I am an Amateur

Over at the Desk.pm we are engaging in a Digital Book Club. We are reading Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield1 with the goal of learning “something together, collaboratively and with a bit of accountability.

Three Models of Self-Transformation

Steven highlights two typical models of self transformation:

  1. Therapeutic, and
  2. Moralistic.

Untold volumes have been written about these models. Both have tremendous ability for enabling growth and healing. They are, however, a double-edged sword, as they both have the power for awesome destruction.

He then proposes a third model: the amateur and the professional.

“what ails you and me has nothing to do with being sick or being wrong. What ails us is that we are living our lives as amateurs.

What is an amateur?

An amateur is characterized as that of an ambitious person who is held back by fear. Rather than pursue his true calling, he pursues a “shadow career.” The shadow career provides the illusion of accomplishment, of living.

“I wasn’t facing my demons. I was spectating at life through the movie screen of a cab-over windshield, while every mile I traveled only carried me farther away from where I needed to go and from who I needed to become.


An amateur husband. An amateur thinker. An amateur writer. An amateur photographer. An amateur astronomer. An amateur programmer. An amateur pilot. An amateur musician.

For some, if not most, of these things, being an amateur is perfectly acceptable. Hobbies are necessarily part-time endeavors. Regularly put aside for the requirements of life and left largely unpolished.

But I think the deeper meaning of being an amateur is to be irresponsible. We owe ourselves, and those near to us, the best we have to offer. When we accept less from ourselves, or allow ourselves to be diverted into the shadows, we are acting as an amateur.

I appreciate the notion of Steven’s third model for self-transformation. It takes the responsibility for our lives away from therapists and religions, and puts it on ourselves where it belongs. We are no longer looking to others to solve our problems, rather we embrace our problems and take on the responsibility for solving them.

  1. Pressfield, Steven (2012-05-30). Turning Pro. Black Irish Books.