Looking Back at 2010

I’m writing this the day before Xmas, trying to finish up a bunch of odd tasks before the holiday weekend begins. As I look back at my goals and experiences for the year, it’s mixed emotions for me. I ended up sacrificing some goals to make others happen, a decision which seemed right then and now, but still feels frustrating, a sense that I’ve let the scale get out of balance somehow, and that I’m not getting to focus on the things that I really want to do, and do well. I’ve made some progress in changing that balance over the past two months, but still some work to do on that. It’s not that is has been a bad year, just hasn’t been the year I had hoped to have!

It’s ok to look back, but one of the rules I try to live by is that it doesn’t matter how you got to a certain point, it’s what you do next that matters. I can’t say I don’t fuss over bad decisions, bad luck, and more, but I try to avoid the paralysis that comes with saying ‘it ain’t fair!’.So, for the next week or so I’ll be thinking more about the things I really want to do next year and the reality that I’m going to have to give up on some things to get others done. It’s hard to figure out, because doing what I want to do seems selfish, yet not doing what I want to do is entirely unfulfilling.

End of year not a bad time for some amateur philosophy and a look back, but now it’s time to look forward and I’ll do that in the first week of January. I hope you take a few minutes to look back too, think about where you’ve been, and where you want to go. It makes life seem less like a treadmill and more like a journey.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year,

 

Andy

Book Review: Bury My Heart at Conference Room B

Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers by Stan Slap ($15 @ Amazon) is about finding a way to mesh your personal values with the values of the business, and how showing your values to your team and encouraging them to live and work to their values can make a big difference in how organizations work. It was one of those books where sometimes I thought ‘yeah, I get it’, and other times I was a bit bewildered, just not sure where and how it would work.

Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers

The values thing spoke to me. I’ve got a strong sense of values that are mine, and while I don’t expect the business or my team to mirror those, I don’t tolerate well anything that makes me feel like my own values are being compromised. It’s hard to say that without seeming like a zealot, but there are places where compromise is possible over the short term, but not over the long term. For example, I believe in being honest with employees and team members, but there are times when you’re required to keep secrets – say the company is considering laying off employees. I don’t see that as being in conflict with my values of integrity and honesty.

Back to the book (which I listened to as it was read by the author), I thought, how many people don’t stick to their values at work and how much must that cost them? How would I manage differently if instead of trying to understand if they are an introvert or extrovert I understood what was most important to them? I can see that being a hard question to ask and get answered, there’s a fear line there – should I say “money” or will that hurt me?

He has some interesting stories in the book, both personal and about his work, including what amounted to an intervention with the sales team at Microsoft. He talks about the theory and the reality, that implementing this type of program isn’t easy and that it won’t always work smoothly, which I find encouraging because few things are as simple as following a recipe.

Should you read this, and if so, when? It’s not a book of immediate results, it’s theory and it’s something that most of us won’t be able to widely implement unless we’re pretty close to the top of an organization. It’s not a bad book, and taking time to think about values is time well spent, but you’ve got to be ready for it. Not sure I was entirely.

There’s an exercise in the book I’ll be doing in the next week or so, and I’ll share the results and a link to the exercise when I’m done, because I’d like to see what you think.

Meet a New Blogger: Malathi Mahadevan

My friend Malathi (Mala) Mahadevan has chaired the Louisville PASS Chapter for the past couple years, and will be heading up their second SQLSaturday in January 2011. She’s started a blog at http://beyondrelational.com/blogs/diligentdba/default.aspx that I wanted to share. Getting started and finding your voice takes time, hope you’ll follow along and post a comment or two to encourage her to keep going.

 

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I was corresponding with Mala about some SQLSaturday items and she mentioned that they are starting a Toastmasters group as part of an effort to both network and to grow speakers. I’m really looking forward to hearing more about that, I’ve long been interested but just couldn’t find time to dig into it, and I think it could be a huge win for PASS if we can add that to the Chapter pattern. That’s great stuff to blog about!

Updated SQLRally Flyer

We’ve updated the original flyer to the new and improved model that has the prices. The image below is a screen capture, download the real flyer to get the best resolution. We’re in the process of ordering print copies now and will be working to distribute them beginning in January, focusing on chapters/groups in the South East first, as well as SQLSaturdays, and go from there.

Please forward around at work, maybe put up on the bulletin board too!

 

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Lunch Story #3–No Free Sandwiches

This time the plan was to go to Arby’s because it was close and my friend Rob had coupons for buy one get one. Four of us go, we get there and then do the coupon dance, who wants chicken, who wants roast beef? Finally two of us decide on the chicken sandwich, but to get fries and iced tea seems complicated for them, they say it will work if we do it as a side. Ok, fine. I pay, my coupon partner gives me $5 cash for his, we stand to wait on the food.

While I was waiting I noticed in the kitchen a bucket labeled ‘Dirty Towels’. Not a hand written or stick-on type thing, it looked like they ordered a Dirty Towel bucket. Probably not dumb, but reminded me of the Bat Cave labeling system.

Person number three orders, then #4, and I missed the coupon fun if any that happened there. Then person #3 gets their food, then #4, while we wait – seems they had to cook the chicken first. Finally the food comes, the chicken is ok if not great, and so goes lunch.

We were talking about this and that at lunch, it’s only on the way back that it strikes me – we didn’t save any money. The total was $11.74, but we didn’t have the detail receipt. Still, I’m pretty sure the combo was around $5.50-$6, so either they rang it up wrong after all that, or the way they did it just ended up costing the same.

Free sandwich? Not this time!

