What I am going to describe will sound elementary to most of you, even trivial but I know that there is a difference between being aware of something and actually doing it.
I have been working hard to spread the DevOps word these last few years and through experiences, project, conferences and articles I have come up with my very own little personal piece of knowledge; what I call the 3L rule.
Learn from the world.
This is the easiest of the three. Use Bing, Yahoo, Google, blogs like www.devops.com, specialized websites, books and everything you want. The world is now at your reach, thanks to the internet and the wide spreading of smartphones. How many persons in the bus or metro around you are watching a screen nowadays? How many of those are actually watching the screen and learning something new? I know I see many playing cwazy cupcakes or any other game that is a time killer. However, they are exactly that, time killers.
Why would you want to kill time when your brain is most likely craving new knowledge, begging to use it for more than just identifying a simple pattern on a screen, dodging monkey poop or even cutting fruits? On a personal note, if you really feel like a samurai, go cut some fresh fruits and make yourself a nice juice.
The internet is available to you at all times with an almost infinite amount of information to collect. I am not telling you to stop playing, I am a hardcore gamer myself, but for your brain’s sake, you have to diversify activities. Do not always play, your brain is a sponge, make it absorb data or it will go dry.
Learn from those around you.
This one is a bit harder; it requires a couple of things:
– Some attention span: it is not always easy to be ready to listen to someone when you reach your tenth hour of meeting of the day (but then maybe you should learn to better plan your days) but try to make an effort. Many might disagree with that but most meetings have a message to convey. It might not be the main topic but a well-driven meeting can be a valuable source of information. To figure it out, the only way there is, is to actually listen to the person talking.
– Empathy: some persons struggle to get their message through, not matter how important it is. That is where you should try to demonstrate what might be a new skill: empathy. Instead of watching the speaker desperately and painfully trying to make a point, why don’t you try to help him/her. Do not jump in with what you know, that is stealing the light, instead why don’t you ask a question to put him/her back on track? It’s super easy and by making a human contact (mute people in meetings can be scary), you create a link with the presenter and might relieve some of the stress.
– Capacity of analysis: people do things around you, all the time. They work, they speak; they create value. If you are at the office right now (you should not be reading this but please continue), look around you. Take a quick break and go ask one of your teammates what he/she is doing and why. You might actually learn something. Do this repeatedly until you got the whole picture of who does what. Then try to wonder why and repeat the process many times until you reach the big bang. Through every single iteration, you will most likely learn something new. Forest Gump used to say: ”life is like a box of chocolate: you never know what you’re gonna get”. I prefer to think that life is like a puzzle, it is up to you to put the pieces together.
Learn from yourself
The hardest of the three rules.
You are flawed. Humans are flawed and make errors. What makes us worth something though is that we can actually learn from our mistakes. Once again, the big question you should ask yourself when facing an error is why.
Why did that happen? Was there an error in the process? Did I misunderstand something? Do I lack knowledge or skill to perform that task? Did I not get enough time to perform that task? Ask yourself all the questions you need until you can come up with a definitive answer.
When you do, that is where the tricky part starts. If you are to blame for the problem, make sure that if you were to redo the same task there would be no chance of the same error happening again. Fix the process, correct the documentation, train yourself, speak up! If this is someone else’s fault, do not point fingers, you are not in third grade anymore, instead help that person to do a better job so that, in turn you can perform your task as expected. Who knows, that very same person might help you one day.
The problem with that rule is to admit that you might make mistakes. Once again, humans are flawed and it is only normal to fail every now and then. Some of the greatest things were invented by mistakes: the tarte tatin, corn flakes or even the microwave oven. Maybe you will create something life changing too.
While that 3L rule should not surprise anyone, especially people in IT where learning is key, I find it a good reminder and always recommend everyone to apply it. It works very well in our domain since it is evolving so fast but it can be applied to everything really. Try the last rule with your better half for example, this might prevent conflicts to come like another fight about why you washed a pair of black jeans with his/her white underwear.