As a kid you have ambitions for the future? "When I grow up I want to become a …". Maybe you wanted to become a fireman, an astronaut, a nurse, a teacher, a police officer? As you grow up these ideas evolve and get replaced with actual ambitions, actual hopes and dreams. These might be entirely different than your childhood dreams.

But how do you reach these goals?
How do you accomplish these dreams?
By listening to your parents, friends, or teachers?
By doing it yourself?

Or maybe you have given up and settled for a watered down version of the career and life you envisioned? People often attribute success to luck, and lack of success to incompetence. But what if I told you it's all about controlling the variables? Luck is something that you can control in a way. The more you figure out the context, the key players, the relationships, the values, and the rules of the ecosystem in which you want to succeed, the easier it is to gain from it. The more variables you control, the easier it is to find potential opportunities and to bank on them.

Maybe you didn't get lucky, maybe you just saw it coming, and prepared yourself for it.

In this keynote talk, Thijs is going to share his experiences, his hopes, his dreams, and how he applies a positive mental attitude to level up in his career, and in life in general.
This is not a growth hacking talk, but a simple set of tips and tricks to succeed, even if it seems like the odds are stacked against you.


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A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work! ?

Very inspirational talk with some great tips. That's the way to do a Keynote. Polen story with the shining hotel was hilarious.

Anonymous at 17:43 on 9 Jun 2018

Great closing keynote, lots of funny moments in between the serious message. Very well presented in a sympathetic way. Not even sure I agree with all of the premises but the talk certainly made me think, which I think is a key thing for a keynote to do.

Fun. Well spoken. Thijs can really tell a story. A bit 'how I got to be on this stage'-y.

Jeffrey at 19:05 on 9 Jun 2018

A great closing keynote by Thijs. I also really liked the style of the presentation, full of video fragments. Which I did not experience as annoying. Well done! ?

I enjoyed your talk. It was very engaging and I can relate to much of what you say. I also like to grab opportunities. However, although you mention a few times that people are wired differently, I am a bit concerned that people with mental health issues, like anxiety or depression (I have people in my circle of friends that I'm thinking about), could feel worse about themselves rather than inspired after hearing your talk. For them, that is not a matter of complaining or laziness. It would be awesome if you could help them feel included and inspired as well. Other than that, great talk!

Pim Elshoff at 21:25 on 9 Jun 2018

Proper crafted talk. The video bits were edited perfectly and used very well. Thijs has an amazing stage presence; even in front of the full group he's comfortable. The talk was funny, touching and with great messages to send us off.

Thijs is a great speaker, obviously. He made some great points and overall it was inspiring but at some point I did feel it was a bit long and going into his successes by trying a bit too much, I’d say keep the examples short and clear. I’d also agree with Marieke that it was less inclusive than it could have been. Of course you write/speak about what you know but not every one at the conference will be a speaker at such conferences someday. It left me feeling a little like I’d be underperforming if I didn’t try as hard to be really successful (197 talks in 15 countries!). There are many ways to progress, many roles to play, that don’t all include the same methods of finding opportunities. With a bit of tweaking and more examples aimed at different type of people of controlling the variables, it could be very inspiring for a wide audience.

Mark Hamstra at 01:04 on 10 Jun 2018

Thijs is a great and engaging speaker who is very comfortable on stage, and the slide deck is amazing. The talk details his path towards delivering the closing keynote (which is quite meta!), and contains useful advice like focusing on a passion and working hard to achieve that. There are good lessons to be learned from this story and it is clear that Thijs earned the spot he was given.

However, it also had a bit of a sour undertone that I wasn't quite expecting at the end of DPC.

Where the opening keynote on Friday by Samantha was uplifting, inspiring, and instilled a sense of community, "Controlling the variables" came across as very selfish, or individualistic, in a "take what you want" kinda way. Work hard, grab every opportunity that comes your way, and most of all don't complain, coupled with soundbites from Gary Vaynerchuk saying among other things that "people don't care about you".

