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Love People, Not Pleasure (nytimes.com)
345 points by ghostwords on July 20, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 113 comments



The article looks at a study that found that that men and women who had had exactly one sexual partner in the past year were happiest. The article concludes that therefore, having sex with more partners will make us unhappy. However, this conclusion is hasty.

Another explanation can be made, based on two correlations that I think are likely: having multiple sexual partners is negatively correlated with having at least one stable romantic partner, and having at least one stable romantic partner is positively correlated with happiness. Given those two correlations, it is easy to see why having multiple sexual partners might be negatively correlated with happiness. The people who sleep around a lot are doing it because they have not found a girlfriend/boyfriend, so they are lonely. Thus, they are unhappy.

If this explanation for the study's results is true, then sex with more partners will not make you unhappy, per se. It just means that you should make sure you have a romantic companion first (hopefully one who is agreeable to your seeking multiple partners). After you have a partner, it is possible that indulging your instincts by seeking even more partners would indeed make you happier.


I also have doubts that the benefit is due to monogamy. Hell, I have doubts that the benefit is due to a relationship. It could merely be because the people have a close companion.

How many friends do you sleep in the same room with, wake up to, go to work with, and have fun with? None, right? The thing is, that situation was the norm for most of humanity. It's not a surprise that so many people are neurotic. It's not a surprise that it makes us a bit happier to have that situation partially fulfilled.

I'd like to see a study comparing the happiness of close-knit, tribal, polygamous communities with close-knit, tribal, monogamous communities.


I'd like to see a study comparing the happiness of close-knit, tribal, polygamous communities with close-knit, tribal, monogamous communities.

Just to nit-pick - I'm not sure how that study would help you in making your decisions. After all, you are not living in a close-knit tribal community, but in a vast and complex global community. What works in the context of life fifty thousand years ago may very well be disastrous in today's radically different world.

So, what you really need is a study comparing the happiness levels of polygamists and monogamists in today's society, controlling for factors like how deliberate the choice is (as pointed out in the parent comment, some polygamists are so because they can't get a long-term relationship, rather than by choice). I.e. the study referred to in this article - but done properly.

</nit-pick>


I think the point is to at least try to have a control for the experiment. Social experiments like these are going to be difficult to eliminate all other variables, but this is probably as close as we are likely to achieve.


>>I also have doubts that the benefit is due to monogamy. Hell, I have doubts that the benefit is due to a relationship. It could merely be because the people have a close companion.

It could also be that those who are happy are more likely to end up in a relationship.


Last I heard, most close-knit tribal communities are actually more-or-less monogamous. The main binding structure is the extended family, not extended sexual networks.


They're serially monogamous, not life long exclusive pair bonds. Not that those don't exist but they're mostly a minority pursuit.

The below quotation gives a flavour of what it's like for the Irish non working class, living in or applying for social housing. From what I've read of the book Promises I Can Keep and Charles Murray's Coming Apart it's pretty close to the situation in the US non working class, with the no college working class trending that way.

==

I don’t care if you break up with your significant other, spouse, or what it was, or who was at fault, but if I get one more file like the soap opera I have just been handed this week (you may wish to take notes)…

…wherein Household A comprised of B, C and child D and Household Q comprised of R, S and children T and U have both had applications in for a couple of years for social housing.

(i) Household A’s application failed because the parties B and C were not in communication with us as to whether they wanted to proceed. B did not answer our letter, C did; they’ve since split up and are at different addresses. More letters on our part to the new addresses. B doesn’t answer but C does, he still wants to apply for a house because now he’s with a new partner and they have a new baby. Fine, that’s what we’re here for.

(ii) Household Q’s application has been approved. Except that R and S have also since split up, but they never bothered to tell us, and I only discovered this because

(iii) C and S are now cohabiting. And have a new (third) application in for social housing. All of which means:

(iv) We don’t know where B is; we presume she took child D with her wherever she is now. Maybe she will or maybe she won’t apply for social housing on her own behalf. R’s application which has been approved now has to be nullified or something of the like because the circumstances have changed. R may be cohabiting with a new partner and with a new baby of their own; we don’t know and will have to find out.

Meanwhile, C and S and her children T and U and their new baby W are all in a fourth new address, have a new application in as Household Y, and will have to be processed as soon as we disentangle Household A’s application, deal with terminating Household Q’s application, and enter Household Y’s application with the two persons from A and Q that the computer system – which was not designed to deal with the game of “musical chairs” when it comes to swapping your partners – won’t let us assign C and S to a new application because they’re already on the system with their prior applications.

And that means delay, which means C and S (and possibly R and/or B) will be on the phone yelling at us about being on the housing list with years and why the delay when they’re qualified they’re going to the local paper, their local councillor, their local representative about this!

You can see why I’m all NO CANOODLING UNTIL YOU SORT YOURSELVES OUT AND GIVE US ALL AND I DO MEAN ALL THE PERTINENT DETAILS IN A TIMELY MANNER, I trust?


Eh, read between the lines here. That's written specifically to seem confusing & crazy. It's not. Two families split up because one partner from each formed a single new couple.

That's all that happened. It's only "complicated" in the writer's mind because the two families had put in applications in the same apparently-awful social housing computer system.

The complaint about needing this info "in a timely manner" is a bit ironic... the original two applications have apparently been pending for "a couple of years" before the story even begins.


Or it could even be that only happy people can hold down a relationship.


> I'd like to see a study comparing the happiness of close-knit, tribal, polygamous communities with close-knit, tribal, monogamous communities.

