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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!




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