We all need to Turn Pro

The blog seems to be taking a turn toward the…I don’t know, motivational?  Metaphysical?  lately, with a lot of posts about making the choice to be a force for change — a force in our communities and organizations for creating a Wise Economy.  Perhaps it’s because of my reading and music diet lately, or the fact that I have been recovering from an intensive phase in the weeds of a project.

But I find myself consistently grasping for ways to articulate something that is hard to say to anyone without sounding stupid — and especially hard to say to people dealing with the tough realities of local governments and organizations.  What I am trying to get at is the fact that we need to be active forces in the movement toward solutions to the tough issues facing all of us.

A blog post in my morning reading today, as a result, was in the right place to twang all of my strings pretty hard.  Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative is one of my favorite business world readings and podcasts, and his ability to see and cut through the barriers that hold us back is a delight.  Todd and several other bloggers lately have posted about a new business book called On Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’  Work, by Steven Pressfield.  I haven’t read it yet, but when I do I’ll let you know.

Todd, however, took off on this, and wrote a really beautiful little confessional (there I go, sucker for a good writer again…).  Here’s a piece of it:

I spent much of my life as a paid amateur. I was doing what I needed to do to get the work done, but I was secretly waiting for someone to come along and “pick” me.  I was saving myself for a marriage that would never arrive, while unwittingly giving myself over to anyone who came along. I worked hard, but I wasn’t a pro. I was auditing my own life. I was a ghost.

In short, I lacked grit. I hadn’t yet developed the “you will have to pry this work from my cold, dead hands” mindset to which I now aspire everyday. My resolve wasn’t yet steeled.

I remember the day it flipped. I went pro. I decided that I was going to do whatever it took to get my work out each day, and to develop my mind for wherever life led. The change was subtle, but it was marked by three little words that I swear are inscribed somewhere on the inside of my cerebral cortex: “Here I Stand.”

Against the turmoil, here I stand.

Against the critics, here I stand.

Against the scoffers and cynics, here I stand.

Against my own fear, here I stand.

Against exhaustion, pettiness, and excuses, here I stand.

Against compromise and short-cuts, here I stand.

Against the seductive love of comfort, here I stand.

Here I stand, and neither your words, nor your threats will move me. I am a pro, and while I may not always produce great work, I produce, so deal with it.

Awesome.   And an additional pleasure to see someone else fingering the need for “grit.”

Planners and economic developers and community professionals are creative professionals, in the purest sense of the word.  Our mission is one of the most fundamental and noble: to make human communities better.  We get mired in the details of meetings and projects and personality conflicts and politics, but you know what?  So do  people who do more conventionally “creative” work, like artists and writers.  Creating is tough, whether it’s a new painting, a new song or a new way of making local economies work.

Fear?  Insecurity?  Rejection?  What else is new?

We need creativity in local governments, organizations, agencies.  We need it more than ever.   We need to embrace our own creativity, and that of our communities,  if we are going  to find solutions to those very tough questions, and more and more urgent.  We need to claim our own commitment to working toward those answers within the messy world of everyday distractions and limitations if we’re going to in any way be true to the good intentions of our choice to do this work.

One of my favorite songs right now includes these lyrics: “I got this feeling underneath my

javelin thrower
Maybe what we love about pro athletes is that we can see their commitment to making something happen.

feet/like something underground’s going to come up and carry me.”  (15 points to the first person to name the song!).    Maybe that’s another way to say what it means to turn pro.  A pro taps his or her own energy and commitment for the good of something bigger.  You can’t get bigger than what we deal with.  We can’t afford be paid amateurs anymore.

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