Attributed to: Morgan Freeman (1937- ), American actor,
The ABC’s of Professionalism
“Your Excellency!” Even those who never come in contact with royalty know what these words mean. Well, get used to a brand new meaning because they are now my battle cry for you and a call to arms against the dragons that are impeding your quest toward professional excellence. Maybe your dragons are named “Rut” and “Grudge.” Or maybe they are known as “Pride” and “Rigid.” Thankfully, there are attitudes, behaviors, and principles of professionalism that will equip you to slay them. This post in particular will help sharpen your battle axe and fill any chinks in your armor. Add them to your arsenal and get to work on “Your Excellency!”
Professionals will bend when they need to bend and stand firm when they need to stand firm. The challenge is understanding which attitude is appropriate for which circumstances.
“The definition of insanity is continuing the same behavior and expecting a different result.” — Alcoholics Anonymous
“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” — Thomas Jefferson
“Stay committed to your decisions but, stay flexible in your approach.” — Tom Robbins
People who orient their lives around accomplishment, who are driven by achievement, often have to work harder than others to develop patience. Perhaps it’s because when they visualize outcomes, they overlook the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to get there. Maybe it’s because they do not foresee certain challenges or they underestimate the level of effort required. In any case, without patience, frustration sets in. Patience is a sobering virtue that adds realism to expectations. As long as patience does not become a substitute for action, it is an irreplaceable virtue needed to achieve professionalism.
“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” — Saint Augustine
“One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.” — Chinese proverb
“For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.”
— Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
One of the worst habits anyone can form is the habit of giving up. When things get difficult, it’s not the time to quit. Struggling through difficulties, trying again and again after multiple failures is where the learning and improvement occur. Success follows failure. In fact, if you aren’t failing, you aren’t growing.
“If at first you succeed, try something harder.” — John C. Maxwell
It’s impossible to predict with 100% certainty which failure will precede success. What is certain is that every time you quit, you are forfeiting success.
“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” — Japanese Proverb
“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.” — Anonymous
Growing up, we had a rule in our family. No one was allowed to quit. It wasn’t as much a rule as it was an understanding. It meant, if I went out for football and made the team, I had to finish the season. If I was injured, I would be expected to sit on the bench (where I spent most of my time anyway) and support my teammates. It was acceptable to not go out the following year. But, finishing meant completing the season.
“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” — William James
Quitting is no minor thing. It always means breaking a promise to one’s self. It usually means breaking a promise to others, too. Here’s some food for thought: is quitting also breaking a promise to God?
“Saints are sinners who kept on going.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
Loyalty is another word for commitment, usually referring to a relationship toward a person or a group of people, such as a team or an institution.
“Lack of loyalty is one of the major causes of failure in every walk of life” — Napoleon Hill
“An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.” — Elbert Hubbard
“A boy can learn a lot from a dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down.” — Robert Benchley
Champions are those who take commitment to an entirely different level. They have a do-or-die attitude. No failure, mistake, or hurdle is bigger than the desire they have to achieve their dreams. When people tell them, “It’s okay, you gave it your all.” they dig deeper and find a little bit more to give. Their dream is bigger than their doubts, fears, pain, and excuses.
“When the world says, ‘Give up,’ Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.’” — Anonymous
“Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer.” — Anonymous
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” — Newt Gingrich
Trying new things is generally a good thing. People should always be willing to get out of their comfort zones for new experiences. However, there is a difference between “trying” and “committing.” Too often people walk away from something and say, “Oh well, I tried.” Did they really try? Or was it a half-hearted attempt? Did they start off with a built-in excuse? They next time you are faced with an opportunity, be resolute. Instead of saying, “I’ll try.” say, “I will!” That’s a commitment.
Being assertive is sometimes confused with being aggressive, pushy, or rude. Once a person understands that ideas, principles, and opinions can be expressed in both a direct and respectful way, he is able to imagine the benefits of professional assertiveness.
“The basic difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behavior affect the rights and well being of others.” — Sharon Anthony Bower
Assertiveness takes form in all of the ways that define who we are: thoughts, words, and deeds.
“Assertiveness is not what you do, it’s who you are!” — Attributed to Shakti Gawain
While becoming an assertive person is a personal decision, it is also unlikely to be a quick transition. Raw assertiveness tends to grow gradually in direct proportion to increases in confidence.
“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” — Arthur Ashe
“Self-confidence is the memory of success” — Anonymous
Professionalism requires assertiveness to be tempered with professional attitudes and behaviors such as kindness, forethought, and patience. With these well in hand, professionals are prepared to balance assertiveness with tact.
“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.” — Sir Isaac Newton
“Forethought and prudence are the proper qualities of a leader.” — Publius Cornelius Tacitus
“Wit without discretion is a sword in the hand of a fool” — Spanish Proverb
“The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my life” — William Shakespeare
“Discretion in speech is more important than eloquence” — English Proverb
There’s a special instance of discretion that involves appropriate use of private information. Let me be blunt — gossip is not a feature of professionalism.
“What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t witness with your mouth.” — Jewish Proverb
“If it’s very painful for you to criticize your friends – you’re safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that’s the time to hold your tongue.” — Alice Duer Miller
“Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.” — Spanish Proverb
“Gossip needn’t be false to be evil – there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.” — Frank A. Clark
“Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell.” — Shana Alexander
“There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly becomes any of us
To talk about the rest of us.”
— Edward Wallis Hoch
Finally, before setting out to slay your personal dragons, there’s a Biblical perspective to take into account.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;”
— Bible, Ephesians 6:10-17
Armed with these added tools of professionalism, you can be more prepared to someday say to yourself, “Welcome, your excellency!”
