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Ask HN: I'm Tired of Hacking. What Do I Do? Please Advise.
77 points by TiredOfCoding on May 27, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments
I have been developing web apps for almost 8 years now. I worked at agencies, development shops, I freelanced, I was CTO of an startup, had the six figure salary, etc. I just can't do it anymore. I hate sitting on my ass all day writing some code. My neck has been hurting for two years for spending so many hours in front of the computer. I kind of have been hating my career for a couple of years now and I have no clue about what I should do. I'm in my late 20's and I don't have a lot in savings left (six months of living costs at the most). I quit my job last year to work on a webapp of my own. I finished about 50% of it and haven't been working on it since. I got some freelance web maintenance work just to help cover some of my bills I get paid monthly and it's really easy stuff but I find it very boring as well and I wish I didn't have to spend any time working on it. I'm not lazy I just got tired of writing code and this industry in general. I always delivered the best work. In all of my previous jobs and was usually the best developer, engineer, etc.

Has anything like this happened to any of you?

What do you recommend I do?

Take one month's expenses, move out your pad if you're renting and go teach English overseas until you get your senses back.

Everyone needs their 2-years of fucking around backpacking before they hit 30. I am just coming back from mine; 20 countries in 2 years and stories for a life time. Cost me less than 10k a year to live like that.


> I am just coming back from mine; 20 countries in 2 years

I'm curious. 1) Did you bring your own netbook/laptop along and 2) How well are you handling your "re-entry" (e.g. hanging out with friends who knew you pre-travel)?

I took a laptop and a digital camera with me and ended up hating them every step of the way. My first travels I did Africa and the middle-east, the second I did asia.

In countries where I have "based" myself, anything more than 4 weeks; the laptop has been a good useful distraction. When you're shocked by a local culture which you have to deal with for extended survival (anything more substantial than a western-style hotel and continental breakfast) you will end up missing speaking your familiar language, eating familiar foods, or just walking outside without a guide at hand (printed or in-flesh.) Also there is that strong sense of alienation when everybody around you is looking at you, even you have been with them for weeks. In these times, firing up your slackware box and seeing what you used to work on in more homely times is a good psychological aid.

Cameras I didn't like. I hated being looked at and treated as a "foreigner", and I feel like I am doing the same when I point a lens at a "local" person, building or artifact. It felt like I was capturing their soul to take back home with me as a novelty. I have no photos of my travels, but I have friends. Hundreds of good friends from all walks of life; fishermen, priests, pimps, students, political activists, drug traffickers, aid workers, moms, bicycle repairmen, white-house staffers, journalists you name them.

Coming back was hard. I have lost 80lbs and came back with more street-sense than I could imagine. When I landed at Dulles Airport I had $60 to my name and I had the photo of a new girlfriend in my wallet. None of my family or friends had the time to give me a ride home, so I took the bus, for the first time in the U.S. Before then I have taken the bus a few times on nights-out when I knew I wouldn't be fit to drive. This time it was just what I was used to do. My instincts where different; I took a window seat in the way back that was close to an exit door. Something that you do when traveling in dangerous places (you don't sit in the front, or police and bandits will pull over the bus and shake you up for bribes; and you don't sit sandwitched between two locals, unable to escape.)

I also came back with 2pack a day cigarette habit. Hi alcohol tolerance. A very unprofessional appearance. An appetite for anything served to me on a plate. A habit of carrying a bag with basic survival necessities. Indifference to crashing anywhere. Hitching rides with total strangers. And finally, a weird ability to connect with people in the underworld.

My first few gigs have been freelancing gigs doing anything and everything. It took my girlfriend the last few months polishing up back to shape; I don't think I would have come back if it wasn't for her, actually. I have seen many long-time Western expats dying in local hospitals of controllable diseases; the ex-military Americans are most prone to this. Diabetes, high-blood pressure, liver problems; I have pitch in $5 donations to so many expats in hospitals I didn't want to be one of them.

Allot of stuff, most of it unfit to print.

Allot of stuff, most of it unfit to print.

Only boring stuff is unfit to print. You should write a book, or at least a blog. Seriously.

I'm reminded of that Goethe quote about how people's personalities are made up of a desire for a combination of love, adventure, power and fame. Reading this comment makes me feel like the "adventure" component has been neglected in my own life :(

Let me just add that small valuables, like gold and Western-made digital electronics come handy for pawning when you lose your wallet, get your documents stolen or otherwise that odorsome object hits the Murphy fan. And it will.

