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HN Help: I'm lost
366 points by lostsheep on Nov 12, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 261 comments
I'm posting this with a new nick to hide my identity. I'm one of the top people (by karma) on HN and if I told you my nick or name you'd probably know me.

But I'm totally lost.

From the outside you'd be amazed to know that inside I am in terrible turmoil. You know me because of code I've written, books I've published, and my contributions here. Perhaps you follow me on Twitter. But I have reached a point in my life where I do not know what to do, or where to turn.

I'm in my early 40s, I've worked for start-ups and big companies. I made a little bit of money in the early 2000s which helped pay off a bit of mortgage. I have a family that depends on me financially. And yet I feel I have nothing to show.

I don't own my home, I don't have lots of savings, I have a job with a difficult boss. Because of the hours I work and commuting I barely see my children. I am utterly unhappy with my life.

Where should I turn? And what would you do?

I am tempted to totally change my life and stop working and create something new that will be challenging and interesting. Create something that I can do from home so that at least I am not a slave to my boss.

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

First, tell your wife exactly what you've written here. What you're about to do will scare the snot out of her if she doesn't understand your motivation.

The fact that you've posted something like this just about guarantees you've already decided to make a major course correction. Many people can work a lousy job they hate for 4 decades, get a gold watch at the end, and have as little to show for it at the end as you feel you have now. Looks like you're not one of them.

I wasn't one of them either. I told my wife almost exactly what you wrote up there. She asked me why it took so long, she'd know I was like that when she married me. We sold our house to be free of the mortgage, even though it was a bad time, moved into a rental and I've been working only on projects that interest me ever since. It was (is) scary. We've had to reduce our standard of living, but the days have turned from drudgery to adventure. Even if we end up living in a van down by the river, it will have been well worth it.

Only you can know whats best for you, but as someone who has walked this path, I encourage you to follow your heart. Poverty is uncomfortable, but regret is excruciating.

Edit: I'm serious about the tell your wife part. It instantly transforms her from hapless dependent (and one more worry on your mind) to co-conspirator and confidant. I just can't overstate what a difference this made for me.

"Poverty is uncomfortable, but regret is excruciating".

I cannot upmod you enough for writing that. It's exactly the kind of feeling I've been having for the past few years but haven't been able to put it into words. Sometimes being poor can be one of your largest assets because it makes you more nimble and forces you to make better decisions--both in startup world and life outside. But you're right, regret is excruciating. You only get one chance (as far as I know) at life. You absolutely have to follow your heart.

His family might disagree.

Which would deprive his wife and children more?

a) Fewer expensive toys, a smaller/no TV, a small house, cheap clothes, and public school?

b) A father and husband so busy repressing his pain, so trapped in the anguish of seeing his identity drowned, that he cannot express his true love and strength to them?

His family will benefit infinitely more from the joy of his liberation, and his children from the example of a father fully passionate about his life and theirs. Anything less is a disservice - and the money is utterly inconsequential in comparison.

I think you're being a little bit dramatic. We're talking about computer professionals. The "pain" we might experience professionally is pretty mild. So we might only have a high paying but not totally self-actualizing job. If that squashes you down so hard you can't express your love to your kids, I'm not sure it's the job that's the problem.

And going the entrepreneurial route isn't exactly a way to spend more time with your kids.

I agree that escaping the rat race is a good thing overall for the family, I just disagree with the dichotomy you're presenting here.

I am utterly unhappy with my life.

How is that not pain?

Your brain is pretty well set, like a thermostat. If he's in pain now, with his effete lifestyle and cushy job, poverty isn't going to improve his lot.

If anything, our original poster should consider psychiatric care. This kind of seething misery isn't often fixed by dickering around your professional life.

I disagree. Talk to grad students who both don't want to quit, but also don't see any viable paths to graduation. Being in such situations - where you feel stuck - for long periods of time can lead to depression.

I think I misread your post a little. I was thinking of it in the abstract -- is the choice between self-actualization or misery -- and that seemed too extreme.

But you are right, the OP is in a lot of pain right now. And I myself have the same fears as the OP, and even taken the route that the poster wonders about, of taking time off to do some wildly impractical and creative things. It taught me a lot about myself.

I don't have a family at the moment, so it's a lot easier for me. I'm not sure what the solution is, for him, but it could just be downshifting rather than a clean break. Or, maybe he thinks he needs to do something radical.

If the choice were between a big house and a modest house, expensive clothes and cheap clothes, private school and public school, I'd probably make some major life changes too. But here's the thing. I already live with two kids in a small 2br house in an unfashionable corner of an expensive city (San Francisco). I already buy my clothes at relatively inexpensive stores, and expensive private schools are already out of the question. My family depends heavily on my income, and while I'm not struggling and wouldn't call myself impoverished under any circumstances, there isn't a lot of room on that ladder to step down.

I'm not as accomplished as the OP, but he may be in a similar financial state. Another big difference is that I don't have a difficult boss, and my commute and working hours do allow me a couple hours with my kids in the evening, along with weekends mostly free. So I'm definitely, definitely, definitely not saying he shouldn't feel this way, or suggesting that he's complaining. I'm just saying, I get it, I understand why his situation is a very difficult one.

Hey, awesome if it's working for you, but "an unfashionable corner of SF" is a pretty long way from the bottom of the ladder.

If you compare yourself to your peers in SF you'll never feel good about that. Too many kids who got lucky in this town walking around with zillions.

What if you moved to one of the more decent parts of the East Bay? Easily cut your rent in half, or if you prefer, you could have twice the space.

This is exactly what most guys out there are conditioned to think. "I must be a provider". It's stupid. Yes, make sure your kids aren't starving. No, they don't need a new videogame every week.

Kids aren't as dumb as adults think they are. Treat them with respect, explain things to them, and they will understand. Treat them as dumb consumers, and what do you get?

Kids aren't as dumb as adults think they are.

It's more a matter of perceived fragility, both in the physical sense (safety hysteria) and the emotional and psychological sense (provider hysteria). This is constantly reinforced by other people behaving as though their children are fragile, and falling into the hysteria themselves.

No one wants to be at the bottom of this pile. It would be the same, in a coarse sense, as being at the bottom of the pile in a high school or in a clique of society wifes. Social ostracism, harassment with and by child protective services, and honest to goodness psychological damage of everyone involves can result from such petty bullshit. That you have to deal with such pettiness is a sign not that you should try to win harder, but that perhaps you should just stop playing the game.

In all of this squabbling, it is possible that, in an absolute sense, the child's life could be awesome. They could be comfortable, psychologically stable, and totally happy with life. But it doesn't matter, because all of this social in-fighting is a local phenomena, and being on the bottom in any locality makes you a "bad parent" almost by axiom.

BTW, not arguing at you so much as using your thoughts as a basis for my own. :-)

Yeah its one thing to deprive yourself of things, but when you start depriving your offspring of things, that's tough.

Having a family changes all the goalposts.

Disagree. Comfort breeds complacency. Complacency breeds discontent.

My family was completely nomadic growing up. While it was kind of a constant uncertain adventure, I see, as an adult, how it made me a better and stronger person.

Look at people with a small zone of comfort, people who are so incredibly attached to their physical manifestations of "success" and they are some of the most unhappy people ever. Living the nomadic existence more or less teaches people to value their relationships with people over things or those things that 9-5 drudgery provides.

Besides, children are resilient. I would never trade the memory of the time with my parents & family -- moving, camping, learning and adapting all over the freaking place -- for memories of what most adults would call a "stable" childhood.

I've seen different people react differently to having moved around a lot as a kid. Some react the way you do. Others like nothing better to just plot down and settle in some roots when they're adults.

So, it is preferable to deprive kids of attention/love/help with school (OP says he barely sees his children) as opposed to depriving kids of "things"?

There's obviously a balance. Kids need ideally both.

Do you think they need as much of the "things" as parents seem to feel obligated to provide for them now? There is no need for this false dichotomy of "things" or "complete lack of things".

As I've commented on here before, I and a lot of the people I know seem to have gone through childhoods where the parents believed this trade-off was really binary. I got it less than many people, but I still would have liked to see my parents, and their parents as well, not suffer through existence so much because of "needs" they thought we had. The only reason they thought we had those needs is because all the other parents in the neighborhood reinforced that children have those needs by catering to their own children thusly. It almost seems like the same force that drives parents to obsess about the safety of their children. They don't want to seem like the parent who cares the least.

The problem is that the goalposts you allude to in a higher-level comment are defined by this mechanism. I agree that goals will change -- any life change will result in resetting of goals --, but I think we absolutely suck as a collective on evaluating where those goals ought to reset to, and just let blind oneupmanship against other families guide us to local maxima.

Your comments ring very true to me. My father decided he'd rather stay in a relatively low chemical engineering job rather than push up the corporate latter into a black tie management position. As a result my friends all had much nicer toys and bigger houses, but they rarely saw their parents. On top of that my friend's parents never seemed happy, ever. Whereas my father has always been one of the happiest people I know. Throughout my highschool years he'd tell me stories almost nightly of something interesting he'd done that day. Now that I'm older and nearing the end of my own degree I have no doubt I'll keep the same perspective: stick with doing what you love no matter how much you make off of it.

- I should clarify that we didn't live anywhere near poverty. My father wasn't putting us in a bad situation to keep the job he loved. We were just significantly lower than the people around us, and as a result he didn't have many friends among his peers (by that I mean parents in our suburb) because they looked down on him. So that situation may not have any real bearing on this discussion since he didn't seem to be facing a hard decision: give up the respect of a bunch of career pushing suits or hate his life and his job, hmmm.

Your duty to your offspring is to 1) raise them to be contributing members of society 2) be capable to care for themselves 3) be capable to care for their own offspring.

You have no duty to provide "stuff" and failing to give them stuff is not deprivation.

Even as a family you can be frugal. You need more than if you were alone, but still.

If you can't buy your kids lots of fancy things, maybe you can teach them to be entrepreneurial early on.

If you can't buy them expensive education, maybe they can try to win grants. Besides, if you are struggling now, you probably can not buy them good education anyway.

You could spend more time with your kids which make up tenfolds for the missing fancy stuff. Kids love attention and entourage. YOU should be their idol and YOU can compensate the "poor" education. I disagree that money buys good education. Between terms the parents are responsible for the education and development of the offspring and spending more time with your kids gives you better chances to pass on your values. You can't pay someone to do that for you while you're working for that money.

Follow your heart! I did that and led me to a low maintenance but very happy life. The less you have to more you gain.

Happiness == Success

I'll second the education part.

I was a military brat. I went to 10 public schools in 18 years, mostly in poorer areas. By all accounts my education should have been terrible. It wasn't.

I got a lot out of my education, not because I went to the 'best' schools.. but rather because my parents instilled in me a love of learning. They laid down an expectation (not a demand) that I learn and continue learning throughout my life.

I didn't go to an Ivy league school (we simply didn't have the means). I went to a division II school in central Arkansas. None of that matters. I still learn something new everyday. I've parlayed my love of learning into an entrepreneurs life. I'm on my third startup. One has been wildly successful, one not so much. The third is going well so far:)

More importantly I have a great wife and live in a place I absolutely love (Denver). We have a nice house, but not too nice. We have great friends. Really, at 30 years old I just couldn't ask for more.

All of this not because I had fancy toys, private school, or even much stability growing up (moving around every year or two impedes that). Nope, I've been blessed by having parents who where adventurous and chose not to live life in a conventional way. They freed me to walk my unconventional path to happiness. That's a far greater gift than money can buy.

To the OP: Don't be afraid to step out and find your happiness. Your kids need a role model just as I had.

Try that with kids bombarded from TV and peers to be mindless consumers. It's close to impossible.

Believe it or not, as a parent you have more clout than the TV and peers...if you want to.

From about the time my son was three years old or so, my reply to "can I have $shiny_thing_on_TV?" was "don't ask for stuff you see on TV, it's mostly junk." That simple!

Now he's nine and asks for stuff on TV, but he understands that there's a very high probability he won't get it, so he knows better than to whine about it. Instead it's "maybe I can get it for my birthday" or "how long do I have to save so I can buy that with my own money?" Either of which I think is infinitely better than the kids who nag their parents until they get what they want!

Don't own a TV.

I don't, but I don't have kids. Do you?

I have kids, own a TV, but don't get anything more than the basic network channels. Specifically, no Disney, no Nickleodeon, Cartoon Network, etc. When visiting friends and family who do have those channels, I'm constantly reminded this is a good thing.

(Ironically, I think channels like Cartoon Network I would recommend more for adults, both for the creativity of some of the shows and for the nostalgia of the old stuff. But I don't think the irony of many of these cartoons translates for many children, who are still naive enough to take them at face value.)

"for the nostalgia of the old stuff"

I don't care for new TV shows, but I sometimes wonder about cutting kids off from a source of pop-culture for their generation. It may not seem like it to us, but for them, the crap that's on now will be the stuff they watch on Cartoon Network in 20 years and laugh about or turn into surreal parodies.

Maybe moderation is a better solution?

The underlying question is to what extent do you want your children to be passively absorbed into the prevailing culture. There is a lot about the prevailing culture that we don't endorse, and I would hope that's true for most parents. If left to their own devices without a screen in front of them, our kids can get pretty creative with drawing, making little crafts, building stuff with their toys, reading books they picked out on their own from the library, playing outside, etc. etc. I'll take that over some nostalgic cartoon memories any day.

That's cool! How do you deal with peer pressure at school and all that?

BTW, like someone else said, I hate to have thousands of episodes of tv trash like Gilligan's Island in my head.

It seems like it's really just starting to kick in now (my oldest is in second grade) so we're taking it as it comes.

We don't have video games either, and I'm starting to think that's where I would "compromise" first (although I would have to convince my wife). In general, though, I think it's easier to take a pretty hard line to start and then find points to compromise on. We have Netflix, too, so there's lots to choose from as far as things to watch. But we know some of their peers can turn the TV on at any time and watch whatever they want, which I find to be pretty scary. That whole "turn the TV to a 'kids' channel and mindlessly absorb whatever comes on for hours everyday" is the scenario we really want to avoid.

