Tom’s Lessons Learned

Over the years I’ve had a lot of opportunities to learn from some really smart people, and some really epic failures.  Many of my managers, colleagues, mentors  and interns have imparted some of the lessons that they learned the hard way, and I’ve learned a few myself under similar circumstances.

A new sysadmin once told me that “we are a community of storytellers”.  I think he is on to the core of our community:  we share our knowledge, lessons and experience through stories that impart a lasting change in the listener.  We do believe in education and training, but it is the mentoring, “war stories” and jokes (often at our own expense) that impart the most lasting lessons.

My grandfather was a railroader for almost 40 years.  When I was very, very young, he showed me his copy of the Railroad Rules and Regulations.  It was a big thick book, small print and well-thumbed.  He said, “Every rule in here is a body.  Someone died or was injured for just about every one of these rules.  There’s a story behind every paragraph in this book.”

While our failures (and successes) can be spectacular, they rarely involve injury or death.  But there’s a story behind each one.

I’ve started collecting some of the lessons that I’ve either learned myself, or learned from others.  There’s nothing particularly profound here, but maybe one or two will resonate with you or even help you avoid learning them yourself, the hard way.  You can be sure that there’s a story behind each one.

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