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The days are long but the decades are short (samaltman.com)
1163 points by jordanmessina on Apr 28, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 387 comments



> On work: it’s difficult to do a great job on work you don’t care about. And it’s hard to be totally happy/fulfilled in life if you don’t like what you do for your work

I get that this is aimed at the startup crowd, but I've always felt that this sentiment is pretty privileged. We, the elite, get to cherry pick our work and do what we like. But I bet 9/10 people will never feel they have this luxury, and 8/10 will be right.

> Most people pick their career fairly randomly...

And in the truest sense of "most people" I would bet that "most people take whatever work they can get, and sometimes something sticks" is probably more accurate.

I know these sentiments are a bit cynical, I just can help but feel sometimes that it's irresponsible to dump the "you can be/do anything!" sentiment on our youth when the reality is nowhere near that for most of them. I understand we need ideals and motivation to make them a reality, but more flowery advice doesn't seem to be the best tactic.

Regardless, Sam is an amazing individual who has done an enormous amount for others and the startup community. This isn't meant to disparage his views or advice; ironically, I think it's just hardest to give truly sage advice when you're trying to be sage.


Hmm I always default to not "do what you love" but "love what you do" in that most work has some interesting component, and what's really important to develop is the ability to isolate that aspect and motivate yourself with it. That's something I think everyone can use, regardless of their position in life


Totally agree. I love programming, and solution design. Working in service IT I get a lot of both; at the same time though, what we build doesn't interest me at all (corporate web services, government intranets etc). I like my job, and I do it well, but I consider that to be in spite of what it produces.


It's easy to say, but in practice it's difficult to go home satisfied with the concept of a dead end job.

Personally I found plenty of little things to love about otherwise horrible dead end jobs, but that wasn't really the reason to keep going back to work, I was there to get paid to live my life outside of work because the job itself was not really fun or fruitful.


>Personally I found plenty of little things to love about otherwise horrible dead end jobs, but that wasn't really the reason to keep going back to work, I was there to get paid to live my life outside of work because the job itself was not really fun or fruitful.

I actually think this is a better message for people...

Some jobs are going to be great, others are going to suck. That doesn't really matter because for most people its what you do outside of your job that will determine your happiness. Try and find a job/career that you like but sometimes a job is just something you do for money to fund other stuff and that is perfectly ok.

Personally I find the increasing emphasis on work as a way to derive personal satisfaction troubling. It looks like a subtle trap to me. A way to convince people to forgo time with their family, hobbies, side ventures and anything else you might possibly derive happiness from in favor of just working more and trying to convince yourself that that is enough.

If you love your job then more power to you but sometimes a job is just a means to an end and that is perfectly ok. Just make sure that you are spending the rest of your time doing stuff that makes you happy. Spend time with family and friends, make something, learn something new and make sure you are using the money from your job in ways that will contribute to your long term financial well being.


>Personally I find the increasing emphasis on work as a way to derive personal satisfaction troubling. It looks like a subtle trap to me. A way to convince people to forgo time with their family, hobbies, side ventures and anything else you might possibly derive happiness from in favor of just working more and trying to convince yourself that that is enough.

Extremely well put. This entire concept has troubled me for a long time and you've really nailed it pointing out that we're increasingly advising people to get their joy in life from their work instead of the literally MILLIONS of other things they can enjoy. Thanks for that.


> Personally I find the increasing emphasis on work as a way to derive personal satisfaction troubling. It looks like a subtle trap to me. A way to convince people to forgo time with their family, hobbies, side ventures and anything else you might possibly derive happiness from in favor of just working more and trying to convince yourself that that is enough.

A counterpoint to this is that many people -- myself included -- see that we spend so much of our waking hours at a job (about 40% assuming a 40-hour week) that we want to spend that 40% doing something that makes us happy.

So it's not that work defines us or drives our satisfaction, but that work makes up a large part of our lifespan, and it seems wasteful to spend it doing something just to facilitate the happiness of the other 60%.

I don't want to strive to be happy just 60% of the time -- I want to strive to be happy 100% of the time.


I completely understand the sentiment - 40% seems like a lot to be "burning" for the sake of the other 60.

But it's helped me to think about this in a different context: think about the time you spend with your spouse. How much of that time is taken up with "life's necessities" like doing laundry, dishes, prepping meals, cleaning, more cleaning, driving places, even arguing and getting hurt are all part of relationships... And all that stuff takes time and it's not a nice meal out or a walk on the beach or an impromptu dance session. There's a lot of the mundane in our most treasured relationships, and the only people who have a problem with that are teenagers.

Should work/life really be any different?


Those "life necessities" in a relationship are not so bad because the goal, i.e. the relationship is (usually) very important to us. The same goes for a job. If you are working on something that has a great value to you, even the boring tasks are usually not so bad. However if you are in a job where the final goal is of no interest to you things change. If tasks are boring and mundane, you will burn out quickly. In effect I believe that anything we do has to have at least something that is important to us, whether it is the journey or the goal it self, otherwise it would be very difficult to keep being satisfied with what we do.


Typical people need to sleep for 25%-30% of each day, it is hardwired into our biology. I think that "strive to be happy 100% of the time" can be turned into an excellent excuse to sleep deprive yourself, in order to avoid making hard decisions about what to prioritize in your life.

You can apply the same logic to your job. Everybody needs to earn their keep. That's a fact of life. People that already want an excuse to forgo their live for the sake of work will take it as confirmation of what they want to hear.

Not to say that what you say is wrong, just to point how it can be use it to rationalize if taking literally and/or out of context.


I've heard advice in a similar vein as this and it really sounds great. I try to stay in this mindset but a part of me really struggles with the idea that I'm going to spend 40+ hours a week on a "means to an end". It just seems like such a long time to be unhappy, or at best not miserable?


That's why one of my personal focus right now is to slowly reduce the amount of hours I spend at work, in order to have more time for various projects outside of it. This may change if I ever hit something interesting at work, but so far, all of the things I ever done for money felt like utter bullshit. Funnily, I entered the workforce strongly believing the "work in what you love" mantra, but through years of being unable to find it in the space of available jobs I got completely cured of that belief.


For me this is the reason why I became a freelancer right out of college. While in hindsight I might have benefitted from some proper 'employee' experience in my field, the risk that I would've just stayed in that mode make me happy that I didn't make that choice.

As a freelancer living well below my means, I have the freedom to be as busy or relaxed as I want (within certain boundaries). Unlike an employee, it is up to me to be productive, improve my skills, handle my finances... or just do nothing all day. And unlike many other freelancers who don't live well below their means (or can't, it should be said), I don't often run into the problem that I have to accept a huge workload for long periods of time so that I can pay the bills in fallow periods.

Freelancing is not for everyone, and not every freelancer is as lucky as I am. But considering that many people could reach my 'level' of income by intensely studying and practicing for a few months, I'm often frustrated by how many people around me remain stuck in full-time jobs they truly hate, especially when these are low-paying jobs.


Its difficult to compartmentalize your job so that the negatively doesn't seep into all parts of your life.


Hmm, I do agree with parent poster, happiness of one should not be derived from work at all costs. We all are not some copy paste robots. For most folks out there, job is just a job (talking about IT). Not horrible, not great all the time, somewhere in between with highlights and darker parts. Overall, when all + and - sum up, result will be + (if not, change jobs. very easy for most IT professions).

There is great amount of space for creativity in any job, but also a lot of have-to-do-it stuff. Isn't it easier to accept this ballance in life and try to reach some perfect spot within it, rather than strive for problem-free or chores-free life? (anyway it would be boring as hell).

At the end, we are all unique. Do what feels right for you, just accept that other out there might have very different goals and drives. I am quite (a lot) happy in my current spot in life and balance I achieved, but I know a few people that would not enjoy it as much.


I don't think it's about individual jobs; more industries/verticals/skillsets. If you have e.g. plumbing knowledge and not much else, first, learn to love (something about) plumbing. Then, figure out a way to make money doing the specific part of plumbing you love.


"love what you do"... and have a good manager.


You know that song, "if you can'y be with yhe one you love, love the one you're with?"


That's true, but still, it's advice that's a lot easier and more helpful for us the privileged.


>I just can help but feel sometimes that it's irresponsible to dump the "you can be/do anything!" sentiment on our youth when the reality is nowhere near that for most of them.

This is my take as well. If prompted for advice, I tell people to find satisfation outside of work. Work is a rigged game. It simply will not make you happy outside of some truly edge cases and those cases are often temporary until things change. "New boss took away the pinball table. I miss the noisy environment and need it to work!" "New boss won't take away the pinball table! Its too noisy for me to work!"

Its also concerning to make career choices at age 18-22 that will last a lifetime. Young me loved working in tech. Current me could leave it at anytime and kinda wants to. Unfortunately, our employment system isn't set for a mid-life career change, unless you want to take on serious risk and start at the bottom of yet another career mountain to climb, which you may bore of just as fast, if not faster.

My personal wish is to migrate society to accept a very young retirement age. Maybe as early as 50. With automation going where it is, I think this is probably inevitable and am happy to think my kids won't be grueling through work until 65-70 like my parents generation did.


Yes it's strange how far our developments in efficiency have progressed yet somehow everyone is still working 60 hour work weeks..

Reminds me of that obscure Bill Murray movie "City of Ember" : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkSFsbv6eUg


Early retirement is very hard for most people and borderline impossible for many, but social acceptance is not part of the problem. Money is the problem. If you want to take the money from society, then you have social acceptance issues. Society is generally fine with early retirement, as long as you don't plan on depending on the government.


> I've always felt that this sentiment is pretty privileged. We, the elite, get to cherry pick our work and do what we like. But I bet 9/10 people will never feel they have this luxury, and 8/10 will be right.

We (humanity) are fixing this. Never before in human history has learning the state of the art in any field been freely accessible to anyone.

The tools to create a new world have never been this cheap, and there have never been so many helpful people giving away so much knowledge.

There has never been so much money available for investment, and investment has never been this founder friendly.

There has never been a market of this size this freely reachable, if you have good ideas that are sticky and sharable.

So yes, 8/10 are right now, but we can get that number down. I think custom fabrication using all the new tools, FDM 3D printing being just the start, is a serious contender for making a huge dent in the alienated work problem.

I'm not feeling cynical, not yet. This isn't the end of the story, this is just the beginning, we are alive during the greatest renaissance humanity has ever known, how awesome can we make the world? I think we can make it pretty awesome.


Never before in human history has learning the state of the art in any field been freely accessible to anyone.

Really? I'm working in Mumbai right now (outsourcing has apparently gone dyslexic, as Russel Peters said). I'll be in rural Karnataka this week, and I'm pretty sure they'd disagree that learning the state of the art in any field is freely accessible to them. And there's 65 million people in that (relatively small) Indian state.

there have never been so many helpful people giving away so much knowledge.

I definitely agree with that, which is why it's hard for people who used to make a living transmitting knowledge. Oh, and a lot of the knowledge being given away so readily includes "how to violently undermine the global capital system that made this information dissemination possible".

There has never been so much money available for investment, and investment has never been this founder friendly.

Were you working in 1998? I remember those days...

There has never been a market of this size this freely reachable, if you have good ideas that are sticky and sharable.

