Stefan Knapen

PhD-student – Co-assistent

Turning Pro – Steven Pressfield

I read Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work by Steven Pressfield. Here are my notes and thoughts.

turningpro_bookTurning Pro – Steven Pressfield

ISBN: 1936891034
Read: July 2016
Amazon page for more details and reviews.
Goodreads page for more details and reviews. page for Dutch viewers.

This is a short book as a sort of follow-up on The War of Art, which was a great read. This book shows what turning pro means and perhaps more interestingly, it shows what being an amateur means.

All these notes are directly from the book, cursive texts are my thoughts.

My notes

What we get when we turn pro is, 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.

Ambition, I have come to believe, is the most primal and sacred fundament of our being. To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls. Not to act upon that ambition is to turn our backs on ourselves and on the reason for our existence.

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.

I loved the road because it always took you somewhere.

When I was in high school, I read a book by Jack Kerouac called On the Road. The book blew my brains out.

The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits.

The amateur is an egotist. He takes the material of his personal pain and uses it to draw attention to himself. He creates a “life,” a “character,” a “personality.’

On when addiction replaces asparation: The quick fix wins out over the long, slow haul.

The life we call “normal” isn’t normal at all. A spouse and kids, a mortgage, a 9-to-5 job…who said that was life? What’s so great about working in a factory or a cubicle? You and I, who are artists and entrepreneurs, live a life that’s closer to natural, if you ask me.

All addictions share, among others, two primary qualities.

  • They embody repetition without progress.
  • They produce incapacity as a payoff.

Stanislavsky’s famous three questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What do I want?

Resistance hates two qualities above all others: concentration and depth. Why? Because when we work with focus and we work deep, we succeed.

What you and I are really seeking is our own voice, our own truth, our own authenticity.

When we take our M1903 Springfield and blow a hole in our foot, we no longer have to face the real fight of our lives, which is to become who we are and to realize our destiny and our calling.

The amateurs 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 amateurs ears solitude and silence because she needs to avoid, at all costs, the voice inside her head that would point her toward her calling an her destiny. So she seeks distraction.

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 figure of authority.

The payoff of living in the past or the future is you never have to do your work in the present.

The sure sign of an amateur is he has a million plans and they all start tomorrow.

Sometimes the reason we choose these careers (consciously or unconsciously) is to produce incapacity.

When we turn pro, we stop running from our fears. We turn around and face them.

The amateur tweets. The pro works.

The professional does not wait for inspiration; he acts in anticipation of it.

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.

When we do the work for itself alone, our pursuit of a career (or a living or fame or wealth or notoriety) turns into something else, something loftier and nobler, which we may never even have thought about or aspired to at the beginning.

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 professional trusts the mystery. He knows that the Muse always delivers. She may surprise us. She may gives us something we never expected.

Our work is a practice. One bad day is nothing to us. Ten bad days are nothing.

In truth, I practice my own form of shamanism every day. As an artist, I seek to access unseen powers. Evil forces are out there – Resistance, self-doubt, self-sabotage. How many other malign entities are hovering each morning over me and my huevos rancheros?

My thoughts

This is a great book, especially after reading the War of Art a year before. The distinction between amateur and pro is very clearly made by Pressfield and in making this distinction he gives a very clear image of what it means to overcome your amateurism and what it means to turn pro.

I especially liked the quotes about how the amateurs has a million plans, which all start tomorrow and how the amateurs tweets, while the pro works. I especially like this as this feels how it is to me. Right now I have a couple of ideas of scientific papers, access to the data as well and in my head I will start working on it, tomorrow. I think it is time to turn pro.

Highly recommended read, especially as you can read it within an evening, while it is worthwhile to read it over again.