Earlier this week I posted Part 1 and Part 2, today I want to wrap up by thinking about how to handle success and judging success. I think that’s important, because I’m advocating that you (and me) put some extra effort into something that is speculative. No guarantees you help anyone, and what’s in it for you?
For me, I’d say the pay off comes in three forms. The first is just pure learning. Learning to be more open, more approachable, better at sharing paths to success, all things that over time will make me deeper and more effective, and all are part of being successful at opening doors. Another part is paying it forward, the karma that accrues from doing something good, just because. The last part I’m less sure about, the pride of watching someone succeed because you helped in some way.
For example, here in Orlando I’ve played a very small part in helping two local DBA’s see what is possible. In most ways I’ve done very little. Basically by accident showing them a path to some place that interested them, and then investing some time to answer questions about how things work, what they might try, etc. Some days it seems like mentoring, other days more like coaching, other days (most often) just sharing ideas with friends. Both of them I think fall into the case of being in the right place to hear the message, even if that message wasn’t anything more than suggesting that more was possible.
They’ve done the work, asked the questions, and I’ve done relatively little, yet I’m proud of their achievements. I tend to think of them as ‘my guys’ because of that, and I’m invested in helping them succeed. But…I’m not trying to build a cult. Paying something forward requires selflessness, does pride take away from that? That’s one of the reasons I’ve omitted their names today. You can probably guess who they are if you follow my blog, and they may or may not opt to comment, but I wanted to talk about the challenge as an abstract. I also don’t want to take credit for or diminish their accomplishments.
Not all door openings will lead to results you will ever hear about. In truth you’ll probably hear about relatively few of them. I think that makes the ones you do know about more valuable, because while it’s good to pay it forward, you want to know that someone is benefiting, that your investment/effort actually made a difference. The most visible successes will have the least to do with your efforts, because they are the ones that have the drive to go forward, all you did is show them the road. There’s a tendency to be most proud of them, because it’s nice to plant a seed that sprouts into something superb. I don’t know that I want to give that up entirely, but I’m also not in this to only encourage people to be superstars. A bigger win for me would be helping someone realize quiet success at the office/across their career. Bigger win, but not something you can brag about, just due to it’s nature.
It also in some way correlates with networking. As I grow my network, I trying to be better about thinking ‘who should I introduce this person to that I already know’, and now I’m trying to add ‘is a there a door that I can open for this person?’. It can be overdone of course, but said differently, I’m just trying to be good about listening for the question (the clue) that indicates someone sees the outline of something that might be possible.
For me, the next step is also simple – I want to find some more people in the Orlando area that are interested in speaking, encourage them, and see if I can help them explore something new. One benefit of this I didn’t mention earlier – it would also provide a speaker for the Orlando SQL group!