Have you ever read a book that made a profound difference? For me it was Chris Date's A Guide to the SQL Standard. My first-edition copy was a small and insignificant-looking book just a quarter-inch thick that Chris almost didn't write, didn't really want to write, but he did write it, and that little book made my career.
See Page 38 of Chris Date's oral history on file at the Computer History Museum for the story of how he came to write the book despite a lack of enthusiasm for its topic.
Chris ended the book with an appendix critiquing SQL that struck a chord with my inner desire to have deep understanding. I began to want more of Chris's writings, which led to my subscribing to some popular database magazines of the day, which in turn exposed me to other experts in relational theory such as, for example, Fabian Pascal.
Then I was let go from my position. Laid off. Downsized. I spent too much of the 1990s scrabbling for work and suffering from intermittent and short-term employment. Those were dark years, but the edge Chris's book gave me helped me to find work and support my family.
Life has a way of taking strange turns. One day I landed a book deal. That first book led to others, and those into a career change. Today I look back at 16+ years of writing on database topics and helping others do so as well. I've met Chris Date, met Fabian Pascal, and have published Chris not just one time, but three times. As well, I am honored by a small mention toward the bottom of Page 45 in Chris Date's oral history.
All because of one, tiny little book.