Not a study, but National Geographic did an in-depth piece on the Hadza people in 2009 that you may find interesting. It's available on their web site in full. If I remember correctly, the journalist described them as 'serial monogamists', having many monogamous relationships throughout their lifetime.


> How many friends do you sleep in the same room with, wake up to, go to work with, and have fun with? None, right? The thing is, that situation was the norm for most of humanity.

I do not like the idea of sleeping in the same room as other people on a regular basis and in general being around them most of the time. I need some privacy or else I get cranky.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder.


Or alternatively, that statistics tell us what is likely to be the case were we to pick an individual out of the population at random. They do not tell us about ourselves individually.

It should also be taken with a grain of salt that the conclusion they draw just so happens to fit into several powerful institutions decreed standards of morality.


Like ancient dietary laws, our moral code may be rooted in ancient common wisdom about healthy choices.


Eh, ancient wisdom doesn't seem to have done a great job in terms of moral codes. Slavery, institutionalised racism and sexism, foot-binding, debtor's prisons, despotism, pedophilia; all examples of practices deriving from ancient wisdom that today are considered unacceptable.


> all examples of practices deriving from ancient wisdom that today are considered unacceptable.

However only survivors after tens or hundreds of thousands of years are able to log in and comment on HN about it. Some of the abhorrent ancient "wisdoms" are well, ...abhorrent. Others maybe the reason we are still here (as opposed some other people being here, or, no human species at all).

Also, it is probably reasonable to assume the same "morals" the kept a group of hunter gatherers together are today responsible to racism and hate between groups.

To really even begin to look at cause you'd at least want a situation where two very similar groups differed only in one aspect you are trying to measure and then observe how both groups evolved.


>Also, it is probably reasonable to assume the same "morals" the kept a group of hunter gatherers together are today responsible to racism and hate between groups.

Good point. It's important to remember that evolution (including of the cultural variety) ultimately selects for survival. If group A is super happy and peaceful, and group B is unhappy and violent, if group B uses its capacity for violence to conquer group A then ultimately it will be group B's genetic/cultural traits that survive into the future.


Moreover it only selects for immediate term survival - it does not choose long-term optimum solutions (see: Peacock feathers, where creating impressive plumage is pretty much orthogonal to actual fitness) nor does it brook short term deficits for long term gains.

It is an abhorrent moral compass.


Hey, you win some, you lose some. They still got a few things right.


> it is possible that indulging your instincts by seeking even more partners would indeed make you happier.

Your hypothesis is very interesting but from what I've seen of others, this doesn't work well in the long run. There are spikes of more-than-normal happiness but eventually, someone is jealous, someone gets cuckolded (as hard as it is in such an arrangement!) and you crash hard. Not everyone is so far evolved to avoid these problems.

As a guy, I know I am at my happiest when I have one primary woman and side women that the primary does not know about explicitly. Oddly enough, the vagueness of her not really knowing makes her more attracted. But I still have to treat my primary as if she is the only one. This is the only stable configuration I've found.


> But I still have to treat my primary as if she is the only one. This is the only stable configuration I've found.

Doesn't sound very stable if your "primary" finds out about your secondary.


Denial (on their end) is a beneficial tool in this regard. The only time I've had it cause an issue is when friends or family get involved. Then they have to save face, and I don't blame them.


And you wouldn't mind if your so-called "primary" or "side" (how interesting to apply such terms for significant others) did the same to you?

Because most people would, whether they realize it or not, and that is why they agree to commit to a relationship in the first place---because they expect the same from their partner.

Also, your "primary" will know at some point. Is a configuration really stable if it sets the stage for collapse?


Humans are more complex than if a then b. Many women are OK with it without being explicitly OK with it. Being faced with it can be humiliating for anyone which is what sets the stage for collapse, not the act itself. So keep it discreet because otherwise a friend of hers will definitely try to cause a problem. For what it's worth, I have a way to make it clear from the outset that I am like that without being explicit. I know it works because she has to confirm it with her words, not mine. If a woman is happy to just be with you and you give her what she needs, it's not remotely the biggest issue in a relationship.

No, I wouldn't be OK with it if it was flipped.


You state yourself exactly the problem with this and many similar situations.

"I may do injury to others, but they may not to me."

From observation, many women are NOT OK with it. They may be not explicitly not OK with it (which of course is wrong too).

A few other thoughts:

Causing injury is fine as long as the recipient, and "most of the world," is unaware? The onus is on the rest of the world not to "cause a problem," and for the recipient to point out that injury is being done, and not on the afflicter not to do injury in the first place? A woman should just be happy to be with you "as long as you give her what she needs," which apparently doesn't include fidelity?

I would be less sure.


1) You're putting words in my mouth.

2) You sound very controlling.

A woman is free to be who she wants to be when she is with me, with the understanding that her fidelity is part of that. Most women want to be monogamous, or at least are serially monogamous. Men are perpetually non-monogamous. I think Dave Chappelle had a bit on this.


1) Nope, just stating what I've seen time and time again to be the case/interpretation of your points. This might not be the case for you, but I do want to point out an alternate perspective that is infrequently given coverage in such threads.

2) Also nope! Sorry if I seem a bit amused now. Controlling implies "You have to do such-and-such and be dominated by me, and I don't have to do such-and-such and be dominated by you." My philosophy is that what I expect from my partner, I follow all the way through myself. There is no power issue, because both contribute equally to the relationship.

