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I'm completely demotivated to work; what can I do?
124 points by iyra72 on Feb 22, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments
I'm two years before heading off to university, but I have no motivation to learn the things that are being taught at college. I chose to study the subjects that I thought I would enjoy, but sadly this isn't true. I'm assuming that if I had made other choices for subjects, I'd be in a similar problem. Maths is one of the subjects I'm studying, and although I enjoy maths itself, I'm not enjoying what I learn in school. I can't be motivated to put the work in, so that I can get good results at the end of the year. I spend my free time programming or researching instead, but I can't continue doing this if I want to get the A-levels I need to enter a half-decent university.

Are there any ways by which I could motivate myself to study more?

I'm going to say something that's a little tough but it's meant as advice coming from years of mistakes before I finally got my head on the right way: Part of growing up is learning to prioritize what you need to do, even if it isn't fun, over what you like to do. This is how the real world works, and it's what you'll spend the rest of your life doing. Learning to do it when you're young, when mistakes are smaller, will make the rest of your life so much better.

When you get your needs out of the way, the fun stuff you can do is all the better, and you'll know more about the fun stuff that you're doing enabling you to open more worlds of enjoyment later that you'll never be able to conceive of without putting in the hard work to start. Doors will be open to you that you'll never even imagine if you put in the work to build the foundation of your life right now. Digging the metaphorical ditches and laying the metaphorical concrete for your foundation sucks, but that's how life is. Lots of sucky boring shitty work, for a few profound moments of bliss.

I know this sounds just like words right now, but I wish this was a concept that I had truly grokked much earlier in my life before I had to spend years fixing all the bits and pieces I needed to do that I had deferred.

Nobody gets to do the fun stuff for long, without working out all the dreadfully boring bits a head of time.

Want to be an explorer? Spend months raising money and building schedules and looking at maps and buying equipment.

Want to be a rock star? Spend years learning to play an instrument, playing in dive bars and making demo tapes. Get a break then play the same 4 hit songs for 20 years.

Want to write awesome code and run an awesome business? Spend years learning computational theory, business management and leadership, raising funds, and last but not least, writing thousands of lines of boring boiler plate, edge case handling and plumbing code.

Want to be an author? Spend a few years writing a couple hundred pages on your topic then get rejected by 99 out of 100 publishers. Then do an endless book tour where you read the same passage from your book 300 times.

Learning to do the boring, dreadfully dull, uninteresting stuff...learning to just muscle through it...is the most important life skill any human being can learn. It's the marshmallow test magnified by a million.

First of all, I want to say that this comment is completely spot-on, and it also took me waaay too many years to learn it as well.

The other thing is, because so many things are such a slog, to get to the good parts, you've got to figure out what it is deep-down that does motivate you. The truth is, it's not going to actually be motivating you most days, but since you're going to be slogging regardless, you need to make sure you're slogging towards something that you consider to be worthwhile.

For some people it's family, for others it's money, for some it's a particular sport, for some it's owning their own business. For some it's writing, for others it's photography, or music. For some it's being a respected member of their community.

Think to yourself, who are the people you most respect? When you're 40, what kind of a person do you want to be? What kind of success will be most important to you? The answer might not always be immediately clear or obvious, but a vague idea can still help point you in the right direction.

But also: nobody can slog away at the same thing all the time, so make sure you make plenty of room for friends, fun, exercise/sport, romantic attachment, and whatnot. As long as you have those kinds of things, you'll find you can deal with the slog after all. And in the end, they're really what life is mostly about. :)

Just keep in mind there are diminishing returns on most things. If you want to be the best your going to have to work harder than 99% of everyone out there. But, if you want to be better than average you don't really have to work that hard just be smart about it.

10 hours of real effort a week will get you into most collages. 10 hours of real effort a week can keep you in great shape. And 10 hours of real effort is more than most people put into there jobs. The secret is to not slack off and to keep at it for years.

PS: Some of the best advice I have ever gotten was simply showing up is worth a lot.

There's another side to this line of reasoning. Sometimes, things feel tough because you are simply on the wrong track: Studying and working on the wrong things, have your ambitions set too high, working the wrong way (hard, not smart) or just push yourself too hard. If this happens to correctly describe the difficulties you have, the right answer is to ease off a bit - not just buckle down and push harder.

Which of these situations you're in at any given time is a difficult question which can't be worked out from three sentences written on a web forum. I would hazard a guess that given the "curse of the gifted", the former is more common in kids just out of High School. But I have often seen the latter as well, including on Hacker News. Both these situations can turn into mental health issues if you don't take them seriously.

I feel incredibly blessed that I never had to do any of this. I enjoyed computer programming. I learned to do all the stuff because it was fun. Learned to read and write files, learned to sort, learned to write languages, etc etc.

All of it was almost always in pursuit of some goal. I want to create ABC I needed to learn about DEF. etc.. Very little of it was just learning for the sake of learning.

I can't remember ever doing a boring thing related to programming off the top of my head. I can remember automating repetitive things but even that was fun.

I remember working lots of overtime but I don't remember disliking the work.

I don't know what to take from that. I've kind of assumed it's been the same for all the programmers I respect. I see them code as a hobby just like me. I assume they keep doing because they love it.

Maybe if you don't love it you're doing the wrong thing? Maybe if you don't love anything then your advice is true?

It's the gen x vs gen y philosophy at work here.

Gen X is about putting the time in and reaping the rewards. Gen Y is about finding passion in the work itself and thus is more willing to "soul search" when it comes to doing work.

It's certainly an interesting dynamic and recruiters/HR/managers have needed to shift their mindset to accommodate the new school approach to finding work.

The Gen Y approach doesn't apply to many professions,and fewer that pay well. Programming is one of the few, along with athletics and entertainment.

I don't have hard data to back it up, but beyond programming, I imagine there's a higher incidence rate of changing majors in undergrad, going back to do a masters in a field different than what you originally studied, and other such things going on. (going back for a law degree, mba, what have you).

Do you code for a living? If so, I think your experience ("no boring task ever") is pretty unique.

I'm in a similar situation. I got into writing code because the things I thought were cool required writing code to have; websites, irc bots, web apps, etc.

I have been learning new things about code (and in the process software engineering) for about 10 years and I find it more exciting than ever. I do have a a lot of boring tasks to complete but I often play around with them a bit, finding new ways to do an age old task and then it's cool again.

On a related note, I see qualified people my age working jobs they don't really enjoy for peanuts and it really sucks. I consider my self very lucky for having a full-time hobby that is rewarding and can pay the bills.

That's some powerful drugs.

I think this is key, and it's important to understand that the self-discipline you are required to learn to excel in school and university is a large part of the reason you're there in the first place. It's not just about learning what's being taught, or even 'learning to learn', it's about conditioning your brain to function while withholding rewards for significant amounts of time.

I can spend hours and days programming incredibly boring, repetitive code, because the end result is valuable. Teaching your brain to understand this is the struggle the OP faces.

BTW especially with maths, teachers mostly fail at providing any context above 'learn this rule, so you can apply a slightly more advanced version of it next year'. There is a huge amount of context and thought around the mathematics that's being taught, but little effort ever goes into expounding it. If you're struggling with maths in particular, try reading up on some of the history of the topics to find out why they were invented, and what problems they solve. It brings an incredibly richness to what can be a fairly dry, abstract subject.

