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How to waste your career, one comfortable year at a time (apoorvagovind.substack.com)
350 points by EvgeniyZh 5 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 210 comments





It's worth remembering this article seems to come from a rather clichéd and narrow frame of reference - overly driven by money and perceived status - one which seems to drive a lot of very similar advisory posts.

That's cool if it's what you want to dedicate your life to, but if you are in a happy position with a great work life balance that encourages and enables you to both improve yourself and - particularly - your non-worklife then that's a thing worth holding on to, whatever the article-heavy career gurus seem to be selling you.

Edit: as this comment has been significantly upvoted to visibility, I think I should acknowledge jasode's (and others) fair point that the author doesn't specifically focus on money. While I believe it is an implied strategic goal (which is fine) my concern is with the general over-focus on writing like this with careerism and the corresponding values which are definitely not shared by all. Thanks for the useful counterpoints to my reading.


I wrote a whole reply echoing another reply about how this article isn’t about maximizing money or status (though most of these articles are about that), that this article is just about staying competitive. But then I really thought about what you wrote and I think you’re saying that is besides the point, if you have good work life balance and really value that then it’s essentially maybe ok to give up some competitive edge. Here I will caution you, that is a trap which I think the article is trying to get at. I am one of those people who stayed too long at a job where I was losing my competitive edge because I felt like I had a great work-life balance! And work was fun! But one day I realized I’m actually being asked to eat a lot of crap so to speak that I hadn’t really noticed before and once I started to look for the exit it was obvious it was going to be harder than it should be because I had stagnated. Moral of my story (and this article), is stay competitive, you don’t have to crush it, but don’t lean back too far either.

that this article is just about staying competitive.

Moral of my story (and this article), is stay competitive, you don’t have to crush it, but don’t lean back too far either.

There are a large number of people, including smart and successful and accomplished people, who work to live, not live to work.

For the people who live to work (myself included), it's a good reminder to stay competitive and avoid complacency. But you have to understand yourself and what you're looking for. And that's what I think the real moral of the story is: understand what you want, what makes you happy, and what gives you meaning and purpose. Then make sure you're working towards that. Too many people forget to do the first thing and skip straight to the second because they inherit the answer from their environment without questioning it.

For lots of people the answer to that question is not career related.


But my dear friend, the economy doesn’t give two fucks about what you want. It is making part time door dash delivery drivers and Uber drivers out of college educated people. It’s making Classics majors into web developers via bootcamps, it’s hiring out in India, and it’s making the tech you know today sound literally stupid on your resume within 3 years. You’re also in a ageist industry, so there’s time working against you too.

What you or I want is no longer a question afforded to us sadly.


But my dear friend, the economy doesn’t give two fucks about what you want.

Indeed the economy doesn't, but, my dear friend, that's not the point.

You're not the economy, and you can't escape the shell you were born in (yet). You only get to choose which game you play. So, my dear friend, if you're going to lose the game anyway, at least pick a game you actually want to play.


Your comment reminds me of the line from Dead Poets Society:

_We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for._

PS: how good was that movie?! So Good!


It's a noble sentiment, but poetry means different things to different people. Personally, I get a much bigger kick out of a well written snippet of Lisp code than I do from your typical sonnet.

Here's a poem I wrote back in high school in reaction to the famous quote, "Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads", which I was taught was by Emily Dickinson but turns out to actually be by Marianne Moore. In any case...

    A poem is a thought that tried
    In vain, just once, before it died
    To reach the page's
    Right hand side
;-)

Thank you for that beautiful sentiment.

  They're only words, and always spoken 
  much too late  to stay
  -- only for a moment,
  then they take the breath away

This good quote can be interpreted better by realizing that those two groups are not mutually exclusive. There is sufficient poetry, beauty, romance, and love in medicine, law, business, and engineering.

I just finished watching Manolis Kellis explain [0] how computational biology is transforming our understanding of the human genome and changing how we treat diseases. Who will argue that this is not a gripping story of how humanity has risen in it's ability to understand how the world works and consequently to control it. This exciting adventure has both passion in the seekers and beauty in what they have found. And of course there are endless songs (e.g., [1][2]) already written about this noble pursuit.

[0] "Decoding a Genomic Revolution: Manolis Kellis at TEDxCambridge" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlVZ0ORtpPM [1] "The Molecular Shape of You (Ed Sheeran Parody)" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8FAJXPBdOg [2] "A Capella Science - Rolling in the Higgs (Adele Parody)" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtItBX1l1VY


It’s good but someone well attuned please quote some poetry that speaks of the viciousness of a brick wall met by toil.

That’s when you got to get real.

The romanticism of good faith and idealism is romantic, but a lot of good expression is rooted in despair. I see despair in that anecdote, the desperate plea of ‘don’t you see what I feel?’. We have to infer that such an unstated thing needed to be dramatically expressed, for no other reason than catharsis. Which leads us to the conclusion that, yes, there is a story of sadness here.


What you or I want is no longer a question afforded to us sadly.

I'm genuinely curious: Are there periods of history where people could choose what to go into without it having a large effect on their income or quality of life? From my point of view, it seems like our standard of living is at an all-time high and our freedom to choose what we do with our lives is unprecedented. But I'd be open to being shown empirical evidence to the contrary.


The whole economy since the beginning of time unless you are wealthy.

Remember the 50s in America? That lasted forever right? You don’t need empirical evidence for this, the hard data is there on a variety of industries.

If you believe we’re immune to these forces you’ve got another thing coming.


If you play your cards right then you still get to call the shots. When I was young I worked my butt off- I went to the right schools, got the right jobs, built the right skills, and most importantly, built a network. Now I’m in my 30s and have the flexibility I sacrificed earlier. This year I decided to switch jobs and literally updated one line on my resume. I figured out what I want (work-life balance, good money but not necessarily the most prestigious company) and managed to get a new job paying more than the job I left behind.

If you want to reach the top of your field then sure, you always have to be hustling. But for the rest of us we are lucky to be in a field where there is a degree of comfort and flexibility.


You sound defeated. You mention a number of movements in the industry, then draw the conclusion that these are so strong, for all of us, that we no longer have any say.

Are you depressed?


Sounds like you need to switch jobs.

I can only quote the Red Queen: "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."

One needs to stay competent, if not competitive, to stay employable, even for moderately advanced and moderately-paid positions. There's no chance to learn the craft and expect it to stay the same for a lifetime.


>One needs to stay competent, if not competitive, to stay employable

if you are reasonably competent you can get a boring coding job at a large firm that pays probably twice the average national salary.

Software development pays so well compared to other sectors and is so starved for workers pretty much always, and unemployment is basically nonexistent, I think like the author you might confuse "working hat hip startup XY and making 200k" with being employable and living comfortably


But the value of "staying competitive" is to better earn money and status. It's less greedy than maximizing money/status, but it's on the same line of pursuit.

The parent's point is that there are more aspects in life than work that you can improve on (eating healthier would be one of them). And as long as your work can sustain your life, you are free to choose to work on something else.

Of course, you can choose to focus even more on working, too, if you please.


> But the value of "staying competitive" is to better earn money and status.

My hair is increasingly gray, and I'm a person who has always been motivated by challenge, and never by money. The notion of poverty is somewhat terrifying to me, because I'm keenly aware of my motivations. "Find a job" is not a satisfying challenge.

I'm nowhere near retirement -- by which I mean, if my income tracks with inflation, I'll be able to comfortably retire about 5 years before I expect to die of cancer.

I can't trust my company. I can't trust them to stay afloat. I can't trust them to retain me if their funding droops again.

I live very economically; my biggest luxury expenditures are food and I could easily cut those. I really don't give a shit about money, but I have a kid and that's a big expense.

So unemployment is scary. Staying competitive brings peace of mind, and it's a game that I can challenge myself with; that I get satisfaction from.


> But the value of "staying competitive" is to better earn money and status. It's less greedy than maximizing money/status, but it's on the same line of pursuit.

No, the point is to be able to get another job if you lose your current one.


And the point of a job?

The value of staying competitive is also to be employable even after you have turned 50.

> But the value of "staying competitive" is to better earn money and status.

Perhaps you are projecting your own beliefs?

Plenty of people choose careers for other reasons e.g. that give them personal satisfaction, or a career that revolves around their belief system.

The article still applies even if their career goals are neither status nor money.


Well, there's something to be said about staying competitive if you're in a job you're concerned about losing. Having the ability to get laid off and pick up another job within a few weeks does bring with it a certain amount of safety that complacency might not bring.

I perceive staying competitive as being paid fairly for your work (within some reasonable margin). If you are becoming less and less useful to the company/industry, but your salary is getting higher over the years, your risk of being laid off increases significantly. However, I can't help but mention that if you nurture certain political skills and you are already have some management responsibilities, you can stay "forever" in some big corp even though you are not very useful...

It could also mean working less hard for the same amount of money/status.

I don't know about that, in my experience careers are built on political skills as much as actual ability to do your job. Then there is the obvious problem that winning the rat race makes it pretty clear that you are a rat. I prefer to leave all that to the budding sociopaths.

>It's worth remembering this article seems to come from a rather clichéd and narrow frame of reference - overly driven by money and perceived status - one which seems to drive a lot of very similar advisory posts.

That was exactly my reaction. I was a lead for three years and recently decided to go back to a purely technical role. I just didn't like the work, and the prospect of spending the rest of my career in middle management was not appealing.

I currently received an offer from a FAANG(M) company. This was a real offer from someone I had worked with in the past which would have required a very thin interview process. I declined because I very much enjoy the work I'm doing today.

It may turn out to be a bad idea down the road if all I consider is money and that nice company name on my resume. I decided I don't care. I'd rather be a big fish in a small pond and work on truly interesting tech than be another cog in the wheel. I'm well past the "live to work" phase of my life, I just want to be happy, and I can't complain at all about my salary and benefits.


Fortunately, many companies have individual contributor engineering ladder all the way up. My personal ideal endgame is a position like a principal / staff engineer. While I can't compare to people like John Carmack or Rob Pike or Greg Kroah-Hartman, but they show what can be achieved.

(Founding a company is another possible route, much more risky, though.)


I wish, but haven't really seen any company with IC ladder "all the way up".

The other problem is that high level IC roles are very rare whereas the equivalent management roles are plentiful. At a previous company I was the one and only Principal engineer in a division with enough Sr.Directors (equivalent level there) to fill a school bus.

Currently I'm at a Distinguished engineer level which is even more limited, but it is still less than a VP. But we have hundreds of VPs of this and that on the management ladder.

The fact that you bring up celebrity engineers as examples pretty much showcases the problem. There are very, very few of them.


