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Not Having A Real Job (mkrecny.com)
233 points by mkrecny on May 16, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 126 comments

Let me get this straight.

Your solution to feeling socially isolated, having no fulfilling hobbies outside of work, and your apparent unhappiness, despite your success, is to open a co-working space?

Folks, this is as clear as an indictment of the culture as you get.

I work out of a co-working space. They're great. I am slowly working my way up the informal foosball rankings. And I'm not particularly good at living life, but we're still working at the financial stability part.

There is more to life than work, even if you were blessed with huge natural reservoirs of motivation. Learn to paint. Learn to cook. Learn another language. Write fiction, investigate some non-fiction, learn how to take beautiful photographs (pro-tip: your iPhone is an amazing camera), READ BOOKS, start playing a team sport in an adult rec league, go camping, if you can afford it GO TRAVELLING, oh my god you have the money and total flex but you won't go travelling?, VOLUNTEER at the homeless shelter, at the library, at the office of a political cause you believe in, INTERACT WITH OTHER HUMAN BEINGS [in a setting outside of "lol tech startups" once in a while].

Why does everyone say 'travel' or 'volunteer' when these questions get asked?

I'm not being rhetorical or sarcastic. I genuinely don't know. I can only assume that it's something I'm missing and everyone else just 'gets' without having to say it outloud (this has happened) or ... something else?

I've done both and I can't say I really cared for travelling since it's such a hassle. As for volunteering, which I've done, it feels exactly like work -- except even less people wanted to talk than before. Do people who give this advice actually go volunteer?


Yelling at people doesn't help. It kind of feels like people are telling a person to just cheer up if they're clinically depressed.

I think that the problems here, and their solutions, are a lot more complicated than anyone gives them credit for.

Both travel and volunteering have to do with connecting with other people in the most quintessential ways.

Volunteering has to do with helping people in need. When you do that, you realize the scope of how much fellow humans are in need. As social creatures, we humans can't but feel humbled and feel that there is still something meaningful worth striving for -- a sense of purpose. Given that we are all tech people here, it's safe to assume that daily needs and 'creature comforts' are so easily secured that we easily don't feel that sense of purpose as it pertains to ourselves. Volunteering connects with others who inherently have a sense of purpose, since they struggle, and the act of volunteering is an act of committing yourself to the purpose of helping fellow humans in need.

Traveling opens your mind to new people and new cultures. And those ideas can get you to re-think what you believe, and you can grow as a person. You can also learn things to make the world around you better. What is the culture around education in Finland, and why is their ed. system so good? If Americans increasing want public transit, what does European rail transit have to each us? How could Bus Rapid Transit pioneered in S. America be even better? How can some cultures in Africa and India be a peek into human history 4000 years ago? Does South India's plant-based cuisines have the tastiest answer to current diet and environment movements in the US?

We tech people & entrepreneurs are taught to build things that people want, so talk to users to find out what they want. We are also taught to leverage other experiences and ideas to inspire solutions to our problems at hand. It should be obvious, now, that both of those ideas are directly related to volunteering and traveling, respectively.

> Volunteering has to do with helping people in need.

I've volunteered before, as I mentioned. Given what you wrote I think you may have missed that sentence. The way you write it, you come across with less warmth and more smug; like you're talking to a dog that speaks english. I may not understand what's so magical about volunteering or travel but I'm not heartless. I imagine it's a mis-understanding, but you might want to consider how you present this.

> And those ideas can get you to re-think what you believe, and you can grow as a person.

This also has a similar issue. Do you mean that if I don't travel I'm less of a human, to be held in contempt? That seems to be the implication. Again, I think it's a miscommunication. Most of the things you mention don't require me to be physically over there.

I didn't get the same feeling as you. I received it with quite a bit of warmth, with a little bit of wistfulness? Try picturing Gandalf saying the words.

What did you do for volunteering? I'm sure each type has their pros and cons. For me, I once volunteered to help abused children. One of our activities was to help them create a board filled with drawing of people that they can trust. We went through it with all the kids afterwards, adding where they can find them. Helping, no, empowering those kids was the most fulfilling feeling I've felt, and this was almost 7 years ago (I'm 22).

Unfortunately, I haven't traveled (world trip coming after I can freelance), but I hope that it will reveal more about myself as a person as I put myself into new situations across the world.

The sibling comment said it better than I would have -- I wrote that with warmth and a little wistfulness. :-) Of course, this is print/internet, where we don't have the benefit of audio and facial cues.

All I'm saying is that humans, as social creatures, like to feel connected to people. Different people feel comfortable with different manners of connectedness. Volunteering or traveling are not the only ways of connecting to people or broadening your mind on how the human experience can be. But to me, they represent the most direct forms.

Or inversely, you know, it's not the same to be Facebook friends with someone as it is to actually regularly spend / talk with that person. It is different to experience a place by reading about it, by visiting on a tour, and by living there for 2 months. (Which is probably why I especially think about the environmental problems of food production and food packaging -- all my time spent in Tamil Nadu / S. India over the years especially heightens my awareness of the potential to solve that problem that I wouldn't experience otherwise.)

"Growing" as a person was referring to collecting more / varied experiences... you know, the whole broaden horizons & learn-new-things thing. I don't think, however, that if I say that learning and education are inherently good things, that it would somehow imply that more educated people are 'better' than less educated people. All it means is, with all things being equal, taking advantage of an opportunity to learn is good, and the more you learn, the better.

Do people who give this advice actually go volunteer?

I do, thank you very much.

Volunteering feels like work because it is work. But it has important special properties. You aren't paid, so you aren't beholden. You get outside your regular circles and meet more people. You are likely making a positive impact, which not everyone feels they make at their day job.

Certain types of volunteer work lets you do a hard day's labor, stand back and enjoy the feeling and admire the results, and then go back to your regular job the next day. In other words, you aren't trapped in hard labor every day.

