the professional conundrum

Posted on 12:59 PM by dave


"When am I a professional?"  


That thought echoed in my mind like a deafening sonic boom emanating from a deep desire within my soul.  It stalked me like a shadow.  It chased me like the wind.


But I had no answer.


At this point, I had been practicing my craft for 10 years growing in proficiency and dexterity.  My creativity was abounding and my aptitude in syncopation was actually sought after by young apprentices.  


I was no longer "just a drummer", I was a percussionist and musician with several students and paid gigs... but I still had no idea whether or not I was a professional.


I often inquired of myself and others: Is there a point at which you turn professional?  How do you know when that is?  Who decides?  What criteria delineates the professional from the amateur?


It would take another 15 years for me to take ownership of the answer I discovered through serendipitous happenstance: the day I became a professional was the day I decided I was a professional.


Don't let the simplicity of that statement beguile you-- it's simple, not easy.


This is not a "one size fits all" fix to the dilemma that belabored me for so many years.  This is not a easy "change you mindset" cure to the consternation that plagues SO many would be entrepreneurs, creatives, and artists.


No, this is work, hard work.


To do the work, it mandates a grit that will push through the process of ownership that it requires to exemplify The Professional and, to truly step into this identity, we must become that which we seek.  


Let me say it this way: it is not a state of doing, but of being.


As artists and professionals, it is our obligation to enact our own internal revolution, a private insurrection inside our own skulls. (War of Art, Steven Pressfield)


There are many times that I have wished my way into a frame of mind hoping that what I professed to be true would manifest itself into existence.  This will not work.  There is WAY too much on the line and Resistance knows this.  That Hideous Strength will summon all of it's might against you to crush that precious hint of hope for a desired future.


You must fight...
Fight your personal demons,
Fight your doubts, 
Fight that voice that tells you to give up, 
Fight your Saboteur
Fight for your freedom.  


But don't fight your fear.  No, you'll need that.  It will keep you going when the Shadow creeps on your turf hoping to derail this new birth of a dream within you.  Your fear is an indicator that you are moving in the right direction.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The more you pursue the high calling of becoming a professional in your craft and prestige, the more you will also simultaneous fear the risk and adventure that it beckons.


Which brings me back to my conundrum so many years ago.  When did I become a professional musician?  The day I stopped asking the question and gave myself completely to mastering my craft.  Mastery is it's own reward and has no concern for titles like apprentice, amateur, and professional... but that is another topic altogether.


The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come. (War of Art, Steven Pressfield)