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I don't want to work very hard
224 points by flaneur on Dec 11, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 193 comments
I've been a professional developer about ten years now and I don't want to do it any more. I don't mean developing, I love coding. I mean work.

At every workplace (big to small, profit and non-, startup to hegemony), I'm enthusiastic the first couple weeks but inevitably slide to keeping up appearances with 2-6 hours of actual work per week. Sometimes I like coworkers and projects, sometimes I haven't. In any case, after a year or so I'm completely frustrated and I leave, to happily live off savings for a few months. Yeah, the million-dollar question from 'Office Space', find a way to make a career of whatever you'd do if you didn't have to have a career. It's possible, but it's the "career" part I hate. I fail to understand the Protestant Work Ethic. I don't see any reward in work, just lost time.

I've studied history some, things are great in America: abundant food, clean water, safe streets, no civil strife, no wars (yes, two occupations), effective medicine, efficient sanitation. It's not utopia, but there's no need to bust my ass to 'change the world'. The last 50 years are some of the best in history and the good times will likely keep rolling, so why waste them? Any if they're going to stop, why waste them?

Does anyone else feel like this?

I'm winding down on the best job I've ever had, two years at a small non-profit. It's taken longer, but I'm just as fed up with working. My plan is to take the money I've saved up and start a business. I think I've found a niche with a need, and if I can put enough in my pocket that I can buy insured and very low-risk securities to quietly live off a trickle of interest.

I've already done all the lifehack stuff, so I don't own or want to own much. I want my time, all of my time, to pursue my hobbies and relationships with friends and family. Consulting doesn't work, I'd have to charge hundreds per hour to work as little as I'd like, and that's before the client management/sales overhead. I've read 4 Hour Work Week and found the nuggets of good info in the fog of bad writing and hyperbole, but it basically comes down to becoming a manager. And if I was OK pushing pills I'd probably go hang out on the Digital Point forums to pick up some shady deals, but I have too much of a conscience.

I know it's not the PG startup plan, where you work like hell for a few years to make something people want. I just want to make a bankroll and get out. I'm not sure why I'm posting, except that hanging out here and reading about startups has made me think it's possible to break my frustrating cycle of work, and I'm curious to hear what folks think.

"The thought of having to expend my creative energy on things that make practical everyday life more refined, with a bleak capital gain as the goal, was unbearable to me. - Einstein

I think most people on HN could relate to this quote. Like it or not, as professional developers, we rarely create, but simply refine. It was fun at the start of my career, but now my professional life seems rather unimaginative.

Great quote.


The pre and postamble to that quote is particularly apropos:

I was originally supposed to become an engineer but the thought of having to expend...was unbearable to me. Thinking for its own sake, like music!

I think we could learn a lot by interacting with people completely outside of our industry who you know are not doing the work for the money.

Wow, I've never heard that quote! I love it!

"Instead I decided to work on weapons that can kill LOTS of people... fuck those guys who didn't get me in school." -- Bert.

The fact that his work was applied to the creation of nuclear weapons was one of Eintstein's great regrets in life. The fact that those weapons were used on cities full of civilians was his greatest.

Albert signed a letter urging for the creation of an atomic bomb.

If you think someone that intelligent could not have realized that an atomic bomb would be used to actually kill people -- then you are sorely mistaken.

I think the idea of a German atomic bomb was an even greater concern for Einstein, and for others.

The years leading up to WWII were very, very complicated. It's unrealistic to claim that your hindsight (or anyone's) is 20/20 with respect to what should have been done.

Agreed, the only reason there even was a US atomic bomb so early was because the US military intercepted multiple uranium shipments bound for Japan. When Germany fell they tried to get enough refined material for the Japanese to get the bomb first so the war would be won by their allies and not their enemies. Fortunately the US Navy had recovered enough by that point in the war to hunt down the U-Boats.

If the US Navy hadn't recovered so quickly after Pearl Harbor, and if the Enigma Code hadn't been cracked then we'd all be hailing the Emperor of Japan right now. I mean the first nuclear test wouldn't have been in the middle of a desert, it would have been over mainland China. The USSR would likely have never invaded Japan, keeping their neutrality pact alive would have meant the Japanese would have had free reign to attack anywhere they saw fit.

The whole of WWII is extremely complicated. I mean the reason for the whole delay in the Japanese surrender to the US after the atomic bombings was because they didn't plan to, until the USSR invaded Japanese territory, breaking a neutrality pact and covering almost as much land in days as the US had managed in months. The Japanese were afraid of being conquered by the USSR because of the atrocities they committed against Russians at the start of the war. So Japan didn't surrender to the allies, they surrendered ONLY to the USA so they would have to be protected from the Russians, incidentally because they knew the US had the A-Bomb they knew it would have to be used in their protection if Russia kept invading.

So just the simple 'the A-Bomb won the war' theory is a billion times more complicated than the lay person understands. Hindsight is 20/20, but you're still as blind as the point of view you're looking from. The American POV for the war is very blind of what truly happened during the war compared to the British POV; I'm British and when studying history we were taught that because the US was so late coming into the war it was solely the British Navy and RAF keeping the German Navy from expanding out into the Atlantic. If it wasn't for the British then it wouldn't have been Pearl Harbor, it would have been a full-out invasion by the Germans long before anyone even dreamed of D-Day.

I take issue with some of your observations.

It's true that Germany sent Uranium to Japan as their defenses collapsed. That was 25 March, 1945. German forces surrendered about six weeks later, around 5 May. The Captain, Feher I believe, surrendered to Allied Powers following orders for all U-boats to surrender (insert interesting tangent here) Assuming he would have violated orders and made it to Japan, it would have only meant Japanese would have had Uranium in mid 1945. The first working nuclear bomb was detonated at the Trinity site in July 1945, just a few weeks later. The United States bombed japan in August, just a few weeks after that. There has been no significant evidence that the Japanese were anywhere near capable of using the Uranium to construct a working bomb in those 8-10 weeks. And even if they had, industrial production in the states would have landed a dozen nuclear bombs on Japanese soil for every one they could have built.

It's also true that the Japanese feared the Russians more than the United States, but Japan was a complex cauldron of interests at that time. For instance, the surrender recording by the Emperor had to be smuggled out of the Palace because military elements would have destroyed it if they had found it. So simply saying that they would not have surrendered solely due to the atomic bombings is misleading at best. Oddly enough, you're over-simplying it. There were many interests in Japan, and the interests of surrendering to the United States won out. At the end of the day, it was the emperor's call, and the diplomatic service won out over the military.

History is complicated, yes. The British performed against the Germans in a way that lent credence to Churchill's statement that this was "our finest hour". But there was also lease-lend, and lots of loans, and secret help from the United States. FDR realized the war was coming but had to wait until American popular opinion realized it as well. There was also Hitler's mucking around with the execution of the air war, diverting bombing raids from airfields (where they were devastating) to civilian targets, where they inflicted terror but were militarily not as significant.

I know WWII was the most complex story ever in terms of ethics. Members of my own family died in the nazi death camps, so how could I be against fighting that war? However, no amount of complexity and evil could make me drop an A-bomb on a city.

At some point I have to say, whatever the consequences, I'm just not going to do this. You don't torture. You don't kill indiscriminately. Otherwise there is nothing left worth fighting for anyway.

War is all about making the other person stop fighting. War has been around as long as there have been people with different opinions and the will to use force to settle them.

These are super-ethical issues: ie, they exist regardless of your opinion of them. I hope there is no disagreement on them.

Throughout history all of the techniques you mention have been used to advance society in order to put you in a position of modern life being able to make your opinion to quit fighting under certain circumstances. Since you are alive right now, and must find some value to your life, it follows that after all of these conflicts in which your rules were not followed, there was still something left that was worth fighting for. At least at the level of civilization. So it follows that you at least value the results of other people with fewer qualms than you. Otherwise you should be living in a cave by firelight -- but fire was probably stolen by force involving torture, mass killings, etc. as well, so put the torch out.

That's at a civilization level. At a personal level, many folks throughout history have had moral issues with various parts of war. In the United States, many many times the rest of the populace fought wars the Quakers refused to participate in. In this case, either 1) you die, 2) you submit, or 3) somebody else with fewer moral qualms fights the war for you.

Morals are a key part of your personal life. I just wouldn't substitute my personal morals for my greater responsibility to mankind. My personal morals might be wrong, and if morals mean anything they mean the ability to introspect and change. I'm fully prepared to be wrong and face the personal consequences to me if my morals tell me to do or not to do something. It becomes selfish and grossly immoral, in my opinion, to inflict consequences on others under the banner of my own self-righteousness. War is a nasty, ugly business and it should be avoided at all costs mainly because of this equation: it strips us all to the primal need to dominate or die.

That's just my opinion. I would not mean to judge. I've found self-righteousness on both sides of the "just war" discussion, and it seems to hide the greater issue of how mankind as a race reacts and suffers.

You're implying that we would not be able to enjoy all the benefits of modern life (or even our own existence) if it wasn't for the atrocities of the past. I don't agree with that. The things I find valuable in the present might still be here, and more on top of it, if history had taken a differnt course.

But I never denied that some wars are justified. I'm just saying that winning them is not worth throwing out of the window all the things that we want to achieve by winning them.