Oh, and one of my favorite parts: it is something different. It's nice to, one or two days a week, do work that is totally different from the work you do 9-5.

Why does everyone say 'travel' or 'volunteer' when these questions get asked?

<Hansonian cynicism> Because of the signals it sends about them. It says that they have high openness, are altruistic and have high enough confidence to go to strange places. </Hansonian cynicism>

Seriously, most people giving advice are (mostly subconsciously) doing it primarily to make themselves look good, or get the warm glow of being higher status than the person they are advising. This goes a long way to explaining why people are so eager to give advice, and why so much of it isn't good. Lots of good advice would be very unwise to give publicly because it sounds bad because it's cynical.

If you want to help people donate money to the Against Malaria Foundation and then go look at their video page [http://www.againstmalaria.com/Videos.aspx] while reminding yourself that your money has gone a substantial portion of the way to saving a life ($800 per life, IIRC).

Happiness resaerch suggest people get more satisfaction out of travelling than expriential happiness, looking back on it people are glad they did it.

Volunteering and traveling both put you in a position you are not normally in. They will give you new ways to look at things, from how you might be acting as a customer (volunteering) to how much work goes on behind the scenes (volunteering) and how different people live, work, and play (travel). It's mind-expansion. It's fun. It's rewarding. You make new friends. You find new things to love. Your perceptions change. You become a different person.

Of course, you can also volunteer and travel and get absolutely nothing out of it. Depends.

Speaking as a sometimes-introvert, it's very, very easy to go travelling and not meet anyone.

Yep, if you can't mingle in your home town, you won't mingle in a foreign town.

I think traveling brings a sense of anonymity that, for some, can lift a lot of social pressures.

To throw my anecdote out there, I find that I have no trouble at all talking to people on the road and making friends but I can't do that at all when I'm at home. I have very few friends at home but when I'm out traveling I find myself opening up conversations with perfect strangers. I've made some terrific friends doing that.

Just wish I could make myself do it at home, too.

In contrast, I have learned that I am just as shy in the middle of nowhere as I am at home.

The difference is that you have to talk to people at some point when you're traveling, only if to ask for directions.


My record is three weeks on the road with no conversation deeper than ordering a meal or checking in to a hotel. And I'm not really all that introverted.

I did then use gumtree to find some folks to travel with, but still, just saying 'travel' is not really a cure-all for introversion.

Try travelling on a budget. A really really low budget. You'll have to bum lifts, work casual labour, sleep in less than luxurious places... If you aren't making meaningful human contact after a month on a starting budget of $100, then you probably never will.

Begging for rides and sleeping in stys seem worse than total isolation to me.

I also can't imagine someone who is an extreme introvert would be able to pick up odd cash jobs really easily, and also don't seem like great ways to have extended contact with other people.

I'm an introvert and had a great time when I was younger travelling with no money. It's not just meeting other people, I would say one of the most satisfying things about travelling is the risk. Risk is scary, it wakes you up, makes you feel alive. Being comfortable is wonderful, but if you are always comfortable I feel like a part of you goes to sleep. I was biking home on my normal comfortable route the other day and starting improvising another way home and got fairly seriously lost. I was late and it rained on me, but I felt happier.

"felt happier" when you got home, right?

It's an interesting point that risk makes you feel alive, I've experienced it myself and you feel brilliant afterwards.

Once I got trapped in a wave machine as a child and was being spun around underwater, but kept down the panic and managed to work out how to get out again. I was probably underwater for a total of 90-120 seconds. People were going crazy when I came back up but once I'd got my breath back I felt incredible.

I wonder if it's possible to apply this sort of risk-reward feeling to earning money? Is this what people feel like when they put everything into a startup? Money just sort of seems so mundane when compared to physical activity.

I felt happier when I was out in it too. One of my happiest memories is sitting under a tree in a thunderstorm eating muesli. I was in a country where I didn't speak the language and I had little money and no place to stay. I sat under that tree crunching away and being incredibly happy that I was having an adventure. My new resolution is to stop being so comfortable and get out in the world some more, even if it hurts.

> Volunteering and traveling both put you in a position you are not normally in.

Volunteering is work. Sometimes hard work, back breaking even. I don't do it for fun, and certainly not the pay. I did it a few times to try to see what it is people get from it, and while it was nice to help people in need, I don't see it as you listed. I'll probably do it again soon because someone has to do the work.

> It's mind-expansion. It's fun. It's rewarding. You make new friends. You find new things to love. Your perceptions change. You become a different person.

I don't see it as, "Man, you blew my mind" type expansion (what ever that means). In fact, a lot of what you just said could be applied to just plain work.

Again, either people are getting something from it that I don't 'get' without having someone enunciate exactly what it is or people who give this advice don't really volunteer, or something that needs explaining to me.

Firstly, since I don't want to spam replies, a comment on an earlier post:

> "Yelling at people doesn't help. It kind of feels like people are telling a person to just cheer up if they're clinically depressed."

Except it's completely different. "Go interact with human beings" is actionable advice, he even listed a whole bunch of ways by which this interaction can be achieved. This is very different than a general, un-actionable "just get better, duh".

To do what he suggests you literally just follow his post. His advice is IMO relevant - just like when I'm feeling frustrated at work my coworker tells me to go take a walk. It's directly actionable, and it works.

> "I did it a few times to try to see what it is people get from it"

I think this is at least part of the problem.

This is sort of like saying "I picked up a basketball a few times, I just don't get it", or "I sat in front of a piano and hit some keys, but I still don't get it". Volunteering is not some kind of religious experience where you go and 30 minutes later you've received the Divine Revelation of Why This Matters. There is no magical threshold where you will suddenly be dumbstruck with All The Volunteering Secrets.

