What Is a Professional?

I recently started reading Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art” coincidentally around the same time I was learning more about Clausewitz and friction. Pressfield dedicates the first chapter of his book to “resistance.” Similar to the resistance detailed by Clausewitz, Pressfield describes “resistance” as the most toxic force on the planet and the force that makes all of us achieve less than we were born to be or achieve.

I intend on capturing many notes from “The War of Art” including Pressfield’s notes on Resistance but the subject that caught my eye the most today was his description of a professional. I personally have always felt that a professional is someone that doesn’t stop being whatever they are at the end of the day. Even when the professional finishes their work day, they still answer the phone when it rings with duty calling. Additionally, a professional’s job is never done because part of their job is continuously learning. Whether in response to their own personal desire to know more and do more in that profession, or because of the changing dynamics of that occupation, there is always something more to learn. However, Pressfield eloquently describes ten traits of a professional versus an amateur. In his words, here are the principles that professionals follow every day.

  1. We show up every day. We might do it only because we have to, to keep from getting fired. But we do it. We show up every day.
  2. We show up no matter what. In sickness and in health, come hell or high water, we stagger in to the factory. We might do it only so as not to let down our co-workers, or for other, less noble reasons. But we do it. We show up no matter what.
  3. We stay on the job all day. Our mind may wander, but our bodies remain at the wheel. We pick up the phone when it rings, we assist the customer when he seeks our help. We don’t go home till the whistle blows.
  4. We are committed over the long haul. Next year we may go to another job, another company, another country. But we’ll still be working. Until we hit the lottery, we are part of the labor force.
  5. The stakes for us are high and real. This is about survival, feeding our families, educating our children. It’s about eating.
  6. We accept remuneration for our labor. We’re not here for fun. We work for money.
  7. We do not overidentify with our jobs. We may take pride in our work, we may stay late and come in on weekends, but recognize that we are not our job descriptions. The amateur, on the other hand, overidentifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. He defines himself by it. He is a musician, a painter, a playwright. Resistance love this. Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and overterrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyzes him.
  8. We master the techniques of our jobs.
  9. We have a sense of humor about our jobs.
  10. We receive praise or blame in the real world.
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One Response to What Is a Professional?

  1. Pingback: “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield | My Pursuit of Thought

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