Your logic is that by accepting defeat (in some extreme cases) instead of using torture and mass murder I also accept that these very things do in fact take hold. That's not a necessary conclusion though. Even lost wars have sometimes had the exact opposite effect of what the winner had expected. And vice versa you could win a war but lose the argument so thoroughly that the principles of your enemy prevail for generations.

Put differently, it is important how wars are won, not just that they are won, because wars are not the end of the world and we have to live with the consequences of how things were done in past wars.

You realize, of course, that to sit in modern Germany alive and well (and being able to speak freely) is the result of two world wars, a cold war, a dozen or so continental wars (including ones that gave you religious freedom) countless invasions and counterinvasions by various tribes, the Romans seeking to pacify the Germanic tribes -- the limit of this list is simply the limits of our written record. Most all of these conflicts were fought "wrongly" according to your standards, because they involved torture and mass killings.

Your supposition is that somehow modern life would have come about without all of this dirty armed conflict. Since it did, in fact, happen the other way, the onus is on you to explain how all of this magic would work. I'm simply reporting to you that by your own standards you should still be living in a tribe in the woods somewhere.

Wars in many cases have different outcomes than the victors imagine. That's a non-sequiter, however, in that as 3-dimensional beings we are forced to make our best judgments and go forward. I'm not making an "ends justify the means" argument. I'm stating that the means must take into consideration what the ultimate ends will be for the human race, not just dither around about aspects of violence. Sometimes we get it wrong, sure, but that doesn't relieve us of our responsibility to think for more than just ourselves.

My personal morals say that I should never torture or kill. But I have a greater obligation to mankind than to myself. If forced, I have an obligation to my species that overrules the obligation I have to my conscience. It is better to die than violate one's personal morals, but it is better to violate one's personal morals than to let mankind perish. I am not the center of the moral universe.

That's some hard logic. Thanks for your response.

"I'm simply reporting to you that by your own standards you should still be living in a tribe in the woods somewhere"

I'm afraid that's not "simply" reporting. That's a pretty far reaching and (in my view) far fetched assumption. Most atrocities were not committed in the name of anything that got us out of the woods. Quite the contrary. And those atrocities that were committed with that aim may not have been necessary to get us out of the woods after all. At least that's not the kind of certainty you make it out to be.

"My personal morals say that I should never torture or kill. But I have a greater obligation to mankind than to myself. If forced, I have an obligation to my species that overrules the obligation I have to my conscience"

I'm not rejecting this idea outright, but I will say that most of the time the uncertainties of a complex world are so vast that I could never be so convinced of the righteousness of my cause that I would torture or kill indiscriminately. What if I'm wrong? What if my torturing and killing causes more torturing and killing instead of less? Your argument is very popular among all kinds of extremists by the way (which doesn't mean I'm assuming you are one of them of course)

It's reporting. We can go down the list of whatever moral values you have: freedom of religion, speech, the ability to assemble with other people who feel like you, your ability to have your own property, your ability to be responsible for your soul -- all of these come from armed conflict between one side who was against it and one side who was for it. And all armed conflict involved atrocities.

That's just history.

the uncertainties of a complex world are so vast that I could never be so convinced of the righteousness of my cause

This we agree upon. What I'm saying is that you are forced to make a decision. If you default to self-destruction by virtue of an inability to decide, or if you decide self-destruction is preferable to victory, then in fact you are still making a decision -- that decision is to let the other side have their way. You're on the hook either way. And in fact, I would argue that if the other side is committing atrocities as well, you're even more on the hook for inaction to prevent their atrocities from occurring.

In practice this isn't extremely complex, it's just unpleasant as heck. Let's use the European theater in the last war. Hitler was trying to exterminate the Jews and others. In addition, both sides committed atrocities (although history will show the allies committed much less than the Germans) In addition, both sides tortured.

Now you can argue to to participate on either side would be immoral. You can argue this from a variety of viewpoints. But at the end of the day one side was fighting in order for longer-term peace to happen where nations and people would be free. The other side was fighting to dominate large portions of Europe and the purify the Aryan race. Any reasonable observer would conclude that the greater good for mankind was more free people, not more dead subjected people.

Extremists may use these arguments. I don't know. If so, they would be obliged to point out how their viewpoint would lead to more free alive people and less dead subjected ones. Since extremism most of the times seeks to subject people and to destroy those who do not agree with them, I believe that rules out 99% of those groups.

You mention extremism. I must point out the other end of the spectrum: it has become fashionable to promote "peace at any cost" and high values in the abstract as long as doing so means I don't have to make moral decisions or participate. In other words, you can ride the high horse of self righteousness to keep out of the muck of actually participating in the world. But then, when a 9-11 rolls around, suddenly you're a rifle-carrying militia member again. Done in this way, and not out of deep moral conviction, it's a form of laziness and self-absorption. In other words, you can use good words and good morals to do very immoral things (like sitting on your ass and not stopping horrors where they occur for the real reason that it might involve some pain or self-sacrifice) And I am definitely not accusing you of this, simply pointing out that both extremes here have problems.

I'm not advocating peace at any cost. I do agree with you that sometimes it's necessary to fight wars, and I would personally take part in it if I thought that it was the right thing to do in a particular situation.

However, you are creating a false dichotomy between committing atrocities and losing the war. You say that historically all wars have come with atrocities and that's true. But there's a difference between observing this fact and claiming that these atrocities were necessary to win the war. The issue I take with your argument is that you make no difference between causality and correlation. And this difference is very important as it determines the extent of atrocities committed as well as the psychological results on both sides.

I do not think that Abu Ghraib was necessary for the US Army to prevail in Iraq. I do not think that Guantanamo was necessary to win the "war against the terror" (which hasn't been won anyway). Both events were extremely damaging to the cause. Guantanamo was much more damaging though, because Abu Ghraib was a violation of the Army's own rules and the people responsible for it have been brought to justice.

Guantanamo, on the other hand, was deemed necessary to win the war and it's one reason why the war has not been won and will possibly never be won, because people all over the world are asking the US, what are you fighting for? Freedom? Rule of law? And then they laugh without waiting for an answer and these are not (just) the evil people.

Things like free speech, democracy, etc, were not achieved by fighting any one war more ruthlessly than the enemy. They were the result of long social struggles, which to a large degree depended on ethical integrity for their success. You cannot create limitless contradictions between what you want to achieve and what you do to achieve it. It hurts your case and it poisons the culture of your own side so much that you're bound to lose the peace even if you win the war.

you are creating a false dichotomy between committing atrocities and losing the war

No. I defined war as something which continues until one side quits. I furthermore identified that you believe that in certain cases it is more desirable to quit than to prosecute a war in certain formats (such as the use of nuclear weapons) I observed that every war has had atrocities on both sides. Finally I observed that we all live in a world where we enjoy various freedoms, cultures, and science because of a lot of previous wars -- wars in which your norms (or any other norms for that matter) were disregarded to some degree.

It follows that there are always moral reasons for not fighting and that we would be living in caves had we all felt the way you describe. Therefore, if you believe that civilization is more important than your own petty opinions you're compelled to make muddy, ugly moral choices when it comes to the use of force. I made no statement that atrocities are necessary to win a war. I will say that war is about making the other side quit. Most often you end up doing something they really, really don't like in order to reach this point. Fire bombing Dresden, dropping the A-bomb on Japan, etc. -- all drew WWII to an end quicker and promoted the greater good. You may participate in a war and commit no atrocities at all. But by participating, you can be sure you are supporting actions and behaviors that on a clear, sane afternoon you would never do. That's why war sucks so much -- it drags us all down to the lowest denominator: survival.

I'm not getting into current events. They are emotionally laden and simply confuse the issues. I will point out that non-state actors acting in non-standard formats have been with us for a long time. They're usually shot on the battlefield or very close to it by means of summary courts martial. I'll also point out that the word "war" is overused to the point to be meaningless. We have a war on terror, a war on poverty (which I believe might involve shooting poor people?), a war on drugs, a war on pollution, etc. Let's take war as something where one side can clearly quit, which ties back to our previous definition. Under that definition, the current war on terror is not really a war at all, since "terror" cannot surrender to anybody.

IMO I'd say war and atrocities do go hand in hand, they don't have to but it just seems to be a downfall of human nature. I believe what happened in Japan is a prime example, the US troops had heard of all the atrocities against POW's and when invading they treated the Japanese dead more like game than humans, including taking trophies, this then got back to the Japanese and they were so disgusted by the American atrocities that when the US invaded cities there were mass suicides because the Japanese didn't want to live through US occupation. So ironically the Japanese Military committing atrocities ended up killing their own people more effectively than if they'd shot a civilian with every POW.

Again looking at history, I believe without war we wouldn't have technology. Most of the technology that we take as granted in the medieval period came from the Mongols, who because of war managed to gather together inventors from multiple countries and cultures and put them together. They took Chinese fireworks and Bronze Workers from Eastern Europe (I can't remember the country) and put 1 + 1 together, they built a cannon. They also committed many atrocities, however it was always the victims own fault, many times they killed the messenger, which the Mongol's invented their own postal service so they got pissed off at that and just besieged cities. Other times they were given fare warning, nearly always 'surrender and we'll let you live your lives as you always have', yet people refused. IIRC one time the citizens refused and killed the messenger, this one led to the Mongols diverting a river into the city and then slaughtering everyone.