I found studying the hjstory of mathematics gave a lot more depth about how things came about and why ie delta epsilon limit proofs and the centuries long journey to give a theoretical basis to calculus.

I'm relatively young and often fighting myself to get things done as well. I've taken steps to force myself away from distracting things and focus on stuff that needs to get done. For example, I've installed a website blocking extension on Firefox and blocked sites I'm drawn towards from 8am to 5pm, also uninstalled all other browsers (I have broken and installed chrome just to procrastinate, since uninstalled).

Right now I have a 1500 word paper to start but am stalling and finding a slow cooker recipe for dinner.

Nearly every day I am fighting myself to be productive, it can be pretty painful in its own way. I figure if I'm ultimately winning(being productive) then I am making some sort of progress in my personal growth.

What you said there is the main reason I know I have to push myself. I know if I don't then I'll just end up being disappointed in myself.

So, essentially, fear is what drives me.

It sounds like you're developing good skills that will serve you later. Nobody likes to do this boring stuff, but it just has to be done.

Advice: just write the paper. Between this comment and my last I've just brain dumped 1000 words down - 1500 isn't too much to write. Just get it done in some raw form, then go make dinner, then come back revise, edit, add sources. At least in the absolute worst case, you'll have something accomplished.

It brings to home a recent event, one of my childhood friends, who hasn't figured this out, has a couple kids by two different women, no education or good money making job skills. He's spent his entire life to date doing whatever feels good and interests him instead of making the painful investments in his future.

He just got his first paycheck after the courts ruled he needed to start making his child payments. That first paycheck was smaller than what he got from his part-time retail job he had right after high school in absolute dollars (adjusted for inflation it's way smaller).

He's turning 40 now and is just starting to realize that he's spent over 20 years accomplishing nothing, and in a little over 20 years, when he retires he'll have nothing to retire on. It's worse than if he had earned it then lost it all. At least he'd have the intrinsic skills and work history to try and rebuild it. Right now he's barely qualified for a low-paid, dead end salaried job working tech support.

It's all caught up to him and he's working all the time now and has nothing to show for it in the near or far term. He's getting by on the charity of others. He's looking back on the few opportunities he had, that if he had taken advantage of them instead of chasing immediate joy he'd be in a much better place and better able to realize his dreams, and better positioned to have and properly raise his kids.

There's a possibility one of his exes is going to move across the country and now he's desperately trying to figure out how to be involved in both of his kid's lives...and realizing he doesn't even have the money to make a single one-way flight to visit his other kid.

He has nothing to offer for his older kid's future either, now that he's only a few years away from graduating high school. And his kid, young as he is, has figured this out and is already making plans for his life outside of this mess...he's joining the military and this has my friend scared for the safety of his child.

This is not where anybody wants to end up, but it's all a result of tens of thousands of small decisions where he could have chosen to do the boring grindy stuff and invest in his future, or do something that felt like more fun and he chose the fun path.

It's not too late for anybody to turn the ship of their life around though, it just takes raw willpower and a single minded focus on your goals. Sacrifice near term fun for a better long term outcome.

I just want to emphasize the trick you outlined because it is the most effective for me. Have something to do? Just get started on it and do a little bit. I don't mean get started on it with the intention to finish it. This is what stops you – fear of actually doing it. So, really, start with the intention to just do a little bit. Tell yourself you're just taking some notes, you'll stop after 10 minutes. Then, do one of two things: (1) stop and do something else or (2) if you find yourself wrapped up in the work, consider allowing yourself to continue. But you must not think of option (2) when you begin. It's not an option.

Zizek once said that in order to get himself to write, he needs to to tell himself that he's just going to take some notes. One of the most productive critical theorists in the world has procrastination problems too, and he gets over them with self-deception. He also schedules every moment of his life though, so don't think one trick is all that's required to be at the top of your field.

Ultimately, I think finding a way to dodge your anxiety entirely is very important. I don't believe in "muscling through".

In essence Zizek's trick is to make some notes to himself and to then edit them later. The result of this is writing.

Here's the quote (IMDB):

Slavoj Zizek: I have a very complicated ritual about writing. It's psychologically impossible for me to sit down [and just write] so I have to trick myself. I operate a very simple strategy which, at least with me, it works.

I put down ideas. But I put them down usually in a very elaborate way. A line of thought and then in full sentences and so on. So up to a certain point I am telling myself: "No, I'm not yet writing. I'm just putting down ideas". Then at a certain point I tell myself: "Everything is already there, now I just have to edit".

This is from the biopic Zizek! (2005) which I thought was great. I'd recommend it.

Another quote from Zizek!:

I'm a total enlightenment person. I believe in clear statements and so on.


This is how I go about tasks usually, I hardly ever expect myself to finish something completely unless it's small. Sometimes I just end up in the zone and happily punch it out for several hours, sometimes I work on it over several days.

Another thing I might work on is over-hyping a task, making it seem like much more work than it really is. For example, I started on this paper I need to write and was really dreading it. However, since I started it I've seen that it's actually nowhere near as bad as I had previously imagined.

I'm finding that momentum is constantly a large factor in my productivity as well, if I can get momentum I often begin to enjoy tasks.

I had this long diatribe pounded out and ready to submit, but, why bother? It's going to fall on deaf ears. People have bought into the "hard work" lie so fully. I'll just leave it at this:

While there are notable exceptions, hard work is not a reliable predictor of success. Do you really think those multi-million dollar penthouses in Manhattan and those huge estates in the hills on the SF Bay peninsula are inhabited by people who simply "muscled through it"? Being (or knowing) the right people is a reliable predictor of success. By and large, those guys are the ones making it big.

My advice to someone going off to college would be: 1. Go to the most prestigious one you can afford/luck into and 2. Make friends with the richest/most well connected kids you meet.

Who said hard work alone would make you hugely rich and successful? Hard work is just a requirement for those who weren't born into wealth if they don't want to live in poverty. Working hard allows you to make the most of your opportunities.

Also, it usually takes hard work to get into the most prestigious universities (if you aren't already a silver spooner). It can also be a lot of hard work to make friends with the right people if you aren't naturally a people person.

> Want to be a rock star? Spend years learning to play an instrument, playing in dive bars and making demo tapes. Get a break then play the same 4 hit songs for 20 years.

Wait, what? Is this supposed to be inspirational? Suffering for "success" to find yourself "playing the same 4 hit songs for 20 years"? It feels like this actually undermines the rest of your argument, so I'm kind of confused what you were going for here.

Well, do you want to play new songs or be a rock star? "Being" a rock star isn't all about jamming new tunes.

Understanding what your goals are actually about, instead of idealizing them is just as important to figure out where to best put your efforts. Even after you "make it", it doesn't mean there's still isn't drudgery involved.

A little meta, but HN sometimes almost veers into the "get rich quick" thinking, where somebody works for a month or two to assemble a picture sharing app or something, then expects to sell for a billion and wear unbuttoned oxford shirts and angel invest from their beachfront house in Hawaii for the rest of their life.

There's hard work in everything and even when you "make it", there's still hard work involved.

Is't more like the price you pay for getting to hook up with groupies the rest of your life.

Parallel construction with the other items:

Desirable goal? Drudgery, drudgery, drudgery...

He's not trying to inspire so much as inform you of the entrance requirements for the various goals.

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Dude, whatever you choose to do, please do yourself a favor and ignore the bullshit advice that starts with - "this is how the real world works..." That nonsense only comes from people who had settled for the average.