I will again point out the seeming contradiction between "I don't need to be faithful; my partner[s] do," or if you don't like that, "Men don't need to be faithful; women do." Perhaps that's not what you intend, but it sure sounds that way.

In terms of "controlling," if you expect fidelity from your partners but not yourself, and if you say that expecting fidelity sounds controlling, that would logically imply you are controlling.

Incidentally, I hope you recognize nothing I've said should be taken as ad hominem attacks. Again, I'm just pointing out how many people might take your points.


There is no contradiction. I am not her and she is not me.

You use too much passive aggressive language for me to seriously consider your points.


Clearly!

My points are straightforward, so perhaps you're reading more deeply than you need.

I understand why you would say their language is passive aggressive though.

It's been an interesting discussion at any rate. Best of luck!


I find it very hard to believe that you take yourself seriously with that sort of outlook on genders.


Your statement so is full of substance, that I have completely changed my worldview based on it.


It is also possible that indulging your instincts by seeking more partners could have a detrimental on the psychological/emotional well being of yourself or your partner.

The number of arguments for 'sexual liberation' in western society has increased over the years, but my limited life experience has shown me that this only encourages a mindset that leads to behaviors that lead to emotional anguish because people begin chasing their next sexual dopamine rush instead of spending time establishing means to care for their longer term needs.

A monogamous long term partner offers benefits that cannot be achieved any other way, and a lot of it revolves around the physiological validation of value that comes with intercourse. Sex, in a manner of speaking, is the acceptance of a person by another that they are viewed as successful enough to contribute in passing on DNA. You could say it is the pinnacle of biological success. This is where most arguments stop with the conclusion that: Sex = Good so More Sex = Better. By doing so they are failing to see the whole picture.

The above conclusion works for many animals; humans are psychologically far more complex than animals. Humanity has to balance many other concerns including: - The well being of other people (primarily their mate) - their desires to progress a career - social standing among peers - emotional distress caused by 'loneliness' - the rearing of children and fulfillment of personal instinct to see them succeed - etc

All of these are areas that benefit from a monogamous relationship because the physiological and psychological needs for co-validation can be met which then frees up mental energy to focus on other things that bring more lasting value to life than the intense yet fleeting moments of an orgasm.


Under the functional perspective of sociology, you could say that marriage or a relationship provides safety and continuity. You don't have to go out looking for sex, and the diseases that multiple sex partners could bring. Sex is a basic need, as noted in Maslow's Hierarchy of needs right after air, food, and water. The next need is sex. Having a relationship "guarantees" that this basic need is being met, without stress and having to hunt. At least you'd hope that it guarantees that. I feel very sorry for sexless marriages.


Good luck with that.


I'm particularly interested in how people receive this piece here, since it directly contradicts many of the goals put forth by YC and SV:

* work really hard so you can cash out (greed)

* build influence however you can (fame)

* ...ultimately, become somebody so you can fill that hole

The poor motives (which I've parenthesized) probably account for much of the fact that the New Boss is no different than the Old Boss that came before. Think about the love of cultural homogeny, or working your ass off (being exploited), or worship of youth, or proving yourself to capital (whether by OSS, influence, or profitable side projects).


>* work really hard so you can cash out (greed)

Were you born so rich that you can spend all day hanging out with your friends, without worrying about money? Most of us were not.

Many people here (myself included) claim that they are working really hard so that they can get enough money to be able to do whatever they want for the rest of their lives.

For me, at least, the idea of working really hard for a short period of time is way more appealing than some 9-5 job where I show up every day for the rest of my life, regardless of how hard (or not) that I am expected to work.

You aren't getting around the fact that you need money; until you solve the problem of food, housing and medical care for the rest of your life, earning money is going to be a problem that will take time away from finding whatever it is that makes you happy.

Even if working makes you happy, having enough money that you don't need to work gives you a huge amount of leverage and freedom that will allow you to turn down work that isn't conducive to your happiness.

pg, actually, has talked a whole lot about this, and about how maybe we should try to change things so that founders can take out more money early on because of this.

ref:

http://paulgraham.com/vcsqueeze.html

"My second suggestion will seem shocking to VCs: let founders cash out partially in the Series A round. At the moment, when VCs invest in a startup, all the stock they get is newly issued and all the money goes to the company. They could buy some stock directly from the founders as well.

...

In fact, letting the founders sell a little stock early would generally be better for the company, because it would cause the founders' attitudes toward risk to be aligned with the VCs'. As things currently work, their attitudes toward risk tend to be diametrically opposed: the founders, who have nothing, would prefer a 100% chance of $1 million to a 20% chance of $10 million, while the VCs can afford to be "rational" and prefer the latter."


> Were you born so rich that you can spend all day hanging out with your friends, without worrying about money? Most of us were not.

That's a false dichotomy. It's easy to have a job in technology that more than pays the bills but doesn't require the same sacrifices as working towards an exit or fame. You can be comfortable without being materialistic.

A goal to retire early doesn't address the "people" side of the "people vs. pleasure" idea. All the luck to you if you never want to work again, but the parent comment's points still stand.

> Even if working makes you happy, having enough money that you don't need to work gives you a huge amount of leverage and freedom that will allow you to turn down work that isn't conducive to your happiness.

Here it just seems like you're trying to scare people who have different values than you into having your values.


How does "materialism" come into it? I dream of being "rich," but for me that means having enough money that I can (a) spend lots of time with family, and (b) spend lots of time learning and doing the things that are important to me, regardless of my employment situation, without any finance-related stress (like worrying about retirement).

