Achieving Professional Status

Three-Part Series

Do you think you are a professional?  Are you coachable?  This article explains what keeps most executives from truly being a professional. If you would like to become a professional, keep reading.  

Our society is enamored with professionals – professional athletes, professional musicians, professional artists. People that have reached the professional level are revered by our society as those who collect both fame and fortune. The analogy between professional athletes and entertainers, and corporate professionals is easy to make and yet so few people make the connection.

“Corporate Professional” is a word and an association that far too many people use on themselves when, in fact, compared to professional athletes or entertainers, they are not even close. If one was truly honest with themselves, looked in the mirror and compared their personal sacrifice – the years of commitment, the sacrificed leisure time, the early morning grit hardships and raw discipline that professional athletes and entertainers know all too well – I think we would hear the word professional hardly ever used in the same context of executives, managers or people in the workforce.

I have studied intently what separates people in the corporate world who truly achieve professional status, from those who haven’t. There are three clear divisions that this article will cover.

#1  Sacrifice. Professional athletes and entertainers sacrifice significant portions of their leisure time, not to play the game and perform for audiences, but rather to prepare for those performances. You cannot be prepared at a professional level without an equal, but usually larger portion of your time sacrificed for raw preparation.

I would bet that executives rarely prepare for the corporate meetings where serious decisions are made, where people’s lives are at stake, where sales are won or lost, in the same way that a professional athlete or performer would be for a game or public performance.

#2.  Accountability. There is not a single professional sport that doesn’t intently track the nitty-gritty details of the wins, the losses and everything in between. Professional entertainers compensation is usually tied directly to the number and type of people they attract, and are also tracked intensely.

Again, rarely in the business world do corporate executives track their own results and instead, view their annual pay as the leading indicator of how well they are doing in their profession.  

Can you imagine if the only statistic we tracked on NFL football were the games they won or lost?

Half of the thrill and excitement of professions is not only seeing and experiencing the wins and losses for these athletes, of the incremental improvements they make along the way, but the inspiration when they see or hear athletes publically announce audacious goals that defy human capacity, and then they go out and achieve it.

At the biological and chemical levels of our brains, we thrive on this. It is pure dopamine for our brains and without tracking the statistics behind the efforts, it’s just not the same.

#3.  Are you coachable? I saved the most important for last. What really separates the true professionals from the amateurs is raw focus.

You cannot focus on everything and truly be great at one thing. And that is where coaching comes in.

I would challenge anyone reading this article to name a professional in the sporting world or entertainment field that isn’t coached. And coached intensely. Now the idea of having a coach might sound easy – even romantic – it is anything but. Being coachable means that you do not let constructive criticism, or even personal criticism, get in the way of what a coach is hired to do. The great coaches not only keep track of the things you should focus on, but they also learn how to push you in ways you can’t even image. Physically, mentally, emotionally. Great coaches have a way of focusing energy to a point that the human capacity expands, changes.

The crux of this article is to challenge your belief and hopefully inspire you to take your first step in truly becoming a professional, because the first step isn’t actually a monumental force of nature that you have to overcome. The first step is something that is actually quite easy to do. Surrender.  That’s right, to become the most powerful person you can be, you must first surrender. You must become submissive (yes, I used that word) to the process of coaching. How a fighter pilot relies on their mechanics, a professional must rely on their coach.

The art of surrendering begins with accepting the fact that no matter what the coach says to you or does to you, you accept, at the core level, that they are doing such things because they love you and only want you to achieve what you paid them to do. You must surrender and ignore the natural human emotions that these coaches are trying to break you down, hold you back, or in any way degrade you. Great coaches know that there is an enormous amount of energy that is fueled from anger. Great coaches ride the narrow line between building and breaking your physical and mental capacities. The connection between pain and gain cannot be separated. Being coachable means that not only will you accept the pain, but you will develop a hunger for more of it. You will develop a comfort zone with the uncomfortable. You will develop a sense of accomplishments that are derived directly from the very things that hurt you, and you will do so knowing that your coach loves and wants the best for you. That is the beginning of becoming coachable.  


Series 2 will cover the time that it takes to become a professional.

Series 3 will cover your obligations to the public once you achieve professional status.


For more information on professional coaching, contact Sara Cohen at

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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