I'm very lucky in that I get to use my talents for low-level programming to work on water purification systems. Mumbai has 10,000 deaths per annum (yes, 10,000) from waterborne illnesses, and it's probably the most developed city in India. But this isn't a problem that needs cleverness; it just needs a whole lot of people to do a very lot of hard, low-paid work. Water in particular gets loaded into the "entrepreneur" model all the time, but it doesn't really fit. You need a lot of people to build a lot of public pipes and faucets, and you need a social contract.

Gates has been asked why he doesn't work on the global digital divide and usually just says "Maslow", and I think he's got a point.


Thanks. Seeing my thought put into words by another person, some thousand miles away really is a gift.

Our privileged perspectives so often cloud our ability to relate to people not that fortunate.


Let's be aware of privilege and work to extend privilege at all deliberate speed.

I disagree with the privilege narrative that's become dominant. It's completely zero-sum, when the history of privilege is one of it's extension to more groups and bigger portions of those groups.

In the future all humans will be as privileged as the humans of the west, and much more so. I'm concerned with how we can reach that place faster. Right now I think open source hardware on the reprap model is a fertile hunting ground for game changing solutions.


You are right on all those points except for 1998 in my opinion. Investment was not as founder friendly and not as available to ordinary people with a smaller idea, as it was pre crowd funding.

But I think I am right as well in that we (humans) have never been this able to solve problems like this.

Ballon based Internet and mobile devices will let developing countries leap frog the networking model of the west.

For the problem of clean water in places without public water utilities we need open source hardware projects that design cheap and easy for ordinary people/communities to make from available materials, raw and finished.

Something like a solar still that's so cheap and easy to construct it changes the entire equation.

And I know that sounds hand wavey and politics are still important. But I believe all politics get easier when there is less scarcity, and technology can reduce scarcity. And I can't fix politics, so I'm focusing on all the power I do have to make things better.


> I get that this is aimed at the startup crowd, but I've always felt that this sentiment is pretty privileged. We, the elite, get to cherry pick our work and do what we like. But I bet 9/10 people will never feel they have this luxury, and 8/10 will be right.

Maybe. Maybe not.

My less "book smart" friends that learned blue-collar trades like being a welder or carpenter are much happier than the ones that found white-collar data entry and sales jobs.

They have to put up with crap like unions and graveyard shifts, but in general, they are happier because they get the satisfaction of making things.


I know it's not the case for everyone but I actually prefer graveyard shifts. There's less going on so it can be just me and the job without the outside distractions. I worked for myself for 2 years and I found I always defaulted back to a nocturnal state.


You're not wrong, but Sam isn't writing for those people. He's writing for the people that read HN. Not all advice has to be targeted to the least privileged.


Is this even easy to achieve in the "startup crowd"? Maybe I can see it for founders but having worked at 3 start ups so far I definitely don't feel like people thought they were living the dream doing what they did.

I always bought into this mentality of trying to find a job that I really LOVED. The only thing it made me do was switch jobs frequently. I'd love for someone to convince me I'm wrong but the people who seem happiest have basically told me they get satisfaction outside of work and like their job because it enables them to do other things, not because they necessarily love whatever it is they do at their job.


> I get that this is aimed at the startup crowd, but I've always felt that this sentiment is pretty privileged.

I think Sam is right to say this, though. There are plenty of people holding themselves back.

I hold myself back because I would be sacrificing my family's happiness for my own, and sometimes you have to do your job and get paid until you make and/or are blessed with an opportunity to do better.


I absolutely agree. But even in the elite some take whatever job they can. Not everybody can be a Doctor, Lawyer, Pharmacist, Psychologist, etc.

Getting an education doesn't mean you can cherry pick jobs.

Edit to add a saying popular in my family: "Ubi amatur non laboratur, aut si laboratur, labor amatur."


Working as a lawyer is actually increasingly a low paid job unless you graduate with top results from a top school. In the UK, the average solicitor earned about 10% less than the UK average as of a few years ago, and that is pulled up by a tiny elite at a small number of the top firms, where starting salaries are twice or more the national average for solicitors in general, and where equity partners can easily earn 100-200 times the average solicitor.


Agreed.Read a meme somewhere that if only hardwork and perseverance resulted in success, then African village women would have been millionaires.


I'm not part of the elite. I do what I love even if that means I'm broke. Saying that you cannot do what you love because you are not priviledged are just excuses. Sacrifice what needs to be sacrificed otherwise don't whine. Find a way otherwise you were never meant to do it if you give up too easily.

Most people are just talk though. They will do what they love if you hand them everything in a silver platter. Well the universe doesn't give a damn about you. You are just star waste.


Well .. nothing against you, but if you can do what you love even if that means you are broke, means you are elite. It means you have some guarantee of a social support. May be your definition of broke includes welfare support from govt. There are parts of the world where people commit suicide if they are broke. All people in the first worlds are elites.


And even more places where if you're broke, you simply starve to death.

I'm in the "do what I love even though I'm broke" category, and my background is definitely privileged. My girlfriend on the other hand grew up very poor and had to grind for 10 years before she could even start to consider doing what she loves.


Social scientists have been trying to understand why some of the "happiest" people in the world (across "first" and "developing" economies even) are oftentimes of Hispanic origin. The general explanation that everything seems to point back to is basically that all of these cultures share extremely close ties and social support as the fundamental basis. This is in spite of all the poverty, violence, and general economic malaise that may be affecting us all.

What seems funnier is that even the "elite" seem to have trouble with this part, sometimes even because of their ambition and turning away many people.

So the clear goal to happiness to me is fundamentally "find people that you like and will support you and you will support them, and enjoy each others' company for the short time we do have on this planet. Inspire each other, love each other." This is regardless of whether you're a start-up founder in SF, drug addicted junkie in rural Honduras, or a housewife in Saudi Arabia.

I also disagree very much that everyone in the first world are "elites." Have you ever been to an Indian reservation in New Mexico? How about the backwoods of the Appalachians where there's still snake handler churches that hold services every Sunday at least? There's no running water in half of these places and transportation to the outside might be almost discouraged. Yet so many people will point and go "they're in the richest country in the world, they're PRIVILEGED!" and that's the same tired argument as saying that poor people in the West are "privileged" because they can afford a TV and electricity.

My point is really that your local conditions are EXTREMELY important regardless of what country you're in, period. Your social circles, your family, and even the people you hang out with online all affect you. And if you have none of these... that is rarely a recipe for happiness by anyone's definition aside from the most isolationist of worldviews.


Yeah.

Wealth is about our time. When we can purpose more of our time than others purpose for us, we are more wealthy.

Lots of ways to get at that condition. Having lots of money is one way. Limiting dependencies and costs is another way.

Well put.

Wealthy people tend to be happy people. And in the sense of time and purpose, I believe that's fairly true.

At least they have a good opportunity to be happy.

The other way is to really think about work, potential paths, and then network, until you find an arrangement that resonates.

For some, it might be working on contract. For others, it might be a good team that gets along well. Still others might want to be working on something novel, or making things. Whatever.

I'm not elite either. And I've managed to spend a lot of my work time doing things I really love.

And that's been difficult for me sometimes too. It's never perfect. That's the work part of work. But, it's possible for a lot of people to take steps, one at a time, to get somewhere they feel good about.

All comes down to what's worth what.

For me, I can't really deal with just living for weekends, or even burning so much time per week. It's gotta all mesh somehow, or I'm on a grind, and it's just not worth it.

The other case is being trapped. Being careful about money limits dependencies, and that can help with aligning work, life, love. Been there a time or two as well, and once that was bad decisions, another time it was happenings that ended up falling on me. Took time to dig out from that.


This is super off-topic, but what compels you to write like this? Putting paragraph breaks after every sentence, or every other sentence. Did you learn it from someone? Did you fall into the pattern naturally?

I've seen it more and more, and it really frustrates me. In my reading it corrupts your ideas with this TED-talky, breathless, pseudo-momentousness, ruining what might otherwise be an interesting point or story. And I guess I'm surprised I'm (apparently) in the minority on this view.


I presume it's the dumbed down HN interface that ignores formatting. Each sentence I write here is on new line. But unless there is empty line between them, they are put together in one monolithic block, which isn't very nice to read for many including me. A bug on HN side (or idiotic feature), circumvented in this way (I don't like the result either, something in between would be the best solution)


No worries.

There are a few things. Honestly, I see the text in the input box here, and a sentence appears multi-line, and that will corrupt my perception of how it will appear. That is one basic cause.

Edit: HN should just A/B test this. Make it much wider and see what happens. I know my response will be more robust paragraphs. But what of others?

Another is conversational writing modes are more relaxed generally, though not always. So I care a lot less, often thinking in dialog, writing same, rather than composing in a more structured way. There is a time balance component too. If I'm to participate in some dialogs where I think it makes sense, I manage that investment.

I participate in a variety of venues. If you go back through my threads here, you will find some info on advocacy, and a big part of that is how one's text will flow to readers.

(and this varies a lot!)

Clearly, readers here are more sophisticated, and I see a range of styles, and in general, more paragraphs and more appropriate paragraphs. Fair enough to question my content on that basis. I agree with you.

But, that's not often the norm.

Over time, I've entertained some meta dialog of this kind, and have found breaking things up helps for a lot of people. There is a difference between, say an article, or structured piece, and dialog / sharing kinds of writing.

On narrow devices, mobile, smaller browser windows, etc... it actually does make sense to be a lot more liberal with paragraphs, and I do. I very frequently am using such a device myself. So there is that. Where I've got a keyboard, I find myself more in line with more traditional expectations.

Finally, line breaks sometimes are good for emphasis, and that's my own style. It's not always liked. And that's OK with me. There are some times when I've had to compose a complex sentence, with some logic, if, and, or, either... and the phrases between contain enough words to warrant line breaks in the sentence itself! Some contracts and proposals I've written contain these, and some A/B testing with them was interesting!

I got a lot less questions using line breaks to segment complex information into smaller, consumable, but connected chunks. And those deals just moved too. Not as many issues. In one sense, it really does manage down the hiding of something in a wall of text, "didn't you see that?" style. I prefer that as well. And like I said, it's been productive in that context.

Having said all that. Thanks! Maybe you are not in the minority, and I sure don't want it corrupted on mere style issues.

I'll up the paragraph compliance and see how it goes here. Of course, I'm bound to go looking back through things in some lame attempt to better understand votes and style now too.

Frankly, I'm OK with not being popular, and all that. The dialog here is great. I also know my perspective is not a common one to this crowd too. Fine. My biggest frustration is often downvotes without commentary. I read absolutely great comments here, and very frequently find serious thoughts bubble up from the many discussions. Worth it.

It's OK to be wrong or challenged! We are better for it, but only when there actually is a meaningful dialog associated with all that. Otherwise, it's just all negative and rather useless.

That, of course, is written for passers by in this dialog. I really do wonder what the downvotes are for and what the other party might suggest as an alternative... That's a bit of a ramble. Thanks for just putting it out there. I much prefer it.


>I know these sentiments are a bit cynical, I just can help but feel sometimes that it's irresponsible to dump the "you can be/do anything!" sentiment on our youth when the reality is nowhere near that for most of them. I understand we need ideals and motivation to make them a reality, but more flowery advice doesn't seem to be the best tactic.

Very much agreed. In fact, I think it's far more reassuring to tell young people that the "take what you can get" world they actually experience is real, and that "we adults" aren't secretly sneering at them for failing to "do great work" or "change the world".

Most people just make a living, and that's ok.