So for me it comes down to having the ability to spend lots of time with the people I love (which is always my first priority when forced to compromise), without having to sacrifice the fulfillment I get from my personal/intellectual/whatever pursuits.

I realize that this just means I "want it all," and people might reasonably think that's a harmful attitude to have. But it still seems quite different than "materialism," and I imagine that any negative personal consequences would be different, too.


>A goal to retire early doesn't address the "people" side of the "people vs. pleasure" idea. All the luck to you if you never want to work again, but the parent comment's points still stand.

My point is that if you are spending 40 hours a week working and 5 or 10 hours a week commuting, you don't have nearly as much time for your friends as you would have with a little more financial independence.


Unless all of your friends are also independently wealthy, you never having to work again isn't going to change the equation all that much. They will still be at work most of the day.

It should also be noted that the odds of startup success (to an extent where you literally never have to work again) is quite unlikely. You can spend time with your friends and family now - perhaps not all of your time, and not completely at your leisure and control, but if the alternative is sacrificing the people you care about for a tiny chance at spending all your time with them... I don't think that's a rational tradeoff.


>It should also be noted that the odds of startup success (to an extent where you literally never have to work again) is quite unlikely.

Eh, I mostly agree, if you mean the typical "swing for the fences" kind of startup. But, I think there is awareness of this, for example, the PG essay I linked to a couple messages back mentioned that a 100% chance of a million bucks, to someone without money, is worth a heck of a lot more than a 20% chance at ten million bucks. (obviously, the latter is worth rather more to people who have enough money to amortize out the chances.)

The thing is, you don't need to do a swing for the fences kind of startup if you don't want to. Before this latest investment craze, HN was very big on bootstrapping. I've been running my own bootstrapped company for the last decade or so, and while I am right now attempting to recover from some very bad choices, and thus am doing poorly, for a while, it was pretty nice. I had a very flexible life. I have been able to hire nearly all of my siblings, at one point in time or another; as far as spending time with friends and family goes, my company has been quite successful. I was able to work as much as I wanted, or scale back to very little.

Being your own business, even if that business is, say, contracting, is one way to get a lot more flexibility out of your life. When my income was mostly selling my own labor, I'd sometimes work for other people one year on/one year off. (Timed so I worked 6 months out of each tax year)

Now, I mostly worked on my own stuff on the years off, but the strategy would work just as well if I wanted to work a tax-minimizing half-time schedule. As far as I can tell, it's way easier to get a good-paying part-time job as a contractor than as a full-time W2.


It doesn't matter how much free time my friends have, or I. It matters how much free time we have available to see each other.

I have a reasonable amount of free time, but spend it on recovering from work (unfortunately, I need time off for that; so probably I'm an introvert), on time with my partner, on household activities, on learning. The actual time I have for friends is not that much. Admittedly, most of my friends seem to have even less time (mostly because they work longer hours), but others seem to have their life divided only between work and hangout time, so they're available pretty much always.

tl;dr if I had more free time, I'd have just enough time to hangout more with friends, as part of my free time is devoted to other things.


> Unless all of your friends are also independently wealthy, you never having to work again isn't going to change the equation all that much.

Nice time to play armchair psychoanalyst: some people who wish to retire early may be motivated by a desire to be friends with the (time and money) rich.


Free time is a pleasure, it's not going to make you more capable of love and working a normal week isn't a barrier to love. But neglecting people while chasing success in the present at a chance for more time with them in the future (with the obvious risk of having nothing to show for it) can threaten your relationships. You may be optimistic about your business, but most people who make that gamble will lose.


I find the idea of working a 9-5 every day an unacceptable sacrifice, it's doesn't seem like a false dichotomy to me.


>Even if working makes you happy, having enough money that you don't need to work gives you a huge amount of leverage and freedom that will allow you to turn down work that isn't conducive to your happiness.

Lets think about that for a minute. Unless you're already filthy rich, getting enough money to not work requires a particular skillset. Lets say you're only moderately lucky and are exceedingly good, and that it takes you 5 years to get your fat stacks out of a company you put blood sweat and tears into. Disregarding that you statistically have a relatively small chance of that happening, you come out of the tunnel in 5 years, and what do you do with the rest of your life now? Well, all of your skillset is based around your business. You probably don't have a ton of things that give your fulfillment outside of that business. So what do you do, start at square one? Learn how to play the bongos or just go out and search for the real meaning of life? Or do what you've trained your whole life to do, what has given you the most meaning so far? I say you'll more likely become addicted to that feeling of mastery, and more than likely you'll be on the board of another startup or whatever you like, because you felt a lot more fulfilled when you were disrupting the world than being a person who's bad at playing bongos.


>what do you do with the rest of your life now? Well, all of your skillset is based around your business. You probably don't have a ton of things that give your fulfillment outside of that business.

Spending time with family/starting one? Other hobbies besides bongos? Why are you being so dismissive towards music skills anyway? Developing OSS at your own pace? This is some kind of odd tunnel vision.

>because you felt a lot more fulfilled when you were disrupting the world than being a person who's bad at playing bongos.

Realistically very few of these startups "disrupt" anything. Are there that many people who can only be satisfied slaving away at startups?


This is more of a chicken and egg thing. I did end up spending a good chunk of my life towards acquiring that skillset _because_ I needed the money and the only way to get that was to work thousands of man-hours shifting from one cubicle to another which in-turn made me good at that skill. That skill wasn't the objective, it was/is the means and I make sure I remember that.

