19 Feb 2016
So, you want to write a book. Awesome! What follows here then, are the assorted ramblings of someone who has maybe written a few. Specifically, we will be talking about what it takes to get your first technical (and IT specifically) book out. Whilst geared towards first timers, maybe you’ll find some advice in here helpful on a second or third book as well.
Before we start
Take all of this with a grain of salt. Do some additional research, reach out and talk to folks (I’m almost always on twitter, skype, email, etc). Get a mentor (cough vSensei cough) and such. What follows here, are my experiences, across authoring or co-authoring 4 books and tech editing many others.
So you want to write a book?
Excellent! This first part of the post, will dig into a number of the most common questions. How hard is it, will I make money, who will publish me, and so on.
What is your motivation?
This one is huge, and it will come out in your writing. That is, if you are doing this as part of a publish or perish mandate, or ‘to get rich’, well… your writing will reflect this.
Not that it’s particularly bad, mind, just that, given the amount of time and energy you will be pouring into the book, examples, lab environment, diagrams, and other materials…
For me at least, I needed stronger stuff. Love what you do, love what you are writing about, and love the community of supporters, both current and future. Your writing will reflect this and you’ll experience much less fatigue / burn out.
What is the time investment?
This will vary from book to book and contract to contract. It will also vary based on how well you know the material, and a number of other factors.
In the four books I have been a part of, even as a co-author, you can count on it being a second job for the duration of the contract, + 3 months.
Yeah. This includes time spent writing, rewriting, editing, building and testing lab examples, then doing that again, building diagrams, examples, code, and more.
In the coediting sense, this could mean time waiting on getting access to the git repo you are all working from, or because of blocking tasks.
It is important to not underestimate this point. This will be A LOT of work and can(will) cause burnout, both in your personal and professional lives. Be careful not to burn too many bridges here, and discuss it with your family and workplace.
How much money will I make?
tl;dr - It’s not a lot, maybe a few tanks of gas, or if you’re really lucky, enough to refresh the homelab when you’ve finished.
The longer version is, you’ll be paid in royalties that are contingent upon book sales. The average, at the time I am writing this post, is 15%. There are some publishers, like Pragmatic bookshelf that offer as high as 50%.
There is some wiggle room on this point as well. That is, if you are fairly well known, or the book is going to be on a super hot topic, or some combination of the two, you can push for more. The flip side to that, is that you be ready for criticism as well.
There are also advances that are worth noting here. That is, an advance will be used as an incentive to help you meed deadlines, and is a check the publisher will write you, in ‘advance’ of having sold any copies of the book. It’s worth paying attention to the fact that your advance counts against your royalties. That is, you will not see a royalty check until you have sold enough books to meet your advance.
Publisher? Self Published?
This is a personal choice really. Having only worked with publishers, I can’t vote one way or the other.
What does(should) a publisher bring to the table?
Depending on the publisher, you should expect:
- An acquisition editor
- A project manager
- A development editor
- Technical Editors
- Marketing Support
- Sales Channels
So, in order:
This will likely be the first person you meet. They will take your idea, table of contents, and proposal, and give you some first pass feedback. Once that is solidified, they will then shop this proposal around internally at the publisher, as well as with experts in the field. Depending on the feedback received, they will either help you with the contract process, help you refine the proposal, or tell you ‘no’.
This is exactly what it says. Generally you meet your PM after the contract is in place. They will help decide deadlines and coordinate the various reviewers, and other launch activities.
Not every one write good. That’s where the developmental editor comes in. They will help you work on grammar, style, formatting, and importantly, helping decide what goes into and doesn’t fit in the book.
Depending on the publisher and how new the topic area is, they will either supply some technical editors for your project from a pool of industry experts, or ask you to help source some. That, or some combination of both.
The role of the technical editors is to make sure that your writing is factually correct, and that your code examples work, make sense, and illustrate the concepts clearly and concisely.
Because this can take a while, particularly if the examples are broken, or don’t work on the myriad of platforms out there, tech editors generally get your content before everyone else.
This is where promotions, discount codes, and all of that falls. The specific activities will be dependent on the project and publisher, but my include webinars, interviews, speaking engagements and so forth. Marketing support is also where you will request give-away copies for events.
It is worth noting here, that you are just as responsible for marketing, if not more so, than the publisher. You want it to be big? Get out there and hustle.
