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Ask HN: How to deal with losing interest in your passion?
80 points by sun123 on Sept 24, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 69 comments
I have four and half years of professional programming experience. Two years ago, I was very passionate, always learning, coding etc.,<p>Slowly over the the past couple of years I have lost interest in everything I suppose. i am not speaking philosophy here, but I am feeling tired of everything.<p>I am just 25. I'm too young to say such things. Anyone else have been through this before and "came back with a bang" ?

Take a break.

I had the same thing when I was 25. I ended up quitting my job and buying a one-way ticket to Europe. I didn't think I would ever write code again. I spent about three months backpacking Europe, then came back and spent a few more hanging around and doing odd jobs around town. Eventually, I started code in my free time again, and about a year later, came back into the profession refreshed.

Now I know what I need to do to prevent burnout again, and it's primarily that I keep other hobbies, and I have friends that aren't work-related. It lets me get away when I need to and still stay interested in what I do the rest of the time.

But that's more maintenance, sometimes you need to shotgun into that stage by cutting out everything for a lengthened period of time. If you really are a hacker at heart, and it sounds like you are, you'll start writing code again soon enough, and you'll know you're back.

You'll also have stories and other life experiences as well, which make you a better, more rounded person.

This is the best advice here. I got incredibly fed up with my programming career after about 5 years or so. I went off and traveled around the world for a year, met my wife, opened a coffee shop, spent a winter at a ski resort and freelanced in Tanzania (on Zanzibar).

After all that I found I missed programming, and realized what things I didn't like about my career choice, such as long meetings, boring projects and so on. This helped me direct my programming career back to what I enjoyed and has made me much happier and more productive.

So, get out there and do something different! You've got your education and experience now and there will always be a job somewhere for you.

Exactly, now that I know exactly what keeps me satisfied, I can make sure that my environment is just that. It's better for myself, since I'm happier, which means I'm willing to work harder and am more productive, which makes it better for the company as well.

I also know exactly the things I feel before I get burnt out, so when I feel that happening, I can take a short 2-3 week vacation and don't need to do something drastic again like taking a year off.

Overall, it just teaches you about yourself and how to be more efficient at whatever it is you want and need to do.

>> I went off and traveled around the world for a year, met my wife, opened a coffee shop, spent a winter at a ski resort and freelanced in Tanzania (on Zanzibar).

Sorry for asking the obvious. But from where did you get the money to do all that?

How did you play it on your resume? I know in some circles, having a lapse in employment in your resume is about like having a lapse in insurance coverage; e.g. it's a red flag and can really hurt your chances of getting the job (economy notwithstanding).

I put it exactly as it happened. The travelling has never caused me any problems, in fact it usually is the cause of some interesting discussions with potential employers.

As for running my own business, I can point to all the skills gained during that experience as benefits to the company as well. Leadership, discipline, time management, working under pressure and so on.

The sort of companies that wouldn't like my past experience are exactly the sort I would never want to work for, so it works as a nice filter for me too! :)

Use this a filter! If you want a happy career, you should not be wasting your precious time in places suspicious of a gap in employment.

I did the same thing, but it was a ticket to Australia and a work visa.

One benefit of taking this kind of time off is that it lets you know what you truly love. After a few months of kicking around, reading books in parks, seeing sites and meeting some cool folks, I found myself reading web tech articles. That was an eye opener to me--"hey, I really like this career path!"

Same question I asked below, but: how did you play it on your resume? Did you just put "hiking in Europe", etc.? I'd love to do something like this, but I'm fearful what kind of damage it'd have on my resume.

So, when I got back, and decided to go back to work, I was definitely concerned about it.

In my case, one of the side jobs was a small business being run on eBay, so I had that listed. I also said in interviews that I wanted to take a year off to see the world. Once I got the first job after the break, it was never a concern anymore.

