I am on a train going between Paris and Amsterdam, stopping at Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam, and Schipol before going to Amsterdam Central. The train is nice, nicer than a plane to be sure. This is the last of a lot of travel for me - Dallas, Austin, San Francisco, then for vacation, admittedly, Paris.
“The last of” is a bit relative. Next week I go to Warsaw; the week after Prague and Brussels; and then nothing…until, hopefully, a vacation sometime in October for the kid’s break.
Well, onto this week’s newsletter!
I am always eager to please someone and eager to demonstrate that I know things (whether I actually know them or not). With strangers, and in a work-context, the first is a lot of work, the second impossible to do frequently.
The ultimate way to please someone, again, at work, is to say yes to their requests. This is how you end up overloaded, rather, feeling overloaded. Saying yes is easy and gets immediate points for pleasing someone…and myself for feeling useful, justified in being employee.
Finding out what someone needs if they don’t tell you precisely takes a lot of questions, listening, tuning. And then you have to do the work. And hopefully you understand it, and will do a good job.
Knowing things takes even more work. The stressful thing is talking with people about all of that, being an “expert.” This becomes a real thing at a large conference like my work’s last week. There are so many announcements, narratives, and the people driving the content always attempt to paradoxically be both comprehensive and concise. To make a set of 30 products “simple.” And often they aren’t even product, they’re ideas as mechanical but vague as “capitalism” or “public transit.”
Simplifying all of that is an impossible tasks. Those of you, dear readers, who are analysts, press, and marketers have seen this first hand from all those sides.
Anyhow, those two things - wanting to please people and wanting to seem knowledgeable - make for stressful times.
In contrast, I think of a lot of Big Deal Luminaries in our infrastructure world. They often are saying one, simple thing in their talks and conversations. One idea like “developers should have better tools” or “security is important.” I’m characterizing them as overly simple because I can’t think of specific things - it’s lazy newsletter musing time!
I get frustrated with these clear, focused answers because they often don’t have details, they don’t give you something to do. They are not “actionable,” nor comprehensive and encyclopedic.
But, people like that simplicity! The people presenting this stuff are the Big Deal Luminaries! They must be doing something right.
…the stock-answer to the kind of anxiety that wanting to please people and wanting to demonstrate knowing is to say “no” more often. I always fret that saying “yes” has been default is what has gotten me where I am. I don’t think I can start being one of these optimized worker people who say “no” more than often than not. That just seems…really lazy? Really annoying? Not helpful to the group? But maybe I can start saying “I don’t know” more to both questions.
Here is what is difficult to figure out when it comes to focus culture at work: what are you giving up when you start being one of these “no” people?
I have many talks, webinars, coming up:
Merridale Lane is one of those corners of Surrey where the inhabitants wage a relentless battle against the stigma of suburbia. Trees, fertilized and cajoled into being in every front garden, half obscure the poky “Character dwellings” which crouch behind them. The rusticity of the environment is enhanced by the wooden owls that keep guard over the names of houses, and by crumbling dwarfs indefatigably poised over goldfish ponds. The inhabitants of Merridale Lane do not paint their dwarfs, suspecting this to be a suburban vice, nor, for the same reason, do they varnish the owls; but wait patiently for the years to endow these treasures with an appearance of weathered antiquity, until one day even the beams on the garage may boast of beetle and woodworm.
From Call for the Dead, 1961
More from John Le Carré
Leamas said he’d stick to whisky, and by the time the coffee came he’d had four large ones. He seemed to be in bad shape; he had the drunkard’s habit of ducking his mouth toward the rim of his glass just before he drank, as if his hand might fail him and the drink escape
“[As Germans,] I am afraid that as a nation we tend to overorganize. Abroad that passes for efficiency.”
Both from The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. What an odd ending for that book.
This week we discuss VMware Explore, Snap’s move to multi-cloud and the Galaxy Brain take on thought leadership. Plus, Matt Ray’s latest Raspberry Pi project is for the birds…?
Our long-running SpringOne conference is coming up December 6th to 8th, in San Francisco. The talks are on all parts of application development and DevOps/SRE/etc. operations. You know, apps and kubernetes stuff . Most of the talks are selected, but not listed yet. I’m giving one on the legacy trap book. You can get $200 off if you register with the code COTE200 .
Alex is a great tech reporter. I’ve known him for awhile. Last week, while doing some interviews with him, I asked him non-offensive ways to ask a few questions. Here were his suggestions
My earliest professional comics work was all roughed out in crappy notebooks on the back table of a late-night burger bar with a Biro, scribbling away at three in the morning while drunks and ravers with nerve damage staggered in and out of the place.