The book I read (http://www.amazon.com/Genghis-Khan-Making-Modern-World/dp/06...) is a real eye opener. The man merely wanted to protect his own family, but betrayal after betrayal he ended up conquering most of the old world. The only reason he didn't take over all of western europe was because 'middle' europe was so poor they thought it was like what we imagine the third world. Aside from Europe they didn't invade most of Africa and India, this was purely because they couldn't ride their horses and didn't feel like invading.

Well, Daniel and electromagnetic, since I feel I'm beginning to repeat my arguments, I will say something general and then leave it there.

What seems odd to me is the role that history plays in your arguments. You are using it not just as something we can observe and use to inform our judgement about the likelyhood of things. You promote history to a normative force, something fateful that tells us how things must always be, something we must obey, something with a causal logic. Kind of similar to Karl Marx' ideas how capitalism would logically have to fail.

History is seen almost like a living conscious being with it's own objectives that makes you commit atrocities because for all time everybody will commit them and you must hit hardest to prevail.

I think this view disregards that complex systems can change in unpredictable ways and that mankind has reached a level of global interconnection of economies, information and, to some degree, values, that may change the whole game. At the same time, the power of individuals to create things of global impact is infinitely greater than ever before. This works in technology, in influencing opinions as well as in terrorism unfortunately.

It may just be that the rules of the past are obsolete, that no two great powers will ever wage war against each other again. Not just because of some ethic argument, but because it is no longer in anyone's interest. War, in the past, has always been seen as a means to gain economic strength. I think this kind of imperialist logic is starting to break down. All the geostrategic thinking is becoming ineffective.

And for myself I can say this. I refuse to follow the logic of you either fight the evil people or you have already made a decsion to help them. That's not logical in all cases (sometimes it is though). If I go and torture someone, I know what the immediate consequences are. If I don't do it, I cannot be sure what the consequences are, so this is not the kind of binary decision between two knowns that it's made out to be.

Sometimes I feel that it would help to solve many conflicts in this world if people just individually decided to step back for a while and do something useful instead of fighting. The northern ireland conflict ended partly because the Republic of Ireland had become economically incredibly successful. Some people had been doing something useful for a while, like writing software and building stuff, and that changed the game.

Thanks for the debate

Members of my own family died in the nazi death camps

Which camps? Were they in Germany or Poland?

I'm a little confused by what you meant at the end. Are you saying the British Navy prevented the Germans from invading America?

In the letter he suggested that it might be used to cause significant damage to a port. He had no idea that it would be (1) anywhere near as destructive as it was, or (2) small enough or light enough to drop from aircraft rather than only being used in either naval warfare (where death tolls would be much less) or as a fixed weapon acting as a disincentive to invasion (building them along some border so that an overland aggressor would surely be destroyed--essentially, a much more powerful minefield).

That's right. Have you seen Copenhagen (a movie produced for TV)? It shows Niels Bohr arguing with Heisenberg about the atomic bomb... it's a really good movie about a meeting between them that nobody knows what was it about.

Saw the stage version, it was excellent.

The full letter is scanned-in here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein_letter

At some point though we start to create problems for ourselves. It depends on the job. Some jobs let your creativity go wild by pushing your limits and mental capabilities. Sometimes they don't and they feel stale and not moving anywhere.

The stale jobs (and I see this) cause good thinkers to start thinking up big problems to solve. They don't like to be bored with monkey work (coding where no amazing creativity is necessary).

My last job pushed my capabilities to their limits. However my current one does not. And right now I feel like I am not learning anything, not getting better (getting worse if anything), but I try to learn from anything I can. Eventually if this job does not pick up I will be forced to leave not due to bad people, but due to boredom.

Last job I went on google news, hacker news, the daily wtf when I had down time. Here I do it because its the only way to keep sane. Damn you economic recession!

In any case next interview ask the question: "I like a challenge and chance to improve myself in things I am good or bad at and feel that my job should be something that forces me to become better than I am today. Do you think this position will challenge my abilities to their limit, and I don't mean can I do a 10 day project in 5?"

You can ask this question, but I doubt you will get a truthful answer, sorry to say. In multiple instances, I had been excited b/c the interview had challenging technical questions, only to be disappointed when I actually get into the work.

Remember: the relationship is you work for your employer, your employer pays you. Don't expect any more or less than that.

Sometimes, I actually ask to see the task tracker and ask which kinds of things I'd get to work on. That at least lets you know if there is interesting work that management has requested.

I always ask "if I started this position today, what tasks would you assign me?" It's a really informative question.

You'd better ask "It I started this position two months ago, what kind of things I'd be working on by now?" It takes a little to accustom yourself to each work environment, and a little longer to get into the flow of the place (know your collegues, the work process etc.). That said, yours is a darn good question, and on my next interview I'll be certain to ask it.

Have you tried working part-time?

I'm not sure this would help, because I don't really understand how you can love coding and hate working at the same time. Here is what I do:

I have an arrangement with my employer that I will not work full-time for more than 9 months straight. After 9 months I have a 6 months break. The arrangement is tacit, it's not in a contract, but it has been working for the last 3 years. It took me one year to find such a job. I turned down another job where I could have worked 3 days a week, because they wanted me to first work full-time for 1 year.

Work doesn't seem to turn me off as much as you, but then I only worked full-time for one year, the year my first IT employer trained me as a developer. I then worked 4 days a week and eventually quit because they wouldn't let me work 3 days.

It's not that I don't like work, it's just that my extremely time-consuming hobby is more important to me. One obvious downside is that I have less professional opportunities, so if I worked more, my job might be more interesting.

I am not sure I could afford this, or even have the courage to try it, if I hadn't also inherited some money. On the other hand I haven't tried the lifehack stuff.

I am in Switzerland, a country where unemployment tends to be low, but where working part-time as a developer is uncommon enough for lots of people to think it can't be done.

Huh. Somehow it had not occurred to me to try to make this cycle explicit. That's a really interesting idea, thank you.

This reminds me of something I often forget: if I want something out of the ordinary, it's very unlikely anyone will give it to me unless I ask.

And if you're good enough at your job, it's unlikely that you will be denied your request.

A couple of years ago I wanted to go on a holiday for a month in a busy time. I notified my employer about half a year in advance and we planned around it. In the end, the planning didn't work out, I moved my holiday a couple of weeks and my employer paid my airline ticket in return.

My mother always said: You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.

Ask and ye shall receive.

Or not. But it's usually better to ask anyway.

I'm not sure where you live or what your interests are, but this is the way contracting at Microsoft works. Every year contractors have to take a ~100 day break. Some contractors take that time off to relax / do hobby things, others take short term temp contracts or other part time work to fill the gaps.

I remember they got sued for essentially using temps for full time positions but never giving them the benefits of a full time position. This is probably their way of legally demonstrating that the temps really are temps.

That's interesting. Could you be more specific about the numbers?

Are these workdays? This would be the equivalent of 5 months. Or are they calendar days, which make it a little more than 3 months?

Do they have to take the break after 12 months of work? Or do they take it every year, making them work 9 months per year (assuming you count the break in calendar days)?

Another question. It sounds like Microsoft contractors have to take a break if they like it or not, so the point is probably not to keep them motivated. What advantage does Microsoft get from this?

This is a policy that is a direct result of the M$ "Permatemp" lawsuit. By labor law standards, a Contractor becomes an employee past this time-frame thus eligible for the same benefits as an employee.

Having the Contractor leave and come back is the loophole/workaround for this.


If you're good at what you do, all you need to do is ask. It'll happen.

I stumbled into this idea 10 years ago, and haven't looked back:


I also work something similar (three days a week). I recommend it highly. This year has been one of the most productive of my life.

This quote is nice:

"Perhaps I am more than usually jealous of my freedom. I feel that my connections with and obligations to society are at present very slight and transient. Those slight labors which afford me a livelihood, and by which I am serviceable to my contemporaries, are as yet a pleasure to me, and I am not often reminded that they are a necessity. So far I am successful, and only he is successful in his business who makes that pursuit which affords him the highest pleasure sustain him. But I foresee that if my wants should be much increased the labor required to supply them would become a drudgery. If I should sell both my forenoons and afternoons to society, neglecting my peculiar calling, there would be nothing left worth living for. I trust that I shall never thus sell my birthright for a mess of pottage."

H. Thoreau 10 January, 1851

More here: http://wingolog.org/archives/2007/12/18/in-which-our-protago...

What's the hobby?

I write and draw comics

Several quotes came to mind when reading this:

"If you win the rat race, you're still a rat." - Anna Quindlen, Harvard Commencement speech

"No man on his deathbed ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.'" - The late Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas, speaking at another Harvard Commencement

There's another quote that also springs to mind, but I can't remember who said it. It is "time is the ultimate luxury." I think of this more often as the years go by and more responsibilities land on my plate, and my personal and family time suffer. I like what I do, but there are real sacrifices that come with leading a career-driven life.

> "No man on his deathbed ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.'" - The late Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas, speaking at another Harvard Commencement

No, but I bet a lot of men have said, at least to themselves if not out loud, "I wish I'd had sex with a lot more gorgeous women." cf. Little Miss Sunshine.

Spending more time at the office is a fairly reliable way of upping your odds when you're not at the office.