For me, a self-employed developer who's been working on his passion for 5 years (and counting!) who is now dealing with burnout because of working too hard, the talk wasn't quite as inspiring as it may be to others. I'm worried that for people dealing with depression this talk may even make things worse, as it reaffirms the notion that they must be lazy or not working enough. If, per the example in the talk, the person who was accidentally infected with HIV through a blood transfusion can outlive a doctor's prognosis, get married, and get kids without complaining just by keeping a positive mindset, then how hopeless must people be who have a hard time just dealing with daily life? Not very inspiring.

So, great speaker, engaging story, but in my opinion lacking in empathy and nuance in favor of sound bites. The talk does have the potential to be really inspiring and uplifting for the right audience, but in the tech world where organizations like OSMI are trying to break the stigma on mental illness, I feel this was not a great fit and should be refined.

The keynote did act as a great discussion starter over the drinks that followed it.

A R S at 09:53 on 10 Jun 2018

It was a well-polished talk by a charismatic speaker, with a good message, but in my opinion, the balance was way off.
About 10 minutes of the talk is spent on the actual message: work hard, be friendly, don't complain. Almost no time was being spent on how to achieve this yourself.
In stead, the rest of the talk was a series of long-winded, ego-stroking stories about how awesome the speaker thinks he is.
I'm aware these stories are supposed to be inspiring, but I think they should have been reduces to about 3 minutes each. So the talk could focus on the lessons themselves and include some practical advice on how to integrate this into your own life.

Jasper N. Brouwer at 10:41 on 10 Jun 2018

Fantastic keynote, really inspiring! I think it's a shame to read it rubbed of the wrong way for some people. I fully agree you are in control of your own life, responsible for your own luck as you put it. Great to see you're looking back on your life with pride!

I like you Thijs, your enthusiasm, your hard work, your evangelism, and I like everything you do for the community. Which makes it hard to give you negative feedback, but I have to do it. I saw that I'm not the only one who thought that the message you delivered isn't a good one. At least, not for everyone. Though as a fellow speaker and writer I can relate to several key moments in your career, I think almost any developer doesn't need any of this career advice. If anything, they may feel bad if they don't speak at meetups, write blogs, etc. (I've talked to many devs who show signs that they feel bad about themselves for this). The famous-developer career is not everyone's dream.
The issue of inclusiveness is a big one to me personally too. It's not just about how many women or people of color you have in the room, it's about the mindset or the world perspective the representatives, e.g. the speakers have. Yours, and mine, are the perspective of white heterosexual wealthy healthy male person. That means that to be inclusive, we need to do a lot of work. We can't just say that we have to work hard and be passionate, and that we can thereby tweak the variables and be successful, reach goals etc. (or else we're lazy maybe). We have a lot of things that help us without us noticing it, and there are many other people who are limited in that respect, which is why we attribute success to our own actions.
Anyway, this is about the message, not the delivery, which was awesome and inspiring itself. I liked the way you told your stories, and how engaging they were, with a lively voice and movement on stage. Best of luck reaching that 200th talk!

Rating this talk is extremely hard. If I had the opportunity to split up my rating into several different aspects, I would. As it stands though, I'm afraid I have to stick with "had potential".

In a technical manner, this keynote as outstanding. The usage of not just static slides but moving image (whether or not with sound) made it very dynamic. Timing was excellent, and while I have high expectations of Thijs (since I know him to be an excellent speaker) this definitely went beyond all my expectations. Fantastic!

In terms of content, I am afraid that I do not agree and even think some of the things you said may be hurtful. I certainly related to several parts of the talk and liked what you were trying to say, however messages like "people do not care about your problems" or even "if you don't succeed, work harder" are dangerous to say. The former message could lead people with mental health issues deeper into their problems, the latter might drive people to burn out.

Just to be clear, there were many parts that were great. I absolutely loved your story about the vlogging with Brugge. That was inspiring. This keynote has great potential, but in its current form, I'm sorry, it is not a good closing keynote.

Miro Svrtan at 16:57 on 10 Jun 2018

Great presentation, amazing speaker but I disagree with the content.

At the end of the talk, I was really really amazed, clear 5* but started thinking how privilege wasnt included in that whole talk.