Since then, between jobs I've taken a couple months off, and I've never found it to be a problem. Especially when you say, I was burnt out and I needed to refresh myself before I came back to work. Otherwise, I just wouldn't be as productive. Potential managers definitely appreciate that you can take care of yourself.

(Or rather, the kinds of companies you want to work for appreciate that you can take care of yourself to recognize and prevent burnout.)

Find a hobby. Something that is completely mindless, and won't use any of the centers of your brain that you use for programming. If you do love programming, you may just be burnt out; if you are like me, you spend long stretches coding for most waking hours. Eventually you'll run risk of burning out.

Me, I build plastic robot models. It's no brain power at all, just precise physical motions. It's mindless and enjoyable, and at the end of the day you have something to show for it.

There's a lot of posts here saying take a break, but you really have to make sure that you are truly taking a break, and not just substituting programming with something else that uses the same parts of your brain.

edit: Here's one of the first models I built. Unpainted just to see what it looks like. http://www.flickr.com/photos/37553996@N07/sets/7215762298535...

Absolutely this. Programming simply cannot be the only major thing you do with your life, it's unbalanced, unhealthy, and unsustainable.

For me, I'm a fairly serious photographer on the side, and I spend a lot of time studying visual arts of all varieties - going to galleries, museums, talks and the such. It works a completely separate part of my brain that doesn't get a lot of exercise during the day.

The next question is: are you healthy? Are you getting enough exercise, sunlight - are you eating well? There are tremendous psychological impacts on what you do when you don't physically feel at your best.

I've spent almost 30 years in computer/electronics engineering (both hardware and software) and I think one thing you will suffer from is a lack of accomplishment. When it takes months or years to complete a project, you need to gain a sense of accomplishment from the little victories along the way.

As the parent notes, finding a hobby that's unrelated is useful, but not only as a diversion ... you can gain that sense of accomplishment in the preparation of a good meal or in completing a weekend woodworking project.

Yes, it's the sense of accomplishment, of finishing something that is the primary benefit of building these little models. You get to do it, it's relaxing, and you can say "I built that" at the end.

Hmmm ... I missed one other point.

It's much easier to show your friends and family the mission-oak picture frame you built than some obscure bit of software. It needs no explanation and you'll be gratified (hopefully) by their response. Explain a low-level library you built to these same people and their eyes will glaze over while they hope you talk about something regular humans deem important.

These toys are amazing.

They really are. You don't even need glue to put them together (though some parts will fall off easily if not). But in terms of reward for effort they can't really be beat.

Passion can be rekindled, but doubling down on the subject is not the right way to do it. You are probably a little burnt out and a little jaded. Pickup a hobby far away from programming and use that as your fun time for a few years. When you get back to programming as a fun thing, you will enjoy it far more.

Snowboarding has been my passion for about 10 years. I snowboard 50+ days a year, I moved out to Colorado for a time just to snowboard absolutely as much as possible. I race, I go into the park a lot, I jump off cliffs, I go into the backcountry, I worked at a ski shop, I read all the magazines, buy the DVDs, and I watch the weather forecast incessantly.

But I'm burnt out on it. I moved back to the east coast, the mountains and weather aren't as good, and I'm totally jaded. If its not fresh snow, steep trails, perfect weather I feel like I'm wasting time and money. Unless I live at the mountain, I can't get any better than I am now (whereas before I enjoyed the challenge of getting up the learning curve). So I just decided to stop.

I picked up surfing instead. I'm terrible at it, but the challenge is thrilling. Now I can enjoy the learning curve again and I don't need 'perfect' conditions. It's fun just to get out there and do something.

And I'm sure when I do go back to snowboarding in a few years, it will be far more interesting.

So for you, I would say make programming your job, and something else your passion/hobby. Take a couple years off from programming outside of work, and come back to it with renewed purpose.

I went through the same thing you're describing, and I came to a very simple conclusion (in hindsite) that the other commenters haven't touched upon. I quietly suspect that I'm right, and it makes me sad that it feels like such a dirty secret.

