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What would you like to do?
I was drawn to programming, science, technology and science fiction
ever since I was a little kid. I can't say it's because I wanted to
make the world a better place. Not really. I was simply drawn to it
because I was drawn to it. Writing programs was fun. Figuring out how
nature works was fascinating. Science fiction felt like a grand
adventure.
Then I started a software company and poured every ounce of energy
into it. It failed. That hurt, but that part is ok. I made a lot of
mistakes and learned from them. This experience made me much, much
better. I'm satisfied with that.
What's not ok is *how* things ended. Many of the investors turned out
to be bloodthirsty vultures who tore the carcass to pieces. Had we
IPO'ed, these same people would have stood there with giant smiles
telling everyone how they'd always known we were special and how
they'd supported us all along.
I lost many friends. Throughout the whole thing I was lucky to meet
many brilliant, creative, talented people. Together, we worked *so*
hard. Now we don't talk.
I spent a lot of time thinking about how I contributed to these failed
relationships. I learned a lot from that too. It wasn't my finest
hour, but I can sleep at night fine. So I eventually decided it's
mostly nobody's fault. This is just the reality of what happens to
people when extreme stress ends in failure.
Then I worked for a tech giant, and then for a high-growth unicorn. It
shocked me how dilbertesque they both were. Full of politicians, and
burnt out engineers in golden handcuffs who can't wait to get out, and
meaningless business speak, and checked out employees who pretend
they're "excited" about everything all the time. The young, wide-eyed
engineers seem hopelessly naive to me now.
So the worst case scenario is that you get eaten by vultures and lose
friends. And the best case scenario is that you're in a soulless
machine that turns everyone into an automaton. I know that's not the
whole picture. It's not even most of the picture. But that's the part
I can't unsee.
For a long time I couldn't focus on any remotely intellectual pursuit.
I even thought I permanently damaged my brain. But eventually I
started exercising, went on anti-depressants, and started therapy.
Then I got a job that has nothing to do with technology. Slowly my
happiness returned, and with it my ability to focus. I do a lot of
sports now and hang out with my non-techy friends and my wife. I cook
a lot. I got into knot theory. I find it fascinating and can do it for
hours. I'm surprisingly not bad at it. So I know I still have my
faculties.
But I still can't program, can't write, can't think of new products,
can't read science fiction. I'm mostly happy, but there is always a
hint of dissatisfaction underneath. I miss the creative, optimistic
person I once was. I want to see past the cynicism. I want to write
programs and make things. I want to work with a ragtag team again to
bring something to life that didn't exist before. I want to learn how
to see past the bullshit and be creative again. But I can't get myself
to do it. I hear the call and I know there's still a spark. But when I
take even the smallest step everything turns bleak and mundane. It's
like the magic has been bled out of me and I don't know how to summon
it back.
Has anyone been through this who managed to recover their optimism and
creative spirit? Please help me. What can I do?
@Hjertesvikt

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@Hjertesvikt Hjertesvikt commented May 4, 2020

Hi,
Perhaps you need to find a new domain where you could apply your skills.
Why not inventing computer models of diseases for the drug research.
The FDA has already accepted once such a model in place for an expensive clinical trial.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modelling_biological_systems
Best,
Jean-Pierre

@derryl

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@derryl derryl commented May 4, 2020

Sounds like you've experienced the very common affliction of "burnout".

There's a lot of bullshit in the business world, and technology is no different (despite the rosy expectations we might initially have). It's very easy to over-extend yourself – perhaps by committing yourself deeply to a project / startup, etc. and then being emotionally injured when it goes off the rails. Perhaps simply by imagining that "tech" will somehow be different from "those other types of jobs" that are subject to pathetic dysfunction and lack of meaning ahem

Always maintain your health, sleep, diet, and personal relationships. You are a human being. Those things will serve you well regardless of how "work" is going.

And if you find that a different line of work makes you happier -- listen to that! There is no pre-defined plan that says you must be or do XYZ. Take solace in the fact that: If you say goodbye to tech forever, it won't care, or miss you.

Keep tying knots. Keep calling your friends. You'll find something that ignites your passion again.

I wish you the best,
Derryl C.

@jrd281

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@jrd281 jrd281 commented May 4, 2020

Sounds like you enjoyed the art of software more than the business of software. Nothing wrong with that. I've found that I can apply my ability to "research, learn, assimilate, do" to other domains in my life as you've noted with Knot Theory. As @Hjertesvikt said, why don't you find a newer field in a different domain that is computer-adjacent. That way you don't throw away your old skillsets, but you get the feeling of fresh and creative problem solving.

@chakani

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@chakani chakani commented May 4, 2020

What gets me going is programming a game (old-fashioned, not graphics-based). I'm free to do as I please, and I can learn new technology. Ex: Blockus, Cryptoquote, Sudoku.

The World needs a server-based four-player Scrabble game without all the advertising.

@samim23

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@samim23 samim23 commented May 4, 2020

Related Talk: "Augmentation, Amputation, Dehumanisation - Towards Life Centered Design": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dZG_Kp1xIc

@jupp0r

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@jupp0r jupp0r commented May 4, 2020

Think of an interesting non-software related domain that you enjoy and then use software to solve a problem in it. 10 years ago I scraped a run logger app backend for my running statistics and did data analysis on my GPS tracks that helped my training (things that Strava is doing today).

Don't make it into a product or publish it or do anything else that creates pressure on you. Just do it to solve your own problems. Be ok with the vast majority of those projects never being completed. The deal is to learn something and enjoy the pure act of creating something.

@mach327

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@mach327 mach327 commented May 4, 2020

The key question looking forward is: What is it you want to do, right now?

Find the things you actually enjoy right now, like sports and cooking and knot theory, and unashamedly indulge in them.

Later, you may realize there's a tool you could make for one of those interests - and you'll know when the time is right to start again, because it won't feel bad.

You've burnt out and you'll heal, but it will take time. Give yourself permission to take that time instead of wishing to hurry along.

@PabloOyarzo

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@PabloOyarzo PabloOyarzo commented May 4, 2020

I can only wish I will go through half of those experiences so to know myself. Ironically I'm working towards that, that's the idea. You should focus your energy and thinking ability on making something outside technology, or software. You can be a manager or a hardware developer, or an industrial designer or none of that. I believe that the driving force or the horsepower behind a smart programmer can be applied to anything if there's the will and focus of the person.

@androng

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@androng androng commented May 4, 2020

You sound like you have money so I recommend you choosing the work instead of the work choosing you. For now. Maybe it will turn into something nice like a $10k/month income.

I also recommend watching this anime about engineering. It might inspire you: https://www.crunchyroll.com/en-gb/dr-stone
And I recommend watching this inspiring show about engineering: https://www.disneyplus.com/series/the-imagineering-story/6ryoXv1e1rWW

@faissaloo

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@faissaloo faissaloo commented May 4, 2020

Technology and industry are different things that happen to crossover, while it's important not to idolise technology it doesn't sound like the problem in this case. It sounds like your problem is industry and the abhorrent practices of people who are businessmen and scam artists first and foremost.

@skeet-skeet

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@skeet-skeet skeet-skeet commented May 4, 2020

I'm coming from the opposite direction: guitar player, philosophy buff, tired of esoterics, trying harder skillsets. Maybe you need to take up painting? shrug

@dmead

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@dmead dmead commented May 4, 2020

You're burnt. I've been there.

There's no easy answer to getting over this. It just takes time. Keep yourself physically healthy to avoid a depression or clouded thinking (sleep, exercise, eat right). Then start a process to find out what you want to do with your life.

What that process is depends on you. There's not really enough to go on from this post.

@adamdoescode

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@adamdoescode adamdoescode commented May 4, 2020

What gets me going is programming a game (old-fashioned, not graphics-based). I'm free to do as I please, and I can learn new technology. Ex: Blockus, Cryptoquote, Sudoku.

The World needs a server-based four-player Scrabble game without all the advertising.
@chakani

This strikes me as a remarkably deep comment. No internet scrabble game will Save The World or Stop Global Warming. But maybe it will give some friends a chance to play a happy game together during a pandemic lockdown. I bet the agar.io creator never saw just how valuable their game would be for doing just that.

To generalise; your actions don't need to save the world, but they can make little differences where they matter to us small people.

@dneu

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@dneu dneu commented May 4, 2020

It sounds like you're expecting work to fulfill your creative, intellectual, interpersonal, financial and egoic demands.

