A lot has been happening this year. I decided to throw my hat in the ring at being a blogger and a presenter on SQL topics a little over a year ago. What started out as a nudge into getting out into the community resulted in a full fledged dive into the deep end. This has been a year that professionally, I don't know that I could ever duplicate. Before this year I'd never been to a PASS Summit. I'd never spoken at a conference, never been invited to submit to a conference, heck I'd never attended a SQL Server User Group (and I had to look up the acronym SSUG). And it all gets back to one word.
"So Balls", you say, "What word is that?"
The word Dear Reader is Opportunity. This is a word that has been weighing very heavily on me lately. You see this word, like all words, can be taken many different ways.
THE EASY OPPORTUNITY
These are the kind of opportunities that just fall into your lap, and are a windfall. You fly into Chicago and one of your buddies just happens to have an extra Cub's ticket for the game that night. You check into your coach flight and get automatically upgraded to first class. Your walking by a ride at Disney and someone who is leaving says "Hey would you and your kid's like our fast passes".
There is no downside to this opportunity. No one is put out, the timing is perfect, and everything just fits into place.
When we lived in Virginia we took our first family vacation every and we drove down to Orlando Fl to go to Disney world. Since we had the boys my wife and I had been dreaming with stars in our eyes about the day we would take our kids to Disney. It was her hard work, late nights at her job being a manager for a restaurant, and a 401k loan, but we made it down there.
While we were down there we had a day where the boys crashed early, and the park was going to be open till 4 am. So when everybody woke up we had a late dinner and headed to the Magic Kingdom around 11 pm. While we were standing in line for the Tea Cups a Disney Cast Member came over and offered us a "Magic" experience. They filled out a card for us commemorating where we were and it was made out to the kids with the date on it, and gave us a pass to go to the front of the line. The line was short, so we didn't make anyone "miss out" on the ride. But it was a very special experience, and it helped make a great night just a little bit better.
THE LEARNING OPPORTUNITY
Okay so you F***ed up. It happens. It's happened to me it's happened to you. It happens.
"Balls", you say, " WHOA! You just went from Magical Moment at Disney to You F***ed up WHOA WHOA WHOA!"
Ahh Dear Reader, but that is typically the way these things work out. Ever done a reply all and not realized the whole company was on it? How about getting auto corrected and telling instead of telling the company VP's "Sorry for the inconvenience" that the main server is offline; you send out "Sorry for the incontinence" (incase you need to look it up it means losing control of one's bowels), yep told the senior management sorry about making you wet yourself over a server outage. I was lucky it was a Japanese company, I only heard from the American staff and they were laughing their @$$es off. How about locking out a production domain account? How about having your SQL Server page to your C Drive so the first time you present live in front of people your demo that should take 30 seconds takes 5 minutes and 40 seconds.
Yep these are all mistakes I've made (many more than that), and thanks to them I'm wicked paranoid about auto correct, always check to see who I'm replying to, when a demo goes wrong I've got a backup plan, and Keypass is a wonderful thing.
But that is how things go. One second the world is going fine. The next you discover that the chair you were sitting in is broken and you are lying on your back. Nope I haven't done that but I did one pretty close to that.
These are the learning opportunities. This is the school of hard knox. Where you learn that you stretch to keep from pulling a muscle, that you hydrate so you can avoid a cramp, and that you will make darn sure not to repeat. Because you did it once, you got the T-Shirt, and you don't want to ride that ride again.
THE HARD WORK OPPORTUNITY
We know these as well. This is the opportunity that nobody handed to you. That you earned with blood, sweat, and not a little determination. A couple jobs ago in a land far far away, Virginia, I was working at a job. I enjoyed it I was working hard, and I really liked the people I was working for and with. I was busting my hump trying to make myself one of the Key people, one of the linchpins, and I felt I was deserving of a promotion and a raise.
In one year's time I had gotten some certifications, worked on many different efforts, volunteered for more, and had taken the time to mentor some of the Jr guys on the team. I was working on Programming stuff, Database stuff, Server Engineer Stuff, Training Stuff, needless to say I was doing a lot of stuff.
The time came for my review and it was the typical company review. There were some sections that didn't pertain to me or my job, that were normally rated middle of the road so as not to sink my score but ground it from getting to high. This year I felt in all the extra work that I'd done I'd found some ways to actually rate pretty high on that stuff, and I needed to because I wasn't yet a Sr guy and I wanted to be one.
The review process consisted of us writing our initial review. Our managers reviewing and adjusting it, and then meeting with us to come to a consensus on a final review that would get accepted and sent off to HR. I wrote the heck out of my review. It was stacked full of arguments of why I should be a Sr guy and why I deserved a big raise, and I was ready to go into my review and argue it out and come out on top.
Funny thing happened on the way to the forum, my managers agreed with me. I was working for a company that really valued me and what I was doing. I grinned ear to ear, and jumped up and clicked my heels when no one was looking. But hard work had gotten me there, and I just needed to ask for the Opportunity to be recognized.
THE MISSED OPPORTUNITY
Simply put these are the things that you miss. Either by accident or on purpose. This could be missing meeting up with friends because your phone died. Passing on presenting at an event so you can attend a family gathering. These are the things that we miss out on in this game of life. Forget to follow up with a business contact, go back three spaces.
You only go around on this rock once. Whatever awaits us after this, you only get once chance. The missed opportunities could be passing on a job opportunity. Or they could be the time you spend away from your family while you attend a conference.
When the baby has a nightmare, or there is thunder outside she clings to me. 99.99% of the time she wants Mom. But when she is scared she wants Dad. It's a little thing I know. But it makes me happy to be there for her. I'm not a jerk I'm not happy that she is scared, but knowing that this little person loves and trusts me so much that just by being beside her she believes I can make thunder and lightning go away is earth shatteringly awesome. Being a Dad means that you are more powerful that lightning, able to scare away a monster in a closet just by being awake, and able to bring comfort just by being there. My kids will not be little forever and the baby won't be a baby much longer.
Some missed opportunities are going to a movie. Some are much bigger than that.
Sometimes we work late, sometimes we have conference calls during dinner, sometimes we have trouble calls that keep us away nights and weekends, training that makes us travel. It is part of the job we take on as IT professionals. We need to do work when it will not affect other people. Sometimes that means you are working Saturday morning 12 am to 4 am, sometimes it's Saturday morning 7 am to 12 noon. Other days its Thursday from 10 pm to 4 am Friday. It happens to me, it happens to you, it happens to all of us
The most important thing about missed opportunities is that it gives us a chance to have a better understanding of what is important. Because when we realize that these things are important we can do a better job of minimizing what we miss.
WHAT OPPORTUNITY ARE YOU LOOKING FOR
Your Mission should you choose to accept it Dear Reader, is to figure out what the Opportunity you are looking for is. It could be one born out of Hard Work. It could be that as the day goes along you will have a Learning Opportunity, hopefully it will just be an Easy Opportunity. And if it is a Missed Opportunity then I hope you learn a little about what was most important, and I hope you made the right choice.
Whatever it is, whether you know it or not you are looking for an opportunity right now. So Good luck and I'll see you next time.