I’d like to thank my opening act, Dave Winer, for warming up the crowd.
See, he was the featured guest on the StackExchange Podcast last week, and this week, it’s me.
Let me bring you up to speed, kids, because there’s a lot of self-deprecating humor about to go down here that could be misinterpreted as bragging. Dave Winer was a huge pioneer in the fields of blogging and podcasting, inventing some of the technologies that make it possible for me to write this post through my laptop and for you to read it through RSS. Because I’ve been doing this for a decade, I knew Dave’s name and I had one of those, “Oh, wow” moments. In the span of seven days:
- I had my 38th birthday
- I hit 10,000 followers on Twitter
- I got over 15,000 views on one of my blog posts in one day
- I won the SQL Server Magazine reader poll for Favorite Blogger of 2011
- I got invited onto the StackExchange podcast (the week after Dave Winer)
Hubba hubba. Forgive me, but I’m having a champagne moment.
It feels like I’m the perfect person to go on the StackExchange podcast after Dave. I haven’t invented anything, and I’m completely okay with that. I’ve piggybacked atop Dave’s work to build myself a career that I can be proud of. I’m working for myself, working with people I love, doing stuff I adore, actually getting paid for it, and people seem to like to watch.
I’m doing pretty well, but…not great, and not up to my original lofty goals when I was in high school. I used to think I wanted a 28′ sailboat by the time I was 28, a 45′ sailboat by the time I was 45, and retirement shortly thereafter. My Grandpa Hines was able to retire around that age, and I figured if he could do it, so could I. I was wrong. I was wrong about a lot of things at that age, too, so I’m not terribly surprised.
At the same time, I’m also running ahead – literally – of where I thought I’d be as an adult. I never thought I’d run a half-marathon, enjoy public speaking, travel all over the world, have my name on a book, sail the Chicago-Mac Race, or any of the other oddball things I’ve done in the last few years.
My life has been less like the carefully groomed bonsai tree I’d envisioned, and more like an infestation of kudzu. My opportunities pop up in the oddest places, and I have to move fast to keep taking advantage of these growth spurts, growing toward the light.
I think the biggest key to success isn’t having a long-term plan: it’s being able to react fluidly to surprising situations.
I see Microsoft’s SQL Server 2012 licensing changes as a surprising situation: they’re moving from socket-based pricing to core-based pricing. Some of my clients have reacted with outrage when confronted with these scenarios:
- 4-socket, 10-core server licensed with SQL Server 2008 EE: $115,000
- Same server licensed with SQL Server 2012 EE: $275,000
While working on an implementation project this week with a client, I pointed out that if they didn’t get the project done before 2012 rolled out, they’d be spending an additional $600,000 on licensing without any gain whatsoever. That opened some eyes. My other clients’ reactions have ranged from indifferent shrugs to wild-eyed panic. My own reaction isn’t to dump SQL Server in anger, but to hear the pain of my clients, and ask, “How’s this going to affect the database market, and how’s it going to affect my own market as a consultant?”
I could jump into PostgreSQL with both feet, figure out how to start transitioning my clients over to it, and save them an absolute fortune in licensing costs. They’d be willing to pay me handsomely for that work.
I could focus on performance tuning code to reduce the CPU footprint, sell CPU-focused T-SQL training courses to other DBAs, and make good money there too.
Or I could spend my time getting better at the business side of things, smoothing out our sales process so that we can onboard more clients faster, then hire consultants so we can make more money faster.
If I was locked into a long-term plan, I’d be filled with angst about how I needed to rework the plan. No no, not me – I have no plan, so I’m completely at peace. I’m looking at the cards with giddy excitement, thinking to myself, “This is such a cool set of problems to solve! Where should I start first?” As long as I keep laying down the fertilizer, my ugly weeds will keep conquering new ground, but there’s just no way of predicting what I’m going to be celebrating 3-4 years down the road from today.