Two gold rings and a necklace, not worn, but secreted in your boots will get you out of allot of trouble, at least until that unexpected national/religious/regional holiday you never expected finishes, or perhaps the riot dies down, and the banks/embassies open. Sometimes government and banking offices will be wide open but you cannot get your paperwork done for DAYS, and you will quickly run out of money, and starve at that shitty border town.

I have to agree with the gold rings. What we had were gold coins hanging on our necks just in case something happened to the dollar or the euro. At least with gold, you can pay your way out :)

did you ever happen to sell it?

coz o/w it's just an added weight -- well in your case it's maybe for appearance so it's a good investment/insurance

some people do hide gold in their teeth, might be interesting if that's your thing

That's beautiful. Are you still in the DC area? We should get a few people from HN for some beers.

You have inspired me to create a Hacker News meetup group:


Get on board if you live in the DC metro area.

Nice! just replied to your email as well :-)

Nice! Can you add MD to the name?

Yes, I am here until mid June. Moving outside the U.S. again to be with said girl friend :-)

I'd be up for that.

I don't think I would have come back if it wasn't for her

You mean to stay you would have stayed abroad? Am little confused as you start talking about expats dying of preventable diseases immediately afterwords

Sometimes you see danger but its magnitude doesn't hit you until someone else points it out. I was 26-27, I had my vaccines done, I had some cash and I am African by birth, so none of these "problems" that Western expats were facing could touch me, it is my third-world and I will be fine!

Yyyyyeah, nice try. My new girlfriend with a woman's common-sense was quick to point out to me the danger I was in. I had dabbled in business with the locals and I might have taken a side in a neighborhood civil-war that was going back for decades. It would have taken a $20 bribe from someone to pin some contraband on me and send me off to Hanoi Hilton for good.

etc, etc.

Reading your second comment in this thread leaves me wondering if it would be safe for an american to travel the same as you did. I had wanderlust a few years ago and reading your post makes me want to go wandering abroad again. I would go to South America, but out of curiosity, is Africa or the Middle East safe for Americans?

[Edited for better communication]

REPLY: Ah, so then in a sense, it isn't safe. It would be awful to go out the way you did but remain a tourist. :)

I'm American. I spent a year and a half traveling through Asia, Australia and NZ. Then another 6 months in South America. There are tons of people, Americans included, doing the same. In general it's extremely safe.

watch out for the drop bears in Australia though. Those guys are vicious!

I was deliberately courting excitement. You can safely stay in the tourist circles and be A-OK.


Do you think you will have any trouble explaining your time off to a potential employer?

Every job I ever got was because I gate crashed, usually at a pub or cocktail party. Whenever I talk to someone who I feel like we can work together, I just ask them about their business/project and put myself in their shoes. The great majority of the time I would "not hire myself", because I know I am unfit to help them. But if I know I am the one, I usually take charge; I first restate the problem, explain my understanding of where they are and where they need to be, then tell them "what we need to do to get there". This is the same way I recruit friends for other friends as well.

>Do you think you will have any trouble explaining your time off to a potential employer?

Do not live your life based on the opinions of future employers.

Please, do anything but. There is a large, large world out there that you should do your best to experience.

Do you really think you should make all your major life choices based on what an HR droid reading your resume might think?

Find a place to work where you're not the best developer, engineer, etc. It's more fun when you're learning.

Agreed, boredom comes from lack of challenge. There's lots of non-challenge available in day-to-day web development.

Seriously, this is good advice. It is always fun when you have a "big brother" in your workplace.

"My neck has been hurting for two years for spending so many hours in front of the computer."

Is is possible that you feel crappy and are blaming your work environment?

I've been sitting in front of a computer for 30 years and my neck never hurts. In fact, nothing does.

No matter what you decide, you must take care of yourself. If you don't feel well, you won't be happy doing anything. There are many references on the web on what to do, some excellent and some horrible. I'd be happy to share what I do to feel great if anyone is interested.

"No matter what you decide, you must take care of yourself."

I second this! I've been experimenting quite a bit, and my diet and exercise patterns definitely shape my feelings about work more than the B.S. I experience per day.

