Call me anything but a GURU

The first time someone called me a SQL Guru it felt a bit odd coz I never considered myself one. But once the initial shock had worn off, I felt extremely proud about finally having attained a title that I have been aiming for almost all my career. However over time I have realized the title brings with it an enormous responsibility and that is something I wasn’t prepared for. While this post is from my personal experience I am sure most people will be able to relate to it. Attaining recognition is a double edged sword, on the one hand it feels great to be acknowledged, while on the other hand it adds a lot of pressure to keep earning that recognition.

I have met a number of Gurus / Experts / Ninjas, call them what you will, but one thing is for sure, they never gave the title to themselves it was always given to them by someone else. Obviously to reach such a high standing takes years of commitment and constant improvement of self and ones processes and this adds certain other traits which I am mentioning below:-

Extreme pride in ones work and ability, after spending years learning and doing a job people naturally take pride in it and gain confidence in their ability, 9 times out of 10 this is a good thing. But the one time it’s not good is when the same pride turns to over confidence and an opinion or belief held by the Guru starts becoming preachy. I have done this and I know it was wrong and most importantly I have tried to refrain ever since. I have had long standing beliefs , things I have learnt or trusted from day one turned on its head by someone I felt didn’t know as much as I did.

Pressure to be correct all the time, this too is 9 times out of 10 a good thing, it keeps us on our toes. Constantly forcing us to check and double check our numbers. But sometimes the pressure of losing face is more than some can bear and rather than saying Mea Culpa it turns into an all-out slugfest with egos bruised everywhere. I reserve my right to be Human and make mistakes. Being a Guru doesn’t mean you can’t be wrong, it means you will try your best to be right.

Pressure to reinvent one’s self, nobody likes to be called a one trick pony. Once you become a Guru the challenge is to stay relevant constantly updating your skills, learning and trying out new things and incorporating it into your daily life. There are still only 24 hours in a day and more knowledgeable you become the harder it gets to choose topics of substance that others aren’t already doing. This pressure is a good thing but people reaction to it have been different.

Humility, it’s a feeling that mountaineers and astronauts get when they see the world from that high up. A sense of proportion in seeing how vast the world is, after you climb the hill and realize there is a whole world still left to conquer. Gurus often get their title before they have fully mastered all aspects of their field. A DBA well known for performance tuning might only have a slight idea of BI but is still called a SQL Guru and expectation is he knows everything. While all that goes on in the Gurus mind is look at all this stuff I don’t know.

Protecting a reputation; most experts I know don’t use alias or nicknames, they use their actual names be it in blogs, online forums, websites, social media etc. They put everything on the table, every time. With this comes a level of accountability as well as a nagging sensation you’re being quoted out of context or referenced and linked back to at the drop of a hat. For every point being argued I am sure we will find one expert for and one against it. People then leave it to the experts to slug it out.

Always being nice. Last time I checked I am human and there are still plenty of things in the world that annoy me to no end. However being a guru means that people also look up to you. Try to emulate you and in this comes one of our biggest challenges, being nice all the time. We need to always conduct ourselves professionally no matter how pissed off we are. We might want to scream our heads off at how stubborn the other guy is being but we can’t coz it sets a bad example and also only brings down others opinion of us. Every once in a while we explode only to write a sheepish email about how sorry we are and how we should know better, but in the end we are still human and will still get angry, frustrated or just have one of those days.

So in summary what I am trying to say is being a Guru is not the end of the journey as most people believe. It’s actually the start of a much more epic one. One that requires a lot of the values that got us started along our paths and we lost along the way. From a time when we didn’t know better, weren’t afraid to admit it and couldn’t care less what everybody else thought.

So call me an Amateur any day!! Coz it derives from Amare which mean to love, in other words “A person who does something for the love of it”.

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