Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: How do you stop regretting?
233 points by regretting on Jan 26, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 127 comments
Early 30's and experience debilitating regret on a daily basis, over not receiving the best education, not having excelled in any one field, not having any piqued interests as a child, missed opportunities, paths taken that cannot be reversed, and so much more. Many of those things were due to external factors, yet my mistakes still played a big part. Friends are in better places who I never saw as more hardworking or intelligent than I, but perhaps I've been deluded. Efforts taken at this point to turn things around would be futile, whether that means going back to school or picking up a new skill; I would be in competition with others who've been practicing their trade for many years. It feels as if it's too late. I am objectively in a place I am not happy with, but am convinced things cannot get any better. You may say that I'm not speaking rationally, but reality can validate every one of my worries and regrets. I don't think I am exaggerating or fabricating anything, rather I am reflecting on what has happened and observing patterns, or so I think I am.

Do any of you have any experience with this?

Almost 3 years ago something flipped in my brain. I felt similar to you for many years before that. At the time I was obese, so I worked on that first. Eight months later I was still overweight but significantly stronger and healthier.

During that time I saw how I had limited myself at work because I didn't feel confident enough to ask for more. During my annual review at work, I made it clear that I felt undervalued. My employer eventually responded, but it was too late. I had already started seeking a new job.

I interviewed at a few places and I took the highest offer, even though it was the least interesting work. That job allowed me to work from home and gave me a lot of solitary time to reflect. Even though I've been programming for my whole life and I earned a great salary, I had never gone to college. It was a regret I had held for many years. For the first time it was possible to go to college, because of the flexible hours allowed by my job as a telecommuter. So at 34 years old I started taking classes at my local community college.

Fast forward a year and a half, I quit work and transferred to one of the top computer schools in the country (top 5 in EE, CS, and CompE.) Sometimes it feels strange to be 15+ years older than my classmates, but then I remind myself that it's never too late to achieve my goals.

The last couple years have been the best years of my life. I have no more regret because I am doing everything I can to realize my potential. It's never too late.

TLDR: Be honest with yourself. Reflect, Analyze, and have the confidence to pursue your dreams.

Do you have any visibility on what it was that triggered your change? I don't mean to pry, achieving a genuine change of outlook is rare, fascinating and to be celebrated. A lot of time the internal struggle is worsened because there doesn't seem to be any way to break out of the thinking patterns.

Hi. Sorry you're hurting.

A professional specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy might be especially helpful to you, in just a few sessions. You need to break the pattern of thought that leads you to fixate on your regrets, shortcomings and other negativity. With all of this taking up space in your mind, you'll have a hard time finding the attention or energy for the many exciting options open to you.

Put another way – with your hand full of the whip you're using to beat the hell out of yourself, it isn't free to work on real things.

Meanwhile, tonight, right now, take a moment and write yourself a letter. Write from the perspective of the kindest, dearest, most understanding friend you can imagine.

As this friend, express understanding and compassion for the hardships and missed opportunities you've endured. Offer encouragement. Catalog all the disappointments of your history if that's what you feel like doing – but do so in a way that says "Hey dude. That hurts. I totally understand why you're feeling bad. It's cool."

In short – give yourself a break. And repeat the exercise any time you're having a rough night like this one.

There's no time machine. There's nothing you can do to go back and change things. All you have is right now. Today. This moment. In any given moment, you get to decide your stance and attitude. You can't reverse your past, but you have full control over how you dispose of every single second between now, as you're reading this, and when you die.

It is guaranteed that your experiences are 100% unique to you. It is impossible to know what emergent qualities will arrange themselves to suit your unique success.

The other guarantee is that for as long as you spend time thinking of the past instead of building the future, the unique value of your experiences will remain locked up, unused.

The mind is an incredibly powerful yet fallible pattern matching engine. It can find anything, from any input, it seems. Just the same way you can make a face or a zoo animal from a pattern of water vapor in the sky, you're making a failure out of a pattern of events in the past. In both cases, it's illusion.

There's no instant fix. Patterns of thought take time and effort to change. All I can tell you as that only you can decide to change course. It'll be hard. It won't always be fun. It won't be overnight. But you can definitely do it. And anything is better than this feeling, right?

Here's Dave McClure's blog on his late bloom, which perhaps will give you some perspective on just how much road there still is ahead:


"The mind is an incredibly powerful yet fallible pattern matching engine. It can find anything, from any input, it seems. Just the same way you can make a face or a zoo animal from a pattern of water vapor in the sky, you're making a failure out of a pattern of events in the past. In both cases, it's illusion."

I don't often recommend Tony Robbins, but one lesson from his work that is stuck with me is exactly that.

The way he puts it: "Our brain is amazingly good at answering questions. Any question you ask yourself, and your brain will come up with an answer. So if you ask yourself 'why am I such a failure?', you'll get an answer. On the flipside, ask yourself 'Why am I such a success?', you'll also get an answer. The trick is asking yourself the right questions". (This is heavily paraphrased, as I'm doing it entirely from my memory of a tape from 10 years ago).

This is also why I think the best self-help tool is the famous saying: "Fake it til' you make it". Pretending you're the kind of person you want to be is a great way to trick your brain into getting the patterns and habits such a person would have, and the fact that you essentially realize you're "fooling yourself" actually doesn't matter that much.

Which Tony Robbins book you are refering to? That was amazing quote and I want to read that book

Like I wrote, I'm basically paraphrasing form a Tony Robbins audiobook I read 10 years ago. I don't remember which one.


Just the same way you can make a face or a zoo animal from a pattern of water vapor in the sky, you're making a failure out of a pattern of events in the past. In both cases, it's illusion.


Thank you for that.

I think this is sound advice. I was a long time sufferer of depression, and cognitive behavioral therapy has changed my life in profound ways.

The most important thing I learned from reading "Feeling Good" by David Burns is that it can wreak havoc on you if you tie your self-worth to your successes and failures. It makes you the victim of external circumstances, and who's to say what constitutes a success or a failure in absolute terms anyway? I felt like an utter failure for not having a job and never having released my debut album, and for having dropped out of college four times. I never saw that I was surrounded by friends who adore me because I give them joy and strength through listening and understanding.

I was having severe anxiety when I started doing the cognitive distortion exercises from the book. It's a bit of work, but change sets in immediately, and once habitualized, you don't need to write anything down anymore, or at least not as often.

OP, I hope you'll get better soon.

This is phenomenal advice and very well-written. Thank you for sharing it.

Early 30s? You might like this:

“[Julius] Caesar served in 63 BC as a quaestor in Spain, where in Cadiz he is said to have broken down and wept in front of a statue of Alexander the Great, realizing that where Alexander had conquered most of the known world at thirty, Caesar at that age was merely seen as a dandy who had squandered his wife’s fortunes as well as his own.”

Your experience is familiar to me. It sounds like you are trapped in the negative thought cycle of depression. Your constant regretting is making you unhappy.

We get tired of being unhappy and think about what's wrong, what went wrong, how we got how we got here, etc. and try and think of a solution for our unhappiness.

Trying to think your way out of regretting will not work. Unfortunately, there is no trick or hack that will suddenly stop this cycle of regret cause it to unravel, leaving you happy and satisfied and confident with the decisions you've made.

"The problem is that we try to think our way out of our moods by working out what's gone wrong. What's wrong with me? Why do I always feel overwhelmed? Before we have any idea what's hit us, we're compulsively trying over and over to get to the bottom of what is wrong with us as people or the way we live our lives, and fix it. We put all of our mental powers to work on the problem, and the power we rely on is that of our critical thinking skills.

Unfortunately, those critical thinking skills might be exactly the wrong tools for the job."

What you might want to try is relating differently to these feelings of regret, especially when you notice that your mind is entering these cycles. It is important to realize that this is just a passing feeling.

"But we don't like to feel sad because it can quickly turn into a sense that we are somehow flawed of incomplete; so we call in the intellect to focus on the mismatch between what 'is' and what 'should be.' Because we can't accept the discomfort of the message, we try to shoot the messenger and end up shooting ourselves in the foot."

If the above blocks in quotation marks sound familiar to you, I suggest picking up a copy of the book "The Mindful Way Through Depression"[0]

Full disclosure: I'm reading this book right now, as it was recommended to me by a counselor a few years back. I also am not a psychiatrist (or lawyer, or doctor).


Others have written more eloquently than I, but just a couple of data points.

I'm in my early 40's right now and have recently gotten interested in a couple of technical subjects and have been learning at my own pace. I gotta say, these last few months of doing so have felt extremely rewarding. It doesn't seem to matter so much that other people out there are more experienced and also younger. There are also plenty of people that don't know a darn thing about what I'm learning. What is mattering is that it is interesting to me.

Ten years ago I think I compared myself to others a lot more, at least in a debilitating sense. So it might be something that calms down over time.

Also, there's one other trick that I've done in the past that has helped a lot. Sometimes we have those black cloud moments where it seems like things won't get better. Next time you're in a moment like that (or now, if it applies), promise yourself to take a mental snapshot of who you are right now. And promise yourself that if (when) you experience a moment of feeling better, you will remember that snapshot, and talk to that version of yourself, and reassure that version of you that things really did get better.

First time I managed to do that, I experienced that future black clouds were much, much easier to deal with - because I had proven to myself that they were just illusions.

All of this may be true. What are you going to do about it? Remain in that hole of sweet self-pity until retirement? As the song goes: "it's not going to stop - till you wise up". It's easy and comfortable to give up and whine instead. I know. I've been there.

First, get a shrink. Yes, really.

Second, get to work! It takes ten thousand hours to truly master a craft. That's about five working years. You'll probably be working until you're 67 or so. If you start learning a new skill now, you'll master it at 37 - and for the remaining 30 years of your working life, you'll do great.

Sure, the ambitious 20-somethings may have a head start. But over the next decade, that'll even out. Just stop feeling sorry for youself and do the damn work that's needed.

(Note: The following paragraph assumes you're not supporting a family.)

If you hate your job, quit. Yes, I know you probably don't have enough savings to feel good about that. But there's no better motivation than impending doom. If you know your runway is up in two months, you'll hustle like mad thouse two months. And you'll get there. Really, what's the worst thing that can happen?

Is that really worse than where you're at now?

> Efforts taken at this point to turn things around would be futile

That's the depression talking. Others have said this, but I'll pile on because it's true: talk to a therapist.

I know what you're thinking: no therapist can possibly help you. You're so much smarter than any therapist. You've thought this through, and you haven't been able to figure out the answer, so a therapist won't be able to either.