All of the common health wisdom you know will incrementally help in the short term, even if it's not a long-term solution. If you're feeling irrationally irritable, stop drinking caffeine. If you're feeling tired in the afternoon, eat a light healthy lunch and get some sleep. If you're feeling sore, make sure to stretch out every morning, and make sure you're sitting up straight. Exercise always helps!

My neck doesn't hurt either, I've been at it for over 20 years. Maybe your ergonomics are wrong.

The bigger issue is that you aren't excited by what you are doing, so ... STOP IT! life's too short to be doing something you hate. I've gone back to university to get a PhD, I'm using my brain heaps and interacting with some very smart people. It's not for everyone, but if you are looking for a mental challenge, even a year long course in something that you are intrigued by might recharge your batteries.

Yes, share what you do to feel great.


I have scoliosis and I've tried everything for sore back and neck. Nothing has worked as well as the 5 Rites every morning before breakfast. I think #3 has helped me the most, but who knows. I'll leave the secret with the ancients. I do these every day.


In addition to that, the usual:

- get my heart rate into the training zone (140 to 170 BPM) for 30-40 minutes 3 to 6 times per week (jogging, stairs)

- heavyhands

- shovelglove http://www.shovelglove.com/

- chin-ups, pushups, dips

- Hindu squats http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuyAdr4RKsY Do 500 of these every day and you'll be in the best shape of your life

That's it. I don't spend much money, but I do something every day.


This is more (un)common sense that anything else. My 2 favorites:



i got scoliosis too, and i went to chinese medical master (he also does accupuncture) that specializes in massaging and bones structure

he didn't use any equipment. i was to sit on a chair, knee/shin next to each other. an assistant locks the knees by hugging using both hands so my body cannot move easily.

he then 'measured' my backbone and then stretched my arm, twisted my back based on his initial estimate and then do the measure-stretch-twist loop. it took him quite considerable force (he's sweating)

the whole process took about an hour and must be done in many visits (mine's 3), depending on severity

i felt better but cannot provide statistics/numbers; however, my cousin can. her father is a modern doctor who cannot believe ancient chinese methods. he took x-rays after each visit. he told me that during 2 weeks of therapy, her scoliosis improved from 40deg to 20deg.

i want to visit the chinese medical man again, it's been more than 2 years. there's no 'cure' or 'pills'. i believe if i do better pose i won't need to go visiting him again ... but i'm as uneducated as layman about correct posture so i always revert back to old problems

if you have resources on this please share. the hindu squat looks very tiring -- 500 of these in one go?

btw i'm now using stand-up desk (like a week or so) and my back, heel, ankle and toes are aching and cramping. is it to be expected especially for scoliosis guys? after feeling pain, i just sit for a while. i guess after a while i'll develop endurance

thx for the links

Exercise and eating healthy are the real keys. Without regular exercise you will feel like shit, guaranteed. Eating only fast food will make you feel like shit, guaranteed.

Get a:

a) Girlfriend b) Dog c) A hobby that doesn't involve electricity

Allow your job to become just one part of your life ... not what defines your life.

Getting a dog has completely turned my life around. I wasn't uber depressed before, but I had some days where basically looking at the news made me so disgusted to be a human, I could hardly work. I was working at home, living at home, hanging out at home, etc... Get a dog, get outside 3 or 4 times a day. Having a little creature be so happy to see you every time you walk through the door he can barely contain himself ALWAYS puts a smile on your face. Obviously, you know yourself better than I do, but a dog would be my suggestion. It makes everything better, life and work.

Having a little creature be so happy to see you every time you walk through the door he can barely contain himself ALWAYS puts a smile on your face

This literally made me laugh out loud with all the fond memories of the dogs I've had in my life.

Well put!

I adopted a black labrador puppy last thursday. She's 3 months old and she's pulling me outside 6 times a day! We spent 2 hours at the park today because she kept laying down on the grass during the walk home. Quite a difference from those "err i havent been outside in 3 days" scenarios.

pics here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pauls

Cute pup ... Good luck with her. Here's mine: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3014/2759237541_1d360e7795_b....

Upvoted your comment just because your puppy is so damn cute!


When my dog wants to go out for a walk, he annoys me until I get off my ass and take him out. You can argue it out (and win!) with your wife/parents/friends when they tell you to go out, but you can't argue with a bouncing, yapping dog. My dog is the reason I take 2-3 walks a day.

Also, having him around just makes me happy :)

(See http://twitter.com/ankur_sethi/status/1942297810 and http://twitter.com/ankur_sethi/status/1938415759)

Couldn't agree more!