You'll need to "diversify your income streams," to spin my advice into the blandest business metaphor possible. Invest in relationships. Invest in hobbies. Invest time in exploring your own personal growth across the board. Take a less demanding job, or even a sabbatical if possible -- not for a few weeks, or even a few months, but even a few years if you can, and explore things you like.

Try to run a marathon. Take an online course in something that sounds vaguely interesting but will have no possible benefit to your professional life. Do improv comedy. Spend time with your parents, or other living family members. Help other people. Learn an instrument. Get therapy. Find ways to turn off your phone and sit with books for hours. Have days where you just feel bored, and find your creative spark beyond the boredom.

You might reject my advice because career success is very important to you, however, know that you can't have it all, and if you choose to pay the cost of success be aware of the bargain you're making -- you're satisfying some needs at the expense of others.

@xorgy

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@xorgy xorgy commented May 4, 2020

Take the money and take care of yourself. If you don't like what you've been doing, do something else.
If it makes you feel better to let people know you think they're being naive, go ahead and do that.

Be as genuine as you can afford to be.

@SephReed

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@SephReed SephReed commented May 4, 2020

  • Find the artists and makers around you.
  • Work on projects with them.
  • Try to make things that make others smile.

Give it a go, I'm sure you'll see that community was what you were missing all along.

@ivarec

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@ivarec ivarec commented May 4, 2020

You seem to be putting the blame on your environment rather than your physical health. It affects your thinking and your mood. Eat well, sleep well, lower your caffeine intake and look for professional help if you want to accelerate things.

@stayukasabov

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@stayukasabov stayukasabov commented May 4, 2020

Finding your true self is hard. This is the price. You are one step closer to be reborn. Reinventing yourself is the only way forward. The past is useful tool for enlightenment, if one choses to see it that way. In the end of the day we are mortals, so by creating we give meaning to our journey. Your skill is searching meaningful way to reactivate itself. Don't hold back. Try new things for yourself. And share the result with others:)

@fxtentacle

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@fxtentacle fxtentacle commented May 4, 2020

I also wish I hadn't seen how the business world truly works. But when there's millions in monthly revenue (or losses) involved, it truly turns into a blood sport where everyone is pretending and true friends are rare. Alcohol can make people honest there. If someone is aggressive when drunk, you know that they are hiding something when sober.

I would also strongly advise you to be highly critical of advice given out freely on the internet. I'm aware of the irony ;) I have met multiple people (in the real world) who were running online courses that supposedly teach you how to build apps and pretty much all of them are exaggerating how well it works. They make their money from selling the course, not from making the apps. In general, free advice seems to be a new marketing tactic.

Be extremely diligent about getting enough sunlight and enough movement. Just walking around or sitting next to an open window is good enough. While this won't cure a depression, you will surely feel bad if you have a severe lack of Vitamin D, which sadly is quite common in western cultures.

Oh and what I do for fun is to make little video games to entertain me. I went to my first Game Jam many years ago. The idea is basically that you lock yourself in for a weekend and then try to build something entertaining while ignoring everything else. It seems pretty much everyone doesn't care about my games. Even true friends are usually unwilling to try them for more than a few minutes. But that's OK. I build these just for myself, like I used to when I was a kid.

And that brings me to what you called "magic". I believe what you seek is the awe and wonder that someone young and naive has when exploring the world. In my opinion, that awe comes from getting lost in irrelevant little details. This is a gross contrast to the business world, where it's always about changing the world, disrupting the market, and in general planning large grandiose strategies and thinking about the big picture. Maybe that helps with work, but it sure is a drain on my brain.

In my youth, every new GPU generation enabled breathtaking new rendering features. By now, I can hardly spot the difference between a 2018 and a 2020 GPU. Also, I used my last smartphone for 5 years until it broke, because the newer models didn't have anything new. Yes, the progress of technology has objectively slowed down.

But Lego bricks were fun back then, and they still are :) So you don't necessary need technological progress to be happy. What you need is the willingness to take the time to first get bored and then improvise something purely for your own entertainment. And then you focus on seemingly irrelevant details. I own the Hubolino marble kit that works with Lego Duplo. It's meant for kids, of course, but I find it a lot of fun to play with :)

And yes, knots are fascinating. Back when yo-yo tricks were still fashionable, I always liked the Paris tower knot best.

@markvdb

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@markvdb markvdb commented May 4, 2020

You can feel. Very good. You've found several activities to enjoy, some of them with friends. Great! You're on the right track!

There will be this moment someday, maybe soon, maybe later, that you'll feel this itch to start tinkering on something specific. You'll notice, be slightly surprised, remember you wrote this post, and smile.

@danielpyon

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@danielpyon danielpyon commented May 4, 2020

Similar thing happened to me last year, and what got me through was keeping my mind off of technology. I took walks, played sports, and talked with friends (things you mention were helpful) to not take tech too seriously.

I also recommend that you learn Buddhism or some other spiritual practice so that you can stay at peace even during hard times like this.

@nemild

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@nemild nemild commented May 4, 2020

That's great you've found some activities that help. Part of what you're dealing with is burnout and I wrote about this after going through it myself.

Try to reclaim autonomy and choice. Take regular breaks, try breathing exercises, meditate, get out of your chair. Get enough sleep. Foster hobbies other than programming. Limit social media. Eat well. Use caffeine carefully. Over the course of a typical year, don’t skimp on vacation.

Perhaps most important is getting back to a state of play. As Richard Feynman once said:

I used to play with [physics]. I used to do whatever I felt like doing - it didn't have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether it was interesting and amusing for me to play with … So I got this new attitude. Now that I am burned out … I'm going to play with physics, whenever I want to, without worrying about any importance whatsoever.

@dengsauve

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@dengsauve dengsauve commented May 4, 2020

I feel this. I got lucky enough to have a manager/boss who was willing to talk through this with me, get me on different projects. I still don't have the same view of the tech space I did a decade ago. You're not alone. There are days I miss driving a forklift around and being excited to get home to spend the precious free time I had programming, writing, creating.

All the best,
-Dennis

@mullikine

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@mullikine mullikine commented May 4, 2020

I have been there. Recovery took a lot of determination and investment into myself, while having fun on the side, but not making any money. I poured most of my energy into learning emacs. After a year I can say that I really mastered emacs while learning to blog and writing tonnes of notes. I learned to write code in a bunch of cool new languages. I got my mojo back. The best thing about emacs is it gives you a safe little bubble where you can learn at your own pace without anxiety - ignorance is bliss - now's the perfect opportunity, just saying.

@sandan

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@sandan sandan commented May 4, 2020

You can always apologize to those friends you lost. Nothing sucks more than letting good relationships die.

@jackbravo

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@jackbravo jackbravo commented May 4, 2020

Next time you come up with an interesting idea that seems to ignite your passion, try not to think on how to capitalize it to the maximum. Ignore venture capitals. Don't sell it. Reunite just people you know share your same values and who want to do it just for fun, not for profit. Sadly this may exclude a lot of people that may want or depend on the idea succeeding. But for a detox I think you would need that kind of rigidness.

Maybe read some of the signalvnoise folks :-p

@c9fe

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@c9fe c9fe commented May 4, 2020

I see. I'm so sorry for you this happened to you. It sounds really hard, and like you're really sad. You seem lost.

I don't know what you should do. It seems like you might work it out, you made it though all that awful, horrible experience.

It sounds like you're in a pretty bad place. Things might only get better.

Personally, for me, I don't believe the magic is ever fully bled out of me. Just that things happen, and it seemed to limit my freedom relative to before, but I knew I had to find a way to expand beyond it. I believe that's the point. Maybe we get the hard things, to learn to take the magic to a new level. And then, for a while, it's all good, then the next even harder thing comes along, so we need to level up the magic even more. It seems like life likes to keep pushing us higher. it's not easy, but maybe if I adjust my belief, it doesn't have to be so hard. Maybe I can make it easier, this growth process, if I believe I can.

That's something I'm going through right now.

This guy is helping me a lot: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC48MclMZIY_EaOQwatzCpvw

Peace, much love, namaste.

Edit: Also, just want to say, thank you for sharing this. It's really brave. I don't see a lot of real, against the dominant story, thinking, feeling and writing in tech. And also not a lot of people authentically sharing their vulnerability and hard times. Thank you, I'm really grateful that you shared this.