Yep, I'm currently Principal and am enjoying it very much.

> if you are in a happy position with a great work life balance that encourages and enables you to both improve yourself and - particularly - your non-worklife

Someone needs to write "waste your personal life, one comfortable year at a time".


Yes, this is much more important. I love my job, but I'm not defined by it. I long ago realized and decided that I had no interest in chasing the next step up if it meant never having a stable personal life.

More like uncomfortable.

or: "waste your personal life, one competitive year at a time"

>> Someone needs to write ...

And skip “comfortable” in the title.


The overachievers can do that in less than a year.

For me, keeping yourself relevant is not about money per se, but about freedom. Freedom to control your life instead of being controlled by an employer. By trading some current comfort (good work-life balance and low stress) for current discomfort (finding a new job and challenging yourself to grow) you make your "personal business" stronger (that is what value you and your career bring to prospective employers). That means if I do lose my job or my current employment situation goes south, I have less stress because I know my personal brand is strong and can go many places without fear.

Bottom line, moving to a new job regularly is about investing in yourself and allowing you to control the direction of your life and not allowing others to control it.


A lot of young people around here dismiss money and status as superficial goals and hurt themselves in the long run. Once you leave the roughly egalitarian youth and college phase where everyone is roughly at a similar level (at least in your bubble), roads start diverging and money and status become more important than people especially idealistic nerds would imagine. The world is a cold hard place that doesn't give two shits what happens to you, whether you can make a living, provide your family or not.

I don't mean to say that you have to enter the rat race and keep up with the Joneses and burn out. I just mean that money and status are these dirty words that are taboo to admit caring about in some circles, but it is money and status that earn you freedom and the ability to not give a fuck what people who you don't respect think about you. It is the only thing that will make annoying people you don't care about still act as if they respected you so you can concentrate on all the people and things you do care about.


> money and status that earn you freedom and the ability to not give a fuck what people who you don't respect think about you

Please, help me understand.

It seems to me like not being bothered by what anybody thinks of you requires neither money nor status.

Not only that, obtaining or maintaining social status, by definition, involves other people thinking highly of you in one way or another. And it would seem like one would need to be keenly aware of that in order to climb that ladder.

I say this as somebody rather uninterested in their social status (what's the point of it?), who went from relative poverty to relative wealth and saw no difference in how much I care about either money or status. So, very much interested in understanding how this works for others. What am I missing?


I suspect parent’s point is about FU money to some extent.

I can basically afford to say “no” to my boss because I make a decent living and so I’m not scared of him reacting badly or firing me because I said no. By saying no, I don’t really give a fuck about what he’s thinking about me (will he like me, dislike me, resent me, respect me?) but I can only do that because if I were out of a job tomorrow I could still keep paying my rent and eat without skipping a beat. I’m not a millionaire either but I have built my life so that basic expenses can be met for a long time no matter what and that is in part because whenever I’m working for money, I get a better salary than most people in the country.

Of course you can also not give a fuck about what others think do you without money but it’s a lot more uncomfortable I’d think. Everyone enjoys having food on the table and a roof over their heads.


> a happy position with a great work life balance that encourages and enables you to both improve yourself and - particularly - your non-worklife

Any advice for scoring this on my personal OKRs? I’m vacillating between 0.6 and 0.7 for this quarter, and I’m circling back with the other members of my household this afternoon.


Put your family members in the parking lot and follow up offline.

Depends on your motivations. It might also depend on your location.

Silicon Valley culture sort of expects you to move around every few years - you will get a more well-rounded perspective both technically and personally.

In other places, particularly with different employment opportunities, the picture might be different.

The one that got me here was "misplaced loyalty" because looking back, most of the companies I've worked for are either radically different or ...gone.


>It's worth remembering this article seems to come from a rather clichéd and narrow frame of reference - overly driven by money

But the blog author wrote the opposite of your characterization. Excerpt from article of not letting money distort your goals:

>Staying in a job for loyalty or money's sake is like staying in a bad marriage for the sake of kids. [...] Optimizing learning over money early in your career.

[EDIT to the many downvoters: Did I totally misunderstand the author's blog article? Where is the "overly driven by money" message? His framework chart doesn't have money anywhere on it. See: https://cdn.substack.com/image/fetch/w_1456,c_limit,f_auto,q...]


The point of mellosouls holds.

The person writing this post lives for his job. His goal is to have a job that brings him some combination of achieving job related results, learning job related skills and earning money from that job. And if the current job situation is not optimized for that (no learning opportunities, no achievement opportunities limiting future employment opportunities etc.) it should be seen as a cancer.

While it’s a completely valid point of view to not live for your job, but to do your job to (financially) facilitate your life: earn money in a stable (but from the authors point of view boring and pointless) job so you can take nice vacations with your wife and kids. Or keep a “9 to 5 job” because you like to explore foreign cinema and Russian literature from “5 to 11”, while the author is still busting his ass so he’ll end high on the corporate ladder in the future.


> The person writing this post lives for his job

I think you are completely mischaracterising the author. The article is about career: for most of us a career is a necessary evil that cannot be avoided.

If you read the article as though the heading were “optimising your career to suit your lifestyle”, the article still makes sense.

Nowhere in the article does it imply that you should prioritise work/money over living.

There are multiple references to ensuring that you achieve personal goals inside and outside your job:

“if you don't want your talent to go to waste”

“Staying in a job for loyalty or money's sake is like staying in a bad marriage for the sake of kids. It's not healthy for anyone involved.”

“Am I excited and happy to go to work every morning and see my teammates.”

“She had grown tired of her role and was burnt out.”

The author mostly talks about the time cost (not $) of your choices - most of us are given similar lifespans so choose how you invest your time wisely.

PS: “Valley Girl Newsletter” - @leokennis: assuming “his” is impolite IMHO.


Regarding his/her: that was a dumb assumption on my part. Apologies. It should be her.

To the content of the article. This is what the author describes as the scenario to be avoided:

> Your choice becomes limited to employers who want a cog in the big machine while your career will fade into a 9-5 job.

As if this is per se a bad thing. As I said, if your career is your life then indeed, follow the authors advice. However if your career is just a tool to financially enable your real life, it’s great to be a cog in a 9-to-5 machine: you get to go home in time for dinner every day and you probably have mental energy to spare when you do.

Further down, this is written:

> If you're not paying attention, you lose precious years stagnating and being unhappy.

Below, signs of unhappiness are: lack of work accomplishments, lack of “resume worthy work”, lack of new skills for future employment, lack of overthinking work problems in the shower, lack of kinship with colleagues felt.

Again, for many people, work is not a goal in itself. I like my colleagues and I enjoy my job, but in the end the place I really want to be is not my office (but my home) and the people I really care about are not my colleagues (but my family and friends).

Final exemplary quote:

> You have at best 120 quarters left to make something of yourself. A year wasted at a poor job or role is equivalent to you throwing away 3.3% of your career.

Again, apparently “making something of yourself” is equivalent to not wasting time at a job and having a good career?

I fully stand by my points:

* It’s fine to be very career and job minded.

* You need to read the linked article with a lot of flexibility and creativity to come away with any other impression than the author is very career and job minded.

* It shows a lack of perspective (or an abundance of personal insecurities) to write a preachy article like this without even considering that your goals (the authors goals) might not be the same as everyone else’s.


> "it’s great to be a cog in a 9-to-5 machine: you get to go home in time for dinner every day and you probably have mental energy to spare when you do."

And then the cog's skills fall behind that of their peers, they slow down because of aging and other factors, and all of a sudden their resume is not attractive enough to overcome any ageism that exists in our industry, particularly if another dotcom bust happens or other economic crash happens. Game over.

Your career may not be your life but your career is definitely your meal ticket. And nobody should assume that the easy money for developers that exists today is going to be stay that way for the entire 40+ years of their working career.


Yes, your “cog skills” could at some point become obsolete (although less quickly than skills in the latest hype framework or technology). So even as a cog, to keep your meal ticket you should stay somewhat up to date. But this requires far less time and energy than what the author describes.

And even then, if someone wants to cash in easily now while the getting is good, and in a few decades becomes unemployable in IT, who’s the author to preach the gospel of “you need to have a resume worthy achievement four times a year or you are lost!” to them?


My issue is that your comment reads far too much into the motivations of the author, and you create a strawman stereotype that they are a corporate drone. You have no right to assume how the author prioritises nice vacations with their [partner] and kids. Hacker news guidelines: “Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith.”

It is fully possible to love a 9-5 job and still care about your career progression and take self pleasure with your job. The author could be a believer in “work hard, play hard”.

“while your career will fade into a 9-5 job” is easily read as using 9-5 as a cliché for a dead end job. I too have a negative attitude towards 9-5ers, because I prioritise lifestyle and alternative achievements over the corporate ladder, and I think 9-5 has its own severe risks.

I agree that the article comes across as work focused, but the article is still relevant even if you want a cruisy job and to glide through your work life. Any career needs to avoid the risk of complacency, leading to zero development, leading to permanent unemployment or being stuck in a hell job when external circumstances change.

Edit: Let us presume that the author is hyper-career focused. Why choose to use a personal values attack against that? That’s their choice man.


> Why choose to use a personal values attack against that? That’s their choice man.

Here you’re getting exactly to my point. I’m attacking their position with some vigor, because that’s exactly what the author is doing too, but the other way around: reprimanding people who are not hyper-career focused.

Not everyone has the same focus and priorities. That’s fine. Dispensing advice as if it’s the truth while it only applies to your specific focus is bad form and should be criticized.


My actual quote ended "...and status", and "frame of reference" was important.

The article is a reflection on

I recently saw this tweet asking people about their career's most expensive mistake

which appears to at least indicate a long term financial (and no doubt time/energy/status/skills/etc) view.

It's not to say there aren't useful (if rather overly played) points in there and similar articles; but the whole thrust is about "career growth" and "brand" and dismissing either directly or by implication engineers who prioritise life as being vastly more important than work.


It’s also worth remembering that this is written by someone who is approaching 30 years old.

Do you mean that perspectives change into the 40s and 50s?

I find that I'm considering this much more now that I'm in my 40s, because I know that as a generalist developer, I will be slowing down in skills compared to the younger devs, so I need to make sure my career is developing in areas that value my experience and soft skills.

I think it's even easier to get complacent with not challenging those soft skills and "tech wisdom" by staying too long in one role.


>Do you mean that perspectives change into the 40s and 50s?

You may still want to try new roles or at least take on new projects where you can learn new things.

But...

I find the older devs I know (I'm not actually one myself) mentoring, managing, possibly speaking in public more than they do just writing code.