This has changed some in the days of Internet book sales, but the publisher will help coordinate various channels where the book can be sold. Be that academics or book stores, translations, and the like.
What to expect
The process varies some, and what follows is my experience in working with publishers. There are several great posts on self-publishing around.
- Table of Contents
- Market Research
Well, if you didn’t have an idea you wouldn’t be here, right? For me, I generally will chase a few criteria:
Are there books already? Do they cover the material?
What about the docs and community?
How difficult is $thing? Can I help simplify it?
This sort of happens at the same time as the first part. What would be great to see in a book about $thing, what things should be left out, what approach should we take? Instructional? Story telling? What audience do we want to approach? That is, do we want to dissect packet dumps or introduce them to the idea of a packet?
Keep a notebook, whiteboard, etherpad, goog doc, or something around to record this.
Table of Contents
Now that you have a bunch of things written down. Walk away from it for a while, then come back and try to fit it into a ToC. The ToC in this case, will look much like the outlines you did with roman numerals from highschool writing class. These will correspond to your chapters, and headings. It will also help you wrap your head around how the book should flow.
Yes, you should do this part before the ToC. For the most part, it’s an iterative process. Google, Amazon, Google scholar, the communities, vendor documentation, mailing list archives, and such, will all help feed into your understanding of what is out there and where your book fill fit. You will also want to understand addressable market size. Take the VCP for example, there are some thousands of VCP’s out there. If you are writing a study guide for the next version of the exam, that and then some is the addressable market.
Most publishers will either have a web form, or a .doc file, or combination of the two, into which you will put your ToC, as well as the market research and a few variations of elevator pitch about your book into. At this step, if working with a publisher, you will want to find or make a direct connection to an acquisition editor, rather than just deal with an email box.
If they like your proposal, you will start talking contracts at this stage. This is where you will negotiate copyright, royalties, first right of refusal, and deadlines.
While I have no experience in negotiating copyright, the last three points can be flexible, however, much like any negotiating, it can get hairy here. Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself, however.
A note on “first right of refusal”. There is a clause (15 or 16 in most contracts that I’ve worked on), where the publisher demands the first right of refusal for updates, editions, and most importantly, any other works you are considering. It is up to you how you want to handle this point, but it rubbed me the wrong way.
This is the easy part. Really. It’s long, you will waste many a night staying up to meet a deadline, but then, you have a passion for the material, so the words will generally flow.
If they don’t, see the section on self-confidence and motivation.
This is where things get really draining. Rewriting will generally start once you have the first 3 or 4 chapters in to the publisher. At that point the tech editors, and likely some of the other editors will have seen, and made comments or corrections on your manuscript. Basically, while trying to meet one deadline, for possibly the hardest sections of the book, you will now have to address the feedback in a timely fashion.
Feedback can hurt. It can be cutting, and hard to hear. Understand, however, that everyone in this process wants to see your book in the market, and are trying to help you write the best book possible.
So this isn’t exactly waiting, but, once you are done with writing and rewriting, there are a few more steps, where you will have to review proofs before they get sent off to print. You’ll need to be careful errors don’t creep in here, but there is largely nothing you can do to stop the presses at this point.
OH Snap! Your mom found your book on Amazon, with no prompting and called you to congratulate you. How good does that feel? You’re done, mostly. The marketing bits never end, but dammit, when that first physical copy shows up at the house, and you are holding it in your hand… that feels so good. Go celebrate!
Self Confidence & Motivation
You are the expert, and what you are doing is important.
Read that again, and maybe a few more times.
Both self-confidence and motivation are super critical to have along the way. After your fourth or fifth consecutive all-nighter, you will wonder why you ever wanted to do anything. At all. Ever. Depression will set in, or some flavor of imposture syndrome. This will often be coupled with anger and sadness in equal measure.
This is all before the tech and grammar reviews start coming in. That is, when you see your work, that you’ve spent so much time to put out into the world, come back to you marked up like crazy… well, it can be crushing.
Having a good support system in family and friends, and the ability to work with the publisher to step aside for a few days will be critical to helping restore balance.
Do’s and Don’ts *
Here are some things that did not really fit well into the other areas.
- Do not be afraid to do late stage revision. The publisher wants to get the book to market. Your job, is to get the right book to market.
- Do use your voice. Yes, technical writing is formal. Yes, you should have proper guideposts in it. That said, there is no need for it to be dry and stilted.