Life works in any way that you want it to work.

Look, if you don't want to do the shit work, don't do it, but don't bitch and moan and complain about it. Instead, find a way to still get shit done, while not doing the work you don't want to do.

You don't like doing homework? Nobody does. It's a waste of time and you will not use 90% of what you've learned.

Spend the bare minimum time you need to pass high-school on work that you have to get done, devote the rest of your time to the work you want to get done. If that means learning computer programming, do it. I had friends in high-school who managed hosting companies, while at high-school. Guess what, while the rest of us were solving stupid problems and learning history, those guys made money. It's not a bad skill to learn.

Anyways, this discussion could go back and forth... Get off your ars, close HN and just f'ing do something!

Great post. This is the kind of perspective you want to have. This reminds me of PG's high school essay:

"The important thing is to get out there and do stuff. Instead of waiting to be taught, go out and learn." - PG

Before I quote the whole thing, the OP (and anyone in the same position) should read the whole essay: http://paulgraham.com/hs.html

If you want the real world to be (quoting from the other post) "lots of sucky boring shitty work, for a few profound moments of bliss," that's fine. But if you don't want to accept that, you don't have to. What Kirill said above is totally right; life works how you want it to.

It's normal for someone in high school to feel like the OP, especially someone who's a hacker at heart. School limits you in a lot of ways, but you don't have to let it stop you. You just have to realize that the boundaries are self imposed. You can do real things. So treat school like a day job, get it out of the way, and do what's interesting to you.


> Life works in any way that you want it to work.

This, kids, is why you shouldn't smoke crack.

"Spend the bare minimum time you need to pass high-school on work that you have to get done"

>> and get the grades you need to go to college to learn more

For me, the bare minimum still got me good grades in high school, but in college I worked really hard, sometimes the bare minimum isn't enough to succeed.

Mind letting us learn more about what you did specifically yourself that that ended up in your recommendation and how it turned out?

The story often brings out more of a perspective.

So you don't like school work. You could get higher grades if only you were more motivated...

i.e. you are exactly like every other 16 year old I ever knew.

Most of them because more motivated once they started university and were able to focus on what they enjoyed studying. I'd be more worried if you were motivated at 16, because then you'd probably burn out, or grow up to be an obnoxious brain box.

Also, since you sound like you are in the UK, you should realise that grades don't matter here. No-one will ever ask what you scored in your maths A-level. Your success in life will mostly be determined by the connections your parents have. The only thing you can do to improve your chances is network and make some more connections of your own at university. Plenty of top jobs go to those who graduated with the "gentleman's third" because they spent their time networking rather than studying.

> Your success in life will mostly be determined by the connections your parents have

Sorry but this statement doesn't ring true to me, because I know of several cases where two brothers have had divergent success outcomes based on their personalities and the choices they've made.

There's also MANY ways to forge your own connections in life.

You're completely right. It's not true. Your success in life will mostly be determined by the connections you make.

It's also likely you inherit the connections your parents make - provided you maintain a good relationship with them. Everyone once in a while, I'll heard about a guy by mum knows who needs some work done on his website. Since my mum is an assistant in Tesco, these are not stupendous opportunities (though not to discredit, I can use the money).

If my mum or dad was an investment banker and I was still a web developer, I imagine they would still send leads my way. There just may be more in quantity or monetary value or both.

I recently saw this documentary, 'Who gets the best jobs'[1]. It overwhelmingly supports OP's stance.


I find anecdotal evidence to be more valuable.

Statistical evidence is always the best (assuming it's done right)

> Statistical evidence is always the best

Do you have the numbers to back that up?

OP has to get into university first.

They're not likely to do that if they drop out of A level study now.

>you are exactly like every other 16 year old I ever knew.

Really? Because when I was in high school I knew plenty of ridiculously overachieving 16 year olds.

You have a temporary hurdle to jump over. Get good grades. The aim of getting good grades is only to get good grades. There's a bunch of stuff that you can do with good grades, and if that motivates you it's great. But at the moment you just need to get the good grades.

So, perhaps when you're studying you put in 30 minutes for school work, and 15 minutes for what you enjoy, then have a break. Then repeat that.

This allows you to get the good grades, and keeps you interested in the subject.

You'll have a bit more freedom in Uni, and you'll so you can see your current task (get good grades) as also being "learn some discipline".

There will be some people who want to get better grades than you. Thus, you should get best grades you can just to stick one in the eye of those people.

This is very good advice. If you get nothing else out of high school, make sure you learn the discipline it takes to study something that's not immediately rewarding. Not only is it important right now in order to have choices for the immediate future, it's a skill that will serve you well throughout life.

Working for good grades caused me to get burnt out on school. What has motivated me to learn more than anything has been due to being engrossed by the value of the learnings application. If you can be motivated by increasing a grade letter, more power to you. But I argue that a student focused on a grade is going to get less out of the education than someone fixated on a subject for its own merit.

Fuck school, it has no intrinsic value. It's not an end in itself, and it's not built for everyone. If it's not built for you, find something you DO like and dive into it hard. You're on hacker news for some reason -- what is it you're into? Learn how to do it yourself, get technical, build skills around that. Also, make friends who are likewise into it. I promise you'll be a lot more engaged.

Do the school work but do it with something else in mind.

Also: the guys suggesting drugs know nothing about you and are probably not doctors. I love drugs, but I'd never suggest them without knowing more about you. It's absurdly easy to build a serious amphetamine dependency that will leave you feeling a lot worse than you do now.

Do you have a job? Go push a mop for a couple years. It will motivate you to do well in school and has the added benefit of giving you some money for university.

I actually second this. I worked a bunch of odd jobs starting at 15 years old (you were supposed to be 16, so I had to get consent from the principal to flip burgers). As I was taking the garbage out while working at a grocery store, it just hit me: I can't do this for the rest of my life. I believe I was around 18 years old, so maybe a little older than the OP. I joined the local chamber of commerce and started consulting that summer and made more money than the previous 3 summers, and I enjoyed the work I was doing.

It's good to work awful jobs. It builds healthy character and eventually it'll probably hit you that you really want to be doing more intellectual things, which conveniently pays more money than most physical labor.

> Are there any ways by which I could motivate myself to study more?

Probably not, if you're asking the question. But I don't think you should study more. I think you should program more, since it's already something you enjoy enough to do for fun. It's a question of playing to your strengths.

Put in the 10,000 hours of sustained effort that it takes to truly become great at it. Prove your abilities through open source.

You will have no problem finding an interesting and well-paying career, if you push yourself hard to always keep learning both about programming and about the business of software.

If that sounds like a lot of hard work, well yeah, it is. There's no shortcut. Either suck it up and do your homework and color inside the lines, or summon the guts to blaze your own path. Or do neither and let the path of least resistance take you where it wants.

Which path are you more likely to regret 40 years from now?

I'm not sure it's advisable to encourage somebody not to do well on their A-levels. It's not like the US where you can get low marks in secondary school and be fine. He won't be able to attend a decent university, ever. Correct me if I'm wrong.

The same logic applies in the US. You won't be going to a good college if you have bad high school grades.

But my advice was to consider eschewing academia entirely. I've worked with too many well-paid, respected developers without degrees to take the value of credentialing very seriously.

It's not a panacea, of course. It takes a lot of sustained work and learning whether you do it in school or not. Some people just find it easier to learn outside of formal schooling.

