be something they are not and are not happy.
Small example - Do I question why I comment on HN? There is no reason I just like to say things. I don't need to break down any impact other than 'it is something I want to do that makes me feel something that I like to feel'. Ditto for other things.
Look at how presumptions the title of the article is to begin with "What Happens When Your Career Becomes Your Whole Identity". Right off the top it is saying that it's wrong for your career to be 'your entire identity'.
Would anyone say 'what happens when being healthy makes you happy?'. What's this judgement with deciding what is enough for one person is the same for most people?
Then things like this:
> Dan’s story is not uncommon. Many people with high-pressure jobs find themselves unhappy with their careers, despite working hard their whole lives to get to their current position. Hating your job is one thing — but what happens if you identify so closely with your work that hating your job means hating yourself?
Not uncommon? Why does that matter? If I have a hobby that 'is not common' or feel a way 'that is common' so what?
Some people may intuitively fall into agreement with themselves, but most do not.
Work tends to have many mechanisms which directly links what you put in with positive feedback in a relatively short amount of time, which leads people to optimize for that short term maxima. Putting in more effort, more hours, etc for a positive outcome on a project, a promotion, etc is an easy decision to make, can be almost addicting for many high performers.
However, the neglect that one does to long-term feedback cycles, like not spending enough time with your spouse, children, friends, family, personal hobbies, only manifest negatively in the long run. The investments on the positive side also play out mostly in the long run as well, so the direct feedback cycle isn't quite there.
Using work to get those satisfying consistent wins can have its costs if you aren't deliberate about balancing against investments towards the long term maxima.
That said I still feel burned out. I've come to realize that not only did the work I do for free not give me any financial advantage (which I expected), but the people who've hired me over the past few years don't seem to recognize that work as being valid work experience.
I'm 30 years old but what I've found over and over again is that managers will give promotions to 35 year olds who spent most of their lives playing video games.
From my perspective, the people described in this article sound like they have it pretty good. What I need is merely for people to realize that I'm actually a 40 year old work-machine trapped in the body of a 30 year old human... Maybe if I can achieve that, then I will eventually reach a high point in my life when I can afford to have problems with self-actualization like those described in the article.
Sadly, the people problem dominates most companies, and even pure technical tracks require people skills of a different nature due to the parallel power structures.
They must be special be special because they place such a high value on their time, whereas you give yours away for free < the implicit premise at work in such transactions. It's sort of a personality thing; the more effort and diligence you put into getting hired, the needier you seem, whereas the insouciant entitled-seeming person is able to arouse the managers desire to hire them by being a Shiny Object. Appearances matter, not because they are such a good guide to substance but because of the social fact that so many people respond to them. It's also possible/probable that these managers were 35 year olds who spent most of their lives playing video games (or sports, or cards, or whatever) and consciously or unconsciously hire people with similar personality types.
Not only are life and business not a meritocracy, there is not a singular ordering of competence. Social rewards most often flow not to someone who knows how to do something but the one who knows how to get others to do that for them. So, you have good technical skills at whatever it is you do, you're good at working on your own, and you are also a Nice Person who likes to share. This pretty much guarantees you will be treated like a worker bee.
Now, consider a large project that is beyond your individual capabilities and would require 10 people with your skills and diligence to realize in a year. Can you work 10 times as hard? No. Can you do it over 10 years? Maybe, but you'll be short of money the whole time and someone else would probably pass you by or make your project obsolete. You could find 9 other people with similar skill sets to yours and then cooperate, but that seems a bit unlikely.
Or you could find 12-13 people who you think are 80% as good as you and then tell them what you want - in other words, give them your high-level understanding of how the project should be built and then making sure they have the resources to do it. So instead of thinking of development as a problem of memory, storage, CPU time, and bug hunting, it becomes a problem of resources, budgets, reliability, and HR issues. Managers are in the business of instructing developers while relinquishing control of (and eventually competence in) the lower-level stuff of actually programming the machines. Another way to think of it is that while you are programming the electronic machine to make current flow to do blinkenlights, managers are people who have learned to program/hack the corporate machine to make money flow to make people do things.
To sum up, you will never get promoted/resourced for your technical expertise. The better you are at solving technical problems, the more you will be taken for granted as an extension of the machine you program. The best route out of this is to come up with a small project that you could do yourself, but instead parcel the sub-tasks out between 5-7 different people, and then lavish praise upon them when it's completed.
