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206 of 214 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Useful Manual for How to Excel in Life
Let me offer an executive summary of "Turning Pro," before I give my detailed response. I consider "Turning Pro" to be a simple to read yet powerful self-help book. It contains a lot of practical wisdom that applies to almost every area of life. In particular, "Turning Pro" diagnoses the problem many of us have of being an amateur who settles for the lower things in life,...
Published on June 6, 2012 by Fr. Charles Erlandson

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154 of 166 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This book doesn't add anything -- buy War of Art
Pressfield's other book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles literally changed my life. I refer to it regularly when I'm struggling against 'Resistance'. Then came Do the Work, which is one of the weakest books I've read in any genre. Turning Pro falls in between those two. If you haven't read War of Art there might be some...
Published on June 20, 2012 by Evelyn


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206 of 214 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Useful Manual for How to Excel in Life, June 6, 2012
By 
Fr. Charles Erlandson (Tyler, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Turning Pro (Kindle Edition)
Let me offer an executive summary of "Turning Pro," before I give my detailed response. I consider "Turning Pro" to be a simple to read yet powerful self-help book. It contains a lot of practical wisdom that applies to almost every area of life. In particular, "Turning Pro" diagnoses the problem many of us have of being an amateur who settles for the lower things in life, out of fear and distraction. Pressfield then provides a remedy by defining what it means to Turn Pro and get serious about life and offers some wisdom on how to Turn Pro.

What made "Turning Pro" most useful for me was that it provided the motivation for an extended self-examination. When you understand what Pressfield means by "Turning Pro" you'll be compelled to examine the beliefs, attitudes, and habits of your life to see if they're leading you where you want to go and be.

Pressfield presents his wisdom in easy to read, small chunks. He whets your appetite for becoming a pro and clearly diagnoses the problem. However, even though the final section deals with how to become a pro, I left the book feeling as if there must be more. Maybe I'll need to go back and study the many brief points Pressfield makes: it may be all there, but somehow I felt like something is missing, so I'm giving the book 4 stars. Also, I feel like Pressfield beats a dead horse some times and begins repeating himself.

The book needs a Table of Contents, especially since there are so many small sections. It didn't work on my Kindle version of the book.

Now for the longer review.

For a few years now, I've profited from the works of Stephen Pressfield (as well as Seth Godin, with whom he has now partnered). But this book has a particular appeal to me. Ever since I've been in 2nd grade, I wanted to be a writer. For years, starting high school, I wrote poetry and novels, but never had success in getting my works published. I'm sure, after reading this book that one of the reasons I didn't find "success" as a writer was because I wasn't sufficiently professional in my approach but instead always remained an amateur.

Right off the bat, I appreciated the wisdom of "Turning Pro" because of what Pressfield presented as 3 Models of Transformation. His points that the therapeutic model of our problems (we're sick) and the moralistic model (we've sinned) are very similar to those made by Kent Dunnington in his excellent book "Virtue and Addiction" Dunnington's view is that the key to understanding addictions lies in the concept of habit: I highly recommend "Addiction and Virtue"!

Pressfield even devotes some time later to the ideas of both addiction and habits. In other words, there's a synergy of ideas that's taking place in our culture that's related to the idea of addiction and habits. At its heart, that's what "Turning Pro" is really about. Pressfield believes that the real problem is that we remain amateurs and never become professionals.

Becoming a pro, basically, is about growing up. It's about becoming a man or woman in a world filled with adult children. One of the most important quotes from the book is this: "The difference between an amateur and a professional is their habits." Re-read and memorize this quote, and put Pressfield's wisdom into effect, and you'll see a changed life. Throughout much of my life, I haven't appreciated the power of habits as much as I should have. This is true for me as a Christian, father, and teacher. But the older I get, the more I realize how much of our lives are shaped by our habits.

To be an amateur is to walk or run away from your true calling. This is the life of the addict or amateur: a life being distracted from your true calling. Once again, the application to my life, not just as a writer but also as father, teacher, and priest, is astounding! How much of the good life is about not being distracted from what's really important.

