Book Summary of Turning Pro | Author Steven Pressfield

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Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield


The Book in Three Sentences

  1. You can divide your life neatly into two parts: before turning pro and after.
  2. All you have to do to turn pro is decide.
  3. When you turn pro, life gets easier.

The Five Big Ideas

  1. “Do you remember where you were on 9/11? You’ll remember where you were when you turn pro.”
  2. When we’re afraid to embrace our true calling, we pursue a shadow calling instead.
  3. “The question we need to ask of a shadow career or an addiction is the same question the psychotherapist asks of a dream. ‘What is our unconscious trying to tell us?’”
  4. “The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits.”
  5. “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.”

Turning Pro Book Summary

  • “I wrote in The War of Art that I could divide my life neatly into two parts: before turning pro and after. After is better.”
  • “What ails us is that we are living our lives as amateurs.”
  • “All you have to do [to turn pro] is change your mind.”
  • “We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and to live out.”
  • “To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls.”
  • “Sometimes, when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow calling instead.”
  • “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.”
  • “Becoming a pro, in the end, is nothing grander than growing up.”
  • “In the shadow life, we live in denial and we act by addiction.”
  • “The shadow life is the life of the amateur.”
  • “The longer we cleave to this life, the farther we drift from our true purpose, and the harder it becomes for us to rally the courage to get back.”
  • “The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits.”
  • “The addict is the amateur; the artist is the professional.”
  • “When you turn pro, your life gets very simple.”
  • “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.’”
  • “The quick fix wins out over the long, slow haul.”
  • “When we can’t stand the fear, the shame, and the self-reproach that we feel, we obliterate it with an addiction.”
  • “The question we need to ask of a shadow career or an addiction is the same question the psychotherapist asks of a dream. ‘What is our unconscious trying to tell us?’”
  • “What you and I are really seeking is our own voice, our own truth, our own authenticity.”
  • “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 identifies with his own ego. He believes he is ‘himself.’ That’s why he’s terrified.”
  • “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 worth and identity to be defined by others.”
  • “Paradoxically, the amateur’s self-inflation prevents him from acting.”
  • “The amateur has a long list of fears. Near the top are two: Solitude and silence. The amateur fears solitude and silence because she needs to avoid, at all costs, the voice inside her head that would point her toward her calling and her destiny. So she seeks distraction.”
  • “The amateur lacks compassion for himself.”
  • “Achieving compassion is the first powerful step toward moving from being an amateur to being a pro.”
  • “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 force that can save the amateur is awareness, particularly self-awareness.”
  • “Fear of self-definition is what keeps an amateur an amateur and what keeps an addict an addict.”
  • “The amateur dreads becoming who she really is because she fears that this new person will be judged by others as ‘different.’ Here’s the truth: the tribe doesn’t give a shit.”
  • “When we truly understand that the tribe doesn’t give a damn, we’re free. There is no tribe, and there never was. Our lives are entirely up to us.”
  • “Sometimes it’s easier to be a professional in a shadow career than it is to turn pro in our real calling.”
  • “Life gets very simple when you turn pro.”
  • “What happens when we turn pro is, we finally listen to that still, small voice inside our heads.”
  • “Before we turn pro, our life is dominated by fear and Resistance. We live in a state of denial. We’re denying the voice in our heads. We’re denying our calling. We’re denying who we really are. We’re fleeing from our fear into an addiction or a shadow career. What changes when we turn pro is we stop fleeing.”
  • “When we turn pro, we stop running from our fears. We turn around and face them.”
  • “When we turn pro, everything becomes simple. Our aim centers on the ordering of our days in such a way that we overcome the fears that have paralyzed us in the past. We now structure our hours not to flee from fear, but to confront it and overcome it. We plan our activities in order to accomplish an aim. And we bring our will to bear so that we stick to this resolution. This changes our days completely. It changes what time we get up and it changes what time we go to bed. It changes what we do and what we don’t do. It changes the activities we engage in and with what attitude we engage in them. It changes what we read and what we eat. It changes the shape of our bodies. When we were amateurs, our life was about drama, about denial, and about distraction. Our days were simultaneously full to the bursting point and achingly, heartbreakingly empty. But we are not amateurs any more. We are different, and everyone in our lives sees it.”
  • “Turning pro changes how we spend our time and with whom we spend it. It changes our friends; it changes our spouses and children. It changes who is drawn to us and who is repelled by us. Turning pro changes how people perceive us. Those who are still fleeing from their own fears will now try to sabotage us. They will tell us we’ve changed and try to undermine our efforts at further change. They will attempt to make us feel guilty for these changes. They will try to entice us to get stoned with them or fuck off with them or waste time with them, as we’ve done in the past, and when we refuse, they will turn against us and talk us down behind our backs. At the same time, new people will appear in our lives. They will be people who are facing their own fears and who are conquering them. These people will become our new friends. 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.”
  • “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.”
  • “Each day, the professional understands, he will wake up facing the same demons, the same Resistance, the same self-sabotage, the same tendencies to shadow activities and amateurism that he has always faced. The difference is that now he will not yield to those temptations. He will have mastered them, and he will continue to master them.”
  • “Turning pro is a decision. But it’s such a monumental, life-overturning decision (and one that is usually made only in the face of overwhelming fear) that the moment is frequently accompanied by powerful drama and emotion. Often it’s something we’ve been avoiding for years, something we would never willingly face unless overwhelming events compelled us to.”

Habits of The Professional

  1. The professional is patient
  2. The professional seeks order
  3. The professional demystifies
  4. The professional acts in the face of fear
  5. The professional accepts no excuses
  6. The professional plays it as it lays
  7. The professional is prepared
  8. The professional does not show off
  9. The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique
  10. The professional does not hesitate to ask for help
  11. The professional does not take failure or success personally
  12. The professional does not identify with his or her instrument
  13. The professional endures adversity
  14. The professional self-validates
  15. The professional reinvents herself
  16. The professional is recognized by other professionals
  • “The amateur tweets. The pro works.”
  • “The professional knows when he has fallen short of his own standards. He will murder his darlings without hesitation, if that’s what it takes to stay true to the goddess and to his own expectations of excellence.”
  • “The amateur spends his time in the past and the future. The professional has taught himself to banish these distractions.”
  • “The professional does not wait for inspiration; he acts in anticipation of it.”
  • “The pro will share his wisdom with other professionals — or with amateurs who are committed to becoming professionals.”
  • “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. It turns into a practice.”
  • “A practice implies engagement in a ritual. A practice may be defined as the dedicated, daily exercise of commitment, will, and focused intention aimed, on one level, at the achievement of mastery in a field but, on a loftier level, intended to produce a communion with a power greater than ourselves — call it whatever you like: God, mind, soul, Self, the Muse, the superconscious.”

Characteristics of a Practice

  1. A practice has a space
  2. A practice has a time
  3. A practice has an intention
  4. We come to a practice as warriors
  5. We come to a practice in humility
  6. We come to a practice as students
  7. A practice is lifelong
  • “The best pages I’ve ever written are pages I can’t remember writing.”
  • Three key tenets for days when Resistance is really strong:
  1. Take what you can get and stay patient. The defense may crack late in the game.
  2. Play for tomorrow.
  3. We’re in this for the long haul.

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