Becoming a professional (a repost)

The first time I published this it was deleted for some reason. 

I’m writing this sitting in a hotel room while I wait to present at a conference with a group of my colleagues.

We have our suits on, our hair is styled, and our presentations are loaded onto flash drives.

So we look the part of a pro, but do we play it?

Two of my main heroes Brian Koppelman (the creator of Showtime’s Billions) and Seth Godin (hall of fame marketer) just dropped a new interview on Brian’s podcast The Moment.

Seth brings up Steven Pressfield and Robert McKee’s definitions of the amateur, professional, and hack.

They can be summed up as follows:

  • An amateur makes art they feel like making, doing what they love when they want;
  • A professional will show up when they don’t feel like, doing the hard work of emotional labor because they seek to connect and build trust; and
  • A hack is a professional who sells out for short-term gains.

It’s like David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors says in Keep Your Name: “What I want from art is truth, what you want is fame.”

To answer my question, I think I play it, but I can play it better.

We can always play it better.

That’s why professionals usually have to do continuing education credits with their professional associations.

That’s why we continue to attend professional development workshops, not professional maintenance workshops.

I’ve been tired, so I haven’t shown up in my full capacity; I haven’t done yoga, submitted drafts right 100% perfectly, submitted blog posts on time, or read books like I should.

In time the resolve will come. In time I will be disciplined like Triple H.

But these things take time. A lot of it.

And that’s okay.

It’s a part of the process.

It’s part of the delicate balance of life.

My main mentor, a director of professional public administration program, said to me yesterday, “The main advice I can give to you is to not worry so much. No one has the answers.” He was conveying that it’s okay to not be perfect. The perfection is the imperfection, and the doors of opportunity mostly go unplanned.

The first thing on the whiteboard above my desk is my most crucial personal declarative: Be gentle with yourself.

It’s a journey. A messy, messy, confusing, sad, amazing, boring, powerful journey.

Keep at it, my friends. And have a great day.