The Theme of the Day: Theme

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Recently, I was attending a tech conference, and a topic caught my ear at the speaker dinner. Sam Shaw, who I had never met previously was talking about his session “Debugging Burnout,” which you can watch a version of at the link if you are interested. He had some good practical advice. I heard a bit from one ear, and I was intrigued!

Mind you, burnout is not something I really have experienced in many years, which I credit to my last two managers. Both have pushed me in the way most of us would like (to get better in ways that match my skills!) Even in the 20 years I was a Microsoft MVP, I never really felt burned out on making content. Certain kinds of content, sure, but never have I thought, “I would just chuck it all in a minute,” except when on vacation and I upside down on a roller coaster…maybe then.

Thematically Speaking

I don’t want to talk about burnout today, I want to talk about something Sam mentioned about having themes for your life. Search for “Life Themes” on your favorite search tool and you will no doubt find a plethora of sources, but Sam said he got some of the info from CGP grey, and here is a link to a recent video about themes. The basic gist is “have a theme, not a specific, all too often, unreachable goal.” So instead of something like “I am going to lose 50 pounds this year,” the theme might be “Adopting weight loss behaviors.” I use that example because that is one of my frequent non-technical considerations.

You may clearly note the result should be the same, without the impetus to fail quickly and give up doubly fast. The math on 50 pounds is clear, about 1 pound a week. Three weeks in, you weigh and have gained 2 pounds. Well this is dumb, let’s give up. That is easier than remembering you weighed yourself after drinking loads of water and eating your daily fiber and protein. Nope, didn’t work.

Having the theme of adopting weight loss behaviors is simply starting to eat better and exercise more. The same thing you would do if you had a specific plan, but when your plans get derailed by injury or really anything getting in your way that you cannot control, you do what you can and when you are back on the rails, you continue your theme.

But let’s leave this all too easy example and let me say why I bring this up.

My Microsoft MVP time is ending, now what?

For almost 20 years, I was a Microsoft MVP. I loved it, and it was a part of who I was. The program basically awards people for serving the Microsoft data community in various ways. Writing, speaking, volunteering, and more. For those 20 years, I had a (mostly unconsciously) theme of “remaining an MVP”.

Over the past MVP year (which runs from April – March), I still had that hope I could stay in the program, but my actual theme was “Tired”. I had shoulder surgery the day before the MVP year started and that recovery took months. I had several bouts of respiratory diseases that followed, and near the end of last calendar year, my hip replacement broke. I needed it replaced for a third time (all three hip surgeries have been while I was an MVP, and in previous years they were more isolated from other stuff going on. :)).

So I did very little. Long story short: I didn’t reapply and said to myself “I will work on getting back to MVP status.”

Wrong attitude

I didn’t hear it initially, but as the concept of a theme was introduced, I realized that I was doing the same thing that I have told other people not to do about being an MVP. Don’t set a goal to do something you have no control over, because you can never strictly attain MVP status in the way you can a certification.

Let’s be realistic, there are a lot of people out there worthy of being a Microsoft MVP that may never even be known, or know of the program. And the program itself isn’t a certificate to be achieved, it is a honor for being a special community member. I am not basically back to square one. 

Leaving my “Remain an MVP” Theme, Now To My “Do what MVP’s do” Theme.

Instead of focusing on getting that award back, get back doing the things I did before I was one. I know I enjoy the community activity because I have done and what I have been doing for over 1/3 of my life. As I leave. I am a little sad, of course, and if I never get back, I never get back.

But I am going to enjoy helping, hanging out, and serving the community and friends I made in the past, present, and future along the way.