Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals (2017) (fs.blog)
50 points by skilled 80 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 50 comments

Don't you find that fs.blog is increasingly clickbaity? I mean, this article is just a listicle that could have appeared in Business Insider or HuffPost or the likes. Does someone agree?

By the way wasn't Einstein an amateur physicist?

Einstein got a Bachelors in 1900, a PhD in 1905 and was a lecturer at Bern by 1908, he held a series of prestigious positions over the following 20 years. After he emmigrated to America in '30s he worked at Princeton. I don't know how anyone could assert that Einstein wasn't a professional physicist.

a PhD in 1905 means that he got it around the time he published his 4 articles in Annalen der Physik. I understand your point, but by the time he wrote the relativity theory he was, by the standards of this article, an amateur.

It's a good comparison, but the use of the words "amateur" and "professional" to contrast the negative and positive points is unfortunate. Amateur is historically a positive word, describing people who pursue a particular field that is not their primary source of income (for the love of the field itself, thus the word "amateur"). For example, Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton were amateurs.

What was their primary income?

Francis Bacon was a statesman, and Isaac Newton was a mathematician by profession.

Is it fair to say that Newton was a professional mathematician and an amateur physicist?

Not really. Academy back then was not really that diversified, and it was rare for people in the academy not to get involved in multiple philosophies.

Newton would better be qualifies as a professional academic with interests in natural philosophy and mathematics.

Amateur physicist, astronomer, author, and theologian.

Also Master of the Mint and undercover crime fighter

and alchemist, which commanded the majority of his curiosity and written output.

... at a time when alchemy (chymistry) and science were not yet fully distinct. Also, only a tenth of his written works deal with alchemy.

Newton was a paid scholar, so he was as much as possible what we would call a professionas scientist now. Francis Bacon was a heir. He did many things that could be considered full-time activities related to his social status, but they were not directly tied to his money.

If the difference between amateurs and professionals was whether they were paid or not; the article’s statements would be wholly nonsensical

What's to say the article wasn't nonsensical? It's generally a listicle of platitudes that doesn't really go deep into anything. You could summarize most of it in one sentence. Professionals look at long term consequences and constantly challenge their own biases by accepting outside commentary and criticism. That sentence encompasses most of the article. I generally expect higher quality from FS, the article on second level thinking it links to is a better example of their usual content.

The question this message answers to was about their primary income.

You are free to make your own opinion based on the facts I bring.

What a ridiculous list. Amateurs are people without formal training who contribute as a hobby, professionals are trained and get paid for what they do. There isn’t any correlation between the things on that list and amateurs/professionals at all in my opinion. It simply reads as a list of good/bad traits that you want or want to avoid in the people in your network and yourself.

People who do things as a hobby don’t just stop once they reach some goal, at least not in my experience. In stead they set new goals, and I really don’t think people give up easily either. I mean, most people who do an Ironman are technically amateurs who self-train and participate because they think it’s fun.

Likewise, when we operate open source projects we evaluate your contributions not your personal status. If your code is solid, no one is going to care if you’re a 89 year old retired truck driver who codes for fun.

Looking at Collins dictionary, I think the author is using the third definition of amateur: “a person unskilled in or having only a superficial knowledge of a subject”

And the second definition of professional “a personal who engages in an activity with great competence”

These are implied by the question that begins the article: “Why is it that some people seem to be hugely successful and do so much, while the vast majority of us struggle to tread water?”

The author could have chosen better words, but I feel you’re missing most of the article by focusing exclusively on them.

It's a list of generalizations that mor or less apply.

But the cash test up this page is the bottom line.

I may do a rhyme here and there, perhaps well.

But until I sell books of poetry, calling me a 'poet' seems a misnomer.

That list is not the difference between amateurs and professionals, it is about being good at the job.

In reality there is only one difference between professional and amateurs: money.

Professionals know how to turn their skill into a regular income. It doesn't mean they are really good at their job, more that they know how to deal with customers, work on a schedule, budget, advertise,...

There may be one skill that professionals have more than amateurs and that's the ability to finish the job. That's because people usually pay for a finished product, and if you don't finish, you don't get paid.

These points aren't about amateurs and professionals and most of them don't stand up on their own merits.

>Amateurs have a goal. Professionals have a process.

I'll tell my boss this the next time we set my goals for the year.

There's valid points here, but the impact is lost in the disjoint laundry list communication style.

I think most of the points are invalid.

Amateur means something more like "doesn't get paid". Professional means "gets paid."

Consider amateur marathoners. Some indeed "stop when they achieve" their first marathon. Others dedicate years to participating in marathons, and running culture. But they are all amateurs.

Some amateur marathoners "have a goal" - do a marathon. Some "have a process."

Most amateurs runners do not "think they are good at everything".

Many amateur runners have coaches, and join running clubs, and read advice books, all to get feedback and coaching.

Go down the list, and pretty none of it applies to dedicated amateur marathon runners.

Nor does it apply to other fields, like dedicated amateur birdwatching.

I think the list is more relevant for how it describes professionals, and less relevant for how it applies to amateurs. From professionals we expect a certain level of efficiency and proficiency. From amateurs we generally don't but that does not mean there are no skilled amateurs in a field.

E.g. Sir Isaac Newton who was a professional mathematician but an amateur physicist.

Professionalism to me means a few things: - you earn money with the thing you do - given a outline of the project you can judge how long it will take - you also care about communicating your work - once you agree to do something, you do it unless you can’t

> Amateurs think in absolutes.

