Passion

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I know I tend to be overly passionate. It’s something that has gotten me into trouble in the past. It’s also probably a huge factor in the things I’ve been able to accomplish in life. I’m bringing it up at┬áthis time because I think passion is causing some conflict within the community around the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS).

On the 25th of June just past the announcements went out for the sessions accepted at the PASS Summit 2014. I found this stressful and exciting two ways. First, and for me personally, most importantly, because I had submitted several sessions and I desperately wanted to speak at the PASS Summit (I’ve spoken there every year since 2008 and I’ve made the Top 10 sessions two years in a row, for which I’m truly grateful, back to our story). Second, because this year I wanted to help make a difference so I volunteered on the selection committee (and I was on a committee other than one I submitted for, I didn’t influence selection there at all). I wanted to get my sessions accepted, and I wanted to see the work I put in on display. Happily, both occurred. But, the day was marred.

Let’s sidetrack (again) for a moment. I consider myself to be just a guy, a DBA, a developer, an IT pro. It’s what I’ve been doing for 20+ years (yeah, I’m old) and I’ve been relatively successful at it. But, I’m also a Microsoft MVP, a published author, frequent blogger, and an international speaker. I attribute most of that stuff, not to any great ability I have, but to a lot of luck, a lot of hard work, and, here’s the kicker, to my involvement with PASS. Go back ten years, I went to my first Summit down in Dallas, TX. I attended sessions and went back to my hotel room, except one night. During that day I had spent a little time chatting with a company and they invited me to a party they were throwing that night. I went. And I met some people. They were just DBAs and developers, just like me, but, they were also involved in the organization that put on the event, PASS. I liked these people. So, I started volunteering which led to another Summit and another and writing and speaking and… well, let’s just say, getting involved was a good thing. Being passionate about it all paid off, literally and figuratively. I really do owe PASS and the people that make it up a lot.

So, there are a lot of passionate people in this little gang of ours. And some of those passionate people didn’t like the outcome of the selection process. Being passionate, they voiced their opinions. LOUDLY. At length. Some of what they said had merit. Some of what they said was just hurt feelings. Some of what they said was a complete misunderstanding of how things worked within the committees and the selection process. But a lot of passionate people, who care about PASS, argued for a little while about the Summit selections. And, being a passionate guy, I took part. A lot of the work I did for the committee wasn’t making the light of day (more on that later, maybe,┬ádepending on how some internal communications turn out) and I was quite passionate about that. I don’t know this for a fact, but I suspect pretty strongly that my passion, what’s more, my public passion, around this topic made some people angry. I’m positive that others passion for the topic, regardless of their causes and the rightness or wrongness of their cause, definitely made people angry. Here’s where I get in trouble.

Get over it.

If we didn’t care about PASS and what the organization has done for us, and how we’d like to help it, and help others, and grow it, and reward ourselves (because I do believe everyone is fundamentally greedy, might as well acknowledge it), and just plain replicate the experience for others that I’ve had (because it’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience, I can’t say enough good things about PASS), then there wouldn’t be any passion. And if there was no passion, there would be no brouhaha and hurt feelings and the developing cliques (oh yeah, people are drawing lines like this was a war in the Balkans, apropos on the 100th Anniversary of World War I). But you know what, if there wasn’t any passion for, in, and around this organization, then it wouldn’t be the organization that it is.

It’s a great organization and people are going to be passionate about it. Cope. Passion is going to lead people to saying negative as well as positive things. Deal. People just might say negative things about you. Develop an epidermis.

Look, we should be able to disagree without being disagreeable, but passion leads us down dark roads sometimes. Let’s try to be understanding of that fact and recognize that the passion that makes this organization great is also the one that’s going to lead to conflict sometimes. Let’s just try to remember that and maybe we’ll be able to work towards sharing the great things this organization does with others and fight with each other less. Maybe.

NOTE: I made an edit about the work I did on the selection committee. It was on a track that I didn’t submit for. There was no way my work there could influence my selection. Plus the fact that the abstract evals and speaker evals were done by two different teams of people. Just want to be clear about that.

25 Comments

  • Well said. I was just having a similar discussion about the benefits/rewards of PASS and the passion with other community members last night. After the whole email thing. I’m wondering who is in who’s head now.

