Recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine. She is a former, highly successful model who is now building a highly successful marketing business. My friend was feeling frustrated. “Amateurs,” she said. “I’m tired of dealing with amateurs.”
I knew what she meant. A professional is someone who shows up, no matter what. A professional is someone who gets the job done, no matter what. A professional is someone who does what she needs to do, when she needs to do it, no matter what. An amateur is someone who lets circumstances, other people and emotions get in the way.
As my friend put it, “When you’re a model, if you have a saggy butt, they tell you that you have a saggy butt. Then they tell you to go away. If you want it enough, you fix your saggy butt and go back.”
I grew up in the ballet world. It’s very much the same. You take class every day with a teacher whose job it is to criticize you. The criticism is to help you improve, but sometimes it just feels like criticism. You dance in front of a big mirror. This is so that you can criticize yourself.
As an adolescent and even a young professional, I’ve been called “a cow” because of a few extra pounds. I’ve had teachers hit an errant arm or leg with a stick because that arm or leg was in the wrong position. (No, they weren’t singling me out, they hit everyone.)
I’ve lost dance jobs because I was too tall, too short, or had the wrong color hair. Those of you who have read my first book, Cold Calling for Women, know that as a teenager I was not accepted into the renowned Harkness Ballet School because my back was too long. (They told my dad I was a very good dancer, but…)
When I cut my hair short — it used to be down to my waist so that I could put it up in a classical ballet bun — I never again got another job as a ballet dancer. And, by the way, when you go to a dance audition, they don’t let you dance. They simply line you up and look at you and then start eliminating dancers. Once they’re done eliminating, the dancers that are left get to actually dance.