When I was a kid, I loved coding. From the ages of 6-19 I didn't really want to do anything as much as hack on cool projects. The only thing that would make my life perfect — obviously — would be to get paid to code, so that I could do it all of the time and pay bills, too. I'd be the luckiest guy on earth.

So, why was I horribly sad (not depressed, btw - that's a disease which you don't bring upon yourself) as a professional developer at 25? I used to be so engaged, but then I could hardly concentrate on what I was doing, and it was very difficult to get started each day.

One day it hit me like a lightning bolt: the reason you do something impacts whether you can enjoy doing it or not. That's why being a prostitute is not generally considered the best job ever; I found that coding other people's ideas was like not getting to choose who, when or how to have sex.

For me, the solution was to gradually move out of coding day-to-day into a more pure consulting role while reintroducing lots of fun personal coding projects, which are mostly just as fun as I remembered from when I was a teenager. 8-9 years later, I simply don't take on paid coding projects.

As a corollary, I'm really into film photography and I flat out refuse to get paid to shoot, because I have no interest in difficult brides or screaming babies. I figure that I deserve a passion that isn't corrupted by my need to pay a mortgage. It's like an endless chain of discoveries and happy accidents that brings me mental calm and occasionally professional (consulting) opportunity.

I recently went to the Luminance photography conference in NYC, and during breaks I met as many people as I could. Every working photographer seemed stoic and anxious, and all of the aspiring photographers verbally differentiated between their "arty" work and the stuff they had to shoot in order to pay the bills. Not one of them thought that there was any hope of them having fans that would appreciate them the way a painter would. [Granted, painters often have patrons... but I digress.] I found it all quite sad.

Needless to say, I suggested that they all learn to code as a career so that they could take photos out of love. I said that if they needed to pay their bills with their camera, they would develop an increasingly abusive relationship with photography.

Don't worry about "coming back with a bang". You only live once, so stop hitting yourself.

"Get paid for your hobby, and you no longer have a hobby". If you have to do some task, you should do it, it stops being play; it stops being fun.

One thing I find undermining about HN is the focus on finding a market, getting users, meeting their needs. That's great for getting rich. For personal fulfilment, eagerness and passion, it's better to create something that you value, to improve or fix something that you feel is wrong, in your bones, that annoys you, drives you up the wall. You'll get cool ideas (and frustrations) just by interacting in the world, doing any new activity. And disregard whether anybody shares your opinion or not. (There likely are people with the same itch, since you have it, but disregard that). This is liberating, because you regain captaincy of your soul. If people follow you, it's because they share your vision, not because you worked at convincing them to follow you (which would mean you are controlled by their opinions, instead of your opinion of what is valuable). If people don't follow, you've still done something you value. (It's helpful to pick doable goals, or to divide your project up into doable goals, so you get the feedback/satisfaction of seeing your idea become real.)

But take this with a grain of salt. I've been having trouble with passion too and though I'm starting to get glimmers of it back through this approach, I can't yet claim I have "come back with a bang".

PS: Just in case you are literally "feeling tired of everything.", you might want to check in on basic health stuff - food/sleep/exercise - get a check-up from a doctor for any illness, and also see if you are suffering from depression. But I've assumed you just meant tired of everything, in programming.

Most scientific research on this topic agrees with the self-determination framework. That says that in order to enjoy doing an activity for a long time, you have to have:

1. Autonomy. The feeling of freedom and control over your work.

2. Mastery. The feeling that you're good at what you do and getting better.

3. Relatedness. The feeling that you're working with people you like.

When you're doing something on the side, you almost always have all of the above. When you start a job doing something, you almost always lose all of the above.

The real question is how to gain Autonomy, Mastery, and Relatedness at a job. It's not impossible by any means. But it does frame the question differently, since those 3 traits are often more critical to enjoying your day-to-day life than exactly which field you work in.

For a very good book that goes into much more detail, see So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport.