So amateurs are Sith. Sorry for this comment, but I cannot really take this post too seriously (yes, yes, this is probably just an amateur comment and I take the blog too personally).

The difference is probably just that professionals earn their money in the domain in question. That often has a positive influence on experience of course.

Having worked at least a few years in industry it quickly becomes apparent that magic formulas are quite rare.

It seems to me that whoever wrote that article thinks in absolutes...

I dislike articles that attempt to turn people into binary groups such as "amateur" vs "professional" - there's some parts of my life where I'm amateur, others where I'm professional - and a lot of areas where I count myself as "clueless"

I was happier with the list after I replaced all instances of "amateurs" with "happy people" and all instances of "professionals" with "INTJ personality types"

(Disclosure: I'll admit to testing as an INTJ personality type, though I find the whole Myers-Briggs thing only slightly more convincing that astrology)

Amateurs write clickbaity listicles to bolster their own fragile self-importance.

Albert Einstein is an amateur physicist, a professional patent office clerk.

It's interesting to see how people interpret the word amateur in this.

There are two definitions:

1. a person who engages in a pursuit, especially a sport, on an unpaid rather than a professional basis.

2. a person who is incompetent or inept at a particular activity.

My interpretation is that it's only referring to 2 and isn't referring to those who engage in a pursuit without payment. Or more specifically, being an ameteur is a product of those actions.

I've interpreted "amateurs" as people that are not good at what they do. People that have a job or a main activity but don't try enough and don't have the mindset to give the best of them. The whole list made sense from that point of view and less from "amateur" as a person that has a hobby.

Try not to focus in the exact terminology used (I agree that "amateur" and "professional" are used incorrectly here).

Instead, understand those terms to mean good workers and bad workers, and there's actually some good advice in here, even though it comes across as trite in this format.

If you replace the words "amateur" and "professional" with "Goofus" and "Gallant" you get a much more accurate article.

About that level of sophistication too.

This is not about amateurs but people acting "professionally" vs. those acting "unprofessionally"...

Agreed. I think the professional/unprofessional distinction would have been much better. In this article the term 'amateur is used in a derogatory way, a sort of 'put down', such as one professional referring to another professional colleague as an 'amateur'. It's used in a sense that amateur is bad and professional is good. However it's not unusual for amateurs to be as good as professionals. For instance, major golf tournaments will often invite an amateur as a guest competitor. And so, in this case, the amateur/professional distinction isn't how good they are at playing golf (they're all equally good) - instead it's in the sense of 'is it a full-time career' and 'are earnings derived therefrom'.

Our industry (software dev specifically) is inclined to use put downs in this way. I've often thought the phrase 'code smell' is used as a 'put down', a way of diminishing someone's work in order to make them change what they do (i.e. to be more like some perceived standard). I think the use of that (and other similar derogatory phrases) is unprofessional - which is a tad ironic.

Depends on the area of expertise we're talking about. In sport amateurs absolutely can be as good or better than professional athletes. Musician or painter or programmer, same thing. But a skilled worker in jobs that are all about practice and experience? For instance I can manage to lay a brick wall or put tiles on the wall, but I did it only a few times in my life and I doubt that anyone not doing it professionally can have a significantly more experience than that - you just don't get a chance to do a lot of DIY projects like that - while someone who does that professionally is doing it for many hours a day, every day. That makes a HUGE difference in experience and that translates into the quality and speed. As DIY amateur, even if you come close in the quality, it will certainly take you 10x more time than professional.

one do it for love and curiosity, the others for money?

Why is this drivel on Hacker News? What’s next? “See how these 20 celebrities have changed over the years”?

Have you seen the Olsen twins lately?? The years have not been kind..

And yet, if you take the Olsen twins at face value, they've had successful primary careers, have managed to hold on to their money, generally stay out of the spotlight, and have had numerous business ventures with varying levels of success. I don't think that the Olsen twins can be judged too harshly, in fact they really deserve quite a bit of credit for taking a single acting role and turning it into a lifelong empire. If they were in tech they'd be HN rock stars.

They would be Apple under Tim Cook: existing on old momentum…

There is one and only one difference between professionals and amateurs. Professional make the majority of their income doing the thing they are professional at, amateurs are doing the thing on an unpaid basis.

That's it. End of story.

Exactly, although some use “amateur” as a way to tell you you are not good at something, it doesn’t actually follow from it’s definition.

It is perfectly possible e.g. that an amateur artist makes better art than a professional one. Amateurs can be better than professionals especially in fields where the market forces you to do the same cheap stuff over and over again without any need to create something truly beautiful.

That beeing said: probably most of the best software out there has been created in an non-professional environment.

Another example: amateur investors can beat professionals quite easily. Sometimes by doing nothing at all.

Having pursued my interests/passions for most of my life and making various amounts of money from each, I pretty much completely agree with that perspective. :)

Amateurs write trite blog posts about professionalism for free.

Professionals don't sum up being professional in a few sound bites.

And of course the main difference, missing from the article, is getting paid for what you do vs doing it purely for the love/fun of it.

If you have a market you can drop all or most of the points in the post, and still be "hugely successful and do so much". If you don't you can do all of the above and still "struggle to tread water". And of course you could do all of the above while being an amateur as well (amateur != low quality output).

The post is more "how to be a better person / colleague / more efficient worker" than pro vs amateur.

Most project managers are amateurs.

Wow, you should try working somewhere where project managers actually get paid.

It doesn't help.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact