This book contains some of the most insightful and interesting comments made on the Hacker News website.

How To Become A Millionaire In 3 Years


I'm going to go and replace 3 years with a "short time frame". Some things to focus on:

Founder Depression


Dig deeper, Sam.

Achievement-oriented people are given to depression both when they fail and when they succeed. If your identity is tied up in your work, then you feel bad about yourself when work isn't going well. That's obvious, and that's the message of this blog post. The implicit message is that you're depressed because you're not succeeding, so get your shit together and succeed and be happy like everyone else.

But then if you do succeed, you start to wonder, why did I just spend my youth in this masochistic, narcissistic path, and why the fuck am I not as happy as I was expecting, and is this really all there is in life. This is a classic "achiever in crisis." The problem is that you realize all along you've been doing things that OTHER people wanted -- that is, you've been doing things that make you valuable in society -- perfect summed up in the raison d'etre du jour, "making the world a better place." And nobody stopped you, because who can argue with making the world a better place? (Or being a doctor, or whatever.) But upon reflection, you quickly realize that this was in many ways easier than asking yourself what YOU wanted out of life. I.e. you've pushed aside your innate feelings and desires, whatever they may have been, and replaced them with the external motivation of achievement, under the rationale that you'd be able to "figure it out" after you had "made it".

Unfortunately achievers aren't really sure what they want "deep down" because achievement is inherently defined by society, and then after they've "made it" they freak out because they start to wonder if there even is a "deep down" or if they're just a highly educated donkey chasing a carrot.

If you talk to e.g. people who've gone through rigorous Ph.D. programs, you'll find a number of them were severely depressed after their defense. It was just kind of a let-down after such a long buildup, and then they started to wonder why they invested the entirety of their twenties into it and question whether that's really what they wanted their life to be. At least before the defense they could have something look forward to, and the various requirements provided a source of manic energy to propel the achiever forward.

Anyway I don't think the problem here is "not enough success," and I don't think the solution is having more coffee meetings. Founders need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves why they're doing what they're doing and whether their depression is truly a function of their free cash flow or if there's a deeper dissonance between the founder's feelings and the expectations of society, i.e. the heroic mythology of the founder that Silicon Valley has been inculcating in susceptible teenagers for the last 20 years.

Just my 2c. I am not a founder just an observer and aspiring societal psychiatrist. If you want to learn more I highly recommend the book "The Wisdom of the Enneagram".

It looks a lot like astrological pseudoscientific trash but read it and see if things in it resonate with you.

Ok back to work.

What were your naivetés in your twenties?


What do you do when your entire being opposes the task at hand?


I felt obliged to comment because I feel I know what you are talking about and I also worry that much of the advice posted so far is wrong at best, dangerous at worst.

I am 42-year-old very successful programmer who has been through a lot of situations in my career so far, many of them highly demotivating. And the best advice I have for you is to get out of what you are doing. Really. Even though you state that you are not in a position to do that, you really are. It is okay. You are free. Okay, you are helping your boyfriend's startup but what is the appropriate cost for this? Would he have you do it if he knew it was crushing your soul?

I don't use the phrase "crushing your soul" lightly. When it happens slowly, as it does in these cases, it is hard to see the scale of what is happening. But this is a very serious situation and if left unchecked it may damage the potential for you to do good work for the rest of your life. Reasons:

So if you are putting yourself into a position that is not really challenging, that is a bummer day in and day out, and you get things done slowly, you aren't just having a slow time now. You are bringing down that compound interest curve for the rest of your career. It is a serious problem.

If I could go back to my early career I would mercilessly cut out all the shitty jobs I did (and there were many of them).

One more thing, about personal identity. Early on as a programmer, I was often in situations like you describe. I didn't like what I was doing, I thought the management was dumb, I just didn't think my work was very important. I would be very depressed on projects, make slow progress, at times get into a mode where I was much of the time pretending progress simply because I could not bring myself to do the work. I just didn't have the spirit to do it. (I know many people here know what I am talking about.) Over time I got depressed about this: Do I have a terrible work ethic? Am I really just a bad programmer? A bad person? But these questions were not so verbalized or intellectualized, they were just more like an ambient malaise and a disappointment in where life was going.

What I learned, later on, is that I do not at all have a bad work ethic and I am not a bad person. In fact I am quite fierce and get huge amounts of good work done, when I believe that what I am doing is important. It turns out that, for me, to capture this feeling of importance, I had to work on my own projects (and even then it took a long time to find the ideas that really moved me). But once I found this, it basically turned me into a different person. If this is how it works for you, the difference between these two modes of life is HUGE.

Okay, this has been long and rambling. I'll cut it off here. Good luck.


Here are a few tips that have worked for me to achieve the desired kind of big picture awareness and mental state suitable both for flow and for strategic thinking:

Is there a point to school?


Even if you think university will teach you absolutely nothing, you've got a one-time offer from society that we're going to subsidize anything you do for the next four years and not have any expectation that you'll work for a living during that time. This offer is essentially only good once. Take it.

