About this time last year I was on a river trip. Some friends had lucked into a permit for the Main Fork of the Salmon in Idaho. The Main Fork of the Salmon is a designated Wild and Scenic River and, for anybody who loves wilderness, rivers and white water, the Salmon is surely on their bucket-list. I got clearance from the home-front for the 9 day trip – a couple days of travel and 7 days\6 nights floating the 80 miles of river and camping on the beaches – and jumped at the opportunity. Most in the group of my friends planned on oaring their rafts. I had an old whitewater kayak collecting dust in the garage, so rather than riding shotgun in someone else’s rig, I planned to dust off my Eskimo roll and paddle the class 3 rapids.
About this time last month, I presented ‘Top 10 Issues Identified by SQL Health Checks’ on back-to-back nights for SQL Server User Groups in Toledo and Detroit.
How are these apparently disparate events related?
After pushing off the beach in the Salmon we ran a few easy rapids, but then the water slowed and pooled up as the river got ready to drop through the first section of class 3 water. As I approached the tongue of the rapid I could see bright white splashes of white water jumping above the river’s horizon-line – I began to have some serious doubts about what I was getting into… In case I gave you the wrong impression about my kayak skills, let me explain that – aside from one day of practice on the Colorado River – the last time I paddled was about 10 years ago, and I was no too good at it back then. Like riding a bike, you never really completely loose paddling skills you do have, but they sure do atrophy!
The last time I spoke publicly was also about 10 years ago – but that was on the topic of deep ecology for my environmental science classmates as part of a senior assignment – an easy crowd.
On the river – approaching what basically looked like a small waterfall – I had these feelings of fear. I even turned around and began paddling back up river with the hope of catching a ride on one of the rafts. But it was way too late for that (the Salmon is known as The River of No Return), I was already committed. I had to face it. Deep breath. Lean forward. Get lined up … and ….Paddle!
It went great for the first couple moves. And then I missed a brace and I went over. And … I. Got. W.O.R.K.E.D! A trip to the laundry-mat.
I managed a roll and came upright – still mid-rapid – facing up river looking at the treed steep slopes of the canyon, the blue sky, and the mirror-still pool above the white-water cascade. And I.Was.Totally.Stoked! The mental snapshot of that time and place and feeling I will never forget.
Speaking at the Toledo and Detroit SQL Server User Groups was not quite the same caliber of drama and adventure surrounded by nature’s beauty. But I did have the same fear, the same no-going-back commitment, the same deep breath….
And… well… heh heh… I.Got.WORKED – at some points it sure felt like that.
In fact both presentations went fairly well. I got some ‘goods’ and a few ‘excellents’, but there is also a good sampling of ‘fair’ and ‘poor’ boxes checked in the evaluation forms from the events. The standards are high. These are Professional Association of SQL Server (PASS) User Groups so this is Class 3 speaking after all. A little more prep time, a little more speaking experience — I think I know I could do better. To cut myself a little slack though, I did get through the irrational fear of it all and broke the seal, My next time presenting won’t be my first time presenting (and next time is coming up pretty quickly)
And now I’m stoked! I had a chance to meet some very nice people in both cities. Much thanks to the organizers and attendees. (I even had a beer with MVP Jeff – RBAR – Moden). I’m attending my local PASS meetings (after too long away) and I hope to present there soon. I’ll be at the local toast masters meetup next month to work on this speaking skill. I’m signed up for some multi-day SQL training early next year to keep improving those skills. And, as part of a new job role, I’ll be presenting at IT Dev Connections in Las Vegas in September.
As for kayaking, there is an upcoming weekend class I hope to attend.
So, cheers! Keep the fun side up, and here is to facing your fears – even when you get worked!
P.S. I haven’t written here in a while, but I have been posting over at my company’s blog on The Data Collector, Hekaton, and other topics.