Yeah, I'm starting to realise more and more after fighting my way to the bottom rung of a tech industry where options and upward mobility are slim at the age of 24, that taking what i can get and not 'changing the world' or 'doing great work' is still even better than half my friends who can't even get jobs or are working in a cafe or something.


Agreed.

A friend of mine once wrote something similar to your sentiments. May have been posted here in the past.

"I don’t like advice like “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Not because it isn’t true, but because it’s a monkey’s paw: it’s true under the right circumstances with the right people, and for everyone else, it’s just bad advice."

http://rachelnabors.com/2014/08/19/dont-do-what-you-love/


If you think that is privileged, think about the "money buys you freedom" line (which is my line as well, fwiw).

Most people in this country and the world do not make nearly enough money to even begin to think like this.


>> On work: it’s difficult to do a great job on work you don’t care about

And even when you do care about it, there's no way you know in advance how it's gonna go on the field. A friend is actually pretty sad about his job because of the company structure and workflow even though the domain is almost spot on what he loves.

Work and fulfillment seem unrelated to me.


> I get that this is aimed at the startup crowd, but I've always felt that this sentiment is pretty privileged. We, the elite, get to cherry pick our work and do what we like. But I bet 9/10 people will never feel they have this luxury, and 8/10 will be right.

> And in the truest sense of "most people" I would bet that "most people take whatever work they can get, and sometimes something sticks" is probably more accurate.

I am glad you've brought up this point, but in some ways this "first world problems" narrative is itself elitist: people who are less wealthy, people who live in poor and authoritarian countries (both are sets my parents and I once belonged to) _still_ have concerns about fulfilling work, about balancing professional and/or academic success with family obligations, and suffer from rejection, feelings of inadequacy, failure to live up to expectations of others, and the like.

Even more-so, many of the tradeoffs described play into choices people have to make in regards to joining "the elite". For some, a decision to be happy/fulfilled might mean forsaking the "elite"/"privileged" status. I still remember the waning days of the dot-com boom, when my family's immigration lawyer was horrified that I chose to study CS: "but all the jobs will be outsourced", "computers will program themselves". Programming (or "tech") wasn't held in high esteem when sama and I entered college: class sizes were all times low, (for those who are in Silicon Valley) 237 was the "dot com graveyard", and $1300 for a 2-bedroom within Cupertino school district was considered outrageously high.

Nonetheless, There is an important caveat I would add to what sama says -- and I think you've been hinting it in your post -- "liking what you do for work" isn't the same as "following your passion". Factors such as skill and aptitude for the given work, opportunities for finding such work, etc... all contribute to "liking what you do". I don't know if I am misreading sama or if this is an omission in sama's essay (somehow, I believe it's the former!), but often time liking what one does, also requires building some aptitude in things one (thinks) they don't like: e.g., "I hate maths!" (extrapolated from "I dislike continuous maths the way it was taught in (US) high school, so I never approached discrete maths, linear algebra, etc...") had stopped far too many people from building an enjoyable career in a maths-heavy (but not in any way exclusively mathematical, especially as far as industry work goes) fields. Likewise, "fulfilling" isn't the same as "fun". To paraphrase a person much smarter than me that I worked for -- twice -- eating a good meal is fun, going hiking is fun, watching a movie is fun; building software (or, writing a cookbook, exploring/charting a nature preserve to create safe and sustainable hiking trails, writing a screenplay or acting in a movie, watching a movie critically for a review, etc...) is, on the other hand, fulfilling and deeply enjoyable but not necessarily "fun" (even if I'll call it "fun", as I usually do) in the exact same way.


Totally agreed, but you have to put everything you read from this kind of people into perspective otherwise you miss the point.

What troubles though is the following: Most people (if not all people) know already that, eating well, sleeping well, being organised, etc. is paramount to live a good life, have a good work and so on. All of these things are more personal than anything. Why, do we still don't do these things? What is about human nature that makes us weak enough NOT to do the right thing?


No one say it would be easy to work on the things you love: sacrifice have to be made, and there shall be big challenges.

We could argue it's impossible for someone to do it due to external circumstances of being less privilege; think about some of the public figures who made it? Are these people doing the impossible more privileged than you are?


I agree with you mostly. This article was an eye-opener for me which reinforces your thoughts : https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/01/in-the-name-of-love/


"I get that this is aimed at the startup crowd, but I've always felt that this sentiment is pretty privileged. We, the elite, get to cherry pick our work and do what we like. But I bet 9/10 people will never feel they have this luxury, and 8/10 will be right."

Privileged? Hardly. I worked a regular job for many years while spending years of my free time and weekends to create a business where I can now choose what I work on.

Most people aren't willing to sacrifice time now to enjoy comforts later. I don't consider it privilege that I did..and neither should the many people working on startups.


>I worked a regular job for many years while spending years of my free time and weekends to create a business where I can now choose what I work on.

Then you did not have a regular job. You had a job that paid you enough to support yourself while retaining enough free time and mental energy to pursue your startup idea. For most people, this is not the case (esp. the mental energy bit).


I don't think that's a very fair statement. Some people are just "doers" and get off on working all the time. Some people also understand that you don't owe your life to your company (unless it is your own company) which means you make sure they don't take over every waking hour.

I guess maybe the issue is in the definition of what a "regular job" is... Over the past 15 years I've always worked at what I would call regular jobs, full-time jobs at large companies where people build careers. Many of these jobs included an on-call rotation. Until our first child came into the picture I was able to, and did, work on various other projects outside of work with the hopes of one of them making it big. None of them did but that work put me in a place where within the last couple of years I have been able to essentially pick my job and work at my desired pay. Now that our child is a bit older I've also gone back to working on smaller projects outside of my daily work schedule.


Oh, I don't know about that.

Seriously. Mental energy is impacted by a lot of things. And I've had to come up the hard way, just due to my circumstances early on.

Doing this gets harder as we age. But under 30?

It's there for an awful lot of people who want it. There is one's own drive, and there are the kinds of friends one makes and how time is used.

For the longest time, I read one tech book a month. Just needed to gain perspective. I also turned the TV off.

The amount of time this frees up is AMAZING.

Networking pays too.

And for some people, that's starting a business. For others, it's self-employment / contract work. Still others, it's taking hobbies and spinning them into skills they love to exploit.

Lots of ways to get this done. And frankly, doing it consumes 10 to 20 percent of one's free time outside of a 40 - 50 hour work week.

That's not too much time. Just turning the TV off delivers that time for a very large number of people.

There is a clear cost for some jobs too. Where those work demands punch up above 50 hours, it really does start to get tough to do other things. Sadly, we've a lot of people stitching several basic jobs together and that eats a lot of their time.

But for many, who are just working full time, it's possible to make personal investments.

And what a lot of people don't get is the compounding that comes from doing that consistently.

One hour a day spent on this kind of thing compounds better than 5 hours on Saturday does. (though it's really nice to do both!)

Simple things, like just getting up early, make a big impact. Eating healthy, managing sleep to 6 hours instead of 8.5...

What is worth what?

Many people don't see a pay off they can visualize and believe they can actualize, so it's not worth it, and so they don't do it.

Setting aside difficult circumstances, it's often that simple.


I code on side projects, nights and weekends. I find that I can actually get more done on a long stretch on Saturday than little bits and bobs on weekdays. It takes a while to get into it and get momentum.


Me too. An hour sometimes won't cut it.


"Then you did not have a regular job. You had a job that paid you enough to support yourself while retaining enough free time and mental energy to pursue your startup idea. For most people, this is not the case (esp. the mental energy bit)."

I did have a 'regular job'. Most people party, hang out with their friends, and do plenty of other things in their free time. If you have the mental energy to do any of these things (or a hobby), you have the mental energy to start a company.

I worked 50 hours a week coding. Did I always have the mental energy? Of course not. But I had the discipline to continue on..even when I didn't 'feel' like it.

"For most people, this is not the case (esp. the mental energy bit)."

Most people don't want to sacrifice their fun time. I found this to be the case when I tried to find co-founders. All liked the idea of a startup, but none wanted to sacrifice their TV, friends, or bar time. It's one of the reasons why I have a successful company today..and most don't.


Well said.

Building a future generally costs us 10 to 20 percent of our "fun" time, or personal time.


"Most people aren't willing to sacrifice time now to enjoy comforts later"

So what you're telling me is that most people can't just pursue their passion as their job but instead have to work a job they certainly do not enjoy in order to fund their real passion and hopefully make it into a career. That is, if they are lucky enough that their passion is actually a viable career option.

Sounds like you're agreeing with the person you're replying to, or am I misinterpreting what you said?


While you may not feel privileged because you had to make hard sacrifices, not everyone is in a position to make the sacrifices you made.

But even then, your anecdote only speaks for yourself. There are many people who are indeed privileged by exceptional class or talent and who don't even need to suffer through the sacrifices that you did. Doors have been swung open for them their whole live, while others (like yourself) have to open those same doors with a crowbar, and others still (like the OP's 8/10) will never even get to see the door.


There's a privilege here you are not seeing: ability. Just being capable of pursuing a startup puts you in an elite minority. Hard work and sacrifice are familiar to many people in the 8/10.


There's more to it than that: you probably had resources that afforded you that time, or support that valued and encouraged that kind of behavior. Maybe you had a good education or reliable parents. And you probably had fairly good health throughout all of that.

There are so many things that make your actions highly specific to your situation, and that's a privilege that you have.


If we're defining privilege that broadly, most people are privileged in some way... to the point where the word is basically meaningless.


Just because I've left some free variables in my description doesn't meant he concept I'm talking about is inherently vague. It means we need to put more work into pinning them down before one can make a proper analysis.

Don't expect perfection, because you won't get it.


A lot of the points can be boiled down to "work very hard". But what if you simply are the type of person who doesn't like working? Another point is do what makes you happy. For some lucky folks, work makes them happy, but there's a lot of us who don't like it. And no, it's not just a specific job. A lot of us are just kinda lazy to be perfectly honest. The things I enjoy most are running, eating fine meals, quality times having beers with friends, traveling, reading and playing video games. I do work so I can support myself so that I can do those other things, but I certainly wouldn't work if I didn't have to (and I've worked and saved long enough that I'm fairly wealthy and won't have to for very much longer).

I think one of the reasons is that I don't care about social status or material possessions or competing at who can make the best chat app or anything like that, and work just feels like a grind to me. Sure, some of it is better than other parts, but in the end, I'd always rather be doing something else. I also am not usually impressed with other peoples' career achievements, and getting a promotion or a better job doesn't give me any sort of feeling of accomplishment or 'high', just, well I guess I'm a few years closer to being wealthy enough to get out of this bullshit.

A lot of people will look down on me for this, but I'm ok with that as I'm not trying to win a popularity contest. I just don't think "work hard" is necessarily the best advice to all people. I do think work is important as it's a means of contributing to society, and in the end, I'm glad I did my part, but after I have enough to "get out", I'll have satisfied my conscience to spend the rest of my days having good times and doing things that really make me happy.


I'm a bit older than the author, and for me, it has come down to this:

"The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."

The article contains a lot of good, sensible statements. But it was clearly written for, and by, someone with far more ambition than I'll ever have.

Maybe I'm just burned out from all the Work Hard rhetoric that got me here, but nobody on their death bed laments that they didn't spend enough time at the office.


Maybe I'm just burned out from all the Work Hard rhetoric that got me here, but nobody on their death bed laments that they didn't spend enough time at the office.

