Make goals, not resolutions

My previous post got me thinking about setting goals. I mentioned in my previous article that I hate setting New Year’s “resolutions.” I didn’t want to get into why in that article.

Well, in this article, I want to get into exactly why.

How many of you have made New Year’s resolutions? How many of you made them in years past? How many resolutions did you keep?

If I had to guess, probably not many, if any.

This is why I hate resolutions. They’re almost guaranteed to fail. Case in point: for those of you who go to a gym and work out, how packed is the gym in January? In all likelihood, it’s packed with people who resolved to go to the gym and work out this year.

Now, how many of these people are still at the gym by the end of the year? Or by July? Or even April?

I gave up making resolutions a long time ago. All I was doing was breaking promises to myself. And every time I did so, I just ended up disappointing myself.

Don’t set resolutions. Instead, set goals. If you want to do something to better yourself, setting goals is far superior to making resolutions.

Goals are measurable. Let’s say you make a resolution to lose weight and go to the gym. That’s awfully vague, isn’t it? That can mean almost anything. Let’s say you join a gym on January 1, do one workout, and never go again. You might say you broke your resolution. But did you really? You went once. That counts, doesn’t it?

However, let’s say you set a goal to lose ten pounds by the end of the year. Now you have something to shoot for, and it’s something that can be measured. You can keep track of how much weight you lose until you reach your goal, and you can measure aspects (calories, number of workouts, etc.) that will help you get there.

A goal is a target. In addition to being measurable, a goal gives you something toward which you can aim. You might hit it. You might not. Either way, you gave it a shot. Resolutions, on the other hand, are almost always doomed to fail.

If you miss your goal, that’s okay. When you break a resolution, you feel like you failed. It brings you down. It un-motivates you. However, if you miss a goal, it’s not the end of the world. You can either try again, or reset your goal toward something more manageable.

Speaking of being more manageable…

Goals are adjustable. If you find that a goal is unattainable, you can adjust it so it’s more attainable. And once you reach a goal, you can reset a higher goal, which will make you even better.

Goals can be set any time. Ever make a resolution in July? I didn’t think so. However, you don’t have to wait until the new year to set a goal. You can set them any time you want.

(There are probably a bunch of other reasons that aren’t coming to me right now.)

Personally, I’ve set a few small goals. For one thing, I don’t have much arm strength, so I struggle with any workout routine that involves supporting my own weight with my arms — pull-ups, rope climbs, handstands, etc. I set a goal of doing at least one real pull-up by the end of the year. Also, my home is, admittedly, a cluttered mess (it looks like it belongs on an episode of Hoarders). I told my wife that I would set a goal of decluttering a room at a time — the kitchen within a few weeks, the living room a few weeks after that, and so on.

There are a number of others I’d like to set as well, but I haven’t yet gotten around to setting them. As I go along, I’ll figure out what I need to accomplish, set my goals, and take steps to reach them. Again, I can set goals any time I want. I don’t have to wait until next year.

So what do you want to accomplish? What steps will you take to reach them? Whatever they are, you will be more likely to succeed by setting goals rather than making resolutions and empty promises to yourself.

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Welcome to 2019

Well, here we are. It’s the new year. Hope you folks had a great holiday season! Personally, mine was quiet; the only significant thing of note was that I followed my alma mater down to their bowl game. (I had the opportunity to attend the game, so I took it. As I previously wrote, once in a while, you gotta say “what the heck!”)

So each new year represents a new start — a clean slate, if you will. There’s a reason why so many people make “resolutions” (and a reason why so many of them are broken — I won’t get into why; that’s not what this article is about). For me, it’s about setting goals (I refuse to call them “resolutions”) and getting some kind of idea as to what I want to accomplish throughout the year.

There are a number of things I want to accomplish, although I’m still trying to figure out what some of them are. One of my CrossFit coaches asked me not long ago, “what are your goals for this year?” I told him that there were a number of general things I wanted to accomplish, but I hadn’t yet identified anything specific. A goal needs to be measurable. For example, “I want to lose weight” is vague and not measurable, whereas “I want to lose ten pounds by the end of February” is something specific, measurable, and trackable. Going back to my coach’s question, I haven’t yet taken the time to hammer out measurable goals that I want to accomplish (being able to do an actual pull-up by the end of the year comes to mind), but it’s something that I definitely want to do.

Since my ‘blog articles revolve mostly around professional development topics, it would behoove me to write about some things that, professionally, I would like to accomplish this year. So, without further ado…

I’m hoping to be speaking at a number of SQL Saturday events this year. I’ve already applied to a few, and am hoping to hear back soon as to whether or not I’ve been picked to speak.

As of today, I’ve applied to the following events, and am waiting to hear back as to whether or not I’m presenting at them.

Additionally, the events listed below are not yet live (they’re listed as “save the date”), but I intend to apply to them once they are.

  • May 18: Rochester, NY
  • July 20: Albany, NY (my hometown SQL Saturday — I’ll be here regardless of whether or not I’m picked to speak)
  • October 5: Pittsburgh, PA

I’m also confirmed to speak at the New England SQL User Group in February.

I’ve also set a goal of speaking at an event where it is not feasible for me to drive. All SQL Saturdays I’ve attended so far have been within reasonable driving distance from my home in Troy, NY. So far, Pittsburgh is the farthest I’ve driven (eight hours) for a SQL Saturday. Virginia Beach might equal or surpass it. I told my wife that Virginia Beach would make for a nice trip, and I suggested that we make a long weekend — a mini-vacation — out of it. So in all likelihood, I’ll probably attend that event regardless of whether or not I’m picked to speak.