Book Plug: Say Goodbye

I read a lot, and often marvel at the effort that goes into writing them, and I think I get part of that appreciation from watching my friend Bob write his first novel, Say Goodbye. He’s worked hard at it, growing it, changing it, polishing it, and sweating over the question that I suspect every author asks eventually – is it done? I think the answer from most authors is “no”, it’s never done, but at some point they see it’s taken on a life of it’s own, and it’s time to see if the rest of the world sees value in all the effort.

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So, what about the novel? It’s an action story, about a guy named John Paxton who works in Air Force para-rescue, and ends up on a strange mission to rescue the pilot of a stealth fighter. It’s got some twists and turns, and what makes the book interesting (besides knowing the author) is that you’ll find two interesting characters. I’ve read it a couple times, and I’ll be reading it again over the holidays, curious to see the final cut that made it to print (e-print).

And the author? Bob & I go back to middle school, he’s served some time in the Air Force, has kids, teaches school, and of course writes. Maybe more than anything else, he’s a writer. He’s also a good guy.

It’s $5.99 for a variety of e-formats from Smashwords. I’m hoping you’ll buy a copy and see what you think, encourage a new author to go back and write the sequel and the prequel and maybe a few more. Maybe give away a copy or two for xmas gifts too!

Another Lunch Story

Lately I’ve been having some unusual lunches, starting with the bbq fiasco from last week. For this one I have no one to blame but myself! This time I was working out of my office and remoting to a client, lots of stuff going on and the time flying by. The weather here has been fairly cold lately and it had warmed some, but I was still undecided about going out. Finally about 11:30 decided to hit Chipotle, grabbed a book (Shop Class as Soulcraft) and left.

I got there a little later than usual and there was a line, and I don’t know what triggered it, but I reached for my wallet – which I didn’t have. Startled, and mildly irritated, I think I must have left it at home, I’d been up and out of the house at 6 am. Home is only a couple miles away, so  I drive home and go in, no wallet. Check the other spot where it might be, nope. Then I stop to think. Finally. Realize that to get in to the office I had to have had my wallet, because it has the scan card, which means the wallet is at the office.

Now I’ve progressed from irritated to disgusted to bemused. Too immersed in work, not enough focus on life. Back to the office, wallet is right at my desk where I left it. Of course by now I’ve burned half of what would have been a pleasant hour reading, so I just write it off as not meant to be and go back to work.

Some days a quiet lunch is just not meant to be!

Unusual BBQ

Recently some friends invited me to try a BBQ place that they enjoyed, so I went along hoping for the best, never know what you’ll get with off the path bbq, but hoping for a good meal and to  BBQ in Florida that my friend Wes Dumey hadn’t tried yet!

To end the suspense early, it was Carters Barbecue in downtown Mulberry, FL (not far from Tampa/Lakeland area). It’s walk-up/drive-through only, basically a house converted to a restaurant and the carport is the drive through. To give you an idea of the venue, when you get to the window there is a sign that says for service step on the black hose. The ‘black hose’ is one of those hoses that you used to find across the driveway at gas stations, and sure enough if you step on it you hear the ‘ding ding’ inside.

I’d heard about the menu on the way over and decided not to try the oxtail, going for a chicken sandwich with fries and iced tea, and indulging a little with a side order of hush puppies. It was the rare cold day in Florida so we waited as patiently as we could for the food, then headed back to the office to eat.

Now if you’re anything like me, when I said chicken sandwich you’re probably thinking something like you’d get at Chick-Fil-A. So imagine my surprise when the sandwich turns out to be two slices of white bread slathered in a mustard based sauce, and in between, a chicken leg and thigh – with the bones! The fries were good:-)

The ribs the other guys got looked very good, and from what I hear the rib sandwich is good too (yes, you get bones and all with it as well).

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Notes from the December 2010 OPASS Meeting

Our December meeting was a time for a lot of changes:

  • New location, the Hampton Inn in Lake Mary. It’s further north in a good tech area, great access, decent parking, decent room.
  • New leaders. Well, sort of. Jack Corbett had been co-President for a year, but now he’s the sole big dog, and has Karla Landrum working with him on sponsorship and speakers
  • The first real ‘social’ event, spouses invited to a dinner and gift only meeting, no technical stuff
  • The first time in 3-1/2 years that I wasn’t involved, just a plain attendee!

The meeting format was a light dinner, salad and ziti at round tables, probably about 50 total in attendance. Nice to sit and just chat, only negative was the room was a bit cramped, hard to move around once it filled up. Jack, Karla, and Kendal Van Dyke ran through some quick slides, reviewing upcoming meetings (I’ll let Jack share that) and some stuff on sponsors and then SQLRally. We took a break, then did a gift exchange, with all the gifts provided by sponsors and/or oPASS. The meeting ran until about 8:15, ending with the big raffle for an Xbox.

As I watched it struck me that change is good. Not always comfortable. I miss being involved, worry that some of the changes won’t be for the better, feel like I’m slacking for not doing more. All selfish, all human! But as an attendee I think the change is good. Time to try some new things that would be out of my comfort zone, bring a different flavor to the meetings via Jack’s leadership style, and time for me to watch and learn, both technology and what works or doesn’t work as they try new things.

As an side, one of the things I think PASS doesn’t do enough is drive more leader change at the local level. Running a chapter is fun and rewarding, but it’s also a grind. For all that, I suspect it’s common to have ‘leaders for life’ because of a combination of no one stepping up and not wanting to step down. I don’t know that change should be mandatory, but maybe it should be encouraged. Nothing says a leader can’t take a break and then loop back for another term, rested and enthused.

A good meeting, and I’m looking forward to the 2011 version of oPASS.