© Copyright February 2009, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com
There are winners and losers in life. Contrary to popular opinion, winning is not a lottery based on privilege, birthright, luck or special talents. There are way too many real-life “Horatio Alger stories” that prove otherwise. The number of “train wrecks” among the rich and famous makes the same point. Winning comes from having the right attitudes and making the right choices.
Winners are made in the kiln called “adversity.” It is the intense heat of adversity that strengthens and refines. Each time people conquer adversities, they are made stronger for the next trial and reminded that losing is NOT about falling down. Rather, losing is defined as “not getting up.” For winners, losing is not an option.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” — Bible, James 1:2-3
There are four types of people — three of them are winners.
Innovator: a person who is driven to do what has never been done before.
Orville and Wilbur Wright had a vision – powered flight. No one had ever done it, but these brothers believed they would be the first. So, they devoted their every spare moment to discover how. Innovators ignore the critics and slavishly chase their dreams. When innovators stumble, their dreams inspire them to get back up and try again. Along the way they might successfully discover hundreds of ways that do not work before they find one that does. But, innovators never give up.
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” — Walt Disney
“The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.” — Arthur C. Clarke (1917 – )
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Anonymous
Leader: a person who does what needs to be done even when he does not feel like doing it.
Leaders believe that anything that has been done before can be repeated and improved upon. They embrace the challenge to be the sequel to someone else’s legacy through their own innovations. By adding new value through the improvements they contribute, leaders raise the bar. Leaders attract followers and teach followers also to have success through a winner’s mindset, discipline, focus and hard work.
“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” — Ray Kroc
“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.” — Stephen Covey, The 8th Habit
“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” — Tom Peters
Follower: a person who trusts and emulates a leader. A wise follower pursues his dreams by finding a good opportunity and choosing a good leader to follow.
The rest is a game of “Follow the Leader.” Followers do what that leader does, in order to go where the leader is going. Good followers are actually leaders in training, even if they don’t realize it. They just need confidence through experience to become leaders.
“Even sheep should have brains enough not to follow the wolf.” — Joseph Goodfield
“Remember that it is far better to follow well than to lead indifferently.” — John G. Vance
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” — Woody Allen
Loser — a person who consistently sees life as an empty glass will, when presented with an opportunity, make excuses, imagine all of the worst things that can happen and succumb to the fears of his/her imagination.
Such people justify their lack of achievement by blaming something or someone. Losers also have ideas and dreams, but they either lack virtue or have allowed themselves to be held captive to the negative opinions of others. Losers give up too often and too easily, but losers seldom start anyway because they fear failure above everything else.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” — Thomas A. Edison
“If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down.” — Mary Pickford
Anyone can be a winner by choosing to win every moment of every day. The formula is simple, even though it’s not always easy.
© Copyright July 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com
What is the difference between a reason and an excuse? A reason is objective, rational, and generally truthful – an excuse is subjective, emotional, and usually deceptive. A reason can transform into an excuse when its purpose is to shift blame, to reassign responsibility, and/or to justify giving up. Excuses are conveniently used in place of the truth usually because the truth is embarrassing.
“It is easier to find an excuse than to find a reason.” — Doug Brown
My father did not tolerate excuses. To this day I can still here him say, “That’s a phony excuse.” To him, all excuses were “phony excuses” as if the two words were inseparable.
“He who excuses himself, accuses himself.” — Gabriel Meurier
When the first excuse failed, I usually followed up with my back-up excuse. It took me years to learn that just made things worse. To my dad, a second phony excuse was like telling a second lie to cover up the first one.
“Several excuses are always less convincing than one.” — Aldous Huxley
As a result of his fatherly intolerance, I probably made fewer excuses than I might otherwise have. Although, I must admit that I also learned to invent better excuses.
How can someone break the excuse habit? First, eliminate “Yah, but …” from their vocabulary. “Yah but, he started it.” “Yah but, I was tired.” “Yah but, it’s not my fault.” Instead, begin with, “My weak excuse is.” Imagine starting an excuse with these words and keeping a straight face. The second solution was inspired by my friend Andre. He further suggests making excuses irrelevant by focusing on something more important.
“My dream is bigger than my excuses.” — Andre Maronian
There are also words used to disguise an excuse. Words like “hard” and “impossible” were once part of my bag of tricks.
“Nothing is impossible; there are ways that lead to everything, and if we had sufficient will we should always have sufficient means. It is often merely for an excuse that we say things are impossible.” — Francois De La Rochefoucauld
“Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.” — Edward R. Murrow
“Destiny: A tyrant’s authority for crime and a fool’s excuse for failure.” — Ambrose Bierce
That’s enough of my personal history. Here are some instructional quotes about excuses.
“I attribute my success to this — I never gave or took any excuse.” — Florence Nightingale
“Excuses are tools of the incompetent, and those who specialize in them seldom go far.” — Unknown
“One of the lamest excuses for doing something wrong is: ‘I was just doing my job.’ A hit man is just doing his job. A prostitute is just doing her job.” — Thomas Sowell
“Every vice has its excuse ready.” — Publilius Syrus
“If you don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good as another.” — Yiddish Proverb
“For many people, an excuse is better than an achievement because an achievement, no matter how great, leaves you having to prove yourself again in the future; but an excuse can last for life.” — Eric Hoffer
“The trick is not how much pain you feel but how much joy you feel. Any idiot can feel pain. Life is full of excuses to feel pain, excuses not to live; excuses, excuses, excuses.” — Erica Jong
“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” — Art Turock
“Don’t look for excuses to lose. Look for excuses to win.” — Chi Chi Rodriguez
“Love will find a way. Indifference will find an excuse.” — Unknown
“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” — Benjamin Franklin
“Ninety-nine percent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” — George Washington Carver
© Copyright June 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com