Turning Pro - Steven Pressfield

Turning Pro - Steven Pressfield

Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes 

Turning Pro

“The thesis of this book is that what ails you and me has nothing to do with being sick or being wrong. What ails us is that we are living our lives as amateurs."

"The solution, this book suggests, 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 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 with and to call our own..."

"Turning pro is not for everyone. We have to be a little crazy to do it, or even to want to. In many ways the passage chooses us; we don’t choose it. We simply have no alternative."

"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."


Steven tells us that the word amateur means to love something..  But he also says that it's false because if we really loved something we would become a pro.  Because if we really loved it we would go all in, we would commit and go full time!

This first quote also shows us that a lot of us are feeling unfulfilled because we haven't turned pro..  Simply we haven't turned that thing that we love into a full time obsession..  A calling! This is understandable..  Because as laid out in this book turning pro might be one of the hardest things you ever decide to do..

Shadow Callings

“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 tantalizing 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 your Ph.D. in Elizabethan studies because you’re afraid to write the tragedies and comedies that you know you have inside of you? Are you living the drugs-and-booze half of the musician’s life, without actually writing the music? Are you working in 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. This metaphor will point you toward your true calling.”

Fear of Turning Pro

Turning Pro is scary..  

  • What if we fail?
  • What will people think of us?

That's why as Steven points out here that our minds often allow us to choose a route that's not as scary..

  • Something that's not true to ourselves
  • But that will protect us from the potential risks of turning pro!

These Shadow Callings are everywhere..

  • Are you a teacher when you really want to be a painter?
  • Are you a coach when you really want to be a player?
  • Think about your life..  What are you doing now that's making you unhappy?

What is that a metaphor for?

What is this career protecting you from?

Feels Like Hell

“We usually think of breakthroughs as ecstatic moments that elevate us from a lower level to a higher. And they do. But there’s a paradox. In the moment, an epiphany feels like hell."

"Like Rosanne Cash’s dream, an epiphany trashes us. It exposes us and leaves us naked. We see ourselves plain, and it’s not a pretty picture."

"The essence of epiphanies is the stripping away of self-delusion. We thought we were X. Now suddenly we see we’re minus-X. We’re X divided by infinity."

"There is great power in this moment. We’ve lost something, yes. A cherished self-delusion must be abandoned, and this hurts."

"But what we have gained is the truth. Our bullshit falls away. The scales drop from our eyes. In that moment, we have two options: we can reconstitute our bullshit. Or we can turn pro."

When does change usually happen?

Change is difficult..  Turning Pro is difficult!

  • When we think of change we think of this great and amazing epiphany..  and we're often searching for it!
  • But as Steven says here..  Most change happens in little moments of hell!

The best times in my life have been the worst times..

  • Bad times force us to grow..
  • Bad times force us to make hard decisions..
  • Often we'll prolong bad times simply because the fear of turning pro and making decisions is hard!  

Where are you experiencing a little hell?

  • Are you feeling bored and uninspired at work?
  • Are you drinking and eating too much because you don't want to accept responsibility for something?
  • Take a look..  Then turn pro..  Make the decision that you're going to do what you were put here to do!  
  • No more wandering through hell!

Pro Habits

“This book is about habits."

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

"We can never free ourselves from 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.”

Most of our lives are run by our habits..

The amount of decisions you would have to make in a day without habits is astronomical..

  • Think simply about driving your car..  Imagine having to make all these decisions consciously every time!
  • Grab your keys
  • Unlock The Car
  • Sit in The Seat
  • Adjust The Mirrors
  • Put The Key in The Ignition
  • Start The Car
  • Put it In Drive

The difference between amateurs and professionals is their habits!

  • More specifically the Pro's know that their habits are what run their lives..
  • Look at your day today..  That's a microcosm of your life!  Where is it leading you?

Developing quality habits is easy after you've turned pro..  

  • I recommend you watch my video on James Clear's Atomic Habits!
  • That book makes replacing amateur habits with pro habits easy..

Day In The Life

“When we turn pro, everything becomes very 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."

"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 are amateurs, our life was about drama, about denial, 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.”

Daily Structure

Everyones days are more than likely very similar to the day before it..

  • Days are the linking of many different habits you have into a chain.. 
  • When we turn pro we simply dedicate ourselves to changing those chains for the better!

Instead of not knowing what we'll do in the morning and succumbing to distraction we know exactly what we're going to do..

  • Not only do we know what we're going to do but we know that we're going to take on the scariest thing first!
  • Not only are we going to attack the scariest thing first but we are going to fully and completely commit ourselves to changing our habits so the scary 'creation' type work is optimized..  

What do your days look like?

  • What time do you wake up?
  • Do you tackle the things that matter?
  • How are you setting yourself up to be a pro?


"What is a practice anyway?"

"To “have a practice” in yoga, say, or tai chi, or calligraphy, is to follow a rigorous, prescribed regimen with the intention of elevating the mind and the spirit to a higher level."

"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.”

Ritualizing your work..

Pro's tend to be very ritualized.. 

  • They realize that having a ritual around their work creates a perfect work for their practice..
  • Practice is the ritual that allows us to elevate our mind and spirit to the higher level through our work!

What does practice have?


• Where will you do your practice?

• What does that space look like?

• How is it setup to elevate your game?


• What time will you do your practice?

• How will your manage that time?


• What are your intended outcomes?

• Practice is life long.. 

Hero's Journey

“In the hero’s journey, the wanderer returns home after years of exile, struggle, and suffering. He brings a gift for the people. That gift arises from what the hero has seen, what he has endured, and what he has learned. But the gift is not that raw material alone. It is the ore refined into gold by the hero/wanderer/artist’s skilled and loving hands."

"You are that artist."

"I will gladly shell out $24.95 or $9.99 or 99 cents on iTunes to read or see or listen to the 24-karat treasure that you have refined from your pain and your vision and your imagination. I need it. We all do. We’re struggling here in the trenches. That beauty, that wisdom, those thrills and chills, even that mindless escape on a rainy October afternoon—I want it. Put me down for it."

"The hero wanders. The hero suffers. The hero returns. You are that hero.”

You Are That Hero!

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