Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

Turning Pro

RATING: 9/10…READ: June 8, 2012

The Follow up to the War of Art. Turning Pro rips into your soul and forces you to confront all the bullshit excuses inside of you for not practicing your full potential–whether it be your career, love, being a mother, &c. “The amateur fears that if he turns pro and lives out his calling, he will have to live up to who he really is and what he is truly capable of.” A quick and powerful read.

Get at Amazon


Are you pursuing a shadow career?

Are you getting your Ph.D. in Elizabethan studies because you’re afraid to write the tragedies and comedies that you know you have inside you? Are you living the drugs-and-booze half of the musician’s life, without actually writing the music? Are you working in a support capacity for an innovator because you’re afraid to risk becoming an innovator yourself?

-If you’re dissatisfied with your current life, ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for. That metaphor will point you toward your true calling.

Addiction becomes a surrogate for our calling. We enact the addiction instead of embracing the calling. Why? Because to follow a calling requires work. It’s hard. It hurts. It demands entering the pain-zone of effort, risk, and exposure.

-So we take the amateur route instead. Instead of composing our symphony, we create a “shadow symphony,” of which we ourselves are the orchestra, the conductor, the composer, and the audience. Our life becomes a shadow drama, a shadow start-up company, a shadow philanthropic venture.

When we’re addicted to failure, we enjoy it. Each time we fail, we are secretly relieved. There’s a glamour to failure that has been mined for centuries by starving poets, romantic suicides, and other self-defined doomed souls. This glamour inverts failure and turns it into “success.”

Resistance hates two qualities above all others: concentration and depth. Why? Because when we work with focus and we work deep, we succeed. How did Tom Brady master the art of the forward pass? How did Picasso paint? How did Yo-Yo Ma learn the cello?

When I say “artist,” I mean as well the lover, the holy man, the engineer, the mother, the warrior, the inventor, the singer, the sage, and the voyager. And remember, addict and artist can be one and the same and often are, moment to moment.)


FEAR is the primary color of the amateur’s interior world. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of looking foolish, fear of under-achieving and fear of over-achieving, fear of poverty, fear of loneliness, fear of death.

-But mostly what we all fear as amateurs is being excluded from the tribe, i.e., the gang, the posse, mother and father, family, nation, race, religion.

-The amateur fears that if he turns pro and lives out his calling, he will have to live up to who he really is and what he is truly capable of.

-The amateur is terrified that if the tribe should discover who he really is, he will be kicked out into the cold to die.

The amateur fears, above all else, becoming (and being seen and judged as) himself.

-Becoming himself means being different from others and thus, possibly, violating the expectations of the tribe, without whose acceptance and approval, he believes, he cannot survive.

-By these means, the amateur remains inauthentic. He remains someone other than who he really is.

If the amateur had empathy for himself, he could look in the mirror and not hate what he sees. Achieving this compassion is the first powerful step toward moving from being an amateur to being a pro.

When we turn pro, we will be compelled to make painful choices. There will be people who in the past had been colleagues and associates, even friends, whom we will no longer be able to spend time with if our intention is to grow and to evolve. We will have to choose between the life we want for our future and the life we have left behind.

When we make someone into an icon, we give away our power. We say to ourselves (unconsciously), “This person possesses a quality I wish I possessed. Therefore I will worship this person in the hope that that quality will wear off on me, or I will acquire that quality by virtue of my proximity to this mentor/sensei/lover/teacher/hero.”

-In my experience, when we project a quality or virtue onto another human being, we ourselves almost always already possess that quality, but we’re afraid to embrace (and to live) that truth.

The sword master stepping onto the fighting floor knows he will be facing powerful opponents. Not the physical adversaries whom he will fight (though those indeed serve as stand-ins for the enemy). The real enemy is inside himself.

-The sword master advancing into ritual combat has inwardly made peace with his own extinction. He is prepared to leave everything, including his life, there on the fighting floor.

If you and I cast Meryl Streep as Queen Boudica in our next Hollywood blockbuster, will we have any doubts that she can pull it off (even though she has never heard of, and knows nothing about, Queen Boudica)?

-Ms. Streep will go wherever it is that she goes, and she’ll come back with Queen Boudica. She will have become Queen Boudica. You and I can do it, too. We can work over our heads. Not only can we, but we must. The best pages I’ve ever written are pages I can’t remember writing.