I'd just hate to see you wake up in a few years in a very similar situation as you were in as a salaryman.
It sounds like you're significantly increasing your cost of living: new apartment, getting married, treating money differently ("whats $2k when my comfort is on the line"), etc. If you're not careful you're going to need to consult full time just to get by. Good bye startup. No time for that. Your new wife quit her job six months ago and that new car isn't going to pay for itself.
My advice: put off the enjoyment of making real money and get back to investing time in AppointmentReminder or something else that will pay big scalable dividends.
That's what I'd say if we were having coffee :-)
It’s funny, when I started out in the professional programming world I had a ton of confidence. I felt unstoppable. Back then, I didn’t know shit about programming but hey, how hard could it be. Then I started learning and slowly my confidence starting dwindling away. The more I learned, the less confident I became. I was humbled by the smart people I learned from. I realized how little I actually know. Now I’m noticing how big of an issue confidence has has become.
"I have found that actually showing confidence issues, on the other hand, does not do great things for one’s business"
I’ve found that showing lack of confidence hurts in most areas of life. The less confidence I speak with, the less people take me seriously though. It’s ridiculous. Now, whenever I speak with certainty & confidence, it feels like I'm faking it. It’s a huge internal struggle and it’s interesting to hear others perspectives on this.
I have felt the same way. It's very hard to fight away that feeling, but I can see the trance people go into when I cut away the "truthful", disclaimer-ed, somewhat more equivocal and/or safe speech, and start talking like an expert, like I believe I'm an expert even if I don't believe it - I see people fall into a trance and I'm selling them. That's what you have to do, but it can definitely feel.. weird. Fake or whatever word you want to use.
The fact is, the better I get at programming (and math and science) the more I know I don't know, and the less confident I am about any given problem. The thing I make myself remember though, is that I'm damn good at solving problems. I may not have implemented this algorithm yet, or used this technology stack or programming language, but rest assured in a couple hours I will know what I should look out for and how I should proceed.
When I speak with the confidence in my ability to learn, something I have proven to myself, I no longer feel like I am faking or deluding some innocent luddite. I am giving comfort to somebody who needs my problem solving skills.
At least, that's how I justify it :)
The way I think about it is if you do question your abilities and know you're fallible, you're ahead of 90% of the other programmers out there. Because you are thinking about all the edge cases, performance, reliability, maintainability, etc, you are going to create much higher quality code than someone who is 100% confident in their abilities.
Also, if you've seen quality code and worked with people smarter than you, you'll no doubt improve (as long as you're humble enough to learn from them :) )
That said, I think you need to figure out what changes you want to make in society, and then be cognizant of how your style of communicating works together with what people are doing in order to choose situationally optimal strategies.
Patrick - as a business (not competent programming) guy who runs his own small business, and consults / coaches many much larger businesses, this was probably the article of yours I've had most empathy (and a thrill of excitement) reading. I mean, the HN-man-crush has been there for years, but I really received a lot of value feeling your feelings of suddenly being an international business consultant and being good at it. Even your writing style here seemed more ... feely, though that may have been me.
And if that empathy gives me any credibility to support a key piece, more people should add 50% (or more - one of my mentors told me recently to 2x + $150 my price) more often. You are almost certainly more experienced and confident than you think you are. Recognising that is paying massive dividends for me.
Back to our regularly scheduled tactics/strategy discussion next time.
If there must be one (and I'm not against them), I would suggest the NY Times style slider. It's unobtrusive and smooth, so I know where it is coming from, and doesn't get in my way if I want to act on it. (Granted their objective is to bring you to another article.)
P.S. great post- here's some dopamine for you -----> o
By the way, are you thinking about writing a book on running a small tech startup? I would not only pay for such a book, but I would gladly pre-order it and donate money if necessary. Would you please consider it?
Are you glossing this for the sake of narrative simplicity, or do you categorically disagree?
edit: speeling gud
There are any number of things you can do to lock in your current level of compensation while systematically lowering your effort. You can:
* Get faster at producing the outcomes the business is looking for; the easiest way to do this is often to examine your entire work product, spend cycles to isolate the bits that the company is actually valuing, and stop wasting time producing things the company doesn't truly value. A less effective but more time-honored (by geeks) approach to this strategy is "automation".
* Take steps to pivot your role in the company to one that produces outcomes the company values similarly to your current one, but that require less effort on your part.
* Take steps to gradually lower the bar on what's expected of you.
You didn't ask me, but I categorically disagree with the idea that hard work correlates to better pay in a typical company.
