Look where you want to go

My yellow machineI ride a motorbike to and from work every day. I thoroughly enjoy getting out on my Suzuki whenever possible – in fact I no longer even own a car. So obviously it was only a matter of time before I tried to wrangle in some kind of tenuous link between bikes and SQL Server. J So here goes…

Quite a common mantra in the biking world is “look where you want to go”. The idea being that the bike goes towards where you’re looking; in other words, if you’re going around a corner, you should be looking through the corner to where you want to go, not staring at the road a few meters ahead of your front wheel.

If you should look where you want to go, then we can assume that you shouldn’t look where you don’t want to go, right? Where this becomes really important is if/when you find yourself in a bad situation on the road. If you don’t want to ride into the pot-hole, or hit the back of the car which has suddenly stopped in front of you, then look for ways past the obstacle.

Right, so what the hell does this have to do with the price of eggs?

Well, a few days ago I was stuck in the office late, trying to fix a particularly stubborn issue with a new SQL instance. Everything had gone pretty smoothly, right up until the point that the full-text catalogues refused to build. I spent an hour or two trying everything I could think of, to no avail. So I went to the kitchen to make myself a coffee, and sat for a few minutes doing something completely unrelated to the full-text problem at hand (i.e. I whipped out the iPhone and read a few of the most recent blog posts I’d bookmarked in Instapaper).

I returned to my desk, coffee in hand, and instead of diving straight back into what I had been trying (which obviously wasn’t working) I took a different tack and looked at the problem from a new angle. Another 15 minutes or so and I had the problem wrapped up.

I had been so fixated on the problem that I could no longer think a way around it. This is the cause of many motorbike accidents, and it’s called “target fixation”. This is where the car pulls out in front of you and you think “WTF!? I’m going to hit their rear fender!”, shortly followed by you hitting their rear fender because that’s what you were staring at.

Instead, we need to train ourselves to take in the fact that the car has pulled out, while also looking at the gap behind them which is still wide enough to fit through. Then once you’re safely through the gap, feel free to let loose the mighty single-digit salute. J

Photo by hugo604bcThis incident reminded me to keep looking for alternative ways around a problem. This fix involved me using tools I don’t normally use, and looking at obscure logs which I normally don’t give a second thought – all of which made it that much more satisfying. So the next time you’re troubleshooting a stubborn issue, make sure you don’t get fixated on what’s right in front of you. Rather, look for a way around the inconsiderate prick in the car issue.

Now go and give your server an oil change, and lube your chain. Ok, enough motorbike analogies (for today).

DB Dave

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