What if that skill is only useful/usable in a 9-5 environment in a soul-less corporate environment? Do you recommend I continue to sit in that environment just to use it, since I have been using it for last 15 years and it would be a waste to throw that experience away? Let me be the judge of that, its my life after all.

I bet when we were not working, all of us enjoyed a bunch of things, right? Just because those things got sidelined in pursuit of this skill, which probably was acquired in pursuit of money, doesn't mean that when we finally have that money, we continue to sideline those things. We actually started working so that we had the luxury to enjoy those things, remember?

I truely enjoy working with computers and I probably will continue to do that even when I'm done working. But that'll be at my terms and those days when I feel like spending the morning reading the newspaper and sipping tea instead, I can do exactly that. Thats the point.

Edit: grammer


> Many people here (myself included) claim that they are working really hard so that they can get enough money to be able to do whatever they want for the rest of their lives.

I used to be one of those people until I realized that if I had financial freedom I wouldn't know what I want to do with my life. I was a freelance developer for 7 years and never had to worry about money. I could work on average about 4 hours a day and spend the rest of my time on my own projects or whatever else struck my fancy. It was fun for a time - 7 years to be exact - but I eventually got lonely. I hadn't developed very many meaningful relationships with people I didn't know for 10 years already and I felt isolated. I would rail on the refresh button on various social media websites in search of some kind of human connection.

So I took a full time job and I based the company I chose to work for solely on the people I met there. It's been over 7 months and I've already built friendships with tons of new people and I feel more connected to the world than I have in years. I get to work on fairly interesting stuff without the stress of having to keep my pipeline filled and when I go home I don't take my work with me, which was a big problem I had when freelancing; keeping my work and personal lives separate.

That's why this article resonates with me, anyways. I made more money as a freelancer but past a certain point I didn't know what to spend it on and having the money didn't really make me happy. What makes me happy is building relationships with people and sharing in their struggles and triumphs. I really don't think I'll mind doing this for another couple decades.


The reason you were not feeling connected wasn't that you were freelancing. It was because you presumably didn't do anything else that gave you the opportunity of connecting with people. If you were freelancing and met like minded people in your free time doing things you like, you would have felt as much connected, if not more, as you feel now in your full time job. And would probably have had more free time.

The full time job simply put you in a situation where you got to interact with people without making any effort (except going to office which you would be doing anyway for any full time job).

Freelancing wasn't the reason for your earlier dissatisfaction and a full time job isn't the solution for anybody who is dissatisfied due to lack of human interaction.


> The reason you were not feeling connected wasn't that you were freelancing. It was because you presumably didn't do anything else that gave you the opportunity of connecting with people. If you were freelancing and met like minded people in your free time doing things you like, you would have felt as much connected, if not more, as you feel now in your full time job. And would probably have had more free time.

But that's where you're wrong. I went to meetups regularly, participated in events like Rails Rumble, worked at co-location spaces, etc. I got plenty of human interaction but it simply wasn't the same as what I get now at my full time job. I liken it to home schooled kids. Sure, they can setup play dates and events with other home schooled kids or participate in out-of-school programs with public school kids, but they will never truly get the same level of social interaction public/private school kids get because they aren't going through exactly the same trials in exactly the same way.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the freedom I had when I was a freelancer and I will likely go back to that lifestyle some day but I would be lying if I didn't admit that there was a certain sense of disconnectedness I felt after all those years being on my own. I'm happy as a full time employee now and that's all that matters.


Interesting - I guess the amount of time spent and the degree of common goals, amount of common successes/failures do have a bearing on the strength of sense of belonging to a group. Maybe the experience you were getting in the meetups etc, wasn't scoring high on those points. E.g. you may be only spending 2 hours on the weekly football you play with your friends, but the sheer intensity of the shared experience in such a short time might give you more satisfaction than other activities you may be doing more frequently.


On the other hand, you could find a sort of work you enjoy, rather than treating it as something be endured in exchange for money.


>On the other hand, you could find a sort of work you enjoy, rather than treating it as something be endured in exchange for money.

I think that having enough money that you can choose a job based on joy rather than monetary remuneration helps a lot with that. Having money also makes it a lot easier and less scary to leave jobs when the working environment turns bad.


Why not both. If your in tech and enjoy it you can do it.


>Why not both. If your in tech and enjoy it you can do it.

Let us go in to this further. Yes, most of the technical people I know have pretty good working conditions.

However. Most of the technical people I know work for companies that either make weapons or sell advertising.

The vast majority of the available high-paying technical jobs actively contribute to making the world a worse place.

Now, I am not claiming to have clean hands either; I'm not trying to shame anyone else. I'm just saying that most of us would feel better if, you know, we could move away from killing people and/or making them spend money on garbage they don't need, and on to creating something that actually improves humanity.

The thing is, having a positive impact is difficult on it's own. When you've got rent to pay, the easy job solving interesting problems that ultimately make banzi buddy slightly more effective starts looking pretty good.


>Why not both. If your in tech and enjoy it you can do it.

Clearly, that is the goal.

If you are claiming that having a safety net to fall back on doesn't put you in a better position to chose work you enjoy (or rather, avoid work you find unpleasant) - I don't think you are being honest.


The notion that there is an ideal form of moneymaking for each person is a piece of self-help dogma, not an evidenced fact. To the best of my knowledge and experience, there's no viable job or business that would sustainably make me happy. There is, however, a very clear life that makes me happy. I know from experience. I want to become financially independent so I can live that life for good -- or any other life if I so choice.


