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I'm a loser and I want to change that - now
455 points by qisine on March 17, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 245 comments
I have been a dreamer all my life. It took me until last year to figure this out, and only thanks to this community. I hardly ever tried - and when I tried, I didn't persist. It has been my goal to start a business since ever I can remember. And yet I never really tried (until last year, which resulted in abysmal failure). Not even something small, like selling stuff online. I was always good at dreaming up new ideas. But never executed on any one of them.

Likewise, I have been programming on and off since the age of 17. Unfortunately, I started out with C++. As soon as I hit pointers, I made up my mind that programming was only for people smarter than me. Somehow, I did get back into it a few years later, but I never really became proficient at it. Again, I was good at learning the basics, reading code, messing around with code snippets on the command line. But I never built anything of value.

I don't have too much time left. My 20ies are gone. This is my chance to turn the boat around, and realize my goals. So, this is meant as much for the rest of the world as it is meant for myself. Usually, I would have just signed up with yet another anonymous name. Not this time. I want to keep myself honest. I need to break out of my own little word (unfortunately, besides being a loser, I'm also a loner).

HN, here I am. My name is Stefan Kueng, I'm 30 years old, based in Switzerland. For better or for worse. This is my last chance to get my life back on track. If anyone else reads this, wish me good luck.

[EDIT] Thanks for your all your responses! I really appreciate it. I admit that my post probably was a bit too much drama. Actually, I have been wanting to say what I said for a long time. But I restrained myself, because I didn't want to decrease the signal-to-noise ratio on HN. But this time I felt I just had to. I'll probably not get to answer to everyone of you tonight. Just once again, a heartfelt thanks to you guys. HN really is a great community. And yes, I will consider all your advise. But I'm definitely going ahead with my plan to start building stuff - and eventually to start a business. I have long ago made up my mind that I have only one life. I could go the safe route and work a regular 9-to-5 job, perhaps start a family, and lead a long and happy life. Or I could bet everything on something that's far less likely to succeed. Even if I fail and the resulting stress cuts a few years off my life span, it will have been worth it. I have been wanting to start my own business for too long. I just can't let go of it.

> I don't have too much time left. My 20ies are gone.


"By age 32, Fuller was bankrupt and jobless, living in low-income public housing in Chicago, Illinois. In 1922, Fuller's young daughter Alexandra died from complications from polio and spinal meningitis. Allegedly, he felt responsible and this caused him to drink frequently and to contemplate suicide for a while. He finally chose to embark on "an experiment, to find what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.""

You're a young man from Switzerland whose biggest problem (from what you say) is loneliness. Could be worse, don't you think?

Your life is hardly over, it hasn't even begun. Justin Bieber is 19 and has quite a few #1 albums already, should every 20-something singer feel bad about themselves as a result? You need a new yardstick to measure yourself by.

Happiness, whatever that means, peace, it comes from within. You can't succeed your way to it really, money and position will only marginally improve your internal world. Don't conflate the two. My advice is to more accurately attribute your ennui to "wasting your 20s" as in postponing life to when you "make it" - allow yourself to start living now the way you truly want to and enjoy yourself, time goes by fast. You can be happy no matter how things play out, at least happier than you are now, and try your darndest to make your mark all at the same time.

Edit For context : I'm 23 and have been hell bent on "startups" since I was 16 for various reasons. Sometimes I can't sleep because the ol' noggin won't shut off and thoughts fly at a million miles an hour, its a certain feeling that burns you from within. It is a good thing, ride it.

Can't help not quoting Matt Drance.


"And so more than ever, I find myself inspired. Steve’s untimely death reminds us we can never give up. He could have given up at any point in the seven years since his first cancer diagnosis, but he did not. The vast majority of Apple’s unprecedented resurgence took place while Steve Jobs stared death in the face. How many of us could have lasted this long at all, let alone accomplish all that he did along the way?

Ten years ago today, we still had not yet met the iPod. The last of Steve’s five decades on this Earth ended up being his most accomplished by far. Remember that whenever you think your best days are behind you. We can’t control when our lives begin, and we can’t really control when they end. All we have is what’s in between. Make it count."

You're a young man from Switzerland whose biggest problem (from what you say) is loneliness. Could be worse, don't you think?

I was tempted to say that, too, but then it occurred to me that although he's in his twenties he might have recently been told he only had $X years to live by a doctor. If that's true, I wouldn't want to suggest he should spend them with C++. :-P

> Your life is hardly over, it hasn't even begun. Justin Bieber is 19 and has quite a few #1 albums already, should every 20-something singer feel bad about themselves as a result? You need a new yardstick to measure yourself by.

Some of the best advice I ever got was "Never measure yourself by someone else's ruler."

Especially not Beiber's.

If you're not dead yet, you have all the time left.

dude.. your link was Awesome.. I'm on my early 30s and have some difficulties, as well. It gave my hope back

> money and position will only marginally improve your internal world

Maybe at a certain level, but for most people, money and position would provide both the resources and the freedom to live as they "truly want".

Look. Becoming a programmer is NOT going to give you a satisfying life. Being a programmer is fucking boring. Companies do not give a shit what cool stuff you've built once they hire you. They want you to spend your time figuring out why their automated build system is broken and optimizing their databases. Sitting in front of a screen for 8-12 hours a day is a terrible approach to achieving satisfaction in your life.

Starting a company is different, and if you are massively interesting in solving a problem, that can be a great way to go. But starting a company is completely unpleasant a lot of time and if you want to pick a job that is going to fill your plate with bullshit, that is a good choice.

The best advice I ever received in regards to this topic is still pretty worthless, because almost all advice is worthless. You cannot learn wisdom that way. You learn it through experience. But here it is: Pick a problem that is meaningful to you and work on it. Optimize this by working with people you like and who share your passions.

That advice was given to me by one of the most famous computer scientists alive who also happens to be worth tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. Note that his advice did not involve becoming a good engineer, getting papers cited, or starting a company.

I keep an index card in my pocket that says: "Never again have reason to regret." This is not "live without regrets". I think that attitude is mostly contemptible. Rather, spend your time -- all of your time -- on things you will not regret having done when you climb into bed at night. If nothing else, every day that I have obeyed this rule unfailingly I have slept well and awoken excited and optimistic in the morning. That's all the wisdom I have. The rest is just get damn lucky.

> Being a programmer is fucking boring ... They want you to spend your time ... optimizing their databases

Honestly, I really fucking love optimising databases. I can't believe my luck that people want to pay me to do that sort of work for 8 hours a day.

To me, hell is having to define and defend my own problem. I would loathe running a startup - I love the feeling, instead, of having people come to me to solve their problems. Fortunately, I've managed to arrange a situation where enough of those problems are reasonably interesting to my apparently unusual tastes :-).

This is not meant as a dig against those who run startups, just a note from someone with a very different perspective.

You are probably a wonderful person to work with and any team is really lucky to have you. Having someone who is deeply passionate about these problems is very important and these are important problems!

That's kind of you to say! I think, honestly, that it's great to work with/for anyone who takes joy in what they do.

Not sure if you'll check back on this thread, but this part of your comment kind of made my day :) >> Honestly, I really fucking love optimising databases.

Seconded. You'll find a lot of people on here saying about "never to give up" but IMO, programming is not that glamorous only outside looking in. To give you best sense of this, it's like people not in academia thinking that it's great to have tenure and be paid to pursue your own passion in an academic community.

The truth is most people in IT do very mundane stuff; most web-stack stuff glorified have nothing to do with C pointers. And most people are applying commonly used open-source technologies as users than making original contribution to algorithms. A lot of people have the vision of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg but it's like winning the Nobel Prize, a lottery; especially in today's social-media infused tech scene, it's about being in the right place at the right time.

Ultimately, this is not to discourage you from going further into tech. But to short-circuit a lot of the BS floating around. You'll get pretty far if you work hard in IT; meaning if you sacrifice your free-time for the start-up treadmill, in 10-15 years, you can get to $150-200K as mid-level manager, saddled with a mortgage, kids and high cost of living in socially-eco-conscious city. For the average-case, it will not give you extreme wealth, it will not give you friends/family, and it will not be novel after a few years of the mundane work.

Take original replier's advice, "live without regrets." If you want to get over the hump of some kind of perceived technical inferiority, by all means, go for it but don't go all in thinking that any field will validate and solve all life's problems. That is very personal and not even your mother would even know. Some people here are happy just being a web developer, a "part of the revolution"; some people here see themselves as tortured young startup artists in struggle to be a triple threat of "a creator, an influencer and a monetizer"; some people get off on the rush of show & tell of weekend projects and their technical prowess and pulse on the trend.

Don't let the community dictate who you are.

Please consider this extraordinary advice:

If you want an average successful life, it doesn’t take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths:

1. Become the best at one specific thing.

2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility. The second strategy is fairly easy.[0]

I used to do 1.) and now I focus on 2.). Its been very effective for my career and general happiness. I consider myself a dreamer and this philosophy leads me to generate very actionable ideas. If you can read code and understand what code does - you're well on your way to being in the top 25% of people working in IT. Getting into the top 25% of programmers is probably easier than you think.[1] There are so many careers where even a basic understanding of coding will give you a huge advantage. You'll be a superhero if you take these skills to a job where you're surrounded by non-programmers. Seriously.

One more thing: C++ is not a wise choice for a first language. Its fucking hard. Python is considered a good choice to learn programming.

[0] http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2007/07/care...

[1] http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2007/02/why-cant-programmer...

What you say about being surrounded by non-programmers is spot on. The way I got my start (and initial boost of self confidence), I was the only one who knew programming in a small business (about 200 employees). And what I was doing wasn't much, mostly just writing report generator programs using Awk and shell scripts). But it got so much attention that it was like lighting a rocket under my self esteem, enough so that I went on to be proficient enough in C (this is before C++ was mainstream) to code up some fairly interesting projects.

So what are you good at? Programming and what else?

You sound depressed, and I think you should be talking to people about getting help.

Your career will be fine no matter what you do. Please take your health seriously.

Honestly, having a professional tell me that I was depressed was the turning point in my life. Suddenly the big problem in my life wasn't that I was such a loser, it was that I was inclined to think that I was such a loser. And this new problem was one that I could manage: finding new triggers to my depression and avoiding them; understanding when I'm being unreasonably demanding of myself or others because I've entered an episode; knowing how to help break the negative thought loops that sustain an episode of depression.

If you ask how to start a successful business, then I will give you advice on that. If you ask how to stop being a loser, then I will suggest that you are not a loser and you have some depression. In that case, what helped me was getting a diagnosis, reading books on psychological disorders, understanding CBT, and mindfulness meditation/vipassana.

And if you are both depressed and wanting to start a successful business, I suggest that the best place to start is in learning how to deal with your illness.

> Suddenly the big problem in my life wasn't that I was such a loser, it was that I was inclined to think that I was such a loser

That sounds familiar. I had the same problem, and I know several others who have that problem too. None of them are losers, they just listen too much to their thoughts: "Every day, 95% of us have thoughts with depressive, anxious or obsessive content. So why isn't 95% of us mental patients? The explanation is simple: Everybody has crazy thoughts, but not everybody believes in them."[1] When fully realizing that, things change dramatically.

ACT has been very good to me. Let me recommend a book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Happiness-Trap-Based-revolutionary-m...

[1] "Tankevirus" by Hanne H. Brorson (unfortunately only available in Norwegian.)