Perhaps, but a lot may have lamented not having more financial security.


    > A lot of the points can be boiled down to "work very
    > hard". But what if you simply are the type of person who 
    > doesn't like working? Another point is do what makes you
    > happy. For some lucky folks, work makes them happy, but
    > there's a lot of us who don't like it.
I think regularly getting in to "flow" is a key to happiness. Video games - one of the things you enjoy - seems to be something that gets people in to flow. Could you find work like that?

You laden "work" with a lot of assumptions.


> A lot of the points can be boiled down to "work very hard". But what if you simply are the type of person who doesn't like working?

A slightly cynical person might point out that the CEO of a VC has much to gain by blogging about the virtues of "working very hard" to those who might form startups.


> A lot of us are just kinda lazy to be perfectly honest.

I'm glad i'm not the only one who feels this way sometimes.


I think the difference between you and the people that want to work hard to "make the best chat app" is that the sense of fulfillment and the concept of living a good life between you and this group comes from two different things. For you it's just being happy by being with friends and family etc while for others its accomplishing something they truly believe in whether it's some college kid trying to make the next chat app or Elon Musk trying to make humanity an interplanetary specie. That sense of fulfillment is attained from different things - and that's ok. Everyone has their things that make them feel fulfilled, and they are not always the same. You just have to be honest with yourself to know what that is.


That's how I feel about most work, but I still take a level of pride in doing it well and learning new things from it. I think a job is a good fit for me when I like it enough that it doesn't need to be one of my rare passion projects.


I was 5 minutes late to work every morning, because of taking my son to school in the neighborhood where our new house was being built. I didn't want him to have to move schools in the middle of the year.

Boss said "This won't do. You'll have to examine your priorities."

I thought about it all day, that night. Next morning I got to work (5 minutes late), went in his office, said "I examined my priorities. Work is #12." and I left.


Assuming you were effective at your job, said boss needs to examine what is important to him, slavish respect-mah-authortai-style following of rather arbitrary rules, or having a "bird-in-the-hand" competent employee who gets shit done (perhaps 5 minutes later than the boss-man would like).

It is kind of sad how many boss/manager types still fail miserably on this point, and then complain about not being able to hire "good people".


I'm the counterexample - I like letting capable people as loose as possible, and more often than I'd like this backfires. I'd appreciate some effective pointers on how to deal with this issue.


I've done some freelance stuff, and I'm currently doing a PhD where my time is very much my own to manage. Consequently, I've got some experience of being on the other end: being left free to my own devices, and occasionally having that backfire.

Things that I think are important:

* Give some small but significant (~week-level) milestones, ideally with tangible results. Then discuss these.

* Check up with the worker. Not by asking vague questions about how things are going, but specific questions about stuff that interests you in their work. I once worked on three projects at once for a place. Two of them were going very well, but one of them was going very slowly because I was kind of stuck. Getting input from the boss on that one really helped -- but I'd never have asked him about it, because I reasoned he'd hired me so he didn't have to worry about it.

* Help with any other stuff on their plate. Family issues, money issues, personal issues, etc. Obviously, you can't solve most stuff like this, but you can usually help. I once delivered a contract very late due to getting a wrist injury, and being unable to promptly see a doctor.

* Try to keep a dialogue going about work. Whether you're happy with their performance, whether they're happy with your pay/conditions, etc. Crucially, if any of the above ideas seem like overkill, you'll find out about this, and dial them down accordingly.


I have to deal with this too. Some people appreciate the freedom to come and go as they please and they will enjoy working. Others take advantage of the situation and don't accomplish their work. Dealing with the later can be frustrating if you are trying to create a comfortable, flexible workplace. If you warn somebody and they repeatedly can't get their work done, then you have to fire them, or risk losing your good employees. Good employees will justifiably grow resentful of always picking up the slack.

One idea that I use is - set your own hours. But then please adhere to your own schedule. If you want to start at noon, that's totally cool. But, actually start working reasonably close to noon. If your schedule changes, that's cool too. But let me know what that is and, again, adhere to your own schedule.

Getting uptight over being 5 minutes late is not really necessary in my opinion unless it's for an important client meeting or something.


What's backfiring?

There's two levels here: at the first level, you don't want to sweat anyone (capable or otherwise) about coming to work late because it indicates fundamentally messed up priorities: you aren't paying them to keep a seat warm. If you set them free to come in whenever they want, they will. If it gives you indigestion because you have no idea where your employees are, you need to figure out why that is and solve the real problem (and if the real problem is "my boss thinks I'm not doing my job if I'm not sweating my employees about seat-warming", my condolences, because you are totally fucked).

Don't confuse this with people who advocate self-management, where you just trust your people to do the right thing and set them loose without any structure at all. That's a much more subtle skill that requires the right relationships and the right situation and frankly is a gigantic hassle. If you've got a group of unmanageable geniuses who seem to be productive despite the chaos feel free to try but most teams who get things done do not operate this way and don't let the woo-woo peddlers tell you otherwise.

You're doing pretty well if the people who work for you feel like you have real, specific expectations of them but also have 'wiggle room' to do anything they want (just not everything they want).


Focus on results and not on some measure of what you think leads to results. If an employee is always 5 minutes late, but they always complete quality work on time, then why bother? Your time is better spent focusing on the employee that is always on time producing mediocre work.


When someone, especially a junior, is new to a project, make sure they get oriented to it. Don't just say "I'm always available if you have any questions." Because being able to take a codebase and a bunch of (even well-written, which it probably isn't) documentation and navigate it from the start without help is a skill that they don't really teach in school (at least not at MIT).

Without being oriented, they won't know what questions to ask and then after a week of slowly plodding through the code trying to piece things together, will be too embarrassed to ask.


You only need one metric: is the job getting done. Everything else is a distraction.


How do you measure that?

My team just took tons of heat because there was a complex performance issue that needed our full attention. We clearly communicated that we would need a large chunk of time to solve it, and while we tried to stay responsive, a lot of stuff had to just get ignored for a while to be able to make any progress on it.

We're finished now, and what we did will eventually save the client literally months of time over the long run, but because we weren't constantly placating the people who wanted to see the job "getting done," we put ourselves at risk of losing the contract.

All's well that ends well, I guess. We finished the task, and now we're back to churning through the high visibility low-effort issues and everyone's happy again, but all of those small issues combined don't have as much impact as the big task we just finished.


One strategy is to consider establishing a success metric as the first step to every project. If you can't design a measurement for success/failure, maybe you shouldn't be doing that project.


This is the one point that I keep re-iterating to the teams I work with. If you can't define what a success is move on and do something else where you can. It's very easy to get caught up in interesting stuff 'just because' but if it does not contribute in a measurable way then it's just another distraction that you should avoid.


Managing a client relationship is very different than managing employees. For managing clients I like over-communicating status while hiding my internal processes as much as possible to allow for a little bit of bullshiting when needed.


This is correct, from my understanding cultivated sternness happens not by being that way by default but by being so lenient at several different moments in your past that you were strictly taken advantage of until you could accept it no longer and you had to be strict or mean.

Then the first time you decide to do so all every one ever sees is "Oh this guy is really harsh, what a jerk".

Such is life. I'd LOVE for pointers on this.


I would imagine some flexible middle ground? Like a number of hours you strictly have to be in the office per week, but outside general availability time (10-14) they can choose when they come and leave as long as they fill their quota.


I meant the sterness vs niceness balance as a life thing.


Are you sure the working relationship with the people "this" has backfired with wouldn't be strained anyway, even without the loose rules?

I'm fully aware there are people who are "smart" but don't "get things done". However (though I am lacking any rigorous data to back this up) my suspicion is that people in this category who are prone towards taking advantage of employers are going to do so no matter what and being lax about strict attendance rules won't have a substantial impact on it.

IOW, just because they are (forced to be) present from 9am-5pm or whatever the defined working hours are doesn't mean they won't spend most of that time fucking off on reddit on their personal cellphone or whatever and they would have been problem employees whether or not the rules were loose -- if anything I suspect having loose rules makes it easier to identify when someone is not pulling their weight because there's a lot of ways to appear really busy to others while doing nothing when you're actually physically present.


And whats the end of the day metric to watch? Whether work is getting completed on time. If results are slipping or not up to the standards you are set, then there is a problem. If there is not, and communication is not suffering, then there is no problem, except the possibility that they may be bored or unmotivated and have the possibility of leaving.


There's a balance, and where that balance falls depends on how responsible and aware your team is. If you have a team that fully understands the business and product implications of what they're doing, then they can have a lot more free reign. If you have a team that just wants to write code and is allergic to thinking about anything that isn't code, you'll need to provide a lot more direction and guidance.

But there are very few scenarios where "you're five minutes late" is a sane thing for a manager to complain about. If you have someone with a consistent pattern of slacking off, that's one thing; if you have someone who is showing up five minutes late, but is otherwise a good employee, then just back off.

Or, at the very least approach them from a perspective of "is anything going on that I could help with?". As in, is there a way work could be more flexible to make things easier for them?


In what way does it backfire and can you specifically focus on that?


Even assuming you weren't effective - why would anyone care? At all?

Unless you are heading to a meeting instantly or opening the store or whatever, why does 5 minutes matter? Why does 10 minutes matter? Even 10 minutes every single working day shaved off would be <= 2% time lost. It really is negligible.

You're not going to suddenly turn around your productivity by adding a few minutes to your work day. Most of us spend more than that making coffee.


I can absolutely see this at an investment bank, or at a job where physical presence is mandatory (such as a security guard, a teacher, or a bank teller). In a creative job like software, it's absurd. Especially when so many places say, "Come when you want".


A major reason for a lack of WFH is due to a manager's inability to manage WFH - these are people that have only been taught how to keep people on task, and have to physically view your body in order to know what you are thinking and doing.

Many of us are well acquainted with the indirect communication from ticket systems, email, and other sources of social noise. We're used to managers who can take a collection of tickets and email, and deduce what their reports are doing. But many people are unable to do this, or untrained.

And since they are taught to be suspicious that you're stealing from the company (as all mediocre managers are) they mistrust the tickets, email, and other documentation you create.


This isn't even WFH, the person just wanted to drop their son and come to office around 5 minutes late. If you can't handle 5 minutes of delay in some one coming to office, I would deduce you must be super bad in building long lasting relationships with people. Who takes some one to task on coming a few minutes late?

This lies at the heart of the problems plaguing our Industry. The people doing the direction and management are nothing more than glorified email routers. Often who got lucky, and got promoted and now simply try to maintain their positions through command and control.


This stuff is chronic in service, many production, and similar, mostly hourly, jobs.

They really don't do relationships with people. They just want the cogs to mesh, the stuff to get done, etc...


This assumes that the managers know the details of the employee's jobs too. This gets less true when you become a general manager. But there's a big difference between "I'm managing your time" and "I'm managing your result" which the General Manager is on the hook for.


If you don't know the details of your employees jobs, you know their skillset and their ability to deliver results even if you don't know the techniques they use. If you're even slightly clever about communication styles it can work fine, although it does mean that motivation must be treated as a thing that should rarely waver. The more mature and skilled the person is and the more trust you have the less likely it is to cause issues.


Then why bother with an office at all? We have discussions here about remote work and private offices disrupting team communication, but if your team isn't all in the office at the same time I don't see how that is any better.


I like coming in the office to be honest. I prefer face to face communication and also usually am much more productive at work than at home. I think it's just easier to get into the mood when I'm at my desk at work.