- Do not take that too far. That is, no F-Bombs, innuendo, and the like.
- Do not use contractions. Your writing will be much clearer without them.
- Do listen to your editors
This post isn’t comprehensive, and rambles at times, but should help you get an realistic idea of what all is involved in getting your first (or next) book out there. Ping me on twitter or at bunchc (at) professionalvmware . com if you have any questions, need a tech editor, or any other assistance in getting your idea into the world.
*This one broke me. After spending some time on google: “Style guides and usage books don’t agree. The Chicago Manual of Style and others recommend dos and don’ts. The Associated Press and others recommend do’s and don’ts. Eats, Shoots & Leaves recommends do’s and don’t’s” - Grammar Girl
03 Feb 2016
Over the last little while, I’ve been running a sort of Ad-Hoc mentorship program, which to my surprise, is now becoming a bit more serious. While still not formal by any-means, we now have a monthly newsletter. (In case you haven’t yet, you can sign up here for the vSensei newsletter.)
The plan at this stage then, is to publish the prior month’s newsletter as the current month goes live. That is, if you’re not a member, you can still find all but the most current newsletter on this site.
What follows then, is the Janurary edition of the newsletter for public consumption.
It’s an email newsletter Charlie Brown.
I suppose with that begins the vSensei newsletter.
What to Expect
This first one, I suspect, will be unlike those that follow. That is, this time around, one should do some expectation setting. That is, what can one expect from this newsletter, who we are, and all that.
What to Expect from the Newsletter
As stated prior, this time around, expect introductions and logistics. Going forward, I suspect we’ll send one of these monthly, and it’ll include various writings from one of the vSensei mentors in the program. These will cover a variety of “soft skill” areas: How to talk to bosses, Professional writing, transitions, and others.
The newsletter will also contain announcements of upcoming vSensei enrolments, webinars, live events, and the occasional survey.
What to expect from vSensei
Other than bad spelling, grammar, and terrible copy writing, the vSensei is a grass roots effort to build a mentorship practice within the IT practice. As explained to the first few rounds of folks, for the most part, I’m (and to a larger extent we’re) making this up as we go. That is, expect it to be organic, rough around the edges, and the like.
The “Big Picture”, is to eventually turn this into a large, pay it forward, style thing, whether that means ‘mastermind’ groups, or something that looks like an MLM scheme (or even if that’s the route it will go) remains to be seen. Your thoughts, ideas, wishes, wants, and dreams will go a long way to shaping that.
So now the introductions! In no particular order:
Scott Lowe is a blogger, speaker, best-selling author, and IT industry
veteran. Currently, he works for VMware, Inc., on the NSX
team. He focuses his time and efforts on open source, cloud computing,
virtualization, networking, and related data center technologies. Scott
regularly shares technical content and insight on his blog at
Edward L. Haletky, the President, CEO, and principle consultant for AstroArch Consulting, Inc., graduated from Purdue University in 1988 with a degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. Since then, he has worked with programming graphics and other lower-level libraries on various UNIX platforms. When at Hewlett-Packard, Edward worked in the Virtualization, Linux, and High-Performance Technical Computing teams. Edward is very active on the VMware Communities Discussion Forums providing answers to security and configuration questions and is also one of the VMware Communities User Moderators and Guru. In addition, Edward has earned his LPI, RHCE and VCP certifications, and VMware vExpert designation. Edward is a very active analyst, writer, and blogger with in the virtualization space.
CTO for Canada’s largest virtual network provider iTel Networks. One of the original OpenStack for Hyper-V developers. Part of the original Cloud Builders group at Rackspace, deployed the first non-NASA OpenStack Compute cluster. Helped build the first Canadian OpenStack installation. A rare lover of Microsoft, Linux, and Open source. Infrastructure engineer turned developer - with a keen understanding of both in mixed OS environments. His entire career has been about making massive infrastructure go faster. With startup experience and hyperscale experience he has an understanding of bootstrapping a service for dollars a month with a built in ability to scale as money permits, to orchestrating the migration of 5000vms and keeping an e-commerce site online with 20,000 concurrent users.
Trevor Roberts, Jr. is the Senior Technical Marketing Manager for OpenStack at VMware and the lead author of the VMware Press Title, “DevOps for VMware Administrators”. He enjoys speaking to customers and partners about the benefits of using OpenStack with VMware technologies.
Trevor has the CCIE Data Center certification, and he is a VMware Certified Advanced Professional in the Data Center Design and Administration concentrations.
In his spare time, Trevor shares his insights on data center technologies at http://expert.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=43db53ffeb342c41ba20a7097&id=bac191e4a8&e=f8eeeb843a via the vBrownBag Professional OpenStack and Professional VMware podcasts, and on Twitter (@VMTrooper). His contributions to the IT community have garnered recognition by his designation as a VMware vExpert, Cisco Data Center Champion, and EMC Elect.
Me, I do things. I’ve published a few books, I’ve worked with others to help them get down that path. I’ve spoken at some events, and again, have helped some others down that path. I helped start a podcast, which in turn has helped some folks take that next step. I also want to do more.
- 15/02/2016: Sign-ups for H1 2016 Open
- 19/02/2016: Sign-ups for H1 2016 Close
- 22/02/2016: Selected Mentees Notified
Next time around, we’ll have a guest post by a former (and ongoing) mentee, on selecting the value of, and selecting a mentorship program, as well as
06 Jan 2016
Having seen a few of these around, and hoping to inspire a few others to do the same, here is a list, including Amazon links, to most of the books I read in 2015 (I didn’t keep great track of things, sorry). Links are Kindle / ebook where appropriate. Another note, rather than pick one, or make a top list, books I particularly liked are listed in bold. I have also put the ‘work’ reads up top.
The Essential Drucker
This was a helpful first step for me to understand what makes business tick. What makes managers do what they do, and why MBO, etc.
Read this on a recommendation. Good, actionable, bits for advancing the things. Parts of this are what drive some of the #vSensei talks.
Trust me I’m Lying
Very quick read, and sets you up to understand and question the motivation behind click-bait.
At some point, #vSensei became much more real than I had anticipated. A lot of what was in this book helped me help others un-knot the things.
Do the Work
This one was recommended to me by a mentee. It was a very quick read, and should help you get out of your own way.
Modern Guerilla Warfare
Good stuff, and one I’m now going back through. There are some interesting parallels one can draw (if you squint just so) about office politics, small teams, and getting the things done.
Multiple Sclerosis: A Comprehensive Review
Had to get up to speed on what’s changed in the last eight years, and quick. This one is thick, academic / scientific in style, but worth the time if MS is affecting you or a loved one.
The Wahls Protocol
If you or someone you care about has MS, it’s worth the read. In short Dr. Wahls has updated the diet recommendations in Minding My Mitochondria. What I’m not fond of in this volume is the reliance on testimonial, however. That said, Dr. Wahls has ongoing clinical trials as well.
The Bone Clocks
The Water Knife
The Art of War
I find I reread this every few years.
Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations: a 21st Century Translation & Commentaryy
Blue Remembered Earth
On the Steel Breeze
Vassouras: A Brazilian Coffee Country
Pragmatism and Other Essays
Letters of William James, Vol. 1
13 Nov 2015
This post, is going to be more of a link dump than some of the others. It’s all about Visual Note Taking, a technique that I think is going to get added to the list of things to explore during this discovery process on note taking.
05 Nov 2015
Other tentative titles were “Why Take Notes” but hell if I’ll be seen asking why. Why why is a terribad question however, is the topic for another time.
So: Should you take notes?
The Case Against Notes
I don’t take notes.
Well, more correctly, like dieting, I don’t do it as often or as consistently as I should. There are a number of reasons:
- Most anything I’d take notes on, ends up in a blog post, like this one.
- I’m lazy
- Also disorganized
- My handwriting is crap. No really
Now, computer notes can help with a few of these things, and there have been large amounts of money spent on products to help you do just that. Things like remember the milk for tasks to Evernote and OneNote to any number of cloud back apps from the hipsteresque notebook companies, say mosaic from Baron Fig and the like.
Thing is, unless the practice is deliberate and consistent, it won’t become a habit. If it isn’t a habit, you can’t much gain the benefits. Further, as you dig in, there is some research that hints it’s may or may not be the note taking at all that does it. Rather, remembering what was happening while you were learning the bit of information, the music, how warm it was, the smell, your brain may be able to use that association to help recall. If that’s the case, well, should I take notes?
