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How Running A Business Changes The Way You Think (kalzumeus.com)
477 points by JacobAldridge on July 8, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 98 comments



I'm worried you've fallen out of one trap (salarymanhood) into another (highly paid consulting). I'm sure you're good at consulting and it's clear from the way you write that you're excited to finally get paid what you're worth for a change.

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 :-)


I fell into that trap while still on salary, and it still haunts me three years into full-time consulting, and severely sabotaging attempts to transition to being a product company. Don't make the same mistake. +1


I think his point was that the time he could have spent saving $2k would be better spent earning $5k. I didn't read this as him choosing comfort over cost, rather he realized the true value of his time.


"I have since found that many, many people I respect likewise worry they’re faking it. Anybody in my audience got the same issue?"

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.


Now, whenever I speak with certainty & confidence, it feels like I'm faking it.

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.



I know this feeling intimately, having tried a little consulting and having a serious ethical bend towards the truth.

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 :)


I have the exact same problem. IMO what happens is you start to learn all the ways things can go wrong, edge cases, bugs, etc and you realize how fragile your code (and other's is). Throw on poor time estimates and you learn how difficult it is to produce quality, reliable software on time.

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 :) )


So I think the reason that people have a wide variety of interaction styles is that they all have their own niche where they can be useful as tools, and also contribute to the greater good. E.g. society would probably fall apart if no one was willing to be an asshole at least some of the time, even though people who are often assholes tend not to benefit personally from their behavior. (Perhaps this is proof that altruism exists.)

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.


Well we now have a better idea of the psychology behind 58,363+ Karma.

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.


As always, I'm happy to talk about it. I think I specifically owe jdietrich a shoutout for his comment here http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2667481 . I knew in the back of my head that I care about being happy. It was not obvious to me other people cared to read about that aspect of the business.

Back to our regularly scheduled tactics/strategy discussion next time.


Thanks, I really enjoyed your essay. However, I didn't care for your subscribe overlay appearing so abruptly. Would you please slide it down from the top or use something else to ease it in on the reader?


Agreed. It was abrupt, and I thought for a second I must have scrolled too far or accidentally switched tabs.

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.)


I second that as well. really annoying. but wonderful post. You can do amazing things with life if money is not on top of the list.


I thought it was a col, targeted idea to make it appear only for the people who get all the way to the bottom of the article (took me a second to figure that out) . It is a little unwieldy though once it appears, covering text etc. Maybe if it comes in from the side?

P.S. great post- here's some dopamine for you -----> o


Patrick, thanks for sharing your story, and the fears and challenges that you have faced. For the first time ever I have been able to relate when someone speaks about running a small software business.

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?


Patrick, excellent write-up on the psychology of self-employment. I've found that by manipulating the environment (e.g. your Delta experience) you can really drive the situation. Neither giving in the clerk's comment nor engaging their wrath would have led to a favorable outcome but being neutral led to a complimentary flight. Cheers!


I sort of take issue with the idea that hard work does not correlate to pay. At least at the 'low-work' end of the spectrum - if I slack off, I can reasonably expect to be fired and to be earning less, i.e., none, and no one wants someone who doesn't contribute sitting around taking up resources.

Are you glossing this for the sake of narrative simplicity, or do you categorically disagree?

edit: speeling gud


In a well-managed company, you are paid for a business outcome. The amount of sweat you emit to achieve that business outcome has exactly one use for the company: a gauge of how high the bar for outcomes can be raised on you. It is not a gauge of how well you should be compensated. Those gauges aren't even labeled in the same language, and they're kept covered by an oily tarp.

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.


Being on this site implies disagreement with the idea that hard work correlates to better pay in a typical company. HN, to a great extent, reflects the ethos of startup culture in general and PG in particular. That, in turn, means that the median HN reader is on board with statements like "a large company can't accurately measure your work; no one incapable of measuring your work can compensate you appropriately for working hard" and "part of the point of joining or founding a startup is to let the market judge your hard work directly instead of filtering that judgment through layers and layers of corporate bureaucracy - even though you risk that that judgment may be 'your hard work is worth zero dollars.'"

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.