@victorevector

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@victorevector victorevector commented May 4, 2020

Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke

What you're feeling is natural, and there's no cure for natural. You're still moving, so to speak, so let things take their course. You'll be pleasantly surprised by where you end up. I was in a similar position years ago. The startup I poured my heart into floundered. I was burnt out and so I started to do things for myself. I travelled to Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Madagascar. I moved to the beach and spent my free time surfing. I met and made memories with my girlfriend. I officiated my cousin's wedding. I dabbled in tech here and there as a consultant or freelance engineer— to keep me connected to the "scene" but always at an arm's length and on my terms. And 2 years later... I'm back at the grind. I found a co-founder, a mission that gets me excited, funding, and an awesome team to execute!

It sounds like you're doing the same. You're doing shit that you care about and I have no doubt that one day you'll be back at it again!

You've got this! Enjoy the journey, man! Let it happen 🤙

@emilsedgh

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@emilsedgh emilsedgh commented May 4, 2020

May I suggest you to contribute to Desktop Linux. Projects like Gnome and KDE?

Most of the work happening on these projects is done by volunteers who simply enjoy it. There's no hidden agenda, politicians, and lost souls. On the contrary, they are highly humanized communities. Contributors appreciate the work of each other so much and are so supportive.

It may not be the most challenging task (although there's a fair bit of challenge) but maybe that's what you need right now. Not to feel any pressure but to just enjoy the work itself.

@alecmolloy

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@alecmolloy alecmolloy commented May 4, 2020

It sounds to me like your passions are in the right place! You want to make the world a better place, and with a natural adeptness for technology, the technology sector seemed like the right place. I think the technology sector is full of amazing, well-meaning people who want to make the world better by making great technologies. And then there is venture capitalism, and just plain old capitalism. Capitalism is a great system for driving innovation. It is also deeply inhumane. If you're looking for stories to guide you, yours sounds eerily similar to personal story told in Wendy Liu's "Abolish Silicon Valley".

@david-cako

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@david-cako david-cako commented May 4, 2020

I hear you. Be patient, and have faith that the experiences that you had are important pieces of the puzzle for you and others you worked with.

Truth and goodness are resilient, and humanity is only just learning how to operate at global scale.

@phoenixcatdog

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@phoenixcatdog phoenixcatdog commented May 4, 2020

Well, How are we going to help you if we don't know you?
You solicit advice and probably won't like it, but here it is:

We can only guess. Looking the big picture: the Vultures. They are investors so they put money down and wanted (some of) their money back as soon as they realized you were not going to give them profit. I can understand that.

You did not comply with the implicit deal(you consumed wealth instead of creating it), so they did not trust you anymore.

"Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured."
Mark Twain.

You know the expression look through rose-colored glasses when you are in love. Now your glasses are dark, almost black because you are hating, feeling guilty. So the first step is removing the emotional paint from the glasses and make them transparent, neutral.

My suggestion is for you to forgive them(really, completely in the way Jesus in Christianity says) and stop giving names to them and show respect and start put yourself in their shoes and understand them. This is not for the good of them, it is for your own good.

Forgive all the people that now you believe have hurt you, tell them if you can. Talk with them and tell them to give their own perspective and respect what they say. Listen and write it down. Do not argue whatever they say.

That is the first step. Being emotionally neutral about the past. Healing.

The second step is learning about business. How they work. Learn to create value, wealth to other people that is what business is all about.

You say: "Together, we worked so hard", like a good thing, a badge of honor, but if you made your people miserable working too much for too little, then it was a very bad thing on your part.

If you know how business and value work then you will be able to create the maximum amount of value, with the minimum possible amount of work. That should be your badge, not making people suffer with promises that never materialize(because you don't know how business work).

You focus too much in technology, about what is fun for you. I hear you talking: Me, me, me. Nobody cares about you. And this is a very good thing: People do not care if you spend half of your working hours making love to your wife if you provide them the value they need.

Start focusing on people's needs. Not yours.

@mikedilger

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@mikedilger mikedilger commented May 4, 2020

Our minds are trained by experience. You've had a series of experiences that have trained you to hate writing software. What you really hate, however, is related bad stuff like vulture investors and big company politics. Even if it's clear to you now that software development is not what was bad, that understanding won't fix the emotional training that happened while you were conflating the concepts.

The solution isn't fast or easy. It takes time. You have to dip your toes in and get rewarded for your efforts. Don't dive into any long-horizon work that only has rewards in the distant future. Do lots of tiny projects that give rewards now. That will build up your motivation, and once your motivation is high you can do larger projects.

And now that you've found balance in exercise, therapy, and non-tech things, maintain that balance. Get plenty of good sleep. I also highly recommend gardening, an activity that most humans were involved in for the last ten thousand years but now, rather suddenly, most humans don't garden. There's a reason old people garden: old people are wiser than younger people.

Personally I would not return to a frantic highly stressed highly leveraged startup type environment, ever. There's plenty of less destructive ways to develop software.

@dosire

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@dosire dosire commented May 4, 2020

People are commenting here because this gist is on the Hacker News homepage https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23072333 There are also comments there.

@srid

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@federicosan

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@federicosan federicosan commented May 5, 2020

You are afraid. Fear will pass and you will get back to what you like doing. For now, just take care of your physical health, and sleep a lot, meaning take naps too. Some people can handle stress better than others, and some people like me will handle stress so well that will ignore it altogether to the point where it was really a bad idea to handle it. It is wiser to stop stress before it gets to what happened to you. You will know when you are full again and will get back to what you like even without noticing. As a rat in a lab, you will return back to your natural behavior, this time with some knowledge about when to put the breaks on.

@franferri

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@franferri franferri commented May 5, 2020

Sounds like you've experienced the very common affliction of "burnout".

There's a lot of bullshit in the business world, and technology is no different (despite the rosy expectations we might initially have). It's very easy to over-extend yourself – perhaps by committing yourself deeply to a project / startup, etc. and then being emotionally injured when it goes off the rails. Perhaps simply by imagining that "tech" will somehow be different from "those other types of jobs" that are subject to pathetic dysfunction and lack of meaning ahem

Always maintain your health, sleep, diet, and personal relationships. You are a human being. Those things will serve you well regardless of how "work" is going.

And if you find that a different line of work makes you happier -- listen to that! There is no pre-defined plan that says you must be or do XYZ. Take solace in the fact that: If you say goodbye to tech forever, it won't care, or miss you.

Keep tying knots. Keep calling your friends. You'll find something that ignites your passion again.

I wish you the best,
Derryl C.

100% agree, also you may have burnout + some middle age crysis.
I felt so reflected in your words than I got scared.
I have purchased a 3d printer and learned modeling myself, it got old pretty fast, then I took over the spotmicroai community, is fun but still don't feel enthusiasm in anything.

@JonathanFillion

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@JonathanFillion JonathanFillion commented May 5, 2020

Try starting a project but don't care at all about it. Don't rush, do an hour per week.

@Mocarram

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@Mocarram Mocarram commented May 5, 2020

Personally for starters, I nurture multiple things so that I can always back my passion which is solely on technology. It's not wise to always pushing hard when you are hurt like you are. I would say, take a step back, hold onto something else for a moment (like you are doing), don't get worried about leaving the passion you once had. If you want to come back, you will always find a way, but pushing it hard will just make it worse.

If you see how WhatsApp founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum had to leave Facebook over the almost same kinda issues you have (The dark side of the business world), but they didn't fall into despair. Wait patiently, and you will be the phoenix if you want it so bad, otherwise, the whole other world is ahead of you.

I wish you the best of luck

@gtheys

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@gtheys gtheys commented May 5, 2020

Been there and went through it. In the end it's about putting on your big boy pants and be happy you can make a good earning to support your family. There are much worse jobs I could do to earn my money even if I have to deal with negative parts.

Also there is a reason to keep a work life balance. Outside of the tech world I have a small custom motorcycle shop. Where money is not my first consideration but having fun in a creative way is. No office politics because we stay small :)

@thomasbiddle

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@thomasbiddle thomasbiddle commented May 5, 2020

Continue your break and don't put pressure on yourself!

I have my own story, with a similar outcome of burn out and not wanting to touch the tech scene with a 10-mile pole. I bought an e-commerce business which has me 99% of my work time thinking about business, customers, logistics, etc - No development or anything of the sort.

I get to work for myself, I enjoy it, and I'm working towards a vision.

But best of all - it's now been about a year and a half, and I'm finding my passion is returning for personal tech projects. This is actually very recent, and I've spent the better part of the past week ignoring my daily responsibilities and building out things for pure fun :-)

It'll come back when it's ready to come back. Don't rush it. Enjoy some other things!

