The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals

Humph. Guy needed a place to hang all those bad traits so he picked on amateurs. Tell it to the Olympics.

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The difference between an amateur and a professional isn’t always compensation for the activity. Are olympic athletes truly amateurs? If their “job” is to spend all day, every day training, they are professionals. This notwithstanding, I thought it nails it pretty well. As a pretty good for a recreational competitor in an olympic sport in which no one at any level is paid (whitewater slalom) Most of these apply to the difference between myself, and the world class competitors.

I disagree with the author’s assertion that only amateurs seek to improve where they are weak, rather than finding someone else who is strong in that particular area. A professional should indeed surround themselves with people who are strong where they are weak; but they should do so while seeking to improve and strengthen their own areas of weakness.

What does it mean to be a professional? (pdf)

The original meaning of professional derived from the Middle English profes, an adjective meaning
having professed one’s vows, which itself derived from Late Latin professus, past participle of profitēri which meant to profess, confess. The idea was that professionals were those who ‘professed’ their skill to others, and ‘vowed’ to perform their profession to the highest standard.

In its original meaning, being a professional meant putting “doing good work” and the “quality” of the
work ahead of economic gain and the economic efficiency of work—it was not about the money, it was about the quality and integrity of work. This doesn’t mean that professionals can’t be paid for the work they do, it is just that being paid for doing this work is not a defining characteristic of being a professional.


I think he nailed it with the observation about “second order thinking”, or as I’ve heard it described elsewhere, “executive level brain function”. I understand it as being inclusive of the ability to think ahead and see around corners, then planning for it. When managing organizations and objectives, little progress can be made without anticipating, prioritizing and delegating. Do all three consistently, and success is almost a given.

This I agree with.

Amateurs blame others. Professionals accept responsibility.


The difference between amateur and professional is a question of semantics not action. The author of the article makes many suppositions and inferences which are not supported by anything other than the author’s personal opinion. A professional job can be accomplished by the paid and unpaid. Excellence in a task has more to do with the end results of the task than anything else. I have visited museums which contain works of art that were done by those who were considered at the time “amateurs”. They had a goal and drove themselves to it. Sought the opinion of others and withered much criticism but they never gave up.
Professionalism? You know it when you see it whether a person is paid, unpaid or a member of a professional organization has nothing to do with it. I know a lot of morons that are members of ASME. :wink:

Summed up by Raymond Chandler in “The Big Sleep:”

“The first time we met I told you I was a detective. Get it through your lovely head. I work at it, lady. I don’t play at it.”




I’m going to agree with dbeierl - he’s picked “amateur” as a synonym for “incompetent nitwit”. While the characteristics he cites are certainly valid, his choice of name/epithet is poor, IMHO. In my world, I know folks who would refer to themselves as “amateurs” who are far more skilled and conscientious (and successful) than many who describe themselves as “professionals”. It seems to me he chose it so as not to threaten those who are “credentialed” and who think of themselves as “pros” but who really aren’t.

A guy who says “ hold my beer and watch this” is usually an amateur.



Any questions?


Well, Mr. Shore, if you are a true “amateur”, you wouldn’t be hiring yourself out, now would you? :slight_smile:

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Word sometimes have different meaning depending on context. In the case of the tattoo cartoon and the post in the OP definition # 2 is the one that makes the most sense.

Definition of amateur

1 : one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession She played soccer as an amateur before turning professional. a tournament that is open to both amateurs and professionals

2 : one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science The people running that company are a bunch of amateurs. He’s a mere amateur when it comes to cooking…

You have it Capt’n – while the article seems to lump all “amateurs” into #2, that isn’t always the case - indeed, a case could be made along the lines of: “so you think you’re a professional? Maybe not if this is how you operate…”

So rather than lumping all the dimwits and “hold my beer” numbskulls as “amateurs”, why not call them something more descriptive, like “people acting unprofessionally”? Maybe even “are you acting like a pro or an amateur?”

Being a true pro is more than hiring yourself out - staying out of the maritime world, I know a number of people who will tell you they are “professional photographers” because they have sold a few of their pictures - but I also know a fair number of “amateur photographers” who run rings around those “pros” in both technical and artistic skill. I’m sure you guys know plenty of examples within the maritime sphere - like maybe the guy who ran his ferry into the anchored ship in the med, or the genius who was watching music videos while his ship ran aground.

There’s an army of nitwits in my neck of the woods who drive pick-ups and carry a bag of hammers who contradict your statement.

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I DID say :“a TRUE amateur”… :smile:

The linked post uses the concept of a “professional mindset” which I think is useful term. YMMV of course.

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Professionals understand their circles of competence.

This is an easy trap to fll into, I think this is in part what got both Capt. Robin Walbridge in the sinking of the Bounty in Sandy and Capt Davidson in Joaquin. Both were overconfident and both made unwarranted assumptions about the nature of the weather system that they encountered.

An amateur needs someone to hold his beer for him.

A “Professional” can — “git’ ‘er done” — whilst holding his beer.