Also, even though not everyone comes in at the same time usually there are "core hours" where everyone is expected to be in the office. At my last job this was from 10-3. I don't think it's too unreasonable for a team to be able to find some time when everyone can be in the office, especially when it's only a few hours long.

Of course, this could all be simulated as well if people had work environments. Still, I find face to face interaction much better than trying to communicate online, even with video chat. Maybe it's just about finding the right software to help, but I find being able to talk at the white board invaluable.


> Also, even though not everyone comes in at the same time usually there are "core hours" where everyone is expected to be in the office. At my last job this was from 10-3. I don't think it's too unreasonable for a team to be able to find some time when everyone can be in the office, especially when it's only a few hours long.

I don't think it's unreasonable, either. In fact, I think it's necessary to run a successful business with more than one person. However, it's not "absurd" to have some definition of late or to expect some consistency in when particular people arrive. That said, the original described case is overly and unnecessarily rigid.


Physical presence is still valuable. But strict times for creative jobs are less so.


There's a lot of space between "Don't be 5 mins late" and anarchy. My firm is "10-5 is encouraged, but there's some flexibility, and be available early morning or late night to accommodate customers and employees in other locations."


"Come when you want" sounds pretty close to anarchy to me.


You're assuming that people prioritize anything above work. I work at a "come when you want" company and I always aim to have at least four hours of overlap with my team, even though we have a seven hour time difference.


I think you mean "prioritize everything". I am not making that assumption. I am doubting the general ability of teams to self-organize as you describe, even though some teams can do it.

Teams certainly need the flexibility to adjust their organization in order to best accomplish their goals. Most of the problems with large corporate bureaucracy come because someone up the chain wants to impose control by dictating how every group organizes.

However, at some level there needs to be a team of people working together to accomplish goals, and that team needs a program to get with. Now, if all that is meant by "come when you want" is that each team is free to determine what their own program is, then I misunderstood the point being made and my original comment on it does not apply. There does need to be some sort of accountability, though, or the team dynamic collapses. In the context of a company, this has to be integrated with whatever policies the company as a whole has.


In my experience, teams will figure their programs out very quickly by themselves, so this hasn't been as big a problem in practice for me as one would think.


I'm pretty sure that would result in people coming sooner and leaving later, because they dont want to be seen as "that guy that abuses the system"

Same issue with unlimited vacation time.


As a contrarian view, I kinda like the strict schedule. Lets face it, you're going to have to suffer thru primate dominance rituals. This particular dominance ritual is well understood and easily worked around and isn't all that painful and usually isn't very punishing. What I'm getting at is the alternatives for the boss to throw some weight around and show who's boss are generally worse than a mere schedule.

"Oh, so that's your game. Well, I know it, can play it, can play it well. Bring it on."

Of all the situations to invoke the famous quote "Thank you Sir may I have another" I feel the best with a simple schedule.


Calling an Industrial Age invention a primate dominance ritual is insane.


I don't think that's the parents meaning.

There always have been and will be dominance rituals. Some would have been physical fights, but in modern office culture punching subordinates is seen as unacceptable - but some people still need some dominance rituals - and picking a fight over "do as I tell you and turn up on time, thus demonstrating I am the dominant one" is pretty tame stuff compared to a silver back ripping your ear off.


Making the argument that those two behaviors, management insisting on punctuality and violent bodily mutilation, are commensurable is the exact kind of insane thinking that I am criticizing.


It's the motivation that is the same. If you haven't seen it in action you're either very lucky, or not very observant.


Yes, but going back to the parent's point, while you may think it's instinctive to have a dominance trait, the "come on time" rule is only there probably because the manager's superordinate instilled it in him. I guarantee you we are not going back to our primate roots when we wake up and get to office, and OP might be thinking this in too much of a literal sense.


No. It's not the same motivation. Human hierarchical social behavior is not the same as other primates. It's much more complicated and in most human situations social status is based on a constellation of intangibles rather than who can literally rip the other's face off.


> "Come when you want".

Except for anyone who does daily standups first thing in the morning.


We do that. And attending via Skype is perfectly OK.


By left, I assume you mean left the job completely?

As interesting as a story this is, is it really the only reason you chose to leave? Did you enjoy the work and did you try and negotiate at all? I don't mean to criticize your prioritization but the decision seems a little impulsive given how you described it. As you mentioned you gave your priorities a lot of thought, but what about the decision itself?


I worked at a small startup like this once. The boss/founder came from a non-software background, so he was used to expecting everyone in the office by 8 am. The way I explained it to him was "You pay me to think about the software, and solve the problems. I do this not only in the office, I do this in the shower, I do this on the way home, I do this on the way to work. Now, is it more important for me to be thinking about the performance issues we are having while I am drinking my coffee and walking to work, or do you want me to be preoccupied and stressing about being 5 minutes late so you do not yell at me?"

That made him think for a bit.


I work at what the owners call a "15-year old startup" and they're very strict about being on time for the office hours. And the reasons you cite (in the shower, while commuting) are among the reasons they pay us salary. We're expected to work a small amount in the evenings and weekends as well as our 40 hours during the week. Our management uses the excuse "Well, it's the tech industry, we all work extra."


Left unchecked employers will use all kinds of BS to extract more hours out of their employees.

Being expected to 'work a small amount in the evenings and weekends' is ridiculous if you're not being compensated for that.


Hm. That's the difference between salaried and hourly.


This is major bullshit. "We all work extra" can be translated to "we're all shitty at managing our time, and so you must be too"


Wow that is somewhat surprising. I work at hedge fund, what one might consider a fairly stogy industry, and nobody cares when I come in to work, which is 9 or 10 usually.


What time do you usually leave? In my experience people will come in at 9 or 10, but then work until 8 or 9 pm.


8pm would be a late night for me, I try to leave at 6pm but sometimes a bit later.


Do you really want to work for someone who thinks getting to the office 5 minutes earlier is more important than your child?


There are many jobs (though largely not office jobs) where you HAVE to be on time, where not being on time seriously throws a lot of scheduled things out of whack. It is not unreasonable at all in these professions to expect someone to always be on time, and get rid of them and find someone more responsible if they cannot be. One good example would be all of the elementary school teachers I've ever known; they NEED to be at work at their start time because that's when they get a roomful of children handed over to them. Being habitually tardy or unreliable in any way is completely unacceptable.

The friction here is probably from someone used to working in one of the job fields like this coming into an office environment where your hours aren't as relevant as the quality and volume of your work.

I will say though, I was a lead developer at my last job and I had some issues with an employee (with two young kids) not putting in forty hours a week, and he wasn't otherwise making up for it either. He'd be the last one in and the first one out, and it was problematic because he was supposedly the senior developer on the team but he was not meriting his higher salary. In the end I suppose you could say the real problem was with his output, not his hours, but they did seem like interrelated issues.


I would argue in this case that people simply need to plan a bit more around the inherent frailty of humans.

You can have supply teachers on call. Or you can pay them a bit extra to arrive early and mark work in that time. (e.g. make the actual working day 5-6 hours; other hours used for marking, planning, etc). There are other solutions.

One that sticks out in my mind is that when I used to work retail, our hourly pay stopped when the store closed. Obviously you don't and can't leave then. The last customer is slow, you might need to lock up, etc.

In most cases, all you need is for management to actually think about these issues and to not allow the quest for margins to result in abusive practices.

When you're a contractor then yes, you are The One, you have chosen and need to be reliable. When you are part of a massive organization with profit in the billions (e.g. a supermarket), it really is a deliberate choice they are making which results in stress being loaded on you.


Did he do architecture? Design? Mentoring? Its not all about the hours. A manager, for instance, was probably paid higher than anyone in the group and didn't do any code.


It's not that they think work is more important than your private life. They want you to think that work is more important. This peculiar brand of totalitarianism is popular in startup-land, hence the beer outings every damn Friday.


Does he know that's why I'm coming in 5 minutes late? Maybe he just thinks I'm a slacker who doesn't want to get out of the bed in the morning. I think I'd rather try and explain to him the situation I'm in before walking out. He's probably doing it out of ignorance, not out of malign. You can talk to him about it and explain your side and maybe understand his.

Right now you're making the same kind of judgements of the boss as he is making of you.


It's a pithy story, I wouldn't take it 100% literally.


I find this kind of attitude so dismaying - I am an employer, and I find myself in the inverse situation - practically physically dragging staff away from their desks to ensure they spend time with their families, and live their lives - work is work, not life.


Mad props to you!

Your ex boss is an idiot, if he thought that putting you on the spot over 5 minutes was the right thing to do in that situation.

It's your boss that should review his priorities. Does he want clockwatchers or productive and happy employees?


What a douchey boss.


He was young (as was I), and trying hard to be a good boss. Married but no children, short on philosophy and long on business school theory.


I admire your empathy and that you evidently examined the situation versus reacted. Props to you.


Ditto. Empathy is important...I imagine that boss, if he's relatively young, has to deal with the pressure of seeming like an effective boss, and that includes setting some hard lines...because let's face it, the boss and employee can see eye-to-eye, but that understanding doesn't always communicate across all the other employees, leaving some resentful. It's not dysfunction, necessarily, it's just the nature and friction of having an understanding and an implicit agreement. And so having a hard-no-compromise rule is sometimes easier. And younger bosses do worry about not wanting to seem like a slacker millennial (to their bosses)


Age is not an excuse for being ineffective at your job.


Sure it is! Otherwise how do any young people ever get started?


You're conflating age with level of experience.


I immediately judged your boss as a crappy person, which might or might not be true. May be the work environment made him like that. I can't say. But my first reaction was intense dislike for him.


Oh man. I love reading stories, knowing I will retell it many times. Cheers!


Been there done that. They only grow up once.


I'd have just got up 5 minutes earlier each morning.


Why not just leave 5 minutes earlier?

> Next morning I got to work (5 minutes late)

You showed him!

edit: No, absolutely. Leaving 5 minutes earlier is _not_ an option. How dare he.


He was dropping his son off at school. There's a limit to how early you can do that. Leaving home 5 minutes early won't help if the "issue" is the commute between school and work.


One of the things I always feel when I read something like this is that I am running out of time. I'm 29, so this is a comparison that's easy to make. And because I feel like maybe you guys will have the same reaction I wanted to show you this:

http://www.businessinsider.com/people-who-became-successful-...

There may be a better version of this article out there, but the essence is that it's not too late to start to be great at something. So don't let the stress of a successful 30 year old get you wound up.


Heck, I've changed careers, and been great at each of them, three times.

I'm looking to do it again too, but not for a while. I've got some unfinished business with this one.

A mentor of mine is late in life now. We've had a 20 year dialog on this. Never, ever too late.


our culture is so tone deaf to aging, you turn 30 and think life is behind you, old man before death's door ..

(anyone know the W.Blake drawing?)

in another decade 19yr olds will be drafting up long blog posts about recipes for success, how they made it, legacy concerns et al.

its like the old man's domain got poached, and now old people have nothing to say they are so far out there .. :]


Couldn't agree more.


"1) Never put your family, friends, or significant other low on your priority list."

I would have worded this as:

"Always put your family, friends, and significant other at the top on your priority list."

Or, at the very least, "above work".


    > "Always put your family, friends, and significant other
    > at the top on your priority list." Or, at the very
    > least, "above work".
This is a sure-fire way to get stuck in a little town with a dead-end job and the same kids you went to high-school with.

