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RE: I am NOT a number ... I AM A FREE MAN! posted 06/23/2008
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Thanks Joe.  I really don't want to quit but I've been tasting life again
these past 3 weeks and have to's been good.  No grueling study
schedule, no frustration figuring out how to make some stupid-ass
requirement work, etc.  My wife, kids and coworkers have been real happy to
see me again and I actually knocked several items off the honey-do list.  I
really forgot just how good things can be when not glued to my lab rack.

I have another lab scheduled for the beginning of October.  My plan is to
back off from the hard-core study schedule and just try to fill in the
blanks.  There was nothing I didn't recognize on this last one so hopefully
a little fine tuning is all I need.

Thanks for the inspiration.


-----Original Message-----
From: nobody@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:nobody@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of
Joseph Brunner
Sent: Sunday, June 22, 2008 9:29 PM
To: 'Rik Guyler'; 'keith tokash'; ccielab@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: RE: I am NOT a number ... I AM A FREE MAN!



I failed 3 straight, then CRUSHED my fourth attempt!

God favors the steadfast!

Keep swinging... its only money, and believe me, NOTHING feels better than
getting the pass!

When you pass I'll send you a pair of Silver WWII general's stars...
to wear proudly as you thunder best practices down at the underlings!

-----Original Message-----
From: nobody@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:nobody@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Rik
Sent: Sunday, June 22, 2008 8:49 PM
To: 'keith tokash'; ccielab@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: RE: I am NOT a number ... I AM A FREE MAN!

Keith, your email is an inspiration to me.  I failed my third lab last month
and I've been on the edge of tossing everything and moving on.  But after
reading your email I found that our study experiences were very similar,
including choice of learning (IE and Narbik) and poor mock lab scores.  We
obviously had different end results but I guess I'm inspired by the thought
that as similar as our prep was it must not have been that poor and so if
you can get through this then I should be able to get through this as well
(I hope that came out sounding okay ;-).

Congrats man and welcome back to life!


-----Original Message-----
From: nobody@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:nobody@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of
keith tokash
Sent: Friday, June 20, 2008 2:30 AM
To: ccielab@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: I am NOT a number ... I AM A FREE MAN!

I am NOT a number ... I AM A FREE MAN!

w00tness!  I am now CCIE #21236!  My life!  Oh how I've missed thee.

Oi vey what a ride.  I worked harder on this than I did on anything in my
entire life, so I'm going to take my time with the email.  Sort of a victory
lap.  After 13.5 months of studying, I can burn an hour typing.

I got into networking as an undergrad because I was a political science
and by the second semester I was bored numb.  Rather than prolong the pain
college I just finished up and two weeks after I graduated I had my CCNA -
December 1999.  I passed the CCIE R&S written about a year after that, but
be honest I had no friggin idea what I was doing, I'm just good at taking
written tests.  My company went chapter 7 and I never pursued the lab, but I
did bother with the CCNP/DP in ... 2003 I think, but I let it expire.  It
too easy back then so it didn't mean anything to me, and employers didn't
to care.  I heard it has gotten a lot harder lately.

Any way, I started the CCIE journey because I thought my company was going
basically outsource anything vaguely difficult or interesting on the network
end due to the brutally powerful charisma of a networking consultant we
with.  I figured that since I was going to stop learning on the job, I'd
advantage of the learning credits we had and actually come away with
something.  I'm happy to say I was wrong; we bounced the consultants, the
and company are great, and now I have every intention of giving back what I
was able to take away to get the digits.

My journey can be divided into stages.

1. The Great Meandering
For the first few months, I read Odom's written exam guide and plunked away
various technologies, most of which I hadn't touched since my last Cisco
Frame Relay, EIGRP, etcetera.  I truly had no direction.  A guy I work with
occasion had recently gotten his CCIE (hi Craig Hammond!) and told me to
farting around and get IE's workbook since that's what he used.  He also
recommended the Class-on-Demand (COD).

2. The Beatings Commence
I thought to myself, "self, you've been in this field for years, just start
with the mock labs."  Boy was that dumb.  It's REALLY hard to learn a
technology in any meaningful way if you do 3 seemingly random tasks in a
then move on to another technology you suck at.  Think QoS.  I had no real
knowledge or experience with it, so I was learning snippets here and there,
then moving on to multicast, another topic I had no knowledge or experience
with.  It's like trying to put eight 1,000 piece puzzles together at once,
just adding 2 or 3 pieces to each, then moving to the next.

3. Ya Basta!
I melted down around the end of IE Volume 2, Lab 16.  It was just one of
burnouts, but I remember it because it was a couple of weeks before I went
Narbik's class.  His material went really deep into every individual
technology, and I found that that methodology was far more conducive to
relaxed learning than straight mock labs.  This isn't a shot at IE, they
great material.  Furthermore, they flat-out tell you on their site not to
Volume 1, which I happily ignored and then wondered why I was having so much

Anyway, I spent about 4 months just sitting there tinkering with every
technology on the exam.  I went as deep and as crazy as my mad little mind
desired, without any artificial constraints like trying to finish a section
an hour, or trying to make it through a workbook in three days.  None of
crap.  I dug and dug, and if I didn't know what a field meant in a BGP show
output, I dug some more.  I found the childlike fascination again.

