If at first you don’t succeed…

“Gotta run a little faster, gotta reach for the sky, gotta come a little closer, even if I lose, I gotta try…”

— Kansas, “Inside Of Me”

I will confess that the song lyric above is one of my favorites, and probably one of my most overused quoted lyrics.  It isn’t the first time I’ve quoted it to start a ‘blog article, and it likely won’t be the last.  I’ll admit a level of bias because it comes from my favorite band, but the lyric also talks to me in a way that few do.  I came across a couple of things today that reminded me (again) of this lyric.

First, I received an email that I had been turned down for a speaker’s program, sponsored by my fraternity, to which I had applied.  Not a piece of news that I wanted to hear, but I took it in stride.  I saw something that interested me, I thought I’d be a good fit, and I gave it a shot.

(I should note that, as part of the application process, I recorded a presentation video of myself doing a “lightning talk” that I entitled “Why you need to be on LinkedIn.”  I wanted to wait until I’d heard about my application decision before making this video more publically available.  I’m posting the link here for all of you to enjoy — or trash, whatever the case may be!  I realize that the audio quality is not that great; I apologize in advance for that.)

(I should also note that I replied to the email, thanking them for considering me, and to ask for feedback as to what I could’ve done better.  As I’ve written before, feedback is always important if you want to get better.)

Second, I came across this article that talks about tomorrow night’s basketball game: Syracuse vs. Cornell, or as I refer to it, the “Boeheim Family Reunion.”  (For the benefit of those of you who are clueless about college basketball, Jim Boeheim is the Syracuse men’s basketball head coach, his younger son, Jack “Buddy” Boeheim, is a freshman on the Syracuse team, and his older son, Jimmy, is a sophomore playing for Cornell.)

What I wanted to note about the article was a quote from the family patriarch.  Some background info: the Boeheim men are notoriously competitive, a central point of the article.  The article mentions: “Jimmy talks about the endless games of Candyland they played against their dad, the loser always demanding a rematch. Jim Boeheim never let the boys win. Victories needed to be earned or what was the point of competing?”

It got me thinking that these were a metaphor for one’s career and life in general.  Your career and your quality of life are often competitive, sometimes even cutthroat.  You have a choice: either forget about the entire thing, or give it another shot.  In regards to the former, I ask a question: how important is it to you?  If it isn’t important, not worth your while, or it isn’t a big deal, then give it up and move on to whatever is next.  But if it is important, then it’s up to you to get off the mat and keep fighting.

It’s one of the ideals that keeps CrossFitters going.  It’s about getting better.  Granted, I’ll likely never get to the level where I’ll be competing against Mat Fraser, but as long as it’s possible for me to improve (which is the case in just about anything and everything I do), I’m going to keep going.

In regard to the speaker’s program, being accepted would’ve been a nice boost to my speaking endeavor and potentially my career.  But if I wasn’t accepted?  No biggie.  Hey, I came, I saw, and I gave it a shot.  C’est la vie.  All I can do is learn from it and take another crack at it when (or if) another such opportunity comes around again.  I can sleep at night knowing that, at the very least, I tried.

I’ll stop short of quoting the infinite number of clichés, memes, or articles (to which I’m adding yet another by writing this) about picking yourself up and trying again.  All I’ll say is that they’re true.  Just keep going.  If at first you don’t succeed…

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Upcoming speaking engagements

I have a couple of confirmed speaking engagements coming up in the next few months!

I’m sure I will be adding to this list as more speaking opportunities come up.  Hope to see you there!

Speaking in D.C. in December

I got the official word this morning.  I will be speaking in Washington, DC for SQL Saturday #814 on December 8!

I will be giving the following two presentations:

Hope to see you in the nation’s capital on December 8!

The SQL Yearbook

Earlier this year, Jen McCown announced that she was embarking on a project that she called “the SQL Yearbook.”  I decided, what the heck, and told her I’d take part.

