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Ask HN: Has anyone switched from a professional job to a more manual one?
194 points by flave on May 24, 2023 | hide | past | favorite | 302 comments
I'm considering a big career change. Early 30s, male, Physics degree and I have a good job in sales in finance in the UK. Earn 100k GBP in a good year and I had a startup before were a more a good cash lump sum.

I think like many people I find more work uninspiring, pointless and eroding. However, it's well paid, high status and hard to break into.

I have an interview next week for a coffee engineer role which pays around a third of what I currently earn and would involve being on the road four out of five days.

Has anyone else made a change like this? How did you find it? Did you miss the money and status?

I know that office work is desirable for a reason (people like to sit down!!) but I think there might be something inspiring and rewarding about working with me hands. Am I being naïve because I've never really had to work with my hand?

Thanks for your help and honest feedback.


Software engineer for 12 years then got depressed about the job. Got into firefighting because I want to go to heaven and figured that with the 1 day on 2 days off schedule I can continue software on the side anyway.

Turns out just because you are a good software engineer, it doesnt mean you will be a good firefighter, and I need to dedicate a huge amount of time learning the job because software is a creativity focued job and Fire/EMS is a memory based one, and i have a bad memory.

The sleep is terrible, im an introvert and have a hard time getting along with others at the firehouse, but will say without a doubt it was absolute best decision ive ever made in my life. You will never see the facial expressions behind a computer you see in this job.

Im doing creative data analytics for fire depts to see how to save more lives, and thinking about making the swap to law enforcement just because i think my past as a software engineer can save more lives there. One example of my analytics is posting cops in areas where statistically it isnt likely for fire/EMS to show up in time, if the cop gets on sceane sooner, they can begin patient care sooner, and unltimaly increase rosc rare. You gotta be the change you want to see in the world you know?

Isn't doing good because you want a reward the opposite of the pious good you're supposed to enact to get to heaven?

I've been wrestling with this line of thought for a while, having recently rewatched The Good Place brought it back

That is a good question, I live way below my means - One day i would like to have a wife and kids and as long as we are all fed our daily bread then thats all i ask for. The data analytics part was all volenteered and unpaid. If i stopped getting paid tomorrow, i would still volenteer to do it, i dont know where that puts me. Jesus healed people, hospitals heal people, i dont know of any hospitals that will train you how to heal over a long period of time without also wanting you on thier payroll

It seems like I didn't quite get my point across, when I said reward, I meant Heaven, not economic compensation, I went into a little more Detail in my other answer in this Thread

It’s okay to want a reward or compensation for your work.

That's not what I meant, To my knowledge, in Christianity , you ought to do good, not because you'd be rewarded, but because it's the right thing to do

The same applies for doing bad things, your motives shouldn't be to not be punished, but to act rightly

An extension of this, Could you be blamed for the things you do when you're under duress? If I pointed a gun to your head and made you do something wrong, are you to blame?

The threat of hell (And the reward of heaven) might just be a different kind of gun, you might not be to blame for the wrong, but then you're also not the source of the good either, you're just acting on your own selfish interest

Id rather not hijack this thread and make it about the bible so this reply is only for the purposes of clarifying my original comment, and will be my final reply. There are many denominations of christianity, my interpritation of the bible shows heaven and eternal life as a reward for those who follow jesus. The bible says in black and white that those who live in sin do not inherit the kingdom of heaven. If you point a gun at me and tell me to sin, i wont. If you shoot me, i go to heaven. A HN comment section is not the place to form your opinions about the bible. I recomend reading the bible and bringing your questions to a priest.

Ah, but the Bible also says that you can sin all you like as long as you later follow Jesus: he’s a get out of hell free card! And that it’s OK to sell your children into slavery. And I’m pretty sure you, sir, sin a hell of a lot by the lights of some of the people who claim to live by the bible.

I would recommend instead something relevant to modern life and devoid of mysticism and muddy thinking: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Demon-Haunted_World

Your knowledge of these subjects is not only very weak, but comes across as dishonest as well. To the extent that if we had this exchange with our faces and reputations on the line, you'd be savaged by my words and look like a fool. I encourage you to be more humble and also to actually contest your own claims on your own in earnestness so that you can see if those claims are actually true or just edgy hot takes from some dishonest individuals you mingled with or learned from in the past.

The Bible is against slavery. See Philemon. Sinning until the last moment doesn't count unless it's a true heart change. See Ezekiel. Treating it as a Get Out Of Hell Free card would not fly.

"To the extent that if we had this exchange with our faces and reputations on the line, you'd be savaged by my words and look like a fool."

Were you able to type this with a straight face?

When did HN get like this? You disagree with his beliefs, fine. But at least respect him in the same way he has you.

It’s okay to learn about Jesus and the Bible on HN. It’s only one of N threads underneath the submission, after all, not to mention relevant to the parent. Definitely agreed that the best approach is to read the Bible and consult an expert in a real setting if possible.

An expert fanfiction interpreter

What a world

I'm a Lutheran. We believe it's impossible to do enough good to reach God, so you'll never earn your way into heaven by being doing good deeds. Strangely, the church (ELCA) is one of the most active when it comes to actually doing good deeds.

> Got into firefighting because I want to go to heaven

Can you explain what you mean by this?

Seems clear to me. Paraphrase as "want to do good", as opposed to doing well.

Maybe he wants to build a ladder to heaven

The firefights that I know are dead. Most left their wives with small children. I had the opportunity but I knew too many men who went to work and never came home.

That's awesome! Since you mention data analytics and being able to get to people quickly, have a look at 'set covering problem' for ways to find optimal solutions.


Oh hey -- this is me.

I was a software engineer for close to 6 years, and now I'm a barista (read more here: https://thoughtfulcoffeenyc.substack.com/p/roast-24-the-bari... ). The change in role isn't permanent, as I intend to go back to tech to save money and then leave it to try and open a cafe in a few years.

But my thoughts on your questions:

> How did you find it (assuming the job)?

At the moment, I enjoy it! I do think... I'd likely get bored after a year or two since there really isn't a lot of variety to the barista job. I'm able to practice and develop my social skills which wasn't something I was able to do as an engineer, and it's kinda exciting waking up knowing you'll get to interact with new people. In tech, it was just the same people over and over again -- which isn't bad, but I remember always wishing that I could interact with more/new people.

> Did you miss the money and status?

Yes. Lol. Also a reason why I intend to return to tech... I can't really live my current lifestyle off a barista salary. I don't care much for the status, but I do miss the freedom that money brings. I also miss the flexibility that tech has.

Anyways, hopefully my answers were helpful to you!

Barista and opening cafe? My suggestion is to learn the economics of those businesses rather than the operations. You can hire the operational side - and those businesses are economically margin tight.

I spent about a decade running purchasing teams for food companies and startups before changing careers. People with tech or academic business operations backgrounds tend to approach food businesses like this, whether well capitalized startups or less ambitious pet projects to start, say, a pie company or a coffee shop, and consequently go to zero very quickly. The people I've seen have the most lasting success in this space are, perhaps unsurprisingly, non-tech people who have simply worked in the business from the ground up, often without much formal training.

The short of it is that food business is different and extremely difficult in that, aside from the razor-thin margins, culture and relationships are absolutely critical, moreso than in any other industry. In other words, you won't get far treating your employees and vendors (and by extension, your customers) like fungible APIs, because word that you're kind of a jerk will spread quickly, and they'll all end up killing you.

Anyway, all that said, the parent has the right intuition about this. Work on the ground floor, because doing that will give you much better intuitions and insights about the economics and cadence of the business and you'll probably end up interacting with employees, vendors, and customers. Then learn the economics more formally. Ideally find a mentor in the industry, and remember to humanize everyone at every step, no matter who they are.

This is excellent advice for arts businesses as well. If you have the relationships you have a business, even if it's subcritical for you. If you don't have the relationships you just have debt in disguise.

> and those businesses are economically margin tight

Read: terrible, mostly just labor-intensive real estate plays.

^ This. I have a tendency to abrasively be emotionally insensitive to people's dreams and am trying to be supportively realistic.

It depends on how you look at things. In many ways the point of dreams is more about the pursuit of them, than the achievement of such. Because it's not like you achieve something and finally you're there - it's done, you've made it. Well it might be that way for a brief period. But in short order you'll be onto the next dream.

It's human nature. We're not content, which is probably a really great evolutionary driver, but not really a great driver for things like stability. And it's not all material. Even something like e.g. stoicism is largely a dream. It's a never-ending battle which you'll never win, but the point isn't about winning it, but about finding fulfillment in the journey along the way.

> which is probably a really great evolutionary driver

While true, I find this ironic since this constant drive for new things is a huge source of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and general lack of desire to procreate.

You can tell me all day to find fulfillment in the journey, but life isn't setup that way. Most often the highest paying work is devoid of novelty and is mostly an exercise in focus and repetition.

We spend our most healthy and youthful years, sitting a chair staring at a monitor for the majority of our days and the worst part is we're payed so incredibly well that you'd be a fool to do anything else.

"Enjoy the journey" I hear everyone say. What journey?

Stability by itself means being content, so being not content cannot bring stability. I guess stability doesn't explore the darkness for other possible dangers, doesn't prepare us for surprises all too well, thus we yearn for something undefined called stability but will never stop when we attained the last year's definition.

I admire your impulse to be more sensitive to people’s dreams.

Lol, well put. I feel you there.

Thanks for the advice!

I agree the economics are important, and I definitely intend to learn them. I just also want to know how to barista and be able to operate the cafe!

I enjoy serving coffee, and I want to be interacting with my customers/staff/etc. :)

I'm friendly with a few local small cafes (one shop only), and the owners all involved with service.

Good suggestion, but I'd say it's an "and", not "instead". Being a barista (customer-facing node, your UI) is a critical piece of understanding the business.

I think your advice of not learning the operations is really bad advice, especially for a small business. If it's a low margin business, hiring people when you should be doing the work yourself isn't going to help. Small business owner definitely need to get their hands dirty. While I'm not totally convinced, Elon Musk thinks owners should get their hands dirty even when in a large corporation.

> ...practice and develop my social skills which wasn't something I was able to do as an engineer...

An affiliated note to junior engineers out there reading this. The more senior your role in software development organizations, the more you rely upon your social skills to demonstrate value. OP's six years would only have exposed them to the very beginnings of that effect that are often subtle at that stage.

Also, if you go into any client-facing software role like sales engineering, your value is tied directly into your social skill development from Day 0.

Dale Carnegie's classic How to Win Friends and Influence People is a decent place to start if you are interested but don't have a network or a mentor to lean upon (classic chicken and egg problem for introverts who want to learn to "pass" as extroverts or even become extroverts).

I haven't quit, and have no plans of quitting, but I scratch the manual labor itch by, well, manually laboring at home.

I've dug hundreds of feet of trenches to move around sprinkler and water lines to account for a new patio and fence. Added walls to my home to add an extra bedroom and office. New trim, new solid core doors, etc.

I've painted rooms, ran Ethernet to all the bedrooms, added some outlets, replaced all outlets with tamper resistant ones, and the list goes on and on.

To top it off, I have a project car that I've been working on. They constantly require some small amount of maintenance and something can always be made better. You can be in troubleshooting mode, tracing electrical gremlins, or you can just be mindlessly sanding off rust from the frame.

