I’ve been thinking a lot about amateurs of late… as I’m about to become one again. Just take a moment to reflect on the last time you were a novice. Was it last year? Five years ago? Twenty years ago?
Back at school, we were used to being the amateur but, especially as teachers, we tend to be more comfortable in the “expert” phase of our life seasons.
I’ve had quite a number of careers – outdoor adventure leader, teacher, salesperson, fitness instructor, TV presenter and now… consultant AND mother. That’s a lot of new stuff to learn. But, why should we bother being a novice again? Why shouldn’t I rest on my laurels after all of the effort I’ve gone to becoming an expert in my field?
- Amateurs Prioritise Growth (Eckert, 2016)
In his book, The Novice Advantage, Eckert categorises educational novices into 3 distinct characters:
- The Beginning Novice – one who is inexperienced yet enthusiastic
- The Experienced Novice – one who is experienced yet still passionate about learning new things
- The Perpetual Novice – one who continually challenges oneself to move out of his/her comfort zone
Where do you fit in this list? There is, however, important aspects that these different archetypes have in common – they continue to develop as a learner through rising above setbacks, continuing to be curious and innovating. The novice understands that they will never “get there”… because “there” doesn’t exist.
2. Amateurs Are More Motivated
Have you ever noticed how amateurs are curious? Our 4 year-old wants to know the answer to any and every question. In fact, toddlers ask around 400 questions per day.
When I was beginning my career in the TV industry, I wanted to know everything. I read ratings reports and newspaper articles on new programs that were being developed. I discovered producers and uncovered their contact details. I watched advertisements and quiz shows with a new awareness. I read autobiographies of television personalities to discover their secrets. I even drove 8 hours every Saturday for a term, whilst working full-time, to nurture my presenting skills.
You see, amateurs tend to try anything and everything with audacious disregard for time and space (Merredin, 2012). Amateurs understand that they need to keep motivated in order to learn more… that they haven’t (and may never… hopefully never, reach a pinnacle). Because they often treat their work like a hobby rather than a “job”, they’ll happily continue to craft their skills for hours/days/months on end like a kid learning to ride a bike. It’s astonishing how amateurs find “extra” time to hone their skills.
3. Amateurs Make More Mistakes
…and thus, continue to have a Growth Mindset about their failings. Amateurs understand that mistakes are part of the learning process and they are less attached to perfection. Dweck (2014) calls this the “Power of Not Yet”. Ever notice how perfectionists find change difficult? They don’t want to take risks because they’re afraid to make mistakes… Perhaps, mistakes may damage their professionalism or even their profession. Amateurs, on the other hand, make mistakes often and freely; undeterred and focussed on the ever-elusive prize ahead. They allow mistakes to make them stronger rather than be damaged by them.
May I encourage you… (not actually a question #justsaying) Find something in 2017 in which you can be an amateur – or, maybe, just make that your attitude.