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The Power of Turning Pro

Graduating with a professional degree does not automatically convey professionalism to the recipient of the degree.  A graduate degree is only part of the journey to becoming a professional.  In fact most people with graduate degrees never reach the level of being a professional.  Becoming a “pro” is a life changing transformation which is costly, and most of us cannot bear the cost.

A professional degree does not make a person a professional any more than a self-defense class makes the student a champion cage fighter.  In both cases the training is the first step in a lifetime journey that requires self-sacrifice, focus, hard training, and relentlessness.  In fact various occupations are filled with acolytes trying to find an easy way to turn pro.  They take class after class, seminar after seminar, certification after certification hoping to find the easy way to becoming a professional.  They latch onto a hero and cling to their every word.   Ironically the ability to turn pro requires nothing external.  It is an internal decision to become more: more committed to your life’s work, more consumed with learning, and more dedicated to create.  When you decide to turn pro you begin to do the hard things in life, to live life without excuse or alibi.  You understand your life’s mission and your decisions and schedule will change to reflect this.

After you have decided to turn pro you will no longer view the world the same.  You no longer will use technology as an opiate; compulsively texting, tweeting, checking Facebook, or playing games.   You will use technology to leverage your work and influence.  You relentlessly pursue you work whether you feel like it or not.   You will have clarity in your life’s mission.  One definition of a professional is someone who does their work well, even when they do not feel like it.

Does becoming a pro mean that life is all work and no play?  No, turning pro makes the rewards of life all the sweeter.  Think of how good a cold beverage tastes after working hard in the hot sun, or how good your bed feels after an exhausting day of work.  Hard work makes the rewards of life sweeter.  Contrary to what modern culture and the media tries to tell you, life is about work, not about play. 

Becoming Relentless

Becoming a pro means that what you do is no longer a job it becomes your calling.  You become a harrier, relentlessly pursuing your prey.  You do not go the office and act like a professional and then leave the office and become a different person.  You are always the professional. You will become relentless in your pursuits.  As a doctor you will engage in daily practice-based learning. You will relentlessly seek to expand your skills and knowledge. 

When you turn pro, your life changes.   You become focused on your life’s work.  You are no longer Dr. Bob or Dr. Brittany performing spinal screenings at the mall.  You stop using oversimplified models of patient care.  You no longer cling on every word of your guru or hero. You are an impassioned and you relentlessly pursue your work.  Your passion and determination will attract patients to you.  It will also intimidate your peers. 

Characteristics of a Pro

May appear arrogant and aloof but is secretly humbled by the weight of their work

Does not rely on moments of inspiration to create

Is relentless

Makes good use of solitude

Does the work

Does not waste time

Does not let criticism stop them from advancing

Is courageous

Lives life with no alibis (They attempt big things and if they fail, they fail in public with no excuses.)

Hates to lose, but is not paralyzed by the fear of losing

Works hard but enjoys times of recreation to the fullest


Characteristics of a Dilettante

(A dilettante is a person with an interest in a field who pretends to have extensive knowledge in that field when they actually just have perfunctory understanding.)

May appear humble but is secretly arrogant and self-centered

Gives up easily

Wastes time

Feels entitled

Expect immediate results from their work

Cannot be alone

Lives in the glory days

Idle worship, dilettantes like to follow a star and hang on their every word rather than being a critical original thinker  

Over simplifies their approach to work

Gossips and plays office politics

Avoids change

Repeats the same mistakes

Critical of others’ success

Easily distracted

Paralyzed by the fear of failing in public


Turning Pro


The great names in history are almost all those who set themselves apart from the herd and turned pro.  Theodore Roosevelt’s work The Man in the Arena epitomized his own quest for impacting the world, and I highly recommend reading it.  Martin Luther King, Jr. also had much to say about turning pro, and it was a common theme in his quotes.  Here are some examples:


“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”


“Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.”


No one will turn pro without making a conscious decision to change and to become relentless in the pursuit of professionalism.  The transition may be painful, but the fulfillment is worth the price.





Pressfield, Steven. Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work. New York:  Black Irish Entertainment LLC, 2012.

Roosevelt, Theodore. “Citizenship in a Republic.”  The Sorbonne. Paris, France. 23 April 1910.