The more I think about it, the more I believe the startup game is the worst way to do this.

If you can keep your expenses to $1,000 per week, and get your billable rate to $200 per hour, then you only need to work 5 hours a week to break even. If you work 80 hours a week for a year at this rate, that's $800,000 - which means you could then spend the next 800 weeks, or 15 years, doing whatever you wanted.

How you get to $200/hr is something of a question, but it has a much more direct path than being a founder, which you could spend 80 hours a week on and still be broke after 3, 5 or even 10 years.


Eh, this is something I've thought a lot about; I funded my company doing consulting. ($100/hr is a pretty good rate for me, - I /have/ gotten $200/hr, but that was short-term stuff. Most of the time I'm $75-$100/hr, but that's still a lot of cash.)

Now, there are reasons to stick the cash under your mattress (or in an index fund) - that's not the choice I made, though; I chose to buy some means of production and manage those means of production myself. Not real-estate;servers. I had a few pretty good years; it really has yet to be seen if I'm a fool or not.

I do think it has been interesting; I've gotten to experience being a boss. I've hired family, I've hired friends. I've hired people who weren't friends, who became friends after they left. It has been an experience. It's really yet to be seen if this experience has been profitable or not. Estimating the value of a small company is difficult, and one could reasonably value my company at a level where I have done okay (not never work again okay, but at least buy a nicer condo okay) - you could also reasonably value the company at the 'buy a compact car' level. The only solid offers I've gotten were earn-outs that were heavily dependent on me sticking around for years, so it's unclear how much of that is the company and how much of that is, you know, me.

But yeah; the other option would have been to just contract half-time and spend the rest of that time hanging out in social situations. That would also have been a really interesting experience. Maybe it would have been better than what I did? I don't know.

Now, I'm not chasing investors or anything; That is a very different game. But it is a mistake to equate the hacker news crowd with funded startups. Yes, that's what everyone wants to be now - but that's only because of the amount of money available. Go back three years and it was all about bootstrapping.


80 billable hours per week. That's double a normal work week. And I assume that you would need extra for administrative stuff that you can't bill for. I doubt this would be either healthy or productive for most people.


I doubt this would be either healthy or productive for most people.

The same could be said of start-up founders, which was the point.

But you can re-do the math at 40 hours a week if you like:

40 hours * 50 weeks * $200/hr = $400,000 / 52 weeks @ $1,000 per week = 7.69 years to do what you want.

And again, we're only talking about a year. Spend a year killing yourself, and then spend the next 5 on the beach or climbing Everest or writing a novel.


The Alberta oil sands are hiring. They pay upwards of $100-$200 an hour and pay for all your housing and meal expenses if your willing to live on camp for 6 months of the year. Works if your single but puts a big strain on your relationships with friends and family.

A lot can happen in a year not to just you but your family and friends that you could miss out on. Look forward to the future but don't rely on it because it might not come.


> If you can keep your expenses to $1,000 per week, and get your billable rate to $200 per hour, then you only need to work 5 hours a week to break even.

True, if you don't pay taxes.


>True, if you don't pay taxes.

Spreading out the income across tax years can make a fairly dramatic difference in the number of hours you need to work.

For a while I was trying to time my working for other people so I had one year on/one year off, and was attempting to time that I had 6 months of income to report in each tax year.

There are also more options to spread out income across tax years when you are consulting through a company that does business other than consulting (but it gets complex fast. You need a competent tax adviser if you go that route.)


Those certainly aren't my goals, nor the path that I have followed or advised for others. For me, and for the most successful founders that I've known, creation is primarily an intrinsic activity.


Ya, can't underline this sentiment enough.

I think that making money or fame have to be incidental goals to the things you care about.


Do you think that extrinsic, material goals get in the way of the intrinsic goal of creation? (I do)


Different people are motivated to do the same things for different reasons.

* work really hard so you can cash out

* work really hard so you can build something really cool

Same method, different goals. SV attracts both types, though many people I know believe the balance has strongly shifted from the latter to the former. It certainly does seem like the discussion about post-exit has shifted from "How to found another, even better startup" (e.g. Elon Musk) to "How to retire at 23".


Those goals aren't really personal ones though. If you want to build a successful startup, you pretty much have to work very hard, network, build influence etc. - I doubt YC/SV promotes this as a particular road to self-happiness though, and in that sense it's not that contradictory.

If your primary goal is happiness (both maximisation of, and minimisation of unhappiness), I would lay a fair bet that a start-up is one of the most unlikely to succeed, even in the long term.


"Work really hard so you can cash out" is just a special case of foregoing imminent sensory pleasure for greater pleasure in the future. You can certainly argue that VCs push for too much of that, but the general idea certainly shouldn't be condemned. It's the reason we save part of our paycheck, or pass on the donut, or get shots when we need medicine.


I don't have a problem with seeking wealth or fame, but I think the article gives a pretty clear and cogent warning that if you think it will bring you happiness once achieved then you are sorely mistaken.

For me, startups are all about having control and building something with my own two hands. Of course I want to achieve success in that, but I don't see that as an end. Getting the payout is about being able to fund whatever I want to do next (even if it's not a big money winner), and getting "famous" for me is just about meeting interesting people to work with and growing in my craft.


I am doing a startup because it's the only way I could see myself working mostly with the kind of people I like, respect, and admire, and work for (e.g. customers) cut from the same cloth (developers).

