Correlation Between Ritual and Result

We listen to an amazing piece played on the piano. We watch pro athletes score a touchdown or a hoop. We read a beautiful piece of literature or look at an art on display. We are captivated, mesmerized. Like I did, I’m sure you’ve asked this question one way or another: how did they do it?

Malcolm Gladwell made it famous: the 10,000 hour rule – claiming that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours. Years after the book Outliers was published, psychologists proved Gladwell wrong, stating that practice only accounted for 12% difference in performance across different domains.

I’m not going to disagree with Gladwell nor the psychologists (it will take me years before I can even earn a degree in psychology). They both have their points. But I’m sure both of the parties would agree when I say that people who excel in their fields do something that the mediocre ones don’t. That could be doing something for 10,000 hours or something else. Call it whatever you want. I like to call it a ritual.

A ritual is defined as a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. This has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with consistency and commitment. In fact, consistency and commitment are what successful people are really good at.

Listen to a great piano player and he can play even while talking to you. Watch how pro athletes can do their routines even when it feels like they’re not even paying attention. I’m sure that didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of hard work and conditioning themselves before they reached that level. They paid their dues, made their investments and committed to the consistency.  Over time, they’ve developed the skill to a point where they reached expert-level status.

You know what the irony behind this is? Successful people still go over their rituals consistently. Despite the fact that they are already at the top of their game. It’s no wonder why they are experts in heir own field.

The rituals we do daily impacts the results we get in our lives. Do you spend more time reading social media posts than honing your skill? Do you watch more TV than read about how to improve your life? Do you spend more money than thinking about how to make more?

If you’re not happy with the results that you’re getting, it’s about time to replace the rituals that you’re practicing.

The Paradox of a Great Idea

“That’s a great idea.”

“That’s an amazing idea.”

“That’s a wonderful idea.”

You can think of a dozen variation of these statements. You’ve heard them before. You may have even said them yourself.

I grew up thinking that we need to have a ton of ideas. It’s the main reason I read a lot, listen to podcasts, watch TED talk videos and webinars. I’ve collected tons of ideas in what I call my “ideas notebook.” Non-stop learning. Don’t get me wrong. I love learning.

I look back at the items that I’ve listed in my ideas notebook to determine what constitutes a great idea. I, then, recall those that I’ve provided to my previous customers. It made me realize something.

Great ideas are not the ones that everybody else say they are. I’ve been in a room full of smart people who all agreed that my suggestion was a great idea.

Nor the ones that get buy-in from upper management. I’ve been in meetings where the director already signed a contract to get a project going.

A great idea is something that someone was willing to execute from beginning to end. Click To Tweet

What classifies a great idea from a not-so-great one lie in one word: ACTION. It’s when someone was willing to take risks, put skin in the game and make the idea into reality. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say “I’ve got a great idea” yet lack the initiative to make it happen.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Not a lot of people like it when I say it like that. The connected world has given us access to unlimited resources that can give us a ton of “great ideas.” But it is really not a question of whether or not it is a great idea.

The real question is whether or not you are willing to turn your idea into a reality.

Upcoming Virtual Training Class: SQL Server Always On Availability Groups: The Senior DBA’s Field Guide

In partnership with Brent Ozar (Twitter | blog).

The idea behind this partnership started last year when Brent was kind enough to spend one Saturday morning with me over breakfast at the Bar Siena Restaurant in Chicago. I have been thinking about launching my online course – Windows Server Failover Clustering for the Smart SQL Server DBA – but haven’t fully decided yet. I needed to add the SQL Server 2016-related features since they have just been released and still waiting to add the Windows Server 2016-related failover clustering features (I don’t want to add lessons for pre-release versions of the products lest I mention something that would jeopardize my non-disclosure agreement with Microsoft).

Brent didn’t take that long to respond. He simply said, “just do it.”  That was the best advise I got last year. Those who have subscribed to my online course have reaped the benefits because someone challenged me to “just do it.

The virtual training class Always On Availability Groups: The Senior DBA’s Field Guide is yet another result of that advise. Brent and I found ourselves again chatting over lunch at the Congress Centre Centennial Hall in Wroclaw, Poland last May during the SQLDays event. We talked about the possibilities of doing a partnership thru this virtual training class, the logistics and some of the business aspects. In fact, Brent had already done some of the legwork even before I made it back home. It was a bit hard to respond to his emails due to our timezone differences – him being back in the US and me still in Europe. Plus, I don’t have an international data plan for my phone.

I’ve been doing presentations and workshops on SQL Server Availability Groups since 2011 (yes, even before it was publicly released), sharing the lessons I’ve learned from my previous customers and my own testing and research. This initially was intended to be a part of the Windows Server Failover Clustering for the Smart SQL Server DBA course. But as I started working on the content last year, I felt like it needed it’s own dedicated course.

