What it means to be a professional?



  1. relating to or belonging to a profession. Example: “young professional people”
  2. engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as an amateur. Example: a professional boxer”

noun: professional; plural noun: professionals

  1. a person engaged or qualified in a profession. “Example: professionals such as lawyers and surveyors”
  2. a person engaged in a specified activity, especially a sport, as a main paid occupation rather than as a pastime. Example: his first season as a professional”
  3. a person competent or skilled in a particular activity. Example: “she was a real professional on stage”

I know, I know, these mere definitions and don’t quite explain what it takes for one to be a true professional. Everyone seems to have their version or a definition they use as deemed fit. Like this person who lashed out at my friend the other day. And when she started to sob uncontrollably, the response was simply, “please don’t cry here. Be a professional.”

Exactly, what the hell?

Here’s what I believe means to be a true professional. As with all things, your mileage may vary, and that’s okay. So, being a professional, to me, means:

  1. Having the courage to cut-to-the chase, getting to the point, ignore the signal while following the noise, be an up-stander when things aren’t going right, and yes, calling a spade, just that, a spade.
  2. Having the humility to relate with your peers, subordinates, the younglings, the elders alike with deep empathy. It means you have to keep your ego in check at all times. Not suggesting that you be the nice one, but the wise one. Stay grounded as there are lessons to be learned from each and everyone around us.
  3. Having the discipline to reach, start, finish, and stay on time and within limits. No matter who you are, what you do or how you choose to serve your clients/family/peers/organisation, there are no exceptions. Start with yourself. Are you disciplined enough to wake up and get to bed on time everyday? Do you push yourself physically and mentally everyday? If not, start there. How do you get disciplined? Simple — be disciplined. There’s no magic pill. You just need to get after it.

The ideas above are useless only if you don’t apply them. Otherwise, they’re quite powerful. I can guarantee that you’ll be a far better professional than the ones around you if you commit to these directives. It just takes a lot of doing than talking or thinking. And that’s the hard part.

Do you have the courage, humility, and discipline to suck it up and get after it?

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