“If I want to be a pro, I gotta act like one”
Division 1 athletics are no joke. Whether you’re a player, coach, or anything in between, the demands are crazy and the hours are even crazier. It isn’t unheard of to work from 4:30 a.m to 6:30 pm– 6 days a week.
It is an all-consuming lifestyle and one that makes it easy to develop that “just punch the clock” mentality. Get in, get out, ya know?
While coaching at the University of Louisville I realized how common that mindset was, so I tried my hardest to break the trend.
Every day I made it my mission to be the first person in the building. There was something undeniably cool about walking into that dark building and watching the motion-sensing lights flicker on to my arrival.
I also wanted to make a statement. Show people that I was about my business. Walk the walk, that kinda stuff.
Did anyone notice my extra effort?
Maybe not. But, it made me feel important.
So, arrive before anyone else is just what I did. At least for awhile.
Until, one day, I arrived only to realize– that I was second on the scene that day.
That morning a single player had made his way into the building and was already in the midst of his warm-up.
The real surprise wasn’t really that this player had arrived before me.
(Although it did catch me off guard)
The real surprise was who that player was.
It was our Star Quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.
He said good-morning to me as I went into the office to put down my belongings. When I walked back out he had moved onto jumping rope. Busting them out with considerably impressive (yet incredibly awkward) grace.
Curious as to why he was here so early, I decided to ask him.
And to my surprise (once again) his simple response was not one I expected:
“If I want to be a pro, I gotta act like one”
Without any hesitation, he immediately went back to skipping rope.
Honestly, I had heard that exact phrase more than a couple times. This time though, it was different.
Maybe (rather than just being said or read) it was the experience of witnessing that quote being put into action. Or maybe, it was something else entirely.
But, for whatever reason, from that moment on, it has stuck with me.
We all want to be a Pro.
For most of us, we spend our whole lives dreaming of performing something at the highest level possible. As young kids we dream of being professional athletes or big time musicians. But, as we grow older, we begin to realize a few sad truths about our dreams of sold-out concerts and sports stardom.
Most people never quite reach that level.
So those dreams, instead of dying, usually just transform into something else. A new level of professionalism that we want to acquire.
A New Dream.
Maybe instead of being a big time actor, you decide to pursue a career in directing.
Or maybe, you transition from a High School Sports Coach to just being a regular Teacher.
Something with a direct tie to your previous passion.
Yet encompassing a partially new skill set, to accommodate your individual talents.
At this point, the cycle typically goes one of two ways:
-That new dream fails and again evolves into something new.
ex: Directing didn’t work? Maybe I should try my hand at set design.
-Your new dream clicks and takes hold. You discover that special place where your passion and talent intersect.
Sometimes this process can take a few tries, and more failures than most are willing to endure.
My journey was not any different.
Growing up I wanted to eventually play in the NFL. Sadly, there is not an extremely high demand for 5’11 180 lb white guys with average athleticism (their loss). This dream then evolved into coaching football at the elite levels. After which, I fell in love with fitness, and it evolved once again.
My dream kept failing and evolving.
Until eventually, I hit a point in which things began to click.
Football Player>>>Football Coach>>>Fitness Coach>>>Male Model
(Still working on that last one.)
That is what you must do as well.
Keep evolving until you find a career-path that clicks.
And once you find yours?
Well Congrats, Rookie.
You just completed the first (and easiest) step towards becoming a professional.
The hard part.
You do not begin a Pro.
You become one.
And as such, this sometimes means some recreation of yourself. Changing your former ways (no matter how normal they are to your peers) into your new professional ways. Transforming what used to be a weakness and a normality– into a new strength.
This typically begins with the manner in which you handle and present yourself.
As you become a Professional, you will become expected to represent a certain brand.
The brand that you embrace is pretty dependent on the field or industry that you choose. Different fields inspire slightly different representations of brand.
The Fitness Industry, for example, is an odd field to work in.
For many fitness professionals, our name becomes our brand. Which can put us in tricky territory. The things we do as a professional represent us as an individual, and the things we do as an individual can represent us as a professional.
In many fields this is a bit different. The brand in which you represent, will typically be the one that you work for (or own).
Familiar with the name Mark Parker? If you are not, Mark is the CEO of Nike. So to say the least, he’s kind of a big-shot. And is very representative of his brand.
Luckily for Nike, he handles himself accordingly. Regularly participating in fundraisers and charity events. Staying out of any negative spot light.
What happens if ol’ Mark is caught bitching up a storm on twitter? Or is found drunkenly stumbling around downtown LA? This would position Nike (the brand he represents) in a poor light. So naturally, he abstains from doing such. To protect his brand.
Fortunately for Mark though, this is a one way street.
What happens if Nike sells a poor quality product to someone? Does Mark as individual look bad? Well no, not exactly.
This is not the case for fitness pros.
Your actions on an individual basis, or at the professional level, will directly impact you in both phases of your life.
Of course if you sell a poor product or service to a client, your name will take a hit amongst your peers. But, it goes beyond just that.
-Start openly bashing an ex on Facebook (way too common for my generation) and watch as your clientele begins to dwindle.
-Talk poorly about former colleagues and try not to be surprised when no one in your industry wants to work by your side.
Neither one of these actions are incredibly uncommon. And for many people, these actions also go without consequence. But, you aren’t trying to be most people, you’re trying to reach that elite level. That Pro Level.
And since that is a level most people never reach, you must do what most people never do.
Far too many people get caught up in this step, thinking that they shouldn’t change for anyone. Which I understand, and is typically correct. But, in this regard, you are missing the forest for the trees.
You should always be genuine, as that is the most important trait anyone can have. But, you should also be mature enough to realize that poor behavior will have it’s consequences.
Holding yourself to a higher standard isn’t being fake.
It is being accountable.
What to do:
Want to be a Pro?
Want to Be a Pro.
Because like that young pup Teddy once told me,
If you want to be a pro– you better start acting like one.
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