This is not to say that I like that state of affairs - I agree with Keynes when he says "Nothing corrupts society more than to disconnect effort and reward." The fact that in the average company, effort and reward are distantly and indirectly related, I claim is a major, major, social and moral problem. That state of affairs corrodes the rule of law and attacks the stability of a society. Stability is a prerequisite to entrepreneurs getting interesting things done - remember the recent article here about Argentinian entrepreneurs and the crippling effects of a currency that collapses every decade or two? Stability means, to pull from PG's essays again, that honest accumulations of wealth won't be plundered. Stability of that sort is a prerequisite to rewarding entrepreneurship - and that sort of stability is disappearing in the US, generally on account of the very same people who are responsible for disconnecting effort and reward at typical corporations. The financier class (and the political class that they have purchased - in this regard, the last four US Presidents are clones of one another) is eating everyone's seed corn. That's deeply harmful to those of us who want to have our labor judged by the market, because without stability and the rule of law, it is impossible for markets to operate efficiently.
Seriously, how many 100 person companies does it take to be as capable as IBM?
So to alter the question: how to improve compensation in a hypothetically well-managed company, without busting 60-hour weeks?
* Analyze what you do, figure out the portion of it that your employer cares about, and stop spending so much time on the other portions. Example: the carefully crafted prose in your per-public-method comments might be permitted to suffer.
* Instead of campaigning for a raise, campaign for a role change to something that uses more of your cleverness and less of your sweat. For instance, maybe you'd be better off as a product manager.
* Sandbag estimates to bring unrealistic expectations back into line.
My person rule of thumb for this is to take the time I originally estimated, double it, then add a little more, especially if it's 8 hours or greater.
I am - of course in a business sense - very interested in raising my market value to my current (and future employers), and am always looking for ways to enhance it.
My hypothesis of how this came about is (a) they hired me because there was a certain problem (involving one of those Perl scripts that gives Perl a bad name) they needed to solve; (b) once that problem was solved, they had trouble finding something else for me to do whose benefit outweighed the cost of bringing me up to speed on the codebase; (c) despite this inefficiency, no sensible middle-manager in a bureaucratic company will choose to reduce his or her own headcount.
Anyway - my point is that the fact that you raise it as a point of note and deal with it in simple terms of confidence has led me to rather instantaneously revise my thinking on how to cost a build. It's also made me realise that I grossly undervalue my time, and charging the same hourly rate as I charged 5 years ago (for my personal time (on the company books) on consults) is insanity.
It raises an interesting question though, if you were in a class that graded on a curve, did you do just enough to get an A or did you always get enough to insure it would be an A minimum?
Then the harder aspect of that, did your getting an A ever result in someone else getting a B grade? If it did would that make getting the A 'better'?
The question relates to the 'game' aspect of success. At Google, for example, when I was there it had a lot of money and not a lot of real projects. So a number of people used gamification as a means of defining success. Specifically they would seek out 'win' such as having their project grow at the expense of others, or create the maximum amount of change in the shortest amount of time, or any number of ways to create a scoring system and then to 'win' based on that scoring system.
The insight you had, and I came to later, was that if you're button is 'win' and you take away the obvious 'company gets "better"' scoring system, people invent their own.I concluded that one of the jobs of 'management' in that scenario, is to help define a scoring system that allows folks who are 'wired to win' be successful and not be destructive to those around them.
 'real' in the sense that few projects would make money for the company or cause it to lose money, they existed primarily as science projects to keep the engineers busy.
An environment where many people were aiming to cause losses would be very unattractive to me, even if it could offer me all the tea in China.
Ayn Rand wrote: "A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others."
So if I can go from crippled to David Allen 2.0 in less than a month, there's hope for anyone. Be healthy, be interesting, and the dreaming should naturally turn into doing sooner rather than later. Far better than trying to force it.
I may or may not had an issue with this. The point is my psyche believed I did, giving me specific ways to “fix it.” Mental game here.
Losing my lame but safe job was the best thing that ever happened to me. Go for it if you really want to do something else, and if you don't? Stop fooling yourself.
When I first started consulting, I did pro-bono work. If you do it well and network in your local community, you will be approached with offers for work. Think of your first few engagements as investments. And with luck and calibrated hard work, you will build your portfolio and reputation
For finding pro-bono work, you must believe in their cause.
I've been going through a hugely eye-opening period of my life where I'm learning lessons that your article echoes. The largest of those lessons are: A) Your main obligation is to serve yourself and to allow yourself to make decisions you are truly happy with, and B) Much more than "It's not about what you know, but who you know", I'm finding that it's really about "what you know about how to deal with people you don't know." And for me, not knowing about the latter prevented me from realizing the former, and your story about missing the Delta flight not only validated those points to me, but really hit home.
Additionally, I'm finding that the way I viewed my dealings in life and overall progression as a person was completely backwards: I would look at my past attempts, from social to professional, as a long string of failures that would only continue to stretch onward, both discouraging me and crushing my confidence. But in looking at my attempts as isolated, bunkered events, the spread of potential damage is significantly decreased, which has done quite a bit to boost my confidence in that I'm more willing to take that much more of a risk. If the bomb blows up, leave the bunker and move on to the next one with your newly acquired knowledge and experience. And no one really remembers that bomb exploding as the explosion was merely a psychological dramatization. I know you somewhat touched this point in a more business-negotiating context, but it's one that's had a universal effect on how I deal with others in any context.
Anyway, really nice writeup; I enjoyed it quite a bit! More articles like this one would definitely be appreciated.
May be not failing often is the reason why we take ourselves so seriously.
Your current view point of looking at things as isolated events is a great way of looking at life.
1) The first time you teach a class, it's incredibly hard and time consuming, but the difficulty drops like a logarithm to a relatively low plateau after you've done it a few times.
2) At one point I thought about teaching high school English. Seattle Public Schools paid $36K / yr with a Masters or $30K / yr without starting, and those numbers topped at around $70K and $55K after 30 years (IIRC, Bellevue Public School teachers made something like ~10K more). That doesn't count retirement; teaching is unusual because a lot of the benefits are backloaded in the form of retirement pay. One woman in my grad program taught English for 26 years in Michigan and took an early retirement offer; I think she gets 70% of her last year's salary for life. Granted, those deals are going away because of the budget crisis, but a lot of the retirement stuff is still baked in.
3) You can multiply those numbers by 1.2 or so because teachers only have mandatory work for nine months of the year.
4) After two to three years, you effectively can't be fired because of union rules (unless you sleep with a student and get caught in a flagrant manner, don't show up, etc.). See this post: http://jseliger.com/2009/11/12/susan-engel-doesnt-get/ for lots of citations on that, as well as a lot of the information that's going into this comment. This has value. PG figured this out: "Economic statistics are misleading because they ignore the value of safe jobs. An easy job from which one can't be fired is worth money; exchanging the two is one of the commonest forms of corruption. A sinecure is, in effect, an annuity." http://paulgraham.com/ladder.html .
Note: there are major downsides to teaching. You have to like working with relatively undeveloped people (if you're teaching high school) or children (if you're teaching elementary school). In teaching, it's very hard to make substantially more money if you really want to; whether you're a good or bad teacher isn't likely to make you more money.
My big impression is that teaching isn't going to make you rich, but you're also unlikely to ever be poor. To say that "teachers make shit" isn't really true. It is to true to say that teachers have back-loaded compensation packages that tend to be high in benefits (e.g. good health care, retirement) and low in upfront salary.
My smaller impression is that most teachers I had didn't seem to work that hard after their first three - four years of teaching.
I was also under the impression that the job involved a soul-crushingly large workload...
It's more "Do you want to start a business? Yes? Go do it! No? No sweat! Just make sure you're making yourself happy and not just toiling away to make someone else happy."
The ultimate theme behind this blog post is to make sure your life is about you and your relation to other people. Otherwise, you get trapped into believing a lot of shoulds: you should get a bachelor's degree, you should get married, you should work long hours for terrible salary, etc.
But what about working smarter? Sure, such a thing is harder to measure, but it's pretty much the only gauge when you're talking about meritocracy. Working harder, not smarter, is the make-work bias.
Example: If you are a competent programmer, ranking up your programming skill (or otherwise increasing the quality of one's work product) is one of the least effective things you can do to increase your income in terms of ROI on time.
Let's say you're a fairly typical programmer who makes $80,000 a year working for an insurance company. Your goal is to make $100,000 a year and you are willing to use any legitimate means to get there. Should you attempt to program better, such that your bosses reward your increased productivity every year with a 4% raise instead of a 2% raise? No, that is poor strategy. First, your bosses are likely incapable of measuring the delta between you at present and you after improving skills. Second, you could likely get the same amount of perceived improvement for far less work just by improving your communication/political skills and getting the credit for the work you are already doing. Third, even if you're successful, you're going to spend the next six years of your life working to achieve something you could in about an afternoon: apply for new job, negotiate aggressively on salary.
I don't like sounding mercenary: you can apply this to almost anything else you value. Want to spend more time with your kids? Being a better programmer will probably not get you home any faster at night, or get you more days off. Want to have your job have more impact on the lives of poor immigrants in your community? Process improvements in programming at your insurance agency are not likely to get you there. etc, etc
Is it still true in the business world? Especially when you are running your own business doesn't hard work translate into something?
