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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Paul and the Butterfly Effect


So now that most of you reading this have come back home from either PASS Summit or MVP Summit and are trying to get your heads around being back home and/or in the office again, so grab a cup of coffee and allow me to share a story with you…

(for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about – imagine a bunch of introverted computer geeks getting together, eating together, drinking various liquids together, learning together, and quite often having an amazingly good time while they’re at it)

This story started out as a response to a note Paul Randal (blog | twitter) wrote just after summit almost a year ago, and for any of you who’ve read my stories, you’ll be familiar with the phrase, “And it got me thinking” – usually about halfway down the story.  But this time it starts at the beginning, see, Paul wrote about this thing called “the butterfly effect” and he was talking about how making one small change in something could make major changes later on…

The links above are Paul’s, the links below will likely reference my own stories, which you’ll understand as you read along.

Paul asked for feedback on what he wrote about the butterflies, and I started writing, and thinking, and thinking, and writing.

And it went something like this:

Gosh, Paul,

It’s hard to figure out where the first butterfly flapped its wings in this story…

And please forgive me – it turned out longer than I expected, but you’ll understand when you get to the end.

I was working at Microsoft (1996-2000), and over time had sent out stories about my then 7 year old son (like this one) – and one day, I got a surprisingly snarky reply-all response back from a fellow I’d considered to be a friend.  We’d worked together (he in England, me in Redmond) – and while I wanted to fire back with all the self-righteousness in the world, how he, a young, single man, didn’t understand the joy that comes from having the privilege of having children, I backed off.

I checked with a trusted friend for advice, and then suggested to him, kindly, that in time, he would indeed understand the joy one can have experiencing a story like the one above, but he was not yet old enough to understand that.  I wished him well, and told him that I hoped that someday he would be able to experience that privilege.  I made sure not to burn any bridges, because his comment was based on youth and inexperience, and I truly valued his friendship.

Fast forward 10 years.

We’d both grown, we’d both lived, but most importantly, we’d stayed friends.

He’d moved to the US, worked for several companies, including the one I work for now, and is now back at Microsoft, based out of Chicago.

Some time back, he heard I was looking for work, and within a day, had written a letter of recommendation based on years of trust, years of both personal and professional friendship, and in part due to that – I had an opportunity to interview and was subsequently hired.

I had/got/made/took opportunities to speak (I did sessions down at SSWUG.org for a few years) and then got involved in the SQL community, starting, as I recall, with Chris Shaw (blog | twitter ).  He was one of the speakers at one of the SSWUG sessions at the time (I didn’t know about PASS then), and I was just being me, flipping him crap, and he flipped it back.  We laughed, then he asked if I wanted to speak.  I couldn’t imagine him asking that, but he did, and the conversation went like this:

“Have you ever done any public speaking?”

“Only Eulogies.”

<crickets>

“No really.  One was for my dad, and one was for a friend in my cancer survivor’s support group.”

I couldn’t imagine anything more stressful than doing a eulogy for your own dad, or for a friend who had died of the same disease you were fighting, too, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  How hard could it be, right?

Little did I know – but I worked hard, made some presentations, and I did it for three years. I met wonderful people there (Chris Shaw & Wendy Pastrick  ( blog | twitter ) were with me in the studio one of those times) and met others through the sessions.

Wendy Pastrick, me, and Chris Shaw

Wendy Pastrick, me, and Chris Shaw

…and Paul, I had a ball doing it.

This year I spoke at the SQLSaturday in Portland just before Summit – on communication, and how important it is, and how hard it is to do well. (I have a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and a Master’s in Visual Communication (photojournalism) and am still learning)

And it got me thinking, as so many stories do…

Had I gotten mad at John (the friend in Chicago) and burned that bridge way back in 1997 when I sent that original emailed story out (I think it says 1998 in the one on the blog) – then I wouldn’t have had him as a resource to get the job I have today.

Had I not gotten that job, I wouldn’t have had the speaking opportunity in Tucson.

…nor would I have gone to Summit.

Or had the opportunities to speak.

Or made the friends I’ve made.

I wouldn’t have realized there were other people just as lonely as I was out there who worked in their own little cubicle, being one of very few people in their companies doing what they do.

I wouldn’t have learned about #sqlhelp, and #sqlfamily, and summer camp for geeks (Summit)

I wouldn’t have learned that just by tweeting something with DBCC in it, in short order you could get an answer from the guy who wrote it.

As a result, my mind has been in a state of continuous bogglement (if that’s a word) for the last 7 years.

(you realize this list could go on for a good long while.)

But I did learn – and I know a little about these things now.

I know there are folks out there who will help, who will encourage, and who will cheer me on should I need it.

Just today, I found myself on the cheering/encouraging end of that equation (one member of the SQL community came home from Summit to one less family member in the house)

I don’t know if in doing that, I was a butterfly helping someone in their own life journey. I don’t know..

And I don’t think any of those things (that family member excluded) would have happened had I gotten mad at John those many years ago.

Yes, I do think about that.

Oh, speaking of John… He and his wife now have two boys – and he understands.

Take care Paul – thanks for making me think – that was fun.

Tom

PS: not to overload you, but to take the butterfly back even further – almost 100 years ago, there was this little piece of Russian Shrapnel

if it hadn’t hit where it did, you wouldn’t be reading any of this.

And I sent it…

And just now – it got me thinking some more…

Some of the butterflies in life are good ones.  Some are bad ones.

All of them got you to where you are today.

So I’ll end this one, uncharacteristically, with a question:  As you think back, What are your butterflies? What got you to where you are today?

Take care out there, folks,

Tom

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Posted by on November 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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