“Thank you. Thank you, people. For keeping me pushing, and keeping me pushing.” – Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip
The quote above is from my hero, Gord Downie, the front man of what is, in my opinion, the best rock and roll band that has ever walked the earth – The Tragically Hip. To be clear, I mean better than the Beatles, more exciting than the Rolling Stones, more worthy of your attention than The Who, as consistent as U2 or Pearl Jam, and more interesting than Elvis.
For some context, Gord delivered the quote during his very last show with The Hip, the final stop on a true farewell tour that he and the band announced after breaking the news that Gordie has incurable brain cancer. You can see him say it here, in the first minute. If you’re willing, you can watch the entire five minutes and hear a lovely song, Fiddler’s Green. Try not to cry.
I’m not afraid to tell you that when I heard the news, I collapsed on a bed in York, PA and wept. I love those boys, all strangers to me. Yet I love them so much that I actually assumed that one day we’d all be friends. I’m not even kidding. I just assumed, in time, it would happen.
What keeps you pushing? What or who keeps you trying to leave your amateur behavior behind and embrace the professional that is fighting to get out?
I am aware that I share some kinship with The Hip and the other bands we love. I am aware that in my little world of professional speakers, I am blessed. I have an agent. I turn down requests. I have an audience that actually cares to know what I am thinking about, and who flatter me by reading my clunky, perhaps too personal blog entries.
You and I and The Hip are all lucky enough to have an audience that appreciates our greatest hits but who also want more. They want the more to be new but also familiar, and all of us live with the reality that unless we keep pushing, thinking, and expanding what we know and how we share it with others, that one day our audience will stop coming to the show.
We can’t be satisfied with being amateurs. We have to be professionals.
So here are some thoughts on the difference between amateurs and professionals for you to consider:
- Amateurs stop when they achieve something. Professionals understand that the initial achievement is just the beginning.
- Amateurs have a goal. Professionals have a process.
- Amateurs think they are good at everything. Professionals understand their circles of competence and their limitations.
- Amateurs receive feedback and coaching as criticism. Professionals know they have weak spots and seek out thoughtful criticism.
- Amateurs value isolated performance. Professionals value consistency.
- Amateurs give up at the first sign of trouble and assume they are failures. Professionals see failure as part of the process to gain mastery.
- Amateurs believe in mastery. Professionals know there is no such thing.
- Amateurs have no idea how to improve their odds. Professionals do.
- Amateurs show up to practice and they have fun. Professionals realize that what happens in practice happens in games.
- Amateurs focus on identifying their weaknesses and improving them. Professionals focus on their strengths and on finding people who are strong where they are weak. (Have you all met Tom and Susan?)
- Amateurs think knowledge is power. Professionals pass on wisdom and advice.
- Amateurs think good outcomes are the result of their brilliance. Professionals understand when they got lucky.
- Amateurs focus on the short term. Professionals focus on the long term.
- Amateurs focus on tearing other people apart. Professionals focus on building people up.
- Amateurs go faster. Professionals go further.
- Amateurs think in ways that can’t be validated. Professionals don’t.
- Amateurs think in absolutes. Professionals think in probabilities.
- Amateurs think the probability of them having the best idea is high. Professionals know the probability of that is low.
- Amateurs think reality is what they want to see. Professionals know reality is what is true.
- Amateurs think disagreements are threats. Professionals see them as opportunities to learn.
To keep you here, with me, I need to keep pushing. To keep pushing, I need you here. Pushing me. I am eternally grateful for this.