I’m putting up an extra post this week because I’ve just read this fantastic book and I want to tell you all about it.
It’s called “Turning Pro,” by Steve Pressfield (Remember the movie “The Legend of Bagger Vance?” He wrote the book). And before I go any further, I need to remind you that I don’t get paid to endorse anything I read. I also don’t receive advance copies very often (this was not one) and I rarely review books.
I shelled out for the Kindle version after watching a video interview Steve did with Marie Forleo (LOVE her!) in which he talked about the concept of deciding, really deciding to pursue your beloved craft, not as an “Amateur,” but as a “Professional.”
An Amateur, as Pressfield defines it, is someone who dabbles. An Amateur paints a little (if painting is her thing) or writes a little or does whatever she loves, but without truly dedicating her self to the endeavor. Amateurs, Pressfield says, hide behind fear, believing that failing is the only option.
Some Amateurs also hide behind distraction. That’s me. I’m a freelance writer on paper, sure, and I get paid to do it. (Lucky life!) But when business gets slow, instead of going on some sort of supercharged sales campaign, I tend to coast, turning out small projects here and there in between running errands, exercising, homekeeping, cooking, shopping, caring for the dog and whatever else I can to do to churn the time away.
I fell into that mode recently. And while sometimes it feels great, luxurious even, to go do something on a whim right in the middle of the day, there was an underlying problem with the way I was spending my time: I blog about writing, I talk about writing, I have a portfolio and social media accounts to show potential clients and others what I’m writing about. Yet there were many days in which I wrote nothing or pursued nothing having to do with writing. About the time I picked up Pressfield’s book, it had all begun to feel like a bit of a fraudulent existence. (Pressfield is gentler about this. I think he would have called it an “Amateur” existence.)
Contrast that with the existence of Pressfield’s Professional, whom he writes, “shows up for work every day.” And “stays on the job all day.”
Pressfield goes on to explain that, in order to become a legit _______ (fill in your own occupation here) you have to “turn pro.” This requires taking on your work as a discipline — a practice, in the true yogic sense of the word. “To ‘have a practice’ in yoga, say, or tai chi, or calligraphy,” writes Pressfield, “is to follow a rigorous, prescribed regimen with the intention of elevating the mind and spirit to a higher level.”
He then goes on to list key characteristics he believes the Professional possesses. Here are a few:
“The professional is committed over the long haul.”
“For the professional, the stakes are high and real.”
“The professional seeks order.”
“The professional acts in the face of fear.”
“The professional does not show off.”
“The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique.”
Pressfield also recounts stories of other individuals who have turned pro. My favorite is the story of Rosanne Cash. Unlike many books in this genre, which focus primarily on attaining success, power and / or money, this book defines success as fully realizing your ability to do your thing. Cash was already commercially successful when she made the decision to turn pro. She’d become a critical hit in the music world. Yet she knew something was missing. Though industry heavyweights and the public told her she’d made it big, she didn’t believe she’d reached the true and full expression of her art. Then she had a dream. I won’t tell you about the dream. You’ve got to read the book! But it changed her life, and she recommitted herself to being an even better singer. “I had awakened from the morphine sleep of success into the life of an artist,” she writes.
The core message of this book is that professionalism is a mindset, and one worth cultivating.
If you’re like me and you feel like you’re on the verge of realizing your true potential, but that somehow you’re asleep at the wheel of your own career, this book could be the kick in the pants you need to break through your own inertia.
Not convinced yet? Here’s that interview with Marie Forleo I mentioned earlier:
Have you read the book? What did you think of it? Do you remember the moment you “turned pro?”