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@goindeep goindeep commented May 5, 2020

Here is the answer: Maidsafe, SAFE Network.
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23050160

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@duro duro commented May 5, 2020

These are two extremes of the spectrum IMO. You had a blast, failed, learned, and had to deal with the pain of shutting down a business. All highly emotionally charged things. Then went to the big boys and compared the experience to that highly emotionally charged time.

Find the middle ground. There are plenty of places, middle of the road companies (Series A & B sized) that still have the excitement, and can use all that experience you have. Are their salaries always as lucrative, not always (but you don't strike me as someone who cares about that to the exclusion of all else). Is their rad problems to solve, people to mentor who are eager for great leadership, culture that needs to be shaped, big bets to take (and maybe get rich on, and maybe more failure), and new friends to make along the way. Hell yea.

Find the grey.

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@triplefox triplefox commented May 5, 2020

Seconding those who say "don't try to save the world". Don't try to save it, don't try to conquer it. Those attitudes lead directly towards engaging with the market in a power struggle, and therefore towards all the toxic elements.

Instead, engage with technology artistically, and engage with business as a kind of maintenance habit - one of several parts of your household life. This can be difficult if you've started from the perspective of always destroying yourself to swing for home runs, but there are many examples of how it's done.

Regarding the artistic side, it helps to study all the arts, the old philosophers, and to re-engage yourself with the tech in terms of themes and principles without little to no regard for using or building "proper" tools - proper is the marketplace, and you want to steer away from that. Start from the very beginning, try to get a sense of yourself, and proceed on an exploration from there. Classroom work can help with this too - use online or night classes to give you a little punch in the shoulder to attempt new topics. You've already started down this path and now you just need to make it a recurring habit!

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@jenvandermeer jenvandermeer commented May 5, 2020

You were trapped in other people's games and expectations. The vultures and the mindless tech cultures are just two types of business culture. There are many other varieties of business, and organization. Time to explore other alternatives, or to follow different rules, or create your own.

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@osehgol osehgol commented May 5, 2020

well said, beautifully written. you will find that feeling and more success again

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@ghost ghost commented May 5, 2020

Read Tao Te Ching. Maybe it will help.

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@AODBA AODBA commented May 5, 2020

Don't we all want to spend our days doing meaningful things ?!! Is not always the case.
You are responsible for your happiness thru each action or path/decision you make everyday.
"I have some boots that hurt my feet, pff.. ill buy new ones and keep on with my happy life"

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@arunr arunr commented May 5, 2020

Exercising, sleeping and eating healthy are important to rejuvenate yourself. "But what after that?", you ask. One suggestion is to start or contribute to open source projects. If you're contributing, you can start small and make a difference to projects that are interesting to you. I found https://github.com/jorgeatorres/knot-that-easy to be an open source project on Knot Theory - maybe that's something of interest?

Make a choice - take a few small steps each day to get closer to what you'd like to accomplish - get small wins - then the flywheel will start and you'll get your old energy & optimism back...

Best of luck!

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@SoumenDass SoumenDass commented May 5, 2020

Create open source projects for ideas you like. You can choose the level of collaboration that is acceptable to you. If someone is being a jerk, you can engage them or try to understand them or try to bring them to your side or ignore them. Its your project. You'll have grateful people and you'll have the other kind. If someone disagrees with what you do, they are free to fork and create their own. The main thing to remember is that there is no obligation or deadlines so don't create these out of expectations of people that use your creations. Might as well make that a BOLD PROMINENT POINT on your readme.

You'll code purely for the joy of it and in the process might create something useful that is accessible to many. And if isn't useful to others, who cares - you coded just for the joy of it.

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@mundlapati mundlapati commented May 5, 2020

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-actualization can guide you;
And protect yourself from

  • Machiavellianism (manipulate/deceive others)
  • Psychopathy (lack of remorse/empathy)
  • Sadism (pleasure in suffering of others)
  • Narcissism (egotism/self-obsession)
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@wpgaurav wpgaurav commented May 5, 2020

It happens to everyone. Maybe because you are loosing confidence in yourselves, you should start writing books, diaries or articles. That's how I started https://gauravtiwari.org. I was down with expectations, bored with studies and had no good friends. My blog kept me feel a little when readers started pouring in. After a couple of years, it went to be come a professional homepage for me and nowadays I showcase my portfolios with it.

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@rangerscience rangerscience commented May 5, 2020

Yo! I'm with some people building a community that I think could really resonate with what you're looking for out of your future. It's sort of but not really an incubator of people, and one of our number (who themselves has a hell of a story) is explicitly looking to upend the VC model for basically all of those reasons. Another is the only liked advertiser on Reddit. I'm taking our toy sort-of-but-not-really chat bot and turning it human augmentation for domestic abuse clinicians. It's the first time in my career (~10yrs) that I've been excited about morning "standups".

DM me or somesuch :)

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@defusioner defusioner commented May 5, 2020

Read the first part, finished by "... and then I started sport". That was the thing! Stop antidepressants and just change the domain for a while, I think from the finance side you are good to relax for some time.

For the whole picture no-one could give you a better advice but yourself.

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@LiterallyTheGreatestDeveloper LiterallyTheGreatestDeveloper commented May 5, 2020

The friends you lost, where it was "mostly nobody's fault" - that part doesn't smell right to me. Call them up and take responsibility for the part that's your fault. (Unless they actively tried to screw you; then forget them.) Time has passed; it all should be easier. Or if it truly is nobody's fault, then it'll be even easier. At the very least, call them up and share that moment of "Jeez that was fucked up, huh?" It'll be good for both parties.

Other than that, you seem to be doing fine, and don't need our help. Don't try to "fix" what ain't broke. (Or you'll break it.) You discovered some stuff is not all it's cracked up to be, and withdrew from it, moved on. You haven't seen the whole world yet by any means; all places are not like those two places.

Everybody wishes they were young, creative, energetic and naive again. You want that time back. It never happens. You're always moving forward. Your old idea of yourself needs to die, and it will, over and over, like snakes shedding skins as they grow.

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@loveJesus loveJesus commented May 5, 2020

God is good, i became suicidal, depressed with schizoaffective bipolar disorder in 2003 among many other things. Recently, I had fun participating in the demoscene again in http://2020.revision-party.net after over 20 years (I had worked previously on https://youtu.be/kQYurvPA-qk ) . Though trying to present my thankfulness to Jesus was unpopular (He healed me to where i have been med free even of caffeine for over 5 years) and there were problems while showing the demos, i think demos are art, and am thankful to God to have participated. It was enjoyable to program in assembler again or learn to cross compile for a C64. I also really like one of the above comments about getting into meaningful projects for example finding cures to diseases.

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@patrickbucher patrickbucher commented May 5, 2020

I went through some of that, too. After an apprenticeship (four years) and working in two different software companies (three years), I just wanted to get away from IT. I started studying languages. There, I figured out that my acquired IT skills can help me a lot in other domains, too. That gave me a sense of security, because I knew, that I could do some work other people will take hours in just minutes. I got more interested in simple things (Unix environment) rather than the big nauseating blobs I had to work with before (Java environment). That's how I started enjoying working with computers again.

I still sometimes have the nauseating feeling of the old days when I have to work with unnecessary complicated and bloated software. Hearing some "Java Architects" talking about "good software" still gives me the creeps. Running a 50 minute frontend "build" (Angular) is still depressing. However, I know that there's a better part of the IT world, and I spend a lot of time building up knowledge about the good parts, so that I can reasonably argue with those "Java Architects" and demonstrate simpler ways.

But this is only the technical part. I think the social part is much more important. I recommend The Psychology of Computer Programming by Gerald M. Weinberg. Reading the first chapter was a revelation for me. This might help you understand your bad feelings about those times in IT better.

All the best!

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@aschrijver aschrijver commented May 5, 2020

I feel much affinity and similarity with your story.. the disillusionment, the burnout.

You have found your way upwards on a different, non-tech, path already which is the hardest part of the road to full recovery. I am sincerely happy for you.

If you also want to find your joy of programming and even practising some of your entrepreneurial skills again, I dearly advise you to dive - at your own leisure - into some of what the alternative web has to offer. The place where Small Tech is being developed, and alternative non-extractive business models are tested. Join the fediverse and interact with beautiful people on all kinds of open hardware and software projects.

Just start it as a hobby, and see what you'll find, and maybe - just like it did with me - you will get your spark back again. And if you do, come find me, I'm at @humanetech in there..

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@andersource andersource commented May 5, 2020

Adding my own two cents for what it's worth. I'm not in the industry for that long (10 years) and never started a company, but something in your writing resonated with me so I thought I'd share.