As companies get larger the likelihood that they are well managed decreases significantly.


A moment's reflection refutes this. In the world's most advanced economies most people work in and for large companies because they have outcompeted the small companies that weren't as good.

Seriously, how many 100 person companies does it take to be as capable as IBM?


There's a difference between (a) good management, (b) returns to scale, and (c) gains from specialization and division of labour. What you see most in large companies in advanced economies is (b) and (c); in so far as you get (a), I would argue much of it comes from applying specialization to management itself: doing the kind of strategic management that is not possible in small companies dominated by tactical concerns.


True, but managing larger companies is also inherently harder, maybe that's what the grandparent intended to say?


I don't think your claim of most people working for large companies is quite true. Maybe I just feel it is misleading.

http://www.sba.gov/advocacy/7495/8420


I'm pretty sure that in a well-managed company, someone who didn't contribute would be let go. I'd like to leave off the always-contentious question regarding "effort vs. contribution".

So to alter the question: how to improve compensation in a hypothetically well-managed company, without busting 60-hour weeks?


If I rephrase and edit my previous comment maybe it'll stick better. I had three ideas for you:

* 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.


I whole-heartedly agree with this. Especially the sandbagging estimates. Software Development is extremely difficult to accurately estimate, and I have found if I don't sandbag estimates, I almost always go back and explain that something took longer than expected. If I don't, I almost always have someone knocking on my door asking where something is at.

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 wondered what had happened to it! Thank you a lot for your input.

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.


I once had a job where I literally had no assignments to work on for weeks at a time, despite my nagging my manager about wanting something to do. I was all but paid to slack off.

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.


Excellent article, and you've hit the nail on the head regarding confidence. When we first set out, we worked with small clients with small budgets, and equally low price expectations. We've grown swiftly over the last 5 years, and have gone from clients with turnovers ~£100k to clients with turnovers ~£30M. As a result, I've found it challenging to scale my quotes with the clients, as each consecutive project is inevitably with a client larger than the last. In conjunction with the clients growing, however, their needs have commensurately grown, meaning that our costs have likewise increased, resulting in periods of margin contraction as a result of my rigidity.

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.

Thanks!


Fascinating story and great insights. I think you undervalue your introspection.

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[1] 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.

[1] '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.


I treat both school and business as PVE, not PVP. (Gamer to human translation: the environment is the adversary to win over, not the other players.) There's a reason my dashboards always show my historical sales stats, not my competitor's sales stats. Beating my old score is a win. Beating their scores is not.

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.


Beating my old score is a win. Beating their scores is not

Ayn Rand wrote: "A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others."


You should write a book on this mindset. Hell, i'd pre-order a copy now!


I've been coming to HN for months and months always dreaming of doing something on the side along with my megacorp job but I have not started on anything. If I get an Idea, I wonder about it for 2 to 3 days thinking about reasons why it won't work and forget about it. I think about at least opening my own small consulting company on the side but then think how would I get any clients. This has basically been going on for quite a lot of months. But I end up going home, sitting in bed and still contemplating things. For what its worth, I was happy before being bitten by the startup bug, I guess not knowing what things CAN be like is better than knowing what things CAN be like but not being able to do anything about it. Knowing that I need to change my attitude and finish things, reading this article made me fill and mail the registration for my LLC.


I've dealt with a similar issue the last few months, mate. Introspection to the level of getting almost nothing done. I finally self-diagnosed myself with a testosterone deficiency, and immediately gave up caffeine, ate healthier and started regular exercise. The introspection is still there, but it's far, far, far less a problem, in only 3 weeks. I can't believe how much stuff I'm accomplishing.

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.


_Introspection to the level of getting almost nothing done._ I'll remember that. Good to know I'm not the only one out there. I agree with you, finishing things and getting things done should start eternally and inside you first. key is to be consistent in anything you do.


I believe you ll be hugely more motivated if you find yourself without a job for a while. It makes a difference, you are sort of forced to think and act faster (at least, it worked for me)


that big of a risk I just can not afford to take right now. especially without an idea and market research backing the idea.


