Last week, SQL Server MVP Chris Shaw wrote a blog post about learning from mistakes and he tagged myself as well as Paul Randal (b|t) and Andy Leonard (b|t) to do a similar post.

You can find their responses here:

Paul Randal –

Andy Leonard –

Tunnel Vision

A couple of weeks ago I happened to be on-call and of course the pager goes off at 1:50AM one morning. Yay!  I drag myself out of the rack and head to the kitchen where I can work on things without disturbing my beautiful bride.  I log into the VPN and start to dive into where the issue might be.  In my travels I determine that the job that paged me was missing a source file that is normally deposited onto the file system by another non-sql server process, thus it was basically outside my control.  So I had to call someone else to wake them up to see if they could check on things.  At 3 o’clock in the morning none the less.

After talking to them for a bit and digging further into it, turns that out that I had tunnel vision.  If I had take a few minutes to step back and look at the whole picture, I would have realized that I could have figured out the real issue if I had just done a little more work.  At the time I was absolutely sure that it was something that I couldn’t resolve without outside help, but I was wrong.

Tunnel vision can and will get you eventually.  It can be difficult to detect but if you realize that your in the tunnel, just stop.  Stop everything, even for a few seconds  and take a step away from the issue.  That one look from outside the tunnel can mean the difference between waking someone else up or letting them sleep.  I’m pretty sure that my co-worker would have preferred to remain sleeping.

Admitting Your Mistakes

I can remember a time at a client site earlier into my SQL Server days as a consultant when I wanted to run profiler to try to capture something.    So I did.  What I didn’t realize is that I had selected an event for profiler that would bring the server to it’s knees.  Did I mention that it was a production server?  Yeah, it was.

Once I realized what had happened, I immediately contacted my manager (the client manager that I was reporting to), informed her of my mistake as well as what I was doing to resolve the issue.  She was very understanding, no yelling or screaming and she was appreciative of the fact that I contacted her right away as well that I had a game plan on how to resolve the issue, which I had already enacted.

It’s OK to mess up.  Be honest about it.  Admit your mistakes, realize that you are human and move on.  Dwelling on something that you can’t change in the past isn’t going to solve anything.  Yes, you might feel bad, but it happens.  However, if you have a manager that’s worth their weight, they will be more appreciative of you learning from your mistakes and moving on than dwelling on what happened.  They will also be thankful that you came to them with a solution.  Always try to approach management with a solution in hand, even if it’s one that they don’t go for.

Always a Rookie

Very early into my volunteer fire fighter/EMT career, I happened to have a conversation with one of the then assistant fire chiefs (who later became the chief and still is) about my worry of making a mistake in the midst of a call.  He told me “you’re always a rookie”, meaning that no call is exactly the same.  The people are different, the situation is different, the outcome can be different.  This advice really struck home for me not only in my fire fighting career but also my career as an IT professional.  No issue is the same and if you treat it that way, it will help you to remember to stay calm in just about any situation, let your training kick in and hopefully keep you out of the tunnel.

Knowledge is Power

I don’t remember where I saw or read this, but the quote goes something like “Once you have the knowledge, it’s your’s to do with as you please”.  In other words, knowledge is something that NO ONE can take a away from you.  Somewhere along the way in my DBA career, I got the bug to learn.  I read blogs, I go to SQL Saturday’s to speak, but also to learn new things.  I take training whenever I can.  I test & play around with things.  I try my best to continue to learn and expand my mind.

The moral  is to not make the mistake of letting your knowledge & skills get stale.  The technology of this world is expanding at an incredible speed and you should take advantage of as many learning opportunities as you can. Go read a blog.  There are tons out there.

In the mighty words of GI Joe, “.. Knowing is half the battle!”   Keep learning.


Hopefully you can learn from a couple of my mistakes and try not to repeat them.  If you do, however, just remember, try to get out of the tunnel, you’re still human, and time will go on.

© 2014, John Morehouse. All rights reserved.

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