At a time when the World Series has just ended in usual grand fashion and college hoops kicks off, beginning in the Garden last night, and with all the debate around student athletes potentially being paid for endorsements in two years, our thoughts turn to what it truly means to be a pro.
When one thinks of being a pro, our mind often turns to athletes who have reached the pinnacle of performance. By that definition, a professional is anyone who makes a living in a field where many are amateurs, and their work is characterized by reaching seemingly unattainable levels of performance while holding to the highest possible technical and ethical standards in that field.
In the world of business, one generally thinks of a professional as someone who has received special training then delivers outstanding results, having honed particular talents into an enviable set of valuable skills. No matter whether you think of athletes that kiss championship cups, stars that win Emmy’s or Oscars or Grammy’s, or business pros innovating their way to INC cover stardom, you must acknowledge that becoming a true professional requires pride in making daily improvements and rigor around process.
No one can really be happy or considered a success if they do not take pride in what they do, if they do not consistently demonstrate excellence, and if they do not routinely work to elevate their performance to unprecedented levels of goal achievement through process orientation. Every departure from principle, process, integrity, excellence, and peak performance causes a loss of respect and contaminates character while undermining results.
Each time we adhere to the laws of professionalism and do the next right thing, we hear an inner voice of approval, we strengthen our soul and fortify our personal resolve, and we build on a reputation with ourselves and others that carries significant cache. Have you ever noticed how incredible you feel after having delivered a superior piece of work; how much more you think of yourself; how it emboldens your character? What a thrill you feel when contemplating days in which you know you have done your very best. That is well focused pride.
Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees is one if those special athletes everyone would regard as a professional. He displayed fierce pride in always doing his best. Having played his entire thirteen-year career with the New York Yankees, he is best known for his 56-game hitting streak (or maybe, marrying Marilyn). No, it really is the hitting steak, which ran from May 15th to July 17th in 1941. This Record still stands.
He was also a three-time MVP winner and an All Star in each of the years he played. During his tenure with the Bronx Bombers, the club won 10 American League Pennants and nine World Series Championships. No professional baseball player before or since has had a run of success and accomplishments quite like DiMaggio.
The Yankee Clipper is the very personification of professionalism and was rightfully proud of the quality and quantity of his body of work. To be a real pro, focus on those two things – the quality and quantity of your work.
Step up to the Plate
Remember, behavior and results never lie. So, when answering the following questions, focus on actual behavior and results, not good intentions. All growth and maturity are found in facing facts. Step up to the plate:
1. What three things are you most proud of…?
2. Are you proud of the person you have become?
3. Are you proud of the work you have accomplished?
4. Are you proud of the example you set?
5. What are the Highlights?
6. Are you proud of the company you work For…?
7. Are you proud of the quality of the company you keep?
8. Are you proud of the quality and quantity of your life’s work?
9. Are you proud of your leadership skills?
10. Are you proud of the way you spend your time?
11. Are you proud of what you read, watch, think and talk about?
12. Are you proud of how you consciously, courageously pursue your dreams?
13. What challenge have your taken on that you are most proud of…?
14. Are you proud of your money management skills? How you make and spend it?
15. Are you proud of the contribution you make to the Community?
16. Are you proud of the strength, the depth and the scope of your intellect?
17. Are you proud of the way you handle difficult, stressful situations and change?
18. Are you proud of the quality of your character and your demonstrated behaviors?
19. And, if you shed this mortal coil today, would you be proud of the legacy you left behind?
In a world highly focused on fast fixes and instant gratification, we must all elevate our game and routinely spend time doing great things and in such a way we create immense pride! Success in any endeavor is more about commitment to a process than it is about finding one magic trick or a silver bullet that will make it all come together. Professionalism requires a process orientation.
Sure, there are ways to expedite the process, but each hack is still a process. And for me, I didn’t start to succeed as a professional until I began shifting my attention onto all the logical steps that would deliver outstanding results. When I began to create and adhere to the processes of a professional instead of simply chasing success, I started to see tangible results.
If you want to be a pro in your field, you’re going to have to break the terribly amateur habit of looking at what people have without paying attention to what they did to get it. Chasing the results and searching for silver bullets or a growth hack without understanding the process will lead to short-lived success, if not abject failure.