Here is a second powerful quote from the book which I recommend reading and re-reading: "The amateur is an egotist. He takes the material of his personal pain and uses it to draw attention to himself. He creates a "life," a "character," a "personality." The artist and the professional, on the other hand, have turned a corner in their minds. They have succeeded in stepping back from themselves." This sounds a lot like Christian love, but regardless of your religious or philosophical stance, it's true.

Why do we choose distraction and addiction? Because it's easier in the short-term, and so much of what's wrong with our culture today is explained by what I call the bad trade of "short term gain for long term pain." Addicts and amateurs know that they're called to something great, but then they back away from the hard work and pain necessary to fulfill their calling. (Once again, spiritual analogies to this idea abound.) Addictions are the shadow form of our true calling and a metaphor for our best selves.

Pressfield catalogues our addictions and discusses: addictions to failure, sex, distraction (the cures for this are concentration and depth), money, and trouble (the payoff for prison is incapacity and safety). He philosophizes more on the meaning of addiction, saying that "The addict seeks to escape the pain of being human in one of two ways--by transcending it or by anesthetizing it." I believe there's truth in this but also that Pressfield could go deeper on many such points.

By the end of Book Two, I got the feeling that Pressfield was more or less repeating himself.

In Book Two, Pressfield states that "Fear is the primary color of the amateur's interior world. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of looking foolish, fear of under-achieving and fear of over-achieving." The professional is also fearful, but the difference between the two is how they handle this fear, something the book deals with in Book Three.

There are parts of the book throughout where Pressfield belabors his point, but here's another useful observation he's made: "The amateur allows his worth and identity to be defined by others. The amateur craves third-party validation. The amateur is tyrannized by his imagined conception of what is expected of him. He is imprisoned by what he believes he ought to think, how he ought to look, what he ought to do, and who he ought to be."

He also says that the Pro "takes himself and the consequences of his actions so seriously that he paralyzes himself. The amateur fears, above all else, becoming (and being seen and judged as) himself." I went through a long period of being an "amateur," especially as a writer and teacher. But it wasn't because I was afraid of becoming myself: I just wasn't dedicated enough and didn't have enough good mentors.

I would agree, however, with his comment that "the amateur seeks instant gratification. In fact, I think this is one of the keys to understanding the amateur. Along with seeking instant gratification, the amateur and the addict "focus exclusively on the product and the payoff. Their concern is what's in it for them, and how soon and how cheaply they can get it." I see some of this in myself, and so in many ways "Turning Pro" has helped me conduct a useful self-examination.

The next important quote sent chills down my spine because I know it's true for me: "Because the amateur owns nothing of spirit in the present, she either looks forward to a hopeful future or backward to an idyllic past." I have a tendency to keep looking to the future, and I'm quite nostalgic for the times in my life when things looked so much better.

Another part I don't agree with is the idea that the Tribe doesn't care and that it's all up to us. One of the problems with a lot of us today is that we're too individualistic and don't realize our need for true community. In fact: I think a lot of postmodernism is being homeless and with no true community.

How does Turning Pro change your life? You face your fears, your activities, and your habits. You structure your days to achieve an aim. And it changes how you spend our time and with whom you spend it.

Pressfield closes Book Two by saying that Turning Pro involves a painful epiphany.

In Book Three, Pressfield finally gets to the payoff: how to Turn Pro. He lists 20 characteristics of a pro:
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
5. The professional is patient
6. The professional seeks order
7. The professional demystifies
8. The professional acts in the face of fear
9. The professional accepts no excuses
10. The professional plays it as it lays
11. The professional is prepared
12. The professional does not show off
13. The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique
14. The professional does not hesitate to ask for help
15. The professional does not take failure or success personally
16. The professional does not identify with his or her instrument
17. The professional endures adversity
18. The professional self-validates
19. The professional reinvents herself
20. The professional is recognized by other professionals

Here are a few bonus characteristics:
A pro is courageous; a pro doesn't get distracted; the pro is ruthless and yet compassionate with himself; lives in the present; delays instant gratification; does not wait for inspiration; and helps others.

