Did I underachieve in life?

Compared to what? I’ve read this post some time ago and have wanted to reply, but then thought differently because I’m not going to be as supportive as everybody else. Still it kind of stuck with me and I decided to reply nevertheless…

I value your responses on this board, you seem like a knowledgeable bloke when it comes to finances in Switzerland. But this post gives me some strong fishing, r/iamverysmart vibes.

Did you underachieve? It depends on the metric I guess.

Your childhood was difficult, you’ve got a great opportunity through great social policies (school psych evaluation and then paid private school) and you sort of squandered it at first but it provided you with a great opportunity to do the internship (I assume you wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Gymnasium). So no, I don’t think you underachieved, hell financially, you overachieved! If you hadn’t flunked out would you be earning that much? How many people with a masters are earning less than you at 32? Look at this table!

You actually failed upwards, financially! You have no degree and earn more than most graduates who finish about the same age as you do and by the time you’ll be done you’ll be earning more than most of them most likely. Also you earned money while they did not for many years.

Morally/ethically, could you have done something to benefit society instead rich clients, maybe. Could your achievements in ITER mean free energy for everyone! Maybe!
That’s where “virtue signaling” comes in to me. You can go ahead and do that. Hell, save some money now and take the time off to go back to school.

I would give up a pretty decent career in banking for it. It would also be a lot of hard work. Early 20s, living at parents home, working 8-16h/week…so much easier. I just couldn’t manage it now. And it would probably put early retirement out of the picture.

But you’re happy with where you are. Enjoy it!


Surprising numbers, thanks for sharing. So the top 25% earn 100k gross 5 years after finishing a Bachelors degree and 110-115k gross 5 years after finishing a Masters degree. You are right that without the Gymnasium I wouldn’t have got the internship. This diploma actually saved me as there weren’t many alternatives.

That’s depends of what do you mean successful.

I had this conversation with my wife in regards of our kids and an article that I read about the kid’s future income and family wealth correlation.

Summary of my wife and I conversation
I want my kids to be happy, independently of the money that they will earn (this will be a success)
Good studies centers, universities open some doors and connections that other doesn’t (anyway you need good grades or really good connections).
It is much harder to climb the ladder from the bottom rather than the entering at the middle (open door based on education and background)


I know that one could view this as a sociopathic behaviour, but it really resonated with me.


Sheesh now I want to know how it finishes.

Nice way to overturn things, though.

edit: I mean I’d love if someone tells me how that scene finishes. I realized I might not want to see the movie…


It’s not a movie, but a series called The Dropout, which is based on the life of Elizabeth Holmes, which created Theranos and turned out to be a complete scam. The whole story is in fact worth checking out, it’s fascinating! The actor representing Elizabeth Holmes is so eerily right, it’s amazing!


You did well in life. You are successful in your own way. Own it, be proud, you have reasons !

On getting back to university (my opinion): do it if you want to prove something to yourself. Prove that you can accomplish it. To achieve something you have not done yet. But not for others, for job. You seem perfectly capable of scoring points at work.


I agree with this. I actually did exactly this in my early 30s, as I would have been the first person in my family with a university degree (or even attending university), and I wanted to prove to myself that I could have done it if my family had had the means.

Professionally, I was doing well managing a subsidiary of a US company, so I decided to try that before having kids. I completed the first 2 years of Computer Science until I realized that what I was learning in uni was so useless and disconnected from what I was doing as a developer/manager that it felt futile and led me to drop out (even if in Portugal you’re not taken seriously unless you have a diploma).

It would have been a waste if I had done it to make someone else happy or respect me.


Wait. Owning an apartment, a job with 120k compensation and you haven’t graduated bachelor in your industry yet? Man, you are way ahead of most people I know, including myself, in terms of current status and future potential.

Having said that, comparing to others doesn’t make sense, just moving forward on your own path. Sorry I haven’t read much of your past. Just look forward.

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He isn’t comparing himself to others as much as comparing himself to the potential he may have had.

He gets paid a ton to sell banking and finance products to people - while wondering if he could have contributed to creating marvels of engineering instead that could change the world.


Have you ever thought about doing an executive master to achieve both goals? Something useful for the current career path and obtaining a diploma that can always be useful for future goals.