Some people are important people to prioritize in your life, but just because they happen to be a friend, related, or you're dating them is not a reason to put them above your other priorities.

Answering "Where am I going?" and "Who am I going there with?" in the wrong order is a mistake.


> When in doubt, kiss the boy/girl

I got slapped in the face doing that in middle school.


In either case you have removed ambiguity, which is cause of suffering.


True, I guess I learned first hand "fail fast".


You learned first "hand."


These days you'd just be suspended and accused of sexual harassment.

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/11/living/6-year-old-suspende...


The first thing I thought when I read this one, "Someone is going to rip sama apart on Twitter for his binary mindset."


There's always an idiot or twenty five thousand that completely fail to see the point in their rush to find something to be pissed off about.

It's really the loss of none but their own, and it's just too bad that they consistently fail to see it.


Serious question, not meaning to be a smartass or offend: why don't more people try the line "Can I kiss you?"


They don't want to come across as a creep.


The only people who will find that creepy are the people who will slap you if you try it without consent.


That's just not true. I've seen women online, women I know irl, who have said things along the lines of, "If you see a woman alone in a coffee shop, don't talk to her." Meanwhile, the same girls will complain about how men never talk to them. I see this more and more often within the latest wave of feminism.

I see women on Twitter complaining about "creeps" all the time even when they aren't doing anything I'd consider creepy.


HN isn't really the place to get into a long conversation on this, but your comment supports even more the idea that the easiest way to kiss someone is to simply ask for consent before you do. Some guys have this idea that "Can I kiss you" will complicate things or kill the moment, but I've seen no evidence that that's true. It's four words, and saves you from the problems that come up if you kiss her and she wasn't comfortable with it.


Better than not doing it and forever wondering "what if".


Better for the kisser, perhaps, but presumably not the kissee.


I guess Sama covered that one too from the "don't regret" ;)


ah, but it was worth it :)


Not really, it was just a face kiss and she slapped me pretty hard :(


You still had the right idea in middle school. Slaps in the face stop hurting sooner than regrets do.


Those of you on HN that are past the 30+ mark. What would you add to this list?


Having a child relativizes everything else and makes life so much easier because you don't need to figure out the meaning of your life anymore and you don't even need to be successful, neither personally nor professionally. This does not mean you won't be or you can't be, it just does not matter that much anymore. And this is friggin' liberating.


Father of two here.

It's true that having a child forces any responsible adult into revisiting their priorities, and some things that seemed important before parenthood suddenly aren't. I don't think it eliminates a desire to be successful: I think that it changes the parameters by which you determine success.

And having a child throw up/mess on your nice clothes and shower the inside of your nice car with food and toys tends to make you settle for less in those departments, I admit.

Prior to kids, I considered success to be pulling down a six-figure salary, having a nice big house and my own office at a high-profile, successful company. Now? Success is having a quiet office (size unimportant but preferably my own), enjoyable work and time to spend it with my kids before they are old enough to leave home.

It is worth it, and anybody without kids who says otherwise knows not of which they speak. Parenthood is the difference between knowing the path and walking the path. If you're not a parent, you've just read the brochure.


Father of four here.

> It is worth it, and anybody without kids who says otherwise knows not of which they speak.

Marriage and parenthood have both transformed my life in really amazing ways. Having a family relying on me has made me a better, happier person, and it's brought me a stronger sense of purpose. I had kids early, and my friends thought I was crazy, and I used to try to change their minds: you've no idea what you're missing, I told them! You've got to try it!

I still think parenthood is life-changingly amazing, but as I've watched more of my contemporaries get married have kids... a lot of them are pleased as punch, but at least a few don't seem to be. I've begun to temper my advocacy of getting married and having kids to people who aren't sure if it's for them. Maybe they're not sure for a reason. People who've never been parents can't know how great it might be without trying it, but I've learned that I can't extrapolate perfectly from my experience, either.


As another example along your axis of revisited priorities, everyone wants healthy kids. No kids are always healthy. Some immensely less so than others of course, etc etc. Success is the kids are healthy today.

Can deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune against yourself as an adult by time/getting used to it, and just becoming old school tough. Which don't work for parenting a sick kid.

I think that is a good example of re prioritization.


And you can easily become a parent without even reading the brochure. When the child is born you are not granted with any more wisdom that you had, it is the same you, only with a child in hands. How do you deal with it is another question.


> It is worth it, and anybody without kids who says otherwise knows not of which they speak.

That's some gross generalization. Any childless bachelor could know what the "path" is like by staying over with a friend that has a child and helping out for some time.

On the other hand, parents that walk the path and later find out they're not cut out for it, have to suffer quietly, and can't voice their true opinions, because it's taboo; because no one can dare fathom someone might not like kids, and so many get pressured into having them without having what it takes.


"That's some gross generalization. Any childless bachelor could know what the "path" is like by staying over with a friend that has a child and helping out for some time."

Uh, no.

Having children isn't like having a dog or being a part-time nanny or live-in tutor. It is a multi-decade commitment to raising another human being from infancy to adulthood with all of the frustrations and joys -- yes, joys -- that come along with it.

"On the other hand, parents that walk the path and later find out they're not cut out for it, have to suffer quietly, and can't voice their true opinions, because it's taboo..."

Who are these parents, quietly suffering? I've seen a lot of crappy parents, who complain about their kids. I've seen a lot of deadbeat parents, who up and abandon their kids. And I've seen a ton of childless adults playing backseat parent.

If you've got some studies and numbers to back up this apparent crisis of parenting victims, please share.


The internet is full of forums for parents to discuss regretting having kids. Do your own research.

Also I didn't say (live-in tutor) == (being a parent). I said it's a way one can know what the path is like. Just like you can tell what the ocean is like by watching a movie of the ocean.


Do your own research.

The onus is not on me. I have done my research: I am a parent, and that's the position I'm promoting.

If you can't defend your own position, don't expect somebody else to.


So you doubt there are parents that regret having kids? You can prove yourself wrong in 10 seconds of googling. I won't help those who don't want to see the truth for themselves.


[Citation Needed]

Don't come to a gunfight and expect somebody else to loan you ammo. If you can't be bothered to even dredge up some links, don't bother trying to debate with the adults.


> Any childless bachelor could know what the "path" is like by staying over with a friend that has a child and helping out for some time.

I'm childless and I don't really agree with your point. Staying with a friend that has a child and helping out isn't the same as having a child. You are able to (and will) leave at some point.

A parent has to deal with the, in my opinion, heavy knowledge that this human being's continued existence and future is mostly in their hands. That small and large decisions will now have small and large consequences for not just themselves but for their child/ren. It changes your perspective on just about everything because of this and most people can't fathom that change (is the argument.)


> Staying with a friend that has a child and helping out isn't the same as having a child. You are able to (and will) leave at some point.

Ain't that true. Where it hits you as a parent is when you leave the hospital and then realize that there's no one to give you a spell, check your mistakes, process the return. I can imagine how grandparents must enjoy children, free of the ultimate responsibility.


Really interesting point. I listened to 'Q on CBC' where they recently featured a guest where she talked about how the world is pitted parents vs. child-free couples.

I think the "us against them" mentality is where the child-free peeps are seen as narcissistic individuals who don't take on this important responsibility. Her argument was that it's kinda of a false dichotomy, and there are plenty of ways for child-free couples to contribute to society while parents by definition, have to have priorities of their children taking place over society at large.

Not to mention it is facetious to say that parents are selfless in the first place as there are many selfish reasons to have children.

However, I'd love to hear more about people who decided not to have children and whether they felt like they have contributed to society in some other way, whether by their works, their association with their associates or associates' childrens.


My partner and I (heterosexual relationship) have both independently decided to not have children. Personally, I was raised at first with an abysmal parent, and then by a slightly-better-but-still-not-good parent. Never had money, homeless, abusive, etc.

I don't want to have kids not because they left a bad taste in my mouth (I still love them: they were young, made a mistake, but still tried), but because I never got to experience all the things I wanted to as a child. So my life as a 20/30 something is dedicated to experiencing the world. Finding joy in others, in travels, in food, and in contribution.

That said, if children were ever to be an option, it must be adoption. It is so incredibly selfish to say that the (non-existent) child you might produce with a partner is more deserving of safety, freedom, and a fulfilling life, than an already living person. Granted, adoption is full of its own political and socioeconomic issues.


Children are actually a great way to experience what you missed in childhood.


Perhaps you are right, but I also want to experience what my parents never did.


I decided not to have kids because my take on the near-term likely future isn't entirely optimistic, and I don't want to risk being right.

Regardless, I have a serious driving interest in making that future better. I have no idea if it's as much motivation as a parent has, but it's still a very big motivator.


the real beauty when you realize it, is your kid could be the one to change that pessimistic future. the responsibility is on you to instill the values and train them up to be your idealized future. because who else will do it??


> Any childless bachelor could know what the "path" is like by staying over with a friend that has a child and helping out for some time.

This is a important point which i struggled as well. As a teenager, i had my lived closely with two of my cousins ( from when they were newborn to primary school). Then as an adult with a another cousins children. But, when my daughter was born, i was totally surprised at the transformation i had undergone. I believe nothing can prepare you for having a child. I discussed this my wife and cousins as well and they too agree. There is something special about the parental feelings which needs you to be a parent.

> because no one can dare fathom someone might not like kids

Everyone can agree that raising children is not a bed of roses. There are lots of struggles, sacrifices and challenges. And more importantly its a long term commitment. Some people willingly make sacrifices and do micro management or spend a lot of time on parenting. Some are easy on parenting part and some offload the whole thing to nanny or grandparents. All of them like the good parts of being a parent but would like to trim down on the less favourable aspects. So its not about "not liking the kids" but finding a right balance in parenting in what you could do.

Having said that, I believe that having a child should not be an impulsive act but rather a conscious decision by both partners. If your partner or the circumstances are unfavourable then better not let another individual also struggle through it. But, still the whole feeling is so wonderful that its better to work towards a direction to setup the things for being a parent and enjoy through it.


I have an amazing father and grandfathers, all of whom I am close with. I've dreamed of being a father for many years (26M) and think I'll make a great one someday based on the examples I was fortunate enough to have.

But I don't like the thought that as soon as you have a child, you instantly have to be defined by that. Is reproduction really the meaning to life? (Biologists say absolutely). And saying you don't have to be successful anymore is very strange to me. Why wound't you need to be successful professionally to provide or personally to be happy? Don't you want your child to be successful, not rich but personally successful however they grow to define it? and shouldn't you show that to them by example?


Not reproduction: parenthood. Never mind how the kid got there; they are soon more important than everything you naïvely thought mattered.

Not so much defined by that. Instead, motivated by entirely new impulses. Its not that you change your mind about success. Your mind changes, and that isn't a bad thing.


If there is one thing that rammed that home it was sitting next to an incubator watching O2 levels and heartbeat of an early born infant. Re-alignment of priorities would be a very mild way to describe the feeling.


I agree. My son spent his first week in NICU, and 6 years later had a brain aneurism, and another brain surgery at 11 years. He is fine now. Work problems are pretty insignificant in comparison.


    > Your mind changes
Definitely!

    > and that isn't a bad thing
Not yet entirely convinced on that front.