You can do this by stealth or with the agreement of your own manager, but focus on the objective and be vague on the details of implementation; this is what gives you the room to solicit help from others. You're not stealing their effort, you're providing the structure and taking responsibility by giving them a clearly defined task that they can easily perform without having to think too much. Your bosses want a result and don't want to be bogged down in understanding the details. Your peers want clearly defined tasks and enjoyable rewards and don't want to think too much. You become a manager by taking responsibility; you worry about stuff for other people (the details for your superiors, the big picture for your team members) by sitting on the border between their comfort zones without asking anyone to actually leave theirs.
Please man, stand up for yourself and learn the measures of business ethics.
My last boss was so upset when I told him I was thinking of quitting that, in front of the whole company, he threatened to throw me out of the window but then he apologized multiple times and asked me to come back after he regained his composure (I had a lot of leverage at the time)... But I quit the next day to save face and find better opportunities. This company had tons of money (millions to spend on development) but they wouldn't give me a 10% modest salary increase after 2 years of excellent work. That's the kind of irrational people I worked for. There was no indication they were going to be like this when I joined. You only find out about this stuff after several years and then you already wasted your time and have to start again at a new company and hope that your next employer will be fair or rational at the very least.
I claim nowhere that you don't negotiate, I claim you do it badly and point to the area of knowledge that is required to change that.
It's bad pedagogy to even acknowledge you playing the victim card, that's your psychological issue and I'm not about to play therapist to a stranger.
Edit: thanks for the negativity I suppose, I'll make sure you profit from my advice in no shape or form as requested.
If you'd please read the site guidelines and follow them when posting to HN, we'd be grateful.
I have job-hopped many times hoping to find a place that values developers. After 9-10 jobs I now realize my mistake. There aren't any. Every place I have worked is more or less as I just described to you. This is 21st century business. This is what they didn't explain in college. This is what is wrong with all business in general is this commodification of people--they don't care if you're a good developer or a 10X problem solver, most are happy with cheap. If the labor comes from India or China or anyplace with a contract that puts the laboror in a one-down position of servitude, all the better because those people can be exploited much further. Again, they don't even care about quality, they desire only "good enough."
Now, there is something worse. White males are considered less attractive people to hire. They are trying to punish us for being intelligent and successful. If you don't believe me, just wait, in time you will experience it yourself.
But I'm not sure everyone does reach the second stage. Some people seem to be content just living their lives and enjoying themselves without really wondering if they could have done more or whether they need to leave the world a better place than when they arrived.
I think maybe it depends on how much exposure to death one has had. Death tends to make one reevaluate ones own life, at least in my own experience.
I think society expects individuals to “live for some higher purpose” because that’s what produces beneficial outcomes for the society. Hard to argue with that. But I have found that the times I lived my life in accordance with those expectations were the times I felt most trapped and resentful. And conversely, when I focused on doing what I wanted, I encountered resentment from others for not “sticking to the script” (living for their benefit). But I’ve found that to be a heckuva lot easier to live with.
I still help others in my life quite a bit, but it’s on my terms, rather than a structural obligation built into my lifestyle.
Of course, I wouldn’t deny that some who attempt to impact the world succeed. And some of those impacts have benefited those who come after. And I doubt the world would be a better place if everyone were like me, but then that is true of anyone.
I've been working somewhere else with less hours and far less responsibility so far. The first week or two was kind of a shock. Going back to the bottom of a place where I don't really have any kind of responsibility or even really knowledge of everything thats going on has been pretty tough. But it's refreshing in a way, i've gone back to a few hobbies and other things I haven't worked on for a while now and it's kinda nice just show up, do things I get told to do and leave without worrying about what I need to get done for tomorrow and stuff.
I have left 'Silicon Valley Tech' -- as I am no longer interested in any of the things I did before and seek positions which are more fulfilling in other industries and pay about 25% of what I used to make...
I really dislike the single minded focus on deep learning to the exclusion of everything else.
Just the other day I met an artist, 50 years old, he currently plans take multiple years of to travel the world and make and display art - just like that.
Writer's block / drawer's block happens when you don't have a structure for your ideas. Nearly any structure you can think of can be useful for starting work. Hero's journey can be used to prop up your ideas like a tack weld until you get something better.