Thijs, I'm not sure if you are aware of the amount of privilege you have, something that you were given by your family and community, something lots of people do not have. I know, you wanted to say: 'grab chances, no one will do the work instead of you' but you have to understand that without the privelege of being born/raised in Belgium, most of those opportunities would not be even offered to you.

As you used Gary for some videos, do you think he would be here if he wasnt raised in Brooklyn? If his father didnt have a discount store that he built into a big bussiness?

Having and grabbing opportunities are completely different things. I would love to have a chat with you if you want to disccuss this subject further (but please do take into consideration that I do consider myself a priviledged person as well).

Excellent talk. Should open dpc19!

Srdjan Vranac at 17:36 on 10 Jun 2018

Excellent talk with a great message


Thijs, as you know I'm a big fan of the way you do your talks. You have great charisma and stage presence.

I know you put a lot of effort into the slides to have them contain small little videos and kudos for that. It definitely paid off.

Now, I see there is a lot going on in the other comments about the content. In the sense of privilege and so on.
So I rated it based on how I received the message.
I felt inspired to keep on working hard, do more UG and try to perform better at work. The notes about positivity and complaining is something I understand all to well. Having been there with a burn-out as a result. Trying to see things positive and handling the setbacks instead of complaining about them has helped me a lot. Great talk!

Dominik Zogg at 19:01 on 10 Jun 2018

Was very inspiring

Slidedeck: absolutely brilliant, you sir raised the bar once again.

Content: It could have been perceived as a very selfish talk if people do not know you at all. Since we know each other for quite a while, I know how you meant things, so that was fine for me.

Henry Snoek at 20:32 on 10 Jun 2018

I thought it was an inspiring story and interesting to see how you got where you are now.
Luck isn't something that just finds you. You have to get out there and put yourself in a position to be lucky.
This can be done in a lot of different ways. Your keynote showed a few entertaining examples.

I can relate with the less favorable reviews, though it really depends on how you define success.
You can still be successful even without being a speaker for example.

Showing 3 Gary Vaynerchuk videos was a bit too much for me. One would have been fine :)

I think Thijs did an amazing job performing on stage. It was energetic, engaging and at times very funny. And yet I did not leave the room feeling inspired. I felt conflicted about the message that was being sent from stage:

"Don't complain, do something about your situation" - but with a video stating "fuck all the hours you don't spend achieving your goals"
"Work harder" - with an anecdote about someone who did 100 emails before breakfast, and doesn't spend time with his family?
"don't hero-worship" - but with a call for applause for someone who "lives on the road" and "survives on coffee" and "smokes to get good deals" (I don't mean to put that person down, but I do feel this is probably not a lifestyle we should be advocating for)

Dafuq. It was just really confusing. I think a lot of this talk is based on a pre-set notion of "success" that I don't share.

So I'll give Thijs the benefit of the doubt and assume he's aiming for "luck favors the prepared", and also assume he means "work hard - but at a sustainable pace". But only because I think I've seen a lot of community things happening only because Thijs is putting in the work - and that is amazing. Thanks your for that Thijs, and I'll skip on the road to success that you paint.

Jochem Fuchs at 10:32 on 11 Jun 2018

This talk started out great and had good moments. The speaker is skilled and charismatic.

As some other have also mentioned, I have some issues with the content. He started out by mentioning how people ascribe success to luck, and failure to not working hard enough. Then spends the rest of the talk about how you should work as hard as possible, and basically presenting work as the most important thing in life. Even going as far as saying something in the line of "You could've been working instead of spending quality time with your kids".

I truly hope that you simply failed in getting your point across to me, or that I misunderstood. Because it feels as if you're saying you can either be successful at work, or at family. And that's simply not true.

I've know people who felt like that, and every single one of them regrets it.

Just wow.
I really liked the presentation of Thijs. His buildup to the clue, his story, his presentation skills and montage, it all really is that good. I felt recognized, inspired and moved by his presentation.
11/10 would recommend to attend this talk. Keep up the good work, and thank you very much for sharing this with us.

Technically, this was great. Great stage presence. However, I'm in agreement with the others here who said the message wasn't quite all there.

Also felt a bit long...

This left me with mixed feelings really, on a technical point this is an outstanding performance and the presence of Thijs on stage is amazing. The message however was a bit lost on me for certain parts. It was a great story, told in an engaging manner. But it was not a story for everyone.

