Where Who You Are Meets Who You Could Be

In “The Everyday Question You're Getting Wrong,” we explored the different answers to the question, “Who are you?.”  We dug through the layers of responses and touched on the example of a painter who lived inside a doctor.

If you want to know someone better, one great question to ask is, “If you had it to do again, and couldn’t pursue your current career, what are three paths you might choose?.”  These are the conversations where you might learn that your attorney is a talented guitarist and your accountant takes amazing photographs.   Your view of this person is becoming more complete, as you get a glimpse at who they could have been if they perhaps took a different path in life.  It wouldn’t be unusual if you have such an alternate story for yourself.  Perhaps you wonder what your days would look like if you had become a sculptor or a chef.

I have good news.  There is a place where who you are can meet who you could be.  This place sometimes carries an unfairly negative connotation.  This place is called Amateruism.  When someone’s skill or product is described as amateur, it is usually not a compliment.  It implies a level of incompetence when compared to the quality of a professional’s work.  I suggest that being an amateur should not be looked down upon at all, but rather celebrated.  The word “amateur” is rooted in the Latin term “amator,” which means “lover.”

An amateur woodworker is a lover of woodworking.  What is a better use of one’s limited time and energy than the pursuit of an activity that they love?  Objectively, the amateur’s work may not be as good as the professionals, but this is not a bad thing.  The professional’s excellence came at a cost.  When the professional decides to make a living at their trade, they no longer have a hobby, but rather a vocation.  Once you are building something for pay, you are no longer acting purely out of love.  

The passionate pursuit of skill as an amateur is to be admired.  The exercise of this type of love makes our lives more complete and brings us a unique type of joy.

The Everyday Question You're Getting Wrong” is among the more popular essays that I have shared over the years.  In the responses to that piece, however, there were a few expressions of confusion.  Some readers did not understand why a Financial Planner would write about such a topic.  I imagine that a few people could be wondering that same thing about now.  There are two answers to this question.

  1. Honoring your amateur passions require resources.  Not only do many hobbies involve the purchase of equipment and/or raw materials, but they require the budgeting of other limited resources.  We need to commit some portion of our time and energy to activities that we love.  By prioritizing and planning for our hobbies, we inherently give our future selves permission to spend those resources without guilt.

  2. I am writing on this topic because I enjoy it.  You see, I am an investment professional, but I am also an amateur writer.

Related: Can the Freedom to Choose Become a Trap?