And, especially as people get into their 50s, at a larger company that's doing reasonably well, there's nothing wrong with seeking out a comfortable position that plays to your strengths.


I already feel this slowdown and I'm barely into my 30s.

Very true. As I grow older I realize that one should take the authors age in consideration when reading articles like this should be read.

The problem is you need to read the article to find out the author is...young. Perhaps they assume that the title screens out those of a certain depth of experience. Like misspellings in Nigerian scam emails...

One thing to always keep in mind is that your job can disappear very quickly.

If, or when, that happens those who've spent years in the comfort of that nice work-life balance and often, frankly, mediocrity (you don't improve yourself by staying in the comfort of such a job) are in for a shock.


Absolutely (with the qualification there are certainly comfortable jobs you can continuously advance your skills in), but the counter is that life disappears very quickly too, and if you have spent your whole energy and time prioritising your career you are in danger of finding a far greater shock when you are looking back on what is actually meaningful in your life.

exactly. I work with a guy who has a family, and probably stopped growing career wise years ago. But he makes good money, he enjoys the company, and he seems happy. He has enough depth of skill that if he were to get laid off, he could easily find another job in that area.

For a while I looked down at him, like “dude why are you stagnating?” But over time I could see why he’s doing what he’s doing, and it works for him. Maybe I’m wrong and if he got laid off he would have difficulty finding another job. But that’s his choice, relative to living with daily stress of stretching and pushing to the next level.

I think the people who are making poor choices are those who are driven by fear - they want to grow, they aren’t, and they are afraid to make a move. Or they fear being disloyal, or whatever.

I myself stayed in my second job far too long, and have regretted it since.

Since being at my current company, I’ve done something like this, though less formally. I went thru a period of 6 months where I was having less impact and I felt like I hit a “ceiling”, so I kept pushing for a different role. Then covid hit, some people left, priorities change, and now I have a perfect role and am growing again. If covid hadn’t happened I think I would’ve needed to start looking. I love my current company so was willing to wait it out a bit longer.


The article strongly applies even for non-monetary career goals.

And it is an article focusing on your career, not any life goals outside of that.


Really I think the only part of the post that's particularly status/money driven is:

> If you are an average 30 yr old engineer, let's say you want to retire reasonably by the time you are 60. You have at best 120 quarters left to make something of yourself. A year wasted at a poor job or role is equivalent to you throwing away 3.3% of your career. The older you get, the steeper your loss is.

Which sort of implies that what matters is where you end up at the end of your career, not enjoying yourself a long the way. I guess this isn't so much "status/money" as it is "destination vs. journey", but I feel like those can be related.

That said, I found most of the rest of the post to be much more broadly applicable. The Accomplishment/Impact/Growth/Challenge/Community framework I thought was especially good/useful to keep in mind.


Unfortunately the modern world has been structured so money is a necessity to achieve most things humans naturally need.

“Comin’ up as a coder in the cash game / Livin’ in the fast lane / I’m for real.”


I just want to provide a counterpoint to the above article. My first job out of college was at one of the "sexy" unicorns. I had fun working there, loved my coworkers, etc. I ended up leaving after 18 months to go start my own thing for many of the same reasons listed in this article. I'm in my twenties! Now is the time to take risks and optimize for learning!

In retrospect, I wish I hadn't. Maybe that's because they just filed for IPO. But I underestimated how rare these jobs are. Let's be honest--the types of experiences the author references are only available at hyper-growth startups the Valley has deemed to be "sexy". Just look at the examples: Uber, Stripe, Coinbase. The author makes it sound like you can walk into one of these roles whenever you want. It's a lie.

First, these companies only come around once in a blue moon. Second, you've got to time it just right. Third, you have to convince them to hire you. I'm sure most people on here have a story about how they didn't get a job for no discernible reason whatsoever.

There are many good reasons to leave a job. Don't let hustle porn be one of them.


Did your unicorn job meet the Accomplishment, Impact, Growth, Challenge, and Community aspects of the article?

While I have some reservations about the article (chiefly that these all have to be evaluated every three months) I think the framework to assess your current position is very different than just changing to start your “own thing”, chase the newest shiny object etc.


Those aspects are also too inward/selfish.

What About the company? Did you join for the mission, is the mission something you still support, is the mission something the leadership actually conveys or is it lip service, do you feel you’re in a position to be impactful for that mission.

Sometimes you might get a crappy job at a company with a cool mission (such as SpaceX) but it doesn’t mean you have to leave. Transfer internally!


I’ve yet to work somewhere that has instilled faith in their internal transfer process. It’s rife with subjective and/or closed door requirements and “deals” like your current manager having to agree to the transfer.

How many companies out there have a mission that one can give two shits about? They're making some commercial goods and/or providing services, they're not saving the world. The only place that comes to my mind which has a legit mission I could get behind is probably the government and its various agencies.

Be extremely, extremely, extremely careful for staying at any company for the "mission". The primary mission of any capitalist company is to make their biggest investors and founders a lot of money, and you shouldn't forget that.

While some exceptions do exist (I actually think your SpaceX example is a very good one - Musk has pointed out, rightfully IMO, that if he just wanted to get richer there are easier ways to do it), they are few and far between. VCs and investors largely depend on the "mission" myth solely as a motivational tool to get employees to work harder.


If mission is what is a primary driver, you don’t have to work for a for-profit company. There are many opportunities in government, NGOs, not-for-profits etc.

I think mission statements ought to go away entirely, anyway.

https://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/23/jobs/23mgmt.html


I would argue the examples in that article are poor mission statements. They are really just PR fluff.

A real mission statement is suppose to provide a lens through which tough decisions can be viewed, similar to the military idea of “commanders intent”. Vague, overly generalized mission statements like those in the article don’t really provide that sort of framework.

The most general I‘ve come across while still having some sort of decision meaning was “create more value than you capture”. So if you are proposing some rent-seeking idea, you should know it’s a bad idea.


A real mission statement is suppose to provide a lens through which tough decisions can be viewed, similar to the military idea of “commanders intent”.

I think a well written and deliberately structured playbook of org strategy (or departmental playbooks) is better than a mission statement for this.

Taking your military reference: these are akin to Field Manuals. Commander’s intent is meaningless unless there’s an established tradecraft behind it that governs how to execute on that intention in a way that brings alignment to behavior, initiative and decentralized execution of said intent.

Mission statements probably give you a “North Star”, but they don’t-on their own-necessarily help teams execute


I agree with your overall view, but I don't think the understanding of commanders intent is quite right. Field manuals are meant to give the tactical, detailed guidance. "Commanders intent" is specifically meant for times when there is no detailed guidance. It's meant to guide decisions when the situation is unique enough, or moving quickly enough, to require improvisation because there is no standard procedure or field manual to guide it. Instead of a strict procedure, it's meant to give a philosophical decision framework.

"Provide the most value to shareholders" and "Provide more value than you capture" are two high-level (granted, not the most specific) mission statements. But if you can imagine an ethically ambiguous decision point, you can see how each can lead into diverging choices. Whether mission statements truly guide decisions or are just lip-service is largely a leadership issue.


Maybe my view is merely more radical than tradition requires: if executors and operators of intention find themselves in an ethically ambiguous situation, crippled by analysis paralysis, the commander has failed to sufficiently articulate his intentions and directives and possibly even in the training of standards and requirements.

The entire purpose of commanders intent is to make the mission clearly known, and allow for decentralized decision making of the tactical day-to-day. It should never replace tradecraft, yet it also shouldn’t stand in the way of independent thinking either.

Instead, those ethical decisions should include commanders’s intent.

Gen. Bruce Clarke has a brilliant book on this, “About Face”-with many lessons on this echoed more recently by the likes of Gen. James Mattis (“Call-Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead”) and the popular Jocko Willink (“Leadership Strategies and Tactics-FM-02”). Therefore I say thusly: commander’s intent informs tradecraft, tradecraft is commander’s intent manifested.

Edit: I believe I got the Clarke book wrong, instead it appears to be a collection of his writings on leadership, he himself didn’t give it this name apparently.


I'm familiar with the books you mentioned (haven't read Mattis' yet though) but I think you are probably referencing the About Face book by David Hackworth. Jocko also had covered this book ad nauseum on his podcast.

I'm not sure we're disagreeing on much other than you can't have a field manual for everything which is where the commanders intent comes in. Yes, field manuals should align with the commanders intent just like standard procedures should align with a mission statement. But the commanders intent is there for the times when there isn't clear guidance. Same goes, IMO, with a mission statement to align the values of a company. When a decision maker comes across a situation not explicitly covered by a standard procedure/field manual, they need to ensure whatever decision they make aligns with the overall mission/commanders intent.

If the leader "has failed to sufficiently articulate his intentions" that means there is no well-understood commanders intent. The leader has failed to articulate the why behind the mission. The same is true (as previously stated) for poorly formed mission statements. They don't articulate the values of an organization in a meaningful way to guide decisions. If you are making the case that there should be clear tactical, detailed guidance provided on all scenarios, that is the opposite of decentralized command.

>Instead, those ethical decisions should include commanders’s intent.

This goes without saying. That is exactly why I said it provides the framework for decision making.


> Those aspects are also too inward/selfish. What About the company?

Wasn't that covered by: "Community: Am I excited and happy to go to work every morning and see my teammates. Do I believe in the mission, vision, and leadership of this team or company?"

> Sometimes you might get a crappy job at a company with a cool mission (such as SpaceX) but it doesn’t mean you have to leave. Transfer internally!

Yeah the author specifically mentions this: "Change doesn't always mean to quit."


Personally, I agree. I was just trying to put your comment/critique in the context of the article.

For me, connecting to an overall mission/purpose is more important and provides the discipline and motivation to continue when the job isn’t hitting on all the cylinders outlined in the article.

It all comes down to what you want to optimize for. The article seems to make a case to optimize for self actualization. Your comment about exiting before an IPO being a mistake seems to elude that one should optimize for maximum financial gain. Neither of those are my particular priority, but to each their own


Many of these types of posts of reflections of the insecurity of the authors.

You don’t want to be like one of the IBM lifers back in the day who sat around waiting to get culled like a steer. But staying at a job where you enjoy what you do usually isn’t a bad move.


Agreed. There are many axes along which one's career can be wasted. Throwing prime earning years at a low expected yield activity like founding startups can be one of them, depending on your priorities and luck. If one views making money as the primary purpose of a career, that will inform decisions differently than the criteria this article identifies.

Even so you have to choose between status/money and skill. The way SV thinks about engineering is under the influence of billions of dollars being poured into 90s tech for incremental improvements. Linux. Java. Javascript. The research community has long known how to do better but change doesn't benefit monopolies.