Onno Marsman at 14:37 on 11 Jun 2018

Very inspiring and I liked the energy in the talk a lot.
But I do not agree with everything. Some people are not presented with the chances or do not have the ability to take the chances you are talking about. This can be influenced by a wide variety of factors. Although, in my experience, these people are not the ones complaining and you certainly have a point about that.
Also, I do not like the harsh guy at all, you've shown several videos of. Although I do agree with him, it is way too harsh and could be hurtful for people who do not have the opportunities or abilities. I feel those videos add nothing to the point you are trying to make.
Also, about the part where the "disaster struck": It must have been very difficult and you have my sympathies for that, but the image shown, to me suggested it was a lot worse. Also realize that everybody has their own share of disaster stories, which are impossible to compare, and from your story there is the danger of people feeling guilty to have a difficult time with disasters happening to them. I'm not saying this is what you mean to imply, but there is the danger of people interpreting it that way.

Thijs is a great speaker and he's aware of that. Maybe a bit too much aware of it ;).

From a technical perspective I'm blown away; that was one slick presentation.
Spending a few days digesting the talk I broadly agree with the take aways - you make your own luck.

It felt quite a bold talk, although there is context I'm a Brit and we're a bit more reserved and generally self deprecating. I'd find it hard to go on stage and say things like I think I'm better at X than person Y so I think I should be doing X. However this is an important reminder that there are subtle cultural differences and I should be aware that being more forward about ability might be required in different parts of the world.

To make it a 5 star talk I would probably make it a little shorter and focus a bit more on some of the detail. For example the speaker mentioned things like when in new situations work out the key players. Maybe a little detail on how to do that would be good.

Excellent presentation and really funny talk. I enjoyed myself and left with good spirits and inspired.

Only downside to this talk is the focus on "work hard and be successful and you will be happy" theme.
While the first 2 go hand in hand, the happy part does not require the first 2.
I'm sure the speaker thinks that as well, but people that have a difficult time might not receive the message all to well.

It might be adjusted to: "do stuff you like, do it often and get good at it" (especially the vlog bit is good for this).

Steve Winter at 22:53 on 11 Jun 2018

A hard-to-rate talk. I love your enthusiasm and passion Thijs and you 'own' the stage so well. The photos and video in your materials also really draw the listener in.

Unfortunately as many others have said I really struggled with some of the messages. I understand this is your personal story, but it was hard to see what the takeaways were for the audience? I also found the level of profanity in the session inappropriate for a professional conference.

Thijs Feryn (Speaker) at 09:34 on 12 Jun 2018

Thanks for all the feedback: both positive & negative. It was nuanced and very respectful, which I really appreciate.

Based on all the comments and ratings, I now have a clear view on how to improve this presentation. It is obvious that there is a common pattern in the feedback.

I will reflect on it, use it and turn it into a v2.

To use a metaphor from my presentation: this is a new variable that has appeared, and I'll use it in my quest to become a better speaker.

Thanks again everyone!

Derek Binkley at 18:42 on 13 Jun 2018

The presentation and delivery was top notch. As a speaker I aspire to create the type of stage presence that Thijs exhibited. I also believe that the underlying message of reaching for the stars and taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you can inspire developers to take their careers to the next level. I definitely felt the talk was worth hearing, however, I had some issues with some of the undercurrents of this message.

The talk description ends in "even if it seems like the odds are stacked against you." I didn't get the sense that this was an overcoming odds type of story. I have heard other keynote speakers give similar talks whose stories involve overcoming homelessness, poverty, prejudice and more. In this story I felt that success was due to equal parts luck, privilege and hard work. I think that is fine but should be acknowledged that many others attempting to follow those footsteps must work so much harder and longer to get the pieces of their careers to fall into place.

Arnout Boks at 19:30 on 14 Jun 2018

I also have some mixed feelings (that others have already described better than I ever could) about the message you were trying to get across. In addition, the talk felt way too long for me; a keynote going overtime is a big no-go in my opinion.

Apart from that, the stage presence, delivery and especially the video slides were just amazing!