Listen to this next part carefully: it's one of the secrets of life. "The physical leads to the spiritual. The humble produces the sublime. It seems counterintuitive, but it's true: in order to achieve "flow," magic, "the zone," we start by being common and ordinary and workmanlike." I've found this to be true in life, over and over again.

Finally, Pressfield gets to some of the "how to" that I was waiting for. The professional mindset is a practice. To "have a practice" in yoga, say, or tai chi, or calligraphy, is to follow a rigorous, prescribed regimen with the intention. This section reminds me of another favorite book of mine: "Talent is Overrated." Our habits, our practices, are what will make us pros.

What follows is a mixed bag of attitudes the Pro needs to have. Some were more useful than others. Out of all of these, the most useful was this: "I have a code of professionalism. I have virtues that I seek to strengthen and vices that I labor to eradicate."

Pressfield concludes by appealing to the Kabbalah, Platonic philosophy, and the worldview of the Masai to suggest that in life there is an upper and lower realm (guess which we're supposed to inhabit.

By the end of the book I was very clear on what Pressfield was saying about Turning Pro. But I was left wanting more practical insight into how to do it.
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154 of 166 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This book doesn't add anything -- buy War of Art, June 20, 2012
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This review is from: Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work (Paperback)
Pressfield's other book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles literally changed my life. I refer to it regularly when I'm struggling against 'Resistance'. Then came Do the Work, which is one of the weakest books I've read in any genre. Turning Pro falls in between those two. If you haven't read War of Art there might be some inspiration in here, but Turning Pro lacks clarity of message and seems to be a cheap attempt to capitalize on the loyal following for War of Art. I bought this book because of the apparently-new concepts of shadow careers and displacement activities. However, they are only described in passing and I can give you a more explicit and helpful description here: we pursue a shadow career when we sit on the sidelines of our passion (e.g. professor of creative writing instead of a novelist). Displacement activities are things which replace and displace doing our Work (e.g. blogging or reading a good book on writing instead of *actually* writing your novel; writing a review on Amazon...... etc.). If you don't own War of Art, absolutely buy that book. If you own War of Art, read it again, or better yet, sit down and do your Work.
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104 of 116 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointing displacement reading for the amateur, June 8, 2012
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This review is from: Turning Pro (Kindle Edition)
If you enjoyed "The War of Art" but thought that "Do the Work" was utter crap you'll end up wondering if your fourteen bucks couldn't have been better spent elsewhere when you are finished with this book. Being published ten years after "The War of Art" and having been written during three years you'd expect it to contain more meat than it does.

The chapters of this book are as short as Seth Godin's sentences. Here's an example: "The amateur tweets. The pro works." (Yes, that's the whole chapter.)

One of the book's longest chapters consists of an excerpt from Rosanne Cash's memoir -- detailing her "turning pro" moment. The chapter following that is an excerpt from The War of Art where Pressfield retells his own life-changing moment. The book's third "turning pro" moment is made up of a one-page description of an alcoholic finally deciding that she's had enough of her drinking.

If those descriptions of going pro aren't enough for you, there are plenty of other clues as to what happens when one turns pro:

"What happens when we turn pro is, we finally listen to that still, small voice inside our heads. At last we find the courage to identify the secret dream or love or bliss that we have known all along as our passion, our calling, our destiny."

The author describes turning pro as life-changing decision. It is similar to 9/11 in the sense that you never forget where you were when it happened. Pressfield's life can be divided into two parts: before and after he turned pro. This makes it very confusing when he, perhaps as an attempt to show how similar he is to the novice creator, writes that "The amateur is you and me" and "But mostly what we all fear as amateurs...".

The latter part of the book contains a description of the qualities of the professional. You've already read parts of that list in The War of Art: Show up every day, work all day and be committed over the long haul. Be patient, seek order, demystify, act in the face of fear, don't make excuses. Be prepared, don't show off, master technique and ask for help when you need it. Don't take failure nor success personally, don't identify yourself with your instrument, endure adversity, be self-validated and re-invent yourself.