If you want to grok volunteering, you need to have more than a glancing blow with it. You will not collect the rewards on the first day, or the second, or the third.

I don't think there is anything more to it. I think it is a matter of personality or perhaps something along the lines of "neural wiring."

I feel pretty much the same as you do - for stuff like this the juice just isn't worth the squeeze. I think that for some people the juice just tastes better - maybe they have "taste buds" that I lack or maybe I have a much better imagination such that the difference between the actual "juice" and just thinking about the juice is much smaller. FWIW, I also get no pleasure out of physical activity, no runner's high and after working with a physical trainer 4 days a week for two years getting into shape and dropping 75lbs to a normal weight I felt no better than I did when I was fat - the only difference that was perceptible to me was that my old clothes were too loose. Maybe that's all related, maybe not.

fwiw I never got any pleasure out of physical training either - lifting weights, running, etc is just pure tedium for me.

I do, however, get a surprising emotional boost from physical work. Axe, shovel, sledgehammer, wheelbarrow. I don't so it all that regularly, and the effects would no doubt wear off pretty damn fast if it was my day job, but when I do it invariably puts a smile on my face

Have you ever learned another language, or lived in another country for an extended period of time?

Often when people say 'travel' they mean immerse yourself in another culture. One of the deepest learning experiences you can have that forever changes your view of the world and your own culture.

You may have already had that. But if you haven't, understand that travel is as varied a thing as reading. There is a vast difference between War and Peace and a blog post.

> Have you ever learned another language, or lived in another country for an extended period of time.

Yes and yes.

> Often when people say 'travel' they mean immerse yourself in another culture. One of the deepest learning experiences you can have that forever changes your view of the world and your own culture.

I think the loose definition might be part of the problem. Some people might say that going to the west coast for a week and telling everyone how they touched a whale was like being born again vs living in another country for a month is confusing, and doesn't seem like the same problem. Still, having lived in another country where I could vaguely speak the language didn't seem so magical.

The definition is loose because everyone does it differently, and finds something different.

You should look into Buddhism, or Yoga (which is many many things, only one of which is doing poses on the floor). What most people never understand is that there is a lot of introspection, thinking, reflecting, noticing, altering, and understanding that you should be doing.

One example: by concentrating on your breathing (and I mean really noticing everything about every aspect of the action of taking a breath and what happens before, during, after, etc etc) you will learn things. You will learn how your body works. You will learn what it sounds like when you breathe. You will learn how deep a breath you can take. You will learn how long you can hold it. You will learn how your posture can affect it. You will learn how your breath affects your immediate surrounding. How it can affect your mood. How it can alter sensation. How it can be changed. How it can be tuned. And a million more things, just from spending time thinking about and tinkering with your breathing.

You can take this one concept of constantly noticing, evaluating, and learning about all the possible aspects of one single thing, and begin to do the same thing as you travel, or as you volunteer, or as you do any thing at all.

This is why the concepts of travel, volunteer, etc are so broad. There is an infinite number of possible things to influence your brain, which will alter every possible thing about you (the way you think, talk, speak, act, etc). But you can't just stand in a room and wait for enlightenment. It's an active process. You must seek out change by taking everything in and thinking about it. It doesn't happen overnight.

Reading your description of all the things you can learn about your own breathing reminds me of a line in a Seinfeld episode when Tia the model turns to Jerry and says: "I've never met a man who knew so much about nothing"

Reading your comments I have to ask - what IS magical to you?

If volunteering feels like work, than you are doing it wrong. I remember the day I volunteer for a local video game convention. That week-end I did more hours than I would be ready to do for work. I also meet great people. You could argue that I liked it because it was a video game convention... but it's my point. Maybe I'm wrong but I think if you volunteer but you don't like what you do, then maybe you shouldn't be doing it (except if your goal was to do a good deed, but in this conversation, it's not the goal).

However I don't think this is actually a solution for anyone. It worked well for me because these people were like me... and this is exactly why I think his idea of open co-working space is amazing. I hope to see more co-working space like that.

Because most people are on the bandwagon that travelling and volunteering is the thing that enriches their lives. Personally, I can see where they're coming from, but for me, karaoke, creative writing, and dancing are a lot more engaging and fun... But it just so happens almost everything is more fun with people

The original comment didn't dismiss creative activities- it was the first thing suggested!

> As for volunteering, which I've done, it feels exactly like work -- except even less people wanted to talk than before.

I've volunteered in the past for a local community garden. It's physically demanding work, but it was great stepping away from all the technology in my home, not have to worry about "leading", "driving", or "innovating" like I do at work, and just take simple orders to do grunt work with the end goal of making a community better.

Sure, I enjoy my day job and going home to watch Netflix. But variety makes for a richer life.

> I've volunteered in the past for a local community garden. It's physically demanding work, but it was great stepping away from all the technology in my home, not have to worry about "leading", "driving", or "innovating" like I do at work, and just take simple orders to do grunt work with the end goal of making a community better.

When I was in college I was often taking 18-20 credit hours per semester while working 35 hours a week in an office job where I had enormous autonomy. I had a life outside of that as well, but I was still restless.

So I got a second job at Target, perhaps 20-25 hours a week. I can empathize with the need to not be in charge and let someone else give the orders. I happily did whatever I was asked and let my mind completely shut off. The extra money was nice but not particularly significant. Eventually they talked about promoting me and so I quit. :-)

Afterward, when I was feeling stressed out, I could mentally travel back to those evenings and weekends and "shut down".

Travelling really opens your eyes to the way the rest of the world works. You will find that your little bubble is such a tiny part of things and that's a GOOD thing. You will make friends, meet people with completely different mindsets, see amazing places and experience totally random (good and bad) things. And if all you care about is business, I can tell you that after a year travelling I had a notebook stuffed full of start-up ideas I didn't even know where to begin. Travelling is AWESOME.


