"Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them." - Julius Erving
Wise words from an NBA Legend. As professionals, we engage in an occupation or work as a means of livelihood or for personal gain. In the workplace, we are expected to always give our best, put our best foot forward, and put in an honest day's work. As professionals, we are then held to certain work and ethical standards.
However, we're also human and like every other human being, there are days and/or moments when we find it quite difficult to focus on the work or task before us. Instead of working on either a report or a presentation that's coming due, we find our thoughts wandering off, often to non-work related stuff. It may be due to a variety of reasons such as fatigue, an illness, or personal problems. As a result, we sometimes find ourselves either surfing the web or blogging. Sometimes we walk over to a coworker's cubicle to engage in some chitchat about the day's events or talk about any other topic under the sun except for work.
We may call those moments "mental breaks" or "recharging" but for some people, they will be quick to label those moments as "unproductive time" or "down time". Some would question our work ethic, call us "lazy", and some self-proclaimed moralists would even render a judgment on us by saying that we failed to put in an honest day's work.
Deep within, I must admit that it does bother me a lot whenever I get into such unproductive periods. My feelings are mixed at best. Although I do enjoy taking mental breaks, a part of me also laments the time lost in the process. A good part of my regret is also deeply personal. I view those unproductive spells as my failure to match my father's work ethic.
In all his years at work, I never saw my father open or read a newspaper while he was in the office, not even during lunch breaks. He would only bother to open and read the papers at night, once he was home. But while on the job, he was all work. He was all work from the moment he stepped in his office in the morning to the moment he packed up at night.
I was certain that the papers were never read in the office because they were still very neatly folded and looked as crisp and fresh as the moment they were placed on his desk earlier that day. That was the example he set for me and one I've always tried to live up to with varying degrees of success.
But like my father, I do value my job and I do take great pride in my work. I make sure that with every report I submit and every presentation I make, that I am well prepared and confident to respond to questions directed at me. I make sure that I have command of all the details necessary to support a position or a recommendation. The approach has so far helped me with my career.
But it is also my view that I would rather take a much needed mental break than submit a work product of questionable quality. But make no mistake. Deadlines do matter to me and I won't be caught dead missing any of them unless it was for factors beyond my control.
Looking back, I probably decided somewhere in my past to take an approach different fr0m my father's but to still strive towards the same end. The approaches we took were probably different because our personalities were different. Our life experiences were different too. All his hard work and sacrifices, some dating back from his childhood, did make life a little more comfortable for me and my sister.
Using Mr. Erving's definition of a Professional as the benchmark, maybe I am less of a professional than my father. However, if his definition of a Professional was based on the quality of one's output, maybe I have a fighting chance.