An Amateurs Humility

There is a Twitter thread posted last year I keep remembering:

Since I have a number of varied interests myself, perhaps it’s self congratulatory to agree with Kevin in saying that being multi-dimensional in our pursuits leads to better performance and greater happiness.

There is however, another important aspect of being multi-dimensional which Kevin doesn’t mention, yet underlines his point even further. By pursuing something outside of our (primary) career, we not only base our identity and happiness on more than one thing, as Kevin mentions, we also put ourselves back in the amateur seat again.

Pastor Eric Foley, as he advocates for a different style of church leadership than commonly used in most churches, explains that in contrast to a professional doing a job for money, “an amateur is one who does something simply for the love of it, with no thought of personal gain.” Though the context is totally different, Pastor Foley is also pointing out the pursuit of “something pointless and pure, that we do simply because we love it” as Kevin puts it, is a distinct contrast to the role and attitude of a “professional” getting paid for the work.

The adage “good is the enemy of great” by Jim Collins focuses on how we tend to settle for “good enough.” In other words, once we are proud of our work, as we tend to be when recognized as a professional, we’ve lost the humility needed to make further improvement. Contrast this with an amateur, who has a natural humility of recognizing how much there is still to learn and improve.

Proverbs 16:18 has made its way into broader culture with the paraphrase that says, “pride comes before a fall” thus recognizing the need for humility as condition of continued growth and upward progress. The self satisfaction of “good enough”, pride, holds back professionals from recognizing potential for continued growth. But if a professional in one area is also an amateur in another arena, humility comes more easily as ongoing efforts at improvement in one area lead to recognition there is room to grow in all areas – even “professional” areas.

Contrast:

  • The individual who is always the smartest in the room, because they are the expert, the professional, and everyone seeks advice from them, so they are always doling out their wisdom.
  • The individual who has give and take relationships, in some contexts a professional: teaching and leading, and in others an amateur: learning and growing.

If we start to believe the accolades that accompany success, if we don’t have anyone else we realistically look up to and learn from for any area of our life, we have fallen victim to pride and to a one-dimensional life that hinders performance and creates unfulfilling one-way relationships.

If we keep an amateur’s mindset through pursuit of activities where we are not (yet, at least) professionals, we stay grounded, humble, open to fulfilling give-and-take relationships, and likely perform better in areas of our professional expertise as well through the use of teamwork and better collaboration.

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