In his excellent book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about “Turning Pro” as the key to overcoming resistance and consistently spending time on what we truly value:

Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait. They all think like amateurs. They have not yet turned pro.

The traditional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation.

The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time.

That’s what I mean when I say turning pro.

Resistance hates it when we turn pro.

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art, “Professionals and Amateurs”

For myself, a big part of turning pro in software development was committing that I would go to at least one excellent conference every year. It’s a costly commitment at times, but it’s been so incredibly worth the investment. I’ve formed lasting relationships, gotten the jump on important techniques and technology, and found out about tools that I still use on a regular basis. I’ve also seen that a conference serves to get me pumped up to tackle things that I’ve been putting off, and gives me new perspective on problems I’ve been scratching my head over.

I’m a big fan of hobbyist conferences. RubyConf has been my mainstay for years, and I’ll be at the most excellent acts_as_conference in a few weeks. But I also think there’s an important part to be played by professional conferences that have an invite-only speaker list, and are paid for by attendees rather than by sponsors. If you look at the list of speakers and the set of sessions scheduled for RubyRX, you’ll find an A-list of smart folks and a wide set of topics guaranteed to teach you something outside your comfort zone. And if you’re a professional software developer, as I know many of you are, then I believe you’ll find yourself more than paid back in learning and growth by attending. There’ll be talks on Merb and Rails 3, Erlang, Clojure, Sinatra and more – how many of these topics have you wanted to explore but just haven’t had time to yet? Well here’s your chance!

If you’re not a professional yet, still sitting on the sidelines, then this could be a great opportunity to make the jump. A conference like RubyRX is a great kick in the pants, and can give you the confidence to go to the next level. You’ll get lots of hallway time to chat and get inspiration from those who’ve already turned pro, and the sessions will generate all kinds of ideas on how to go from being an amateur to being a professional. I’ll personally be giving two talks that I think every professional should hear – one on the Fear of Programming (with more from the War of Art) and one on the Five Skills Every Freelancer Should Have.

RubyRX is February 19th-21st, 2009 in Raleigh, NC. You have until the end of the week to (January 30th) to get the early bird price, so don’t delay. I can’t guarantee that RubyRX will be one of the excellent conferences this year, but I can guarantee that Jared, myself, the other speakers and all the attendees are going to do our best to make it so. And it’s even more likely to be excellent if you decide to come, so sign up, come out, and let us help you “turn pro”!

Posted by Nathaniel on Jan 26th, 2009

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