Here's how to make travel fun: you know those things that you do on a daily basis that you're comfortable doing? Do other things.

Go to Las Vegas and stay up all night playing poker. The people you meet at a poker table in the middle of the night will blow you away. Go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and stay up all night wandering the streets. Stay right on Bourbon Street and soak in all the city has to offer. Go to Amsterdam and stay in the middle of the red light district. I'm not into either of the two things that are legal in Amsterdam but illegal in the U.S. but what an unbelievable experience to see that city.

Be the person that has an opportunity to experience something fun and takes it every time. I'm married with 3 kids now and I have no regrets about being "tied down with a family" like some of my friends have. There will be a time that you will have no freedom and no free time to do these things; do them now or you and your future family will probably regret it.

EDIT: Oops - nevermind. Dude ninja-deleted his comment that basically said that he wants to travel and have fun but he just doesn't know how to do it.

> EDIT: Oops - nevermind. Dude ninja-deleted his comment that basically said that he wants to travel and have fun but he just doesn't know how to do it.

Sorry about that. Whatever I said was so offensive, so I deleted it.

> Go to Las Vegas and stay up all night playing poker. The people you meet at a poker table in the middle of the night will blow you away.

I guess. I've met a couple of card counter-types and it's interesting to talk about it, but most people I've met in casinos were mostly tragic cases, the kind that would make BF Skinner would weep.

As for the Bourbon Street and Amsterdam, adventures...what am I missing? Just booze and "interesting" adventures? I grew up and lived near bars before, and it wasn't that great. Just noise, people peeing on the sidewalk, etc. What am I missing? I genuinely want to know.

It sounds like you've made your mind up about how the world works and that's fine, but I think you'd be missing out on some great experiences by not doing at least a little travelling.

I've also had several months off doing nothing but relax and I can tell you none of them were as productive (for ideas) as travelling was. Part of it is meeting people with different views on the world means they present you with unique problems you would never have thought of alone. Part of it is in the act of travelling itself - how could you improve certain aspects?

Overall, it just opens your mind up to different ways of thinking, much like going to university does. I'd always recommend people to give it a try.

> It sounds like you've made your mind up about how the world works and that's fine, but I think you'd be missing out on some great experiences by not doing at least a little travelling.

I have travelled but I don't see what great experience I was missing out on. Could you give some examples of yours so when I try it again I'll know what to look for?

> I've also had several months off doing nothing but relax and I can tell you none of them were as productive (for ideas) as travelling was.

That is worthwhile and I will note it for the future. Having been out of work for 3 months last year I can agree with that.

> Part of it is meeting people with different views on the world means they present you with unique problems you would never have thought of alone.

Ah, but that feels kind of like a work-problem to solve. An agreeable problem but it's the kind of thing I do often. Besides, it's not like people in that country don't have programmers and need some american to come save them.

> I have travelled but I don't see what great experience I was missing out on. Could you give some examples of yours so when I try it again I'll know what to look for?

As an example, in 2011 I went to Europe for the first time; Spain and Italy. We went to Madrid, Seville, Barcelona, Venice, Florence, Rome. How did we get between cities in each country? High speed rail. It wasn't as inexpensive as I thought it would be, but the experience was much much better than flying. Sure, the US is a lot larger and it might only work well in some places, but it opened my eyes to a different, more pleasant and more efficient (from the travelers perspective at least) than flying is.

In Barcelona, we rode the subway a bunch. The stations we were in all had a clock on the wall that counted down from 5 minutes. Not once did a train not show up before that countdown got to zero. I'm generally happy with the frequency of service of BART during commuting hours, but there are frequent train breakdowns, track maintenance, etc. that totally screw things up. I'm sure there are issues in the Barcelona subway as well, but maybe there is something to be learned about the appeal and utility of public transit seeing how it's done in other countries.

Just two relatively minor things that you could read about in a book but not truly appreciate until you've experienced them in person.

When people talk about travel in this sense, it's not about schlepping your bag from point A to B. I like this quote:

"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." ~ Henry Miller

Question: did you volunteer alone? Did you code/write etc, that requires mostly working by yourself?

I think it depends on the type of volunteering work. If you are going to teach, or work in a garden with others - then you have much higher chances of actually interacting with people. But if you end up doing "tech" stuff, not so much, and it ends up feeling like work (or worse)

> Question: did you volunteer alone?


This line baffled me:

"I found myself in a co-working space the other day. I passed row after row of neatly ensconced workers and realized that I would be just as lonely working there, separated in that manner."

Ridiculous. People look like they're isolated when they're working. That's how you get work done. It's one of the great things about a coworking space, that it's still a coWORKing space: people are there to work.

But they're also there to be social, to work in the same space, go to lunch together, get to know each other, and generally have a structure to their lives and their work that's similar to a "real job" but still working on independent stuff.

And it works. I spent 9 months in a coworking space, totally stabilized my life/work/psyche, and made more friends than I could have imagined. Were they all tech people working on startups? Absolutely not and the better for it—it's great to have some diversity in your social interactions. Knowing such a wide variety of types and personalities of people is a goddamn blessing.

I just don't get it: why reject coworking and then go start a coworking space? This has an air of hipster entitlement that I just can't shake. I'm glad the author found a way to get out of his rut, and perhaps found an interesting tech incubator spinoff, but it could have been a lot simpler and less dramatic.

I'm not sure but, at least for me, I work even better literally working with another person actively on a project (not just sitting next to them working independently). Working directly with another person (like pair programming - also in small groups of people collaboratively) was the most fun, productive and best experience I've ever had working on anything.

I've recently started going bouldering (indoor climbing without ropes) and it's pretty perfect for this stuff. You turn up to a room full of people all with different skill levels, it's very social, very non-hierarchical, talking to strangers is normalised.