I read it as very self-reflective, but not in a bad way.

His slight self-degrading humour strikes a chord with me as a soon-to-be-30-year-old who is still an utter failure (by "millionaire by 23, billionaire by 28" standards).

Those are very destructive thought patterns. If you are not already depressed you will be soon if you keep thinking like that, and depression makes achieving your goals near impossible.

I agree I didn't take this as a severely depressed person. Just someone who wants to change. Kudos and good luck I say. Work hard, be good to people and good things will come.

Wish i could upvote this a million times. People in general and men in particular are very bad at realizing they're depressed and seeking help. Your friends and family should know though. Ask them if you can, or just go and see a doctor. Having untreated depression is both dangerous and a really awful way to have to live your life.

Adding the second line was a good edit, kudos on that.

Thanks for your concern, but I'm not depressed.

Ok. I believe you. You are also not approaching any sort of "last chance" for a tech career.

OK, as another posted put it well, that line was "too melodramatic". Apologies. I do admit that I'm a bit desperate.

Look, I can't tell if that funny bump on your neck is malignant and I can't tell if that 99.1F fever is worth going to a doctor about and I can't tell you if you should eat less gluten and I can't tell from a message board comment if you have a mental illness.

I don't care what you want to call it; "depression", "desperation", "determination". All I can tell you is that if you are convinced (not "worried"; we all worry sometimes) that you're a "loser" or that this is your "last chance" to do something meaningful, that's not normal. If you were a friend of mine, I'd be hassling you to find a professional you could trust to work that stuff out.

Hey, either way: best of luck to you. Your career will be fine.

I agree with tptacek (and others recommending CBT and ACT), examine the language you are using. The words you use may not spell "depression" but they are certainly in the vicinity that may lead you to it (I'm talking clinical depression). And this is all normal, but fixable. If you are not cognisant of the triggers that lead you to conclude on "yourself" as opposed to conclude on "stuff you did" (your works) you will continue to spiral into loser-mode and open the door marked "Depression". It'll only be a matter of time if you don't tackle this. And then, probably at 40, others will call it "mid-life" existential crisis. :-)

You are not your WORK (fuck pointers in C++)! Chances are that you're awesome at things you are refusing to acknowledge! Come here I'll give you a hug! (Then slap you!* ... because you're wasting time worrying about judging yourself instead of CREATING things and moving along!)

* Ok, I just slapped myself because I'm wasting time on HN! ;-P

If you aren't i'd be really surprised. At the very least your thought patterns are self-sabotaging and depression-inducing. There might be something else going on here too, that it would be good to check with a doctor about (bipolar?)

Your life isn't going to get back on track until you start thinking better about yourself. The reason you're so self-absorbed right now is because you're constantly beating yourself up; its a full-time job. Once you can have a little self-esteem and equanimity again, its going to be a lot easier to think of others and work projects and be able to achieve your goals.

At the very least go on vacation, or move; its easier to get out of ruts if you're somewhere new and different, for neurological reasons. Go somewhere new and remake yourself closer to the person you want to be.

If you do nothing besides trying the same thing you've tried dozens or hundreds of times before, that's what's really worrying and dangerous. :-(

As someone in a very similar situation to OP, and someone who is about to move to another country precisely for the reasons you cite, I can't agree with you more. Just deciding to move has made me a lot more motivated. Granted, I don't realy know what I'm going to find, but at least I'm fighting this thing head-on.

Good luck. I hope it will be a really positive thing for you. :-)

I have been a dreamer all my life. It took me until last year to figure this out, and only thanks to this community.

Great. Dreaming is necessary but not sufficient for great accomplishments. Glad you're one of us.

I hardly ever tried - and when I tried, I didn't persist. It has been my goal to start a business since ever I can remember. And yet I never really tried (until last year, which resulted in abysmal failure). Not even something small, like selling stuff online. I was always good at dreaming up new ideas. But never executed on any one of them.

I am about to tell you a bunch of stuff, but this is the most important. You have to get this or you will never break out of your rut:

The reason you're stuck is because you're too focused on yourself. Remember, it's not about you. It's about others.

The reason for building great things is to help others achieve their goals. It's not about how rich you'll become, or how famous, or who will like you, or how much fun it will be. (Well maybe a little of that last one.) Until you find someone else who must have something, you will always quit when things get tough. And they always get tough. Having someone else (a customer, a user, someone...) is the key ingredient that many miss on the road to "must build". Find someone, then find something that you have to build. You won't want to disappoint someone who is depending on you. Believe me, in your case, this will probably make all the difference.

Likewise, I have been programming on and off since the age of 17. Unfortunately, I started out with C++. As soon as I hit pointers, I made up my mind that programming was only for people smarter than me.

There will always be someone smarter than you. DO NOT let that stop that from building what you must build. It's better to be junior than to be weak.

Somehow, I did get back into it a few years later, but I never really became proficient at it. Again, I was good at learning the basics, reading code, messing around with code snippets on the command line. But I never built anything of value.

Stop reading code. Stop messing around. Find something that needs to be built (preferably by someone other than yourself). Then build it. Trust yourself and trust the process of building. You will learn what you need when you need it. I promise.

I don't have too much time left. My 20ies are gone.

Bullshit. I didn't do my first startup until I was 32. Stop thinking like that. If you're a programmer, your prime is still 20 years ahead of you. (Believe me, I know.)

This is my chance to turn the boat around, and realize my goals.

Good. It's definitely not your last chance, but glad to see you're prepared to make the most of it.

So, this is meant as much for the rest of the world as it is meant for myself.

It better be. Until you realize that your work is for others, not yourself, you will continue to spin your wheels. The biggest byproduct of recognizing the needs of others is that you will automatically and subconsciously start solving your own problems as well.

Usually, I would have just signed up with yet another anonymous name. Not this time. I want to keep myself honest.

Good. Always be yourself. Who else are you going to be?

(unfortunately, besides being a loser, I'm also a loner).

You're not a loser, so get that disempowering thought out of your head forever. A loser would never have opened up like you just did. And if you are a loner, that's not unfortunate, it's probably normal. Maybe even necessary. You see, despite what people may think, the best software is still written by one person, alone with their thoughts. Embrace your lonerness!

For better or for worse.

There is no worse. What you think is worse are just speedbumps on the way to better. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you will see these things as what they really are: the feedback you need to get on track to get better.

This is my last chance to get my life back on track.

No it's not. (See above.)

If anyone else reads this, wish me good luck.

Fuck luck. Just quit you're stinkin' thinkin' and get to work. I know you want to and I have proof: you're here.

I have something way better for you: Best wishes, Stefan. Get to work and keep us posted. Don't get discouraged and come back for motivation and guidance whenever you want. We'll be here.

In 2007 i read a blog post similar to this.... here is an excerpt:

" It was in February this year that I decided to try and make triathlon my career. It was a leap into the unknown: I knew nothing about what it meant to be a professional athlete. Now, two months down the line, I am still climbing that steep learning curve. And believe me, it’s a long slow climb. But what made me take the plunge, give up my job and throw myself into a life of continuous physical pain and torture? It was a case of ‘now or never’. Having just turned dirty thirty, I was getting on a bit and knew that my shelf life, at least at Olympic distance racing, was limited. I had watched the elite women race at the World Champs in Lausanne last February. Could I be as good as them, if not better? Had I fulfilled my potential, or did I have more to give? Had I pushed my mind and body to the limit? If not, what were those limits? What stars was I capable of grabbing? Without giving it a shot I would never know. I never want to look back and say ‘what if’. "

So i said let me come back see how well this person does, will they be a success? Nobody knows. To find out here is the blog from the first post, http://www.chrissiewellington.org/blog/taking-the-plunge/

wow thanks for the link.. i watched the highlights of the Ironman 2010 where she won despite recovering from a recent horrid bike crash.. amazing..

Dreaming is necessary but not sufficient for great accomplishments.

This reminds me of a great line I ran into somewhere: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

EDITED to add: ah, through the magic of the Web I discover that this quote is from Thoreau. I've corrected my misquotation.

One of my prof's during B-school but it slightly less elegantly but it always stuck with me:

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is the only thing that matters.

I think the Thoreau quote is closer to an antidote than an analog of your quote.

Damn, what can I say? Thanks man! Will take your advise to heart. My post probably came across as a bit too much whinging. Will make sure that I deliver stuff from now on, rather than empty talk.

And do not underestimate how important this piece is: "...and keep us posted." As edw said, it sounds like you may need people to hold you accountable on your journey (and one of the key ingredients you may lack) ... use us in this capacity. By the way, that's me to a T as well. I need people around that keep me focused on moving forward.

Now go, and to great things worthy of honor.

>Now go, and to great things worthy of honor.

Ok, even I felt motivated after reading this. Thanks!

Good luck =)

The longest journey begins with a single step.

You just quoted my favorite Chinese saying. For the record, 千里之行,始于足下

Not my favorite line from the Tao Te Ching, but a good one nonetheless. I think my actual favorite is the very first verse, where he explains that the entire book is a lie (in a sense). I love that so much.

Yep, if you take nothing else from the Tao Te Ching, the first verse is the most powerful concept. The Tao is personal, nobody can tell you what it is, and thereby have power over you.

May be need add one,think through before action, once begin, never give up , 三思后行,百折不回

>You won't want to disappoint someone who is depending on you. Believe me, in your case, this will probably make all the difference.

Here's another expectation to think about: In ten to twenty years, someone is going to run across this thread and this post and ask, "I wonder what happened to Stefan Kueng?", before running a search for "Stefan Kueng."

What do you want this person to find?

I like this:)Good motivational/inspirational post for everyone.

>Find something that needs to be built (preferably by someone other than yourself).

>The reason you're stuck is because you're too focused on yourself. Remember, it's not about you. It's about others.

I disagree. Often times, great projects start with "scratching a developer's personal itch" (ex: Linux kernel).

If you try to build something for others, it will often be boring and unmotivated. You have to be passionate about making exciting & new things. Most importantly, hack for fun, not to satisfy someone else and get profit.

Sure, there are many examples of projects which started as a developer solving a problem for themselves. However, the ones that still exist are the ones that solved problems for other people at the same time. If you want to be successful you have to look outside the microcosm of yourself and figure out what other people's need are. If you are lucky there will be other people who have exactly the same needs as yourself.

If I am understanding the OP correctly, he is not looking to be an incredible hacker; he is looking to be an entrepreneur. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur you have to follow the market. You have to. There is no other way. If people are not willing to give you their money, you have to do something else or you fail. I completely agree that you have to be passionate about making things, but you definitely don't have to be passionate about making new things, or even exciting things. These things are awesome bonuses, but they are not requirements.

Entrepreneurship is about creating value for other people. It is often not fun and is quite often very uncomfortable. There are moments of dread, hopelessness, and fear. You can reduce the number of these moments by building a company which definitely solves other people's problems.

I've always seen it as a bit of both.

My startup grew out of an open source project designed to scratch my own itch, which was a great way to start. Being my own user, I saw the pain points and could form a true direction. However, that only goes so far, since not everyone is me. At some point you have to start looking at what your users care about, at least as much as what you care about, if you want the growth.

That's where the mix comes in. You shouldn't just develop it solely for someone else, or you may lose that drive, passion and direction (plus what they want and what they say they want aren't always the same thing). At the same time, you must listen to them (if you want to solve their problems) and take their opinions into consideration. Do it right and you end up building for both yourself and your customers.

