How to Become a Pro

“Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.” ~ Julius Erving

What do you think is necessary to succeed in your field? What do you think is a key ingredient for success?

An important thing, I believe, is being a professional.

What does it mean to be a professional? The quote above explains it:

  1. You do something you love to do.
    It’s simply too difficult to get good at something you hate.
  2. You keep doing it no matter what.
    This is the key. This is what separates professionals from amateurs. Amateurs stop when they don’t feel like doing their work, while professionals will keep doing it.

The fact is: there will be days when you don’t feel like doing what you’re supposed to do. On such days, you want to do anything else but work.

But the thing about the professionals is that they have strong self-discipline. Garry Kasparov, for instance, followed a strict schedule for his chess training. He takes pride in it because it made him feel like he was improving while his competitors were sleeping. Stephen King, another example, said he always writes at least 2,000 words a day.

A good book on this topic is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. In the book, the force that keeps you from doing what you’re supposed to do is called Resistance. Resistance is the enemy that you must overcome.

How can you do that?

Here is a good tip from the book on how to overcome Resistance: learn how to be miserable. Learn to endure the misery of doing what you’re supposed to do when you don’t feel like it. The author learned this lesson when he was in the Marine Corps, and he found it invaluable. He learned to keep moving forward regardless of how he felt.

If you want to be successful, this is an important lesson to remember. The principle is this: the more you can endure misery in the now, the more you will gain reward in the future.

Any thoughts? Comments here.

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15 Comments

  1. I tend to agree with you, sticking to something regardless of our emotions is a key for high achievement. I think we can train ourselves not only to endure misery, but to make said misery less powerful. Fighting our emotions often just makes the resistence worse, but acknowledging them and acting anyway – that’s where I think the path to greatness lies.

    • “I think we can train ourselves not only to endure misery, but to make said misery less powerful.”
      Interesting idea, AJ. I think being disciplined makes the misery less and less powerful. For instance, it was hard for me to exercise. But because I kept doing it, it has become almost natural now.

  2. I totally agree…seeing that I haven’t reached there yet, I will definitely continue to work towards it.

  3. It’s only worth quitting at things that you’re hearts not in so that you can focus on what you really care about.

  4. jst hits ma heart whatever ya say…!

  5. So true! I also see professionalism as having a lot will power to do what you need to on those days you don’t necessarily want to.

  6. Hi Donald,
    The matter of your articles are so very good that I never skip them and look forward eagerly for he next article. I wish to share something here which is not exactly related to this article of yours.
    Currently I am searching for job & am away from my hometown. I have got an face to face interview call for second round, the first round being already cleared online, from one of the top companies located in my hometown. But I plan to turn it down as I am quite happy and very satisfied at the place where I am and I wish to search job here. In everyone’s eyes perhaps this would be a big mistake but my heart just does not agree to it and wants me to settle here only, knowing that nothing is constant. Sometimes we are so very impractical.

    • Hi Ani,
      Thanks for the kind words!
      Yes, I think you should follow your heart. As long as you follow your heart and keep doing your best, I’m sure opportunities will come your way.

  7. Hi Donald
    the more you can endure misery in the now, the more you will gain reward in the future. Love this statement.

    There is reward when one keeps on doing it without giving up. It reminds me of the 10000 hour rule.

    Love this article and thanks for sharing

  8. The quote by Julius Erving was especially well chosen it really encapsulated the idea of the post I loved it. It is true that on some days you just don’t feel like hitting the deck, even when it’s something you usually love doing! So I can easily see how the difference between Amateurs and Pros would be the self-discipline to just keep plowing forward despite the resistance.. clear and concise.

    I’ll make sure to remember that, great read!

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