> Now is the time to take risks and optimize for learning!

Why is now the time to take risks? Long term debilitating losses have more years to compound for you. For example if you crash in a motorcycle and are paralyzed you'll have to spend more years in a wheel chair than someone who is older.


There is no back, only forward.

Looking back I should have kept that, sold that, married that one, stayed away from that one, moved out earlier, tried harder, given up, etc...


Can I ask what happened to your startup?

Ugh. The mind of a narcissist on full display here.

Want to have a comfortable position with decent growth opportunities over time, and fair compensation? You must be some bottom-feeding moron who doesn't understand that [Unicorn Co]'s valuation just rose 4x YoY.

Think you can be happy at a company like Apple making six figures while unemployment is at record levels, and people are being bankrupted by hospital bills and shuttered businesses? clap emojis THINK ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL BRAND. This girl learned everything Apple had to teach her in 6 months. You can't possibly expect to just switch departments, or ask for more responsibilities to continue learning anything at a company like that!

It's incredible how insulated developers in the Bay Area can be. I would love to see how quickly all of this advice falls apart for an engineer in Portland, or Minneapolis, or just about any country besides the United States, where six-figure software jobs aren't so easy to come by.


Pretty much this. The author really seems to live in a bubble. Additionally, if you're anything but a software developer, e.g. you're a process (chemical) engineer, this advice doesn't work in the slightest. New chemical companies don't open up in a bedroom every year, so you can't hop around that quickly. This applies to every engineering profession except for software development (/...engineering)

What about feelings of regret later down the line? I already regret not doing more in my life in my teenage years (I spent it all studying alone). I cannot imagine what feelings of regret I would have if I spent all of my 20s working non-stop.


I am pretty sure I am not going to be on my death bed, surrounded by loving family, yet thinking about that job working on the Uber-for-cats middleware stack that was technically challenging, so impactful and aligned so well with my future career goals.

I was reading the article going "Yeah! This is exactly what I need to hear!" until I got to the sentence "This is what we always say at UberEats" and had to close the tab.

> Ugh. The mind of a narcissist on full display here.

Is this ad-hominem really necessary? The author didn't make character attacks on anyone, I don't see why you feel the need to do so.

> You must be some bottom-feeding moron who doesn't understand that [Unicorn Co]'s valuation just rose 4x YoY.

Contrast this to what the author actually said:

"Optimizing learning over money early in your career.

Since I left Apple, its stock has almost tripled while Uber's stock has been... I probably would be better off financially had I stayed. However, what I learned at Uber is way more valuable to me, given my career aspirations."

I'm genuinely surprised that the HN community thinks a toxic comment like this is upvote-worthy


It's brash for sure, but if its garnering upvotes its likely because it struck enough of a cord to overcome HNs dislike for personal attacks. I think people are tired of blog posts telling them what to prioritize in life.

> I'm genuinely surprised that the HN community thinks a toxic comment like this is upvote-worthy

Is this a̶d̶-̶h̶o̶m̶i̶n̶e̶m̶ [EDIT: attack] really necessary? I'm sharing a thought about the ridiculous nature of bay area hustle culture.

> Contrast this to what the author actually said: "Optimizing learning over money early in your career.

Contrast that to what she goes on to say in the article itself. She laments on how she missed out on Uber stock rising by not ditching Apple sooner. She then pulls a figure out of thin-air about how much net worth you're going to lose by "wasting" your career on any given year by not following her arbitrary framework for self-worth.

"Optimizing learning over money early in your career" would bear far more weight if she actually used an example like going into academia, or joining a tiny startup with low pay. Going from one 150k+ position to another 150k+ position with (gasp) lower performing stocks (!!) is hardly a sacrifice. Moreover, she speaks as if she already knew Uber stock was going to go down when she joined. Uber happened to tank Apple happened to rise. But she acts like she factored that into her decision before she left Apple.

I'm genuinely surprised some people still can't recognize how absolutely out-of-touch it sounds to lament over a "wasted" year of career at Apple, while most of the world is just trying to get by. Likewise, claiming you stopped finding opportunities to learn anything at Apple after only 6 months sounds like self-inflating bullshit.

So, I hope I have eased your surprise. It's toxic to tell people that they're wasting their career by valuing stability and work-life balance over weird learning frameworks, and net-worth. It's not toxic to call out such privileged fools for doing so.


> Is this ad-hominem really necessary?

"toxic comment" is not an ad-hominem. The opinion of toxicity is scoped explicitly to the position ("comment"), not the person.

In contrast, your original post's usage of "the mind of a narcissist" is directed at the individual (and their mind), not just their opinion.


This is true. I did write that hastily, and therefore mis-used ad-hominem.

It's certainly a different mindset. I don't really do software development any longer. But if I were at Apple, barring a bad situation that I was unable to resolve for some reason--which I've been in before and have been able to switch managers--I'd think very long and hard before switching companies, perhaps especially to Uber.

Maybe if you really want to do a startup? Perhaps one could learn a bit more at Apple first. And to the point later in the post about the loss of net worth. I'm pretty sure sticking around Apple for a bit as a young person is not going to cripple your chances of retirement.


On the other hand, once you've been doing this for a couple decades, have a family at home, hobbies, and are thinking more about your retirement than advancing a career... a nice, stable job with a good paycheck that you can forget about at the end of the day is also a pretty decent life.

What you have to avoid is the middle ground - if you are advancing your career that is great. If you have a comfortable, satisfying life, that also is great. But if you do not yet have that satisfying life AND you are failing to advance... that is the middle ground to get out of, fast.


Thank you, I resonate with this. I feel it's a perspective reached after spending those decades in the hustle; you reach a point where it's just a job (that doesn't have to be negative).

The grass is always greener as the saying goes - I'm going to do the same work at company X vs company Y (my specialty), so long as I'm being treated fairly with compensation, tasks, rewards, management, etc. and I believe enough in the core mission of the company, I'm satisfied. Leaving at 5pm to go work on a loved hobby is now more important than some ephemeral career goal. :) I think a key is financial stability though, it takes that hustle to build an investment reserve in the early years.


This is a good way to put it. I work at a well known big tech, and in many ways the money has given me a lot of freedom. I travel with my young family now because I can both afford it and I have enough co workers to easily cover my shift, which was NOT true at my startup.

It’s especially useful having young children, because there is no time for “side hustles” right now. After 5:00 my time and attention goes to my family and my work encourages that.


I love this sentiment.

Probably the best thing about my entire life is that my Dad was free and able to be at every single game, play, recital, or other event in my entire childhood (and for much of my young adulthood, to be honest.) I can't think of a more fulfilling way to spend a life than with the people you love. Work can be fulfilling, but it pales by comparison.

For me, work is 2nd place at best. Loved ones and meaningful moments are my priority.


This makes sense. However, what kind of company culture does this set? If the company is OK with people being not passionate, what kind of signal does that give to the colleagues who want to be eager, passionate, driven?

The signal is that they are more likely to be able to argue for a raise with less competition?

I think the most predictable thing about the Internet is that articles like this have two kinds of comments:

- from people who feel that inside drive that leads them to be unhappy when they're not moving forward and upward (maximizers) who use it as validation

- from people who have a target life and see this as threatening (satisficers) or offensive

Every single comment always comes off like it has some sort of insecurity that it's trying to protect.

Here are some other types of articles that cause this:

- work really hard to be the best that you can be v work hard enough at your career so that you can focus on other things

- startups vs big companies

Almost all the 'advice' in the comments here is just a bunch of thinly veiled attempts on the commenters part to feel better.

Just read them from a neutral eye. They attribute so many non-existent traits to the opposite position: "overly driven by money", "stagnant", implications of not being "well-rounded" or in the opposite: "mediocre".

This is mommy forum level stuff.


People often forget that most of these come from personal blogs who are, at the fundamental level, just voicing their opinions based on how they experienced life. It is understandable and quite common sense that it will not apply to everyone. I mean, even with licensed professionals, e.g. doctors, we try to get a second opinion but I don't think we'll be quite as fast to judge that first opinion.

You nailed my emotional response completely as a satisficer. Any advice on reading with a neutral eye? As a satisficer I dread the convos with my maximizer friends who seem to imply I am worth less since I don’t want to grind all the time. Perhaps that’s a problem with the friends, but I’m not sure how to differentiate.

Honestly, no advice available, sorry. I fail at it often enough that I'm unlikely to be of much help.

Good point. Also, if you want to watch a movie that explores these two perspectives and has nothing at all to do with tech, My Dinner With Andre is pretty good.

One anecdote: I had a very cushy position at a post-IPO startup that was taking off. My initial RSUs had appreciated by 5x by the time I left. Every time they vested I took the money off the table.

My colleagues loved me, I got great performance reviews, but I didn't feel like I was learning or growing. I was severely burnt out after working on a couple projects that exploded due to organizational problems. I went through 3 managers in a year because of reorgs and departures. Ultimately I left that job because I tortured myself - what was I doing, what value did I add? How would I get a job after this when my skills were out of date?

Meanwhile the company's stock has tripled since I left. Even if I had sold every time my stock vested I would be a millionaire by now. I grew up poor, and the security of having that money in the bank would be life-changing. Instead I'm at a new startup where I'm not any happier, but I also don't get a million dollars.


>new startup where I'm not any happier

The post reads like you left for one reason (fear if complacency) but your unhappiness is rooted in something completely different (financials).

Both may still be wrong way to get happy, but it’s hard to expect a job to provide that if you aren’t consistent about what you should be shooting to improve


People can be unhappy about more than one thing.

My point is that the "value experience over comp and comfort" perspective was drilled into me when I was starting out, and it definitely contributed to what I now think was a mistake.


And the same person can be unhappy for different reasons no matter what choices they make. After a few of those, one starts to distrust almost any decision-making framework :)

If it helps (and it probably doesn’t, much) try not to beat yourself up too much. It’s hard to know which big decisions are mistakes and which are great, except in hindsight. I’ve made a few that turned out well; a few that turned out poorly; some that were terrible except for a twist of fate that made them great; and some that were great except for a twist that ruined them.

There’s a lot of rand() going on in life, after all.


I didn’t mean to imply you can only have one goal. But I do think sometimes people are not always aware of what would make them happy and instead default to what values hate been “drilled into” them rather than defining them for themselves

My value is "I want to have enough money to provide for my family". One way of achieving that is by getting a big lump sum payout, at the risk of future employability. The other is switching jobs frequently to stay on top of things and remain employable. I think your tone is a little condescending.

My point is that I overweighted the risk of future employability from staying a few years at a shitty place. Lots of people on HN will tell you that's a death sentence and they would never hire you with a period like that on your resume. But in retrospect I don't think it would have had nearly the impact I imagined.


