What Does It Mean to be a Quiet Professional?

By Rob Shaul

I’ve been thinking about this for years, and over that time have written down my thoughts and ideas which I share below. First penned in Oct. 2015, this current version was refined and updated March 2017.

1) Service.
Service to your team, your family, your community, your profession. Someone ready to serve. A promise keeper. Reliable. Solid.

2) Mission First.
It took me until my 40s (I’m a slow learner…) to realize, “It’s not about me.” I’ve finally matured past the point of chasing individual accolades or accomplishments – and have come to realize these can be as fleeting, and unfulfilling as a shiny new purchase. Turning this corner is incredibly liberating. Ambition, angst, jealously have faded and with their evaporation has come a growing sense of solace. I’m intense, and have sought this solace, but until my 40’s thought it would come when I’d reached an “acceptable” level of personal accomplishment. Only when I let that go, and put the mission, and others, first, have I begun to realize a budding sense of peace.

To be clear. It’s not about you. Accept, understand and embrace this. It’s liberating.

3) Hard Work.
Quiet professionals are “grinders.” There’s an understanding that huge leaps forward are few and fleeting, and most advancement is evolutionary. Keep grinding, keep improving, keep learning, have patience, and improvement is steady. Daily small steps forward lead to big gains over time. Stop looking for short cuts and get to work.

4) Understanding the difference between “Experience” and “Wisdom.”
Everyone has experience. Wisdom comes from reflection, admitting and owning mistakes, forgiving yourself, learning and stepping back up to the plate for another swing.

5) Knowing what to do = Easy.
                               Doing it = Hard.
Most of life is fairly simple and direct. Ninety-nine percent of the time we know what the “right” thing to do is. Our overthinking minds and selfish selves will try to confuse things with rationalization, but we know deep down what is right. It’s the doing it that is hard.

Quiet professionals push away the rationalization and focus on the hard truths with clear eyes. They identify the right action, and do it.

No one is perfect. When they don’t do the right thing, quiet professionals reflect, learn from it, forgive themselves and look forward intent on future improvement.

6) Humility + Humor.
The more I learn, the less I am sure of. All my 30’s righteousness has been replaced by “it depends” …. and good laugh at myself.

7) Continual Professional Learning.
Driven not by competitiveness and ambition but by a sincere wish to improve and a strong respect for the profession.

8) Do your Job.
Quietly, consistently, professionally, well. Every day.

9) Don’t get too far from your purpose.
Vacations are fine. Hobbies are nice. But they aren’t your life’s work. Quiet professionals don’t live for the weekend. They find engagement, fulfillment and joy in their work and it’s never far from the front of their mind.

Work isn’t a burden – it’s part of who you are – and enriches your life and the lives of the others you serve through it.

10) Embrace the suck.
Life is not fair. Everything worth doing is hard. There’s often no light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t whine. Don’t bemoan. Embrace it, smile, and soldier on.

13) Resilience.
You’ve got to be able to shake it off, and get back in the saddle. This takes grit, but also forgiveness (mostly of yourself), humility, and likely more work on the fundamentals.

An interesting dynamic happens in life. The older you get, the more experience you have, the more financially secure you become – with these come a greater ability to bounce back. But …. many in their 40s and older lose the willingness to take a risk – professional, personal, etc. Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck in that worsening, boring, soul crushing “rut” of comfort. Know that change is invigorating.

12. Living a life of adventure and enthusiasm.
You don’t need to climb Everest, ride your motorcycle to Chile, or raft the Yukon for “real” adventure. Strive to find adventure everyday – start a business, parent a child, coach a team, change careers, write a book. What makes “adventure” exciting the uncertainly of the outcome and the richness of the journey along the way. All adventure takes a “jump” into the unknown. Make those jumps, and do so with vigor and enthusiasm. Have some damn spirit! …..  It will keep you young and life exciting.

13) Gratitude.
Professional and private. Much easier when you are able to live in the present – and truly appreciate how fortunate you are and how amazing your life is and the people in your life are.


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As always, your feedback and ideas are appreciated. Please email rob@mtntactical.com