You're wrong. Here's why. You're a geek, so you're used to thinking about every challenge as a problem with (at least potentially) a solution. Depression isn't like that. It's not a problem with a solution, it's something that happens to you that you need to learn how to manage. You can't fix depression any more than you can fix getting sleepy or having to go to the bathroom. What you can do is learn how to deal with it. And a good therapist can help you with that. It's not an easy process, but it's well worth the effort. You'll still get depressed, but it will hurt less.

Someone once told me a nice metaphor for life. It goes: life is like a big, big river. Everyone starts at different points in the river - some start further upstream, some start further down. No matter who you are though, there are always people who started usptream from you. You'll see them cruising down the river, laughing and splashing, like it's second nature. And it's easy to be jealous of them, even to become fixated about the part of the river they saw and you didn't. So you try and swim up the river to get back to where they started from. Of course that doesn't work, because the current is far too strong, so you just end up tiring yourself out, and when you get too exhausted to keep going, you look around and realise you're in exactly the same place as when you started.

You can do that for as long as you want. Ain't gunna do anything except tire you out. Eventually though you can accept the place you started in the river, and let the current take you down-stream. That's when you start living - when you accept the limitations of how you started in life and open yourself up to your own unique possibilities of your life adventure.

Also, my dad was 42 when he started university. He became a lawyer. Granted, university in my country was cheap at the time, and granted, he would be more comfortable now if he'd started earlier. But he made a good start, and it was better than sitting around and resigning himself to being unqualified.

On that note, I want to stress: it is never too late to re-qualify. And it's always worth it. Don't be embarrassed, don't come up with reasons why you'd never be successful - just go for it. Give it a shot. It'll work out in the end.

OK, I'm older than you and have been going through this right now. Let me tell you what the biggest pile of absolute bullshit is in what you just wrote:

>>>Efforts taken at this point to turn things around would be futile

That is absolute bullshit. You don't know what the future looks like nor can you say any new efforts would be futile. You've just jumped the tracks, are stuck in a rut, and all you're seeing is the damned rut. I can't help you get out of that rut -- the rut is different for each of us -- but you must find your way out. Having great days isn't a matter of just waking up to great days. It's building great days one small step at a time during lousy days. Think of it like compound interest with money. Do at least one damn thing to move forward each day. You don't need a plan -- plans won't help, only create the potential for more disappointment -- you just need to move. Move, move, move I'll leave it to others here to suggest practical steps. But standing still in that rut is death and life -- even miserable life -- is better than death. Death is finality. Life is practically infinite potential, whether you can see that right now or not.

Sounds to me like undiagnosed depression. Treatment helps, and I do mean antidepressants. Fooled by Randomness also helps. Volunteerism helps. Doing things helps. Throw yourself in with the salt of the earth.

Once you get your mood straightened out, you will find that day two of progress is worth more than years wasted on regret, but the mood disorder is not something you should expect to succeed at thinking your way through.

First: Everybody has regrets, often very deep and hurtful regrets. Remember that when you think about the successes of another. They're living with their own unique set of places where life didn't work out for them.

Second: There's going to be somebody who's better than you in anything you do. But nobody is going to be better than you in everything you do. You are a unique collection of skills and should only really think about self improvement for your own sake, not about competition against others on cherry picked sets of capabilities.

Third: Try and live a life that, if you picked out only the highlights and wrote a book about it, would be a damn interesting read. Meditate on those good parts, those personal adventures, those things you never thought you would ever see, hear or experience. Take great satisfaction in those things -- for they are yours and yours alone. If you think you haven't done that yet, start today. That transition into a life of experience will in and of itself be a place in your life's book where the adventure began.

Past > Present < Future

I cannot change the past. I cannot change the future. I only have choice in the present, so that is my point of power.

Past > POWER < Future

This simple little framework helps me avoid regret, and also becoming lost in fantasy-land about what my future may entail. Note that it doesn't absolve me of responsibility to learn from the past or plan for the future - but both learning and planning are 'present' actions!

Forget everyone else's "success". Forget the past. It's irrelevant. What do you want to do now and into the future? What are your dreams? Life is fairly short and not fair to many people, but most of us are quite fortunate to have good health and opportunities to seize our dreams. What are yours? Start with realistic dreams you can achieve now and work step-by-step towards larger ones. You can do it. Failures are the footsteps of success. Just keep dreaming towards that door. It will open one day.


Honestly, there's a whole field of professionals that's designed to deal with problems like these; it's called psychotherapy. It helped me, though not for this exact problem, but for something related.

it's called psychotherapy

You were perhaps trying to say "psychiatry". Psychotherapy is a pseudoscience right up there with dream interpretation. And everyone else posting might consider that the OP isn't apparently an imbecile, and so is well-aware that an industry of therapists/doctors/quacks (etc etc etc) exists for mental health problems and that recommending it is pretty much redundant.

I was most definitely not trying to say "psychiatry". Mental health counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy have been shown to be non-quack mechanisms that are practiced by non-MDs. These revolve around talking about and modifying one's thought process patterns, and do not involve prescribed medication, unlike psychiatry.

Psychotherapy is a category, not a specific practice. You are almost certainly talking about 19th century style freudian psychoanalysis, which is not representative of the field today. Modern psychotherapy is largely based around sensible evidence based things like CBT, mentioned many times in this thread. Lots of it is carried out by trained and qualified MD type people. CBT for example is part of the NHS's mental health system. The people who provide it are called psychiatrists.

Obviously there are a lot of quacks out there but I have faith that the OP is not vulnerable enough to be taken in by them.

At least in the NHS, CBT is NOT provided by Psychiatrists, but by Psychologists (or sometimes others).

Psychiatrists deal in Chemical responses to problems, whilst Psychologists deal with Talking treatments, and at least in the NHS there seems to be a definite divide between the two.

I had a similar feeling few years ago. What worked for me: Meditation.

Why? Because it stresses on the now.

It's practical too. There's nothing you can do about the past. And sitting and internally whining doesn't help. Do whatever you're doing now and give it 100% attention.

In the end, if you're lucky, you'll realize the futility of it all! :)

Here are a few things from my experiences with regret you should consider:

0. You could probably benefit a great deal from talking with someone professionally about what you're going through. It's not a panacea, but it can definitely help.

1. There's absolutely no point in comparing your life to someone else's. They simply aren't comparable. Your life is yours; their lives are theirs. You're here in this world to have your experience, not theirs. Judging your experience of life in light of what you perceive to be another's experience will do you no good whatsoever. Worse, you're probably wrong in how you perceive their life. For all you know, the people you think have it so awesome are miserable, themselves, and secretly think your life is the shit — and round and round we go... Just Stop. Now.

(Full disclosure: I still have trouble with this one myself, to an extent, but only with age any more. I turned 40 last year, and work in technology, so I'm always surrounded by 20-something youth and vitality. Maintaining my equanimity can sometimes be challenging in that environment.)

2. Whatever it is that you're regretting, you need to understand that you couldn't have acted differently at the time. Between the circumstances around the event, who you were at the time of the event, who the other people involved were at the time, and so on, there really wasn't much anyone could have done, but exactly what they did. (Aside: as much as people reading along at home might want to, please don't use my phrasing here to spawn a free will vs. determinism debate. While I, personally, find that stuff fascinating, this really isn't the place for it.)

This was a very, very hard one for me to come to grips with. I used to have some pretty debilitating regrets, myself. There were choices I'd made that, when I thought of them, I'd feel physical pain, as if struck. Seriously, I remember many occasions where I'd be in the shower (the most common place for this to happen, for whatever reason), or going about my day in some other fashion, when Situation X would pop into my head, and I'm suddenly doubled over as if someone just punched me in the gut. I'm not exaggerating.

Worse, those regrets were holding me back in situations like the one I was regretting. Let's suppose, for sake of discussion, that my regret was over "blowing it" with "the girl of my dreams." Every time I was in an even remotely romantic situation after that, my regrets would be foreground in my mind, instead of being present to the situation I was in. I doubt I have to belabor how much life I missed out on because of that...

After a lot of soul-searching, and a rather expensive and painfully-wrought epiphany or seven, I realized exactly what I describe above: given who I was at the time, who the other people were, the circumstances we were all in, &c, there simply wasn't another outcome for the situation. The only way it could have played out is exactly as it did. After that, regret for my choices made as much sense as regretting it being cold that day.

Please take care not to misunderstand: that doesn't mean you shrug and walk away. Every experience in life, pleasant or painful, has something to teach us. Often enough, the more painful the experience, the more there is to learn from it — we learn that fire is hot by being burned far more quickly than we do by being told. So whatever the lesson(s) might be in your situation(s), sit down with yourself and strive to find them, honestly, and without judgement. They're there, and the rest of your life will open and flow out of what you take from them.

I could have written the original post word for word, and I enjoyed your post. However, what torments me personally is the knowledge that the outcome could have been very different had small things been very different. A few freak twists of fate don't happen, I give a little more thought to decisions that turned out to be huge mistakes, etc.

This is a great and compassionate answer.

I'm 50. Made millions. Lost millions. Regrets? Sure.

But it's really a question of perspective. A friend of mine needs 2 kidneys and a liver (try having the "regrets" discussion with them). When I look around, really look around and see the situation a lot of people are in, I get grateful. And gratitude is the answer to that situation. Make a list of all the things you have to be grateful for. You're on HN, you're educated, a bunch of people here care.

Go help someone else. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Visit the sick in a hospital. Go to the SPCA and pet the animals. Take action.

It's also the middle of winter. I used to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder living in Canada. Fish oil + vitamin D + exercise helps. Moving to Key West helped more :)

Finally, I had to accept that I was exactly where I wanted to be. I took all the actions to get me here. I take the blame. I own it. Mine. Figure out where you want to go, big goals, small goals - and take daily steps to get there... you're either getting better or getting sicker... make the choice to take the actions to get better.

And this may involve asking for help. You've made a good start here, but there might be underlying depression as others have mentioned... therapy of some sort... meditation (my favorite)... stopping drinking or drugging...

This too will pass. Hang in there. Use this situation as the impetus you need to change some shit that needs changing. And I want to see the next post from you as "Tell HN: Feeling Better, here's why"

Good luck!

Share more about meditation if you don't mind.

Early 30s is not too late. I know a guy going back for a MS in Stat who is 40s -- no previous data related jobs. Stop comparing yourself to other people, just work on things youre passionate about. Most people dont. You are already successful if you can do that.