Yeah. I haven't hit that point in my life yet, so that aspect was not my first consideration. But even so, there are various levels of poverty. My assumption here is that we're not speaking about the destitute. We are simply trying to keep with the standard of living for a typical family. If you are willing to give up extra luxuries (fancy home, fancy car, cable, etc) then I believe my statement still stands.

Maybe, but how will he know if he doesn't ask?

Or it might turn out that there is some third option between continuing the current drudgery or pushing everything into the pile on some new venture. Again, there's little to be lost and much to gain from starting the conversation.

Upmodded for the 'sunscreen' quote and the amazing quality of the advice in the rest of your post.

Seriously, take noonespecials hint and talk to your s.o., it will make a world of a difference to know that you're in it together.

I have to second the "tell your wife" part. If she is supportive, you two can find a solution that makes your whole family happy in the long run.

And for the lost sheep, it sound like you really need a different job. I have a job with a long commute, but a great boss and that's hard enough. In my opinion, it's just not worth the stress.

I'm not sure how to answer the money part. At least you've recognized there is a problem and can now try to address it through savings, lifestyle change, etc.

Same situation here, I am now working from home with the support of my wife. Really, you must bring your wife and family into the game by explaining the situation for them to support you. Really the best advice, all the rest will follow.

Another possibility is to ask for a cut in your hours at work. That is what I have done, and it feels great. I was cut from 40+ hours to 30 hours by request, and now I use the extra time to work on side projects. When you find that you are earning more money in those extra 10 to 20 hours of side work than you are in the 10 hours you cut, it may be time to fully release yourself from the burden of a endless, meaningless job.

Aside from my s.o., I tend to talk about such things with friends.

When I wanted to quit my job and start working as a freelancer my s.o. was very supportive, a friend who has been freelancing for a long time provided insight on what I was getting myself into, and another friend who I worked with a lot was kind enough to point out my related weaknesses.

Aw man, I wish I had answers for you. Your situation reminds me of when I was in the Army. I had recently left an elite unit, and was working a dull job in the regular Army. A senior NCO took me under his wing and, sensing that I was unhappy, asked me what was going on. I hated my job. I hated my situation. I hated the Army. I hated my living quarters. I felt like I was in prison. I didn't feel that I was any good at being a soldier.

He told me something interesting, something that has stuck with me. He said that "...a good man will always be a good soldier; but a good soldier will not always be a good man. It's more important to be a good man." Or some shit like that. But it helped me.

Focus on that: Being a good man. Be a good father. Be a good husband. And don't get all caught up in some kind of false choice: The idea that you can only a) continue commuting for hours to work for a dickwad boss on a project you hate or b) stop working. There's probably some middle ground you can find, that might allow you a shorter commute, a boss who's less of a dick, a project that's slightly more satisfying.

Just don't be that guy who quits his job to work on his novel and then, six months later, is waking up at noon with saliva-Cheeto stains on his laptop, his underwear, and his remote control. Trust me man, I've been there, too.



don't get all caught up in some kind of false choice

Excellent advice. I think often times when we feel 'stuck' there are a world of other options we are not considering. If things are truely that bad on all perspectives, it shouldn't be hard to find a partial solution that improves them.

I remember reading somewhere that if there are two roads and you can't choose between them, then they're both wrong.

It's also a form of creativity and problem solving to open up other options for yourself. The world is more pregnant with possibility than we imagine until we've seen other people get themselves out of a mess by opening up options.

I am probably not a typical HN reader, but full-time "normal" employment works for me. I do software engineering and coding for 8 hours, then I go home, where I see my child, and there is a paycheck every month.

So the advice I can give is - find another programming job, which is closer to your home, and chances are your boss will be better. That can solve the problem with money, boss, and time for your child.

Regarding the more existential questions (meaning of life, etc.), I personally would not looking for the solution in the work I do.

Agreed. I’m probably not the usual start-up type commenter either, but I have a good 8 hours a day job in a fun agency 5 minutes (!) commute from my home. I get in early, enjoy my work without burning out, get home by half five and get to fill my evenings doing the other stuff I love. I haven’t stopped questioning my happiness and if I find myself getting bored with the situation I’ll change it, but for the time being it’s working very well.

> but full-time "normal" employment works for me

Never forget that someone else's ambition is what allows for your relative stability.

That's a cruel way to look at it. If the guy is more interested in spending time with his family than working, and he's able to find someone who values his 8 hours enough to provide stable employment, then he's found a working arrangement that suits his values. As long as he believes in those values -- and isn't just accepting them by societal default -- there's no reason he should feel guilty.

As long as he believes in those values -- and isn't just accepting them by societal default -- there's no reason he should feel guilty.

Totally agree. But these values are so often a societal default, and so often never thought about except in how to extrapolate with those values as a basis.

Making a point like this can result in one of three things: the reader already though of this, and acknowledges it as such; the reader discards the insight as irrelevant or wrong; or, the reader feels a sense of cognitive dissonance, and starts to analyze the statement in the context of their core values.

The statement itself was just matter of fact. I didn't pick up any sense of judgment; more of making the point that A implies B, and that the original commenter should make sure he's comfortable accepting both premises. I don't see anything wrong with making sure that people are consciously aware of what their values imply.

> or, the reader feels a sense of cognitive dissonance, and starts to analyze the statement in the context of their core values.

This is a good way of looking at it - it's a form of self-delusion, if you ask me.

> That's a cruel way to look at it.

I'm not trying to be cruel, I'm reminding him that his (salaried) labor is making someone else wealthy. For those of us who have well developed senses of self-esteem, this is a wholly unacceptable situation.

Only if your self-esteem is tied to your wealth. That would be a shame.

My sense of self-esteem is tied to who I allow to take exploit me. Which is really just a proxy for wealth.

Not everyone has a sense of self esteem that depends on being the best at everything.

It seems that you look down on those who work as salaried labor. I would not want to work for you. I hope that whatever project you're working on can be done with just you and a cofounder.

Indeed. Work hard enough, and your own unsalaried labour might even be able to make you poor. Much better for everyone involved.

Right. Well, I'm real sorry you decided to get married early and have children, but don't take it out on those of us who know what's really going on in this world.

Never forget that the someone else's ambition is only achieved through people like him willing to help realize it.

There is no "good" or "bad" in recognizing your particular comfort zone. The only issue arises in you continuing to do something outside of your comfort zone, and that's as true as being an entrepreneur when you hate it as much as it is being an employee when you hate it.

And that someone is getting an (arguably) fair slice of the value you produce in exchange for it. What's the problem?

Not a problem. Just something that should be consciously acknowledged and accepted as best against alternatives, not something that is unconsciously drifted into due to inertia, familial/societal expectations, or anything else that removes the individual from a sense of responsibility for their decisions.

I'm posting this as a separate comment, not because I think that it particularly applies to your situation, but because it is good advice in the general case.

If you should happen to feel, "I am utterly unhappy with my life" at any time, it might not hurt to at least darken the door of a trusted mental health professional just to be sure that there is not a clinical element to your feelings of malaise as well as circumstantial ones.

Even mild mental illness still carries a certain stigma so its hard to do sometimes, but we've lost one too many of the good ones, even in this community, not to take it seriously.

There's also potentially some pride to swallow, but it's badly placed pride in the first place. The life-prevalence of perfect mental health is near zero.

Gender and race discrimination have mostly been tackled, sexual orientation is on it's way. Mental disorders will be the next milestone IMO.

All the best to the lost sheep :-)

There's also potentially some pride to swallow, but it's badly placed pride in the first place. The life-prevalence of perfect mental health is near zero.

It's not just a matter of pride; for my sake is a certain amount of skepticism in what all has been pathologized. Regardless of what motives, or who's, you might believe is a result of this, we seem hasty in pinning on conditions and prescribing meds. That behaviors may be off the norm seems a priori evidence that they are bad behaviors, and need to be corrected, and our triggering deviation from the norm seems to be narrowing. But then, this could be because I tend to become friends with all of the outliers, and I have a sampling bias. :-)

I have thought about chatting with one or two mental professionals myself, but more out of a sense of curiosity than a sense that I need to be chemically renormalized. I'd like to first figure out what I might potentially be diagnosed with, and then begin the much more interesting discussion of where it becomes a problem, and whether it matters as more than just a label I could potentially exploit for preferential treatment.

Clinical psychologist do not prescribe drugs (at least not yet), so your concerns would only apply with psychiatrists. Clinical psychologists help individuals tweak the ways they think and behave using "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)", a therapy the author of this post might benefit from.

I wish you were right. Gender and race discrimination are still alive and well. (Granted, much has improved - but it's far from solved) And sexual orientation... Yeah, you see how the gay marriage thing is going. It's a long uphill struggle.

But before I darken the mood too much - I can only second the advice of seeing a therapist. And if you don't feel you can connect with the one you see, switch. No point in toughing it out.

I've done it, and let me just say that both the opportunity to speak openly about issues and the proper treatment have improved my life tremendously.

Mental health professionals can hurt you as well as help.

I think if you're not actually going crazy, I'd advise against this. Talk to any kindly outsider. If you do actual controlled studies - scientific evidence, can you dig it? - they show that if you're not organically crazy, talking to professors works just as well as talking to mental health professionals. And professors won't take all your money or get you committed or subject you to the psychoanalytic flavor-of-the-week etcetera.

Yes, there are good mental health professionals, but just going out at random is really risky.

I can't upvote this comment enough. Mental health professionals don't necessarily hold all the answers (so be wary), but the poster's problems (or at least his perspective) may be a result of depression.

I can't agree enough. Even if they can't help you directly, it is very helpful to be able to talk things out with a 3rd party. They may put you on drugs and those can help, but it's the talking that really helps. If you aren't comfortable with someone in a clinical setting, you can always find help at your church, if you are religious.

This sounds a lot like my situation. I think it is more common than people admit.

I can only tell you what I am doing. I told my wife how I feel. I told my boss how I feel. Strangely, my boss had a lot more power to improve my situation than my wife did. Admittedly, he is a good boss. I'm working from home about one day a week, and I've been able to control more of my projects.

But my wife is 20 weeks pregnant with unexpected twins. So I cannot change anything right now. I cannot pack up and take risks. I need to maintain my job no matter how bad it gets, as I need the insurance and the steady paycheck.

Internal acceptance of what you can and cannot control goes a long way to resolving inner turmoil. I spent a few months dealing with the fact that I must lower my expectations of my life. I'm not pleased about it, but that is the way it rolls.

Ultimately, the act that fixed it for me was when I sat down and laid out my priorities in life. My #1 priority is taking care of my family. I wish I saw my kids more, too. But they have a stable home. Seeing them more, but being without a home isn't a good compromise. So I accept the fact that I am stuck at a job that I don't like, working on technology that I do not like, and getting farther behind the curve on new technologies, so it is even harder to move elsewhere. But -- my kids are cared for. My wife is cared for.

I just had to accept that my self-identity needs to change into "Dad", not "technology expert who happens to have a family".

It is hard, yes, believe me, I know.

And if you can change it, I'll cheer you on.

But if you cannot change it, for your own sanity, embrace it.

I just had to accept that my self-identity needs to change

You're a brave guy, that takes guts.

"Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

  --  Saint Francis of Assisi

Firstly, I'm sorry you feel this way, and I hope the rest of this doesn't sound unsympathetic.

Do not stop working. That might be the answer for single, childless people, but not to put too fine a point on it, you have greater responsibilities than your own happiness.

Further, you have to consider the possibility that the problem isn't your job, it's you. The many suggestions to see a therapist are good ones.

Make small changes toward what you think might help, that do not disrupt your family too badly. Get a 40 hour a week job closer to home. Spend more time with your family and friends. Try on some hobbies. Find activities that you find rewarding that aren't tied to your job.

Finally, it's common for people our age to have a mortgage and not a lot of savings. I'm in the same situation, as I suspect the majority of people in their early 40's are.

Good luck.

This is an excellent counter-point. I've known a lot of folks who have been unhappy, even after having changed jobs, changed fields of work, gone back to school, started companies, etc.

Depression can be a physical malady, rather than merely an emotional response to your current situation, and if it is, then altering your lifestyle might not help; physical ailments, including long-term depression, generally need medical attention. One way to possibly self-diagnose whether this is the case is if you feel trapped and wanting to escape to anywhere else, or if you feel hopeful and excited (even if a little uncertain) by the thought of doing something else. Surprisingly, there hasn't been much talk of it in this thread, but this feeling is common enough to have a name: Mid-life crisis. You're not abnormal for looking around when you reach your late 30s or 40s and wondering, "WTF? How did I get here?" But, you're lucky enough to be introspective enough to consider the causes and solutions with care, and respond to them intellectually rather than childishly by buying a sports car, cheating on your wife with a teenager, damaging your family with irresponsible behavior, and trying to be cool like you were when you were 20.

Anyway, I'm not saying the advice in all the other comments aren't right, and that you shouldn't change jobs, start a company, give the finger to the establishment, etc. I am saying that you should do so only if that is actually what you want, and not merely jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. I am of the opinion that entrepreneurship and being ones own boss is a more fulfilling lifestyle than most others I can think of, but I'm pretty sure it's not for everyone. The risk and stress is much higher, the discomfort level in the early days (which sometimes take years; I'm three years into my current company, and it's just now starting to make me a decent living; it took five with my previous company) can be too much for folks accustomed to being able to buy new things (like clothes, TVs, entertainment, cars, etc.) with regularity. But, if it's what you've always known you wanted to do, but never did, then maybe this little bout of feeling lost will be enough to send you in the right direction.

Every five or six years or so I purposefully turn my whole life upside-down, just to avoid the chances of getting stuck in a rut.

It's not for everybody, it almost certainly will mess up your chances with 'striking it rich' because inevitably you'll be starting from 0 up again. I've been very lucky in always having the backing of those around me whenever I do this.