Employers usually look at the last few roles on the CV, many times they don't even read the entire resumé. After a period of stagnation it's always a possiblity to take a trendier role for less pay - if the previous job offsets this relative pay cut, the engineer still won.

I really dislike how posts of this kind simply assume that everyone lives in Silicon Valley (and hence there are abundant jobs with ridiculously inflated pay) and has no ambition beyond working on hard technical problems and making loads of cash by working for other people.

This is completely invalid advice for people with any kind of entrepreneurial ambition, for instance, and even more so for those who might care more about building a family or spending time with loved ones than frittering their time away "increasing their net worth" by working on things they don't own.

What is most infuriating is the implication that if you don't live life by this person's constraints, you're "wasting it".


It reads as unintentional satire.

Person with a software-hammer tries to hit the nail of basic psychology, motivation, and happiness. Misses.

Shame on me for reading it though.


I always find these ‘optimise your net worth’ posts quite strange, especially in the context of working for FAANGs/ Unicorns where generally pay for software engineers is very, very high anyway. “I have more money that I need now, but if I’d done different thing ten years ago I’d have even more money than I need” is a weird thing to worry about.

I say this as someone who now works for a ‘unicorn’ and previously worked in a number of places that the author might consider dead end. I have some regrets about one previous job in particular, but mostly around stress it caused me at the time, not impact on my net worth. And, certainly, job hopping every couple of years seems like no life.


Eventually the party will end and software will face the same comp as other engineering disciplines.

Make money while you can, for it may already be 5am.


The question is when will that be, I need to time my exit from the field.

I felt like the article was more about optimizing your net self than optimizing your net worth. Subjects like complacency, (over) loyalty, learning are focused around making sure one is taking the opportunity to actualize, grow.

The question of why & for what is a good one, & we see various forms of these doubts throughout comments here. I think everyone ultimately had to do some personal development, define their own arch of progress that they are shooting for, build their own personal mythology that pushes them forward, or not (exist & be merry). The named dimensions, accomplishment, growth, impact, challenge, community seem like good things to keep an eye on to assess whether we are chasing better versions of ourselves, no matter what end goal orientation you want, be it mastery or merely money.


It would be nice if I didn’t have to worry about a mortgage any more. It’ll be a loooong time before I have more money than I need.

If I may offer advice - the math is against you, a $150k home loan over 30 years (+tax, insurance) is usually well over $300k at the end of the road. If you can (a) ensure your loan has a "all extra payments to principal, not interest" loan and (b) overpay every single month as much as you can, even shaving 10 years off that time frame will net you a lot back in your pocket to invest and make money on it. Even an extra $100/mo if that's all you can manage - pay down that principal as fast as you can to reduce the interest owed on that principal.

I strongly disagree with the way you paint this - especially the irrational “the math is against you”.

if given someone who unjudiciously spends money, then I agree that paying off a house is a fantastic way to save (versus fancy car, excessive holidays). But this is a psychological battle, and has relatively little to do with finance.

Critically, many people have very little diversification and instead they only have two financial instruments: their job and their home. Investing money in a third instrument (equivalant to retirement savings?) instead of paying off principal should make sense if expected returns are similar to mortgage rates.

For those that have the skill and strength to invest carefully, the equation simplifies down to comparing your mortgage rate versus your expected investment returns. If investment returns exceed interest costs, then not paying principal and instead investing, is the prudent thing to do. There are other life circumstances that affect expected returns e.g. age and capacity to deal with market volatility.

The cliché that you should pay off mortgage principal before anything else is mindless, and may come from the past when interest rates were higher?


> ...especially the irrational “the math is against you”

nod I did not say what was in my brain which I followed up in another comment; it's all about time scale - if your plan is meager (+$100/mo) you only shave 5y off your final loan cost, which could probably be beat with a mutual fund instead. If your plan is aggressive (pay off in 5y) the return on investment for the following 25y using the full "mortgage payment" works out (money makes money) - but you must be disciplined and determined.

Edit: also just to share, I completely underestimated the reduction in cost of living which happened when I moved from a location where houses were very expensive to somewhere much more modest ($$$) but same type of community (nice street, nice neighbors, low crime, etc.). I ended up saving a lot of extra money by accident in just regular life things which I was able to roll over into the extra payoffs. I feel this accident in my math helped work in my favour very significantly to my overall plan, it took me a bit of "where is this extra money coming from?" reflection to realize my initial mistake in the plan. This could of course cut both ways, should you move into a more expensive community with a higher cost of living in your new house.


this doesn't really track with the rock bottom interest rates we have right now

> even shaving 10 years off that time frame will net you a lot back in your pocket to invest and make money on it

what about just investing it in the first place instead of paying down extra on the mortgage?

why pay extra on 3% (or less!) debt to free up cash flow to use for some ~6-10% investment when you can just take the extra from step 1 and skip right to step 2


Just paid off a large chunk of mortgage recently. Monthly payments are now under $500 a month.

It possibly would have been better long term to invest it but the peace of mind a low monthly payment brings is really nice.

If I can gather another largish chunk of money I’ll definitely be looking to get rid of the mortgage completely.

While it might not have been the best long term move you never know what the future will bring and also I think having that feeling of freedom right now counts for a lot too.


> ...but the peace of mind a low monthly payment brings is really nice.

+1, and if you've ever been evicted from a rental/lease for capricious reasons dreamed up by a landlord who just wants you out so they can raise the rent, the peace of mind of "I can't be kicked out of this house, and nobody can take it away from me for failure to make a mortgage payment" is part of my life experience and feelings. "No HOA" was a hard requirement when I was house shopping.


You're not comparing like risks. The risk-free/very low risk rate of return is probably more in 2-3% range right now.

On the other hand, interest rates a low right now, so you could also invest that extra $100/month, and come out ahead.

Maybe just before the election isn't the best time to invest though.


This is bad advice. The $300k doesn’t look so bad when compared to the compounded gains those extra payments would get if they were invested instead.

It depends on how aggressive you want to be - I did a 30y loan and paid off at 5y by just sacrificing a lot to the math. The math was it would take +7 more years investing the "mortgage" to reach even (so 12y, 3y less than a 15y loan with far far less interest due) and I compounded that much more month over month during those +7 years, leaving me at the end of 12 years with a "free house" and a lot more month over month to keep investing with a nice reserve. I realize that's extremely aggressive and perhaps not possible by many people, I started with enough in reserves to be able to make it work.

IF you paid off a house in 5 years, you bought way less house than you could afford. Almost no one in America lives with that level of income to expense (as income usually scales with cost of living). Beyond that - unless you got some crazy predatory loan, you should be able to get a loan that will always be less than market returns (averaged over the years) even after taxes (you also get mortgage interest deduction when you have a loan). Rates today are now below 3% and with the economy booming - they were still frequently below 4%.

Home ownership (especially for $500k+) is heavily subsidized in the USA.


> IF you paid off a house in 5 years, you bought way less house than you could afford.

Of course I did, that's the whole point to me. Moving to a location with a nice quality/standard of living with housing available far below my income so that it's not a financial burden. Everyone has a different goal - a small, modest house in a nice place to live is all many of us ask. And not being in debt.

> Home ownership (especially for $500k+) is heavily subsidized in the USA

A really nice house (nicer than mine for sure, even a brand new build) here is 250k. 500k buys a lot of house here (miniature mansions in some places), there are plenty of nice places to live in the USA for 150-250k. I just checked Zillow, where I grew up half way across the country (where parents still live) is the same prices as here. Not everyone lives in an overly expensive housing market or wants a massively large house/land.


if they're invested. investing takes time, and if your job/career is on a natural rising curve, sinking time in the job to advance faster will gain greater returns, especially if you and the job market can stay in the "switch every two years for 15% pay increase" zone, very hard to beat that unless one is consistently very lucky all the time with investment, at which point it's better to fire yourself and start investing other people money as a job anyway.

Not this year.

or put an extra $100/mo in an investment with the growth rate great than mortgage rate

> I missed out on witnessing Uber's hyper-growth phase.

That is so alien to my personal values that I have a hard time following the post.

> [...] fueled what current and former Uber employees describe as a Hobbesian environment at the company, in which workers are sometimes pitted against one another and where a blind eye is turned to infractions from top performers.

> One Uber manager groped female co-workers’ breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. A director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated confrontation in a meeting. Another manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee’s head in with a baseball bat.

That the article describes this situation as a "missed out opportunity" just means that the writer personal goals are antagonistic to mine. And, to ask people to pursue such a situation seems quite bad advice from a mental health perspective.


Well, that depends. This article assumes you want to always chase that next thing, next incremental step up, next status boost There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but there's also nothing wrong with sticking with a job you like. Outside of SV that's both common and desirable in a candidate. I don't want to see a candidate who jumps around every 2-3 years. I want someone who will stick around a little longer to really learn the organization and be able to initiate and execute on projects that require a deeper understanding of how we work.

The people I see that hop around a lot seem to come in with what they think are big ideas, but often are simply the newest fad and don't fit our needs.

With respect to "just being a cog in the machine", if you're hopping around a lot then you really don't have time to work through the life cycle of really big projects. You come in at some stage, put in your time, and move on without making much of a mark before you leave. In that situation, you were just a plug-in component.

Obviously this dynamic is different if you're looking to work for startups. But even there, if your goal is to get equity and cash it in, you often have to be willing to stick it out a little longer. How many engineers left Google or Facebook too soon and left a lot of money on the table as a result?

What it all fundamentally comes down to though is understanding yourself. You need to dissect you motives, you impulses, to really understand what will make you happy. Once you do that, it would be foolish to chase change if the sacrifice is your happiness. I've seen people like that too, who are never content, always unhappy, and always think another change will be the solution. But it's not, because the problem isn't the job, it's the person.


I feel like FOMO is one other way to waste your career. The article talks about how they missed out on Uber's hyper-growth phase, but really, that's 20/20 vision after the fact. What if Uber went down instead? You never know the growth trajectory of any company really, even ones you work for.

Getting a job and then doing it (and moving, if that is required) takes a lot of time. Every time you move, you might as well kiss away 3 months of time from your life, between moving, packing, new friends and routines, ramp up at work, etc. Moving careers just because of a feeling isn't something you can do twice a year just because.

This also totally misses out on doing things you want to further your career that aren't in your job time, which I think is a lot more flexible and amenable to quick change to pursue growth and passion. Things like hobbies, side projects, etc.


It was a lesson I learned early on: "loyalty" doesn't make you any money. It doesn't grow your career, either. Your work life is a big part of your daily life and it should be fun, challenging to some degree, and rewarding.

