The retro lunch pail and towering thermos on the cover of Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro are in honor of some legendary Pros.
Back in the analog days when the economy relied on blue collar muscle to build the modern world, Steelworkers gave everything they had to get that work done. In three shifts, twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year, hard-hatted men with lunch pails swinging from their gnarled hands passed through mill gates in Aliquippa, Baltimore, Bethlehem, Braddock, Buffalo, Chicago, Clairton, Cleveland, Gary, Homestead, Lehigh, McKeesport, Pittsburgh, Pueblo, Tuscaloosa, Steubenville, Weirton, and Youngstown among many other cities.
Without those fully stocked lunch pails, these men would never have made it through a single shift. Let alone a double.
They couldn’t duck out and drive to a fast food joint for lunch. Their Chevy Impalas were in the rank and file parking lot, five football fields away from the shop floor. Sweat-soaked and exhausted after four hours in 100+ degree heat, they had to shed twenty pounds of flame retardant asbestos clothing just to take their twenty-minute break.
What kept them going for the second half of their shifts were the two or three chipped ham sandwiches, the couple chunks of cheese, the extra donuts from breakfast and the quarter piece slab of peach pie jammed inside their pails. And, of course, a huge thermos of coffee.
Wives spent the tail end of their evenings packing their guys’ pails. The best cold cuts and treats always went to dad. It was a sacred thing for a kid to see a scarred hard hat and a full lunch pail on the kitchen counter. That helmet and pail represented the indispensable tools of her father’s work—the armor to enter his chosen profession and the fuel to get him back home.
We can learn a lot from these Pros. The digital age requires just as much courage and forbearance as the analog age did. The heat of the fight has just moved from an external one to an internal one. No matter the battle, doing truthful and authentic work is exhausting.
Just like the old Steelworker lunch pails offered relief from the life threatening work in the mill, we need to pack our own symbolic lunch before we forge our work. If we do, it will get us through those days when we don’t think we have another drop of sweat to give. In this spirit, we offer Turning Pro and:
- We must find the work that brings our lives meaning.
- We must strive to make our work purposeful, truthful, and authentic, a pure offering to our Muse and fellow human beings.
- We must wage a lifelong war with Resistance and accept that instant gratification is an oxymoron.
- We must not speak of our work with false modesty or braggadocio.
- We must not debase our work for short term gain nor elevate it above its rightful station to inflate our ego.
- We must not covet the fruits of our work, or the fruits of others’ work.
- We must respect others’ work and offer aid to fellow professional laborers.
- We must accept that our work will never be perfect.
- We must accept that our work will never be without merit.
- We must accept that our work will never cease.