4. Back to the Grind
After finally fumbling my way through every one of the various technologies
the exam blueprint, and sweating ALL of the details, I went back to the mock
labs.  I now had a solid grasp on all of technologies, and just needed to
on IGP redistribution, time management, diagramming, and build endurance by
doing 8 hour labs routinely.  I also grabbed IE Volume 3, which let me pound
on core technologies harder.  You can't do an 8-hour lab every day, it's
not feasible.  Even if you're good enough to finish them all, it's too
intense.  Your head starts to throb after day 2.  So the 4-hour labs I liked
because I could mix them in between the 8-hour ones and take a half-day.  At
this point my manager had let me stay home and study full time, so I'm lucky
there.  I also took both Cisco mock labs ... and failed them both quite
horrifically.  I think I got a 46 and a 53 or something like that, but it
worth it to see how Cisco words things and draws their diagrams.  It's like
being behind enemy lines.

- The lab itself
I tested today in San Jose.  I'll spare everyone my views on Silicon
deathgrip on the human soul (ok, maybe not entirely...), but the lab
environment wasn't that bad.  I had heard everything from it being freezing
cold to the mouses being all old and covered in nastyness from thousands of
clammy hands.  Nah.  I brought a sweatshirt, never put it on.  My monitor
a refresh rate that was low enough to flicker with a white background and
you a headache, but I didn't have much white background anyway.  Besides,
cares?  The point is it wasn't that bad.  There was rack noise, but I
earplugs and never bothered to use them.  A few phones rang every 10-15
minutes.  Meh.  The rack noise was white noise, it kind of made it easier to
dig in.

The night before I took a Unisom (over the counter sleeping pill) and still
had a little trouble sleeping.  I probably banked about 6 hours, which is
enough.  I brought my own oatmeal to the hotel, because it's filling, and if
you mix the sugary packets with the plain ones you aren't just eating gobs
brown sugar.

The material was hard.  It wasn't impossible (obviously), and it wasn't
It was, as my co-worker told me last night, fair.  The whole test was
quite fair.  I believed going in that if I knew the technologies inside and
out, time wouldn't be an issue, and I wouldn't be easily tricked.  I walked
out feeling the same way.  The only thing that I was really stressing about
was the stupid little mistakes.  The mis-named ACLs, the wrong router-ids,
neighbor relationships with the wrong IP of your neighbor ... all that
That stuff would kill me in the home labs.  Overall I'd say it was just like
IE claims - a 7-8 lab of theirs.  Probably right in the middle.  But of
you're in a foreign environment under a lot of pressure, so a 7.5 lab
an 8.5.

Fortunately I finished everything but a few skipped items with a lot of time
left, so I was able to comb over everything from the beginning, then still
enough time to pick up the skipped tasks.

I told my manager I could shave months off of the prep time of the next guy
our team to do this.  How?  DON'T SKIP AHEAD.  Start at dum-dum level and
up from there.  I started in the middle, and ended up going *back* to
then working up again.  Waste of time, and very frustrating.

Learn every technology to a RIDICULOUSLY deep level.  You probably won't
to explicitly call upon that knowledge, but it makes it easy to decipher
things like the correct OSPF network type to use, because you're not just
memorizing things, you truly understand them.  Once you know why things work
the way they do, you have no fear of them wording a task in a wacked out
because you're going to see through it like Louise Lane's skirt.  Here's an
email from Joe Brunner I kept from January 08.

"No you need to learn

1. the technologies so well you can be fooloed
2. to stop what ever you are on at 2pm sharp (3pm in CA) and spend the rest
of the time just verifying the "easy" sections. Don't underestimate the
importance of this. You WILL probably fail otherwise."

Thanks for that advice man, I really took it to heart.

Finally, thanks to my wife, who could probably do better.  My parents and
siblings, whom I've completely ignored for the last year, including my new
niece, who is about to get an even newer baby sister.  My co-workers for
pulling my weight increasingly until I ducked out 100% to study a few weeks
ago.  My manager paid for all of this garbage and gave me time off, which,
counting the lab rack he financed, probably came out to about 30k.  Also,
thanks to Ethan Banks for letting me blog until that ... yeah, ya know.
list was also a help.  Just reading these emails helped keep me going.
Finally, I'd like to preemptively thank all of the strippers that are going
be smiling at me in the near future.

Enough of this crap, I have books to heave from the balcony and a gaming rig
to build.

The information in this e-mail is intended for the
attention and use of the everyone in the world, or I wouldn't have sent it
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The im Talkathon starts 6/24/08.  For now, give amongst yourselves.

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