The question is old, and the answers are too, just varying with time and culture. The Greeks preferred to live a life of leisurely exploration of the mind, looking down on labor as necessary but beneath them, while in Indian culture work belonged to the first half of life, the next half meant for pursuing generosity and enlightenment.
In the hard-hitting Western culture, work is mostly about money: earning it, going after it and making more of it. That’s why when you ask what the difference is between a pro and an amateur, the most obvious answer in America is: “One gets paid, the other works for free.”
Aside from getting paid, what else marks the difference?
- Pros do the ground work long before they need to roll things out. They keep their skills fresh, updated and relevant to the times.
- They focus on the bottom line because they know it’s an important marker of their effectiveness, and as the result of their labor, they want it to count for something, in both financial reward for themselves and its utility for the people it’s meant for.
- They know the value of their work and set its price accordingly
Pros and amateurs can possess the same basic knowledge in how to do what they do, but knowledge of the process does not equate to doing the work.
Professionals do the work, which includes reading the fine print, delivering what they promised, and keeping business relationships cordial, respectful and strong.
The uncertain economic climate has driven hundreds of thousands into a near-permanent state of anxiety and faith in a bleak future. While we’re told to “Keep going! Take charge!” going full-steam ahead won’t take us anywhere good without a definite direction, the experience to weigh choices under stress, and the discipline to handle the unknown.
Taking control helps alleviate anxiety because this time you are choosing the consequences of your actions. It’s no longer a question of If-this, Then-maybe. It’s “I choose this, this is what I’m going for.” Professionals go for it. They take calculated risks.
Everybody starts out as a novice. The fastest and most basic ways to learn is to copy someone who already succeeded at doing what you want to do. When you can do that well enough and understand the reasoning (the how’s and why’s) behind the process (the skill), you push yourself to go beyond the basics.
You go beyond the guided learning stages to develop a riff of your own. That development process asks you to accept that you’ll make mistakes, and that those mistakes will grow your experience more than rote study.
The biggest difference between amateurs and people who are good at what they do is that amateurs primarily think of what’s in it for them. The professionals go beyond that simple mindset and push themselves to provide things that are unique, valuable and useful for the people and the market they’ve put themselves to serve. Professionals get out of the way of The Work.
Professionals hone their focus to give quality goods…nothing else than products that perform as specified can satisfy their market’s need. Amateurs can focus too much on getting what they need out of the whole process, instead of putting their efforts in finding out what their market needs. Then there’s learning the ropes and there’s expecting too much, too soon for amateur work.
The real world doesn’t give out cookies and gold stars for effort. Just as you work hard to support yourself and expect to get your money’s worth, people will expect to get their moneys worth out of your product.
Now, lets think of information. To be more specific, of content. Content is a product as well.
Think of the most popular blogs you know and compare them to the rest of the countless millions of blogs out there. What’s the most obvious difference? Think of all your favorite blogs and consider why you keep coming back to them.
Good writers provide content with a USP (Unique Selling Proposition or Unique Selling Point). You keep coming back to these blogs because they have content that has something valuable, useful or unique to share. They don’t publish rambling, train-of-thought posts about nothing in particular.
Good blogs and good writers are good because they share something valuable with their readers. Amateur writers need to gain experience, depth and a certain shamelessness in mining their own lives to get to the point of consistently good production.
That’s the difference: strip away the label of professional and amateur and you will see that one person can devote himself to the craft of producing the best work he can, while the other is more content to stay where they are. The first knows the value of the final product, from the blood, sweat and tears that went into knowing how to make it, and knows the value of his work. The other doesn’t — either not caring enough to know, or not involved enough to find out any more that what he knows now.
What else do pro’s do that amateurs don’t:
- They don’t stop learning. In past generations, all we had were books. Now we have the Internet. Videos, podcasts, e-training…the possibilities available to expand your knowledge are vast.
- They don’t balk at the hard stuff, even if they haven’t done it before. People who learn to do the hard stuff until it becomes easy to them can get paid to do that no-longer-that-hard stuff on behalf of other people.
- They actively look to experience new things. The more things they find out, the more experience they have that they can cross-pollinate with what they already know, which gives a new dimension to the sum of understanding they possess.
- They go and find people like them — for learning, for friendships, for building tribes.
- They share what they know. Not just to prove they have the knowledge, but to help solve a particular issue, address a specific situation, help someone else out who is currently facing the same predicament they had faced and learned from in the past.
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