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I’m not really talking about my financial success. I know that earning 120k without a bachelor degree is pretty decent. But like @San_Francisco said I was wondering about the field of work I’m in. I really like my job because finance is my passion, but how much am I actually contributing to society and progression of humanity.

First I need to finish my bachelors degree in autumn 2024. But yes that would also be an option, just an expensive one :smiley:

you can have many “lifes” if you able to master a different job in 6 months (and can fake it until you do)
you might find out your current life was better than the next you try

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I don’t really long to be a manager, I’d rather grow on the technical track. So an executive master would be of no use to me. Thanks for the suggestion, though!

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I can empathise with your predicament as I had similar thoughts myself.

I made one huge mistake in life: my passion was really about technologies, computers etc. and I thought “why turn a passion into a job?” so went and did something else instead (finance).

Then I saw all my friends (who are in tech) doing all the cools stuff that I want to do, but I have very little time to do. I saw my skills decrease as there’s only so much you can improve in your spare time compared to all your spare time and work time honing your skills.

And then I saw my dream job come into existence (reinforcement learning to teach computers to play games).

I did think of switching careers (and a friend at Google urged me to interview). But in the meantime, I’d manage to carve out my niche in the organization that allowed me to earn a decent salary and work only 35 hours a week with no stress. So I figured it was easier to do 5 more years and then retire and do my computer stuff as a retirement hobby. So I resigned myself to that and knowing that I am not leading a life that is true to myself - but life comes with lots of trade-offs and compromises.

The key thing is that I’m 45 and have reached as high up the ladder as I want to go (any higher requires more time/energy/work). I have 2 small kids, so it is more important that I have free time to spend with them rather than put in hours to establish myself in a new career with a new company.

At 32, you probably are not yet able to retire and you have your whole working life still ahead of you to do a career that is meaningful to you. I’d urge you to not make the same mistake as me, but I know it is scary to jump and start from square 1 again.


A bit late to the party, but I recently read the book Mastery and I can highly recommend it.

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and Alex from Blur :joy: !!

He makes excellent cheese, allegedly. Never tried though, have you?

Today I caught myself again checking the Linkedin profiles of my former school friends from Gymnasium. It’s crazy how some of them who barely managed to finish math achieved a MSc at HSG by now. One other guy went to ETH, who was just average in general. So 80-90% of them achieved more than me academically, some way more (PhD and stuff). Maybe my earning is pretty good, but damn did I miss out on putting my brain to more use in life. I was probably the only one in the whole year (around 150 students) who finished Math/Chemistry/Physics with a 6.0. And what am I doing with that? A job that only requires a “Lehre” and 3-5 years of banking experience.

I know that many of you suggested that I’m only 32 and it’s never to late. Hell, I even had the time to put in almost 200 hours in Kerbal Space Program this year and become kind of an expert in orbital mechanics lol. But I still feel that it won’t make a difference anymore. I’m already way too much into my career. All my promotions (and those that will come in the near future) are purely based on my performance and my social skills. Nothing I add academically (besides my BSc in Banking & Finance which I’ll finish in around 10 months) will have any significant impact in the path I’m going. And doing it to just prove to myself something? Not worth the hassle.

Maybe I can find comfort in the fact that my future children will have a much better life than I had.

I understand you’re wondering whether pursuing a more scientific career would have allowed you to further humanity more but this is your friendly reminder that many things in life are achieved outside of the academic pathway and that academic results are a very poor way to compare success in life and/or furtherance of mankind.

In particular, a PhD mainly only opens doors for academic research, which does bring opportunities to make breakthrough discoveries but is also mainly a place where one competes against their peers for citations and grant money. For professional positions, a Masters is often preferred to a PhD in Switzerland.

You have plenty of potential for bringing awesome things to humanity and may pursue opportunities to do so. You don’t need a flashy title on LinkedIn for that, nor do you need a picture of you enjoying a hawaian beach to have success in life, despite that being the image people want to project on Instagram and such.

Edit: @Cortana as a further reminder and since money is also a way to compare one’s success in life (albeit a flawed one too), it is very likely that those former classmates of yours are making (potentially way) less money than you do, no matter their title. I don’t and I have a Masters in Environmental Engineering. My colleagues with a Masters in Civil Engineering don’t either.