The Amateur Spirit
So, what is the difference between an amateur and pro? Well, pro kinda has it figured out, right? An amateur is a little bit unsure. I like how the zen master, Shunryu Suzuki put it, he said, "Amateurs are beginners and in the beginner's mind "the options are many. In the expert's there are few." Sometimes when we become a professional, we have a narrower perspective on things. And if we dig deeper in this concept of what an amateur is, well, that word, it comes from the french and latin words of the meaning of love. So, an amateur does something, not because they're paid, but because they just want to do that thing. They love that stuff. And the most creative people I know, hands down, regardless of what they do, they have that amateur spirit inside. What I want to do is share with you a few thoughts about this idea some from different perspectives. From a painter, an ancient philosopher, an artist, a business icon, a thought leader, and an author. Let's hear what these different mind...
s have to say about this topic. Alright, well, let's start with the ancient philosopher. Epictetus, he said, "It is impossible to begin to learn "that which one thinks he or she already knows." You know the amateur says, "well I don't really know this" so there's capacity to learn, there's capacity for growth. Let's go to a business icon, Steve Jobs. When he was fired by Apple, he said, "the heaviness of being successful was replaced "by the lightness of being a beginner again. "Less sure of everything, it freed me to enter one of the most creative seasons of my life." Let's hear a few thoughts from one of my favorite painters, Henri Matisse. He said, "creative people, they're curious, "flexible, persistent, and they're independent, "with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play." You know, I think when we get professional, we kind of stiffen up a little bit but when you're an amateur, you can goof around. And that's what the most brilliant artists actually do. Let's go to another thought from someone who loves to draw, and is amazing at that, Francois Chateaubriand. He says, "A master in the art of living, "draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, "his labor and his love, his leisure and his labor, his mind and his body, "his education and his recreation." You know, I think when people they have that amateur spirit, you can't really tell if they're playing, if they're working or what that thing is. How about another thought? This one from a thought leader, Tim Farris. He says, "You know what is kryptonite for creativity? "It's taking yourself too seriously." The author Hunter Thompson put it this way, He said, "Life has become immeasurably better "since I've been forced to stop taking it so seriously." Somehow when we take ourselves less seriously, we think of ourself as less of a pro and adopt that amateur spirit. We can goof around, we can have fun, we can get those creative juices to flow. So, whether you're a pro who's been killing it for a long time, or an amateur who's just starting out, ask yourself how can I adopt this goofing around, playful approach to what I'm doing. So, here's an exercise for you. What I want you to do, even today, is to do something, or find something that you can do that you are a complete beginner, like you've never done that before. One of the ways that I've done that is to sign up for these classes where you learn something new. Like, once I signed up for this class to learn how to create baskets. It was an underwater basket weaving class and it was hilarious but it helped me appreciate that creative process anew. So do something you've never done before, really just be a beginner and try to learn. The next one is to do something you're an expert in as if you're an amateur. In other words, whatever your expert thing is, just have a little fun with it. Goof around with that thing and recover some of that amateur spirit because that can ignite creative sparks in so many ways. Here's one quick book recommendation for you if you want to dig deeper into this, this was written by a friend, Austin Kleon, Steal like an Artist. It's a great book about this whole idea that artists, we steal and invent and create and collaberate in such unique ways. And then last but not least, a TED talk by Stuart Brown, it's called Play. It's about the importance of play. Alright, well as you seek to develop your own creative voice, explore how you can adopt that amateur spirit, and brings some of that playfulness and fun back to what you do.