For me, "rewarding" means financial compensation, learning new things, and being appreciated by my peers and those above me.

Currently, I work as a senior software engineer for Apple. I make a low 6-figure salary while working 100% remote (also before COVID-19). The assigned work is groundbreaking, secretive, uses new tech, and it's going to be used by millions of people around the world.

Then I got the offer a few weeks ago to work for a local bank, setting up their new platform. Even newer technologies and more responsibilities as a competency lead. The salary will increase by 60%.

Imagine making 120k a year and jumping to 192k a year, just by signing a piece of paper. I've worked for Apple for about 2 years now, and I'm having a great time. But there's no way they'll increase my salary like that.

What I have learned over the years is that if I make this switch and don't burn bridges behind me, I should stay in close contact with my current colleagues, and work to learn all I can at the new job.

Two or three years from now, I might apply at Apple again. For a higher-level job. Right now I'm a senior software engineer, but in 3 years with 3 years of enterprise leadership experience, I'd apply for a leadership role. I will use my connections and insider-knowledge to have a more personal connection to them.

That can be a quicker, but certainly more lucrative, way of promoting inside a company. And I've done that before at a different company.

I was a medior developer at CompanyA, moved to CompanyB where I became a senior developer for 2 years, then moved back to CompanyA as a senior developer.

Usually I would have gotten the usual +5% salary increase if I had stayed at CompanyA. But by making a little detour I increased my salary by 30% to 40% with each jump.

Loyalty is worth nothing, except to your employer. That just means you're an asset that is going to become worth increasingly more as time goes by, because your potential market value skyrockets while you remain working for the annual +5%. And every once in a while you'll get the +7% because you're so special. And that one year business is bad, so you'll only get +2%.


120k at Apple? I know you say remote - are you US based?

Nope, working from the EU. As a consultant for Apple.

Switch jobs every 6 months to 2 years, and some people will label you a job hopper. Last more than that, and some people will think you are too comfortable for your own good.

I think you are better off accepting you can't make everyone happy and that, no matter what you do, someone won't like you for some random reason. Just trust your gut as long as you are making a decent living.


Bollocks. European management and screening people will judge negatively both CV gaps and "job hopping" (or whatever they'll judge as disloyalty). Will use both to lowball you or reject you when comparing with other candidates. Have a cozy full time job at major tech/engineering company? Stay where you are. It's dark and windy out there and believe me you don't want to deal with recruitment processes.

Not sure if I agree with this. I grew up in The Netherlands and as a software developer I would change companies every 1.5-3 years. From my experience (in The Netherlands) many jobs will give you just a very small raise every year and the only way to make big financial gains is to job hop every now and then. Or go freelancing at which point you set your own rates.

> From my experience (in The Netherlands) many jobs will give you just a very small raise every year and the only way to make big financial gains is to job hop every now and then.

That's a paradox I've encountered. Companies don't reward loyalty of their current employees, yet they prefer CVs signalling loyalty to the employer.

Contracting is underdog relation for the freelancer in many industries in Europe, some companies use it as vestibule to the full time employment contract.


That's a paradox I've encountered. Companies don't reward loyalty of their current employees, yet they prefer CVs signalling loyalty to the employer.

It's no paradox at all. In both cases they are simply optimising for paying the lowest salaries they can get away with.


My anecdata. I'm often hiring for my European employer. Nobody bats an eye if you have a streak of e.g. 5 months, 9 months, 6 months, 10 months. Realistically, these candidates do get an honest shot at a tech interview (which is hard to pass for any candidate).

But if you forget to put Kubernetes in your resumé, that's when you are in trouble.


What kind of positions are you hiring for though?

E.g. a technical lead candidate will look very poor if he never actually stuck around any kind of project to actually see the results of his decisions.


> Will use both to lowball you or reject you when comparing with other candidates.

But if they do, I wouldn’t want to work there anyway :/


I hear this a lot and each time it just reminds me of "Ow you didn't invite to the party? Thats ok I didn't want to go anyway :("

I feel like it’s more like the guy who invites you to his party but asks you to bring your own drinks and food.

It’s fine up to a certain point, but when they’re living in a villa it starts to feel cheap.


How is it a bad thing if a company doesn't want to waste training on an employee that could leave next year? If anything the opposite is a red flag, since you would be working somewhere where you are just a replaceable "robot".

It sounds like a person who doesnt want a lowball offer, and people who present lowball offers.

No different to selling secondhand cars, lowballers annoy everybody.


I'm based in Europe, although I run my own early stage company and we're not hiring, yet. I used to be a part of the job market until about a year ago, although my last two employers were both SV companies. So that's probably is where many of my biases come from.

I have a couple of freelancers working with me and I never really paid much attention to their CVs. I value the technical and (written) communication abilities over anything I see in the CV. Especially because everyone is working remotely.

I seem to have have the opposite bias. When I see that someone has spent > 5 years in a well established / post growth company. I see it as a sign of compacency, which has a slightly negative connotation in my books. I totally undestand it if you're getting fat raises and stock refreshers every year at a growth phase company. But if you've been working at a podunk company for 5+ years, that's definitely a negative signal for me.

Also, the old cliche quote: "If you want loyalty, get a dog" comes to mind. Loyalty and ambition are anti correlated. I think the extremes of both are bad, and it helps to strike a balance somewhere in the middle.


I'm not really sure that's what she's saying. There's a whole section at the end on "Change doesn't mean to quit".

To address your specific points, and as someone who's done a lot of hiring for different companies over the years:

- Yes, lots of job hopping can be viewed negatively (please see below).

- I've been amazed by the number of people I know who've changed jobs mid-pandemic. Clearly there is still a job market out there. With that being said my default position agrees with yours: unless you have a very compelling reason to change jobs, if your current job is secure, stick with it.

Back to job hopping...

If you've been working for 10+ years and never held down a job for more than a year or two the alarm bells start ringing. If you've pulled that off for 15 - 20 years all of the alarm bells go into maximum overdrive.

However, I certainly don't mind a bit of job hopping early in your career: it can take a while for people to find a position that really suits them.

Similarly, peoples' circumstances change: they get married, they move, they have children, they're made redundant, they have health problems, they need to care for a relative, they suffer bereavement, or they just get bored and need a change and it takes a while to figure out - not to mention all of the other changes that can happen within a company that make them to look for work elsewhere. The result is that people might go through another period where they change jobs more often: they might start contracting, or if they move and have to change jobs the first job they land might not be that great.

Often I've seen on CVs where people have been with a company for a long time, then might change two or three times after that because really good jobs that suit you well aren't actually as common as we'd all probably like. Again, that's generally OK.

What I do want to see is some solid evidence that under the right circumstances you can hold a job down and stick at it for a few years. The amount of evidence I'll want to see of that increases proportionally to the length of your career.

This is an inexact rule of thumb. Changing jobs a lot may not immediately put me off a candidate but it will, at the very least, mean I dig into the issue very thoroughly during the selection process, and if I don't like what I find then obviously you won't get the job (but that's true of any aspect of selection).

With that said it is possible to stay in a job too long. I was with one company for 10 years, and that was too long. Far too long. But not because it was 10 years: the company had stopped growing at the time and I'd run out of opportunities to really develop and advance in my career. I'd say I wasted at least the last 3 years there. In terms of career advancement that 3 years has probably cost me more like 5 - 7, because I was burned out and pissed off, so I spent a couple of years contracting before moving back into full time employment.


+1. Nothing wrong with some job changes in your CV.

I think that for those who struggle with getting complacent, I would say that they should look at internal job transfers. Different team, different project, something that gives you the change of work/scenery in the company but the constant hopping between different places doesn't look good to someone interviewing you.

As a manager, you're thinking, "I'm taking a risk on this person. Will they be around here for our multi-year project vision?" Someone who job hops likely won't be around long enough for you to execute on the big picture and you'll be back to hiring/training a replacement too soon.


> As a manager, you're thinking, "I'm taking a risk on this person. Will they be around here for our multi-year project vision?" Someone who job hops likely won't be around long enough for you to execute on the big picture and you'll be back to hiring/training a replacement too soon.

Exactly. Bringing someone onboard, getting them up to speed, training them, etc., is an investment, and one that you want to be confident of seeing a return on.

When it comes to leadership with lots of job changes I become even more wary: I start to wonder what kind of havoc somebody might have left in their wake and, with this stuff, often references only get you so far.

I find myself trying to figure out if I know anyone who's worked with them in the past so I can get a viewpoint from somebody who no longer has a dog in the fight.

There are sadly a minority of people out there who have a habit of changing jobs, with increasing seniority, just frequently enough that they avoid being "found out" whilst in role. I don't want to hire one of them.


There's a whole section at the end on "Change doesn't mean to quit".

Companies where engineers can flit around due to boredom are few and far between. In 99% of companies you are in a position because a company needs someone to do that thing specifically, and you might have your eye on something else internally but it's less risk for management to hire someone new into that position than it is to leave your position uncovered. And you are not there to learn, it's nice if you can learn of course, but the company is paying you to do the thing you do right now, giving the reason that you simply want to learn something new isn't a compelling reason for an internal transfer for most companies, for that reason.


> 99% of companies you are in a position because a company needs someone to do that thing specifically, and you might have your eye on something else internally but it's less risk for management to hire someone new into that position than it is to leave your position uncovered.

I think your 99% number is way off, I think lots of companies put internal applicants on a reasonably fair footing for lateral and upward moves. Not out of any desire to reward loyalty, but because the worker is a known quantity familiar with the internal culture, and because the fact that they are applying for such positions means it's also likely that they are considering outside positions and that if they don't get an internal job they are likely to take an external one and leave the existing position uncovered anyway.


the fact that they are applying for such positions means it's also likely that they are considering outside positions and that if they don't get an internal job they are likely to take an external one and leave the existing position uncovered anyway.

This in my experience vastly overestimates the competence of middle management. Most programmers are not employed at FAANG or startups but at companies that view them as a cost centre and a replaceable cog.


Sure, but moving to a new position every year or two within the company you work for is hardly flitting, and can actually bring a lot of value to the company. Plenty of companies I've worked for will at least allow people to move around between teams from time to time, so I feel like that 99% comment is at least somewhat of an exaggeration - at least when applied to companies that are large enough to have multiple teams.

Plenty of companies I've worked for will at least allow people to move around between teams from time to time, so I feel like that 99% comment is at least somewhat of an exaggeration - at least when applied to companies that are large enough to have multiple teams.

Sure, a transfer from team A doing line-of-business applications in Java to team B doing line-of-business applications in Java is probably straightforward, especially around the time that team A's project goes live and team B's project is just ramping up.

