Creativity, Opportunity and your Career

Are there times in life when you find that you are more creative than others? Are there certain times during the day when you find that you have a knack or otherwise when your mind is best able to relax and engage in a creative moment?

I find that it’s interesting – this creative process. It does not come about during the normal hustle and bustle of work and life. It is hard to find when one is entwined in day to day life and trying to keep up with a workload or with family, personal interests or otherwise any sort of commitment which requires engagement.

Do you know where that spot is in your life? Do you know how to create that moment? Do you create that moment?

Personally, it’s difficult for me to find the time to engage in this process at a level that I find of interest or where they are productive enough to matter.

I have a routine which I go through and this routine can be accomplished in any sort of environment.

At this moment, I’m in my process of finding my creative space – this takes, for me, several forms.

The first is physical. I need to be comfortable. If I’m hungry, it’s more difficult to relax and focus – if I’m tired, my focus isn’t what it needs to be in order to settle into a constructive form of creative thought.

The second is mental. I need to have things on my mind wrapped up – little things like remembering to forward an email about the landscaping to my wife, or setting up a reminder to call someone back or scheduling the meeting that’s been on my mind, paying a bill, etc… get rid of the ticky-tack stuff in your brain so that it’s not of any concern.

The third is emotional. We are all emotional creatures. As a man, it took me time to realize that I am incredibly emotional and this is an incredible blessing and one which should be embraced. For me, I find that music can often bring me to a an emotional state where I find that my foot is tapping, I have a smile on my face and I’m singing along to some new song I’ve recently heard (even though I’m terrible at using the actual lyrics).

The final item, for me, is environment. Turing off the phone. Closing the door, turning up the music a bit higher, or putting on headphones. I need to be lost in a lot of “white noise” which I’m familiar – in this manner, outside stimuli which my brain isn’t anticipating is out of the picture. The same is true with line of sight. I ensure that nothing is in my line of sight which isn’t expected or anticipated. This includes co-workers, pets, TV, internet, etc… The goal here, is to eliminate the outside stimulus which your brain isn’t already expecting.

Today I find myself in this space, on an airplane. And now you, the reader are saying, are you kidding me? You just broke like five out of the four rules you mentioned above. Heh yes, indeed; I did. The point is, that I actually find myself in a very familiar environment – I typically sit in one of two seats on each flight. So, the noise is about the same, the routines of the flight attendants is about the same, etc…

Today I find myself listening to the Killers and listening to the album “Battle Born”. I just finished my typical fare which consists of the Thai Chicken roll and a club soda with a lime.

The work consists of thinking outside of the box as it relates to technical architecture components but more importantly the relationships, conversation and language around what I’m thinking. You see, so often in life we have a picture of something in our minds eye. Meaning that we “get-it”, we can “see” the answer – yet we struggle with articulating what that means or why it’s important or how do we get there?

These are some pretty important conversations in your job. You have them all of the time. They have been known to frustrate you – perhaps to the extent that they have been known to drive you to monster or dice to look for “another company” which isn’t so “dysfunctional”.

How do I know this you ask? Well, I’ve been there and I’ve done that, more than once. However, it dawned on me one day that something else was going on… you know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Here you are, in the same boat, again, doing what you have always done, because, you are of course, right. But guess what? It doesn’t matter if you are right. It doesn’t matter how wrong everyone else is. What matters is you, because after all, who can you control? Yeah, that’s what I thought. It’s up to you to change the game. The game cannot be changed if you keep doing the same thing over and over, now can it?

It can be tough to look in the mirror and realize that the degree(s), certification(s), successes which you’ve had in your career to date don’t matter all of the time. This is true for your manager, for their manager, etc… its true all the way up the chain.

You see folks, as database people, we are given an opportunity unlike many others. The platform exists, based on what you do, day to day to have an incredible impact to your overall organization. Now, this impact, it can take more than one form. It can be positive. It can be negative. I’ve seen both. I’ve done both. Choosing the positive path is highly recommended. Choosing the positive path is significantly harder. Choosing the positive path requires a bit of humility, grace, patience, perseverance and temperance. As database people, we are often “right” – you see, this is the rub, from an organizational standpoint. If you have *EVER* said “I told you so” or “I warned you…” etc… you have failed yourself and you’ve severely impacted the value that you might be able to have within your organization…. Screech! Say what? – But I was RIGHT, dammit! Heh. Yeah, you were. So what?

Put yourself in the shoes of the person or team you said that to. Seriously. Stop reading. Close your eyes. Think about where they were, what they had just worked on – what are they thinking in that moment? I’ll help you out, they are thinking “wow, what an ass”, or “here we go again…” or “why do they (the company you work for) tolerate this kind of behavior”, etc…

Yup – and if we are all honest, at some point in our jobs / careers, we have thought the same thing of others.

So, what does this all mean, why does it matter, what is the point of this post?

As a data professional we are uniquely positioned to see the “world” from a vantage point that others aren’t privy to. We have the ability to take on responsibilities outside of our specific domain. We have the ability to contribute in areas where many others don’t have an opportunity. Your company can benefit from you not thinking about yourself and others but instead thinking about the challenge at hand. Thinking about the strategic or corporate initiatives and then finding a way to contribute to them. It’s about finding a way to help the development team or the server and san guru’s, or if you are really good, the project management team. It’s easy to help each one of those groups. Take them out to lunch, get to know their story as it relates to work. Ask how you can help. You will be surprised by the responses you receive.

I can already hear some of you saying to yourself “you don’t know my boss, you don’t know this environment, you don’t know…” yup, you are right. I don’t know. I have no idea. Here’s what I do know, if you take the time to think through this post and send a list of thoughtful questions to someone whom you admire professionally, their response may surprise you. I also know that I’ve been blessed to be in some incredible organizations with some wicked tough challenges. Earlier in my career, these challenges would have torn me to bits – I simply wouldn’t have been ready for them. Heck, I’m still not ready for some of the challenges my clients face. However, I’m honest with myself about it, and I’m able to articulate the value that I can provide and just as important where I cannot provide value.

My hope for you, is that you will go through this process. And if you have gone through this type of process, why stop now? Go through it again and again. Then take an even more important step and go through this process in your personal life.

    • Brian
    • June 30th, 2013

    Great post, Jeremy. Well written and insightful.

    • Rob Gilliatt
    • July 10th, 2013

    I have been going through this process successfully for the last 4 years. The process is painful and good. Like running a marathon, you must endure to the end. At the end, all the suffering was worth it.

  1. Thanks Brian.

    Rob, I’d agree that it’s like a marathon, to the extent that life is a marathon. Meaning that I don’t think that this cycle ends, at least I hope it doesn’t end. For if it ends, it means that I have nothing more to learn, or more accuratley, that I don’t have the capacity to learn any longer…

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