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Eureka: Amateurism and professionalism Eureka: Amateurism and professionalism
by Jay Gutman
2017-12-28 12:29:13
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Professionalism is when people who know more about a field share their experiences with people who know less about that field. And those people who know more about a field might know less about another field. Careerism and amateurism is where people count the number if years they have been at work, and when having to convey information or train subordinates, they shout at them or confuse them, because they don't know any better and don't know what story to tell other than to shout. 

Let me share stories of amateurism and professionalism in four fields I've worked in: education, business, journalism and sports.

amateur01Let's start with education. There was a time, between 2011 and 2013, where I felt that worldwide education was heading towards professionalism. Education conferences were a dime a dozen. Teachers and educators gathered around social media to share their stories. Teachers who met online often ended up meeting offline. Everyone had their teacher stories. Some had delusional theories about teaching, others were more moderate with their theories. What happened in 2013? Trolls invaded education forums, people who had lots of experience but no interesting stories to tell started heading education organizations, and those who had good stories to tell were put in the closet or labeled as pinkos. Today, in most schools around the world, I would defy a lot of head teachers or principles to sit down with me and lecture me for an hour about what it is that I'm supposed to do in the classroom. Haven't found a school like that yet. 

What happened? It all had to do with budget cuts. That is I remember a time when boxing clubs wanted to train champions first, and to them membership fees were only secondary. In boxing as in education, now the main concern is to keep those membership fees coming in, and training champions is nothing but a distant dream.

Business. How many people in the business world refused to have a cup of coffee with me. I'm not done counting them. Basically because they have been in the business world for a few years and their life revolves around Facebook and gossip. But their product sales aren't keeping up. If only you had that cup of coffee with me maybe for a couple of dollars you could go home with a couple of hundred of ideas on how to get those sales up and running.

What they don't teach you in those MBAs is how to use your space and office space. You want a good bulletin board where you advertise your products to customers, because visitors are more likely to buy than newspaper readers or facebook users or highway drivers. You want a nice clean space where your visitors can sit back and quietly relax while they wait for their appointments, not sit on a block of concrete. Then there's the human resources. You don't want your employees to be rude people, because clients tend to be offended by rude people. You don't want to tell your clients “we can't do this take it or leave it” but you want to tell them “we can do a few alternatives but unfortunately at the moment may not provide to your request.” Business is that simple. But amateurism is where the busineess guys will say I've done my 20 years so I know better.

Journalism. Amateurism in journalism is where the professionals are blogging and the amateurs are actually writing for a lot of newspapers, and people wonder why big newspapers have readership rates that are declining. You want your journalists to get every angle of their story when they report it, not write letters in desguise to their boss. People read stories where every angle is covered, not articles that are supposed to be read by the editor-in-chief. This means you need to train your journalists. Why are so many doing masters degrees in journalism? If you ask me, it's because newspapers are not teaching these kids how to write and cover a story. So if you get half the angle of the story, you get half the readership. Get a quarter angle of the story, you get a quarter of the readership. Then you're surprised the readership keeps declining. Again money has something to do with it, along with lack of good intentions from the higher ups.

Finally sports. As I said the boxing club should be concerned as much about racking up membership fees as it is about identifying and training future champions. In the past, soccer clubs, basketball clubs, boxing gyms and other sports used to pass the members around to try to divide the labor when it came to training champions. You had different aspects involved, such as altitude, speed of the game, pace of the game and of course general physical condition and each gym specialized in different categories. If you had someone who had good brains but was physically weak you would send him to a gym. If you had one who was physically sturdy but mentally a bit unstable you would send him to a different gym. Now gyms are concerned about competing against each other and keeping up with the membership fees.

So how do you promote professionalism? You go out. You network. You feed yourself with different stories. You tell different stories so you can get different stories. You tell your employees different stories and try to hear their stories. You don't just get stories from books and from the internet or from so-called coaches, but from pubs and cafés. If you're paranoid about the fact that stories might lead to unionizing or to you losing your job, you shouldn't be in business in the first place. Those were my two cents on amateurism and professionalism. 

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