Imagine a gym where 80% of the people are sitting on the floor relaxing at at given time (this is forced on you by the nature of the activity.) It's perfectly suited to geeks because its non competitive, you simply measure your own improvement, and there's a strong culture of peer learning. The other nice thing is that there will always be routes which will challenge you regardless of your fitness level, build etc.

It's apparently the new cool sport, so I'm guessing SV denizens will be spoilt for choice with regards to venues. Give it a shot, and remember to moisturise your hands between sessions :)

Indoor bouldering is cool.

There's a definite video-game-type dynamic about trying to send gradually more difficult routes.

It's disturbing that some people need to be told to have hobbies and have fun. It also seems like a lot of CS oriented people don't realize how much fun can be had away from electronics. EE stuff, CS stuff, video games, pet projects, etc. are all great hobbies, but why don't more "nerds" spend their free time doing something less related to their day to day work?

Mountain biking, exercising, fishing, hunting, woodworking, metal working, art (sooo many different kinds of art), music, writing, philosophy, languages, reading, traveling (you don't have to trek through the Amazon, there are likely many beautiful and interesting places in your own country). The list f things you can do in your spare time is practically endless. Which is the reason why I can never understand how people can get bored.

Devil's advocate - I'd have a lot more fun, interest and open "head space" for doing those things if I didn't worry about having to make a living and pay the bills. Alas, I don't have a > $2,000/month successful MVP under my belt.

Interestingly, many people whose jobs are less secure, less financially lucrative, and less... suited for the future manage to have hobbies and do things for fun =)

I think it's a psychological quirk of the techier or nerdier crowd. Many of us have a great desire for a sense of not only autonomy but complete control over our own lives; indeed, feeling autonomous seems like it requires having complete control over our lives. In as market-based a culture as our own, that amounts to us being sold a story about how having an amount of money X (where X's amount is perpetually significantly larger than present but reachable) will give us that control, and we should perpetually aggregate as much money as possible until we reach X and then can live off capital gains.

We like rules, and we like systems of rules that we can optimize against. Most people do, in one way or another. But we have it more than most, I believe, and it is perfectly capable for us to make the numbers work out to retire between 30 and 40 by working a stable desk job.

Hence the constant draw and temptation to always push those non-pecuniary, non-market labors sometime into the future, where you'll theoretically have time in spades.

This was a great reality check for me thank you! I think in the manner you describe all the time.

It's a fine message: don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today.

Yeah. I've completely abandoned what few hobbies I've had due to my distressing employment situation.

Not only are many hobbies expensive, I feel guilty having fun when I'm in this situation. It's a rather self-destructive and unreasonable line of thinking but it happens.

I cycle and rock-climb and lift weights and play pick-up sports. I played piano when I was a kid.

I don't play video games and never watch TV by myself.

To be honest all that stuff is kind of a chore to me. I just do it so women won't think I'm boring.

I have a new theory for you. Rather than do a bunch of stereotypical male activities that do not interest you, take up something like ballroom dance. You'll still get exercise, and you'll find that engaging in activities that lots of women want to engage in makes you more interesting to women than doing stuff they aren't engaging in.

Tried it. It was alright. Still felt like a chore, but I suppose you're right that it was probably a smarter choice of chore.

I know this wasn't really your intention, I find it more disturbing that society tells anyone who finds only a "nerd" hobby to be interesting that there is something wrong with them since they aren't interested in fishing or sports.

I actually find everything you listed on your second list to be completely banal. I do almost all of them regularly because it is better than doing nothing, but I can completely understand how someone wouldn't be interested in any of those things.

How could an anorexic starve at a buffet?

INTERACT WITH OTHER HUMAN BEINGS [in a setting outside of "lol tech startups" once in a while].

This is the most important thing anyone on HN has said in a long time. You must surround yourself with people and subjects that are completely different from your usual pursuits. It will help your work, it will help reduce your stress levels, and it will give you new ways to think about the world. Pivoting is not just for startups.

Exactly. Feel like you don't know enough people? Go out and join a club and meet some. Or go down your local pub enough that you start getting recognised. Hiding indoors waiting for your girlfriend to come home because that's your only interaction for the day is a SIGN.

Towards the opposite end of the spectrum, I have too many hobbies and I usually don't focus enough on work (software development), but that may be caused by wanting mental stimulus combined with physical activity (or being outside).

To add on to your list, I really enjoy golfing, woodworking (building outdoor furniture), bbqing & cooking, tomato gardening, jeeping, fishing, hunting, and skiing.

Thanks for your wisdom Phil.

I'm figuring this stuff out. I'm on the "adult rec league" stage.

These shiny textfields and the illusion of pseudonymity, even when you use your real name, make it easy to write and sound really snarky and mean and I'm sorry if I came off that way.

I think what I'm trying to say is, you sound unhappy, dude. Trying to up my empathy, in your context maybe you do just need work-mates. I convinced a friend to quit his job for precisely the same reason: after a few months of working out of coffee shops and being alone all the time I was starting to go nutty.

It's just the lead-in to your decision sounds so… morose, and we're all capable individuals here who should find ways to not be morose. I don't know, maybe I mis-read your tone.

"doing stuff" with other people is so fun and rewarding. My personal favorite is organizing hikes for my group of friends (esp since some of them are dangerously out of shape and I want to do what I can to encourage -- but not force -- healthy habits in my friends), which I love for the exercise, the conversation, the views, and brunch afterwards :)

I agree. I'm a workaholic, but I channel that restlessness into projects and hobbies with the same fervor as my day job. Sometimes those are technical in nature, but not always.

Just because you're a workaholic doesn't mean that the object of your focus should always be your job.

This post is a marketing ploy. This guy developed Followgen, and this is one of his other controversial but popular posts https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5607186

As is often mentioned on HN: in times of great distress/confusion/boredom/pessimism, stop up the intertubes and get some exercise. Fresh fruit and vegetables are good, too. (So are junior-college girls, but I don't need the bad karma.)