I think it's better to make that decision when you're 18, not 16. Always best to keep your options open because you don't know how you or the world will change, even in the near future.

This is true, sadly.

Open a map, close your eyes and point randomly. Pack you backpack, buy tickets and go there without any reservation. Spend at least 1 month away from home, comfort and routine.

When you are back you will know exactly what to do.

> Open a map, close your eyes and point randomly. Pack you backpack, buy tickets and go there without any reservation. Spend at least 1 month away from home, comfort and routine.

This sounds like an interesting and exciting life-changing plan and everything, but I don't think it's particularly actionable advice for most sixteen-year-olds in today's world, and I don't think it's likely to help with the question at hand. The submitter isn't asking /what to do/; the submitter is asking /how can I be more motivated in what I'm doing/!

I think better advice is to focus on how the things you're learning relate to the things you like to do. So try to focus on how math can improve your programming, research, and other interests. Also, keep in mind that you're building a foundation--things are more interesting once you get to the stage where you're building on top of it. Even if you decide not to use it in a few years, it's a really nice thing to have that will give you a lot of flexibility.

I think we can abstract the advice you're commenting on to "if you don't feel motivated to do what you're doing, do something else", which seems okay. It's quite possible that continuing to do things you are not enthusiastic about doing may be a bad idea.

I see your point that it's not a very actionable bit of real advice. Pragmatically, if you told my 16 year old to pack a bag and leave, I'd want to smack you :D

Sixteen is old enough - especially when he can always return. Being away from everything for a few months really puts things into perspective - why are you doing what you're doing, why you were so afraid of some things, whether you're on the right path, and more.

The weakness of the advice isn't that it might not be helpful and mind-expanding. It falls short in that most sixteen-year-olds probably don't really have the option to do it:

1) The plan takes more than a trivial amount of money. Most sixteen-year-olds cannot afford this sort of plan.

2) Many parents, if not most parents, are unlikely to support this idea. There's of course a spectrum of what parents might do to stop it if they're not supportive, but it's easier to just save up money and wait until you're done with school.

3) It can only be done in the summer without causing a lot of problems, and perhaps not even then.

It's a potentially helpful suggestion for someone who's over eighteen, but for many sixteen-year-olds it's probably a pipe dream or something that may bring more problems than benefits. The suggestion assumes a certain type of parents and a certain level of privilege that I would estimate are the exception and not the norm. I would have been extremely frustrated if someone gave me advice that presented this as a serious option when I was sixteen.

Advice that makes these sort of assumptions may end up decreasing motivation. I think more universal advice that addresses the actual question is a lot more helpful.

Old enough for your kid, maybe :D Not old enough for mine, in my state, to not be legally responsible for them, as far as I know (I suppose I could be mistaken, though).

I can agree that distance creates perspective. All I am saying is that if my 16 year old daughter told me she was going to set out for some random spot for a month, I'd probably nix the idea and not feel like I was being unreasonable.

If you spend your free time programming or researching, and aren't motivated by academics, then you might want to reconsider academic direction you're going in.

For someone who has the motivation to learn programming on their own, I seriously question the value of a formal education in anything like CS or math. You already know you can learn that stuff more easily outside of a classroom, so I would argue that taking that academic path is a waste of both your time and money.

Instead, I would consider studying something totally different. Programming is a wild card - you can play it to improve any hand you have. Keep honing those skills, but go to university for something you can't so easily learn on your own.

This is the advice I wish someone had given me before I went and wasted time in college.

> Programming is a wild card - you can play it to improve any hand you have.

This is the truth. Every success I've had has been where I've applied my computing skills to an environment where no-one with those skills had yet appeared. The efficiency gains you can make to mundane, non-computing tasks by applying a bit of programming knowledge will often knock the socks off people who've been doing things the same old way for years.

They way I think about it is you can work a dead end job for 80 hours per week making $8 an hour to make enough to survive and not have any free time to socialize, go to the gym or be with family. Or study for and try to get a decent job you like that pays half decent so you don't have to become a human eraser and wear yourself down doing the work of others. Having many skills to fall back on is great but trying to learn everything losing focus and never finishing anything isn't much help.

Or realize you need to focus and find a career that you like and is wanted by employers. I recall years ago they mentioned "The fear" and it is a great example of suddenly realizing shit I better start getting good at this life thing, now!

Time is shorter than you think your health can suddenly rapidly fail, saving for retirement is a constant worry. Time is so short it's as if nothing you do can be done soon enough. Realizing that early in life is fantastic. A big part of life I think is having mentors who are examples to follow it's good to have a person who you can think "What would Bob do?" as an internal guide.

It's easy to say all that but hard to do, I haven't mastered that yet.

I've found this fear to be my greatest motivator, but it has also lead me down false paths. Truth is, your dichotomy is a fiction. There are plenty of people who live fulfilling lives without ever having consciously focused on learning skills and meeting qualifications wanted by employers. However, nobody gets anywhere by being lazy – one then needs to find another motivator. One I have in mind is: repulsion toward injustices in the world. Rather than fearing drudgery, you can hold yourself personally accountable for evils and optimize for effecting change. Of course this is also a fiction. An individual is most likely incapable of effecting significant change in the world.

All motivations are irrational, but you still must have one. If you haven't found one, keep looking. Watch documentaries, travel, read books. You will find things to care about.

I shouldn't say or at least didn't mean a lot of money is the only way to be happy, yes finding something you love to do and your family is able to live a good life is the goal.

Education is a great character builder I often see educated people in stressful situations far more calm than someone who worked all their lives wit no education other than high school. It's not a science it doesn't apply every time but education gives you options, if you lose your job at a sawmill where you worked since age 16 you're going to be stressed. Sooner or later we all figure this out but it's better to discover that at age 18 than 49.

Exercise. Relatively new discovery that lactic acid, that comes from muscle use, is a "pre-cursor" for motivation.

Counter-example: Me, I don't work out. I work 9-5 at a tech job and then spend the weekend working on my own products. I don't struggle with motivation as I literally enjoy what I do.

Always question advice that people like to rattle off - humans are very good at perpetuating bad memes without a second thought. Like that running a marathon (26 miles) in one go is somehow healthy, without ever questioning why a healthy activity would make them shit their pants and nipples bleed.

In fact exercising would probably decrease the probability that I would be productive as it would consume more of my time and energy.

My 0.02

I know it seems like what you learn in school is boring, and perhaps even trivial, but it provides an important foundation to what you'll learn in University.

When I was in high school, I'd attempt to apply the stuff I was learning in math to more interesting problems that I was actually interested in – for example, using the simple calculus I was being taught to start to understand some aspects of machine learning.

The truth is, a lot of high school math is rather fascinating – you just need to find a place to apply what you're learning. I still use that technique now; I find a lot of the electronics courses at university extremely dull, so I'll write a program to solve, say, a diode circuit using the exponential model. And I end up learning so much more than I would just studying.

So studying high school math and learning interesting things doesn't have to be mutually exclusive :)

Sounds just like me at 16. Wasn't very motivated despite studying the A-Levels I wanted to (Maths, Physics, Computing). Spent all my spare time stealing Internet access at the local University (this was back in 1992/1993). I got decent grades (AAB) and got into my first choice University, but the motivation to do well still wasn't there. Ended up getting a 2:2 where everyone expected me to get a 1st. After that I was lucky and ended up in a good job where degree result didn't matter.

