RWDevCon 2016 Inspiration Talk – Feed Your Fire by Ray Wenderlich

Check out the keynote speech from RWDevCon 2016, where Ray shares a campfire story about something he’s struggled with – along with some embarrassing stories along the way! By Ray Wenderlich.

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At our recent RWDevCon tutorial conference, in addition to hands-on tutorials, we also had a number of “inspiration talks” – non-technical talks with the goal of giving you a new idea, some battle-won advice, and leaving you excited and energized.

We recorded these talks so that you can enjoy them, even if you didn’t get to attend the conference. Here’s our first talk – titled Feed Your Fire, by myself – I hope you enjoy!

Note from Ray: Did you enjoy this inspiration talk? If so, sign up to our RWDevCon newsletter to be notified when RWDevCon 2017 tickets go on sale, or check out our vault of tutorial videos!


As a computer geek, I spend most of my time indoors. On a typical day I’m only in one of three spots: sleeping in bed, in front of the computer, or stuffing my face in front of the fridge.


I’m ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I’ve gone an entire week without leaving the house at all!

But last summer, I decided I’d had enough of the indoors – it was time to experience the great outdoors. So for the first time ever, I went on a camping trip. Just me, a tent, and the woods.

If you had seen it, you would have laughed at all struggles I had trying to get a basic campfire going:

  • How many pieces of wood do I need?
  • How do I lay out the logs?
  • Why won’t this darn thing light?
  • I know, I’ll just look up how to do this on the Internet… oh wait, no cell phone reception.

But I kept at it, and after 5-6 failed attempts, I was finally roasting hot dogs in front of a roaring campfire. This may not seem like a big achievement for those of you who are outdoor folks, but for my geeky indoor self it was a big deal – and let me tell you, those were the best hot dogs I’ve ever tasted.

A Fireside Reflection

As I was spending this time learning how to make a campfire, I had a lot of time afterwards to sit in front of the fire, watch the embers, and drink a beer.

As you do when you’re in front of a campfire, you start replaying the story of your life, and all of its highs and lows.


And as I did this, I realized that all the highs in my life were when I was really motivated about what I was doing, and all the lows in my life were when I was unmotivated.

So today, I invite you to sit back and listen to the campfire story that consumed my thoughts that night as I roasted hot dogs and drank beer.

The Case of the Mysteriously Missing Motivation


The story begins about 6 years ago, when the iPhone SDK was first released, and there was this feeling of excitement in the air. Who here remembers that time?

Now I want you to think – how would people describe you back then, if they had just a single word? Maybe it would be optimistic. Maybe it would be obsessive. Maybe it would be passionate.

Well, the single word my family and friends would’ve used to describe me was: cheap.

Being Cheap

At this time, I had just quit my job to become an iOS developer, and my apps weren’t making any money yet, so I was trying to last as long as I could on my savings. I would do anything to save money.


The Italian Sausage

One time, I was at a barbeque at my grandfather’s house, and he was making Italian Sausage, but unfortunately he lost track of time and ended up burning the entire batch to a crisp. I’m talking caked in soot, black all the way around, you could smell the smoke – you could’ve called it Italian Charcoal.

He came to the family and said “I’m really sorry, but I burnt all the sausages, and I’m going to have to throw them all out.” But I said “Wait! Don’t throw them out – I’ll take them!”

My grandfather said, “What are you talking about, you can’t eat these – they’re ruined! Watch this!” he said, and he took a piece and gave it to Peanut, his dog. Peanut was a poodle who was notorious for eating anything, but you know what Peanut did? Peanut took one look at that burned charcoal sausage, sniffed, and turned up his nose.

But despite my family’s horror, I insisted on taking those charred sausages home anyway, and for me it was an epic success – an entire month of cheap eats.

The Haircut Trim

I even gave my haircut budget a trim. “Why pay for a haircut when you can just shave it all off?”, I thought.

Now, some people look great without hair, like Bruce Willis, or Charlie Fulton.

However, I am not one of those people. Who here has seen Lord of the Rings?

I looked kinda like Gollum, hording the money I had saved and saying “my precious”.

You can say I had a lot of motivation for being cheap. But there was one big area I didn’t have a lot of motivation with – a project I was working on that I call the Neverending App.

The Neverending App

Have any of you ever had a project at work that felt like it was neverending? One where every time you take a step forward, the finish line is so far away that it’s like you haven’t moved at all?

Well, there was this app I was working on that felt just like this – it was called Battle Map 2, a map making tool for geeky people like me who like to play Dungeons & Dragons. The project started out great – I was working with a nice clean slate and implementing some cool technical challenges like networking and custom OpenGL code – but 6 months later, I’m still working on the app, and I have a long laundry list of easy but boring features left to do.

Every day, it seemed like I barely made a dent in what needed this list, and every day I’d complain to Vicki and say “Aargh, I feel like this app is never going to get done!”


Since this app was neverending, I started to lose my motivation and soon I didn’t feel like working on the project at all. Instead, I would let myself get distracted by side projects that seemed smaller and easier, and I would work on them instead. I would also do stupid things like stay up too late playing video games, and then I would sleep in too much the next day, as a subconscious way of avoiding working on the app.

Even worse, this compounded upon itself because the longer I’d go without making progress, the more depressed I’d get, and the less I’d feel like working. I started having this pit of sadness in my stomach and I started thinking I was a huge slacker, that I was worthless, and that I’d never be able to make it as an indie iOS developer. It was a really low period in my life, and I felt like I had hit rock bottom.