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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is an author and engineer who enjoys building and automating data integration solutions. Andy is co-host of the Data Driven podcast.

Mind the Gap

A couple months ago my friend – and for many years and in many ways, mentor – Andy Warren (blog | @sqlandy) wrote a blog post that has been slow-cooking in my soul. The title is The Ebb & Flow of Community Participation. Basting this slow-cooking are the collected works of K. Brian Kelley (blog | @kbriankelley) at his blog, The Goal Keeping DBA – especially those articles tagged Professional Development.

Andy’s thoughts strike me – especially his thoughts about the ebb of community participation. In particular, his final couple paragraphs that are aimed at leaders. Brian’s new year (2016) post titled Be Intentional in Your Efforts strikes a similar chord. I won’t cloud either Andy’s or Brian’s words with my interpretations. I’m just letting you know they inspired this post – the men and their words.

Δ

Δ is the symbol for the Greek letter we call delta. In science and engineering, Δ represents change or changing or the difference between two or more values. Change is constant:

Everything changes and nothing stands still. 
– Heraclitus, quoted by Plato in the Cratylus dialogue

Growth is change and death is arguably an ultimate change. As Andy and Brian note: change is inevitable.

Managing Δ

So, how does one respond to change? Or, taking a step back, should one even try to manage change? Grossly oversimplifying, I see three options in responding to change:

  1. Fight it
  2. Ride it
  3. Create it

Pick Your Battles

I’m sometimes told (and have been told by both Andy and Brian) that I should “pick my battles.” I almost always respond, “I did. I chose this battle.” (If people realized how many battles I don’t choose… let’s just say it’s more than I choose…) I believe my friends only share this advice when they disapprove of a battle I’ve selected, but that’s human nature (and friendship in action). “This isn’t a hill worth dying on,” is a variation. It may be true; this hill may not be worth taking. Some hills are strategic now, others later, and some are never worth taking. Although it’s best to have a plan, a plan isn’t always necessary – and no plan survives contact with… well, anyone or anything. Even when you choose to fight change there’s some portion, some element, of riding the change or creating new change involved.

Surfing

Another option is to roll with the changes. Sometimes this involves recognizing the difference between the things one can change and things one cannot. Sometimes this involves sitting down, knowing your role, and shutting your mouth. Going with the flow is sometimes the path to peace, and peacemakers will be called sons of God. Other times, well…

"There are times when silence is golden, other times it is just plain yellow."
- Edwin Louis Cole in Maximized Manhood

Be the Change

A third option is to lead the change. Leading change often begins as riding or fighting change. Being the change is never easy. Some people will resist and some resistance will escalate to malice; more on this in a bit… It’s important to persevere or be stubborn; the adjective chosen will depend on whether one agrees with the change you’re leading or disagrees (so don’t take either adjective personally).

“So How Do I Know When to Fight, When to Ride, and When to Be the Change, Andy?”

That’s an excellent question. The answer is, “Very often, you don’t know.” You have to make the best call you can at the time. You have to pick a way to be and then be that way. Can you change your mind? Goodness yes. And if you do change your mind and realize that you were wrong, you should do everything in your power to correct the results of your words and actions. Start by apologizing. Is this easy? Nope. But it’s the right to do.

Will some misinterpret and / or intentionally misrepresent what you say, write, and do? Also a big ol’ yes. What then? Again, it’s a decision to fight / ride / create. I’m a big believer in “time will tell.” I once heard Rush Limbaugh listen to a caller ramble on for a long time, insulting him and his recently-(at-the-time-)deceased father. After the caller ran out of things to say Rush said, “If a caller is determined to make an [fool] out of himself, get out of the way.”

I do that too. The best mechanism is to just ignore folks while they continue doing what they do.

Applied to Community…

MindTheGapWe all live with some self-awareness delta. In the case of community there is always some difference between what we believe about ourselves and what others think of us. That’s normal. Like every other thing in life that is normal, it can be stretched beyond the point of usefulness and become abnormal. Managing the delta means minding the gap; for me it means minimizing the difference between what I think of myself and what others think of me. As I admitted to an admirer (recorded in Andy-Frickin-Leonard), “I’ve been trapped in here with me for several decades and I am not impressed.” For the remainder of that post I confess weaknesses and struggles with pride and politics. Looking back, I wrote that at a time while stuff was beginning that would end with me walking away from a company I co-founded. Interesting timing…

Perhaps admitting weakness appears weak. I don’t think so and some smart people agree with me – like Dr. Brené Brown in her TED Talk titled The Power of Vulnerability. Almost 30 million people have viewed Dr. Brown’s TED talk. It’s just over 20 minutes – invest in yourself some and give it a listen.

In Sum…

To wrap up this ramble-y post, Andy, Brian, and Heraclitus are right. Change happens. Our response to change, though? That’s up to us. I conclude with advice – which I strive to follow – from the Apostle Paul:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” 
– Paul in Romans 12:3

Yall be good. Especially to each other.

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Published Tuesday, May 02, 2017 10:43 AM by andyleonard

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James Lancaster said:

There is great wisdom in this post.  Currently in a "Be the Change" season myself.  You have given me a great way to articulate it to others.

May 5, 2017 10:32 AM

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