Looking back I wish I'd talked to someone (not my parents) about it at the time. So I'd recommend finding someone to talk to at your college; your form tutor (depends, I didn't get on with mine), careers advisor, pastoral care reps, etc. Just remember that they should be there to help you do your best, not bollock you for not putting your full effort in.

One way to overcome a lack of motivation is to ruthlessly eliminate distractions. Tailor your environment and to be (and practice habits that are) maximally conducive to studying. If you have a hard time "taking a step back" to take an objective look at your habits and lifestyle, you might find yoga and meditation helpful.

Exercise can also help keep your energy up, but in my experience exercise doesn't magically solve motivation problems and sometimes gets in the way. Working a hard labor can give you good experience but I think the motivation that comes from that sort of work tends to be vastly overstated and wears off very quickly.

Do you spend time programming because you're motivated to program? Have you produced anything of value? What sort of research do you do? What motivates you besides programming and research? Who is paying the bills right now?

It's nice to chip away at programming but if you don't have an academic basis to guide your studies it is going to keep you out of a lot of jobs when you get out. Take it from someone who knows - I've programmed useful things in just about every language, but because I didn't major in Computer Science (Physics/Philosophy instead) I'm unable to compete for the top tier of jobs. Hopefully this isn't permanent, as I'm teaching myself computer science now, but I could've saved myself a lot of work if I had just chosen a concentration more suitable for the jobs I was interested in.

You may be a confident auto-didact but even auto-didacts tend to have large blind spots. You don't know what you don't know, and school is there to tell you.

As a Computer ENGINEER, I can easily tell you that Computer SCIENCE is essentially a liberal arts degree. Seriously, they don't know st about technology, unless it comes safely wrapped in an API.

And by the way, studying Physics is orders of magnitude more difficult that learning CS. And for that alone, I would hire a Physicist over a CS guy any day of the week.

Ask any recruiter, and they'll tell you the same thing. Physics is a higher pecking order than CS.

I don't know where you are, but if you're in the U.S. (or even if you're not), feel free to drop me a line. Some of the best developers I know come from non-CS backgrounds and I know folks who are always looking. Email's in my profile.

Drop out and find something that motivates you. It's harder than the standard path, but if you're bright and industrious it can be a much more interesting ride. Also, university is always there later. I did the above, got bored in my second successful career and am now finishing up a Ph.D. that I started, as an undergrad, at the age of 27. I think I got more out of the program than my younger counterparts, and thanks to a decade of making money and connections, I did it in significantly better style. No regrets.

I tried couple of anti-procrastination techniques and the only one I had moderate success with is the "no internet mode". When I have some project to finish, I make a decision that until it's finished, I won't use the internet at all from the morning to 8pm (except for work-related things and email). What's really important here is that you have to decide firmly. This usually lasts couple of days but I'm thinking about doing this every day.

Some things that help me:

    Visualize goal: close your eyes, imagine your acceptance letters
    When stuck, go for a little walk or physical exercise
    Do goal-oriented studying (e.g. Pomodoro technique)
Understand the education system wants you to comply, this is wrong, but the faster you get over it the faster you'll forget about it. It's better to keep your mouth shut, don't complain or antagonize, they are not going to change for you or anybody (they haven't in centuries). Give them the little self importance they crave for and get from them what you want (grades, diploma). Of course, keep your mind critical but keep it to yourself until they give you what you want.

Also don't overwork yourself, perhaps this is not the best time to spend many hours doing unrelated programming or research. It can be a distraction to your education goal. We have limited willpower, try to avoid depletion. Only when you achieve your studying goals for the day you get to do your own thing. Study in the mornings, play in the afternoons.

Modifying your routine takes a while, do it in baby steps. Remove all temptations that might get in the way to your goals until you achieve them. But keep a good chunk of the day to clean up your head.

Of course, YMMV.

It might help to go study to a special quiet and motivational place, a library or your aunt's house.

Step back and ask yourself: What are my assumptions? Why do I believe these assumptions to be true? What if they aren't true?

You have at least 50 years ahead of you. That's a long time. But the next 5 years will profoundly shape your next 50.

If that feels like too much pressure, then simply don't worry about it. It's more important to relax than to optimize your life if you're the type of person who doesn't react well to a lot of pressure.

Wow, you sound like me 20 years ago. And I am quiet surprised at "that's life, shape up" responses.

Knowing what I know now, I wish someone would've told me: - Try to get into top schools like Stanford, Harvard, etc. - If you don't have the financial means or the grades or whatever, don't get discouraged one bit! - Since you enjoy "programming or researching", stop stressing over colleges. In my humble opinion, most colleges are overrated. They are designed for drones and will suck the passion out of what you are majoring in. (note: may not be true for all) - In my opinion, typical educational institutions in our country is broken. - Instead, start interning. Do small projects that you can showcase on your passion. Join programming groups, meet ups that are related, etc. - In short, make a living in doing what you love (programming). When you find a job and love what you do, you are no longer "working".

Finally, watch this: http://new.ted.com/talks/larry_smith_why_you_will_fail_to_ha...

Get a shit job. Get shot at by a thug. Clean up other peoples shit and piss all day for minimum wage. That's what worked for me.

First thing - don't search for motivation or don't try to get yourself motivated. You'll end up looking for things that will make you feel good which will in-turn promote procrastination and thereby take you away from actions. The truth is motivation doesn't last. It's a push mechanism. You'll have to focus on things that pull you towards it.

If you keep going like the way you are currently, how would your life be? Definitely you understand the problem with it and this post is the proof. But ask yourself - "why do you want to get A-levels at school?". If programming and researching keeps you going, by all means, you should focus on it. Make sure you put the best possible efforts in it; the rest will follow automatically.

Take it easy, there are lot of options available online if you are not enjoying what is being taught in college but you have interest in particular subject. For e.g.: When I was in college I felt my profs. are boring , so I always used to take online courses , like algorithms , operating system through ocw.mit.edu or stanford.edu or coursera , It helped me a lot to maintain interest in subject , and at same time participate in discussions online , there is always a big community somewhere which will be happy to help you .

I went through this phase of the British school system some 14 years ago, just as the AS/A2 exams were being introduced. I'm a very technically minded person, but I found school's treatment of these subjects to be intensely boring. I found it hard to pay attention and not be distracted by some more interesting or immediately rewarding passtime such as programming.

While much of the A-level material is presented in a tedious manner, there are other books and sources available beyond your curriculum and I encourage you to seek these out. Applied topics such as computer science and engineering simply assume that you have a good grasp on the fundamentals. Books such as The New Turing Omnibus give you a taste of lots of topics, find some you like and dig deeper. Try and find some exciting, applied use of the boring school math, or chemistry, or phyisics. Find books and resources which guide you through learning rather than just reading Wikipedia.

In summary, try to find the cool things that can be accomplished with the fundamentals you learn at school and you'll be more motivated to work through the tedium. Don't be afraid of "degree level" texts. Try to stay away from any programming that involves drudgery and focus on enlightened, mathematically-inclined tasks: learn Haskell, implement fundamental algorithms, find hard problems like SAT, fourier transforms, optimisation. Find something which requires the skills you learn at school but which is exciting enough to hold your attention. Do lots of little things.

It's not the material, it's not you. It's the rest of your life. You have to find a way to recharge.