'Get a Girlfriend' isn't as easy as it sounds for everyone. I'd say get a dog to start with. I got a dog last September and I can't imagine getting rid of him now.

It just makes life more worth living. You wake up in the morning a bit happier because your dog is smiling and wagging his tail for you to go make him food. And it gets you outside more because he has to be walked 3+ times a day which helps give you a break from work.

Edit: My dog was laying in the sun and got too warm so he walked right in front of me and just flopped over. [pic] http://ul.mikeyur.com/public/sk/photo-20090527-184014.png

Often getting a dog leads to getting a girlfriend, since you'll be outside more and have an instant conversation starter.

Many girls also love dogs and, by extension, guys who have dogs. I saw this a lot in college, where guy with dog = instacrush by half the females in the vicinity.

Alas, I'm allergic. To dogs, not girls, though given my luck with the latter, maybe it's both.

I thought about starting a puppy rental business for college campuses. I imagine you could charge over $100 per hour b/c of all the girls who would flock to pet the puppy and then happen to think "wow what a nice guy".

It's a good idea, I wouldn't try and do it on college campuses, though. You can lose some serious coin trying to sell good but expensive things to broke kids.

I took care of my landlord's dog for a month while she was out of town, and on top of everything you've said, I found that it made me a much more effective person.

When you gotta walk the dog, you have to walk the dog - no ifs and buts around it, and it got me a lot more focused on what I should be doing instead of dicking around the internet all day, too lazy to do something productive.

This. I still love programming and web development and so forth, but I've realized this year that no matter how much I enjoy something, doing it (and it only) constantly is bad.

I don't care how much somebody likes pizza; if they eat it for every meal of every day, they're going to hate it eventually.

How do you know he doesn't have all 3?

Because if he did, he wouldn't have these problems ... duh! :)

a) & b) only if you are ready to treat them well while youl are iving your geeky life. I sometimes have problems with less attention to them. Both a) & b) need love & care which I personally have problems providing, while I'm in hack mode. (Just an advice)

i would recommend a dog over a girlfriend. dogs seem a lot less demanding. although girl/boyfriends can at least let themselves out into the yard to pee.

Sounds like a case of burnout to me. I think a lot of people would envy your position, especially given today's economic climate. Without knowing anything of your situation, except that you don't want to work on computers any longer, I'd suggest taking a step back and really analyze your situation. Have a serious conversation about your immediate future with someone that you respect (parent, mentor, older friends/siblings, fellow hackers) and see what they'd say about your life, in general. Also, get out and socialize more. You obviously have a knack for putting together successful projects, so use those skills to help other people out. You will feel better about lending your skills and time to someone less fortunate.

Also, read some books? The 4 hour work week comes immediately to mind. You haven't defined success for YOUR life yet, it seems to me.

I find it interesting that "spouse" or "significant other" was not in the "someone that you respect" list.

For some reason, I pictured the original poster as single.

I just figured the implicit assumption was the original poster doesn't have a spouse or significant other.

This is a very common sense advice, but I don't think it will do any good in this case. He most likely knows/tried all of this.

Reading is a good idea, though, just not professional books (or not in particular). There's a lot of interesting stuff around if you look a bit.

or at least, whatever definition he DID come up with is no longer valid.

I think that the measure of success is something that has to be discovered, rather than defined. It's not as though people are able to choose what they want- all they can choose is how to best go about it.

It's spring.

Go hike the Appalachian trail all summer.

You living expenses will be food + replacement socks + fuel for your camp stove.

Four months from now, you'll be wonderfully destressed, and will have barely touched your savings.

I first read destressed as distressed, and wondered why anyone would want that.

Awesome Idea!

Yes! Anything closer to El Paso TX?

This is why I love HN.

Last weekend we went to Matacanes near Monterrey, Mexico. It was a great trip. I went with a group of 8 hackers from work. Turns out the other 10 people in the trip were also hackers.

Also an El Pasoan. This is the first time I've seen anyone say anything about El Paso.

There's some great areas to camp around town. I usually hit up Mesquite (there's BLM land out there that practically no one knows about) and Hueco Tanks. As for extended camping and backpacking, I'd probably suggest heading out to Big Bend or the Gila.

