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Work like hell (dcurt.is)
33 points by DanielRibeiro on Sept 10, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 69 comments

I love spending time with my family and running trails too much. The fresh air, the exercise, the wind and rain in my face!

'Work like hell' sounds a lot like, well ... Hell?

It's a choice between pleasure and accomplishment I guess.

False dichotomy.

Spending time with ones family IS an accomplishment. Climbing a hill IS an accomplishment. Both pleasurable activities, to my mind.

The choice is between which accomplishments give you pleasure, not between accomplishments and pleasure.

This is just being silly. Spending time with your family is not an "accomplishment" in the commonly-understood sense of the word.

If spending time with ones family is part of what it means to be a family, and when time/work pressures make it difficult to do so, I would say "accomplishment" is more than appropriate.

Raising an happy and healthy child is an accomplishment, and both parents need to be involved. Giving happiness to your family is an accomplishment, a much bigger one than "imagining" (because, lets get real, this is just a nice dream) futuristic trains travelling in a vacuum pipeline.

You don't have a family? Ok, spend all your time imagining nice stuff and give press releases about your imaginary stuff, but don't call it job, call it hobby. Are you still calling it a job? Then you shouldn't be spending so much time on it.

I am not an EM fan, but Tesla Motors, SpaceX and PayPal are not imaginary and all more important than a thousand of happy healthy kids.

I meant more like accomplishing something that has not been done successfully before by someone else. Like starting a new kind of business. Climbing a hill on Mars would certainly be an accomplishment. Spending time with a family of first genetically-enhanced children would be an accomplishment as well.

I would argue that raising a happy/healthy/balanced child is an accomplishment. Its been done by many before me, but it is by no means easy.

Working 14 hours a day, 7 days the week will not acomplish more than working 8 hours a day, 5 days the week. This is already true of factory production line workers. How much more true do you think this is for mentally exhausting activities like information workers.

This is what's called "dumb working". Dumb because your productivity will drop permanently more than 60% if you do it for prolonged periods of time.

And if you, somehow, can't measure the drop in your productivity and it seems that you're at the same level of productivity no matter if you're rested and relaxed as opposed to stressed out, overworked, sleep-deprived and on the brink of burnout, then you're not doing actual work. You're doing make-believe work, like sitting trough endless meetings and nodding your head.

Somehow a lot of smart people seem to think that bruteforcing your way trough a problem (despite solid statistical data of this not working) is a good thing to do. But let's suppose that even if you could achieve the imaginary boost in productivity (2.5x or whatever) for prolonged periods of time (which you can't), most of the time this will not solve your problem. Performance increases below a factor of 10x are not very juicy targets. No matter how good you are, you will not be able to cram 400 hours in a week, because a week only has 168 hours. The way to solve problems that are that hard that you'd need 10x the amount of time to solve them, is to work much, much smarter, so you can get to grips with the problem.

Working smarter can make it possible to attack a 10x as hard problem, whereas scaling up work hours even if it'd work does not.

Just because you might be less productive after 8 hours does not mean that you cease producing measurable results.

You WILL build more if you are building every waking hour. If you are obsessed enough to do so.

You could work 14 hours a day and do the work that someone else could do in 4 hours. But that is not what this discussion is really about. This discussion is about the fact that if you are crazy, hungry, obsessed, and single minded enough to work 100 hours a week, intelligently, you WILL accomplish far, far more than what anyone else could ever do in a 40 hour work week.

You're making some assumptions that are shown to be incorrect.

1) You're assuming that you can start every workday at maximum productivity regardless of your previous workload. This has been shown to be false. Previous overwork will make you start your day already at depressed productivity.

2) You're asuming that there is no way that somebody who works 2.5x as many hours can acomplish less than in 1x as many hours. This can also shown to be wrong in general because your productivity due to overwork can drop below 40% of what you can achieve when rested. It can also shown to be especially wrong for work where the quality of the work has a future compounding effect (such as programming). If you make bad decisions one day, because you are overworked, even if you achieve more that day than a rested person would, the bad decisions can cost you all the gains and more the next day, weeks or months. I.e. not only will you have achieved less, you factually worked backwards.

"Nine women can't make a baby in one month."


This phrase is so overused, it has become an excuse to be lazy in many cases.

Look how Cory Doctorow works:

" The “write it now and fix it later” approach sounds perfectly reasonable to me, but then Doctorow pushes it to an extreme. “For instance, I wrote Homeland [2013] while I was touring Germany to publicise Little Brother [2008]. I had a translator, we’d visit lots of schools, and so I’d be speaking English half the time and he’d be speaking German half the time, and I’d write the book while he was speaking German.” "


He is 27 women making 4 babies a week. And he manages to make breakfast for them all every morning too ;-)

Well, nine women can make nine babies in nine months, so effectively they are working at a capacity of one baby per month. If you want to twist physicality for your standpoint, I can twist sampling range for the opposing standpoint.