There will be some overlaps on the content between the two courses, particularly the concepts and fundamentals behind Windows Server Failover Clustering. That’s because both SQL Server failover clustered instances and Availability Groups up until SQL Server 2016 run on top of Windows Server Failover Clustering (in case you’re wondering, I am NOT going to cover SQL Server Availability Groups on Linux – yet). You need to understand the underlying platform that makes SQL Server Availability Groups work.

The virtual training class will be delivered online – on 5 – 7 September 2017 0900H Eastern (1300 UTC) to 1700H Eastern (2100 UTC) –  in the comforts of your own desk, hosted via GoToWebinar. You will see me on webcam and my fancy lab environment via screen sharing. 


If you missed out on registering for my online course Windows Server Failover Clustering for the Smart SQL Server DBA, you know you will have to wait until October 2017 before you can sign up. If you register for this virtual training class, you’ll get one (1) year FREE access to the following:

  • Windows Server Failover Clustering for the Smart SQL Server DBA (value: US$ 545). This course covers the basics and fundamentals of Windows Server Failover Clustering to successfully design, implement and manage SQL Server failover clustered instances.
  • SQL Server High Availability and Disaster Recovery on Udemy (value: US$ 200, was US$ 315). This course covers all of the high availability and disaster recovery features in SQL Server and how to leverage them.
  • How To Build A Personal Lab for Deploying SQL Server on a Windows Server Failover Cluster (value: US$ 95). This course walks you thru building an affordable lab environment for emulating a multi-data center deployment of a stretched, multi-site failover cluster in preparation for installing and configuring either a SQL Server failover clustered instance or Availability Group

Below is the abstract for the virtual training class. I think the cartoon sketch is amazing.

Always On Availability Groups: The Senior DBA’s Field Guide

A skilled database administrator is the key to successfully implementing and maintaining a highly available SQL Server database. This instructor-led training class is specifically designed for senior database administrators responsible for designing, implementing and managing a SQL Server Always On Availability Group.

In this live month-long program, attendees will learn:

  • Fundamentals of Windows Server Failover Clustering (WSFC) – the underlying platform that makes SQL Server Always On Availability Group possible – from the external dependencies like Active Directory and DNS to quorum and cluster configuration
  • Designing and implementing a Windows Server Failover Cluster to meet both high availability and disaster recovery requirements
  • Designing and implementing common topologies of SQL Server Always On Availability Group solutions for a single- or multi-data center deployments
  • Leveraging additional SQL Server Always On Availability Group capabilities such as readable secondary replicas, backup preferences, distributed availability groups and basic availability groups
  • Managing and monitoring SQL Server Always On Availability Group implementations
  • Effective troubleshooting of availability issues for both the Windows Server Failover Cluster and the SQL Server Always On Availability Group

Last call for registration

I teach about failover clustering for SQL Server – whether it’s Failover Clustered Instances or Availability Groups.

Failover clustering does not have to be confusing nor complicated. It just has to work. And when things we are responsible for don’t work, we get the blame. There’s a reason behind the running joke about the Default Blame Acceptor. People laugh at it when mentioned in a speech or presentation. They don’t when the joke is on them.

This course is an attempt to get you to raise the bar on operational excellence. To try out something you haven’t done before. Or just to build your confidence as you embark on that new project. I personally used the course this week to rebuild my entire lab environment and deploy a multi-data center SQL Server 2016 distributed Availability Group setup.

More details are available here. And since it’s a limited-time registration, you can only sign up for a few more days.

I look forward to having you join in.


Finding The Best Teacher

I used to photocopy physics laboratory reports. This was before I had access to a personal computer and the internet. The fastest way to answer questions in a physics laboratory report was to copy someone else’s. No thinking, only reacting. I made it thru my senior year in high school with a high score in physics and a pile of photocopied reports.

And, then, there was university.

Real laboratory with real experiments – a centrifuge, Bunsen burners, oscilloscopes, circuit boards, etc. There was no other option but to DO experiments. The laboratory reports should reflect the outcome of the experiment. I couldn’t just guess nor copy answers. I had to DO and observe. It’s in one of the experiments that I proved my friend’s claim about boiling water at temperatures below 212 F (100 C).  And the lesson stuck – even after two decades.

Nothing much has changed. In today’s age where answers to questions are simply a matter of typing keywords on Google, we all copy. Developers and programmers still copy sample code posted on a forum or a newsgroup. System administrators simply take a consultant’s recommendation. No testing, no validation. It’s the fastest way to answer questions.

Learning isn’t simply knowing answers to questions. It’s knowing how to answer a question by “it depends” – not the joke about consultants always providing that response – and also what it depends on. It’s a by-product of doing, testing, validating assumptions and even making mistakes.

Because the lessons that really stick are the ones where you figured things out on your own – by doing.