Professionalism as a State of Mind

This is part four of a series on creativity. Links to the others are at the bottom of this post. I hope you find something you can learn here about being a pro and conquering Resistance.

Spartan Warriors
The Spartan warriors were professionals and they acted like it.

Getting too close to your work can get in the way of actually doing your work.

Have you ever given up on a project even though the end was in sight? Have you ever had a brilliant idea that you never tried to execute because the idea of failure was too intimidating? Maybe you’re still telling yourself that you’ll write that novel—”one day.”

Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to deal with all that negativity? The solution is simple: adopt the attitude of a professional.

Getting too close won’t be a problem ever again.

Professional Distance

When I talked about throwing your best ideas in the trash, I characterized the problem of getting too close as a light so bright it blinds you, and that’s often how it seems from a first-person perspective.

If you’re too close to a project, and you care too much about its success or failure, it can blind you, freeze you up, or make you give up entirely.

That’s why throwing your ideas away works, because treating your ideas as if they can be discarded keeps them at an appropriate professional distance.

Pressfield’s The War of Art

The War of Art book coverKeeping your work at a distance is one way to tell the professional from the amateur in any job, whether it’s writing, designing, coding, or running a business.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield explains how adopting the attitude of a professional is advantageous, and how it keeps you in the game:

“The professional, though he accepts money, does his work out of love. He has to love it. Otherwise he wouldn’t devote his life to it of his own free will.

The professional has learned, however, that too much love can be a bad thing. Too much love can make him choke. The seeming detachment of the professional, the cold-blooded character to his demeanor, is a compensating device to keep him from loving the game so much that he freezes in action.”

You can love your work and still act like a pro. Not only is acting like a professional a buffer between yourself and the ruination of failure, but it’s a buffer between you and your work that makes it easier to get things done, too.

Among other things, Pressfield writes that a professional also:

  • Shows up every day.
  • Shows up no matter what.
  • Is committed over the long haul.
  • Plays for stakes that are high and real.
  • Has a sense of humor about his job.
*    *    *

For a full explanation of Resistance, the force that keeps us from doing our work, and Pressfield’s professional solution, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The War of Art.

I get nothing from you clicking that link and buying the book. You, however, will have just acquired one of those rare and elusive gifts that keeps on giving.

Originally published March 27, 2012 on The Phuse.

Table of Contents

  1. Why You Should Throw Away The Best Idea You Ever Had
  2. Cross-Training Your Creativity
  3. The Hard Work Cure
  4. Professionalism as a State of Mind
  5. How to Be Successful: 5 Lessons from Sherlock Holmes


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