Once my kids are older, I hope to get them involved somewhat just to teach them some skills. I cherish the memory of my grandfather teaching me some of this stuff and hold on to some things he made for me.

I structure things so that I can have two or so small projects running that I can pick up and set down without fuss, since life and kids often get in the way.

I've definitely saved thousands on some of the work I've done

> Once my kids are older, I hope to get them involved somewhat just to teach them some skills. I cherish the memory of my grandfather teaching me some of this stuff and hold on to some things he made for me.

They may or they may not. I do all the sorts of things you do and have tried to get any of my kids interested and none of them really are. So don't be too disappointed if that happens. Kids are not clones of yourself in every detail.

My goal is not to turn my kids into mechanics, but teach them to troubleshoot and learn a few basic things. My hobbies are my own and they don't have to enjoy them.

I don't want my daughter, for example, to give up and call me if she gets a flat tire. I want her to know how to put on the spare tire and do it if needed.

Beyond that it's gravy.

I've also done this kind of thing in my spare time. It's definitely rewarding in many ways: you get to enjoy the fruit of your labour in your lived environment, you know you did a more detailed job than someone you paid would have done, you make all the decisions about the work where a contractor may have done it differently, you save some money on the labour costs of the work.

One thing I've learned through doing this though is that I would have a very hard time doing this to make a living. Unless you are somehow in a position to do custom bespoke works for high payers, where you keep a lot of control over the process and don't have to operate on tight margins, I just don't see how it could be any more rewarding than office work. On top of this it will take a physical toll on your body and pay less.

Despite that, I do hope to make this transition myself but it will be a long time till I will be in a position to make it work. I think it can make sense for someone if they are able to make niche items, like by becoming a luthier say, and can afford to do it for poverty wages because they are basically semi-retired. I wish more people had the freedom to do this kind of work, and that society placed more value on well-crafted things over mass-produced rubbish.

I come from a family of master plumbers and I was my uncles helper as soon as I was old enough to hold a 5 gallon bucket and bring back the right tool. Over the course of growing up I did all sorts of different trades, I banged nails, tore off roofs, I bent conduit and I've tiled thousands of square feet of flooring and walls and I hated almost every minute of it. Working in shitty conditions, getting screamed at because you don't move fast enough, low wages and permanent damage to your body is not something I'd sign up for long term

Just curious about the car maintenance, do you think it is something younger people will not get to experience as much?

I am not super familiar with newer cars, but it seems there is a lot more software in there, and I am wondering if that makes it much harder or impossible to fix some of the newer cars.

> Just curious about the car maintenance, do you think it is something younger people will not get to experience as much?

Yes and no.

Even with electric cars, stuff like brakes won't go away. Some even have drum brakes as I recall.

But gone are the days of using a few screwdrivers, wrenches, and odds and ends to fix most problems. But most of those problems are solved by software.

I'm not hoping to get my kids into this, just teach them some basic skills.

I don't think software gets in the way of getting some experience working on cars. Cars still need their tires rotated, alternators swapped out for new ones, new brake pads, oil changes, refilling liquids and occasionally troubleshooting issues with OBD II. These are are all fairly basic things that don't require an armoir full of tools and can be done on a weekend.

No, mostly the software makes working on modern cars easier and more rewarding. Everything has built in diagnostics so it’s a lot easier to pinpoint what is wrong and fix it. Old cars would often never quite run correctly and there was no straightforward path to figure out why except tediously swapping parts out.

I have a different perspective. I'd rather work on cars with less software. Just spent months working on a car full of computers, had to use an old windows laptop to run a GM Tech II emulator and other bits of hacky tools to reprogram different modules after replacing one. Ultimately, I was able to get the car to start, but that victory was soon lost because the next day the new and old modules went offline after attempting to put the car in gear, and of course the car won't start any longer. Could be faulty wiring or faulty modules... This is why I like to work on simpler cars where every function does not need a computer module.

The quality of these systems varies a lot… and so does the quality of the cars themselves. A highly connected computerized car needs bulletproof wiring with waterproof corrosion resistant connectors everywhere. Etc. Try a German car with the factory manuals and software and you won’t have an experience like this.

> I've definitely saved thousands on some of the work I've done

Was that a necessary work tho?

Some of it was. For example, the sprinkler system that came with the house was blasting my house and fence with water.

Doing so causes fences to decay more quickly and can damage the foundation of the house.

By digging up and moving the sprinklers, I prevented that from happening.

I also swapped a bunch of it for subsurface drip irrigation, which conserves significant amounts of water. That not only saves me money, but is better for the environment.

That’s super cool.

If you want my honest feedback don't do it. It depends on what you want to do exactly, but most of the outcomes of manual labor is the same. I'm in my mid 40's and my girlfriend is in her early 50's. I worked with chocolate and ran the family candy store when my dad couldn't. She's been a chef for 20+ years. The thing no one tells you is that it's brutal on your body. It'll break down after a time. The pay is bad, and it won't cover the cost of what you're doing to yourself in the long term.

You also have to be prepared for a major culture shift from what you're used to. The food industry at least is different than what you're probably used to. It's rough. You have to be comfortable with things not being above board, heavy drug use and heavy alcohol.

Our jobs in tech are so easy compared to what other people go through. The pay is good, and the freedom is amazing. Unfulfilling is really a complaint well off people get to talk about that aren't struggling to survive.

I worked in food service for ~5 years before getting into tech and I think this is valuable advice. I was younger then but I still knew I was beating up my body (I did a lot of large deliveries, so moving heavy stuff). As much as I miss the guaranteed exercise and worry about my knees, I know it'd be worse if I was forced to wake up at 4am and do all that shit again for 6-9 hours a day.

I also miss the social aspect terribly. I would love to have friends around me during the day (although coding would be impossible if they were there all the time). But I don't miss getting off work and drinking for hours, being too tired to do any hobbies. I don't miss watching my friends smoke cigarettes for hours until I gave in and bummed one.

And I definitely don't miss the helplessness and lack of respect I felt in those jobs. The most urgent push I had for learning to program was that I was just so tied of not being able to solve problems, manage my own time, and avoid people just being rude as hell.

All that said, my job is unfulfilling. I think that's a valid complaint. If I had some of the social and physical aspects, I don't know if I'd worry so much about that, but I don't so I do.

> The thing no one tells you is that it's brutal on your body. It'll break down after a time.

I hear surprisingly often here on HN that manual labor and working in the trades ruins your body over decades due to over-exertion. But I also read that sitting in a chair staring at a screen for 8-10 hours a day ruins your body over decades due to under-exertion.

So I am left wondering who is right.

A programmer who wants more physical exertion can drop by the gym or go for a run a few times a week, to keep healthy.

A bathroom fitter who wants less physical exertion, though? Ain't nobody else going to haul that 700 lbs pallet of tiles or that awkward ass bathtub up that staircase.

the bathroom fitter's problem may be imbalanced exertion, emphasizing the same movements over time without complementary moves can cause injury as well

Probably, but a problem here is that a bathroom fitter might not have the time or energy to do that. Especially if they’re still trying to live a life outside of work with family and friends and hobbies. And getting injured at the gym doesn’t help you get to work the next day.

I worked in kitchens for years and as much as I also wanted to hit the gym I didn’t have it in me after 12+ hour shifts. I had several family members in older generations who did various types of manual labor and saw what it did to their bodies.

As much as I bitch about the state of the software industry and some of my coworkers, I know better than to throw that baby out with the bathwater. We have it really good.

Then again, if someone doesn’t have any first hand experience with any of this, maybe it would be good to go get some perspective.

The distribution in manual labor includes major catastrophic injury. I'm 28, work in landscaping: the second day of this season I fell through a metal grate and was lucky to not snap my leg. I passed out at work last year due to dehydration/exhaustion after nicking my leg with a pair of electric hedge trimmers; it could have been much worse.

There's quite a few engineers I know that are fat and unshapely, and that likely takes a toll on their health, but I doubt any of them encounter daily situations where they're at decent chance of being maimed.

> So I am left wondering who is right.

They're both right.

However, "sitting in a chair staring at a screen for 8-10 hours a day" in this conversation stands in for "classic HN programming job". In that context, it still gives you a choice to take bodyweight exercise breaks in brief moments during the day and over noontime lunch (if you follow Huberman Lab's "don't start eating until 2 pm" advice), and working out afterwards.

The other part overlooked in this thread about manual labor beyond the over-exertion already touched upon is many people build overtime into their assumed lifestyle and pay expectations. It is part of the culture, and it accelerates the wear and tear on bodies. Also perniciously schedule traps people into not enough time to work out even assuming they had the energy to do so.

Also, in many industries it is still somewhat uncommon to find employers and employees who take PPE seriously. Welding is notorious for such a culture if you find yourself in a shop that specializes in welding (independents get to set their own standards, but a distressingly high number of them still don't take it seriously). There is even a perverse machismo associated with cavalier PPE attitudes in some shops.

You can work manual labor, get paid a lot, and not wreck your body. In both cases, you have to be very discerning about what to accept is "normal" for your industry and yourself, and accordingly set your boundaries.

The difference is that there are small things and changes in your routine you can do to counteract those negative effects of sitting at a desk. You can’t do the same with a manual labor job.

Both are right, they just mess you up in different ways.

On the flip side, having a desk job can also ruin your body unless you make a good effort to get up and move or exercise frequently. For some of us it's easier to get exercise if you have to for your job.

> Unfulfilling is really a complaint well off people get to talk about that aren't struggling to survive.

I'm sitting here re-reading this.

I've had a few career breaks from IT.

One time was a job in the construction industry for 6 months. It was the happiest I'd ever been. I went from struggling to get to sleep, struggling to wake up before midday in IT, to bouncing out of bed at 4am for a 6am start. I could have woken up later but I wanted an hour to relax and have a coffee before work.

I was outside all day, saw the sunrise and the sunset, my mood was amazing, my feet were sooo sore. I liked the people I was working with, about half the foremen were total pricks and I enjoyed dealing with them too.

I ended the shift physically worn out and ready to go home. I got home around 7pm, put my work clothes in the washing machine, had a shower, had dinner, put my clothes in the drier and was in bed before 9. I'd try to watch something but I'd fall asleep very quickly.

wake up 5 minute before my 4am alarm and hit my head on the ceiling bouncing out of bed looking forward to the day.

I did that for 6 months, I was thinking I would start looking for another job in IT when I was contacted by someone filling a role and got it.

So, I would say if you're serious about leaving, talk to your boss and ask for 6 months leave without pay, and go do something different. You then have the option of going back. Or, just quit, do something else for 6-12 months and if you feel the urge to go back to your old field, start applying for roles.

> I did that for 6 months, I was thinking I would start looking for another job in IT when I was contacted by someone filling a role and got it.

Why did you end up going back?

I like IT, but I needed a break from it, I needed to refresh, I was always planning on going back.

Did you have previous experience in the construction industry or why would someone hire an inexperienced desk worker for such a job? (not trying to be demeaning, just curious) And how did you find/get the job?

It was in traffic control, there are different types of traffic control work, one type is lane closures which I did maybe 10% of the time. Another type is on large construction sites (not so much houses, more like large buildings), getting concrete trucks and the like in and out of the gated worksite safely. Which might require stopping traffic and pedestrians.

