In our world today, there are many who chase after acknowledgment without a proficiency in any art form. Their goal is not to develop a craft, aptitude, or skill. They simply want to be famous. And, because a proficiency in an art is absent, others wonder aloud as to how these folk achieve any level of lasting recognition. These are celebrities.
On the other hand, there are those who focus on a craft, developing skills and aptitudes, and endeavoring to grow their competence in a given set of activities. They work at their craft when others lounge. They create when others aren’t watching, practicing their craft happily in obscurity. In some cases – many cases – for years. They are driven and fulfilled by the process of creating something, not by the approval of others. These are artists.
Of course, in some instances, artists gain fame and become celebrities. The masses take to their work and the artist becomes known. But becoming famous and a celebrity is never the goal. Doing the art is the goal.
Artists who become celebrities are acknowledged based on their talent, efforts, and accomplishments. Think Frank Sinatra, Pablo Picasso, Katharine Hepburn, or Aretha Franklin. We respect the effort they make to hone their craft and recognize their talent. We pay attention to what they create. We recognize their authenticity and call them professionals.
But those who scramble to attract attention without the mooring of accomplishment garner scorn. We don’t respect them because they are perceived as not having put forth unusual effort to achieve anything of value. We view them as faux celebrities, having earned the mantle dishonestly. Think Kim Kardashian.
Similarly, the most effective development professionals share characteristics with artists, not celebrities. They work at being active listeners. They practice the art of inquiry and work to become cheerfully persistent. They enjoy the process of building authentic relationships with donors and engaging others in a cause. They toil in the philanthropic vineyard, sometimes very quietly, for years. They don’t seek the spotlight. In fact (like many artists), they can be very uncomfortable in the spotlight.
In short, they focus on the work, not the “reward” of the gift. Like becoming a celebrity for the artist, receiving a gift for the development professional is not the driving force. It is simply a by-product of good work and lots of practice.