I became fascinated with programming around high school, first through the desire to create games, and then I generally fell in love with the art of programming. It was clear to me that I was going to work as a programmer and I imagined my days full of interesting problems and fun coding.

My first job was at a large corporation; at the beginning I was overjoyed for being allowed, required even, to code all day. Being junior, even trivial problems were challenging, and had engineering aspects that I didn't encounter before, so I was happy with the technical side of things. There were politics obviously, but I ignored them because I thought they were just power games people played and couldn't possibly affect the big picture. Because that wouldn't be right. Needless to say, I was very naive.

After a while, as I became more experienced, I started to have my own opinion of what's the ideal way to do things. I spent a lot of energy and (over)time trying to push those ideas, and encountered great resistance. For the life of me I couldn't understand why, and it bugged me. Why do I need to fight the corporation itself to improve it?
Slowly I became frustrated, first with the organization, then with people around me, then with the technical aspect. I was irritable most of the time, had bouts of anger, and a lot of the negative emotions spilled into my personal life. But I still worked a lot of overtime and put most of my energy into fighting those losing battles for the corporation, against the corporation. I knew it wasn't justified, but I couldn't imagine myself being on auto-mode, not caring enough to fight for the right thing; and I couldn't find a way to fight for the right thing without putting my soul in it, with severe personal consequences whenever I lost a battle. I couldn't think of working on stuff besides work, both because I spent too much energy at work, and because my images of code and creation were dominated by what I was doing at work, and they were rather negative.

I eventually quit (after 6 years), took a few weeks to recover, and stared working for a small startup. While I was hoping that things would be different because it's a small startup etc., I was burned enough by the previous experience that I didn't want to count on it. Reflecting on the past few years, I realized that a major part of my issue was that I conflated my work with my identity. I think there were many reasons for that: my own expectations (before even starting) that my work, being in the domain I'm most interested in, would naturally be in perfect alignment with what I want to do; general expectations set by society; and of course encouragement from the corporation, which doubtlessly benefited from this conflation (at least in terms of unpaid overtime). I therefore set a conscious resolution for my new workplace - to separate my work and personal life as much as I can. That meant, mainly, no overtime (unless really necessary, which thankfully was rare) and no excess energy trying to fight the ogranization for its own good. Fortunately this policy has made a huge difference for me: I still work at the same place (4 years) and don't feel burned out at all. My focus is on personal life - exercise, friends, side-projects. Sometimes work is interesting and sometimes it's not - when it is I take is as good luck. If I have ideas how to do things differently I propose them; sometimes they're accepted, which is nice, and sometimes not, which is fine.

Here's what I think about your situation - remember that I'm a stranger who doesn't know you, so this might just be a projection of my own opinions rather than an objective assessment.
Your experience sounds truly traumatizing. I would imagine that starting your own company makes it a thousand times harder not to conflate your identity with your work (in some sense they are indeed much more related), and your experience with investors was much worse than mere office politics. This trauma seems to contaminate everything related to what you were doing at the time, including the technical aspects. Additionally you seem to still have "business" expectations regarding tech whenever you try to return to it - you mention programming and coming up with products in the same sentence, and wanting to work with a team again. These are great things, but maybe they make it harder for you to separate the things you enjoy from the trauma? Apart from processing the experience (with therapy and time), maybe try to find joy again in programming / science without expecting it to become your main "thing". Maybe there was a game idea you wanted to try? Or some cool 3d algorithm-generated art? Or a field you wanted to get into?
Also I would hazard a guess that you're even a little angry at tech in general for getting you into all the trouble. If that's the case it's a good idea to work on that, not for the sake of returning to tech, but because harbouring resentment (at an abstract field with no agency of its own) is likely to cause you grief until you release it.

That's it! Sorry for being verbose. If this was helpful, good. If it was totally off - sorry ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Good luck! I hope you can find your optimism again!

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@charlieanna charlieanna commented May 5, 2020

I hate this programming world too. I am here only because I want to make a difference so I keep toiling on a project of mine where a student would be guided by an AI agent in learning things. This is what keeps me awake at night.

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@geedelur geedelur commented May 5, 2020

What about teaching? Give it a try, can be quite inspiring and rewarding in many dimensions!

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@corporatepiyush corporatepiyush commented May 5, 2020

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@camhart camhart commented May 5, 2020

Bootstrap on the side. I can't say it's not without misery, but after being a part of a moon shooting, koolaid drinking, VC loving, failed startup, it feels a lot more honest and good.

Indiehackers.com is great.

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@AdrienChauvet AdrienChauvet commented May 5, 2020

Spend some time in nature. It helps to heal.

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@nathanvogel nathanvogel commented May 5, 2020

You could maybe try more trivial programming topics, like creative coding or amateur game dev. It somewhat frees you from the change-the-world-expectations...

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@lupyuen lupyuen commented May 5, 2020

You have experienced a lot... Why not teach others what you have learnt? :-)

I have gone through much of what you described. Then I dropped everything to focus on teaching IoT. Now I'm much happier doing what I love.

BTW Your Gist should look nicer when you rename the filename as *.md :-)

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@jamiegdsn jamiegdsn commented May 5, 2020

I just want to say this was beautifully written and almost reads like a fiction piece (though I know it's not). Also there's something poetic about seeing the innermost thoughts of a dev shared in a gist. I feel like I've stumbled across something only meant for a select few to see.

I recently went through a passion slump, but regained it in the last few weeks after sinking my teeth into a (tech) side project in a niche domain but one that's close to my heart. Your experiences have served as a warning to me, a developer in his 20s, that burnout can/will happen, and that's ok.

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@jokull jokull commented May 5, 2020

Technology for its own sake is not fulfilling. You need to put it into a humanist context.

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@weisk weisk commented May 5, 2020

@charlieanna man hows that gonna work out? Do you think you will make a difference , doing something that you hate? It's sad that you feel like this. There surely are many other fields that you would hate less and can give you a sense of fulfillment...

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@akashgangil akashgangil commented May 5, 2020

Learning about areas other than programming/software helped me. Reading about global history, basic economics and shifting my mind away from the usual grind keeps me away from getting drained. I hope you find your mojo, it seems really hard to get out of this slump but keep faith and try new things. Good luck!

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@vassudanagunta vassudanagunta commented May 5, 2020

@mGBUfLn9, you point your finger in every directions but your own. There is one sentence where you pretend to do so, but you ever so quickly declare yourself not guilty.

"I lost many friends." That was entirely your choice. On a daily and hourly basis you chose striking it rich or satisfying your vainglory over people and relationships. You could have chosen to do this software as a side project, or via slow bootstrap, sans the shark investors. You didn't.

"But I can sleep at night fine. So I eventually decided it's mostly nobody's fault," then "hang out with my non-techy friends and my wife". Clearly you haven't put two and two together.

Let me guess: Your startup's business model was based on selling advertising, selling data on its users, and/or exploiting people in the "gig economy". Yet it's only your investors that you call "bloodthirsty vultures".

You blame everyone but yourself for becoming "soulless". Your very use of this word reveals a great lack of soul. You misuse it to describe working like a machine, an automaton. The nurse who is working like a machine to save lives at great risk to her own has the most wonderful, beautiful soul. What makes you soulless is that you're only thinking about yourself and "new products" (ways to make money) without any hint of a conscience troubled by the decisions made and actions taken in pursuit of those profits, and what that says about who you are. Or maybe the depression was a conscience trying hard to speak out, but it got snuffed by drugs rather than getting heard.

You can't "see past the cynicism" when you are the cynicism.

Spend less time figuring how much you can get and more time one what you can give. Ditch your transactional mindset. Give for giving's sake. Use your talents to make the world better, fuck the profits. Chose the more moral job over the more profitable one. The people you'll work with in those jobs will have lots of soul and it will rub off on you.


[I know this post will not be well received here on GitHub, the techie Facebook. It's like walking into a church in the middle of Sunday service and to rail against organized religion and the hypocrisy of the worshipers.]

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@dm17 dm17 commented May 5, 2020

You should consider that the valley is full of mentally ill liars. "It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

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@mraspberry mraspberry commented May 5, 2020

I think you’re asking the wrong question. The issue at hand is not what you do but why you do it. There are many careers available outside of tech if you just want to exercise creativity and problem solving, that’s comparatively easy. What’s not easy is figuring out why you get up in the morning. In the business world thanks to Stephen Covey there’s lots of talk about creating a mission statement. This seems obvious, but most people forget you can’t have a mission statement before you have a mission.

