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If you think this has anything to do with being a professional hockey player, guess again. What I’d like to talk about this morning is a far broader meaning of the word “pro”…
Actually, my recent battle with a winter flu bug started me pondering this subject. Or, should I say, my many social media friends — from Twitter to Facebook — got me thinking about it, as they suggested I take some time-off from my work. (Ya, right… Take some time-off. Ya, right.)
In reality, this line of discussion began among my two brothers and I a lot of years ago as we were just embarking on our true life’s work…
You might find it interesting that we all dabbled a bit in singing and playing the guitar during our youngest years.
I found an old hollow-bodied guitar under our parents’ bed when I was about 11-years old, and I pestered mom and dad to let me take lessons until they finally relented. (Rick Nelson was who I thought I’d ultimately be, or one of the Beach Boys a few years later.) Of course, you know reality ultimately struck me, and steered me towards steel blades rather than the steel guitar strings.
Middle brother Lou did pretty well for himself with the music. Still, while he has always had the sweetest, most natural voice I’ve ever heard, he only does a gig now and then as he makes his fortune elsewhere.
Baby brother John (using our mom’s maiden name “Stevens” for the billboards) is the only one to have gone full-time with his music, having appeared on The Nashville Network, and regularly singing, playing guitar and telling jokes — from ocean liner cruises to Disney World to Universal Studies in Orlando, Florida.
Anyway, a lot of years ago my brothers and I started holding occasional “meetings” in my backyard during the summer months, although Lou’s work ultimately whittled it down to just John and I meeting on a fairly regular basis.
I guess that wasn’t really the best word to describe what we did, though. In reality, they were just bull sessions — roughly structured, and just aimed at sharing our latest business challenges or ideas. (Funny, now that I think of it, but we were doing “meet-ups” or formed our own “mastermind group” 20-years before they became fashionable!) So, comfortably clad in shorts and T’s, and armed with pencils and paper and even my old cassette recorder, we went about sharing a bunch of common work related ideas.
And that brings me to a topic that has arisen countless times over the years — going way back to those meetings, and continuing in later telephone conversations. Ya, it’s that thing about being a “pro”.
In a way, I guess, John’s work and mine are similar. (Actually, if you’ve seen the movie, The Blues Brothers, you’d know that either of us could have cups of beer thrown at us at any time! ;) ) More seriously, though… Both of us do our work in front of crowds. Of course, John’s work atmosphere is obvious, but I also have a ton of people watching my every move, be it at a practice, a clinic or a game.
Oh, as far as the professional part goes, I’m betting you’re thinking it has to do with the way we act. Yup, of course it does. Still, that’s not what I’m ultimately going to tell you about. Nor is it the fact that we both have to present ourselves well — as being dressed properly, clean shaven, whatever. And, I’ll even suggest (though you may not have thought about it) that we both have to put-in a great deal of preparation time BEFORE we can really do what we do — well.
Okay, so here it is… Many years ago during one of our meetings, the idea arose that there’s a special meaning to being a true “pro”. And I think I used Frank Sinatra (still alive then) as an example. For, I suggested to John, “A fan who sees Sinatra in New York City expects that he’d put-on the same energetic, high quality performance in Cleveland.”
Now, that just might seem obvious to the reader. However, let me put it in a little different perspective… You see, the day leading-up to Old Frank’s show in Chicago is NOT going to be identical to the day he had just before going on stage in San Francisco. You can be sure of that (can’t you?). No matter what, though, his audience is coming (and they’re paying) to see the Frank Sinatra they’ve come to love from the past.
To take that a step further, let me tell you that Sinatra’s audience, John’s audience, and my hockey customers don’t care if either of us had an argument with our wife (or whomever), just wrecked our car, or aren’t feeling well. (No, all my Twitter and Facebook friends, my customers expect the same from me, whether this flu bug has me down or not.)
Then, while you might be sitting and reading — and nodding to the affirmative, my guess is that you haven’t quite yet connected what I’ve been saying with whatever it is YOU do. Ya, I’ll bet you think yourself a “pro” at what you do, but…
To my way of thinking, none of us are really “professionals” until we take-on the real meaning of that word. In fact, let me share something I read many years ago, this attributed to someone famous in Russian theater:
“There are no small roles,
only small actors.”
From that, I guess we could say that a job is what we make of it. And that brings me to something our dad shared when a very young John asked him what career path he might take…
“Pick something you love doing,
and the rest will take care of itself.”
Today, I have to think John loves what he’s doing; I think Lou, Jr does, too. And, by now, you probably know my feelings on that subject. Oh, and while on this part of the discussion — about loving what we do, I happened to mention in a recent Facebook post how I forgot about being sick while I was at the rink. Hmmmmm… Funny how that happens, if one really loves what he or she is doing. (It’s called getting lost in ones work.)
Then, these snippets… Our favorite pro athletes, actors and entertainers probably earned that kind of respect due to their consistency. Ya, they tend to perform at a high level, night after night after night. Then, if you’ve gotten the impression that Sinatra, John, Lou and I love our work so much that we never have a bad day, think again. (I can’t speak for the late, great Sinatra, but I’m pretty sure The Chighisola Boys get all the headaches, flat tires, strained budgets and flu bugs you do. The secret to being a “pro”, though, I guess, is whisking those thoughts away for a short time, knowing “the show must go on”.)
Finally, although one may love his or her job, it’s not all that hard to forget. I mean, it’s easy enough to get into the rut of muttering to oneself, “Ugh, I have to _____…” Ya, we all do that, even when we actually love our work. The remedy, as far as I’m concerned, is to occasionally pinch myself, and compare what I do with all those who are truly hating their fate in life.
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