5 Differences Between Amateurs and Professionals


The only way to become better at anything is to spend time working on it. 

But, how can you put in your ‘reps’ if you’re not consistent enough?

And, why do some people live up to their potential, whilst others don’t even scratch the surface of success?

The answer to this dilemma lies within the difference between amateurs and professionals.

Here’s what you need to know to set yourself up for success.

Maya Angelou’s ‘Pro’ Routine

Maya Angelou was a famous writer, poet, civil rights activist and award-winning author best known for her acclaimed memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Her book has sold millions of copies worldwide. In 2011, the Time Magazine ranked this as one of the top 100 most influential books written in English since 1923.

But, let’s not get carried away with her success story.

Maya Angelou’s creative genius and great work over her lifetime wasn’t a fluke.

It was the by-product of a consistent routine, habits and a decision to ‘turn pro.’

In the book, Daily Rituals (audiobook), Angelou describes her ‘pro’ daily routine.

“I usually get up at about 5:30, and I’m ready to have coffee by 6, usually with my husband. He goes off to his work around 6:30, and I go off to mine.

I keep a hotel room in which I do my work—a tiny, mean room with just a bed, and sometimes, if I can find it, a face basin. I keep a dictionary, a Bible, a deck of cards and a bottle of sherry in the room. I try to get there around 7, and I work until 2 in the afternoon.”

Every day for many years of her life, Angelou would sit down and write for several hours.

It didn’t matter if she didn’t feel like it.

It didn’t matter if the weather outside was bad.

It didn’t matter if her writing was poor.

She showed up every day because she was a professional and not an amateur.

The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals

“ The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones.”

– Steven Pressfield

The difference between amateurs and professionals is entirely based on their habits and mindset.

Professionals have developed habits and routines that help them to stay at the top of their game.

Here are 5 key differences between Amateurs and Professionals…

1. Amateurs wait to feel inspired. Professionals stick to a schedule.

Amateurs only work and practice when they feel motivated to do so.

They wait for inspiration, or permission from somebody else, to take action towards their goals—to exercise, to write more and so on.

Professionals don’t let their feelings dictate their actions.

They intentionally create and stick to a schedule come rain or shine.

2. Amateurs focus on goals. Professionals focus on habits.

Amateurs are obsessed with the outcome. They seek the instant gratification of quick results and look to ‘sprint’ to success.

They struggle with ‘resistance’ and procrastination because of their intense focus on the end result.

Professionals treat success like a marathon and not a sprint. They focus on developing the habits that will naturally help them to achieve their goals as a by-product.

3. Amateurs strive to achieve. Professionals strive to improve.

Just like a recreational runner preparing for a marathon, Amateurs strive for the achievement of finishing the marathon.

After the marathon, the recreational runner no longer strives to improve their running. The achievement has now been reached, so the incentive to stay consistent with practice is very little.

The professional understands that an achievement is simply an indication of how much they’ve improved.

They are focused on continuous growth and seek to find new ways to improve themselves.

4. Amateurs stall after failure. Professionals grow after failure.

Amateurs try to avoid failure at all costs. They fear criticism and worry too much about what people would think if they failed.

Amateurs give up when faced with adversity and tough challenges. They lack the mental toughness to push forward and succeed.

Professionals understand that failure is an inevitable and necessary part of growth.

They treat failure and criticism like a scientist—discarding the irrelevant information and using the relevant feedback to become better at what they do.

5. Amateurs live for opinions. Professionals live for the truth.

Amateurs are easily swayed by the opinions and ‘best practices’ of the majority of people in their field.

The basis of an Amateur’s decision-making is their belief that “I’m right because I believe I am.”

Professionals actively question widely held assumptions about how things should be done.

A professional’s decision-making process is based on objectivity, not opinions. This type of thinking prevents them from making bad decisions.

The Path to Turning Pro

“The amateur plays for fun.  The professional plays for keeps”.

“The amateur plays part-time. The professional plays full-time”.

“The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional shows up seven days a week.”

‘The War Of Art’, Steven Pressfield

Turning ‘Pro’, or professional, is simple—but, you must abide by the two commandments of the pros.

1. Thou shalt commit to a schedule.

A schedule is simply a pre-commitment to consistently put in your ‘reps’ and hours in your craft.

For example, if you want to become a better writer, you could create a schedule with times and days of the week for writing.

In my case, my writing schedule is to publish a new article every Monday and Thursday to the readers of the free newsletter.

Likewise, you could commit to 3 days a week of exercise or improving a specific part of your business.

Just like any new habit, your willpower and ability to delay gratification will also affect your consistency levels.

2. Thou shalt believe that they are ‘Pro.’

You can’t think and act like a Pro, if you still believe you’re an amateur.

This is why it’s so important to shift your identity. You have the power right now to believe that you’re a professional.

To say that you believe you’re a pro isn’t enough because actions speak louder than words.

Prove to yourself that you’re really a pro and do the things that a pro would do every day.

On a final note, here are a few things to think about:

  • Are you committed to being a professional in any area of your life?
  • Is there anything holding you back from going pro? What can you do create the schedule and identity of a pro?

If you’d like to get science-backed strategies that make it easier to stop procrastinating, get things done and go “pro,” join The Productivity Academy.