What Rocky Taught Me About IT

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When life gets tough, and I feel overwhelmed I watch the classic film Rocky. It is a unique and magnificent film with a brilliant story, soundtrack, characters, and so much more. I love the underdog story of unranked boxer Rocky Balboa being given a once in a lifetime opportunity to fight the Heavyweight Champion of the World (Apollo Creed) for the title. The rest of the films in the franchise… have their moments (for better or worse), but the first is by far the best.

Rocky is the film I watch when I need a break from work. I watch it to be inspired. I watch it to remind me that things could be worse. I could be in a profession that requires me to be punched in the face on a regular basis. Instead I am an IT professional, and while a busy schedule can make you feel like you have been beaten up IT is still a wonderful career.

The last few weeks have been busy. Real busy! I had an annoying technical problem that I could not design a solution for. I wanted to trigger a server failure so that I could demonstrate some software features. I had a dozen other problems to solve as well, but this one kept annoying me because I knew it should be simple to solve.

How could I cause the server to fail? I could just pull the plug, but I have no remotely accessible power distribution units for when I am on the road. Plus cutting the power unexpectedly is just so inelegant. I needed a break. I recognized that I was going to burnout, so I put on Rocky and just took a couple of hours to sit back and relax.

Rocky has a pivotal scene where the title character has an epiphany – he cannot win against the champ. Rocky has no chance of beating Apollo. The problem is impossible to solve, but that is when Rocky changes the problem: Can he go the distance with Apollo and fight all fifteen rounds?

No one had ever gone the distance with the champ before, and at that moment Rocky knows that if he is the first to do so he will be victorious even if he does not beat the champ. The problem Rocky was trying to solve was the wrong problem to focus on. Rocky’s problem was not how to become champ, but how to find personal meaning in his life.

Suddenly I was hit, but instead of it being a left hook it was my own epiphany: I did not need to cause the server to fail! I simply needed to trigger the behavior that would follow a server failure. I needed to fake out the remaining systems instead of cutting the server’s power.

All I needed to do was disable all of the network ports on the switches that the server was using. I could access my switches remotely via my VPN. I felt pretty silly for not realizing this sooner, but that is what happens when you cannot focus due to a busy schedule. You miss the obvious.

Remember that if you are hitting a wall to suppress your urge to keep working on the problem when what you might really need is a break. Perhaps you need to put some distance between yourself and what you think is the problem. Ask yourself if you have chosen the right problem to solve. Are you addressing the right issue in order to achieve your true objective?

And if you need additional inspiration watch Rocky. If nothing else at least you will enjoy a great film.

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