I told myself that I would submit presentations to PASS Summit this year. (For those of you unfamiliar with PASS Summit, I’ve heard it described as “the Super Bowl of SQL Saturdays.”) Because of the steep attendance fee, probably the only way I’d attend is if I’m picked to speak. (Some people are able to have their employers foot the bill for this trip; alas, I am not one of them.) Submissions are highly competitive, and as someone who presents primarily about professional development topics, I’m slightly pessimistic about my chances of getting picked to speak. But, I won’t know unless I try. If, by some chance, I am picked to speak, it would definitely satisfy my goal of speaking at an event to which it wouldn’t be feasible to drive.

This year will also represent a possible milestone with my employment. Since July of 2017, I’ve been working as a contractor, and the contract expires this coming summer. I’ll likely have a couple of options: get hired by the client company (which, I think, is the most likely scenario), or look for another opportunity with the contractor. (There’s also the possibility that I’ll seek new employment, but as of now, I don’t intend to go that route.) There are pros and cons to each decision. I have an idea of what I think I’ll end up doing, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

On a related note, I told myself that I wanted to take on more professional responsibilities. I took that step this week when I announced during a meeting that I was willing to pick up the ball on a large documentation project. This is a recent development, and it’s just getting going, but I suspect that big things could potentially be on the horizon.

So what goals and expectations do you have for the new year? Whatever they are, I hope they come to fruition.

Collaboration, cooperation, and competition

This is another article based on stuff that I picked up from SQL Saturday #814.  This time, I’ll talk about Matt Cushing’s presentation about networking.

Whenever I’m speaking at a SQL Saturday, I always make it a point to attend sessions that are similar to mine.  At #814, I met Matt Cushing, who was doing a session on networking.  In fact, our presentations had very similar titles; they both started with “Networking 101.”  That very much caught my attention, and once I finished my own (my presentation was in the time slot immediately before his), I went to his room to catch his presentation.

A big reason why I attend presentations similar to mine is that everyone is different, and will therefore present differently.  Other people will have different perspectives of the same topic.  I want to see these other perspectives.  They might have ideas that will help me enhance my own presentations.  Every time I attend a session in which the topic is relevant to my own, I come across something that either never occurred to me, presents an idea in a different way, or reinforces concepts in my own presentations.  These are important, and they help me make my presentations even better.

Matt gave a great presentation!  I found his own self-assessment on his ‘blog.  I found out that it was Matt’s first-ever SQL Saturday presentation.  I had no idea!  He did a great job with it.  (Matt, if you’re reading this, well done!)  I don’t remember all the points from his session (I’ll need to download his presentation slides), but one takeaway was that “competition is good, cooperation is better.”  (This thought inspired the name of this article you’re reading now.)

This concept of cooperation is applicable to countless situations, and SQL Saturday presentations are no exception.  Many presenters refer to other speakers or other presentations; even in my own presentations, I’ll encourage audience members to go check out other presentations that are similar to my own topic.  (Ed. note: I need to make sure I add a reference to Matt’s presentation in my own slides!)  Matt and I joked that we should encourage SQL Saturday organizers to schedule our sessions back-to-back; we even went as far as to say that we should do a joint presentation.  (Matt, I’m game if you are!)

In a way, Matt is a competitor in that we did similar presentations.  However, we were both able to learn and feed off each other, which enables us both to improve; it’s a win-win for both of us.  Competition is a healthy thing; it drives us to do our best.  But when you cooperate with your competition, there’s no telling what you can accomplish.

SQL Saturday #814 — the debrief

I had a great time speaking at SQL Saturday in Washington, DC this past weekend!  Chris Bell and his team put on a great event, and it’s one to which I will definitely submit again!

I wanted to write this up quickly for a couple of reasons.  One is to acknowledge the SQL Saturday #814 team for the great job they did!  I also wanted to write this to note a few things that I experienced — enough so that I wanted to ‘blog about them; you will see articles about these this week while they’re fresh in my mind, and I wanted to note them while I was thinking about them.  First, Eugene Meidinger asked me what I thought was a very good and legitimate question.  Second, I walked in on the tail end of a presentation by Kevin Feasel that I definitely wish I had seen.  Third, I sat in on another presentation by Matt Cushing that I thought was very good!  Finally, I sat in on a post-event session by George Walters about job opportunities at Microsoft, which I also found interesting!

I will be addressing these thoughts in upcoming ‘blog articles, so stay tuned!

SQL Saturday #814, Washington, DC — this Saturday

This is a reminder that this coming Saturday, December 8, I will be speaking at SQL Saturday #814!  I will be giving the following two presentations.

  • Whacha just say? Talking technology to non-technical people — This is my original presentation — as in the very first SQL Saturday presentation that I ever did!  I’ll talk about techniques for talking about technology to people who don’t understand it.
  • Networking 101: Building professional relationships — from my oldest presentation to my newest!  This presentation is becoming one of my best sellers!  In this discussion, I’ll talk about the art of business and professional networking.  We’ll even do some networking during our session!  If you have business cards to trade, bring them with you!

SQL Saturday is always a good time!  I’m looking forward to making the trip down to the Beltway this weekend.  Hope to see you there!

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…

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!