The amateur and professional labels are often used to describe an individual and his/her work. We usually attach the term amateur to someone who may be classified as a hobbyist in their given craft. Such as an individual who plays organized basketball at their local YMCA. While a pro would be someone who plays basketball for a living. And so, perhaps the difference between an amateur and a professional could be explained with a paycheque. Or maybe it is how one dresses compared to the other. Or, how much success one has had in their respective field. Maybe even the kind of people you spend time with can help explain who is an amateur and who is a professional.
However, all of these explanations are based on the external aspect of life, on extrinsic criteria. For Steven Pressfield, the difference between an amateur and a professional is internal. The difference lies in the habits. In his book, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work, Pressfield stresses the importance of becoming a pro, as he says:
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. So, the solution is to turn pro.
Turning pro comes with a sacrifice. In order to become a professional, we must sacrifice comfort, along with the self we identify with because these things are associated with being an amateur.
An amateur clings to comfort, fearing the uncomfortable, the unknown and so, he/she never grows. And in the realm of comfort, the amateur constantly seeks instant gratification, unable to put off pleasure for some future gain. Hence, becoming an obstacle to themselves, stunting their own growth.
Another sign of an amateur is procrastination. Someone who has millions of ideas which they will start tomorrow and as they procrastinate, they daydream, thinking of the past or some hopeful future, waiting, wasting their precision time and not using their present.
The pro, on the other hand, is straightforward in his/her aim and is willing to act towards it.
Pro plans his day to accomplish his aim. Amateur wastes his day in distractions and drama.
However, just because you act like a pro for one day does not mean that you are a pro. This is related to Pressfield’s concept of Resistance. In short, each day is a battle against our inner resistance, which tells you to act and embrace the amateur in you and each day we must recommit to being a pro.
What does it mean to be a pro?
The following are some key qualities as pro possess:
A pro shows up every day.
If committed for the long haul.
Gives his complete focus to his work.
Acts in the face of fear.
Accepts no excuses.
Doesn’t complain about circumstances.
Dedicates himself to mastering technique.
Is courageous in confronting one’s own doubts and demons.
Is not distracted (amateur tweets, pro works)
Holds himself to a higher standard.
Able to defer gratification.
Doesn’t wait for inspiration.
Gets a psychological reward through his work.
The pro works on habits of order, regularity, discipline and constant strive for excellence.
It is through a conscious effort that one becomes a pro. The good news is that anyone can achieve this status because we have control over our attitudes and behaviors through which we can mold our habits. The bad news is that it requires one to be uncomfortable and to sacrifice that easy path that is associated with amateurism.
The choice is clear but it resides in you and whether or not you are willing to go through with it, every day.