What this says to me is you're really not ready or wanting to do something else. Sure, there's some risk- but trust me, you probably underrate the risk of your megacorp job.

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.


did you lose the job w/out an idea of what you will do after quitting the job?


But do you have an idea?


I do not but at the very least I want to go out there and find my first consulting client.


I worked at a small company that had a graphic designer who volunteered his skills to do promotions, posters for a few local non-profits. He really did a good job. From this work, through board members of the non-profits, he got great work (lucrative, think corporate annual reports).

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.


This was great, Patrick.

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.


It is human nature to over estimate the impact of events or things we do. Every one looks at the world with their own view point. They are the center of their own universe. That's all the world we know.

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.


I take great umbrage with his graph depicting teachers both as relatively high paid and not working that hard. He says he's been a teacher, but given the plot on the graph, I highly doubt it. It's way harder than you think, and unless you're a tenured professor at a university, teachers make shit.



Someone's been playing Pokemon :-)


As a high school teacher, how hard you work is entirely up to you. There are some teachers who bust their asses and let the job suck up their whole lives, because they're so emotionally invested in how well the kids do. There are others who show up as late as they're allowed, leave as early as they're allowed, and don't get stressed out by anything. They're paid the same. Exactly the same.


I've never taught high school, but I'm a grad student and teach freshmen, so I have some experience. A few observations:

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'd say that "teachers make shit for knowledge workers". Yeah, they're not going to the poorhouse (provided they can find a job in the first place and get entrenched), and there are a lot of problems with union contracts, but if you're educated enough to get a masters and good enough at teaching/politics to make it through the first few years, you probably could've made more money elsewhere.


Teachers do ok, and as a teacher I can say it's not a hard job. Not a lot of fun but not hard.


Maybe you're doing it wrong? Why don't you put out more effort and make it fun. Or find something else where you are willing to do so. (I am a former high school teacher.)


At the risk of incurring much wrath, I have known a teacher (a friend) who did not work very hard 9 months out of the year, and then didn't work at all the other three months. I also have a friend, a teacher, who spends significant time not merely grading papers, but improving her curricula, knowledge, and teaching skills. She does so 9 months out of the year. I am not trying to belittle the work that teachers do, but there is a significant amount of time that many teachers are not working. I would assume that is a significant reason for the dot's location on the graph.


The problem is the $$$ plot point. Grade school teachers (in the US) are not well paid. Which is why it attracts the lazy people instead of the ones who would actually put out the effort needed to properly educate our youth. (Not meant to be an indictment of all teachers, just the "bad ones".)


It very much depends where you are a teacher. In Canada, especially in Ontario, it is a really high paying job that is relatively easy due to the strength of the teacher's union.


Does the median investment banker really make that much? I was under the impression that the mean investment banker income was high, but there was a large amount of skew due to high salaries of the folks at the top.

I was also under the impression that the job involved a soul-crushingly large workload...


This should be recommended reading for anyone suffering from self-doubt before making the leap into self-employment.


You're not necessarily wrong. You're just damning the article with faint praise. The point of the article wasn't "Do you want to start a business? Yes you do. Go start one now."

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.


RE: Working harder is not correlated to more money

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.


That's mostly uncorrelated, too, unless you're talking about working the meta-game smarter.

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


Granted that when you are working for someone else, the incremental improvement/hardwork that you put in does not translate into recognition or reward.

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 think a lot of people think of "work harder" as "work harder to better yourself" (like learning new skills or becoming better at things you already know), not just "put in the hours and try really hard and do your best". If you use the former definition instead of the latter (which is the way I think a lot of people use the term), there is probably a lot more of a link between working harder and making more money. I'm just guessing though. I have no data to back it up.


I think it is also unfair to compare working hard between different industries. That is like comparing apples to oranges, surely a harder working software engineer will make more money than a lazy one.


surely a harder working software engineer will make more money than a lazy one.

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.


does the first employee get paid 40K at the Japanese branch or in the states?


"I know two offices in NYC"


I think that's exactly Patrick's point: There is no such casual relationship. Perhaps the harder working engineer will be better disposed to eventually earn more, but if the lazy one has better communication skills and knows how to play the politics, the balance could easily come out in his favour.