Construction jobs were and still are in demand. I did a course and assessment, it was a government requirement, it went for 3 days and cost about $1000. There is a bit of luck getting your first position. While there are lots of positions needed, most want experienced people.

I just applied to maybe 3 companies, got an interview which was basically showing up with all your PPE, radio, etc, to prove you have them and they tell you you might be tried out in a week or two. Basically they had an urgent requirement one day and all of their other traffic controllers were assigned or rejected the job so I got a go.

After 3 months I was driving a traffic control truck and either working by myself or running small crews. I loved it. Pretty much worked on different sites everyday.

It's not exactly rocket science but you do get better with experience. After a week you've pretty much got it down, and after 6 months you'd be considered experienced.

On construction sites, there might be a truck every 5 minutes but more common was hours of doing nothing but standing, but needing to keep alert for pedestrians and an unexpected truck arrival. Some people hated the boredom and didn't do a good job at keeping an eye on things, were on their phone, etc. I loved it. Different strokes for different folks.

Very interesting, thanks for the detailed answer!

This. If going back into SWE was easy, I'd take 6 months off that, go into construction, get paid to get fit and learn new skills, and then come back to SWE. Much better than just going to the gym.

My cousin worked in finance but then due to a health issues he was not able to look at screens (or artificial light in general) for extended periods of time.

He was forced to switch to another profession which had to be outdoor based to avoid artificial light and doesn't use any screens.

He decided to train dogs. Initially it was a bit rough (working long hours a day Monday to Saturday) but fast forward 2 years later he is now considered to be one of the best dog trainers in his area. This allowed him to triple his prices and reduce his working hours. He now earns more than he did in his finance job working shorter hours.

If you find your niche and become an expert in that area, I think you can earn a good living no matter what that niche is. But some niches make it easier than others as the base earnings are higher.

My wife has a masters degree in marketing. She ditched the desk job to become a dog breeder. She's never going to have desk job ever again. After a few years she asked me to build online business related to it (https://www.canadapups.com). I think the key is to mix expertise. Marketing + dogs, technology + dogs, technology + coffee. If someone feels like they need to switch careers, it's probably a great idea - good chance of success in the next career due to bringing the previous careers skills to the new one.

Sounds like everything ended up great for your cousin, but in case he'd still like to be able to use a screen occasionally, I wonder if something like this might help: https://www.sunvisiondisplay.com/reflective-lcd-monitor

I have no personal experience or affiliation with that company, but I read about them the other day and it seems like a cool concept that could help a lot of people that have issues with normal LCD screens.

Same thing, my friends fiancé somehow became known as a very good and reliable dog walker. He would walk dogs around some very expensive parts of SF. Was making close to 200k and looking at homes last I heard.

I feel like this must have a huge luck component, he must have just gotten in with one person in this community and then met clients by referral until he took over that area.

How much does a client pay for dog walking per day?

> he was not able to look at screens (or artificial light in general) for extended periods of time.

That sounds scary! What exactly was the issue?

not the op, but one I know of is epilepsy, screens can trigger seizures in some people.

i had cervical disk hernia them prevented me from looking at sceens for over a year.

Earning more as a dog trainer of two years than he did in finance?

I'm skeptical.

Can you expand? Was it finance or "finance"? Was it a low-end finance position? Did he already have prior experience training dogs? Something's fishy here.

If you actually mean manual labor then make sure to think through how you'll save and plan for retirement. My cousin did construction most of his adult life and realized in his 40s that there was no way he could keep it up into his 60s and beyond--the toll on your body is high and everyone else in the field is younger and more able-bodied. He realized plumbing (at least for residential homes) was something that didn't require as much hard labor and he saw older guys doing it all the time. So he started apprenticing and made the switch to plumbing late in his career.

Not sure what coffee engineer is exactly but the same basic idea applies. If you're doing manual labor make sure it's something you can do into your sixties. If not, look for some specialization or related field you can move into--be sure you see older people actually working those jobs to know it's realistic or even apprentice with them.

For doing manual labor like construction, look into joining a union. The better unions provide a LOT of services and benefits for laborers. A friend works for a local union's benefits group, they have very good health insurance, unemployment add-ons (construction is very seasonal here), and a pension plan. From what I understand they try very hard to take care of their union members. My understanding is that this union's dues are extremely reasonable given the benefits offered.

This is very true. Having worked in trades, nearly everyone develops back or other physical problems.

If you haven't already, I would consider some less committal steps to find out more about the problem you're experiencing.

1. Take an unusually long time off - double whatever the most is you've taken in recent years. If you don't have the leave, call off sick. Keep a note of how you feel about work each day when you get up and when you go to bed.

2. Try to list what makes an unusually good day at work. Even in a very samey job there are days you travel; days you have meetings with specific kinds of people; days you work on something a bit unusual.

3. Consider finding a good (not always easy, but if you can afford it you'll have a much better hit rate if you go for min. £75 an hour) psycho-dynamics therapist. When "interviewing" them, say that your initial goal is to find out if moving jobs will make you happy.

What you do in your early thirties when you have the freedom and desire to instigate a big change could be very important, and it's worth finding out more about yourself to help make the right choice.

I spent two years during the pandemic working at a hand-made beeswax candle factory. I spent most of my day either running the wax filtering machine or dipping taper candles.

When I received an email saying that my job was going to be work-from-home for the forseeable future, I knew that I had to quit. At the time I had really been relying on office friendships and work for too much of my socialization and self-image, so moving to a remote environment took too much away from me.

I found the light factory work really enjoyable. It was so rewarding to make simple, high quality products wit my hands. It was also nice to have a job where I was interacting with a wider cross-section of people, as I tend to not really enjoy tech culture very much. I had forgotten what it was like to work in an environment where there is comradery among the staff and a healthy distrust of management. I feel like in tech people are always grovelling to their bosses and the C-suite, which rubs me the wrong way. A bunch of temporarily-embarrassed billionaires I guess.

I'm back in tech now, but with the perspective that I am working to achieve some mid-term monetary goals. After I pay down my mortgage considerably so I can cut down my monthly expenses, I will highly consider going back to a crafting job of some sort. Life is too short to spend it on the computer.

I've been a software engineer for 25 years. I'm currently at the Principal level and I'm thinking about retiring from tech. I'm "only" 41.

I'm not sure how valuable my input will be, since I haven't actually done it, and what I'm thinking about leaving the tech sector for is not exactly "manual labour" even though it is way more physical.

My wife and I are semi-professional performing magicians. We've been developing our act on and off for the last 7 years or so and do weekend gigs. And we're thinking about giving up a cushy > 200k / year base salary to become starving artists.

Why? The obvious one is that we're extremely passionate about our act and love it.

But I'm also tired of the tech industry. I don't have the enthusiasm for technology that I used to. I never jumped on the smart phone bandwagon. I'm sick of the direction the industry has gone in with cloud and SaaS. I'm a tinkerer, a maker at my core. That's not only why I love magic (the prop building, problem solving, script writing... producing something that is MINE) but it's what got me into technology in the first place: being the master of the machine. Building and creating something tangible that has a real effect on the user. That factor seems to be eroding more and more as specialization takes hold in the industry and the machine we're programming is some virtual computer in a data centre.

Raises hand (...halfway...)

I'd been solidly in tech for the past ~9 years - DevOps software, eCommerce company, sales enablement software, etc.

I also re-picked up my hobby/passion of coin & currency collecting a few years ago and started buying and selling for fun.

The stars aligned in such a way that fairly recently I've been able to focus purely on the numismatic world, and I'm now doing that full time (and then some).

My life now consists of about 50% time on the road at physical, in-person coin & currency shows all over the country. I stand at my booth and buy & sell, run around the floor making deals, hunt other dealers cases for treasure in plain sight, and all that fun. So I wouldn't exactly call this "manual", but show days are very much in-person and 12+ hours of being on your feet brain fully-engaged.

(I spend the other 50% of my time at home working on the software that powers my operation, buying & selling on eBay, going to and from the post office, etc.)

But man, this is SO MUCH FUN. I describe my former life as "arguing with people on Zoom all day" and my current life as absolute heaven indulging in a super fun hobby that actually makes money. There's also an incredibly cool social aspect to it wherein you kind of see the same dealers at all the big shows, so it's a bit of a traveling circus ("see you next week in Phoenix?")

This sounds like a great story, congrats! Having the opportunity to go "all in" on a hobby in this way is enticing for sure. Would you mind telling more about how the opportunity came up to go full-time? Was it being in the right place at the right time, or what type of risk did you step into?

For sure. A bit of luck in several places: I'd been buying and selling casually during my off-hours for the past few years, mostly as a way to keep my brain moving in other areas (some people watched movies in their free time - I bought and sold coins on the internet and went to shows during my vacation time). I'd kinda sorta proven to myself that it could make money, but wasn't sure how much and if it could sustain a full-time income.

Lucky bit #1: My "normal" gig, co-founder at a software startup with some great wonderful friends, needed to cut costs, so my salary there went to $0 :) More time for coins now! (All is very amicable there - they were worried I'd be mad. Quite the opposite).

Lucky bit #2: The rare coin market is super hot right now, so it's easier than it might otherwise be to turn a profit as a relative newbie. That won't last of course, but I'm using this as a chance to learn from the guys who have been doing this for 30+ years how to succeed in all types of environments. It's lucky and I'm grateful that while my training wheels are stil on I can actually sustain a full-time living.


You are living the dream, I suspect, from a UK perspective. I have a similar background. Not sure what you mean by coffee engineer? I have friends who are plumbers (gas safe) or builders etc. They can make the same money as me, or more, but it's hard work and you have a lot of liability on you. You also need to manage the business side as well as the work, if you want to be self employed and hence make decent money.

Despite being very sporty, I'm now finding in my mid 40s that I'm hitting various physical issues. Nothing serious, but would prevent me from doing hard manual work every day. As it is I haven't lost a days work due to pandemic, or illness for years now as the work I do is so low impact and from home. I imagine this would be much more challenging into 50s and 60s whereas in tech you can work almost indefinitely (I have a friend about 75 who is working).

You also need to consider the training and certification time that might be required. Also being out on the road wouldn't work for me, I'm used to being close to home now.

Coffee engineers (at the entry level end) basically install, service and repair commercial espresso machines. It's probably less manual than a plumber or electrician and more manual a desk job.

You work for a roaster to start with and I have some background with repair coffee machines as a hobby. Once you're good at what you do, people tend to become independent but my goal would be to open a shop where we repair and sell machines.

You're right that from any reasonable standpoint I'm absolutely living the dream. I'm debt free, have a good income in a country where incomes are a bit fucker and I do a pretty cushy work from home job. But, I hate it 90% of the time.

There's been a lot of good advice here but the overwhelming thing all day at work is just how excited I am at the idea of not having to do this bs anymore.

I like being on the road - it's a bit like going on an adventure.

I can tell you that prior to working in the professional industry I took some lower paid manual jobs.

There is a big quality of life difference by being able to "buy whatever you want" - whether that be the latest watch, or fixing your boiler that just broke - without worrying about if you can afford your rent that month.

I think there is also a big mental difference between - I don't have a choice with my job and this is what I'm stuck doing at this pay grade "forever" - vs - I'm doing this by choice and if I really need to I can go do something better.

Whenever I think I have it tough in software I look back and think - well, at least I'm not in those other jobs. Those other jobs did have upsides, but a lot of downsides.