When I promised myself that I would never subject myself to corporate political cutthroat contentious BS ever again, this was what I was left with. It's definitely not monetarily optimal for me.


If I work hard, it's most often because I enjoy my work; not as a means to an end.


Some had “intrinsic” goals, such as deep, enduring relationships. Others had “extrinsic” goals, such as achieving reputation or fame.

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” -- Albert Einstein

The author considers "deep enduring relationships" as an intrinsic goal. People are extrinsic too. They can be fickle, move away, die etc. I think intrinsic goals would mean a heavy focus on self improvement. Like developing temperance, patience, forgiveness. Improving self awareness, delaying gratification, having empathy for others, having a desire to contribute and have an impact on society etc.


I'm not entirely sure Einstein meant it the way it reads on the surface. He always came across as a people-focused thinker to me. Consider his other popular wisdom:

"Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."

Is there something I'm missing?


The goal can be focused on helping peoples' lives, but probably not about a particular person.


The author is the president of the American Enterprise Insititute. AEI's board are the CEO's of ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical etc. Including the CEO of Enron until he was ousted. They are bankrolled by Ford, GE, Chrysler, AT&T etc.

What is his message to us?

"when money becomes an end in itself, it can bring misery"..."People who rate materialistic goals like wealth as top personal priorities are significantly likelier to be more anxious, more depressed"..."the moral snares of materialism"..."it requires a deep skepticism of our own basic desires"

The majority shareholders of the companies bankrolling his institute own the lion's share of this country's stocks, bonds and other assets, and are continually at war with the workers in the company's they own so that a larger lion's share of money coming in goes to profits and not wages.

So of course in this zero-sum game, the parasitical side is going to tell the workers, the wealth creating side, that they should not be too concerned with money, that wealth isn't everything, that uneasy lay the head that wears the crown, and all this other nonsense. They used to have priests and reverends dress up these ideas with superstitious mumbo-jumbo, but nowadays more people are smart enough to see through that BS ( although he does talk about "Saint" Paul, the Dalai Lama, Buddha, the Love of God ).

This crook is so full of hubris, he wants to lecture me on how to live a better life - that being that I should ask for a smaller piece of the pie that I work to create, and perhaps instead dwell on "the strength to love others - [...] God", the thoughts of "Saint" Paul and other nonsense.

Why doesn't he tell his contributors to stop employing psychologists and Madison Avenue to try to figure out how best to create conspicuous consumption so that people will buy the commodities they're pumping out. The advertising business is one of the biggest forces out there trying to tell people life is more enjoyable if certain commodities are purchased, and he is at the center of that world. He likes quoting the bible? Try Matthew 7:

"Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."


Good point. Sourcewatch is a good source of context on such organizations: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/American_Enterprise_Ins...


This is completely ad hominem.

Since I have seen much of the advice in this article help me live a happier life the conclusion I draw is that the author, and likely many of the CEOs running these companies are likely unhappy and un-fullfilled and that they are missing any wisdom in this piece as much as their employees may be.


He even claims in the article that it is not politically motivated, that it holds regardless of political affiliation (materialism in that case). But given his conservative background, and the fact that what he has 'found' (I haven't checked whatever sources there are for myself) seems to perhaps promote a tempered, conservative life#, I am not so sure that he is completely without political bias in this piece.

#Though that is debatable. You don't have to be a conservative or a liberal to come to your own conclusion that leading a life where you try to temper your immediate desires and seek stability (see: monogamy mentioned in the article) for yourself. Political affiliation is only about what you tell others to do. But this is an opinion article where the author is explicitly promoting a specific way of life, so it might be politically motivated.


[deleted]


Someone telling me I need the strength to love God is not someone who is making a rational argument to counter. I can't even conceive of how to address the "argument" that I'm weak because I don't love this deity who he seems to be high on.

There is no argument to address. He is not someone with an AEI hat on talking about monetary policy or trade agreements or so forth, he is jabbering on about how I should live my life, what my values should be, dressed up with a lot of superstitious hokum.


The article reminded me of the book "To Have or to Be?" by the German social psychologist Erich Fromm. Fromm believed that the problem of the modern society is that we are too much concerned with having instead of being. It is a good read.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Have_or_to_Be%3F


Sounds like a review of the book of Ecclesiastes -- Solomon tried power, fame, pleasure, money, all of it ...vanity ...meaningless. Sun will be red giant in 6 billion years. All of this will be gone...


I had a similar thought. Though the author certainly doesn't reach Solomon's conclusion.


I think this is why I enjoy working on FOSS projects a lot. At the end of the day, it is really great to interact with users and know you improved someone else's day, even a little bit.


This article reads like a crude and incomplete rehashing of Buddhism's four noble truths, minus the fourth. Humans experience suffering, this suffering comes from desire, to eliminate suffering one must eliminate desire. The difference is that the article distinguishes between 'extrinsic' and 'intrinsic' desires whereas in Buddhist discourse it is generally held that suffering comes from all forms of desire, intrinsic or not.


That's itself a rather incomplete way to explain the Four Noble Truths. Generally, utilizing desire is the only way to make any progress along the Buddhist path. Thanissaro Bhikkhu has written lots about this; here's a quote:

"Most of us, when looking at the four noble truths, don't realize that they're all about desire. We're taught that the Buddha gave only one role to desire — as the cause of suffering. Because he says to abandon the cause of suffering, it sounds like he's denying any positive role to desire and its constructive companions: creativity, imagination, and hope. This perception, though, misses two important points. The first is that all four truths speak to the basic dynamic of desire on its own terms: perception of lack and limitation, the imagination of a solution, and a strategy for attaining it. The first truth teaches the basic lack and limitation in our lives — the clinging that constitutes suffering — while the second truth points to the types of desires that lead to clinging: desires for sensuality, becoming, and annihilation. The third truth expands our imagination to encompass the possibility that clinging can be totally overcome. The fourth truth, the path to the end of suffering, shows how to strategize so as to overcome clinging by abandoning its cause."