I feel like I'm stuck at my work after 6 years working there. It was beginning like startup, and then we got bought after 2 years for "nothing", but I got good salary. So I'm kind of addicted to this work b/c of salary mostly. The bad thing that no progress is made for last 2 years and job became completely soul sucking.

I cannot find power in myself to break those chains. How do you trick yourself to get rid of money-addictive soul sucking job?

Well, as I said, it isn't for everybody.

But here is my take on it: I'd rather be poor and happy than secure any day, and I live my life accordingly.

I take risks, sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, on balance it seems to come out roughly even.

Case in point, a bunch of people in Canada wanted to start their own business, a local gas station was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, I put together a package to be able to buy it, invested a whole bunch of money and turned it over to them.

It failed spectacularly, which is a real pity.

But the flip side of that is that I met some guy in a waiting room somewhere, invested some money in to his business, strong armed some other investors into ponying up and he's well into 6 figure territory now and will probably strike it big.

Security is illusionary, who would you rather be dependent on, your boss or your own wits ?

How about all those people that got laid off in the last year, how secure were they before ?

Right now I'm (almost) 45 and I am not scared of doing this, I trust in my own ability to survive and make myself useful to others, directly or indirectly and I expect to pluck the rewards from that.

The satisfaction from doing this under my own power is so much larger than what a paycheck could get me. Any size paycheck.

There is no net though, maybe one day I'll mess up once too many and land on my butt.

But even that doesn't scare me, maybe it should :)

Every sentence above is a gem - a statement to live life by. Respect.

Fortunately I have been lucky to have ppl back me up too when I turned life upside down. I am much younger but would probably lead a life just like you.

Security is illusionary, who would you rather be dependent on, your boss or your own wits ?

I don't think you know just how right you are...I'm planning to quit my job at the end of the month do some 'hustling.' I trust my ability to innovate WAY more than my boss' ability to make money. I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit.

I actually got up at 4 this morning to plan how I am gonna make some money over the Christmas. Sure they can fail, but they can also succeed. It's 50-50

People always say "Well, it could be worse." I say it could be better.

Carpe Diem!

Hey Oz, good luck with that let me know when you're ready to launch.

I'm sort of the same way, though it does have its costs in terms of friendships and other things related to stability.

I think the root value here, however, is that of intentionally pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. This can be done every 5 years, or every day, or somewhere in between. It's something I swear by because it keeps my mind fresh and stimulated. Taking a class unrelated to anything I've ever done is a nice example of something that can be done every few months or so.

Or, since Wear Sunscreen was mentioned here....Do something every day that scares you.

Can you give some examples? I've never done this and am intrigued.


Change your line of business (I went in to alternative energy for 5 years)

Learn a new trade (for me: metal working, Cad-Cam)

Right now I'm again going through such a phase of change, I have absolutely no idea what it is leading to but so far it has been extremely interesting.

Life is all about the journey.

Security in life is worth absolutely nothing, as soon as you feel that you are becoming 'secure' that's an excellent opportunity to kill that before it becomes a habit.

The flip side of that is of course that the freedom to do as you please (within the limits of the socially acceptable) is just as addictive or even more so.

"The price of being a wolf is loneliness. The price of being a sheep is boredom. Choose carefully what you will be."

Don't wolves usually live in packs?

It's "lone wolf" vs "sheep herd", but you'd think that the loneliness of the lone wolf would be a solved (or non-) problem.

Since you're replying to me, I guess it is appropriate to let you know that there are (a lot) more options than wolves and sheep, and that I am far from lonely.

Okay. I tried to find the author of the quote and the top Google result now points to HN. Is it from the book "Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity"?

Yes, it is http://gapingvoid.com/books/ by Hugh MacLeod. He draws cartoons at the back of business cards.

I am sorry I didn't quote the name of the author at the first place. I couldn't recall where I had read it. I searched around for a while and couldn't find it so I just posted without the author's name but in quotes to show it was from someone other than me.

Thank you for finding the book title, it helped me find the the site where I originally read this.

Interesting. I strive to pick up a completely new interesting field (e.g. recently electronics, physiotherapy, mentalism, photorealistic drawing) every year or so, so I guess it has a similar effect. Keeps me interested and always gives me new ways to change my existing thinking patterns & challenge my biases.

I disagree about security though. All you need to have an adventure that entirely rocks your world is some peace and quiet.

I'm really interested in this. How do you deal with stopping doing something you're half way to getting good at (c.f. it takes 10 years to get good at anything)?

- Are you just a freakish genius,

- or do you not consider the feeling of mastery to be essential to happiness,

- or do you continue to build up existing skills AND turn your life upside-down at the same time?

I'd love to be able to turn my life upside-down, but I'm addicted to getting better at certain things and would hate to stagnate..

I think it is more like learning languages than being a genius.

It's hard work (make that very hard work) but as you get more basic knowledge it becomes easier to integrate stuff that you are learning.

The only thing I would say I've ever truely 'mastered' is C programming, other than that I have lots of things where I can get by and learn from people that really know their stuff.

It is inevitable that it works like a spotlight, you turn it on an area of interest and go all out to learn what you can about it, then as your return-on-investment in time drops off you can decide to continue or quit, usually I quit when I get to the level where I'd have to go 'full-time' in order to advance.

There is just too much interesting stuff to do, no way to be an expert in more than one field.

One of the most interesting things that I've found is that as you do this you keep running in to domain specific knowledge that can fairly easily be translated in to other domains that haven't picked up on that trick yet.

This is a fairly good way to make a living.

As for doing the turning things upside-down and learning at the same time, usually it coincides, but that is not a necessity.

For me it is just a way to keep living fun.

Totally relate. I've moved every two years for the last ten years.

Also abroad or within the same country ?

Cambridge (UK) -> Sheffield (UK) -> Leeds (UK) -> London (UK) -> Berlin (Germany)

Neat! Say hi to 'Unter den Linden' :)

I assume you do not have a family...

I'm married and have a 5 year old son. When I finally settled into a family, some aspects changed but I had already been living life as an entrepreneur for close to 20 years and my wife accepts and supports this. My family is healthy and happy and we are not worried about paying bills.

Well, you assumed wrongly.

I'll just throw this out there: if I were utterly unhappy with my life and had no clue who to turn to, I'd ask my priest if I could bend his ear for a few minutes. They're typically good listeners, they've heard worse problems than yours, and you really can't beat the NDA.

This is fine advice. I would only note that it also applies to many other people in the world whose job description is isomorphic to "priest".

Agree. The thing about talking to a talk-therapist / counselor / psychologist / priest... is that they are outside of your world, they don't know all the drama and back-story, and when you talk to them you are in a way outside of your everyday world, able to look in upon it from the outside and perhaps see things differently, more clearly (hopefully). Sometimes our personal drama and back-story and life-scaffolding is what gets in the way.

> job description is isomorphic to "priest"

Ok, that cracked me up.

Don't have time to read all the fine responses. Let me risk redundancy, then:

+1, "talk to your wife". +1, "talk to other people as well, like a therapist, a priest, or a career counselor".

Don't try to solve all your problems at once. "I hate my current job", "I have no savings", "I barely see my children", "I think I want to work for myself", and "I want to create something new/challenging/interesting" are all separate problems, and the odds are really, really poor that you can solve them all at once, particularly when you add in the too-vital-to-mention underlying goals, like "my kids deserve to eat".

I'm not you, but if I were I'd work on the "get a different job", "see more of my kids", and/or "get some savings" problems first. Work on your expenses. Life sure does look better when your expenses are smaller than your income.

Reading between the lines of your post, it sounds like you may already know this far too well, but for the benefit of others: "I don't own my home" is not a sign of dishonor. Don't be in a rush to own a home. Most of the people who bought homes four or five years ago are now underwater; many have been foreclosed on. That process is not over -- many mortgages will reset their rates over the next few years, creating more foreclosures and prolonging the glut of inventory. Thus, though the market is apparently better than it was last year, and we may even be approaching the point in some markets where the rent-vs-mortgage calculation is approaching parity again, homes are still rather illiquid, which is another way of saying "your home may make it difficult to change jobs or reduce expenses, because they can be hard to sell when you want to sell them, especially if you can't afford to take a loss."

Hi Lost Sheep,

1. It is okay to feel rotten, isolated

Feeling glum and lost is part of life, and you should not add to it by presuming that you are some freak because you are experiencing these things. Life sucks sometimes and you may feel low when everything on paper says you should be happy.

2. Trusted Friends

No one is laughing at you, or looking down at how successful they have been compared to you. Seek counsel from trusted friends, and if they urge you to seek professional help... please do so.

3. Definition of Success

In your case you have identified some bad elements in your life, but on paper you have a Wife and Kids. You love your kids and wish to spend more time with them. At 40 you have all life's laughter and tears and wrinkles as acheivements... hardly "nothing to show"

4. Advice on the Interwebs

HN is a caring community, but only relatively. Please ignore offhand and illconsidered remarks from other commentators. The advice can be overly sacharin and not yield the concrete improvement you seek. Or they can be overtly callous, ignoring your concerns.

Hopefully you will also seek advice from Trusted Friends

5. What to do now?

Do a family budget. Work out what you can get by on, and what you could earn in more rewarding, closer employment. Can you quit your job and move?

Consider buying a franchise, or start your own business like a Cafe or Restaurant. It's bloody hard work, as my Wife owns a successful Cafe. But it is rewarding.

There are lots of options, and GOOD LUCK!!

My advice is why don't you start with some simple things first like making small positive changes in your routine. Getting up early, eating healthy, exercising, meditating for 10 min a day. In my experience these small changes infuse me with energy to deal with problems in my life. Once you feel more hopeful and confident about yourself you can decide what is best for you. Weather getting a new job near your place, going free lancing or something else.

All of us at one point or another feel lost and connecting with your friends and family helps a lot but its most important to connect back to yourself.

Best of luck.

I can not even being to tell you how much exercising helps me make decisions. That act itself is nothing is good physically, but mentally it gives you time to yourself. I find that I think clearest about half-way through a long run. There is something about being in the middle of the woods and all alone that gives you a sense perspective.

This suggestion has made a marked positive impact on my life as well. If you're a liberal-minded person who's looking for a community like a church but without confining restrictions, I also recommend the Unitarian Universalists. I benefit greatly from a weekly spiritual "check-up".

Do you have any advice on the best way to get started with the simple 10 min meditation?

I've had success with the approach of Jon Kabat-Zinn -- see his talk @ Google: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nwwKbM_vJc

... his book, Full Catastrophe Living is a good read as well.

I am you. I'm in my early 40s. I worked for BigCorp 11 years in my position. I had a long commute. I made lots of money. I have a house and 3 small children. I wasn't seeing enough of my kids. BigCorp is outsourcing to India. I wasn't in jeopardy of loosing my particular job, but I wasn't allowed to program. I had to get the work done through the development teams in India. My immediate boss was ok, the guy a couple up from me I considered completely incompetent. I hated my job. I can't tell you how bad.

6 weeks ago I walked into the bosses office and resigned. He tried all manner of stuff to get me to stay. I wouldn't do it. Previous to me walking in there I had been thinking about in my own head. "If they would pay me BIG $$ would I stay on for this latest disaster project, and get my bonus for this year?" The answer was NOPE. So by the time I walked in there the ship was already sunk and my boss couldn't save it. I had no job to go to. Interestingly my boss gave up after a few minutes and told me good luck, and he felt his job sucked to and shook my hand. My co workers also congratulated me and I left on good terms.

6 weeks later. I have some savings, my house is nearly paid for and my payment is small anyway. I can make it for a while without doing anything different to our monthly budget. I will need to figure out health insurance soon. That is the biggest thing on my plate. Something else happened. I slowly realized that the pain at work had crept up on me a little at time for about 2 or 3 years. I was like the frog in the slowly heated pot, I was dying there. I feel 100% better now. I can't even tell you how much. I have all sorts of ideas that I might try and do. In the spring I will find some sort of job just to buy the groceries. You couldn't drag me back to where I was with a team of horses and I was making north of 100k base, plus bonuses, and nobody was really telling me what to do. Yet still it was not worth it.

The time with ones kids and family are worth way more than the money. Being able to sit and decide what I might do is exciting. I mean I feel the best I have felt in some years, and I am unemployed with no prospects. I am a happy man.

Don't do anything crazy just because of me, but I am you 6 weeks later...

Is a house and big savings really the stuff you want to have to show? I feel a bit like you, but what floors me is that I seem to have not fulfilled a single one of my childhood dreams. There never seemed to be the time. So I really, really try to focus on making at least some of these dreams real now. For example I always wanted to develop games. While I have created some mobile games and primitive browser games, there is none that I am proud of. So I'll focus on that - of course surviving economically is always a challenge :-/

Anyway, you probably have different dreams, but forget about the house and money. I know sometimes it can sting to see others who seemingly earned more in the same time, but in the end, it was never what I personally cared for. I would say having published books is something to show for, for example.

Also remember the law of sunk costs...

Besides of all the practical advice, there is also a philosophical aspect, isn't there? The meaning of life... It helps to think about death, and what will really matter in the end. Granted, children might be happier about inheriting a large lump of money than having a cool dad with interesting war stories. I don't know - but I personally find the thought very depressing that building a house and raising a family should be the completion of life. Nothing against raising a family, I just don't know yet what to tell my kids: I don't want to tell them "build a house and raise family and your life will be fulfilled" (infinite circle).

I personally find the thought very depressing that building a house and raising a family should be the completion of life. Nothing against raising a family, I just don't know yet what to tell my kids: I don't want to tell them "build a house and raise family and your life will be fulfilled" (infinite circle).

What a strange comment. First, the meaning of life (or the closest that life has to an intrinsic meaning coded in genes) is exactly the infinite circle that you point out. Just ask a fish or a tree :-) Second, if you go searching for some kind of meaning in life, it had better be temporally infinite! So why would you complain about that?

