The difference between amateurs and professionals

Success is not an easy game.  Some are very good at it.  Some struggle.  Why is that?  The answer to that question may be very complicated and there may be different versions possible.  I believe that part of the answer is this: mindset.  Do you have the mindset of an amateur or the mindset of a professional?

Lots of people are amateurs.  When they have achieved something, they stop.  Professionals go one step further and they see winning as the beginning of something bigger.  So they are wondering how to repeat that success multiple times – not just one time.  Amateurs just focus on a goal and when they fail along the way, they easily give up.  Professionals focus on the process. Even more, they love the process.  Moreover, they deeply understand their circle of competence: they do not have – like amateurs – the ambition to be good at everything.  They know exactly their weak spots and they seek out dissent thinkers who criticize them.  Amateurs, however, have the tendency to consider any form of criticism as a threat or a personal attack.  They just believe– or they just want to believe – what they see.  They do not have the courage to believe “what is true”.  They just want to be right all the time, whereas professionals focus on getting the best outcome.

And do you know what is also typical of professionals?  They focus on second-order thinking.   In his exceptional book, “The Most Important Thing”, Howard Marks explains the concept of second-order thinking.  Essentially it’s this: when we solve one problem, it may happen that we end up unintentionally creating another problem that is even worse.  People who invest time in second-order thinking identify the consequences of a decision before these consequences happen.  They will know the problems before they occur and they will take steps to avoid them.  And that’s exactly what professionals do: focussing on second-order thinking.  They focus on the long-term, not on the short-term.  That’s also why they will never accelerate with the first idea that comes into their head – which is typical for amateurs.  Professionals realize that the first idea is rarely the best.

It may be interesting to ask yourself these two questions: in what circumstances do you find yourself behaving like an amateur instead of a professional?  And when are you hanging around with people who are amateurs when you should be surrounding yourself with professionals?