I am Baron Schwartz, the founder of VividCortex and the lead author of High Performance MySQL. I studied Computer Science at the University of Virginia, then worked at several technology companies. I spent the first decade of my career as a programmer, and created a lot of open-source software. My online nickname Xaprb is my first name Baron typed in QWERTY on a Dvorak keyboard layout.
High-resolution headshots for press, media, conference pages, etc are here: 1, 2, 3.
This blog is my personal writing and I do not use copywriting services or guest posts, nor do I do any type of joint marketing. I use affiliate links, usually to Amazon.
You can contact me using my first name at VividCortex. You can also find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Keybase, and Signal.
I’m private about my personal life, but I try to be an open book about who I am. I wrote this page to help you learn what makes me tick.
My Personality and Behaviors
Personality assessments are a useful tool for describing my style. Using the DISC model of personality, I’m a DC. When plotted in a DISC wheel, I’m a Conducting Implementor.
In plain English, my strongest behaviors are:
- I have very strong opinions and I voice them without hesitation.
- I’m direct, to-the-point, and can be blunt; I’m not very diplomatic.
- I’m independent, assertive, demanding, and comfortable with risk.
- I’m ambitious, determined, persistent, and competitive; I love winning and dislike losing.
- I’m objective, logical, analytical, technical, and data-driven.
- I’m understated and guarded, and prefer to observe rather than being the center of attention.
- I’m task-focused, results-focused, fast-moving, and urgent.
- I’m skeptical, perfectionist, and detail-oriented. I find typos.
- I value clear and concise communication. I dislike fluff and ambiguity.
- I’m creative, visionary, futuristic, and forward-looking.
- I value my time highly and manage it carefully.
- I don’t suffer fools gladly.
- I take responsibilities seriously and expect others to do the same.
- I’m mostly reserved and introverted. I like hugs, but I don’t initiate hugging except with family and close friends. I seldom project emotion and can appear aloof.
- You won’t think I am much fun till you know me well, but I have a slapstick sense of humor.
- I’m focused, steady, calm, patient, and agreeable.
People usually experience me as supportive, attentive, active, engaged, decisive, and motivating. You might find my passion and drive compelling. When I’m under stress, you might feel that I’m abrasive and controlling. At my worst, I can be a pushy perfectionist, and you might feel that I demand too much too fast.
My Driving Forces
The next layer of the onion is my inner motivations—what I value and what drives my decisions and behaviors. Here are my scores on Eduard Spranger’s model of hidden motivators:
Here’s an interpretation of that chart in my own words, keyed off the name shown above the centerline of each spectrum:
- Knowledge: I am highly theoretical, driven to research, understand, and discover truth. I’m insatiably curious. I am skeptical of intuition and rarely rely on gut feeling alone. If I visit your house, I’ll look at the titles on your bookshelf before I look at the family photos on your wall.
- Utility: I do things with an outcome in mind, rather than for the greater good, the cause, or the sake of doing. Money is rarely my motivator; I care more about impact and results. I look for group wins as well as individual contributions.
- Surroundings: I’m a detail-oriented big-picture thinker. I value great design, simplicity, and function over form. I see the trees before the forest, and I might emphasize one or the other situationally. I love music, art, and poetry, but I don’t always take the time to create beauty in my surroundings. I function well in chaos, and I think conflict is productive, but I will try to create order. I value quality craftsmanship, but I’m happy with a good bargain. I embrace Wabi-sabi. I don’t emphasize my appearance, and tend to dress simply.
- Others: I recognize and value people’s individuality, but I generally help people for a specific purpose, rather than for the satisfaction of being supportive. I believe everyone should contribute to the best of their ability. Because of my substantial Selfless and Harmonious motivations, I don’t think it’s a win if anyone is left out, and I’ll champion those who need protection.
- Power: In most situations I am comfortable taking charge, especially when I see that it’s needed. I don’t need public recognition, and I direct for the sake of achieving results, rather than for power, political reasons, or self-esteem.
- Methodologies: I interpret traditions flexibly and I don’t feel bound by the way things have always been done. I do not need external guidance or organizational structure to give me direction or standards; I set my own. I seek input from others, but I form opinions independently. I’ll check if a process exists before I invent a new one. I have an ever-changing system for living and I think outside the box to find the best way to approach each individual situation. I live by the motto “strong opinions loosely held.”