I probably did not explain it very well. What I don't want is to defer answering the hard question indefinitely by passing it on to my kids.

It is irrelevant that our genes/life "wants" to reproduce. We have to make up our mind as to what we want to do with life. Actually our genes/life does not want anything. It just so happens that historically reproducing was a good strategy for genes to survive (might not always be true in the future, or for all kinds of genes).

Or actually we don't have to - nothing really matters. But to me it matters. Other people are probably different, in fact I know several whose lifelong dream is exactly to own a nice house and a family. But for me to simply reproduce biologically is not enough.

Edit: of course my kids will still have to find their own answers. I just don't want them to be burdened by having to be my fulfilment in life.

I think you explained it fine. If you sacrifice your dreams in the name of your children, and accept a dull life, the example you are setting is "sacrifice your dreams and accept a dull life". But presumably you don't actually want your kids to live that way, so the strategy is an unhappy contradiction.

You sound like a smart, capable guy, and I've read a lot of good advice here. I'm a guy in his 40's who had a similar crisis and feel like I came out the other side. Let me say this:

You can do this.

Find a job that lets you work near home. Your kids grow up fast, and frankly, kids are like computers. Garbage in,garbage out. They are your long term project that has the potential to reap some serious happiness and satisfaction. I love my work, but it was easy to loose site of the big picture.

Start exercising, if you're not already. Exercise will help you manage depression and give you new confidence.

Did I mention you can do this? :)

Hang in there brother, you might be in a tunnel now, but it will end.

Seems really easy- you have a great reputation on here and are apparently an extremely accomplished programmer. You have no mortgage to pay, so your expenses aren't too bad, though if you have kids you probably want to start saving for their college. If you're not putting much into savings then your finances are either totally fucked or you just aren't being paid accordingly to your experience level.

Just post under your real account that you're looking for contract work, line some stuff up at a high per hour rate, save for a few months, and then quit your job.

The real question is if you think your experience is really that good- this is anonymous so there's nothing for anyone to go off of. If you have a great reputation here then this road has already been paved for you, comment by comment.

There's nothing wrong with cashing in on reputation :)


I would just like to give you an encouraging word: If you have written books and have a high karma score here, then you are a giving person, and you should feel good about yourself. No amount of money can buy happiness although it can sometimes buy less stress.

I think nearly everyone here will support your desire to create something where you can work from home; I have that dream too, however, with a mortgage and family, your options seem limited. If you are a good programmer, you should be able to find a new job quickly, even in a bad economy. Don't settle for a crappy boss.

I have a friend that started a software company in college and is doing quite well. He wants to start a self-sustaining community where families like yours can come live (cheaply) and work for a year or two, while they disengage from the grind, and start a new independent career. I wish he had it going already.

My only real piece of advice is: I think our biggest burden in life is to be nice to others. Try to smile and talk to everyone around you, love then, give to them, and to your family, and this selflessness will make you happy.

I'm in my 20s and am single so I cannot even relate to your situation.

However you mention you don't have lots of savings but you want to stop working and work on something for yourself. You might want to research moving out of the country for a year or two with your family. I've lived in a few countries where $500 a month goes a long way for one person. You might be able to rent out your home as well to get income.

Moving to a place with a low cost of living would give you time to build a business or work on an idea that interests you. When I was living in China, I started doing freelance work through oDesk. I only needed to work 30 hours per MONTH to cover my expenses because I was earning US dollars.

On the other hand, if you are 40 and haven't saved much, you might want to look into budgetting and personal finance first to control your expenses. While the cost of living is cheaper, if you want to live the American lifestyle overseas abroad you will definitely pay for it.

First is first, quit coming to HN for a month. As you say you have high karma but with an un-satisfying job. That is not a good mix. When you read about all the start-ups hitting it big, some 25 year olds who solved a real world problem and are 'rock stars now' ..that might make you feel like you have not accomplished much. Every person makes their own destiny, different strokes for different folks. As fred said: find a middle ground. if you've written books you should not have a problem landing a job close to home that is somewhat satisfying.

"Because of the hours I work and commuting I barely see my children."

If it's a long commute, one option might be moving closer to work so you have more family time and more time to think about what to do next with your life. Alternately, try to find a means to use that commute time constructively in a way that will help move you out of the current miserable situation and into something better -- books on tape, hanging on the cell phone with the wife, or even just using that time to think on your priorities and try to dream up some solution.

I am tempted to totally change my life and stop working and create something new that will be challenging and interesting. Create something that I can do from home so that at least I am not a slave to my boss.

This is HN, so I'm pretty sure everyone will advocate this option.

Whenever I've found myself in a similar position of unhappiness and frustration, I just followed my gut instinct, and it worked out great. It sounds like you have a lot to contribute and the rat race you've ended up in is stifling that.

Good luck with it. :-)

I'd recommend some time with that dear old brother, Epictetus:

First decide who you would be, and then do what you must do.

Men shut up tame lions in a cage, and bring them up, and feed them, and some take them around with them. And yet who will call such a lion free? Is it not true that the more softly the lion lives the more slavishly he lives? And what lion, were he to get sense and reason, would care to be one of these lions? Why, yes, and the birds yonder, when they are caught and brought up in cages, what do they suffer in their efforts to escape? And some of them starve to death rather than endure such a life, while even such as live, barely do so, and suffer and pine away, and if ever they find any opening, make their escape. Such is their desire for physical freedom, and a life of independence and freedom from restraint. And what is wrong with you here in your cage? "What a question! My nature is to fly where I please, to live in the open air, to sing when I please. You rob me of all this, and then ask, 'What is wrong with you?'"

More: http://www.archive.org/details/epictetusthedisc010837mbp http://www.archive.org/details/epictetusthedisc010384mbp

First off - try to realise and embrace the fact that these situation don't last forever. I love the phrase "this too shall pass" because it's pithy and accurate.

It sounds like your first step though is to find a better job - better boss/more interesting work/closer to home/ less travel etc.) That will give you more time away from your family. This alone can have a massive impact.

I commuted 4 hours a day to a client's site almost every working day for close to 2 years on a single project and at the end of that - when I returned back to the office - 30 minutes from my house - I felt like I was on holiday! Even with a new project underway the de-stress was enormous.

You may have to take a financial drop in take home pay but it will give you space for you to evaluate your longer term options more calmly, under less mental stress and away from a work relationship that is clearly not pleasant for you.

I think it's pretty common for these feelings but at least you've recognised them, some people aren't even able to do that.

I think it's also pretty common during your 40s to feel like this - I did and still do - and I know a LOT of people in a similar position.

I think noonespecial's advice about sharing these feelings with your family is good and also about seeking mental health advice.

I think your words resonate with a lot of the HN readers, but you need to look a little deeper into the cause. For me, I still liked my profession, but the job I had wasn't allowing me to do the things that fulfilled me. Simple solution was look for a job that did.

Sometimes when your stuck in a job that is really wrong it poisons your mind and absolutely everything looks bleak. Try and think back to the times you were having fun and either change your current job to fit that ideal (believe me, you may have more power to do that than you think), find a new, better job (sounds like you have some good job hunting ammo in your books, code and HN karma) or start up on your own.

If you do the latter, just be aware that being your own boss isn't for everyone - if you read HN too much it may seem that it's the only thing worth doing but that's very far from the truth. If what fulfils you is hard-core coding then spending a large percentage of your time looking for clients/jobs, doing accounts, sales & marketing etc. etc. etc. etc. may just make your situation worse.

It would be nice to be able to just follow a dream or turn your life inside out whenever you need it.

However if you've got a family that depends on you that's not only nearly impossible but also a very scary proposition.

I would suggest using your real name here and try to link up with an entrepreneur or an investor who could maybe help fund your dream to create something new.

I too was in a similar situation some time ago. I just left everything behind me and went on a long journey.

I stayed among some of the the most poor people, I stayed with most astute people. I slept on railway platforms, traveled in bull carts, I stayed with tribal and I visited different temples.

I realized that there is nothing in this world that can make me feel complete except my inner desire. In this journey i was only with myself and hence discovered what that inner desire was. The journey also gave me strength to go with it.

You see, I think it is a lot easier to deal with problems and survive through troubles when you are 'only with yourself'. The worst thing that can happen only to yourself is not the worst thing, but when you must support your family or there's somebody you care about, tell me how can you be with yourself then? It's very hard to leave people you love.

Maybe you can't protect your family from everything, though. They are independent people, who knows, maybe they can deal? Maybe everyone could be better off in the end? Just saying...

For example my dad had lots of debt and it was a burden to the whole family. You know what, instead of him working himself to pieces and me watching, perhaps I would have preferred to move to Africa or whatever. I think there are almost always possible ways out, you just have to allow yourself to see them.

So what was your inner desire?

lostsheep, thanks for talking to us out here. All of us go through this form of crisis.

My personal experience is the converse: that I start by being unhappy, then I find reasons for them. I suspect it's happening to you too. You think you'd be happier if you saw your children more, but reality can be rather different and surprising. Until you work out your unhappiness, better not to be surrounded by people you genuinely care about. Unhappiness can be rather contagious.

I'm over in Australia, and I can't tell you much about finances, but you need to work out how to own your own home. Once you are secure that way, you'd be able to go out on your own.

You are probably the best judge of whether the time is right to strike out on your own, and whether you have the necessary skills.

In the meantime, here is a mind hack: if you are being hit by depression - make sure you smile at yourself in the mirror several minutes a day (See the guy who wrote the Shangri-La diet). Also, exercise those facial muscles and wear a smile. It will do your mental state a whole lot of good. I wish I could point you to the study. There were some police people who were practising snarls and other microexpressions in order to learn to predict aggression - but they noticed that simply practising those facial expressions made them aggressive. So the converse has to be true too. Smile. For your own wellbeing.

You're certainly lost if you're turning to a bunch of (however well-intentioned) strangers for help with a problem they're very unlikely to be able to help you with - they have no idea who you are, your situation, your history, your personality nor do they have much of a stake in your sorting things out. The best you can hope for is some well-meaning platitudes and interesting-but-likely-inapplicable personal anecdotes. The accepted cliché is that recognizing you have a problem is the most difficult step. Since you've got that covered, you're probably best off moving on to the (supposedly) easier bits like where to look for help - the standard list includes things like family, friends, mental health-care professionals, etc. Usually not 'web forums', mostly for a good reason.

Find or start a company that encourages "work on your time".

We don't care when, where or how people work, as long as they kick ass. We have employees that have families, and they usually work while the kids are at school and then late at night. I'm sure there's a lot more like us around.

"We don't care when, where or how people work"

who exactly is "we"? (might help the original poster if people could reccomend specific companies with enlightened policies wrt working from wherever and so on)

i don't have anything to add, but i too am one of those that can't "settle" for the usual stuff.

i walked away from a $100k-a-year job a little over a year ago -- and i live in tennessee, where $100k goes a lot farther than in the bay area -- because it was killing me. i've tried various things since then, none of them very lucrative.

i am now once again dependent on the generosity of my relatives to get along. but i don't regret quitting. i always manage to come back from the dead somehow, usually into an even better situation than the one i left.

I understand your concerns as I did a 'big quit' last year.

Now I'd like to have a following point, assuming you live in the US: You are very lucky as your country makes it very easy to grow your own business. I live in the EU in some post-communist country and believe me, there's lot of bureaucracy you have to deal with, which distracts you from achieving your goals. I know from some friends in the US that there such things are really near-to-zero when compared to ours. It's not about my political views or the economic situation at the moment, it's about how law is constructed in a particular country (and law changes quite slowly).

So, we do the biz on our own. Surely you can do it as well living in a system which makes it easier.

Good luck! :-)

Do not stop working. It's way easier to get a job if you have one, if for no other reason than your BATNA is much, much higher.

The unemployment rate for people like you (at least in the US) is ~4%. There are tons of opportunities out there, go find yourself a better one!

If you really try you can probably find 3-4 job opportunities in 1-2 months. I imagine you have some vacation time; take some to hang out and enjoy life w/ your family, and some more to interview/find jobs.

As per the other posts, don't be too dismayed. With a little bit of effort you can find a job at a company that you can get behind and in a matter of months your entire view will change. Better work, better boss, less stress.

I completely understand. Put some sort of anonymous email in your profile and we'll talk.

I have done that. Thank you.

Well you're not alone... got a lot of commentary to this post, eh? My small datapoint that helps me to some degree at my moments of 'life dispair' is my 'hobby', a small sailboat. Just big enough to sleep in, it's not an expensive yacht, heck it cost $500 at an auction. But, what it does for me in this context is give a real 'out', I could theoretically climb on and head south, right, that wouldn't happen but it gives the mind a moment of escape. It's also my learning boat, for the round the world trip once the kid is out of college... That may happen. Hang in there, you'll find your way.

If you're respected in your field, have you considered shifting into consulting? You're really in an ideal position for it: you should have no trouble finding work, and will probably find that if you book the same number of hours, you'll make quite a bit more than you currently do. One of the biggest unpaid time sinks when consulting is negotiating new projects, but you can probably avoid spending too much effort on that - I'm sure plenty of people here would be thrilled to receive help from you if you were in the market.

It's not an ideal lifestyle, and I'm sure you're aware of the drawbacks (insurance, security, travel, uncertainty etc.), but it offers considerably more freedom than a 9-5 (you can always turn down projects if you want more time to yourself, though I'd recommend that instead of saying "No" straight away you do so implicitly by pumping up your rate to the point where you'd be thrilled to take the job if they agreed) without a lot of the risk involved in a startup, and it could allow for a much easier transition towards starting your own business if you decide to take the plunge.

You'll find that Real Job offers emerge on occasion from contracts that you complete, and you may even stumble upon something that's lucrative and interesting enough to take, if you're not loving the hired gun lifestyle...

It's one thing to say "create something challenging and interesting". But just that by itself won't be enough - it's gotta be something you're really passionate about, otherwise "interesting" won't be enough to carry you through that 9th month of staying up till 1 am working on it after you get home from work and the kids have gone to sleep.

