For many years, I received the Royal Bank Letter from the Royal Bank of Canada, after being introduced to it by my late friend Winton G. Bear. There were musings on current societal topics and the well researched and written Letter probably formed a great deal of my views on business and life as a young man.
Following a discussion on the meaning of professional at Signal vs. Noise, I was reminded of the November 1990 issue of the Letter in which professionalism was discussed. It remains as relevant today.
It was discussed in that issue that a professional was originally someone who went beyond their work. In the Middle Ages, a professional had professed his life to God. When secular industries got in to professionalism, they had a notion they were there to serve humankind. But the meaning has got to a point where a professional is someone who will do something for money.
I won’t spoil the conclusion of the Letter, in which the modern deﬁnition is advanced. But after 16 years it shows we, as a species, have made less headway than we think. A reminder like the Letter is again needed. (Click here for the November 1990 issue.) Posted by Jack Yan, 21:50
Although it’s a little sexist — mostly due to the fact that it’s dated 1945 — I’ve always liked the definition of a professional attributed to James Agate:
A professional is a man who can do his job when he doesn’t feel like it. An amateur is one who can’t do his job when he does feel like it.
Most politicians would fall into the latter category, in that case!
"You're acting like a first year f***ing thief! I'm acting like a professional! "
- Mr. Pink, Reservoir Dogs, 1992
Interesting the religious background of the word; I never knew that. The fact there's a book for clergy called "Brothers, We are not Professionals" is testimony to how the word's meaning has shifted over the years.
The biblical notion of calling (vocation) requires that our worlds be an open system not closed. It assumes there is something or someone more than money and things.
I wonder if we are coming full circle? Will we find we need a deeper meaning for professional? Or will we return to the ancient ideas of calling and vocation?
This is such a good subject for a posting Jack. Thanks for raising issues that go to the core of our work and contribution in the marketplace.
Michael, I would like to think that we are looking at a re-examination of the word professional. I hope so; Web 2·0 certainly seems to be forcing us to re-examine a great deal.
Rob, thank you—I am glad I could provoke a thought or two.
Speaking of callings, here is a related article:
Great issue to raise, Jack.
In the graphic desing insusty the word professional gets leveled at anyone with a turtleneck + blackrimmed glasses.
This is so true, Dan. I have been thinking about what makes me truly happy of late, too.
Sorry I didn’t contact you when in Auckland. Prior to my arrival there I had had one hour’s sleep. And the weekend was pretty packed.
No problem! I only just got back from a Japan/Australia trip so I probably wasn't around in any case...Post a Comment
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