This is not saying I fully agree with EM's case in point here, as much a fanboy of his as I am.

I understand you don't want to be Elon Musk. But, surely, you are not suggesting Elon Musk is a dumb worker, are you?

Not necessairly. I might think that the bulk of Musks activity is sitting in endless meetings and nodding his head, and that he might think that's work, the same kind of work that the actually working people do, and it might lead him to generalize his view on his working hours into other kinds of activity (where the actual work gets done).

I respect Elon Musk immensely for what he has accomplished. Leading SpaceX and Tesla to market dominance at the same time is insanely impressive! The guy is obviously very brilliant and very driven.

But I don't envy him one bit. I remember an interview with Elon where they asked him why he doesn't just relax, now that he has so much money. And he replied that he's not the type of guy who can sit on the beach. After a couple days he gets so antsy, he has to go do something incredible (like start the next multi-billion dollar company).

I would rather be the guy who is able to sit still and be at peace (even if it means I just have a "regular" job, whatever that means). Why? Because Elon doesn't have a choice. He HAS to start the next multi-billion dollar company. He makes it look like it's his choice, but it really isn't. Put him anywhere else, and he would probably be the most miserable person on the planet. Even if he DOES successfully IPO all his companies and becomes worth $10 billion (instead of just $1 billion), he will not be one bit more satisfied. Because it's not like the additional $9 billion will give him the thing he's missing. If it were like that, then the first $1 million would've taken care of that (or the first $2 million, whatever). And so after his current companies succeed, he'll have to do it all over again. And then again.

Compare this to someone who could decide to work hard and strive to be successful, but doesn't HAVE to. (i.e. he wouldn't feel terrible if he wasn't insanely successful)

So while I think Elon is a totally awesome entrepreneur, I don't envy being him.

Well I always like the following quote:

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

― Bill Gates

Luckily I don't aspire to be the next Elon Musk. So I don't read it as most to be successful you need to work like hell. To be like Elon Musk you need to work like hell. Successful is by every individual defined different.

Are you sure about the source of this quote? I've seen it attributed to Napoelon before.

"Never trust the stated source of a quote online." --Ben Franklin

I concur with the quote by Elon Musk. If your goal is to "achieve greatness", that is. That's not what a lot of people want to do. In that case, those people should work smarter for less time.

If you do want to achieve greatness, yes, you will burn out from time to time. Deal with it.

Yes, it's harder when you have kids, but it's doable, if you have a loving and supporting partner at home.

If you are hungry enough, you can do it.

If you're not hungry enough, that's ok. Enjoy yourself.

100hr week = 16hr days assuming you take one day off per week.

16hr days + 6hrs sleep = 2 non-working hours a day.

Personally I would rather live in comfortable mediocrity and spend significant time with my wife and son than distance myself from them in exchange for money.

Each to his own I guess.

It's not always about money. Some people just want to put that dent in the universe.

I'd argue that I'm doing my bit to change the world by ensuring I raise an emotionally stable, empathetic, happy human being.

During the day I do my bit by helping others find a job that actually makes them happy.

I may not be sending folk to space or building faster ways for people to get to work but I feel like I make some difference.

Again, different strokes for different folks.

If you really concur then you'll be comfortable to sit in a car or rocket that's produced by an army of zombies so dog-tired that if they where truck drivers they'd legally be considered a road hazard.

Of course you wouldn't, nobody would, and you don't believe that's how Musks cars and rockets are produced, that'd be crazy and irresponsible.

But somehow it's not crazy and irresponsible to drive a company in a state where you'd be forbidden to go on the road.

You should not take burn out so lightly. A burn out can have severe consequences like depression and coronary heart diseases. You make it sound like a cold. It's not. It can take month or years to recover.

If I had children I would like to spend time with them. I also love to spend time with my loving partner. That is why I have a loving partner: to spend time with her.

Work is an integral part of my life still I don't live to work.

"If your goal is to "achieve greatness", that is. That's not what a lot of people want to do."

When I was a child I was a tennis player, and went to tournaments around Spain. I met hundreds of amazing players at the time that "gave it all" to tennis and never did it(Go to special tennis schools, leave studies, train extra hard at the "pain is weakness mantra"[and get injuries]).