You sound burnt out. Don't make large changes until you've first sought to take a longer vacation or sabbatical equivalent. Many companies offer some version of that.

Really - figure out a rough sketch of what your PLAN is for the future.... not 1 year, not 5 but 10 and see how whatever your next step is fits into that to complement it. Ideally, take some trusted mates and run it by them too for a reality check.

> Really - figure out a rough sketch of what your PLAN is for the future.... not 1 year, not 5 but 10 and see how whatever your next step is fits into that to complement it.

How the fuck can you reasonably plan for that. Even my short term plans were obliterated by shit like Covid and it’s aftermath.

I agree. I've had five and ten year plans. Some of my five year plans even panned out. The vast majority of my one and five year plans fail as reality is too unpredictable.

* Be careful to not fall into a local maximum. As years progress in a long plan you might find better opportunities by adapting. Think of the opportunity cost of sticking to your plan

* As you execute the plan, you'll gain more knowledge and experience. This very frequently includes information that would have been useful in forming the plan. Try to anticipate what will give you this information and gain it as early in the plan as possible.

* Change happens. You change. The world changes. Reevaluate your plans frequently.

* Be careful of sunk cost fallacies. Even if you worked really hard to progress, sometimes the best corse of action is to walk away.

Realistically, only to a small extent. The idea is more to run through what you're aiming for and give it a sanity check. Plans are adaptable and if they change that's perfectly fine, but you need to know what and why you're adapting. Making stuff up on the go with no goal in sight isn't really going to work.

I'm not a Marine, but if their saying "Improvise, Adapt and Overcome" works in war, it can work anywhere.

Plans are useless.

Plannning is essential.

GP pretty clearly used the noun-form “plan(s)”.

Dunno who GP is but I was paraphrasing Eisenhower, in that any individual plan can be made useless very easily by stuff out of your control, but the planning process is essential.

Whatever you do, make sure you are on a path where you aren't relying on your body working right in your mid-40s to keep a roof over your head. People's health varies, but as a rule: 40+ hours a week of manual labor feels good in your 20s, okay in your 30s, brutal in your 40s and unsustainable in your 50s.

My father-in-law wanted to go into construction, but picked up a civil engineering degree upon hearing this advice from a foreman, and said it was the best advice he ever got. Plus, working as a surveyor meant he wasn't stuck behind "a damn desk" all day.

> I have an interview next week for a coffee engineer role which pays around a third of what I currently earn and would involve being on the road four out of five days.

The most poignant tip I can give you: Do not jump straight into drastic career changes as a solution.

You sound dissatisfied with your job or recent jobs, but you’re projecting that dissatisfaction on to the entire career. It is a mistake to assume that all software engineering jobs are going to be as equally uninspiring as your current one. You’ve notified a job that is so completely different from your current work that you assume it must be better, but I assure you it comes with many downsides you haven’t learned about yet. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence because you’re less familiar with it.

I’ve done a lot of career mentoring. Frequently, people come to the mentoring program dissatisfied with their current job and under the belief that they’ll be happier if they abandon it all and do something different. My sample size is small, but for what it’s worth I’ve only seen this work out once: The person hated software from the start, had only gotten into software because they thought it would pay well, and they weren’t able to keep up with basic software tasks. Basically, they chose the wrong job for the wrong reasons and couldn’t do it.

For everyone else, drastic changes usually result in some hard-learned lessons that they miss their old career and the money that came with it.

Taking 1/3 the pay to travel 4/5 the time might sound refreshing to someone who is tired of sitting at a computer right now, but I doubt you’ll be excited about it after 1000 days of grinding through travel delays, missing events at home, layovers, and a retirement account that isn’t growing any more.

Pick a less disruptive and less permanent way to change up your life first. Do manual labor on the weekends. Volunteer somewhere. Take an extended vacation. Landscape your yard. Help your elderly neighbors clean up their yard. Anything to start adding some variety to your life without detailing your career to try it.

I really appreciate your comment.

I left this out of the OP because I didn't want to to be too verbose but this decision is a long time coming for me.

In the last two years I've started volunteering, I repair and sell coffee machines as a hobby and I row and play rugby three to five times a week.

I've really considered this deeply and I think I'm like the example you gave - I was never suited for the world of offices. I was good at school but hated that, and good at university and I hated that too. Then I just got jobs in the highest paying fields I could find and went from there.

I think you give good advice but I can't help thinking that life is short and if I had a heart attack and was being wheeled into A&E, I would think that I was fucking moron for having spent so many days sat behind a PC.

A book that has been useful thinking about jobs:

Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber


One thing from it that has been stuck in my mind: a common occurrence of people hating their jobs despite being paid to do quite-literally nothing. Part of the reason is that people generally want to be useful to society, and when they see their job as not doing that, it's hard to care or find satisfaction.

I took a few gigs with a roommate who is a gastro chef doing catering a few years ago for the hell of it. Was really quite the experience. I love to cook but never had done it for like 80+ people on a level of expectation of a certain high quality before then. Made Spanish Paella for one event, Brazilian steak at another... Everyone thought I was some special professional foreign chef flown in from Canada which is the funniest part. We just rolled with it because while we didn't even intend for anyone to think that, they just loved it. They even invited me for doing their Christmas dinner but I figured working over those days was a bit much and politely declined.

One of the things it helped me realize is that I need to be in better shape. Felt like I got in a fight or something after each gig, spending all day and night preparing a ton of food is NOT easy, it is extremely demanding and you need to make sure of a bunch of stuff that matters less if you're just a programmer like kitchen hygiene.

> I need to be in better shape

When I still worked in kitchens I used to cycle long distances (40+ km) in relatively short average times (approximately one hour) almost every day, and a busy shift in the kitchen still wiped me out. Sometimes I was even sore the next day (it depends on what needed to be done). I guess I'm trying to say I'm wondering what sort of herculean fitness would not have difficulty with the work.

You don't really get a chance to sit down. A lot of it is kinda leaning into or towards whatever you're doing which is a laborious posture to hold.

Did it pay well?

Not as much as I make doing software engineering for sure, but the money was really good relatively speaking especially considering this wasn't in some typical Anglosphere country. It was otherwise super rewarding though. Made for some cool videos to share on Instagram

Someone I know pulled off some pretty big career changes: from a sound engineer working in windowless rooms, to a professional gardener, then to a software engineer. After several years working full time mainly outdoors as a gardener - including through the winters - they were looking forwards to working indoors again. And the pay was much better in software. So while some of us stuck in the office might gaze out the window on a sunny day and daydream about having a job out there in the fresh air, it can go the other way too.

There's several people here commenting that physical work can be refreshing and rewarding compared to office jobs, but often that's only in a part-time or volunteer capacity. I can attest to it being a nice change, but only ever as a part-time project. I would guess anything you do full time long-term will some time or another feel a bit of a grind. Manual work in particular can take a serious physical toll over the years, and being mostly sat down indoors for your job can end up being tempting too. I also know a couple of musicians who are perpetually on the road, and it's not always a glamorous globetrotting lifestyle - one said they mostly see highways and airports. But then there are great gigs too.

I think there's probably no such thing as a perfect job. That's not to say a change can't be refreshing or worthwhile though! Perhaps it's just that after many years most people eventually get a bit tired of whatever they're doing, and then the grass can look greener on the other side.

What's a Coffee Engineer? Are you engineering coffee plants, or is that a euphemism for a barista? I've started seeing the word engineer get appended to a lot more job roles these past few years; Sales Engineer, Technical Support Engineer, etc.

I was a Hydro-Porcelain Engineer while in college.

Yeah lol. Sometimes called Espresso Machine Engineer. Basically, the people who provide commercial espresso machines (usually a roaster) offer the cafes (and offices etc) installation, service and repairs. The Coffee Engineer goes out and goes that work.

Medium and long term, you would likely go self employed and then the roasters contract work out to you.

Since they mention being on the road, I'm guessing repair/maintenance of coffee machines? I know what you mean though - I remember a time when the coffee machine was broken with a sign on it saying "an engineer is on the way to fix it", which some of the chartered civil engineers in the office found mildly offensive!

I'd assumed something to do with roasters, but yeah, maybe it's more mundane than that.

"job title engineering"

I was a staff software engineer (front end lol so take that for what it is) at a medium sized B2B SaaS company that turned into a unicorn during my time there.

I quit in 2019 to start a company. In 2020 my time was split 80/20 between building a company and working alongside brothers and sisters in my local church.

In the past couple of years I’ve degreased kitchens, demolished walls, hauled concrete, done some electrical, metal work, automotive, woodworking, janitorial, hauled bags of salt and piled em up two stories high in a metal warehouse during a thunderstorm. Dirt under your nails work.

Yes 80% of my time was still tech (working on hardware though, which is a nice change) but I wouldn’t give the 20% for the world.

There’s a deep satisfaction in putting forth real effort - mentally and physically with sweat and sometimes blood - doing something that’s taxing, alongside and for the people in your community you know and love.

The things that separate and seem so large - cultural background, socioeconomic status, upbringing - they melt away when you’re in the dirt laboring together.

And I understand that this is coming from a privileged viewpoint. And that I had the choice to take on these things while others don’t. But in a way that makes it more meaningful.

Jesus didn’t have to empty Himself of His power. God Himself chose to humble Himself taking the form of a man and instead of being a ruler over the humanity while He was here, He chose to live among the lowest of the low. To love and care for the folks that society tried to pretend didn’t exist without any gain, self aggrandization, or virtue signaling. To die for us in order that if we turn away from the world and towards Him in faith we would be saved from the sin inside of us that separates us from God and warrants His judgment.

Jesus’ love makes me want to be like Him. I’m nowhere close — often foolish and more often still selfish. But in His presence there’s fullness of joy and an abundance of life that’s only found in sacrificing one’s self to Him.

Anyone romanticizing physical work based on doing it as an unpaid hobby is not experiencing what it's like to actually rely on that kind of work to survive. You aren't 'living like the common people do' because you do some work for your church sometimes. You're an otherwise rich tech worker who also likes to do physical things sometimes as part of a community.

Working as a shift engineer at an industrial facility is not even remotely the same thing.

I equate this to the people working with habitat for humanity (no offense it's a great program) but these people are for the most part cos playing construction workers. But there's no foreman busting your ass because you are moving too slow or the general disregard for safety because you only have 3 days to frame out the house and it rained yesterday. It's no different than when the CEO works the register at some coffee place or fast food joint -look at me I work hard just like the little people. It's a show, in the end they go back to their rarefied positions and their outrageous salary not understanding that somebody has to do that back breaking work every day and for a wage a lot people wouldn't get out of bed for. I'd also add that they likely did a shit job that would gt you fired if you weren't working for free.

Do it everyday and live off the low wages for a year and then come back and tell me how fulfilling it is.

I worked in the trades for almost a decade before switching to tech. Frankly, manual labor is far more fulfilling than anything I've done in tech. I'd still be doing it if it paid more.

> Do it everyday and live off the low wages for a year and then come back and tell me how fulfilling it is.

That makes no difference, it is still a choice. As soon as you've figured out you can rub 2 stones together and make fire you will never [again] get to experience the cold nights as something unavoidable.

Why do we work at all? Why not travel the world and enjoy ourselves? The only reason I can think of is that insecurity is terrifying. Then the next guy pulls his guitar out of its bag and people start throwing money in his hat.

