“An amateur does something as an avocation, but a professional does it as a vocation. An amateur is like a weekend warrior that just shows up when they feel like doing it. But a pro shows up every day.” -Steven Pressfield
There aren’t many professionals out there.
There are lots of amateurs, though. Lots of would-be’s and wanna-be’s. They might say they’re a professional, but they’re not.
The following 10 characteristics are from Steven Pressfield’s excellent book, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. It’s a must-read for anyone who has decided to leave the mediocre majority and make their own path.
You can’t fake professional. You can’t pretend it. It’s not for sale. You either decide to become a professional, or continue being an amateur.
Here are the 10 qualities of a true professional.
1. We Show Up Every Day
We’re not weekend warriors.
We do it every day. When we’re relaxing, taking time off, traveling, watching football — we’re still thinking about it. It’s in the back of our minds, always.
True professionals show up every day.
Someone once asked famed author Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule, or waited for inspiration to strike.
“I write only when inspiration strikes,” he answered. “Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
That’s a pro.
2. We Show Up No Matter What
Rain or shine, summer or winter.
Sick or healthy.
Rich or poor.
Inspired or panicked.
We show up no matter what.
3. We Stay On the Job All Day
We don’t cut out to watch fail videos.
We don’t ditch our project for midday drinks with other people who’ve thrown in the towel.
We don’t even finish at 5PM when everyone says they’re done.
We stay until we’re finished.
4. We Are Committed to the Long Haul
It’s probably going to take several more years.
Your dream won’t happen tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the one after that.
We have to write 41 articles before anything goes viral. We have to go to the gym 41 times before we see any weight loss. We need 41 ask’s before we get our first client.
That’s OK. Because we’re in for the long haul. It doesn’t matter how long it will take.
5. The Stakes For Us Are High and Real
If I don’t produce, my family doesn’t eat.
If I decide to sleep in and embrace laziness, I’ll have to go back to my desk job where I hated life and couldn’t live my dream.
We don’t have safety nets. We’re bought in, and the stakes are real. Really real.
6. We Accept Money For Our Service
This ain’t for charity. We don’t play for fun.
This is how we feed our families and keep the lights on.
7. We Do Not Overidentify With Our Jobs
I am a writer.
I am a coach.
I am an author.
I am a speaker.
But I am a professional.
Amateurs overidentify with their titles. The wear them as a badge of pride and brag about it to anyone at the bar who will listen.
But that badge of pride is really covering up a gaping hole of fear and insecurity. Without their title, who are they? No one.
Not you. You’re a professional. It’s not a big deal. You don’t need to talk about it. It’s just reality.
8. We Master the Techniques of Our Job
We crave brutal feedback and constructive criticism. This information is vital — it tells us how to get better.
We don’t shy away from hearing we messed up. We don’t avoid people who will honestly tell us where we need more work.
Being a professional means always getting better. Remember Alec Baldwin in Gelngarry Glen Ross?
“Always. Be. Closing.”
For us, it’s “Always. Be. Improving.”
We don’t play around or dabble. We master our performance.
9. We Have a Sense of Humor About Our Jobs
It’s real. It’s gritty. It’s also funny, and we can talk about it because we’re secure and know we’re the real deal.
We hate it, but we love it. We’ve earned the right to joke, to tease, to point and laugh.
We’re beyond serious. We’ve surpassed “committed.” This is our life. And we can laugh at it because we’re authentic about what we do.
10. We Receive Praise or Blame in the Real World
Our actions have enormous consequences.
If we kill it, we get praise.
If we suck, we’re the ones responsible. No one else.
It’s real for us.
Professionals are rare. They’re hard to find in the sea of amateurs and fakers.
To all the other professionals out there — keep fighting the good fight.
Thanks for reading.