Where exactly do you find time to do all that?

It was a list of ideas. And you can do all of that, just not in a single day.

I quit using terms like "real job" and "real world" a long time ago (back when I was working as a deckhand on a ship). I don't like that it implies that you are doing something less- that other people are more legitimate because they are on the beaten path. Now I use the term "regular job" and "regular world". On another note, some people thrive in the solo-work arrangement. My creativity has soared since I quit having senseless meetings, or bureaucratic red tape to get through. Good that you recognized that you don't naturally build social networks- As my business has grown it forced me out to meet so many people that now I have reserved entire days to be back in my private office working alone- hoping I can tap into the creativity that comes from solitude.

Great quote from the book 'Net Magic', by Lee Siegel:

    “I’m writing a book on magic,” I explain, and I’m asked, “Real
    magic?” By real magic people mean miracles, thaumaturgical acts,
    and supernatural powers.  “No,” I answer: “Conjuring tricks, not
    real magic.”  Real magic, in other words, refers to the magic
    that is not real, while the magic that is real, that can
    actually be done, is not real magic.
The parallel is limited, of course, because you can be employed in a "real job" / "regular job". But the point is, when people say "real job" they don't mean that other jobs are not real things, they mean that they don't fully have the property of job-ness. And I'd argue that they're right, and that's exactly why many people don't want to have a "real job". Some people want a job that has only SOME of the properties of job-ness.

(some of the properties of "job-ness": pays enough to raise a family, has reasonable security, has the thing they call "benefits", telegraphs information about you to people who want to make a snap judgement about you (including e.g. your extended family), keeps you busy from 8am to 6pm, gives you a defined social role and a defined social context)

Beautiful, thank you.

your handle describes your post perfectly. "regular job, regular world." I shall use that!

So you're working from home and it's making you feel crappy because you're not socializing, you're working bizarre hours, and you're not capable of picking up non-work-related hobbies?

Why jump into immediately advertising your co-working space? Feels like a weird bait-and-switch. Why not stick out the work-from-home thing for a bit and actually see if you can solve some of these problems? Because, yes, if you can then you'll have a nicely flexible life. Hell, start with working only during normal business hours. Do things with buddies in the evenings. Join a sports league. Then see how you feel.

Right now, this reads a bit like: "I tried using chopsticks instead of a fork for the first time, and after poking myself in the eye a dozen times, I decided chopsticks aren't for me and that I should instead open a fork factory."

Also: I work from home. I am an independent developer. It's a "real job." Can we please put to rest this stupid idea that freelancing isn't "real?" It's very real.

I completely agree. This felt like such a bait-and-switch post.

And as someone who works from home - I have as much a social life as earlier (in a "real" job).

This really struck the perfect HN balance between arrogance and whining with a sales pitch thrown in. If I were writing an HNbot this post is what I would aspire to.

I telecommute, and I can definitely relate to most of this post. There's something really refreshing about being able to step out at 1pm, run for an hour, hit a bar for lunch, meander back home, and settle back into coding again. It feels great, but especially in the winter months, the lack of daily social interaction catches up with you really quickly.

I cannot praise this enough. The greatest achievements in the world have come from a gathering of bright and passionate people, discussing and vetting their ideas together.

As deep thinkers, we tend to seek isolation to focus the entirety of our mental faculty on a particular problem. In this quest to make efficient use of our biological computing device, we forget that we are indeed humans forged through evolutionary processes, and that our very sanity depends on a positively reinforcing social foundation.

The most difficult task is finding like minded individuals, who would spontaneously coalesce as if by a force of nature but are held apart due to spatial or temporal separation. Once this initial barrier is overcome, such minds become inseparable and often go on to do great things. History is abound with examples such as Godel and Einstein, whose friendship began in the most extraordinary of circumstances but ended up changing our very understanding of the universe.

So good luck, and god speed!

The greatest achievements in the world have come from a gathering of bright and passionate people, discussing and vetting their ideas together.

Nonsense. Any equal number of "greatest" achievements have come from a individuals working persistently in solitude, in humble settings.

Each of which only only mattered to the world at large because many others proceeded to spread and implement those achievements.

Sure... now we're debating on what proportion of an undefined set conforms to whose preconceptions. This is intelligent.

We could avoid all of this if people would just learn to make their points without also having to jump to outrageous and/or totally unsubstantiated conclusions in addition to just stating what would otherwise be a perfectly valid opinion.

Haven't had a real job in 10 years, luckily.

Instead of going to the gym, I grab my board and surf for an hour or 2, waves/wind permitting.

Travel and code, not too shabby. Make far less $$ than I would in a 9-5 (+ commute/traffic) office setting, but quality of life is much better. I feel like absolute garbage without getting out in nature, dropping the screens for awhile.

YMMV of course, some people are at home in the hustle and bustle of the big shi$$y -- can only handle that for a few weeks max before I get restless for the unknown.

What kind of work do you do?

Freelance web dev, JVM/Scala.

How do you find Enterprisey clients that let you work remotely?

Is it also word of mouth like most regular enterprise work or do you make yourself heard in some specific communities?

"How do you find Enterprisey clients that let you work remotely?" Good question ;-)

All word of mouth -- projects run $25K on the high end. I own a couple of application servers that I run in colo stateside, and choose the stack for the client accordingly; tends to be Scala/Slick/Play of late, smitten with Scala.

Side note: I did run into a fellow surfer/coder in Hawaii a couple of winters ago doing the travel/work thing. He made around $200K/year doing C#/SQL Server work for a big Atlanta based company. As long as he made the weekly conference call (4AM Hawaii time) they had no problem with him telecommuting -- France is nice like that, got a 6 hour delay before start of business day EST ;-)

Am I the only one who thinks this is a load whiny written pseudo viral advertising for that guys 'oh so different' co working space?