Escape velocity right there!

Construction work isn't that hard or back breaking. One guy's operating a machine and one guy is spotting him, you drive a lot, take hour lunches, sleep in the machines. $25 an hour to start. Foreman's are usually busy with the people above them.

I run a homestead as my primary means of surviving, it's similar work, 12 hour days, a fraction of the pay and pretty darn fulfilling.

How many years you been on construction sites, killer? Homestead =/= most builder jobs.

And on the homestead you're working for you, at your pace

My buddy is in construction and he is ripped from all the heavy lifting at his job, he doesn't work out in any other way.

Gottach, you aren't in the trades, you work for yourself on your own plot of land. That's exactly like working a 12 hour day in 10 degrees in an empty sky scraper. Herding your goats is not construction.

Huh, what an interesting and specific rant toward Habitat for Humanity volunteers. Is it your experience that those volunteers pretend to be "real" construction workers?

"Anyone romanticizing physical work based on doing it as an unpaid hobby"

Exactly. Being homeless is different than camping. One is a mental hell hole of despair. The other is fishing and laughing with friends.

Homelessness is not a mental hell hole of despair, and claiming it is does more to dehumanize the homeless than anything.

Being in a mental hell hole of disparity is a mental hell hole of despair, but that can come with any profession at any position on the socioeconomic ladder.

(am homeless)

"Being homeless is not always bad!" is not a take I was expecting to see today.

I'd bet 99.99% of homeless people would extremely prefer not to be.

Yes, strange. Homeless yet posting on hackernews is not what the vast majority of homeless people are doing I bet.

I've seen some people struggle and they didn't have that kind of leisure time.

Perhaps it's homeless as in not owning an address? Don't know. Can happen given rent prices... Been there.

Where is that in the parent comment?

Thanks for this. All I said is we don’t live in a deep hole of despair. Sure parts are bad, but I don’t know of anyone who lives with absolutely no bad in their life.

Lots of wealthy people moan and whine all day long. It is arguably how one becomes wealthy. Lots of poor people are happy. It is arguably why they are poor. Life can hand you a good hand of cards or a bad one. Sure. How much that gets to you is up to you.

I talk with a dying man one time who worked in a hospital for dying people. He asked for me because he knew dying people had the best conversations with those they didn't know intimately. The one thing that stuck with me was the contrast between 2 types of people, one kind screams and cries for 2 weeks straight, day and night "I'M GOING TO DIE!!" the other kind talks about all of the great things they experienced in their lives. He remembered one specifically who smiled and said: "I had a great life" then turned over in his bed and was gone.

Before you can live in a deep hole of despair you first have to dig it yourself.

> I'd bet 99.99% of homeless people would extremely prefer not to be.

I’m curious what /u/explaininjs would have to say about this given he/she claims to be homeless.

The real percentage is far smaller. I suspect the parent has only encountered homeless beggars, in the context of being begged at. If that’s all you knew I could see how you might think they hate it.

In reality homeless place a higher value on personal freedom than most, and the absolute happiest people I’ve ever met were all homeless with no intention of being otherwise. For these, possessions often come from donations they receive from people they meet and develop real connections with.

"I suspect the parent has only encountered homeless beggars, in the context of being begged at."

Oh no. The complete opposite. I lived in SF 15 years, worked and talked to the homeless dozens of times. 99% [not mentally handicapped] are addicted to fentanyl, destroyed all their relationships, and are slowly dying. Trying to justify it as "freedom" is a bizarre comment. They tend to have ZERO freedom, trying to score another fix, in an endless loop - they have NO ability to do anything else. People in prison have more freedom IMHO. They need detox now.

SF is an exception. They’ve been grossly mismanaged for years. I wouldn’t touch it with a 10’ pole. The homeless there get government cash to buy drugs and government hotel rooms to use them in.

It’s expressly designed to select for the lowest common denominator, and it shouldn’t surprise anything that what they’ve received is exactly that.

Though the UC Berkeley girls are very friendly

SF is no exception, and the "Berkeley girls are sluts" implication makes me wonder how homeless this poster is; reads like something a 60-year old former programmer with a grudge would say.

My wife works in the homeless shelter / battered woman shelter sphere, and depression, drug use, and misery is widespread. Many of her clients, after getting sober, are deeply isolated, and many have few skills, few friends, and terrible self-esteem. Many straight-up don't care if they die, and the only thing motivating them on the day-to-day is avoiding withdrawal.

This is nowhere near SF, but it's not like homelessness is magically different because you're in California.

> My wife works in the … battered woman shelter sphere

Ah. Perhaps the following reformulation of this thread will help you to understand how clouded with prejudice your viewpoint is:

> All women live a life of getting battered.

> This isn’t true. I’m a woman, and I don’t get battered.

> You are incorrect. I know someone who knows a lot of women at a battered women shelter, and they all get battered. Therefore, the vast majority of real women must certainly get battered. Accordingly, I’m left to wonder how much of a true woman you really are.

The fact that you accompany this absurd line of reasoning with a tidbit in which you take a statement I made praising and reminiscing upon a group of people who categorically treated me with upmost kindness immediately following an all-time low^, then replace my words with derogatory sexualized ones, then turn around and claim I hold a grudge? Icing on the cake. Got any mirrors in that big fancy home of yours?

Here’s the root of the matter: the only thing that just be true for someone to be “homeless” is that they don’t have a home. The fact that you’ve had such a narrow experience with the homeless that you think they must also be impoverished drug addicts does not mean that anyone who doesn’t have a home but isn’t an impoverished drug addict isn’t homeless, but rather that you speak overconfidently of things you know nothing.

If you met me on the street you’d see a happy guy walking on the street with his dog, taking the time stop and talk with anyone who cared to chat. You would hear no mention of my homelessness, and you’d walk away remaining stuck in your perverted worldview in which homelessness implies every bad thing you can imagine.

^ A week of torrential down pour preventing me from a wink of sleep and soaking everything I own, followed by a government agent invading my space and robbing me of all my most prized possessions, including the single pair of shoes I owned.

It is different in that you get to fish and laugh with friends the year round in stead of just 14 days recovery from that to-fast moving conveyor belt in that noisy stinking factory for that boss who hates you.

This does distort the market for everyone who actually try to get paid for cleaning and mechanical work…

Didn't think I'd see camels going through needle eyes on HN today, but here we are!

Big assumption that people are going to get that reference

It's among the most famous of Christian metaphors, I'd actually be surprised if it went over the head of a well-read individual.

An individual or a Christian individual? I guess it’s far fetched weird assumption either way.

While religion is on the decline in the US, Christianity is still the dominants religion, and it's a famous parable. And this is an American, English-language website; it's not crazy to think that much of the population has heard the saying.

HN is also a cyber-entrepreneur website, and if there is anyone willing to disregard that saying extra hard they're here too...

Did you know "needles eye" does not refer to sewing needle? I'm told it actually referred to something like a cattle gate. So the message is actually "hard but not impossible..."

According to Wikipedia, there's no actual evidence for such a gate, so this seems like apocrypha meant to soften the message.

But given that we're talking about the man who preached "give up everything you have and follow me" and "let the dead bury their own dead" I'd favor the more radical interpretation being the most likely.

edit: Oh yeah, parable of the talents, too.

Let the dead bury their own dead, soooo zombies ?

It was Jesus' answer to a follower who wanted to attend a family funeral. Jesus was saying that to follow him means separating yourself from the world to the point of considering even your own family to be dead to you.

Ah, I don't know why, but that just feels so heartless.

i google it and it worked out

Crazy huh? Almost like a peculiar arrangement of words might be referenced elsewhere.

> There’s a deep satisfaction in putting forth real effort - mentally and physically with sweat and sometimes blood - doing something that’s taxing, alongside and for the people in your community you know and love.

I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I've never felt this. I have no interest in this and take no satisfaction from it. If somebody wants something from me I'll give my money. Obviously I give my time for my job so I get money but that's only because I have to work.

If I didn't have to work, I wouldn't. I took 3 years off once and kept to myself and loved it. Didn't contribute to society besides spending money.

I don't get it either. I'm a very senior engineer and I also live on a horse sanctuary. Taking care of horses is hard, very physical work that has to be done every day, regardless of weather or how deathly ill you feel.

It's a pain in the ass. People ask if it's rewarding. No, it's just pain in the ass labor that has to get done. The only reason I do it is so my wife doesn't have to do all the work by herself.

I took 3 years off once and kept to myself and loved it.

Were you stoned the whole time?

I only ask because if you're loving what you're doing, then there's usually some modus operandi or Summum bonum driving you.

A really good high is pretty straightforward.

Most others I know about tend to require something that contributes to a community, but certainly study or meditation can be lonely yet meaningful pursuits.

Nope! Took molly once during those 3 years, but other than that I've abstained from drugs, alcohol, and soda pop my entire life (I'm 100% non-religious though).

I read books, went to the gym, went on walks, rode my bike, hung out with friends, went on dates, went to the movies, went on the internet, and that was it. Absolute best time of my life.

Jesus was outcast by the temple for speaking against Jewish law. That kind made him “of the people”. Anyway, giving back to one’s community - either through church or a volunteer organization like Habitat for Humanity or Food Banks are very purposeful when money is taken out of the equation.

Jesus was an outcast because he told the truth including on the nature of the Jewish law. He didn’t speak against the Jewish law.

Everything was either for or against jewish law back then. Even the romans knew it. Truth or not.

> Dirt under your nails work.

I feel like this is important, at least for me, to maintain a balance. I have a small bit of land. I'm often building with wood or metal. I'm lucky enough to have a shop/outbuilding where I can do those things like machine, weld, paint, cut, etc.

I grew up in a small town (less than 3500 people) and I was a pretty fanatical gear head. I thought, at around 10, I had my mind made up and I was going to be a mechanical engineer. It was a way to combine two things I loved: computers and machines. But then I stumbled across a new undergrad program at one of our state universities focusing on networking, programming and *nix OSes and fell down that rabbit hole. On one hand I'm glad I did, on the other hand I'm still tinkering with things like Fusion 360 and vCarve. Maybe it's that it's not my professional life but building real things has a different reward. I've built, extended and upgraded countless corporate networks and have mostly specialized in network security over the years. But it's really good to physically build or fix something. I've got dirt and grease under my nails often.

That's a really refreshing and admirable career story, thank you for sharing. I think so many people's problems with their mental wellbeing would dramatically improve if they had a community which fosters the type of 20% work you're describing. Great stuff.

> front end lol so take that for what it is

It is what you make it. Some front end developers are the best software developers I’ve had the fortune of working with. Front end problems can be legitimately complex and difficult.

I was with you until “only” in the very last sentence.

Ah yes god

The man himself

I switched in the opposite direction, from an engineering role to software development. My engineering role wasn't exactly manual labour, but at least I had to deal with real hardware sometimes, the joy of which I wrote about in another thread recently [1].

Overall I believe the amount of manual labour had little to do with my job satisfaction ever. For me it is more about building stuff that others find useful and I need to be involved in much of the process. If you never see the outcome of your work it's probably inevitable to find it pointless at some point. If you only ever deal with the outcome of others (like in sales) you might find it pointless as well (at least I did).

Coming back to your question: I think it is generally believed that jobs with manual labour often enable one to build things from start to finish or at least be responsible for a closed tangible process (like maybe being a coffee engineer) while information work rarely does.

