LA Ruby Conf 2012 — Quit Your Job. Srsly.

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Yesterday, I spoke at LA Ruby Conf 2012. My talk was titled “Quit Your Job. Srsly.“. The title was not a metaphor.

It was a very non-technical talk. It was very much an emotional breakdown in front of 200 people kind of talk. It was very …cathartic? …taxing? I’m pretty happy with how it turned out both in the slides and how I delivered it. The feedback from the attendees seems to indicate that it was well received.

For the first time, I wrote a script first for a talk then extracted slides from that. I’ve included the script below.

When I get audio and/or video, I’ll update this post.

I plan to refine this talk a bit and give it at more confs. If you’re interested in having me give this talk at your conf, email me:

View the slides for “Quit Your Job. Srsly.” here.

Tweets related to my talk

The Script

This is the rough script that I worked from during my talk. Obviously, I didn’t read this word for word. I added some things off the cuff in the moment. I forgot a couple paragraphs here and there, namely the “middle children of history” bit. Oh well.

My name Shane Becker. I know your time is precious and you’ll never get it back. So, for letting me have a few minutes of it, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Quit Your Job. Srsly.
Shane Becker
Cascadia Ruby

will be happening again this summer in Seattle, WA. We’re signing the contract this week on the venue then will announce the date.

Farmhouse Conf 2

is happening again this summer at my house in Hollywood, CA. The date is May 5, 2012. Five Five Twenty Twelve. Registration will be open this week. $100 tickets. Limited to 100 people. Stay tuned.

I’m not special.

I don’t think what I have to say here today only applies to people like me. That don’t have kids, aren’t married, are out of debt (finally), whatever. I’m not special. No matter what your situation is, I think this can still apply to you.


Also, this talk is not an attack on capitalism. That’s a talk for a different day.

Capital W Work

And this talk is not an attack on capital W work. That’s also a different talk for some other day.

If You Were Guaranteed Not to Fail,
What Would You Do?
Life. Love. Regret.

Put another way, if you died right night now, what would you regret having not done?

What’s stopping you?
What’s REALLY stopping you?
I don’t know you.

I don’t know most of you. That’s my loss. I don’t know where you work or what you build or what it’s like day to day. I don’t know your salaries or hopes and dreams or secret plans. And you must always have a secret plan.

But I Do Know This

I see in our community some the smartest, most creative people alive. I see all this beautiful amazing potential, and I see it squandered.

God dammit, an entire generation selling online advertisements or building the next walled garden social network; slaves with conference t-shirts and free snacks. So…

I Want You to Quit Your Job
Better People

Maybe, just to work with better people. Are you the smartest person on your team? Try being the least smart or in the middle to learn more.

I’ve had the great fortune of working with Aaron Patterson twice, for example, and learned a metric fuck ton in the process.

More Money

Or for more money. A lot more money. I guarantee you that you’re not making anywhere as much as you could and should be.

I want you to do something for me. In your head, How much is your salary? Now give yourself a raise. What is that number?
Whatever that number is, increase it by 25%. Maybe even 50%.

You are worth more

I promise you. You are worth more than you think you are.

  • Now, Raise your hand if you’re hiring?
  • Keep your hand up if you’re willing to give big raises to poach good people.
Group A, meet group B.
Something Fun
Something Different
Nothing at All

Maybe just quit to do something fun. Or something different. Or nothing at all. The work ethic of this culture is killing us all. Meanwhile we toil away making shit that no on needs.

Start a Company

Maybe quit to start your own company. Run a consultancy. Start a product shop. Start a collective with your friends and peers. Take co-working to its logical conclusion.

Fear / Courage

Maybe quit because you’re scared to quit. Maybe you’ve never done it before and you’re fucking terrified at what lies just over the edge of that cliff.


Maybe quit because you’re not proud of the work you do, the product you build or the company you work for.

Get Wild

Maybe quit your job AND professional programming. I dunno. Paint a self portrait. Build a house. Travel the world. Throw down some cardboard and do some break dancing. Get wild.

Dying Inside

Maybe quit because everyday that you work your job, you’re slowly dying on the inside. Because one day you’ll wake up in the middle of another cross functional iteration planning meeting assigning story points to the latest terrible idea for a new feature and realize that, I’ve wasted too much of life on this bullshit.

Cultural Significance

Or maybe quit your job because you hold the skills of one of the most important crafts in our culture. Mull that over.

