Striking while the iron is hot

A few friends have asked, in light of the obvious toll it’s taking on
me emotionally and financially, why I’m “on tour” this year. It’s a
good question. I’ll come to the answer in a somewhat roundabout way.

These days I am chiefly concerned with sustainability. Specifically,
family sustainability. There have been way too many times in the last
decade when I had to anxiously watch our bank account balance, praying
that my paycheck would clear before the rent payment cleared. And a
few too many times when a job dropped out from under me, and I found
myself scurrying desperately for work.

I am not much for equanimity. I did not enjoy these times. In fact, if
stress is as bad for one’s health as they say, these periods probably
noticeably shortened my lifespan.

There are some standard rules everyone knows for increasing
sustainability. They include:

  • Eliminating debt.
  • Frugality.
  • Saving.

As a family we’ve hammered pretty hard on all these points over the
past few years. But at some point I realized that there is a
sustainability rule which trumps all of these:

  • Knowing people, and being known.

We live in an uncertain world. One major medical event (just as an
example) can wipe out years of saving and debt elimination. The
closest thing we have to real security is our community: our family,
our friends, our associations, and our business contacts.

I’ve come to the conclusion: more important than money in the bank is
the knowledge that no matter what happens, I can always find work.

Last year, I submitted talks to a few conferences and had most of them
rejected. This year I submitted talks to just about every Ruby/Rails
conference in the US and, to my great astonishment, saw almost every
one of them accepted. I’ve had the opportunity to speak at an average
one conference per month this year.

That’s one hell of an opportunity to meet people.

I’m not so cock-sure to believe that this is something which will
happen every year. Conference tastes could change. The popularity of
Ruby and Rails will eventually fade. People might get sick of hearing
me yap. The Software development economy could tank. And I might not
always be free to travel: I might find myself with a new baby to care
for, or locked into a particularly time-consuming job.

So I decided to strike while the iron is hot, as it were, and make
this the year I flit about hither and yon, speaking, listening,
meeting people.

It’s been rough, but also fun. I’m a born introvert, so the constant
socializing is draining. On the other hand, I’ve always loved
travelling. It’s expensive, and hell on my ability to consistently get
billable hours in, and it has meant putting a lot of personal projects
on hold or at least on very low priority. But it has also been
profoundly inspirational, meeting longtime programming heroes as well
as smart, passionate, but lesser-known developers I might never have
had the chance to know otherwise.

As I’ve said to everyone who asks, I’m only doing this once. Next year
I’m keeping things a lot closer to home.

Bottom line, it’s an investment. I hope I’m right about it. I think I am.

View All


  1. Great post. Sharing concerns about family and money, and being an introvert as well, I find your year of going to conferences pretty inspirational. Good luck with your goals.

  2. benevolentcode August 17, 2011 at 18:28

    Dale Carnegie would be proud. About the “[k]nowing people, and being known” bit, at least.

  3. You have to work hard to put yourself in front of the wave. Success is pretty easy. You know you’ve succeeded when you go to twitter, and say, “I need new work”, and you get genuine replies for real projects with real money. You can only get there by letting people know who you are.

Comments are closed.