Turning Pro – by Steven Pressfield

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Turning Pro – by Steven Pressfield

‘Tap your inner power and create your life’s work’


Pressfield book ‘The War of Art‘ told us all about the REAL challenge of creating important work: confront (and beating) the Resistance. In that book, he showed us that the beat way to beat it was by Turning Pro. This follow-up book dives deeper into the difference between and amateur and a professional, and shows us exactly what is required of us if we are to become the best version of ourselves.


Grab a copy of the book here: https://www.bookdepository.com/Turning-Pro-Steven-Pressfield/9781936891030/?a_aid=adamsbooks




  • 7 min recap of War of Art
    • The Resistance
    • Turning Pro
  • Use my two bullets
    • #5
      • “There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and that secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”
      •  This same idea goes for most things that require some investment of willpower or emotional labour
      • It’s true for sitting down and writing, but also true for starting a new diet or exercise regime, launching a new entrepreneurial venture, overcoming an addiction, starting an education course of any kind, any undertaking with the aim to help others, taking a principled political/moral/ethical stand, or any activity whose aim is tighter abdominal muscles.
      •  The act itself isn’t that hard, but those first few steps can feel almost impossible to overcome. That’s because Resistance is standing in our way.
      • According to Pressfield, most of us have two lives: the life we live and ‘the unlived life’.
      • What stands between the two is the Resistance. The unlived life is everything you dream for, everything you wish you could tackle, everything you hope to accomplish.
      •  If you’ve ever bought a treadmill that’s now gathering dust, you know what the Resistance is. If you ever quit a diet or stopped going to yoga class or gave up meditation, you know what the Resistance is.
      • If you’re a writer who doesn’t write, or a painter who doesn’t paint, or an entrepreneur that doesn’t start business, you know what the Resistance is.
      •  The Resistance is invisible. I cannot be seen, heard, felt or touched, but it can be felt. It’s a repelling negative force whose aim is to shove us away, distract, prevent us from doing our work.
      • The Resistance is internal. It may appear to be outside ourselves – we feel like we locate it in our boss, spouse, kids or jobs, and we blame them for standing in our way. But the Resistance is actually an enemy that comes from within.
      • The Resistance is impersonal. It doesn’t know you and it doesn’t care about you specifically, it’s a force of nature that acts objectively.   The Resistance is Universal. We may think that we’re the only ones struggling against Resistance, but that’s wrong. Everyone that has a body experiences Resistance.
      •  The Resistance is most powerful at the finish line. If it feels like you’re about to win, it bombards you with one last dose of negative force to try to stop you from getting the job done. It knows that this might be its last chance and hits the panic button to marshal one last assault and slam us with everything it’s got.
      • Procrastination is the Resistance.
      • We rationalise that we’re still going to do what we want to do, we’re just going to do it later.
        •  We don’t admit that we’re caving in to the Resistance, we just put it off a little We don’t say ‘I’m not going to write that song’, we just say ‘I AM going to write that song – I’m just going to start tomorrow’.
        •   That’s the bad news.
      • The good news? Resistance can be beaten.
        • If it couldn’t be beaten, there would be no Fifth Symphony, no Romeo & Juliet, no Golden Gate Bridge.
        • Defeating Resistance is like giving birth.
        •  It seems absolutely impossible until you remember that women have been pulling it off successfully, with support and without, for fifty million years.
        •  That’s the problem: Resistance. But thankfully, there is a solution.
    • #6
      • Now that we understand the problem, we can focus on the solution.
      • Pressfield only presents one way to combat the Resistance: Turning Pro.
      •  Amateurs suffer at the hands of the Resistance, professionals can overcome it. Resistance hates it when we turn pro.
      • When asked if she wrote on a schedule or only when inspiration struck, fames novelist Somerset Maugham said, “I write only when inspiration strikes… thankfully it strikes every morning at 9am sharp”.
      •  She doesn’t sit down to write because she gets the inspiration – she gets the inspiration because she sits down to write.

