Reading Rainbow, err audio book rainbow

Growing up I was never interested in reading books. Up until I join the military, I could count the number of fiction books that I had read on one hand.  They just couldn’t keep my interest.

One of the issues with reading books is that I have a hard time focusing for more than a minute or two.  And that is meant to be literal.  What this means is that I end up having to re-read a sentence, paragraph several times in order to grasp it.  This leads to a great deal of frustration and surprisingly peaceful slumber.  To read perchance to dream 🙂

There was one day that actually changed my life, and the lesson wasn’t intended for me.  I was standing in the hallway of the van that we worked in, when I overheard my sergeant tell another marine to read a book on combustion engines.  My friend replied with “Why would I read about engines?”.  The response is what lit the fire.  The sergeant explained  that reading anything, regardless of immediate need because it will teach you to learn and thereby improving your problem solving.

I took that lesson and ran with it.  At the time, my job was as a calibrator (making sure things are measured correctly) and it was not very exciting.  Once I got out I was working in the civilian world doing the same thing, and it was worse.   It was a rat race, the only goal was to do as much work as we could as fast as we could to increase our billing.

I couldn’t stand to do this work to much longer, I have a hard time doing repetitive work, I go crazy.  I decided that I wanted to write software to do the work for me (I will spare you the details).  Taking the lesson that I overheard, I went to town.

I started reading books, magazines and anything else I could get my hands on to help me learn how to develop software.  Somehow I was now able to read and read without falling asleep and staying up all night to learn more.  Interestingly enough, I was learning to program on my own.

Here I am, 15 years later and I am still reading.  Not as much as I would like, but things are changing.  Remembering that I had the issue with having to re-read somethings several times I have been turned on to audiobooks.  These are great because audible has the feature to go forward or backwards by 30 seconds.  This works for me and I do work those buttons like a pro.

I still haven’t got around to listening to fiction, but there is always hope.  I am on a leadership book binge currently and the next topic that I was to listen to is history.  As I get older, I realize that you have to read and read often so that you can stay sharp and in my field, relevant.

I am not sure that I told me sergeant about the lesson that he taught, but it was one of the best lessons that I have learned in life and I thank him for that.  I wish everyone could experience when that torch is lit.


Change My Tune

One of the things that I learned from the Marine Corp was how to make command decisions.  I also learned how to make demands to get tough problems solved and how to lead from the front.  Has this worked well for me in the civilian world, yes and no.

All of my life, I have been taught to be very efficient in how I do all things.   I should clarify, it was “my idea of efficiency”.  I was always very quick to identify and make it known where there was something out of place.  I think that I had the need to ingratiate myself and that need was met.

Labeling me over the years has undergone several transitions, from “Bull in a china shop” to “fireman“.  I used to wear these like a badge of honor thinking that it made me special or unique.  The truth of the matter is that I was a one man show and those labels aren’t flattering.

I always thought that being the hero was what was wanted and needed, but now I know different.  The company that I work for have gone through many transitions over the last 6 1/2 years.  When I started there were many opportunities to improve the software, the development process and other facets of the IT group.

I have had many achievements and probably an equal amounts of failure.  I was fortunate to work for a group that is very compassionate.  I went through some challenging times, but they were there for me.  As you can see, I was not the best team member like I should have been.

I was very fortunate that I had the opportunity to work with a leadership consulting firm.  The coach that I worked with was top notch, she helped me navigate through troubled waters many times.  You could say that my emotional IQ was 0 back then.  I was not capable of empathy and a leader must, must have the ability to empathize.

Like I said, she helped me with a lot of the skills that I lacked.  I would like to say that she solved all of my problems, but I would be lying.  And now things have changed again and I need to make sure I can adapt like the mice in “Who Moved My Cheese“.  I have adapted fine, but I feel that I have a lot effort to prove to others that I am ok with the changes.  I can understand how it can be hard for people, who have worked with me over the years, to see that I am ok with the shift in responsibility.

In some ways, a lot of the burden has been removed.  I don’t have to constantly lookout for landmines where I have to navigate it to alway prove my worth.  Now I can focus on doing my part to help my team and fellow team members to achieve better results.

Side Bar:  They already kick ass, I am lucky to work with them.

Lately, I have been reading various books to help me with my communication and my social skills.  Here is a list of the books so far, and I recommend them very much:

  1. How Conversation Works: 6 Lessons for Better Communication
  2. Emotional Intelligence: 100+ Skills, Tips, Tricks & Techniques to Improve Interpersonal Connection, Control Your Emotions, Build Self Confidence & Find Long Lasting Success!
  3. Notes to a Software Team Leader
  4. Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual
  5. Speaking As a Leader
  6. How to Win Friends & Influence People

These are all great books and I highly recommend each of them.

The Marine Corps taught me many things, but how to play nice with others wasn’t one of them.  My view on the world that I live in and how I should behave has been changing.  I haven’t changed my personal goals, but I think I’m building my tool belt that will help me get there.  Sometimes change is happening around you and it is up to you if you want to change your tune or continue on a sour note.

You must be in tune with the times and prepared to break with traditionJames Agee

Side Bar:  I would feel guilty if I didn’t give credit to Michelle Saul of Possibilities Consulting