You should read Start With Why by Simon Sinek and Visioneering by Andy Stanley. Once you get to figuring out the “what” part of the equation I also recommend The Proximity Principle by Ken Coleman

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@gopalakrishnan-subramani gopalakrishnan-subramani commented May 5, 2020

Don't see piece of code as a bunch of money/business/mvp/ideas that related to solving a problem, don't relate a business idea around it, instead see the code as your way of explaining your thoughts while solving a problem. Be a trainer and mentor, teach people how to code, you have a lot of experience, you can teach them better.

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@rukshn rukshn commented May 5, 2020

I hope everything will turn out great for you.

For me when I graduated from medical collage I wanted to be a surgeon. I studied and studied for three years. Did the exam 2 times, and both times I failed.

I barely went out, spent time with my wife, or enjoyed life.

I burned out.

But then I fell sick. Sick like I have never been sick before. Then I realized life is short. And you need to spend your time with your loved ones.

Now I eat healthy food, exercise everyday or do a sport. I read a lot, I go out, I might not be a surgeon again but I'm happy with my life, my wife is happy.

I guess that's what matters.

Do I feel sad and remember the times I wanted to be a surgeon? Of course I do. But then I remember how my current life is much healthier than the life I lived.

Now I'm in to health informatics. My exam is in August. I'm studying I hope I will make it through. I program and make things for fun.

And my wife runs a small business and I'm managing her website helping her business along the way.

I guess my advice for you is we all feel invincible when we are young. But when we get sick of get diagnosed with a terminal illness you will realize that life is extremely short and what matters at the end is happiness. Not money, not fame not.

I hope you will find what you are looking for. I wish you all the very best.

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@Sandeep-Tech Sandeep-Tech commented May 5, 2020

Sounds like you enjoyed the art of software more than the business of software. Nothing wrong with that. I've found that I can apply my ability to "research, learn, assimilate, do" to other domains in my life as you've noted with Knot Theory. As @Hjertesvikt said, why don't you find a newer field in a different domain that is computer-adjacent. That way you don't throw away your old skillsets, but you get the feeling of fresh and creative problem solving.

can you suggest me any such field?
I am really going to same thing even though I am only about to finish college.

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@phoenixcatdog phoenixcatdog commented May 5, 2020

BTW, as lots of people have told you, programming is one of the most artificial things you could do.
If you do not make a routine of exercising outside you can spend all day indoors, which is bad for your health, and for the quality of your work.

Humans are complex creatures, our lymphatic system needs us to move or it will stop draining residues and make us to lack "energy". Our eyes need sunlight or we develop myopia, our balance system needs practice or it atrophies. We need to stand up and walk or our hormones will make us passive. Exercise develops the circulatory system that is specially needed by the brain, and so on...

So the combination of trying harder and bad health habits almost every time means you burn out. You try harder, you suffer more and procrastinate, generating less and less value or stopping completely.

As entrepreneur being able to handle yourself(and others) well is your responsibility.

I was raised in Spain. I like the protestant work ethic because I can follow it when I want,in order to be more productive, or I can follow a more Mediterranean approach when I need it, in order to recover and enjoy life.

In Spain or South America you are not "worth" the number of dollars you have in your bank account, in the same way that your dog does not care about this number.

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@massens massens commented May 5, 2020

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@mattgreen mattgreen commented May 5, 2020

I've been down a road like the one you're one. It's extraordinarily lonely. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. It was also necessary.

Technology is a very big world. I did a poor job of prioritizing my own needs and wants, staying too long at old jobs, and tolerating toxic elements in my former workplaces. This caused me to burnout. It was only in taking time away from work and everything that I came to see what had happened to me.

Burnout is not weakness. Burnout is the fire that cleanses the awful people, bad habits and attitudes from your life. Frankly, it sucks. The only thing that sucks more is not listening to it and suffering further. The only out is through it.

You're not ready to return to tech. Don't rush it. However long you think it'll take, it'll probably take longer. Don't be afraid to wade in slowly, especially if you have cash reserves. The more you rest and stay away from it, the better your recovery. All you have to do now is to rest and take care of yourself. Rest assured, nothing is happening in tech. It's the same bullshit: new JavaScript framework of questionable quality, people obsessing over what to name git branches, and little to no discussion of the meta-issues that have huge impacts on programming.

Whenever you return, I'd suggest orienting your career toward something new, even if it isn't a sure thing. In 2012 I chose compilers as an area to specialize in and have been rewarded with a lot of new things to learn, and interesting people to meet.

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@bwanaaa bwanaaa commented May 5, 2020

Go into teaching. Your experience is priceless. Your message needs to be felt by young people whom you are teaching basic skills so they too can think intelligently about their future.

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@ekmungai ekmungai commented May 5, 2020

My story is similar but kind of coming from the opposite direction. I've always wanted to be an engineer ever since I was a kid. That being said, my initial career was in finance and accounting.

I quickly realized that the business world doesn't offer me the chance to create anything new. So I started to dabble in programming. I wrote my first ecommerce site while still in college and was astounded at how much I enjoyed it. I continued writing programs on the side while I worked as an accountant.

Still trying to make something out of my finance training, I thickheadedly enrolled in the CFA Progam. I had managed to pass level I and II and was preparing for the last level when the sky fell on my head.

I'd just gotten married and wife lived in Germany so I applied for a visa so that I could join her. Typically the visa application process takes 6 - 9 months so I was confident that I would be sitting the final exam in Frankfürt. Only my visa took 15 months to process. The CFA program demands passport identification to even enter the venue. I had studied for 9 months for the last level, and I wasn't even going to be allowed to attempt it. I called the institute to appeal to them about my situation, so they could at least postpone my exam registration fee to the next year if all else failed. They said no.

I was so depressed that even when the visa was issued the only thing I was looking forward to coming to Europe was seeing my wife. I said to myself, SCREW IT! I'm not going to struggle to chase a career that I dont even like in the first place. Instead of applying for accounting/finance/banking jobs, I started looking for programming ones, using my hobby projects as proof of my capabilities.

Within three weeks, speaking barely passable German, I got a job as a python developer. I havent looked back since. My point here is, just because you started out in a particular career doesn't mean you're tied to it. Find something that genuinely interests you and pursue that. Allan Watts once said, "That thing that you would like to do if money was no object, you do that." Thats what I did.

I hope you do find your way. Keep your chin up and good luck.

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@redbeard0x0a redbeard0x0a commented May 5, 2020

Hey,

It sounds to me like you have been dealing with both burnout and trauma related to the failing of your business. You probably are dealing with the burnout just fine, taking a break from technology, etc. However the trauma from your business and really the realities of software businesses shattering what you expected it to be like. I would explore that with a therapist, work through that.

On to programming: First, give yourself permission to write horrible, crappy code. Then write a small utility that helps you with something at home or work ~ key thing is it being small. Maybe some home automation, code to deal with something silly at work, an arduino project (sensors, plot values in grafana, etc). If you can't get started because of your disillusionment, leave it for a month and try again later. This should be done while processing your trauma.

Keep your chin up, you will find your way (even if it ultimately ends up with you running an axe throwing event space).

@osheroff

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@osheroff osheroff commented May 5, 2020

It's good that you're seeking answers. You're unlikely to find any here. Jogging is nice but doesn't really help an existential crisis. You probably have to keep wandering around the big, empty, meaningless desert you find yourself in. Eventually something interesting may happen in that desert, it usually does.. (in my experience, it only happens when you leave yourself open to some very odd invitations).

It's hard not to speak in metaphors, but take some cold comfort that being disillusioned in a world of thieves and fools is not a sickness. I'm a bit jealous that you're still at the beginning of that path; if you let it, life can get really really weird and wonderful. Have fun on your existential journey! 👋

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@abeervarandey abeervarandey commented May 5, 2020

You might feel you're disillusioned with technology, but everything is technology. You are yourself technology, albeit a biological one, and your knot theory is another piece of technology. Those employees pretending to like their work is technology, again of a biological kind.

Even your disillusionment is technology with an underlying biochemical and biophysical basis.

Science - we are living it.

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@donspaulding donspaulding commented May 5, 2020

Hi there, traveller.

I suggest you search for Jesus, by way of the Bible. Since you've recently experienced disillusionment, I would suggest that you start with Ecclesiastes and see that even the richest, wisest man who ever lived experienced the same disillusionment that you have. Consider also that the writer, Solomon, lived at a time of intense technological change (though certainly with a different cultural context than you likely have).

From there, I would suggest the book of John.

From there, I would read the rest.