Go to the gym every morning. Ride a bike, get active. For some reason an 8-10 hour day in a chair is nearly unbearable unless I've done some sort of activity in the mornings. It may be a low risk thing to try.

You're gonna live a long time, you've got time to change direction. Find a junior job doing something completely different, or even start studying something, anything.

Only things that can happen are that you become happy for you new job, or you fall back in love with programming.

Another option: I know an illustrator who was getting tired of the endless line of demanding clients wanting the same old work, so she decided to spice it up by taking internships one week of every month. She tries to make the internships as different as possible, examples being a baker, a clothing shop, some print/dtp shop, etc.

Maybe that could be a less radical way of getting some fresh perspective.

Yes. Most of the people giving advice on this thread assume that programming is, ultimately, the right choice for this person. It might just be the case that programming is the wrong profession.

welcome to burnout. its absolute hell. before depression sets in and you become irreversibly emotionally detached and drained, you have to branch into hobbies that bookend your life as a hacker.

personal advice: buy a synthesizer or a nice digital camera. or a bike (but you have to use it though, that part is key, my friend. key.)

professional advice: use a reasonable chunk of your vacation time and money and get out of town for a week or two, sans computer. dont stop thinking about what you want to accomplish with hacking away, just learn to prioritize thinking about it, and to be a little more clear-minded. i find walking about from something for a week both annoys the hell of out everyone around me (not so good) and gives me the presence of mind and matured sense of whats do to and how to do it that i can walk back in and, well, do it.

just find the hobbies and then find the balance.

something i forgot to mention the first time: i started playing fantasy baseball with some friends who are really into it, and its been a blast. its also a huge stress reliever for most of the folks involved. definitely not for everyone, but it works for us.

Yes, this has happened to me. I found a part-time gig, and worked 20 hours a week, while hiking in the Rockies with all of my free time. I then disconnected completely, and did manual labor for a year.

In short, turn off the computer. Find other interests. Determine your true priorities. Once you have done that, you will likely be able to come back and enjoy technology again because it will be supporting your true self, not defining your self.

Do Emergency Medical Technican Basic training at your local community college. Most places have night classes that can be completed in about 3 months. Usually you can find a job or volunteer, and before you know it you'll be faced with life or death situations. Its much easier that going to Iraq to escape it all.

If you play an instrument, then make music! It's time for you to join a band and hit the road, my friend.

If you have a passport, as others have said, get the hell out of dodge. Get your shots though, you don't want to come back with broken kidneys.

Have you considered attending Hedonism II? It's a lot of fun...

Are you recommending a swingers club?

I can't recommend this first point enough - keeping a banjo next to my desk at all times has done wonders for my mental wherewithal.

It is impossible to feel frustrated while playing a banjo - FACT.

Even if you suck at playing banjo?

Try something totally different. It could be a totally different technology: say Ruby on Rails or maybe Flex/Flash & Actionscript. How about becoming a designer? Something you have never considered before or never thought of as worthwhile. Something that brings back the "lightness" feeling you seem to be missing.

I think change is certainly key as the catalyst for a turn around your state of mind.

That said, from my experience, I wouldn't expect to ever have an immediate, deep psychological turn around in response to any particular change, even a radical one - it always takes time. But change is key.

Some common wisdom: It's easy to be scared of change - often easier to deal with a bad situation - not even really realize it's that bad - than face the unknown. But the unknown is almost always not as bad as you think.

I like the idea of seeking "lightness". Heaviness is exactly what burn out feels like, as if everything is 100 times more painful than it really is/should be/once was.

I was, and still am, in a similar situation.

I picked up the requisite non-tech hobby that I'm now quite passionate about: in my case, it was automotive modification and racing. I have a veritable performance shop in my garage now: I taught myself welding and metal fabrication, aerodynamics, fluid dynamics, engine performance, fuel delivery, and a host of other skills. I even came back around to the tech side of things by getting involved in electronic engine management (reflashing and reprogramming OEM ECUs, logging, performance tuning, etc). It's exciting stuff, and introduced me to a very different community of people than I'd previously known.

Echoing some of the other comments here: I married a woman who is possibly the perfect companion for me, something I try very hard to be for her. We also have two dogs, another item I saw mentioned, and they've been a joy.

After all that, I still spend 8 hours (minimum) each day doing work that has lost it's lustre. When I started my career, there was exciting work to do: in 1994, my cohorts and I started an ISP. I did work in that vein for about six years, and it was some of the best years of my career (my personal life was a shambles, but the work was incredible). Today, that's reversed: I have a rich private life, but the work is dull.