Some anecdotal links against notes:
The Case for Notes
The flip side of not taking notes, therefore, is taking notes. Note taking, and it’s various iterations, techniques, practices, and the like, have been explored extensively. That is, regardless of medium, there is some benefit to recall when taking notes. Be it for learning a new topic, making a task list, or logging some manner of data or design.
One learned how to take notes in school, practiced it, and depending on the teacher(s), you were graded on it too. That is, graded on your English class notes, and then again on the other format the Science teacher required. Then, of course there were engineering and higher math classes, etc etc.
The benefits of note taking have been studied, at length. I recommend the one on Juror note taking if you have a mild to sever case of insomnia.
Early in my IT career, I moved between a few styles of note taking. The first on something akin to book 1 in the earlier picture. That is, it was lined, had a sewn binding, and some signature counter signature blocks. I wasn’t doing much with said signature blocks, apparently they were a hold over from accounting. These books held task lists, customer details and other tidbits to get back to.
From there I moved into some flavor of Google Desktop searchable text files. These were great, as all I had to recall was a tiny bit, and my notes file, and with luck, solution would come up.
In turn, that sort of gave birth to professionalvmware.com’s early days. Field notes from the guy fixing ESX (it was still ESX then), when it blew up.
My anecdotal benefits abounded. When I was in the habit of note taking, recall was a bit easier.
Now some links FOR:
Well, here we are at the end of another long post. As my clock ticks past midnight, I’ve only discovered how much I don’t know about note taking. Therefore, I’ll leave you with what you’re likely expecting, do what works best for you. If like me, you find job or learning specific recall fading as you get older, or overburdened with other stimuli, give note taking a shot.
05 Nov 2015
While I want this to be another long rambling post, I’m not sure that’s not well suited this time around.
Disclaimer: This one goes a bit sideways from the usual #vSensei, or technical posts. However, I do a thing here, that I think might be useful to others, so… well that’s it.
When it comes to Multiple Sclerosis, or other chronic disorders, having a conversation with your doctor can be odd. IF you go monthly, quarterly, or every 6 months, remembering how you have faired, what things happened, and so forth, can be difficult. At least, it is for us. That is, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast today unless I write it down (even then, not really).
Given that, as the MS is back, keeping a journal or log of some sort is starting to be an important part of things for a number of reasons:
- It lets us communicate more effectively with all the doctors.
- It provides a quasi objective way to track if things are better or worse over time.
- Recording non-quantifiable info: What “good thing”™ happened today, how you felt, etc, can help when and if the brain fog sets in.
The template is kept here. It’s a simple markdown file. My process is to copy it each time, date stamp it, add the relevant info, and save it.
It is lovingly adapted from The Wahls Diary, “The Wahls Protocol” pg. 80
04 Nov 2015
One thing I have been watching over my time in IT, is the habits of those at the top of their game. At the very least, those who seem to know or do as much or more. The idea here, like watching game footage is for football players, and race footage is for drivers, by studying how others work, we might learn something useful.
This sort of thing, while being good for click through, is also interesting on a number of levels. That is, you can answer some of the “How do they find time for $x” or “How does $x know so much $y”. There are some traps here, say comparing ones own life film to someone elses highlight reel (The FOMO / Facebook depression issue), if you are careful to avoid this, and rather try a number of things out along the way to see what works for you given your environment and such, a lot can be learned.
Notes - Down The Rabbit Hole
This lead me recently down the path of note taking. That is, early on in my career, I used to take copious notes. Notes during training, notes whilst reading a thing. Notes everywhere. When Google desktop search was still alive and well, I had a plethora of unorganized text files, and would ‘google’ for solutions I had encountered before. This practice was replaced with blogs, and so on.
However, what I am striving to understand, is how, we as a trade, as a practice, use notes (or lack thereof) to enrich and enhance our understanding, recall, and so forth.
The Tentative Agenda
This will be an occasional series of posts, that will cover:
- Should you take notes?
- What Makes Notes Work (some cognative science behind recall)
- Forensic / Legal concern
- Pen & Paper
- Which pen / ink?
- Paper Layouts
- Metadata collection
- Forensic and legal concerns
- Mind Maps
- Rough Notes
- Case / Incident notes
- Non-Note recall
At least, that is the tentative outline, it will likely evolve as I get further and further down this particular rabbit hole.
Ok, so I can’t do this without you. That is, it would be rather one-sided and uninformed if I said I was writing about how we as a trade use note taking, and then not have any feedback about how we do it. Rather than put a feedback form out, that is, I don’t want my questions to guide your answers, I’d rather you reached out to me either via twitter @cody_bunch, or via email, bunchc at professionalvmware dot com. I look forward to hearing from you.