Become a Real Pro
How do you do this, exactly? Well, Jeff Goins says there are at least seven things professionals do that amateurs don’t.
Amateurs wait for perfect conditions. Pros take action.
Action creates the conditions for success. We must perform our way into professionalism. Your confidence grows knowing what you are called to be and using commitment to acting on that knowledge, sometimes simply putting one foot in front of the other as you find your way.
Amateurs want to arrive. Pros want to surpass.
We are all students long before we get to be a master. In other words, you have to submit yourself to the teaching of those who have gone before you. Study their work and emulate their techniques until you begin to find a cadence and professional style of your own. Find a great mentor. Fail to do this and you delude yourself into thinking you’re better than you really are, which is the fastest route to mediocrity and anonymity.
Amateurs practice only as much as required. Pros never stop.
Practice even when it hurts…especially then. It’s not enough to show up and work every day. Every day, you must grow a little stronger, improve upon your performance, test your own limits and expand your skills. This is how you develop into a true professional. Frequency trumps quantity. It’s better to work a little toward mastering your craft every day than a lot once in a while.
Amateurs leap for their dreams. Pros build a bridge.
You must build a bridge, not take a leap. It’s not the giant leaps of faith or big breaks that will make your career, though they help. It’s the daily practice. You must put the time in and embrace the fact it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. The amateur is concerned with the big break and seeks a silver bullet, whereas the pro is more focused on delaying immediate gratification in exchange for long-term success.
It’s about persistence in the process.
Amateurs fear failure. Pros thrive on it.
You must fail your way to success. What professionals know that the rest of us don’t appreciate is this: failure can teach you more than success ever will. Failure provides us great insight and lessons we can use to shape incredible careers. Know that failure is the only way you get to success and that each teaches something Thomas Edison, in his work to invent a working light bulb, once said, “I have not failed. I have just found 1,000 ways that won’t work.” How many times are you willing to get it wrong?
Amateurs use a talent. Pros build a skill.
You must master more than one skill. This doesn’t mean you have to be a jack of all trades, but you must become a master of many. For example, all the professionals you know are good at more than one thing. For professionals, this doesn’t mean you have to work at your craft uninterrupted every day — at least not for most professionals. It means you will spend your time getting your work out there through a variety of channels and mediums, or that you’ll work for part of the day and build mastery in something else with the rest of your time. Either way, you must develop your own portfolio of skills that will be in demand. Professionals know their skills complement each other and, frankly, this relieves them from putting too much pressure on themselves to be the world’s best at any one thing.
Amateurs want to be rewarded. Pros want to be remembered.
You must care about legacy more than ego. The professionals I know whose work positively impacts a lot of people and adds real value aren’t just thinking about the quick win. They are focused on long term impact, and each is delivering a performance in the market place or on a mission that ensures their work will endure for generations. I was just talking a friend about this the other day. We should all be creating something meaningful that outlasts us.
Process orientation and these seven habits really make a career you can be proud of….
If you don’t put the full weight of your passions into all your activities, if you leave work incomplete, and if you do not deliver your dead level best in all you do, then you are doing yourself and all those around you a painful and incredible disservice.
This doesn’t mean you have to win every race, earn every promotion, or heft the trophy every Year. Just always know you have given it your all. That is something you can be proud of….
Taking pride in one’s efforts and developing and improving processes around work shows a level of personal commitment that is empowering. These two things separate the amateur from the pro, excellence from mediocrity, and show the world you mean business.
You have all it takes to be an All Star, yet it will take serious work to bring that potential to life. That means setting wildly important goals, having higher standards than others, ring action oriented and integrity bond, focusing attention on the right priorities, and sticking with them until you can be called a professional, proud of your work.
At Cerca, we are professionals working with professionals to fine tune talent branding. If you are a leader looking to expand your team with professionals who are focused on delivering work in which they take pride, and you can be proud of, ever day, then we would be privileged to help you in the process. Having been pros ourselves in the fields where we focus, we know the ins and outs of the companies, the business and the customers. That’s a good match for any company. Partner with the group that can talk shop and gain rapport with the pros who will lead your business into the future. Just email me today at email@example.com, and we will begin the process of finding you Allstars that help you set records.
Adapted from Jeff Goins and Gary Ryan Blair