✍️ Being an Amateur
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When you’re an expert, you’re so far from the realities of the beginners that your advice might not be useful. If two people are facing a problem, one who has never learned to code and another who has been coding for decades, what do they have in common? The answer is nothing! The beginner may not even know how to start solving the problem, while someone with years of experience has forgotten what it feels like not knowing anything at all.
You’ve practiced your craft so often that it comes naturally to you. You’re used to doing things one way, which works for you. You start holding strong beliefs firmly when you have to hold them loosely. The responsibility of not losing face stops you from looking for new ways to do things and sharing your failures on the way — you think the master of the craft is always right.
I’ve read this small book by Austin Kleon, Show Your Work, where he talks about showing off the behind-the-scenes work, sharing failures, and having that bulletproof amateur mindset. And I think that’s fascinating — being amateur means constantly finding new things to explore and maybe failing and then sharing how you failed so that others can learn from it. This has helped me write more. Before, I would think, “cmon Vadim, you’ve been doing this since childhood; people need to view you as an expert”. Fuck that, I’m an amateur, and I like it. I don’t know everything perfectly, and I’m making mistakes, but I’m learning new stuff and sharing my journey with the community.
Learning in public is a concept where you’re the one who’s raising your hand in a lecture and exposing yourself to not understanding what the professor has said. Asking questions about obvious topics that others were too afraid to ask.
Having that amateur mindset and writing a blog is a fantastic way to reiterate what you already know and maybe add some more knowledge to your bag. For example, when writing an article on how to do sales as a technical co-founder, I learned a lot and added stuff from my personal experience.
I try my best to be correct. I remember the life experience that I had and how I handled problems, then I read up on other people’s research and try to package it as something useful for others. In the end, I get called a 14-year-old on Reddit, and people say I should drop out of IT. That’s part of the experience.
I don’t assume I know everything and let the internet correct me when I’m wrong. I don’t mind being corrected. I’m an amateur. If people tell me I’m wrong, I ask them to explain. How can I improve?
Think of all the criticism this way: Do you want just to feel good, or do you want to be good? Accept pure facts, and rational feedback — don’t take it personally, don’t object, and don’t get too emotionally attached to your craft. Of course, if people start getting personal and abusive, block them.
Imagine if every time you learned something new, you would:
- Write tutorials and cheatsheets for a future generation. You learned something cool; why not share that with others and teach them that. You can always improve that guide with the new information every half a year.
- Answer questions on Stackoverflow / Reddit / Quora — you’ll see what others are struggling with. Usually, I scroll through SO and see if I can answer the question; if I’m not 100% confident, I read up on that topic just to refresh my memory.
- Make Youtube Videos or do live Twitch streams. This is on my to-do list to do a live stream of me talking about the topics that are interesting to me and learning stuff as I go.
- If you’re building a SaaS — build it in public on Twitter; you will get tons of support and join the community of like-minded people. Building in public is a separate topic in itself. I will talk more about how I failed at building a side project in the following issues.
Open-sourcing your knowledge builds credibility. Share your ups and downs every step of the way. People connect the most with genuine, open people. Sharing real-life experience where things are not perfect is much better than a photoshopped image of a hyperbolized life on Instagram.
Sometime in the future people will connect with you based on your journey, and they will start asking you for help. Eventually, they’ll want to pay you for your help too—a lot more than you think.
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