I have some experience with this. I never went into a slump that I would consider clinical depression. I'm not sure if that's what you're going through, or not. I'm certainly not that kind of professional.

My experience is this: regret is a black hole of the worst kind. It sucks you in, and there is no end to it, and it is unmerciful in the worst way.

However, how you choose to respond to your circumstances is completely within your control. This was something Victor Frankl (a man who survived the concentration camps during the Holocaust!!) talked about in "Man's Search for Meaning"

I will hit 40 in November, and there are parts of my life that I wish had ended up differently, but I don't poke that bear.

I have learned to be thankful for where I am, and what blessings I have in my life now.

(for me, I'm happily married, and have a health baby girl, a home of my own, a job I enjoy)

I would posit to you that it would help, if you took an inventory of what you have to be thankful for... and started from that position, that life may look a bit brighter.

You can change your circumstances in life. It may not come as quickly as you like... but it will come, with work.

I am sorry you are hurting... but I couldn't disagree with you more, that efforts to turn things around now would be futile. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you like, I can share with you where I've come from. My history isn't something I'd like to put here publicly, but I'd be happy to share with you, through a different venue. You can email me at the address listed in my profile.


"I would posit to you that it would help, if you took an inventory of what you have to be thankful for... and started from that position, that life may look a bit brighter."

Thank you, sir. It took me a LONG time to learn that lesson. I'm glad I finally did.

I'm 55 and currently barely scraping by on temp jobs and freelance gigs. As I look back at all the mistakes and missed opportunities, mainly caused by obvious glaring faults of my own, or in what in retrospect could be considered very dumb decisions, I certainly feel some regret. Lack of focus, maybe ADD long before people knew it existed, quitting great jobs to start a failed business or non-profit or to work overseas. Going to grad school, then skipping classes and homework to spend all night on personal projects that never really amounted to anything, getting mediocre grades, then eventually dropping out. Not able to make up my mind what I want to do for a living.

But then I see my loving wife of 30 years who has put up with me, two kids in college who call me up for advice (not necessarily taking it, but it's the thought that counts) and a high school kid who talks to me and laughs at my jokes, good health, a decent if small home, and many, many, many friends from all the places I lived, and not really even one real enemy.

Then I wonder. Would I have been as happy if I had gotten that fancy degree? Kept that job that would have had me away on 6 week business trips twice or three times a year? If I'd not followed my dreams, even though they didn't pan out?

When I die (and at 55 it starts looking a lot closer), although I never amounted to much, maybe I'll have friends and family saying goodbye as I slip away and it will seem more important at that moment than a big job and major accomplishment. At least I can feel that maybe the world is happier and nicer a little bit because I was here. I smiled at people and they smiled back and there were two more smiles added to the world happiness account. Maybe it turned out OK not focus on career and DOING BIG THINGS.

Maybe nothing has stuck for you so far, because you haven't found what would really make you happy. Please, keep looking. Be open. Cultivate positive relationships. Help other people who are suffering. Make the world cleaner, nicer, safer, brighter, more fun, even if just through a kind word to the person sitting next to you at Starbucks, or picking up a piece of litter and dropping it in a trash can.

And if you do want to turn things around, it's definitely not too late, if you want to try again. I've had at least two great chances since I was 40. The only reason I'm not doing them now is because I ended up moving on because they weren't really what I wanted. Maybe they'll be what you want.

Most of all, don't let the world's idea of what is worth doing define how you evaluate your life. They have no idea what constitutes true happiness for you. Only you can know that, and sometimes it takes a while to find out.

As others have suggested, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is going to help enormously with this - I have personal experience of it, and it is very good.

Depending on where you are, you may need to wait to get an appointment (I had to wait 4 months to see a CBT worker on the NHS in the UK) so in the meantime, you may want to try this book:


Which is an 8 week course of ways to meditate to practise breaking the negative spirals of thoughts.

My partner and I are currently working though it, and while it can seem like it's talking down to you some of the time (especially if you're a geek like me) you should persevere, as the actual conclusions, practical advice and meditations are very helpful (and have been shown to work in clinical trials.)

Good luck, life gets better than this! :)

The CBT waiting list is vastly longer in some areas (over 18 months). The mindfullness course is very good. Also search around, some charities will run free CBT courses or pay for private CBT courses for you if you are unable to.

I'm in the same boat as you. I graduated from a top CS program almost a decade ago. I've only worked at two companies, the first a startup and the second is a cushy corporate job. I had a stepfather who was amazingly successful at my age, but just last year his life ended quite abruptly. It was really hard to not only lose him as a mentor, but as a friend and family.

It really stirred in me that life is what you make of it. I'm actively seeking outside help and hope that going into my 30s will be the biggest step forward in my life equipped with the knowledge of where I came from in my 20s.

To say that the 30+ comments on this thread so far has been incredibly useful to my own personal experience is an understatement.

I thank you OP for making this post. I've been on a bit of a downturn lately but this discussion has made it feel all the more surmountable. I wish you well, you're not alone in this struggle.

To judge yourself by contrast to others is one of the most efficient ways of making yourself unhappy! Consider: if they are doing better than you, you are jealous and you think badly of yourself. If they are doing worse, then you may think better of yourself, until you realize that you are taking pleasure in someone else's misfortunes, a pathetic thing to do!

The alternative is to replace the relative standard of your peers' success, with an absolute standard. That could be your own past (how far have you come since x; what have you learned since x; what wisdom have you gained since x, and so on) which has the advantage of showing you ways to go forward. Or it could be a national or global standard: how wealthy, how comfortable, how skilled are you with respect to the average U.S. male of your age? Which will probably at least be flattering.

1. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. It's ok to mope for a day or two. Get it out of your system. Then get it together for long enough to act, because you have work to do.

2. You're in your early 30's and you feel like all your decisions have been made and that everything about your life is set in stone? I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt, that isn't true. You're still young. Don't focus on what you've done. Let that be chapters 1,2 and 3 in your biography. What do you want chapters 3.3 through 8 to say? Do you want them to say, "He made some mistakes and let them rule the rest of his life"? Or "He got his act together and made opportunities for himself."

You're on Hacker News. HN is absolutely rife with stories of people creating opportunities for themselves.

One last thing: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

It's never too late. You're not on a race track competing against others who have a huge head start. There is no single track and no single finishing line.

Things cannot only be done better or worse, faster or more slowly, they can also done in an infinite number of ways. An infinite number of new things have yet to be invented. No one is ever far ahead of others in terms of having ideas and creating things that others like, simply because there is no "ahead" in an infinite dimensional space.

If you pick up a new skill that I have been perfecting for the past 20 years and we both try to make something new that others like, there is no reason to believe that you will be any less successful than me 6 to 12 months down the road. Unless it's theoretical physics perhaps ;-)

A big part of this is that you're comparing yourself to others. The only thing you can really control is your own actions. It's much better to focus on where you are and where you want to be. Are you making progress or not? If not, what can you do to get where you want to be?

It's about progress every day towards a goal. Whatever has happend has happened. You can't control the past. But you can absolutely control the future and where you end up. Focus on what you can control (your actions going forward) not what you can't (the actions of your friends or what you've done in the past).

People successfully re-invent themselves much later than their early 30s. You've got nothing to worry about. It's not too late.

The best advice I got was:

  1. Never compare your beginning to someone else's middle

  2. Don't look to the past. It's all dead back there.
Also, one way my accounting friend explains it to me is that anything that's already happened is a sunk cost. Like in business, you shouldn't worry about the "could've. would've. should've." What you evaluate are the future costs/benefits of your decisions. I've been there man, and I still get into that mood now and then. It's normal. It will pass. Smile. Get sunlight. Do something good for someone. And sleep and wake up early. These are the things that help me still.

I might be too young to have the regret, but I feel the comparison to others quite often. Honestly, I think this is the realm of professional help if it is debilitating. I think a consequence of being a heavy thinker means we analyze every situation as if we are merely a player in some strange social arena, and we often feel we are losing.

What helped me the most was realizing that money and success wouldn't make me happier, but that investing in the relationships and values I had would. Money and success is merely one social metric, and it's often rather shallow.

Good luck!

> You may say that I'm not speaking rationally, but reality can validate every one of my worries and regrets.

Depression lies.

You do sound depressed.

I think you also need to forgive yourself for your mistakes.

There's hardly anyone who doesn't make some wrong turns in their 20s. (And I'm not saying everyone has it all figured out by 30, either.) Your situation is not even unusual, except that you're feeling so bad about it.

I'm a lot older than you are, and I assure you that it's ludicrous to think it's too late for you to have a good life. Actually, things can get steadily better into middle age, though perhaps not as fast as you would like.

Your feelings are extremely common. In fact, most men especially will likely experience these thoughts in their 30s and 40s to varying degrees. I know I have.

I can tell you that ultimately what you have to do is forgive yourself, not only for past mistakes but for letting yourself waste time on regret. Then, the next and most important step is to take responsibility: no one else but you is responsible for how you are feeling, and what you will do in the future. Taking responsibility is one of the most liberating things people can do for themselves, and yet is one of the hardest for most of us.

Do not worry about it being too late; it is not. I have known plenty of people that have come back or joined engineering, or something else, very late in their life (you're still a young pup compared to them!) and have been successful. You have to set goals for yourself, execute against them, and continue to remind yourself that you are responsible for what happens.

Don't look around at people who became billionaires in their mid-20s and decide you haven't done enough or aren't talented enough. There are so many factors that go into huge successes like that. Hustle and hard-work are indeed a huge part of it, but so is timing, luck, and their placement in the universe.

I would also ask you to think hard on if a good school, etc. is what you need versus hard work. Think hard on what your goals are and the steps you need to get there. Don't spend time on something that isn't really going to help you.

I was feeling similarly for a long time except on one point: I think you are really wrong about taking a different path being futile. Your reason for not starting something new because you won't compare to people who have been doing it for years is not a good reason. There are tons of people who have been doing their job for years and are just plain not good at their job at all. Aim for their jobs for now. If you pick something else you want to do you are definitely going to end up being better than they are if you bust your ass. And they have jobs. So what is stopping you from beating them? Nothing.

You said you view yourself as more hardworking and intelligent than most people, even some very successful friends. Well part of the gift of being intelligent is that you have the capability of retooling yourself and picking up something new. You also have the other component for being able to do that as well, being hardworking.

Things are guaranteed to not get any better if you don't do anything, and your reasons for not doing anything are not good ones. If you are a smart, hardworking person and you set a reasonable goal for yourself there should be nothing holding you back barring your own motivation.