This book is all about Turning Pro – what it means to turn pro and HOW to do it


  • This Book: the model of the amateur and the professional
    • Do you remember where you were on 9/11? You’ll remember where you were when you turn pro.
    • Presfield says that what ails us is that we are living our lives as amateurs
    • The solution is that we turn pro
    • Turning pro is free, but it’s not easy
      • you don’t need to take a course or buy a product
      • all you have to do is change your mind
    • Turning pro is free, but it’s not without cost
      • when we turn pro, we give up a life with which we may have become extremely comfortable
      • we give up a self that we have come to identify as our own
      • we may have to give up friends, lovers, spouses?
    • Turning pro is free, but it demands sacrifice
      • the passage is like an interior odyssey, whose trials are survived only at great cost, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually
      • it hurts – it’s messy, it’s scary
    • Turning Pro is not for everyone
      • we have to be a little crazy to do it, or even to WANT to do it
      • in many ways the passage chooses us, we dont choose it (we simply have no alternative)
    • What we get when we turn pro:
      • we find our power
      • we find our will and our voice
      • and we find our self-respect
      • we become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and to live out
  • Shadow Careers
    • Sometimes, when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow calling instead
      • that shadow career is a metaphor for our real career
      • its shape is similar, its contours feel tantilisingly the same
      • but a shadow career entails no real risk
      • if we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us
    • Are you pursuing a shadow career?
      • are you getting a PhD in Elizabethan Studies because you’re afraid to write the plays and poems 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
  • Three Cheers for the Amateur Life
    • “Before we begin ruthlessly deconstructing the amateur life, let’s pause for a moment to give it its due
      • The amateur life is your youth
        • it’s your hero’s journey
      • No one is born a pro
        • you’ve got to fall before you hit bottom, sometimes that fall can be a hell of a ride
      • Here’s to: divorces, blackouts, lost jobs, lost cash, lost self respect.  Here’s to time on the street and years we can’t remember  Here’s to bad friends and cheating spouses – and to us for being guilty of both
    • Becoming a pro, in the end, is nothing grander than growing up.
  • Habits
    • This book is about habits
    • The difference between an amateur and a professional is their habits
      • an amateur has amateur habits
      • a professional has professional habits
    • We can never free ourselves from our habits
      • the human being is a creature of habit
      • but we can replace bad habits with good ones
      • we can trade in the habits of the amateur and the addict for the practice of the professional and the committed artist or entrepreneur
  • Art and Addiction
    • Many artists are addicts, and vice versa
      • Many are artists in one breath and addicts in another
      • What’s the difference? The addict is an amateur, the artist is a professional.
        • (By the way, “addiction” doesn;t refer only to the serious clinical maladies of alcoholism, drug deendence, domestic abuse and so on – web surfing counts too, social media counts, compulsive texting, sex, money, trouble – we’ll cover more types of addiction later)
      • These are all DISTRACTION – simple displacement activites to help us avoid doing what we’re meant to be doing
      • When we’re living as amateurs, we’re running away from our calling – meaning our work, our densite, our obligation to become our truest and highest selves
        • Addiction becomes a surrogate for our calling
          • We enact the addiction instead of embracing our 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 ourslevles are the orchestra, the conductor, the composer, and the audience
          • Our life becomes a shadow drama, a shadow start-up company, a shadow philantrhropic adventure
          • instead actually doing these thing, we acts out addictions in an attmept to end up with the same feelings, or to distract us from what we’re NOT doing
      • When you turn pro your life gets very simple
        • The zen monk, the artist, the entreprenuer often lead lives so plain they are invisible
  • Resistance and Addiction
    • The pre-addictive individual (I.E: you and I when we’re young) experiences a calling
      • To art, to service, to honourable sacrifice
      • In other words, we experience positive aspiration: a vision of the higher, realised self we might become
    • The intimation of this calling is followed immediately by the apparition of Resistance
      • Fear
      • Self-Doubt
      • Self-Sabotage
    • What makes this moment so soul-precarious is that most of us are unconscious of both our aspirations and our Resistance
      • We’re asleep.
      • We know that something is wrong and we don;t know how to fix it
      • We’re restless, we’re bored, we’re angry
      • We burn to accomplish something great, but we don’t know where to begin, and even if we didnt, we’d be so terrified that we still couldn;t take a step
    • ENTER: a drink, a love, a habit
      • Addiction replaces aspiration
      • The quick fix wins out over the long, slow haul


  • Amateurs Addictions
    • Addicted to Failure
      • There’s a difference between failing (which is a normal part of life) and being addicted to failure
        • when we’re addicted to failure, we kind of enjoy it
          • each time we fail, we are secretly relieved
        • Thre’s a glamour to failure that has been mined for centuries by starving poets, romantic suidicides, and other self-defined doomed souls
          • the glamour inverts failure and turns it into a perverse form of ‘success’
      • it’s payoff is incapacity
        • when we fail, we are off the hook
        • we’ve given ourselves a Get Out Of Jail Free card (‘at least we tried’)
        • We no longer have to ask ourselves the hard questions: who am I? why am i here? what do i want?