So, my long and winding road to a point: the suggestions to get a "significant other", pet, and non-tech hobby, while well-intentioned, won't actually fix your problem. Certainly, take a bit of time off and decompress to make sure you're not just in need of a vacation, but that's essentially what you've already done. And the fact that you have neck pain is significant: you should certainly get that addressed before making substantial changes that might not be necessary afterward.

But, at the end of the day, you'll still have a problem with being bored of the work you're doing, and you can only fix that by finding new work to do: either new problems/niches in your current field that you haven't tackled before, or start looking in the direction of fields that you can get passionate about.

Do you know what you'd rather be doing instead of writing software?

Because, if you do, then you should probably make a list for yourself. On that list you do this:

#1: Job I don't like.

#10: Job I want.

Steps #2 through #9 should be the next N things you need to do to do whatever it is you'd rather be doing.

Software is not the only place for smart people to work, a lot of people burn out or discover that it's just the wrong career for them.

Don't force yourself to work in an industry that you don't like. You're young, and it's far better to work towards something different now instead of wasting away doing something you hate.

Fortunately for you, the world rewards smart people these days; regardless of the field. You'll do fine anywhere if you did fine in software.

It's good to do this in opposite order. IE, list "Job I Want," and then list the steps you need to take to attain it, backwards. It's easier to start from the end and work backwards, when planning, than starting from a blank slate.

Dude, it sounds like you are really stressed out. Consider the situation you are in (eerily similar to my own, but I haven't left to work on my webapp yet) : lots of job hopping, obvious talent for CS, staring in frustration at being unable to execute a dream, bit of money saved up. I think you need to recognize that you are in a transition period in life and that life is about your emotions and your body as well as your intellect and your wallet. First off, take a yoga class TOMORROW and learn to relax and look at ergonomics info to learn how to avoid neck strain. You're unlikely to make your way out of a desk job if you want a decent life in this day and age. Allow yourself to be completely passive, to attain the beginner's mind and look at the world with no judgement or preconception. You don't need to make a decision now or tomorrow. I think you're burnt out. Relax for a month and do nothing but take things IN don't try to put anything OUT. Rejuvenate and refresh, think about your life. Have a few drinks or whatever turns you on. After a few weeks, take stock and realize you only have so many options ahead of you to make money and live a nice life. Pick the best one, make a plan and then execute on it. Make sure it is realistic and can be pulled off (at least a visible stage 1) in 3 months. If you go back to CS don't be afraid to watch some lectures on academicearth to make sure your bases are sound. Good luck!

Start by fixing the physical pain. I started getting pain from sitting 12+ hours in a chair, too.

I improved my posture by taking Alexander Technique classes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Technique http://www.vancouveralexandertechnique.com/

Then I improved my flexibility by taking up yoga. I've dropped 25 pounds since last summer.

Figure out the "mental" stuff and existential angst after you get physically healthy.

and do some PNF stretching :) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PNF_stretching

Totally second the travel, move to a strange place, do something random like work in events, theatre, a coffee shop, meet new people, get stories. I was in a similar depressed/burnt out situation & moved and it totally rebooted my life.

Could also try moving away from CTO to a CEO type role if you want to stay in web/startups without the coding. Loads to learn, plenty of cool people to meet and very intellectually stimulating.

I'm certain you'll get this comment in spades, but as a relatively young an unencumbered person you should go away and do something else.

I spent a year on "sabbatical" in my mid-20's after being laid off from another company with a great future that didn't quite get there. Best thing I have done.

Did traveling, volunteer work, odd jobs to earn extra cash.

There is nothing as refreshing as not only not knowing the date, but what day of the week it is.

Sort of a meta-comment, but why do "Ask" threads on websites like HN rarely have the OP participating in the discussion beyond the original post?

maybe the OP is taking everything to heart? :)

Don't burn your bridges and get a manual labour job for a few months.

Well I personally like to bartend when I'm not hacking. I find it really helps me reload. It's great, I get to be super social and make money. Its not even really like work.

And its great when your talking to girls cause you can make yourself sound like a super hero, "Yah, I'm a hacker by day, bartender by night!" Chicks dig super heroes.