Your life is like a house - you can't just pick up the whole thing and move it without destroying it. You have to tear it down and rebuild it carefully, piece by piece. So my vague, generic advice is as follows: figure out what you're passionate about. If you had 10 million dollars and didn't have to work, what would you spend your time on? If you could choose a life out of all possible lives, what would it look like? Once you've figured that out, take small steps everyday to move yourself there.

Figure out what new responsibilities you can take on, and which ones you have that you can drop. Look for a new job. Go back to school. Start a side-business. Write a novel. It sounds like you have all the tools available to do whatever you want with your life, provided you're willing to put in the nights and weekends to make it happen while still taking care of the responsibilities you already have.

We only get one life - there's no excuse for not making it as fantastic as possible. Good luck.

1. you're pissing away time (yc, twit, etc.), and conveniently putting the entire blame on the manager - i've done that.

2. you're a family man with a job. do more of what you need to, and less of what you want to.

3. you need to gracefully step off the corporate boat, and not break your fucking neck in the process. only then in the opportune time, can you do much more of what you want to. you have it backwards.

4. disconnect all the inter-tube and its chatter, it's obvious you have time, ground yourself in something truly rewarding, not a popularity contest. do it while you're working. most importantly, involve the family to some degree.

5. don't ask for your wife's permission, it's an enormous guilt trip. ask for her advise. remember, women seek security and rightfully so.

6. don't let twits give you the impression you're somehow broken, i stopped counting how many times I had to send checks out to the "rock stars" on the net.

7. get your manager involved in design details - always give her options and tradeoffs, don't shield her from the process, you're dumbing her down. while working on your rapport with her, look for a job closer to home.

8. moving forward, don't advertise yourself as a rockstar programmer and always involve the manager in the decision process. missed deadlines are tolerable when it's a group fuckup.

Working for yourself isn't the answer. Do something you _believe in_ and the rest will follow.

Your asshole boss is about to loose you. I think that itself is a reasonable punishment for an asshole. So now that we have had him punished, let us put him aside.

Being 10 years younger than you makes it just difficult to give you an advise. See, I would expect you to give me advise based on your rich experience.

All I can do is share with you some general thoughts that come across in my mind from time to time, being at work, whether spending time coding, or writing some documents, assisting the marketing and sales guys or dreaming about my $32 Million startup.

In my opinion, your loving wife and children are a startup. being happy with them and maintaining decent family and quality life is a great success these days.

I think, by now, understanding this point, you should get up from your chair and start dancing with joy and happiness for being such lucky bustard.

If I was finding myself in such frustrating position this is what I was might be doing, finding myself a long term contract (as self employed), securing my financial state and then, after a while in the freedom, not being abused by a stupid fat ass boos, the muse would probably be back. Ideas will pop up and the way to the startup is short.

When you're caught in the middle of a crushing situation, you don't think straight and you develop a lot of bad habits without noticing. The best thing possible is to get out from under the pressure and regain some self-awareness.

If you can do it, get some savings together, or find a plan to do so. With those, spend a nice long stretch of time, six months to a year, away from the "working world" (not necessarily "work," but you want to have plenty of freedom and a minimum of scheduling and responsibility) so that you can return to sanity and sort out whatever bothers you about your life and plan how you want your life to feel - small things, big things, relationships, work, children, etc. Having the longer timespan is important because your own perceptions change gradually, and what you think you want now turns out to be illusory later.

Regardless of what specifically happens, what you think or do, what projects you start, whether you're well on the way to a new career or you have to take your old job again, by the end of the period of freedom, you'll have a better idea of what you're passionate about in life and can refocus around that.

Thanks for posting this. I don't have the perspective to offer any meaningful advice, but I learned something by reading about your situation and reading the thoughtful responses here.

That said, I agree that you should tell your wife and try to work out a work-from-home situation.

I also think "totally lost" and "utterly unhappy" are exaggerations once you count your numerous blessings. :)

This is restlessness I think, and I can also relate.

I think the best approach is to make a list of goals and start knocking them off one by one. Keep in mind that the economy isn't the greatest at the moment, so it might not be the best time to make huge risks (although that can work out to, just depends on your style).

Sounds to me like the following would be a good place to start with your goals:

1) Reduce or completely remove your commute time. Do this by finding a job closer to where you live, or move closer to where you work (or where you can find a new job). Or work from home even, although working from home isn't suited to all of us since you might really miss the day to day social interaction (if so, try working from various coffee shops etc.).

2) Solve the boss problem. There are a few things to try here. You can try speaking to him and letting him know how unhappy you are and that your relationship with him is impacting your happiness and that it needs to change. You never know, he might turn out to be a reasonable guy and you can figure something out together. If he values your work enough then he'll help you to make the changes required to keep you happy. Of course if that doesn't work, you can start shopping for a new job.

3) Get a hobby you're passionate about. This will reduce the impact that a crappy day at work will have on you. Obviously you still want to solve the job problem, but even if you have the perfect job there will still be days that depress you. Diversify your happiness.

4) Put together a financial plan. You've expressed unhappiness with your financial situation, so start small and put together a plan that will evolve as you learn and save more.

Give yourself some deadlines for your goals. Really focus on them to the exclusion of less important (but seemingly more immediate) tasks.

You'll be much happier within 6 months guaranteed.

Hi lostsheep,

given what you tell us about yourself, you could off course just go ahead and totally change your life from one day to the other and "create something new that will be challenging and interesting [...]", that you can do from home.

Sometimes though, if you don't know what "that thing" is that you wanna do, it helps to take a step back and look at the situation.

If i were in your position, i would start a list with all the things that make me unhappy. Be honest, take your time and try to dig deep. The goal here is to fully understand why you are unhappy. It is a lot easier to understand what you want to do next, once you figured out what is wrong right now. Let me give you an example. If you don't feel respected in your job, it might help to start writing a blog or start another side project that gives you the respect and the appreciation that is difficult to get in your current job.

Once you've analysed why you're unhappy you already made a huge step forward. You're now in the know and a second step from here could be to create something like a change log. What i mean is, that you could try to find a solution for the biggest things that make you unhappy. You could have a chat with your boss, check your finances to see if you could work less, have a couple of interviews to validate your options etc. Work on the change log and try to find solutions for more and more things that make you unhappy. Give yourself a realistic timeline, work against it and measure the progress. [It helps a lot if you have someone on your side to give you feedback btw].

Sometimes it also helps to make a list of all your achievements. Write down every single thing you every did. I'm pretty sure it will be an impressive list and you can use it to determine what you really want to do next.

Finally, go ahead and tell yourself that you love the long hours at work, and the commute, and your difficult boss, and the fact that you still try to figure out what to do with your life, and that you still pay off your mortgage, because this is your life, it is all there is! :)

You know me because of code I've written, books I've published, and my contributions here .... I'm in my early 40s, I've worked for start-ups and big companies. I made a little bit of money in the early 2000s which helped pay off a bit of mortgage. I have a family that depends on me financially.

I'm in my early 20s, and I'm just starting graduate school. I think you're exactly who I'm aiming to be in 20 years. So it makes me nervous that it's not working out for you.

Where should I turn? And what would you do?

Normally, that's what I'd ask somebody like you - someone successful, who gives to his peer group.

But since you're asking me (us), what I would do (have done), in order:

- Read the research: http://www.trendfollowing.com/whitepaper/happiness.pdf . The research says that exercise, sex, sleep, lots of time devoted to meaningful relationships, engagement in work, enjoying the moment, and regularly achieving goals are the main correlates of happiness. People overestimate the potential effects of big changes in their lives (lottery winners / paraplegics).

- Start with: Sleep, exercise & meditate. They're easy and you can do all three today. I replaced the SSRIs my health professional gave me with these habits, and feel much better than I did (indeed, research shows they're more effective than most of the medication).

- Take a week. Breathe. Tell your wife and kids that you're going away a few days to think about being happy and making them happy. Find a forest or a quiet room somewhere and just sit and think for a week, about how to be happy and make them happy. Don't watch TV or read books or write code. Just sit and breathe and think.

- Ask your family what to do. They know you better than I do. Especially your kids - kids have a way of totally ignoring the bullshit they're supposed to see, and just seeing instead. Your parents will know you too.

- Make a plan. Doesn't have to be detailed, just has to have steps, in order, that you think will mostly solve this problem if they are executed properly.

- Do the plan.

- Consider spirituality. By that I just mean how you really feel about the Big Questions, about who you are, your place in the world.

A final note: I discovered fairly early on in life that I'm fundamentally unhappy. With absolutely no good external reasons, when logically everything in my life is going great, I still tend to emotionally feel unhappy.

My default dopamine-ostat is too low, basically. This has made it very clear that, for me, happiness is a fundamentally internal thing. Your outside circumstances (within reason) have only marginal effects on happiness.

My solution is to continuously practice mentally relaxing. Releasing tension in my diaphragm, my face, neck & shoulders, breathing, and then eventually my mind - running through all the reasons why I'm basically OK. This eventually makes me smile, and feel happy. Repeating this practice regularly has made it almost a subconscious habit. For me, this did more than getting a girlfriend, being admitted to prestigious schools, or anything else.

That's probably true for average joes. But I'm guessing the OP is far more motivated by making an impact in the world than average. Personally, I get 70% of my happiness from making a difference in the world and building great stuff, and 30% from relationships. (Despite that, my lifetime average length of relationship is 4.3 years. It could be worse.) I found that my life improved when I accepted that ratio and organized my life around maximizing the 70% while not ruining the 30%.

That's probably true for average joes

You mean the correlates? Yes, you're right. But it probably helps the 2-sigma people too. More importantly, it's immediate, and depends on nobody else's aid or acquiescence.

Personally, I get 70% of my happiness from making a difference in the world and building great stuff

I'd be really interested to know how you figured this out. If I knew something like that about myself with as much certainty as you seem to, I think it would change everything.

It's a guess. I decided I needed a specific number, because being pulled in several directions all the time is hard, and it's hardest when the pull is between work and relationships. Having a slightly wrong target number for work/relationship balance is better than having no number at all.

This has made it very clear that, for me, happiness is a fundamentally internal thing. Your outside circumstances (within reason) have only marginal effects on happiness.

I agree with your take on happiness; it is fundamentally a matter of frame of mind.

However, the inputs to one's frame of mind evaluates can have a significant effect on happiness. It depends partly on how your brain was/is wired, and a significant amount on deciding which inputs to take seriously and how to relatively weight them.

I haven't spent a full week at a strength in quiet deep uninterrupted thought, but I probably do over the course of a year or two (approximately, I don't really keep track of time when I'm thinking). Part of this thinking is looking into my frame of mind, seeing how things are wired together based on snap judgments I've made in the past, and seeing if there are places where I am weighting things wrong, or even places where I should just start discarding input entirely. I guess, in a sense, you could say I'm performing back-propagation on my mind. :-)

kids have a way of totally ignoring the bullshit they're supposed to see, and just seeing instead.

My wife is the same way, and it is absolutely wonderful. She's a great source of insight when my frequent introspection runs into a difficult, deep problem. That she does the same sort of mental self-analysis often means she and I have non-overlapping insights about things. It helps me spend less time in a state of confusion.

Really good advice overall, though. Kudos.

I'm glad you're learning this earlier rather than later. This internet thing might be useful after all.

I know people that had radically new ideas, made them happen with a hardworking and talented team, are beloved by people that use their creations, have appeared on covers of magazines, can be said to have changed the world just a bit, and eventually became rich.

They're still not happy. Their success hasn't even made them slightly happier. At the end of the day, if your wife doesn't respect you, or you aren't there as a parent, or you can't regulate your own emotional fuckups, it doesn't matter how many zeroes are in your bank account -- you're not much better off than someone doing a more traditional middle class lifestyle.

The best you can say is that they have a bit more free time and have visited a few more places, and know a few more interesting people. But you can do that for practically no money today anyway, just drop out and backpack for six months.

I feel quite similar recently TBH. Thinking of selling up, burning my computers and moving to a cottage in the middle of nowhere. Or at least switching career.

I don't have any answers yet, so this is a useful thread for me too.

Maybe it's just the time of year/state of the economy/etc?

I think it is natural. Doing anything for too long no matter how interesting turns it in to drudgery.

It doesn't sound like your lost.. it sounds like you know you have to make a change.

Its risky, but not doing it is ruining your life, so you know you have to do it.

It really sounds like your strong on HN because you've known this for a while, and have been considering a startup, and this is a way to explore the idea before you jump in.

You could just assume from now on that you will launch a startup, build a product and give it one hell of a shot.

It takes courage - but you have this immense anger at having wasted parts of your life working for idiots..so take that and use it to propel you forward into the new venture.

Great great post.. Id been getting so bored with all the crap on HN lately, but this made my week.

Build that thing.

Pull an "Office Space". I am serious. Only go into the office when you feel like it. Do things that you enjoy, watch some kung-fu movies with your kids or whatever. It can take months to fire someone as long as you don't get into a fight, and you'll get severance. When your boss gives you shit about your work hours, literally tell him "Sorry, I have a meeting with the consultants" and leave for the day. You're talented, you'll get another job, and there is a decent chance you will not even be fired. They will let you work from home or in a different dept. after your boss complains about you to his boss.

Office Space was a movie. A good movie, but a movie, nonetheless. It taps into human fantasies about being trapped in a cubicle, turning the tables, lashing out at our oppressors, etc. But it doesn't represent reality. Working for someone else is a voluntary association, not slavery or imprisonment.

Note that at the end of the movie, the people in the movie have grown up a little bit, and realized that all the stuff they did was unnecessary. They can do anything they want with their lives, because the world is full of possibility. So, sure, watch Office Space, but take away that ending message rather than an insane plan for wreaking havoc on your boss and coworkers.

Sorry if it wasn't clear, but do NOT hack the accounting software to steal from the company, or try to date a local waitress or leave fish guts all over your cube.