That said, you can learn an awful lot from school. You say it is tedious -- that suggests to me you're underchallenged. Have you tried learning a foreign language yet? Like, really learning a foreign language, rather than learning to say "Yo quiero una cerveza" like I assume your high school Spanish has taught you? It is incredibly rewarding, in all possible senses of the term rewarding, and you'll never get a better opportunity than the next four years. (Dedicated instructors, plenty of time not occupied by the demands of job and family, social push to complete studies, possibility of study abroad bankrolled by someone else and unrestricted by visa concerns, etc etc etc...)

You can also learn quite a bit about programming during college, even if actually doing it is a much better teacher. (Although, again, we're subsidizing all your activities for four years -- you show up for 3 hours of classes 5 days a week, the rest of the time is yours, program as much as you want to program.)

Incidentally, I hate to sound like An Official Adult, but just trust me on this one: the job market for young Americans sucks right now, and you absolutely do not want to be facing it without a degree. Degrees are not just for boring megacorps coding Blub: even cool companies which code Lisp look for people who can carry tasks to completion, and not possessing a degree when we hand them out like candy on Halloween suggests "I am insufficiently motivated to do clearly beneficial things when they require non-trivial amounts of actual work. Please employ me -- you will find me excellent at everything you assign me to do, provided none of it is actual work."


A few things to remember: You're much more valuable than your first employers would have you believe. Don't let that go to your head. Do go to university. I know how eager you are, having been in that position myself, but it's a mistake to drop out of one of the most effective social networks ever devised by humankind. Go for the social experience and the social doors it opens.

If you're still not convinced, take a hard look at the background of all of the YC partners and realize that all of them seem to have attended some good schools. While you can make it without university, and you can lead a happy life and do whatever you want and be in the upper 1% of quality of life across all of humanity without attending university, you only get one chance to choose not to follow "The Path," which is high school -> good university (undergrad) -> better university (graduate student) -> learn how to be around rich people and convince them of your way of thinking. Normal people who don't attend university simply don't get this opportunity. Specifically, the opportunity to test out what works and what doesn't, socially, with wealthy people. Why is this important? Well, if you want to do something big, and you don't have any money, wealthy people are by definition the only ones who can help you. Even at absurdly high salaries, it's very hard to save up money to do something that involves hiring other people. Possible, but difficult. So where do you turn? Investors, of course. Except, crap, they're wealthy, and you have no idea how to be around them as equals. But wait, you attended university, and so maybe they have some shared ground with you... Hm, nope, you didn't. Well, of course, your website demonstrates traction, and traction is what matters to an investor. But what else do investors care about? Your team. Where (or whether) you went to university says a lot about you, fortunately or unfortunately.

Really, there's no reason not to go. Make some reasonably intelligent decisions and you'll have a great time while getting the debt paid off in a reasonable timeframe.

But if you don't go, you may find you'll want to later but never really get the opportunity. Not in the way you once had. Once you depart from The Path, you'll have to beat your way back onto it, surmounting bills and work and all kinds of annoying stuff that people fresh out of highschool don't really have to worry about just yet.

Speaking of bills and debt: whatever you do, don't get into credit card debt. Don't get into credit card debt! I can't emphasize this enough. It's so tempting, but just don't.

Do use a credit card though. Just pay it off every month. Otherwise you may not be able to get services (internet, phone, whatever) at a new apartment, or buy a car. Had it happen to me once, and it sucks. No credit history = unknown risk = "I'm sorry but we will never do business with you."

Kind of an awkward place to end a ramble, but whatever. Maybe some of the ideas might be useful.

Maybe consider leveraging this particular experiment to help you attend one of the local top-tier universities as an undergrad. Ask people if they have any advice on this, and maybe you'll find someone who could help with the admissions process. Who you know matters more than what your highschool history was like, so maybe some strings could be pulled somewhere.



A little hypothesis:

Burnout is your subconscious's way of telling you that you're on the wrong track.

I've found that every time I've felt burned out - whether in writing, coding, startup, life - it's because I was working on something that ultimately was going nowhere. I needed to revisit my assumptions, yet my conscious mind didn't know that. Burnout was a way for my subconscious to say "This isn't going to work, you're not working on the important stuff, take a step back and look at the big picture."

When writer's blocked, I delete the last 3 paragraphs I've written and take the story in another direction. This has almost always cured my writer's block; when it doesn't I delete the last page and take the story in another direction.

When coder's blocked, I revert to my last svn commit and start again, usually with a smaller task. I've thrown away up to a week's worth of work this way, which is another lesson: commit early and often. Commits should be an hourly or minutely process, not something you do after a whole bunch of work.

When blocked in general, I think about the last design decision I made and revisit. Oftentimes, if I'm blocked entirely and can't even get started on implementing a feature, it's because the feature is ill-conceived and needs to be redone. Maybe it's done with incorrect assumptions about how users will use the problem, or maybe it just doesn't serve any purpose. Revisit whether you need the feature at all.