>> The reason you're stuck is because you're too >> focused on yourself. >> Remember, it's not about you. It's about others.

This single line is worth the price of attendance.

When i asked famous spiritual teacher a while ago about "me being depressed and how to solve it" - that exactly the answer I was given: "Depression is focusing on too much me, and very little on others." Hence the solution would be to find and help others - and inevitably help comes back to you.

I cannot relate to much of the OP's story, but nonetheless you just got me so fired up. This is all such damn good advice! Thank you!

>> Somehow, I did get back into it a few years later, but I never really became proficient at it. Again, I was good at learning the basics, reading code, messing around with code snippets on the command line. But I never built anything of value.

> Stop reading code. Stop messing around. Find something that needs to be built (preferably by someone other than yourself). Then build it. Trust yourself and trust the process of building. You will learn what you need when you need it. I promise.

>> I don't have too much time left. My 20ies are gone.

> Bullshit. I didn't do my first startup until I was 32. Stop thinking like that. If you're a programmer, your prime is still 20 years ahead of you. (Believe me, I know.)

The single biggest thing I got out of this. Thanks for your $0.02 edw519.

I will agree with everything except for two points.

The "stop reading code" snippet.. I think its important he continues to read code and mess around, it is what keeps passion alive and influences you. He should start building things on top of what he already doing

Another point, about "the best software is written by one person" is completely false. Any significant software project usually requires a team with good chemistry. You kind of alluded to the whole "genius programmer" myth.

I am not saying people can't write great software or build great products alone. Just that its not good to think of programming as an activity done in isolation. If not just for the fact you can get more ideas and feedback working with a team.

A lot of other stuff you said is sound advice. :-)

So you say Knuth (TEX), Bill Atkinson (QuickDraw, MacPaint, HyperCard), Bellard (ffmpeg, QEMU, etc.) ar all myths?

Really, really motivating. I relate to the OP in a lot of ways. Thanks for posting this, Ed.

That sir, is very good advice. Thank you!

I have similar desires to qisine (though younger and a bit better with pointers), and realise that I need a market myself, but can't find anything that I can do that people would be willing to pay for, or not find an already existing alternative.

Look, anyone is ready to pay for what they need. So instead of finding something people are willing to pay for, start by finding something people NEED (=> solve a problem). Cash will come on its own ;)

> Bullshit. I didn't do my first startup until I was 32. Stop thinking like that. If you're a programmer, your prime is still 20 years ahead of you. (Believe me, I know.)

I love you a little for that

Thanks Ed! That's all I can say at the moment.

Superb advice ed, very superb. Thanks a lot.

Great advice. Not in a similar situation myself, but this reply is quite a motivational treasure.

Another one to add to best of edw519

Always a kind heart :)

thankyou . this advise is very valuable for me atleast.

Great advice!

Thanks Ed.Great advice!

Great advice!

I'm having a bit of trouble writing a couple of sentences that explain why you should listen to me. I think this is partly because I'm not good at selling myself. But I've been where you are, had the same thoughts over and over, only I have a few years on you and have some life experience to offer. Like a great number of people, I have changed careers multiple times. It's not a big deal. As of right now, I've got another 40-50 years to fill up that I don't relish spending in front of a television drooling on my bib.

I told myself the same thing in my 20s. It was data structures for me, not pointers. I remember thinking, I'm just not smart enough to write code. Man, no lie... I'm slow and these concepts are tough. What's different now is that I know a number of people who are willing to take time out of their busy days and explain stuff to me when I get stuck. Very few people build things alone. Even using a language to build a thing of value is going to leverage libraries and packages that someone else wrote.

If you feel like a loser and a loner, this tells me that you somehow feel isolated and that you don't feel like you have a peer group of like-minded people to associate with. For me, the internet has helped tremendously in this way. Many times you cannot talk to someone candidly in person, but you can do this online. The fix for this (which you seem to have already discovered) is to find some way to talk to people, and talk to a lot of people, until you've talked to enough people that at least one of them sees something valuable in you.

Honestly, the words "This is my last chance get my life back on track," are melodramatic. Every day, people all over the world set different goals for themselves and learn new habits in order to meet those goals. If you are convinced you "don't have much time left," you are setting yourself up for failure. How long do you think you will live? After you turn 30, then you turn 40. Then you turn 50. And so on. How many times will you screw up in those decades? Lots. The only way to learn how to make better decisions is to make bad ones.

And to cap this inspirational response off with something totally saccharine, willpower (or discipline) is like a muscle. The more you use it, the more of it you have.

Viel gluck!

A related point about learning -- pointers, data structures, etc. -- tough concepts are tough because they're unfamiliar.

For whatever reason, some things will come easy and some won't; that does not mean you should avoid the ones that don't come easy; they are often a signal to you of some foundational skill you need, or an underlying concept you haven't really grasped yet. Don't avoid that stuff to focus on the easy things; that's like oiling the wheel that doesn't squeak.

If you want it, keep poking at it, keep circling back around and picking it up again; get familiar and comfortable with your questions, confusions, problems, and then they'll melt away.

Feeling like a loser/winner is counterproductive.

The first step is to understand that social labels are bullshit, and the only truth is that we are all going to die. Look up, pretend you have purpose, that's "hope". People with hope attract other people, they glow.

The second step is to understand that there is not such thing as obligations in the universe. They don't exist. There are only actions, consequences and how you feel about yourself. The only other people that matter are the ones that also care about you.

The third step is to see the narratives in society. There are entrepeneurs from all walks of life, but some get promoted because they fit the current narrative, they sell news articles (for example, the dropout hacker with the social media company).

The fourth step is formalizing your objectives. Lists. Be realistic.

The fifth step is formalizing your assets. Lists. Be realistic.

The sixth is fiding a vector. In which direction you have to push to get where you feel you need to be.

The seventh is start pushing without doubt. Don't doubt, be clinical, get "feedback" and respond.

Remember there is no "failure", only changing pathways and goals.

First, who are you accountable to? Saying "HN" is too easy. Find someone who will keep you on track with this. A close friend/significant other is a good start. Second, what's your plan? I didn't see one. You need to have some objective metric you will be accountable to.

Finally, be careful what definition of success you accept. Dont pin your self-esteem on this new change. You don't want that kind of pressure. HN is replete with self-congratulatory blog posts and Super Important Business Talk that is sometimes more posturing than reality. Change because you want to (it sounds like you do), and work on yourself as hard as you do this endeavor. Even if you crash and burn, you will come out far, far ahead.

You damage yourself when you couple your self-worth with your accomplishments. It's a natural tendency in high-achievers, but that doesn't make it a great idea.

P.S. don't be hard on yourself for being a late bloomer. Just work your ass off at something that you like.

> First, who are you accountable to? Saying "HN" is too easy. Find someone who will keep you on track with this.

Actually, I already found someone. Right before posting this. It was my motivation to "come out" in the first place.

> Second, what's your plan? Start building stuff. Starting tomorrow morning.

> Starting tomorrow morning.

Do you see the problem?

Well said. Tomorrow never comes.

Good! Write a blog and keep us posted.

I'd read it. Talk about what you're building, and what struggles you're having.

I heard a quote from the actor Will Smith recently. He was talking about how, when he was 12 years old, his father made him rebuild a brick wall that seemed impossibly huge to do.

It took a year and a half, which must seem like an eternity for a 12 year old, but eventually him and his little brother did it.

So Will says -- "The way to do things isn't to focus on building a huge brick wall. It seems impossible. Instead, it's to lay one brick as perfectly as you can."

So, do big things. But do them by laying bricks.

Also, you don't have to go it alone. People are surprisingly scarily helpful. Reach out to people and ask smart questions. My email is in my profile if you like.

One brick at a time. Godspeed.

Step 1 is changing your self perception and self efficacy. A wise man once said "success is 80% psychology, 20% mechanics"

I'd like to refer 2 resources. One is Dr. Robert Maurer's "The Kaizen Way: One Small Step Can Change Your Life".

This book is about how you can bypass the fear mechanisms of the brain, which cause procrastination and failure.

The second is "The Winner Effect" by Ian H. Robertson. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlxCN1aCa2M

Both of these books are grounded in research and not "rah rah" feel good stuff. With regard to Dr, Robert Maurer's Book "The Kaizen Way". I'm a living case study. Through direct application of his theories in less than 4 months I accomplished something that I had been "thinking" about doing for 8 years.

Totally ground-breaking. I'd also recommend Darren Hardy's "The Compound Effect" and Jeff Olsson's "The Slight Edge".

All these books are about understanding how the brain works and using it more effectively to get results - THAT STICK AND LAST.

If I had to throw another one in it would be Charles Duhigg's "Habits". It's been said that up to 50% of our daily actions are habits - things we do without thinking about it. That included "how" we think. Right now if you see yourself as a "failure" you're going to have to work to alter that. You have the mindset and daily habits of a "failure". So you have to literally program in the habits and mindset of a "winner". You could try a gazillion things right but if you miss that, it will be all for naught.

Good luck!

I , I , I ...

me, me , me...

You are not a loser, you are someone who is enormously lucky to live on one of the wealthiest places in the world and does not now it.

I have seen 16 years old die on motorcycle, or 20 something die in car accidents, 8 years old die of leukemia while facing it like grown up men or women(I bet you have leukemia kids near you, if you try to help them you will discover that they help you much more, this will work on your me-centric problem).

You are not a loser.

You are alone and feel that "realizing your dreams" will solve your issues. It wont. You have a bad strategy and need to change it, or after the initial determination you will fall again.

Read or hear the book or Audiobook "The now habit" by Doctor Neil Fiore to discover why your vision of the world is destroying you.

Do not pity yourself but celebrate how fching lucky you are!!

Find a woman and make her the happiest women on earth,fck her with passion.

Do not compare yourself to others, be happy and transmit it to everyone.

Start thinking on other people like part of yourself, it takes guts, specially for emotionally castrated Swiss.

Travel the world and learn to love others and what they need.

Money will come after that.

Did I just stumble onto reddit again or am I still on HackerNews?

I felt the same way a few years ago. If you'd like some advice, here's what I learned on the long climb out:

Dedicate at least one night a week to a project. When you get home from the day job, you start work on the project, and you keep at it for at least 6 hours. Make sure this night becomes a sacred obligation, you don't skip it for anything but weddings/funerals.

This helps ensure the project progresses on a weekly basis. It protects the time from family/friends/spouses who may not understand or accept that you are busy at random times, but can understand a scheduled obligation.

caveats: One night a week is usually too slow for any project, so don't use this as a crutch, you should still pour hours into whatever you do throughout the week out of passion - this is a safety valve for busy or passionless times.

It is a lot easier to pull this off with a group of like-minded people, try to get a couple other people (even remote) to join you in the endeavor.

Good luck!

> It is a lot easier to pull this off with a group of like-minded people, try to get a couple other people (even remote) to join you in the endeavor.

Thanks for your kind advise. This is what I intend to do. If anyone else would like to join me, please let me know. My gmail id is kungs10.

Thirty?! There are many folks who make a big name for themselves at double that age. Not everyone has their day early in life, and no one has their day if they keep thinking they are past their prime. The main thing is keep working at stuff, fail, fail again, and get back up, and see what the next try will make.

I think of my age not as wasted but experienced, I have learned and observed things that only come with experience of time. Many creations of greatness can't come early because it takes experience to get there.

Here is one of many articles of folks who found success after middle age (which is still a number of years away for you, BTW):


I'm in a similar boat. How did I start to change? I thought long and hard about what was important, not just for myself, but for the world, for everything. I looked for the most important thing that I could possibly work on. (For me that turned out to be AI). After that all my day-dreams of things I could be doing circled back to "but that's not as important as AI so get back to work."

Then I found a community of people who were doing what I wanted to be doing. I quit my well paying job and did a short series of internships (one paid, one unpaid) at companies in these communities. I got in by learning as much as I could as fast as I could, caring deeply and honestly about the work these places were doing, and interviewing well.

One led to a job where I worked for 2 years. In this new community I was able to build skills and connections that gave me the confidence to break out on my own when the company started to diverge from my Most-Important-Thing-In-The-World.

I'm now working on my own start-up. It doesn't have customers or a product yet, but even if I don't 'make it' with this one I am doing every day, and making things with my own hands, and it's an incredible feeling.

You can do it too. If I can help just drop me a line. (Contact info in profile)

Hey, I am 30 and also a loser! I have built some things, including a web app that got exactly one customer who runs his business on it, and I just let it sit there month after month, not failing, but not growing because I don't market it and it needs more features.

But I feel like a loser in the sense that I have not done nearly anything near what I feel capable of; and have spent several thousand hours of my 20s reading the internet and playing video games and smoking weed and /maybe/ a quarter of that much time actually being productive.

Good luck Stefan. I also feel like with my 20s being gone that I'm going to be looking back on my life, rather than forward any minute now.

Always look forward. That doesn't mean you can't take a few minutes now and then to look back; just don't get stuck in it. Get back to looking forward. You always have the choice.

There once was a guy who, at the age of 24, wrote a short text moaning about how he seemed to have been accomplishing little in his life, and how his peers were having a better start.

His name was John Milton. That text was Sonnet VII, "How soon hath Time the subtle thief of youth..." And it wasn't until thirty-five years later that he published "Paradise Lost", the work that made him widely regarded as one of the most outstanding English poets of all time.

You never know when your prime time -- the time for your opus magnum -- will come.

Good luck!

My advice would be, start something that will make you accountable to other people. I am a dreamer too and I am not a competitive type of guy. I just don't care if I lose something. But I was very committed to be good at soccer, only because it is a collective sport, so I would try to help my team win because of my friends that played with me, not because I wanted to win. Using your real name is actually a great first step. Now, make this promise to everyone you care about! Family, friends, everyone! Don't use the mind (escapist) trick to convince yourself that you will surprise everyone with your great project! Don't go on stealth mode. Promise you will achieve your goal and make yourself accountable for it!

Oh! And forget all about this "this is my last chance", "my 20ies are gone" and yada yada yada. As in glasner comment "It's not your last chance; it's your next chance." This is equivalent to me saying "OMG Mozart wrote a symponhy by the age of 8, I am already 33 and don't even know how to play an instrument! I am SUCH a loser!!" It is BS. I just can't use other people achievements as my parameter of success (neither the kind of achievement, much less the age of it).

Good luck!

I go through some form of that feeling everyday and have found that listening to that voice that keeps telling you how much you suck will only make things much worse. I have yet to solve the problem of regularly getting seduced by the idea that i am hopelessly untalented, which makes me feel entitled to laze around and waste whatever is left of my life. But it gets more powerful with each day that i waste.

It's not your last chance; it's your next chance. Good luck Stefan!!

I came here to say the same thing. Every day is a new chance to succeed, and no single day is your last chance. Happiness is a long game, and the process of getting older is a process of trading simple pleasures for complex ones. Success is a long game. Never give up!

I told myself this too often. I have to succeed this time. Thanks for your support!

The funny thing about success is that it's highly subjective and sometimes the perception of failure is just a issue of narrow perspective.

If during the course of working toward some arbitrary goal you enjoy yourself and learn something then you have accomplished something that is more important than most end results.

What you do for a living does not define you as a person. It's just the shortcut that others use to categorize other people into easy to quantify values for comparison. You can certainly through the course of your professional life enact change that touches the everyday lives of countless people. The majority of actions that change lives though are the plain, boring, and downright ordinary actions of the majority. The combined machinations of our every day lives and how we impact those directly connected to us are just as important as that next disruptive idea that shifts culture.

Live inspired and find joy in the things that really matter.

I'm 53 and I hardly feel like my life is over. At 30 you are just beginning. I am still a dreamer an I've always felt like I'm a winner. You need to have confidence in yourself. Remember - the key to success is not giving up.

Consider the story of Ely Calloway. He worked his way up the company ladder at a major textile firm. When he retired, he decided to plant a vinyard and started up a winery. Calloway is a suucessful vinyard and winery in Temecula California.

After starting the winery and as an avid golfer, Ely Calloway decided to make golf clubs (Big Bertha) and founded Calloway golf. Calloway golf is obviously a very successful company. This was his third career started well into retirement.

The moral of the story is that your life is far from over. In fact, you should expect to live a longer more productive life than you can dream possible at this point.

Be persistent. Be positive. Life is good. Be a winner.

Anything one human can do another can do as well. Only the time to master the skills might differ. it is the pattern of thought which enables the completion of mental tasks. Learning them takes time and persistence and the motivation to stick with the task. Sometimes one or the other of these requirements are missing in a persons background due to faulty instructions during childhood. Defining which tasks are missing and correcting the behavior will result in success or an emotionally created stuck spot in the strategy. This can be fixed by thinking carefully about how the person achieves the failure and replacing that strategy with a successful one. One method of doing the discovery is to simply type out the internal dialog verbatim and correcting that dialog, or the conclusions of the dialog, which will be the limiting instruction.

I am 44 years old, I ended up on disability in 2003 and haven't worked a job ever since. I have two degrees one in computer science and one in business management. I earned the later after I was disabled and graduated with honors. I suffer from schizo-affective disorder and when I developed that mental illness I lost 95% of my friends and family who basically abandoned me, and wrote me off as a loser and failure. I lost my job and my career was basically ruined as well.

I learned over 37 different programming languages over 30 years of my life, and most if not all are obsolete. Like Turbo Pascal, FORTRAN, COBOL, ADA, 8086 Assembly Language, JCL/JECL, etc. Yes I worked with a variety of different operating systems and computers. Even mainframes and minicomputers as well as many old 8 bit microcomputers, etc.

Pointers, basically some modern languages did away with them. It seems one has to learn how computer memory works to figure out how to use a pointer, and for that one has to learn how a computer works. But if they can eliminate pointers and direct access in modern languages then more people can learn how to program. Many programmers forgot to set their pointers and ended up with a null pointer that may have been set to the address of 0 (system memory) or may have been set to some random address that happened to be in the memory the location of the pointer is stored at. Basically a pointer holds a memory address to a block of memory that data is being stored at. But it seems to be too complex for most people to understand. Back in my days in learning Pascal and Pre-ANSI C it was required to learn.

Anyway don't feel like you are a loser or a failure, just learn from your mistakes and failures and then keep trying until you get better. That is how we human beings learn. It is how we learned to walk as infants. We fell down a lot, had to crawl first, but basically we put one foot in front of the other and learned how to keep our balance and walk. But we don't remember all the times trying to walk that we failed and made mistakes.

Startups are like that too, I want to share a link to a blog. Some flag it as offtopic because it talks about mental illnesses and technology and startups, yet when others post those same things it makes the front page. This post in the blog is about losers and why there are no losers: http://fakemdc.blogspot.com/2013/02/there-are-no-losers-just...

Steve Jobs suffered failures and mistakes and it cost him his job at Apple in 1985. But he didn't give up, he kept trying and trying and learning from mistakes and failures. Many people did the same thing.

If you want to talk about it, my email is orionblastar@gmail.com

"It has been my goal to start a business since ever I can remember." "This is my chance to turn the boat around, and realize my goals."

Make lemonade, sell it on the streets at weekends. Voila! You have a business, and realised your goals. Right?

I'll go out on a limb here, and suggest that your goal has more to it than that. You need to understand your constraints, and where those constraints come from.

One constraint might be that the business needs to generate EUR x thousand per year, and the source of that constraint is probably your bills, rent/mortgage, etc. Another might be the location, or you might decide that actually that's a constraint you're happy to take away.

Either way, and it's by no means the only consideration, thinking through these can help you focus the direction your business goes in.

Oh, and good luck!

Yeah,it's imperative to properly define your goal. You can't ever reach an undefined goal, and if you can't reach it, you've failed by definition. Tim Ferriss book "The 4 hour workweek" goes into defining goals pretty well, but don't neccesairily believe everything in the book, because some of it is just designed to make you feel good. Still, it's handy to start of with.

Hey Stefan,

Take it or leave it, but I started www.Earbits.com 3 years ago, when I was 32 years old. For all of my professional experience, so little of it has helped me prepare for the challenges of building Earbits. My co-founder is one year older than me and his professional experience before Earbits was almost exclusively music production and composition. Now, not only does he manage the music department of Earbits, but most of our sales, editorial content, accounting, and frankly, he is the yin to my yang that balances out Earbits in so many ways.

30 is a great age to start something new and significant. The first startup I worked for took 5 years to sell for $15M. You could be retired by 35. Get on it. If you want to chat, email me. -Joey

I'm not sure that you should pursue your dreams.

Happiness is the gap between results and expectations. The greater the gap, the less satisfaction people feel. If you need, I mean really NEED, to start a technical business, I'm sure that you will strategize, break the goal into tangible pieces and accomplish it.

But if you haven't started a business by now, maybe there's a good reason. Maybe your personality, interests and talent aren't in line with that objective. And, if that's the case, it's okay.

In other words, I support your decision to strive for different results if that's what you really need, but I think it's also important to calibrate your expectations.

Good luck man.

But you should just try to achieve doing something that makes you happy.

Making boatloads of money, the next Google, or some other goal that 1/10000000 people would ever achieve is not the be all end all of it (if it's even a valid life goal).

Yes, but so far, I literally haven't achieved anything. I'm not shooting for Google or Facebook. If only I can find a small niche market, I would be perfectly content with that.

Then that puts you in a position to achieve fulfillment at an earlier age and with less risk than most twenty-something startuppies dreaming of an exit most won't ever get. Even though you're a dreamer, keeping realistic expectations and finding some project you care about is gonna put you on a fast track.

I learned coding within the last 2 years or so, and before that I had felt quite as you did. I dabbled in Visual Basic at 14, but then I came upon this huge wall of C++. I couldn't grasp OOP and it's weird Cat cat = new Cat() for the life of me, and I though I just wasn't smart enough, so I stopped playing with it until recently. In the last year especially I got comfortable (and grew to love) the command line, git, vim and a bunch of technologies I thought I would never have the patience or diligence to wrap my head around. Really the last year has got me so far. You can do a lot in a year's worth of spare time, if you can find a practical project to motivate you.

I agree with goldfeld on this, there is this barrier with every language that many people get stuck on. In Java it's Cat cat = new Cat(), in C it's *fu, in Perl it's s/win/fail, in Assembly it's Assemlby, in C# it's LINQ, etc. But once you manage to get over the first or second hurdle, your perspective on technology widens and you are ready to take on more hurdles.

