What it means to turn pro.

Turning pro is an interesting concept. It seems straightforward at first, right?

A pro football player is someone who plays football for a living. Getting drafted and entering the big leagues is considered ‘turning pro’. A professional driver is someone who pays their bills and feeds their family through racing, whether that’s from t-shirt sales or their cut of the winnings.

Going pro might also be thought of as a way of carrying oneself. “That Johnny…he’s a real pro.” They dress and act professionally, have a certain type of appearance and lifestyle. They have a professional attitude; they’re careful to say and do the right things.

But there’s a third way to go pro, and it has little to do with how much money you make or the label on your t-shirt. It’s a mindset. It’s a decision that everyone who wants to achieve something great has to make.

Simply put, a pro is the opposite of an amateur. A pro is someone who consistently pursues success at a given level.

Most of us have a job to do and a dream to pursue. The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is often a choice: whether they show up as a pro or as an amateur.

I read a book a few years ago called The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. In it, Pressfield defines the concept of turning pro – he’s since written a whole book on it. There are complexities to his definition, but to me, turning pro means making the decision to honor your dream by showing up and honoring your dream.

It might seem like a small difference, but deciding to turn pro changes everything.

So what do pros do?

Pros show up. They show up in the garage and at the track. When they’re totally exhausted after a race, they don’t just put the car away dirty.  Pros go beyond the minimum. Pros take care of business.

Pros recognize their skills, and they put a value to them. Pros aren’t willing to waste their talent by not taking risks and opportunities. Pros make the phone calls to sponsors, manufacturers and car owners because they owe it to themselves to put their ability in front of the people that can help them achieve their goals.

Pros aren’t distracted by things that don’t matter. Pros don’t focus on the fun, easy stuff. Pros know what it takes to get the job done, and they do it, consistently.

Pros welcome failure. Pros learn from every attempt. Failure is only a step on their path to success. Pros fail, and they fail often.

Pros work for the future, not the present. Pros have long-term goals that they’re chipping away at. Pros don’t show up on the last lap, even though that’s the only one that counts. Pros race to every corner.

Turning pro means being patient. It means anticipating and dealing with challenges. It means creating meaningful habits. It means showing up and doing the work when the amateur calls it a night.

Turning pro means committing to your dream every single day.

I can honestly admit that I’ve been an amateur in many areas of my life. There have been times when I haven’t shown up in ways that I should have. I’m probably not the only one. But I decided a few months ago that I wasn’t messing around anymore.

When the going gets tough, ask yourself – am I operating like a pro? Or an amateur? I’m showing up and I’m turning pro. I’m not perfect but I’ve already seen one heck of a difference. And I’m just getting started.

With love,


P.S. I’d love to hear how you’re turning pro. Any habits that you’re getting rid of or changes you’re making? Leave a note in the comments and the rest of us will cheer you on.

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About the author

Kristin Swartzlander Kristin Swartzlander is passionate about applying business sense to racing 'nonsense' in hopes of growing the sport of dirt track racing. She is a business strategist who works with entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them learn how to use public relations, marketing and social media to achieve their goals. Learn more about social media, marketing and racing sponsorship on the DirtyMouth blog.