Being a Pro

Being a professional can mean different things to different people. To some, it could mean working 9-5 in the corporate world. To others, it could mean having private practices as doctors, lawyers, accountants, designers, or what have you.

Another common perception of a professional is that he is someone who has a white-collar job and gets dressed up for work. Whether he is any good at his job or not is an entirely different matter altogether.

To me, being a professional is not about one’s physical appearance or his job title/description, but more about the mindset.

We can all be professionals regardless of the kind of work we do. We don’t have to work 9–5 in an organization in order to be perceived or known as a professional.

Here are some things that determine the professional mindset regardless of what your work entails:

  • Being pro is a way of life in that they have chosen to be a pro. They are well-aware of the price they must pay and the sacrifice they must make for the same.

  • A pro is an artist; by that I mean they make things for a living.

  • A pro gets paid to do things, while an amateur does not.

  • A pro is driven by purpose. They believe in something greater than themselves. That’s why they show up every day and do the work.

  • A professional is proactive. They do not react. They always have a healthy, positive, and upbeat attitude. They are never down, angry, or upset, no matter what the situation, and even when they are affected, they don’t let these emotions get the best of them, and are always in control of their situation. They make the best of every day.

  • They don’t wait for motivation to do the work, because doing the work is the motivation for them.

  • The pro is in it for the long haul. They have committed themselves to the path of self-mastery in their work space.

  • A pro lives in the present; they are present, focused, and engaged in whatever they are doing. For more on this, I suggest reading doing one thing.

  • A pro doesn’t wait for things to be perfect; instead they focus on getting started every day; a pro knows that when that happens, finishing will take care of itself.

  • The pro knows and does things that matter to them every day; they know they can accomplish only a few things well rather than doing many things poorly; they choose the former. They have a system or plan to effortlessly do the essential things.

  • The pro does not let failure get to their heart or success get to their head.

  • Being pro is a habit and a process, not a result.

  • Being a pro means embracing oneself and facing one’s fears, not running away from it. The pro acknowledges the fear and does the work anyway.

Turning pro is not easy. It has a cost that comes with it in terms of sacrifice. What are you willing to give up to turn pro? Being pro requires knowing the tradeoffs and being willing to pay the price for it.

  • The pro is driven by values, not feelings; They show up every day at the same place and time to do the work that is essential. They create systems to make it easy to do things that truly matter.

  • The pro understands the value of solitude. They need time every day to work alone. Like Picasso said, no great work is possible without solitude. Schedule large blocks of uninterrupted time on your calendar for making progress on each of your projects.

  • A pro stays in the present. That requires them to manage their agreements with themselves and others and allows them to stay present, focused, and engaged in whatever they are doing at any given moment. Only when you’re present can you be truly creative.

  • A pro practices moderation in work and life rather than working to exhaustion. They always leave themselves wanting more. They understand the value of renewal, and use it to refuel for the following day.

  • A pro focuses on getting results and building relationships.

  • When they finish one thing, they start on the next; they don’t dwell on the last project, but instead start on the next one.

  • There’s a certain order in how a pro does their work. They structure their days and weeks. I wrote about this in getting work done. Only when you have that order, can you have the freedom and the space to do your best work within those constraints.

  • A pro learns by teaching and sharing, and they likewise share and teach by learning. I help others by sharing what I know. That’s part of being a pro.

For a writer, writing isn’t the hard part; the hard part is getting oneself to sit down to write. This easily translates to any kind of work, not just writing.

For me, life is very simple. Most of my time is spent every day doing what I consider to be essential for my legacy project. That way, even when I can’t get around to other things, it’s okay for me as long as I do those few things that matter to me. That said, things that matter the most should never be at the mercy of things that matter the least.

I’ve used the explore, evaluate, execute process to understand the areas of work and how I can make the greatest contribution. I know I can only accomplish a few things well or do many things poorly. I choose the former.

For instance, I turned pro when I started writing for this weblog in January 2015. One post every week for the remainder of my waking life. That was my commitment — my dedication toward my craft. Everything changed. I made a public commitment to myself that I’ll show up every week by way of putting out one piece of writing every week.

Being a pro doesn’t just apply to work; it also applies to other areas of your life, such as health and fitness.

We might not always be motivated to do things that are important to us, and that’s okay as long as we do the work regardless of how we feel. That’s what it takes to be a pro.

We can all be professionals when it comes to having the discipline and work ethic. Only by showing up every day, one day at a time, can we put ourselves on the path to self-mastery. When we have a process in place, we don’t have to think about our work. We just show up and do the work, and that’s what makes you a pro.

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