Additional examples: Haskell - monads, Lisp (()())()()((())), Whitespace

Well congratulations, your first noteworty achievement: You just made the frontpage of Hacker News, gained a serious amount of replies and (most importantly) connected Wieth thousands of people around the world :) Now get your head up buddy

> I need to break out of my own little word (unfortunately, besides being a loser, I'm also a loner).

Visit NY for a week or two: https://secure.iqres0822.com/iqreservations/asp/IQHome.asp

We can save you from yourself.

Look at http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/690958main_p1237a1.jpg -- every dot in that image is a galaxy. Each galaxy has over 100 billion stars. Do whatever the heck you want in this world. It'll work out.

> Visit NY for a week or two.

I can also agree to this. I was more or less in the same boat (possibly a bit worse at times). I had my idea for a startup and decided to use it as an objective to get me moving forward again. The first step for me was going to London and checking out the startup scene there (Techhub). It in a way, it gave me a boost and energy to flesh out my ideas and plans.

Sometimes, a change of atmosphere helps give you the initial push that one needs to move forward.

Can't agree with this more.

I visited SF, Chicago, NYC and Austin, TX all in the last year - each trip has made me more and more inspired.

I have been dealing with similar issues. Never been successful at anything I have done and I began programming later than you did, with C. I did run after a lot of tech, new toys etc. Even though it is nice and many times important to know the new and emerging stuff, I accepted that it overwhelmed me and I have to narrow down a bit. So, I started learning a (only one) new language and chose Python because it seemed easier to focus of the task at hand with Python and not get drowned in gory details of the tool.

I figured that I will work on what I like rather than what is or will be 'cool' after 4 years of this struggle. There were humanitarian projects I had thought of as a junior in college that never saw the light of day. I have begun those. It makes me happy to work on things that I want to work on, rather than what can become a great business. At least that's a start. I have started thinking in terms of how can I deliver a great product to my users from the idea I have and love.

Don't get me wrong, I am still learning. I have to make a mental note every hour of the day to not compare, not get distracted. My physical therapist told me that one has to make a mental note of their posture. That is termed as "body mechanics". I think that that goes with our minds too. You have to keep training yourself to stay positive by little tricks like avoiding comparison, recognizing what you want to do and accepting reality etc.

Maybe not the best advice but my 2 cents.

Good luck!

I don't have too much time left. My 20ies are gone.

This, and I mean it in a kind way, is totally batshit absurd and thinking this way will only hold you back. I know the feeling. I felt it myself and spun my wheels for years because of it.

When I turned 30, I had just graduated from business school (which I went to because I couldn't figure out what to do with my life). I had never built a real piece of software, and object oriented programming seemed to be too much for me - I too had started that journey with C++ and failed. (For me, it was Ruby that made it click, for what it's worth).

So here I am, 30, with some interest in technology with an MBA and no programming skill. I truly thought I had wasted the last 8 years of my life since college. What was I doing during those years. I was working at NASA. On the Hubble Space Telescope. I was paid to scuba dive with astronauts and build hardware that would fly in space. I own not one, but TWO pieces of the actual Hubble Space Telescope that flew in space. Looking back, that job was a dream come true - jobs do not get much better. But at 30, looking forward I thought it had all been a waste of time - my 20's were gone, and I was woefully unprepared for the business I wanted to start. There were people smarter, younger, and more successful than me everywhere I looked.

It was a ridiculous way to think for me, and it is for you too. Enjoy life, and don't compare your inside to someone else's outside.

> I was working at NASA. On the Hubble Space Telescope. I was paid to scuba dive with astronauts and build hardware that would fly in space.

In comparison, I worked lowly office jobs at Swiss insurance companies and banks. But your point is well taken. I put too much drama into my post.

Overwhelming responses!

Giving you my best wishes. Also to share with you that I've been thru very difficult life for 7 years, between 19-26. [1] I've spent 1.5 years to find my current tech co-founder. [2]

Just don't give up. No matter what. No one will be a loser if he/she persists to actualize the dream.

[1] Quora: What mindset should one possess to be more comfortable when things are miserable? http://goo.gl/dIcji [2] How I found my tech co-founder. http://goo.gl/oBKKz

I am 39 years old, I have a similar problem. Here is a short excerpt (unfortunately, the quality of the translation may not be very high quality) from http://lurkmore.to/%D0%9A%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%B8%D1%81_%D1%...

First of all out of your head delusion that "time lost", "polymers fucked", "clock is ticking" and that your age is not something to achieve. Only where the roads are closed to you - is the astronauts (in flight school adult uncles are not accepted) and the police (by law there are taking up to 35 years, though ...). And then, there is nothing stopping you hard earn money, and eventually fly to this your fucking space tourist. Also, you will be quite difficult to set a world record in some sports disciplines (although not impossible). Everything else is affordable 40-year-old man in the same way as 25-year-old. Of course, this does not mean that you should continue waste a time, but count every second - at least, stupid. Currently live as he lived, but finally put a clear goal, and achieve it as sought would be if you were 20 now. The result will be exactly the same. Errors makes all but the biggest mistake - if I think that they can not be fixed.

I could say pretty much the same thing as you did - I'm 40, always wanted to do something great, but its just never happened.

I'm still working on it one brick at a time, and have a couple of pieces of software out there, but no-one really using them as far as I know. Haven't even had any feedback.

http://photo-sorter.appspot.com/ http://vs-console.appspot.com/ http://www.globalmartialartsdirectory.com/ http://www.mydailyactivity.com/

I like the LEAN movement, whereby you validate your market first, do the minimal amount of work possible, and launch ASAP - then respond to feedback. They say, if you aren't embarrassed by your first release, you did too much!

See: Start small, Stay small http://bit.ly/YIP5tu The Lean Startup http://amzn.to/XjbdYO

This podcast is brilliant too for many reasons, one of which is that you don't have to do the programming yourself! See http://automatemysmallbusiness.com/podcast-subscribe/

But: Don't get distracted Validate you have a market before you start building Figure out how to market it so people find it START

(All easier said than done).

Good luck, and all the best!

You already have some assets that will help you: You're interested and have knowledge in the technical aspects, you have imagination regarding projects (don't know how realistic, but let's find out) and the willingness to do something.

Do something small first: duration 3-6 months, can be done by yourself alone (maybe with outsourcing parts, but nothing with a team/partners), little costs and risks. Don't focus too much on the technical side, i.e., look for a problem to solve and only use the tech you can handle (thus making it a product exercise, not a tech/programming exercise).

1st lesson: Execute something from start to end.

2nd lesson: While doing the whole process (coming up with a goal, planning, researching, building, contacting prospective customers or users) you see where your strengths and weaknesses are and what you like. Focus on what you're good at. You might find that you have a technical understanding but aren't enthusiastic enough to do the technical nitty gritty yourself. Maybe you're good in understanding the big picture of a market or you see that you're actually pretty good in negotiating.

This gives you an understanding of the process. Then you have to look for the problems you really want to solve. This exercise gives you hints whether to do something alone or with other people.

First off, you are not a loser. It is a word that you decided to label yourself with, it's totally arbitrarily chosen and not based in reality if you really think about it.

Second , this is not your last chance. Life is a collection of tries and failures but it is important to distinguish between yourself as a human being trying to win at the game of life and your professional achievements (or failures). They are not the same thing! Like every living organism, you are part of this infinitely complex ecosystem, proliferating, processing and modifying the light from a star. You are the spearhead of thousands of generations of winners at this game of life, who managed to transmit their strong features into the future with the ultimage goal of achieving a form of immortality. If you look at yourself from this perspective, rather more important and deep then whatever number is associated with your bank acount in some SQL database on some server belonging to some bank, then the term 'sucess' or 'loser' is really unapplicable.

Likewise, success is a rather arbitrarily chosen label. Our society generally defines it as people who were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and be born into the right parents and to have met the right people and to have been blessed with the right obsession (which we call talent) to become sucessful at increasing their financial and political score.

But this is just a small piece of the whole puzzle!

My sugestion is to really try to look at your spiritual side and try to realise what your other purposes (besides making money) really are.

Eventually, who you are is really what stories about yourself you believe in.

Oh, and your life is only just begining !

You need a system to translate your ideas and dreams into consistent action. Don't feel like you to reinvent the wheel here. I recommend some kind of dayplanner/calendar system to keep control of tasks, there are electronic options today but I use the Franklin-Quest system (on paper!). Also, take a look at Ray Dalio's principles here; http://www.bwater.com/Uploads/FileManager/Principles/Bridgew...

... as a system to translate those dreams and ideas into consistent actions over time. Dalio identifies some important, unavoidable choices that you must make to be successful;

1) Honest Self-Assessment versus evasion or rationalization. 2) Selfishness and your values versus Others and external expectations as the primary motivation of your actions. 3) Self Responsibity versus blaming others or wallowing in self pity. 4) Pro-Effort versus Anti-Effort, achievement is work. 5) Long range action and motivation versus short range mentality. 6) Adult versus a child's reaction to the inevitable frustrations of purposeful action over time.

Good Luck.

I've spent 2 Months in Geneva in 2008 and I found that your country is pretty open towards strangers and nerds. Lauseanne is also great. In that regard, you're lucky that you live in Switzerland :)

I was single during my trip to Geneva. So I filled my backpack with beer cans and decided to spend the whole evening until midnight away from home. I just walked around and asked random strangers where I might go to spend a nice evening. I gave a can of beer to everyone who was nice towards me. At around 22:00, some random dude invited me to a party where I spent the rest of the night.

I noticed that many people (especially girls) in Geneva feel like no one really listens to them. If you are somewhat nice towards people, show some interest in them and are willing to just listen and let them tell you about their life, you'll be astonished by how easy it is to make new friends :)

As for your goals:

Ask people for their advice on how you might reach your goals. Most of them will give you bullshit, because they have no clue, but you might just get lucky and meet someone who can either help you or give you great advice. Play on that luck by asking A LOT of people :)

Cheers, Hajo

Hi there Stefan.

I'm in a similar situation as you are, even though my journey to get there has been a bit different. I recognize the feeling you have of being a "looser" and I'm also looking for change.

I left my day job 5 years ago to pursue my dream of starting something of my own in the it-business. 18 months of hard work later I had failed, but still managed to get picked up by another startup, where I have been working since. It has been a good journey but this weekend I took the decision to start another chapter of my life and try to make something of my own again.

The funny thing is that I have actually been planning on moving to Switzerland at the same time too. Have been there many times and I just love it there. Feels like my life is to short not to be where I want to be, and not doing the things I want to do, so why not change it all at once? :)

I consider myself pretty proficient in programming and got some experience with startups, so maybe we could exchange some ideas and knowledge? My email is intesa@hush.com, just drop me a line if you want to someone to talk to on mail, skype or even meet up for a coffee next time I'm in Switzerland.


I'd like to recommend a book for you: The War of Art http://www.amazon.com/War-Art-Through-Creative-Battles/dp/19...

It's a very short book, but it may change your life. Read it twice. It is for procrastinators. I'm one of the worst there is, yet this book has helped me tremendously, and helped a ton of others as well.

Good luck

Be aware that the word "loser" is loaded in modern culture, in a rather illegitimate way. I wish this were available in text format, but listen to this four minute essay and I feel sure you will have a different perspective on your situation:


As for making progress on some goals, I'd check out the literature on deliberate practice, and the strategies on the Less Wrong and Overcoming Bias blogs. (Your note is displaying a range of cognitive biases.)

