17 Feb The Broken American DBA
I recently finished reading The Broken American Male by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and wanted to share a few thoughts. Congress and I found his show on TLC a while back (it is no longer on the air) and were disappointed that he did not continue to make additional shows. Of course after I read the book it makes a lot of sense as to why he would not continue.
See, the idea is that most men in American society will drive themselves to be the best at something and in their efforts to do so will end up sacrificing other things in their life. For most, sadly, it is their family. The book goes into a lot more detail and in some cases he repeats himself which tells me that either he cannot remember things he has already written, or the book is a compilation of short essays, or that he has a bad editor. Probably a mixture of all three, I suspect.
The reason I bring this up is that for a while now I have been trying to come to terms with the fact that I cannot be everything to everyone (and that includes myself). I need to focus on the one or two things that are most important and not worry about all the other stuff. Last year a friend of mine was pointing out something he noticed about “guys our age”, and it went something like this:
“…haven’t you ever noticed something about ‘that guy’ who is really good at something? Perhaps he runs a marathon in under three hours, or he is a scratch golfer, or whatever. In almost every case, his family hates him because he is spending all his time doing something else and not being with them…”
When I came across the book a few months later something in my mind clicked, and I remembered that conversation. And then things really started to come into focus for me. I am not going to write blog entries that are as good and as technical as others. That is not who I am. Could it be? Sure, but at what price? Besides, why work twice as hard to be the best DBA in the world when I can just call myself “America’s Most Exciting DBA“? I need to do the things that come easily to me, and not try to master everything under the Sun.
Recently there was a debate about specialization versus generalization going on and I could not help but wonder to myself “what does it matter”? I mean, the person should do what makes them happy. If they want to know a little about a lot of things, then do that. If they have an interest in one area and want to focus on that area, then they should do that instead. But what they should not do is feel pressured to be so good at what they do that they start to lose touch with those around them.
I am currently a production DBA, actually the manager of the team of production DBA’s. Much as we would like to be more involved in database design and tuning, we still have to spend time troubleshooting issues that arise when data loads fail. As a result of my role, I do not get to spend a lot of time playing with features that would make me a specialist. So, I am a generalist. To be a specialist would require more time out of my day, time I do not have. Well, I would have if I decide to sacrifice time with my family.
Now, I can look at this in one of two ways. I can accept where I am, what I do, and be comfortable with my skills. Or I could become upset, angry, and frustrated that I am “falling behind”. This would lead me to be misreable, and cause others around me to be miserable, which is not going to be good for anyone.
Am I saying I should just accept who I am and never try to be or do something different? No, not at all. I am saying that you need to understand where you are, understand where you want to go, and understand what it will take to get there. I am not in a position to have a technical blog that would rival the two dozen technical blogs I subscribe to right now. I am in a position to offer some levity on situations that arise from time to time and offer brief tips on some aspects of SQL. Since that is easier, and I enjoy doing it, then I will continue. And no, I have no idea where it will take me, but I hope one day that someone will pay me to write, blog, and tweet for ten hours a day.
I do, however, consider myself to be a specialist in production monitoring, and have spent considerable time with Operations Manager, but who wants to read a blog only about Operations Manager? Not even me. So why publish things even I wouldn’t want to read? Just to “have a name”, or “get some street cred”? At what cost? And if I don’t enjoy such things, why do them? Just to stay competitive? Who am I competing with anyway? Myself? For what? To what end? And why all the questions?
At the end of the day we should all be so lucky as to have the ability to go home and spend a few hours with our family. Ask them how their days were. Tell them about yours. Connect. Learn. Share. Yeah, it works on many levels. I even took the Rabbi’s advice and now have my children run to meet me at the door when I come home. I love that feeling I get when for those few moments we have a nice hug and say hello.
And I would much rather be doing that than anything else. If that means I fall behind someone else, so be it. Because I know I am getting way ahead of them when it comes to the rest of Life in general.