If you find you can't work on your startup at all, maybe it's a sign that your startup is on the wrong track. Revisit your idea. I'm actually at that stage with mine: we scrambled to get a demo ready for YC, but now that I want to procrastinate and avoid work (our market is people who want to procrastinate and avoid work), I find that I don't want to use our product. But I've got some ideas about how to backup and try a different approach, and now I want to try them out and see if they can get me procrastinating with the startup itself.

I quit my job last March and it was a bad idea


So, here's my story; I tell it occasionally when stories like yours come up.

I had no college experience, but did manage to jump right in to a good I.T. job while I was still in high school, and from there into an even better I.T. job in another state where I made more money than I knew what to do with. (I've never been good with money, and didn't understand what "savings" meant.) I worked there until suddenly one day I went on a camping trip with family, came back, and decided I hated computers. I quit that job, and the industry.

Then the dotcom bust happened.

So, at about your age, there I am, living back with my parents. They at least were supportive, but it took me a while to get my feet back under me. I took some simple jobs, took up rock climbing as a hobby, eventually became a climbing instructor, learned a whole bunch of skills but got paid next to nothing.

Eventually all of the credit I had amassed during my previous life in I.T. ran out, and I was deeply in debt with not enough income to manage it. My parents had moved away, and I ended up moving with them. Again.

Not my proudest moment.

It took months, applying to nearly every job and place of business in the area, but eventually I got a simple retail job. I lied about my past experience so that they wouldn't tell me I was overqualified to operate a cash register.

I let my bank accounts and credit fall apart. There was nothing I could do about it but start over. So I did.

Eventually, I was ready to re-join I.T. and happened by dumb luck across the perfect job opening for me -- about 6 hours' drive away. I patched up my car enough to get me there, and took with me the bag of spare change I had accumulated over a year or so.

The boss and I hit it off, and I got the job. It was one of the most challenging jobs I've ever had -- I was a one-man I.T. department for a store & restaurant that had no budget for anything fancy. All patchwork, all the time. I had gotten pretty good at that by then.

I was homeless at that point and my car barely got me there, but I happened to have some friends in the area so I stayed on their couch and made up for it by cleaning while I was at home. My first paycheck got me living expenses, the second got me the new radiator that my car needed, and so on.

Several years later, I've gone through a couple more jobs (a step up each time), started my own business, my credit is slowly rebuilding, the business is supporting two other people. It's still a struggle every day, but it's an uphill struggle. Every year is better than the last.

So, if your friends are giving you a hard time, tell 'em to knock it the hell off. Or find new friends. You've made a mistake -- maybe, you won't really know for sure for years -- but you have an opportunity to gain experiences that others never will. If I had never been a climbing instructor, I never would have developed the people skills that I needed to be an effective manager, let alone a business owner. You don't know what the future holds, so there's no sense in admitting defeat yet.

I won't try to lie to you, the next few years could be rough. Real rough. There could be an awful lot of days where you don't want to get out of bed, you don't want to do anything. Depression certainly doesn't make it any easier -- I know that from experience, too. But, if you keep trying anyway, you may discover that your best days are ahead of you yet.

Also, you're really not an idiot. People that never take a risk rarely end up in great places in life. You took a risk, it hasn't worked out so far. But, you didn't know what was going to happen before you did it. An idiotic decision is one that you know is bad when you make it. Unless you have an unusual power of foresight, you're not an idiot for making the decision you made.

Keep working on the freelancing. Keep getting better, keep making connections with other people. You have to become very aggressive now; it's not like a regular job where somebody else is doing the marketing and management for you and setting a schedule. Learn to start recognizing little victories. If you made enough money this week to pay a bill that you couldn't pay last week, that's a victory. Learn to get good at operating within razor-thin margins. Make sure you take a real hard look at all of your expenses; people that aren't accustomed to this style of living often have expenses that they believe they must have. At one point, my expenses were literally: food, and gas for the car. And that was it. I had no bank account, I got my checks cashed at the grocery store, I kept the cash in my wallet with a little extra hidden at my crash space (because paranoia), and so I knew exactly how much money I had to spend and live off of. If I had an extra $20 come payday, that was a real good week.

If you're lucky enough to be in an area with good public transit, ditch your car. Those things are money sinks. The moment you can't afford your insurance or registration, you will get pulled over. It's like magic, really bad magic. And the fines and fees just pile up, and there are no sympathetic ears when that starts happening.

Let go of everything that you think you have to hold on to -- your sense of importance, of self-worth, anything that might be holding you back or keeping you from making the hard decisions that have to be made -- and just decide that you'll buy it all back later.

Then just take your life one day at a time for a while.

How do you deal with professional jealousy and getting older?


I am crippled by the feeling that it's "too late". ... I can't help but feel that if I had started in earnest at 25, at 21, at 19 — then maybe the list of accomplishments at the end of my life will be longer.

Too late because you're 26? More like too early. The way you deal with the gnawing in your chest is to correct your view of success with a healthy dose of reality. The 21 year old success is almost exclusively a lie, little more than a media fabrication; don't buy what they're selling.

Here's a nice list, and the age at which they got their big hit: