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Is Professionalism Boring You to Death?

homemade tortillasWalking down the street this morning at approximately 8:07 a.m. I saw what looked suspiciously like a flying flour tortilla jet across the street about 10 yards ahead of me.

Since I left town a week and a half ago for New York, this has apparently become a dangerous neighborhood.

But a tortilla? You ask. That doesn’t sound too dangerous. It’s not like it’s going to poke someone’s eye out or anything.

Normally I’d agree with you. Soft and floppy, the common flour tortilla isn’t going to make the TSA’s list of homemade weapons that will be cruelly confiscated from unsuspecting passengers anytime soon.

[Sidenote: If you hear an irksome tone here, you may be picking up on my displeasure of having to throw away an unopened bottle of bubble bath intended for my 2-year-old niece’s birthday. Apparently my brain’s neural pathways were either in denial or blissfully recalling pre-TSA days when you weren’t assumed to be a terrorist until proven otherwise.]

Back to our foray of flying food. You should know that this was no ordinary tortilla. It more closely resembled a round saw blade. It looked as though it could cleanly slice the head of a flower right off its stalk.

A close-up look at fall in Nevada City[In case you don’t know this about me, I’m a staunch supporter of the Flower Anti-Capitation League, an organization dedicated to protecting flowers from 5-year-old boys and rude tourists stealing flowers from my front yard to beautify their motel room.]

As soon as the tortilla hit the curb and settled to the ground (not unlike a quarter twirling on a table does as it slowly looses momentum), two baristas from the cafe from whence it came quickly followed into the street gesticulating and giggling in amazement.

“Did you see how far that went??” one was yelling to the other.

As soon as she saw me, though, her tone immediately became embarrassed. “Oh, no one was supposed to see that. How unprofessional!

Not exactly the words I would expect to hear from such instigators of flying food (they were trying to see how far the thing would fly frisbee-style).

I laughed and kept on walking, thoughts of “professionalism” popping in my head.

What did she consider to be “unprofessional?” I wondered. My guess was that she was referring to being silly and throwing tortillas, which doesn’t immediately constitute as being unprofessional in my book.

Thus we enter the seemingly (but not) unrelated arena which addresses why people are choosing to risk security in order to grow their own heart-based businesses.

Some of the common complaints I read from corporate employees is that they are tired of not being able to be themselves. They feel stifled and unappreciated. They feel like their soul is withering away.

Check out the very successful Derek Halpern of Social Triggers. He was one of the guys I met and saw speak at Blog World (now called New Media Expo) last week.

You’ll either love or hate his unapologetic personality and he wants it that way. If you don’t Love him, he doesn’t want you around. His opinionated and polarizing persona oozes through all his blog posts and his podcast.

And you know what? It works.

Check out Ash at The Middle Finger Project. She swears like a sailor, constantly talks about vodka and rags on being boring. And I love her.

Chains On A PostPersonally, I’m still breaking free of the this-is-how-it’s-supposed-to-be-done and this-is-who-I’m-supposed-to-be chains. Getting heavy doses of fearless personality is like a yummy drug for me.

Those of us still feeling the burden of acting in accordance with what we think being professional means based on an outdated perception might wonder how people like Ash and Derek can be so successful when they probably offend just as many people (if not more) than they attract.

  1. they provide value
  2. they are true to themselves
  3. their business brand is consistent with their personal brand

Does this mean I’m going to start swearing profusely and intentionally trying to offend you? No. Well, maybe a little.

Here’s the thing. My goal, as is Ash and Derek’s, is to help my peeps do things differently. You read and subscribe because something about the Natural Professional does something for you. You want more of it in your life.

You aren’t going to get that by my playing vanilla. You want the full dosage of natural goodness & soul-full wisdom for work and living.

Right? Right.

OK, but what about the potentially dangerous flying tortilla situation??

Any business worth a lick exists to enhance the life of its customers in some way. Another way of saying this is that it provides value.

In addition to providing value, in the case of the entrepreneurs like those mentioned above, the most important thing is to be true to one’s self. That is soooo natural professional!

In the case of a more complex business involving employees, what I believe to be most important is

  1. to be true to the mission of the biz
  2. to be true to one’s self

Notice the order of these. In other words, being true to one’s self at the expense of the mission is unprofessional.

As a side note, a frequent source of problems I see in businesses is a LACK of mission statement. Hmm, that’d be a good subject for a post or video, eh?

Coming back to our frisky baristas, if throwing tortillas across the street to see how far they’d fly enhances the mission of the cafe, then in my book one’s professionalism isn’t called into question.

Truthfully, I don’t have a strong opinion on this particular situation. It wasn’t actually dangerous (except for me, it was a quiet, empty street). They were having fun, and as long as they weren’t neglecting customers to carry out this little experiment, I think ultimately, happy employees translate to better customer service.

(This does, of course, completely bag the question as to why they had a board-like tortilla in their possession in the first place. Let’s just leave that as one of life’s little mysteries, shall we?)

We’re in a time of personal and business brands. Be true to you. Unapologetically. Boldly. Luxuriously. And then rock your clients with such awesome value that they can’t help but say fabulous stuff about you to everyone they meet.

Do you agree with this take on professionalism? Why or why not? Comment below!

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