(I went through a very similar experience with losing interest in a field I loved because I "had to" do it. Working on gaining control over my career completely rekindled my love for the subject, stronger than ever).


From time to time, I say that 'the worst thing I've done was to turn a hobby into work'.

It it not strictly true, there are worse things I could be doing instead. But I have lost some of the that initial spark.

On the other hand, I'm exactly the opposite.

I started learning to program in the 3rd grade. From there, it was a hobby. Come time for college, I decide I don't want to do that a job because I don't want to ruin my hobby.

Fast forward 10 years, and I finally decide I need a career, not a job. I look at my skills and decide that programming is the only one worth doing.

Turns out, I love programming more than ever now! It was absolutely a mistake for me to try to avoid it. I'm better at it than ever, and I can do more things than ever.

I still, sometimes, do it as a hobby. So in that respect, yes, it kind of killed my hobby. But I have that fun at work now, and I get to do other hobbies at home. It's a positive thing all around.

The key is that my job isn't the soul-sucking variety. I work in a positive atmosphere and (mostly) on projects that I enjoy. I'm valued, and my employers prove it by paying me what I'm worth as well as having great benefits.

Prostitues usually can choose and refuse, who they will have sex with. Maybe you were one of those, who do not have such choice?

Having worked in software engineering for 17+ years, I've learned a few things (and gone through at least two-bouts of serious burnout). One was at the end of the first dot-com boom when getting engineering jobs was nearly impossible, so it was a forced long-term vacation. I went to Europe for a bit.

1) In my 20s, I worked all the time. Didn't live a very balanced life, this lead to burnout, especially if you're working in a startup environment where you think you'll retire at 30.

2) I quit engineering twice (but after 6+ months off, new developments in technology that stimulated my imagination eventually brought me back)

3) I've learned to manage not working the burn-out dream, that likely in the long run, your 80 hours weeks aren't going to pay out. It's proven to me that there's plenty of successful people and companies who work realistic hours.

4) Hobbies. I prefer those where I get excercise (like cylcing). Gives me time to clear my mind and keep my body fit and invigorated. I also enjoy gourmet cooking.

5) Managing workload, prioritizing things that are important and recognizing things that you think are work but really procrastinating.

6) Learn other professional skills than typing text into your favorite editor/ide. Speaking at conferences/local user groups, managing project budget, managing teams, managing bigger teams. Doing these other things makes you appreciate the few hours of coding you have left in the week.

There is a misconception, extremely prevalent on HN and in the startup community, that you're dead at 35. Really, if you are 25 and not certain about what you want to do, the real 'risk' you should be taking is trying something completely different.

Don't set yourself up for a miserable life. Become a well rounded person. Try something else and see if it clicks for a while.

I'm a programmer, 15+ years, and I took up beekeeping. It's nice to do something so completely the opposite of what I do at work. Bees are captivating because they are such complex creatures, but they are almost completely driven by instinct, so they are somewhat predictable. They drive what I need to do to help them succeed, but I still need to use my brain to figure out what help they need. It's a nice balance from writing code and being completely in my head all day.

TL;DR - Aging is weird, but it beats the alternative.

Other commenters are giving you excellent advice about burnout. I agree with what they say, but want to toss in a different perspective.

When I was in Grade 9, there was a hip hop group called Kris Kross. At the time, I thought they were great. So great, that I went out and bought their CD, put it on repeat and listened to it for weekend long BBS marathon.

Today, I'm a little embarrassed to admit I was that passionate about the wack emcees who wore their clothes backwards. I haven't listened to them in years. Yet other bands that I worshipped in Grade 9 (ie - Bad Religion, NOFX and the Dead Kennedys) are still extremely important to me.

I'm 35 now and my passions have ebbed and flowed through the years. They are more fixed now, but they went a little wild between my teens and mid 20s. Heck, in high school, I was a straight edge post punk who wouldn't be friends with people who dared to smoke pot near me. By my third year of university, I was conducting pharmaceutical experiments on myself at raves.