Do make your happiness and family a much higher priority than your job.

It seems something is forcing on you a change. You don't know yet what it is but if you'll take your time and the support from your family you'll realize soon.

Take a big breath nothing is lost better days are comming. Your curriculum shows you are capable to do things good now you'll have to find the new reason for your life to guide your doings

One thing is very important: stay clean, let the new goal arise from inside, from your heart not your mind. People like us reach imbalance in the favour of the brain now the heart is aiming for a little attention to become equal with your realist part. And then the equilibrum will bring the peace

You should take the last paragraph and do exactly that - nobody that loves you would want you to feel the way you do, and generally I've found in life that the thing you are afraid of doing is exactly what you should be doing (or to phrase it another way, if you took fear out of the equation - fear of failure, fear of telling your family, all fear) then what decision would you make?

Your in a rut - you want to do something but you are afraid - I say go do it, and jump right in! Even if your startup fails, you'll land on your feet somewhere and will be a lot happier than where you are right now.

This is well after the fact, but I'll post it here for anyone who might find this thread later, and I'll email you about it.

First off, as other people have said, talk to your wife. Trusting her to be your partner and a source of strength when you need it is a tremendous compliment to her, and shows your relationship is solid.

Second, assess your situation rationally. Compile a budget of what you've actually been spending; you'll be surprised to find out how much of it is discretionary. Got a Netflix account? Cancel it and watch things you already own; better yet, play board- and card-games with the family.

Read the entries on http://sandratayler.livejournal.com/tag/frugal+living to get some tips on living on a budget. Sandra and Howard Tayler (of Schlock Mercenary fame) have done a good job of raising, IIRC, 5 kids and done it on a monthly budget that is less than many New Yorkers spend on a "special occasion" steak dinner.

Third, whatever venture you pursue, build it around a business model so that there is or will eventually be income. Then, make sure you don't slack, but don't go nuts either--treat it like a job with defined working hours but set aside specific time to be with your family. It's important that neither you nor your wife feel that you (lostsheep) are contributing to the family and not just lazing around letting her do all the work. It's also important that you don't trade one workaholic addiction for another.

Good luck, and I hope some of this helps.

- New job time...

- Start a new project with a simple output, meaning you can see results quickly.

- Buy a new video game, left 4 dead is great after the long commute home for me OR start a new show to watch and veg once in a while.

- Learn a new platform OR take on a hobby outside programming with your kids.

Also you might be feeling the weight of the 40 yr old programmer. Well think of it this way... programming and especially web development/game development/app development is fairly new. Really our field didn't start out until the late 70s and the web mid 90s. So programmers will get older and older, you are nowhere near the end. It was a moment in time when all developers were young. I am in my early 30's and all my web/gamedev friends are around the same age but I also work with some 40 and 50 yr old developers in gamedev.

Maybe even start something of your own on the side and slowly build it to something that can take out your dayjob.

Also, remember this, sometimes we psychologically or even biologically create drama in our lives. Teenagers go through it heavily as biologically they are changing and it does spawn some depression bouts. Same with older people who might feel it closing in, but you can be depressed and do nothing or understand it is a phase and find a way through.

If you do not take control of your life, it will be over and you will have only been a participant.The basic question life asks you is this: are you a truly independent personality driving towards what you want? Or are you just another sack of meat along for the brief 80-year ride?

Nobody can answer that question but you. Asking HN is not going to amount to anything.

EDIT: Your question seems to boil down to "I'm lost!" to which the appropriate reply is "Where are you going?"

One interesting exercise you can do is to write down all of the things that you think would make you the person you want to be and then prioritize and set goals to incorporate each into your life. For example, your list might look something like this:

1) Exercise 30 minutes 3 times per week.

2) Spend at least 1 hour per day playing and interacting with each child, individually, without distractions.

3) Work on startup ideas at least 10 hours per week.

4) Spend at least 3 hours per week participating in your favorite hobby.

5) Only say fuck 5 times per day. ;)

6) Meet one new person each week.

7) Don't tell a single lie for one day each week.


You get the idea. The key is to force yourself to meet your goals, learn which ones are really important to your happiness and then focus on those. Obviously you can't go nuts and try to do everything all at once, but just making small changes and trying to accomplish something every day can make a difference.

For more practical advice, eliminate the things in your life that cause you pain/stress with extreme prejudice. You have to be really honest with yourself and willing to make tough decisions, but this was the thing that has helped me the most. For me, these things were mostly people.

You mentioned you wanted to work from home. There was a reddit thread recently where one of the top coders at RentACoder explained what it took to build a good reputation there and make enough money to support himself.


I use 50% of my time working on Redis because my real work is stupid. I used to work as freelance developer. Then I started to work for myself, now I've two companies, but still my work is stupid.

Why? Because there aren't just we and our users. There are customers, investors, and a lot of other people that are between our work and our users. This "third parties" manage to make us working for 80% on pointless stuff, write emails with time lines, and so on.

Because of this I'm changing my two companies in the next years, we are moving into web and mobile development without investors nor customers nor partnerships, just users. Even if this will mean to get into financial troubles it's worth it.

If you are not happy with your work and you think in some way you'll continue to survive if you leave it, LEAVE IT NOW.

Yup, right there with you. I am doing a lot of mental hacking, i.e. reading about depression and health. Loads of reflection about myself and how I got here. Trying to get a better perspective on the good things I've done and the things I like about myself. Spending time with friends, avoiding jobs and customers who I know will stress me out and accepting a lower standard of living because I need time to work this out. Also ended my relationship because I realized that she had no idea/interest in the things I was going through. Not that I recommend that for you, but I never would have been conscious of the additional stress that was causing if I had not taken time to think about my situation.

Long story short; make some space for you, research, think, reflect, reinvent. I am about half way to a new place optimistically speaking.

Good advice here, especially the fundamentals that can be done now (e.g. exercise.)

"What Color is Your Parachute" is a great career-change guide; in particular, on evaluating skills based on what you enjoy. It's enjoyment both in the doing and the having done. i.e. happy in the process of it, and proud of/satisfied with the outcome. Not suffering for a great outcome; nor blissing away for nothing - instead, bliss for a great outcome. I belabour the point because it can be elusive to achievement focussed types like myself.

This exercise puts me back in contact with what is actually fulfilling and meaningful to me. Without this information, it's hard for me to carve out a job that I like, even if I'm the one creating a job for myself (which I am).

Like the old guy said, "know thyself". Good advice for the lost.

I can relate to what you are going through, and feel like I'm going through something similar.

The main difference is that I've tried a couple things to change course, and have met with some failures already. This has been discouraging, and I think I need to step back and re-assess some more. Some of the discouragement I feel is due to some misplaced priorities, I'm starting to realize. I should value time with my family, health, and just appreciating what life has to offer more than some outward notions of "success." I'm not the best in the world at what I do to make money, and I'm definitely better than some other people, and that's OK. But it is not the only important part of who I am. My wife has been trying to point this out to me, and it is slowly starting to sink in.

Don't cling to external power.

Needing to have something to show is letting an external power guide you. Needing to owna house and having savings is the same. You're effectively expecting something of yourself that you think other people expect of you in order to consider you good.

Forget that. You are already good.

Don't think in terms of what you should do, what you can't do, what you must you, what you ought not to do, and open a fresh viewpoint about simply what you want.

Any issue it is, it comes down to that you either want it or you don't want it.

Even if your family asked you do drag on and suffer because of security, it would eventually be your own choice based on whether you want to do that crap or not. Nobody can't force you.

That's all. No should, no can, no must, and other externalities but cherish your internal power instead and decide what you want.

I once went to a management seminar (I know, I know, please forgive me) and the only valuable thing I remember from it is: "People don't quit jobs, they quit their boss".

Sounds like you're more experienced than me, but FWIW, in your place, I would start by looking for another job, closer to home.

Hey, I posted a little bit before in response to someone else, where I criticized someone else for overdramatizing the problem. But, don't get me wrong, I totally understand your problem and am wrestling with it right now.

Five years ago, I got imported into the Valley from a distant land, and I jumped at the chance because I thought I'd be doing something significant. As of today, nothing like that has ever materialized at the workplace. I'm not totally embarrassed about the things I've worked on, but I'm not really proud either.

Instead I found real satisfaction in side projects and in things which were utterly terrifying for me (building physical objects, also leading a project doing same). It did teach me something about myself and set me on a modified path. But it's still a huge struggle.

I have no formula, but I have a partial method.

Try to get yourself in a state where you can listen to the little voices in your head which want to do certain things. No matter how impractical. Your frustration is, in part, being caused by your automatic rejection of these ideas before they even become fully conscious. Use long showers, Bach, favorite ingestibles, whatever it takes. This might take years if you do it on your own; maybe someone else can help with this process. Guided meditation or something.

Wait for the ideas and visions to present themselves.

Consider, without passion, the reasons why you could never, ever do those things.

Then figure out the thing you're most terrified of and try to do that. It can be something limited in scope, but you have to hit the essential problem head on.

For me it worked like this. I had always defined myself as a geek who could not lead or inspire others. I'm not charismatic at all, quite the opposite. So I naturally shelved any plans which I couldn't do on my own. But I found other ways to lead a project. It turns out that at least some people are willing to get on board with a good idea, as long as you're executing well, even if you aren't Brad Pitt.

That was my mental block, fear of social inadequacy. What's yours?

First, feel a little good about yourself. From what I can imagine from your profile, you are definitely in top 1% in the world and have no reason whatsoever to have sleepless nights.

If I was you I would do the following : - Take a short vacation. A change will help you think fresh. No matter what you decide to do with your life, take a vacation first.

- Quit your job. You certainly don't like the way things are, probably tired of being taken advantage of. Show your company the finger and see how things start falling in line. You will be surprised to see how they propose things getting better at your company. You may then decide to stay back.

You may also choose to go into Freelance/Consulting mode, but with a family to support that may be a bit hard.

Some people find joy in different things. It seems that at this juncture of your life you are trying to analyze what and why you are doing what you are doing and where do you want to end up. I feel that I am to young and inexperienced to be giving this kind of advice, add to that the fact that I don't know you and I don't like to give generalized advice. If I was in your case, I'd like to think that I would do what my heart is telling me to do. If I do that, I will know that I will be happy if I follow that path and because of that, it will reflect towards my family. If I am a creator and I don't create, I will be a sad panda. Good luck for you with whatever choice you make.

You seem to have lost perspective. Don't get caught in that. The easiest way to do that is to eliminate some of the stuff that is not really important. Such as being a top contributor to HN.

You have infinite number of options and many of them can be better in terms of lifestyle. Don't limit yourself to anything that is artificially imposed on you. Such as society rules, industry rules, etc. There are other societies, other locations, other industries, other people on this planet. You don't have to take anything for granted. Think about that. Take it easy for now. Don't take immediate action. Try to be wise. Slowly come up with a plan.

Simple solution:

Start research and planning for your own business when you are at home. Sure, this is supposed to be "family time" but you'll still be near them and at the least, be building the exploratory building blocks for a potential business that, if successful, could give you a whole lot more time w/ your family than you can ever get with your present job.

You should set an income goal (how much you need per month to take care of your family comfortably) and then try and plan a business that can help you reach that goal quickly and consistently.

My guess is you already have a lot of skills you can bank on to start a number of profitable businesses. You only need one.

Maybe retrain as a teacher and do private tuition in the mean time? The working hours will be better, it's rewarding work (not financially), probably quite a secure job and you can work on ad hoc projects/consulting on the side.

This online certification program looks pretty painless if you are going that route. getting another bachelor's degree is the biggest hurdle for 2nd-career teachers.

Every once in a while I think about it...


Basic Tuition for Most Programs is Just $2,890 Per Six-Month Term WGU charges tuition at a flat rate every six months, so you pay for the time, not the credit hours. Compare that with what other reputable, regionally accredited online universities charge, and you’ll discover WGU tuition is typically half the cost.

Where should I turn? And what would you do?

For me happiness comes from two things: making interesting stuff, and intense social interaction. If you're in your 40s and married, you probably don't get enough of the latter either, correct?

Check out Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning (it's a slim volume) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man%27s_Search_for_Meaning

Wow, this post hit a nerve.

I felt the same way two years ago, so I'm starting a company.

It's called The Fireworks Project, and it is a member owned and member managed corporation. We're formed under the Vermont Project (http://lawlab.org/digital-institutions/vermont-project/) as a digital corporation.

I work from home, I'm married, I'm 31 years old, I have a 6 month old son, and I'm really excited about what The Fireworks Project is building.

Check it out (http://www.fireworksproject.com)

I don't own my home, I don't have lots of savings, I have a job with a difficult boss. Because of the hours I work and commuting I barely see my children. I am utterly unhappy with my life.

This does not seem to be an unusual position, a lot of people are in the exact same boat.

The simple and somewhat contrite answer is, stick it out while looking for a better opportunity. The better opportunity could be working for yourself or for a great boss, it doesn't matter. The key point I'm trying to make is that you're not unusual and it's very common to be in exactly your situation.

Lose the anonymity and get some advice from a good friend who knows you well. One good conversation like that is worth 1000 insightful but generic comments on HN. Bonus: a good friend will follow up.

It may be useful to find out more about yourself.

Try going to http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx and taking the VIA Strengths Survey.

Positive Psychologists have found that focusing on your top strengths better promotes happiness. This is kind of an obvious finding, but it is good to know what those character strengths are.

I have a friend who is undergoing a job change that has caused him to question which direction to go, and taking this test helped add some perspective.

I'm glad you posted. You're not alone. I'm 5 years younger. I'm one of the most passionate people I know. It's difficult to take a leap, I rather be pushed :) .But I'm learning that the sooner I do make the change the sooner I can start living my life. +1 on telling your wife. Even if you decide to make a change tomorrow, it could be that it will take you 6 months to accomplish that goal. So I think it doesn't need to be something that happens tomorrow, but something you can work towards.

