In Three Days of Teaching Tableau…


I think I may need professional help. Every time I decide to teach my 3-day Tableau class, I know I am going to hit the wall. Does this mean I am going insane?

Eventually you would think that I would understand that hitting the wall isn’t best thing for me to do, so why do continue to do it?

Definition: Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Why Do I Willingly Continue To Hit the Wall?

I really do wonder if I am incrementally inching towards insanity. If I know that teaching Tableau makes me hit the proverbial wall, why do I continue to do it? That is the question of the day for me as I wrap up teaching day 2 of 3 today.

I have to wonder what recently drove me to say, “Sure, I’ll teach another Tableau class. In fact, let me do a second class a couple of weeks later to handle the overflow.”

This agreement I willingly made just means that I am going to hit the wall again, without enough recovery time in between trips to the wall. I guess I’m hoping that I’ll be in better condition before hitting the wall the second time.

A physicist once calculated that playing a year in the NFL is equivalent to the following scenario. First, you need to put-on about 4 layers of clothes that will cover your entire body. You can include the softest, puffiest clothes you own. Once fully clothed in this outfit, you need to perform step 2.

Step 2 is to start about 20 feet away from your garage door. You need to accelerate to your top speed and throw your body against the garage door in every conceivable way that you can. You should do this 10 times a day, for every day of the year. This means you will randomly launch your body against the garage door about 3650 times. This is what it feels like to play a year in the NFL (Not For Lightweights).

Well, after day two, I feel like I’ve launched myself into the garage door a few too many times. I feel like a linebacker at the end of a season and this feeling happens to me within two days.

Why Do I Hit the Wall?

There are a lot of reasons that teaching Tableau to 20 plus people at a time is a taxing exercise. The main reason is, however, that I care.

I care about helping my co-workers learn how to harness the power of Tableau to do great things at our company. I care about delivering knowledge, experience and passion to the students for the 20+ hours I have to interact with them. I also know that twenty-something hours is not enough time for me to transfer my insights and skills from my neural network to theirs.

I know this is true, but I try anyway. I keep trying and trying, in an attempt to refine my techniques and teaching methods. I think I am stuck in a loop of continuous improvement, knowing all along that I will never deliver the perfect class. I will never walk out of that classroom knowing that I scored a perfect test.

Over time, I have developed new approaches and new examples. I challenge the students to learn in three days what took me three years to learn. I even attempt to go way beyond that, reaching deep into my Tableau toolbox to unmask some of Tableau’s greatest mysteries. We start with fundamentals and explode to advanced topics in record time.

I feel like I am in a boxing match that lasts three days. I float throughout the class, throwing technical Tableau jabs, data uppercuts, and quantitative examples that come at them like left hooks. I keep them off-balance by changing directions and pace, challenging them to absorb the blows I’m throwing their way.

Throughout each day, I’m looking for signs of fatigue. I’m looking for weakness. When I see it, I back-down the attack, slow-down my pace and let them catch their breath. I even give them sufficient breaks between the rounds.

Before you judge me for this behavior, let me tell you that I warn them at the beginning of day 1, that I am going to make their heads hurt. I tell them that I am going to deliver some punishment. I prepare them for the onslaught. I encourage them to prepare themselves. After this, I promise that this will all happen to them in what seems like a matter of minutes.

So why does this make me hit the wall?

I hit the wall because of passion coupled with emotion, when the stories draw it out of me. These feelings gets coupled with an enormous energy expenditure, before, during and after the classes. Intensive planning gets joined with significant strategy development before the class begins. All of this leads me to a state in which I cannot shut-off my brain during these three days. I’m full-on, for sixty-something hours in a row. This is all due to the allure of Tableau.

After many attempts, I still have not been able to control this behavior, no matter what I do.


Charles Dickens once wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity..”

Well, for too many reasons to mention, teaching Tableau is definitely the best of times for me. This is the reason I’m willing to repeatedly hit the wall. If it were not the best of times, there is no way I would continue to do it.

I think that it is also the worst of times for me because I know I cannot ever achieve my goal. I will never be able to unload enough knowledge during those three days to satisfy myself. I will never deliver the material as clearly and concisely as I want, and the students will not comprehend all that I am trying to teach them.

There is always something I forget to say, which keeps my brain in active mode, all day and all night. After class my brain keeps reviewing what I did during the day, with a special emphasis given to my oversights. This is quickly followed up by an analysis of what I have to do the following day. For two nights in a row, I find myself stuck in an iterative loop. So by the end of day three, I’m toast.

The funny thing is, day three begins in a few hours and I’m already looking forward to hitting the wall again in two weeks. With that, I have to reiterate – am I beginning to inch towards insanity?


Full engagement. Mission accomplished.


Final Thoughts

Click here to read about what I learn when teaching this class.

4 thoughts on “In Three Days of Teaching Tableau…

  1. Pingback: I Try to Inspire Because I Have Been Inspired By Alteryx | 3danim8's Blog

  2. Hi Ken, interesting thoughts! I go through virtually the same emotions each time I teach as well. What I found helpful is to record my sessions and watch them over to take a second look. Given that it is a 3-day class, you may not have the time to do that. I also write down the key points I want to deliver for each topic before the session and after the session, I see whether any other idea has popped into my head as to a better way of delivering a certain message. But as you said, on the days I teach, my brain also goes into this very active reflection mode and I find it hard to turn it off. I thought that it was a problem for me. Good to know that I have company.

    • Hi Siraj,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with me. When I teach collegiate courses in environmental science that span 15 weeks, I don’t experience the same issues. The reason for this I believe is that the energy burn is spread out over time. I care just as much about teaching in that circumstance, but since the topics vary from week to week and I have rest between classes, I don’t experience the fatigue and exhaustion as when I’m teaching Tableau. Since I have so many years of experience using Tableau, I have a lot of insights to teach!



  3. Pingback: 3danim8's Blog - Why Tableau is the Great Equalizer

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