I’m reading Seth Godin’s new book Poke the box, and about 40% of the way through I’m thinking about what makes a Sysadmin/Engineer/whatever more than ordinary. The book is a very quick ready by the way, I just started last night, it’s 96 pages. A strong point made (at this point) is that you want to be a starter. That having good ideas is good, but turning them into action makes them real and often the hardest part of that is taking the first step. I think back on some of the project I’ve pushed forward and often I was not the person who completed the project, I wasn’t even the person who did most of the work, but I did often start the project – even if the idea wasn’t mine. That means a very small part of that projects success was on me, it was the part that involved getting it started, but without that none of the rest can happen. You get a lot of credit for being the person who takes the first step.
It works for big things and small things. Trying to improve yourself may start by reading a book, or starting a new routine. Trying to change a government may start by standing up and talking in front of a group of people. Changing the way your organization manages servers & deploys code may start by installing puppet – by trying to set that first example and show what is possible.
I installed puppet for the first time at a partner site, then decided we needed to migrate to it. I’ve had a lot of help from the whole team in that migration and now I think others contribute more to it than I do. I installed ganglia for the first time when cacti was becoming too painful to add new metrics. Now others are driving the majority of monitors.
I didn’t come up with either of those ideas, I just took the first step, and others have stepped in to help carry it forward.
Apple started pushing USB by making it the only interface available on their computers. Apple starts a lot of things. Apple also made the Newton and a bunch of other things that never became much. That’s what happens when you start stuff, sometimes it’s not what people want. But don’t take it personally, just start something else.
So, be the person who starts something. Who cares if you know exactly how you are going to use it – get it out there – talk to people about it. My guess is you’ll get some help when others see the value in it and they’ll help grow it more. Or, maybe it wont work for your organization. Either way, you are more educated, more aware, and you have a better idea of what will work. Then you can go start on that…