I, for one, am not convinced that is the case and I would like to encourage you to at least look into possibilities that give you satisfaction while still being adequately paid (which manual labour is very rarely). As a physicist you have the best prerequisites one can imagine.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=36055688

I spent a decade or so in geospatial, moved country and struggled to find work (moved just as covid hit).

I picked up a job doing construction, specifically windows and doors. I've always been pretty handy and know my way around the tools, but had never worked this kind of job.

Its satisfying work no doubt. I lost a ton of weight and was in the best shape i had been in years with no effort outside of work. I learned a bunch of new skills and my confidence to complete most home repairs has increased exponentially.

Downsides are the wear and tear it puts on your body. After 12 months i had more small scars than i could count, i broke my foot on my last day there. You come home filthy everyday.

For the first few weeks i was wrecked after everyday, got home and basically passed out on the lounge.

My biggest pet peeve was probably a factor of the specific company i worked at, but i found the lack of basic organization and communication infuriating. Suggestions to implement simple procedures that would reduce the number of misquotes, scheduling and general chaos are ignored because it would require change.

I'd do it again, but for a more organized and professional company.

I suggest working out instead. With manual jobs your back hurts? too bad - you have to go in. If you want to be physical be physical, you don't need a job to tell you to do it.

A lot of wisdom here! I'm in my mid 50s and sometimes have lower back trouble. If I thought my lower back could take it, I would seriously consider leaving software engineering and switch to a trade.

Going to the gym is pretty different from doing manual labour, it's not really a solution.

That's true! I think the idea is more along the lines of 'do it on your own terms'.

Sure, of course it’s different. It’s much safer, you can get much more variety of motions and routines, you can take a day off or stop early if you need to, you can listen to a podcast, read a book or watch tv.

Manual labor is not just about getting physical exercise.

I go to the gym every day and take it very seriously, but it’s a different thing. Just like doing sudoku can’t take the place of an intellectually stimulating job.

I worked in online sales, then web development, then managing web projects over a 15 year period. I wasn't particularly good at any of them or found it fulfilling but I was paid quite well, paid my mortgage and I got to work remotely.

I quit a few years ago to try a few things that I would find more satisfying. Joinery and cooking are two that I did well at. I am now a junior chef / chef de partie and in my early 40s.

It is physically challenging and very low paid but it feels a bit more natural than my previous career. The stress is different too. I think it could quite as easily been a joiner or another trade that I focused on however there are a couple of things that are important:

1) Who you learn off of really matters, as you have less time when you are older, so try and pick that wisely - lots of professionals want to teach new commers that are serious about learning. I've also found that it's not as easy to teach yourself, as it is with web development. You need to be shown what to do.

2) Your social network matters. If all your friends are lawyers, doctors or programmers and you don't know anyone that is a barista, chef, joiner, [insert trade], then it makes it harder to learn. I knew more chefs than I did joiners, which is part of the reason I am doing what I am doing. My old boss said to me when I quit to do something else said "now you need to go and make new friends". It was the best bit of advice I've received.

It probably doesn't apply here (and might well be country/region specific), but one thing I've heard from friends who've done similar has been some resentment/hostility related to jobs that are only people with previous money can afford to take.

I've got several friends that made a lot of money in tech/law before switching to more fullfilling jobs (things like furniture maker, barista, something music-related, plumber, museum curator, librarian).

One argument they've heard is that by taking jobs that aren't economically feasible to do without money, they're encouraging low pay for others in that field who don't have any other choice. One or two volunteer for free, and have heard complaints that volunteers have destroyed careers in certain sectors.

...there's a Rick that works more with wood, than with polarity plating. His name is Simple Rick, but he's no dumby. He realized long ago that the greatest thing he'd ever create was his daughter.


I've transitioned to consulting - I make more money and have more freedom to work out during the day which is great, but I can't help but feel I'm well behind my peers and have a stagnating career. Since I basically resorted to consulting since the job market for engineers is so dire at the moment / maybe my resume is just a red flag?

This is the job path that the market forces people down (in UK IT at least).

Bad permanent salaries push people to contracts/consulting. That just doesn't go many places.

My version of "manual labour" is thinking about going back into the industry with a more output/reward-driven role. IT roles feel kinda dead end.

I feel badly because it seems like I've sort of wasted the potential of my education - but I'm only 4 years in so we'll see what happens.

Worst case, I'll just schlep it as an electrician or some kind of consultant.

$200k jobs seem hopelessly out of reach and I have no real idea how to rectify what is seemingly wrong with my track record.

Don't know where you live but $200k as a consultant should be achievable with the right skill set.

I'm in the US

I was in tech for more than a decade. I would go back _if_ I could find a well run company with a good team rather than the corporate bureaucracy that sucks the fun out of coding.

I am currently building out my farm.

I am also a general contractor.

And the end of the day you feel a profound sense of accomplishment when you gaze upon your the fruits of your labors. Everyday I drive past houses and businesses that I framed and now people live and work in them.

Pretty soon I will be petting my cows and swimming in my pond. Also there is nothing like a spring morning outside, sun on your face, birds chirping. Good for mental health.

Why would a manual job not be professional?

I have massive respect for the trades people, waitstaff etc, they do much if not all of the actual work on this planet if you discount automation and DIY. A lot of my time has been spent on getting proficient at DIY and every time I look at the end result I know for a fact that even a junior schooled in the art would have done a better job than I did. It still gives me satisfaction, but it also shows me that there is no such thing as a job that isn't worth doing and doing well.

I'm not sure what a 'coffee engineer' is though.

In the UK white collar work is often referred to as "professional work" vs a trade.

Yes, and it's quite telling in its own right.

Install, maintain and repair commercial espresso machines.

I don't really understand your question. In the UK there are professions and none of them (apart from maybe Surgeon) are manual.

You can split hairs about terminology and how it's 'telling' - but it's just words.

Well, not really a job, but I enjoy volunteering at my local food bank. Career wise I am all in on tech (written 20+ AI books, have 50+ patents) but it is refreshing and personally rewarding to do something useful that is non-tech.

I am in my 70s, but when I was a 25 year old computer programmer I looked into having two part time jobs, one programming and one something like working on a fishing boat. I ended up not going the working in a fishing boat route, settling for working in tech an average of 30 hours a week, and bought a sailboat.

Been in web design for the past 10 years... love it and never want to leave, but I did check out being on the road, specifically driving 10 hour days for 8 days out of the month. The job description was basically art delivery.

Lots of people want art delivered and UPS, USPS, and FedEx are unreliable when it comes to making sure thousands to millions of dollars of artwork is delivered unscathed. Its a job that I'd love to do, but unfortunately, I refuse to leave my web design job to do it.

Went through an interview but they asked me if I'd quit my other job.. and I said no. I felt I could do both as one is remote and "on call". They never called back after that but I'm not upset about it. Instead, I actually purchased two properties in the past year that are condominiums, right across the street from a hospital and on a main road, with a beautiful view of the mountain and valley, and renting them out with a ROI of about what that delivery job was paying per month.

My whole reason for looking elsewhere is because I fear losing my job as I'm usually threatened to be fired at least 2 or 3 times a year since I've had the job for almost 11 years and lack of promotional and financial opportunity. My company loves to use fear tactics to get people into shape. Unfortunately, I believe I'm the only one who ever seems to have to go through the bullshit.

I did try retail for a while and realized how much I love my cozy work-at-home job and would never work retail for those slave wages again... at least, the last job I took years ago only paid $12 an hour... I was unloading trucks in the very early AM, only to be harassed about being too slow. [bleep] that [bleep]. Never again.

Have you seen the ending to the movie office space? If not - I highly suggest watching this lovely movie before making this move.

But yes, your future job could give you a more happy life balance. Or it could be worse. Or the same.

> I highly suggest watching this lovely movie before making this move.

I love Office Space to death, but that ending paints a very rosy picture. How Peter might feel about his choice two years down the line is a different story.

Is someone having a case of the Mondays?

Especially after Peter experiences trench foot and back problems. Funny enough you can still get back problems from sitting on your posterior all day.

Uh yeah, Peter, I'm gonna need you to stop commenting on Hacker News and get back to work... mmmkay?

I am in the middle of reading William Gibson’s Virtual Light and seriously considering a career change to bike messenger. Unfortunately it doesn’t pay much more than minimum wage.

More seriously, though, I have had similar feelings many times. However, I spent a decade from high school through post-college working manual and food service jobs, so I have no illusions that they provide some kind of fulfillment not found in computer jobs.

My solution was to spend as much non-work time as possible doing outdoors/manual things. And if there’s something related to your job which can be done while riding a bike, or walking, or repairing a motorcycle, or whatever your preferred physical activity, rather than sitting at a desk, then do it that way. Listen to an audio version of a report instead of reading it, do meetings while walking, etc.

Finally I’d also recommend a book related to this topic: Shop Class as Soulcraft, which is about a philosopher that became a motorcycle mechanic, and I believe later became a philosopher again.

I know a lot of people like Shop Class as Soulcraft, but I found the author's rosy glasses and philosophy about the "dignity" in manual labor to be extremely tiresome. There is an irony that really didn't transition to crappy m/c mechanic like the book would have you believe, but rather to an author with a best selling book. Granted I also think Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is one of the most overrated books ever, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Sure, it is a little overblown, but I think for the intended white-collar audience, somewhat necessary. The typical reader of his book has probably always considered manual labor to be something "other people" do.

I'm similar to you in that I work in tech and love being outdoors and doing physical activities. What I'm realizing though, is my biggest chance at "making it big" is by doing the work I'm really good at.. which right now is tech work. Personally I have plenty of hobbies, but my long-term earning potential at those hobbies would be pretty low.

That being said, I also know people that have had tremendous success by making a business out of their hobby. Whether it be photography, bike repair, mechanic. It's cliche to say but the advice I'd give is stick to what you like, or what you're good at, or ideally both - and then pursue your hobbies part-time. If your full-time workload doesn't allow you to pick something up part-time. Find a slower paced environment that'll let you keep a salary you're used too, and afford you more time to play around with some part-time jobs and see if any of them could become a full-time gig for you.

First understand what you find about your work that is "uninspiring, pointless, and eroding". The answer may lie in the markets that you work in rather than doing something with your hands. (City-based (finance) products can seem pointless once you realise how and why it all works). You can do sales in an industry that is meaningful to you - like coffee machines.

I work in tech and am currently trying to build stuff that addresses energy efficiency in manufacturing (my small bit to help climate change). I have to go on site in safety boots and a hard hat - looking up at a massive plant that burns dead dinosaurs. It is not pointless, but it is frikkin' hard. It is also a much better use of my abilities and experience in tech to try and optimise their plant with data than dig a ditch or man the food truck outside the factory gates. No offense to those useful skills, but mine are better applied (and more valuable) elsewhere.

The biggest difference to my mind is that at end of a day you have something concrete to look at and say “I done that”.

In software or business we spend so much time on intangibles. Often worthwhile, but just not viscerally satisfying. “I am mentally fatigued because I refactored the whole controller layer of this app. It turned out the proposed redesign wasn’t worth pursuing so we reverted the commit, but the knowledge gained from this spike was very valuable!”

Hits very different to “All my muscles hurt. I dug that hole. That one right there.”