  • Thanks Grant, I don’t see this backfiring at all and am of the opinion that having “passion” is a good thing as I have that character trait as well. It is healthy to have a body that has opinions as that is how we improve processes. I say all the time, just because something is done one way for years doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon. I think that applies to some of that with the processes in general. Thanks for serving on the committee; I think a lot of times it is overlooked at the countless time and hours volunteers, speakers, attendees put in on these things. PASS Summit has meant a lot to me over the years and I agree there are a lot of positives.

  • Thanks for writing this. As frustrating as yesterday was I think it makes being part of this organization that much better. Imagine a group where those conversations were only being held in private. Or people just decided to leave.

    Also, I hope everyone takes a second to realize that the Scary DBA is the voice of reason on this.

  • Andy Yun

    Every family, big or small, has conflicts. Yes, yesterday definitely chalks up as one of those.

    As difficult as conflicts like these are, the other extreme is apathy. And I’d rather be part of a community that cares and argues, than one that does not care and remains quiet.

    Like anything else, really the question that remains is whether anything will change as a result of yesterday? Hopefully some for the better?

  • Allen White

    Well said, Grant. Publicly questioning decisions is fine, but doing so in a way that belittles others achievements is most definitely not. I was upset by the heavy-handed way this was handled. There’s no excuse for treating people, who just achieved a major personal goal by being selected, like they didn’t deserve to be selected.

  • Mala

    Thank you for being the voice of reason on this. As you rightly say, the dialog must continue but perhaps, without the anger. Don’t know if it is my 3rd world background..but I always like to think first that a person is venting his frustration if there is poor language or even blame involved initially. But hey, i’d be accused of ‘supporting asshattery’ if I even dare to entertain that thought. I always tell my #sqlsat volunteers to take feedback less personally, usually negative feedback is not a verdict against them, it is about the individual not getting what he/she needed from the event. And not all people are good at saying that well, which they should be. Appealing for peace and dialog on all fronts, and we will get there, some day.

  • Hey Allen, no arguments there. Speaking as a member of the selection committee, I kind of thought we did a pretty good job. Sure, there’s some weirdness involved and the one thing that I’m not supposed to talk about yet…. GFRRRRRRR… but, yeah. I think the people selected earned it. I don’t think that reflects negatively on people who didn’t get selected. But, I get the hurt of not being selected. Hurt, yes, anger, no.

  • Greg Edwards

    How many sessions available? How many submissions? Good problem to have. Bound to be some disappointments.

    I doubt anyone submitted something that didn’t require a pretty fair amount of effort on their part to put together.

    Anyone is free to submit their content to several popular sites and see if it gets published.

    No, it might not be the feather in their cap of presenting a PASS session. But it is a way to share your passion and help all of us learn.

    Hope those that were not selected find a way to share their hard work and feel good about it.

  • Well said. High emotions burns in long-term memories, for better or for worse. I think people forget that they are part of a team whether they feel like it or not. I didn’t get selected and it has become a motivation for me.

  • Yeah, I saw a lot of conversation on the topic, but unless we take time to understand the process (which is outlined on the website now) we can’t appreciate the efforts of those involved. I’m just happy to be going to my 2nd Summit this year. Networking and meeting those we blog/tweet with on a daily basis is priceless to me as a DBA. Many that have opined here and on Twitter are role models for thousands of other DBA’s – that’s definitely something to keep in mind as leaders in our community.

    Great post, Grant. Thanks.

  • alzdba

    Passion, drive, concern, eager, anxious, solicitous,
    the words may seem out of context, but in fact, form a certain perspective they are synonyms !

    Great reflections about evolution !

  • Stacy Gray

    Well written. If nobody cared, no one would raise their voice. If no one cared, they’d let it slide. If no one cared, nothing would happen…ever.

  • Where’s the Like button…?!? A great post and a lot of great comments. I kept wanting to push that stupid button! Gotta love #sqlfamily, right? Always something going on, yes? It’s a community that is indeed passionate and one that pushes each of us to grow in new ways. I can’t wait to see you all at the next event-whichever one that happens to be, and of course Summit 2014!

OK, fine, but what do you think?