We ebb and we flow. We change just as constantly as the landscapes that surround us. We fall in and out of love with new ideas, people, sounds and pursuits.

Take a deep hard look at whether or not you may be burned out. Try new things, immerse yourself in whatever seems exciting, and read new books. Learn to climb. Scare yourself half to death. Write a book. Get tattooed. Your passion for programming will likely come back. Or, it may be gone forever. Embrace the changes, my friend, you're going to learn an awful lot about yourself over the next few months!

Best of luck and remember that smooth seas never made a skilled skipper.

for the original post: there's not much more i can add other than what others are saying worked for me, too. Got sick of fundraising, moved to marketing. Got burned out of marketing, took up a side project (print-only diy zine) and then i discovered the startup scene and my love for marketing came back. im still at the same organization and love it.

for @hluska: im 27 but as of last year started experiencing the "aging is weird" phenomenon.

btw, i listened to kriss kross in 3rd grade, in high school became a straight-edge 70s revivalist (only listened to zeppelin, sabbath, doors and other typical gateway artists). oddly enough, i then went post-punk and partied my brains out. i love business and the startup community but still love dk, misfits, screamers (and canada had a killer music/movie scene in the 80s!)

Great. Now I have Kriss Kross running through my head. Thanks a lot.

I think every developer faces the same problem at one point. What helped me personally was actually working less and find new hobbies (that don't involve computers), and one thing in particular: running. It's hard to keep your enthusiasm at a high level if all you see is work - despite the fact that you might enjoy it. Go out, meet your friends, eat well and excersize.

EDIT: Recently I was attending a startup meeting and there was this video, where one developer said Sleeping and eating are overrated. What a load of crap - following this advice is the best way to burn out. We are not robots.

+1 for running. It can do wonders for you. Before I started exercising regularly, I used to get stressed out just trying to get through my office work everyday. But since I started running, I don't feel any mental stress anymore. I now have a lot of free time available, in spite of spending an hour or so exercising everyday, and I have managed to design and develop a few iOS apps in my 'spare' time.

Currently in the same position. I am only 22 and still studying in university about computers, but I have not touched to vim now for 3 months even though I used to write few hundred lines of code everyday as a hobby since i was 15 or something like that.

Most likely my dilemma is that I seem not to be able to decide where to specialize and programming alone has become quite boring. I kinda want to do everything and can not decide which is the most fun of games, web, mobile, desktop or security.

> Most likely my dilemma is that I seem not to be able to decide where to specialize and programming alone has become quite boring. I kinda want to do everything and can not decide which is the most fun of games, web, mobile, desktop or security.

This sounds familiar, I experience the same thing whenever I sit down to do anything (not just coding stuff) that's supposed to be 'for fun' only, and has no clear utility value. There's simply too many things I want to do, which paradoxically has a paralyzing effect on me. There's at least 20 things I still want to develop, at least 20 books I still want to read, 20 video games I'd like to finish, 20 things I want to improve around the house, I have a car disassembled to pieces I still want to put back together, I want to learn to play the guitar, I want to pick up sports again (tennis, so I'd have to join a club), I want to travel and spend weekends outdoors hiking and such, etc.

The net result is that every time I sit down to do something, in a strange way I feel guilty not doing any of the other stuff that's in the back of my head. This in turn distracts me from what I was planning to do. In the end, nothing gets done.

One thing that has helped me a little is to try and do one thing of each activity at a time. In other words: work on only one code project at a time, not multiple. Read one book at a time, not multiple. Play one video game completely through, or drop it completely if it gets boring. Pick one thing you want to improve around the house and finish it completely before starting something new.

This works for some things, but not all. Travelling more or picking up sports requires a different kind of discipline, but I'm not sure how to get myself to actually get moving. It's a character weakness I think.

Yeah I kinda try to complete one project at a time, but mostly the projects get shelved when I lose interest in it because I keep thinking about other stuff and find them more interesting.

