Be Happy

Life is too short to be doing something you aren’t suited for.

The Dalai Lama said

"Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

There is a lot of merit in this statement, but the reality of the situation is, we all have to work.  Unless  you’re that fortunate person who has figured a way around the system and travels the world getting paid to do cool shit 🙂

So there I was, sitting in a job I wasn’t happy with because I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing.  You may ask yourself, “How do you figure out what you’re supposed to be doing?”, and truthfully it took me a while to figure it out, but I am not going to say “THIS IS THE WAY” because I found what worked for me.  You really have to find what works for you.

For a long time, all I wanted was to get the title of ‘Director’ in some form or another for an IT department.  I wasn’t happy with developing because I wanted the title, the responsibility, and most importantly, the paycheck that came along with it.  I worked, sacrificed, switched several companies, and worked my tail off to learn and adapt and become what I needed to be in order to be that person.

And I was miserable.

I still  had bills to pay, so I tried to suggest alternatives to my situation that would allow me to do what I’m REALLY good at.  Wasn’t going to be possible in the situation I was in, so I started down a path of self discovery, focusing on what I’m good at.  The surprising thing was what I found along the way.  That’s one of the most important things I found was that we spend too much time looking ahead at what’s coming or working towards to enjoy where we are and how we’re moving along.

I started investigating what I’m REALLY good at, and came  up with the notion as good at programming as I might be, my strength really sits in the fact that I excel in a group.  I’m the guy who throws out the ideas, puts in my .02$, and hopefully steers the group around obstacles to come up with the best solution to what the problem is.  I discovered in the process that I was also really good at identifying NEEDS vs WANTS.  I can really listen to someone to hear what they want to do, and then discuss, plan, and discover what the real bottom line issue or enhancement is, and help a team to implement that.

“I want a brand new page that will allow me to do X” turns into a small adjustment to an existing page with some additional information so the person gets what they want while we still supply the original users with what they want, and a little extra.

“I want a report that will give me these calculations and I want to run it every x hours so I can mix it with these 10 other things and deliver a matrix that I’ve put together” turns into a small datawarehouse project where we not only give them the calcs they need, but also expose the fact that we can give them the whole matrix and then some with a bunch of other factors thrown in for flavor.

It took me digging in and doing a LOT of work on my own and some seriously soul searching to find out what works for me.  I spent a long time jumping from job to job because I wanted to make more money so I could finally do what I wanted to do.  I’m still in debt, not as much as before, but the added cash didn’t magically save the day.  Changing spending and saving habits is doing that, so why not get into something I really enjoy.  I spent a lot of time early in my career blaming outside things – lack of training, lack of budget, rough bosses, etc for not being able to excel.

I manage a team of 2, working with an internal team of 7 with a bunch of third party vendors doing work for  us.  I want to do the work, not manage the stuff.  The issue here is, how do I transition back to development status, without taking the salary hit I know is coming?  I went on a bunch of interviews for jobs I wasn’t qualified for because they paid the salary I needed to keep paying the bills.  In truth, if I had gotten any of those jobs, I may have been able to ‘fake it till you make it’, but the stress would have been just as bad as I was already facing.  I took some time off from interviewing and being disappointed (hell, I applied for an architect job – what was I thinking?) and did some real thinking and some soul searching and talked with a lot of people.  Sometimes got away from me and I would spend several minutes bitching and moaning about how things should be done etc.  In the end, I came up with what worked (plus I got REALLY lucky in the job I found).

  1. Find out what makes you happy, but be realistic.  You can’t start throwing 98 mph fastballs or get a job at CERN without training and know how.  For me, I realized I wanted to work with people, and I wanted to get back into development.
  2. Ask yourself what you can do to get closer to a solution for #1.  I got re-involved on twitter with #SQLFamily, asking and answering questions on and began studying the foundations of SSIS and SQL.  I knew that I had been smoked by some really simple questions on interviews, so I started there and began with a few suggestions from Dusty and started refining what I wanted to focus on.  I really enjoyed the experience of building a datawarehouse from scratch at one of my companies, so I started one at home based on Red Sox statistical data
  3. Help people.  I found that if I saw a question on Twitter in #SSISHelp or #SQLHelp, I’d start looking up the solution if I didn’t know it and post anything that might help the person.  I also found that some solutions that I had spent weeks on would help someone out if I posted the details of how, obviously hiding the sensitive data (id/pass/url).  Sharing information not only helps people, but it feels really good.
  4. Take time to be thankful for what you have.  There’s a proverb I found really poignant that helps me remember perspective:
  5. An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
    “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I hope that this may help someone through a rough time or even just help someone decide that life really is too short, and lift their spirits enough to move in a better direction.  Lets be honest – we all have to pay bills.  How you make that money, or spend the time, really is up to you.  Some of us have to dig ourselves out of the pit of our own making, but it’s worth it.

Good luck.

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