03 Nov 2015
I was brought up to, when practicable, both buy, and give local. What this meant in reality, was you took the extra cash in your pocket, or maybe the banana out of your grocery bag and handed it to whomever needed it. It meant volunteering as a bingo caller at the local nursing home, and so on.
Having uprooted and moved about eight years ago, that took on the flavor of the new town. That is, buy Texan and work with small businesses whenever possible. The give local part stayed about the same.
However, after a conversation at a sushi dive in Tokyo over the recent OpenStack summit, I was reminded, that the most valuable thing we can give is our time. As noted in the post on Finding Time, you can see why time is super valuable. You have a finite amount, you can’t save it for future use, etc etc.
Now, there are ways to give local with your time and tie that to your skill-set. Volunteer for youth hack-a-thons, and for the First Lego League at your local high school, and then some. However, for a lot of us tied up in this ‘social’ bit online, in this multitude of overlapping internet communities, what does that mean?
Locality Whilst Online
Local takes on a different meaning when you are attached to a wonderfully rich, vibrant, and distributed set of individuals. There are a number of ways you can conceptualize locality in this context. One can take a Social Network Analysis approach to things, and discover which areas you are most closely connected to. However, other than an educational exercise, you can likely intuit what resources you use most often, be it ask.openstack.org, stackoverflow, the VMware forums, Twitter, or something else entirely.
These communities, and more specifically those whom you find yourself interacting with most often, are the beginning of local in this context.
For me, these end up being a number of IRC channels, Twitter, the vBrownBag G+ group, and a few smaller things.
Contributing to Your Communities
Now this is where things get interesting. Each of these communities relies on people to help them run. Some of these folks are employed by the folks who run the community, but by and large, they are volunteer run. That is, a handful of passionate (often one person), burns the midnight oil to ensure things are flowing smoothly. That abuse is kept to a minimum, questions get answered, and in general folks are engaged. At times they go as far as organizing an event or two.
To keep things going that way, reach out and figure out what you can do to help. Send an email to your VMUG leader, find out if they need help finding speakers, sponsors, a venue, and such. Reach out to a podcast you listen to, ask if you can assist. Become a forum moderator. For as many communities as there are online, there are things very well suited to volunteer effort.
A Call to Action
Generally speaking, like everything else in IT, when it’s going well, folks hardly notice. The community keeps running, folks are generally upbeat, engaged, and so forth. However, when something goes awry, say the food at said event wasn’t up to snuff, or the live stream goes blip, etc, well, the reaction of the community can be disheartening, and make one question going on. Out of this comes the call to action:
In this time of year, what with all the calls to give to a charity, donate toys, volunteer time, etc. I’d like to call on you, to volunteer time and effort to those communities you take part in. Be that help moderate the forum, speak at a VMUG, help organize something, whatever. Reach out, give back. Make a difference for that one. That one engineer. That one fledgling admin. That one struggling with something.
Make a Difference
I’ve told this story, in some variant of it, over and over, in a number of contexts. Today I’ve borrowed it from here.
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.
— Adapted from The Star Thrower
02 Nov 2015
In running the vSensei program, one runs into a number of common themes, which is worth a meta post in and of itself. That is, how did we all find ourselves at this point in our career, with all the same questions, and not much in the way of guidance. I digress.
The common theme that led to this post was in the “But where do you find the time?”. In fact, this was actually a common question before the vSensei program as well. “How do you find time to $x” where $x is write a book, blog frequently, run a podcast, raise kids, etc etc.
There really isn’t a single strategy here, but some general guidelines.
Go to Walgreens, or whatever corner store, and pick up the $0.25 notebook. You know the one, pocket sized, spiral ringed at the top. Yes this needs to be physical. Now, in said notebook, for a week or so, keep track of the things you do. Doesn’t have to be each minute thing, we’re not looking at micro-blogging, rather, a high level task, and then the time you spend on it.
Record this way for a few days, maybe a week or two.
The idea here is to bring a level of awareness and some insight to where you spend your time. In most cases this awareness is all it takes to start finding the time. That is, you’ll look at said list and realize you are spending time in areas that aren’t aligned with where you want to go.