But if our hypothetical Java dev was bored of Java and wanted to do something completely different, and would take some time to get up to speed in the new thing, that would be a harder sell, and ironically gets harder the better you are at your original job. Say you had been cranking out CRUD apps in Java and had a reputation for it and decided that you wanted to do machine learning all of a sudden. I think you would struggle to do that even in large companies. The best you could realistically hope for would be a promotion within your current silo. Unless you went somewhere you could start afresh.


We are into a 2-3 years long unprecedented crisis.

DO NOT PANIC. DO NOT DO IT.

Stay where you are.


A lot of people I've seen change jobs did so because they had offers in hand before lockdown hit. And there are companies and organisations that are still hiring: you just need to be sure that you're stepping onto a firm footing in your new position. If you're moving into a position with the government or an NGO you're probably as safe as you are anywhere, but I probably wouldn't be taking a position as a web developer for (say) a fast fashion retailer right now, or anything at all in the entertainment and hospitality sectors outside the BBC, Netflix, etc.

Still, unless it's really dreadful where you are, I'd stay put.


I don't really feel that there's prejudice on job hopping in Europe nowadays (at least in the software industry). If you're at a place for at least 2 years you kind of start to be considered an old timer.

Re: company loyalty, see Gervais Principle:

https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-...


Wow I loved reading this!

Personally I have found a rather different factor has been at play in my career - I have been in the industry for 15 years and made several side-steps, including working as employee #1 at a startup (which I cashed out from a buy-back), working at a GPU company on the driver and much else. I've also contributed to the linux kernel, chromium, the go programming language and a number of others.

I have never lacked the ability to make a change in my career even when it was scary, including taking the early stage startup job at a >30% reduction in pay + they only had 2-3 months money in the bank max.

However I've found that my career progression has been stalled by each and every move. I'm back at the bottom of the ladder and those years of experience? Worth absolutely nothing.

It's felt like every move to another position for whatever reason (typically to have a more interesting, fulfilling career in my case) has absolutely reset my career every time.

I'm 39 years old and last week a 25 year old was promoted in my company above my position after he'd been there for 3 years. It's pretty galling to think that I could be in the same position as not far off a graduate engineer in my early 20's.

My experience has consistently been that only your experience at $CURRENTJOB counts for anything when it comes to progression.

By all means, seek out the best job for you, but don't be surprised if there's a cost in progression of any kind. I don't regret taking risks and aiming for happiness but I do regret that I was naive about how to do it in a smart way.

I think part of the issue is that many technical roles (note: I have never worked for FAANG so maybe different there) do not have a well-defined or sensible technical promotion route, so only managerial experience matters in terms of progression.


Is software really so shallow? Does it wash away so quickly as fads change?

How do you get really, really deep knowledge?

A person that works at the same company for 25 years should show a progression of titles and work assignments, ending up with a very valuable perspective into the companies products, customers, and business issues.

Job hopping every 2 years? Do you even know how to make coffee before you leave?


> Is software really so shallow? Does it wash away so quickly as fads change?

In SV and in the NH bubble, yes.

Ex Amazon here. In Amazon there's plenty of technology that HN would likely characterize as "extremely ancient" that keeps the production infrastructure running. (I'm not talking about AWS)


Yeah I'm also kinda confused... What do those "hopping" people do at work? Must be consulting roles for new projects? Or just working on small "easy" projects? Otherwise it usually takes 1-2 years just to get comfortable for the current project.

If it’s at the same company, often less. I switched from one line of business to another, completely new team, and it took a few months to get comfortable with the current project.

Anecdote: in 6 months I can and have surpassed team members that have been with the team for 6 years. These are bespoke complex systems, but some people don’t advance much (“work to live”?) and I’m a quick learner, partly due to job hopping.

"The moral is that you can tame wild ducks, but you can't wildify tamed ducks (that's why there isn't even such a word as wildify)."

Well, I don't know about ducks, but it's certainly possible to re-introduce animals that have been raised by humans into the wild, e.g. with hand-raised foxes. Moral of the story: don't make wild claims about things you don't know anything about if you want people to take your main point seriously.


Also, doesn’t ‘feral’ mean exactly that?

1 (of animals and plants) existing in a wild or uncultivated state, esp. after being domestic or cultivated.

I don’t know of a verb form, but perhaps that reflects the fact that it doesn’t require human agency to occur; animals just go/become feral (and, as you say, humans can also take active steps to help reintroduce them to the wild).


Meh, I think the point still stands even if there are exceptions. And it certainly doesn’t invalidate the rest of the article. Perhaps the author should have written, “it’s much more difficult to wildify a tamed duck”. But it wouldn’t have made the article any better had they done so.

There actually is a word. It's "feral". Some animals have been engineered to the point of helplessness but not all of them. Feral pigs are actually very hardy and aggressive.

I have seen and still seeing enough people prefering to use there work time to spend a lot (and i don't mean having a quick read once or twice or thrice a day) of time at work doing everything than working.

Feel free to do something totally unrelated while you are waiting for a build to finish but if you never ever reach a certain level, you will be stuck and you will live in your own missery.

And by missery i mean: Things you have done shitty and quick will fall on your feet daily; No one is asking you for guidance or real help. You might never be in the position of doing something additional than 'just working one ticket of after the other' and what i mean by this: forming your environment, forming the product and making that thing to yours.

Something you formed, you guided, you made.

You will be frustrated about your job, you will complain, your colleges, well aware what your problems are, will just not tell you what you need to here because you are probably not showing them that you do care.

You will earn the same amount of money, your job will not change switching companies much and thats it.

While the others are getting rid of the standard pitfalls, making their lives easier, learning new things, getting faster, better, more valuable. Earning more money for the same time spend at work, getting cooler projects, being aksed to join teams because of reputation, having more slack than you with a much better salary due to trust and past achievements.

And if you realize this too late, you lost the most valuable time: early in your career. The time where you advanced the most and the fastest, were you learn easier, where everything new is interesting and cool.

If you read this and you spend a lot of time on imageboard or whatever and you hate your job or you are depressed because of it, its not the fault of others.

I have never ever had the issue of doing my things to early and then not knowing what to do else. There is always an old bug to fix, something to automate, something new to try out, to read to watch etc.

And there is a secret: I actually like my job because of all the possibilities.


What advice do you have for people to kick this bad habit? I struggle with keeping focus on work because it’s generally not that interesting. Switching teams within the company is a non-option because there’s a high risk other teams are toxic and WLB would be terrible. Switching other companies is a problem due to the leetcode-ification of interviews I know I couldn’t pass currently.

I would try to start small and beeing persistent about it. It is a transformation over month not days.

Start doing your tasks better. Enhance testing, make a better documentation, test better, write better code, make the solution more stable.

When you start doing this, you are already on a good path to become better in what you are doing and your responsibilities grow. More responsibility could mean more interesting tasks to do. Could also mean a better standing, a higher salary or the courage to look for a new job.

You can do some with your time at work.

You could start automating things to reduce your workload, this and getting rid of surfing around gives you then the time to improve. Either by working better and growing in what you are doing already or using that time to look left and right.

Try sometimg out, try something new.

Make up your own mind about things. Is this a good solution? Why is this a good solution? Is there a better solution?

Ask for feedback from your peers. Ask your peers for help.

You can also talk to your manager on how to improve. You don't have to do it alone.


The author is talking about joining apple and uber like they are jobs in a restaurant that is easy to get for everyone!

And compared money in career with kids in marriage like everyone has a privilege of accepting a lower income without compromising basic needs of life or their dependents.

He has some points, but maybe he didn’t learn enough about what career means to many!


> He has some points, but maybe he didn’t...

Host site is Valley Girl Newsletter, author Apoorva Govind with feminine avatar. Why the assumption this is a male engineer and author?


Not everyone can infer genders from non-European names.

People should get use to using they as a gender neutral pronoun.

If it's good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for random internet forum posts.


*not every European

For heaven’s sake, European names are not universal


> Have I done anything noteworthy these last three months?

Either the author’s bar for noteworthy is really low or I’m really out of touch with what an individual can achieve every three months.


On a similar note, but in regards to non-work projects: I see things all the time like "look at this thing I built in a [week, weekend, day]". Man I sometimes spend months just thinking about my stuff.

not to mention that my definition of noteworthiness is acting in the service of others and spending some time with my family and loved ones and lifetime friends, which by the way requires some dreaded 'complacency' instead of treating my life like some Silicon Valley TV show business plan.

By god reading that entire thing has managed to rile me up, I can't believe people actually live like this


Sounds like the author is just LARPing being a successful genius software engineer in Silicon Valley...

I agree with the overall message to optimize for learning early on and check with yourself every few months and take some risks while you are young.

OTOH, it must be nice to get a job into a FAANG right out of school (if you got to Stanford or Carnegie Mellon like the author) and then get to choose a job at the new sexy unicorn, and the type of job/team once inside. As in, this work history and the people who can afford it is a tiny, tiny minority in the world, or even in the US and it's kind of depressing to read for the rest of us.


I disagree with this post so much!

I felt anxious just reading it. Of course there is always an opportunity cost, and of course that tiny startup that offers half the salary you’re worth might become the next unicorn costing you millions in equity because you didn’t join when you had the chance. But that is FOMO and you can’t live your life this way!

I realized this the older I grew: stability is good for your mental health and money isn’t everything. I won’t take a job that pays below market rate, period. And if I have a choice between a “boring” job at a mature and stable company vs a frantic startup where you have to be 200% just to feel like you’re standing still, I’ll always take the stable job. “Personal brand” be damned.

With the boring job I can also afford do be 9–5, leave work at work, and realize how meaningless these business problems are outside of work! Really, there will be another 8h tomorrow to tackle these TPS reports, nothing is going to happen if it’s not done today but you’ll be healthier for not worrying about it too much. By working the 9-5 job, you get more time to do things that actually matter (in my opinion), like stepping away from the keyboard, living your life, spending time with your family. But with the early Uber, you don’t get that: your peers are working long hours and so you have to do the same just to keep up. And for what? Meanwhile, your life passes you by and it’s 5 years of your limited life you’ll never get back. But you’ve made Uber shareholders richer. When you calculate your per hour rate after all the unpaid overtime, it’s not even worth it from that perspective.

I’ve never worked in the valley but what then author describes sounds like a recipe for burning out multiple times in your youth. That also has a tremendous cost which dwarfs staying at a boring job for a few years longer.


> I learned more in the first six months ... around the 3-year mark, my learning curve had flattened entirely ... I stayed that extra year due to loyalty to my colleagues ...

>companies do what's best for their business, and you should not feel bad for doing the same.