Currently I am trying to complete one small project without putting it aside. Though I am still thinking other projects, but luckily at the moment those projects in my head require cash which I don't have, so I can't drop this and start the next.

It gets everyone who's really passionate from time to time. I'd recommend Richard Feynman, who (as a Nobel Laureate) also completely lost interest in physics at a time - here's an abstract about the subject, but the whole book is gold and funny as hell on top: http://loooongway.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/my-english-is-ver...

For me, it's about composing and IT. When I studied musicology, I couldn't compose anymore and just wasn't creative. Then I changed to studying physics and soon burned my interest in the same way. Both of them definitely came back, and by now, I try to keep my interests more balanced!

I wanted to quit computers several times but always gravitate back to them eventually. I even did a whole masters program in economics to find something different. I personally am just the type to cycle between workaholism and hedonism. After putting too much into work I get really appalled by it and need to spend time travelling and just generally living life. Every time I spend 6 weeks not working I have a burning desire to do and learn again. Maybe you just did too much. The hardships of travelling are vital for me because at first everything is so great and you really need to do it until it isn't anymore. Eventually you will long to get back to your passion.

Another angle unfortunately without a solid solution.

If I told people to associate me with one word (a subject), pretty much anyone who knows me would say the same word. I've spent over 10 years learning about it but I've become jaded because just like any subject, you can study about it and you can do it. It's the doing it that has made me jaded and that has effected my will to study it as well.

My best theory is that I simply never defined it for what it is and has been: a goal. In effect, I summited and now I just feel like I'm at the top looking at the view. The solution, it seems, will inevitably be to search out another mountain to summit.

What was the word they associated you with?

I went through this a lot later in life, and what worked for me was "going academic". I hit Lambda the Ultimate and started challenging myself to learn a lot of really advanced stuff. I'd pick out papers that were hard to understand and go through them step by step, as many times as necessary.

I'd also recommend learning to do something complicated in your personal life, like flying, or diving, or fixing cars. Complexity doesn't exist just in software; it's all around us. Embrace it in your personal life and it will balance what's in your professional life.

ugh, if only it were that simple. I've been in technology for almost 20 years, I build cabinets, fix cars (currently swapping engines in an RX-7), garden, etc. I'm just burned out - I'd love to take a 6 week break, but need the money (5 kids, a wife, a mortgage, a car-payment).

I'm no psychologist, but is it possible that you are suffering from a bout of depression? I have found that my depression caused me to lose interest in most things. It came back, but it took a while...

TL:DR - Stop, be ok with taking a break. Give yourself chance to discover what's left.

The thing to remember is that it's ok to have changes in interests. If our interests never changed we wouldn't make progress.

It sounds like you've got to a point where you are super comfortable with what you know.

Personally after I finished my CS degree I took a big break (2 years) from technology, building things and fixing things. Actually I felt like I hated all of it and that worried me a lot. I wanted to let all the learning settle & see what interest in the field I was left with - if at all.

After two years I made the decison to go into the applications support side of things as I realised I still loved the people part of it. Being the bridge between customers & developers, fixing things & I'm still doing that now. Even my interest in development has come back and I'm building things in my spare time again.

Also my partner & I have transitioned from taking photographs as a hobby, to professionally. I find that each time we get a photography job there's a little 2 month cycle where it goes from being great fun to just being 'done' with it. At that point we take fewer personal photos.

After a little time, the interest comes back we start photographing for fun again and then we get another job and it goes full circle.

I think you can only force creativity so long before it becomes work with obligations etc - that's when the interest fades.

After graduating from college, I completely immersed myself in computers, programming, networking, system administration, etc. I taught myself how to program, got a job programming, learned just about everything I needed to learn. I would work, and then when I came home, I would sit in front of the computer learning. It got to the point where if I didn't spend time learning, I would feel guilty.