I met Rafael Nadal too. A normal kid, going to a normal school, with normal friends, and normal girlfriend and with his uncle controlling he did not abused training. He also played football with his friends at the beach(he is really good playing football too).

1. Yes, but he'll sustain his work rate for years while you'll burn out in one, therefore achieving less in the long run.

2. Yes, but do it for your own ambitions and projects, NEVER for a corporation -- they'll squeeze every bit of productivity out of you and then replace you once you turn in to a burnt out husk.

3. Yes, but set yourself a goal and slow down once you reach it. Then enjoy the wealth you've earned.

Source: Personal experience. I violated all of the above and suffered the consequences before becoming enlightened.

Edit: typo

I prefer:

"Work smarter". If other people are putting in a 40 hour week, then you can automate yourself and increase efficiency, then do a 20 hour week and do stuff you want to do rather than must do. In my case that means spending time with my family.

Elon does a miserable job of family by the looks.

I don't think it's completely cool to judge someone's family life.

When that person is suggesting that working 100 hours a week I think having a look at their work/life balance is sensible.

It is up to them and the people who they live with, how they want to live their life. Musk, from the sound of it, is not interested in getting home at 6pm and shutting off work. One would assume that the Musk household lives accordingly.

There is no need to compare your own family life with what you expect others' family life should look like.

Its not about judging family life. I am ok with people wanting to spend more time their family instead of working 16 hours a day. I am also ok with people spending 16 hours a day working their ass off.

But this kind of work habit will affect your personal life, and Elon has already gone through 2 divorces. This is perfectly relevant to the discussion.

This will just get you to the same place as everyone else. You have to work smarter AND longer. Unless you want to stay on the same level as everyone else but have more free time. Which is fine!

The quote about working 100 hours a week in that case does not apply to you at all. And that's fine too!

ignoring burnout completely - even for the medium term (anything more than a couple of days), I very much doubt that someone doing a 100 hour week is 2.5x as productive as someone doing a 40 hour week

He is usually from half as productive to 10% more from my observations

Why do we glorify this sort of thing?

Let's say you sleep 8 hours a night (and don't fool yourself into thinking you don't need all that sleep). In between work and sleep, that's 156 out of 168 hours accounted for every week. How the hell are you supposed to enjoy life with the 12 hours you have left?

Or you will simply burn yourself out , hate life, lose support from your family and friends, get out of shape, feel exhausted and make productivity go the drain way.

Elon Musk could do it because he loves his work so much he is not really working. But I met people that did the "100 hours thing" not enjoying it with so bad consequences(suicide, their children taking drugs or becoming prostitutes or joining gangs as they don't see their parents and are in constant search for love).

Back when I dropped out and went on my little "farming adventure" I was put in a position where I was working around 90 hours a week. So yeah, pretty close.

I didn't get more done than the other guys. One guy I met managed a 400 acre pecan orchard. He had an army of undocumented labor and expensive harvesting tech. Another guy, well, onetime he bought a $20,000 high-tech cucumber seed-sowing machine that you pulled behind a tractor. I remember him telling me that this thing was intelligent enough to plant seeds at the perfect depth and discard any bad seeds before it plants them, all using some sort of engineering wizardy that I've since forgotten the details of.

Me? There were these two kids who helped harvest stuff for me so I could focus on everything else I had to do. Farmer I was working for also had two Farmall tractors from the 40s or 50s. Pretty neat actually...when the good one worked, and the other was just there for parts, because the logic is if you buy two broken tractors then hopefully you can get one decent one by combining the two. Didn't always work out that way.

I worked like hell alright, but I sure didn't feel like I was getting anything done faster. I was working hard, but I sure wasn't working smart, not compared to the other guys

Unless you burn out, in which case you might achieve considerably less and have bad consequences.

But if you work for 200 hours a week you'ld accomplish the same in only 2 months. Think about that, Elon so-called Musk.

And then you die

And if you are lazy you never die.

Working 40 hours per week is not being lazy: is balancing work & real life, keeping them separate and have both of them.

We work to live, we don't live to work.

What Elon Musk does is not "work": for him is an hobby and you can put how many hours you want in an hobby, but I don't believe for one second that his employees enjoy putting 100 hours WORKING hours and live an healthy and happy life

If I worked 100 hours weeks I'd go nuts in very short order. I'd hate it. I've known at least one person who has probably worked 100+ hour weeks for most of his life. This person has a wife and a son, and he hates them. Well, perhaps not hate, but he certainly avoids them most of the time. If you tear him away from work for something, he'll insist on talking about work. If you go to a conference with him you can see him slowly going mad being separated from work for such an extended period of time, even if it's to talk to other people about work! He loves what he does and is ridiculously happy doing it, but that's all there is to his life. Retirement will kill him. He is very accomplished, but there are people who work 20 hours a week out there who are more accomplished.

