July 22, 2012


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Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

turning pro by steven pressfield

Turning Pro, by Steven Pressfield, is the follow up to his manifesto, The War of Art. I reviewed The War of Art a couple of weeks ago. I can’t recommend it strongly enough. It struck a chord with me. I’ve read other books on creativity, but this one felt like the perfect merge of the nature of the human condition and the process of being a working creative.

It also takes a very uncompromising view of the level of commitment it takes to pursue a vision.

Turning Pro is about the next step. What it looks like. What it means. What it will cost you. Where it will take you. Here are some excerpts:

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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.

Ambition gets a bad rap sometimes. When I hear that word, I usually think of someone who is looking to obtain power—at all costs. But the ambition Steven is talking about is that inner voice. The one that speaks to you to change a part of your life, or to express a part of yourself that isn’t expressed.

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Sometimes we can be professionals in our shadow careers but amateurs in our true calling.

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

The idea of Shadow Careers is something that’s been rattling around in my head for several years now. Just never had it put into focus until I read it in The War of Art. I’m not sure it’s as cut and dry as Steven makes it. I love design. I am a designer. I am a pro. But, a growing thought in my mind for years now is that this really isn’t my true calling. It can be rewarding. It involves creative collaboration. It involves business. All are good things. But in the end, on my tombstone, do I really want it to say “He made great websites”?

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What is the pain of being human? It’s the condition of being suspended between two worlds and being unable to fully enter into either.

As mortal flesh, you and I cannot ascend to the upper realm. That sphere belongs to the gods. . . Our lot, instead, is to dwell here in the lower realm, the sphere of the temporal and the material—the time-bound dimension of instincts and animal passions, of hate and desire, aspiration and fear.

You and I are called to the upper realm(and it is calling to us), but we’re having a pretty good time (sometimes) down here in the sphere of the senses. Bottom line: we’re marooned in the middle, stuck inside the Mobile and the Memphis blues again.

Suspended between the aspirations of the soul and the limitations of the flesh. That is what it means to be a human being. The sooner you acknowledge that this is your nature, the better off you will be. The more you will be able to identify which decisions you make take you in which direction or meets which need. I think a lot of people are in denial about one or the other. And that causes them even more pain.

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1. The professional shows up every day
2. The professional stays on the job all day
3. The professional is committed over the long haul
4. For the professional, the stakes are high and real

20. The professional is recognized by other professionals

These are just five points of a twenty point list. It will be up on my wall shortly. We need reminders. We need rituals. They keep us on task. I singled out #20 because I believe that the closer you get to becoming a pro the more other pros will help you. They have the knowledge. They’ve walked those steps. They know what it takes. And a real pro wants you to succeed as much as they did.

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There is so much more to the book than these few excerpts. And like The War of Art, it forces you to be honest with yourself. Are you a Pro? Are you committing to your highest endeavor or are you settling for a lesser choice? For me, this blog is an attempt to reach that higher endeavor. It’s one piece of a puzzle that I am assembling as I go. I’m sure when I look back in retrospect, it will all seem so clear. But right now, I’m slugging away in the trenches. That’s where books like Turning Pro help.

Hopefully, it will help you too.

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