Also: display courage, don't be distracted and be ruthless with yourself: "The professional knows when he has fallen short of his own standards." (Considering that "Do the work" was published, you have to wonder why the author doesn't heed his own advice.)

I enjoyed the short "side stories" were Pressfield described his experiences of being a trucker, living in a halfway house, and picking apples in his late twenties. I found myself wanting to read more about Jack, the cool mechanic who looked like Steve McQueen. What was his story?

The book is by no means terrible, but it isn't as good as it could (or should) be. The decision that the author refers to as "turning pro" seems to resemble what Robert Fritz calls a "Fundamental Choice" in his books "The path of least resistance" and "Creating". While those books are far from perfect, they contain something that resembles a guideline for as *how* one goes about to make a life-guiding decision, which you unfortunately won't find in "Turning Pro".
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new definition of "professional", June 3, 2012
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This review is from: Turning Pro (Kindle Edition)
The subject matter, finding AND doing your life's work, is a deceptively difficult topic. Self-doubt, fear of failure, fear of success, and ego can keep us from ever pursuing it.

Many of us end up with a shadow career: a degree removed from our true calling. It could be someone who teaches writing at a university instead of writing the novels that they have dreamed about.

"A shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us."

Pressfield gives examples of his failure and success in his life and others. While you won't be surprised that the amateur phase of his life is full of unrealized potential and disappointment, the professional (from his 30s to present) phase has failure as well, but only by an external definition.

The professional failures are only considered failures as measured by others. Books and scripts that never got published. But these were the years that he honed his craft and became the writer he is today.

As he exhibits throughout the book, turning pro is about doing the work you were meant to do with an internal frame of reference and enjoyment. Credit from others may never come.

Not sure if I agree with his stance on casual sex: "My own theory is that the obsessive pursuit of sex is an attempt to obliterate the ego, i.e., 'normal' consciousness, the monkey-mind that tortures us with restlessness, fear, anger, and self-centeredness."

Need to think about that some more.

Regardless, the book does its job in questioning the reader if they are truly a pro and not just a shadow of one. It compliments The War of Art. Make sure to read both.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Did i miss something?, July 3, 2012
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This review is from: Turning Pro (Kindle Edition)
I felt no connection with the author, mostly because his own story was told vaguely -- as if I should already know who he is and what his life is about. I haven't read anything else by him, and I definitely won't after reading this one.

The ideas are stale, shallow, and grossly underdeveloped. I mean, a one-sentence chapter? Many of the chapters were so short, it felt like he was just too lazy to explore anything fully. As I would start to get interested in an idea, he would abruptly end the conversation with me. Why?

I love abstract and contemporary art. But I kept having the feeling while reading/looking at this book that a) I was missing something, 2) I just didn't "get it," or 3) it was junky modern psychobabble that anyone could have written in about a week.

I'm still not sure which of those is correct, but I do know that I learned nothing and want that hour back of my life that it took me to read this "book."

I'm glad other people liked it. I did not.
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wasted time and money, August 4, 2012
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This review is from: Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work (Paperback)
Let me start off by stating that I consider Steven Pressfield to be one of, if not the most entertaining authors at this time. His diligent research, graphic descriptions and stunning character development is comparable to none, especially in his historical fictions, best of which are found in "Gates of Fire" and "The Virtues of War".

Given how much I think of Pressfield as an author of historical fiction, I was surprised to find how miserable this particular work was. I'm trying to think of how best to describe this book, and how it reads like a "C-" job done by a junior high student told to write about tips that lead to success. There are points in which he goes into tangents. I'm not against cursing by any means, but there's a chapter (chapters are a page long, by the way) where he simply turns Tourette and starts cursing, dropping the f-bomb, s#*t, and others. I'm a prior US Army Infantry Officer, so it didn't offend me, but it came out of nowhere, and was gone as quickly as it came, leaving me surprised and a bit amused. You know...come to think of it, that was probably the best part of the book, as it was the only portion which not only held my attention, but is also the only part that I can remember, most likely simply from the shock value.