Finally, if you actually do decide to get moving in a direction, print this out and put it on your wall:


1. While you reflect on the past, you neglect the present - which is the only place you have power/agency. You have none over the past, so focusing on it will give you the impression you are powerless. When you stop exercising your options, you may start to believe you can't exercise them, then you stop looking for options/choices/opportunities, and stop seeing the ones you already have, and finally believe you have no options. You can reverse this by focusing your attention on where you do have power. Like a muscle, exercising your power increases it; by noticing your present options/opportunities, your eyes will get better at seeing them.

2. A way to feel satisfaction from progress in the present is to take a tiny action, and to compare yourself to where you were a moment ago. Tiny steps count and they add up. Add a little to a little and soon you have a big pile. A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step; any journey consists of steps.

This is the approach I try to take when I feel as you do, and it helps me. As others have said, you're hurting, and it's important to take care of yourself. Think of yourself as suffering a physical injury, and taking small steps is physiotherapy. Don't push too hard at first, try for a level that will help strengthen you, not for performance in itself.

Richard Feynman said that nature's imagination is greater than your imagination. You are part of nature, your cells, your mind, your potential. There's more to you than you can ever know.

"I never saw [them] as more hardworking or intelligent than I"

Maybe that's your problem. You're so confident in yourself that you just expect things to happen for you. (That's what my problem was)

1) "I would be in competition with others who've been practicing their trade for many years."

Common dude that's just BULLSHIT. What do you think college students go through?! They enter a market without any experience, competing with people who are well established and experienced. That's what people do, that's what companies do. The Google guys starting working on a search engine in an era when Microsoft, Yahoo, Lycos, & Alta Vista were established competitors. Same with Facebook > Myspace, same with Walmart > K-Mart > Sears Roebuck, with MS Word > Word Perfect, and the list goes on and on. A bunch of inexperienced no-bodies little by little outrun an experienced established player. Statistically & Historically speaking, you have a chance. So get that "I can't compete" argument out of your head. THAT is what's holding you back.

2) There's "problems" and then there's "issues". Problems can be solved. Issues can never be solved, they must be adjusted to. A flat tire is a problem, a hatred of men because of experiences with your father is an issue. And just like losing your legs, not having a childhood, and jealousy due to insecurity, your "deep seeded regret" is an issue. You cannot fix it. You can only normalize to it, understand it, and move on from it.

3) Cognitive behavioral therapy, as others have mentioned is REALLY amazing and works very well for issues. I got over body dismorphic disorder using CBT. You can't change the world to make yourself feel better, you can only change yourself, your point of view and way of thinking and that's basically what CBT is. CBT can be done with a therapist to talk you through learning to recognize and later stopping the thoughts that lead to your regret. Or you can learn about CBT methods and do it yourself like I did. (I talk to myself 6-12 hours a day which is why I went the self-mediate route. Therapists took too long and were too expensive.)

4) Learn that there is a dark side to dreaming, wishing, fantasizing, and desiring. A very dark side that leads to nothing but disappointments and regrets of not having reached the dream, wish, fantasy, or desire. We've been conditioned our whole lives to dream big and keep trying but when you don't reach those dreams you've set yourself up for decades of regret and heartache. You need to stop comparing what you have to what you wish you had, and instead compare what you have with what others do not. You're lucky, realize that.

I am probably more down than the OP, I am 30 and we are in a very similar situation, but I'm struggling hard with very strong depression at the moment due to all these factors and also losing the only love in my life I've ever had. I can't go 5 minutes without fantasizing about hanging myself. Don't worry though, not going to do it, but it's obvious my brain does not see another way out.

I just wanted to say thank you for this post. Although it may come off as a bit harsh to some readers(and I've never been a fan of the 'tough it up' mentality), I needed to hear this, and I think you're right on every point.

What I would like to know further is how you managed to do CBT, as I know that I desperately need something like this, but I can't find a competent/trustworthy psychologist to save my life. Any links/resources/advice is GREATLY appreciated.

Read the book "Feeling Good" and do the exercises in the book. Its author is the guy who invented CBT.

That book helped me kick some serious depression. And it's a great read for logical thinker types.

Many thanks for this Erica. Also, grats on your company in Austin. I have followed you for a while now, glad to see things are continuing to go well for you. Cheers.

Your post is pretty solid, but the tone in 1) might be a bit harsh. There's a fine line between giving someone the needed "kick in the ass" and just kicking someone who's already down.

Anyway, what I really wanted to ask you was to expand on 3). How did you do this? Specifically, which resources did you find helpful in learning this technique, and how long did it take before you noticed improvement?

But you also see this whole thing as attention seeking.

I do also have this from time to time, but not very often. It does not occur to me when I have things to do that are meaningful to me. Like working on a cool hobby project, having fun with friends, thinking that my work is fun.

Maybe your life is really boring right now, so you have reason to be frustrated. This is good, isn't it? This probably means you need to change something. Obviously what you do, but maybe also your attitude. You should rather look forward and think what you can do and not what you could have done.

Not sure what you are interested in, maybe you want to go rafting, learn climbing, learn Vietnamese, learn to cook food that others can eat, create a funny website, go to another country, go to the Military, run like Forest Gump through the US, or maybe walk through the US... So much stuff to do.

Also stop whining, maybe you need to watch some more Clint Eastwood movies. And in addition some documentaries about refugees in Africa or child soldiers. Afterwards you feel more sorry for them than for you. What also helps, talking a cold shower in the morning (or hot-cold ;)), making some push-ups, eating breakfast. You'll feel much more vital afterwards. (Speaking from experience.)

Anyway: stop comparing yourself with others and don't forget that they paid a price for being so disciplined.

There's a saying "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken."

You can't change the past so you can only learn from it. I sense that you're not fully ok with who you are yourself and where you come from, and that leads you to the fallacious conclusion that you're somehow not good enough.

The question is, what is your identity built on? Is it things that are internal to you and which don't depend on other people's opinions, or is it things that are external to you, leaving you wide open to judge yourself?

I don't have any advice to offer, but I do feel what you are going through, as I am in the same boat, also around the same age.

I had a very sheltered life, and that didn't help. Friends have moved on - to bigger jobs, having families and kids etc, while I feel like I'm a big failure (well - I make decent money, have some job - that's pretty much my "achievement" in life). Most of them are no better than I, in terms of intelligence or ability. I suppose where I failed, was execution. These days I get depressed often, though I am getting better at not showing it outside. Suicidal thoughts have crossed my mind, more than once.

Anyway - I just thought I'd say that you are not alone. There are probably more people like us.

In terms of what can be done to change (my situation is probably more complicated than yours, as an immigrant) - I am not sure. I've often wondered if it would be nice to have a support group (or a mastermind group) that can help - without judging and without being harsh. I haven't found one yet. If you like to get in touch, reply to this comment. May be we can support each other, may be we can find others. If not, good luck. My thoughts are with you.

I would say just snap out of it. I mean that sincerely. All those things you mention don't matter. People in far worse position than you, assuming what you've said is an accurate portrayal, go on to become very successful. Sure, you could say they are anomalies. But, you've made it to this site, you don't write like a moron, I find it hard pressed to believe it is hopeless.

You are here so I wonder, do you have some interest in programming? Many people have programming jobs that don't have CS degrees. You mention your age, and sure out in the Valley there are those types that have the mindset of Logan's Run and about age 28 is time when programmers need to be put out to pasture, but this is not true in most places, probably not totally true in the Valley either. If you want to do programming, or anything, learn skills and go for it. You don't need to be so attractive that 90% of companies want to hire you; you just need to find that one person that will take a chance on you.

I recently met someone much older than you, take six months learning .NET and C# (this is not an advertisement for that platform just a real example), then found a job as a contractor at a government agency (or sub contractor) and started building experience, now he has no problems finding programming work. It's not glamorous mega high paying stuff but it's not bad and he's not even that driven. So, early 30's is not the end of the world.

How to stop regretting? Spend some time with animals, zoos, dogs. They live in the moment. Start doing that for awhile, but work on a plan for your future but don't look back. It's pointless.

Also, you're not alone. A lot of people feel this way, even people you might think of as pretty successful.

Good luck and get out there!

I don't like to go give advice because, well, it's often just wrong. Not my advice, all advice. But I will do it because I think this could help you:

Lower your expectations, but raise your commitments.

What I mean by that is: stop looking at your less-studious friends and thinking how much farther you should be. Stop looking at your life's circumstances and thinking how much better others have it. Strive for something more immediate: a new job, promotion, getting a meeting with someone important to you. Whatever. Then, plan the sequence of actions you need to undertake to make this happen, and commit to executing them.

In my personal experience, feeling exactly the way you described, I've found that all of it stems from not actually getting anything done. Expecting to be in such high places, but having such a small inventory of achievement. So I'm reversing that: collecting achievements, committing to completion and expecting only to move on to the next commitment.

In my experience the despair came from feeling that I was powerless to change my circumstances. This approach directly affirms that I do.

(The particular phrasing of this advice comes from Venkatesh Rao)

I was one of the top three students of my graduating high school class. People expected big things of me. I also had undiagnosed medical problems and an abusive childhood behind me. I chose to go deal with my personal issues instead of pursuing public accomplishments and approval. I didn't stop feeling like a loser until my medical condition was properly identified when I was 36. After that, I was finally able to start getting my act together.

But it wasn't quick or anything. There was a lot to address. I still feel frustrated with a lot of things, even though I am pretty confident of the choices I have made. I know I still have massive public image problems, which makes me crazy, and a lot of things feel incredibly unfair to me.

Just start working on your problems. The only remedy for regret is to fix things that went wrong. When that is not directly possible, still try to fix things. (I know a woman whose child died. She is still researching his cause of death in order to benefit other people, even though it won't bring her child back.)

"Nothing takes the past away like the future." -- Madonna

Cheer up, mate. Always look on the bright side of life.

I used to feel like that. To be honest, I still do, sometimes. Most of the time though, I try to broaden my perspective on things. So you're not the industry leader. So you're not the conqueror of worlds.




I make more money than my mother and my father. My mother is a teacher who studied at the university. I think master, but I don't really know. She takes an interest in children with learning disabilities. My father is a metal worker. My mother can't hear for shit because all those children make a lot of noise. My father has heart disease and bad knees.

I, on the other hand, don't have a degree. I have not worked hard to achieve anything in my life really. I code, people give me money. Good money. More money than what is given to honest, hard working people.

