Don’t be an amateur: be a true professional (3)

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3. ACCEPTANCE. Last week, I spoke about OPENNESS as one of the traits you need to foster to be a true professional. Very closely related to OPENNESS is ACCEPTANCE. You might say that there’s no difference at all between the two, but one can be open to many things and even be willing to try them, but not necessarily accept them.

A true professional knows how to accept things. One of the most important things that the true professionals knows is to ACCEPT CHANGE. Nothing stays the same. No job, no career, no business, no person, so society stays the same. Everything changes. The person who does not accept those changes becomes unwielding and stagnant. Professionals need to move with the times and change with the times. Otherwise, they eventually become obsolete.

Change is not the only thing that a true professional needs to accept. A true professional needs to know how to ACCEPT CRITICISM. Not everyone will be happy with what you say or do and you will always have some detractors. The point is, you should learn to listen to it all, pick out what valid criticism and use that as a clue to what you should improve. You need to stop making excuses for every criticism you get. Whenever you make an excuse, you are trying to cover up your shortcomings or trying too hard to prove something or denying that something might be wrong or unsatisfactory with what you did. The proof of a job well done is always in the final result. Always look at criticism as help. Others will see things that you might have missed, simply because you were too close to the job or too attached to it.

A true professional will also know how to ACCEPT PRAISE. There is really only one way to do it and that is to accept it graciously. A simple thank you is just right. If you say “It was nothing” or “It really isn’t that good” or “I don’t really deserve it,” you are downgrading your abilities. If you gush, you convey the message that you aren’t used to doing things well and this was probably a fluke. If you start pushing your other accomplishments, you sound like you are boasting. If you worked with others on the job or project, you should also acknowledge them with a simple “I couldn’t have done it without the help of…” If you don’t, you are taking undue credit that should be going to others as well. Finally, you should never let the praise get to your head. It’s nice to know that people like what you have done, and that’s enough. You don’t need to remind them. And you should never think that just because you were praised a few times that you are better than anyone else. Always remember that there is always room to improve, room to grow. The moment you sit on your laurels and feel that you don’t need to do anything else because you are perfect or the best is the moment that you start failing.

Last, but not the least, a true professional should know how to ACCEPT FAILURE. Everyone experiences failure, some more often than others. Those who seem to always succeed do so because they have learned to accept faults and failure and learn to work with them and around them. They don’t retreat from whatever they are doing just because they have failed. They examine their failure or faults and work on them so that they aren’t repeated. They accept that failure is part of learning and embrace that learning as the best way to learn how not to fail again.

Acceptance isn’t always easy to do, especially when it goes against what we are used to and what makes us feel secure. Most people don’t seem to realize it, but it’s really one of the biggest factors in differentiating an amateur from a true professional.

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Don’t be an amateur: be a true professional (1)

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I am a reviewer–a critic, if you will, and I do it because I enjoy many things that there could be so much to write about. What things? Performances, movies, eating out, and reading books.

In the many years that I have also been a mentor and teacher, one of the things I have tried to instill in my students is a sense of professionalism, because that is a very important lesson that, sadly, too many people never learn.

You might say: “I’m definitely a professional because it’s my whole career, I studied about it for several years, I’ve been doing it for several years, and I get paid a lot for it.” Believe me, you don’t need to earn money doing something to be a professional. In fact, many people who earn money (lots of it, at that) doing something are more amateur than they know or would care to admit.

So what are the things that distinguish professionals from amateurs? This new series of articles will distinguish professionals from amateurs according to several qualities–criteria, if you will.

1. Quality. A true professional will always do their utmost best at whatever job is given to them, no matter what the situation. Whether it is a paid performance or a free performance, the true professional will plan carefully, prepare as much as is possible within the given time, and deliver a performance worthy of top awards. Amateurs, on the other hand, are those who do just enough so that whatever they delivery is just good enough, just passable. They usually don’t put their whole heart and soul into what they are doing and hardly break a sweat when they do things.  They don’t go out of their way to plan extensively, study to improve their technique or style, yet expect accolades for their performance or delivery.

This is what I have always told my students when they do something: Always do your best. Do the best you can all the time, regardless of the situation.

If you don’t you are short-selling not only your clients, your customers, your audience, your readers–you are short-selling yourself because you will never learn what it is like to be the best you can be. More than cheating others of the excellent product or performance that they deserve, you are cheating yourself because you are not maximizing your potential. Anyone who does not always do their best consistently is not worthy to be called a professional. Those people are just amateurs, their product always just okay. No big awards for them here, no stars.