Don't Run Your Business Like an Amateur, Be a Pro
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Going Pro

Many of you have just watched the Super Bowl, one of the most popular sporting events in America and around the world. It pits top teams with extraordinary athletes against one another in an epic match-up of strength against strength.

Don't Run Your Business Like an Amateur, Be a Pro

In Sunday night’s game, player after player said their whole season came down to that one game. If they made it to the Super Bowl, their season was a success. Making it to the Super Bowl was their goal – and because it was their goal, they shaped their whole lives around it. Each week, their schedule was the same:

  • Film on Monday
  • Off on Tuesday
  • Game Plan on Wednesday
  • Practice on Thursday and Friday
  • Walk-through on Saturday

In order to make sure their bodies and minds were in peak condition, they worked out daily, got a lot of sleep, ate right and maintained incredible focus. As a result, they are richly rewarded and millions of people revel in watching them play.

What if your business could win a Super Bowl? What if there was a goal as compelling and rewarding for you and your business as winning the Super Bowl is for an NFL player? What would it be? What would engage your heart and soul to such an extent that you would consider your year a disappointment if you didn’t achieve it? Got one? Take a look at your goals for the year. Are you as committed them as these players are to winning this one game? What is one goal you have that, if you didn’t achieve that goal, your whole year would be a disappointment?

Now, how would you live and work differently in order to attain that goal? What would change about your focus, your routines, your work habits?

I ask these questions because I recently read a very short (and sneaky) book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, in which he outlines the steps he takes to overcome “Resistance” and actually make a work of Art (or start a business, or achieve almost any great thing). His secret is to give up being an amateur and “going pro”.

Pressfield wrote, “The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his ‘real’ vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time.”

It’s not that I’m not committed to my work “full-time”. I put in a lot of hours – early hours, late hours, weekend hours. But I also get distracted. I look at Twitter. I watch a video someone sent me. I spend an hour shooting the breeze with a network contact. Why? Because I can. Because there is no one looking over my shoulder asking my why I’m checking my email for the 4th time this hour instead of writing my newsletter article.

But if I was on a team gunning for the Super Bowl, if I had that compelling a goal in front of me, if I had visualized that goal and if I dreamt of hoisting that trophy, I wouldn’t tolerate that kind of distraction. I would build a routine the way top athletes do and I wouldn’t let anything get me off of it. It doesn’t sound like much fun – but what if that’s what it takes to do something really great?

This type of focus demands that you get help. No professional reaches the top of their game alone – they have trainers and coaches, and to maximize their earnings, they have managers, publicists and agents. Having all that help costs the athlete a lot of money, but it allows them to focus on the one thing they need to do in order to reach their goal: to be the best.

In reflecting on my own work habits, I realized that I spend a lot of my day doing stuff that doesn’t add any value to me or my clients. I’m fixing the printer, or trying to tweak the HTML in my newsletter template. These are all things that distract me from my goal. They use up my time and energy, and quite frankly, they don’t make me any money! A true professional wouldn’t tolerate those distractions. If I was part of a team headed for the Super Bowl, my teammates wouldn’t let me waste my time and energy in that way either.

Mike Golic, a former NFL player who now works on ESPN Radio, never got a chance to play in the Super Bowl as a player; he never achieved that goal. It’s a disappointment that he carries with him to this day. So much so that he won’t watch the game live in the stadium. Every year he goes to the stadium to cover the game, interview players and observe all the pre-game hype; then goes back to his hotel room to watch the game.

Do you want to play in the game, or sit on the sidelines? It’s your business. You decide.

Photo credit: chedder

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