I'm not a name, or anyone to care about. Sometimes it feels as if I have conned my way into making a living, because everyone in my family works harder than me. My grandfather is still working as a carpenter to get by. I also think he does it because he likes it. It is what he knows. But still, his knees are busted up, his hip is too. And his back hurts. He's old and should be enjoying his retirement.

The world is unfair. And a fucked up place. My country has a social welfare system. A relatively good one. If you are unable to work, the state will provide for you. Not much, but still enough to get by. No real need to be homeless, yet people still are.

I've visited the US a couple of times for recreational purposes and for work. To me, it seems as if everyone believes that if you work hard and pay your bills, you will go far.

It's not like that.

It's about circumstances. It's about chance. It's about luck.

Sometimes i feel guilt because I receive more money than my family. Sometimes I feel as if I could've done something more with my life.

When I feel like that, I just say 'fuck it'. It is very liberating. Force yourself to think happy thoughts. You will be happy.

The world is still fucked up. People still die of starvation, rape and mass murder in the world, while the people from wealthy families prosper in the west. But the world is not yours to fix.

Just enjoy your time in this world, it will not last forever.

Not sure if you've read this, but it might help a little: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiderata#Full_text

Specifically: "If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself."

My personal advice: go exercise until you can't take it anymore...you'll feel great.

I'm not sure how best to put this, but try hanging out with dumber people. It's like this, sometimes we can't help comparing ourselves with others but we mostly have a habit of only looking up and not down. In this industry you are encouraged to look at the brightest and learn from them and their habits so that you too can be a 10x programmer. Not everybody can be a 10x programmer, that's just how it is.

Chances are you are somewhere near the middle of the curve, that's where most people are but there is a climate around at the moment where everybody is supposed to be ahead of the pack but that's not possible so relax, do your best and see how that turns out.

Before the light from our sun reaches the centre of the Milky Way anybody who is left will have long forgotten about the achievements of everybody who has ever been alive up until now. All that really matters is the people you care about and who care about you. Focus on that and the rest of it will take care of itself.

I deal occasionally with regret. I think it's pretty natural if you spend a lot of time introspecting.

I'm sure there have been times were we all have dreamed of being able to go back in time and do things differently. Or go back and visit prior selves, tell them to do things differently.

Which brings up an interesting proposition. What if you could write a letter to your past self, say 2 years ago. What would you say? What would you tell yourself to do differently?

Write that letter. Be real with yourself.

Now, having written that letter, read it back. Except think of this letter as having been written by your future self a couple years from now to you in the present. Perhaps some specifics can't apply directly, but you likely will have found some things that you can start applying to yourself now.

This is an idea that has been bouncing around my head lately. I have not done it yet, but perhaps this weekend I will spend some time reflecting on the last couple years and pen that letter to myself.

There are lots of great comments on this page. I'll offer something different, which is a critique on this section of your post:

> Efforts taken at this point to turn things around would be futile, whether that means going back to school or picking up a new skill; I would be in competition with others who've been practicing their trade for many years.

Emphasis mine. This is bullshit. In three major ways. First, just because someone has been doing something a while, doesn't mean they're very good at it. Just because someone started 10 years ago, doesn't mean another person can't surpass them within a single year. Practice does not make perfect (it does usually make good enough though).

Second, I'm going to assume you kind of sort of like programming, but if you don't then I'll suggest that as a new general skill for you to pick up. Every year job-n00bs graduate with a CS degree and yes, some of them do in fact get a job programming--even some of the incompetent or just somewhat-worse-than-mediocre graduates. Yeah, if you pick up programming, you'll be "competing" with them for the basic jobs. Yeah, some companies have age bias, a lot don't. And maybe this year you don't get a job you want. So focus on improving the skill that company wanted over the course of the following year (a great thing about programming is that "on-the-job" is not the only way to improve your skill), and when you try again, you're still in competition with a fresh crop of n00bs, but now you have a year of practice on them. Some people are always going to be ahead of you. Big deal, the demand isn't exactly drying up.

Third, there are plenty of fields that are dying for new blood. It doesn't matter if it's inexperienced blood, that can usually be fixed. And there are who knows how many unknown frontiers of thought and work left to explore. If you're really worried about competing with people who have decades of practice and experience, then find something that no one on Earth has been practicing for "many years", and do that.

I feel like you describe pretty often. I think the trick is to sleep, exercise, and concentrate on what's going on right now. You can't change the past, you can only change what you are doing right now, this second. You have control over that... hang in there. Also, rosser, you're answer seems very helpful.

First of all, the responses to this post are breathtakingly good. This is one of the best threads I have ever seen on HN, and I am proud of the community. Take time meditate on the content here, because it is gold.

I have little to add, save this: try to think less and do more. That may sound strange and counterproductive, but I've found that the mind is a complex, dynamic thing, and without proper calibration, it can go into bad loops, like a broken record. You're experiencing some of those bad loops now. Your mind needs recalibration. "Doing" is that recalibration. You can't think your way back to the straight and level. You need experience with new things. Don't fear, don't think, just do. Constant effort, being too busy for fear or introspection, is the proper environment for a correcting mind. At least, it works for me.

This may seem cheesy, but damn. It's 4 minutes long, watch it. You think you are more convinced that things can't get any better than this guy was?


As someone on his 32's who deals with a mix of feelings similar to those everyday, internal and external factors apart, and still has to get up, get work done for fun an bills, that has consulted specialists because not feeling well mentally is as "normal" as getting a cold and seeing a physical doctor, what mostly works for me is the growing realization that:

* i am only being me and the combination of my weaknesses and strengths is what makes me unique.

* just because i may not ever be a top performer / achiever, does not mean that i cannot contribute in a very helpful way to many things and people around me, and i have.

Many things are built, or helped built, by people that don't "make headlines". When one accepts that, life in these circunstancies get's a little bit easier to manage.

edit: minor rewording.

I have, intensely. Yet I came to believe that the root cause (the external situation, real, perceived or otherwise) and the emotional reaction to it (self-doubt, depression, sense of failure) do not need to be intimately connected.

In other words, your emotional health is not contingent upon your external circumstances to a large degree. To wit, a lot of very distinguished persons (as well as celebrities) battle very hard with the exact same feelings that you have. A lot of people in circumstances you might consider worse than yours (oh just watch a couple episodes of dirty jobs on discovery channel) are quite happy. Of course the reverse applies as well, but you can see how in the larger scheme of things, external circumstances do not dictate your emotions.

I may or may not have direct experience with this but I can comment on this part: "I would be in competition with others who've been practicing their trade for many years. It feels as if it's too late." You will be pleasantly surprised how motivated learning of one month triumphs over years of experience of people who are just getting along with the job. If you have passion for any skill then you are already ahead of most people. So " Efforts taken at this point to turn things around would be futile" is wrong unless its half-hearted effort. I don't know about going back to school but I can definitely say: Full-hearted "efforts taken at this point" not be futile "for picking up a new skill" unless the skill is physically demanding.

I think there are only two ways to deal with regret: (1) accept that you can't change the past, and (2) make sure that you learned something from your mistake(s).

Not learning from your mistakes at all and continuing to suffer from them is enough to depress anyone. So if you haven't yet learned what to take away from your experience that will help you in the future, concentrate on that.

Also, early 30's is NOT too late to start over, in almost any field. You just have to find something that you're passionate about, and yes, you do have a lot of catching up to do. There are a number of success stories out there that start that late in life. Read about them. In some cases, experience gained from early failures even make for bigger successes down the road.

1st - Change your username. 2nd - I'm positive that If you don't change your mind, the thing you'll regret the most in the coming years will be the way you're thinking right now.

There's still a lot that can be done. Lots of people succeeded after their 30's.

Hugh Hefner started at 26: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Hefner

2 videos for you: - 8 characteristics every sucessfull person has (based on a study) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6bbMQXQ180 - Steve Jobs on Life http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYfNvmF0Bqw

Can you change the past? No.

Can you change the future? Yes.

I think you're placing a lot of importance on things that don't matter. There's only one real thing you can achieve in life, which is to enjoy it. Anything else is secondary.

Comparing yourself to the best parts of others will always fail as you're more aware of your own failings than theirs. Life isn't a competition.

As for being convinced things cannot get better, try changing the things you can and see if elements of your life improve.

I do think that you might get better results talking about it with close friends or a professional rather than random people on the Internet, but focusing on your regret stops you from moving on, which is why it's important that you don't.

You can not change the future. You can only be in the Now. Eckhart Tolle - Power of Now.

Advice from Paul Graham:

Don't regret your 20s: you were not ready for commitment: This was my reason for not starting a startup for most of my twenties. Like a lot of people that age, I valued freedom most of all. I was reluctant to do anything that required a commitment of more than a few months. Nor would I have wanted to do anything that completely took over my life the way a startup does. And that's fine. If you want to spend your time travelling around, or playing in a band, or whatever, that's a perfectly legitimate reason not to start a company.

Source: http://www.paulgraham.com/notnot.html

I do not think there is anyone in the world who does not have regrets and have not committed mistakes in life. Best part is, mistakes are best teachers of life. You are in early 30s, let's say average lifespan of a person is 70 years. So big question is will you let go of your coming 40 years for the lost 30 years? (and i am sure, you have not lost all of your last 30 years, there probably are more positives than negatives if you take a deeper look). Theory 2 - (as said by Peter Norvig) it takes 10 years to be really good at something.

Which means you have 4 things that you can be really good at in your coming life. So my friend go claim those.

Think of 10 things that you would NEVER EVER in a million years actually do. Do one a year for the next 10 years.

Usually the thing you think can never be done or won't ever happen is exactly the thing that you will do.

The way to break the thought cycle is to step out of it. Take action. Just an attempt will cause enough chaotic energy that something will happen.

I tried to go a whole year by saying YES! to everything.. even if it meant to lie, to fake, to break someone's heart. (I know you might think Yes Man, the book or the movie, but honestly it's true and it really helps)

We respect people for their attempts and subsequent failures sometimes more than their successes.

The world bears on you, expectation, floundered. But with it awareness, have you learnt nothing? I have your age but not your regrets. Regret is the belief that you have no opportunity to correct your decisions, this is almost never correct. There are many paths to any goal, and goals are never as clear as you suspect. Choose your destination and live in the fog, if you want to you will find a way.

Most people find competition, but what are you winning? Do you want the prize or the step ahead? What were you aiming for anyway? Do you really want it or is it simply the most obvious thing to do?