> surely a harder working software engineer will make more money than a lazy one

"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" Walter Chrysler

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?)


> My friends also tell me that I’m almost a different man these days than even two years ago. The most striking quote to me, from my best friend: “You look… healthy.” Apparently the old day job was beating me down so thoroughly that I looked about as bad as I felt, and even on those days when I wasn’t dog tired I walked with a bit of a stoop. These days, I even stand straighter. I think that is almost too convenient to be true, but hey, it’s a story.

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 )


"Money is also the convenient method of keeping score for optimizing businesses, which feels like a game to me. I really enjoy winning games with complicated rules sets, especially by optimizing the heck out of play, because optimization is often as much fun as actually playing the game."

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


A (humorous but) very engaging similar story: http://lifelessboring.com/less-boring-life-start-time/

Less facts, more stories, but another perspective on the 'be high status' concept.


In three words: "Be high status".


Fantastic read. People in general, but it seems developers particularly, greatly underestimate their worth and talents. A friend of mine was looking for work as a freelancer and asked me to what he should ask for by way of a rate. I asked him how much he'd be happy with, he replied "60". I said, "so ask for 100 and negotiate down if you must". He was blown away that someone would pay that much.


There is a strange layout error on Patrick's site. When I reach the end of the article, suddenly some kind of overlay pops up, and makes the text unreadable. See http://www.michielovertoom.com/incoming/kalzumeus.png for a screenshot.


A better question is why is it in comic sans for you? Do you have a user-defined masochistic stylesheet or something?


Oh, do not let the font distract you. Comic Sans is my all-time favourite; I use it as a default/standard font on all my machines (Windows, OSX, FreeBSD+KDE, Ubuntu etc...)

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.


O_o

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.


No, I'm not trolling. I agree with you that Comic Sans is often used in wrong contexts (although the situation is becoming better).

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-...


This may be related to your issue, but why do you have Comic Sans as your default Safari font ?


Firefox. I don't think Safari lets me force fonts on all webpages. Firefox, in contrast, does offer this: uncheck the "Preferences/Content/Advanced/Allow pages to choose their own fonts" option.

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.


These are old basic ideas[1] on pursuing happiness, in a slightly rehashed way, with the ask culture (how does that work in Japan?) thrown in with some randian self determinism.

[1] Schopenhauer http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10741


Your skills don't just scale down to asking out a date or going to city hall. They can scale up to $ billion mergers

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.


Thank you for the inspiring write-up!

Btw, is it intentional that the blog suggests sharing the link on Delicious? Is Delicious still a secret weapon perhaps?


I'm testing out a Wordpress plugin that I'm writing for a client, and I figured I'd inflict it on my readers before I did it on their readers. (It will get OSSed, eventually, after I iron more kinks out. Someone reported it broke printing -- who knew?)

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.


"inflict" is a good word choice for that blue bar :)


I dislike these boxes that slide into view when you reach the end of an article. It distracts the eye from the text, like any moving thing or animated GIF on the page. Just some static text below the article would be better, like 'Read other articles: ABC, DEF, XYZ' and perhaps some static tweet/facebook button.


Then again most advertisements aim to be at least a little bit distracting. What would be the point of an ad that nobody sees?


This is how it appears on Safari/Mac: http://i.imgur.com/VSyQB.png

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)


I implemented the flydown on my little side projects blog in about an hour after reading your other comment about it, it's doing really well. Keep up the good work!


Good article, but have serious reservations as to if he knows the full extent of being a paperboy. That's a surprisingly hard job.


the confidence to charge more is very important.

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


Many things one can relate to in there. For example, I just realized I also like praise for vanity/insecurity reasons. That's also the reason to write this comment.

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.


This is an excellent article, and fascinating to read. However, 5/6 of the way down the page, a blue share bar appears on top that I cannot click out of. It is quite annoying.


If you happen to use Firefox, I can recommend the iReader extension. http://www.samabox.com/extensions/iReader/


Thanks for the tip. There is also the Readability AddOn (http://www.readability.com/addons) but that somehow hides the comments at the bottom of the article. iReader does not.




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