Feed the Right Wolf
Borrowed from The Nanticoke Indian Tribe
ONE EVENING, AN ELDERLY
CHEROKEE BRAVE TOLD HIS
GRANDSON ABOUT A BATTLE THAT
GOES ON INSIDE PEOPLE.
HE SAID “MY SON, THE BATTLE IS
BETWEEN TWO ‘WOLVES’ INSIDE US ALL.
ONE IS EVIL. IT IS ANGER,
ENVY, JEALOUSY, SORROW,
REGRET, GREED, ARROGANCE,
SELF-PITY, GUILT, RESENTMENT,
INFERIORITY, LIES, FALSE PRIDE,
SUPERIORITY, AND EGO.
THE OTHER IS GOOD.
IT IS JOY, PEACE LOVE, HOPE SERENITY,
HUMILITY, KINDNESS, BENEVOLENCE,
TRUTH, COMPASSION AND FAITH.”
THE GRANDSON THOUGH ABOUT
IT FOR A MINUTE AND THEN ASKED
“WHICH WOLF WINS?…”
THE OLD CHEROKEE SIMPLY REPLIED,
“THE ONE THAT YOU FEED”
This tale actually applies well to a lot of what we work on or towards vSensei wise, however, in this specific instance, the items on the list we created in the “Be Aware” section are the wolves. The time, the feeding. Beginning to see where I’m going with this?
That is, if you want to be a better parent, feed the family time wolf. A VCDX? Feed the wolves that lead down that path.
Learn to Let go
This is another section that is worth of it’s own post. In fact, there have been books written about this. That is, learn to let go of those tasks that aren’t leading you towards your goals. Yes yes, you can’t stop eating to make more time in the day, and there are other say business mandated things you’ll need to do to stay employable. However, you’ll find on your list you spend quite a bit of time on ‘things’ that you may have thought necessary, but in reality, are work spent filling the time. Work spent making the metrics look good, but not really advancing anything.
Buying the Time
The idea here, is to discover which you can fall behind on, even temporarily to buy your progress forward.
The trick with this is, to communicate and negotiate the time and deliverables with those whom are important (family, bosses, etc). To date, each book I’ve published, each event I’ve been to, while they may look great on the twitter feed, have been bought and paid for with time away from the wife and kids. At first I didn’t understand this well, at all. That is:
I came home after a grueling 12 (or something) weeks of various conferences, vmugs, and what not, only to have to announce: “Hey guys I’m off to $city next week.”
To which my eldest replied (in the way only a moody preteen can): “Yeah, whats new.”
At this point, a longer conversation was had about travel, events, and time spent. It’s an area I’m still working on, and likely will never stop working on. I tell the story, so that you understand there is a cost to these things, and the only way to settle said bill, is communication. Communicate with the family, the kids, the boss, and more important than communicate (I feel it’s implied by communicate, however, as it’s commonly used communicate is generally a one way thing), take the feedback to heart and adjust plans accordingly.
If you can get past the wall of words in this post, you’ll have picked up on a way to find time to do the things you’d like to do, and a cautionary tale of what happens when you push a bit too far.
29 Oct 2015
Today. Today was pretty epic. That is, I spoke to so many folks, all of whom are doing interesting things. Which, I suppose can be said for a lot of cons, but alas, there was a level of depth, meaning, and caring in today’s talks. A level of fluidness as topics moved from tech related things to random other things.
This morning I was joined for a run by a co-racker (co-worker?), and headed off in a different random direction. Towards the end of said run, we passed the Icelandic embassy, and then stopped to pray in a temple that’s been standing since the 15th century. It was nuts.
After said run and some stretching, we did the book-signing thing again:
From there, I spent quite a bit of time on the ‘hallway’ track. Topics and individuals ranged. From Burnout in IT, to new vSensei mentors, an inordinate amount of time trying to understand the habits of the ‘high performers’ in our spheres, to the esoteric details of archival quality forensically sound engineering notebooks, OpenStack Israel, and IPv6 headers that can be adapted for use with Cloud (Service, Tenant, User, and how that can be set as destination headers to help protect the PII in transit), with some time spent planning a major 30-in-30 event, and OpenStack Tokyo, and and and. I’m sitting here 22 hours after I woke up to day, and, well, it doesn’t feel like there is much chance of stopping yet.
Lunch, dinner, all an impressive a blur of amazing conversations. and, with luck, lots of things to come.