Feel free to reach out to me if you want to talk. don@spauldings.net

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@bradp1tt bradp1tt commented May 5, 2020

It's alright. What helped me was to be okay with the thought that these could all take a while. If you don't do it, you could be taking these breaks, experimenting with a new lifestyle, and later be thinking "it's been X years since I started, why aren't I feeling better?" Or you'd find yourself sitting on a monthly visit with your psychiatrist, having thoughts that the hours you put in there are a waste compared to when you were writing code, giving yourself more pressure to your journey.

You'd be more at peace with yourself if you become fine with time passing by. Eventually you will figure it out.

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@DennisJeeves1 DennisJeeves1 commented May 5, 2020

The friends you lost, where it was "mostly nobody's fault" - that part doesn't smell right to me. Call them up and take responsibility for the part that's your fault. (Unless they actively tried to screw you; then forget them.)

@LiterallyTheGreatestDeveloper , spot on. It's rare of find people with the right combination intelligence, diligence and integrity. You really cannot say it was "mostly nobody's fault". People's cumulative (mis) actions at the personal level of interactions is the reason the world is generally in a mess. I'd flip the whole thing around and say - "it's mostly everybody's fault"

-Dennis

Beyond misanthropy: https://atlantis5.home.blog/

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@DennisJeeves1 DennisJeeves1 commented May 5, 2020

You should consider that the valley is full of mentally ill liars. "It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

great quote @dm17

-Dennis

Beyond misanthropy: https://atlantis5.home.blog/

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@DennisJeeves1 DennisJeeves1 commented May 5, 2020

[I know this post will not be well received here on GitHub, the techie Facebook. It's like walking into a church in the middle of Sunday service and to rail against organized religion and the hypocrisy of the worshipers.]

@vassudanagunta , Well, there are lurkers like me around who will appreciate your comments.

-Dennis

Beyond misanthropy: https://atlantis5.home.blog/

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@invzhi invzhi commented May 5, 2020

Try not to try. Best wish.

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@stopachka stopachka commented May 5, 2020

Hey,

A few ideas for you:

  1. Start micro: What do you enjoy doing during a day?
    • (Not the macro stuff here -- I'm talking about walks, toy projects, chocolate, etc)
    • Start observing how much fun you are having every day, and try to increase it
  2. Catch your thoughts
    • As you go through the day, you'll have a bunch of sad thoughts
      • Maybe you meet someone and will think "Oh, this is pointless", etc
    • Start writing these thoughts down, and really ask: is it true?
      • Right now your mind isn't seeing reality correctly. You may be overgeneralizing negative bits, filtering positive bits, etc
        • David Burns "The Positive Side" will help you a bunch
  3. Finally, as you do above, you'll form a stronger, positive macro view
    • The world is so complex that there is always darkness and always light
    • It's what you focus on, which determines how you feel, what you do, and what happens

Bonus: Lean into your community

  • Throughout this, yes you may have lost many people, but I am sure there are a few who have stayed, and they are gold. You may feel like you are burdening them, but this is friendship. Talk and share with them.

If you want to riff, you can always reach out: stepan.p@gmail.com

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@davistrent davistrent commented May 5, 2020

I think you're experiencing ennui... Step back, take a break, the world is crazy right now and you (we all) have a mulligan. Don't use it as an excuse or a way to do nothing, but use the current time to reflect, figure stuff out, and come back from a new angle. I can't fix your challenge (nobody can), but it may help to define what success looks like for you and pursue that. If it's hard to define, start with the list you already have of things you don't like and pursue something that avoids those things while keeping you on the path of "your definition of success." Know you're not alone and this, too, shall pass...

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@rajeevrjha rajeevrjha commented May 5, 2020

I am a teacher. Last year I took a break from work and moved to live near the Himalayas. I spent time learning about Game Design and Learning Sciences. I learned to create apps to design a game that would help students practice maths in a more engaging way using game design principles. Students loved the initial game and we are now working on adding more features and packaging the game better.
We are a ragtag team. Three of the other people who are working on the product with me are my own students who are my students. We have never built a product, we know little about design or marketing.

You could help us/ mentor us and see if that brings out the spark back in you.

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@Quotz Quotz commented May 5, 2020

Check your health. Check your Testosterone, that usually makes you tired of life

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@lithiumhead lithiumhead commented May 5, 2020

A similar disillusionment happened to me 9 years into my career as a software developer working on embedded systems.
This was around the time when I was working on Linux drivers for an ASIC. At that time, I strongly believed that technology can solve world problems - poverty, hunger, education, pollution, etc. But then the 2012 Delhi rape case happened (I live in India) and made me wonder "How the hell can my driver code for ASIC contribute towards preventing these social evils ?". Cognitive Dissonance followed - technology really can't help society when people lack basic decency. I read some articles and realized that the only thing that helps is to catch the kids when they are young and inculcate in them the right character traits so that they may become respectable, happy, productive, and inquisitive citizens capable of leading a meaningful life later.

So I took a break for 2 years and became a full-time teacher with Teach For India which is based on Teach For America's model.
I taught 125 kids during their 7th and 8th grade during the 2-year fellowship at a low income English medium private school here in Pune, India. Although the fellowship experience mileage varies from person to person, for me it was a pleasant experience - I was humbled by it and grew a lot. It was the first "intensely meaningful" job I had in my life. Getting an opportunity to nurture others recharged me. Where else do you get to see the impact of your work within minutes of you delivering it! It also helped me build a positive relationship with a lot of young people for life. Now I am back to working in tech. This time I am working with an awesome geeky team and don't have to worry about the business side of things. Additionally, I finally believe in the solution that we are working on and love the work culture here. I still keep in touch with the students and help them out with studies or simply catch up with them every now and then. They help me keep faith in things whenever it wavers for whatever reason and I do the same for them.

PS. I tried my hand at sales and marketing for a few months after the fellowship to work on growing a small business that my father had invested in. The sales numbers did not pick up over many months and that led to financial loss (still repaying loans) and soured relationships. So I can relate loosely to somewhat similar parts of your experience.

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@fatuhoku fatuhoku commented May 5, 2020

Been through pretty much exactly the sentiments you've described, minus the bits about business.

I'm glad that you sound like you've taken steps to keep on top of your health regime. Therapy is great, provided it's the right person and the right form for you. But, from your description I'd imagine your body is pretty fatigued.

Do you get sleepy at around 2pm that you have to take a nap? Unable to focus or do arithmetic? Wake up not feeling refreshed? No energy in muscles whatsoever?

If so look into "adrenal fatigue" (unofficial 'wrong' name on the Internet) a.k.a "burnout" a.k.a. HPA-axis dysregulation (proper name of the condition). Many names for the same sub-clinical state where your body is stuck in a low-energy metabolic state.

I thought I'd mention it because of your mentioning the sense of having a "permanently damaged brain". I had exactly this feeling and the GPs at the National Health Service here in the UK, as amazing as they are, were unable to give me a diagnosis AT ALL. Perhaps this message might help you shortcut that process.

I really hope your brain feels better now. I highly doubt it's 'damaged' exactly. I had the most terrible brain fog, but by working with my (private) nutritional therapist through a urine test we confirmed that it was mostly due to an oxalate build-up in the body. Went on a low-oxalate diet and brain fog became A LOT better. It'd say about 80% better. Find help. Work with a good nutritional therapist.

It honestly affects everything. Mood. Thoughts. Ability to recall memories. Sleep. Energy levels during the day. You name it.
Everything. Life. Basically. And for someone who prizes themselves in their mental faculties this is just like living death. I've lived it. It's not nice.

The other piece of this is your posture. Very important. Find help. Work with an ABC chiropractor (not any old chiropractor).
The other piece of this is emotional health — i.e. your relationship with your own emotive drives. Find help. Work with a decent psychotherapist.
The other piece of this is spiritual health — i.e. your attitude to life and relation to yourself. Find help. Work with a decent psychotherapist.

Too much to cover in a small space, but all I want to say here, really, is that I feel you. If you want to talk, let's Skype or e-mail or whatever. Ping me at fushunpoon@googlemail.com. Would be interesting to hear your story. All the best =]

p.s. oh, about creativity. Take care of every aspect of health as mentioned above. Physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual. From good health, all else blossoms. "Follow your bliss." as the late Joseph Campbell said. And creativity would be the least of your problems.

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@a9999999999999 a9999999999999 commented May 5, 2020

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@atishpatel atishpatel commented May 5, 2020

Perhaps, instead of trying to fix your inner problems with an external solution. It's time to turn inwards.