I didn't do that for too long, and my grades dropped. My GPA dropped by 50%. I finally took a semester off. I traveled. I got out of the grind and away from family and work and actually tried to explore life a bit.

<i-am-obviously-projecting> When you're young and out of high school, you're mostly trying to figure out who you are independent of your parents and upbringing. Sometimes being out of your folks' house for a while and not figuring that out leaves you empty. </i-am-obviously-projecting>.

After that, I made recharging a normal part of my week. I gave myself a small music budget (a new album a month, that can't be top-40), looked into other activities (martial arts, motorcycling), and made a point to study different sub-topics of computer science at different times.

The same classes that were boring me out, I read their textbooks on the train to work.

"Are there any ways by which I could motivate myself to study more?"

You told us, the answer is no.

You already dedicate your time to programming, because you need it. I also needed it when I was your age.

In my case I started programming while also studying engineering in Europe. I made a company with the code I accumulated over this time, with the knowledge of programming being really useful to manage other people(and identifying who is really good or not at it and so on).

People consider me rich now(there is always someone else with more money, but I have more than what my family needs), but I went through very hard times before it(my family wanted me to get a good job instead of risking so much).

If you force yourself to study more, you will regret it.

My advice:

Focus on learning to study more efficiently, the idea is to use the time you already use to study faster and get better grades while also giving time to programming.

Learn from the masters, read the Audiobook "The Now habit", learn aabout mindmaps and mnemonics, and always go for the best.

Use software for remembering stuff.

Researching? Tell me you don't mean reading random wikipedia articles and browsing the web here.

You're at the stage of life where you need to develop deep skills in subjects. At the early stages of that process it can be hard to motivate yourself. You're gonna have to power through and realise you're doing this for future you not current you.

Hey there! From the sound of it, you're about sixteen years old and live in Britain. A few years ago, I was your age and in a similar position. What grades are you getting at the minute? A-levels might be easier for you than you realise.

As to how to motivate yourself to study for them... study the cool things you can do with maths. Try to solve problems. Calculus, linear algebra and statistics are the fundament of the maths curriculum, and they're all hugely useful. Figure out how to prove things. Figure out how to solve mechanics problems with calculus. Program some statistical analysis stuff.

Frankly, if you're a smart kid and enjoy maths/programming, I expect you'll do fine at A-level. And if not, it doesn't mean much. Some of the best programmers I know didn't bother going to university.

Ok let me play some mental games with you. Ask yourself would you rather pay $10/$100/$1000 or study for 5 hours?

Find the amount where you rather do the studying then pledge to donate that amount to charity. Do this everyday. I find this works for.

I estimate you are doing 4 a-levels. That's about 2000 pages of work. A 500 pg book for each subject. If you study 20 pages a day and do all the exercises, I guarantee you will get an A for whatever course(oh yea and do the past papers).

In a hundred days or so you could be finished studying for A-levels.

Enjoy the days of where you have if/then reward structures. If you study hard you get good grades then you go to a good university then you get a good job. After this, there is hardly any guaranteed recipe for success. So, take the success while you can.

It sometimes helps to study the history of whatever subject you are working towards in school. For example, the history of mathematics can provide a lot of inspiration for what can be done with the knowledge. Focus on the outcomes you want and see the schooling as a means to an end.

Being 16-18 and studying for your A-levels can be a horrible time - it was for me. Relationships with your friends start to change as you grow up at different rates (I don't know whether this applies to you), interests change, and you have so little energy it feels like an effort to get out of bed before noon. Some things that worked for me were hanging out with some different, more studious people, and learning the course material from books in the order I chose rather than following the course (I missed a lot of classes, but I would't recommend that). Make a game out of getting the grades that will be your ticket out of there! On a serious note, if you think you might be depressed, talk to someone (a doctor or counsellor) about it.

> but I can't continue doing this if I want to get the A-levels I need to enter a half-decent university.

Not sure where you're from, but in Canada you don't need all A's to get into a half-decent university. However, if you want to get into a top university, you'll need good grades and more (e.g. extracurricular activities).

I'm sure any university you will get into will be just fine. During your time at uni, you get out what you put in. Don't stress about getting into your dream university. You'll do fine wherever as long you like what you do and you get involved with stuff happening around you. Grades are just a means to an end, don't focus on them too much.

University and school is very different. I was a B~C (even D & F) student in high school because I hated what I was taught in school. I enjoy Math but somehow was not motivated as well.

I went to the okay university afterwards but things started to change. Everything what I learn there somehow made sense and was not boring anymore. It might be just the fact that university have better teacher but it was more motivating. Somehow I turned my self from B~C student to a A dean list student. I went to CMU for grad school after graduation.

The point i want to make is that university is different from school and you can always climb up the ladder as long as you try hard at some point.

Get a job. Plain and simple, this the best way to motivate yourself to study more.

Fact is though, you don't need to study more. You should work a lot more. Working is the only really effective, motivating, way to take what you've learned through your studies and apply it to the real world. Without actually doing something for someone, a lot of what people learn in school is useless.

It isn't until you actually have a user that you become a developer.

I had a rough time getting through my Computer Science degree, despite loving software. I still find things I hate. Currently, I've done web apps for a few years and now I'm fucking sick of them. Time to move on to a new area of CS that challenges me. That's pretty much how it goes. You'll do stuff you hate, but you have to use that as a foundation to do the things you love.

Yes. By changing your attitude that 100% of what you do should be "enjoyable". Try and strike a balance. In real world you will find that most everyone puts up with stuff for safety net around basic needs like house, car, raising family etc. Right now I would enjoy 2 weeks off in Maldives. But I'm here working on this presentation to make my boss look good.

This is very common situation for most of the people and it is also general for all fields. Many colleague around me who are also not interested about their daily work. Mind set is important factor to do something. Just sharing a video with you....

In youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN34FNbOKXc

Can't stop but think that title of this video sounds like some super-cheesy self-improvement BS.

"The Power of Belief"

> spend my free time programming

Sounds like you enjoy programming. Assuming this is a correct assumption, go all in on it and start contributing to open source projects. If you have the talent then you might be able to get a good job out of high school. At the very least, you might want to look into Computer Science programs in University.

Sounds a lot like an onsetting depression. Seeking medication now might save you a lot of time and suffering.

It's very important to recognize that your judgement about what interests you is probably distorted, currently. So think twice about making any rash decisions that relate to emotions or relationships....

Keep programming and researching. Then use your skills to make cool things. Then show them to potential employers. You'll do great.

Try and get to uni anyway. But take the pressure of yourself. If you're making cool things and learning loads you're ahead of the pack.

If you want to be professional programmer you don't really need university. In this profession recruitment doesn't lie when tell things like "BS in CS or similar experience.".

Just go and work, then pick up and study something else, like Mathematics or Physics.

Pick up a copy of Cal Newport's book "So Good They Can't Ignore You." Read that book and then think about your situation some more. Cal brings up some very interesting observations, and you're at the perfect point in your life to read it.

It could be depression. Google "depression test" to give you an idea about it's symptoms. If you think you've got depression, get medical help ASAP. There are some treatments that can make a big difference in your quality of life.

Your soul is probably waking up. That's the black lung of coding.

You have three, maybe four choices. Visual arts, music, and writing, with performing with an asterisk (it's not for everyone.) Get used to being a lot poorer, but happier.

Take it from someone who fucked up and went for arts:

You get demotivated there too. At least with math and programming jobs, you have some money to fix things.

