It’s funny, but there was a time when I was ashamed to tell people I was a “bike racer”—particularly during my final years of college when the pre-conceived expectation was that I would do something like go into the public sector or get an MBA. The potentially negative opinions people would hold when I told them I put on spandex and rode my bike around worried me—as if my career choice was somehow beneath those more established or recognized. In hindsight, such concerns seem so trivial; but at the time they were very real and weighed a lot on my mind.
Adding to the irony of all this was the fact that, during this time, I actually raced professionally. In 2012 alone I had not only traveled around the country but also to South Korea, Japan, and central China. I had experienced and seen more than most people had in their entire lives and yet I was ashamed to admit it. Sitting here now, it’s crazy to know I felt that way.
These days, I’m no longer considered a “professional” in the eyes of the cycling world—many people outside of bike racing probably hold the same perception. Regardless, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I’m no longer ashamed of that fact. Instead, I’m proud of what I do and the effort I put forth day-in and day-out. Like many other private sector professionals, I work hard, I sacrifice, I care a lot about what I do, and yea, there have been many occasions where I get anxious and moody when things aren’t going perfectly. However, this is all part of the struggle everyone goes through to be successful at what they do—regardless of their chosen career. In my mind, there is no difference between what I do and the particular occupations my high school or college friends have chosen. When I go out to train, I’m punching the clock and putting in the time. My desk is a bike. My office is the open road. This is a job (my job) and I treat it as such.
“Professionalism” to me isn’t about how many pairs of sunglasses you get at team camp or how great your bike is. It’s not about your salary or how many reports you have or the diversity of your stock portfolio. “Professionalism,” in my opinion, is about showing up and doing your job—everyday—to the best of your ability. It’s about being accountable, reliable, and consistent. Now, that’s just my opinion. Is this only answer? I’m not going to flatter myself into saying it is. Should it be taken as gospel? Probably not. However, if there is one thing I wish someone had told me years ago, it’s that professionalism isn’t just for professionals and if you want it (regardless of what “it” is), you should dress for the job you want and not be ashamed of it. After all, life’s short and you only have one rodeo—might as well spend it doing something you care about.