Thank God it’ s Friday

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What is professionalism?

A phrase too familiar for the white collars, isn’t it?  Who amongst us have not been waiting for that Friday to end and take us into a land of bliss, week on week for years?  Every one of us wants to break away from the shackles of the office lobbies, cubicles, meetings and boardrooms.  Alas!  It’s something that most of us are not able to achieve as often as we wish to.  We pride ourselves in saying that I am extremely busy and don’t find time to spend with family and proudly attribute it to the tag of professional constraints or commitments!  Some of us may be physically away from work sometimes, but mentally engaged in the so-called professional set-up.  On one such weekend, a rare escape from the ‘set-up’, I was gazing at the photo albums from our yesteryears.

Flipping through one of them, I came across the memorable photos we captured during our stay in Atlanta, USA.  My husband Ram and myself were amongst the fortunate few, if I’d say so, to have witnessed the 1996 Olympics at Atlanta.  The magnificent city that it is today was almost created for the Olympics.  Every other business used to close down by 3.00 p.m., and for three months, it was like our Mariamman festival there.  It was during this period that I took a liking to the wonderful game basketball.  I started to follow it so closely that I hardly used to miss a single match.

As a budding young professional, it was here that I was greatly impacted by a ‘true professional’, the great Michael Jordan.  He used to lead the Chicago Bulls franchise of NBA then.  As was the case, every match he played would take you to the edge of the seat.  As I recollect, Jordan would probably play maybe 30 to 45 minutes of a 90-minute full-time game.  The best part would be his last three minutes, which also would be mostly the last three minutes of the game.  He would change the entire balance in his team’s favour.  With critical assists, direct shoots, slam dunks and extreme agility, he would put his team always on top and win the game, for them and him.  He was a true finisher, committed to sign off the purpose of his job without a gap.  Picture perfect!

Professionalism is not a textbook definition that one abides by and gets certified!  It is what we live and breathe in our professional work.

The last few photos of the album were that of us posing in the financial street of the world, Wall Street, NewYork.  Rajat came to my mind.  Indeed yes, it is the same Rajat Gupta, the IIT Delhi topper, Harvard Business School alumni, elite Managing Director of McKinsey and then the disgraced partner in Goldman Sachs.  He broke through the racial glass ceilings in the corporate world in a way that no other Indian and a few people of colour had done before.  So much so, he was much sought after by the likes of the presidents and influential millionaires.  His climb to fame ended with shame when he was recently convicted for insider trading.  He is now serving time in the federal prisons of the United States.These two contrasting personalities that emerged from the nostalgic moments of the album led me to deliberate on a debatable question, ‘Is the former a true professional than the latter?’ for each excelled in their own way.  Unable to conclude on my thoughts, I closed the albums and my eyes for some time.  During those moments of silence, I pondered upon what real ‘professionalism’ means.  Both Rajat and Jordan possessed fantastic characteristics of a professional, but ‘something small’ yet as large as the world distinguished them.  While Jordan is etched in history with the positives, Rajat is etched more with the negatives.  It is a thin line, the lakshman rekha, that distinguishes a true professional from a not-so-true professional.

Professionalism is not a textbook definition that one abides by and gets certified!  It is what we live and breathe in our professional work. 

The first few hits on a Google search for the word ‘professionalism’ will show you terms like competence, skill, quality, efficiency, so on and so forth.  But as per the historical meaning from several civilizations of the world, this word means ‘having professed one’s vows’.

A doctor, for example, is a professional only if he ‘professes his vows’ to cure and save lives.  An entrepreneur can truly call himself so only if he ‘professes his vows’ to do business with high ethics, integrity and values.  A teacher becomes a real-life hero when he or she ‘professes the vows’ of changing someone’s life for the better.  Indeed, there are certain key elements beyond academic qualification or capabilities that define true professionalism.  Would my qualification of a BE/MCA/MBA make me an engineer, software professional, an entrepreneur or a banker?  A true professional goes beyond these boundaries.  These are academic qualifications, but not necessarily the professional eligibility to perform the job at hand.  Going a step further, I consider my domestic help, definitely not a white-collar, a true professional, not by qualifications but more so by the perfection at household work.

While we may not be privy to the personal life of a Jordan or a Rajat, and not necessary as well, I am convinced that there is very little that segregates one’s personal life and professional life.  We might have observed that true professionals would have been exceptional moms and dads too.  Given this context, is there a need to even distinguish between professional life and personal life at the abstract level?  How good a person am I will truly reflect on how good a person would I be in my profession!

If I were a true professional, I would also know how to balance my life while paying 100% attention to my job and not fail in my duties outside as well.  I would know how to prioritize with ease, as much as I would be able to clearly demarcate the good versus the bad.  I would certainly be a good professional if I practised highest values and ethics in my life, day in and day out.

In today’s busy world, aren’t we all hiding behind the ‘professional tag’ and using it as an excuse not to focus on things outside our professional life?  Is it truly professional to mark weekdays as ‘professionally work days’ and weekends as ‘family days’?  You will see that the weekday-weekend timelines are mere mental barriers if we practise true professionalism.  The yearning for a Friday dies down, and we would all be saying ‘Thank you, God, for this day’ and not ‘Thank God it’s Friday’!

 

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Stopping you from being the infinite possibility you are created to be.
Passion OR Profession?
Contentment OR Ambition?
Work OR Family?
Success OR Happiness?
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