This helped me immensely, because I accelerated in my career and knowledge really quickly. But then, after about 10 years, I had gained about 50 lbs, and suffered through some personal issues. I was completely and utterly burnt out. I stopped being curious about technology, and couldn't bring myself to even turn on a computer after work, except to play games or online poker. This period lasted for about 5 years.

What rekindled everything for me was that I found something new to be passionate about, namely algorithmic trading. The entire topic absolutely fascinated me and continues to fascinate me, and that's where I regained my passion. I've been spending a lot of time on this topic over the last few years.

My advice to you is just take a break. You're probably burnt out. Give it some time, and you'll probably go back to doing it, or you'll find something new to be passionate about.

Do you mean you now use algorithmic trading to make money, or just interested in different approaches, algorithms, etc?

Yes, trading using algorithms to try to make money. Emphasis on the word "try".

I love it, regardless of my level of success in it. My friend is a day trader, and he gave me one of his setups for trading. I didn't believe him, so I downloaded the data, wrote the code to simulate it across a few years, and then all of a sudden, this became a computer problem that I could try to solve through programming. I've been hooked ever since. There are a lot of much smarter people doing a lot more successful ventures than me, but for a hobby, I really do love it, and it completely reinvigorated my interests in programming.

Yes, I always thought I could use my math/CS skills to try to make some extra cash on the side, but not even sure where to start (working in healthcare now). I was always under the impression you have to be "close to the market" to be able to trade effectively, i.e. pay a lot of money to have direct access to the latest information, trading API's etc.

No, I think you mean High Frequency Trading, which is a specialized form of algorithmic trading. Algorithmic trading just means you use a computer to execute trades based on algorithms that you define.

It can be as easy as "buy at market open, sell at market close". Or it could be much more complicated, for example, the stuff that quants do. I'm much closer to the former than the latter. You can definitely pay for things like a real-time data feed (less than $100/month) and trade real time, or you can choose to expand your time frame and do swing-trades with daily data which you could probably get from Yahoo.

And believe me, it's very, very hard, to the point where I almost don't think it's possible. But I still love it.

Thanks, how would you recommend learning about trading platforms. Say I can write a basic trading program in Matlab and Python, who should my program be communicating with?

I'm not the guy you asked the question of, but "algorithmic trading" is most likely trading the financial markets using technical indicators. Here's a book I read recently that provides a nice intro into the subject, with plenty of code examples sprinkled throughout:


and that authors blog:


Similar story but unlike the brave travellers in this thread, I switched to a related profession instead.

I was a Search Engine Optimser and worked for several large companies and agencies, leading teams and getting results. Over the course of about 12 months, I felt my passion fade, wither and then die.

I (wrongly) decided to keep focused on the money and was able to extend my career by about 18months. 18 miserable, unsatisying months.

Knowing that I like the web and feel like I know what works, over the course of several months I developed a sideline in WordPress development. I then slowly built this sideline into an income that would help me ditch SEO for good. It's now what I do full time.

So my advice is this: Be truthful to yourself, if you don't have the passion, don't stick it out hoping it'll come back. Change track, take a break, do something unexpected to give you a refresh/restart If you have responsibilities, try to develop a side project, or several, to give yourself a new direction

Make programming a mean, not the end.

There are countless fields where what you have learned over the last 5 years can be of use, and feel fresh again.

Let's say you have spent the last years learning programming for web applications. Find a job (or star a personal project) where programming is applied to embedded systems, or medical devices, or videogames, or finance, or whatever.

And do not think that because you have been learning about "programming" you have to be a "programmer" if you don't want to. Try to have an experience in sales, management, design. You might lack specific knowledge in the role, but will have much more knowledge in the technical details than other people with specific experience in the role.

If you have been working just on private projects (say, a start-up), find a job as an employee in a good-sized company. Or the other way around, if you have some savings.

You are so young there is plenty of time for finding where you want to set, do not feel constrained by what is expected of you.

