What Gets Measured Gets Done

As plans were emerging for SQL Cruise Alaska in the waning days of 2010 it seemed a good time to interject guest speakers into the mix.  Thanks to our supportive sponsors (SQL Sentry, Quest Software, Red Gate Software, Idera, and Confio) we could make the case financially to bring a guest speaker on the ship for this event.  Naturally, when looking for charismatic speakers that touch the SQL Server Sphere of Relevance (but definitely not it’s Cone of Silence) the name Buck Woody (blog|twitter) comes to mind almost immediately.

It was Buck that spoke on the topic of Career on the very first day of SQL Cruise Alaska 2011.  He made the statement that became the title of this post.  It was in made regards to the myriad of tasks, projects, goals, and so on that hit our desks daily.  The simple thing is that if you keep track of your progress you’re likely to achieve completion of the items tracked than those you don’t.  After the cruise Buck publicly called out those Cruisers and Trainers such as I who were up for the challenge of reading 12 books in the next 12 months that pushes us towards improvement in our careers.  This doesn’t necessarily mean a change in our careers or employment.  This can mean more fulfilment, a tuning of responsibilities, or moving into a role that better fits the technical skills you carry in your toolbox.  Yes, it may also mean a next step forward into new roles elsewhere as well. 

It may be a strong word, but I hate reading self-help, non-fiction, business books.  I lived through four years of University studying for the eventual Bachelors of Business Administration that I ended up loathing.  I find the topics discussed in these books dry – XML parsing dry.  However, I think I found a batch of 12 books that will get me through the challenge I accepted and move me towards being a better Presenter, Educator, and Leader.  You’ll notice there is not a single technical book on SQL Server in the list.  That is by design.  I don’t glean knowledge from reading technical books cover-to-cover (odd that I say that as an Author).  Technical books are like elephants.  You have to eat them one spoonful at a time.

Onto my list, in random order of course!

Public Speaking for Success – Dale Carnegie

If I had more time I’d join Toastmasters in an effort to enhance my public speaking skills.  It’s not been but 5 years since I was dropped into the deep end of the pool to confront my number Number Two fear: public speaking.  I had to step up at the last moment to host the PASS Summit Quizbowl because of a speaker conflict.  I was terrified but have since built strength from the energy that fear stokes.  I am always looking for ways to improve.  Everything.  All the time.

By the way, Number One fear?  That would be heights.  This I tackled on SQL Cruise Alaska by doing climbing an rappelling in Skagway!  I’ve video of my rappelling stint but it’s NSFW.  Due to language it’s received an NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America.

What is Your Dangerous Idea?– John Brockman

What do the world’s leading scientists and thinkers consider to be their most dangerous idea?  That is the phrase that caught my attention at the library and made me choose this book.  I’m always looking to get involved in the Next Thing.  Looking forward is always more interesting to me than looking back.

Beyond Bullet Points: Using PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform and Inspire – Cliff Atkinson

For better of worse I’ll be using PowerPoint for the foreseeable future.  I’m looking for options constantly to make my presentations more interesting and less sleep-inducing to those who sit in front of them.  This one is a crap shoot.

Wherever You Go There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn

I’ve had this book on my plate for over 15 years.  Borrowed from a friend long ago and never past page 100.  My mind is one in constant motion.  I hate it and find it almost impossible to turn it off.  I’m hoping what I learn from the author will help in that.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig

For the same reasons I have the previous book on this list I have “Zen…”  I’ve no idea what I’m in for.  I’m only aware of it’s reputation – not its substance.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information– Edward Tufte

In the search to present data in a format that “Escapes Flatland” Edward Tufte is the one I am turning to.

Growing A Farmer– Kurt Timmermeister

2010 a year of supreme change in my life.  I realized that not all things perceived to be on solid footing were and that I needed to reinvent some aspects of who I am and what I do.  I also took a risk and brought SQL Cruise to the world along with Brent Ozar (blog|twitter).  This is the story of a restaurateur from Seattle who decided to buy land and start a farm on Vashon Island outside the city limits.  It’s a captivating story of trial and error and the evolution of turning passion into lifestyle and career.  I’m halfway through the book and truly enjoying it.

Take the Cannoli – Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowel is a captivating storyteller who I got involved with (from a reading and listening perspective) by accident.  She’s been a Contributor to NPR’s This American Life for years and I mistook this story, which is told every year around Thanksgiving (in the United States) as hers.  It’s not.  For those who don’t know her from NPR she also has voiced characters for Pixar – most memorably in The Incredibles as Violet.  She’s talented beyond words and knows how to tell a story.  Storytelling is a key for Presenters and Writers alike.  That is why I tend to favor books by stand-up comedians as well.  They’re master storytellers if they’re successful.

Dealing With People You Can’t Stand– Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner

I really enjoy Brent Ozar’s Consulting Lines series because it shows how you can use martial arts skills to succeed in negotiations and interaction with others.  (Turning your opponent’s energy against them.)  I’ve had this book for years in attempts to have it help me with a former job outside of I.T.  I think now is the time to dust it off.  I think it will be along the lines of what Brent conveys.

Secrets of Consulting – Gerald M. Weinberg

This was a recommendation from by business partners: Brent Ozar, Jeremiah Peschka (blog|twitter), and Kendra Little (blog|twitter).  We’ll see how good they are at the Oprah’s Book Club knockoff business…

StrengthFinders 2.0– Tom Rath

This is a bit of a cheat, but it is a book that is leading me through the goals of the challenge so I’m including it.  Buck had asked that all Cruisers for the SQL Cruise Alaska read this book and take the associated test.  Brent bought the tests/books for each of our Brent Ozar PLF partners to take.  It was frustrating, but appears to be accurate.  For the record my results are as follows (only makes sense if you read the book folks!) 

In order: Intellection, Input, Futuristic, Positivity, Significance

One of the benefits of being one of our Cruisers on a SQL Cruise is all the insider benefits you reap after the cruise.  Buck is compiling our results and doing full data analysis for anyone on the cruise who is interested!

Getting Things Done – David Allen

What a dry book.  Little known fact: crack the spine on page 56 and a cloud of dust and a tumbleweed pops out.  No one makes it that far.  I suggest skimming the topic sentence of each paragraph and no more.  That’s what I plan on doing to finish this up.  Note: audio book not much better.