Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield: Summary & Notes

Rating: 8/10

Available at: Amazon

Related: The War of Art, Drive, Anything You Want


An excellent, motivating short read about how to pursue your ambition and turn from an amateur to a professional.

I love short, punchy books like this; they are satisfying on first read but can be read over and over whenever needed.

Steven Pressfield is well known for The War of Art, and this accompanies that book perfectly.


  • “I was 31. I had saved up $2,700 and moved from New York City to a little town in northern California. I rented a house behind another house for $105 a month. I had my old Chevy van, my Smith-Corona typewriter, and my cat, Mo.
  • Every Monday morning I walked into the village to the Bank of America and took out $25. That sum lasted me for the next seven days.
  • I didn’t talk to anybody during my year of turning pro. I didn’t hang out. I just worked. I had a book in mind and I had decided I would finish it or kill myself. I could not run away again, or let people down again, or let myself down again. This was it, do or die.”


  • Ambition is primal, and our life’s purpose is to pursue that ambition.
  • If we’re scared of our true calling, we’ll often pursue a “shadow career”—something that resembles our true calling in some way, but isn’t actually it.
  • The shadow life is characterized by pursuing the wrong things, often in the form of addiction.
  • We are addicted to distraction. And overcoming Resistance requires two things: concentration and depth.
  • When we project a quality or virtue onto someone else, we almost always possess that quality ourselves, but are afraid to embrace it.

The amateur is characterized by many things:

  • They are easily distracted
  • They permit fear to stop them from acting
  • They seek instant gratification
  • They care too much about the opinions of others

When we turn Pro:

  • We structure our days to overcome our fears
  • We no longer indulge the distractions we used to
  • We make new friends who are also facing their fears, and lose those that refuse to do so

The professional:

  • Will not be distracted
  • Is ruthless with themself
  • Lives in the present
  • Defers gratification
  • Does not wait for inspiration
  • Shows up every day
  • Is committed over the long haul
  • Accepts no excuses
  • Is prepared
  • Does not hesitate to ask for help
  • Does not take failure or success personally
  • Endures adversity

As artists and entrepreneurs we receive two salaries:

  • Conventional: money, applause, attention
  • Psychological: when we do work for itself alone, our pursuit becomes something larger: a practice.

What is a practice? It has:

  • A space
  • A time
  • An intention

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