The only dimension where I’m outside the norm is Intentional. Thus, you are unlikely to find me too extreme in my views, but if you are extremely Altruistic, you might feel I’m not caring enough. I do care, but I have to balance my caring with a business focus.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The following excerpts from my personality assessment report are generally true in most circumstances:
- I’m not easily deterred by setbacks.
- I’m calculated with time, talent, and resources. I look for the best way to put people to work.
- I’m willing to make high-risk decisions but also willing to reconsider. I look for data to support my decisions, but will simply decide when I lack data.
- When I feel strongly about something, I’m sometimes unrealistic, or listen situationally and subjectively.
- When I feel others are moving too slowly, or being too tactical when I think strategic is best, I can be impatient.
- I demand that people come to me with clear, at-a-glance information ready to understand without undue effort. I enforce this by assuming that they do, and criticizing when they don’t. Therefore I sometimes leap to conclusions and take an extreme point of view.
One funny example of the last point is the bank that sent me a signature request form for new business cards, with no further context. Without hesitation, I decided I would not sign because I’m not interested in bank-branded business cards: no way am I going to be a walking advertisement for the bank. The bank had made the mistake of not making it clear that they needed my authorization to issue new credit cards, which I certainly wanted!
People frequently mention the StrengthsFinder report to me, implying that many people are familiar with it and it could be helpful to include here. My top five themes are:
Advice For Communicating With Me
Here are some things to keep in mind when approaching me.
- Be clear, brief, and concise.
- Begin with your conclusions or recommendations (don’t begin with facts and build to conclusions). Be prepared to support and explain your reasoning and data, but let me ask for the details if I want them.
- Don’t leave things open-ended, ramble, or make non-specific requests. Have a clear “ask,” and clear next steps and action items to achieve a specific outcome. A good example: when sending me something for review, tell me when you need my response.
- If I ask a specific question, give a specific answer. Don’t reply until you’re ready to be specific. Do not be vague in response to my specificity.
- Don’t forget things or rely on me to set the agenda. Always follow up and follow through. Send spell-checked materials in advance.
- Don’t try to pressure or dominate me. Don’t expect people’s opinions of me to influence me.
- Don’t exaggerate, speculate, or make statements you can’t prove.
- Avoid melodrama, appealing to my self-interests, or anything that could feel manipulative, such as quid-pro-quo, flattery, name-dropping, or buzzwords.
- Don’t touch me or get too close to me.
- Stick to business instead of talking about my weekend plans or my family, unless we’re close friends or I signal that I’m in a mood to engage socially.
- It’s OK to be critical, but I appreciate if you can suggest solutions too. Also, I don’t mind if you criticize me, but it really bothers me if you criticize people I care about.
- If you ask me for help or involvement with a cause, make sure you have your act together. I have little patience for people who aren’t sure why their organization exists. I help organizations that are purposeful and intentional. I prefer those who say no to ideas that are outside of a defined mission, vision, and values. If you want my help, you need to demonstrate that you are saying no to things you’re not trying to achieve.
- I’m a little allergic to people who try to guess at things beyond face value, such as thinking they have insight into other people’s motives in complicated circumstances.
- I expect people to live by the “disagree and commit” principle. Life is too short for anything else.
- If I say something wrong, or offend, or confuse you… please challenge me directly. You won’t offend me.
Here are some things I choose not to tolerate.
- Mansplaining my wife
- Bothering my team en masse
- Disrespecting my opt-out or unsubscribe requests
- Ambushing my calendar by sending unsolicited calendar invitations
- Blind introductions—do not do this!!
- Not taking no for an answer
- Assuming you know what’s best for me, better than I know myself
- Sending requests or materials out-of-the-blue, without proper context
Specific advice that’s relevant to particular circumstances:
- I’ve lost some high-frequency hearing, especially in my left ear. In noisy environments like restaurants, it’s really hard for me to hear what people are saying. If you tilt your face up towards me a bit, it helps a lot.
- Use email, text, or phone. Don’t use LinkedIn messaging, Twitter DMs, Facebook messages, Slack, or any other isolated systems. I may never notice your message; I simply don’t check 99 places for messages. For secure messaging you can use Signal or GPG-secured email.