These two quotes struck me hard. After I left school, I was appreciated at work, I felt great about myself, and I was learned a lot in the first 3 months. I stayed 3 months more to give back, 6 more months because they could not find someone to replace me, and then a year longer because I got promoted (more learning now?). I stayed another 4 years in the industry with much higher pay than all of my classmates ... but now I was not learning anything, just working, just filling someone else's ineptitude.

The work was not worth it! My education was. And not realizing that cost me dearly.

Never think the work you are doing is worth more than your own education. And never think the pay you are getting makes it a better job than a chance to learn a whole lot more.


> Complacency is Cancer

You lost me immediately.

If you can make $200k without becoming a worshipped CTO after year three, yet you’re comfortable and happy with your life, you aren’t doing anything wrong.

Author, you really need to develop some empathy for people with different lifestyles than yours. Instead you call it cancer, which is both offensive and just not true.


The section of the article titled, "Complacency is Cancer" is, in my opinion, very offensive to those with cancer and their loved ones. I personally get very offended with this hyperbole.

The other thing that gets me is that "he had the courage to fight cancer and that's why he survived". As if those that did not had mental weakness to blame.

While the article has you thinking of stopping listening to the voices keeping you comfortably complacently lacking meaning and purpose, consider that the pattern and lessons apply beyond one's personal life to acting on the biggest problems of society too -- mainly choosing to act in stewardship for the environment. People expect it will be a burden, a chore, ineffective, and separate them from family an income, as the article implied it its context. Likewise, the opposite happens.

I can't rock the boat because I have a family, a mortgage payment, and I can't afford to risk losing health insurance.

I wrote an eerily similar post to this in 2011, right as I was about to start Tinfoil: http://www.theborski.com/2011/01/27/furniture-or-lack-thereo...

I feel like I might be in this predicament in that I am very comfortable at my company.

I think part of my issue is that I am not certain what are definitive ways to add more value to my company. In the last year, I had contributed in ways that had tangible benefits to my teammates; however, I'm not certain of how to repeat these sort of feats.

The feedback from my manager is that I'm doing well, I get along with my team, and everyone seems to pull in the same direction without ego.

What should I do? Do I coast and hope for finding the work that needs to be done? Or do I look somewhere else? There's a lot of areas where I can learn new things at my current company, but I don't know where to start or what direction to head towards.


Once you are able to differentiate between a job, a career and a vocation you are set for life. You will either agree with the article or laugh your head of depending on the stage you think you are in.

That article does resonate with me to a certain extent since I am one of those persons who has stayed too long , but if you love what you are going, have found your calling and are growing professionally and financially I guess its not a bad thing. But yes, please do evaluate your contribution and once in a while jump out of your comfort zone.


The easiest way to waste a career is to remain oblivious of office politics and to think honest and hard work are the way to go.

It might work, but this is definitely not the life I want to live.

There are lots of things I value more than career (family, friends, my dog, my hobbies...) and I'm not going to sacrifice them to land a shiny hip job. In fact, 9-to-5 suits me well.


> Companies only want your loyalty if you are engaged and have fun doing your job — true loyalty means leaving when your heart isn't in it anymore.

I agree, but I would rephrase this as "Companies only want you to invest in them — not the other way around"


No. Optimize for money (unless you don’t actually care how much you ever make). Money follows money. If you’re not learning at work, learn on your own time, and learn things that are worth money.

Some of the key points for early career progress are:

1. Seek the counsel of trusted mentors.

2. Pick accelerated learning over money at the beginning of your career.

3. If given the opportunity to take remuneration in form of equity, take it.

4. Go work in an industry for a fixed amount of time to pick up some skills.

5. Learn early on what industries your personality type is not suited for.

6. Know what you want and go for it.

7. Don’t get too hung up on the job title when you first start out; Especially if the opportunity to learn is enormous.

There is an interesting article on this https://leveragethoughts.substack.com/p/early-career-tactics...


Please don't do this.

Editing your comment to no longer acknowledge that it is just a summary of your blog post or that the blog post was written by you does not help.


I'm extremely glad that I never pursued a career as a software developer. I hate the word "career", and I've never wanted one. When I was about 14 years old, I decided that I needed to avoid a career at all costs. Eventually I understood that entrepreneurship and ownership in a company was the only way I would ever achieve financial freedom. I wanted to (and I still want to) do whatever I want, go wherever I want, whenever I want.

> You’re not going to get rich renting out your time. You must own equity - a piece of a business - to gain your financial freedom. [1]

(Naval's recent interview with Tim Ferriss was really interesting [2].)

I also gave myself a deadline of 10 years. I decided that I would join startups and try to work on my own projects and app ideas. If I ended up with nothing after all this, I would join the workforce and put away my ambitions. I would still try to achieve financial independence the normal way, and perhaps try to retire at 55 instead of 65.

Against all odds, I've been able to achieve my goal. I was one of the first employees at a startup that has become a unicorn. The IPO will give me a life-changing amount of money (> $3 million.) While waiting for the IPO, I also founded multiple failed startups and side-projects. I eventually managed to build a modestly successful bootstrapped company. I just reached the point where the income from my startup ($120k) is higher than my initial salary at this unicorn company in San Francisco ($115k). Growth is good and I will probably sell the company for $2 million within the next few years.

That's my story. If I could go back in time and tell my teenage self something, I would say: shut up, you are completely wrong.

I grew up in a country with limited career opportunities for software developers (aka anywhere outside of Silicon Valley.) I had absolutely zero idea that a software developer could earn total compensation of $300k, $500k, $750k, or even $1M per year.

If I had known that a career at a FAANG company could pay so much money, I would have told myself to stop wasting time on side projects and work as hard as I can to get my foot in the door at one of these companies, and work my way up to these extremely high salaries. Then I would retire after 8-10 years of extremely high earnings, and I would be much further ahead than I am now.

I am an extremely talented programmer. I have been doing it since I was 5 years old. I've never had a job at a FAANG company, but I think I could probably get one.

The stress from startups has wreaked havoc on my mental health. The freedom of freelancing and then owning my own source of passive income has ruined me for regular employment. I will never go back to being an employee.

If I could do it all over again, I would pour all of my energy into preparing for the Google Technical Interview, then work my way up to a L7 or L8 software engineering position. Part of me wants to do it now, just to see if I could do it.

I'm very happy with how everything turned out, but I walked along the edge of a knife, and I was a dumb teenager who didn't know anything. Now I'm a dumb adult who still doesn't know very much.

Also I guess everyone already knows that FAANG compensation can extremely high. I only learned about this a couple of years ago, and I struggled to believe it for a long time. I just didn't know that $750k in compensation was even possible. The people who earn this much money just work pretty normal hours, and they don't deal with a ton of stress.

I'm sure there is a top 0.01% programmer who is reading this while earning $80k in the mid-west, or €70k in Germany. If you want to make a lot of money and retire quickly, you should consider applying for a job at a FAANG company in the US. Instead of working on your next SaaS idea, it would be better to spend 6 months practicing data structures and algorithms and getting ready for your interview.

[1] https://twitter.com/naval/status/1002103670400417792

[2] https://tim.blog/naval-ravikant-on-the-tim-ferriss-show-tran...


This article is typical of early career success people. These people are generally in their career prime right out of college in their 20s. They are healthy, and they have no other responsibilities. They can easily shut out every thing else and come out with all their guns blazing.

The gravy train can look perpetually arriving from this vantage point. In reality this will barely last. The wisdom is in understanding this is a phase.

Also I'd say How to waste your career, one false sense of discomfortable year at a time

During the last 2008 recession, In Bangalore, I know a fair amount of people who hopped jobs often, got laid off, and were unable to find jobs for like 2 - 3 years, even the jobs they got later weren't all that nice. Reason, simple. When you are cash strapped you want to hire serious people, not some one whose replacement have want to hire just 3 months from now. It gives a vibe of a non serious person, who will barely stay for weeks without contributing much.

I personally did this for my first job and promised my self I won't do it again, having said this I was changing career streams(Call Center to Programming). Even then my Dad, used to tell me I won't go far in life, if I was not serious about what I was doing.

Quitting often is a giant red flag of a non serious person, unwilling to undergo even minor struggles to build valuable things. Eventually it will show and cripple you when you have to put up minor quarrels in a marriage, or a back pain in the gym, or a hard monthly installment for your home loan. Life is 90% of the time putting with non attractive things.

>>Since I left Apple, its stock has almost tripled while Uber's stock has been... I probably would be better off financially had I stayed.

>>If you are an average 30 yr old engineer, let's say you want to retire reasonably by the time you are 60.

Its hard to take any one who writes this seriously. If you are a 30 year old engineer your are 8 - 10 years away from being aged out of prime opportunities. You are also close to getting old to the point of fatigue, you will get married, you will have responsibilities, your parents will get old. You yourself are likely to get obese, catch a sedentary disease or two. If you haven't already, you risk catching one with this kind of all-night leetcoding lifestyle soon.

The true wisdom is in understanding no matter who you are things come to an end, eventually. The idea is to plan for that day. Stay lean, make a alternate source of low effort recurring income, work on your relationships, and work on your health. Sure learn by reading books and doing projects, but know where the real priorities are.

If you are a 40 year old, your resume has a life of 10 years at the very best. If you are a 50 year old your resume as a net value of ~0 years. You are closer to the end, so might as well plan and work for it. This is not exactly a linear climb in any way.

>>If you are ambitious and want to build a good reputation for yourself in the valley, if you don't want your talent to go to waste - treat complacency like cancer.

>>Anytime I score 40% or under, alarm bells go off. It's a sign that my job isn't meeting my metrics and that I need to stop and evaluate.

>>I was curious to visualize what the wasted time breakdown looks like in my 8-ish year long career so far

The remainder of this post looks like classic busy-ness trap and thirst for resume dressing. No matter how busy you are or likely to get, or what ever senior senior something blah superman you are, it won't pay your bills, it won't set you up for a retirement, it won't keep your healthy.

Lastly I would like to say.

These days complacency is to hop jobs often as its easy to hop jobs often. The hard thing is to stay, embrace the suck and build the hard things that actually matter in life. Not optimizing pie charts that shows your trello/asana/gtd usage. Or recruiter emails that come due to LinkedIn updates. Quitting hard situations is complacency today.

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name

~ Confucius.


People like this will never cop to the fact that you can just work a job to make a living. You can just do that. There is no shame in it.

That’s not to say I disagree about things like sunk cost fallacy and misplaced loyalty. And I even have similar experiences to the people shown. But it is ok to not have your job hold such importance in your life. You don’t have to be the kind of person whose regrets in life are around the timing of job changes.




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