Joe Webb Blog

Musing and observations about SQL Server, other technogies, and sometimes just life in general

Things you know now

I was recently tagged by my long-time friend and colleague Kevin Kline in his blog post Things You Know Now. The thread originated with Mike Walsh, in his blog post also entitled Things You Know Now.  In his thread, Mike asks a simple, open-ended question: "It doesn't have to be DBA skills, but what do you wish you knew when you were starting?"

As I began thinking about the things I've learned over the years, I realized that there are plenty of things I wish I had known 10 or 15 years ago. It was hard to narrow it down to just a few, but I've long believed that it's better to do 2-3 things really well than to do a dozen things half-way.

So here are my top three.

Think like a consultant

It's true, I've been a consultant for a very long time, 15 plus years in fact. And over that time I've met a number of clients who hold consultants in very poor esteem. As with any vocation, a few really bad ones can tarnish the reputation for the rest.

But I'm not referring to actually being a consultant, just thinking like one. View your relationship with your employer or boss as a consultant would and act accordingly. For example:
  • Be responsive - don't sit on things hoping they'll go away. Respond promptly, even if it's simply to say "I'm working on it."
  • Add value - don't just rotely put in your 40 hours per week. Look for ways to add value to the team or organization.
  • Bring solutions - don't regularly bring problems to your boss, bring recommended solutions.
  • Don't take it personally - sometimes your great ideas will not be accepted for reasons you won't understand. That's ok. Don't take it personally. Think of your ideas like a work of fine art. You may like them but others may not. If that's the case, paint another work of art.
  • Put others first - think of others before yourself. Find ways to helps others and it'll come back to you.

Enjoy the day

Life is short, too short sometimes. It's like a wisp of mist that's here for little while and then disappears. I don't mean to sound pesimistic about it; I'm not actually. But I do realize that life is too short to get burdened down with things that don't really matter in the long run or to worry about things that are really out of your control. Do the things you can to prepare and trust that it will work out for the good.

One rule of thumb that I created back in high school was to think of things in terms of 5 year periods. When I'm facing something that seems worrisome at the moment, I try to think about it from the perspective of 5 years from now. Will it really matter to me 5 years from now? If not, don't sweat it. If so, then I do what I can to make it right, now. Of course the 5 year rule must be applied judiciously. While one minor thing may not matter 5 years from now, a series of minor things that lead to a pattern may indeed matter.

So, enjoy the day while preparing for the future.

It's all about relationships

As I go about my professional life, I realize that much of what I do will not be around 5 to 10 years from now. The T-SQL code that I write, the databases that I design, the solutions that I architect all have a very finite lifetime. At some point no matter how good they are today, they will be completely obsolete.

But the difference I make in the life of someone else may live on forever. Whether it's in my kids or in my relationships with friends and coworkers, investing in the lives of others will pay off in ways I can never even imagine.

So find someone to invest in.

And a bonus one

In keeping with the spirit of thinking like a consultant (giving you more than I promised), I'll leave you with one more thing. Don't let your sense of self-worth get wrapped up in what you do or how you perform. Find a hobby that you enjoy and find the time to do it. I enjoy working outside so we bought a small hobby farm and we raise chickens, cows, vegetables, etc. It certainly keeps me busy, but I so enjoy the time I spend doing it. It helps to keep things in perspective and to make me more well-rounded.

Next up

I'd love to hear your comments on these "Things I know now". As for the thread, I'm tagging:



Legacy Comments

re: Things you know now
You made some good points, Joe.
I am going to remember the 5-year rule ... a good perspective!

Remote DBA
re: Things you know now
Joe, thanks a lot for the post. I am also thinking of a small farm to grow mushrooms and maybe fish, but I used to hesitate if it is a suitable activity for a DBA :).
Thanks, Vadym.

Joe Webb
re: Things you know now
Very good Vadym! It's great to have a hobby, especially one where you can break even or actually make a bit of money.

re: Things you know now
A very good post! I too liked the 5-year rule.. :) will start applying it from now.... n also suggest others...