    Addicted to Shiny Objects

    • When we can’t stand the fear, the shame, and the self-reproach that we feel, we obliterate it with an addiction. This addiction becomes the shadow version, the evil twin of our calling to service or art
    • That’s why addicts are so interesting and so boring at the same time
      • They’re interesting because they’re always doing SOMETHING – something new, something unique, something that we can’t wait to see them bring forth into manifestations
      • At the same time, they’re boring because they never do the work
    • Instead, the addict enacts his aspiration in shadow form
      • The addiction becomes his novel, his adventure, his great love
      • The work of art or service that might have been produced is replaced by drama, conflict, and the suffering of the addict’s crazy, haunted, shattered life
    • Addicted to Distraction
      • Resistance hates two qualities above all others: CONCENTRATION and DEPTH
        • Why? because when we work with focus and we work deep, we succeed (and the Resistance loses)
        • Resistance wants to win, so it keeps us shallow and unfocused
        • It makes the superficial and the vain intoxicating – it makes us want to chase these things which in turn means we’re not concentrating on what’s actually important
    • Addicted to Money
      • the real utility of money is its convenience as a medium of exchange
        • if you and i have a goat in Smyrna, we don’t have to carry the poor beast in our arms all the way to  Aleppo to trade it for a carpet
        • we can sell the goat in Smyrna, stash a silver coin in our pocket, then walk to Aleppo and buy the carpet with the coin
      • BUT – when we’re addicted to money, we become hooked on the metaphor
        • the metaphor of ‘keeping score’
        • the metaphor of ‘opening doors’ or ‘realizing possibility’ or ‘producing transcendence’
      • What we are really seeking is our own voice, our own truth, our own authenticity
  • A Definition of the Amateur
    • Definition:
      • The amateur is young and dumb. He’s innocent, he’s good hearted, he’s well intentioned, he’s brave, resouceful, inventive
      • He’s willing to take a chance…
      • He’s not evil or crazy, he’s not deluded, he’s not demented. The amateur is trying to learn
    • The Amateur is Terrified
      • Fear is the primary colour 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 lonliness, fear of death
        • But mostly what we all fear is EXCLUSION – we fear being excluded by the tribe (the gang, the posse, mother and father, family, nation, race, religion, your people)
      • 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 Professional is Terrified too, because she is more acutely conscious of herself and of her interior universe.
        • BUT the difference lies in the way the professional act in the face of fear (more on this in Part Three)
    • The Amateur Lives By the Opinions of Others
      • Though the amateur’s identity is seated in his own ego, that ego is so weak that it cannot define itself based on its own self-evaluation
        • The amateur allows his self worth and identity to be defined by others
        • The amaeteur craves third-party validation
        • The amateur is tyrannised by his imagined conception of what is expecting of him
      • He is imprisoned by what he believes he ought to think, how he ought to loo, what he ought to do, and who he ought to be
    • The Amateur Permits Fear to Stop Him From Acting
      • The amateur’s self-inflation paradoxically precents him from acting
      • he takes himself and the consequences of his actions so seriously that he paralyses himself
    • The Amateur is Easily Distracted
      • The amateur has a long list of fears, but near the top are two: SOLITUDE and SILENCE
        • The amateur fears solitudeand silence because he needs to avoid, at all costs, the voice inside his head that would point him toward his calling and his destiny
        • So he seeks distraction
      • The amateur praises shallowness and shuns depth
    • The Amateur Seeks Instant Gratification
      • Too much ain’t enough, and too soon is too late
      • The amateur and the addict want what they want NOW
      • But when they get it, it doesn’t work – the restlessness doesn;t abate, the pain doesn;t go away, the fear comes back as soon as the buzz wears off
      • What they cling to and grab in the short term does not solve their truest desires of the long-term
    • The Amateur Seeks Permission
      • The amateur believes that, before she can act, she must receive permission from some Omnipotent Other – a lover or spouse, a parent, a boss, a teacher, a figure of authority
      • The amateur sits on a stool waiting to be discovered
    • The Amateur Lives for the Future
      • the amateur and the addict focus exclusively on the product and the payoff
        • their concern is what’s in it for them
        • and how soon and how cheaply they can get it
      • Pressfield says that American culture is all about fostering the culture of amateurism – the promise that politicians/coporations all make: “i will get you what you want and it will cost you nothing”
    • The Amateur Lives in the Past
      • Because the amateur owns nothing of spirit in the present, she either looks forward to a hopeful future or backward to an idyllic past
        • but the past evoked by the amateur is make-believe
        • it never existed
        • it’s a highlight reel that she edited together from events that almost took place or should have occured
        • in a way, the amateur’s re-imagined past is worse when it’s true… because then, it’s really gone
      • The payoff of living in the past or the future is you never have to do your work in the present
    • The Amateur Will Be Ready Tomorrow
      • “The sure sign of an amateur is he has a million plans and they all start tomorrow”
    • The Amateur Gives His Power Away to Others
      • Amateurs give their power away – to gurus, mentors, lovers, spouses bosses, leaders
        • Pressfield said he followed a guru for a time
        • He’s waited for permission
        • He sat by the phone
        • He turn in work to others, trembling while waiting fo their judgement and their approval
      • Exile, failure, and banishment can be good thinfgs some times, because they force us to act from our own centre and not from someone else’s
      • I applaud your stay of how you hit bottom, because at the bottom there’s no one there but yourself