BTW great feedback HN peeps

Check out "The Money is the Gravy"


It may sound trite to suggest a self-help book but trust me - this book is different. My story is not that different from yours - I am in my early 40s, 3 kids, family depends on me financially, I have gone through some rough patches in my IT career. This book is a good starting point.


I was in a similar situation; while I can't blame it all on my job, but it was the complacency that got me. I ended up separated from my wife and seeing my kids only a few days a week. When you feel like that do something about it. But speak to your family, prepare them for a while where they will have to live financially reduced and then make a change. Change is the first order of the universe, resistance to it will bite you in the end; embrace it and ride the wave instead.

I think what your looking for is inner peace (as cliche as that sounds). I would love to be able to say something right here to be able to make you comprehend what I mean by "inner peace" but I'm not that capable yet.

Read the "The New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle. It'll explain to you what you need to know. Based on that you can make your decision.

The best part about that book is that you will be able to make your decision from a place which is not fear.

The first thing that you must realize is that you are NOT alone with this unfortunate thought process. Some background on me...I am a motivational speaker, writer, personal trainer, entrepreneur, life coach, etc. The reason I provide this background information is more for social proof than anything else because I have spent years of my life studying the human psyche, identity theory, and emotional pain. What I have learned is that our country has been inflicted with a disease, a plague of far reaching magnitude, where almost every person is negatively affected. I have coined this catastrophic dilemma as an IDENTITY CRISIS where you begin to live the life that someone or something has created on your behalf. This is what you are experiencing because at some point their was a "PAIN" which surfaced in your world, that never had the opportunity to heal, but in order to eliminate this emotion, you subconsciously allowed this wound to scab over. As you have evolved, this pain was never healed, and instead masked, but now it has SURFACED once again. I would like to assist you through this process because I have worked with countless people who also experienced exactly what you are going through. In the meantime, please invest in yourself, and visit my website (www.jaredyellin.com) and subscribe. Everything is FREE and I believe this is will enable you to begin the process of thinking differently about your life. With all of this being said, I want you to remember, that you are NEVER alone!

first thing is to stop ruminating. even if your mind wants to. even if it feels like that is the best way out of this situation. so stop now. don't look for explanations, don't try to understand. that would make it worse. the answers are not in what we accomplish, or in what we think we need to do or be (great doctor vs. lowly coder) - all dangerous fabrications.

watch this video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1424079446171087119..., it's only :45 or so.

read these - take the day off and read them if you need to:



If the entrepreneur route is in your cards, and you anticipate leaving your job for a change, I highly recommend you find a business partner. Someone with complimentary skills (not identical) that can help motivate you and drive you is essential to success.

I've worked solo for 5 years, and it has been a mistake. I'm currently seeking a partner, and I couldn't be happier about it.

I am tempted to totally change my life and stop working and create something new that will be challenging and interesting. Create something that I can do from home so that at least I am not a slave to my boss.

That doesn't sound lost to me. Scared, sure. Risky, you bet. But lost? Hell no. You know exactly what you want to do, it's just hard for you to do it.

On a practical note, in case anyone can help you out concretely on the job front: Where do you live, and what's your specialty?

quietly work on a startup while still going to your job, and when that provides enough money quit your job and grow it stronger

This might be hard, especially since he doesn't have time to spend with his own kids :(

When I was a kid, I wanted to spend more time with my dad, but he was always at work, and he was so tired in the evenings that it was difficult to engage with him.

The solution happened naturally as I grew up a bit. I would hop on my bike and go down and see him at his machine shop after school or in the middle of the day in the summer. Yes, he was busy, it's not like we were playing catch in the office, but the opportunity was there for me to tag-along and watch what he did.

I was extremely proud of him. He was the boss at his own company. I don't know what it would be like to have a dad that worked for other people, but I doubt I would have been as proud.

My mom started her own retail business too. I often would go and spend time with her during the day while she worked. There were plenty of slow times to have a chat about this or that.

In my own life, I don't yet have the privilege of working for myself, but I want to get to this point both for myself and for my kids, so not only will they have a guaranteed summer job :), but also so they can understand the value of independence.

Good advice.

One approach that has helped me get some perspective in situations when my mind is churning out negative thoughts and feelings such as you are experiencing is a cognitive behavioral approach based on mindfulness. Try having a look at http://thehappinesstrap.com .

You've got yourself stuck in the Orange vMeme (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_Dynamics#Orange). You won't always be happy doing work for another person, maybe define a life purpose and mold everything around to that...

Join the hells angels. Not literally - when people are in your state, they need a group, a mission and a sense of purpose. They join gangs, churches, scientology - they look for something with a leader they can follow.

Try finding what local gangs are looking for new members. Not literally.

Nothing you do will make you happy so changing job (or wife or anything else you name it) doesn't help that much. Everyone suffered the same feeling as you do at one point or another. The question is are those thoughts real? How can you handle it when they arise?

Either talk to your wife/gf about it or leave her on the spot.

Call everyone in your address book and ask them to have a cup of coffee with you. Tell them you're ripe for a change and see what comes out of it.

Get a job in Singapore and see whether any startup ideas/opportunities result from it.

Not sure why you were downvoted? Perhaps for suggesting to leave the wife? It sounds cruel, but who knows, sometimes it might be better for everyone.

That is certainly the reason he was downvoted. Is there really any reason to discuss downvoting? The fact that his wife might not want him to take such drastic steps is actually a good thing. My wife is my dream killer which is a good thing. Dreams are fantasies. You should be willing to 'go for it', but you should have someone there to keep you in reality. Just because his wife might not see things from his perspective does not mean she is wrong. Instead of seeing it in such a negative light, it should instead encourage him to find more information to persuade her. She, after all, is more like the customer than he will ever be, and the customer is the target for your business venture. If you can convince her of the project, that is probably a useful project. I am sure she would not mind a small cut in hours to work on a side business. Even going from 40 hours to 35 hours per week at such a job would be a big change. That extra 5 hours per week could result in him eagerly awaiting to come home to continue working on his projects. He is not asking for permission to be lazy, and his wife would not be asking for him to suffer. Instead, she would be the voice of reason to prevent him from slipping into fantasies. She might say no at first but agree to a large cut of hours (40 to 20 perhaps) if he saves six months of income. That would give him something towards which he can work. He can bargain this way until they reach a concensus. The reason he wants fewer hours at work is to spend more time with his family not to leave his family. Even something as small as "I am going to stay up 2 hours later than usual each night to work on my projects and work for 8 hours on Saturday on it." can be the beginning of a new business. That would equate to 18 hours per week of working on the side project, and when you can show something for the time spent, she will probably be more accepting. If she is initially accepting of everything you say, it does not mean she does not love him, and it does not mean she is a cruel woman. It simply means that she wants what is best for the family, and she can be the rational one that keeps him grounded. He can continue to dream, but he needs a solution for filtering his ideas, and she can be perfect for that.

It sounds as if you know his wife? It might be as you say, or maybe they are just completely different people. They probably have lived together for many, many years now. What if they just make each other unhappy?

Granted the formulation "leave immediately" was probably too harsh. I would think it is worth trying to talk about things. But one can't assume that staying together is always the best solution.

There seems to be somewhat of a misunderstanding. I didn't say leave her because she might not want you to do the things you want to do. I said talk to her or leave her!

My opinion is that if he ponders such important matters and feels unable to talk about it with his spouse then it's not a relationship worth having. I would go so far as to say it would be unfair _not_ to quit a relationship if I felt unable to talk about things like this.

I stand by that in all its harshness.

However, it may be a mistake to talk about these things in a do this, do that kind of style. I know I'm not very diplomatic but I think he's smart enough to parse it and maybe dismiss it, and if I'm voted down so be it.

The problem is that in this situation he's not just leaving the wife, he's leaving the kids.

That is never responsible, not matter what your mental hangups are. If you have kids you would understand this completely.

Well my parents are divorced. I don't agree it is to the best of the kids to stay together no matter what. If the parents are unhappy, they suffer too.

He didn't indicate that he had an issue with his family relationships, so I'm not assuming one.

I just put up a collection of some favorite articles about life issues / choices... the "what should I do with my life" questions. Feel free to email some others.


It seems like you're well qualified, and probably quite an asset to your company. It seems like you're frustrated with your current work/boss situation.

Maybe it wouldn't be unreasonable to ask for fewer hours, or some telecommuting time to be around your children?

this is absolutely a great post.

Not only because what lostsheep posted, but the quality of the responses people on here(HN) are replying back with.

Just unreal. I'm so that lostsheep posted this.

Yes, totally change your life...but slowly, slowly.

This is the most encouraging advice because it is vague but practicable.

I am in a very similar situation. I would be interested in hearing what you come up with. Send me an email at retroryan // gmail

Wow - could me me except that you have done much more than I. I like reading HN but feel very peripheral to the main current. Read your post and related alot more than I do with most. Thank you for the honesty and directness.

Trying to get by with a single income (wife and 2 young kids) in an expensive metro area. In a job which I like because it has been my first job working in an almost purely Linux sysadmin - but with difficulties not to enumerate as I am using my real name... For various reasons, there is nowhere for me to go in the company, the jobmarket keeps me in place and reinforces the slavish notion that I am lucky to even have a job.

The things that motivate me at this point are embarrassingly simple. On the train this morning, I figured out how to run SLIME and worked through the examples in PG's short "History of Lisp". It made me happy because I had been reding about LISP and related things for some time on HN and other places but had no idea for a while how to start investigating the subject. Such initiatives do not have much legs because I get drawn into everyday responsibilities and the (hopefully) minor crises that come with having small children.

These trivial discoveries make me happy in the short term and I muddle though. Long term thinking fills me with dread.

I know I have started this all late in life - sometimes it feels too late.

Anyway to reiterate - I can say that I empathize in a minor way as I have not achieved a fraction of what you have. What follows is a personal reaction.

In what feels like another life, I was a grad student in literature. Your post reminded me of 3 things that I had read over the years. Not so much the pieces themselves but a situation described. Your post is full of frustration and dread. The accumulation of energy before a lightning strike. I would love to convey this too you as the energy in your post makes me feel like you might be closer to a solution than you think. My attempt:

A bit of critique (not criticism mind you) - look at the 2 questions in the 2nd to last paragraph.

The contrast in the questions made me think of a mistake endemic to our time - one that great and small minds make. A movement from the concrete to the abstract. A movement from within to without. What Blake refers to as a 'roofed horror'

The question:

"Where should I turn..." reminded me of the first piece of literature- have you read any DesCartes? If you are interested in the History of Science read his early life and an event known as the dream in the 'poele'. The same question occurred to him (in Latin).

The next question "And what would you do?" is a detour.

A natural one because the way seems blind and a deadend. And this (HN) is a community of people who likely understand where this question is coming from better than most. But the answer is not here or anywhere external.

Looking at your brief eloquent post this is a point at which you probably have to turn within.

The last paragraph is abstract where the previous ones are personal and direct. And of course it is a valid answer but the impetus is reactive and negative. By negative I do not mean 'wrong' or misguided. I mean in the sense that it is defined as against something else. The "something new" that is NOT your current life and does NOT involve yr difficult boss.

But to break free in a meaningful way this has to be transcended. 2nd piece of literature - the introduction to Hegel's "Phaenomenology of Geist". Negation is a moment in the process. Acorn --> tree. Lightning revealing a crumbling structure at the moment of its collapse.

And 3rd TS Eliot's WasteLand. Part 3 or 4. "What the thunder said". Images from an Sanskrit text. World in a drought, groups of people gather and pray to discover the reasons for the drought. A terrific thunderclap which each group hears as a different word. That word is a key.

Hopefully this does not sound too hokey.

I wish you the best.

Meditation, Qi Gong, Yoga, Enlightenment - try to realize God within yourself within this lifetime.

When what you're doing isn't working, try anything else.

Simplistic, but true nonetheless.

The sum of your life isn't working for you, so you should definitely act and change something. Don't think "I should be happy because I have these things or because others like me look happy." You're not happy. Change something. You have zero responsibilities beyond the well being of yourself and your family.

Change the job, deliberately, carefully, and as quickly as possible. Even if a heart-to-heart with your difficult boss improves that relationship, there's still the commute and your desire to spend more time with your kids.

A job is just a job, and they don't care (much) about you. You're more or less pluggable. Your kids are the world, and you're losing them everyday, even when you're with them 24/7. My son is eleven and I love him exactly the way he is today, but I ache from the fact that I will never again be able to talk to the four year old he once was. Max your time and quality with your kids, they're good for you and you're good for them.

If you have trouble figuring out what to do "from now on," then just try to figure out what you can do "for awhile." Give yourself some space and time to look around. You're smart enough and disciplined enough to write a book, so you can probably work remotely. Get a contract or permanent-but-remote job with someone on the other side of the country, or New Zealand, so that there's no question about the work from home thing. You don't have to save the world with your first change, you just have to push the world back a bit, so you can see what's possible.

Downshift. If you have more than 12 (or N) payments on a car, sell it and buy a good enough cheap car that serves your needs. If you're not commuting then you don't need much car. Get rid of cable/dish (but keep the broadband). Sell your house and buy a smaller one in an older neighborhood (assuming the economics work for that). Get rid of as much out-flow as possible, and save it instead.

Take a hard look at money expenses and psychic expenses, and realize that most of our "have tos" are merely "want tos." If you're doing something that sucks (like your job) because you "have to" live in a certain neighborhood or in a certain way, then think about what those supposed "have tos" are doing to you.

You do have to take care of yourself. As they say at the beginning of an airline flight, if you're traveling with children (which you are), in the event of an emergency place your own oxygen mask first, so that you are then able to help your kids with their oxygen. Point, don't suffer in a field of suck because you think it's good for your kids. Take care of your needs within the bounds of responsibility and propriety, and you'll be better able to take care of your kids.

Much good advice in the other comments. Look at it all with slightly unfocused eyes and see what it all suggests that will work for you. Talk to a trusted friend and a close relative. Don't feel obligated to take any specific advice.