Steven Pressfield is a man who has had his share of failures, which he openly admits, and I'm afraid to say that this ranks high among them. Thankfully, much of this book is about his missteps, and despite them, continuing on with his passion anyway (which seem to be awful self-help books). The overall point is that even if people don't like what you produce, go ahead and do them anyway because it makes you happy. I hope that despite this terrible piece of work, he was truly happy writing it, because I was thoroughly disappointed in reading and having bought it. However, I remain a committed reader of Pressfield's work, and eagerly await his next historical fiction work.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not his best work, June 23, 2012
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This review is from: Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work (Paperback)
IF you loved the "War of Art" it's probably why your looking at getting this book. Its not even close, there are brief nuggets of greatness followed by pages and pages of nothingness.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Few Great Truths Given Short Shrift, July 18, 2012
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This review is from: Turning Pro (Kindle Edition)
Turning Pro is not quite a sequel to The War of Art. It's more like a book of days, with pithy chapters you could almost read at random for motivation. But I always wanted to know more -- about Pressfield's truck-driving youth, about the novel he took a year off to write then trashed, about the many ideas he flung on the page like darts. Sometimes they hit the bullseye, sometimes they fell short.

Pressfield's thesis -- the amateur and the addict are the same. Whatever keeps you from your calling is an addiction, including work and loved ones. "The professional displays courage, not only in the roles she embraces (which invariably scare the hell out of her) or the sacrifices she makes (of time, love, family)..." He holds up a standard that few, in reality, can meet.

Does that mean we'll never achieve our dreams? Turning pro is a worldview, so if you read beyond his fundamentalism, you find signposts to a more spiritual path:

"Our job, as souls on this mortal journey, is to shift the seat of our identity from the lower realm to the upper, from the ego to the Self. Art (or, more exactly, the struggle to produce art) teaches us that."

I've taken a few forks in the road of life. There are certain sacrifices I'm unwilling to make. Does this make me less of an artist? No, because each day I struggle to produce art and the struggle itself lifts me. I recommend this book if you're a fan and read everything Pressfield writes. If you're not, start with The War of Art and his sublime novel, Gates of Fire.

An addendum about pricing: This is the second book under 150 pages I've read that was priced like it contained 200-300 pages (the other had just 50 pages). I understand e-publishing is in flux and wouldn't care if 50-150 pages thoroughly covered the subject, but in these two cases, I felt slightly cheated.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pointless, August 8, 2012
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This review is from: Turning Pro (Kindle Edition)
Based on reviews and recommendations, I was expecting this to be an interesting read discussing the application of a professional approach to life. Instead, this is nothing but page after page of pointless blather (most pages are also half blank, FYI, so it's actually even shorter than listed, content-wise), with the author simply repeating over and over how great and life-changing it was for him to `turn pro'. It eventually starts to seem as though he is simply trying to brainwash the reader with his tedious slogan, rather than write anything with actual meaning or substance.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple to read, hard to do, July 18, 2013
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This review is from: Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work (Paperback)
"Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work" by Steven Pressfield is like a sequel to "The War of Art." Maybe not a sequel, but a follow up? I enjoyed it, but not quite as much as I enjoyed "The War of Art."

The book can be a quick read if you want to zip through it. It's 132 pages long, and many of those pages are not full of text. However, if you zipped through quickly, you would be doing yourself a disservice. The things Pressfield writes about deserve to be thought about, pondered, and implemented, not just breezed through.

The book's theme is turning from an amateur to a professional, and that will mean different things for different people. I'll admit, there were passages in this book that I really connected with, and others that made me go, "huh?" Some things just didn't click with me.

I liked that the book has passages on why you should turn pro as well as passages on how to turn pro. The book contains things that will motivate you, and others that will make you look at yourself a bit differently. It's a simple read, but the things the book discusses are hard to do. But reading this will get you started.

Reviewed by Alain Burrese, J.D., author of Lost Conscience: A Ben Baker Sniper Novel and others.
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Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work
Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work by Steven Pressfield (Paperback - May 31, 2012)
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