The Amateur Advantage
Stay classy you amateur!
I am always a little envious of those friends of mine who seem to be experts at something – martial arts, baseball, a specific era of art history….The Simpsons.
I don’t consider myself an expert at anything. I probably never will be either. I don’t have the fortitude to commit to one thing so wholly that I can even approach mastery level. There are just too many things I want to try.
This, while great for weekend excursions, is a difficult realization when you are passionate about doing something – in my case writing, music and comedy. I have a lot more experience writing and with music than I do with comedy (of the stand-up variety) and the numerous articles and podcasts proclaiming that it takes a “good 10-20 years” to really get good and know what you are doing have often times nicked away at the “carpe diem” attitude I have tried so hard to apply to this strange endeavor.
Recently, I heard vignettes of different TED talks on people who “plunged” into unchartered waters as amateurs and emerged as “experts”. You can listen here if interested: http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/431363633/amateur-hour
What really struck me was that the word “amateur” stems from the latin root amare which means “to love”.
The TED talks and interviews I listened to were incredibly inspiring in that they spoke to the power of being so enamored with something that you have no choice but to learn everything you can about it. This is the part of work that I really love. For a while, I prided myself that if there were some sort of less than terrific project at work, I would be asked to do it. I thought it was an honor and for me, it gave me the chance to learn something new. The problem was trying to live up to some expectations to have all the answers. I am slow – which has a bad connotation in our society. But slow does not mean dumb. It just means slow. I have to ask a lot of questions, take a lot of notes, doodle – a lot – and then hopefully, retain the most salient points of whatever it is I am trying to learn.
We should all be amateurs at work regardless of our title and position, otherwise I do believe we are not challenging ourselves nor are we allowing others to freely admit what they don’t know – a sharp cliff to failure in organizations and relationships alike, if you ask me.
So this brings me all back to comedy. I am not going to shy away (as much) from the count of years I have in front of audiences compared to some others I perform with because the passion is there and that creates more momentum to learn more, quicker and in comedy – what better material than discussing your “epic fails” (as my son calls them)?
So, don’t hide from your inner amateur – whether you are a weekend warrior on the golf course or a Vice President of Finance at the Fortune. I have a feeling you’ll find yourself farther ahead than you ever imagined.
What’s your amateur advantage?
Until next time,
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