Spending more time at the office is a fairly reliable way of upping your odds when you're not at the office.

American cultural assumption? Because I don't want women to be attracted to my money. Better ways to get women: learn to perform music, take up physical exercise, practice your confidence game.

If the goal is quantity of gorgeous women, and only to the point of sleeping with them, then who cares why they like you? :-)

Human beings are based on stimulus/response more than goal-seeking. My dealing with women has no clear-cut goal, it's an interplay of many different instincts some of which are frustrated at the thought of sex for money.

If your goal is to have sex with many hot women, then I think time spent practicing and refining your pick-up skills would be much better invested than time spent at the office.

Also if you have really hot co-workers spending time in the office is always a plus! I have no problem looking for a different job in exchange for a hot piece of ass if company policy gets in the way. (alright now I offended someone)... The trouble is getting the hot married ones, this takes skill and dedication (and a complete lack of caring for your current job).

Has it crossed your mind that maybe the hot married pieces of ass should be left alone?

Dude, I could have written your post (with some minor changes) I feel the same way quite often.

I think it happens after you have a certain level of expertise at your job - you're not really learning anymore, you're just maintaining, putting in new features, etc. I don't job hop TOO often, but I have worked on average 2 years per job. Part of that also is geographic as well as career considerations, but it was always about the right time to leave.

I too am into Lifehacking, loved the 4HWW etc. So I think I come from a similar perspective. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer to the question, or I would not be working at my current position. It is good, and the money is good, people are awesome, etc - but it definitely feels like "work."

I think the bottom line is if your hobby can't make you money, you need to make money somewhere, somehow, to trade for the things you need (food, shelter, etc). Some of this can come from the government, depending on your personal standard of living that you are accustomed to.

In my case, I am happy to give up a portion of my life for a relatively easy, enjoyable job so that I can live comfortably, eat well, etc.

In the long run, I would definitely prefer to not trade my hours for cash programming, and would prefer a website (or large conglomerate of websites) that provided passive income, but I am not there yet.

If you would like to work together on something, you can contact me sid [at] sidsavara [dot] com.

Ah, I follow your blog. Tried out TimeSvr after your review. I'm going to ponder my options for a few weeks. I may be in touch, but thanks for extending an invitation in any case.

No problem. Someone else has contacted me after seeing my post here as well, and it's an open invitation to anyone reading - if you want to join Lazy Hackers, LLC, get in touch =)

sid@sidsavara.com (why not, have at it spammers, I have Google's spam filter =P)

As much as I sympathize with your sentiment, I'd just like to point out that the real benefit of a larger-than-necessary paycheque is being able to actually save money for when you are too old or technically outdated to continue working.

It's certainly enjoyable to switch on and off from work and live off savings, but then you eventually get to the point where you can't find a job to switch back on to, and your savings are all gone...

Well, for all that matters, I could just die today and I'd be pretty damn unhappy if, before it's my time, I hadn't had a life that's true to myself.

Saving for the future conflicts in part with the desire to live a full life today.

Taking sensible care of your money is wise, spending a bit less than you make is wise. Trying to get lots and lots of money and giving way too much to your work now in hope that you can then, at some time later, retire and finally start living for real is an illusion. Because you never know what's in the future and you never will.

If you haven't learned how to live and let go before you retire, you sure don't know how to do that when you actually do retire -- in fact, you're going to spend most of your remaining days learning just that. Most people seem to fail in that, because transitioning from a "drone" to live a full life is hard. Really, really hard.

Living now doesn't mean careless, extravagant spending and ending up broke. But all the work you've put into your savings needs to be periodically extracted out and enjoyed by yourself because that's what life is.

You can never control life to the extent that you could be certain you won't run out of money, even if you try. (Well, one way would be to kill yourself as soon as you have lots of money -- then the money and security has outlasted your own life.)

I've learned that the only thing you can do is force yourself to trust that you will always get enough money somehow, somewhere, for everything you really need in your life at the time. If you try to think something else, it's an illusion. Life is at stake in many ways, all the time, there are endless ways it could change or end each day and each hour. And you won't have a say about it should something happen.

You can only trust that your life finds its own way and that's all. The rest you can choose to learn to enjoy.

Saving for mid 60's retirement only takes ~10% of your earnings which is just not that much money. I save ~22% of what I make now because I like the safety of knowing being unemployed for 6months is not going to be a big deal. My goal is to get used to spending what I do now and keep dumping the extra into savings because scraping by is less than pleasant, but spending more has diminishing returns. So far I worked 3.5 years and took 6months off which ate up 1/2 of my savings, and I am now 2 years into my next job which is less stressful, 40h/week, and pays better. Being unemployed is slightly more pleasant but not that big a deal vs working at this job.

Anyway, I like the fact money is really unimportant in my life. I can eat out and it does not break the bank yet I also don't care if I get laid off or fired. Next time I am unemployed I could eat out less spend and spend less money, but getting a job a little sooner is not that big a deal and people look at you funny when you have long stretches of unemployment plus I never really found much in the way of a mid day social life.

PS: If in a few years I have 50k of non retirement money sitting around I could take a year off, do a start up and not feel as cash strapped, or whatever but retiring mid 40's is also a reasonable goal based on my spending habits and and how much money I will probably make with a few more years in the field.

when you are too old or technically outdated to continue working

I'd be willing to bet that, for the current generation at least, that will never happen. (But I still max out my retirement account, just to be safe. :-)

I'm confused by that statement. Do you really mean that IT gurus won't get too old or burnt out on re-leanering new stuff every few years?

I am 40 and have been programming since I was 12; almost always on the bleeding edge. I can assure you that there is a point of being "too old".

Unless you are quite a different person that I, I highly suggest you keep maxing out that retirement account. ;)

IT gurus won't get too old or burnt out on re-learning new stuff every few years

I can't speak directly to the IT guru part, or to getting burnt out on new stuff. I can tell you that my dad is almost 70 and has never enjoyed his work more. I'm 35 and I'm still always itching to learn new things. And given the rapid advance of technology, I'd be surprised if the usual 'grow old and die' scenario remains 'usual' much longer. In the not-too-distant future I expect longer lives and continual renewal to be the norm, and I for one am looking forward to it.

I will take that bet. My retirement account for yours.

Unless, of course, the company you've entrusted your savings to loses it all 2 weeks before you retire (e.g.gets heavily involved in opaque that end up being worthless)....

I might be downmodded to hell with this message, but whatever... I feel about the same.

Do you have some sort of nobility in your ancestorship (or in the army) ? I noted that this feeling would be more frequent among descendants of aristocrats. During the Aristocraty paradigm, work was despised more than anything else. We are now living in a bourgeois world, where work is sanctified as the alpha and omega.

I don't like work. The one thing I dislike more than work, are the people who try to make me feel guilty for it. Usually, these are the same people who do not know how to enjoy life outside their work. They are hypocrites, because work is their escape route from boredom rather than a burden, and the truth is that if you allowed them to quit, they wouldn't. Or not for long. Because the true burden to them is exactly doing nothing special. They don't understand people can be different and actually enjoys spending time doing nothing special. As your nickname suggests it, we have a word in french for the vertuous laziness : flanerie. While these people find it intolerable when they don't work, we are pretty much the opposite. The zeitgeist is certainly on their side for now.

I have a true respect for hard work, but no admiration. I am deeply unimpressed by success stories and rich people who worked hard to climb to the top of the ladder. This kind of satisfation is foreign to me. I don't ask for your admiration, only for the respect of who I am whatever might be my activity and my aspirations. I doubt I'll buy all your products, but I won't harm your family or ask for your money, and I despise the nanny state as much as you probably are.

Go in peace, my brother ;)

Have you looked at living overseas? It looks possible to work for 5 years then not need to work indefinitely. Though, depending on your friends and family, this might not be what you want. Anyways, here's a little research I've done. If I don't get married in the next couple years, I plan on following my own advice.


I have a friend who is very well travelled, and he agrees with the viability of my take on financial independence. There is a lot more research I need to do, but the general concept seems alright.

Look, I appreciate your candor and all but I can't help but think if I was your coworker then I'd be pissed at having to carry your sorry arse.

Shit or get off the pot.

Difficult to tell. Our most highly respected individual contributor in our department comes in at 11:00, leaves at 5:00, and basically works on whatever catches his fancy whenever he pleases (Which, thankfully, usually results in a reduction in labor for our and other departments each time he releases some new code/product)

When particular tasks are placed on his plate - he is so overwhelmingly competent, that he simply nails them and moves onto the next task. The goal is to get _very_ good at your job so you do _less_ work.

And he is easily the most popular member of the team. People love him to pieces and I've never heard anyone suggest he isn't carrying twice the load of everyone else.

As I tell my team - Our Goal in life is to become so proficient at our jobs that we only need to come into work for an hour a day. If we develop our level of excellence, or ability to automate, and our ability to deliver to that level, I'm more than happy to have them in the office for as little time as is required to complete the tasks of their position. (presuming that the median person with those responsibilities would take 40 hours a week, of course)

As it turns out, with the exception of Director Level employees, the most highly paid _contractor_ in our company works for precisely 2 hours, from 9:00 - 11:00, each day. They are available 24x7 for assistance, but, if they do their job properly, they rarely are called in for help.

