“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.”
– Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro
Pressfield says our lives can be divided neatly into two sections: before we turn pro, and after. (We are either pros or amateurs in life.)
That caused me to reflect upon my own life, and the differences in the choices I’ve made before and after turning pro.
What’s the difference?
The difference is, when you know your life calling and you accept it, everything changes. For me, it was knowing that my life calling is to create films and novels, and deciding to act on that. (By the way, I love having such an audacious life calling, because it instantly tells people “I’m not playing life by your rules; I’m playing them by mine.” However, I didn’t choose this calling—it chose me.)
That knowledge changes almost every decision I make, every day.
It changes who I hang out with. I no longer associate with people who will hold me back from my goal.
It changes the type of books I read. I know that I don’t need to be a financial whiz, but that I do need to be the best storyteller I can be.
It changes how I spend my time each day. I’m more focused on creating my life’s work, and less focused on net worth or “chasing tail.
It changes my health. Since I’m focused on my work, I’m no longer wasting hours and hours trying to schmooze people. I go out to eat less, and I also have more time for exercise. Consequently, I’m in better shape.
It changes where I choose to live, what type of car I purchase. I am no longer trying to impress anyone. I don’t need to.
When we don’t know what our calling is, we often make choices because we are trying to compensate for having no direction in our lives. We know, if only on a subconscious level, that we have absolutely no idea what the hell we are doing with our lives. But we don’t want anybody to know that (least of all ourselves). So we waste years of our lives and thousands and thousands of dollars on useless stuff in an attempt to look like we have our shit together.
Thoreau had his shit together, and he lived by himself in a self-built house on the shores of a pond.
Being pro changes the types of films I watch, the web sites I read, the things I buy, the relationships I pursue. Most of all, it changes the thoughts that I think, every minute of every day.
And yes, I am still an amateur in many ways. I’m not perfect. I’m plagued with fear and self-doubt. I am tempted to do amateurish stuff every day. (And many times I do.) But the difference is that instead of caving in to those insecurities, instead of accepting the amateur way of life as normal and inevitable (“everybody’s doing it”), I’m confronting my fears head on, and changing for the better every day.
I’ve recently become friends with someone who is fighting cancer. Seeing their actions, their attitude and determination in the face of their own mortality has completely changed the way I look at my own life. Five years ago, I got in a car wreck and narrowly avoided death. At the time, I realized that something needed to give. I needed to change. My life was going to end some day, maybe soon. And up to that point, I hadn’t even really started following my dreams. But it wasn’t until almost five years later that I actually started to implement those changes.
But even after making the initial steps towards turing pro, I found myself slipping, falling back towards my amateur ways. Then I met this person, who knows how much of a gift each day of life truly is, and is chasing after their dreams. And that strengthens my resolve to chase after mine.
Sometimes an acute awareness of our own mortality is a greater gift than the false security of feeling like our day will never come.
Sometimes the people who live life to its fullest are those who are most aware of its brevity.
Our lives are too short to not turn pro. Don’t wait until a huge life calamity to start chasing after your dreams. Start making changes now, to not follow the crowd, and to do what you have always dreamed of. Become your dream self now.