But, as someone who also went towards the arts (I'm a regularly gigging musician) and letters (I have a BA in Philosophy and dumpped my PhD during my dissertation), I can say that it wasn't super hard to get back into a technical position coming from a high-school and early college education where I learned a lot of logic, math, and programming skills... since leaving my PhD program I've been consulting doing PHP-based development for the last 4 years, and I'm on track career wise as I would have been if I was teaching at a university somewhere.

This is wholly a un-based feeling, but I feel that it has been a lot easier to pick up new and professionally useful technical skills in my 30s than it would have been if I had done well in my 20s with a technical career and had to pick up the useful philosophical and musical skills I enjoy using in my 30s.

If you're a gamer, think of it as Skyrim: you have to craft a lot of iron daggers before you can make dragon armors, but it's worth it :)

(that or install a mod, but I haven't found the editor for RealLife yet)

Wait, your two years from going to college? That makes you what, 16?

You're depressed, mate. I bike 10 miles a day( 4 - 6 times a week ) to keep myself in the saddle. After that, I have no issue with this kind of stuff. Eating right is huge, too.

Adopt continous improvement for everything you do. This makes a game where you can improve your thinking, skills, and processes.

It won't be boring because you can always do it better.

Lots of people hit depression in college. See a doctor. You may not be sleeping enough, drinking too much, sleeping irregularly, etc, all which can cause depression

Go and visit your local big council estate. Poor futureless unfortunates should give you some mojo. Or even just watch Benefits Street

You don't need motivation or inspiration, and most of the time you don't have these. Just do what you have to do.

What do you seek? Minimizing pain, maximizing pleasure. That's what we all are programmed to seek. You find that and associate it with the studies.


Maximizing pleasure:

+ Do you want to work in another country/place. Your studies can get you there.

+ Want to have interesting conversation with people. Study.

+ Want to understand and have a say about a topic. Study.

Minimizing Pain:

- Don't set yourself for failure few years down the line or make it tough

- Avoid getting into a meaningless job

- (Works for Asians) Think of peers getting ahead of you.

> Minimizing pain, maximizing pleasure.

Too reductivist, so do I eat the ice cream sundae and get pleasure right now? To the detriment of my long term health or do I eat the kale forfeiting short term pleasure and gaining long term pleasure?

Your model has no predictive power.

Travel the world. Ignore these asshats that try to guilt trip you into working through your slump.

Here's my story.

Two years ago, I dropped out of a mathematically oriented master's. Let's say I quit because I wanted to found a company. That's what I tell everybody. And that's what I did.

I can get into the details of why it didn't work, but I'll tell you something here, something which, until now, I have only written down in places nobody would read it: I might have been running from reality. Using the company as a hide-out. "Maybe this will give me a purpose?"

We pulled the plug when we were forced to realize that it was a dead end.

Pause six months. Rethink life. Winter, not a good time.

Moved to another country and tried again. It went better, but still not good enough.

Again, six months of nothing. Winter.

Travel. Maybe languages are my thing? Different cultures? Get lost. Come back.


This time, I'm not letting it steal six months. I'm trying for another project (Show HN soon), I'm going on another travel, and I'll keep on looking, because I know one thing: an office will be the death of me. Unfortunately, programming is generally done in offices.

But there's always that doubt. Got some freelance jobs to make ends meet. Flipping burgers, for programmers. Can't continue this way. Stability, future, kids, wives, divorces.

So listen, I can't give you a straight advice. I still don't even know where I went wrong exactly, or if I went wrong at all. I don't know if I would've been happier in another place. I sometimes lovingly think back about academia, then I see what happens there and I want to run even farther away than I already am.

Motivation is still a problem for me, at times, but it's getting less. I have no regrets (yet), just doubt. A shred of what I would've had, had I not tried for that first company.

On the upside: I feel free. Every day. Alive. I can decide to drop everything here and emigrate within a week. And I'm doing it. Because I can. Because it feels like the right choice.

If you tell me where you live I can drop by if I'm ever around :)

Good luck with whatever path you choose. No matter what you do, do it with pride, son. I believe in you, as long as you do.

Sorry I couldn't give you real advice.

Oh wait that's not true I totally do have some! Got so caught up in the story.. listen if you really want to tackle this: TALK TO PEOPLE. In terms they can understand. Don't say, "I have doubts." Say: "Can I study with you next Friday? If you FORCE me to be there and do it, I will cook dinner for you." Tell a girl, if she asks why explain here you have trouble concentrating alone, joke that maybe she will make it worse but you're willing to try, and tell her that it's definitely absolutely not a cunning ploy to get a date with her (it's not). If she rejects you ask someone else until you have a girl. Then choose a guy for a different subject (not a close friend, high risk of fucking around), and somebody you really don't know for another one, and a buddhist for the next, and an atheist, and and and make sure you surround your study-self with as many different styles of living as possible. You will be able to draw inspiration from them. Solitude is what's killing you. Your life will mix with theirs and your energy will combine. I'm not even half joking here; the energy you draw from linking your progress to someone else ("teamplay") can amaze you.

I'll be your first contact if you want, no problem. Drop me a line on Skype and we can work / study for an hour every Thursday afternoon. (send me your skype though, not leaving it here :P)

Peace out, stranger!

Edit in a reply: And whoever else wants to join: feel free! We can make like a Study / Work group session where nobody talks for an hour and we just work all together in a video conference. Why, that would be just the ding-dang-diddly!

(how do I edit the original post? click "edit", append that paragraph, click "update" button.. nothing happens; edit page reloads and I lose changes.. wut?)

The problem with education is that it always has a different take on a subject to what personally fascinates you about the subject. Subjects that might have floated your boat personally for many years will be taught differently to what you expect, killing your interest in a subject.

There is an adage about teaching - if you cannot do then teach, if you cannot teach then teach Geography. If we take Geography as an example, you might think of geography as being about places on a map, be able to name all U.S. state capitals and know where Dhaka is and Dakar isn't. Then, in a geography class, you might find that knowing where anywhere is does not matter in the least. 'How flood plains are formed', 'how a volcano works' will be what is taught, without any mention at all of physical places.

The geography example is an example of how expectations of a subject can be wrong at the basic school level, you can live with a mis-match of expectations in geography syllabus, however, go to university and it is another kettle of fish. You might think politics would be a useful thing to study, be passionate about the subject and be knowledgeable about current affairs. Again, none of that would matter.

Computer science is another area of concern. You might be good at programming and be up to date with whatever is on HN. Yet, at university you might get taught languages and methodologies that are a world away. There might actually be reasons why the university teach what they teach that are not readily apparent. The military might have some link up that means that stuff that matters to designing jet fighters gets taught. Clearly none of it - 'ADA' - for instance - might have no relevance in the real world.

Returning to your subject of maths, in the real world you are doing pretty well if you have problems that require secondary school stuff - trigonometry, calculating prices with tax, differential equations. Actually you could probably go a long way on getting a man on the moon with secondary school maths, yet there is a whole world of maths beyond that. Triple integrations, anyone? Even if you do find a real world use - electronics with Gauss's theorem - there aren't many uses for that real world use. It is all too convenient for maths to be taught in such a way that it is abstract and not practical, e.g. teaching a program to do it for you, or working on a large dataset in a computationally efficient way. Even reading the data in is not something that would be taught. It is a bit like how you can do a degree in electronics and never touch a soldering iron or know how to fix a fuse.