That is where I think we want to be. That should be our goal. Spend our time with family, in nature, pursuing those objectives which bring us inner happiness.

"At every workplace (big to small, profit and non-, startup to hegemony), I'm enthusiastic the first couple weeks but inevitably slide to keeping up appearances with 2-6 hours of actual work per week."

Does the person you described sound like the submitter?

A laudable goal, but if you managed that do you really think your senior management (or at least the mgt in most companies) would agree? They'd think they're not getting value for money if your only "working" 2 hours a day.

Excellent point - thought somewhat distressing. Most companies place value on the number of hours that you put in at the office (though a good portion of them recognize your actual contribution with pay increases, stock compensation, and promotions).

My position on this (and, I'm actually in a position to sign off on contractor invoices) - wouldn't you rather your top people do the same amount of work in _fewer_ hours, presuming they maintain the same level of quality?

What's the value of doing something in 40 hours/week versus 8 hours/week?

Fair enough. For what it's worth, I've never received a negative performance review or been told I was underachieving. Maybe that sounds like a "Ooh, I'm a 10x rock star!" boast, but I think it more likely my work environments have been undemanding.

I think you're quite accurate. A performance review isn't an objective measure of performance or aptitude, it is too limited and restricted to the context of one company.

What would you fellow workers say about you? I have worked with people doing the 4 hour work week and honestly I can't say I was impressed. Kills the morale around the office when you work with loafers...

(1) Who cares what fellow workers would say? Do work to make them happy, or yourself/your family?

(2) What kills morale for me is idiot work-a-holics who think they will get ahead in the company by parking their butt in a seat more hours then anyone else. I worked on a team once with mostly contractors (paid hourly) and a couple of moron permis who were like that. They were averaging 12 hour days across the year. The contractors did it because they were well compensated for it. But the permis did it because they thought they could stand out this way. Get promotions, raises and bonuses. The problem was that working 12 hours would only make you average. I continued doing 42 hours. My boss told me I was not up to the standards of the team and needed to work more. I told him that wasn't going to happen, so they transferred me to a development team where I became a stand out (not hard to do given the kind of developers in IT), getting raises and good bonuses every time.

Our salaries were comparable and bonuses have a cap, so basically they were throwing away 3-4 hours away every day to keep up with the little rat race they had created for themselves.

Certainly there are cases such as you describe. But when I am working on a team, I would prefer not to do so with 'four hour work week' types. I know a loafer when I see one. ;-)

What is the ;-) for? You think you've found one? If so, you would do better not to judge people for whom the sum of your knowledge is: "they don't completely agree with me". ;-)

The last project I did at my last job I did several hours overtime every day until the projects completion. Not because I was asked, or because I felt it was expected. I did it because I was 40% into a refactoring that I didn't want to back out of. I could have, as my manager suggested, gone back to the main branch and added the new business feature requests and avoided the overtime, but the maintainability of the code means something to me. How "beautiful" it is, if you will. It didn't bother me to invest the extra time because I knew the several-months-long refactoring that was desperately needed (6+ year old code base that had changed hands 8 or so times) could happen no other way.

I think you over-simplify and focus in the wrong area. In any thing people set out to do, the best ones truly love what they're doing. Micheal Jordon didn't wake up every morning saying "Oh, god, do I have to play basketball today?". This is also why many fighters retire so many times. They just can't stay away. The thing to look for in other programmers isn't "oh, look! He only worked 7 hours today, he's a free-loader!". What happens when you ask them about programming projects they do outside of work? Does the thought create an instant grimace on their face? It will for most, but not the best ones.

Personally, I'd rather have one guy who works 4 hours a day that's passionate about programming then 2 of your non-loafers. They tend to cause me the most work in the end. ;-)

> Personally, I'd rather have one guy who works 4 hours a day that's > passionate about programming then 2 of your non-loafers. They tend to > cause me the most work in the end. ;-)

absolutely. I agree 100%.

Have you considered that it's the lack of challenge and the fact you aren't actually working much that's the issue? Have you tried to embrace a project that involved a skill set that you didn't have?

On the issue of starting your own business:

There's a reason entrepreneurship is entrepreneurship: there is risk involved. It may work, or it may not. You may build something people want and sell it, cashing out - or you may fail or may only be able to get it into a state where it brings profit - but not into a state where you can walk away from it, wealthy. You can then move on and do something else (with higher chance of success) but now that's eight years of working longer hours vs. four and so on.

That's not to say you shouldn't start a business (I certainly want to start my own at one point or another), you just can't hope that it will magically solve your problems.

I've been reading Thoreau's Walden, where he mentions a Native American basket salesman who would argue when selling his baskets: "if you don't buy my basket, my people will starve"; Thoreau then argued that it isn't "how to better sell a basket" that the salesman should worry about but how to avoid relying on selling baskets not to starve.

Likewise, instead of thinking "how can I generate passive income for myself so I don't have to work" start thinking "how can I structure my work/life that I don't need a passive income to be happy and productive" (it could be reducing your living standards down to the basics where only consulting/part-time work is needed, it could be finding an area in which you're more excited to work - and if you can't find a job in that area, create one for yourself).

"I think I've found a niche with a need, and if I can put enough in my pocket that I can buy insured and very low-risk securities to quietly live off a trickle of interest."

Markets are pretty efficient. It's pretty unlikely that you've found a niche where you can make a good living without any work. If you do, it won't be long before someone who wants to work hard comes around and blows your business out of the water. But if you hit it right, you might be able to make a pile of cash before it happens.

It's the startup equivalent of stock market timing, and I imagine you have about as good a chance of success.

Job markets are not as efficient as real markets where you buy and sell things because jobs are not liquid. If I find a job paying $50/hour and someone else is working doing the same job earning $30/hour, I can't exactly make any profit arbitraging the market to efficiency.

For a pretty small investment in time and money, most grocery store cashiers could learn to become plumbers. Plumbing routinely pays 4x a grocery store cashier, but it is harder/nastier work and often deals with fecal matter.

it is harder/nastier work and often deals with fecal matter

Sounds like programming.

Why can't you arbitrage people? That's effectively what consulting firms do.

Recruiters also.

Yaw, I was responding to his idea of a niche startup-- not getting a job. Certainly there are plenty of ways to get a job and save money.

Here's what you do:

1. Work your ass off to have good savings if you don't already. This may take a few years.

2. Make sure that there are people in the US who would like to work with you as an independent contractor so that you know you can make a buck when necessary.

3. Move to a foreign country with an advantageous exchange rate (Argentina comes to mind).

4. Buy some property in a place you like and relax! Your money will go very far in such a place.

Living in the US and not working are fairly incompatible unless you're loaded.

i ended up following this model exactly, tho haven't bought property yet. i am writing this from buenos aires and am heading to cape town on sunday for 3w, then india.

i was a developer at a couple of big media companies for 4y. ended up leaving the last one to start my own company. left that 7m ago to travel because i was burned out. this summer i spent 4m consulting in vancouver, where i was able to spend time with a lot of great friends who i hadn't seen in years. that was amazingly recharging.

left vancouver in oct to come to buenos aires. i spent 4-5 weeks of hanging out in cafes, reading, visiting antarctica, hiking in nature, and experimenting with ideas in an inspiring city. being away from the distractions of everyday life was helpful to evaluate the best direction for pursuing my calling (not a job, or a career - more here: http://is.gd/b7h8). it has been friggin amazing and i'm totally recharged.

you know that fire in your belly that causes you to be obsessed with what you're building? i haven't had that feeling in ages, but i've got it now. i was lying awake in bed until 430a yesterday thinking about a feature, so i said screw it - i got up and implemented it and was up until 630a. can't even remember the last time i even considered that.

i guess my point is that you can definitely get that fire back. my first thought when reading your post was that you need to take time to chill and figure out what your calling is. it won't feel like work when you do.

I had that fire for a couple years and it was one of the most exciting and rewarding times of my life. Working on getting it back right now and it's good to have that feeling in my gut again.

Thanks for the brief but highly motivating post, kareemm.


This site comes to mind... http://www.privateislandsonline.com/

Just make sure theres no local pirates!

Fighting pirates sounds like a fun life.

Short as it may be...

Unless you out-pirate them.

>I just want to make a bankroll and get out.

Life is hard, man. It's easy to find a way to waste your time and get by. But there is no easy way to make a bankroll and get out. To make enough to live off of for the rest of your life, you need to provide as much value to the marketplace in a short period of time as an average man does over the course of his whole life. You think that's easy?

Marry a doctor or lawyer.

Sugarmomma FTW. I married a teacher though, so startup it is. At least I get free health insurance.

And take care of the kids.

Taking care of kids is a lot of work...

The trick is to have 5 kids; each about a year or two apart. After the first 10 years, you have bootstrapped a built-in babysitting system, lawn mowing, and house keeping, you name it...its a lengthy bootstrapping cycle, but should pay off well after 10 years unless they all turn out to be spoiled brats ;). But, hey, all start-ups have their risks.

But kids can be a hobby too

The worst thing is when parents force themselves upon their children. It puts so much stress on the child and causes stress like none other. Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet" is filled with a lot of corny ideas by an author that is fantasizing about himself being a prophet, in my opinion, but what he has to say about children is excellent.

"You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth."