My son is eleven and I love him exactly the way he is today, but I ache from the fact that I will never again be able to talk to the four year old he once was

As a parent of a 2 1/2 year old and a four month old, I'm saddened that there will be a point in my life - deity willing - that I'll be saying the exact same thing you are.

maybe, maybe not. I understand the viewpoint, but it's not how I'm experiencing parenthood. Looking at pictures of my kids when they were babies and toddlers and preschoolers - they look so unformed. It's like watching a sculpture come to life out of a block of marble, watching them slowly become more themselves.

If you can tell this to your wife, and she's supportive and will accept a lower standard of living in exchange for a happier family, then you're an extremely lucky man. AFAICT, many wives will just run you until you're nothing more than a burnt out husk.

You need Dave Ramsey and Dan Miller's '48 Days to the Work You Love'

Feelings of utter despair warrants seeing a shrink.

Or sounds like hes having a Mid-Life-Crisis. He seems to be handling it pretty well considering. Most delve into alcoholism, have an affair or spend money on ridiculous things. Hes seeking advice and trying to improve his situation long term. Everyone has existential moments, sometimes it takes some time to see where you're at.

Do not work from home, you need social contacts.

go read some biographies and you'll get some perspective

I'm 32 and work from home. 2 daughters. A wife who works with me. We both have a background in journalism, and she was making some good money when working for big TV.

We decided to marry and try to create a site by ourselves. We believe in simple life and try to be frugal. Downshifting. No more commutes and stupid meetings; no more work on something we don't believe in.

We have spent more money than we got in return. But, you know, we don't need lots of money to live more than comfortably. We don't own a car and don't spend a lot of money in things like taxis or buying stuff. We buy a few things that have quality and try to increase their life span. In clothes, but also in computers, etc.

Our website is light and uses AWS-EC2. Even in there we want to be frugal.

Maybe, just maybe, our site will become profitable. If not, we are creative and love to stay together, so we'll figure it out.

Isn't it wonderful to feel one is owner of his/her plans?

Hey sleepingbot, mail me your URL, I'll see if I can get you some more traffic if you want.

This made me smile. I love when HNers help out other fellow HNers. Thanks.

jacquesm, I just wanted to say, every one of your comments on this thread has been awesome.

I appreciate you not using this as chance to market your site, but I'm curious now! Please post your URL.

Demien Katz has a similar story, you can watch the whole presentation here: http://www.infoq.com/presentations/katz-couchdb-and-me it's really inspiring.

It is great fun to use CouchDB and knowing more about the creator is great and makes it better. That was a great one. The honesty in the story was amazing and it was one of the most inspiring things I have seen. Damien Katz you are victorious.

This is a great video - 100% worth watching.

I've been in a similar situation, and my reaction was to spend several months looking at the science of happiness, and thinking about what really makes me happy.

I came up with some answers (time at home, time with family, a feeling that my work does more than make a few wealthy men slightly wealthier.)

From there, I started working on a business plan, for a startup where the primary goal was to find a way to monetize the activities that bring me happiness.

I can't say that this startup is currently profitable. It's not. But I'm executing on the vision, and so far things are very close to the plan. And I'm much, much happier than I used to be.

Don't be afraid to admit that you don't know what to do... even with your public persona.

It makes you look brave, and perhaps counterintuitively, it makes people admire you more. And it gives you so many more options to seek assistance and advice.

By treating it as something shameful that you have to hide, you are only reinforcing it for yourself that it is something shameful that you have to hide.

Visit India, Nepal or any other developing countries which really needs contribution from skilled people like You.

Eventually You will feel that You are among friends, that they glad to see You each time they meet You, and finally You will feel that money is not everything.

This is a difficult decision, but You can always come back after year or two.

Sell everything, move to a different country where you don't speak the language. Life will be good again.


"I am tempted to totally change my life and stop working and create something new that will be challenging and interesting."

Go grab yourself a copy of Napoleon Hill's 'Think & Grow Rich'. Read it 2-3 times. Then go for it!

I don't post much on Hacker News but on this one I must. Happiness is not found in money, job, or having a successful startup. Men, on their deathbeds never wish they had worked more or made more money, but they do wish they had spent more time on what is really important: family and their children. You say you barely see your children. I suggest choosing a job or position that allows you to see your wife and children a lot more and cutting your expenses drastically if that would help. I'm sure with your reputation you won't have trouble finding remote contract gigs that would allow you to work at home.

I'll separate this next thought from the previous because I think you can take the previous suggestion will still work good in your life without taking the next suggestion, although they work best in combination.

Take some time to look at nature and your body. Ask yourself if it takes more faith to believe that it all happened by chance or to believe that there is a God that designed it all and created it. I'm not going to try to say anything else to try to convince since I know the HN crowd and I know no amount of debate will accomplish anything.

I hear in you a hungry heart for something to meet the deepest desire of your heart. I believe we were created by God and for Him and until we find Him we will never be satisfied. Being the owner of Google, Facebook, or anything does not satisfy that need. Having a wonderful wife and great kids doesn't. Having a challenging and interesting job won't do it. Money definitely won't -- look at the depravity you see in some of the world's richest people.

You ask "Where should I turn?". My answer: if what I have said rings true at all in your heart, turn to Jesus. Start by reading the Gospel of John in the Bible. Turn to your Creator to find the answers as to why you were created. He is real, and He is very interested in meeting the deepest desires of your heart.

And whether you take my advice or not, I truly hope you find answers to your questions.

"You ask "Where should I turn?". My answer: if what I have said rings true at all in your heart, turn to Jesus"

May I suggest the Flying Sphagetti Monster instead? Just as valid as some "man in the sky" mythology, from a "turn to X" point of view.

Please, take your religious preaching elsewhere and don't prey on someone's confusion/depression, at least on this forum.

Thanks in advance.

I shudder at the thought of HN turning into Slashdot, where know-it-alls feel the need to hijack any genuine religious feeling or discussion by injecting the latest anti-religion meme picked up from the intertubes.

As of this writing the grandparent is voted down, so maybe the change is already happening. But I felt the grandparent was at least a good faith attempt toward something readable and interesting, whereas the parent is the sort of post that made me stop reading Slashdot threads about religion: insulting and meaningless.

Are you under the impression that religion is harmless fun? Read a history book. Even in modern developed countries, people who turn to religion out of desperation often end up seriously hurt. A huge mainstream cult is still a cult.

There are better arguments that could be posted against why you should turn to Jesus, but I'm not ashamed to downvote the original comment. It's not good advice.

I wonder... if I'd posted a comment saying "Get involved with transhumanism" or "sign up for cryonics", and someone had posted a sarcastic reply saying "Where's the science?" (not that this isn't a perfectly legitimate question with I-should-hope legitimate answers), would you be working so hard to defend me?

There is a post ending with "Namaste" in this thread that has definite Hindu/Buddhist references.

There is however no meaningless attack on that poster. Clearly the answer to your last question is yes.

"Namaste" means "peace". It's not an inherently religious word.

That guy gave lots of secular advice and ended with the word. This post is all "Go to Jesus." There's a difference.

""I shudder at the thought of HN turning into Slashdot, where know-it-alls feel the need to hijack any genuine religious feeling or discussion by injecting the latest anti-religion meme picked up from the intertubes."

And I shudder at the thought of HN turning into a place where appeals for advice are met by "Turn to $Diety, who watcheth over us all". That something may be believed with high conviction is not a measure of its truth or validity or appropriateness.


" any genuine religious feeling or discussion"

But that is the point. HN isn't the place for religious discussion or proselytizing, no matter how heartfelt or (subjectively) genuine the belief in its tenets is.

As with politics, these circle endlessly and go nowhere. There are plenty of other forums on the intertubez where people of specific convictions can exchange their beliefs (or delusions) to their hearts content.

Theology of any kind is a bad topic to bring up on HN. And any organized religion's theological minutiae are just as valid (or invalid) as discussion of the FSM, which is a device contrived to expose the subjective nature of such strongly held beliefs.

I have my beliefs about the nature of the Universe (it is irrelevant whether I am agnostic, atheist or religious), but I don't proselytize them here or try to gain converts by pivoting off peoples misery.

So no matter how "genuinely felt" your religious belief is, please don't pollute HN with it.

From http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

"On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity."

I'm sorry if religion does not gratify your intellectual curiosity, but the grandparent post was genuinely on topic and may gratify the curiosity of any hacker who is interested in religious feelings.

Notice that I didn't say anything about my religious beliefs, or whether I even have them, yet you seem to be making assumptions about what they are. Furthermore, though you claim you don't want HN to have religious debates, there was no religious argument until you started posting.

It looks as though you define a forum free of endless religious flames as a forum where everyone believes the same way you do, or else is silent about it. I say "looks as though" because I would hesitate to accuse anyone directly of holding such a deplorable position--and it should be obvious to any of what pg called the "intellectually curious" why such a position is so deplorable.

If HN is to be free of religion-targeted flames, why are you posting religion-targeted flames? If you want HN discussions not to be motivated by religious conviction, why do you try to effect its presence?

"But that is the point. HN isn't the place for religious discussion or proselytizing, no matter how heartfelt or (subjectively) genuine the belief in its tenets is."

You keep saying this, but on what authority?

(I honestly can't seem to find the site discussion guidelines, is there such a thing?)

Has religious discussion been permanently banned on HN? This discussion naturally led in to questions about "the meaning of it all," and it is pretty much impossible for a religious person to honestly address those questions without invoking their religion at some point.

"I have my beliefs about the nature of the Universe (it is irrelevant whether I am agnostic, atheist or religious), but I don't proselytize them here or try to gain converts by pivoting off peoples misery."

I do think that some of the discussion has already veered into "beliefs about the universe" in some ways, and I do not see clearly where that line is drawn.

plinkplonk: My post was made for no other reason but to answer lostsheep's honest questions with the only honest answer I have. I sincerely apologize for "polluting HN" with my honest thoughts. If I had seen that he added an email address to his account I would have just emailed him since I know most people here don't appreciate religious discussions.

"My post was made for no other reason but to answer lostsheep's honest questions with the only honest answer I have. "

I never questioned the strength of your conviction in your beliefs, just the appropriateness of expressing them here. My post could have been less strongly worded, though. I apologize unreservedly for any offense caused by the sharpness of my tone.

" If I had seen that he added an email address to his account I would have just emailed him"

I agree this would be the correct action to take.


I never questioned the strength of your conviction in your beliefs, just the appropriateness of expressing them here.

Normally, yes. In this case however, they don't deserve down mods. The appropriate value for such a comment in this thread is 1.

Yea, I do see your point, but I reacted to the harshness of your tone. Minus the sharpness of how you expressed it, I mostly agree with the content of what you expressed.

Generally I would say that HN is not the place for religious discussions, but in this particular case, it seems quite appropos and the comment was very respectfully phrased.

If the op is dissatisfied with his life, then perhaps changing his career or living circumstances as most other comments talk aobut is the way to fix that. But perhaps looking at religion is. Christianity is only one possible religion to explore, but I think it has helped me be a better person personally and sheats is just sharing his experience with it. Sheats phrased it quite respectfully and as one option to consider, not trying to push it as something the OP must do.

Regardless of validity in your mind, religion is an important aspect of the lives of billions of people on this planet. The GP was not preaching or preying on anyone -- the phrase "if what I have said rings true at all in your heart" is an indicator of a respectful and well-intentioned comment. For many people in a situation similar to the poster's, looking outside the secular world for help has been what helped them turn around.

Rather than downvoting because you disagree with the concept of religion, why don't you let the poster read the comment and evaluate for himself whether it has good advice?

" "if what I have said rings true at all in your heart" is an indicator of a respectful and well-intentioned comment.

It doesn't matter. Ultimately this site isn't a venue for religious evangelism, no mattter how "respectful" the build up is. And if it is, evangelizing the FSM makes as much sense as evangelizing Jesus (or Buddha or Allah or the Great BingaBonga of the White Voudoun).

And I've noticed that evangelizers pounce on already depressed people. This seems to fit the pattern.

Anyways I don't want to extend an already useless thread. So I'll stop. Preach away.

And if it is, evangelizing the FSM makes as much sense as evangelizing Jesus

Which is basically what you are doing by making such a strong counterpoint. Take your own advice here.

His advice is not worth any more or less than anyone else's here. He even suggests as much himself.

I'm saddened by the vicious response towards a religious belief. Last time I checked all religions are valid forms of personal expression constitutionally, and as long as he not actively trying to turn HN into an evangelical experience, he is entitled to provide any solution he sees may help without being ridiculed by people that don't have the maturity to accept that others can have different belief systems from them.

For the record, I'm not overly religious and don't think it would personally help, but the validity of god is irrelevant if the outcome is to ease the restless pain he is feeling.

Constitutional freedom of speech != appropriate for Hacker News != worthy of respect

> the validity of god is irrelevant if the outcome is to ease the restless pain

...you are entitled to have no respect for the truth, but I am constitutionally entitled to openly disrespect your lack of respect. Is it Hacker News, though? Ah, there's the question...

Can we really be hearing that it is Hacker News to advocate for Jesus, but Not Hacker News to counterargue? Now that's religion!

plinkplonk, apart from your comment being flamewarish, you're not interacting with the content of the sheats' comment. If you think Jesus is invalid, then state why -- interacting with the comment, the gospels, etc.

lostsheep, I must say that with a username like that, you are kind of asking for religious answers. :-) See Isaiah 53:6-7, one of the passages the lost sheep "meme" comes from: http://biblegateway.decenturl.com/lost-sheep -- we are the lost sheep, Jesus is also like a sheep, but he was "led like a lamb to the slaughter" and our sin was laid on him.

This is completely the wrong reason to embrace Christianity (heh), but one of the benefits is community. If you go to an active church, you're suddenly surrounded by many people who care about you, and some of them are quite knowledgeable. You also have access to a (free!) counsellor or pastor -- I guess it varies, but our pastor is very helpful with questions like this.

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