Don't listen to people who tell you that you'll burn out if you work X hours or be a failure if you only work Y hours. Human beings are variable. Find your optimum.

Musk is a good general staff officer in the von Hammerstein classification system(Hey it makes more sense than myers briggs or that crap always posted here based on watching mediocre sitcoms.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_von_Hammerstein-Equord

I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy -- they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent -- he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief

Work like hell, time to time.

Sometimes you have to work very hard to get the ball rolling. Once it is rolling you can take it easy, relax, move onto the next thing, spend more time with your family and friends.

Most good things in life cannot be accomplished with half assed effort. So, you cannot do the 4-hour work week thing all the time.

I remember a few of us developers resisting a push for 10-12 hours days at a company I worked at. It was easy to find precedent in research and blog posts about how it wasn't sustainable.

It's been interesting to see what my wife experiences as a medical resident lately, in contrast to what I'm used to in the software world: 10-16 hours a day, 6 days a week, and it's incredibly normal, necessary, unquestioned. Today's residents have it easier with the lower 80-hour restrictions in place. When there's talk about the workload, it tends to center around how the lower limits might actually be bad (eg, this recent New Yorker piece http://nyr.kr/15hELxF).

I've seen software developers putting in 80-90 hour weeks. The general pattern was arrive 30 minute because they over-slept. Spend an extra hour not being productive because they are half asleep. 4 coffees later they start fixing the bugs they introduced last night because they were exhausted.

They don't/can't listen in meetings and as for any ability to architecture software at a high level, forget it.

One of the most stupid quotes I've heard for a long time. And working 10/4 as much gains you 12/4 productive hours, you actually become more productive? I simply don't believe any intelligent person really said this.

"If the goal of social development was to enable us to work maximally, we should go crazy.

The goal is to free people to create maximally. Dance, paint, sing. Whatever you want."

-Ernst Wigforss Swedish finance minister 1925-1926, 1936-1949.

I love Elon Musk, but Dustin doesn't work like that and neither do I.

Plus it is much easier to "Work like hell" if you are a boss of a couple massive engineering companies and people really need you all the time. It is harder to be creative AND self-motivating AND productive without missing details. The most I've worked was 87.5 hours in a week (I had to run 3 massive construction jobs because two guys got sick while one guy was on vacation) and then I got into a motor cycle accident due to sleep depravation.

I still work hard, but 100 hours is not sustainable.

A lot of people immediately start to talk about burnout. But it's important to understand that a burnout is not about working hours.

The fire burns out when no fuel is added. Fuel can come in many forms and shapes, like: working out, love what you do, gain energy from your work, eating healthy, sleeping well, and so on.

So the quote only applies to people who love what they are doing because they get there fuel from the job (which isn't a job for them but a way of living).

Question is ofcourse: why don't you do what you really love?

It's reasonable for Elon to say things like that as he truly found his life's work. As Steve Jobs once said, "You have to have a lot of passion for what you do because if you don't, any rational person would give up". Those of us who were not hard-working <strike>less fortunate</strike> enough to find IT, have to resort to more reasonable '4-hour workweeks'.

I think the more appropriate link to someone browsing hacker news should just be 'Do some work already would you'.

This is toxic advice and I'm glad to see most of HN agrees. Being ambitious is one thing but there's only so much a human mind and body can take. Banging your head against the wall 24 hours a day isn't going to produce better results than a healthy balanced life, in the long run it will be worse results.

By the way, here is my response to this post. 'Work like heaven': http://nowaternomoon.com/post/60922903254/work-like-heaven

That's just dumb.

The real problem is managing resources, which includes your health and energy. If you somehow can make yourself fit enough to work 100h, fine. But it is not just a matter of willpower. Not in the long run anyway.

You have to find your own pace, the pace which makes you most productive (in whatever terms you like to measure productivity). If that is 100 hours a week for Elon Musk, good for him.

Even if the quote is by Elon Musk, I assume it is not him personally that works like this, but maybe some of his co-workers, certainly not for prolonged periods of time.

Ha...unless you've got tunnel vision and started down the path of working on the wrong thing.

I find things like this to be hindsight accolades.

If you are a business owner that is.

As long as you do it for yourself and not some boss.

Burnout much?

"If you win in lottery, you make more money than others in many years of working"

Stupid truism!

Sorry, i am not Elon Musk, if i was Elon Musk everybody will say "cool, you are right" to my truism.

What's the rush?

Lazy wisdom.

go fuck yourself

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