Put the kids to work!

and pay someone to take care of the kids

I did... in training :)

However be careful, a smart person with nothing to do is a very unhappy person.

> Does anyone else feel like this?

yes. if only there were an easy answer.

i think the best one is to create a good product for which there is a need, not necessarily an innovative one, and set it up to autopilot mode similar to what was discussed in the 4HWW. except more tech-oriented. as an example, you don't need many customers to pay you for shared hosting to have a decent level of income.

if you don't have much in the way of personal wants/needs, it isn't really that tough to get by in the 20k/yr range.

unfortunately for me, some of my hobbies are expensive, so i have to work a real job. for now, at least.

Yeah, my current expenses are a little under 20k/y. It's how I affored the idleness between jobs, and I've stretched it as long as I can.

To make 20k/year safely for the next 60 years you need around 1/2 a million invested well which you skim off 4% and use the rest to keep up with inflation. (70% stocks 25% bonds, 5% cash or cash equivalents.)

Saving 1/2 a million is hard but if your willing to live off of 20k/year then ~7+ years at 120k and you can reach that (tax is your major problem). Max out your 401k etc and dump the rest directly into savings. Now clearly you don't really want to work 7 years strait at a high stress job so aim for 1.5 to 2 years, take 4 months off collecting unemployment if you can and ~10 years out you can do it.

One way to get a major tax break is buying a home. (This is risky.) The market is down, but will still probably fall for a while. Try and get a home with a low interest rate tax deductible loan and you can funnel a lot of money into savings fairly quickly. If you can find a home / location where you can rent out your extra space to cover most of your overhead your golden. But watch out for all the extra costs that go along with home ownership.

PS: Long term heath care will become a problem. Also try and get as many quarters working to maximize the amount of SS you can get.

"70% stocks"

That might be the traditional wisdom from the last 20 years or so, but it might not be so wise now or for the next (possibly long) while.

There is a slim possibility that buying stocks today is a bad idea, but the "magic" of cost dollar averaging means you don't need to chose when to invest. And the advantage to having 30% in something other than stocks is so you can buy them when the market tanks. If you live to be 90 and start investing at 20 you have 70 years to ride out the swings in the market.

Edit: Ok, post retirement swings can be frightening but diversification and the 30% that's not in stocks should give you 8+ years to ride out most bumps. Anyway, once your nest egg is significantly larger than your draw down it stops being important.

"The costly myth of dollar-cost averaging"


"When the market is studied over long periods, dollar-cost averaging almost always produces lower returns than investing lump sums in diversified portfolios, and almost never reduces risk meaningfully."

I think the best advice I have heard is to think of stocks as buying companies. On the other hand, if one is putting in X dollars in a stock on a regular schedule, then that person is clearly not thinking strategically about stocks, but just sees the stock as a monthly expense that is better than spending it outright because you'll likely have at least something in the future remaining. This type of logic is used by financial professionals to get you to do business with them.

If you have a lump sum to invest then waiting to invest it to use "cost dollar averaging" is not really a great idea.

However, if you compare your rate of returns over 30 years with the best and worst possible lump sum investments vs your rate of return from consistent inflation adjusted investing over 30 years the peaks and overall risk is far lower and the average expected return is higher.

No approach can consistently beat the market investing lots of money over the long term. But some R/W profiles are better for small investors looking for a safe retirement than others. I would suggest most people start young and aim for a 98% chance to hit 90% of their inflation adjusted salary at 65. Getting there sooner is great, but not getting their at all is really bad so trying to time the market is not helping your odds.

The problem is, to make $120k you typically have to move someplace where rent alone may exceed 20k/year.

That's where roommates / flatmates can really help. Using craigslist you can often find 600 - 700$ a month rooms in areas where a nice one bedroom apartment would cost you 1500+ / month. Now days cervices like Pepod and zipcar can make not owning a car easy to deal with in reasonably urban areas. So a 400$ a month apartment in dumb fuck + a car might be more costly than dealing with a roommate in a "higher cost of living area".

I am starting out in the development world. I simply want a job that will push me to the point where I'm confident with my programming and design skills. After that I want to freelance, so as to give me more time to concentrate on the mountain of things that interest me. Or work for two years, save up money, then don't work for 6 months to a year (my living costs and needs are very low) so, again, I can work on the mountain of things that interest me.

Ultimately I have decided I will to work to live, and hopefully not work too much so I have to some time to live. Even if I succeed at creating a startup it will only be a means to a financial end. I'd quite like to live like a victorian gentleman, but filling my days with cognitive pursuits instead of prancing around London.

I want to say that you have a larger calling in life to do something bigger than what you're doing now.


I agree and disagree. People here will crucify you for what your saying but it sounds like your exactly like me. I'm not even out of school yet and I've been working part time developer during the year and full time during summer/breaks(pay the bills). Anyways I'm already starting to feel bored and distracted.

May I suggest going to school? Getting a phd and then become a professor and sit around most days grading papers and lecturing. Seems like the kind of lifestyle you'd like.

Being a professor before tenure does involve a fair amount of work. Lecturing, less so, and just being an indefinitely ABD grad student is actually fairly sustainable.

Heavy administrative overhead affects people differently, though.

Grading is the worst job I can think of. It alone steers me away from most teaching positions.

(shudder) I have to grade finals tomorrow. egh.

It's not so bad in CS, a lot of the courses I took (and the one I TA'd) used automated grading systems.

My autograder was a CGI-perl script. Dead easy.

Grad School can induce quite a bit of burnout as well.

I feel mostly the same way. I love coding but I don't like working, nor a career, nor having a job. I've been working part-time for a couple of years now which helps a little. I currently do 4-5 hours a day in the average, and whenever I get excess money I take a week or two of unpaid time off.

I try to maximise the part I really love, coding in a flow and creating and making stuff (which counts to most of the "productivity" anyway), and minimise the rest of the stuff that would just get me more entangled and drowned in work.

I spend little and I live a small life, giving me more leeway -- something I've been very grateful for to myself. But I'm still not entirely happy because I can see the potential in myself to do something that's great in terms of where I feel I should be going in life.

I've considered starting a company as well because I might find a way of working that gives me what I think I want. Something small, I intend to make a small living, not a fortune -- given the amount of money associated with programming and IT services, I might be able to do it with less hours.

I think that time is the wealth that separates the rich life from the poor life. And you don't have to be rich to live a rich life. Few people can afford time for their life these days.

Yes. What you're looking for is a job in enterprise IT.

I haven't been enterprise IT, but I have been an enterprise dev. That was the place I got away with 2h per week.

The problem is that not all my hobbies are digital, so I couldn't pursue them while 'at work'. And I just grew to resent the 38h sitting and 15h commuting per week.

I've seen many late-night infomercials promising exactly the position you're looking for, with many exciting ground-floor sales opportunities.

With the 38 hours free at work... You really shouldn't waste these valuable hours. Ideally you have a job that challenges you enough to fill your time... but in any case. < < <<USE THAT TIME>> > >

- Write a book about a cube dweller in your position that on lunches and in down time he is saving the world with a team all controlled from his work PC where he is doing "nothing". Apparently that might be an untapped market judging by the response here.

- Find a problem at work, solve it, sell that.

- Create a community or site/product for one of your hobbies, even it is is knitting.

- ???

Morale of the story is, find a way to build something of value with this time. That something might help you, your like minded peeps, or even your company (although you might have to get reinforcement externally before you sell anything internally, I find this route works best).

Just do it son! And don't feel too bad if you try to contribute and it is knocked down. Have everything as dual purpose for your own and possibly your company's good. But make sure it has some of your own in it.

You have the power to create value.

You have to understand that, short of winning the lottery, you need to do some work to make money. Since you hate any work, you should work only at something that pays extremely well to justify the hassle. Maybe Wall Street (if it ever recovers) would be an option. Or start an MBA.

Then, once you get the job that pays a lot, save money like crazy for a few years.

You can also start a startup, but the problem there is that there is no guarantee of making any money. You can get rich and quit work, as pg, but otherwise you need to start again. And if you don't like work, this is the worst scenario.

Working on your own without any bosses or superfluous meetings is a big motivator. Especially when rent & grocieries are on the line.

Perhaps I can help you.

I have a technology company that is focused on helping non-profit organizations and it is VERY rewarding. I'm in need of a partner that is a good coder that REALLY does want to do good for others. The person that helped me get this off the ground is now too busy with a J.O.B.

I'm not looking for a volunteer but someone that wants to improve the tools that we have already been created, help those that are using them and work with new organizations as I add them for equity and immediate share in the revenue.

We are about "Helping Others Help Others!" Too often a charity gets a donation or hand from a kind volunteer. That's a mistake. It's like giving someone a fish. You need to give them tools that are easy to use so they can do it themselves. Our easy to use tools have helped raise over a million dollars by just a few organizations.

I'm willing to give equity in the company to the right person. You can live anywhere you want. You can code a few days a week. You can help shape the company.

I want this people who do so much for others to have a great organization behind them and I need help.

Want to know more?

Please check out http://www.GivingTechnology.com and contact me.

BTW.. Anyone else looking to do good? What are your skills? I need a Graphic Artist and Marketing. Again, interested in sharing equity to get this out to as many non-profit organizations as possible.