The recent book on Mastery by Robert Greene lays out a lot of tactics. The good and bad news for you is that almost all approaches to mastery require becoming more involved with other people. The Mixergy interview with Robert Greene is excellent. I don't remember ever hearing Andrew Warner as excited about a book. This interview is not behind the paywall yet, so enjoy it while you can:


The human learning system has a major flaw. The first 5 years of human learnings are based on emotion, and contain most of the automatic emotional response system used thruout the rest of your life. Many of the instructions you learned were meant as momentary instructions, but were highly emotional as well, and as a result are remembered as important and therefore used over and over again thruout the rest of your life time. These emotional reactions are known as Injunctions. These are often intended to limit your behavior and they will continue to limit your behavior in particular ways until you change them. Your conscious mind will not become aware of these limiting behaviors because the fact that the limit of consciousness is only 5 to 7 chunks of data at any one time. In addition, your conscious mind works to achieve the unconscious goals of your early emotional learnings, unless you make conscious goals to direct the activities of the unconscious.

So the bottom line is you have two methods of thinking. Emotional and Cognitive and they are not aware of one another due to the evolutionary nature of our brains development process. This means that the learnings of childhood run the show based on reactions learned very early and they are often not functional as an adult. Fixing them is the task of trained therapists. I recommend Transactional Analysis. it deals with teasing out the old, dis functional, emotional, irrational behavior and the decisions which describe their reasoning, which will be discovered to be childlike. New decisions supported by current adult observations will correct the limiting behavior and replace it with more resourceful reprogramming.

This is quick and instantly gratifying and is goal directed by the Patient/customer. The only function of the therapist is to insure the fastest and most helpful changes, along with permission and protection for the client during the change process. Good luck

Thanks for posting this, OP. I'm saving this to read in detail later because we share much of the same frustrations (though I would never call myself a loser). I reached the same epiphany a few times, but have always been too comfortable in my situation at the time to make the necessary change. Last summer, while recovering from a motorcycle accident and working in a well-paying but soul-sucking job, I made a few do-or-die decisions. Since then, I've started grad school for Software Engineering and I'm on the job market, hoping to pull in a career, rather than just another paycheck. I've still got the same habits that have held me back from getting my ideas made tangible, but I'm learning the tools that I need to turn that around.

I can relay to this. I'm like you, starting things but can't persist. I grow tired and frustrated easily from mundane works such as make a pretty landing page, beef up our application's UI etc. Anything that requires 40+ hours of working is like a sea of burden to me.

However I had the great opportunity of having an awesome co-founder. He seems to be picking up where I left and finishes them off beautifully. Server side coding? check. Server side UI remake? check. Landing page details? check. I grew very interested in the fact that facing the same amount and type of work, why can he persist and why not me?

I think I had the answer this morning after quite of few months of introspection. The difference between me and him is that I look at how things were supposed to be, while he looks at how things could be. Let me make an example.

Remember the old story that half a glass of water can be both viewed as still a half remaining or a half missing, generating different moods? Well my tiny story is a twist to it. Say you were to fill a bigger glass with a tiny ink converter. Let's say it will take about 2hrs of mind-numbing work. After one hour with half a glass, I would look at the task and say, oh my, still a half to go. How grueling can this be? Then I'd feel frustrated and give up. Just like what I did to many of the tasks I started but never finished. My co-founder, I suspect, will look at the remaining work and say, oh my, only one more hour to go then I'll have this wonderful filled glass of water! That's why he stays up and working and never seems to have burn outs. I guess positive emotions never gives you burn outs. It is persisting under negative emotions gets you burn outs.

So I'm guessing the key is to catch yourself thinking in a bad way that is generating negative emotions, then turn the thinking in a better way that generates positive emotions.

I just realized this this morning. There should be a few points that I'm missing but I think I'll figure more out in the coming days/weeks. Meanwhile I am logging my thoughts and see if I can turn my emotions around and if that makes a (at least) personal difference. Hope it is useful for you.

With calling yourself a loser, I bet you're full of self doubt.

I've been paying the bills with my startups for over 7 years, and I still drown in self doubt.

A technique I've used to short circuit that thinking is simply this: Ask yourself every day, "How can I accomplish this?"

For some reason, forcing myself to ask the question How, crowds out the doubt. My mind starts cranking on solving problems rather than worrying about my ineptitude.

I'm always impressed by how well just putting myself into a problem solving mood works.

It was awesome to see Daniel Pink's most recent book, To Sell is Human, explore this. He showed studies of how a group of people who were put into a "self-questioning" mindset solved 50% more puzzles than a rather than folks in a "self-affirming" mindset.

I kind of feel like i'm in the same boat you are and I have the same fears. That the trajectory of my life has already reached its inevitable apex and can't fail to land somewhere, predictably, in failure and regret. But in my opinion (which won't even buy you a cup of coffee) you can't waste time on fear. Even if it is true, and rational. All you can do is live in the world until they shovel the dirt onto you. You and I are never gonna be 20 again. I'm sure that sounds trite but I don't mean it to be. We only get to be the old guys, or the older guys, or the even older still guys, but we're not dead yet at least, so good luck.

You don't specify much about where you are now and where you want to get to.

Do you have some job at the moment? Is it a programming job or something else?

Just "starting a business" is easy but the harder thing is having a profitable business that you enjoy working on enough to make it a success. Does it have to be a tech business or just any business?

How profitable do you have to be to consider yourself successful, is paying your own bills good enough or do you want "fuck you" money?

Perhaps just concentrate on building a small tool that makes some tiny aspect of your own life easier or more fun in some way then launch it here. Charge money for it, or don't. Get feedback, make it better etc etc.

If you're unhappy with your life, but despite that feeling you're unable to change things, it could be a strong indicator for depression. Dreamer, loser and loner reads like lack of motivation, low self-esteem and loneliness. All symptoms of depression. I've been through this myself and while I couldn't see it for a long time, now I know life is full of joy and opportunity, there is really no need for anyone to describe himself as a loser. Depression is not a character flaw, it's a disease. I can only encourage you to seek for psychological help. You don't have to be ashamed and you can only win by doing so.

Better Late than Never. Try, Try, till you succeed. Best of Luck !! God Bless You !!

I really appreciate your kind words!

Do not worry - I started to programming in Java also after long pause (more than 10 years) in my early 30s, now I am 6 years in Java development and I greatly increase my value on the market and it is fun. Java is simple comparing to C++ so do not worry and start with something. More or less nowadays is more about knowing libraries/frameworks and combine them together. It is doable if you have basics from C++. At the end it is just about taking data from point A and transfer them to point B with some transformations on the way (if I take mainstream programming nowadays)

Try to surround yourself with others, spend time with people either online or face-to-face. Start one or two other physical activities to help you get your mind off things.

Then, start with a really small bite-size idea, something that seems so trivial and implement it and get it done. Then slowly start building on that tiny idea and keep adding to it. This will help you show progress, will allow you to focus and get a feeling of accomplishment. Over time, which by the way,you have the rest of your life, you can build on that and figure out what you really want to do.

Hang in there.

Oh wow, your first two sentences were so misleading. "I have been a dreamer all my life." I thought you meant DREAMER, as in undocumented immigrant. "It took me until last year to figure this out." You didn't know you were an illegal immigrant until last year? :P

Your post is pretty melodramatic, but I just want to reiterate that 30 is not too late at all. Plenty of people never come to the realization that you do way past their 30s and turn too late to others for help. I'm glad you realize that you can't accomplish things in a vacuum. (I'm 23, and I still am working on getting my Bachelor's, though most of my friends are in grad school by now. I don't feel like I'm less of a person because I didn't follow the "set schedule" of life, and you shouldn't either)

That being said, another good point that I'm sure has been made already is not to focus too much on being the absolute best in whatever field you try. So you could program for a million years and never be as good as so-and-so. So what?

No one usually starts out and suddenly she's a programming whiz. We all started somewhere, and just because you got stuck at pointers in C++ doesn't mean that you should just give up. No one has just breezed through all programming problems or concepts in the world like they're no big deal. Stop comparing yourself to an imaginary image of perfection and start doing things like the real person that you are.

My advice is to do one thing first: read. Learn! You seem like you have the drive to do a business, but perhaps not much of an idea of what kind of business. So read, or watch MOOC videos if that's how you learn best--really build a solid knowledge base of what it takes to run a business, what sorts of business ideas you'd be interested in, etc.

I think after dreaming and before doing, you should prepare, and that's a step that I feel might be lacking in others' steps-to-success plans for entrepreneurship.

After you've prepared, just (fking) do it. Don't be afraid to fail; failing is how we learn. Don't listen to naysayers who only believe that people can accomplish acts of genius or good in their youth--human history isn't built on the accomplishments of young prodigies alone. Instead, believe in yourself, because no one else will.

And as for luck, create your own!

I feel exactly like you, friend.

If you haven't already, I highly recommend hitting the gym. The amount of self-confidence you get when you look in the mirror and see yourself in good shape is priceless. That, and the number of hours you'll be sitting in that chair will pretty much require if it you don't want to suffer any health-risks =)

Everything goes from there... you talk to people better, you posture yourself better, eventually you'll look at yourself better and maybe even start believing that you could do it.

Daryl Teo - also a loser like you. But that only makes victory more sweet.

You shouldn't let lack of experience or knowledge discourage you from programming. I think too many people fall into the trap that they have to know every arcane detail of the API to become an "expert." Making something cool, start small, and learn as you go. There are a lot more resources than when you were 17, like stackoverflow. Anything you really need, you can learn. And choose a language with lot of resources, like python or IOS. Any problem you run into while coding has already been encountered by someone else.

At least at first, stop comparing yourself with others. Compare yourself today with yourself yesterday and look for improvement. This is absolutely not your last chance to get your life back on track. Your last chance won't occur until you are on your deathbed. And maybe look a little beyond HN. There are people out there who are still asking, optimistically,"what do I want to be when I grow up?". . .and enjoying the journey, which is rarely a straight line, travelled through a fraction of your life.

Two things:

- "Seek the journey, not the result" (seen on a random card, in a Frank & Oak shipment) - Look into http://executebook.com - if that can get you methods and motivation in executing your own projects.

It also seems to me you think you'd be feeling a lot better with some impressive accomplishments. Start by building some simple stuff, but getting them done and gathering feedback. The experience alone will be worth it and will give you the guts to go for more ambitious projects.

I think that I relate. I also think that no amount of thinking is going to change anything. Brainspace is devoid of solutions.

Possible solutions :

DRUGS. Speed gives you power and focus, the cornerstone of any successful endeavor. I'm talking cocaine, adderal, etc. Psychedelics can crack your head open and show you new stuff.

WORKING OUT. Raises your life energy level, upon which everything depends. Gets you high. Great antidepressant.

MEDITATION. Like working out except for a different part of you. You can really blow up your life in a good way. New powers and freedoms.

Check out this thread, there are lots of great advice in it. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5378462

30? pffff ;)

It's not your last chance. You are not a loser. That dichotomy (the one between losers and winners) is false.

There is no such thing as 'losers' and 'winners.' Life is not actually a competition, despite what the marketplace and Western culture want you to believe. Every single one of us dies - we all lose in the end.

Don't pile the stakes so high. The more pressure there is, the more stressed you will be, and the less likely you are to succeed. Just do your best and hopefully things will work out.