The line between being fulfilled by manual labour versus being crushed by it is flexibility. If you’re choosing when to work and what to work on, you’ll probably love it. When you’re working through an injury on the hottest day of the year and the aircon on the truck is broken and all the fire in the area was put out days ago anyway… you’ll wish you were refactoring.

I've been a sw engineer for 12 years, from intern to junior to engineer to senior. About 4 years ago it had taken so large of a toll on my mental health I quit with no plans other than hiking some bucket list thru hikes with my wife.

After the time off, really looking at what matters to me, I find myself looking to careers that will provide me with personal enrichment rather than another one that is "easy," high paying, and providing "skill development".

Right now I'm looking at starting very low paying trail angel services that would let me meet a lot of Appalachian trail thru hikers. And taking a job as a flight attendant so that I can travel the world for free. Both would give me complete control over my schedule so I wouldn't find myself trapped in the same cage that destroyed my mental health before.

Be careful with the flight attendant career - good routes are seniority based, you are only on the clock during flights, and the pay is not great. I think it's one of those things that sounds more glamorous than it is (at least for a while)

Thanks for the advice. Fortunately I'm not in need of money and am looking mostly for human contact and an excuse to visit new places.

From what I can tell, as long as I'm not trying to make a lot of money, I can turn down everything I want to, and living 10 minutes from ATL airport there should be quite a few choices without having to fly commute.

What I recommend, and plan on doing unless I just retire early outright, is to downshift to a less stressful software job. I've worked at quite a few places where I was bored and the pay was low. This was a problem early in my career when I was trying to advance and earn more for my family+retirement, but sounds pretty good now honestly!

I think us software engineers don't realize how good we have it. I've worked factory jobs, manual restaurant jobs, and other ad-hoc outdoor work for neighbors and family growing up and trust me, software engineering is a job most other people dream about having. Try to find a job where you can maintain your fitness in your own time, downshift to an easier job or just scale back your workload at your current company if you're not trying for a promotion.

That's my dream, to take a normal job. I hope to one day be able to afford working on construction sites, laying railroad or something meaningful. Or even going back to washing dishes in a crazy Tokyo restaurant.

Status wise, I'm not sure there's much difference, being a software engineer is not something I'm proud of. When you talk to people, they can immediately tell if you're intellectual anyway.

If a highly educated person works with something manual, I think most people will assume that they do that because they like it, and not look down on them. But then I do live in Scandinavia where people are far less obsessed with financial status. I think most people here are more impressed if someone is a struggling actor or professional juggler, than if they're a management consultant making 10 times more.

> Status wise, I'm not sure there's much difference

OP is from the UK where status is...complicated. Having a physics PhD from Harvard is potentially lower status than having gone to the right British high school and then done PPE at Oxford...

'Status' is jokes here but yeah I certainly have been getting a lot of my identity from having money and earning good money. Not something I'm proud of.

Sure, obviously PPE is the gold standard. But we’re not talking about education here, but occupation.

My point was that, looking from the outside in, it can be hard to guess what leads to status in the UK. Your comment in a sense reinforces that: to an outsider, why would one specific humanities undergraduate in one specific university be the "gold standard" of status? It doesn't make sense unless you know about status in the UK, IMO.

As opposed to the US where status is simpler IMO and more strongly correlated with money.

Of course it makes sense, if you know anything about that program, or society. If you don’t, well then it doesn’t, hut that seems pretty obvious.

I'm reading between the lines here, but my guess is that you're interested in the coffee role because you're passionate about coffee. It also sounds like you've looked at the pay cut, and decided you can live with it. (Take the long view ... if you make a career of this job, will you be able to afford to live where you want to? Will you be able to comfortably retire?

I suspect that if after a year or two you decide that this more manual work isn't the life improver you expect, you should still be able to get another job in your current field. It might be a little harder than if you were to look for a new job without the gap, but will be much easier than breaking into it in the first place.

You can also talk to your manager -- they might be able to offer you an unpaid leave of absence for a while which would give you the space to try the new job while keeping your options open.

I'm familiar with the finance industry in NY which has a heavy work-hard-play-hard culture; or put another way, they have demanding expectations, but pay you enough for you to tolerate it. I assume London is similar. Switching to a similar sales role in a different industry might be an alternative that could work for you as well. It might be less of a pay cut, but give you more capacity to pursue things you're passionate outside of work.

Know more than a few, though most made $$$ from some source or another and were able to leave mostly on their terms. Start a coffee shop, or work at their father-in-law's fabrication plant. Pay cut for sure, but they'd already paid off a house and were stable otherwise.

Only one who really jumped in without a plan was a Phd physicist who was teaching in Canada and had enough of academia -- he quit to make cheese full-time. Still doin it.

Been there done that and reversed. Manual labor (of any sort) can be very fulfilling, particularly if you enjoy it. You can do manual labor that you love, its easy. But when you look around and see the little old men still doing the same as you and you realize those little old men are only 50 years old and will still be doing it when they are 65, then its an eye opener. If they live to 70 they will probably have arthritis and other wear and tear on their bodies. Do you want to do that? This is reality check time. If you are going to do it, do the retirement plan first. Put the nest egg away for retirement, then go for it. Reckon you can keep working when you have the flu? You can at your present job, but you will ruin your long time health if you do hard physical labor when you are sick. First think about what ELSE you can use that physics degree for. Sales in finance is probably the low end of using your knowledge. One other thing to consider, is that if you change your mind 5~10 years down the track (you did once :) )can you go back and put up with the younger brighter more recently experienced who will be your bosses?

I had generous doctoral funding in the humanities with a very light teaching load and left to be a stable-hand, mucking stalls and throwing breakfast and lunchbhay to the horses. (So this kinda sorta counts, since I was still in school, and the labor job was always going to be temporary. Having said that I loved it and still miss it). In the end I worked at the stable for about a year.

It paid almost nothing. I rented a room and was broke. But the work was cathartic and interesting and completely altered my world— or dropped the world I’d known away, leaving this really interesting (again temporary) moment of peace in its place. Status wise, when you do something like that, you meet new people. There are different ways of comparing status— and of not even caring at all about it.

It took me a while to adjust away from academic thinking, which manifested largely as an extreme lack of confidence if I wasn’t quoting someone else’s argument or surrounded by piles of books. The stable was a great place to sort some of that and to like regain a sense of self (and people in the world, more broadly than in the university) in a really tangible way.

I wound up doing a bunch of different work over time. A mix seems to me ideal at this point. Ha still trying to figure it out.

If you're smart enough for a physics degree, a sales/finance job, and your own start up, then you are likely smart enough to make it as a coffee engineer too.

I took a summer job as a painter and did some other contracting stuff in my 30s after being in tech my whole life. I went from setting my hours to getting up at 5 am to be picked up to go to a job site, working hard all day, coming home, and going to yoga for body repair.

By the end of the summer, I was ripped. Best shape of my life, and I got paid to do it. I was very tempted to keep doing that for a living and probably would have had a more consistent income.

I'm pretty sure there's a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good-looking. And I plan on finding out what that is. - Derek Zoolander.

Just go work a day in manual labor. You don't need to take a big risk to try it out.

Which jobs are hiring day-long tourists?

Eh there's plenty of work that needs to be done no one is going to give you shit for doing. Buy a shovel & hi-vis vest and dredge a neglected ditch or something. Getting paid the $110 isn't the important part of this exercise.

Volunteer ones, sometimes cities have a work corner where people go to hire people for a day of random physical work.

In the UK, picking fruit might be an option.

I’m a software engineer now. In my past I worked as a landscaper. I prefer my current job because of the money, but I found an incredible calm in spreading mulch. It was hard work and I’d return home exhausted every day, but it was a great experience. Hard physical labor shuts off the mind, in my experience, in a way that most activities today don’t, and that produces a unique satisfaction.

I don't know what kind of work with your hands you mean, but for lighter working with hands, just be aware of risks like:


If you mean hard labor, even if you're an active athlete, maybe talk with an expert on how that affects your body (doctor? physiotherapist?). I'd guess they might be able to advise on what to expect physically, how to condition yourself to help avoid serious injuries, the top 10 unfortunate moments that turn into permanent regret (e.g., lifting with back), what your time horizon should be before moving to supervisor or an easier field, etc.

If you already have enough money stashed away to live comfortably, that helps: not only don't you get trapped in physical labor jobs if you stop enjoying it, but you'll avoid money-related stress (which adversely affects your health multiple ways, including making you more susceptible to injury).

You're being naive. The grass looks greener because you're used to your present day existence. If you actually took a 2/3 pay cut you'd see just how little money you really have at the end of the day.

It's far better to be bored and rich than engaged and poor. Especially in a field which has rapid pay increase potential like finance.

Stay in your job, save a few million pounds, then play barista

This is patronizing advice imo.

It's possible that the grass just looks greener, or that the OP is just burnt out. But it's also true that it can sometimes be a good move to change what you're doing, even if your current job pays a ton of money. Of course, it'd definitely be beneficial to explore which one is the case before committing to the change.

Although it's not hard to find stories of people who worked a high-powered professional job, burned out, and now works in something much "lower" down and loves it.

Obv doing that would be a mistake for a lot of people for money reasons, but still.

It really depends on your personal circumstances. If you have no dependents and live in a medium-low cost of living area then you have a lot more freedom.

I was a software engineer for just long enough to realize that it was killing my soul and so I scammed my way into being an engineer in aerospace.

Protip: if you do some solidworks tutorials on your off-time to get some experience with it and have basic electronics knowledge from a lifetime of dicking around with amateur radio and electronics kits, managers are willing to overlook a LOT.

Before I sat in a nightmarish hellscape of an open office staring at IntelliJ all day between Agile cultist gatherings.

Now I have an office and a typical week has me working with hardware prototypes, building test apparatus, writing a little code but just a little, working with MechEs, developers, EEs, and piling schematic printouts up on my desk into precarious stacks like I'm a stereotype of a wizard hoarding esoteric knowledge or something.

4-5 times a year I go out to remote test ranges two weeks at a time to do a little R&D in the field which involves crawling around inside test aircraft to wire up instrumentation and flying around in circles for hours on end. For space stuff we have launch parties.

Also, my workspace is an office with windows and a door that closes and seating and a whiteboard for ad-hoc meetings and I have not had to wear my noise-cancelling headphones just to remain sane as everyone around me slurps their soup and has conversations on the phone in years!

If I had continued on my previous career path, today would see me trying to figure out how to get AI to get you to watch an ad about dickpills or something so that my employer could stripmine your personal data and now I build cool stuff that flies in the air and in space.

There are options, though I'm not sure about the UK, for well-compensated tech work that isn't just sitting staring at a screen for 8 hours a day.

Yes, twice. I tried starting a career as a guide in the mountains, but after passing my certs realised that it would take me too long (years) to achieve any kind of financial stability, all of that whilst being away from my family a lot of the time. In the end, the pay would still be significantly lower and volatile compared to a dev job.

Also worked as a plumber for nearly a year. You do get the satisfaction of not being glued to the screen every day of the year, and actually seeing the job you did at the end of the day. Again though, you need to put up with some kind of people with whom you may not have the same conversations you're used to, plus the low pay, plus the constant labor. It was freeing to do it for a year, but not any longer.

I'm now in a very boring job which pays pretty well, and my thinking now is how can I become less dependent on my dev salary, so if I burnout again (and I know it will happen), I can take an extended breather again before going back to my desk.