Software Touches Everything

Think about all the parts of our lives that are mitigated by software. Not just us nerds in this room, but the muggles outside walking down the street totally unawares of what’s going in here right now.

Software touches everything. And almost everything touches the network. Our phones, our computers, websites, cash registers, banks, libraries, power plants, cars, traffic signals… our entire culture is arranging itself around software.

Transform Culture

You hold in your hands and in your brain the skills of the craft that powers this culture. And maybe you want to do something meaningful with those skills. Something that will help more than just yourself. Something that will make lives better, that will outlive you and that maybe just maybe transform culture and make the world a better place.

A Brief (VERY Incomplete) History of Noteworthy Achievements in the Field of Computering (as researched almost exclusively on Wikipedia)

Here are just a few examples of things that nerds have done.

1820s — 1830s : Charles Babbage sets out to build the world’s first mechanical calculator: The Difference Engine and Analytical Engine.
1840s : Ada Lovelace wrote Note G, the first algorithm specifically tailored for implementation on a computer. For a machine that was never finished!
1935 : Alonzo Church invented Lambda Calculus.
1949 : Grace Hopper invented COBOL and the first compiler.
1958 : John McCarthy invented Lisp.
1963 : Douglas Engelbart invented the mouse. 1963 : Douglas Engelbart and Ted Nelson both independently started exploring the ideas of “hypertext” and “hypermedia” coined by Nelson.
1968 : Douglas Engelbart does “The Mother of All Demos” showing his work on: – GUI – Mouse – Video Conferencing – Teleconferencing – Hypertext – Hypermedia – Word Processing – Collaborative Real-Time Editor All in 1968! Before Unix or C.
1969 : ARPANET went making use of packet switching and TCP.
1969 : Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie invented Unix at Bell Labs
1970s : PARC re/invented all of the things – Object-Oriented Programming – Ethernet – Laser Printing – GUI – Mouse – Modern personal computer
1972 : Adele Goldberg and others at PARC created Smalltalk.
1972 : As a skunk works project, Ray Tomlinson created networked email for ARPANET. So users could message each other between different hosts.
1972 : Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie invented C at Bell Labs
1976 : Woz invented the Apple I. 1976 : Richard Stallman invented Emacs.
1977 : Jobs/Woz shipped the Apple II. 1977 : Bill Joy shiped BSD at UC Berkeley, later vi and C Shell.
1978 : Ward Christensen invented BBS.
1979 : Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis Conceived Usenet.
1982 : French government shipped Minitel. Which will be retired THIS YEAR! 30 years later.
1983 : Jon Postel and Paul Mockapetris invented DNS.
1984 : Apple shipped the Mac.
1987 : Richard Stallman released GCC. 1987 : Larry Wall created Perl.
1988 : Jarkko Oikarinen invented IRC.
1990 : ARPANET removed, Internet! – NPL – Merit Network – CYCLADES – X.25 and public data networks – UUCP and Usenet
1990 : Tim Berners-Lee invented… ALL OF THE THINGS! – WWW – HTML – HTTP – Browser – Server – URLs
1991 : Linus Torvalds released Linux.
1992 : Wifi was invented.
1995 : Matz shipped Ruby (0.9.5).
1995 : Ward Cunningham invented the wiki.
1998 : Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched Google.
2001 : Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launched Wikipedia.
2004 : DHH shipped Rails + 15 minute blog screencast.

What Have I Done?

Right now, it’s 2012 now and what the hell have I done with my life?
The answer is an overwhelming “not much”.

2012 : Big Projects

I have three big projects that I think are important and have the potential to transform culture. That’s what I’m focused on for 2012. (They’re not secrets, but they’re not the focus of this talk.) I’m sure that you also have some ideas in that brain of yours for how you can contribute to making a better world.

“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” — Horace Mann

I think about this a lot. Like a lot A LOT. It keeps me up at night.

You’re smart

I’m not trying to tell you what to do. Or how you should do it. You’re smart, you’ll figure out the details. I’m just saying that you should do SOMETHING.

Do Something

Whatever that thing is. Go win some victory for humanity. Don’t squander this incredible potential that you all have.

I look around this room and I see a lot of courage. And it gives me strength. We give each other strength.

Thank You

My name Shane Becker. I know your time is precious and you’ll never get it back. So, for letting me have a few minutes of it, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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