I was about to post a non-sequitur "well do this" reply, but honestly, I just haven't got a bulletproof answer, only one that reflects what I really want to do and probably won't work for everyone.

You will probably come to the answer more quickly now that you've actually seriously brought it up and posted it on a public forum.

In the meantime, I've found that at my company, work is much more bearable (and I get more done) if I (politely) get into other peoples' business without asking.

I feel the same way about college. I'm just finishing up my second-to-last (baring a catastrophic fuck-up) finals week, and in looking back, what did I learn? Not much.

Funny thing: the word "school" is actually the ancient Greek word for leisure. The idea was, if you had the means to live a life of leisure, then of course you'd spend it learning and talking about cool stuff with other similarly well-off people.

Somewhere along the way, they turned school into just another form of work. Unlike regular work, it doesn't produce anything. It has all the stress and unpleasantness of regular work (more, even), except you can't use the most efficient method to get it done (that would be delegating the work to someone who likes it), and it consumes time and other resources without yielding benefits. The theory is that learning happens as a side-effect, but the reality is, it doesn't. Seriously, if you wanted to set up a business to help people learn subjects to a high level of mastery, you wouldn't do it anything like a (modern) college.

I wonder, though, if professors live (or at least can live) the kind of life we want: they are basically paid to indulge their curiosity, and their only measurable obligation is that they have to teach some classes. If you're a cool professor, you might even find a way to make the classes worthwhile.

This is the route I've just started on. I'm now in my first semester of grad school. I'm hoping to treat the experience as "school" in the ancient sense of the word. In six or seven years, I plan to get a tenure-track job, indulging my curiosity. I figure since that's play-time for me, I should be great at it and enjoy it.

Results so far: terrible. Taking three grad-level classes at once (and teaching one class) chewed up so much time, I had almost no time to think or learn or sleep. Complicating factor: I had a headache that lasted six weeks, and I started the semester exhausted. Mid-semester, I was so exhausted, I took a three-week break from homework. I got my ability to think back, but I spent the rest of the semester hustling to catch up.

Plan for next semester: Get a lot of rest over the break, and put all the creativity I can into finishing each day's "work" by 5:30 p.m. so I can follow my whims in the evening.

If that doesn't work, then I'll quit. Or maybe not. I just can't see getting a regular software job again. I've done that cycle of working hard and enjoying it the first several months or a year, and then getting sick of it and barely showing up. I think I am completely burnt out on just getting coding done. I am particularly sick of debugging. Oh, damn, that reminds me, I have to debug some Scheme code for one of those classes.

So, if on average you were pushing an (hours worked/hours present) ratio of between 0.5-.15 how much of the money paid to you would the hours you were present but not engaged be worth to you?

I should mention that I too find the application of industrial age factory schedules to intellectual production to be equally ludicrous, but have so far found the transaction costs of alternative compensation structures to be too expensive and or risky.

...but have so far found the transaction costs of alternative compensation structures to be too expensive and or risky.

From an employer's or employee's perspective?

I've actually experienced it from both sides; mostly as an employee though.

If you're a little on the shady side of unethical it's equally easy to game the system from either direction. For every goldbricker like the OP there is someone running a 'design competition' where the top prize is having your entry fleshed out by vietnamese contractors working at 1/10th the going rate of any of the contest entrants.

There are multiple problems with the social construction of what work is and it's place in our lives, for one thing our society is constructed so that much of what passes for work is in fact random noise, this is more pronounced at large companies where the wastage of time, attention and psychological energy are well worn clichés; but it exists at small companies, and solo acts as well. For another, we are not for the most part able to work effectively; somebody who can pull a reliable twenty minutes of productive flow out of a day can be a miracle worker, especially in a shop where the standards are already low.

Someone told me this quote recently, allegedly by fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld: "I haven't worked a minute in my life". He only amused himself...

If you really love coding (and are good at it), you should never have to work(+) a day in your life.

+-Sure, you'll have to write code, but for me that's an enjoyable play/hobby activity that companies are all too happy to pay me all too much for. "Work" in the preceding PP is something that you don't like doing and would only do in exchange for money.

Find the right role in the right company, and you could easily have your "office hobby" that you use to pay the bills for your other hobbies and leisure time.

Over the years, I'd say that I've been paid on average 4x what it would actually have required to secure my services, and the minimum amount is really driven by what it would cost me to eat, drink, sleep and be merry. (It turns out however, that that "surplus" 3x has made my life considerably more comfortable and, in some areas, extravagant. I hope my boss doesn't read this until after he's decided on my raise and bonus for the year. ;) )

Im 17 just finished high school and can already tell that i am not willing to be a slave for the man, but what the hell else is there within my reasonable grasp to stop it from being so? To this point as far as my research has led me there is no way out in sight. This is all that i can think about lately.

Wait, you said you've read The 4 Hour Work Week, WTF else do you need to know? Get some brain supplements and get out on them thar internets!

In all seriousness though, most businesses require a lot more work than a job. If you don't want to work just find a super easy job (government maybe?) and do as little as possible.

The problem with super easy jobs is that anything you do should align with a meaning in your life, otherwise it feels frustrating, stupid, and just plain wrong.

A stereotypical government job where you spend all your day playing the Tower of Hanoi with stacks of "important" papers isn't likely to hit that sweet spot of yours.

What the right place is depends on what you desire but your work should support the way of life that you can't help thinking about.

Make your hobbies your work. There is really no other way. I only ever worked for 2 weeks in my life, the rest of the time I've just been playing around with programming. It's not work, it's what I would be doing anyways!

Without being passionate about what you do, you are unlikely to succeed in your aims.

Build a portfolio of passive income assests.

Ideally you should have been doing this while you had those 38hours per week "free", but it is not too late to start.

What kind of passive income assets would you recommend?

Curious what you mean by shady deals on the digital point forums.

What kind of deals are these?

If you want to know, you can buy my ebook for $79.

I'll tell you why steveplace's ebook is a scam for $69.

I'll scam you for only $59.

Just surf around... stuff like scraping and reposting blogs, domain parking, spam, affiliate marketing. Not always outright evil, but they do make the world a slightly worse place.

that's why I like wickedfire. At least they admit that they're evil.

I'm afraid the good times won't keep rolling.

Over the next fifty years, humanity is going to face the largest ever crises amongst those that it has the ability to deal with: potential global catastrophe from climate change, and certain global catastrophe unless we develop and widely deploy effective non-fossil energy sources.

I say "it has the ability to deal with" because if people become aware of the seriousness of the situation, and are prepared to put themselves through half a century of much less comfort than we've been used to these last 25 years, then we can pull it off.

I don't see why it need be "much less comfort". The sun is incredibly powerful and our current lifestyles ever so wasteful, especially if you factor in some not-quite-there-but-nearly future tech such as LED lights, ebook readers, usefully cheap solar panels, video-on-demand, music downloads, etc.

Other than pseudo-climatology alarmist bullshit, is your theory founded on anything?

Potentially the educated opinions of almost every significant national science or geological organization in the world? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_c...

Evidence > Opinions.

But if you want to sling opinions, here's a juicy read that came out two days ago: http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2008/12/09/climate-meetin...

A few (650) more experts had something to say yesterday: http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.B... Like most gov't sites, its design is hideous.

The hubris of men never fails to surprise me as I study history. People actually believed that we could change a planet's climate catastrophically based on thirty years' data?! When we had other data showing that the the climate naturally shifts, often unexpectedly? Asteroids and Volcanoes: Yes, they can drastically affect climate. Smokestacks? Not so much.

Among many other things, solar energy technology is on an exponential curve right now with a ~2 year doubling time. Remember computers 20 years ago vs. today? Most people were surprised at the increases in computer price performance, but not those who understood Moore's Law. The same thing will probably happen in solar energy. Try to look surprised. :-)

That depends entirely on where you live.

Do you think so?

Do you think Western Europe and the US will be able to get through the next fifty years without a radical and extremely painful forced upheaval of its energy infrastructure, and the knock on effects on industry and transport that that would entail?

Not sure if you'll like this answer, but although you may be comfortable with a low income now what about the following future life expenses?

* Marriage/Honeymoon * Kids/College * Retirement * Mortgage/House * Taking care of parents

I see your plan being tenable in a "no-dependents" scenario, but not so much if you need to provide for others.

My personal opinion is that any job you have will have at least 20% of BS you have to do in any role you have. Its the cost of working with people and organizations. Aim to reach that 20% level an if you can find a job with less BS stick with it.

what ever happened to survival of the fittest, now i.e: modern day, everything is run by a human being, who wants controll over everything, little knowing that we are as equivalent to an ant. yet they want to know about what was here millions of years ago what is going to happen to the earth in a million years, whats beyond the universe, look how simple a birds life is, the only problems they have is where to get there next meal. yet somehow our species have manged to make living in this planet so much more difficult. its mainly run by paper, forms, money, letters, a government. a group of people who put them selves in charge and enact laws in which thay can controll the whole of the race. you need a passport a visa to travel across borders. yet birds do it for free, you put a man behind bars for illegitimate reasons while hes rotting away in his cell the prison guard goes home to his wife with a smile on his face. a ceo of a large multinational company says he worked hard to where he got, no he didnt he got lucky, yet the thousands of people who depend on the job they got within the company have their lives resolve around the job. but the ceo doesnt care. he/she needs to get a new massage chair for their mansion. and what about the 'shes' females are all so niave and have become so equal within the past century with men. and what is with feminists shaving their head to make a statement. when i see a bald woman placing orders on a male it makes me want to get a razer and shave the skin of her head right down to her skull. i cant beleive we live our life by what other people made up and have now apparently become official 'laws'. i dont like this! i want This world to end now everyone including me every man woman baby bird lion giraffe horse cat monkey should be wiped out there should be nothing here except a big ball of rock. I am far beyond the term 'fed up' with this world!

Marry a trust fund millionaire and then run for the Senate, like Kerry (D) or McCain (R).

Those guys haven't done anything productive in decades, and the paychecks keep rolling in.

Read ' Bob Black - The Abolition of Work ' I've never been the same since... http://www.zpub.com/notes/black-work.html "No one should ever work. Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any evil you'd care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working. "

While I am sure we can all relate to your viewpoint, I think it's basically destructive to yourself and others.

You claim to "have too much of a conscience", but then you seem to be alright with working 2-6 hours and being paid for 40. Now if you were spending the remaining 34-38 hours doing something of value to others, society, etc. then I might be able to accept your stance. Are you? What exactly are you doing while you are getting paid?

I guess I also get pretty bored with jobs after a year or two. It's funny, though, I have been running this business for quite a bit longer than that, and it's not boring. I think the boring parts of the dayjob are the stupid that I can't change. I mean, sure, there is stupid at my company, too- sometimes a lot of stupid. but it's my stupid, and I'm allowed to figure out how to fix it.

I think most of us are working towards a point where we can choose what we spend our time on. Me, I'm currently working a full-time contract gig for the money, and then coming home, working on my book and my hosting company. The book is winding down, and the hosting company, well, I might not be an awesome manager, but I do seem to be pretty good at finding and hiring underemployed people who turn out to be quite good. (as confirmed by the salaries they command when they leave my company.) so I do have good help.

Obviously, I'm not to the point where I have less 'forced work' - in fact, I'm doing the opposite. Right now, I'm working way more hours than would provide maximum effectiveness (I think it's been more than a month since I've had a week with less than 80 hours.) I keep my productivity from going negative by switching tasks often and outsourcing many things normal people do themselves (for example, I pay someone to clean out my house once a week. It costs me $15/hr, and she's much faster than I am. Being as I bill out north of $70/hr even in my current state, it's a good deal) but it's still completely unsustainable, and there's one guy working for me that I lean on way too much. If he quits before I expect him to (usually people stick with me for around a year) I am so fucked.

I don't see these 80 hour weeks as a good thing; they are, in fact, really stupid. I'd almost certainly get more done if I could cut it down to 60. But the book needs to get out soon... the publisher is getting antsy, and already Xen has changed so much we have to rewrite parts. And the hosting company, well, that's kindof the point here. that's why I'm putting up with this other crap, so I can't put it on hold.

I figure after the book is out (assuming the hosting company keeps improving as it has been) I'll be able to cut my consulting hours, relying on the credibility of being published to reduce some of the marketing effort.

If I had to do it over again, I would have set things up so that I could support myself on a part time job, and grown the hosting company more slowly, so it could also be supported by that part-time job.

But I do find work, even work for other people to be pretty interesting for the first 6months or a year. This actually works out pretty well for me as a contractor. I mean, if you want someone for longer than six or twelve months, you shouldn't be using contractors anyhow, so nobody get's bent out of shape if I want to leave around that time.

If I didn't have the entrepreneurial bug, I'd probably work as a contractor for three to six months out of the year, and read (or write) the rest of the time. Especially if you spent your working time in the bay area and your relaxing time somewhere cheaper, you could live pretty nicely that way.

What are your hobbies?

Walking (hence the username), reading, languages (human or code), hacking roguelikes and muds, knitting. Doesn't sound like much when I just list them, but I can happily spend a roughly infinite amount of time on them.

You should travel. Very few people regret traveling.

Start somewhere easy like Thailand, spend six weeks crossing India, spend a month or two in Vietnam. Travel light, but take a credit card. You'll be transformed and work will make sense again.

hacking roguelikes and muds eh? Have you ever tried DwarfFortress? Toady does it "full time" surviving on donations.

Oh no. Now he'll never work again...

angband or nethack?

You could rob a bank.

Other than that, I'm not sure I know of a surefire way to make money without doing anything, except for the "work like hell for a few years" thing.

Wow, I really got downmodded for saying you have to work to make money?

these people baffle me.

if you do what you love, you will be better at it, and you will work harder at it.

this guy does not want to work because he wants to hang out with his friends, when in reality if he had different people to entertain himself with, he might actually get paid for it.

but like many people, he has written the rules in such a way that he will fail.

more work for me ;)

Why would you want it? Can't you be happy without it?

Some people love their work. Work is as interesting to them as any hobby they might have. I count myself among those who love their work. My boss has a hard time getting me to take my vacation time. Anything more than 4 days away from work and I start to get fidgety. Sure, I have my other hobbies, but work is my favorite.

what is your job?

mmm... This reminds me of the J/P split in MBTI. Its not exclusive, but Js tend to like work and Ps tend to like play.

Read up about it if you're curious: http://www.geocities.com/lifexplore/mbintro.htm

this is the best post ever. you can move to a non-competitive place. somewhere in the south maybe. you won't have to work long days, or even a lot.

good luck on your "travels".

everyone here wondering how a programmer can get in this frame of my mind has not been working for very long or has never worked for a lousy employer.

Find another career. Hack at home for fun.

do what u love and u wont have to work a second of your life..

It's not that simple. If Da vinci would have been forced to sit in a pod all day every day, having meetings every morning about how much progress he thought he would make on some painting that he knew he would just be redoing again in 6 months after a management change, he probably would have grown to hate what he loved.

The thing I've personally found is that if you love coding it's probably best to get a job that doesn't involve coding. Coding (like most art I would imagine) is something you can really poor yourself into, take great pride in success and really be crushed by failure. As a consequence, doing this 40+ hours per week takes out of you any desire to do it outside of work. And of course that is problematic when you hope to use coding to become financially independent.

The sad reality is that more or less all jobs have some component of tedium to them.

Have you considered that you might enjoy your own business more, thus making the "hate working" part no longer so true?

I'm on a shorter time scale than you. I consulted from 14 to 20, when I had a bit of a trainwreck of bad luck and choices all at once, then I held 3 jobs: one for 3 mos, one for a year, and one for 15 mos. I quit each when I got to the point you're describing. I've been consulting again since Sept 07, thinking that charging the premium rates would help limit my exposure to bad customers and boring work. It hasn't, really (I'm charging "hundreds" per hour as you say).

But it has given me the flexibility to ship my first real product. And I'm actually having a blast. And I'm not working balls-to-the-wall like the expected YC work ethic. We built v1 in 3 mos, a couple days a week, and we've already got a small stable of happy paying customers... with almost zero promotion.

Even the boring and unsavory stuff (bug fixes, answering tickets!) is more fun when it's something you're passionate about.

Maybe you're not anti-WORK, but anti-job?

That said, if you've learned a bunch doing what you were doing, why not try to sell software or do low-commitment micro-consulting or write about it for a subscription site?

By the way: How do you get into (micro-) consulting?

How do you get into anything else?

A. Research. B. Experiment. :)

If you're down to 2-6 hours of actual work, you've got plenty of time to put into a startup.

The last 50 years are some of the best in history and the good times will likely keep rolling, so why waste them? Any if they're going to stop, why waste them?

I agree with you. 75 percent of the "work" that is done could be lost with almost no cost to society. It makes sense for the dedicated people to work 50+ hours per week, but it's an absolute waste that the average person has to put in so much time on his job.

The traditional office model is utterly obsolete and, although it's taking a while, people are finally getting it, though the process has been slow.

I just want to make a bankroll and get out. I'm not sure why I'm posting, except that hanging out here and reading about startups has made me think it's possible to break my frustrating cycle of work, and I'm curious to hear what folks think.

You're probably not unambitious, work-averse, or lazy. Very few people truly are; laziness is a byproduct of bad work situations. What you're describing sounds like a bad case of burnout. Luckily, it's almost always temporary, so long as you are able to learn from what your experience is telling you.

Although it's risky to have a gap on your resume, you might want to figure out how to get your savings up to 2 years' living expenses and "mini-retire". I left a super-stressful hedge fund job due to health problems in April. I honestly had no desire to work ever again, didn't do any side projects, read a lot, studied Buddhism and meditated, and spent a lot of time in the park. About 3 months later, I was itching to get back in the career game (but in a much better job, and my track record of quits, fires, and fails had given me a strong sense of what to seek and what to avoid) and learn new things.

You, sir, are an Oxygen Thief.

Don't forget that for tens of thousands of years, all Man had to do to stay alive was whatever it took to stay alive.

He never had to write a TPS report on his fishing trip or sell overpriced shares in manioc root or feel guilty because he wasn't completing his TODO list each day.

...unless he was married! ;)

OP, you mentioned the "Protestant Work Ethic". I'm assuming you mean just the general principle of the North American "doing the best-est one can do" and not that you believe in protestant religion? But if you are protestant/religious, do get in touch, there may be more at risk here than mere loss time or homelessness/starvation/etc.

-best wishes,

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