I haven't yet, but it's in my future.

It's not realistic for me to retire early and I suspect I will be obsolete in the tech industry long before the age of 70.

My plan is to work on lowering my living expenses to the point that as of the age of 50-55, I can switch to a job that is local, not in tech, lower paid, in the physical world, connected to real people. It's obviously not going to be very hard labor at that age.

The idea is to pay down the entire mortgage, optimize the home for energy use, and reduce to just one small cheap car, or maybe even none at all. There's plenty smaller items to save on, but that's the bulk of it. Funny thing is that it's barely even a lifestyle downgrade.

It should add that this is our plan. My wife is in. She has an office job, not in tech, but is equally done with it. A massive waste of life, it drains the soul. We estimate that by that time, it requires as little as 1.5 x minimum wage to keep things going. Which is an absolute joke compared to our current combined earning power.

I'm under no illusion that our potential new jobs are going to be terribly exciting. It doesn't have to be.

Our plan isn't just driven by a disgust for the modern office or fear of becoming obsolete, it's also because we realized that retirement is a scam. We both have a large family and the general pattern we observe is that around the age of 70, most people are broken, exhausted, dead or have lost their partner. They do not thrive in magical new freedoms, travel, or hobbies for some 2 decades. They perish. They sit, talk and complain and slowly see their peers fall apart.

Brutal, but the lesson is to not delay gratification that long. Work with the assumption that retirement sucks and that you're on the clock to improve your life during your good years.

Anyway, what was the question again?

Right now I’m about 50/50 between software engineering and EMS. The value of the work I do as an EMT is obviously much greater, but the pay disparity is so vast it’s hard to commit to the jump. Aside from what other comments have already noted, I’d get ready for work being much much harder on you and your body on a daily basis. You may not have to think about the job outside of working hours, but there’s a new level of physical exhaustion that comes from being on your feet working 12 hours a day then doing the same the next day. And the next, and the next.

Additionally, you may find the new rules and regs of your position to be grating. Since you’re in sales, you can set your own schedule to some degree. That flips to needing to get permission to leave work for the slightest reason. This extends to relationships between you and your bosses as well. At my software job I tend to collaborate with management, in EMS I take orders.

I worked in joinery and carpentry for around 6 years (apart from a few years as a teen as well). While I love building and think they’re incredible crafts, you might find that very few people agree. If you want to work for the sake of moving, building, some kind of rudimentary connection to a physical process, maybe that would be alright.

I found it fairly soul draining. I want to be great at what I do so I can make the best things possible for people (within reason, of course). Every time I build something, I’m focused on improving myself and my work. The end result should be the creation, improvement, or restoration of something that really should exist, and makes someone’s day or months or years better. A form of leaving things better than you found them.

What I did for most of my years was seek out people like me (and mostly failing) while unethically corner-cutting for foremen, radically simplifying joinery processes to save money (not improve products), doing mass amounts of body-breaking menial labour to get big jobs moving, covering up avoidable mistakes because very few people cared not to make them, and generally grinding my love for my work into a pulp.

Drunk people on forklifts. Heaps of overt sexism and racism. People working hard to avoid doing their jobs rather than working hard at their jobs. Heaps of resentment if you care and want to do better. Terrible compensation.

I love building things. I still do it, and frankly I value my physical labour and trade skills more highly than software. I suppose it seems to me that society, or at least the economy, strongly disagrees and so it’s both financially and perhaps spiritually intractable to return to that kind of work as a career.

If these things don’t sound like they’d matter to you, that’s great. I know my incompatibility was partially my own temperament and stubborn inability to simply adapt and let these things be. I am glad I left it behind, though. Despite being young and healthy, it was doing bad things to my body and not doing much for my mind either.

I moved in the other direction. Helped my father run a business that could roughly be classified as "sewer and water installation", among other things.

The term "manual" varies a ton. The work I was doing was extremely physical, requiring long hours (12 hours on a reduced day, six days a week) during the main work season. Friends working in a grocery store had very different working conditions and pay.

The first thing to keep in mind is that it's hard to do a job with a heavy physical component after 50. There's a good chance you'll end up managing other workers, and it's not the same as managing office workers. And finally, as is the case with many of these types of jobs, mine required considerable intellectual effort in addition to the physical effort (solving problems, dealing with regulations, etc.) and I had to deal with customers all the time.

I had a similar background. Grew up doing manual labor on a family farm, then college then active duty military for several years. There's a huge difference between "manual labor indoors normal hours" and "manual labor outdoors all hours all weather". For the first 15 years of my software career I couldn't believe my good fortune; awesome pay, intereting work, smart coworkers, dry and warm! Heaven!

Now at 20+ years in software I'm so fried I can barely push a key a lot of days. My body is wrecked because I haven't kept fitness up. I need to make some changes for sure. Looking at possible hardware start up now.

>I know that office work is desirable for a reason (people like to sit down!!) but I think there might be something inspiring and rewarding about working with me hands.

Before I became a programmer I worker various odd jobs during summer holidays and some time during my first years in university. It was mostly unqualified job at construction sites, delivery of household appliances, farm work, etc. Of course, you are not aiming at that kind of work but I just wanted to share my experience of "working with me hands" - it absolutely sucks. Cold, exhausted, wet, dirty or any combination of these, I didn't earn much and sometimes I worked for >14 hours just for a little bit of more pay, I also often had to wake up very early. Office job is soul-rotting but at least it's physically comfortable and I am really happy I have one now.

I co-founded and run a non-profit makerspace. 70% of our membership is in the IT field in some way. Getting to make something physical especially something small enough to show people is a big win for a lot of them. Some love CAD designing things to be CNC milled or laser cut or 3D printed but doing manual measuring, cutting, assembly, etc. in the woodshop is by far the most popular craft. If you have a makerspace / hackerspace in the area, it's a good way to get in some time working with your hands without (or before) switching careers.

I definitely see some paths for someone to make a living or even quite decent wage doing custom(-ish) work in a few areas but unless you get hired somewhere or partner with a business, it's a lot of marketing work or grinding on Etsy or at local shows.

I like to do the oil change on my car, not because I love it, but because it's a good reminder to myself what life is like for those less fortunate who didn't have the same choice. Not to say there aren't any people who don't love that, but physical labor is plenty though as well.

You might enjoy the interview I did with a 20 year software engineer veteran who did stint(albeit short) as an Amazon warehouse worker to get through burnout


God no. I crawled out of that dirt to make a life for myself. You don't wanna go back there. Every single morning I wake up and thank God, Buhdda, Krishna, Zeus, Allah, whoever, for my career and job. You have no idea the misery that 90% of the human population is trapped in for life.

I feel you man.

Don't want to be a selfish bastard but equally don't want to be a sad bastard.

No. I think it's a "grass is always greener" fallacy. Working behind a cash register is likely going to be far more frustrating than working with tech stakeholders and be a lot more physically fatiguing. You really just can't attach so much of your self-worth to your job ever. If you have a hole in your life, then picking up a hammer or paintbrush doesn't seem likely to fill it. Maybe finding a job in your area of expertise working for a company that has more of a positive mission can add a little extra satisfaction without forcing you to give up too much. But really making personal connections is what's going to give you the most. If not with co-workers, then falling in love works pretty well. So does having kids.

I did not something similar, but here’s my catch after reading about 3/4 of the comments as well as your reactions to it.

I think you should do it! Follow your passion!

I see all the arguments of people say “nah” but I think this career switch will bring you joy and happiness. Also, you always have the ability to go back. More likely is, that you grow into the coffee business and might end up building your own company.

Having a small espresso machine at home, I brought it to a espresso machine maintenance company. I entered the shop and I immediately felt the passion for good coffee, the craftsmanship of maintaining and fine tune coffee machines and finally make a good espresso. Pure joy to see and experience!

Good luck and have a wonderful ride!

I think it also depends on your social background, the social life that you would lead, and what you want to be in the future?

If you are from the UK, then you would need to consider how the change in social status would affect how you are perceived by your possible friends and family. Would you be happy having to deal with people who have a different mindset, different cultural pursuits, etc... than you?

I think money is less of an issue as long as you make a nice middle class salary for where you live. A lot of the tech community seems to be obsessed with money making, but that is more of a trait shared by Americans, and not widely found in Europe nor Asia. The main issue is whether you are physically capable of manual labour.

I wish I could be a musician. I have the necessary talent but haven't put in the work. To be honest, I'd rather be a musician and eat Ramen noodles than keep writing accounting software and live in a mansion. Hell, even if it meant being alone forever and being poor as dirt vs having a relationship and living in luxury, I'd still take rather be a musician in a heartbeat. Every time I do a job interview it gets harder to smile and say this is my dream job when I know I will spend every moment in misery feeling like I was wasting my life. I got into programming as a creative outlet, and now I'm competent at it, and I have to survive. I bet a lot of other people are in a similar boat.

I haven't switched. I still mostly do software engineering. But I did burn out on my job in a toxic workplace and quit with nothing quite so formal as a plan.

Before picking up more software work ~6mo later, I got certified as an EMT and started volunteering on the ambulance at a local service. It has been a really great choice. I work with excellent people in a job very different from my remote software one. I wouldn't call it manual labor by any stretch, but it has a very different physicality and interpersonal nature than engineering that makes it very rewarding for me.

There's no reason on paper to spend whole days volunteering doing something you're not the best at. Doesn't matter.

> would involve being on the road four out of five days.

This is bad for your health. Being stuck in a vehicle is worse than being in an office chair. And no matter what you say now, you're going to end up eating a lot of take out and not really exercising.

Something to consider.

For me, a career change seems drastic and unnecessary. If you want to do work with your hands, pick up a hobby that lets you do that, and use your finance salary to fund it. If you want to be traveling all the time, find a high-paying sales job that lets you work from the road to financially support all that travel. If you want to do good for the world, volunteer--but keep doing the uninspiring pointless work to support yourself. You're probably going to see a lot of survivor bias in the replies here--nobody ever wants to talk about how they burned out, tried becoming a janitor or whatever and failed and went broke.

I went the other way, from a manual laborer ("able seaman") on a cement tugboat to an engineer. I would never go back for any reason. Parts of working with your hands or working outdoors can be rewarding, but it was extremely brutal and backbreaking work. Aside from the physical demands it was also very unhealthy breathing in powdered cement all the time. IMO if you want to use your hands more start a garden, fix up a house or a car, or get some productive physical hobby. Don't quit your day job until you're very sure you want to do the thing day in day out for a living. Just my two cents.

Before software I worked a number of blue collar jobs. Despite sharing the same feelings as you, there's no way I'm taking a pay cut and going back to how I lived before.

I would remind you that the grass is always greener.

Here's a thread that was on the /r/bestOf subreddit the other day about finding meaning in one's work:


A friend of mine switched from IT work (roll outs of retail systems) to driving a fork lift. He was able to stay with the same company and kept his seniority and vacation time (they give an extra week per 5 years so he’s up to 6 weeks PTO). He’s making less money of course, but he’s far happier. No more time on the road and he says he loves that when his shift ends, it ends.

One downside for me is we have to plan further ahead to hang out since he is almost always scheduled to work weekends. But between us we’ve got plenty of PTO to make it work. We’re doing a full week of bikepacking in July!

I find the juxtaposition between professional and manual jobs to be quite odd ;D

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