The Zen Buddhists talk about beginner’s mind. Maybe you’ve heard it as ‘child mind.’ It sounds enlightened, to come at this with a clean slate, to adopt a beginner’s mindset in order to gain new insight. Cool.
But what about being … an amateur?
Oh god, we hate that. Please! We’re professionals! We’ve been doing this a long time. Who exactly are you calling an amateur? How dare you. (I’d argue that Imposter Syndrome is simply that: The fear that someone else will think you’re an amateur.)
In his book “Show Your Work,” Austin Kleon says we should all be amateurs.
Why? Because an amateur does a thing for love, not because she is paid to do it. And because the love of it is first, the amateur isn’t afraid of taking risks and making mistakes.
You’ve probably also heard someone (who was it again?) say that if you’re the smartest one in the room, time to find another room.
For all our talk about being “vulnerable,” we actually are loathe to let go of our professional status. We use it as a shield. But you know who’s real vulnerable? The amateur.
The amateur acts without knowing exactly what to expect or how it will turn out. She lets go of outcome or expectation. She may do something dumb. Who cares. She is alive with the potential and excitement of it, rather than dulled by the expectation of a certain level of “excellence” (eye roll).
“That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.” — Charlie Chaplin
When was the last time YOU felt like an amateur—and what was it like? When did you last feel really alive and at risk as you tried to figure a thing out? Most of us feel a little like that all the time. And that sounds ok to me.
I’d rather be an amateur who does a lot of things that I love than a professional who only does one thing because I get paid to do it.
The minute I stop trying to figure things out, I think I’m just done.
Last Friday I hosted a Pop Up Salon (I told you about it) in my home with 12 brilliant people. They were pros from everywhere: health care, data, law, business, leadership, marketing, visual arts.
They didn’t come because they all have book deals. They came because they felt the pull of the page.
They didn’t know quite what would happen in that room, but they knew better than to ignore their creative impulse, because they know that’s where the next exciting thing is starting to sprout roots and leaves. And they’re right.
Oh trust me, everyone was a little nervous. They knew they were going to be writing and sharing what they wrote. They told me in advance they “weren’t really writers” or that they’d be the “only non-writer in the room.” Or, they simply hadn’t written in years.
Once that fear was dispelled (and we dispel it quickly there so we can get to the business of writing), my god, what emerged was fantastic.
They surprised themselves with their own complex and rich ideas, they way moments in their own stories threw light around really big issues like power, challenged their own ideas about them.
And it’s not like they all left feeling “cured” of their amateur feelings and fears.
Instead, they were inspired and excited about the newness of it all, how free they felt now, instead of bound by old, ill-fitting suits they thought they had to wear. They walked out feeling seen, heard, with a new, insatiable appetite for all the things they absolutely must do.
Imagine if every day felt like that.
…Psst! I’m doing another Pop Up Salon, just like this one, in Columbus, Ohio with my co-host, the lovely and talented Bevin Farrand. (Here’s how to get more info and hold your spot.)