I was in a similar situation a few years ago. I worked for a couple of top software companies, and had a job that most people would have loved. But, somehow I was unsatisfied. It got harder and harder to do productive work. After some soul searching, my conclusion was that I just didn't want to be an engineer.

I decided to go to business school. Two years later, I'm graduating and starting a software company. But I have a new set of tools and contacts that I didn't have before, as well as a different perspective on business. I'm looking forward to doing things other than just coding (although I'm going to have to write some code, since there are only three of us).

Have you considered grad school? A lot of ex-engineers do well in finance or law. Business school in particular gives you two years to explore potential job options and figure out what you want to do with your life.

Quit hacking? You should know better what to do with your life than anyone else. Find what you love.

Yea - so, I have a family which eats up a lot of my time, but beyond that, not long ago I would spend all my living free minutes reading tech books and writing code on projects I never finished...really just to keep myself sharp. I've done this for 10 or so years. It was a passion/obsession, whatever. In some strange twist of events, I've been listening to a lot of dubstep lately, and I just decided I wanted to create my own for fun. So, instead of reading textbook X all day, I bought some music software and now I'm trying to learn how to create my own musical compositions on the 'puter. It is the most fun I have had since I can't remember when.

This is such an awesome post!

I am doing fairly well too and I have hit this exact same problem. My plan of attack is 5 prong, feel free to use any of them.

1. Minimize visual stimulation outside of work hours. No computers, no reading, no tv.

2. Pick up hobbies that require you to socialize or be active. My personal ones are; golf, tennis, basketball, yoga, running a marathon.

3. Dog! I just put a deposit on my own labradoodle, I think it will help me get out more.

4. Study happiness. Just the act of reading self-help books actually makes you more happy. I'm almost done with the Happiness Hypothesis and I'm about to start Feeling Good.

5. I just started dating a girl, and that has been nice too. Just stray from the dinner and a movie dates.

Go to school, and learn a new skill, something that has always fascinated you but that you've never pursued. Meet new people, expand your horizons. Defer your student loans.

Also, if you're good at what you do (and it seems like you are) - you'll probably end up coming back to it, but just need the time out to recharge and refresh, or maybe you'll just become a painter because of all the talent you had that you never discovered earlier because you were too busy writing code.

Best of luck.


Recent thread of burnout may have some helpful advice:


A List Apart just posted an article on burnout: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/burnout/

[edit: dupe sorry.] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=626616

Happened to me, though I'm not having a long history like you. Every once in a while I get that exhausted feeling. But fortunately my mind says what should I do. Mostly it's going to parents, go & meet non-techy friends, going on a trip to countryside etc.

How about learning something else ? You've got time, why don't you learn a musical instrument ?

1-Take a long walk (walking helps a _lot_ to think about problems)

2-If you find a library, stroll inside

3-Find a book or two by using your immediate taste/intuition. anything will suffice.

4-Let it flow. You will eventually find something to do.

I would be very surprised if you don't find anything this way.

I'd recommend some hard physical work, be prepared not to work amongst your peers, but do level with them. It can be most rewarding doing physical work, and see society through different eyes for a while.

If you want to apply your quantitative skills to a more active outdoor environment, you could consider some type of structural or civil engineering.

make random things. use your creative side and have fun with it. I do it all the time when I'm struggling with a problem or taking a short break.

Read "Scar Tissue" (Anthony Kiedis' autobiography)

I'd actually second this. He faced several periods of pretty intense change in his life, and he was battling his drug addictions, and his experiences are pretty ridiculous and very inspiring. Also, when it comes to living on a shoestring, this guy's got it down.

Work on an IPhone game instead :)

Take a break, dude. You don't have to backpack around questionable countries but 6 mos of living expenses will give you a comfy stay in lots of places.

I spent 6 weeks in New Zealand last year, almost totally offline. NZ is super cheap right now, safe, and they speak English... not a huge culture clash, but still different, and most importantly, far away.

If you're constantly cramming your life up with things and activities, you can't hear the little voice inside you that is trying to guide you. You need quiet, space, a break.

You might come back feeling rejuvenated and excited to do what you've been doing (altho perhaps a different approach). You might realize finally that it's really not for you, and get an idea of what might be.

Either way, it's scary but worth it.

Travel, take a break. Seems like burntout and you need to take a vacation and then decide whether you really want to quit this industry.

I don't think you were as successful as you made it out to seem. Shouldn't you have a nice cushion to sit upon and practically retire (:

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