They Only Remember The “No”


17 May They Only Remember The “No”

noHumans are a needy bunch.

We are born helpless. Totally dependent upon others for our survival.

When my daughter was born she needed to have formula dripped into her mouth to avoid dehydration and death. This lasted for a few weeks until she could feed on her own. Will she remember my waking up every few hours to help feed her?

No, and not just because she was too young.

She is more than likely able to tell you about all the times I told her she could not have donuts for dinner, or ice cream for breakfast, or not play with shards of broken glass.

Like most humans my daughter is going to remember the times she was told “no” vividly, and less likely to remember all the times she was told “yes”.

In my book DBA Survivor I speak as to how this translates to our lives as adults:

“No one cares about effort, they only care about results.”

If someone needs a quick answer from you on an obscure topic and you deliver they are likely to walk away happy. If they come to you ten times in a row and you deliver 9 out of the 10 times guess what sticks most in their mind? That’s right, the one time you couldn’t deliver is what sticks; those other nine don’t matter.

And that sucks.

And it is so very….human.

It is also human for us to not want to fail, to not disappoint others, so we get in the habit of over-promising. This often leads to under-delivering. It’s eerily similar to how virtualization works (which makes sense, since virtuallization systems were built by humans). It’s not the over-allocation of resources that is the issue, it’s when your resources are over-committed that performance suffers.

And that’s when people complain. They only remember the one failure, they never think about all the times their applications ran smoothly. When was the last time someone called and thanked you for an overnight batch process running fast?

I touched upon this in my Someday talk. People never stop to think about all the Somedays that they have already accomplished. They tend to focus more on the things they haven’t obtained yet. Not enjoying what they have, when they have it. Instead they clamor for more, and for things to never go wrong.

Humans are needy. They have a default setting of “yes” for their needs. It starts at birth and never stops.

And that’s why we only remember the “no”.

At the end of the day the issue isn’t as much with you as it is with the expectations that others place upon you. This also means that you, as a human, are often placing expectations on others. It’s a vicious cycle.

That’s what needs to be managed.


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  • datachick

    I need to manage expectations, but also my ability to manage the guilt of saying “no”. I shouldn’t feel guilty if I can’t respond with a “yes’, I know.

    Plus it’s just not Canadian.

    • ThomasLaRock

      No, it’s not just Canadian.

  • Michael J Swart

    We can turn that on its head sometimes where I can be perceived more positively for the infrequent times I fall short:

    If I’m lucky, I can help out with issues so efficiently that people are barely aware there was an issue. Or they underestimate the severity of the issue and that often leads to forgetting there ever was an issue in the first place.

    If I do that 9 times out of 10, and the 10th issue it takes me a week to tackle. If I give frequent updates, I’m seen as tackling a tough and severe issue. And it’s that that sticks in peoples minds.

    I often struggle with that dilemma.

    • ThomasLaRock

      Good point Michael, frequent updates can make a difference. But that’s only for the issues that have longer deadlines. If the 10th time is someone saying “I need a quick answer for Obscure Feature X” and you say “give me a week, that may be still be seen as a failure. And that sucks, because you want to help…you are trying to help…but you still come up short.

  • Ayman El-Ghazali

    I had to fix tons of disk space issues this week which only our ops team knew about. When my boss said there isn’t much DBA work to do I started outlining how I spent my week putting out unnecessary fires. A DBA goes unnoticed when things run smoothly and then everyone belittles the job we do in being proactive.

    That book sounds interesting I’ll have to put it on my reading list.

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