A little while ago, I got an email from her saying that the project is finished!  (Per her instructions, I also want to make sure I attribute it properly, so here it is: “SQL Yearbook 2018” by Jennifer McCown of MinionWare is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.)

If you click either PDF link, my profile shows up on page 19.  (Really, it’s the same one I use for my SQL Saturday speaker’s profile.)

I have a number of friends and associates who are featured throughout this yearbook, primarily through my association with my local SQL user group, my dealings with SSC, and my experiences with SQL Saturday.

Hope you enjoy it!

Election day

“Can I tell you something; got to tell you one thing if you expect the freedom that you say is yours; prove that you deserve it; help us to preserve it, or being free will just be words and nothing more…”
— Kansas, “Can I Tell You”

I don’t think I can say it any better than the song lyric I quoted above.

Last night, I overheard a coworker say, “I don’t vote.  It doesn’t make any difference.”  And he continued to spew about his views on the world.

I kept silent, but I am not ashamed to say that I wanted to tear him a new a**hole.

People died so I can vote.  That is something I do not take lightly.  For someone to brush it off and disrespect that right like that absolutely incenses me.  I vote every year.  I make sure I vote every year.  And so should you.

The fact is, your vote does matter.  In 2016, the vast majority of the country did not vote — because “it wouldn’t make a difference.”  Had at least half of these people gone to the polls, chances are that the current state of the union would be much different.

Yes, our system is far from perfect.  Yes, our system has flaws.  But the fact is, your vote matters.

Want to change the system?  Vote.

How do different cultures use your documentation?

The other day, I sat in a meeting in which we were talking about our product documentation, and someone mentioned something that had never occurred to me.

It had to do with who used our product documentation.

I found out that native English speakers (for the sake of this article, I’ll refer to them as “arch-typical American end-users” — whatever that means) mostly ignored the documentation (that I had written), inferred what they needed primarily from the application interface, and used the documentation primarily as a reference source.  This was something I’d anticipated, so naturally, I developed the document with that mindset.

However, I learned that users whose first language was not English utilized the document much, much differently.  (Disclosure: I currently work in an office where the majority of my coworkers are Asian-Indian.)  Many of them first read the documentation thoroughly before using the application.

I don’t know how much these people used the document as a reference guide as compared to how much they used the UI — we didn’t go into that discussion — but it completely changed my mindset as to how to approach documentation development.  I haven’t (yet) done any research, but I am now curious as to how people from different cultures and backgrounds approach documentation.  I have no doubt that this topic has been researched; if anyone knows of any authors or references, feel free to say so in the comments section.

For those of you who don’t know me, I should mention that I am Asian-American (specifically, Korean-American), but I am a native English speaker.  I don’t speak any other language fluently.  I do not speak Korean (what little I know came from what little my grandmother tried to teach me and from M*A*S*H reruns), and my personal foreign language experience comes from my German classes in high school and college.  That puts me in a unique situation; when it comes to my writing, my initial audience is American-English speakers, but my ancestral background makes me appreciate audiences from other cultures as well.

Cultural differences in communication are always an interesting topic.  I remember reading an article about how Chevrolet had issues with selling a particular model of their car in Spanish-speaking countries, because “Nova” translates to “not going.”  I also recall a conversation with someone who mentioned that a simple American gestures as a thumbs-up is the equivalent of “flipping someone the bird” in some other countries.  So it goes to show that what you’re trying to communicate could actually be miscommunicated, depending on your audience’s culture.

I’ve espoused time and again that a writer needs to know his or her audience when developing a document, and I continue to do so.  This realization made me realize that my audience is more diverse than I thought it was, and that I will need to plan for that whenever I am developing documentation.  And it’s not just a matter of what I’m writing in my words — it’s also a matter of how my document will be used.

So I guess the moral of the story is to be wary of what you’re writing.  You never know who will be reading — or how they will be using it.