> Your mind changes

I'm very suspicious about that. Every new experience has the chance of changing the way you think, it's natural. But for something to have that much of an impact it has to involve a lot of brain chemistry. And I don't trust in being intoxicated by hormones, I'd rather use other, safer drugs for this.


> But I don't like the thought that as soon as you have a child, you instantly have to be defined by that.

I'm glad you brought this up. There's nothing that's forced upon you, you are not defined by this. It just happens so that most people change their priorities voluntarily and happily when they have a child.

I personally continue pursuing professional success, of course. The difference is that if I become unsuccessful for any reason then the world won't collapse. So it just becomes much less important.


Yeah, it wasn't transformative like a bolt of lightning. And I didn't instantly become one of those people who freaks out about all the parenting advice, things that might choke a baby, statistically insignificant ways of dying. I was easy-going before, still am.

You may lose finite things like time, but not your identity. Parenthood only uncovers more of it.


Father of two here. I don't think the point is that you can't/won't want to succeed, it's more that the result of your success is to further the success of your kids. And that doesn't just mean "provide for your family" in the old fashioned "dinner on the table" kind of way, it has more to do with being happy with yourself, and your kids pick up on that. If you are successful, in however you define it, your family is as well. And for me, more and more as my kids grow up and become themselves, seeing them succeed (and periodically fail) feels like real success to me, more so than any pat on the back I'd get from someone else.


Until it happens to you, it's impossible to appreciate how sudden, profound and unexpected this change is (for must people). It's not a thing you plan or attempt. It's hard wired into your genes. Baby arrives. New behaviors, feelings, and priorities ensue. Whatever you were rushing around trying to do before is now less important. Your primary objective is to make sure that life over there in the crib is protected and provided for.


It changes most of your life in a very profound way. The people you always called "mom" and "dad" become "grandma" and "grandpa". You begin to think of your friends not just in terms of hanging out, but in terms of how they influence your child, or how their influence on you indirectly influences your child. You begin to look at the physical world with a different eye -- partly toward safety, partly just pure wonder. It completely transforms your perspective.


Yes, the last thing I would have expected was re-evaluating my own friendships for that influence on influence. Not long after becoming a father I terminated a number of friendships quite abruptly. All of a sudden what I had previously thought of as 'fun guys' seemed like a toxic influence on me.

The other aspect of parenthood is it brings your life design into sharp focus. Proximity to bars and restaurants and hip furnishings suddenly take a very distant back seat to access to quality neighbourhoods, schools and places to spend time with your kids. Old friends snigger that you don't go out anymore and figure your life must be so boring - sometimes they act sympathetically when you spend another Friday night in. They don't realise Friday nights in with a young family are great fun.


Here's a beautiful quote that expresses this profound change, and the sense that its consequences are to be accepted rather than resisted:

"Let's say gravity suddenly shifted a little making everyone a little bit lighter. It would likely make the news circuit for a while and make movers and other professional lifters particularly happy.

But after the scientists had explained again and again why it happened and all the potential story lines had been exhausted by newspapers and television pundits, religious zealots and idle conversationalists (“How about that gravity?”), we would accept it, perhaps with a individual joy all our own.

Which is to say, even though a slight shift in gravity on Earth literally changes everything on our home planet, after awhile we’d adjust. Occasionally we might think back to the days before gravity changed with wonder and even nostalgia, but we’d know that everything being lighter is just better on one of those annoyingly and truistically difficult-to-communicate levels and continue with the practice of everyday life, with appropriate changes to this new state of lightness.

Parenting for me is something like this."

*

This is by LA writer and critic Andrew Berardini, seen in http://www.broodwork.com/index.php?/projects/andrew-berardin....


Makes sense. thank you for your reply.


What I found is that I'm the same person, but having children changed my perspective. I'm more conscious of how I spend my time so I hopefully waste less and still have time for both my family and myself.


It changes you but it is very far from defining you. There is just a lot of joy from an unexpected place in your life all of a sudden. Just doing simple things like feed you kid some honey or biking around with them strapped to into a child seat of your bike suddenly becomes really enjoyable. But also when you go and do something that you love doing you want to share it, I brought my one and few month year old to Yosemite this winter and she was running around near Camp 4 while I bouldered. Just hours of wonder on her face it is pretty special.

Then again there are some mental case parents, who lose all social connections, gain 100lb and can never be seen again by their friends. Just don't be that. I have former friends like that, it is some kind of North American phenomenon. For me it feel so nuts I really don't get how people become that.


Well said. A part of you now wants to devote resources to someone else's success. Do you invest in your own future, or the wider possibilities with a whole new human? Once you have a child, it isn't even a struggle to balance those - she will hungrily take whatever you offer, and (hopefully) you'll enjoy it. The final big step in finding your place in the universe (spoiler: not the center).


it just does not matter that much anymore.

I don't want to slam your well put, positive point, but this was not true for me at least. Getting married and having kids has motivated me to work hard and aim high - I could have (and did) sat around on my ass playing video games for the rest of my life. Different strokes for different folks, but I'm a far more driven person after gaining responsibilities than before.


I think you misinterpreted OP's comment. He meant that having a child completely neutralizes the petty stress of the daily grind because you have something far more important.


For me, having kids amplified the daily grind. I hated leaving in the morning before they got up, and returning after they were in bed. Luckily this is a profession where at least some aspects of the grind are optional, and now I work remotely full-time.


I can't tell if this makes me excited for parenthood or terrified of the demise it will bring to my own life.


Your life will have a demise regardless.


There are those in the world working on fixing that. Personally I'm hopeful that they will be successful eventually; the question is just how soon.


I think he meant "life is suffering."


If anything, I felt more pressure after kids to be successful. I had to prove to them that their father was not a mediocre person. I also need to show by example - that I did not want them to be mediocre and that they should strive to be the best at what they do.


Cool thing is, they take their metric for success from you.

But you sound like you're measuring success by your role in the workplace. I'll bet they care a lot more about your role as a father.


Yes. And for me, to be successful is to be happy with what I do for a living, and to have the freedom to pursue my dreams. Selfishly, I rather be a mediocre father and successful/happy with my career/lifelong work vs a great father and a mediocre career. We all pick our own paths. No regrets so far.


Philosophy is cheaper and a more interesting kind of fun.


Your twenties are the age of proving yourself. But this is a self-defeating goal: a person worthy of the respect and success you yearn for doesn't need them as badly as you do.

Your thirties expand and narrow your world: expansion into parenting (for many) and to richer relationships, if you can survive them, with spouses. But now you know your limits, and the sky is no longer it. There's a contraction of options, but the few options you have grow deeper.

By forty you know you have nothing to prove or, contrariwise, you've proven just how limited you are. You've made your bed and you're lying in it. For many this is a crisis and they struggle to break free, but there's no escaping it: you're older. You feel your own age in your mind and body (knees? back? eyes?) truly for the first time. But once you get over the shock, you realize that you're still young enough. You also realize, if you've stayed at the hard work of marriage and parenting and building skills and opportunities for a career, that you've got a lot to be confident about. You're humbler, but more powerful and capable, than ever.

I haven't reached 50 yet so I have to stop there.


You should replace "Your" by "My".


The original article doesn't. Neither do most of the comments.


34yo here.

Experience something horrible.

I grew up in a ridiculously perfect fantasyland. My parents, who have an ideal marriage, told me I was the best at everything, encouraged every dream I had, paid for college and insulated me from all of life's difficulties re: money, stress, etc.

To make matters worse, I excelled right along with the praise -- made good grades, got into a top-10 college, started a company after college which was lifestyle-profitable for 7 years. (It could have been a major score if I'd executed better, but that's beside the point.)

When my company started to decline post-2008, I had to go get a job. I excelled at it, but got crossways with my boss for entirely personal reasons and was fired.

This back-to-back double-whammy was by far the worst experience of my life. I'd never experienced failure or rejection and my psyche/ego simply didn't know how to handle it. I sunk into a depression for 3 years. It's not hyperbole to say I almost didn't survive it.

But I'm on the other side of it now. The darkness is receding. I know this because I know the double-whammy was entirely necessary for me. The spoiled brat is gone. I empathize with others. I care about the journey people have taken to the point where I meet them. None of that mattered before. It was all me, me, me, the worldbeater.

Yeah I'm in my mid 30s now and the past 5 years were tough. But I'm glad I've already spanned the chasm now than in my mid-50s. Now I'm better prepared for things to come.

One slightly separate piece: I used to have massive entrepreneurial angst. I was a person who looked at those who have "made" it and got angry. Angry at lack of co-founders. Angry that my school's alumni network doesn't have the best SV connections. Angry at perceived ageism in tech circles... But now I know that all advantages others might have on you -- better schooling, younger, lucky career breaks, etc -- can be trumped by one thing: traction. It doesn't matter if you're white, black, purple, one-armed, blind, gay or republican -- If you have something worth investing in, you can find investors. Period.


> My parents, who have an ideal marriage, told me I was the best at everything, encouraged every dream I had, paid for college and insulated me from all of life's difficulties re: money, stress, etc.

Related to this: if you have kids yourself, or you're in a position of providing guidance for kids, keep providing a safe and consistent environment for them yourself, but teach them that the world is not fair, that adults are not always right and not always consistent, that they themselves are not always the smartest person in the room (nor should they always want to be), and that other people care about themselves much more than them.

Or, in short, don't just teach them that the world is awesome (though it can be); teach them how to get what they want out of a world that's not out to hand it to them.


This is a place where sports are great for kids. They will almost certainly lose. They'll meet kids that are better at the sport. They'll get hammered, bruised, scraped. They'll have to get back up and keep trying. They'll want to get back up and keep trying. To quote Snoop Dog, "Are you hurt or are you injured?!"

Sports, IMO, are one of the best ways that families that have everything "put together" can show their kids some adversity. And for kids, everything is local. So while losing a basketball game, isn't like a dad losing a job, for the kid it can still seem like a really big deal.


Competition in general is good for this, whether in sports, academics, science fairs, or just in general trying to build the best $something; whatever you're interested in. If you're consistently the top of one of those, then find a broader one where you're not. (And if you really are at the top of the world's highest competitions, congrats, you really are that good, but that's much less common than being the top student in a class of 30 kids; the latter is awesome and praiseworthy but should be kept in perspective.)

In that regard, it's all about calibration. If you're the smartest person in the room, good for you, but you should also find another room where there's more challenge to be had and more fun to be had.

Note that all levels of accomplishment are something to celebrate; I'm not suggesting the kind of "nothing is ever good enough" reaction that leads to kids doing things they don't actually have an interest in doing. However, when you find an area of interest, go deep into it and find creative challenges that push you to go even further.

Also, those kinds of competitions, whether sports or academic, aren't necessarily a sufficient view into human nature. For example, most competitions like that have a clear set of rules and take a dim view of cheaters, while many other aspects of life reward creatively "cheating" to get ahead over always doing things the long way like everyone else is. Consider how people talk about finding a creative solution that takes less work: "I could have written a complete implementation of $foo myself, but I cheated by hacking $bar into mostly doing it for me, and it worked well enough to get the job done." See also Larry Wall's praise of "laziness, impatience, and hubris".

A consistent process and consistent rules produces consistent results; that's good for not doing worse than normal, but it also means you'll never find a way to do better than normal.

Find ways to reward creative solutions over unthinking rule-following. Play games that rely on creative deception and hidden information. In a competition with rules, follow the rules; in life, have a set of principles you live by, but don't automatically respect every arbitrary rule, especially the implicit unwritten ones that nobody questions. Just make sure you understand the implications and consequences, because it might be there for a reason rather than solely for the sake of arbitrariness.


