Being an Amateur

I always wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted to be a professional. “They” told me that this is what you are supposed to do.

The longer I glimpsed into being a “professional” (whatever that means) the more I desired to go back to being an amateur again.

We are all terrified of being exposed as an amateur though. It’s very difficult to admit to yourself (and others) that “you don’t know”.

“I don’t know.”

In today’s society this is considered being of low value. Being weak. And nobody likes being exposed as weak.

Therefore we always thrive to impress people, our boss, our loved ones or maybe even just ourselves.

We thrive to become better in order to finally be good enough.

It’s like we have to prove something.

(To whom?)

It is in fact the amateur, the enthusiast who pursues his work regardless of the potential outcome. Regardless of potential fame, money or career — who often has the advantage over the professional.

The amateur is the one who can freely explore new areas. Because he just doesn’t know better.

The experts already knows (from his experience in the field) where certain routes might lead him. And he doesn’t even care to waste time looking for something down this road. He already “knows”.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities,” said the Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki. “In the expert’s mind, there are few.”

And again, I am contradicting myself.

On the one hand you have to turn pro in order to step up in life. On the other hand you should let go of all that bullshit because it’s the one thing which in the end is holding you back from discovering your greatest breakthroughs?

(Makes no sense…?)

– You have to take 100% responsibility over your life and the events that happen to you each day. Yet you have to allow yourself to let go of things you cannot control.

– You have to make decisions (over and over again). Yet you sometimes have to just have faith and let time resolve your issues.

– You have to say “NO” to a lot of things (more than you are comfortable with). And yet you have can’t shy away from every responsibility which requires you to grow.

The best thing about being an amateur is the fact that nobody is expecting you to get it.

They actually expect you to fail.

Therefore no pressure. No expectations.

Which gives you a hell lot of freedom to experiment with new things.

Amateurs don’t hesitate to do work that others think of as silly or just plain stupid. What do they have to lose anyways?

“The stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act,” writes Clay Shirky in his book Cognitive Surplus. “On the spectrum of creative work, the difference between the mediocre and the good is vast. Mediocrity is, however still on the spectrum; you can move from mediocre to good in increments.”

The world is changing at such a rapid rate that it’s turning us ALL into amateurs.

Even for professionals, the best way to flourish is to retain an amateurs’ spirit and embrace uncertainty and the unknown.

If you let yourself “go” for too long and don’t keep up with this fast-paced world out there you quickly become irrelevant.

By keeping the “amateur spirit” though, you become a life long learner. You are curious about things. And you stay that way throughout your lifetime.

Because you look at things like you see them for the first time, you keep seeing new things. You look at them from different angles and begin to discover new insights. New ways of looking at the given object.

The professional expert – on the other hand – thinks he knows it all. He tells himself that he has seen it all already.

And because of his close-minded attitude, he proves himself right over and over again and misses all the new possible insights he would have gotten out of his daily work.

The amateurs works smarter here.

The amateur is curious and keeps exploring what he doesn’t know yet (which is a lot).

And therefore he finds both new answers and new questions…

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