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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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My 10,000th tweet – and #sqlfamily


I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of a profound thing I could write for this milestone tweet… have been thinking about it for days now and trying to edit it down to 140 characters – and – well, I’m cheating a bit and putting a link in here.

The thing that strikes me in the 4 years I’ve been tweeting is this thing we call #sqlfamily.

I don’t remember the whole history about it – but it seemed that one of the places it spawned was Summit a few years ago – where several thousand introverted geeks get together who’ve been typing at each other for years – and some of us were kind of surprised to realize, over time, that there were real people on the other end of those keyboards we’d been tweeting with.

People with… with meat on them, who you can laugh with, share a coffee, a drink, or a meal with, and see the sparkle in their eyes as you realize over the years you’ve known this person, but not *in* person.

You realize that #sqlfamily isn’t just folks who are passionate about SQL – though that’s a huge part of it.  You learn that those in #sqlfamily are folks who have lives outside of work, who have families, and hopes, and dreams, and fears, and….

…and we’re more than people who chase electrons around the planet, we’re people, who’ve become more than just colleagues, we’ve become friends.

…who, when we’re the only ones who have a clue what goes on in our databases at work and have no one to talk to at home about work things (you know “the look”) – find that there’s someone out there in #sqlfamily who actually gets it…

That’s #sqlfamily.

Professionally, some of us have been around long enough to have some gray hair, and have made enough mistakes that we can share a bit of the wisdom that comes from that.

Some are quite young and have the energy and enthusiasm for new things that those with experience can learn from.

Personally, we encourage  each other in times of trial, whether that’s personal or professional.  We spontaneously raise money to help those of us who have fallen, or raise money for a cause, not because we’re looking for glory, but because it’s the right thing to do.

We cheer each other on, whether it’s in some level of self-improvement, or trying to get healthier, or a new life event…

We support each other offline through conversations no one else will ever hear through some of life’s darkest moments

And we flip each other unending amounts of crap – virtual pats on the back, inside jokes and “did you remember when…” moments.

I’ve noticed several businesses trying to use the #sqlfamily hashtag for marketing – and that’s not what it’s for, I had to clarify that with one of them during one of those dark times to get them to understand it, and some did.

#sqlfamily is more than people we work with, it’s more than friends we see a couple of times a year.

#sqlfamily – to me… It’s sacred.

And I’m proud, and honored, to be part of it.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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GEEQL Speaks! :-)


SQLSaturdayPortland

Hey all,

I’m honored, thrilled, and just a wee bit terrified to have been chosen to speak at the Portland SQL Saturday, November 1st.

(and I blame Julie (B | T) for this) 😉

Many of you have read the stories I’ve written here about SQL or the stories about life on my other blog.  Well, here’s your chance to actually hear some of them with the tidbits of knowledge I’ve picked up along the way and how it all applies to life at work..

I’ve learned much over the years and it seems like it’s time to start giving back. My presentation will be about communication – and a few of the ways I’ve learned about how to do it better.

On the Agenda (barring any last minute changes) will be lessons as you see below using stories, illustrations, and examples you might not expect, but do indeed get the point across, and tell a story.

So, if you’re curious – here’s the outline I’ll be working from:

Communicating: The Various Directions

  • Across to peers/other departments
  • Up to management/leadership
  • Down to Support your directs
  • Getting the right numbers to the right people
  • Using numbers effectively (Presentations)
  • Understanding your audience
  • Using those numbers to
    • Help state your case
    • Help get what you want
    • Polish your resume
  • Communicating “Oops”
  • Sometimes, Things go wrong
  • Communication during Emergencies

And last but not least – why it’s all important.

I look forward to seeing, learning, and laughing with you there.

Tom

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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