  • Part-Time Pros
    • some times we can be professionals in our shadow careers but amateurs in our true calling
      • how many creative directors at ad agencies have unfinished novels and screenplays sitting in their office drawers
      • how many lawyers or doctors do you know that would make sensational essayists or historians but never propel themselves past first base
      • producers who yearn to be directors, moms who are itching to launch start ups, graduate students who could help solve climate change
    • sometimes the reason we choose those careers (consciously or unconsciously) is to produce incapacity
      • Resistance is diabolical
      • it can harness our drive for greatness and our instinct for professionalism, but channel it towards a shadow profession instead whose demands will keep us from turning our energies toward their true course
    • Sometimes its easier to be a professional in a shadow career than it is to turn pro in our real calling
  • Now, let’s talk about turning pro…




    • Life Gets Very Simple When You Turn Pro
      • When we turn pro, we finally listen to that still, small voice in our heads
        • at least we find the courage to identify the secret dream or love or bliss that we have known all along was our passion, our calling, our destiny
        • we finally acknowledge that this is what we were most afraid of
        • this is what we know in our hearts we have to do
      • How Your Life Changes When You Turn Pro
        • In The War of Art, Pressfield said that he could cleanly divid his life into two sections: before turning pro, and after
          • he didn’t change, didn;t reach enlightenment – he’s the same person with the same weaknesses and fallibilities, but eveyrthing is different since he turned pro
        • BEFORE we turn pro
          • our life is dominated by fear and Resistance
          • we live in a state of denial
            • we’re denying the voice inside our heads
            • we’re denying our calling
            • we’re denying who we really are
          • we’re fleeing from our fear into addiction or a shadow career
        • AFTER we turn pro
          • we stop fleeing
          • we stop running from our fears
          • we turn around and face them
      • How Your Day Changes When You Turn Pro
        • we structure our hours to to flee from our fear, but to confront it and overcome it
          • we plan our activities in order to achieve that aim
        • it changes the time we get up, the time we go to bed, what we do and don;t do, it changes the activities we engage in and the attitude with which we engage in them, it changes what we read, what we eat, it even changes the shape of our bodies
        • as amateurs, our life was about denial and distraction.
          • our days were simultaneously full to the bursting point and achingly, heartbreakingly empty
          • As pros, we are different and everyone can see it
      • How People Change When You Turn Pro
        • Turning Pro can change how we spend our time and who we spend it with
        • it changes how people perceive us
          • those still fleeing from their fears will now try to sabotage us
          • they will tell us we’ve changed and will undermine attempts at future change, trying to make us feel guilty for growing
        • at the same time, other people will appear in our lives
          • these people are the ones facing their own fears and conquering them
          • these people become our new friends
        • When we turn pro, we will be compelled to make painful choices: we will have to choose between the lfie we want for our future and the life we have left behind
      • How Your Mind Changes When You Turn Pro
        • turning pro is like kicking a drug habit or stopping drinking: it’s a decision, a decision to which we must re-commit every day
        • the pro understands that every morning we wake up facing the same demons, the same Resistance, the same self-sabotage, the same tendencies to shadow activities and amateurism that we’ve always faced
        • the difference is now that she won’t yield to those temptations: she has mastered them, and she will continue to master them.
    • Qualities of the Professional after turning pro:
    • Additional qualities of the Professional
      • A Professional is Courageous
        • The pro displays courage, not only in the roles she embraces or the sacrifices she makes or even in the enduring criticism/blame/envy/lack of understanding she faces, but above all in confronting her own doubts and demons
      • The Professional Lives in the Present
        • the amateur spends his time in the past and the future
          • he permits himself to fear and hope
        • the pro has taught himself to banish these distractions
          • he is immersed in the present
          • he loses himself in the work and in the moment
      • The Professional does not wait for Inspiration
        • Pressfield says that we’re nothing without the Muse
          • but the pro has learned that the goddess prizes labour and dedication beyond any theatrical seeking of her favours
        • The professional does not wait for inspiration; he acts in anticipation of it
          • rather than waiting for inspiration before getting started, he gets started expecting the inspiration to come while he’s going at it