Well, you always have time to change. Thinking you can't gets you into a negative spiral downwards, and to be honest is also false. When I was starting to run I talked with a 55year old guy who ran a marathon once a year about it being difficult for me to start since I didn't have any experience. He casually told me it was hard for him too when he started 5years ago. He never did any sports prior and had to start from scratch at 50... I realize now 'not being able to' is actually 99% of the time all in your head. Just find a way to start easy and keep going...

> Early 30's and experience debilitating regret on a daily basis

Eventually you'll realize that regret takes time, and that that time could be better spent doing the things you wish you already had.

Think it hurts that you didn't do anything as a child? Wait'll you realize that as a young adult you just stared at the wall thinking about your childhood.

There's nothing you can do about the past. There is something you can do about the present.

Crack open the compiler and make today the day things changed. That way, five years from now, when you're looking back, there'll be that line where it turns into pride.

Stop regretting and do something about it. You can sob and feel sorry for yourself, or you can get your act together and sort out your life. It's never too late to change, if you are passionate about something, you shouldn't have any major issues excelling in that field. You don't need a great education. Pick up some books. Things can always get better, but that usually takes action on your own behalf. Good luck, and hope my comment doesn't come over harshly. Think forward, take a break, and put everything into perspective.

Aside from the great general advice you are getting here:

You can always go back to school or learn a new trade. The only thing preventing you is "being in competition" (your words) with people who have more experience.

Don't compare yourself to people who have more experience. For example, if I were to pick up Computer Science today (late 30s) I would be happy to compare myself to 20-somethings who have a similar level of experience.

Of course, I have more life experience, hence other skills and perspective, and that is enough for me.

"You can always go back to school or learn a new trade"

Whoa, isn't that a little flip? Depending on one's life situation, it can be impossible to do those things. They require time and money, two things people may not always have - particularly if one has children, a mortgage, etc.

"Do any of you have any experience with this?"


But I've been through it before. I see the value in what I do have. I see the changes in my life since I was forty. Since I was thirty. Since I was twenty. Since I was ten.

Last year I realized that I missed my chance to sport a mohawk. I won't star in a porno with cougars. I'll never be a FIFA referee. These are my missed opportunities.

Otherwise I've got forty years of creative life in front of me and no excuses.

One great way to fix and feel better is to get out in the sun on a beach or somewhere open and absorb a lot of vitamin D. This is obviously not medical advice, but if I were you and if the mood swings were not too strong (agonizing) then I'd see the sun at least 20 minutes every day. That, and a lot more focus on the work that I want to do from now, a life that I want to lead from here on.

Your life improve substantially, given focus and clarity. Most people make a mixture of good, fair, and horrible decisions every day. If you go from a 50% hit rate to 75%, it can make a huge impact in your life. I look at it like "pot odds" in the poker game of life. Don't dwell on your previous lost hands, focus on maximizing the opportunities you are given.

I think there is no point in regretting. Regret can only lead to more regret in future if you don't concentrate more on the present.

“Whatever happened, happened for the good; whatever is happening, is happening for the good; whatever will happen, will also happen for the good only. You need not have any regrets for the past. You need not worry for the future.”

[this one is from Bhagawad Gita]

I regret over tiny things, words said, actions taken in seemingly insignificant situations, sometimes years ago!

It's hard but mantras have been my solution. I just literally shake myself out of it. I can't avoid the feeling, I can't dodge the actual regret, but I can instantly shake it off and go on with my life.

I don't think it's optimal, but it's the best I can do. Try to stay positive.

You did what you did in good faith to yourself.

Circumstances beyond your control were beyond your control.

Assess your position as a matter of fact, and proceed forward in good faith and honest intent as circumstances allow.

Early 30s is just getting started. I didn't have a sense of having a good grip on life until 40.

Do what needs to be done.

Take care of your own square foot.

Stop looking backwards.

If you need professional help, get it.

Spend some serious time at http://artofmanliness.com . Read the Bible too.

"The Tin Drum" too.

Patriarchal bullshit is not what this guy needs. That said, I agree with the content of your first comment.

There's lots of good comments above, I don't have a lot to add beyond stick in there and for some reason this song and it's lyrics worked for me in similar circumstances: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bioYs6oAD8g&t=1m55s

Do what the politicians do: take credit for successes, blame failures on others/environment. Jokes aside, read Fooled by randomness (or another book treating about randomness in everyday life), perhaps you'll find something there that will lessen your focus on yourself.

If you are happy where you are right now (one has to be always, because the possibilities are endless); and if where you are right now is a sum total of everything that has ever been before (which it is); then how can you ever regret anything that happened ever before?

My belief: Whatever my mind got me into, it could get me out of.

My experience: It was up to me to learn how, and it's possible.

My realization: You get more of what you put your attention / energy into, be it worries, or possibilities.

There is a reality that can't be babbled around, or slippery/tricky rationalized around.

These are what I've found to be general truths. Not mine, or anyone's, but laws that only seem to get harder, truer and stronger the more I test them and try to break them.

Nothing exists but right now. The past is done, the future doesn't exist. The past is a perception. The future is a hallucination. What is possible tomorrow only depends on what you do now.

It's not about the destination, or the journey, but cultivating always, your mindset for any journey. The destinations are just postcards along the way.

Regret/Bitterness is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

Worrying is like praying for what you don't want to happen.

Do not feed the monsters of negativity, they don't do anything.

What you regret is standing still. So move. The world isn't passing you by, you just aren't moving.

Inaction and analysis paralysis is only defeated by action. Thinking doesn't solve many problems worth solving. Doing and figuring it out as you go does. No one figures out their life before they start, are you sure you aren't doing that?

Having a victim's mentality dis-empowers.

Building a mindset of responsibility empowers.

Empowerment is to learn that leadership isn't about leading others, or following someone, but learning to lead yourself, one thing at a time, and those things coming together over the long run.

You're not alone. You're not the first to think of fell what you do. You're not the last. As soon as you can understand this, you can get over your barriers, and over yourself to get on to something better. There is no higher action than right action in the present.

You first have to start by learning to be a friend to yourself and developing and maintaining some healthy and positive inner dialogue. Through that one is able to face and get through most things based on the fact that "I can stumble my way through this if I let myself figure it out".

Instead of worshiping doubts and the insurmountably of them, dare to live and live in possibility. Innovation, creation, and change for the better exists in cultivating a mindset of possibility.

Thinking isn't doing. Feeling isn't doing. Acting is doing. The only people who are busy looking at others are the ones who aren't busy doing and learning positively from it.

If the above doesn't reveal to you that you aren't alone, and there isn't a way to get through it, I'll leave you with this: Nothing is unique. Not you, or any problems. There is little issue or perspective that hasn't been thought or explored or agonized over before.

Instead of spiraling downward in a self-loathing cycle of reflection, get some new input to reflect on. Input and reflection go hand in hand to get the epiphanies that help you see things for the better.

For me, the sentences above aren't lines. They're all anchors and keywords tied to lessons learnt alone, without a soul to talk to sometimes, and great support in others. They are my statement of progress and what I still have to look forward to. It's taught me the only real thing I know for sure about life is to learn the most I can about myself to be the best I can.

I am the startup, and how well I develop myself will determine how well anything I work on develops.

Feel free to keep in touch. These are the kinds of conversations I live for, we don't spend enough time working on our insides, and do nothing but distract ourselves from it until we can't bear to anymore.

Most importantly, get moving, keep moving. Inward, onward, upward. You are in the drivers seat.

Early 30s? Let me tell you, it most certainly IS NOT too late to go back to school if you want to. My mother is mid 50s and planning on going back to school for accounting. She's always liked accounting, and wants to pursue it after she retires.

Life isn't over until it's over.

How did you feel two years ago? Two years from now you could be in a very different place.

The only advice I could give is to simply forget about the past and look to the future. Honestly, early 30's is not late. Just keep moving forward. Remember, you can't change your past, but you can change your future.

I have a lot of experience with this. I'm just pulling through the other side of this regret.

I am in my early 30's as well. I opted to work right out of high school and take 10 years getting my 2 year degree. I worked for a very long time with a decent employer, and I built up great skills along the way.

In the past couple of years though things started getting bleak. I was hitting the boundaries of what this employer could offer, and I could even say that it was a bit of an abusive work relationship(probably mutually). My mood started getting foul. People who I was good friends with I was having trouble getting along with. I was drinking a lot to smooth things over. My family life suffered. Things were a mess.

One day I just had enough and got into counseling. I took control. I changed jobs, and stepped away from friends for a while and worked on family. I doubled down on education(I had started on my bachelors a while back, but I recommitted). Things got a bit better.

Then things went down a bit again. I started reading more HN and r/programming to build up my professional chops. I started feeling inadequate. I felt like this new job I had wasn't cool or startuppy enough. Doubt crept back in.

So I had conversations with a lot of people. There was a guy on HN that was taking stories and giving advice. He helped me a bit. I have a pen pal kind of friend who has had cool experiences. He helped me a lot also. I talked to family and friends of all stripes about my concerns. Basically everyone had the same thing to say, that I was living a good life. That the kind of things I felt I should be doing have their tradeoffs as well. That I should focus on what I am doing instead of always looking for major improvements.

And then I came to the realization that I was trying to live up to someone else's yard stick. It took me 10 years to get an associates degree because I was raising a family. I lost my startup because I didn't want to spend my entire life at a keyboard. I was beating myself up about my job because I was trying to measure my career as an engineer against that of the internet's best and brightest entrepreneurs. I was trying too hard.

So take it easy on yourself man. I am sure that you have some pretty awesome stuff going on in your life. Take time to appreciate the things you enjoy. Discard things that don't work for you anymore. Put down HN for a while if you it is making you feel like you aren't doing enough(I had to for a while). Make a change if it is smart for you to do so, and don't beat yourself if it isn't the right time. But above all else, just cut yourself some slack.

I think everybody deals with some of these feelings from time to time, but - for me - it comes down to simply choosing not to indulge in regret. It's a wasted emotion to me, as it does nothing to make anything better, and there's nothing I can do about what's in the past. Somewhere, somehow, over the years, I've adopted something of a stoic mindset (even before I knew what stoicism was) and my outlook is just kinda rooted in that.

I also, for whatever reason, am much higher in terms of self-efficacy than self-esteem, and my self-efficacy is such that I pretty much always believe that tomorrow can be better than today, because I see no reason to believe there is any limit to what I can still accomplish.

That said, it gets tougher sometimes. I'll turn 40 this year, and I was just diagnosed with diabetes a few months ago, and my doctor is now investigating the possibility that I may have something called Cushing's Syndrome. Uuugh, ya know?