For me, When you are trying to get started in the business world, the temptation to keep churning day in and day out is pretty high. It may not necessarily be the right thing.
I know two offices in NYC at an employer that I probably shouldn't name. In one, an engineer toils away for 90 hour weeks and earns about $40k per year. In the other, an engineer works fairly typical Manhattan hours (my understanding is that that would be a little south of 50), and makes $120k.
The mistake made by the engineer in the first office? They were asked a fairly consequential question by a HR department three years ago, and said "Yes." instead of "No." Literally. One word.
The specific question was "Are you OK with your employer of record remaining our Japanese branch office?" The right answer would have been to get their employer of record transferred to the American subsidiary, which pays Manhattan wages to Manhattan workers, rather than Nagoya wages with a 25% hardship premium. He gets a gold star for loyalty, though.
That is about as close to a pathological case as I could think of, but in general, "hard work gets rewarded" is not something we repeat because it is accurate.
"Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it"
I always thought that it was the lazy programmers and engineers who got more done because they always sought out the quickest/easiest ways to complete a task. Ergo it's the lazy ones who are the most productive and therefore valuable?
(Or have I just been beguiled by an old wife's tale?)
Could be testosterone; it's extremely sensitive to status changes, see the review "The Role of Testosterone in Social Interaction" (abstract: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364661311... ; PDF: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5317066/piis1364661311000787.pdf )
It reminds me a very inspiring talk by Seth Priebatsch called "A game layer on top of the world". I was at SXSW 2011, you can listen to it here: http://schedule.sxsw.com/events/event_IAP000325
Less facts, more stories, but another perspective on the 'be high status' concept.
You know what they say: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I just find Comic Sans a nice font to read and to program in. It's exquisite rounded shapes are nice on my eyes.
Do not let the font distract you Not so easy.
You're just trolling me now right? I guess… I mean… agh. OK. Sure…
I've never thought it a particularly ugly font, I just always thought it was overused and often used in the wrong contexts. I can't imagine programming in it.
It's not wrong for programming either, in my opinion, see http://www.michielovertoom.com/incoming/comic-sans-python.jp... for an example. I dislike monospaced fonts for programming, and with that I'm in the minority.
For games Comic Sans is also great, see http://www.michielovertoom.com/incoming/wow-Luyt-of-Khadgar-...
Layout of webpages should stay readable and usable even when the user prefers an other font face and/or size than is specified in the stylesheet. For example, my neighbour (85 year old) can't read small fonts anymore, so he pumps them up to 96 pixels or so. You should see the amount of websites breaking at that font size! While there is no reason why, when the layout is done properly everything will size resonably well. He also has the option 'View/Zoom/Zoom Text Only' on, to prevent having to scroll horizontally.
 Schopenhauer http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10741
Maybe the world would be a better place if you had influence over that kind of semi-arbitrary wealth transfer as opposed to whoever has it now.
Btw, is it intentional that the blog suggests sharing the link on Delicious? Is Delicious still a secret weapon perhaps?
I hate TwitBook sharing buttons, for a bunch of reasons. Conversely, I love the delicious button -- I slap it on (typically) geek-friendly reference content and a) it gets a lot of instantaneous loving and b) it sends relevant traffic for a long, long time.
Not too much an issue for my blog but very relevant to clients: many people have Delicious -> blog setups. This means that a save on Delicious sometimes counts as a link, in a way that tweets and FB activity typically do not. You can imagine the SEO benefits of that one.
Lots of content bleeding out of the box. Also, the title of the article needs line-height: 1.2; or more (the default line-height is almost always a typographical travesty)
if you know what you are providing is quality, you can charge for it and people will pay for it. Sure you'll get a bit more rejection...but those cheapskates wouldn't have appreciated your work anyways.
and hey if they say no, you can always go back a few weeks/months later, and tell them that you are running a discount
Confidence? You need to become a little macho to survive in business, but it's also addictive. Overconfidence is a double edged sword, it's good to keep the humility to yourself.
Whether having your own job/business can change you? I believe not, it just allows you to be 100% yourself, disinhibited, not trying to cover up the sharp edges of your character that you usually cannot display when you are a gear in a corporate machine. For me it was also sort of like going back to childhood.
And it's a lot of fun (but i think that's the endorphines from the sense of power you get).
Historically, excluding feudal and industrial/postindustrial europe people were a lot more entrepreneurial, they would either be farmers, cobblers, smiths; in general people were in charge of their art. Maybe they were also happier back then.