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Books relating to how to be great at what you do, or other self-help books are something I had doggedly avoided for the better part of my life. I still do for that matter. So, it was with great reluctance that I accepted the book titled ‘The Professional’ from a family friend after a long debate on professionalism as a lawyer; refusing would not just have been rude, but would indicate my refusal to even listen to his point of view. And therefore, I accepted it, promising myself that I would be through with it by the end of the week and return it to the owner as soon as possible (yes, if you haven’t already guessed, my aversion borders on allergic reactions!).

For my future reference, I shall list out the chapters in that book;
Integrity –
1. Burial of the Dead
2. The Day Justice was Murdered
3. Integrity is Personal
4. Doctor, Heal Thyself
5. The Many Shades of Grey
6. Firing the Star Salesperson
Self-Awareness: Where Competence Ends And Professionalism Takes Over –
1. Knowing Who You Are
2. Being authentic
3. Being Comfortable
4. Seeking Help
5. Not Suffering False Comparisons
6. Having a Reasonable View of the Future
7. Looking Beyond Money
8. Being Deeply Self-Observant
9. Reining in Reactions
10. Welcoming Feedback
11. Not Suffering False Attractions
12. Doing Some Things For Yourself
13. Being Proactive
14. Taking Charge
15. Courtesy and Humility
16. The Big Picture
Professional Qualities
1. Of Time, Body and Soul
2. Doing More by Doing Less
3. The To-Do List
4. Saying No
5. Quit Whining
6. A Long View of Time
7. Mavens, Connectors and Evangelists
8. White Space
9. Creating Reuse
10. What is Your Touch-Time?
11. When Paths Diverge
Managing Volume
1. The Power of Vision
2. Affective Regard
3. Commitment to Commitment
4. Be Prepared
5. Ask Pertinent Questions
6. Intent Listening
7. Human Beings First and Foremost
8. The Rewards of Transparency
9. The Responsibility of Dissent
Managing Complexity
1. Three Disasters, Three Great Professionals
2. Logic or Emotion?
3. Multiple Intelligences
4. Three Levels of Knowledge
5. The Five Minds of the Future
6. Critical Questioning
7. Dealing with Personal Pain
New World Imperatives
1. Inclusion and Gender
2. Cross-Cultural Sensitivity
3. Governance
4. Intellectual Property
5. Sustainability
The Professional’s Professional
1. A Yen for Professionalism
(The Unprofessional and Return of the Dead)
Ya, this book has positively turned me into one of them loonies, who keep a neat Index to the entire list of books they own. Just kidding. I am still me, or am still only as loony as I was at the beginning of this book. I have listed out the chapters so I can come back to this list anytime I want to remember any particular quality listed in this book (in the off-chance that I become a professional someday and begin to treat my work like worship!). I know photocopying the Index would have been easier, but this way I don’t have to go through the pains of hunting down the nearest photocopier and I might just benefit from the effort (See! I am already thinking like a professional, albeit a very lazy one!)
Let me just give you a brief glimpse of the book for the benefit of both you (my dear reader) and moi. First and foremost, he stresses on integrity as the basic essential of every professional that might not always find recognition at work place, but the lack of it is severely penalised. The next thing he deals with is on how you need to know your own positives and negatives and be comfortable with and stop constantly weighing yourself against someone else. After dealing with some professional qualities he moves on to points like values, commitment, transparency and ‘the responsibility of dissent’ (basically, knowing when you need to stand up and voice your concerns regarding something). He later deals with how professionals today need to think with both facts and feelings. He stresses on existential knowledge as being the ultimate level of knowledge and also about the sensitive topic of dealing with personal pain. In the second last chapter he directs his points towards modern day problems of gender bias, cross-cultural sensitivity, giving due regards to laws of a country which also has to do with IP laws. In the final chapter he talks about how the cab-driver in Japan taught him a lesson in professionalism. Mr. Bagchi ends off the book with a list of unprofessional traits of which ‘not meeting deadlines’, plagiarism and unsuitable appearance is something most of us (at least I!) need to keep in mind.
However, there was one thing that actually surprised me. Some of my personal traits that I was convinced (partly by myself, and partly by society) were negative points about me, turn up in this man’s list of professional behaviour. I shall not list out all my flaws here, but ‘Saying No’ was one such thing.
All in all, I felt like a ‘professional’ reading this on my metro/bus ride to and from work. And the book was not completely useless as I had first assumed. And Mr. Bagchi puts in a truckload of anecdotes to add flavor to each point he wants to convey, making it easier for the reader to understand and recollect a certain point. Worth a go if you are into the whole idea of being ‘The Professional’ someday!
If you are not unfortunate enough to be handed this book as part of an argument, please feel free to start one after you order it here (flipkart!)