The character in the article cannot get their ideas out because they do not have a structure for their work, their ideas and their existence. One answer is to lump your existence into the "nothing" category and another answer is to see how deep the rabbit hole of existence goes and come out with your own thoughts, structures and opinions.
The point of reading philosophers is not to become them, but to develop your own perspective. It's not a trap, it's a necessity.
Camus’s absurd is more akin to Gödel incompleteness than nihilism.
>The thirst for more sounds comically absurd when you zoom out and see that nothing matters, so it’s about going deep into the zoomed-in life you already lead. Your health, your loved ones, your work, your interests, your desire to help others, your values, your existence.
>What could be more meaningful than that?
This quote from the article sums it up, to have a meaningful life you must accept that there isn't any meaning in some points of the world. That worldview leaves a massive gaping black hole of meaning in time and space around you. That black hole where there is no meaning is nihilistic. It clears out the greater story above you that could actually be an expression of what you find meaningful as a human, with which you could fill the universe and replaces it with a pre-determined story, absurdism that includes nothing.
Godel's incompleteness can be used for any argument. Mathematical and computational logic is not the basis of all philosophy, nor is anything we know or the field would be dead. Defining your axioms is part of the game. Defining a world view that includes meaning in all places is a far more sympathetic perspective than to rob the reader's worldview of it's potential to apply in most places, by defining that the vast majority of external existence is non-meaning. Asking the reader to read more is a more healthy perspective.
Arguing that absurdism gives a valuable middle ground between meaning and non-meaning is something I'd heartily disagree with. The reader is more than capable of finding their own middle ground and becoming their own person in the process.
In the lock itself resides the conflict needed to be solved, maybe the non-door path includes things you find valuable and you really are conflicted between two corridors of different values. Maybe family is more important to you than a purposeful career or whatever.
It’s absolutely true that many people regret prioritizing their career later, but there are also quite a few people regret not investing in their career as well.
My takeaway watching many people regret, and having regrets my own - or as you put it, my “debt coming due,” is that it is up to each of us to do our best to predict what our future selves will want. That’s all there is to it, and it’s unproductive to say “careers are bad,” or, alternatively, “focusing on family is bad,” or any variation of the above.
Work is a distraction from what is really gnawing at your ankles. Even if you start to burn out it still feels preferable to the alternative, if you're even aware of that in the first place.
And to be honest, it's valid even though it's massively unhealthy. Facing your underlying issues, whatever they are, is hard work but also, it's ultimately the most rewarding work.
I've a lot to share about the matter, but it's a bit much and a little too personal for a public response here.
I get satisfaction from it, but it’s not my identity. If I was a janitor, I’d try to be the best janitor, because that’s what I like doing, I like being good at my job. I also plan 2 years out and intend to have $X wealth by specific deadlines. I’ll work harder to reach it.
For me, as I’m only 27 (but have been doing this since I was 14) my goal is to be able to “retire” by 35. That means I need lots of money in the bank.
After that I can choose what I want to do, but before that you’re right, I don’t want to think about life choices. It’s hard to work when everyone else is having fun. But I’m also on track to be financially free (I.e. high enough passive income for lifestyle) by 35. So I can have a much more fulfilled life for 50 years or so.
Remember investments grow exponentially- meaning you want to invest as much as you can while you’re young(er)
The takeaway I had was that you shouldn't wait to live your life by first toiling away at something. Live your life today because who knows about tomorrow. And work is part of life. Find a way to enjoy that too even if it's a means to an end.
*grow geometrically (with apologies, am pedant)
Problem is when people are in 'high status careers' that can't take the pressure or the heat of the high status career. And try to keep up with those who do.
I am not sure you find many athletes who once they make it complain that they wish they had chosen another path. My guess on why that is? Less luck involved (sure luck with everything). Less luck means more likely the strong or talented survive and they are appreciative for what they have and less likely to crumble and complain.
It's a dangerous path if you don't have things to follow on through (like a family, kids, grown kids university, new wife, etc...). There is no meaning to life and it makes more sense to end your life right now. (at least with the info/data we have available).
This might be extremely controversial but does anyone else find it fitting that so many of the high profile Silicon Valley elite are single childless gay men?