Short answer: Take time off (a few months) and then work on your project.

Long answer: I worked for 4 years at Apple as a software engineer and I exactly felt like you. When I quit to find my passion again, I could not touch a computer for more than 3 months. It was really hard. I loved engineering and design so much. It felt like I lost the most important thing in life.

I was seriously burned out. I spent time with family, travelled and started appreciating life again. After 5 months off, I was eager to get back in technology. I am now working on my own thing (http://beta.shoeboxify.com) and love my life again.

It could be temporary. As others have commented already, this could be burnout.

There are other angles that you should consider. Is it only affecting your job, or are you apathetic on other things too ? If it is the latter (specially since you said 'everything'), it could indicate depression.

In my particular case, a mild form of depression always sets in whenever I am sleep deprived. This can go on for months if left unchecked. Go out, have some fun, sleep a lot and see if it helps. Have your health checked (physical and mental).

If everything checks out, you might just need a change of scenery. Another city, another job, a slightly different area, etc.

I found a break and then working on what I only found interesting (playing around with weird languages, open sourcing things etc) was the trick, it got me really excited again about what will always be my life

Grad school is a popular choice, and many would favor candidates with 3-5 years of work/project experience. The application process also helps you reflect on what your goals are, why you did what you previously did, and so forth. Taking an exam like the GRE/GMAT/LSAT/etc can also be good mental exercise and give you something mindless to do in between introspection for essays/apps.

Alternatively, it can also be cathartic to do some volunteer work. It certainly would put a smile on someone's face and perhaps provide some different perspective on life.

The "take a break" is spot on but I think a lot of burnout/loss of passion is related to what sort of work you are doing. If you are "paying your dues" in job that doesn't interest or challenge you it's going to be hard to stay excited. I look forward to going to work (almost) every day and I've been a software developer as long as you've been alive. At one point I was getting burnt out doing C++ and then C#/.NET came along and all the "newness" reinvigorated me. Maybe you need to change jobs or technologies?

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding exactly how passion works and what causes people to enjoy their work. Cal Newport wrote a very good book that dispels many of the myths surrounding the idea of passion and loving your work that might help you diagnose what's bringing you down and how to get past it: http://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/145550912...

Been through the same too, it was about your age at the time too - wonder if that's a common theme.

I fixed it with a change of direction. I'd been tackling a bunch of stuff that my heart wasn't in, figured out what i did still like (turns out i wasnt doing any of it day to day), engineered a change of circumstances at work and popped out the other end feeling happy again.

End to end about 4 months. Did involve a fair amount of persuasion - what i wanted to do didn't fit with the organisation at the time.

In my early twenties I got tired of programming and started studying history at the university instead. I lasted about two years, at which time I had so much freelance programming work that I couldn't focus on the studies enough to pass tests. So I dropped out and got back into programming.

Not only did I regain my passion for programming, but I actually like to believe that the skills I learned there made me a better programmer to boot.

TLDR; You're young - Try something different for a while.

Last time I felt like that I had a serious vitamin B12 deficiency. Not that I agree with all the responses here but you could also get you annual medical checkup

I lost interested in everything for.. a while, right around when I was diagnosed with depression. After eventually getting on the right brain medicine, I found my desire to work on the things I enjoy came back with a vengeance. Now I just need to make sure it doesn't happen again :)

I dated a Biochemist for a while to get out of my burn out. The effects were chemically soothing.

Change is as good as a rest. I've certainly found that to be the case when these sorts of feelings manifest. Working on a different team, a different project, a different boss or company down the street often completely refreshes your outlook.

Youthful enthusiasms subside, tastes evolve, you mature. Programming is cool as an unpressured activity, less so with bosses and customers demanding results. Do something else, you may not come back to it.

You need to take a vacation/sabbatical where you don't touch anything electronic. Get your head out of the game, your passion may return.

Take a vacation from it.

I started Scuba diving, now I got two passions..

Read Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson.

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