This month, Aaron Bertrand (b/t) is hosting the TSQL Tuesday topic. And this month, the topic of choice is either 1) an outside hobby or 2) bad habits found/used in TSQL. I somehow think by the time I’m done with this post, I’m going to blur the two together.
My Outside Interests: Motorcycles
I have a number of interests outside of my career, and all of them involve being outside. I love nature. I enjoy hiking, skiing, backpacking, fishing, hunting, shooting, and just being in the woods. In fact, I love it so much I recently took a DBA job in Duluth just so we could live in the woods.
While all of those are great hobbies and awesome things to do, the hobby I am most passionate about is motorcycles. It’s something I have done since I was a kid puttering around on a hand me down 1972 Indian 100cc dirt bike. I swear, I spent more time working on it with my Dad vs riding it. After having a couple of dirtbikes, I moved to the street at 19. In fact, that’s the only mode of transportation I had for a while.
Then with a wife and a couple of kids, I had to sell the bikes and take a break because the needs of the family came first. With a divorce and marriage 2.0 later, I was back to riding. Only this time I wanted to learn how to ride a sportbike. Oh, how I loved going fast (at the track of course). I spent a lot of time learning how to ride that style. You’d be surprised what you have to learn to get your knee on the ground: geometry, physics, motorcycle mechanics, body positioning, and the list keeps going.
For instance. Every corner has a natural apex and an engineered apex. Motorcycles actually counter steer, meaning when you are leaned over in a corner the forks are pulled toward the rider making the front wheel steer towards the opposite direction of the turn.
That’s not to say it’s a safe hobby. You get hurt. There’s an old motorcycle proverb. There are only two kinds of riders, those who have been down and those who are going down. You’re always one or the other. So on a sunny morning in July of 2010, at approx 100 mph, I went down hard on the back straight of Topeka raceway. It was the last time I would be on a race track riding a sportbike at a track day. Why? When I added up what those 22 minutes of fun cost me, it was hard to justify continuing trying to get faster.
So I moved over to riding SuperMotards. Think, dirt bike with street tires on a go-cart track. Oh man, you can have a lot of fun. But alas, when I started applying racing techniques and crazy supermotard skills to everyday street riding, well let’s just say I had some great skills and I was applying them on public roads in traffic. I wasn’t a full-blown hooligan, but I was flirting with it.
So with that in mind, I decided to go back to riding in the dirt. Only this time, it’s been riding in single track, or what is known as hard enduro. It’s riding your dirt bike in the woods, over rocks, over trees, through streams, over hills, etc. Sometimes, you fall. Sometimes you run out of gas. Sometimes you get lost. Sometimes, all of it happens at once.
So I made a choice. Continue to ride on the street; risk tickets, jail, getting hurt or getting myself killed, or retire from street riding. I’ve lost enough friends to bad (and often stupid) traffic accidents. I’m sure by now, everyone has seen the gruesome picture of the sportbike rider who rear-ended the semi head first. Well, his name was Brandon, he was from Broken Arrow (a suburb of Tulsa), he was going to college, had plans to ask his gf to marry him, and we rode together occasionally. He was a good kid who made a bad decision. Choices define us. Bad choices don’t make people bad….they just make us people.
And do you know what this has to do with SQL?
Everything. I’ve evolved as a motorcyclist. I’ve learned to go fast. I’ve learned to go slow. I’ve learned to be methodical in my technique. I’ve learned to be patient. You see, to go fast on a motorcycle, you have to learn how to do it going slow. To ride technical tracks, you have to be patient and develop your technical skills. You have to practice often, and be humble. It doesn’t happen overnight. I will never be as good as a rider as Johnny Walker, Graham Jarvis, Valentino Rossi, or the late Nicky Hayden. I will never be the SQL professional like Brent Ozar, Thomas LaRock, Jess Borland, or Paul Randal either.
And that’s ok. Why? Because I’m me. In riding, there’s another famous saying. Ride your own ride. Meaning, you’re the only one in control of the bike. You can only ride to your abilities. No one else is there to make you do anything. Sure circumstances happen like a deer on the road, a deep mud hole on the trail, and piss poor judgment like Brandon. He was riding with a group late at night, on US 169 which is a ghost stretch at that time of night. He let others influence his riding and he forgot to respect the danger. He forgot to ride his own ride.
As a DBA, I’ve had to learn to evolve as well. I’ve had to remind myself to ride my own ride. I look up to a number of people in the SQL community, just like I look up to a number of riders. But you have to remember, their path isn’t YOUR path.
The other thing SQL has in common with motorcyclists? They love what they do. The SQL community is just like the riding community. A couple of strangers on motorcycles stop at the same gas station, they are talking about bikes. Just like you talk about SQL at SQL Saturdays, UG sessions, twitter, slack, etc. It’s so damn awesome. And each SQL pros journey is similar, but deeply personal. And if you’re doing it right, even spiritual.
I leave you with some riding wisdom that can be applied to SQL
That’s all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. ~Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Most motorcycle problems are caused by the nut that connects the handlebars to the saddle. ~Author Unknown
Keep your bike in good repair: motorcycle boots are not comfortable for walking. ~Author Unknown