The etymology of amateur comes from the French, meaning "to love". When you think of doing something you love, there is a joy of practicing, losing yourself in the activity. The rest of the world fades away. Think of what it's like to spend the day out on the golf course when your sinking a ball with ease or when you're drawing a picture and you the whole afternoon escapes. For some it may be preparing a meal for a friend and the whole afternoon quickly speeds away. For others playing chess with a friend for hours. The common element is the focus is on the process, not the outcome.
In schools and professions, there is a focus on outcome, rather than the process. We work to a goal, a good grade, the almighty dollar. In contrast, by focusing on the process and the practice of the process you can bring joy to the process, and seek to learn mastery of the craft.
For example, for two decades I've helped guide and manage sales team. When I go in, most sales offices focus on Key Performance Indicators, KPIs, such as meetings held, phone calls made, and sales made. Often sales people will dread making phone calls, picking up the phone, fear the rejection. It may take hours to make 10 phone calls, even though the sales person knows this will lead to a great bonus. But as most sales managers know, if you create a companion to make phone calls, with a simple, small prize, as easy as a $10 voucher for coffee, the process becomes fun. The game, the play that comes with winning, makes the process much more enjoyable. There is an element of the amateur in focusing on the process, rather than the outcome: making 10 calls.
Stuck artists often focus on the outcome of their work, rather than the process of it. Rather than going and writing, a stuck writer may struggle on a novel, which they are worried about publishing, which probably won't sell anyway. Rather than just focusing on the joy and act of writing, of creating characters and scenes and weaving them together into stories, the stuck writer is thinking of outcome. And most likely, from my experience, also thinking on how to be a "professional," rather than just work out of a love.
Being an amateur, whether in art, science, math or whatever field, used to be preferred. People learned a craft for pleasure, rather than pay. There is a story that Charles Darwin wanted to go off to university to study science. His father was concerned that he would want to be a "professional". Before letting young Charles run off to university, he had to promise he would was going just to be an amateur—for the love of learning.
Some of us may find that we are amateur golfers, others, like myself, runners. If you wish, become an amateur photographer, pianist, writer, painter, or Ikebana enthusiast. The point is to find pleasure through mastering the discipline of process. Never worry that anyone will pat you on the back or worry about mistakes. Learn from Miles Davis: "Do not fear mistakes, there are none." The creative process is based on creating new, and sometimes we need to go through the bad to find to the good in the creation. There are definitely times to learn musical scales, but there times when we just need to hit the keys, wallow around in the sound, and try to pick out a tune by ear or make up our own tunes.
Whether or not it takes 10,000 hours (or 10 years) or a lifetime to master a craft, it's time to get started. This week, allow yourself amateur status in your activities. Focus on the process, rather than the outcome. If you're an accountant, focus on the process of how you are putting together the budget. If you're in sales, look at the processes that you daily and weekly need to accomplish to make a sale: which of the processes can you improve? Which of them can you make more interesting, fun, enjoyable? Can you take your phone calls outside? Can you time yourself and make a race game of it?
Then focus on a hobby and see what the process can be. If you are preparing a meal and often cook from cookbooks, try a meal where you create your own dish. And look at some of the processes that you can learn, such as how all the delightful cutting techniques and their names: The Julienne cut, the Bayonet cut, A large Dice cut, A Paysanne cut, and the Brunoise. The continued growth of just learning the terms will widen your abilities in the kitchen and may change how a meal tastes. You won't need to worry about 10,000 hours, you can focus on enjoying the each process of learning.