But when I start feeling deflated, I usually just put some metal on and jam out... Here, try this:




I also keep reminding myself of that scene near the end of Matrix:Revolutions where Agent Smith is asking Neo "Why, Mr. Anderson, why do you keep getting back up? You know you can't win. Why, Mr. Anderson"? and Neo is like "Because. I. Choose. To." Sends chills down my spine even now and reminds me that we get to choose (for the sake of argument, let's say I believe in free will). So I can't control what happened in the past, but I can damn sure choose to influence what happens in the future.

I am objectively in a place I am not happy with, but am convinced things cannot get any better. You may say that I'm not speaking rationally, but reality can validate every one of my worries and regrets. I don't think I am exaggerating or fabricating anything, rather I am reflecting on what has happened and observing patterns, or so I think I am.

Do any of you have any experience with this?

Yeah, it's called depression. Somebody below mentioned CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and from what I've seen/heard, I second the motion to find a pro to talk to about that. But in the short term, you can try some basic CBT like stuff on yourself. Check your inner dialog and when you find negative thoughts in you mind like "Things can NOT get any better", stop and ask yourself "is that really, really, absolutely true?" Force yourself to look for an "existence proof" of even ONE small counter-example that disproves the thesis that "things can NOT get any better." Once you find that counter-example (and I'm pretty sure you can) then you have to force your inner dialog along the lines of "OK, now I see that it's not true that things can't get any better. So what other ways CAN things get better?" and "what steps can I take to move things towards a better state?", etc.

You can also try going meta and ask yourself "OK, I just thought this really negative thought. Why? What prompted me to think that? And is whatever it was really that significant? Can I just stop thinking about $WHATEVER?" etc. It's amazing how much you can change your mood and emotions by just consciously thinking about your inner dialog.

Anyway, I'm not expert or professional, so by all means, seek professional help if you find the negativity persisting and if it's affecting your day to day life in a bad way.

If you feel like talking be sure to email me (in profile). I will listen. I'm not a doctor or anything. Just being friendly.

My two cents : You cannot love anyone or anything else fully without loving yourself first .

Look forward! Think yourself as a fresh new guy to this world. Start over again!

Stop it: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow0lr63y4Mw

You cannot change the past, so do not trouble yourself with what is past. Look forward and plan where you want to go from where you are. Use what you have and keep on keeping on.

Yes, I do have some experience with this.

At the age of 33 I thought that my life was a complete mistake. The evidence was clear: despite a start as a brilliant child prodigy, I had history of depression and self-isolation. I didn't got to a great university, just a glorified community college. In the doldrums of 2003-4 I was applying for work slinging PHP at local used car websites and not even getting those jobs.

I was sick of trying. So I decided to just... give up, and see what happened.

I had this feeling that regular society wasn't for me - that all I could do was to be a homeless drifter. So I gave up looking for work, and just waited for my rent and other expenses to deplete the last few hundred dollars.

So then I had nothing to do. No obligations. No jobs to apply for. No need to compete with my ex-colleagues.

With nothing better to do I decided to hack on a few things that amused me. We're talking tiny little scripts here, in weird, obscure areas. And then I posted them online. And then, they got some attention, for being weird and different. And then my phone was ringing with calls from recruiters. And a few months after my plan to become a homeless person was set in motion, I was filling out my orientation forms at a campus in Silicon Valley.

You may be discounting my story as a fluke. And I got super lucky. But you can also see how flawed my thinking was. And maybe your thinking is similarly flawed.

I thought I had nothing to offer, and yet I was a reasonably well-educated person, with a great deal of knowledge, and a certain measure of creativity and even passion for certain topics. And I bet you're the same way. If you're on Hacker News you probably know something about something. Are you sure you aren't blocking yourself?

The reason we get blocked is that we compare ourselves to others. Google "growth mindset" versus "fixed mindset". Too many of us are taught "fixed mindset" - you are smarter, therefore you are better. If you are sucking at something, it's because you are inferior. This is such a painful conclusion, you start to numb down your emotions to deal with it. Which is why your brain probably feels fogged, and why it's doubly hard to climb out of this state.

Your post is dripping with fixed-mindset thinking. According to you, learning new skills is impossible, or will take too long, or isn't worth it. Why? You aren't saying that you can't learn this stuff. You aren't saying you can't have a good career. You're saying it's not worth it because others will be further along. Think about this. It is not rational. You will have nothing if you don't learn new skills (or at least change what you're doing).

Furthermore, in today's market, it is not a matter of being the best in one thing. It's about finding your unique niche. By utter luck, I stumbled into doing that for myself. I'm not the best in X or Y or Z but I am among the best, or at least employable, in people who do X+Y+Z.

My motivation was despair, which freed me from having to compete, and let my natural inclinations take over. But on the whole, rather than despair, I recommend joy. ;) Looking for what's fun will put you on a better path. You'll home right in on what you're supposed to be doing. I guarantee it.

It will be hard to get to that space. You are depressed and have accumulated bad habits from a lifetime of fixed-mindset thinking. And this is fucking with your rationality, no matter what it seems. One way to fix your thinking is cognitive-behavioral therapy. See if you can find a professional in your area.

> Do any of you have any experience with this?

Um, YEAH. And just started seeing a counsellor about it. I don't think there's anything wrong with me (or you) but I want someone to talk to about it.

I disagree with "Efforts taken at this point to turn things around would be futile." I'm living proof. I bounced from job to job for 10 years, then lost a job in finance in 2007 at 33, went back to school, got out in 2010 at 35 and now have a job as a software engineer. Yeah, I'm competing with young turks 10-15 years younger than me. Yeah, sometimes they're better... but a lot of the time they aren't. It turns out I actually did learn a few things bouncing from one job to another, and people do see that.

Is it the best job I could have at this point in my life, am I as rich as I could be, as if I had done everything "right"? NO. I threw away a bunch of fucking brilliant opportunities earlier in my career. But is it a good job that will give me a platform to build a satisfying career in the next 20 years? Absolutely.

The really hard thing for me at this point is figuring out where I really do want to go. In my case, a lot of the bad decisions were to do with "grass is greener" feelings -- I'd see one job that looked cooler than my current job, go out and get it, then decide it wasn't that cool and bounce to another one. So now that I've finally recognized that, where the fuck DO I want to go now, and how do I figure that out?

I think that's really important. Calling it "finding your passion" is bullshit, though, because it's not really about passion -- it's about making a sensible decision, taking everything into account including financial situation, family responsibilities, and the realities of various careers, as well as, yes, what you like to do. I'd love to be an astronaut, always wanted to, but -- life sucks -- it ain't gonna happen now. Not that it is 100% impossible, but I'm not willing to make the sacrifices it would entail. But there are great, exciting, satisfying things I can still do.

Another thing that's hard is making sense of the past while still keeping my focus on looking ahead to the future. That's what I'm trying to do now. I don't want to keep repeating broken patterns, so I feel like I need to think about what I've done in the past and understand it, to some extent, so I can see what I did wrong and how I can make sure not to do the same thing again. I think I've identified some of those things, but that's the main reason I'm seeing the counsellor -- I want to talk out my analyses of my past decisions and try to understand them and use my "lessons learned" for the future. I don't think completely ignoring everything that has gone before is right -- I did that for a long time and ended up making just the same mistakes 10 years later. But obsessing about the past is (obviously) not helpful either. It's a hard balance to strike.

So, you aren't alone. Very much not alone, I think. Hope you're able to make some sense of things. You can ALWAYS turn things around.

Start doing. Not meant as snarky. Decide what you want and get after it.

Wow. Hello me?

I've been dealing with a lot of the same issues and regretting my past and hating myself for the decisions I've made.

Recently I've been working on realizing that my self-worth is not based on anything I've done. My/your self-worth is entirely based on my/your confidence in myself/yourself that I/you can do whatever we put ourselves too. No arguments! No debate based upon what has happened in the past! None of that!

Now, I know that is much easier said than done. Trust me, I know.

For what it's worth, I would get very anxious about working on anything either because I would be afraid of failing, being judged, or just because I haven't been able to do it in the past. This caused me to get very depressed, in the medical sense of the word, I've been seeing a psychologist for a little over a year now. My doctor recommended a book, "The Now Habit" which helped me learn how to schedule better and gave me a little insight into, what had become, habitual anxiety and procrastination. Combined with monthly talk sessions I've been able to remove a lot of the anxious and depressed feelings, which allows me to focus on my view of myself.

Eventually, after I almost lost my job and my grandmother died, he put me on a low-dose SSRI. It has helped immensely. It hasn't affected the highs in life, but it dampens the lows.

(I only started seeing a doctor after I saw how my depression was affecting my, the girlfriend, now wife. Not after it ruined a company I was starting and my college education. I wish I had gone earlier, but I was convinced that it was something I could solve on my own.)

This has, honestly, been the hardest part. I've struggled with the anxiety for a while. Recently, however, I found that reading is a way for me to relax. I used to try Hacker News or Reddit, but neither of those felt fulfilling. I would try programming and felt bad that I would work on a project that isn't important. Then I started reading again.

Reading has allowed me to settle down internally and then I can sit and do what I was anxious about. It may help that the first book I've pulled out is "Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond" by Gene Kranz. It covers the history of the space program, a subject that really interests me, but has also been a rallying cry for me. Mr. Kranz talks about the successes and failures of the early program, and how they moved forward after a setback.

My rallying cry has been "Tough and Competent," from the Kranz Dictum after the Apollo 1 fire (excerpt to follow):

"From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: 'Tough and Competent.’

Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do and what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for.

Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect."

"Tough and Competent" reminds me that it is possible to move forward and become better than what you were without forgetting what has happened or sweeping it under the rug.

From there I've started working on some of Pratchet's Discworld series again. I only note this because it doesn't all have to motivational books, but I think I lucked out picking that one first.

Same - I've felt like that for the last 4 years, a few big events shocking yourself into a self reality that you're not really where you want to be, and every day you think about it and it fucking hurts... I have no advice cause I still haven't gotten out.

It was fine when you were younger and you said to yourself that one day it'll work out... cause it always does. Whether it's the gold medal, job, girl, song, music career, as long as it was in the future, that gives you a little comfort in thinking, well I'm not there now, but maybe later. There's a point where you realize... you're never getting there.

That fuckin hurts.

All i know is the pain usually comes from that gap, the gap between where you are, and where you want to be, and how you see NO way to get to it. All those fallacies of 'work hard, apply yourself' aren't working, they've worked in other areas of your life but there's just things you've lost that you'll never reach again, completely out of your control. Whether it's because of your race, your starting circumstances, a disability, your genes, your parents, your timing, whatever it's out of your control.