- I only have notifications enabled for phone calls and text messages. I’ll get to everything else (as long as it’s email, that is) in due course.
- If you repeatedly call me and don’t leave voicemail I’ll block your number.
- If you spam non-individual emails at my company you’ll get permanently blocked at the domain level.
How To Understand My Unique Perspectives
In my experience with hundreds of personality assessments, few people (perhaps 1 in 20) fall in the top center of the DISC wheel where I am, so you might not interact with people similar to me very often. As such, I might behave in surprising or seemingly contradictory ways, or send mixed signals.
There’s usually a logic behind it, and I’m rarely arbitrary or haphazard. Here’s how to interpret and work with some of my characteristics you might experience as odd or unexpected:
- Supportive but unemotional. I’m basically introverted. I value actions more highly than words or body language, so I’m often undemonstrative and you might feel that I am situationally empathetic at best, even if you’re part of my inner circle of close associates. In truth, I care deeply for people. I’m fiercely loyal and supportive, and I’ll fight hard for people after I reach a certain level of trust with them.
- Audacious but cautious. Given time, I prefer to be data-driven, but I sometimes make quick judgments without explaining all of the reasoning. This can seem rash, but I’m usually pursuing a specific goal, such as optimizing for learning or trying to eliminate dead ends quickly. My boldness isn’t reckless. I want everyone who works with me to be biased to action, avoiding analysis paralysis. I like the phrase “a fast B grade is better than a slow A,” or perhaps better yet “done is better than perfect, so if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” A lot of my worldview is included in that counterintuitive phrase, which I like to think has a lot of value beneath the surface.
- Intelligent but not eloquent. When I’m trying to collect more data and express myself at the same time, I sometimes stumble over my words. This can make me seem hesitant or uncertain, especially when I’m speaking without preparation or trying to understand someone’s point of view. I appreciate you helping me with prompts, echoing back in your own words what you think I’m trying to say, or simply being patient with me.
- Visionary but visionary. I sometimes describe the future without laying out a specific path to achieve it. I may jump around mentally and verbally, leaving thoughts unfinished in my excitement. I may not be aware when you don’t see my vision clearly, or aren’t clear on the steps to reach it. It’s a good idea to make sure I know if this is the case. Ask me to connect the dots for you.
- Easy-going but determined. According to the personality assessment, my “quiet demeanor conceals deeply held convictions,” and I find that very accurate. In practice, it means that you might misinterpret my agreeable manner as submissiveness or lack of opinion, especially if you are a high DI (you fall in the Conductor or Persuader quadrants of the DISC wheel). When I feel that people don’t take me seriously unless I’m raising my voice, or that they feel they have the upper hand by force of personality alone, I feel disrespected, and that can lead to clashes. It’s something to be aware of, for me and you both.
- Demanding but methodical. Because I move fast and challenge people, you might wonder if I give people enough chances. I might not tell you the private details, but my decisions about others aren’t arbitrary, and I practice no-surprises leadership. If I’m unsatisfied with your work, I’ll tell you directly, and I’m very open about it. But because I don’t look for external validation, I don’t naturally think to give overtly positive feedback to others. I’d like to improve at that, so please prompt me if you feel comfortable doing so.
- Detailed but minimalist. Because I am data-driven and perfectionist, I strive for simplicity so I can keep my mind clear and undistracted. I like systems to be explained and governed by elegant, predictable models and rules. I will challenge complicated spreadsheets, algorithms, or agreements and ask if they can be simpler and clearer.
- Open-minded but independent. I don’t really value other people’s opinions or judgments of me, but I value the information they can give me, so I’m happy—even eager—to get outside perspectives and observations. I learn the most from people who disagree with me. I suspend my beliefs, ask questions to draw out their views, take what I like and leave the rest, and even play devil’s advocate against myself. This can disturb some people, because it looks like I am rudderless and lack self-confidence. It’s true that I move the rudder freely, because it is not the rudder that guides me; it is my personal North Star. And it is self-acceptance, not self-confidence, that enables me to release doubts and act swiftly.
Please feel free to give me feedback that will help me learn more about myself! It’s OK to be very direct about this; you won’t hurt my feelings. (See above.)