Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
HOW TO BE
We hear that word constantly.
From the first minute we enter the workplace, we hear, “Be
professional.” What does that really mean? If we asked ten
people to define the word, I bet we would get eleven
different answers. Here’s the dictionary’s definition…
Professional – a person paid to undertake a specialized
set of tasks and complete them for a fee. Traditional
professions were doctors, lawyers, engineers, clergymen,
architects, and commissioned military officers. Today the
term is applied to nurses, accountants, educators,
engineers, scientists, technology experts, social workers,
artists, actors, golfers, and cowboys who rodeo full time.
And there is a final paragraph…
“Due to the personal and confidential nature of many
professional services - thus the necessity to place a great
deal of trust in them - most “professionals” are subject to
codes of conduct resulting in strict moral and ethical
Man, that sounds good. From definitions like those
above (and our own internal sense of what a professional
really is) we come to believe that whether a person is
“professional” depends on what they do or what line of work
they are in. The job title determines if a person is
stamped “professional.” Right? Wrong.
All of the above is absolutely worthless. (Sorry for
having wasted your time.)
None of those words help us determine if someone is truly
professional – and that is a sad thing…and an important
During our years of formal education in high school and
college, we come away from that experience assuming we know
what “professional” means – and we never question that
definition. It’s only later that we learn what the word
After becoming so old (so quickly, it seems now) and
working for myself for a number of years, I have a
completely different way of thinking about the entire
subject. I wish I had thought about it a great deal more -
and much sooner - in my life, because my teaching would have
had more value for students, and Lord forgive me…I might
have been a better person.
Being professional has little to do with someone’s
title. After all, we know of Wall Street bankers who must
certainly have all sorts of codes of conduct and moral
obligations – but how many do we know who actually live by
them? And we can say the same for some doctors, lawyers,
engineers, and all the accountants who worked for Enron. Is
a football player who head butts his wife a professional?
Is a doctor who schedules unnecessary surgery a
professional? Let’s say a building contractor (a
professional building contractor) does half what he said he
would do - yet takes all your money. Is that person a
Sadly, I can’t remember any educator – from first grade
through doctorate - talking about this in my life, and
here’s something even sadder. I can’t remember ever talking
to students about it either. I’m sad about that now.
The great irony is this subject isn’t even
complicated. Horse trainers and golfers both use the word
“feel” in their respective professions. Now there is a word
that is complicated. “Professionalism” is not. Jesus told
us, our grandmothers told us, and our fathers and mothers
told us. From the current day looks of things…we still
don’t get it. Here it is - here is how to be
Make your handshake and your word mean something.
Show up on time, work the whole time you are on site, stay
until the job is done.
If something doesn’t work, go back and fix it at no charge.
Treat people like you want to be treated.
Make money, and make the quality of your work just as
important as money.
Definition of professionalism –
“Do what you say you are going to do - when you say you are
going to do it.”
That definition works if you are a doctor or a lawyer, a
carpenter, or a 17-year old cowboy working cows on Saturday
at the sale barn.
While it may sound corny, (that’s always an indication
one is on the right track) the rewards are so numerous.
People will like you more, you will feel better about
yourself, you will see how wrong it feels when the opposite
is done to you, and you will make more money than you ever
have in your life. Because when we encounter someone who
does good honest work, we only want to deal with that person
from then on. A person’s positive reputation is the thing
that generates business.
My wife and I were talking with a man recently named
Kyle Wilson. Kyle is a former aerospace engineer, who now
works in the medical profession. He spends his days helping
physicians map out complex surgeries for patients. We asked
him about his success and what he tells young people. His
answer was short and quick.
“It’s not complicated,” he said. “No matter what line
of business we’re in, the keys to success are the same.
Stay in one place – and tell the truth.”
Professionalism. It’s not what you are.
It’s who you are…and how you live.
Ed. Note: In January of 2012,
RFD-TV’s All Around Performance Horse TV, and Roping and
Riding with Tyler Magnus, will broadcast the first embedded
segment of The Advice Barn, a viewer call-in show hosted by
Dr. Harry Anderson, with featured guests, Dr. Michael
Johnson, and Dr. J. D. Norris.
The Advice Barn is sponsored by Total Feeds, Inc. maker of
Total Equine, Dr. Harry Anderson’s creation of an
all-purpose feed designed for the horse. Total Feeds, Inc.
sold thousands of tons of Total Equine last year.