So my suggestion is to not head off to university so hastily. Work somewhere for a little while then go to university because you know why you are going. You can actually learn useful stuff at university rather than go there to just get a bit of paper.

Exercise. Lots of it.

> I'm two years before heading off to university, but I have no motivation to learn the things that are being taught at college.

Personally, that was a really tough time for me in my life.

> I chose to study the subjects that I thought I would enjoy, but sadly this isn't true.

That happened to me too.

> I'm assuming that if I had made other choices for subjects, I'd be in a similar problem.

Maybe; it's hard to know where other paths would have led.

> Maths is one of the subjects I'm studying, and although I enjoy maths itself, I'm not enjoying what I learn in school.

I had that same experience. That's why I studied maths on my own, outside of school (I consider programming a subset of maths.)

> I can't be motivated to put the work in, so that I can get good results at the end of the year.

Same thing happened to me.

> I spend my free time programming or researching instead,

That's also what I did. Studying philosophy also helped alot :-)

> but I can't continue doing this if I want to get the A-levels I need to enter a half-decent university.

I found my high school to be very oppressive, so instead I went on academic strike and programmed for fun. I almost flunked out of high school, and only got into one university that has a tradition of accepting everyone.

It was all for the best. I'm not saying you should do that. But, it was the path I needed to take. You can live a wonderful life regardless of what academic success you achieve or fail to achieve.

Older people have a bad habit of advising younger people they need to do very specific actions in order to achieve very specific goals.

In this ancient tradition, I will now offer you very specific advice ;-)

(1) Ask yourself: do you desire the goals you are told to desire. What are your goals? What do you actually want from life?

(2) Once you have your goals in mind, your advisors will usually be conservative. That is, their advice usually describes one path to your goal --- not the only path. For example, if you want to go to a half-decent university and an advisor tells you, "you should try to get straight A's" --- then your advisor is being conservative. Yes, if you get straight A's it will be easier to get into a half-decent university. But it's not the only way. Furthermore, younger people are often more creative in finding ways to sidestep tradition.

(3) Ask for lots of advice, but only listen to advice skeptically.

(4) Don't be afraid to "Go ahead and fail." http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-20/go-ahead-let-your-k...

> Are there any ways by which I could motivate myself to study more?

I would caution against trying to coerce yourself into being more motivated. Follow your own path. When people give you advice it's up to you to take it or leave it. Even this advice.

Endeavor to make these things a habit. Every day or 5 days a week etc.

Write down some realistic things you want to do today that you might avoid. Do this as early in the day as possible.

Before you make a decision which will avoid doing one of those things you wrote down, stop, think about it for 60+ seconds. Usually these decisions are done just like instincts without thinking: "hit next episode on netflix", "read this HN link", etc.

In that 60+ seconds, suggestions:

1. Decide to start on the thing you'd rather avoid for just 5 minutes, then you can quit if you want.

2. Imagine your future self looking back on your decisions.

3. Remember how this thing ties into long term goals.

4. Plan a reward for yourself if you do the thing.

5. When negative thoughts or feelings happen, accept them, don't believe them or give them any more power, see them from the outside.

Sorry but little tricks and magic bullets like this do nothing in the long term to alleviate the issue. Primarily because you won't stick to the habit.

OP you will have to decide whether doing work and being productive is something you want for yourself, you will not be able to fein an answer for any substantial amount of time. Your answer is also subject to change.

My guess is if you completely gave in to your de-motivated mentality you would quickly realize how bankrupt it is and be driven back to working.

People seem to be misreading your question.

You seem fully aware that the subjects you're studying are very important and you need to do well at them.

As someone once told me most motivational speakers just lend you motivation. Once you've left the room pumped you quickly go back to square one.

So it's hard to know what works, there's a lot of crap out there.

I've had moderate success with the Pomodoro Technique http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

But if it doesn't work for you, or as often happens it only works for a while, make sure you go on to something else.

There are none, if you don't feel it then it's not there.

Or you could follow the advice other people had leave here... and eventually you will come back to this same situation but when you are 50 and tired...

Seriously dude, my advice, if you don't feel it leave it; and if you don't feel nothing anywhere then do nothing, many cool things happen when you are "doing nothing".

Aniracetam (or Oxiracetam, if Aniracetam doesn't work for you) + DMAE. Don't forget to balance your blood pressure, use venous or arterial drugs to enhance whole body blood flow (don't use drugs that work only locally). If you don't want to use blood-related drugs, then just exercise regularly (try to focus only on resistance-oriented exercises). Try to sleep on a hard bed without any pillows. Also, increase your metabolism and energy by drinking a cup or three of coffee in first half of day and eating a big (300+ grams) portion of boiled grains + a good piece of meat, but with small amounts of fat. And don't forget to eat a lot of fruits - primarily oranges, apples, bananas and pears.

If we are suggesting drugs, may as well throw in a suggestion for amphetamines.

But personally, I would recommend intense and sustained cardiovascular exercise.

I take an amphetamine pro-drug (Vyvanse) and I'm incredibly reluctant to recommend it any time someone expresses trouble with motivation/focus.

But it did change my life at that critical I-don't-know-how-I'll-make-it-through-university moment. Especially when everyone around me offered stellar advice like "try harder" and "don't buy in to the Big Pharma ADD/ADHD-conspiracy".

It turns out that I'm also reluctant to just offer "exercise more!" or "work on yourself -- it's your behavior!". It's frustrating and anxiety-inducing enough to struggle with motivation. If the only solution is to put pressure on such people by suggesting it's all in their head, then what do we do if that pressure doesn't actually fix anything? Do we count down to the catastrophe so that we can chime in one last time with "See? Look what you did."?

Exercising and taking a sabbatical are good advice, but sabbaticals are out of the question for most people (especially a kid in highschool), and exercise is only that -- good advice.

At some point we have to admit that the results of no-improvement will out-trouble our concerns/stigma over last resorts like medication.

Don't compare aniracetam or oxi to amphetamines (or ritalin) - the former is legal and safe enough, and the latter is much more dangerous and ineffective (in terms of concentration enhancing). I would never ever recommend amphetamines nor ritalin, cannabis or other "useful" drugs, that always make you want to take more of them. All what they can give is faster burnout of your brain and state of lack of energy (also, problems with your skin, thanks to amphetamine overdose).

What OP was talking about was not psychostimulation, but concentration enhancer, something that would just reduce effects of "mind wandering" and let him do tasks that he doesn't want to otherwise.

Aniracetam and oxi do greatly reduce effects of "mind wandering", large amounts of grains and fruits give your brain very much glucose, i.e. energy to use to, coffee increases your metabolism and blood flow, and gives a slight stimulation, so you can force yourself to do task more easily.

Don't overuse coffee, though, it's effects can last from 1 to 3 days (or even more).

Adderall would make anything fun.

modafinil. your solution, for dire needs ofcourse

Some of the nootropics are Prescription Only Medications.

Being arrested for possession would have some negative consequences for OP. Accepting a caution would be worse.

So, if OP does want to try this be careful about the legal status and if the police do call be polite but say, firmly and clearly, that you'll answer their questions after you've spoken to a lawyer, and refuse to say anything else.

I've never used aniracetam and can't advocate one way or the other, but it looks like aniracetam is OTC in the UK (where it sounds like OP lives) and freely available from amazon.co.uk.

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