The Professional Amateur Defined
First and foremost, to be a professional means that a person makes their income from a specific activity or skill. It also typically means that they are pretty damn good at their craft compared to a person with little to no experience. To be a pro requires constant dedication, grit and stubborn determination to hone their skill or craft to a level beyond what the average person can fathom. It means that they have been through the fire, that they have failed over and over again, year after year, until they finally master the ability to do whatever it is that they do, competently and reliably. It also means in essence that they are no longer an amateur, since they are getting paid to do it. So what does it mean to be a professional amateur then? How can we both be professional and amateur at the same time? It would seem that these are conflicting and contradictory ideas, but we think there is a different way to look at it.
Let’s start by investigating what it means to be an amateur. The amateur also dedicates themselves to a specific skill or activity, much like the pro. They practice regularly and spend much of their time developing a mastery in their particular field. The main difference between an amateur and a pro, is that the pro gets paid and the amateur doesn’t. The amateur performs his work eagerly with no expectation of immediate financial gain, as their income is earned from a separate source. They do it simply for the love of the activity, whether it be sports, hobbies, skilled trades or creative pursuits. They have the freedom to explore new ideas and creative avenues that might lead a professional to failure, but they don’t have to fear these mistakes because their income is not dependent on the success of their specific skill set. The amateur can embrace the changes required to grow their crafts with authentic open mindedness, and can enjoy the gratification of their devoted practice when they discover their efforts forming into savvy expertise and powerful prowess.
The professional performs their work with an expectation of receiving compensation because generally, they have no other income beyond their specified activity. This means inherently that the professional is fully obligated to perform their work, and let’s be honest, no one likes having to do anything that they have to do. The pro has to make money in order to survive, to feed themselves and their family. They have no choice in the matter and because of this in-built obligation, it can be the demise of a pro’s enjoyment of practicing and performing their work. On the other hand, the amateur does not make their living by doing their sport, hobby, skilled trade or creative pursuit, so they have no obligation to do it. This allows the amateur to be completely free of financial incentives that can pollute the pro’s desire to genuinely perfect and enjoy their craft.
Now, after all of that winding wordplay we realize it may still feel like these two labels are not easily compatible, but let us bring it all together into a pretty little package for you. First, we decided that if we can simply remove the negative incentive of needing money from any singular pursuit, we can eliminate the obstacles blocking the professional’s creativity and passion for what they do. Then if we combine the freedom, open-mindedness and enjoyment of the amateur, with the mastery of the professional, we can create a permanent passion project; to be a professional amateur, a person who gets paid to do the things they truly enjoy but isn’t required to do any one particular thing to survive. They’re privileged with the autonomy to freely experiment, get creative and take risks, and this freedom encourages them to continue learning and growing without fear of losing their financial well being. To have the humble mastery found in the greatest professionals coupled with the enthusiastic spirit and curiosity of the amateur, is what it means to be a professional amateur.