You might know two people who go through the same external experiences in a day, but one person can be joyful while the other is stressed and depressed. This is because our inner world like thoughts and feelings aren't depended on external experiences. So, i suggest looking at the class Inner Engineering by Sadhguru. It's changed my life. I use to chase after happiness but now i can sit here with my eyes closed and feel blissed out. Now I do things based on what's needed instead of compulsions. 🙏

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@mikorym mikorym commented May 5, 2020

There are a lot of comments here and maybe mine would be lost, but I was in a situation where I couldn't do any mathematics or music. I always excercised a lot so in my case excercise was also "taken from me", as that is how it feels.

But, I realised that before my dark period, I was an idiot too. So when I rebuilt my faculties, as you call them, I changed some things about myself. Or at least, the way I teach things to myself. But one thing that I would absolutely say is the main philosophical change is: SLOW EVERYTHING DOWN.

I promise I won't shout again, but that is my way of doing things. I am now quite comfortable to read Mac Lane's Categories for the Working Mathematician or Freyd and Scedrov's Categories, Allegories (yes, my interest is in category theory) whereas before the dark period I was basically an idiot that tried to do everything at the same time. I was an idiot that was well adapted to passing subjects, but still an idiot. I think part of this was the lack of mentors we have in society. One really should read the masters. I think universities contribute to the misunderstanding that one should do many things and do them quickly.

In any case, I now have good projects I am working on in terms of my job (mathematical modelling in agriculture and business), my music is going well (I compose music for piano and sometimes change it to electronic music). But whatever I do, I do it slowly and without presumption.

Since you mention knot theory, maybe you have also realised that you can indeed recover your faculties, but your faculties might turn out to be a bit different than you had thought yourself to be.

Edit: I liked your description about the workplace. So many idiots, so little time we have to ourselves... I do mean idiot in the global sense. We are are silly.

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@chobeat chobeat commented May 5, 2020

Hello Comrade,

stay strong. Your struggle is shared by many. The title though is misleading. You don't seem to have any problem with technology but just with the industry that produces (most of) it. Mixing the two things up is dangerous because it implies that technology can only be produced this way and for these goals (mostly investments, profit or geopolitical struggles). Luckily this is not the case and there are many worlds in which technologies are created in different ways and for more virtuous ends. The Free Software movement might be part of them, but nowadays it is tainted with too many conflicts and the world has changed a lot since its inception. There are new movements and new realities that are popping up. May you find your way and fall in love again with creating technology.

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@Subsentient Subsentient commented May 5, 2020

My advice is twofold:

  1. Stop working on programming professionally for a while. If you have money, you should coast on that. If not, find a weaker, easier IT sector job, like sysadmin.
  2. Spend your free time learning new technologies and working on code projects that you actually like, things that excite you. New languages, tools, etc. Take the time to rediscover the love, not taking into account how the soul-sucking corporate world will feel about it.

The kind of burnout that happened to you is something I am very afraid of and is always in the back of my mind. I've seen too many talented developers be destroyed by corporate burnout to the point that they hate technology. I can't let myself get to that point, I have to keep the joy alive in my work. If I can't, I must force myself to leave.

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@mGBUfLn9 mGBUfLn9 commented May 6, 2020

There are new movements and new realities that are popping up.

@chobeat what are some examples of new movements? (aside from perhaps crypto)

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@chobeat chobeat commented May 6, 2020

@mGBUfLn9 there's a whole world of cooperatives developing software for real communities (somebody call it coop economy, some people just "new economy"), published with licenses that prevent control from corporations. There's the federated labor union and the whole fediverse (not a fan, but they are showing very good results). These are just examples. Sometimes they even intertwine with the crypto world, but that is generally very conservative or reactionary and most times doesn't really want to rethink modes of production, just "keep the Man out of my wallet"

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@a9999999999999 a9999999999999 commented May 6, 2020

@chobeat Hi! What do you mean by the federated labor union?

I would also add that there are a lot of ways we can develop tech that works for our immediate community. Like helping set up community cellular ( open5gs? ) for folks that are low income or rural, helping the elderly and / or disabled get good assistive technology, or building nice services for people you care about ( or setting up self hosted stuff ). Personally I find this really satisfying.

For what it's worth, I empathize with you totally. You are definitely not alone!

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@chobeat chobeat commented May 6, 2020

@a9999999999999

I think it's the name of a specific subset of groups involved in developing federated software (I think Mastodon or Pleroma are involved too somehow). I read a zine published by them but I don't know exactly where this group begins and ends

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@chobeat chobeat commented May 6, 2020

the right-wing conspirancy theorist aesthetic of this silver shield thing makes it look like a promising waste of time if somebody is passionate about weird niche American cultish communities.

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@nicsaul nicsaul commented May 6, 2020

I think it would help you to make a split between programming and the software business itself.

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@cruftyoldsysadmin cruftyoldsysadmin commented May 6, 2020

From what you have written, your career has been about seeking wealth, not about the joy of technology. There is almost nothing good about the tech industry.

When I tell people that my father helped build what inadvertently the first version of Stephen Hawking's communication system, while working with the Carnegie foundation, and that they gave the patents away, they call him a fool for not wanting to be wealthy. Dad just wanted to make the world a better place for a little girl named Jennie with cystic fibrosis. Marc Andreesen said this to me, and I considered breaking his nose, but instead, I just pitied him and excused myself from the conversation.

If you're in it for the money, like most of the start-up people you'll find on Hacker News for example, you might as well go straight into FinTech or just become a banker. If you're in it for the love of creativity, then numb yourself and detach yourself from the American consumerism during the day, and create at night.

E-mail Woz and ask-him for advice. I did this about 15 years ago, and it helped me separate the need for money from the joy of technology, and find a mostly peaceful equilibrium.

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@raducu427 raducu427 commented May 6, 2020

It looks like your fetish has died. Nothing you can do to revive it. But this is not a surprise for a subject who finds himself in this totally crazy alienated world of business software. Even the most cynical has a secret fetish that keeps him/her going being a cynic without succumbing. Adding on top, who would have guess that the psychoanalysts were right all the time, we are inconsistent in our desires, we don't want the things we say we want. Don't even think about trying any of the CBT, self help, mindfulness bs methods, it will only make it worse. Enjoy the symptom and read Mark Fisher's "The capitalism realism".

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@dm17 dm17 commented May 6, 2020

If you have 8.5h to invest I encourage you to search for one vid on youtube named "Si1 v3r Shi 31d" (two words spelled normally - but I don't want to put some nasty algorithms on my back - at least not without giving them a hard time)

@veich Lol @ "nasty algorithms." Can you just spell it so I can find it? "Sit ver Shield?" Is this L33t Sp34k or something?

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@cedrickchee cedrickchee commented May 6, 2020

Hey, I just want to put this out there, may be someone will find it useful for them.

I think I've been through something similar after 16 years working in tech.

  • got rejected multiple times for SWE roles
  • failed a startup business
  • failed a consulting business
  • mid-career switch: failed to break into data science role after spending 3 years of studying Machine Learning

I come to accept that failure is part of life.

I was beating and recovering from burnout last year. Practically, what works for me (YMMV):

  • Take a break
  • Do nothing — deliberate procrastination is healthy
  • Do something you love — I spent months disconnected from the world, leave my phone, and went on an adventure back to the simple good 'ol days of life, living in some rural area 🙂
  • Retreat — I just finished my educational retreat. Code retreat (not bootcamp). Self-directed learning modeled after Recurse Center.
  • Meditation — I meditate regularly, mostly solo but recently, in group. I like the group supports in Insight Timer.
  • Join a community
  • Sometimes taking a mental health day, a day off that's geared toward stress relief, is the best thing you can do for yourself.

If anyone is interested, I've written a bit about my experience before: https://cedricchee.com/2020/04/21/career-and-code-retreat-retro-16-years-working-in-tech/

Stay safe and take care. Cheers!

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@Sysetup Sysetup commented May 6, 2020

With a service spirit, you are ok here and wherever, now and at any time.

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@ppminkov ppminkov commented May 8, 2020

Hey, @mGBUfLn9,
Please consider to write a book. It will be a bestseller.
I really find your writing style fascinating and I can imagine the situation below in color while I am reading it...

"Then I worked for a tech giant, and then for a high-growth unicorn. It
shocked me how dilbertesque they both were. Full of politicians, and
burnt out engineers in golden handcuffs who can't wait to get out, and
meaningless business speak, and checked out employees who pretend
they're "excited" about everything all the time. The young, wide-eyed
engineers seem hopelessly naive to me now."

Best Wishes!

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