All I can say this is a lot more common than you think.

I'm guessing you're in Tech as this is hackernews, stop for a moment and have a look at fighters and athletes.

They suffer from exactly the same thing and on top of that their stretch is usually never more than 4 or 5 years... There's a moment in their career where no matter how many hours they put in the gym, on the bike, on the road, in the pool, they'll never be at the top, never, they start drinking... and it's game over.


Rickson Gracie is an absolute legend... he has a couple of quotes in there, about really wanting the win, after so much training, effort, and dedication, while at the same time, not really wanting it. It's a strange paradox. He's closed one chapter of his life and moved on to something else

"I don’t think about competing, I’ve competed my whole life. Why would I want to compete anymore? So that’s out of the question. The fans are the ones who just don’t understand, and the fans who would like to see me fight, are just going to have to live with it. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. I don’t live and I’ve never lived by someone else’s expectations. I never fought for the fans. I always fought to honor my Jiu-Jitsu and my family. Now there are others to do that. Competition is over, it’s behind me now. I don’t want to move forward thinking about competing. I want to go forward thinking of supporting society, setting a good example for kids, teaching children to become better people, not hitting machines, as there is in MMA today. I am the philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu, the philosophy of good relationships between dads and sons, between respect, discipline, and honor… All these things that have made me what I am and have really stood out in my life. No longer a victory or a possible defeat. I think I can live without the money I could make. But I can’t live knowing that because of the money I got in there and lost. I’d be fighting for the money and that in itself brings a loss to me. I never fought for money. So, I’m not going to start now"

He looks kinda happy... who the fuck knows...


Artists are the same, if you're not deluded, you'll never be Raphael or Vermeer, never, and you have to deal with that every day. I guess the trick is about turning that gap into ambition and something creative, using it to drive you forwards into something constructive.

Like you say the rational part of you kicks in after a week or two when you realize those steps you're taking aren't really getting you there.

Good luck !

Wow, I feel similar and I am in my early 30s as well. I have taken some steps to change though.

But, let me interpret it a bit differently from what others are making it here from what I have personally experienced (I felt the same until about a year ago): "I don't think you are depressed. You just fear failure and are not very happy leaving a comfort zone. You are just not willing to let your guard down and fall on your face (letting go of a status/lifestyle). You are obviously smart and it hurts that with your abilities you have ended up in a way that doesn't make you proud."

This is purely my observation, based on what I felt, and I might be completely off the mark in your case. I still feel compelled to tell you though. So here is a bit of my story:

I had worked almost a decade in technology that amounted to nothing. I din't put the effort required to do a Masters (would have been easy for me), and I still regret that I din't take a shot at pursuing a Phd.

I desperately wanted to change the status quo, and decided to do the most stupid thing that most would recommend - "do a startup". Needless to say that startup failed, but if there is one thing I can say is that I have been the "happiest" in my life in the last decade. Now, not that I don't still have those sinking doubts about my abilities, but they don't recur as often and I am extremely optimistic on some of the things I am pursuing. But, here are some key takeaways that I have (and I hope you can maybe relate to it) -

1)"Set yourself up" - I had to set myself up. Taking the plunge - leaving the comfort zone, a well paying job, moving out of the country (immigrant here) etc, was never easy. I have an amazing wife, who has stood by me and constantly pushed me to take this plunge. She is now the sole bread winner (but was still studying when I took the risk), but she convinced me that it was worth it. I moderated my lifestyle about 4 years ago and started saving for this as well as some money for my wife's masters. It helps to plan, so please consider finding your "minimal footprint" required.

2)"Think longterm" - The problem with most is that we need immediate tangible results. If I am putting 6 months into something I need to see monetary results. I think letting go of that to some extent might make it easier to change. Obviously I lived a fairly frugal lifestyle without paychecks. The advantage of still being 30 and having a simple life is that you have at least another 30 rewarding years :). Thats how I look at it. So think how you can make your next or so years awesome.

3) "Own a dream" - Ok, sounds cliched. The problem I had was that I was not able to make up my mind for a long time what I wanted to do. Taking the plunge - "my first risk", changed everything. It sort of really opened the door to many other ideas and what distilled from it is a clear goal. I now will pursue my entrepreneurial dream for couple more years. See #1 for setting yourself up for this. In the field I am interested in, I have really very limited expertise. I am building it each day. I used to feel overwhelmed looking at how much there is t know and the really smart people already there, but I have learnt to tune out of this. I am trying my best to chip a little away each day. I try building stuff at home to see if I am learning something new. It sure feels effort wasted at times, but I think it makes me more confident. Maybe its my bias, but I think focus and hardwork sure helps someone like me who hasn't got the chops already.

Its been more than year since I made these changes and I have a failed startup to show, but I am already working on another one. In the grand scheme of things it can be construed as a "waste" but I have stopped listening to that thought or others who say it :). Hope this can help.

Sounds good. But the part about tangible results is off the mark. Do it for yourself, and every minute is 'tangible results'. The journey vs the destination etc.

True, I don't advocate being completely blindsided about defining tangible results. Though, it is useful to ignore it, when one wants to make a drastic change. In my case (and perhaps OP's case), to take the plunge. Once the change has been made, I think it is important as you say. It takes a lot of hard work to stay focused and something I am still learning.

Lots of good advice was already given here, I'll just add my two cents.

> You may say that I'm not speaking rationally, but reality can validate every one of my worries and regrets.

If you're thinking rationally, then you should realize that regrets are useless. Only the lesson that you can learn from the regret is valuable. All this energy that you are wasting on regretting something is energy that could have been poured into honing a craft. The most important thing perhaps, is to optimize not for the arrival, but for the journey itself. Whatever your goal is, do something little that will bring you closer to it, every day. But this little something, you must enjoy. (Of course, if you feel like you can do more than "little" and still enjoy it, do it !). If you enjoy programming but feel like you don't know a lot about languages or some technology, then get started on that language or that domain you don't know and that scares you (be it C++, Haskell, AI, 3D...). Practice some of it everyday. It works for other domains as well : eating healthier food, exercising and practicing sports, practicing a musical instrument. The 10 year rule is really scary but don't forget that with every year of practice, you'll feel like you've learned a lot. It's not some kind of hard threshold, where you learn with great pain for 10 years and at the end, you get a flash of genius and you instantly become a master. It's progressive, and it compounds.

Embrace the mistakes. Mistakes are part of how we, humans, learn. I can definitely relate to your feeling, because I have had a lot of regrets concerning my life choices as well. I realized a few things about it : I would have done some of these mistakes at a later point in my life most probably, and making them earlier taught me a lesson earlier. Some other stupid mistakes were due to character flaws of mine, and eventually I realized that I should strive to change these flaws as well. It's not easy, but I'll give it a try. Anyway, there is no point on dwelling on the past. If you'd like to be at a better place, start moving towards it, it doesn't matter if it's 100km away and your first steps are only 1cm. The steps will be exponentially longer with time — and maybe you'll realize your goal is not where you envisioned it at first, but it doesn't matter because it's easy to change your goals once you have gained momentum. As humans, it is also a natural tendancy (and imho a good thing) to always keep your goals challenging. For example, as an amateur guitarist, over the years I have come to discover that there are always more challenging pieces of music to play, and more extremely talented guitarists whose mastery I would yearn for. But I still enjoy playing at my modest level.

You are in your early 30's which is still very, very young. (My taekwondo teacher, now a 4th dan black belt, started taekwondo in his late 20's. He is very impressive, and looks 10 year younger than he is.)

One great way to fix and feel better is to get out in the sun on a beach or somewhere open and absorb a lot of vitamin D.

This is obviously not medical advice, but if I were you and if the mood swings were not too strong (agonizing) then I'd see the sun at least 20 minutes every day. That, and a lot more focus on the work that I want to do from now, a life that I want to lead from here on.

You aren't dead. You have more wealth than the median if not 90 percentile human, in the most peaceful and wealthy and entertainment rich era in world history. Don't create a world where only number 1 gets to be happy. Enjoy the companionship of normal people, don't obsess over the richest, smartest people you know, appreciate that everyone has something to offer and just be productive at something and lend a hand to a friend or stranger and enjoy the view.

Beyond basic health and safety, you get to choose the rules of the game of your life. Making contest to make the most money or be the championship is the stupidest game to play. Collaboration beats competition.

You're in your early thirties? Then your just getting started my friend. Most people (including me) didn't get my act together and start doing good stuff until I was in my thirties.

Personally, I got going late because my parents taught me very little in my childhood. They were poor and dumb. I'm not saying that to be mean or disrespectful, and I do love them, but they did not have their act together, so to speak.

So, take all this worry and negativity and use this energy (because that's all it is, energy) and channel it into work you want to do. Keep on iterating, trying new things, being curious.

BTW, this may sound weird, but there is something you do better than anyone else in the world. I firmly believe everyone over 30 does. Whatever that skill or ability is for you, see if you can leverage it. Now is the time to mine your strengths and exploit your uniqueness.

Okay, joyful work is ahead of you my friend. Get off HN and get busy.

Get off HN and get busy.

That may be the best advice of all!

Get the audiobook -- AUDIO BOOK -- of When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. It totally saved my regretful ass. The thing about regret is your natural reaction is to run away from it, but that only makes it worse. And it makes you feel like a coward. So whenever you think of something you regret, whenever it pops into your mind, you start running, and that creates this unbearable vicious cycle. This audiobook is the first major step to breaking the cycle and eliminating regret.

This is always my go-to recommendation for friends who are hurting, and without fail, if they listen to it and try it, they tell me it's been transformative for them, too.

BTW, I had a LOT of things to regret (most of them a lot, lot worse than the list you shared with us… not to trivialize yours, but I was reliving the ways I'd hurt people badly and caused disasters that effected them 5, 10 years before).

I think everyone has thoughts like these, more or less.

What worked for me: meditation. Right now I'm listening to series of training sessions by a guy in redwood city - here are the recordings for the first three weeks.




This might not be your thing, but if come across something like this that is a good fit for you, it can be great. Best is something that you physically do from time to time, not just read/think about.

You're going to have to make your peace with it and move on.

Stay away from the psychologists; they never help, because it's not in their business model.

Consider doing something different, if only because you may be totally uninspired by the path you're forcing yourself to follow.

Remember, pounding square pegs into round holes is for Baby Boomers only.

Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact