Amateurs Wanted

I started running regularly seven years ago. A mile, a few times a week. I stayed with it, until I was doing a ten-mile run every week, and I considered a four- or five-mile run average, and a three-mile run a break.

Today, I still run regularly, and my average distance is three miles. Sometimes, I run a mile and a half, occasionally just a mile. And yesterday I ran four, and am thinking of ramping back up to longer distances again.

My running life ebbs and flows, and always will, because I am a confirmed amateur runner, with no professional ambitions.

In other words, I run because I love it. (“Amateur” comes from the Latin “amator,” meaning “lover.”)

These days, “amateur” is often used and felt as a negative word, and few of us want to be considered amateurs. If you are going to run, get yourself in training for a marathon – or at least a half – and get on with it. Fancy yourself a writer? Start a blog and begin your e-book, ramp up your social media image and build your e-mail newsletter list.

My eight-year-old son is a runner, but he’s not serious about it. He loves it so much that every day he takes off running, if not outside, back and forth on the sidewalk, then inside, back and forth in the living room. Back and forth and back and forth. And if I ask him to stop, he says, “I just can’t! I’ve got to run!”

My eleven-year-old daughter is a writer, and she too is not serious about it. She’s an amateur. She loves it. She has started several stories, and she regularly grabs her notebook and pen, curls up in a corner or if the weather is good, climbs up in the maple tree in the front yard, and writes.

Neither of my children are thinking about measurements or outcomes when they do these things they love. They just do them, no Nike needed.

As adults, we have this idea that if we want to start something, we need to take it seriously, and we need to excel at it. And there’s something to that. That’s part of growing up and making something of your life.

But after you’ve identified the things you want to take seriously, there should still be room to try something new, or do something for fun. And even with the life pursuits we are most focused and serious about, love and play still have their place.

I’d wager that the best professionals are still and always, at their core, amateurs in that field. Love of something drives us to work hard, learn and practice and fail and get up and do it again. Without that basic fuel of love energizing it, ambition can go corrupt in all sorts of ways.

Go amateur. Do something you love.