          • he knows that when the Muse sees his butt in the chair, she will deliver
      • The Professional Does NOt Give Her Power Away to Others
        • Pressfield talked previously about amateurs worshiping “icons”, often in the form of a person (a guru, a boss, a lover, a mentor)
          • when we make someone an icon, we give away our power
          • we say to ourselves (unconsciously): “this person possesses the qualities I wish I p[ossessed. therefore i will worship this person in the hope that the qualities will wear off on me”
          • in Pressfield’s experience – when we project a quality or virtue onto another human being, we ourselves almost always already possess that quality, but we’re too afraid to embrace it
        • The amateur is a groupie
        • the professional may seek instruction or wisdom from someone who is further along in mastery than he, but he does so without surrendering his self-sovereignty
    • A Soldier Gets Two Salaries
      • There’s a well-known sergeant who, when young marines complain about their pay, tells that that they get two salaries: a FINANCIAL salary and a PSYCHOLOGICAL salary
        • their financial salary is pretty meager
        • but the psychological salary – the feeling of pride and honour, a sense of belonging to a brotherhood with a brave and noble history, and knowing that you will remain a member of the fraternity as long as you live
        • the sergeant asks them how much that is worth?
      • As professionals, we can get two salaries too
          • money, applause, attention
          • that’s fine if we can get it, but most of us can’t, especially in the beginning
          • we bust our butts training and practice and studying and rehearsing and nobody shows up, nobody notices, nobody even knows we exist
          • no wonder people quit… the struggle is too much agony for too little pay off
          • but that’s just in terms of the conventional rewards
          • Hindu god Krishna told Arjuna that he had the right to his labnour, but not the right to the fruits of his labour
          • the act itself should be its own reward
            • practicing the piano is it’s own reward – playing piano every day gives us the psychological salary even if no one comes to our performances
            • the monk meditates to achieve enlightenment, but even if he doesnt reach it, the act of meditating was its own reward
            • ballet class, singing practice, taking photographs of nature – these all provide psychological salaries in their own right
    • The Professional Mindset as a Practice
      • The key element of a Pro is that they sustain a “practice”
        • every day we wake up facing the Resistance and facing the same fears or demons, so the pro has developed a practice to help them easily and routinely face and overcome them
        • a ‘practice’ is the dedicated daily exercise of commitment, will, and focus intention aimed at the achievement of mastery
      • A Practice has a Space and Time
        • a specific physical or temporal location (or state of mind) in which the practice takes place
        • the monks in their saffron robes mount the steps to the zendo at the same hour each morning
          • when the abbot strikes the chime, the monks place their palms together and sit
        • you and I may have to operate in a more chaotic universe than the peaceful monks, but the object remains the same: to approach mystery via order, commitment and passionate intent
          • when we convene day upon day in the same space at the same time, a powerful energy builds up around us
          • this is the energy of our intention, of our dedication, of our commitment
          • the godess sees this energy and she rewards it
      • A Practice has an Intention
        • the 10,000 hours rule invented completely and originally by malcolm gladwell in outliers without borrowing from any other studies or researchers, talk about the 10,000 hours of DELIBERATE PRACTICE
          • this deliberate practice must possess an INTENTION
          • our intention as artists and entrepreneurs is to get better, to go deeper, to work closer and closer to the bone
      • We Come to a Practice as Warriors
        • the sword master stepping onto the fighting floor knows that he will be facing powerful opponents
          • not the physical adversaries he will fight – the real enemy is inside himself
          • every day we will face powerful enemies too – not just outside ourself, but mostly in our own heads
        • we must be prepared to battle, and to leave everyone out there on the fighting floor in order to advance and make progress

A Practice is Lifelong

  • Once we begin turning pro, we’re like sharks who’ve tasted blood
    • for us, there is no finish line
    • life is the pursuit. life is the hunt.
    • when our hearts burst, then we can be done. but no sooner.



The Unlived Life

Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands the resistance

  • The good news? Resistance can be beaten. Beaten by Turning Pro.
    • If it couldn’t be beaten, there would be no Fifth Symphony, no Romeo & Juliet, no Golden Gate Bridge.
    • Defeating Resistance is like giving birth.


  • AFTER turning pro
    • we stop fleeing
    • we stop running from our fears
    • we turn around and face them

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