I agree experiencing something horrible teaches you things you wouldn't learn otherwise, but certainly I wouldn't intentionally choose to do something because it will be a horrible experience. To me, it would be better to be prepared to cope with something horrible or learn how to avoid it altogether. I've struggled with being a young father, student, husband to a wife that struggles with depression, and being sole-provider living pay check to pay check for years. I was never prepared for all the stress and difficulties that comes along with all that. I've now learned to choose my commitments very carefully. When I was younger I also lived in a perfect fantasyland, but since I've become an adult I've dealt with stresses and depression for so long I relate more to advice along the lines of "take it easy", "relax", and "find enjoyable things in life". I wish earlier in life I would have been taught more about coping with difficulties and less about the long checklist of things I have to accomplish to be successful or perfect in life. I've learned to get rid of the guilt that comes along with the "being perfect" mentality. I've been told throughout my entire childhood that hardship will make me stronger. While it may be true in some cases, follow that advice to a T and you'll end up weaker. Sometimes choosing the easier path is better for your health.


> Experience something horrible.

There is absolutely something transformative about being purified by fire (trials), which sorts helps sort out your priorities.


I had a set of major setbacks when I was 21. Job setbacks. Relationship setbacks. Housing setbacks. Everything went wrong, and at the time my parents were travelling remotely and for the first time I had to sort out my problems myself.

I look back with amazement on that period which defined who I am more than any other period. What I learnt always that I could get back on my feet, I could turn things around, and when I did, I no longer took things for granted, whether that was jobs, friendships, relationships and more.

I almost pity anyone who hasn't gone through a rough period as they haven't been able to test out who they really are.


This will sound narcisstic, and calculating, but here goes; Make friends with people younger than you.

I never felt comfortable with people from my generation. I seemed to become friends with people older than myself. I didn't do it on a conscious level, but it happened. I would buy things like 8 person rafts, double kayaks, huge tents. Everything I planned for had another close person/girlfriend in mind.

They all passed away.

As to money, save that money you made in your 20-30's. For some reason(I think testosterone) most of the people I knew in life made the big money in their 20-30's. These were people without fancy degrees--four year degree at best.

Oh yea, you can be the best at a lot of things, and feel like you are on top of the world. You can feel like you can accomplish anything. All that can change overnight with mental illness. I had a slight nervous breakdown(not psychotic), and I went from being one of the better students in graduate school--to someone who couldn't drive to the school a week later. Life has been a struggle since. I tried therapy and it just didn't help. Prescription drugs did alleviate some of the missery, but I am now addicted to two drugs going on twenty years. There was no history of mental illness in my family. I didn't even feel stressed when I brokedown. (I did have a fear of death. I had typical worries of a twenty something year old.) I just blew a gasket. Yes, after dealing with psychiatrists who really didn't have any answers--that's what I feel what happened. I know it's rare. None of my classmates from high school/college experienced anything close to my symptomology. It did get better with time though. I usually don't tell anyone because I know it's rare. I do have a innate understanding of homelessness because of my condition though, and cringe when I hear, "You can do anything! It just takes proper planning!". Sometimes your brain just goes haywire.


And older.

I have a wide array of friends, and what I've found is some of them become mentors, and we become mentors and it can all add up to this nice resonance where we give and receive energy, perspective, help, opportunity.


On health:

Even though you're young, try and still go to the doctor every once in a while for checkups. But even if you don't like going to doctors, don't just ignore pain in your body. For example, ignoring a sore wrist or back, or ignoring digestive and sleep issues can easily lead to life-long disabilities.

It's also common for people to experience mental health issues (in a way that starts to impact relationships and work performance) for the first time in their early 30s...

It's a fairly common event, but it's generally really scary for everyone involved. Getting stable with medication and then also working with a trained therapist can help you pull through this.


Learn when to back out - could be from an argument, job, partnership (personal or professional). This is very important for your sanity


As someone close to me once said, "Choose the hill you want to die on carefully"


Work towards being satisfied, rather than being happy.

Happiness is fleeting; satisfaction is lasting. We all need to play and just be happy - I'm not arguing against that. But longer term, I've often felt we're better off figuring out what makes us satisfied at the end of each day. When I'm on my deathbed, I want to be satisfied with the way I spent my life. I know that my "deathbed" could come today, or it could come 50+ years from now. That's a wild range.


If you are depressed, do everything in your power to find the reason and address it, or you will have wasted your entire youth.


53 year old here. When you are making really long term plans, bear in mind that your fitness will decline. Optimise out things that will make your back ache.


Related to #2 and #3: don't fall into the trap of believing that it's supposed to take a long time to do something important. Work expands to fill the time alotted. If you get it in your head that the Great Work you're trying to do will take you some number of years, it will, or it will take even longer, if you finish at all.

Commit to yourself now that you won't let work expand to fill the time alotted. Don't accept that from yourself, and don't accept that from others. (Within reason; everything can't get done overnight, but a "multi-year research project" often doesn't really need many person-years worth of effort, it just turns out that way because people let it.)


Straining on the toilet too hard can be bad for your heart. Seriously.


This advice is clearly not for everyone but it has been working for me for many years:

Do your best not to off yourself until your parents are dead. Avoid romantic relationships and avoid inflicting your accursed genes on another generation. Do not make promises that you cannot keep.

Seek out and savor close friends. Know yourself and treat yourself with kindness. Reflect on your astonishing fortune to have been born in a time and place where someone like you has a shot at enjoying life.

Some people will attempt to persuade you that living in agony is virtuous. It is not. Tell them white lies.


1) Spend more time with your family before it's too late. Call your mother, father and siblings more often.

2) Save, save and save more. Spend your money on things that matter (such as visiting your family more). I worry about the future of labor in the US.


I can't emphasize number 2 enough. But I'll try:

SAVE, SAVE, SAVE, SAVE, SAVE. Seriously, if you don't want to have to be working for the rest of your life it's time to start saving now. Maximize earnings. Maximize savings. I just realized at 31 how much savings opportunity I wasted over the past 7 years... Actually, I don't even want to calculate it up. I'm focused on the future.

Save!

And sleep more.


- being smart and being wise aren't the same thing

- not everything in the world can be expressed as an equation

- conserve your body as if your life depends on it, it does

- there is a story behind everybody


Ask her out ...


Start saving and investing as early as you can. If you haven't, do it on a war footing. Get rid of debt.

The more you invest, the more you are likely to benefit over time.

In fact you may be surprised more than anything else out there. In many cases, even more than careers, job, raises and promotions- investments play a very critical role in how well you are going to do financially.


    > Start saving and investing as early as you can. If you
    > haven't, do it on a war footing. Get rid of debt.
Yeah, maybe. My net positive worth went red about age 18, and stayed that way (sometimes drastically) until I was about 30, when I finally clawed my way back out of the debt hole.

The decisions I made, the things I learned, the rash choices I made, decisions to quit jobs and do something exciting when I couldn't afford it, randomly moving to another country without any kind of security net, dumb startups that I didn't have the savings to bootstrap properly, holidays I took that I couldn't afford, needing to execute on things because without it I wouldn't eat, starting (and then finishing) an expensive degree I couldn't afford, the partying I did...

I wouldn't change it for a thing. If I die tomorrow, I will have lived.

Those experiences are what have put me in the very solid earning position I'm in now. I save nearly 70% of what I earn, I've been out of debt and had solid savings for a while, and I have a great standard of living.

Leaving it all to Lady Luck and hoping that it works out OK in the end is obviously a risky strategy, but the idea that your 20s should be about scrimping and saving rather than getting out there and screwing stuff up is equally risky.


Think how much more you could have done if you didn't have to pay all that debt interest.


The only way I could have done more would have been a second body and a time machine.


As a friend of mine formulated, 'be friendly, calm, confident, and firm'.


Meta-lesson: if you want to learn more wisdom, experiences are key. Get a diversity of experiences, do things that are outside your comfort zone and you will collect wisdom. Don't be scared to take detours in life. Travel, socialise with unusual people, try your hand at everything. Never stop learning.

1. Good friends are more valuable than cool friends. Learn who to trust and who's a flake. Remain friends with the flakes, but don't rely on them.

2. Don't stay where you're unhappy. Give it some time, then move on. Try something else.

3. Focus, focus, focus when you're doing one thing. Other times, branch out.

4. When you're young you are time rich and cash poor; when you're old you are cash rich and time poor. Don't put things off until you're older - travelling when retired will not inform your life.

5. The happiest people have good work-life balance. This may not go down well on HN, but having seen people around the world living different lives, this is a general observation. A relative was a counsellor, and he told me "No-one [at the end of their life] ever wishes they'd spent more time at the office." Perhaps working long hours for a while with a view to achieving this balance later is OK.

6. Forget the money. https://vimeo.com/63961985

7. Take holidays. Regularly. Force yourself to.

8. The secret to stamina is sleep.

9. Mix with people of all demographics, or you will end up with a narrow view of life.

10. If you've thought about doing something for a long time, you should probably do it.

11. If you're having a conversation with someone about breaking up with your partner, then it is time to break up, or at least, take a break and see how it feels - don't waste your time and your partner's time procrastinating.

12. In relationships, you should always make extra effort, even when you've already made extra effort. Relationships take a lot of work, long-term. Surprise your partner.

13. Really listen to people. It's such a hard skill to develop. Start today.

14. Realise how lucky you are to wake up with hot water, heating, and nice food. Many people in the world don't have these luxuries. Living on no money when travelling is a good way to learn this.

15. Travel. But don't party the whole time. Often travelling is best done mid-late 20s when you've done the partying thing. Stay with local people. Don't plan too much. Get into the countryside.

16. If you're writing an email and it feels uncomfortable, you should probably not send it. Or at least wait for the morning :-).

17. Sometimes, deciding to do nothing is a decision in itself. Solutions can present themselves.

18. Have a huge party every birthday. Don't fight ageing, embrace it and celebrate being alive :-).

19. Don't criticise things without providing an alternative. If you feel angry in an argument, you're probably wrong.

20. Don't do a PhD straight after you graduate.

21. When in love in a relationship, throw yourself into it. Don't have regrets. Always tell people how you feel. It may be a car-crash at the time, but you'll learn from it and feel better about it your whole life.

22. At the end of your life, they're going to put you in a box in a hole in the ground, and that's it. Every moment of life is precious. When you're on your deathbed, even the idea of one more normal day at work will look unimaginably brilliant. Develop that feeling now.

23. Meditate. Unlearn what you have learned.

24. Whenever you think something nice about a person, say it. There's enough negativity in the world. Love your friends and tell them you love them.

25. Read books. Lots and lots of books. Read "East of Eden" by Steinbeck. You'll see why.

26. In love, in work, in life, never ever settle. It is better to be alone than to marry a person you don't truly love.

27. When giving people advice, they usually only want you to confirm their decision. Listen and talk things over. And even if you do give them advice, they'll just ignore and do what they want in the long-term.

28. Old(er) people are a great source of wisdom, but you won't take their advice seriously until you've experienced it yourself.


I wrote a blog post about this very recently: http://stevenmays.org/turning-30/


your 20's are when you discover your strengths ... your 30's are when you come to terms with your weaknesses ...


Don't try to get all of your fulfillment from work. You will have a bad time.

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