June 25, 2012

Are you an amateur or a pro?

A while back, a wonderful blog post from the The Behance Network, now owned by Adobe, turned me onto the author Steven Pressfield.  His book Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and just wouldn’t let go.  The first quote that caught my breath was this:

“Turning pro is free, but it demands sacrifice.  The passage is often accompanied by an interior odyssey whose trials are survived only at great cost, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.  We pass through a membrane when we turn pro.  It hurts.  It’s messy and it’s scary.  We tread in blood when we turn pro.”

Pressfield goes on to describe the “shadow life,” we lead that takes us away from our true calling, the one we nurture and grow and feed to avoid the hard work of “turning pro” and doing what we are truly called to do.  He writes:

“We pursue callings that take us nowhere and permit ourselves to be controlled by compulsions that we cannot understand (or are not aware of). … The shadow life is the life of the amateur.  In the shadow life we pursue false objects and act upon inverted ambitions.  The shadow life, the life of the amateur and the addict, is not benign.

He goes on to describe the life and qualities of the professional, including (among many others):

  1. The professional shows up every day.
  2. The professional is committed over the long haul.
  3. The professional acts in the face of fear.
  4. The professional self-validates.
  5. The professional is courageous.
  6. The professional has compassion for herself.

This book is rich in its descriptions of the life of the amateur and the professional, and it makes me think about reasons many of us went into health care, healing or helping professions.  In my own experience of my career and those of others, many helper/healers chose careers that would allow us to be helpful in the ways in which we were initially acculturated.  Some of us chose helping professions that were socially acceptable ways to pursue ambition and high income, and some of us chose these paths to meet others’ expectations.

As life takes its course, we sometimes find we must turn and face those first choices, and become brutally honest about the “shadow” reasons behind our career decisions.  We must ask if our current career trajectories are those of an amateur, or those of a professional.  We must discern whether in fact, we should remain in our current path and “turn pro”, or whether we must instead step out of “shadow careers” and do the hard work of “turning pro” in another arena.

Either choice requires courage, commitment and compassion for ourselves.

Your journey

Stay tuned for further thoughts, but for now, perhaps it is enough to ask ourselves, “Amateur or pro?  Am I ready to make the leap?”

And if you’ve made the leap already, what has your journey from amateur to pro led you to understand about yourself and your own choices?

Last updated April 6, 2018