So does this mean he's going to push for all companies that fund AEI to give their employees at least 6 weeks of paid vacation a year? Because one of the things that makes people REALLY happy is the free time to pursue their interests outside of the office.


So is the software you build "a thing"? I guess this depends on what you are working on is making a vision a reality, or a CRUD application that you sell for XXXXXX dollars to a customer.

I find the article is too shallow. Loving people can make you really unhappy, or happy, that depends a lot on you and on the people. Sex with just 1 person can be exactly what you want, but if you are really interested in sex then 1 person might just not be enough.

So no, we don't know how to be happy. Citing statistics and applying them blindly to yourself is a sure recipe for unhappiness. Better to explore yourself and find out what makes you happy. You can then use statistics to execute.


The irony of this piece is that the author presents happiness as an object to be acquired.


My experience has been that happiness comes from not pursuing happiness.


"The act of pursuing happiness necessarily implies the current absence of happiness. Make the pursuit of happiness into a habit, and you habitualise the absence of happiness."


I think this was a good piece if you take it as with all things, not as absolute fact or 100% correct.

I think the general idea that the article was trying to communicate is a good and thoughtful idea.


As a misanthrope, I'm probably screwed.

The ideal is to make enough money to not have to deal with people, other than a very select few.


I mean this in the most genuine way possible, but you can never be around people for dirt cheap. If you could save up 50k you could by a house in the middle of nowhere for 20k, invest the rest to bring in a couple hundred dollars a month and work online to cover the rest of your expenses. Or become a cross country truck driver part of the year. Etc etc. There are tons of very easy ways to never be around anyone.

You are probably just addicted to the internet and it has caused you to not be able learn the right social skills to enjoy the people around you so you just attach to some idea that you are some "misanthrope". It's like alcoholics that believe they just naturally depressed people when its really just the alcohol.

Like I said, I mean this in the best way possible, but you probably have an internet addiction that is stunting your social growth. You might want to try something like take 1 month and never go online. Get a flip phone and cancel your internet for a month just to find out. And if what I just said about going without a smartphone and internet at home for a month sounds impossible, then that's probably the proof you have an addiction.


It's not that easy to disconnect yourself from humanity as you make it up to be. Covering your running costs without a steady job is hard and takes planning. Also I don't believe you can get a "house" for 20k anywhere. Maybe a cabin in a forest with no electricity and running water but that doesn't count.

That said, there are tons of people living like that. And claim to be happy with their lives. So either they are lying or your assertion that "everybody works like this" is wrong and some people just doesn't want to be around other people.


Your algorithm for detecting addiction seems it would have a very high false positive rate. Consider this restatement:

Like I said, I mean this in the best way possible, but you probably have an air addiction that is stunting your social growth. You might want to try something like take 1 month and never breathe. Stop breathing for a month just to find out. And if what I just said about going without air at home for a month sounds impossible, then that's probably the proof you have an addiction.


There is one problem with your restatement. Breathing, even non-stop hyperventilation, does not interfere much with other activities, so it's hard to imagine how it could stunt social growth. Aside from that, it is of course true: everyone is in some sense "addicted" to breathing, though it might be more accurate to say that air is an essential nutrient.


Maybe I'm misunderstanding this, but you are saying a person would die without the internet?


I'm saying there are reasons other than addiction why one might not be able to disconnect for a month (e.g. they are a remote worker).



Far far easier (and more rewarding as it goes) to learn to like people.


I think you can easily learn to accept people, but really really liking them is a lot harder.

Most people I meet don't have the same interests as I do, and many are also very shallow that I really don't want to hang out with them.

Call me misantrophic, or just experienced ;-) The more people I get to know, the more I think "what's the point?"


I think it's starts with being interested in them. Travelling may help.


It started with being interested, but as I said, the more people I meet, the more I'm just bored by them.

Travelling didn't help at all. Yes, nots of friendly people, but also lots of aggravating tourist assholes (interestingly, I find American travelers to be very nice, but many Australian or English travelers seem to be assholes, maybe just the ones I met?). Also, too many rugged, handsome, self-absorbed, sunburnt surfer types who play the guitar, are full of themselves, and generally very opportunistic and shallow in how they deal with people. Just can't take them seriously, as they don't seem to take anybody seriously.


Disagree. I find it difficult and unrewarding. Like, why should I give a shit about another human? Would it make me that much smarter or better in any tangible way? Don't think so. Frankly, I'm having a hard time thinking of a single person in my life that I would rather not go on without.


> Would it make me that much smarter or better in any tangible way?

If you think life is about you, you are guaranteed to find it difficult and unrewarding.


It sounds like you might benefit from a change in environment. Maybe you don't have the right people in your life.


How?



It's refreshing to read something like that on HN. Usually it's more "Hey look, I made tons of money by doing <insert technology here>"


I enjoyed reading this article, although I feel several experiments cited don't necessarily lead to the conclusions drawn from them.


Tried loving people. It was awful. [grumpy cat picture on the background] Seriously not everyone is extroverted and btw. tldr.




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