Start failing hard. Pick a thing which you know you are going to fail at. Don't choose small or sane. Choose ridiculous and impossible. On top of that you have to fail within a deadline, say 12 weeks. Then go at this thing with all your might. The objective is to fail with dignity. Try it. It will snap you out of your comfort zone and jolt you into frenzied action.

Good Luck!

Also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog

It's good that you're not satisified with what you've now and reailze some of the important things missed out. Everyone feels it in the same way at any point of time in their life.

This question reminds me of another interesting post I came across Quora. Must be worth reading - https://www.quora.com/Life-Advice/I-am-in-my-late-20s-and-fe...

You seem to view yourself and your life as a failure, as a "loser", and think you have a long-term record of failures.

Such an ingrained self-image is not going to be magically changed by any advice from a web forum or self-help book. Even were you to find what you consider "success" (which is most likely merely monetary), I doubt it would really make much of an impact in the long run. Take a look at the countless lottery winners who wound up miserable or worse, or the startup founder suicides that have been in the news lately. Wealth and "success" did not solve their problems in the long run.

If you are really serious about changing your life, I strongly recommend taking up therapy with a therapist you respect and trust, and be prepared and committed to doing a lot of hard work on yourself, with their help.

Though CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)[1] and other short-term, "evidence based"[2] therapies are very popular and nearly the only kind insurance companies want to pay for these days, I personally look at them as a superficial bandaids[3][4], and antidepressants as emergency tourniquetes at best.[5] My own inclination is towards something like Logotherapy[6] (which focuses on helping you to find meaning in your life), Jungian[7], Transpersonal[8] and Humanistic[9] therapies.. so that's where I'd personally steer you to.

But whatever therapy you pick, it's most important to find a therapist you respect and trust. If you can't respect and open up to your therapist, or if you can't commit to lots of often painful hard work with them (because looking deeply and honestly in to yourself is often painful and difficult), your time spent in therapy will be wasted. Try as many therapists as you need to to find a good one.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_behavioral_therapy

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_medicine

[3] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_medicine#Limita...

[4] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_medicine#In_psy...

[5] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antidepressant#Controversy

[6] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logotherapy

[7] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytical_psychology

[8] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transpersonal_psychology

[9] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanistic_psychology

What helped me was the realization that depression is only a hallucination triggered by the brain, after that realization there was nothing left to feed that depression and it deflated.

Exactly, rationalization is one of the most effective and powerful technics in fighting all kinds of phobias, neurosis, panic attacks, etc. Once you know what is really going on, why do you feel that way and what is causing it, it's instantly much easier to deal with the problem.

What worked for me: Zen Meditation. Find something that works for you - CTB, Meditation, Therapy, etc. etc. - there are a lot of resources out there.

Go to a Tranactional Analysis therapist. The will help you figure out how you stop your self from succeeding. Your language is a clue. The term try, psychologically speaking means "Permission to fail". TA is simple and quick. I am a therapist and I can vouch for their model being easy to understand, effective and quick. Your own desire and clarity will be very useful to help speed your learnings along. Good luck in your quest.

> I don't have too much time left. My 20ies are gone.

In the first decade of life, you are who your parent want you to be.

In the second decade of life, you are who your friends want you to be.

In your third decade of life, you discover who you want to be.

In the fourth decade of life, you become who you want to be.

You've got all the time left. You've only just started.

I'm also 30, and only now do I feel that I'm emotionally and intellectually mature enough to claim my life as my own.

Good luck.


Lower your expectations. Be grateful for your health and living in a developed country like Switzerland. You have awesome mountains there.

Startups are an escapist fantasy for millions of people. I would guess 99% of web startups make no money. Most HN readers are in the same situation as you, but that doesn't make them losers. Enjoy life and think of your startup like a lottery ticket.

Take baby steps. Whatever you do, start with something small. A project you can finish in not more than 2 months would be ideal.

If you want to establish a business, don't invent something new, pick an existing business and compete. Pick a business that interest you, and you think you are passionate enough to stay with it. Running a business is a marathon and not a sprint.

Hello HN

The following Chinese Proverb will fit you :


What really matters if you can grab the opportunity when it comes ... cause "opportunity" crops up when you not expected ! So prepare yourself, listen to your heart, and when it comes - grab it!

the full Chinese proverb illustrated @ http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_53729c5e0102eeel.html

Good Luck !


I suggest the book "Release your brakes" for removing some of the self limiting beliefs that are coming through on your post.

I used to always think I was too old, had missed by chance, the ridiculous thing was at the time I was like 20. Not I'm much older and realize that thinking is counter productive and untrue as long as your alive you can improve your life.

Just saying, this would be a great way to embarrass someone. I could think of a few friends I'd love to humiliate by posting to HN -- "I'm a loser. { } My name is _____."


"I don't have too much time left. My 20ies are gone. "

There's no question that many of Steve Jobs' greatest innovations and ideas came late in his life. Many great people are late bloomers, and its by selection bias that you think most people achieve greatness at early age.

You should have an email address or something else so that we could reach out to you directly :)

Is the TortoiseSVN development team trolling?

That's what I thought too when I saw the name. No idea http://tortoisesvn.net/stefan_kueng.html

Yeah -- I am wondering if possible troll?

I think it's unlikely that there'd be more than one Stefan Keung in Switzerland coming to hacker news.

So if OP is who he says he is, then he's seriously delusional right now. TortoiseSVN is a huge accomplishment and there's no way someone who's contributed so much should feel this way.

> I think it's unlikely that there'd be more than one Stefan Keung in Switzerland coming to hacker news.

It's possible that it's a namesake, I suppose ... but I agree with you if it is the same Stefan. Trolling might be a bit of a stretch, but if creating TortoiseSVN counts as "loser" territory, there's a lot of HN users that are far worse!

Good luck Stefan! Don't think like every is going bad or this is your last chance. 30 is not a old age, you have still many years to live, many years to succeed. Keep on trying, buddy.

Other than that, you don't have to be the best programmer ever to build something, just try to do your best and start creating something small and build on it.

Don't be so hard on yourself. "Building a business" is one of the most difficult adventures you can take in life. Stop worrying about how much time you have too, that is ridiculous. I have family friends in retirement (65+ years old) that are building incredible little niche companies. What do you want to build?

> I don't have too much time left. My 20ies are gone

Sorry, but that made me laugh. You just turned 30. Talk to anyone over 40, 50, or 60, and ask them whether they wouldn't love to be 30 again, just to have so much time ahead of them.

Point being, you have plenty of time left. Time is not your problem -- motivation and focus are.

Think of success like a staircase.

You can't reach the top in a single bound.

You have to take small steps and lots of them all the while measuring your progress or lack thereof.

I'm like you. I've dabbled in things and made some small successes here and there and am constantly learning.

I'm in my late 30s now and will never give up. That's the guaranteed way to fail.

Keep in touch with someone that will push you, and push him or her too. I am great at procrastination and could use with extra pushing. I have some people that kick me up the butt when I need it, which is nice. Do you have any kind of IM? If so, shoot me an email (see my profile).

HN, here I am. My name is Stefan Kueng, I'm 30 years old, based in Switzerland. For better or for worse. This is my last chance to get my life back on track. If anyone else reads this, wish me good luck. You'll have plenty of chances my young friend :), but get to work!

I'm in mid-late 20s with 9-to-5 job and in my case this is definitely not way to long and happy life. There is a lot of stress, bosses do wrong decisions all the time, small salary. So yeah, my own personal business is just matter of time. I'm working on it in my free time.

You're still dreaming. Get the 9-5 and do this on the side. Most businesses fail, and most of the ones that do succeed were inherited from a family member. The odds are against you are terrible, especially for somone intimidated by pointers--that's the cold hard reality.

Don't think about the past, concentrate on the future, and live in the moment. You can't change the past, but you could change the way you feel and act right now, this minute, hour, day, make your time useful and positive now, it will build.

I respect you putting yourself out there and wish you well on your journey.

I run CPAP.com and work with several other businesses.

If you find yourself stuck on strategy or business operations stuff, please feel free to give me a skype (johnnywgoodman) or email (in profile).

Feeling like an idiot is a big part of learning. The key is to persist with whatever you are learning and doing. It's not too late, but you need to start making changes now so that you don't find yourself where you are now in 10 years.

Whereabouts in Switzerland are you? There's plenty of stuff going on here.. certainly if you picked something like Ruby, and became proficient, you'd be able to find work..

(edit: I realise finding work probably isn't the focus, but.. just saying)

Just do it. Get started, make a move. Thinking and reading advice about it on HN won't get you anywhere without action. You are not a loser, but you've got to stop thinking and start doing. (I've been there, hence the tip)

Your from Switzerland who's in one of the most financially rewarding industries of the modern age. Sorry but reeks of too much 1stworldproblem for me.

Plus you're a male, I assume, so you don't have menopause. Stop worrying about your age.

> If anyone else reads this, wish me good luck.

You don't need luck. Just put your sails up, and the winds will come sooner or later.

I.e. you can't win if you're not in the game. Get in the game. Do it every day.

You could try an easier language than C++. Also I've "failed" at nearly every business I've tried. I take a break, don't repeat the same mistakes and try again. Chin up and try to enjoy the things you can control.

OP, read this post all the way to the end, let me know what you think:


I can recommend you reading this article: http://sivers.org/15-years And I believe it will give you some hope and you will believe that you aren't a fail.

That's awesome Stefan. Hats off to you and wish you great luck in your next assignment. Wish everything goes right.. With you.. and will be there for any help that i can do....at panbhatt at gmail

Stefan, I operate an online school to teach people web development. Send me an email and let's see how we can help you. If you have the desire, I'm confident we can teach you to launch a product.

Good luck, I know you feel. I'm almost 30 and starting to feel the same. Then, let's do something to change this.

Feel free to contact me if you need something, if there is something that I can do to help you.

My hat's off to you for being so vulnerable and courageous. I don't have any advice but wish you the best and thank you for sharing this thread. I can relate to so much of what you have said.

Keep in mind that Ray Croc didn't start McDonalds until he was 50.

Glad you mentioned this, the point often gets missed...Colonel Sanders didn't start KFC till his 40's. Dangerfield didn't get into comedy(again) until he was in his mid 40's. I wish we could find some examples in the tech arena, to break this under 30 stereotype... Actually one person comes to mind, Larry Ellison, he found Oracle in 1977 ~age 33.

Good luck! I wish you the best. You can do it! I have a similar sense that I need to do my best right now to set the remainder of my life on a good trajectory. I just turned 27.

Get over to the nearest meetup, hachathon, or tech conference. Help out in any small way, learn a few important skills more thoroughly, and slowly build up traction from there.

Good luck with your endeavors!

I thought I would share something kind of relevant: http://paulgraham.com/reminder.html

Oh dear God, 30 already? You've got one foot in the grave!

People start things when they're 75, man, and succeed. The best time in your life to start anything is now.

Good luck man. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there like that.

(by the way, you live in one of the best countries in the world, that's gotta provide an added boost)

Damn! I remember getting drunk last night, but can't recall writing this post. It sounds like me, except that I have a few years on my hands before I hit 30.

Best wishes with everything. I admire how brave you are to take responsibility for what's not working in your life. So many of us can't do that.

From the sound of it you need to focus on getting your life together and worry about programming and starting a company later(if at all).

Like others have said, it sounds like you may be depressed. Untreated depression can lead to serious problems. Please talk to your doctor.

Fucking HN... Now every people tends to think "My 20ies are gone. I'm screwed" WRONG! Keep on working on your dreams till you make it.

Probably not very constructive: http://xkcd.com/1027/ - but true for me.

Good luck. Less procrastination, less reading of "useful" news, less reinventing the wheels. More concentration on result.

No great work is done in 30 years. Important steps are made a few years at a time, but what counts happens in a lifetime.

I learned alone at Hackernews and codeacademy/treehouse tons of stuff.Which i used in a project. You can do it too...

Me too, those are great for learning alone.

I'm 35 and still think my best is still ahead of me, don't compare yourself to others, compare yourself to yourself.

Good luck!

Some of us never quite make that leap. Hope your landing is a good one! And if it isn't, well, do it again anyway.

Dear Stefan Kueng, please read "Mars" of your compatriot Fritz Zorn. Please do that. You will understand why.

All the best.

Being a loser is a good thing. Every success I've had is just me failing a little less hard each time :)

Good luck man, even though you have the community behind you, ultimately it's still you vs. the world.

There's more time than life, buddy. Get up yourself and start trying everything so you find your path.

This is totally what you need to read.


hey stefan, fellow swiss guy here - not sure what your intention with this post is. I can wish you all the good luck you want, though I'm sure that's not gonna be much of a help to you. If you wanna chat, just contact me - you'll find my email, etc. in my profile.

OP might be a desperate narcissist. If he is the best thing he can do might be to give up being an entrepreneur, and find get into contributing to (but not starting, at least at first) open source.

I didn't see his post as being very humble. The humble thing would have been to bring his expectations more in line with reality, not to melodramatically call himself a loser.

So many posts, I cannot read them all however, great post and great answer by Ed. Good luck with everything.


Hi! I am in Switzerland, Genf. Drop me a line if you are in for a coffee on the lake sometime.

Good luck Stefan. Just keep trying. I've had lots of failures, but ya just gotta keep at it.

The good news is the track you want to put your life on doesn't really exist, so chill out.

If you have good business ideas, zeeder.ch might be able to help you and get you connected.

Come on man!I am coding near 3 years.But nothing done.Hope we make progress together :)

Be agile, I thank myself for being that way;

Join a Startup if you cannot create one.

you're not a loser. Sometime I feel like a loser too, but sometime I don't feel that way. It's something that stick to your identity at some points and falloff at other points.

I wish you good luck! I also like you. Different,I made in China.

You're not a loser, just human. Hope you make it happen bud!

Now I believe in you. :) Do you already have concrete plans?

Meh, iron deeds are better than concrete plans. But smelting goes first. And this is what happening with him now.

My dream is live in Switzerland! So... A Chinese Coder...

Stop posting on Hacker News and start getting shit done.

Good luck.

I am in the same boat, keep rowing, I know I am.

Same here, over 40 and Swiss. Let's do someting.

come on!after reading your experence,i thought a lot,you are a man with dreaming,you will be succeed i believe,work hard.

Dont give up. Dont ever give up. Good Luck

consider that you've live in a area which wont let you died as hungry, so why not just do it?

get rich or die trying... good luck or just work hard and go home, nothing's wrong with that

Get it done man, good luck!

My friend:

"To be who we are, first let's forget who we think we are" - Paulo Coehlo.

Your thoughts and feelings are like your body. Don't feed them well, or bathe them regularly, and your thoughts and feelings will smell as bad as your body if you don't shower for a few days, or weeks.

http://Joel.is has some fantastic articles about the inner development of an entrepreneur. Ultimately what you do will only be as good as you were, internally and externally at any point in your life. Make it your life's work to become better every day and everything else will.


Don't be so focused on a destination. What no one tells you is the only destination worth pursuing is creating a mindset for any journey you undertake.

After over a decade pursuing entrepreneurship, some scraps of knowledge I've learnt the hard way..

An entrepreneur must remember:

- Building and practice discipline in anything you need to do is the master root skill of every success or thing you'll ever want, or come across. Be disciplined and you'll be better ready to exploit opportunities that come.

- Hard work is not special, it's entry to get a chance to pursue what you want. Hard work isn't in hours, it's in effectiveness in creating value.

- Positivity (negativity gets nothing done)

- Optimism (blind doubt, and blind faith are both bad, but you are in the business of creating value)

- Creating value - make stuff people actually want and want badly enough to pay for regularly

- To always cultivate a healthy inner dialogue (no one speaks to us like we do, you must stop)

- learn to be a friend to your future and present self in all your actions and thoughts

- Don't fake it till you make it. It's for phony nobody who are trying to fit in instead of standing out. Instead keep it real, honest, and you scare away the phonies and will attract those who will always have your back. the phonies become your friend again

- Don't be afraid to stand out and be remarkable. Literally, remark-able. Do stuff that can be remarked about.

- Cultivate and keep a mindset of possibility (innovation and creativity live in possibility)

- The freedom to fail is the ultimate freedom to learn and grow in some ways. Insignificance is the freedom to be free and make those positive dents in the universe within yourself and around you.

- Avoid all doubt worshippers (those who believe their own doubts are so insurmountable that they start spreading that to others so they doubt themselves)

- Be positively unreasonable - all innovation comes from it.

- Be positively non-conforming - all innovation comes from it.

- Become and stay self-directed - an entrepreneur's only skill is to find, learn and do what needs to be done

- Do what everyone's doing, and you get what everyone else gets (a lot of bsing, faking it till you make it, "going hard" and then "going home")

- Understand you're in this for the long haul, much longer than you think

- Knowing you are doing this for the long haul, understand the entrepreneur

- Leadership is actually about leading yourself, not others

- The better you understand yourself, the better you'll be able to understand others, including customers and their needs

You call your 20's a failure. If you're going down and failing, why bother being affected by what you think of yourself, or what others might think? Writing this post, as you've said is proof you care. It's just a matter of when you get disturbed enough in a positive way to no longer tolerate how you're being, and to be better.

Don't decide that your doubts are insurmountable that you feel a failure. This is entirely up to your perception, interpretation, and ultimately acceptance. Question your perception. Question your interpretation. Accept nothing but better from yourself through developing the skills above.

My belief: I'm going to do this for as long as I want and it will all be on my neck one way or the other to become better than anything I've imagined.

We're only a failure if it seems easier that way. Failure is not learning positive lessons from your experiences to move forward. Failure is quitting instead of changing your approach and improving yourself to get a better response.

Instead of dwelling on failure (much like dwelling on anti-war instead of pro-peace) let's think success through building and keeping a positive nature.

Success beings with you, from the inside, out. Our thinking when fed to be negative will not help. Our feelings when fed to be negative will not help.

Conquer the mind, and you very well may conquer the world, both within, and around you. :)

Ps., Think this post was about you? It's a reminder to myself, because no-one's actually alone in this.

All you gotta do is try.

dot_baiki@hotmail.com lass uns etwas machen. Good Luck!

Good luck!

Jonathan Swift started to write when he was 53. And delivered a hell lot of worthy software, rewriting the wetware of his generation.

You have plenty of time, man.

I want to give you hope but to be blunt, if your 30 an not an established coder your not going to be. I started coding when I was 11 (dumb stuff of course, but actual coding), went to university and got a CS degree, now I'm in my late 30s and I have been coding for a good ~25 years, ~12 professionally (as in day job).

You have to compete with people like me, people who enjoy coding, people who go to work then come home to work on their own stuff. It's just not going to happen. Granted you can get a more "noobish" job BUT your going to have to compete with people in their early twenties who will work longer hours, less money and complain less. And these are people that want this as a career and are willing to learn/endure considerbaly more bullshit.

I'm not saying don't go for it, but it's going to be a hard road. And if you fail, which is likely, your going to be 40 with no "life track" as you put it.

Think long and hard. Don't let the non-programmers here who are "social-hackers" and every unbelievably stupid variation of the now-ruined word "hacker" tell you that you can do it. Seriously, your against the odds here, not impossible, good ideas are VERY important, but if you cannot do them yourself don't bother.

I've been coding since age 14. I got my first real programming job at age 16 writing medical software. Sure, I wasn't as good as people twice my age... but $20/hour at age 16 in 1986 wasn't bad.

You know what? I quit being amazed that other people could learn to code a long time ago. I've seen children, old people, blind people, and even almost illiterate people learn to code. There was always someone telling them it was a waste of time or they didn't have the aptitude because if they did, they already would be able to program.

To be a coder, all it takes is writing code that works (what works at ABC Widget Co might be different than Mountain View Startup Co).

When I was asked to manage, I learned that less experienced coders are often more productive than more older, more experienced ones. I also learned that some of the best and most productive of all came in a 8 and left at 4:30 and flat out refused to work stupid hours. They had lives and they learned to work smarter and more intensely than others so they could go home to whatever it was they really loved to do.

If someone wants to be a programmer when they grow up, even if they are 40 or 50 when they start the journey... encourage them. As for qisine... I wish him well on his journey. Programming has been good to me.

Your advice is rainbows, ponies and nice and all but he's not asking "should I start programming", hes asking more along the lines of "should I start a career in programming".

Two completely different paths, getting into this profession or any technical profession, where you just can't do it on a whim is going to be a challenge at any age.

I've been a senior developer for a long time, and I keep reading this bullshit on HN about "hey, no coding skills, start a internet startup!" and "I'm in marketing and I started a wordpress blog about hacking and now I'm an entrepreneur". You want to get into coding, listen to the real coders, PERIOD.

Not only is this irrelevant to a hacker-entrepreneur it's also somewhat irrelevant to a simple programming career. The sheer dearth of good programming talent makes it a fairly easy field to break into if you're highly motivated. You will undoubtedly be a lot better after 10-20 years of experience than you will just starting, but I've seen countless examples of kids who are more capable and better resources than some more dispassionate experienced programmers. It's such a fast moving field, and so diverse - that the opportunities for green talent are massive... far better than most other technical fields.

Why does he have to compete with you? What if his goal isn't to work a 9-5, making a middling salary like most programmers? (hint: he never stated what his actual goals are). You do not need to be a smug programmer to make something that turns into a multi-million dollar business.

With all due respect, you are speaking like an employee, and the OP explicitly stated that his intention is to be a founder. It's undoubtedly true that coding skills can matter in the early days, especially if you're a solo founder and don't have a technical partner, but if you're a founder and your company has any significance then your abilities to manage others, stay motivated, create detailed and inspired yet feasible product specifications, pivot when necessary to meet market demand, effectively & cheaply acquire customers, create distribution channels, market your company, etc. are vastly more important than your ability to code. The employees do the bulk of the coding.

Almost 200 bs comments and your's the only reasonable one. Nice ratio. But it always was like this here in HN. People engulf themselves with all this media hype of success and the 'i am a precious-jewel that just needs to try to be successful' attitude they actually start to believe it. Only later to be mind blown when reality sinks in.

Exactly. This guy has no chance!

Really? That makes me sad.

Chill Stefan, then just get to work doing something you like. You've got skills to work in a great industry, living in a great place. Drop the negative inner voices, work hard, enjoy the fact that you've already got it made.

> I don't have too much time left. My 20ies are gone.

Little over-dramatic there buddy. You're still incredibly young. You're very likely only about one third of the way through life.

That kind of over-dramatic, unrealistic thinking is not constructive.

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