I mean I pretty much resonated with all of this right until the last paragraph, where it suddenly turns into some catchy written ad for Microhaus - an experimental incubator for people who dream bigger than the rest

I'm going to be a bit contrarian here it seems and say "good for you!"

There are a number of quasi-social-business get organizations which exist for the exact same reasons you outlined in your post. That old chestnut the Chamber of Commerce has been a social get together for small business owners forever where they could get together and share issues and influence the politicians to make a more business friendly environment.

What you have started, could potentially evolve into the technology equivalent of such organizations. Getting together with other entrepreneurs to talk about shared issues and ideas, challenges and various technologies, etc. All while working at your own independent businesses but largely in a similar 'space' (the Internet). There is tremendous efficiency to be gained there, an leverage in making changes.

I have been thinking lately that the Chamber of Commerce in most cities should be evolving into what you are describing. They could provide co-working space, events, support, advisors, etc - they could be these mini-incubators and bring new businesses into their respective areas. In my dreams I see many small "silicon valleys" (or better put, centers for innovation and incubation) all over the US.

I know the ones around where I live certainly don't do this enough, although they do try to help connect businesses in the community, and they do have some free presentations that are nice.

Running a company has been one of the most lonely things I've ever done. I think it's one of the hardest parts of running a company. It's no wonder founders try to form social groups amongst themselves.

I started a weekly coffee meetup in Madison, WI which has been great for reducing some of that loneliness. We also hired more people which has really helped as well!

Best of luck with Microhaus!

I can relate to your feelings of solitude. I had similar difficulties coping with self-employment when my business was basically on autopilot. The fact is, just because I was able to quit my job everyone else still works M-F and finding ways to stay stimulated becomes a challenge.

My solution was to just get another job. I work a corporate job now, which is weird because I too had grand thoughts of the Tim Ferris lifestyle. It is nice to know that I do this job as a way to pass the time and remain intellectually challenged. I've already turned down a few promotions because I just don't want the responsibly. Also, if things change or my boss is a prick I have no problems just walking out and never looking back. He knows this and it has turned out to be a great manager/employee relationship because of it.

Genuine question - was your business (on "autopilot") successful enough to live off of, permanently?

It seems to me if you're "free" from the need to work (i.e. paying the bills), you then get to choose what to do with yourself. It sounds like you chose to keep working a "job". Which is cool - you chose it.

It seems to me that the freedom we seek is being able to choose and not be tied permanently into any situation (especially a bad one) by choice.

Yes, couldn't agree more. Being in control of how I spend my time is the key to being free. And yes, you're also right in the fact I have accumulated enough cash that I never have to work again, if I don't want to.

That brings up another side to this conversation about success, I hate talking about money. It's embarrassing when you're a 30 y/o with $1#M and trying to maintain a modest life (I'm not flashy but I'm no coupon clipper either). For the most part, I surround myself with (upper?)middle-class people with student loans, mortgages, credit card debt, and maybe some young children. So when a friend finds out I am a millionaire (usually another friend tells them, right in front of me), they get this weird look on their face* - and I have no idea how to react. So, I usually just say "yes, it's true" and try to change the conversation.

If I could change one thing, I would have kept my success a complete secret. As it occurs, it's exciting and you want to share and celebrate your successes ("drinks on me!"). Unfortunately, the long-term consequence is other people tend to feel this is public information and that sucks.

* It's something in their eyes, almost everyone does it and it reminds me of gollum and the way he looks at "his precious." Like, as if by instinct, the first thought in their mind is "how do I get my hands on that money?"

Since I started making my own product and freelancing, I've increased my OSS contribution by a lot. I got eleven eleven days streaking on Github and the contribution graph looks heavy since I quit - and I have a hard time giving it up.

The last two months, I've done four different libraries for iOS that are used by other people as well as bugfixes, new features and readme updates for other libraries that I use.

All of this, because I can pick what hours I do client work and I don't spend two hours a day traveling to & from an office.

Job security is fake. Especially pre-profit places.

Best HN post since I've joined. I was in a very similar situation not so long ago. I know a few others as well.

Last month, I watched a lot of snooker as there was a World Championship in Sheffield. Ronnie O'Sullivan [who later won the cup] said something on that same matter. You have a fairly successful life. You have someone who is very close to you. You are good at something. Yet you lack one very important ingredient to achieve total happiness. I don't know what is the word for that ingredient.

Basically, you need to wake up in the morning, (briefly) commute and work from there. Working from home is a great thing but not for everyone. You need an office. You need something away from your flat to work at. You need that commute even if it's just staring at the nature and greeting the doorman or mailman. That's how it works for us (people who have this same problem).

I applaud microha.us. It's a great idea and it crossed my mind to do something similar in the UK.

It's a great post, but I was a bit confused by the purpose of Mircrohaus and ventured on to the website. Unfortunately, I'm still a bit confused. Not confused by what it is, but by what the purpose is? I mean, why would people be attracted to this over other incubators? The application process, although seemingly informal, stil exists so I guess what I'm looking for is a sort-of pitch about Microhaus.

Myles doesn't need an incubator. This is not about giving away a % of your company for advice/connections/financing/whatever. He (and others like him) just want to work in an environment filled with like-minded individuals.

"why would people be attracted to this over other incubators"

It's focused on developing you -as a person- rather than a product. Microhaus doesn't take equity in whatever you're working on.

Then what does Microhaus get in return? Basically, how are you planning on keeping this thing afloat?

Can I fork microha.us on github?

No seriously, I am currently thinking about renting office space, and this seems to be a great idea so I will think about using it for a microha.us session at the beginning.

Doing things like hosting Wednesday board game nights, weekend hikes, and Sunday brunches have kept me "sane" in this regard. They're all great activities to have conversations.

This has to be the oddest and most ridiculous attempt I've seen to form a social life.

The comments above have advised to go after interests, and whatnot. Do that, but also seek out people you already know and start doing real things with them. Push the boundaries, get to know what they really like doing with their time, form a network.

Also, "real jobs" are for suckers who aren't passionate enough to follow their interests.

"This has to be the oddest and most ridiculous attempt I've seen to form a social life."

It's just an advertisement for microha.us.

Isn't the fundamental problem that you spent 24/7 coding rather than "not having a real job" ?

Off topic, sorry, but just a question in general about this type of link on HN:

Why is the font on that page so big?

Isn't it better of everyone consistently uses the same font size for content, rather than some pages using a big font for articles while others use a small font? In the past these "large font" pages did not really exist, it's a recent phenomenon...

In the past, when? In the past, screen resolution was lower on screens roughly the same size as we use now.

I find it weird how rarely people (including myself) modify the zoom level of the webpages they visit, unless they have vision problems, or are using a phone/tablet.

Erring on the side of caution, too big a font is better than too small a font.

The default font size for `p` is 16px, and it can be thought of the ideal size for text[1] on the browser. People will argue for bigger or smaller fonts[2], but I think that I see more people complaining about small fonts than big fonts, and with new higher resolution displays that have inconsistent ways of displaying pages across devices (is 1px a physical pixel? It isn't supposed to be, but most of the time it is, so front end designers assume they are, but the display size doesn't change... everybody uses a 1200x900 screen, right?), just make it readable on small high resolution displays.

Having said that, a much bigger problem than small/big fonts is low contrast font color. If people using zoom is uncommon, people using personalised style sheets are unicorns.

[1]: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/10/07/16-pixels-body-co... [2]: http://ux.stackexchange.com/questions/211/is-there-an-optima...

I'm not identifying with this at all. I have strong passions outside the industry. Tasks more meanful than dealing with CRUD, servers and web applications. Hobbies/past-times that given the time and money to pursue would become my new fun "job", contribute more to society and connect with others daily.

I like his idea for a co-working space but ultimately it will not bring the fulfillment he needs.

Your work is not your life. It's difficult to realize this when you're young and hacking seems like the greatest and most important thing in the world. As you get older, you gain perspective.

There's a huge amount of creativity that comes from solitude - I've often felt that the biggest issue for me with having a "real job" is the fact that I can't carve out enough time to be truly alone with my thoughts. The grass is always greener... :)

I was JUST starting to think "Oh, God... I'm reaching the end of the comments and no one has suggested to read Nietzsche and enjoy your solitude, not a single person!"

Thank you, sir, for representing the underrepresented!

I need to get out of this industry

Great post. Thank you for sharing this.

> Surely, I would fill my days with an eclectic mix of hobbies and spontaneous travel, funding the whole thing with the ultimate passive income stream.

Was this the original goal for not having a 'real' job?

> But for some reason I can't do that. I'm not good at using my free time for hobbies. I typically spend it thinking about work, or prototyping the 'next thing'.

This part was most attention-grabbing for me. Did you have many hobbies before you became so deeply involved in tech?

I like to think I'd be outside playing golf a few times a week, but that's something I used to do before getting a tech job in a city.

mkrecny, forget about the haters, I think it's cool. At the end of the day we're just communicating on HN with abstractions based on less than a minute of thinking. A month with six cool people sounds like a blast.

Coming in from the other direction: I have no problem with the social networking, and I've spent years working part-time or at unconventional jobs just to have free time. I'm good at the lone gun lifestyle, maybe too good. Now with many "interesting" but unprofitable web projects... still trying to get on that gravy train.

So I bounce from school to more serious work trying to build real development skills. Hopefully I can bring some product to market, or make something. That's the hard part for me.

For some people having a life is harder than having a job. For some other people having a job is harder than having a life. Not sure who is more lucky between the two groups.

For a moment I thought I was reading a description of my life.

Same thoughts here! I'm not sure starting my own incubator would fill the void, but I can see how joining something like Microha.us might be nice. Anybody know of anything along the same lines in SF?

Second that! And a pretty accurate one. Good to know I'm not the only one ;)

Same here. I even live in the neighborhood.

+1, get a child and spice it up

What sort of paperwork do participants have to sign in order to join this "incubator"?

MUST WORK 24/7. ALL WORK AND NO PLAY... we all know how the movie ends.

this is pretty sweet

The social life that comes with a typical office job is a false security. Your boss can take it away at any time. Never get so beholden to one person. You need to start going to Meetups, hanging out with different sorts of people, etc.

After you leave, you're lucky if you're in touch with one or two of your former co-workers. If your boss is sour about you leaving, or if he fires you in a piss-fit, he'll actually turn a lot of people against you.

It sounds like you're already coming to the right path. Generating a social life without an office context is harder, but it's a valuable skill because almost everyone successful has active out-of-office ties.

I think this depends purely on the type of people who work at your job. I now work at home and have done for 2 years, but still meet up with colleagues from my previous job occasionally, and they still talk to me and we discuss life/software/beer etc.

The company I work for now has meetups 2-3 times a year, and whilst the people are generally nice enough, I wouldn't really consider keeping in touch if I left. I doubt they would bother either.

I also have a group of friends from my childhood around and we hang out alot. I consider this extremely important and make specific efforts to organise activities and nights out so we don't lose touch. People really don't put enough effort into friendships to stay in touch. They often treat friends as disposable when it comes to their careers which is sad.

Friends > cash, every time.

I know this feeling, and I know it well. I agree with philbarr that it depends on your job. I think it also depends on your position in the social structure.

But it's just another way that a job may seem better at the time than it actually is. I try to be skeptical of the perks of what I do, and put the main things (pay, gaining experience, commute time, comfort, etc) first.

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